|Steven J. Zaloga|
80 pages, 7¼ x 9¼ inches, softcover
When Germany took over Czechoslovakia in 1938/39, they inherited several very good industrial complexes, including that of Skoda and CDK. What this meant was that they got what was then a world class light tank, which the Germans put into service as the Panzer 38(t). This vehicle was superior to the Panzer I and Panzer II in both reliability (which frankly, even in the best tanks of the time was not all that great) and in its main armament. The German tanks had rifle caliber and 20mm armament respectively while the 38(t) had a 37mm gun that was the same as their anti-tank gun.
Since the 38(t) was such a new tank, deliveries had not yet been made to the Czech army prior to the German take-over, but by the time of the invasion of France, Holland, and Belgium, made up a goodly percentage of German tanks. Even after the type had been considered obsolete, the chassis was used on various other vehicles and kept in production until the end of the war.
On the Soviet side, the BT-7 was their best light tank. This tank was built on a licensed Christy chassis and was faster than the German tanks. It also had more power and was armed with a 37mm gun with the same amount of armor protection (not all that much). On paper, the Soviet tank was just a bit better, but where the real difference came was in the people operating and deploying the tanks. Thanks to Stalin's purges, most of the higher ranking officers of the army were dead, the effects of this having a deleterious effect on those left. In addition, training of tank crews was minimal at best, some learning the tank on the job.
It was this lack of training and leadership along with the battle experience already provided the Germans that caused such a huge loss of life and equipment at the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in mid 1941.
This book looks at not only the development of the two tanks, but also at the men who would be operating them and those who determined the strategy and tactics. Few realize that some of the biggest tank to tank battles of the war were not mid-war, but at the very beginning. One of the biggest was when the Germans went into Lithuania during the first week of Barbarossa. This is fully covered in this book and we look at how these two tanks fared against each other. Thanks to the great choice of period photos and some excellent art work, we get the full story of the use of these tanks against each other. Highly recommended reading for all with an interest.
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