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: 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 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.

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

According to Amazon, today marks the North American release of the new book Dubno 1941: The Greatest Tank Battle of the Second World War by Aleksei Isaev.  This is a 224 page hardcover published by Helion and Company.  Mr. Isaev has written numerous books on the Eastern Front during WWII, primarily in Russian.

Publisher’s Description:

In June 1941 – during the first week of the Nazi invasion in the Soviet Union – the quiet cornfields and towns of Western Ukraine were awakened by the clanking of steel and thunder of explosions; this was the greatest tank battle of the Second World War. About 3,000 tanks from the Red Army Kiev Special Military District clashed with about 800 German tanks of Heeresgruppe South. Why did the numerically superior Soviets fail? Hundreds of heavy KV-1 and KV-2 tanks, the five-turret giant T-35 and famous T-34 failed to stop the Germans. Based on recently available archival sources, A. Isaev describes the battle from a new point of view: that in fact it’s not the tanks, but armored units, which win or lose battles. The Germans during the Blitzkrieg era had superior T&OE for their tank forces. The German Panzer Division could defeat their opponents not by using tanks, but by using artillery, which included heavy artillery, motorized infantry and engineers. The Red Army’s armored unit – the Mechanized Corps – had a lot of teething troubles, as all of them lacked accompanying infantry and artillery. In 1941 the Soviet Armored Forces had to learn the difficult science – and mostly ‘art’ – of combined warfare. Isaev traces the role of these factors in a huge battle around the small Ukrainian town of Dubno. Popular myths about impregnable KV and T-34 tanks are laid to rest. In reality, the Germans in 1941 had the necessary tools to combat them. The author also defines the real achievements on the Soviet side: the Blitzkrieg in the Ukraine had been slowed down. For the Soviet Union, the military situation in June 1941 was much worse than it was for France and Britain during the Western Campaign in 1940. The Red Army wasn’t ready to fight as a whole and the border district’s armies lacked infantry units, as they were just arriving from the internal regions of the USSR. In this case, the Red Army tanks became the ‘Iron Shield’ of the Soviet Union; they even operated as fire brigades. In many cases, the German infantry – not tanks – became the main enemy of Soviet armored units in the Dubno battle. Poorly organized, but fierce, tank-based counterattacks slowed down the German infantry – and while the Soviet tanks lost the battle, they won the war.

Video: Second World War Tiger Veterans At The Tank Museum

The Tank Museum at Bovington recently posted this video featuring WWII veterans from both the UK and Germany as part of their Tiger Exhibition.

Book Review: Forgotten Archives 2: The Lost Signal Corps Photos

Over the past two decades, the Panzerwrecks series of books has become known for quality books showcasing photos of WWII armor.  Founded by Lee Archer and Bill Auerbach, Panzerwrecks has became both a book series and a publishing house focusing on  armored warfare in WWII.  Unfortunately, co-founder BIll Auerbach passed away in 2015, but Panzerwrecks has soldiered on, both with the original Panzerwrecks series andForgotten-Archives-2-Jacket-600px with titles by a new generation of authors.  One such writer/researcher is Darren Neely.  Last year Panzerwrecks released his book Forgotten Archives 1: The Lost Signal Corps Photos.  This month saw the release of the follow-up book, Forgotten Archives 2: The Lost Signal Corps Photos in the UK with release in the US coming this July.

We had a chance to examine a copy of this latest book and it is a very handsome volume indeed.  This is a large hardcover volume of 240 pages.  Primarily a photo book, the pages are printed on high quality glossy paper and the photo quality is excellent.  The black and white photos, of which there are 252, are generally printed one to a page making it very easy to see the details contained in the images.  There are also a small number of nicely done color illustrations by artist Felipe Rodna.

The subject matter of the book is, of course, WWII armor, specifically US and German armor in the ETO 1944-45.  This ground has been covered extensively over the years by numerous authors and publishers.  Probably everyone with an interest in WWII armor has had the experience of getting a new book on WWII tanks and upon cracking it open, finding the same familiar photos that get recycled year after year.  Fear not, this is not the case with Forgotten Archives 2.  What makes this new book unique is that the author was able to work with the families of eight former US Army Signal Corps photographers, going through the photo collections that these men brought back from the war.  Each photo is accompanied by the original caption written by the wartime photographer as well as a caption by the author, noting any errors or discrepancies in the original captions.  The book is arraigned by photographer, each chapter dedicated to a particular Signal Corps soldiers’ collection.  In organizing the book this way, each chapter tells the story of that particular photographer, marking the places they passed through and the things they saw and experienced.  Being presented in this way, the book becomes a tribute not just to the fighting men captured in the images, but also to the men who risked their lives behind the camera.

For those looking for original, never before seen photos of US and German armor in the ETO, we highly recommend this book.  Both the content and the presentation are top notch and should prove a valuable reference for both tank historians and model builders.  The book is currently available at the Panzerwrecks website.

pages samples and images below:

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My Tank Ancestor: Molly Johnson

The Tank Museum at Bovington presents another installment in their “My Tank Ancestor” series of videos.