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Along with the author’s previous book on US Armored Divisions in the ETO, this latest effort completes the story of the US armored forces that deployed to the ETO by detailing the non-divisional (independent) tank and tank destroyer battalions.
Mr. Zaloga begins by describing the pre-war discussions within the US Army about how best to organize and deploy armored units that would be used to support infantry divisions (as opposed to the armored divisions themselves, which would be used to create or exploit penetrations of the enemy’s front), as well as how best to counter an enemy armored thrust with anti-tank weapons. The author shows the reader how tanks were earmarked quite early on to support infantry units, but that they seldom trained with them, a condition which caused misunderstandings between the two regarding the strengths and weaknesses of their respective combat arms. Likewise, he shows us how US anti-tank doctrine, which later led to the deployment of both towed and self-propelled tank destroyer units, was at best confused. Equipment was lackluster and a flawed doctrine, created by misreading the early successes of the German’s Blitzkrieg led to the eventual deletion of the entire tank destroyer force from the post-war US Army’s structure.
He then continues with briefs on the equipment and organization of the various tank and tank destroyer units, and follows them with anecdotal evidence that describes the actions of several of these units in both the attack and the defense. Finally, there is a unit-by-unit listing (with brief campaign histories), describing all tank and tank destroyer battalions that deployed to the ETO. This listing includes such details as major campaigns, deployment dates and attachments to the various supported units.
This is all supported by 55 B&W photos, four color photos, 17 tables and charts, six color maps, a bibliography and an index. The charts detail such things as Tables of Organization and Equipment (TO&E) for a 1943 medium tank battalion, a 1943 light tank battalion (which were very few in number), a 1943 “special” tank battalion, a 1944 airborne tank battalion, a 1943 tank destroyer battalion (equipped with towed 3-inch guns), and finally, a 1944 tank destroyer battalion (equipped with either M10, M18 or M36 GMCs). Many of these TO&E charts are also accompanied by a second chart that contains silhouettes of the equipment used, making visualization that much easier for the reader. There are a number of tables that list such things as what specific tank or TD types were available at a given time. There are also several maps that accompany the actions that are described in the text, including those that took place during the landings in Normandy and later in Southern France, Operation Cobra, the assault on Fort Driant, the defense of the towns of Krinkelt and Rocherath during the Ardennes offensive, and finally, the crossing of the Roer River.
Specialized equipment is detailed in the text and is extremely well illustrated by the choice of photos that the author has made. For instance, there are photos of various light and medium tanks, special purpose tanks (assault tanks, bulldozer and hedgerow penetration tanks, flamethrowers, mine exploders, CDL tanks, airborne tanks and LVT amphibians) and the towed and self-propelled tank destroyers. The captions are extremely informative, as one would expect from this author. In addition, unlike many other books in this series, the photos are very well reproduced and are also presented in a useful size, something which the author goes to great lengths to ensure. The photos are a mixture of the new and the familiar, but are extremely well-chosen to illustrate the points that are made in the text. For instance, most photos of Sherman medium tanks show them in action with either infantry on foot or crowded onto their engine decks as extemporized means of transport. The contemporary color photos show quite clearly how tanks “weathered” during their service lives, something which a modeler will find extremely useful.
Altogether then, this book will prove to be of use to modelers of US subjects, as well as those who wish to know the details behind what they are modeling.
Frank V. De Sisto