Patton versus the Panzers: An Interview with Steven Zaloga

Two years ago we had a chance to interview author and historian Steven Zaloga.  That interview became the first feature of this website when it launched in January of 2015.  We recently had the chance to do a follow-up interview with Mr. Zaloga in late August, 2016.  We were able to get his thoughts concerning his two latest hardcover books, Patton Versus the Panzers: The Battle of Arracourt, September 1944 and Armored Champion: The Top Tanks of World War II, as well as a variety of other topics, including Soviet tank development, the 1940 Campaign in France and the tank book publishing business.


 

sz15Steven Zaloga is an author and defense analyst known worldwide for his articles and publications on military technology.  He has written over a hundred books on military technology and military history, including “Armored Thunderbolt: The US Army Sherman in World War II”, one of the most highly regarded histories of the Sherman Tank.  His books have been translated into Japanese, German, Polish, Czech, Romanian, and Russian. He was a special correspondent for Jane’s Intelligence Review and is on the executive board of the Journal of Slavic Military Studies and the New York Military Affairs Symposium. From 1987 through 1992, he was the writer/producer for Video Ordnance Inc., preparing their TV series Firepower.  He holds a BA in history from Union College and an MA in history from Columbia University.


 

Why did you decide to choose the battle of Arracourt, September 1944 as the topic for this book?

There were two reasons. The first reason is that I wanted to cover a big US-versus-German tank battle. The underlying theme is stated in the forward of the book- there is this impression that US tanks are always getting defeated by German tanks because the German tanks technically were so much better. But I’ve spent so much time doing campaign books, not tank-oriented books but general campaign books on the ETO for the Osprey Campaign series, that I was aware that that was simply not true. There weren’t that many large US-versus- German tank battles. As I mention in the book there were really two big ones: Arracourt in September 1944, and of course the Ardennes in December 1944 – January 1945. I selected Arracourt partly because it’s not very well known. So it makes a more interesting and fresh subject. And also it’s relatively confined in time and space. It took place over a couple of weeks and it’s not over a very large area. Doing the Ardennes would be interesting. But the problem is that inevitably I have to basically do the whole Ardennes campaign all over again to explain what is going on. And that would make it unmanageable in a book the size that Stackpole wants. So I ruled out the Ardennes for that reason. Also I had done the earlier Osprey Ardennes book (Panther vs Sherman: Battle of the Bulge 1944 (Duel)).

The second big reason was availability of research materials on both sides. The German side in a lot of battles is not especially well covered because a lot of records were lost. The Germans lost the war. At one point in the war the main German Army archive was basically burned down. So a lot of records were lost there. And a lot of records were lost during the course of campaigns. But I knew from having done some previous work on the Lorraine campaign that the German records from that battle were fairly good. I actually have day-to-day reports at corps-level and in some cases at divisional-level explaining what’s going on. And the US side also is fairly well covered. The strange thing is that in many cases you would think that US battles are very well covered because we have all the records. In fact, there often times are after-action-reports, but they are very skeletal and don’t give much detail. But I knew that in the case of the Arracourt battles there had been an Army historical team stationed with 4th Armored Division and they did a set of interviews after the battle of Arracourt. This included a lot of maps, which of course, is very useful for trying to explain exactly what happened in the battle. So those were the two reasons; there was some inherent reasons in the nature of the Arracourt battle that made it attractive for a book; and I knew from having done previous work that there was enough historical material that would enable me to make it detailed enough to keep it interesting.

In the course of researching this book, did you find anything that surprised you or was it more a case of fleshing out the framework you had established in earlier works? [Read more…]

Book Alert: BT Fast Tank: The Red Army’s Cavalry Tank 1931-45

On August 25, Osprey books will be releasing their latest offering in the long running New Vanguard book series.  BT Fast Tank: The Red Army’s Cavalry Tank 1931-45  by Steven Zaloga promises to give readers a good look at these Soviet pre-WW2 series of “fast” tanks.  This book follows the format of previous New Vanguard titles, being a softcover book of 48 pages with numerous photos and color illustrations.

Publisher’s Description:

When the Red Army needed to mechanize its cavalry branch in the 1930s, the BT fast tank was its solution. Based on the American Christie high-speed tank, the Red Army began a program to adapt the design to its own needs. Early versions were mechanically unreliable and poorly armed but by the mid-1930s, the BT-5 emerged, armed with an excellent dual-purpose 45mm gun. It saw its combat debut in the Spanish Civil War in 1937 and was later used in the border battles with the Japanese Kwangtung Army in the late 1930s. The final production series, the BT-7, was the most refined version of the family.

One of the most common types in Red Army service in the first years of the Second World War, BT tanks saw extensive combat in Poland, Finland, and the opening phases of Operation Barbarossa in 1941 and latterly during the 1945 campaign against the Japanese in Manchuria – this is the story of their design and development history.

By our count, this is the 11th New Vanguard title that Mr. Zaloga has written on Soviet tanks.  Others in the series include:

T-26 Light Tank: Backbone of the Red Army (New Vanguard)
KV-1 & 2 Heavy Tanks 1939-45 (New Vanguard)
T-34/76 Medium Tank 1941-45 (New Vanguard)
T-34-85 Medium Tank 1944-94 (New Vanguard)
IS-2 Heavy Tank 1944-73 (New Vanguard)
T-54 and T-55 Main Battle Tanks 1944-2004 (New Vanguard)
T-62 Main Battle Tank 1965-2005 (New Vanguard)
T-64 Battle Tank: The Cold War’s Most Secret Tank (New Vanguard)
T-72 Main Battle Tank 1974-93 (New Vanguard)
T-80 Standard Tank: The Soviet Army’s Last Armored Champion (New Vanguard)

Book Alert: Sturmartillerie: Spearhead of the infantry

Fans of WWII German armor will be happy to know that on August 25, Osprety Publishing has slated for release a new book on the Sturmartillerie.  Titled Sturmartillerie: Spearhead of the infantry, this new volume is hardcover with 288 pages and authored by Thomas Anderson. Anderson is a specialist in the German armored fighting vehicles of World War II, having written books on the Tiger and the Ferdinand and Elefant Tank Destroyer for Osprey.  This new book appears similar in size and format to his previous Osprey hardcovers, at least based on the cover (yes, we know we shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover!)  Mr Anderson also written for Osprey a history of the Panzerwaffe in two volumes.  The first volume is available now, the second volume will be available next year.

Publishers Description:

The Sturmartillerie was a key part of Germany’s armoured arsenal throughout World War II. Its armoured assault guns were designed to support the artillery on the battlefield, largely using the purpose-built Sturmgeschütz infantry support gun.
This new and exhaustive study details the development and operational history of this innovative force, as well as describing how its role and the tactics it employed changed from the glory years of Blitzkrieg through to the desperate defence of the last years of the war. It also describes the technical development and evolution of the vehicles employed, and includes combat action reports and excerpts from interviews with veterans.

Book Review: Valentine Infantry Tank 1938-1945


Valentine Infantry Tank 1938-45 (New Vanguard) is the latest release in the long running New Vanguard series by Osprey Publishing.   Written by Dr. Bruce Newsome, this volume follows the well-established model of the New Vanguard series.  As with other New Vanguard books, it’s 48 pages and features a combination of photos, drawings and charts to accent the text.  As far as we can tell, this is the first New Vanguard title written by Dr. Newsome, most of the previous New Vanguard titles on WW2 British tanks having been authored by David Fletcher.  In examining the Valentine, Dr. Newsome has picked one of the more challenging vehicles due to the large number of variants and types of Valentine built during the war.

The Valentine was produced in greater numbers by the British Commonwealth than any other model of tank and yet it generally receives little attention, as evidenced by the fact that this book is the 233rd in the series.   Compared to its German and American counterparts, relatively little ink has been devoted to this vehicle, being limited to the old AFV Profile series from the 1970’s, the Museum Ordnance Special from the 1990’s and the more recent  books on the Valentine by Dick Taylor.

Given the large number of Valentine variants and the relatively small page count, this book does not give much in-depth detail to any particular Valentine model.  One deviation from previous New Osprey titles is the use of fairly large charts.  These account for roughly seven pages of the book and are quite useful for providing the details of the various Valentine models in a concise manner.  Also addressed in this book are the Bishop and Archer self-propelled guns as well as the ill-fated Valiant “assault” tank.    Given the small page count of the New Vanguard series, it might have been better to address these other vehicles in a separate volume.  Certainly, there is enough to say about the Valentine to fill two volumes of 48 pages.  That said, Dr. Newsome has packed as much information into the book as the New Vanguard format allows.

Valentine Infantry Tank 1938-45 (New Vanguard) is available in both softcover and kindle editions at Amazon.

Book Alert: Valentine Infantry Tank

valentine bookA new addition to the Osprey Publishing New Vanguard line titled Valentine Infantry Tank 1938-1945 is slated to be released on April 21.  Authored by Bruce Newsome, this is a soft cover book of 48 pages  with color illustrations.

Publishers description:

The Valentine was the most produced and most widely used British tank of the Second World War. The Valentine first saw combat during Operation Compass in November 1941 and remained one of the main medium tanks in British service into 1943. As the Churchill became more prevalent the Valentine was relegated to specialist and tank-destroyer variants, which would remain in service in the Far East to the end of the war.
This book describes the evolution of the Valentine design and weighs up its impact on the battlefield. Although widely regarded today as one of the weaker tanks to be fielded during the war, it was exceptionally numerous, with more Valentines produced than any other British tank.

Osprey Books “Duel Series” Survey

logoOsprey Books has posted on their website a survey asking people to vote on which title of the “Duel” series they would like to see.

The options are:

M3 Stuart vs Type 95 Ha-Gō: 1941–42

Churchill vs Tiger: Tunisia 1943

Ferdinand tank destroyer vs SU-152 self-propelled howitzer: Kursk 1943

Cromwell vs PzKpfw IV: Normandy 1944

StuG III vs T-34: Eastern Front 1944

You can go vote for your choice here.

They also have an option where you can write in your own title suggestion.

Here at Tank and AFV News.com, we would like to see a Duel book on “Panzers VS Jabos (fighterbombers): Normandy, 1944.”

Book News: The History of the Panzerwaffe

panzerwaffeEarlier in the year we posted that the book “The History of the Panzerwaffe Volume 1: 1939-1942” by Thomas Anderson would be released on October 20 of this year.  That date has been pushed back to December 17, 2015 according to the Osprey Publishing website.  Thomas Anderson has written several hardcover books for Osprey on German WW2 Armor.  This new book promises to be a substantial work, coming in at 304 pages.  And just in time for Christmas for all those Panzer fans out there.

Publishers Description:

ABOUT THIS PRODUCT
The Germans transformed armoured warfare from a lumbering and ponderous experiment in World War I into something that could decide the outcome of conflicts. This technical and operational history is the definitive guide to the legendary Panzerwaffe, from its very infancy to the days when it made Europe its garden path at the height of Nazi German power. With rare and revealing combat reports, along with photographs sourced from previously unseen private and archival collections, it uncovers the technical and operational stories of the formidable armoured beasts that formed the backbone of the German war machine – tanks such as the Panzer I, II and 38(t).

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
A German national, Thomas Anderson is a specialist in German armored fighting vehicles of World War II. He has spent decades researching in archives throughout Germany and the rest of Europe to discover little known facts and never previously published photographs of the might of the Panzerwaffe. A modeler, he regularly contributes to popular modeling and historical magazines across the globe including Military Modelcraft International (UK), Steel Art (Italy), Historia Militar (Spain) and Batailles & Blindes (France) as well as many others.

CONTENTS
1 Laying the foundation – pre-war establishment 2 The seizure of Czechoslovakia – backing the Panzerwaffe 3 Poland – the ordeal 4 France – at eye level 5 The Balkans – the unwanted campaign 6 Russia – an overmighty opponent? 7 1942 – upgrading the Panzers 8 North Africa – defeat instead of superiority 9 Dark prospects – Waiting for the new tanks 10 Tank recovery and repair 1935-42