Book Review
Hitler's Eastern Legions
Hitler's Eastern Legions 1942–45
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Nazi German created perhaps the first truly international army, not only raising formations with volunteers from European countries, but also ethnic peoples throughout the lands Germany conquered. Modelers find German subjects appealing due to the variety of uniforms, insignia and equipment, and the uniforms and insignia of these unique units can further spice up one's Wehrmacht multitudinous models.

Hitler's Eastern Legions 1942–45, a new addition to their series Elite, is that series' 233rd title. Authored by Nigel Thomas and illustrated by Johnny Shumate, the softcover book is 64 pages thick. The paperback is catalogued with ISBN: 9781472839558, and with Osprey's short code ELI 233. The book is also available in eBook (ePub) format.

This book is a companion of the Osprey title Japan's Asian Allies 1941–45, Men-at-Arms 532, published earlier this year. Osprey describes this subject thusly:
    Between 1941-45, the Germans recruited around 175,000 men from a number of minorities in the USSR, distinguishing between 'Turkomans' (predominantly Muslims) and 'Caucasians' (predominantly Orthodox Christians). Of these, many formed rear-area auxiliary units, but at least 55,000 were combat troops. The first recruits formed two battalions in the 444th Security Division raised as early as November 1941; during 1942-­43 seven legions were formed, each of several battalions, eventually totalling some 53 battalions (equivalent to about 6 full divisions). However, with one exception (162nd Turkoman Division), they were not deployed as whole formations; after training in Poland, individual battalions were posted to fill out German regiments in the front lines, at first in Army Group South but later in all three Army Groups fighting on the Eastern Front. Units were also sent to Yugoslavia, Italy and the Western Front.
    This fully illustrated history of the Eastern legions details the organization, battle orders, combat history, uniforms and insignia of these unique units, combining contemporary photographs and full-colour illustrations with expert research from military historian Dr Nigel Thomas.

As I fill out my knowledge base with lesser-known subjects, fighting forces of minor countries and other formations are growing my interest, and I foresee modeling figures inspired by what is inside of this book: Hitler's Eastern Legions.

Hitler's Eastern Legions is told through seven sections:
      'Bergmann' Special Unit • Intelligence Operation 'Tiger B' • Operation 'Zeppelin'
      Eastern Legions Formation HQ • 162nd Infantry Division Training Staff • Unit organization • Muslim priests • Specialist sub-units • Re-assignment of units • Transfer to the West • Turkestan & Caucasian Waffen-SS: East Turkic Armed Unit - Caucasian Armed Unit
      Headgear • Uniforms & personal equipment • Rank insignia • National emblem • Legion cockades •
      Legion identifying colours • Arm shields • Unit insignia • Medals • Waffen-SS units
      Turkestan Legion: background - population - organization - distinctive insignia • Azerbaijan Legion: background - population - organization - distinctive insignia • Georgian Legion: background - population - organization - distinctive insignia • Armenian Legion: background & population - organization - distinctive insignia • North Caucasus Legion: background - populations - organization - distinctive insignia • Volga-Tatar Legion: background & population - organization - distinctive insignia
      Overview: Caucasus campaign, June-December 1942 • Eastern Legions: the Caucasus, Kalmykia & Stalingrad, June 1942-February 1943 • Crimea, Ukraine & southern Russia, January 1943-April 1944 • Central & northern Russia, Belarus, Poland & Slovakia, February 1943-0ctober 1944 • Northern
      Europe, February 1943-December 1944 • Southern Europe, February 1943-December 1944, January-May 1945
      Background & population • The war in Crimea • Crimean Tatar village militia, October-December 1941 • Self-Defence companies, January-July 1942 • Auxiliary Police, October 1942-Mar 1944 • Waffen-SS units, Mar 1944-May 1945
      Background & population • Organization & campaigns: October 1942-July 1943;
      August 1943-April 1945 • Uniforms & insignia

What you will learn from this book are fascinating, i.e., cavalry of Mongolian Buddhists being awarded an autonomous land in occupied Russia, ethnic air force field battalions, groups raised from prisoners of war and deserters, and political intrigue. Modelers married to convention will understand the model railroad saying, "There is a prototype for everything," when learning about the riot of uniforms and kit: Dutch tunics and Feldgrau-dyed khaki Czech clothing mixed and matched with Soviet field caps and British webbing, armed with indigenous or captured rifles. Mad Max goes Wehrmacht - hone your kitbashing skills! However, that need not spook those of us who are shake-the-box modelers. Plenty of 'Turkomans' and 'Caucasians' were issued standard Wehrmacht kit, distinguished apart only by their unique collar and shoulder insignia.

Further interesting reading are unit histories recounting how Transcaucasian troops ended up fighting in Scandinavia. Operations and effectiveness of the formations are remarked upon, as is the motivation of the peoples for joining the Germans.

Ultimately, this is a book certain to inspire modeling beyond the typical Germanic subjects we are used to. Figures in these uniforms can shake up judging at upcoming model shows, too. A book most satisfying.

Photographs, Artwork, Graphics
Osprey and their contributors often present great galleries of impressive photographs to support the text. This book falls a bit short in this component. There are very few "studio shot" photos with clear, well focused and composed exposures. Not surprising, perhaps. It appears that most of the images are from motion picture stills or print sources. Many portraits and scenes of reviews. The only "in-action" image is a group of legionaries probing for landmines.

Fortunately, artist Johnny Shumate has created several color profiles of Eastern Legions.

Color Plates

A. 'Bergmann' Special Unit
    1. Gefreiter; Pyatigorsk, Caucasus, September 1942
    2. Leutnant, I 'Bergmann' Battalion; Crimea, January 1943
    3. Major, 1st Caucasian Air Force Field Bn; Crimea, September 1943

B. Turkestan Legion
    1. Kompanieführer, 781st Infantry Bn; Tuapse, Caucasus, October 1942
    2. Bataillonsmulla; Jedinia, Poland, September 1943
    3. Unter-Ofitser, III/359th Grenadier Regiment; Montenegro, September 1944

C. Azerbaijan Legion
    1.Gruppenführer, 804th ‘Aslan’ Inf Bn; Bugursh, Caucasus, September 1942
    2. Poruchik; Azerbaijan 807th Inf Bn; Toulon, Southern France, December 1943
    3. Waffen-Rottenführer, Waffen-SS East Turkic Armed Group; Slovakia, autumn 1944

D. Georgian Legion
    1. Hauptmann, 795th ‘Shalva Maglakelidze’ Inf Bn; Kuban, southern Russia, April 1943
    2. Legioner, 823rd ‘Shota Rustaveli; Inf Bn; Guernsey, October 1943
    3. Poruchik, 822nd ‘Queen Tamara Inf Bn; Texel, Netherlands, April 1945

E. Armenian Legion
    1. Hauptfeldwebel, 809th ‘Zeytun’ Inf Bn; Aktoprak, Caucasus, November 1942
    2. Ober-Yefreytor, 813th Inf Bn; Dieppe, northern France, February 1944
    3. Podporuchik, III/523rd Grenadier Regt; Albania, April 1944

F. Northern Caucasus Legion
    1. Stellvertretender Kompanieführer, 802nd Inf Bn; Mozdok, Caucasus, September 1942
    2. Ober-Legioner, 842nd Inf Bn; Serbia, March 1944
    3. Ober-Fel’dfebel‘, I/894 Fort Gren Regt; Quimper, north-west France, August 1944

G. Volga-Tatar Legion
    1. Stellvertretender Zugführer, 825th Inf Bn; Jedlnia, Poland, November 1942
    2. Zugführer, 627th Inf Bn; St Malo, north-west France, March 1944
    3. Ober-Yefreytor, 828th Construction Eng Bn; Narew River Line, Belarus, October 1944

H. Crimean Tatar & Kalmyk Units
    1. Volunteer, Crimean Tatar Self-Defense Company; Alushta, Crimea, March 1944
    2. Waffen-Unterscharführer, SS Armed Mountain Bde (Tatar No.1); Hungary, September 1944
    3. Unteroffizier, Dr Doll’s Kalmyk Unit; Ulan Tug, Kalmykia, December 1942


Chart 1: Arm Shields of the Eastern Legions, August 1942-8 May 1945: 15 full-color shields of several ethnic groups and regions, each with a caption

Chart 2: Rank Insignia (Type 1) of the Eastern Legions, 24 April-16 November 1942: eight full-color patches, each with a caption, and notes

Chart 3: Rank Insignia (Type 2) of the Eastern Legions, 17 November 1942-17 March 1944: 11 full-color insignias, each with a caption, and notes

Chart 4: Rank Insignia of the Eastern Legions, 18 March 1944-8 May 1945: description of ranks from Private to Major, with Russian, German, and British terms.

Signal magazine, Dec 1943 reproduction: 13 full-color insignias, each with a caption, and notes


Table 1: Eastern Legion formations, regiments & Waffen-SS units, 21 May 1943-8 May 1945

Table 2: Turkestan Legion, 24 March 1942-8 May 1945

Table 3: Azerbaijan Legion, 22 July 1942-8 May 1945

Table 4: Georgian Legion, 24 February 1942-8 May 1945

Table 5: Armenian Legion, 4 July 1942-8 May 1945

Table 6: North Caucasus Legion, 22 July 1942-8 May 1945

Table 7: Volga Tatar Legion, 25 November 1942-8 May 1945

That artwork is excellent and should leave no doubt as to colors and designs.

Hitler's Eastern Legions 1942–45 should be an excellent reference for modelers and students of the Nazi-Soviet war, uncommon units, auxiliary troops, and ethnic cobelligerents. It features a wealth of color artwork illustrating the unique uniforms and kit of the Legions. The concise text flows easily. I found one error in a caption stating the German uniforms supplied to one group lacked the sewn chest eagle,when the eagle is visible. Not surprisingly, some photographs are not high quality.

This book is interesting, informative, and inspirational for modeling subjects, and I recommend it.

Please remember to mention to vendors and retailers that you saw this product here, on Historicus Forma.
Highs: Excellent artwork. Concise informational text.
Lows: Not surprisingly, some photographs are not high quality.
Verdict: An excellent reference for modelers and students of the Nazi-Soviet war, uncommon units, auxiliary troops, and ethnic cobelligerents. This book is interesting, informative, and inspirational for modeling subjects.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ELI 233, 978147283
  Related Link:  Japan's Asian Allies 1941–45 Men-at-Arms 532
  PUBLISHED: Sep 22, 2020

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

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...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Historicus Forma or Silver Star Enterprises. All rights reserved.


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