BGEN Theodore Mataxis was asked to write a foreword for Georg Grossjohann’s “Five Years, Four Fronts” and nearly turned it down. He felt he’d have little in common with the Major. They hadn’t fought in the same battles and their careers hadn’t been similar.
However, because of my keen interest in and bias in favor of “eyeball accounts” by combat participants, I finally agreed to read the draft manuscript. At worst, I thought, it would confirm my doubts, and I would simply have to decline the opportunity to pen the requested foreword. The more I read, though, the more engrossed and intrigued I became. I found this was not just another war story of campaigns during WWII, but the author’s detailed account of his experience at small-unit level during peace, mobilization and war.
Mataxis truly enjoyed the book and his foreword becomes an enthusiastic endorsement of the work.
The synopsis of the book from the publisher reads:
After Hitler’s invasions of Poland and France came the Russian Front–and that’s when the real war started.
An infantryman who rose from the enlisted ranks to regimental command in combat, Georg Grossjohann fought on four different fronts during World War II, but saw most of his fighting–from 1941 to 1944–against Russians in the Soviet Union and Romania. He provides shattering glimpses of the horror and chaos of the war, as well as profound insights into everyday life in the Wehrmacht.
Five Years, Four Fronts chronicles the combat experiences of Grossjohann and his men as they triumphantly roll across Poland, France, and the sunny steppes of the Ukraine, only to ultimately sustain grinding defeats in the endless, freezing plains of the Soviet Union and the grim, dark Vosges Mountains of France. Grossjohann was a soldier’s soldier, respected by his men, undaunted by his superiors, and, as can be observed in this raw, brutally honest account, not afraid to call the shots as he saw them.
Grossjohann served in the 198th Infantry Division, eventually commanding his regiment during the fighting in the Colmar Pocket and this book allows us to hear from the German perspective. His recollections of the Division’s escape up the Rhone River valley are particularly interesting.