Operation NORDWIND 1945, Hitler’s last offensive in the West
Series: Campaign 223
Author: Steven J. Zaloga
Illustrator: Jim Laurier
$19.95, 14.99 GBP
As Germany’s Ardennes Offensive died and before the final Soviet offensive began, Hitler launched Operation Nordwind, aimed at reclaiming the symbolic city of Strasbourg and the Alsace region. Reichsführer Himmler was given command of the operation. Relying on Volksturm units and the Waffen-SS, the undertrained or burnt-out German units inflicted surprising losses on the Allied forces of the 6th Army Group, commanded by US General Devers. Sixth Army was the US 7th Army and France’s 1’ere Arm’ee. This fighting force had performed brilliantly since September when they invaded southern France in Operation Dragoon. Their victories had rivaled, and even exceeded, those of the Allied commanders in Normandy.
Eisenhower did not like Devers. The battle also strained relations between the French and SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force). Vicious winter battles in and around the Vosges Mountains saw towns exchanging hands over and over. Allied units manning Maginot Line forts were burned out by German assault groups supported by flamethrower tanks. Large tank battles littered the surrounding plains with charred hulks. The 43th Tank Battalion was destroyed; their surviving M-4 Shermans were captured by the Germans and used against the Soviets.
Nordwind was the last great operation by the Waffen-SS Panzer divisions in the west, and the last time the Wehrmacht took the offensive in the west. It was in this campaign that Hollywood actor Audie Murphy won his Medal of Honor. Reichsführer Himmler distinguished himself in a less favorable light.
This is another book by esteemed author, researcher and modeler Steven J. Zaloga. He presents Operation NORDWIND 1945, Hitler’s last offensive in the West to you through 96 pages in 10 chapters and an index:
• ORIGINS OF THE BATTLE
• THE STRATEGIC SETTING
• THE OPPOSING COMMANDERS
-- German Commanders
-- American and French Commanders
• OPPOSING PLANS
-- German Plans
-- American Plans
• THE OPPOSING ARMIES
-- US Army
-- French Army
• THE CAMPAIGN
-- Operation Nordwind
-- The Strasbourg Controversy
-- Shifting The Schwerpunkt
-- The Gambsheim Cancer
-- Operation Cheerful: Strangling The Colmar Pocket
• THE BATTLEFIELD TODAY
• FURTHER READING
Mr. Zaloga recounts the triumphs and trials of Allied and Nazi assaults and defensive actions throughout the battle. The see-saw maelstrom of Hatten-Rittershoffen is described in detail. In this campaign Devers and his commanders did not fumble intelligence about German intentions. The battle cry of their forces was ‘not another Bastogne’.
Also explored is the amusing and interesting animosity of the players, covered in varying detail: Eisenhower towards Devers, the French vs. SHAEF, the French towards each other, and Himmler against everyone.
Several tables are included and the most interesting to me is the table of German units as assessed by Heersgruppen G.
In Osprey style the back of the cover page includes a table of military symbols, and an explanation of difference between US and Wehrmacht unit designation.
Photographs and Illustrations:
Photographic support is amazing. Sixty-six photographs (including a color portrait of General Devers) enrich the text. Some are from Mr. Zaloga’s personal collection. Most I have never seen before. If you want to see photos of shot-up tanks, there are plenty. The ferocity of the fighting is obvious when viewing a photo of a Sherman, ravished by at least 5 obvious penetrations. Twisted and tormented hulks line streets in other photos. A mighty Jagdtiger is shown blown to pieces from a hit by an M-36 90mm GMC.
Five maps are included:
1. 6th Army Group advance to the Rhine, November 14 to December 16, 1944
2. Operation Nordwind, December 31, 1944, to January 20, 1945
3. Operation Sonnenwende, January 5-12, 1945
4. Battle around Hagenau, January 6-21, 1945
5. Reduction of the Colmar Pocket, January 19 to February 9, 1945
The talented Jim Laurier lends his skills with dramatic color illustrations and 3-D battle maps:
• WINGEN-SUR-MODER: JANUARY 4-8, 1945
-- The 6. SS-Gebirgsjager-Division storms Wingen-Sur-Moder, but is driven back by the US 45th Division.
• HATTEN-RITTERSHOFFEN: JANUARY 9-20, 1945
-- Battles rage over control of Hatten-Rittershoffen and the gateway through the Hagenau forest.
• HERRLISHEIM: JANUARY 16-19, 1945
-- US armored forces attempt to reduce the German bridgehead around Herrlisheim.
• AIRSTRIKE ON STRASBOURG, JANUARY 13, 1945
-- ME 262s dropping bombs from medium altitude.
• ATTACK ON THE MAGINOT LINE, JANUARY 9, 1945
-- Kampfgruppe Feuchtinger attacking Maginot Line forts in a snow storm with Pioniern and Flammpanzer 38(t) tanks.
• TANK GRAVEYARD IN HERRLISHEIM, JANUARYT 17, 1945
-- US 43rd tank battalion being ravaged by Volkgrenadier in street fighting.
Nordwind was the West’s “other” winter war of 1944-45. It ended with the German forces bled white and opened the door for the subsequent encircling of the Ruhr and Saar, and the dash into Bavaria. The loss ratio favored the Allies by 50% when the Nazi war machine could not even accept 1:1 attrition.
Mr. Zaloga has presented another fine study of an important battle. It takes some concentration to read in detail. The maps and illustrations help to visualize the text. The 3-D maps at first seem complex but are interesting. I found a couple of elements in a map that do not have clear explanations. Mr. Laurier’s illustrations have yet to disappoint. The tragic photographs of destroyed tanks present fascinating source material for modelers.
Before this book I knew only the basics of Nordwind. Now I know it was more than a sideshow. I highly recommend this book.
Please remember, when contacting manufacturers and sellers, to mention you saw this book here—on Armorama.
Highs: Authoritatively researched, documented, and presented. An excellent selection of illustrations and photographs.Lows: Some elements of the 3-D maps are ambiguous.Verdict: Students of the war in North-west Europe during the winter of 1944-45 are offered a very detailed presentation of this “other winter war”. The photographs and illustrations alone are worth having.
About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR) FROM: TENNESSEE, UNITED STATES
I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art.
My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling!
My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...