The late war period is a goldmine for interesting model possibilities, especially among German AFVs. At the beginning of World War 2, the Wehrmacht had only a few tank designs, and everything was PANZER GRAY (with some overspray in brown up until the Campaign in France). By 1944, the types and variants of tanks, half-tracks, hybrid vehicles and softskins was enormous, a richness enhanced with field modifications, camo schemes unique to each unit (sometimes each vehicle within the unit), and one-offs or limited-run vehicles, some pieced together from spare parts or broken armaments. The topic has already received study lately in the book Endkampf
But at over 50 Euros, Endkampf
is a budget-buster for many of us.
Now comes a new series of softcovers aimed at modelers from Firefly Books
, including Westwall: German Armour in the West, 1945
by Dennis Oliver. Westwall was the German term for the defense of the border with France and the Low Countries, and Oliver's choice of a specific geographical location is a good one. Publisher Jim Starkweather has already given us a video peek inside the contents (click here
The book begins after the Wehrmacht's crushing defeat during the Normandy campaign, continues through the Ardennes counter-offensive in December 1944, and ends with the surrender in May 1945.
the book contents
The 33-page book has 20 profiles of actual vehicles, complete with unit identification, tactical symbols and unit symbols (where available). Every other page has 2-3 clear black & white photos of wrecked vehicles with the narrative spread out and printed over many of the photos. Additionally, bits and pieces from the author's personal collection of war memorabilia are shown, including badges, cuff bands and a postcard urging Hitler Youth members to "join the army."
Dennis Oliver clearly has done his homework.
Searching the National Archives in Washington, DC, he correlated the captions on the backs of period photographs taken by US Army photographers of the destroyed, captured and abandoned German vehicles left behind as the lines moved East, then looked at the various orders-of-battle, "triangulating" the two in order to identify the likely unit designations of various vehicles. The results are a huge lift of authenticity for modelers and military history buffs. No more "unidentified unit Ardenenes campaign."
The research pays off for readers, too: there are two orders-of-battle - Oberbefehlshaber West
(the overall command of the region), and the Clausewitz Division (the last panzer division formed by the Nazis).
But the most electrifying detail in the book is a full-page table showing the armored vehicles on-hand for EVERY GERMAN UNIT in the region during December, 1944 (the Wacht am Rhein
offensive known to history as The Battle of the Bulge
). The next time you want to know how many Tiger II tanks the 2nd SS Panzer Division had, you can look it up (actually, that's a trick question: they didn't have any).
The book's images are occasionally not for the squeamish, with several showing dead German soldiers in or alongside their knocked-out vehicles. One photo of a Kübelwagen has the driver leaning out the door, while a blown-up Hetzer has at least one corpse alongside. The author insists the value of the photographs and the seriousness of war argue against censoring out these disturbing images.
The value for modelers in this book is the careful way the author lays out the likely unit identification, even for vehicles with little or no external markings. He has tracked down the majority of the photos at the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA)
in Washington so that he can often discern the likely unit of a specific vehicle based on its location even if it has no markings at all. Having detailed records of which units had which vehicles and where they were operating in the last months of 1944 and early 1945 helps narrow the possibilities.
The book isn't without its shortcomings, including some sloppy proofreading - Öberrhein
instead of Oberrhein
(no umlaut), the name of the command overseen by Himmler. To some it might be an irrelevant oversight, but it detracts from a resource that otherwise is outstanding. The production is generally excellent, with clear photos, though the light-colored font chosen for some captions made them hard to read.
is an excellent overview of Late War German AFVs in the western European theater, and includes such a wealth of information about unit organizations and order-of-battle that it's a must-have over books just showing photos of tanks.
Thanks to Oliver Publications for providing this review copy. Be sure to mention you saw it reviewed here on Armorama when ordering your copy.