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Panzer Divisions: The Eastern Front 1941-43 (Battle Orders) [Paperback]

Pier Paolo Battistelli
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

10 Oct 2008
On 22 June, 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union and her Panzer divisions were to play a major role in this titanic struggle. Although overwhelmed by Soviet numbers, the superior skill and capability of the German Panzer divisions meant that in three months the Germans had advanced deep into Soviet territory. However, after these initial successes the German offensive began to falter, culminating in the disastrous defeat at Kursk. This book describes the organisational history of the Panzer divisions, from the early successes of 1941 through to the introduction of revised Blitzkrieg tactics as the war progressed.

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Panzer Divisions: The Eastern Front 1941-43 (Battle Orders) + Panzer Divisions: The Blitzkrieg Years 1939-40 (Battle Orders) + Panzer Divisions 1944-45 (Battle Orders)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey (10 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846033381
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846033384
  • Product Dimensions: 24.7 x 18.5 x 0.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 425,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Pier Paolo Battistelli earned his PhD in military history at the University of Padua. A scholar of German and Italian politics and strategy throughout World War II, he works both in Italy and abroad writing titles and essays on military history subjects. A contributor to the Italian Army Historical Office, he is currently revising his PhD thesis, The War of the Axis: German and Italian Military Partnership in World War Two, 1939-1943, for publication.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Provides a basic overview 7 Nov 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Like all books from Osprey, this one provides a good overview for the average reader. If you are after something more detailed or specific, you will need to look elsewhere, such as the collection of works from Leo Niehorster. Battistelli takes most, if not all, of his OOB data from the GERMAN WORLD WAR II ORGANIZATIONAL SERIES VOLUME 2/1: MECHANISED ARMY DIVISIONS series written by Niehorster, which are is bible for organisational works on the German Army during WW2, themselves taken from the original German wartime KStN tables.

There is a section on tactics, providing a selection of examples from the period together with some very clear maps showing you what is going on (missing from many historical works and this is the best feature of the Osprey series). Following that is a section on weapons and equipment, including the number of tanks in each division at three specific times (again, taken from Niehorster and also Panzer Truppen: 1933-1942 v. 1: The Complete Guide to the Creation and Combat Employment of Germany's Tank Force (Schiffer military history) by Jentz). Following this is a section describing the most important weapon in the German arsenal during WW2: Command, Control and Communication. Brief sections on Unit Status and Lessons Learned follow.

Nothing new in this book, but a good basic introduction to the panzer divisions on the eastern front during the first two years and clearly laid out with nice maps.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jammed Packed with Information 27 Oct 2008
By R. A Forczyk - Published on
This is the second of Dr. Pier Paolo Battistelli's volumes about German Panzer Divisions in Osprey's Battle Order series. In this one, the author focuses on the panzer divisions from Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 through the battles around the Dnepr River and Kiev in late 1943. Overall, this volume has a very high graphic quality with excellent maps and charts, but it is written with a level of detail that will please East Front specialists but which likely will be difficult for general readers to absorb. This is very much a nuts and bolts account. Nevertheless, this volume packages a great deal of useful data and the author's insight into the reasons for the decline of Germany's preeminent combat formations in the Second World War is lucid and makes a valuable contribution to the study of this subject.

Panzer Divisions: The Eastern Front 1941-43 begins with some brief sections on the combat mission of these units and their doctrine and training. Continuing for his earlier volume, Dr. Battistelli explains how the panzer divisions were designed to conduct fast-moving operations that penetrated enemy and then enveloped enemy defenses, leading to operational-level victories. Doctrinally, the Germans learned some lessons from the 1940 French campaign and began to use more mixed kampfgruppen (battlegroups), rather than the previous preference for armor-heavy spearheads. However, the author notes that German panzer doctrine was geared toward Western European terrain/weather conditions and proved unrealistic on the Eastern Front. One of the first victims was the kradschutzen (motorcycle) battalions, which could not function well on the muddy roads of Russia. The 31-page section on unit organization covers the reorganization of panzer divisions in 1942-43, as well as detailing each of the division's main components (armor, infantry, artillery, engineers, reconnaissance, anti-tank, support services). This section may seem very dense and technical for some readers, but it has some invaluable charts, such as those listing the sub-units of each panzer division. Perhaps the best chart is one on page 26, that lists that part of the infantry in each division that was mounted on SPW halftracks in 1941, 1942 and 1943.

The next main section of the volume is a 21-page discussion of division tactics. Dr. Battistelli observes that the terrain and weather conditions in Russia, combined with the losses from the 1941 campaign, forced the panzer divisions to change their style in 1942-43. Unlike the heady days of Blitzkrieg in 1940-41, the panzer divisions of 1942-43 were forced to fight more on the defensive and even when they did attack, they were no longer able to make the kind of spectacular advances that they once made. The author then provides a series of tactical vignettes, each with its own map, that outline the changing tactical methods used in this period. These ten vignettes are: 11th Panzer Division drive to Dubno, June 1941; 20th Panzer Division's Dvina River crossing, July 1941; 3rd Panzer Division's raid across the Susha River, October 1941; the counterattack at Klin, December 1941; the Battle for Kharkov, May 1942; 1st Panzer Division's defense of Belyj, November 1942; the LVII Panzer Korps drive on Stalingrad, December 1942; the last Battle of Rostov, February 1943; the III Panzer Korps attack at Kursk, July 1943 and the 2nd Panzer Army defense at Orel, July 1943. The maps for these vignettes are very nice but unfortunately, do not have the kind of captions used in the campaign series (this has been a recurring defect in the BO series).

The author then provides a 12-page section on weapons and equipment, which provides breakdowns on the types of tanks in each of the panzer divisions during this period. It also describes the production of major weapons, ranging from tanks to infantry weapons and describes Germany's inability to equip the panzer divisions with either the quantity or quality of weaponry needed to restore their waning offensive capabilities. This section also describes how German armored capabilities were beginning to spread out, with independent Tiger tank and assault gun battalions, meaning that panzer divisions were no longer the `mailed fist' that they had been in 1940-41. For those readers who just focus on tanks, the author's discussion of the shortage of halftracks, armored cars and trucks will reveal just how weak the panzer divisions had become by mid-war.

The last sections cover C3I (auftragstaktik and `leap forward' concepts) and unit status. Flexibility, mobility and mission-orders were at the root of panzer successes in 1940-41, but the losses suffered during the first year in Russia began to sharply chip away at these advantages. When confronted by the superior Soviet T-34 and KV-1 tanks, the Germans opted to shift from a maneuver-based doctrine to a firepower-based doctrine which ultimately undermined their own offensive capabilities. Instead of using armored mobility to strike an enemy where he was weakest (e.g. through the Ardennes), the Germans began to use their armor as a battering ram (e.g. in the streets of Stalingrad and at Kursk), attacking the enemy where he was strongest. Despite the tactical advantages that the panzer divisions enjoyed over their opponents until late in the war, they were not configured to win a war of attrition and the changes in how these units were used ultimately led to German defeat.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Panzer Divisions: The Eastern Front 1941-43 (Battle Orders) 9 Oct 2009
By Michael Reese - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Osprey BATTLE ORDERS tend to be one of their better series and this book; and the follow-on 44-45 book are both in the better class. Provides information on the formations, actual strengths of panzers, and the changes in the orders of battle of the Panzer Divisions as the Germans went from victory to defeat. Changes are pointed out in each component of the Panzer Division, both on paper and as well as could be expected actual strengths. Also covers some combat actions and discusses how and why the changes were made. Recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Panzer Reference 14 Nov 2010
By Tom Houlihan - Published on
Part of Osprey's Battle Orders series, this is a very informative book, showing that the author has done a considerable amount of research into the material. It is broken down into eight chapters with the additions of a glossary, explanation of abbreviations, and a key to the vehicle silhouettes used in the charts throughout the book.

The first chapter is on the combat mission of the tank arm, with the second chapter on doctrine and training. While they are each rather short, one can see how initial successes affected later campaigns, both to the good and otherwise.

The third chapter on organization discusses not only the overall Panzer divisions, but their component unit types as well. This chapter almost made me put the book down. On the one hand, there is a wealth of information presented here. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons the author has tried to fill each sentence with as much information as grammatically possible. This makes for some very unwieldy and hard to read paragraphs. Quite often I found myself having to go back and re-read passages, trying to decipher what was being presented. This is regrettable because the information is first rate. The reader can gather considerable knowledge here, but it will take some effort.

The chapter on tactics is well presented, broken down into an analysis of several engagements, accompanied with nicely done maps. The chapter on weapons, however, has the same weakness as the organizational chapter. Again, the author has tried to cram too much information into his paragraphs making them rather unwieldy. The charts that are presented showing tank division strengths at various times ought to be informative, but even they are difficult to read. Still, this chapter has a lot of good information in it.

The chapter on command, control, communication and intelligence gives a pretty good look at what it took to `fight' a Panzer Division. Starting with an explanation of Auftragstaktik, then discussing elements of command and control. This is followed by a section on unit status, which to me was very unwieldy.

Overall, I found the book useful, but difficult to read. My take was that the author had to deal with format restraints which caused the cramming of information. It is well illustrated, though, with both photographs and maps. While it isn't something you can pick up to read in an evening, I would consider it a good reference.
3.0 out of 5 stars It's an ok book, but it easily could have been better 30 April 2012
By WryGuy2 - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Panzer Divisions: The Eastern Front 1941-1943" is an entry in Osprey's Battle Orders series. This series is meant to study the organization, actions, strengths, and weaknesses of a military unit, in this case, the German Panzer division on the Eastern Front from 1941 to 1943. The book is 96 pages long and is packed with photographs (mostly B/W, but with a few in color), maps, unit diagrams, charts, and tables. Below are my impressions of the book.

- It's packed with information on the structure, organization, and evolution of the panzer division from before the beginning of Operation Barbarossa in 1941 until after the Battle of Kursk in 1943.
- The author discusses the impacts that the war on the eastern front had on the steady deteriorization of the panzer division, and the impact this had on the German's ability to fight the war
- The photos are excellent, and shows the wide variety of the different vehicles contained within a panzer division
- The roles of the many vehicles and units within a Panzer division are described, not just the tanks
- It includes many good "wiring diagrams" showing the make-up of the panzer divisions over time, and provides information on how the individual panzer divisions structural make-up changed

- The book is very confusing with regards to its use of German terms. In an early section, the author uses the German phrase for many of the sub-units contained within a panzer division without any translation to English. In a later section, he uses the German phrase with an English translation in some cases, and the English phrase with a German translation in others. (In one sentence, the author literally does it both ways.) Later in the book, he uses only the German descriptions, probably assuming you've memorized the German terms by then. Now, I lived in Germany for a few years and I speak a little German, but this book used way too many specialized German terms for a book aimed at an English-speaking audience. Thankfully, there was a glossary at the end of the book with translations, but I was having to flip back and forth a lot. Imho, the author should have used the German term once with an English translation, and then used the English translation the rest of the way.
- Similarly, there were many diagrams that showed vehicle silouettes, but you had to flip to the back of the book to a silouette identification chart to be able to identify what vehicle you were looking at. In one example, there was a good chart that showed at what distance Germans tanks and Soviet T-34s could destroy each other. The problem is that there were 5 different German tanks, and each was only identified by a silouette, so once again, you had to go to the back of the book find out which German model was doing the shooting, so to speak. Surely these charts could have been drawn in such a way as to identify the vehicle you were looking at.
- The organization of the text is poor in too many cases. The author packs a lot of information into this book, but often he crams too much raw data into a sentence/paragraph/page, to the extent that it's almost unreadable.
- The section on tactics really didn't discuss tactics, imho, it just gave a four or five paragraph summary of a battle/defense/raid, of which the author provides ten examples. There map provided for each action was excellent, though.

Overall, this is a good book for the serious history buff, but even then, you have to pay careful attention to what you're reading. This book contains a lot of useful, detailed information about the German Panzer divisions from 1941 to 1943, including how and why they evolved over time and what the impacts of this evolution were. But I felt that this book could have been easily been much, much stronger if it had been better organized and had a little more care been taken to make things easier for the reader. I recommend it, though, to the specialist who wants to dig more deeply into the makeup of a panzer division. Three stars.
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