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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

What listeners say about On the Devil's Tail

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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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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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  • paul hadfeild
  • 10-21-18

A good different angle

If you like ww2 memoir books you will like this, better than most but careful not to portray the author in a bad light .

3 people found this helpful

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  • Robert Hood
  • 04-21-21

waste of your money

There is a great deal of fictional padding and I struggle to believe even half of it. I had no idea how 'saintly' the SS were until listening to this drivel. I had met several real old Waffen SS soldiers and whilst I understand the camaraderie that is inherent in any service that separates its self from main stream units by arduous training and deeds; they too down played the atrocities and played up the battlefield attributes. I don't condone them or what they stood for and found them just as unrepentant as that cretin Hess who was still rotting away in Spandau prison opposite our barracks in 1978. To me, this smacks of a play on a mix between Seven Hassel for SS on the Eastern Front and Devil's Guard for former SS in Indochina.

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  • Anglian
  • 08-16-20

Good

A very good book. The author was clearly a headstrong young man seeking adventure. The WW2 descriptions are very good. I wish more information was known about the author. My search online for information on him drew a blank. Possibly a false name. Who could blame him for that though!

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  • RH
  • 11-12-18

Childish and Naive

Not very convincing at all. The French traitors that worked for the SS were nice boys that did no wrong and tried to save Europe from communism? I should coco. I couldn't finish this rubbish..

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-29-20

a desperately sad story

this story proves honesty is the best policy! Paul is such an interesting guy, but obviously traumatized and extremely violent. Overall a great history lesson, but maybe embellished in places. disappointed the book finished abruptly.