Blue Division Soldier 1941-45
ISBN: 978 184603 412 1
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 9 Jan 2010
Full Title: Blue Division Soldier 1941-45: Spanish Volunteer on the Eastern Front
In the mid-1930s, Spain underwent a bloody civil war. Eager to test new weapons, develop new tactics, and assert foreign influence, Germany and Italy backed the Nationalists while the Soviet Union backed the Republicans. With a Nationalist victory, Spain came to hold a deep hatred for the communist philosophy, blaming the Soviet Union for some of the horrifying events of the war. When the European War began, Spanish leader Francisco Franco hesitated in joining Germany and Italy by remaining non-belligerant. However, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the hatred for communism resurfaced, and the people of Spain volunteered to fight the Soviet Union. A division of volunteer fighters was organized. "Blue Division", as it was called, served under the German Army banner on the Eastern Front. Through the course of the war, as many as 45,000 Spaniards fought the same frustratingly muddy and brutally cold war as their German comrades.
Carlos Caballero Jurado's book Blue Division Soldier 1941-45 introduces the readers to Blue Division. After a brief overview on the social and political roots of the division's formation, he described the common Blue Division soldier's training, tactics, and experiences fighting a war that they, at least initially, believed in. Jurado also described the German experience fighting alongside the Spaniards, including the unsurprising German complaint of the Spanish lack of discipline. In terms of unit composition, he did a great job contrasting German and Spanish formations, particularly diving deeper into the Blue Division's problem with inadequate non-commission officers. One thing that I took away from this book is the Blue Division soldiers' ability to differentiate their communist foes and the Russian civilians. while they engaged fiercely against the enemy, the Spanish soldiers befriended local Russians and other Eastern Europeans; their experiences with the locals were so enjoyable that many biographies of former Blue Division soldiers devoted pages about this unexpected pleasantry.
Given that Spain was technically neutral/non-belligerant during the war, Spanish involvement in the European War had not been a frequent topic. Blue Division Soldier 1941-45 represented the first book in my collection on this topic, and I felt that it gave me a great introduction.
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