The majority of the documentation within the U.S. Armed forces, was normally carried out by the Signal Corps. However, and less well documented, were the Technical Intelligence Teams. These teams had a very particular remit - to document and recover new variants of German weapon systems for eventual technical evaluation. Similar groups were operating in the field of Aviation (the storage facility of the Smithsonian is full of such recovered examples) and, naturally enough, the British were also involved in this enormous task. There were several reasons for this important function. By 1944, the Germans were deploying completely new systems in everything from large calibre AT Artillery to the first (battlefield) Infra-Red systems - developments which would be used in future conflicts. Secondly, the Soviet Union were also recovering and evaluating many of these weapons and since the 'Alliance' was already showing signs of ending - many analysts were seeing future conflict with an expansionist Soviet Union.
Anyone who has looked (even superficially) at 'Luft '46' or the AFVs on the drawing boards will realize that this is a very rich vein for the modeller and the student of Armor development. However, the photos chosen for the book don't just cover the 'exotic' - some very familiar vehicles are also documented - in various states of repair and damage. This also adds to the book's relevance for the modeller.
The Vital Statistics:
Panzers in the Gunsights 2, which is published with the 'Armor at War' series, is written by Steven J. Zaloga. The book is in the familiar Concord format consisting of 72 pages which have 193 photos and16 color plates. The book carries the ISBN 962-361-109-9
Before the review proper begins perhaps it is useful to stress (once again) the 'nature' of the mission of the Technical Intelligence Teams. Unlike the SIgnal Corps, whose photographers acted to record events, the former had the brief to record images of captured vehicles 'in situ' and in detail - much like a series of government solicited 'Walk-rounds'. Inevitably this 'style is infinitely more useful for modellers.
The book begins with a brief, single-page introduction. Once again, it says a great deal for Zaloga's experience as an author that some very pertinent information is to be found in this section - the author has a limited space to introduce the subject and does it clearly and concisely,
The book has brief titling of the subject areas. this is subdivided into the following sections:
1) Late War Panzer
4) Late War Assault Guns & Tank Destroyers
6) Reconnaissance Vehicles
9) Self-propelled Artillery
10) 88mm Anti-tank and Flak
11) 128mm Anti-Tank Guns
12) Late-War Flak Artillery
13) Rhine PaK Front
Obviously, for reasons of space, it's difficult to comment exhaustively on each section, therefore the logical manner to proceed is to single out some interesting aspect of each section.
Beginning with the first, there are some interesting images of Panthers although what is perhaps of more 'application' are a series of close-ups of Schürzen on a PzIV - this shows the construction and attachment in excellent detail.
The second section covers a popular subject for modellers - with some useful close-ups of the winch, engine deck etc.
The section on the Kingtiger is of particular interest as it shows the heavy Culemeyer Trailer in considerable detail - loaded and unloaded along with a good number of detail shots of its component elements.
The following chapter, on Assault Guns has a variety of vehicles fetured - Jagdpanzer IV (both L48 & L70) , the StugIV, Raupenshlepper Ost with Pak 40, and the Sd Kfz 251/22, Again, some excellent close-ups are featured - particularly in the case of the Raupenshlepper.
The chapter on 'Beutepanzer' covers some of the the (previously) captured vehicles the Germans were using in the 'last-ditch' defense. This is a small (only one page) section.
Moving onto Reconnaissance Vehicles, a variety of types are shown from semi-tracks such as the 250 to wheeled vehicles such as the Puma once again, some excellent (and useful) detail for modellers.
A variety of different vehicles (or variants) are featured in the Halftrack section. the sWS, Sd Kfz. 7, and the 251 (including some good detail shots of the earlier 251/17) once again some excellent detail shots.
Flakpanzers have always been a popular subject and some good studies are part of this chapter. The Möbelwagen, Wirblewind and the Sd Kfz 7/1 (with armored cab) are only three of the vehicles documented.
There are several of the 'usual' vehicles in the next chapter although there are some welcome additions - the Munitionsträger (unarmed Hümmel ammunition carrier) and, in particular, the massive Gerät 809 which was to have mounted a 17cm gun are two of the principal subjects in this section.
Some VERY useful images are presented in the '88' chapter. Not only of typical emplacements, but also of various subjects such as the Pak 43/41, Flak 37 and the Flak 41. However the subjects are not simply captured - there are several in action photos of various pieces 'under new ownership'.
The Jagdtiger, the Flak 44, Flak 40 and the KB1/2 consitute the third from last section. The former has good detail images although the most useful are those of the carriage mounted 128mms.
The penultimate section covers, in three pages of highly-detailed images, a very unusual subject - the Flakwerfer 44 Föhngeräte, This was a mobile rocket launcher which salvo-fired 73mm rockets in a rack of 30. Both the emplaced and trailer versions are shown in detail.
The final section looks at the more 'improvised' AT/AA weapons mounded in fixed emplacements a variety of weapons of a variety of calibres are shown.
Although ultimately a VERY satisfying book, there are some questions which should be raised. Principally, whether or not the images of the Technical Intelligence Teams will get more coverage in future books. There are areas which alone, would justify a seperate volume. In my opinion, Self-propelled Artillery and 88mm Anti-tank and Flak should get seperate coverage. This is no way reflects on Zaloga's work - on the contrary his 'additions' in the form of VERY complete captions should serve as an incentive to other authors. However, perhaps Concord need to start thinking along the lines of more 'specialized' titles. However, as I said in the introduction, this book does more than simply document some of the later projects, it also demonstrates what a damaged or destrotyed vehicle looks like. This, for many, will be justification enough to buy the book. The color plates are also very well-executed, again with an added value of demonstrating some of the late-war color schemes. In conclusion an excellent book with some VERY interesting possibilities suggesting themselves for some very unusual modelling projects...
Highs: The quality and variety of the images. The attention paid by the author to the editing and captioning. It almost seems as if these teams were working for future generations of modellers..Lows: Some of the subject areas deserve a seperate book. If anything (fomat limitations notwithstanding) the book is TOO short.Verdict: An extraordinarily valuable book for the Axis modeller. Bearing in mind how many of these subjects are now available in kit form, there is some incredibly useful material here.
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About Jim Rae (jimbrae) FROM: PROVINCIA DE LUGO, SPAIN / ESPAñA
Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...