Osprey's The History of the Panzerjäger Vol 1
304 pages, hardbound
Osprey continues with its volumes on the German Army with this first volume on the Panzerjäger. These were basically the German anti-tank units. Many of us are aware that a lot more tanks were destroyed by anti-tank methods rather than by other tanks, though tank on tank battles are more interesting.
Not surprisingly, efforts to defeat enemy tanks have their roots back in mid-WWI when the British introduced the weapon to the battlefield. Initially they seemed unstoppable, but it was discovered that artillery and high powered rifles could penetrate the rather thin armor of early tanks.
It was the time between the wars that these weapons really took off. At first anti-tank rifles were the way to go. Indeed, with armor thicknesses of 15mm or less, a long barreled, high-power rifle was more than sufficient. However, it took a dedicated anti-tank cannon to really defeat the tank. All the major nations developed guns in the 20-45mm range and all were effective. Sticking with the German army's Panzerjäger units, it was the much-copied 37mm anti-tank gun that led the way. It was highly successful in the Spanish Civil War where it made quick work of Republican and Soviet tanks. However going into WWII, it was realized that it was not enough for the more heavily armored British and French tanks.
Thus began a continuing period of ever more effective anti-tank weaponry. As the German Army's opponents increased the armor on their tanks, even more powerful guns had to be developed. Since the battlefield was a lot of flowing movement, it was discovered that attaching an anti-tank gun to an obsolescent tank chassis or on a half track would provide even greater freedom of movement. With standard anti-tank artillery, once the enemy found it, the existence of the gun and crew would be limited. it was also discovered that the flat trajectory of anti-aircraft artillery made for a great, though easily spotted anti-tank gun and the reputation of the fearsome German '88' was born.
In this volume, the author has really done a superb job of research, going through archives and other primary sources to tell the story of the development and growth of the Panzerjäger units. This includes the ever changing organization of these units. Such is the scope of the subject that, like some of his other similar books, there is too much for one volume. This volume covers up until mid-war and provides a plethora of great period photos as well as action reports and experiences of those involved in the fighting.
The end result is a superb reference book and a great read to boot. This is the sort of book that will appeal to the history buff as modeler alike. As such, I give it my highest recommendation. You won't be disappointed.
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