Book Alert: The Tanks of TOG

A new book on the history of the tanks designed by “The Old Gang” during WWII is available on createspace.com.  Written by Andrew Hill, this is a 462 page trade paperback volume.  Copies may be purchased here.

Publisher’s Description:

THUMBNAIL_IMAGEThe previously untold story of the Special Vehicle Development Committee, better known as ‘The Old Gang’ or by the abbreviation ‘TOG’. These were the men who were mainly responsible for the creation of the British tanks in WW1. Men like Sir Albert Stern, Sir William Tritton, Sir Harry Ricardo, and Major Walter Wilson. At the outbreak of WW2, they were given a new task, that of breaching the heaviest German defences, with a heavily armoured tank able to cross the worst mud soaked ground of Flanders.
The SVDC managed in very short time to design more than one vehicle to accomplish this seemingly impossible task and built tanks bearing their acronym as TOG-1 and TOG-2. This book covers the development of both vehicles as well as several variations and other work such as an underwater tank and connections to the gigantic Cultivator machines of the Naval Land Equipment division.
The work of the SVDC was conducted in secrecy with documents, photographs, and blueprints sent to various companies and people. Places where sadly since the war so much has been lost. This book was the culmination of several years of research by the author. A search which brought together archival information from as far afield as Canada, the USA, Australia, and the UK to tell the story of these incredible men and their incredible machines.

Book Review: Pershing Vs Tiger Germany 1945 (Duel 80)

Book Review

Pershing vs Tiger: Germany 1945 (Duel) by Steven Zaloga

Osprey Publishing

Pershing VS Tiger is the 80th entry in the Osprey Duel series, and the eleventh authored by Steven Zaloga.  Several of his past Duel series titles have dealt with US versus German armor during the last year of the war, including Sherman vs Panther, Sherman vs Pz IV, M10 vs Stug III and Bazooka vs Panzer.  With this title, he addresses one of the very last contests between German and American armor, the handful of encounters between the US Pershing heavy tank and the heavy German “cats.”

The first thing worth noting is that the title of the book is perhaps a bit misleading.  The artwork on the cover depicts the US Pershing and a German Tiger I tank.  And while the book does describe a combat encounter involving these two types of vehicle, there is only one incident of this type.  The other examples involve other types of German armor, including a Panther, Nashorn, Pz IV, and possibly a Jagdpanther.  This is not surprising, since the number of Pershing tanks operating in the ETO in 1945 was very low.  As Zaloga points out, by March of 1945 there were only 20 Pershing tanks in the field.  It is no wonder that the number of tank vs tank clashes involving Pershing tanks can be related individually in one volume.

For those who have read previous Duel series books, the layout of this book will be familiar.  The first section of the book traces the design and development of the Tiger, Tiger II and the Pershing. This is followed by a technical description of each tank, focusing on crew layout, firepower, armor and mobility.  After this are chapters on the combatants and the strategic situation, describing the activities of the Tiger heavy tank battalions and their encounters, or more accurately, their lack of encounters with US forces in the ETO.  All this sets up the heart of the book, which is the descriptions of the various combats by Pershing tanks and German armor.  The book delivers on its title with a description of the duel at Elsdorf, in which a Pershing tank destroyed a German Tiger and several other German tanks in exchange for the loss of one Pershing tank named “Fireball.”

The book finishes up with an analysis chapter, focusing primarily on the Tiger tank.  For those invested in the idea that the Tiger was some sort of super-tank, this analysis will prover rather deflating.  Zaloga points out that Tiger units were relatively rare in the West, suffered from low readiness rates due to poor reliability and high maintenance demands and were generally less effective than the Tiger units in the East.  The Tiger II he refers to as “an extravagant waste in the West”.  Little final analysis is offered regarding the performance of the Pershing in the final chapter.  Zaloga notes that the number of Pershings in the field were so few, and the state of the German opposition so poor by this point in the war, that few lessons regarding the tank can be learned (for more on the combat record of the Pershing, check out Zaloga’s T-34-85 vs M26 Pershing: Korea 1950)

For those interested in US and German armor in the West 1944-45, this book is certainly worth picking up.  With this volume, Zaloga seems to have covered most of the well-known US and German tanks that faced each other after D-Day until the German surrender.   This volume may prove particularly useful for those looking for an antidote to the Tiger myth.

Book Alert: Panther

Osprey has released a new book by German author Thomas Anderson on the Panther tank, simply titled Panther.  This is a 224 page hardcover with photographs and illustrations.  Anderson has written several books on German WWII armor, including volumes on the Tiger, the Ferdinand and the Sturmgeschutz.  Oddly enough, this is the second hardcover that Osprey has released in the past few years on the Panther, in 2012 they published Panther: Germany’s quest for combat dominance by Michael Green.

Publisher’s Description:

The German Panther is one of the most famous, and greatest, tanks of World War II. Often considered the most elegant tank design of the war, it embodied a balance of firepower, armour protection, and mobility unmatched by any other tank of the period. This new study by German armour expert Thomas Anderson draws upon original German archival material to tell the story of the birth of the Panther in response to the Soviet tanks encountered in 1941. He then analyzes its success on the battlefield and the many modifications and variants that also came into play. Illustrated throughout with rare photographs and drawings, many of which have never been published in English before, this is a unique history of one of the most famous tanks of World War II.

Book Alert: Pershing vs Tiger: Germany 1945

Osprey Publishing has released a new entry in their Duel series,Pershing vs Tiger: Germany 1945 (Duel) by Steven Zaloga.  This book follows the pattern set out in other Osprey Duel books, and is a softcover of 80 pages.  Next week we will be posting a more detailed review of this new book.

Publisher’s Description:

During the final battles on World War II’s Western Front, the legendary German Tiger I heavy tank clashed with the brand-new M26 Pershing fielded by the United States. The Tiger I had earned a formidable reputation by the end of 1944, although its non-sloped armour and poor mobility meant it was being superseded by the Tiger II or ‘King Tiger’. While the Tiger I had been in the front lines since 1942, the US Pershing first entered combat in late February 1945, and more than 20 Pershings would see action before war’s end.

This book examines the dramatic Tiger/Pershing duel at Elsdorf in Germany, and also assesses the clashes between German armour and the sole ‘Super Pershing’ deployed to Europe. Featuring full-colour artwork, carefully chosen photographs and specially commissioned maps, this is the story of the first US heavy tanks in combat with the fearsome Tiger I during the last months of World War II in Europe.

Book Review: Dubno 1941: The Greatest Tank Battle of the Second World War

Dubno 1941: The Greatest Tank Battle of the Second World War

By Aleksei Isaev

Helion & Company

The first thing potential readers may notice about this book is the subtitle, which proclaims the 1941 battle of Dubno to be the greatest tank battle of WWII.  To those familiar with the history of the Second World War, this might cause some confusion.  Ask the average WWII fan to name a tank battle and you will probably get replies such as Kursk, Alamein, or The Bulge.  But Dubno?  It’s probably fair to say most casual readers haven’t even heard of this battle, let alone know that it was one of the largest tank battles of the war.  Fortunately, Russian historian Aleksai Isaev tries to correct this situation in his new book, Dubno 1941: The Greatest Tank Battle of the Second World War.

Before we get into the content of the book, let’s start with a description of the book itself.  This is a 244 page hardcover volume.  The book is surprisingly heavy due to the dense, high quality paper used.  The paper texture is very smooth to the touch and provides good photo reproduction quality for the several image galleries found in the book.  The galleries consist primarily of images of tanks and also pictures of some of the commanders who play a part in the battle.  The book uses footnotes rather than endnotes and contains a rather useful series of appendices, a bibliography and an index.

This book was originally written in Russian and translated into English by Kevin Bridge.  The translation reads fairly well, although every so often a sentence will come off a bit clunky.  Whether this is due to the original text or to the translation is hard to say.  One translation error that jumped out at us was the mention of Western researcher “Thomas Yentz.”  Those well read on German armor will of course recognize this person as Thomas Jentz.  The publisher provides a disclaimer at the start of the book noting that the translation has kept partisan statements such as “our tanks” and “our aircraft” in the text.  This is a Russian book written by a Russian author and as such, it focuses much more on the Russian perspective of the battle than the German.

The text of the book is relatively straight forward, starting with a description of forces on both sides of the battle forces at the onset of Operation Barbarossa.  The chain of events from the launch of the German invasion on June 22 up to the Dubno battle a week later are explained with a good deal of detail.  A few maps are provided in the text, although readers may want to get a more detailed map of their own to prevent getting lost in the various details of unit movements and dispositions.  For those looking for individual accounts of combat or Steven Ambrose style history, this book will be quite dry and unrewarding.  For those looking for a detailed operational level description of events with analysis, this book should prove enjoyable.

The book ends with a conclusion offering an overview of the events and some analysis explaining why things turned out the way they did.  Isaev provides several reasons for why the Soviets lost this battle, primarily lack of experience and training, poor communication and poor unit organization compared to their German adversary.  One other factor that seems to crop up continuously in the description of the fighting is a lack of proper artillery support for Soviet armored units due to a lack of suitable prime movers.

Throughout the text the author regularly emphasizes certain points that he sees as important for having been misinterpreted or left out of Soviet era histories.  However, since most Western readers will not be familiar with these older histories, these points by the author may seem a bit confusing.  One thing not addressed in great detail in this book is the issue of why this battle, as large as it was, is so little known.  For the answer to that question, one needs to take a dive into the world of post war Soviet historiography.  And while this book avoids that topic, the next book in our review pile fearlessly plunges into it. (The Battle of Kursk: Controversial and Neglected Aspects by Valeriy Zamulin by Valeriy Zamulin – expect the review later next week.)

For those interested in learning more about this battle, we would easily give this book a recommendation, provided people understand this is a pretty information dense book.  Those looking for some light reading should go elsewhere.  This volume is one of several Russian language WWII histories that Helion & Company have brought over to the English reading public.  We commend them for doing so and hope the keep it up.

Book Alert: New Issue of ARMOR available

Armor summer 2017The Summer issue of ARMOR magazine is available for download at the eArmor website. According to the cover, the theme of this issue is “Operationalizing Cross-Domain Maneuver” (is “operationalizing” a real word?)  Anyhow, those interested in tank hardware may find the article Cordoba Cats: Ejercito de Tierra’s Leopard 2E Main Battle Tank, which looks at the Leopard 2 tanks of Spain, to be worth checking out.

Download the Summer 2017 issue of ARMOR here.

Book Alert: Patton’s Juggernaut: The Rolling 8-Ball 8th Tank Battalion of the 4th Armored Division

This month saw the release of a new book by retired general and WWII veteran Albin F Irzyk titled Patton’s Juggernaut: The Rolling 8-Ball 8th Tank Battalion of the 4th Armored Division.  Irzyk, who turned 100 years old earlier this year, is a well known figure to those interested in US Armor history.  He has appeared in numerous TV documentaries and has authored several books about his experiences as a young officer in the 4th Armored Division during WWII.

Publisher’s Description:

This is the biography, not of an individual but of a small military unit. The life span of this unit was extremely brief – less than three years. It began on September 10th, 1943 and ended on May 15th, 1946, when it ceased to exist. It is about the 8th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division.

Combat was the destiny of this Battalion. It was created as a Combat Battalion. It was organized primarily, fundamentally, and solely to fight the German Army in Europe. And fight it did, splendidly, spectacularly and courageously.

I feel very possessive about this Battalion. I was a major factor in training it for combat. I was in it every day the Battalion was in combat, much of it after assuming command at the age of twenty seven. I believe that there was a special bonding between my men and me.

It was a great honor and privilege to command these tankers and to witness what they accomplished. In my opinion, our nation has never fully understood or appreciated the fantastic role played by such boys and very young men.

They proved themselves on the toughest testing ground of man – the field of combat. Nothing in my long, full life could compare with the priceless opportunity that I had to command the men of the 8th Tank Battalion. This is their story.