Stephane Lavit and Philippe Charbonnier, Histoire et Collections.
100pp, 250mm x 210mm, Paperback, ISBN: 978-2-35250-464-1, RRP: £20.00
This well researched and written book charts the history of the U.S. First Infantry Division, known as ‘The Big Red One’, from its beginnings in WW1 through the lean years before 1940, the campaigns of North Africa, Italy and Europe, post war occupation duties and the return to Fort Riley in Kansas in 1955. Each section is well illustrated with photos (some in colour, like the cover) which illustrate the clothing worn by officers and enlisted men in each era. What amazed me was that I was a long way into the book before I recognised any of the photos, a minor miracle when you consider I have been collecting military history books for 50 years now.
The vehicles and equipment of the division are also well covered in the photos, along with some interesting tactical markings. This is all good stuff for the military vehicle modeller. One interesting photo shows the re-capture of an M8 armoured car with the allied star overpainted with a swastika. At least two captured SdKfz 251 half-tracks appear as well. My late uncle was posted to the 1st Infantry after commissioning, and was given command of an Anti-Tank platoon. Among the many stories he told me was of his journey into Czechoslovakia. He encountered Russians advancing on foot or piled up on horse-drawn carts. In sharp comparison the G.I’s were in Jeep’s, and if there were more than 4, they would find another Jeep. The Jeep features in many photos.
Whilst the text delivers detailed information on the operations of the division’s units, it also focuses on individual stories which breathe life in to the book. Indeed, many of the photos of individuals provide names, along with unit’s identity. The descriptions of the campaigns are supported by maps which aid the reader’s understanding of the fighting.
At the end of the book are brief biographies of the divisional senior officers and Medal of Honour winners, a section on the command structure at different stages of the war, a list of attached units, variations of the divisional patch ‘The Big Red One’, and an interesting section on the division in the movies. Well written, excellent photos, recommended.
Review copy supplied by Casemate UK, www.casematepublishers.co.uk Paul Middleton 19/03/2017