The 3rd SS Panzer Regiment
Casemate Publishing brings readers an astonishingly wide range of military history works, including this series; Casemate Illustrated.
The subject of this book is a component unit of the 3rd SS Panzer Division "Totenkopf", the 3rd SS Panzer Regiment. Totenkopf was a division known for it's combat effectiveness and it's brutality ( the summary execution of prisoners, among other things ). The division's 3rd Panzer Regiment was formed in France in late 1942, and was sent to the Eastern Front in early 1943, where it remained until wars end. The 3rd SS Panzer Regiment took part in many notable actions in the East, including Operation Citadel ( Battle of Kursk ), and the 1945 attempt to relieve Budapest.
This title was authored by Pierre Tiquet, who has authored several other Waffen SS unit histories. A large portion ( if not all, in fact..) of the images and first hand accounts provided in this book appear to have been gathered by the author directly from veterans of this unit.
Format - softcover, portrait format
Page Count - heavyweight, glossy paper, 128 pages
Size - 10.0" x 7.0"
Photos - 150 images, mostly period, Black and White.
Tables / Drawings / Diagrams - timeline of the unit's actions and movements, some single aspect full color renderings of the various Panzers used by the unit.
All text and photo captions are in English
What's in the Book?
This volume's Table of Contents ( seen above ) very clearly lays out the unit's actions and locations during it's short, violent history.
This volume is conventional in that it follows the unit in a chronological manner throughout it's history, but it differs from many other books of this type in the quite large amount of first-person accounts, and with the book's emphasis on the human element in the unit. Many unit histories seem to me to be rather impersonal, focusing largely on dates, actions, and locations, with little or no examination of the human factor.
The book drops some eye candy onto the pages occasionally, with nice color photos of uniform bits, awards, and wartime certificates and various paperwork.
Above is a typical chapter opening page - there is a brief bit of text giving the reader the broad overview of the what's and where's of what is going on with the unit, and then plenty of first person descriptive text follows. Each chapter is well illustrated with period photos to accompany the text.
Scattered throughout the book are "In Profile" looks at the soldiers of the 3rd SS Panzer Regiment. These are interesting two page segments with thumbnail biographies, and a nice mix of "in the field" and portrait images of the soldier. Some of these "In Profile" segments also show the reader some selected artifacts or documents pertaining to the individual being discussed.
As one of Adolph Hitler's pet SS Panzer divisions, Totenkopf received the very best equipment that the Reich could supply throughout the war. This of course included the vaunted Panther and Tiger tanks, just as soon as they were ready to be fielded. The final weeks of the war saw the units of the Totenkopf division still being supplied with factory fresh tanks.
There are some "In Profile" pages on the most commonly seen tanks, such as the Panzer IV, Panther and Tigers, but these are not very detailed examinations meant for tank enthusiasts. They seem to be more geared towards the general interest level reader. They serve their purpose well enough to illustrate the weapons available to the 3rd SS Panzer Regiment though. Bear in mind, this isn't a "tank book" per se, it's more focused on the troops and their experiences.
The images that accompany the text throughout the book are well chosen for interest. These wartime images vary a bit in crispness, brightness and clarity, but given the conditions under which the images were made, they are entirely acceptable. Most of these images were not taken by photographic units, but rather by the troops themselves. As such, these images are not staged or official-type photos, and are of a wide range of subjects ( man and machine ) in wide range of activities.
Image size throughout this volume ranges from slightly less than quarter page sized up to roughly half page sized. In fact, on some pages the images are sized variously in order to get more of them onto the page, which results in sort of a disorderly look, while providing more interesting looks at fascinating images. As stated earlier, some of the images may be a bit dark or grainy, but given the interest of the image's subject matter, this is quite acceptable in a book of this sort.
The heavyweight, high gloss pages do justice to the photos, giving them maximum brightness. The physical production qualities of this volume are quite high.
As illustrated by the "In Profile" topic seen above, it should be clear that the real focus of this book is the men who served in this unit, and their experiences related in a first-person manner, not so much the usual "the unit went here, and performed that action" sort of history. This first-person heavy narrative is consistent throughout the book, and is present from the initial chapter to the final end of the war chapter. The book's focus is always on the individual soldiers viewpoint of the actions that the unit was involved in.
The text in this volume is cleanly written, fluid and easy to follow. Some unit histories can be a bit dry, not this one. Photo captions vary just a bit as to their completeness, but this is understandable given that these are largely privately taken images. Again, perfectly acceptable.
I must say that I enjoyed reading this unit history quite a bit. Some unit histories can be a bit overwhelming in their completeness, and the reading of them frequently can be sort of difficult as a result. The manner in which this book was written with it's heavy reliance on first person accounts written by the men who were actually there is both really interesting and refreshing to see.
The photographs in this volume represent a fascinating cross section of the experiences of the men of the 3rd SS Panzer Regiment, from it's formation in France, all the way to the end of the war. As the unit served only in the maelstrom that was the Russian front, these images are of great interest to those interested in that front. As stated above, some of the images are less than perfect, but the interesting subject matter makes this a non-issue.
This volume is a fascinating look into the experiences of the men of an elite armored unit that fought on the Eastern Front, written essentially in their own words. This book is well worth a read, and a place in your bookcase.
Thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy
Reviewed by Chuck Aleshire, AMPS Chicagoland
AMPS 2nd Vice President, Midwest Region
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