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Book Review
Panzerjäger History, Vol.1
The History of the Panzerjäger Volume 1: Origins and Evolution 1939–42
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

The History of the Panzerjäger, Volume 1: Origins and Evolution 1939–42 is a new 304-page hardback book from Osprey Publishing LTD. The book is available for per-ordering and is scheduled for release on 23 August 2018. Volume 2 will explore the arms race between the Germans and the Allies, from the inadequate 3.7cm PaK through the giant purpose-built tank destroyers to the Panzerfaust. Modelers should appreciate it for its subject inspiration for equipment and dioramas, and also the "why-how" explanations models and history stirs in so many of us.

Authored by Thomas Anderson, it bears the company Short code: GNM and IBSN 9781472817587. Mr. Anderson has authored other hardback books, including Ferdinand and Elefant Tank Destroyer, The History of the Panzerwaffe, Tiger, and Sturmgeschütz.

I scaled back this review several times as there is simply so much to present that it was becoming one of those marathon reviews to do it justice. Let me just say that as long as it is, there could easily be a dozen more items of content that I could have included, i.e., a technical report by a soldier on the effectiveness of a dozen hollow-charge rifle grenades shot into a captured T-34, and similar effectiveness reports on other shot and shell. Even the performance of tractors, and orders to capture indigenous modes of transportation following the failure of German tractors are reproduced in this book. I gave up counting the number of quotes of reports and personnel concerning aspects and characteristics of the subject matter. To list them would probably fill an entire browser window! The author remarks that he knows of no other single publication that covers so broadly and comprehensively the Panzerjäger as this book and its second volume.

Osprey describes this book thusly;
    The German Panzerjäger, or Panzerjägertruppe, was one of the most innovative fighting arms of World War II and its story has never properly been told. Many books have focused on an element of the story - the Hetzer, Jagdpanzer, Jagdpanther - but this is the first time that the whole story of the development and organization of Nazi Germany's anti-tank force will have been covered, from 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 is the first of two volumes that will trace the story through the glory years of Blitzkrieg and the improvements that were made when Soviet tanks were first encountered, leading to new weapons, tactics and organization. It is packed with previously unpublished wartime photographs, combat reports, and detailed charts and statistics to give an unparalleled account of this unique arm of the Wehrmacht.

Author Anderson tells the story of the beginning and early history of the Panzerjägertruppe through 304 pages of 12 chapters;
    The Interwar Years
    Spanish Civil War
    Early Heavy AT Weapons
    Preparing for Seelöwe
    Close-combat Weapons
    Technical Changes
    Preparations for Russia
    North Africa
    The Invasion of Crete
    The Invasion of Russia

This fascinating book combines erudite comprehensive text with first-person statements and log/journal/reports from tank killers. Many excerpt of reports from German experts are included, e.g., Generals Halder and Beck, et al. Foreign anti-tank weapons are compared and contrasted. Anti-tank values of some high-explosive verses armor-piercing rounds are presented where able.

The text covers far more than the individual weapons and ammunition, explaining even the economic and technical aspects of developing and fielding the weapons.

If you like technical jargon in English or German, you will appreciate this book. The author provides excerpts of orders and directives from OKH (Oberkommando des Heeres - Army High Command), as well as other formations and headquarters, from Berlin to the front.

A nine-page introduction introduces us to what would become anti-tank troops, reaching back to an experiments in the 1770s but mainly with Germany's Great War attempt to fight British and French tanks. In The Interwar Years the author describes Germany's foray into the forbidden development of tanks, and the parallel realization that they needed specialized weapons and doctrine to fight enemy tanks. Not only are weapons detailed, their transport and organization is also given examination. Explored is General Lutz's reorganization of the Wehrmacht into a mobile concept with an offensive anti-tank component, although he did not at first think anti-tank guns (ATG) required more than man or horsepower to move! A 1935 German intelligence report concerning French tanks is reproduced in part, providing insight into concern that the 3.7cm PaK would not be sufficient; the recommendations for higher velocity 37mm guns or larger ATGs of 5cm and larger.

Those early weapons and theories were tested to a degree in Spain, as discussed in Spanish Civil War. In the chapters Early Heavy AT Weapons, Poland, and France the author provides German reports of the performance and effectiveness of the weapons. Even in the early conflict the "88" was proving to be the darling of the Wehrmacht and a serious threat to the Allies. Shortcomings of equipment and tow vehicles are also discussed.

We learn about other weapons such as the BunkerFlak (BuFlak), or Bunkerknacker - "bunker cracker/knocker." These were 88s towed by, or mounted on, heavy half-tracks; I was completely unaware of the BuFlaK until this book, aside from what I assumed were unit level field modifications. Seven pages provide an assessment of the weapons - tanks and guns - used against the Poles, French, and British. The first-hand description of the 8.8cm FlaK 18 is presented through two full pages of text. Other weapons are treated to the same exploration.

Preparing for Seelöwe seems like an afterthought in this book although it does a good job of discussing the overall challenge Germany would have had to cross the Channel.

Close-combat Weapons features improvised weapons and handheld weapons, such as the Hafthohlladund 3kg (Haft Hl 3) magnetic shaped-charge mine. This chapter features many instructional photos of close-quarter attacks on T-34s and KV-1s. "Daisy chains" of Teller Mines and other devices are shown and described. This is an excellent chapter for modelers and dioramaists because of the clear images of the weapons and the diorama ideas.

Technical Changes introduces us to the attempt to rectify the problems faced by the Germans with their generally ineffective 3.7cm PaK. Taper bore guns, shaped-charges, tungsten rounds, discarding sabots and other new weapons are discussed. The book also addresses shortages of production and deployment.

Captured and commandeered equipment is discussed, as identified from Wehrmacht ordnance office documents - French, Soviet, British, Austrian, Czech.

The text also presents organizational Panzerjäger compositions of:
    Infantry Divisions
    Infantry Division (mot)
    Light Division
    Mountain Divisions
    Panzer Divisions
    Infantry and Tank Divisions, and Other Units

North Africa and The Invasion of Crete are full of technical and tactical information. As is The Invasion of Russia, This chapter begins with an overview of the Russian tank forces. The variety of ATGs Germany brought to Russia is explored. This includes some rare machines like "Dicker Max", the PzSfl IVa schwere Jäger.

Finally, we find detailed descriptions and narratives of improved weapons and ammunition:
    Granatbuchse 39
    7.5cm GrPatr 38 (HI) for 7.5cm KwK and StuK
    3.7cm Stielgranate 41

Not to diminish the importance of the great array of ATGs the Nazis used 1939-42, especially the 8.8cm FlaK, the stars of this volume are the 3.7cm and commandeered Czech 4.7cm ATGs. Their deployment by man, tractor, and tank are covered in great detail. As are the other guns.

Amazing as the text is, there are some discouraging typos. Starting on page 270 is the history of the 3.7cm Stielgranate 41 hollow-charge stick grenade, designed to revive the PaK 36 after it proved to be useless against T-34s and KV tanks. These were encountered after Operation Barbarossa in June 1942. Yet the text states production of the Stielgranate 41 commenced in January 1941, and a PzJgAbt 134 after-action report against T-34s is cited as April 1941. The after-action report describes combat in 1942.

Visual Support
Osprey filled this book with a strong gallery of photographs. These are a bonanza to modelers and historians. A small selection of that I find remarkable are;
    PaK crew ferrying their 3.7cm gun across a river on a raft made from a section of fence, afloat on pontoons crafted from timber and barrels!

    Kfz 69 towing a 3.7 cm PaK across a railroad track in a cut.

    One very easily reproducible scene is a battery of 88s deployed in a flat open wheat field, the crews in various states of dress and maintenance.

    For those interested in the effects of high velocity rounds against armor plate, a closeup of a Matilda II; photos of clusters of destroyed Matildas, too.

    A column of Sd.Kfz. 10 mounting 3.7 PaK stopped alongside an abandoned KV-2.

Perhaps one of the most interesting photos is a destroyed T-34 setting atop the 5cm PaK 38 it ran over and crushed; another image shows a KV-1 that crushed a 7.62cm PaK 36(r) before having a track blown off.

The book also presents aircraft delivery mounts including cradles for external carriage.


The allotment of anti-tank elements to infantry divisions: 1.InfDiv in September 1939

The allotment of anti-tank elements to tank divisions: 1.PzDiv in September 1939

Tank Destroyer Elements of Leibstandarte SS Adolph Hitler, February 1941

Tank Destroyer Elements of 1.InfDiv, February 1941

Tank Destroyer Elements of 5.leDiv, May 1941

Tank Destroyer Elements of 15.PzDiv, February 1941

Compilation of experiences of the defence of T-34 and KV
, per weapon, ammo, maximum combat range, damage to T-34, damage to 52 Tonner (KV series)


These tables general include almost a dozen characteristics: Caliber; Barrel length; Maximum range; Muzzle velocity; Side traverse; Elevation range; Rate of fire; Weight in action; Armor penetration at 100m, 500m, 1,000m; types of ammunition on penetration.

3.7cm Tak/PaK, Data

5cm PaK, Data

4.7cm PaK 188(h), Data

4.5cm PaK (Krupp), Data

10cm s K18, Data

8.8cm FlaK,Data

PzGr 40 - Penetration Data
of these weapons: 2cm KwK/FlaK; 3.7cm PaK; 3.7cm PaK9t); 5cm PaK 38; 8.8cm FlaK 36

2.8cm s PzB 41, Data

4.2cm PaK 41, Data

7.5cm PaK 41, Data

10cm K auf PzSfl IVa, Data

12.8cm K auf PzSfl V, Data

7.5cm LG 40, Data

7.5cm PaK 40, Data

7.62cm Fk 296(r), horse drawn, Data

7.62cm PaK 36(r), Data

7.5cm PaK 97/38, Data

Technical Data, comparisons

Boys AT Rifle, Solothurn S-8, PTRD, Karabin y wzor 35

Panzerbüchse 38/39, Kar 98K

German anti-tank guns introduced before 1939

FlaK 88 performance against tanks and concrete

7.5cm PaK 40, Ammunition
penetration performance
    PzGrPatr 39
    PzGrPatr 40
    GrPatr 38 HI/B
    GrPatr 38 HI/C
    GrPatr 34

7.62cm PaK 36(r), Ammunition penetration performance
    PzGrPatr 39
    PzGrPatr 40
    GrPatr 38 HI/B
    GrPatr 38 HI/C
    GrPatr 34

7.5cm PaK 97/38, Ammunition penetration performance
    PzGrPatr 39
    GrPatr 38 HI/B
    GrPatr 34

Those graphics support the text very well.

The History of the Panzerjäger, Volume 1 from Osprey is an inspirational must-have for the modeler, as well as an informative book for the historian. The level of detail and original narratives fortify the historical text. It covers aspects of the Panzerjäger far beyond the histories of the guns and shot.

Photographic support for the book is exceptional. Almost every other page presents a scene worthy of a diorama. Tables and graphs help visualize the performance of the subject matter.

Excellent as the text is, typos are present. They can confuse readers unfamiliar with the subjects, and create doubt upon the rest of the book.

Regardless, I think that this is a must-have book for anyone interested in German unit composition, anti-tank warfare in WWII in general, and the Panzerjäger in particular. I highly recommend it for your library.

Thanks to Osprey for providing us with this first-look. Remember to mention to them and retailers that you saw this book here - on ARMORAMA.

Highs: The level of detail and original narratives fortify the historical text. It covers aspects of the Panzerjäger far beyond the gun and shot characteristics. The photographic support in the book is exceptional.
Lows: Typos are present. They can confuse readers unfamiliar with the subjects, and cast doubt upon the rest of the material.
Verdict: I think that this is a must-have book for anyone interested in anti-tank warfare in WWII in general, and the Panzerjäger in particular. I recommend it for your library.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9781472817587
  PUBLISHED: Aug 08, 2018

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2020 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


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