"The resulting Panther medium tank was an engineering masterpiece that in many ways was years ahead of its adversaries". Ugh. That was my immediate thought when reading the introduction. I agree from my armchair that the Panther was a solid design and, when it worked, was at least as good as any tank in World War 2. However, it had notable defects in visibility, final drive, transmission, and engine life/overheating that tend to get overlooked. I point this out not to slag the authors but to warn the jaded Panther "fan" not to be put off by this. The book is not a whitewash and is an excellent addition to the Panther library.
This surprised me, to be honest. If the Panther isn't the most popular tank of World War 2 it has to be in the top three and there have been a number of books in the English language covering it. "Panther & Its Variants" along with "Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy" are pretty much the technical bibles along with the appropriate Panzer Tracts volumes for a variant history and excellent scale drawings. What does this new book add?
the book – what’s new?
Quite a bit, actually. First off, it is very engagingly and accessibly written. I love the two previous "bibles" but they are reference books, not reading books. In this book the writing is enjoyable to read (admittedly, you have to be a tank nerd but still. . .) and I didn't have a temptation to skip around.
Secondly, while it covers technical aspects in a lot of detail it is in the context of how the tank worked. So, you learn how to start a Panther tank. How the gun is fired. How the modifications worked. How the tank steered. What the functional mobility was. Why modifications were introduced. Fully 226 of the pages describe how the tank worked. I found this interesting and it filled in blanks on how the tank worked and how each individual part affected the crew. You get four pages on what the bore evacuator system did and how it benefited the crew. Four pages! If you want an idea of how to use the Panther, this is easily the best book I've yet read.
Thirdly, the pictures are outstanding and very well chosen. You get an even mix of period photos and photos of restored Panthers to illustrate details of the construction. Want a clear photo of the -G's adjustable seat? It's in here. Heard about the mantlet shot trap? How about a photo of an actual deflected hit? Gunner's foot pedals? Two pictures for you. Most every page has a photo that is crisp and clear.
Fourth? Several excerpts of period technical evaluations are included that describe weaknesses, strengths, function, and even what the Brinell Hardness Scale actually means. Throw in multiple participant accounts and you've got a lot of information available. As but one example, you get a whole page of Mr. Charles Lemons describing the history of the Panther II hull at the Patton Museum.
Finally, the book is not dumbed down. Rather, it explains terms and concepts in some depth so that the reader has the framework to understand the details. As a primer on the basics of tank design and terminology, this book succeeds quite well.
the book – weaknesses
To be fair, there are some. The drawings in the book are fairly weak and not up to the standards of a Hillary Doyle. There is little of the combat history of the Panther covered nor how it was operationally used. The book also just ends. A chapter on variants and then the index. Some sort of conclusion that puts the preceding information into context would have been nice. A minor but surprising omission is there is no illustration of what you saw through the gunsight, taking the illustration from page 54 of the Osprey Duel book #4 would have been nice, or even better an actual photo through.
This is a very good book. For $16 and change on Amazon.com this is a tough one to pass up. I really appreciate that the authors did not simply try and rehash what Jentz and Spielberger already did but focused on how the tank operated with the various components and modifications. It's not a perfect book but I would put this in the level of Steven Zaloga's "Armored Thunderbolt" for writing a readable and detailed account of a single tank type, lacking only Mr. Zaloga's ability to put the tank into the context of its’ army's doctrine.
Highs: Focus on how the Panther worked
Does not rehash tired ground
Highly readableLows: No conclusion
Minimal combat history
Verdict: An excellent buy. Pair this with Thomas Jent'z book and you really need nothing else technical on the Panther tank.