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Hot Motors, Cold Feet by Helmut Günther

Hot Motors, Cold Feet

by Helmut Günther

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"Hot Motors, Cold Feet" is an autobiography covering the career of Helmut Gunther, a motorcycle messenger for SS-Division Das Reich from 1940 until 1941. The writing style is entertaining and the translation is well done, with some translation notes offering insight into potentially obscure references.

The book does a very nice job of showing daily life in the German army. I was surprised at how little training the author received before he was expected to perform his duties. For example, he didn't even know enough to clean the sparkplugs and ended up separated from his unit during their first cross-country march.

It was also eye-opening to see how much the Germans drank. Over and over, Helmut casually mentions that his canteen is filled with vodka, or that everyone not on watch gets drunk on schnapps and starts singing. This free-flowing alcohol leads to several problems, such as Helmut forgetting to refill his gas tank, but it never seems to stop anyone from drinking.

Other memorable occurances in the book include the sheer number of vehicle accidents the division has even during routine maneuvers (perhaps related to the drinking), the amazing shortages of spare parts, inner tubes, etc. that the German army suffered from, and how often the division was scattered and unaware of where its component parts were. The motorcycle messengers, unreliable as they were, played a vital role in keeping everyone connected.

The only negative of the book is the lack of detailed combat information. Helmut is great at sharing entertaining stories about his unit, but comes up short when describing his encounters with the Russians. Obviously, he had other things on his mind during the fighting, but anyone looking for detailed orders of battle or graphic fighting will be disappointed. ( )
  zebdoyle | Sep 11, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0921991827, Hardcover)

This book is sub-titled; A Memoir of Service with the Motorcycle Battalion of SS Division "Reich" 1940 - 1941.

This is an exciting personal account of front-line service with the motorcycle battalion of SS-Division "Reich" from 1940 until late 1941.The author initially served as a messenger and eventually as a squad leader in the Balkans Campaign and subsequently the invasion of Russia - Operation Barbarossa - until the retreat from Moscow. He was evacuated in late December 1941 with severe frostbite to both feet.

Helmut Günther is quite a character and a natural storyteller, who writes in a very compelling style. His story is riveting, and in many cases very amusing, as he and his comrades manhandle their 600cc BMW and NSU motorcycles through some of the roughest terrain and toughest combat imaginable. This is a revealing look at what it was really like to serve in the original SS division. Many of the officers the author served with, such as Klingenberg and Tychsen, later became well-known SS commanders.

Includes over 110 black and white photographs - many previously unpublished.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:42 -0400)

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