In the 1920s, Italian armed forces (Regia Aeronautica) experimented
with military units of paratroopers, using Caproni CA-73 aircraft.
In the 1930s, parachuting was a national sport in Russia. The first
Russian military exercises involving parachutists began as early
as 1930, followed by the development of airborne motorized units.
The first airborne troops deployed in military action, however,
were the German Fallschirmjägers. [Source: “Airborne
Warfare 1918-1945” by Gregory & Batchelor, Published by
Phoebus: London (1979)].
Schiffer Publishing Ltd. has just published a monumental military-history
book entitled “German Paratroops: Uniforms, Insignia &
Equipment of the Fallschirmjäger in World War II,” by
Robert Kurtz. This book covers not only the specialized equipment
of the German paratroops, but also Italian, Hungarian and Japanese
gear. Given that the use of paratroops created a new vertical dimension
in warfare, their unique role in battle demanded new, specialized
and innovative equipment.
There are chapters covering uniforms, such as smocks (which the
British later copied), tunics, and trousers; headgear such as helmets
and caps; insignia and badges with cuff titles (uniquely German),
and equipment, such as boots and web gear. There is even a chapter
detailing documents, awards and books.
All of this is accompanied by full-color photographs, many of which
never before have been published. The book includes almost 200 pages
of material for the serious collector or the military researcher
looking for details.
World War II memorabilia and especially German gear have become
hot items—read that as expensive—for collectors worldwide.
The Internet has provided new sources for items that were hitherto,
rare. However, it has engendered a great deal of knock-offs being
offered to the uneducated collector.
Fallschirmjäger badges (German paratrooper qualification badges,
similar to our jump wings) have been going for $700 to $850, and
many of them were made no more than a few months ago. A book such
as this can go a long way to determine that the gear you might want
to acquire and collect is real. The photos can make the difference.
The book is beautifully bound and can easily be identified by the
colorful inside cover design found in all Schiffer books. Its cost
is $59.95 and well worth the investment, whether you are a military
history buff or a collector.
This book complements another Schiffer Book on the same subject,
actually more a pamphlet/book, “Weapons and Equipment of the
German Fallschirmtruppe: 1935-1945,” by Alex Buchner (1996).
Schiffer also publishes other books covering the equipment of British
paratroops and that of U.S. airborne (Bill Rentz’s “Geronimo!”).
If you enjoy this book, contact Schiffer Publishing for a free catalog.
The firm has a treasure trove of military books that will keep you
reading for years to come. Write: Schiffer Publishing, 4880 Lower
Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310, Phone: (610) 593-1777, Fax: (610)
593-2002, E-mail: Schifferbk@aol.com, Web site: www.schifferbooks.com.
As a cross-reference to this book, try Osprey’s “Men-At-Arms”
series (No.139), “German Airborne Troops 1939-45,” by
Quarrie & Chappell, which provides additional historical information
and color uniform plates.
Schiffer books have been reviewed many times in the past by SO/LIC
News, the newsletter published by the Special Operations/Low Intensity
Conflict (SO/LIC) Division of National Defense Magazine’s
parent organization, the National Defense Industrial Association.
Copies of the SO/LIC newsletter can be obtained from Joe Hylan at
NDIA headquarters. Phone: (703) 247-2583, or e-mail: email@example.com.