Review of Tanks in the Battle of the Bulge
by Steven J. Zaloga
Illustrations by Felipe Rodriguez
Well known military history author and respected armor modeler Steven J. Zaloga (If memory serves me, he is even an AMPS member!) has turned out yet another great volume on the subject of armor during in the Second World War. The most recent work published by Osprey is in their usual format that many of us in the armor modeling community have come to respect and appreciate as highly valuable reference works in our craft. This new book deals with a great topic of one of the most significant battles to have taken place in the Eastern Theater of Operations during the war. While the topic itself is very broad and complex, Zaloga has zeroed in his focus on the topic of tanks in the battle specifically, with emphasis on how they impacted the events during the battle and how major leaders utilized them in combat operations.
The book includes five major sections with highlights of the campaign, analysis of the tank doctrine and unit organization with sections specifically on the Wehrmacht , US. Army, and British Army (This was really new and appreciated information to me about British armored units involved in the fight!), technical factors for both German and US Armor, battle analysis with well explained details regarding lessons learned from organizational and doctrinal lessons, technical lessons, and tank casualties. The final two more concise sections provide sources for further reading and a helpful index. Each chapter includes numerous black and white period photographs of vehicles from both sides with many images including M4 Medium Sherman variants, M5 Stuarts, M18 Hellcat tank destroyers, M10 & M36 US Tank destroyers, Pz. IV's, Panthers, Tiger I's, Jagdpanzer IV Lang's, Jagdpanzer 38 (Hetzers), Tiger II's, Sturmgeschutz III & IV, Jagdpanthers, and Jagdtigers. My favorite section addressed a question I've had about British involvement in the battle. I know they did not have as much of a presence in the immediate area as US forces, but I find it strange so many books on the Battle of the Bulge ignore the reality that British units were involved, especially since one of the Germans' primary strategic objectives was to divide the US and British Army's lines. Fireflies and other British armor played a significant role in the combat near the Dinant area of the Meuse River which helped repel the German advance. I also really liked the information given by Zaloga about how the US Army reached out to the British army to draw replacement tanks from some of their stock following the difficult battles of the Hürtgen Forest and subsequent losses incurred by the US Army during the Bulge. This is even broken down to the types of variants that were drawn from British stocks like the M4A1 (75 & 76mm gun tanks), M4A2's and M4A4s which amounted to the amount of 351 tanks in total!
Examples of 8 different Wehrmacht/Waffen SS and 4 US Army color plates are offered with helpful captions denoting where and when the vehicle was used with the given markings and camouflage that was used. These sections are especially helpful to modelers looking to find concise and colorful reference materials which will greatly help in getting that 1/2 point AMPS research bonus at competitions! The center section of the book has a beautiful two page color illustration by Felipe Rodriguez of a US Army (C. Co, 703rd Tank Destroyer Battalion) M36 Jackson's triumph over a 12th SS Panzer IV Ausf J at the Battle for the Dom Büttenbach Manor Farm, on December 21, 1944. Some of the color plates and some of the black and white photographs also illustrate the more unusual German vehicles used by Panzer Brigade 150 that attempted to disguise some German vehicles such as the Panther G to resemble a US. Army M10 tank destroyer and less effective efforts like the StuG III which were simply painted OD and had white stars and US Army tactical markings which were not very effective.
There are 24 very helpful and detailed tables on vehicle and unit formation prepared by Zaloga, similar to the example shown above appropriately divided throughout the book. Helpful information like vehicle casualties and employment are included in the tables, as well as production dates for certain types of vehicles. This was interesting to see as it explained why certain newer types of German tanks like the Panzer IV Ausf. J and Panther G were distributed among various Wehrmacht and Waffen SS. units. Zaloga explains how the nuances of different German and US Army casualty reporting records impacted the number of vehicles that were reported as destroyed or damaged by both sides. These tables also serve to dispel many myths and misconceptions perceived of German Armor's superiority over US tanks that have often been parroted from less respected historical documentaries from the "History" Channel in days of old.
Two very helpful sections bring the book to a close offering suggested works for further reading and an index of works and sources cited.
The back cover of the book with some examples of the many high resolution black and white photos that are offered throughout the book (with approximately 40 black and white period photos and a handful of more recent color shots of vehicles located at different battlefield memorials in modern day.
My modeling builds often focus on WWII US Armor, but also German armor when I'm wanting to build something other than my usual OD schemed US vehicles, so I was glad to receive this copy for my reference library. This book is a helpful and concise reference for those looking for a book that offers well researched content, expertly organized and displayed data, and excellent photographs and illustrations. This book provides much more than just overused stock photographs or vague captions that are all to often seen on books about the Battle of the Bulge to really assist the reader in gaining a better understanding of the many moving parts and personalities that were at play in this pivotal battle. Overall I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject. The price is just right and the quality of information that is given is excellent. The book is scheduled for release on April 28, 2020, so pre-order your copy today!
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to Osprey Publishing for this review sample book.
Reviewed by Ben Brandes
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