Ian Kemp

It was the early morning of the 10th of May 1940 when the Belgian fortress of Eben-Emael was attacked by German airborne troops. As soon as 15 minutes after the attack started the fortress was neutralized. A remarkable feat and the first operation with gliders against a defended site and the first combat use of shaped charges. The fortress became “blind and deaf” concerning it’s main artillery. The main artillery consisted of a twin turret with two 120 mm cannons. The Belgians tried to open fire but when they were trying to load the guns they malfunctioned. This became a turret which the Belgians never had fired and never would. In addition to the jam, the Germans blew up one of the gun tubes with a shaped charge (what we nowadays call HEAT).

The book is very clear and the first chapter is about why the operation against the fortress of Eben-Emael ever occurred. The reason for the attack was the German plan to attack France, with the name Fall Gelb (Case Yellow) which had been planned by Major-General Erich von Manstein. This included passing through the formally neutral Belgium and their well defended crossings of rivers and canals.
The second chapter is describing the fortress from a Belgian perspective. There are many fine maps which makes it easy to understand how the fortress was designed. It is easy to follow the text and understand the layout and the thoughts behind it. The heavy and the lighter armament are well described. Apart from lighter armaments it was based around the twin 120 mm turret and a number of 75 mm guns.

The two following chapters are describing those who made the hard work, the German airborne troops. The German equipment is described in detail, from pistols, 50 kg Hohlladungs (shaped charges) to the supporting Ju 87 Stukas.
The attacking unit, Sturmabteilung Koch, which consisted of four smaller units (Granite, Concrete, Steel and Iron) and for the attack especially trained, is described in a detailed way. Sturmgruppe Granit, which was the force assigned to attack the fortress, was bringing with it almost 4500 kg of explosives.

The latest chapters are describing the assault against the fortress. An assault, where the commander Oberleutnant Witzig, was missing 20 % of his units combat strength already in the initial part of the attack. The aftermath of the attack is also well described.

In addition, the operation against the fortress of Eben-Emael is also a very good example how Auftragstaktik can be used in military operations.

The book is very interesting and it would have been a good help for me the several times I have visited this famous fortress.

I strongly recommend the book and rate it five out of five. The book is definitely a need if you are planning to visit the fortress of Eben-Emael.

(Reviewed by Mats D.)
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy

Buy the book using the links below and you help support the site: