The History of the Panzerjäger:
Volume 1: Origins and Evolution 1939–42
This hardbound Osprey book is the first of two volumes detailing the development and organisation of Germany’s innovative Panzerjägers, or Panzerjägertruppe. The story of the development and employment of individual Panzerjäger vehicles have been told many times over the years, but these books aim to tell the whole story of the creation, development and employment of the entire tank-hunter arm of the Wehrmacht. This volume deals with the beginnings of the development and organization of the Wehrmacht’s anti-tank force and covers its earliest origins in World War I, through its development in the interwar period, and its baptism of fire in the early days of World War II.
This first volume traces the story from the beginnings in the First World War and through the interwar years and the Spanish Civil War, through the early years of Blitzkrieg and concludes with the invasion of the USSR and the first improvements that were made when Soviet tanks were first encountered. In each period the book details the new weapons, tactics, and organization that arose due to combat lessons being learned and incorporated. It has many previously unpublished wartime photographs, combat reports, and detailed charts and statistics that appear to give a very complete account of this service arm. This book is definitely oriented towards the technical details of the Panzerjägertruppe and provides a comprehensive account of the details of the weapons themselves and how they were developed and employed, including many of the very specialised applications. It also traces the combat histories of many of the Panzerjägertruppe units showing how they were integrated into the larger formations and how they influenced various battles over time.
Broken down into 12 chapters plus an introduction and index, the book provides a large amount of technical data on not just the development of the service arm, but the weapons and organisation, with War Establishments and discussions of how these units fit within the larger formations which employed them. Each chapter goes into some detail as to the state of the Panzerjägertruppe at the time, the tactical and technical challenges presented in each time period or campaign and how those challenges were met (or not) in time for the next campaign. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is to view, over the course of this detailed account, the evolution of the Arm as new challenges were presented and how both field improvisation and more formal weapons development were applied to these challenges. Designs and tactics both came into favour and out again in record time as the battlefield morphed quickly in the early years of the war. It is difficult to grasp that the incredible amount of development seen in the book actually occurred over the course of weeks or months and not the years we are used to today. When the timing of events is considered, this first volume ably captures the sense of innovation necessary to respond so quickly to battlefield conditions.
The photos are almost exclusively wartime B&W images and do vary in quality because of that. Still, the reproduction is excellent and the very most has been wrung out of the few lower quality photos that have been used because they illustrate unusual or rare subjects. The Author seems to have been able to find and reproduce a large number of photos of truly unusual subjects. Those captured in the images in this review are just a taste of the really interesting vehicles and combinations presented. Whether or not it was a conscious decision, many of the photos are "action" shots and not just dry photos of equipment and will provide the modeller with a lot of inspiration for dioramas or bases for their models.
Very Highly Recommended for modellers as well as those interested in the history of the Wehrmacht.
Many thanks to Osprey Publishing for providing the review copy.
Reviewed by Paul Roberts
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