Book Alert: Panzergrenadier vs US Armored Infantryman: European Theater of Operations 1944 (Combat)

Osprey released a new entry in their “Combat” series this past month titled Panzergrenadier vs US Armored Infantryman: European Theater of Operations 1944 (Combat). For those familiar with the Osprey Duel series, the Combat series is of a similar format but deals with infantry rather than vehicles/planes/ships. While we don’t normally post book alerts for this particular Opsrey series, we included this title since it deals with mechanized infantry and because it is authored by Steven Zaloga, one of the most prolific and well respected historians of AFV history.  This is a softcover book of 80 pages, well illustrated with black and white and color images.

Publisher’s Description:

During World War II, the two preeminent mechanized infantry forces of the conflict, the German Panzergrenadier arm and the U.S. Army’s armored infantrymen clashed in France and Belgium after the Normandy landings. These engagements went on to profoundly influence the use of mechanized infantry in the postwar world. Drawing upon a variety of sources, this book focuses on three key encounters between July and December of 1944 including during Operation Cobra and the Battle of the Bulge, and examines the origins, equipment, doctrine, and combat record of both forces.

With specially commissioned full-color artwork and maps, this study casts light on the evolving nature of mechanized warfare at the height of World War II

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 Review: Patton Versus the Panzers

Patton Versus the Panzers: The Battle of Arracourt, September 1944

Author: Steven Zaloga

Publisher: Stackpole Books, August 2016

Hardcover: 288 pages

This book is a good antidote to the popular media conception of the M4 tank as a “Death Trap” as stated in films such as “Fury” or numerous cable TV documentaries. Zaloga first addressed this theme in his 2008 book on the history of the Sherman tank, “Armored Thunderbolt” as well as in the Osprey Duel books “Sherman vs Panther” and “Sherman Vs Panzer IV.”  In this book he further makes his case by examining in detail the battle of Arracourt, clearly showing that the outcome of the battle was decided far more by the quality and training of the tank crews involved than by the technical advantages or disadvantages of the Sherman and Panther tanks. It also becomes apparent in this book just how desperate the situation was for German Panzer forces in this period and how poorly thought out was the conception of the late war “Panzer Brigades.” At the other end of the spectrum is the US 4th Armored Division, one of the best armored units in the US army at the time, well trained, well equipped and well led.

While popular media fixate on the heavy armor and powerful gun of the Panther tank, in every other regard the German Panzer Brigades came up short against US Armor, lacking artillery, reconnaissance units, air support, recovery and repair capability, logistical support, trained crew, fuel and other basic supplies. And of course, the Panzer Brigades were also handicapped by being assigned unrealistic mission orders from the Fuhrer himself. This all becomes abundantly clear as the German attacks detailed in the book consistently fail to achieve even their initial goals, let alone the audacious goals assigned to them by Hitler.

The book contains a rather sizable appendices, containing some interesting essays. There is a section with short biographies of the various officers involved in the battle, as well as a chapter on Patton’s various command vehicles. An essay from 1946 by 4th Armored Division veteran Albin Irzyk in defense of the Sherman tank makes for interesting reading. Irzyk is featured in several of the TV documentaries on the battle of Arracourt and the Sherman tank, his thoughts on the topic usually limited to short clips. Getting to read his thoughts on the matter in a longer, uninterrupted format gives some valuable context to his TV documentary appearances. Also featured in the appendices is a short essay on the role (or more accurately, the lack of a role) that the infamous Tiger I tank played against the US forces in the ETO. This is included in response to the popular conception that Tiger tanks were regularly encountered by US forces. The reality was that the US Army in Western Europe very seldom encountered the famous Tiger I tank. This is in contrast to the British, who encountered a number of Tiger I tanks during the Normandy campaign.

For those with an interest in WW2 armor and the role it played in the Fall of 1944 in Western Europe, this book will be a welcome addition to your collection.

From the Vault: the Secret Museum at Kubinka

This article by Jim Warford originally appeared in the Sept-Oct 2001 edition of ARMOR magazine and it takes a look at the captured US  made vehicles that found their way into the collection at the Kubinka tank museum outside of Moscow.  Of particular interest is the information on the Israeli Magach 4 tank which was captured by Syria in 1982.  It was recently announced that this vehicle will be returned by Russia to Israel.  We have also included in the gallery below a copy of a letter written by Steven Zaloga with appeared in the Nov-Dec 2001 issue of ARMOR in which he provides some additional information on the Museum as well as a response from Jim Warford  from the Jan-Feb 2002 issue.  To download PDF copies of the full ARMOR issues mentioned, just click on the hyperlinks in the text.

Steven Zaloga AFV Model Gallery

Author and master model builder Steven Zaloga has given us permission to post this gallery of some of his  1/35 and 1/48th scale models.  We hope you enjoy these images and we thank Mr. Zaloga for sharing them with us.  The models can be viewed in the slideshow directly below or click on the individually labeled thumbnails to view the full size images.

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Book Review: T-64 Battle Tank by Zaloga

51mOjKKttzL._SX369_BO1,204,203,200_People familiar with Osprey’s New Vanguard series and with Steven Zaloga will know exactly what to expect from this title; a well written, well researched book with quality photos and illustrations. Mr. Zaloga also wrote the New Vanguard series books on the Soviet T-62, T-72 and T-80, so this volume completes the set nicely. That the T-64 is the last of the Soviet Cold War MBT’s to get its own New Vanguard book is indicative of how this vehicle has been overshadowed by its more well known stablemates. Ironically, the T-64 was perhaps the most important of the Cold War Soviet designs, setting the template for all the Soviet tanks that followed. Zaloga does a very nice job in describing the internal politics that led to the development of the T-64, a tale with more than a few characters and plot twists. It is perhaps appropriate that this book came out now, as it’s only been in the last year that the T-64 has seen combat, being used extensively in the fighting in Ukraine.

The only complaint regarding this book is the length.  As with all the Osprey New Vanguard titles, the book is only 48 pages.  Considering the number of photos and illustrations, the space available for text is rather limited and one gets the impression that Mr. Zaloga could easily fill a larger volume with his knowledge of this topic.  The “Further Reading” section at the end of the book shows that a good deal of information is available regarding the T-64, but it is almost exclusively in Russian language sources.  We can only hope that a publisher offers Mr. Zaloga a chance to write a more detailed hard cover book on Soviet post war tank development, perhaps an updated version of his classic “Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles: 1946 to Present” published back in 1987.  That said, this New Vanguard T-64 book is at present the best (and one of the few) volumes out there dedicated specifically to this essential battle tank of the cold war.

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Zaloga on the Culin hedgerow cutter

hedge3Over at the website missing-lynx.com, there is an article by Steven Zaloga titled “Normandy legends: the Culin hedgerow cutter.”  For those that are familiar with the history of tank combat in Normandy, the Culin hedgerow cutter is a well known story.  Zaloga casts a critical eye on the familiar story of the hedgerow cutter, concluding that the importance of the hedgerow cutter equipped “Rhino” tanks in the Normandy campaign is most likely exaggerated.

Excerpt:

Popular histories of modern wars inevitably simplify events and create myths and legends. The campaign in Normandy has created more than most, especially in view of the numerous television documentaries on this theme. For example, it is difficult to find an account of the breakout from Normandy that does not include reference to the Culin hedgerow cutter. My own recent account Campaign 88: Operation Cobra 1944 mentions it, of course. Another recent study calls it a myth. So it is worth taking a more detailed look to see how big a role it actually played in the battle.

Read the entire article at missing-lynx.com.