Book Review: Deutsche Kriegsmarine

WWII German Navy Reference  Raises "Coffee Table Book" Ante
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Deutsche Kriegsmarine, Uniforms, Insignias and Equipment of the German Navy 1933-1945, by Eduardo Delgado (ISBN: 978-8496658592, Andrea Publishers, Madrid,. Spain.)

Deutsche Kriegsmarine, Uniforms, Insignias and Equipment of the German Navy 1933-1945, by Eduardo Delgado (ISBN: 978-8496658592, Andrea Publishers, Madrid,. Spain)

To many, the WWII German Kriegsmarine is the less-interesting or collectable of the three Wehrmacht branches. Even a quick page-through of Deutsche Kriegsmarine, Uniforms, Insignias and Equipment of the German Navy 1933-1945, will compel many to rethink that opinion.

Eduardo Delgado’s four-pound study — all 500 pages and some 2,000 color photographs— is massive in every respect. Assembled from leading collections, including the author’s, it is an extraordinary, possibly unprecedented wealth of Kriegsmarine (KM) artifacts.

It includes uniforms, headgear and equipment of every kind, purpose and occasion down to buttons, markings, hangers, crates and tags; pennants, optics and instruments, table settings, dog tags, and insignias from tiny cap cockades to the Graf Spee’s gigantic prow eagle, dredged from the sea in 2006.

There are old favorites like bulkhead clocks, armored binoculars, fine groupings, and the leather deck-bridge-and engine room (aka, “U-Boat”) combinations; tropical KM clothing; plus shipboard small arms and flare guns; recruitment posters, identity documents; and, naturally, medals, daggers, and swords; plus even the colorful ships’ crests enthusiasts love to find on KM caps.

Also minutely examined are reefers in navy blue and summer white, formal mess attire (even the ridiculously rare cloak), overcoats, brown service and drill uniforms, enlisted attire, deck shoes, work and dress gloves, goggles, and foul-weather gear in great profusion.

One welcome addition is coverage given KM administration officials, the so-called Silberlings due to their silver-colored buttons, insignia, and accessories versus line officers’ gold. But name it, it’s in this book.

Illustrations are a combination of objects in collections and period counterparts shown in rare photographs – the largest proportion unpublished until now. Much care was devoted to both categories’ selection and arrangement as well as to the entire project. Really, this is a graphic arts tour d’force.

Original items’ details are naturally vital, hence crisply captured and rendered throughout the book. Single shoulder board or fully combat-attired seaman in gray uniform with gear, the book presents first-class studio photography. The high-resolution pictures really “pop,” almost three-dimensionally. Even individual threads, weave variations, minuscule “Eagle/M” marks, etc. are captured. Many items are treated in multiple views.

Photo captions are succinct but information-rich, often including items’ evolutions from Kaiserliche and Reichsmarine eras and variants like French-made tunics and badges. Interesting revelations abound. For example, the Model 1921 grey field cap “crusher” strongly resembles the popular type the Army later introduced.

Everything is presented tastefully, without the kitsch and needless excitement marring other references. This book doesn’t blow its own horn, and neither does the author. Delgado’s obviously dug deep, and shares rare, expert knowledge in ways typical of the quietly competent. His introduction is interesting, along with the neat “pocket histories” of the German sea service and how it evolved from the WWI Kaiserliche Marine, to the 1920s Reichsmarine and through to the Hitler-era Kriegsmarine.

This book, however, isn’t meant for the ardent acquirer of “cool stuff,” the merely curious or those in a hurry who just want to know real from fake. It aims for the serious student, collector, museum curator and archivist. But, all will find it invaluable.

Such a compendium is costly to produce and buy. With the high-gloss paper, rigid backbones, and thousands of color photos, that’s unavoidable, In this instance, however, the outlay is more than worth it.

The publishing house boasts more fine militaria titles and references on other topics, as well. A traipse through Andrea USA’s well-organized online catalogue is enjoyable and useful.

In sum, I can do no better than to cite the old designers’ and engineers’ adage: “If it looks right, it is right.” That certainly applies to this remarkably comprehensive, impressive and important treatise: An instant classic.

Deutsche Kriegsmarine, Uniforms, Insignias and Equipment of the German Navy 1933-1945, by Eduardo Delgado (ISBN: 978-8496658592, Andrea Publishers, Madrid,. Spain. Available in the US from: Andrea USA, 2000 Windy Terrace, Building 20A Cedar Park, TX 78613; (512) 766 5641; sales@andreadepotusa.com; www.andreadepotusa.com. Hardcover, 12” x 8-1/2”, 500 pages, 2,600 illustrations, mostly color, 2016, $167.00)

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