Monday, November 04, 2013

Book Review: The Devil's Adjutant

I read The Devil's Adjutant by Michael Reynolds while on a recent business trip. Even though it purports to be a biography of Jochen Peiper, its really about the battle group that he commanded (Kampfgruppe Peiper, or KGP) during the Battle of the Bulge. There is a chapter on Peiper pre-Ardennes that describes his time as a Nazi who served in the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte Adolph Hitler throughout the war, and fought in many battles on the Eastern front. Leibstandarte translates as "bodyguard", so he was originally part of Hitler's bodyguard, and the 1st SS Panzer division was drawn from that cadre. There is also a chapter on his post-war life, where he was convicted of war crimes, served 11 years in prison, lived in France, and was eventually murdered by French Communists. However, the bulk of book is a day by day, blow by blow account of the fighting centered around KGP's attack during the battle.

The author does a really good job of correlating official histories and personal interviews with many of the combatants. The author spent a lot of time using both American and German sources, and its quite interesting to see how the two sides viewed the same action. He was also able to interview veterans from both sides. The author was unable to interview Peiper, so his commentary was taken from post-war interrogation, some of which should be taken with a grain of salt. The book has excellent maps and a very comprehensive order of battle for 1ss Panzer and the American 30th Infantry Division, both of which make it easy to follow the battle. You end up with a pretty solid picture of the "campaign", even if it only lasted a little more than a week.

I was inspired to pull out my copy of ASL's KGP maps and scenarios when I got home! I compared the KGP maps with those in the book, and they are pretty similar. I took a quick look at the scenarios, and they seem reasonable, too. The book was published after KGP was released, so it wasn't used as a reference for the game.

I think that Avalon Hill could have published a KGP III that focused on the battles around Stavelot. There were quite a few battles over multiple days, both over the bridge and the villages to the west. I also think that you could do an interesting game focusing on the entire campaign, either at a platoon or company level. A TCS module would be very interesting, although you would need a lot of vehicles. I am planning on putting together some scenarios based on the action, although I'm not exactly sure what rules set I'm going to use.