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.

Photo of the Day; T-14 Armata

This picture of a T-14 Armata tank was taken by Steven Zaloga at the Army 2017 show outside Moscow at the Patriot Park in Kubinka.  More pictures of the show can be seen at this facebook post.

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Book Review: Soviet Lend Lease Tanks of World War II

When it comes to book series about tanks and armored vehicles, Osprey Publishing’s New Vanguard series certainly holds claim to being the longest running.  The publication of Soviet Lend-Lease Tanks of World War II (New Vanguard), the 247th book in the series, is a testament to the popularity and quality of these books.  Much of the success of this series has to be attributed to the authors and illustrators that Osprey has been able to assemble, with Steven Zaloga being one of the most prolific and respected of the New Vanguard contributors.  With this new title on Soviet Lend Lease tanks he adds yet another entry into his already impressive bibliography.

For those not familiar with the format of the New Vanguard titles, these books are softcover, 48 page books, with numerous photographs, illustrations, and charts.  The earlier books in the series tended to focus on fairly well known vehicles, making them decent introductory primers on the subject.  As the series has gone on, the more obvious topic choices have been largely exhausted, opening up opportunities for less explored subjects.  One such example is Soviet Lend Lease tanks of WWII, which as far as we know has never been the sole topic of a book until now.

Having long been regarded as one of the foremost experts on Soviet armor history writing in English, Steven Zaloga is the ideal candidate to author this volume.  His writing is clear and understandable, containing a considerable density of information yet never becoming impenetrable.  The photos are well chosen and the paper quality is good, making for good photo reproduction.  The illustrations are attractive and appear to be accurate representations.  Given the relatively limited length of the book, technical specifics of the various lend lease vehicles is limited.  This is understandable since these individual armored vehicles all are described in other New Vanguard titles (as well as many other books.)  The focus of the book is on the role that these lend lease vehicles played within the Red Army and the interplay between the Soviet war planners and the Western officials in charge of Lend Lease deliveries.

One of the more interesting aspects of the story of these Lend-Lease vehicles is the Soviet interpretation of their quality and classification.  For example, while the British supplied three different types of “infantry tank” via Lend-Lease (the Matilda, the Churchill and the Valentine), the Soviets had to reclassify these vehicles according to their own system.  Hence, the Matilda and the Churchill were deemed heavy tanks while the Valentine was deemed a light tank.  Given the relatively weak armament of the Matilda and Churchill tanks compared to Soviet Heavy tanks, it’s not surprising that no more of them were asked for.  On the other end of the spectrum, the Valentine was rather well armed and armored compared to the Soviet T-60 light tank, so the Valentine was requested by Soviet forces even after it was regarded as outdated by British forces.

While British tanks made up most of the early war Lend-Lease shipments to the USSR, by the later part of the war the US was making the majority of the tanks being shipped.  Of course, the ubiquitous M4 Sherman became the primary tank sent overseas from the USA, being dubbed “Emcha” in Soviet service.  The primary variant sent was the M4A2, preferred by the Soviets due to its diesel engine.  One of the more unusual US vehicles in Soviet service was the T48 57mm motor gun carriage.  Intended as a tank destroyer, this was a US halftrack with a 57mm anti-tank gun mounted on top.  After these vehicles were rejected by the British, they were offered to the Soviets who took several hundred into service, renaming it the SU-57.  The SU-57 would become the only Lend-Lease combat vehicle used exclusively by the Red Army.

For those looking for statistics regarding Lend-Lease tanks, there are two pages of charts at the end of the book that will prove very useful.  Numbers are provided for total numbers of tanks shipped and received, broken down by vehicle type, year, and country of origin.  Also provided are numbers for Lend-Lease armored vehicles in service with the Red Army by type at the end of the war.  It is rather interesting to consider that in May of 1945 there were still 40 British Matilda tanks in Soviet service!  The book ends with a final assessment, stating that while tank shipments to the USSR were by no means insubstantial, they played a relatively small role in the Lend-Lease story compared to the large amount of trucks and raw materials that were shipped.  That said, these vehicles did play a role in filling production shortfalls experienced by the Soviets, particularly in 1942 when much Soviet heavy industry was still recovering from their rather hasty relocation eastward to avoid German occupation.

For fans of Eastern Front tank warfare history, this book will fill a niche that has not been addressed in a single volume.  For those interested in the tanks of the Western Allies, it provides an intriguing look into how these familiar vehicles were regarded by a foreign user in an environment very different from the deserts of North Africa or Western Europe.  The book retails for $18 and can be found at book stores and hobby shops as well as online.

Book Alert: Soviet Lend-Lease Tanks of World War II (New Vanguard)

Tomorrow is the release of the latest entry in the Osprey New Vanguard series, Soviet Lend-Lease Tanks of World War II (New Vanguard).   This is a 48 page softcover with numerous illustrations and photos, following the well established format of previous entries in the series.  As far as we know, this is the first book to deal exclusively with the issue of the Lend Lease tanks sent to the Soviet Union.

Publisher’s Description:

The Red Army suffered such catastrophic losses of armour in the summer of 1941 that they begged Britain and the United States to send tanks. The first batches arrived in late 1941, just in time to take part in the defence of Moscow. The supplies of British tanks encompassed a very wide range of types including the Matilda, Churchill, and Valentine and even a few Tetrarch airborne tanks. American tanks included the M3 (Stuart) light tank and M3 (Lee) medium tank and the M4 Sherman tank, which became so common in 1944–45 that entire Soviet tank corps were equipped with the type. With these Western tanks, the Soviets were finally able to beat back the German tide in the East.

This study examines the different types of tanks shipped to the Soviet Union during the war, Soviet assessments of their merits and problems, and combat accounts of their use in Soviet service using full colour artwork, contemporary photographs and detailed cut-away illustrations.

WWI Parade “Tanks” Photo Gallery

Yesterday Steven Zaloga posted a series of photos on his facebook account of various imitation tanks built during WWI and used as public displays for promoting war bond sales. He graciously agreed to let us post the photos here in a digital gallery.  These are really quite fun, especially the rather nicely done imitation A7V shown on parade promoting the  U.S. Tank Corps in New York City.

Gallery description from Steven Zaloga:

While working on a book in the Osprey New Vanguard series on early US tanks, I kept running into newspaper accounts of tanks on parade in various US cities in 1918, mostly for Liberty Loan drives. There were a handful of British tanks used for this purpose, but obviously not enough to go around. So a lot of cities built their own. This had led to some confusion, as some of these things were identified as real tank prototypes in various accounts. Obviously not judging from the photos of the Plywood Panzers. Here’s a sampling, courtesy of the files of NARA.

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Photo of the Day: Revolving Turret Armored Motor Car

Today’s POTD is borrowed from the facebook page of Steven Zaloga.  Here is his description of the vehicle.

Aside from finding obscure Russian half-track armored car drawings, I located a lot of stuff on early US AFVs at NARA over the past few days. Most of it amplifies information on well-known types, but there is an occasional surprise. Here’s the “Revolving Turret Armored Motor Car” offered by Consolidated Motor Corp. to the Army. This seems to be the same vehicle attributed to Federal Motor Truck Co., which should not be a surprise as the individual behind these ventures was the same: C. K. Thomas. One of these was donated to the Armored Motor Battery of the NY National Guard, the first significant armored unit in the US Army which took part in the Mexican Punitive Expedition in 1916.

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