Pen & Sword's Tank Warfare 1939-45

Author: Simon & Jonathan Forty


Pen & Sword


$34.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 216 pages,  Hardcover, 200 b&w images
ISBN: 978-1-526767622

As many of you are aware, the tank as we know it, was a development of WWI; an attempt to break through the enemy's trenches. The vehicles of the day were fairly large for the most part, and not very mechanically sound. However, they were fairly well armed and most important, fairly well armored so that the scourge of the battlefield, the machine gun, was generally unable to stop them.

During that war, they were basically assistants to the infantry and so the nations that continued to develop the tank, developed them with that purpose in mind. However, there was really never any useful doctrine provided on exactly how these tanks were to be used. Most simply assumed that they would be sent in where needed to open a hole through which the infantry would attack.

It is fairly interesting that the nation that really developed a doctrine for tank warfare was a nation that after WWI was not allowed to have them. This, of course, is Germany. Some German officers spent their 'tankless' years developing doctrine for the use of tanks. Guderian was one who realized the tanks needed to operate in conjunction with infantry as infantry kept the other guys away from their tanks while tanks helped infantry move forward. It was also seen that the best way to use tanks was en masse with tanks breaking through the enemy defenses and creating havoc behind the lines. The Soviets were also big on this later in the war when their tank guys were able to get the upper hand.

In Britian and France, WWI experiences shaped their tank building. The French had very good tanks, but poor leadership. The British had tanks that were generally under gunned and had poor reliability. In the US, tanks were pretty well forgotten until the years before the war. They were seen as means of reconnaissance for cavalry units and it wasn't until US tank officers read and understood the German approach that they finally got things right. Patton's name sticks out for most as he was the most vocal proponent.

In this book, we see how each nation's armor arms developed and how their strategy and tactics changed as the war situation evolved. The book looks at the major areas of combat, mainly North Africa, Soviet Union, Italy, Western Europe and the war against Japan. In addition, there are numerous appendices that look at a wide range of things such as guns, anti-tank warfare, repair and maintenance, tank radios, bridges and bridglayers, and amphibious tanks. There are also sections on stats and production that many will find interesting.

In all, it is a very well rounded book in with the authors have put a lot of thought. It is a great read, especially for those who want to know more about the subject and how the various tank arms developed and operated. Lots of great photos, too. This is one which I very much enjoyed reading and can quite easily recommend to you.

January 2021

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