Mollo, Andrew. The Armed Forces of World War II: Uniforms, Insignia & Organization.

London: Little, Brown, 1981.

This large and lavishly illustrated volume is amazingly comprehensive. It’s just what the title says — a guide to uniforms and insignia (but not weapons or equipment, except incidentally), and to the Order of Battle of each of the nations that took part in the war, on both sides. It’s sort of the thing one would expect from Osprey, only much more so.

The book’s organization is chronological, then geographical: First, the status of the belligerents at the beginning of things in 1939, then the Mediterranean theater, the Eastern Front, northwest Europe and the invasion, and then the Pacific. Nations that were involved in more than one theater, like Britain and the U.S., are covered more than once, with attention being given in each case to distinctive uniforms (tropical, cold-weather, etc). Within each of those chapters are sections on army, air force, navy, and special units. The color illustrations, of which there are more than 360, are obviously based on photos, some of specific individuals (Goring was the only Reichsmarschall, after all) but mostly featuring anonymous officers and enlisted men. And there are numerous photographs, too, which, like the artwork, include detailed explanatory captions. The illustrations of insignia, of all ranks and grades (of which there are more than fifty), are custom graphics for the book and are very detailed. The accompanying text through the whole volume is likewise extremely detailed, describing the many ways a military force can be organized (there were huge differences between the way the Western allies, the Soviets, and the Japanese and Chinese did things) and the changes in size of the forces in each theater over time. Even if you know a good deal about the war and about military bureaucracy generally, you’re likely to learn something new on nearly every page, especially when it comes to the lesser participants, like Estonia and the Gurkhas and the Chetniks. I mean, who even knew Belgium had a navy? Or ditto landlocked Hungary? Besides being a great time-sink for the interested reader, this is an excellent research tool for more serious students of the Second World War.

Published in: on 31 August 2012 at 5:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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