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4.0 out of 5 stars splendid book, 9 Jun 2009
This review is from: Germany's Panzer Arm in World War II (Stackpole Military History) (Paperback)
This is an excellent book for anyone interested in the nitty-gritty of German panzer forces in WW2. It complements rather than replaces the sweeping histories, memoirs or technical books about this panzer or that. Discussions of tactics, training & the roles of the various parts of the panzer forces are well illustrated with hundreds of photographs.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Demythologising the Panzers, 7 July 2013
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This review is from: Germany's Panzer Arm in World War II (Stackpole Military History) (Paperback)
This recent paperback edition of Dinardo's 1997 book offers five concise chapters and a brief conclusion which provide useful information for serious students of Germany's Panzer Arm in the Second World War.

Much has been written about panzers since the war but many works lack the analysis one can find here. Dinardo puts the creation of the panzer arm in the context of Germany's defeat in the First World War, the role of Allied tanks in bringing about that defeat and the desire of Adolf Hitler for a war-winning weapon to restore German 'greatness'. Much of this is not new but Dinardo shows that ultimately the German reliance on this weapon and the mechanised warfare that it allowed could not be maintained without the economic resources required to sustain it.

Germany's strength as an industrial nation depended upon raw materials particularly oil, the bulk of which had to be imported. As Dinardo shows the panzer arm in the German army never amounted to more than 10% of its total strength in divisions. As he demonstrates the necessary steel and oil were never available to allow more motorisation particularly as Hitler started a warship building programme. Less well known is the relatively low numbers of the German male population experienced with motor vehicles in general which is where the future tank crews and mechanics were to be recruited. Also war production was not particulary efficient under the Nazis and the amount of panzers available and the quality of the types produced varied considerably.

It must be asked how the Germans managed to achieve success with this arm when the odds appeared to be stacked against them. Certainly it was not necessarily due to strength in numbers or a qualitative edge over the tanks of the opposing armies. The author identifies doctrine and training as key to the successes of the panzer arm in the Second World War. He argues that the role of the British theorists such as Fuller, Martel and Liddell-Hart was not as great as post war commentators would have us believe. Dinardo also warns against reading Guderian's memoirs uncritically as although he was a leading theorist in the use of tanks and the creation of the panzer division he was not their only advocate in the German army and these lesser-known figures should not be sidelined. Neither was resistance to the new ideas as great within the army high command as Guderian implies. The German army's reliance on the initiative of its junior officers and NCO's and their superior training in battle allowed units of the different arms to fight together in a way that the British, US and Soviet armies were rarely able to do as successfully. The combination of ad hoc infantry, panzers and artillery forces to capture battlefield objectives was a major strength of the German army in the Second World War and explains much of its initial success.

Dinardo's discussion of the organisation of the panzer division through the pre-war and war years shows that it was continually evolving due to the availablity of machines, their quality and the ambitious goals they were set. Initially the panzer divisions were top-heavy in tanks but after the success of 1940 the amount was reduced to double the number of panzer divisions for the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. This reduced the mass of tanks but the increase in infantry was beneficial. However Germany could never produce enough of its best tanks to fully equip the panzer division so French, Czech and early mark I and II vehicles had to make up the numbers. Additionally they required a huge number of anciliarly vehicles for transport of infantry, artillery and supply which German industry was soon unable to provide given enormous losses in the Soviet Union.

This precis only touches on the major issues identified by Dinardo in this compact and readable volume. Anyone starting on a war studies course which covers the Second World War would find it informative and thought provoking, helping correct popular misconceptions about German panzer success and the strength of German war production. My only criticism of this book is not the photos (although there are not hundreds as another reviewer has stated - it's not a picture book) but in chapter 5 where the panzer division organisational charts shown in figures 5.1 to 5.3 should show 4 panzer companies(I) to each panzer battalion.
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