by: Cpt. C. Sosebee, USA (Ret [ ]
I have to admit that when I ordered this book, I was expecting a book detailing the armored operations of the U.S. Army in Northwest Europe from D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge with maps, strategy and maybe even some first-hand accounts, exactly what the title implies. What I received was something different. I was pleasantly surprised to find a large (10” x 8.5”) and heavy (almost 4 lbs!) book that contains 1,199 black & white photographs taken by U.S. Signal Corps photographers who accompanied the American forces across France in 1944. I have to say, I am very impressed with the sheer volume of photos.
Steven Zaloga’s name graces the cover of many books in my library of armored vehicle references and he is one of the most notorious among armor enthusiasts and modelers. This book, the first in a two volume set, covers in photographs the armor operations from June 1944 to the last day of that year in Northwest Europe. The companion second volume, (due out next year) will cover operations in 1945.
Each page has either two approximately 6.5” x 3.5” or three 4.5” x 3” photos which are large enough to pick out details of the particular vehicle photographed. The photos are divided into eleven chapters and are printed on heavy glossy type paper. Each chapter includes a brief overview of the operational situation with the photos therein organized chronologically. Each photo is accompanied by an appropriate caption that includes date, location, vehicle type and unit(s) involved; with many also pointing out specific markings and/or peculiar details about the subject vehicle.
The chapters are:
1. Preparing for Overlord
This chapter has photos of each of the major type of armored vehicle used in the campaign, from the ubiquitous M4 “Sherman”, M5 light tank, M2 & M3 half-track and M8 armored car, to the more obscure M31 armored recovery tank, various tank destroyers and mine clearing tanks. Also included are the major types of German armored vehicles that the U.S. Army encountered. The chapter goes on to cover training in England prior to the invasion.
2. D-Day: The Overlord Invasion
Covered here is the invasion of Normandy with tons of photos of German beach defenses, vehicles unloading from landing craft and the initial push inland.
3. The Battle for Normandy
Included are photos of the desperate battles in the hedgerows with many destroyed and abandoned German vehicles, U.S tanks in action and several photos detailing the different types of Hedgerow cutters mounted on the front of some U.S. tanks.
4. Operation Cobra: The Normandy Breakout
More destroyed Panzers and the push to break out into Brittany.
5. Breakthrough to the Seine
The race across France begins; many vehicles on the move and more destroyed and abandoned panzers.
6. On to Paris!
The liberation of Paris with many photos of French tanks and vehicles, who were outfitted with American equipment and vehicles.
7. The Other D-Day: Operation Dragoon
The invasion of southern France with more German defenses, landing craft disgorging armor and more French armor.
8. Toward the Reich
The race across France continues. Plenty of shots of armor in action and moving in on Germany.
9. The Siegfried Line
The U.S. Army reaches the German border, fighting in the Huertgen Forest and the first German city, Aachen, falls; while Patton’s army takes Metz and encounters stiff German defenses. Lots of photos of the Siegfried defenses and the Sherman mine exploders.
10. Across the Vosges to the Rhine
The most successful attacks of the autumn period took the 6th Army Group through the Vosges Mountain passes into the Rhine River plain beyond. Again, more destroyed/abandoned German armor and U.S. and French armor advancing.
11. The Battle of the Bulge
This time the shoe is on the other foot! A collection of German photos during the initial phases of the great German counter-offensive. Then the counter-counter-attack begins, and... you guessed it, more destroyed/abandoned panzers and advancing American armor.
A special note needs to be made about the index that will be very useful for modelers and military historians alike. Not only can the index be used to find certain vehicle types (American & German) photographed within the book, but each American unit that is mentioned is also indexed. This will be most handy, if for example you want to find all the M3A1 half-tracks of the 2nd Armored Division, or all the M10 Tank Destroyers in the 602nd TD Battalion that are photographed in this volume. Other books only list the vehicles in the index, leaving you to sort out which photos might be relevant to your search.
According to the author, this volume is the culmination of over 30 years of research and it shows. Photo references like this one rarely cover American armor subjects and when they do, it’s usually only one vehicle type, leaving you to buy many books to cover all the subjects that are contained in this one volume. Coverage of the more obscure American armored vehicles is even rarer in other publications. Armored vehicles such as the M31 Tank-Recovery vehicle, the M15A1 combination gun motor carriage or the T1E3 “Aunt Jemima” mine exploder attached to the M4 series tanks are all well documented with several photos of each of these, as well as many others.
As an armor modeler myself, this book will find quite a bit of use and is an excellent addition to my World War II vehicle reference library. Half the fun of building armor models is researching the vehicle, finding those obscure details and adding them to a kit or even building a replica of a vehicle in a photograph. This book will go a long way to that end. Due out in February 2012 is the second volume: Armored Victory 1945: U.S. Army Tank Combat in the European Theater from the Battle of the Bulge to Germany's Surrender. Is it any coincidence my birthday is in February? I think not!