Review - "Infantry Aces" -1 reply

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Write heavy; write hard.

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11th April 2005

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#1 12 years ago

Another review of one of my recent reads. I think it will; be more useful to folks if I do separate threads for individual books.

Author Franz Kuroiwski is an old hand at writing introductory-level books about heroes in the various arms of the Wehrmacht. Here hebrings us "Infantry Aces", the fourth in his "Aces" series, about Ritterkreuz holders in that branch. (His two volumes of Panzer Aces is probably most well-known.) As in the other Aces, Kurowski picks eight outstanding examples of soldiers and fleshes out their combat record with a hearty dose of imagination and supposition. The books appear to have been written in German and translated to English. The style is plodding and laborious, but it's hard to tell how much of that is Kurowski and how much the translation.

At no more than 50 pages per solider, these are not intended to be biogrpahies, but sketches. That is fine, but Kurowski writes as if he was constantly at his subject's elbow to see what he did and hear what he said. This is a risky choice for even the most skillful of biographers, and a poor one for Kurowski. This because Kurowski pads his text with inane and silly imagined conversations. The dialogue Kurowski supplies is reminiscent of that in the old American "Hardy Boys" detective series, which were written in the 40's and 50's for "good" boys under the age of 16 or so. It's this type of drudgery.... [INDENT]
...Johann clapped Fritz warmly on the shoulder. 'All the best!' said his good comrade. 'We have gone through much together. Here's hoping we make it through this one!" The old friends didn't need to say more. The Hauptmann circulated among his comrades, murmuring greetings and encouragement to the "old timers", clapping shoulders and slapping backs. They knew their duty...
[/INDENT]Now that's my version of his writing, but it's representative. There are an awful lot of "comrade" and "All the best" and "duty" and "clapped his shoulder", etc. There's always a big guy in the unit who is "strong as a bull", almost everyone is "cheerful" but "grumbles". It's not only repetitive but also strikes false, as if Kurowski was an unimaginitive biographer who had no experience with what he was trying to describe. (Well, yeah.) And he does it in every story. I can say that in some of the stories Kurowski appears to have talked to the surviving soldiers themselves, and that is always good. Still, it's written at about a 16-year-old's level.

But it wasn't all bad. The men he writes about were unknown to me before this book. I did learn something about the positional warfare of the first couple of Russian winters, before the Germans were doing nothing but falling back. I enjoyed description of terrain other than the endless steppe which most of the Army Group Centre faced. I particulalry enjoyed descriptions of winter fighting in the hilly area of Pokrovskoye in the Ukraine. And regardless of Kurowski's plodding and repetitive style, I was still struck at how brutal and seemingly never-ending was the winter fighting.

Perhaps more than anything I was fascinated by what a complicated thing was laying, maintaining, marking and using a minefield. The Germans (at least in the story about the Kamyenka Valley fighting) didn't just toss out AP mines, they made a good record of where they placed each one, so that they could safely maneuver. And I learned that the Germans sometimes employed remote-fired anti-personnel mines, sort of like American claymores of 20 years later. They ran the firing lanyards from the mines into a single bunker where they gathered them in a complicated bunch of numbered lines, along with an index and map which showed where each was located. As that area was threatened with being overrun, whoever was in charge of the AP mines would tug on the correct (hopefully) line and set the needed mines off. Neat. Didn't know they did that then.

Bottom line, if stodgy, "happy-talk" repetitive writing, with inane imagined conversations of the subjects, gets your goat as it does mine, then stay away from Infantry Aces, or any Franz Kurowski book for that matter. You may enjoy them if the information is more important than the writing, because the books are a good introductory source for info on particular soldiers or tankers. Otherwise, meh.



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#2 10 years ago


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