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Panzer Crewman 1939-45 (Warrior) (英語) ペーパーバック – 2002/4/25
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In World War II (1939-1945), the Panzer crews spearheaded every major campaign or battle from the invasions of Poland and France to the last great counter-offensive in the Ardennes. Germany's Panzer crews fought on every front and along the way earned a formidable reputation for élan in attack and steadfastness in defence. This book charts the recruitment, training, service conditions and combat experience of a typical World War II German tank crewman, serving on various fronts - from the scorching heat of the Western Desert to the frozen tundra of the Eastern Front. It features many unpublished photographs from both private collectors and Panzer veterans themselves.
Gordon Williamson was born in 1951 and currently works for the Scottish Land Register. He spent seven years with the military Police TA and has published a number of books and articles on the decorations of the Third Reich and their winners. He is author of a number of World War II titles for Osprey, but has a special interest in German naval forces.
Surprisingly, it does a fairly good job at discussing factors such as recruitment, training, motivation, the roles of different crewmen, factors such as escaping damaged tanks and, of particular importance, the élan of this service. It is an audience interested in these topics that the book is geared towards. The book definitely succeeds here. However, there are some reasons why it cannot be granted a five star rating. One is that the author does not mention, never mind analyze, a few factors of significant importance to the Panzer arm in terms of personnel. One involves Hitler’s idiotic orders to not permit crew of destroyed vehicles not to be assigned replacement vehicles toward the end of the war. Another involves the steady deterioration in the quality of this arm, from attribution as well as the drop in quality of recruits. Nevertheless, despite these oversights, a decent book for those newbies wishing to get themselves up to speed on the topic in an hour or so.
Sixty-four pages with colour plates. Very well written. Williamson is no stranger to German military subjects, though most of his works seem to deal in general, broad strokes - see his INFANTRY ACES OF THE THIRD REICH for example. Some good (secondary) research has been done - more on this later, however.
Colour plates - very well done. Vuksic needs to work on his human faces, but he major depictions of vehicles and equipment and uniforms are above average. Minor research error in plate G; the NCO is depicted wearing gold or yellow metal cyphers and stars on the shoulder straps; these should naturally be silver or white metal. However, compare to the excellent use of colour in, for example, the jackboot in plate A - Vuksic approaches photo-realistic quality in many of his depictions. The vignettes were effective also, especially the final one with the bailed out tank crew.
The text focusses on several major topics; again, there is little new covered here though some nuggets may be of value to panzer buffs. The geographical recruitment table was to me a nice touch, eithers may view it as a waste of space. The space devoted to "elite" panzer units seemed like a waste given that some were not mentioned at all (Panzer Lehr for example!), and other notables like 24 Panzer Division (nee 1 Kavallerie Division) are not mentioned either. Also a tendency to muddle designations and use only late war - for example the anti-tank units were known as panzerabwehr einheiten early in the war, and did not become panzerjäger until much later; this is not hinted at. So those looking for proper designations will not find this book helpful.
What the book does do is cover in broad strokes the basics of how a German panzer soldier was inducted, trained, what basic tactics and crew positions he was taught, with some brief history of units, vehicles, and campaigns. Uniforms are discussed in some detail, but not nearly enough - for example the date of discontinuation of the pink collar piping is not mentioned in the captions for plate A. A partial list of branches that wore the black uniform is provided, but this too is incomplete and covered in far more detail by Edwards in the FIELD UNIFORMS OF GERMAN ARMY PANZER FORCES IN WORLD WAR 2.
Which brings us to the disturbing trend in Osprey books. Edwards seems to have been a source for the branch information (the book is not listed in the bibliography, incidentally). Much more research than previous, speaking in general terms of Osprey books, not just this one in particular, seems to be done through secondary sources. The panzer-propaganda units are mentioned prominently in Edwards' book, for example - the first mention in print I've seen of them. Williamson has dutifully, it appears, made use of this secondary information to pass on in his own book. Note also the anecodatal story of the SS man captured by Polish troops on page 55, which is the sole basis for an entire section devoted to the No Quarter treatment of tank crews. Williamson has interviewed many veterans and so much of the "secondary" material here is no doubt confirmed by his interviews during his long career, but one wonders how much of each is present.
Fans of Barkmann and Wittmann, the panzer experts, will appreciate the extensive coverage of these two figures, with photos from Herr Barkmann's personal collection. Unfortunately, no Army figures are given similar treatment.
Williamson does cover some good ground; for an introduction to tank crews - which is all the book claims to be - it will be money well spent. Might have benefitted from a more consistent focus; more attention paid to getting the uniform information better presented (this is done much better in Osprey's own THE PANZER DIVISIONS), perhaps stayed away from quite so many Waffen SS stories and anecdotes in favour of more primary research.
Overall good, and the colour plates add tremendously to this. Williamson is a solid writer and writes in a colloquial, anecdotal style. This should not be offputting to the majority of interested parties buying this book.