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Book Review
River Assault Tactics
World War II River Assault Tactics
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]


The military challenge of crossing a river under fire is one that was often faced by the armies that fought in NW Europe, Italy, and on the Russian Front. An advancing army could expect to encounter a 200-yard-wide river at least every 100 miles, and getting mechanized forces across a contested river line demanded great resources, both of equipment and skills. But no matter how rich an army might be in gear and know-how, for the first wave of infantry in their flimsy assault boats it was always a deadly risk. World War II River Assault tactics explains the difficulties from first principles; gives concise details of how armies were equipped, organized and prepared for such life-or-death gambles; and describes not only how it was all supposed to work, but what happened when it went disastrously wrong. The text is illustrated with a wealth of wartime photographs, and with specially prepared color artwork.
Quoted from the back cover of the book.


Osprey Publications Ltd has released World War II River Assault Tactics by author Gordon L. Rottman as Number 195 in their Elite series. It is a paperback book with 64 pages. Included with the text are black and white and color photographs, full color equipment artwork, tactical scenarios & diagrams, informational charts, and detailed captions. It has a 2013 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-78096-108-8. As the title states, the book discusses the history of military forces, artefacts, personalities and techniques of World War II river assault tactics.


  • Introduction
  • The anatomy of a river
  • Rivers as military obstacles
  • Crossing frozen rivers
  • Improvised means Of Crossing
  • Wading – swimming – flotation devices
  • Rope bridges
  • Engineer Boats
  • Assault boats
  • Folding boats
  • Inflatable (pneumatic) boats
  • Tables of characteristics
  • Engineer Bridge Units
  • US – British – Soviet - German
  • Bridging Equipment
  • Floating bridges & ferries
  • Fixed bridges
  • Military load classification
  • Emplacing Bridges
  • German Bridge Equipment B pontoon bridge
  • US M2 treadway pontoon bridge
  • British Bailey fixed bridge
  • Protecting bridges
  • The Contested River Crossing
  • Seizing bridges intact
  • Selection of crossing sites
  • Phases of the crossing operation: map reconnaissance and planning – initial approach – ground reconnaissance – positioning of units – fire preparation – assault crossing – establishment of the bridgehead – consolidation – reinforcement - breakout
  • Defense Of A River Line
  • Defensive bridgeheads
  • Defense against as assault crossing
  • Conduct Of The Assault Crossing
  • Preparations
  • To the water’s edge
  • Failure: the Rapido River
  • Select Bibliography
  • Index


The text in the book is well written and extremely detailed. Gordon L. Rottman covers the United States, German, British and the Red Army’s World War II River Assault Tactics nicely and with great depth. Rottman goes into great detail in all areas of the book as outlined in the introduction. As I read through the text it was easy to see that Gordon Rottman spent a great deal of time painstakingly researching and collecting information on the titled area in regards to each of the main militaries of the United States, German, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Each subject mentioned in the introduction is well detailed down to the smallest detail which many would not even think of until reading Rottman’s description. Rottman discusses the individual militaries engineering units and breaks down the make-up of the units in regards to size and numbers. As one would expect the books discusses the various techniques and equipment used by each countries engineering units in regards to vehicles designed for engineering details, materials used, the names of and specifications for the bridge types shown as well as the boats, rafts and other such water borne items. As well as the items required for river/water crossings, Gordon details the assaulting and defense techniques from the planning stage to the actions before, during and after the various actions detailed within the covers of this fine volume. After reading through the volume I could not think of any subject in regards to river assault tactics that was not covered in great detail in an easy to read, nicely flowing and understandable manner. I personally feel that anyone that reads this book will find themselves well informed in all areas of World War II river assault tactics in the European Theater of Operations. As I read through the text I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings.


There are a total of 45 black and white photographs and 2 color photographs featured in this volume. The majority of the photographs are clear and easily viewable, however there are a few that have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark, and some appear too light, which is typical for photographs of that period of time. However this is typical for this period of history and consideration needs to be given to the fact that some of the photographs are several years old and the quality of the photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from the book and provide a visual guide for the actions described in the book. Rottman has stuck to the title of the book and chose photographs that are specific to river assault tactics during the World War II time frame and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. I haven’t seen a majority of the featured photographs before and I was pleased with this. I definitely consider that a bonus as it is nice to have a reference book that contains several lesser known photographs as opposed to the same old over used photographs that many books tend to contain. The included photographs will prove valuable to the military vehicle, figure and diorama modelers as well as anyone interested in World War II engineering, river crossing operations, and the European Theater of Operations enthusiast and historian.

Some of the photographs that I found to particularly interesting contain subjects such as:

  • Red Army lend-lease US 2 ½ ton trucks crossing a partially submerged log road
  • Red Army infantrymen using the PBC swimming suit moving through lake shore reeds
  • A birch-pole bridge being crossed by Waffen-SS infantrymen
  • US 90th Infantry Division troops using an M2 assault boat to cross the Moselle River. One of the soldiers has a SCR-300 “Walkie-Talkie” radio on his back
  • A German M1939 Light Assault Boat
  • Soviet sappers in a DL-10 folding landing boat with a SG-43 machinegun in the bow
  • US Brockway bridge-erection trucks emplacing a treadway section on a pontoon bridge
  • British Royal Engineers installing a portable Class 50/60 bridge
  • Red Army soldiers using a plank raft to move a 45mm M1942 anti-tank gun
  • A lengthy German pontoon bridge built with Bruckengerats B (Bridge Equipment B) with ridged half-pontoons
  • US M3A1 halftrack crossing an M2 treadway bridge
  • A wrecked US M4 Sherman “Jumbo” being used as a support for a Bailey Bridge
  • British Bren Gun Carrier crossing a “double-single” Bailey Bridge
  • The Ludendorff railroad bridge at Remagen in US hands
  • British infantrymen carrying a Mk III FBE folding assault boat
  • A US M36 tank destroyer being ferried on 3 timber decked 28 foot long 10 ton pontoons which is being propelled an Evenrude 22 horsepower outboard motor
  • A German 25-ton Pz.Kpfw IV tank being ferried on four Bruckengerats B full pontoons that have made into a large raft
  • A US M18 tank destroyer crossing am M2 treadway bridge
  • A convoy of US Army M26 “Dragon Wagon” armored tractor-trucks with M15 tank transporter semitrailers carrying LVT(4) “Alligator” amphibian tractors
  • US Navy 36ft-long Landing Craft, Vehicle and Personnel (LCVPs) being used on the Rhine River
  • US (9th Infantry Division troops crossing a river on an M1938 footbridge
  • British infantrymen crossing a Mk III “folding boat equipment” bridge over the Garigliano River
  • Soviet soldiers with lend-lease US amphibious jeeps (known to US troops as the “Seep”)


There are 8 color illustration plates by illustrator Peter Dennis that are very well done and nicely detailed.

The color illustrations are of:
Types Of tactical Bridge
  • US M1938 infantry footbridge
  • US fixed treadway bridge (from above and side)
  • British folding-boat bridge
  • Russian TZ-1 ‘unsinkable” footbridge

Assault Boats
  • US M2 assault boat, with paddle
  • British FBE Mk II assault boat, with paddle
  • Russian DL-10 landing boat, with oar
  • German leicht Sturmboot 39, with “powered oar”

* There is a silhouette of a soldier provided for scale comparison
* All four boats feature a cut-a-way view showing internal construction

Inflatable Boats
  • American reconnaissance boat, with paddle
  • British reconnaissance boat, with paddle
  • Russian LMN boat, with paddle, inflation tubes, and pump
  • German klein Schlauchboot 34, with paddle
  • German mitte Schlauchboot
  • Red Army soldier with PBC swimming gear

* There is also a silhouette of a soldier provided for scale comparison
Bridge Transport
  • Brockway 6-ton 6X6 bridge-erector truck (US Army)
  • Quick-Way Model E crane on Mack 6-ton 6X6 truck (US Army)
  • Canadian Ford F60H 3-ton 6X4 folding boat lorry
  • German Pf 15 bridge-component trailer

German Rafts & Ferries
This illustration shows a German leicht Sturmboot 39 pushing a 40ton capacity ferry consisting of two Bridge Equipment B half-pontoons fitted with a 12m deck section which is being used to transport wounded German soldiers. Also shown in the illustration is a German 18ft mitte Schlauchboot (medium inflatable boat) known as a “grosse Flot Sack” (large fleet bag) transporting troops and a 3.7cmPaK 35/36 antitank gun.

Erecting A Tread way Bridge
This illustration shows US Army combat engineers constructing an M2 tread way floating bridge with the aid of an US 18ft utility powerboat which is shown pushing a two-pontoon section. Also shown is an US Caterpillar D4 bulldozer which is creating an exit road from the bridge.

German Bridgehead, c. 1941
This illustration shows an imagined German attacking force that has established a bridgehead after assaulting from one river bank to the other. There is also an insert illustration of a German footbridge using Bridge Equipment C on small inflatable boats.

US Army Assault River Crossing
This illustration shows a river crossing scenario, shown in schematic form, of a US infantry regiment deployed to conduct an assault against prepared German positions.


There are 5 informational charts provided in this volume. They are:

Crossing frozen rivers
This chart provides the calculations for how thick ice had to be to support everything from an individual soldier up to a light to medium tank.

Assault boat characteristics and folding boat characteristics
This chart compares characteristics of US, British, German and Soviet assault and floating boats such as crew numbers, passenger and cargo capacity, length, beam, height and weight.

Pneumatic boat characteristics
This chart compares characteristics of US, British, German and Soviet pneumatic boats such as crew numbers, passenger and cargo capacity, length, beam, height and weight.

Identifying engineer troops
  • US Army
  • British
  • Red Army
  • German

This chart describes the uniforms and accruements worn by the engineer troops of each of the mentioned militaries to distinguish them from other soldiers.

Military load classification
This chart details how vehicles and bridges were marked to ensure that the bridge could support a particular vehicle.

There are 6 notes included in this volume and they are:
  • Acknowledgments
  • Imperial War Museum Collections
  • Artist’s Note
  • Linear Measurements
  • Abbreviations Used In This Text
  • Glossary Of English/German Terminology

The captions are well written and are very detailed and explain the accompanying photographs in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown and taking place in the accompanying photograph. The details themselves are basically miniature history lessons as they detail what is happening, or happened, in the photographs and give specific detail as to what was done afterword and by who. They cover things such as the units shown, as well as the vehicles, armor, equipment, dates, locations shown and other such pertinent information. As with the text I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors as I read through the captions. As I stated before, grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings.


All in all I am very impressed with the book. It details World War II River Assault Tactics well and in depth with specifics given to the United States, German, British and the Red Army engineers and equipment. This volume will be of great use to the military vehicle and figure modeler as well as anyone interested in World War II engineering, river crossings, and the European Theater of Operations enthusiast and historian. I would have no hesitation to add other Osprey Publishing LTD titles to my personal library nor would I hesitate to recommend this book to others.


Osprey web site Live links
Amazon web site Live links
Kindle Edition of the book Live links
Osprey Publishing also has World War II River Assault Tactics available as a:
PDF ebook
ePub eBook
Highs: Meticulously researched, written, and detailed text and captions. Excellent subject specific photographs and illustrations.
Lows: Nothing to mention.
Verdict: This is an excellent reference book that details the World War II World War II River Assault Tactics well.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-1-78096-108-8
  Suggested Retail: US $18.95 / UK £11.99
  PUBLISHED: Nov 05, 2013

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. All rights reserved.


Randy, Wonderful in-depth review of an intriguing book. I'll have to open a copy.
NOV 05, 2013 - 05:31 PM
Thank you Fred. I appreciate the kind comment. It is a really nice book of a lesser discussed subject and I really enjoyed reviewing it. Thanks, Randy
NOV 08, 2013 - 02:20 PM
Hey Randy, best book review I ever saw, really. Has my interest up that I will have to add this one to my library. Any more reviews like that and the publisher will have to send you a check each month. Building dio/vign in reality and as accurate as possible is a passion with me. I had seen a pic of Russian troopers with what appeared to be inflated inner tubes crossing a water area with reeds but the pic here shows much more. Now that the info is available I see a new idea taking shape in my head already. Great review once again. bob d.
NOV 08, 2013 - 03:28 PM
Thank you Bob!! Wow.....talk about making a guy's head swell!!!! I really appreciate the kind comments in regards to my review. Feedback like that makes me want to keep reviewing books for the site. I also really appreciate the fact that my review was able to help you and I am sure that Osprey Publishing would be glad to know that my review makes you want to purchase the book!! I really like the Russian with the floatation suit as well. He would make a cool scratch-build for a vignette. Thank you again, Randy
NOV 09, 2013 - 04:42 AM

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