Panzer Divisions: The Eastern Front 1941-43
ISBN: 978 1 84603 338 4
Contributor: Thomas Houlihan
Review Date: 22 Sep 2009
Part of Osprey's Battle Orders series, this is a very informative book, showing that the author has done a considerable amount of research into the material. It is broken down into eight chapters with the additions of a glossary, explanation of abbreviations, and a key to the vehicle silhouettes used in the charts throughout the book.
The first chapter is on the combat mission of the tank arm, with the second chapter on doctrine and training. While they are each rather short, one can see how initial successes affected later campaigns, both to the good and otherwise.
The third chapter on organization discusses not only the overall Panzer divisions, but their component unit types as well. This chapter almost made me put the book down. On the one hand, there is a wealth of information presented here. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons the author has tried to fill each sentence with as much information as grammatically possible. This makes for some very unwieldy and hard to read paragraphs. Quite often I found myself having to go back and re-read passages, trying to decipher what was being presented. This is regrettable because the information is first rate. The reader can gather considerable knowledge here, but it will take some effort.
The chapter on tactics is well presented, broken down into an analysis of several engagements, accompanied with nicely done maps. The chapter on weapons, however, has the same weakness as the organizational chapter. Again, the author has tried to cram too much information into his paragraphs making them rather unwieldy. The charts that are presented showing tank division strengths at various times ought to be informative, but even they are difficult to read. Still, this chapter has a lot of good information in it.
The chapter on command, control, communication and intelligence gives a pretty good look at what it took to ‘fight' a Panzer Division. Starting with an explanation of Auftragstaktik, then discussing elements of command and control. This is followed by a section on unit status, which to me was very unwieldy.
Overall, I found the book useful, but difficult to read. My take was that the author had to deal with format restraints which caused the cramming of information. It is well illustrated, though, with both photographs and maps. While it isn't something you can pick up to read in an evening, I would consider it a good reference.
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Captain Henry P. Jim Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan 1943