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On the Devil's Tail  By  cover art

On the Devil's Tail

By: Paul Martelli,Vittorino dal Cengio - with
Narrated by: James Anderson Foster
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Publisher's summary

This is the riveting true story of Paul Martelli, a 15-year-old German-Italian who fought in Pomerania, on the Eastern Front, in 1945 as a member of the 33rd Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS "Charlemagne" and later as a soldier with French forces during three years (1951-1954) in the Tonkin area, Vietnam.   

Paul recounts his time at the Sennheim military training base, where he was introduced to the rigorous discipline of body and mind. He then goes back to 1940, during the German invasion of France, when he was still a boy in Lorraine, hinting at his motivations for enlisting with the Waffen SS. He reveals his and many young soldiers' exciting and often humorous escapades at Greifenberg, his first love with a German girl helping refugees, and his experiences and feelings during the combats at Körlin, during the strenuous defense of Kolberg, while regrouping at Neustrelitz, and at the German defeat. With a companion, he ends up at a castle delivering a group of women camp prisoners to a Russian officer, living in disguise among enemy soldiers until he escapes and surrender to the Americans.   

After his sentence, imprisonment, evasions, and military service in Morocco, Paul is sent to fight in defense of bases north of Hanoi, Vietnam. He survives three years of fierce combats, assaults, ambushes, night patrols, fatal traps, and mortal risks, but, deep down, he compares his service with the Waffen SS during the last year of war with the inefficiency of the French Expeditionary Force in the Far East and comes out deeply frustrated. At almost 26, he has fought and lost in two wars, both against the communists, be they Soviet or Viet-Minh. Unemployed, and with the ideals of a "Nouvelle Europe" in pieces, he briefly joins the French Foreign Legion, his last hope, but in the end chooses another path.   

This is a unique memoir, packed with incident and recounting the story of one individual caught up in a series of life-changing events.

©2014 Vittorino dal Cengio (P)2018 Tantor

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If Rambo was a NAZI

First, I'm not a woke warrior and enjoy reading various WW2 books from the German and Japanese perspective. In this case, it's a French-German perspective - I have no issues with that at all, and it's literally the reason I got the book.

Another reviewed said it all however, they said 'unbelievable'.

Correct, the book is 'unbelievable', as in it's not really all that believable. You have a guy who constantly was threatening his superiors, finds himself in constant trouble yet always escapes by the skin of teeth, is sleeping with hot chicks, yet can pull a gun from his his blanket and randomly kill people sneaking up on him. It's nonsense.

The book comes off as being heavily embellished, maybe by someone who saw one too many action movies, but with a NAZI twist since often the guy comes off as a bad guy. Not a cool bad guy, just a guy who has a rotten core. I don't know, for me, I like my action heroes to help old ladies, not steal from them, but that's just me I guess.

But, with all that said, the book is mostly entertaining -- like a movie. Too much like a movie.

The reader does a good professional job, I listened to it at 1.2x speed and could have gone faster, but thought that sounded best.

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unbelievable first account

One of the best personal accounts of the late war of a very daring young warrior.

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Fascinating Account

In reading other reviews, I have to agree with some of them. This is an exciting read/listen, well-read and engaging. There is no question that as a volunteer for the SS Charlemagne, Frenchmen in service of the Nazis, albeit as a 15 year old in 1944, there are enormous moral issues connected to Martelli's service. He is at pains to argue his unit did nothing wrong and did not participate in war crimes, but his account, free of the Nazi racism instilled in all SS units, seems highly sanitized. The story is, however, chock full of action, likely embellished (though he includes his many mistakes in Nazi and French service). It is hard, however, not to accept this as the story of a mostly decent, if extremely hot-headed and politically-naive young man. Despite what may or may not be true (it is possible it is accurate), it paints a picture of a broader experience of young men in combat and the lot of the soldier who finds themselves out of place in peacetime. With a large grain of salt for some of it's shortcomings, I would recommend this as a very interesting listen.

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I don't believe it

This is a wide ranging tale of what purports to be a true story of a very young Waffen SS soldier who takes part in some of the well known battles in Russia and then Vietnam. however, the description of those battles and his actual experience in them is not believable. Not badly written and well narrated.

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Interesting

A interesting look into a soldier who found the calling as a young man to join the Waffen SS Charlemagne division. His experience from this and getting himself to Vietnam fighting to communist again was interesting information of post WWII. As a whole I enjoyed the book and can really respect someone who had such a fervor commitment to fight against communists expansion.

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A point of view that we do not often hear from.

The story is amazing. It really fills in a gap of time and completes a different perspective to stories I have read in the past. The narrator is very impressive with his mastery of many languages.

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If only half of it were true...

My BS detector went off fairly early in this 'memoir' of an Eastern Front French SS soldier. And it continued to go off throughout the book, over and over. From his apparently endless insubordination to his credentials as a boxer even Mike Tyson would be skeptical about fighting, to his amazing end of the war soft landing at a castle with Soviets who let him walk around freely as he defends the honor of a pair of German maidens. Ooh boy that right there ought to be enough, but wait, there's more! When he gets to the postwar stuff the story gets into Realityville, sort of. He's supposedly locked up in the same prison as Pierre Laval for a time, but escapes easy peesy without any details given. He bums around France and Italy and does another stint in prison along with another escape before volunteering to go overseas to fight in Vietnam. There the story really sinks down to the level of yeah this sounds semi genuine and could have happened that way. There's more drinking and fisticuffs than fighting the Viet Minh, however, and when you finish, you're glad you made it. An amusing romp, but only barely, and in certain places, can it be called non fiction.

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One of the BEST memoirs from a German Perspective

The story of Paul Martelli is epic. He is a true soldier who doesn't hesitate to go into combat and has very smart wits to survive. Most memoirs start very slow and combat is sparse. . Martelli is thrown into combat at 15 years old and I'd say more effective than any solder twice his age. One of the only soldiers to not complain about the situation and do the best with what he's got. Then it starts all over again for him in the French Foreign legion. If he was older during world war 2, he would've been promoted very fast up the ranks.

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Good read

The WW2 segments were compelling but the SE Asia commentary was more interesting to me. i have not read much beyond B B Fall's Rue San Joyeux and Hell in a Small Place 40 years ago. Hearing the non com view of the situation pre fall of the north was very interesting.

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