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This review is from: Elite Panzer Strike Force: Germany's Panzer Lehr Division in World War II (Hardcover)This book is a hotch-potch. It reads like it was thrown together in a hurry. It makes Charles Whiting's more 'cut and paste' books look like Anthony Beevor! Several personal accounts are strung together by stilted and adoring prose from an ex-Nazi war correspondent. Yes, you should not expect a balanced survey here. However, due to the lack of other sources in English you may still feel this is a worthwhile purchase. Combat descriptions from veterans are useful,exciting and interesting.
This is NOT a history of Panzer Lehr Armoured Division. It is really anecdotes about their time in Normandy and the Ardennes, with filler from all over the place. I suspect it is a direct reflection of its main source material - its commander's memoirs, which he has given permission to be extensively quoted. I suspect General Bayerlin was quite a good chap. He makes the Second World war seem like he was on the good side. His men fight hard, never retreat, act bravely, commit no atrocities. Ironically, I also suspect that it is all true! He (or maybe Kurowski) just manages to forget that they were the armed forces of the conquerors and oppressors of the nation they were fighting over. They are just 'there', not representing the jackboot, swastika, concentration camp, madness and mass-murder.
The 'real' issues do surface a few times though. A good place to see this is Page 35. The old chestnut of the one-armed officer being tied to the front of a 'Canadian' Vehicle is mentioned. In this version it's a tank not an armoured car. The alleged perpretators the 'Inns of Court', are wrongly identified as Canadian, when they were a British unit. Although this story has a low level of substantiation, it's inclusion is not my complaint. It may indeed have happened, and it would have involved a Panzer Lehr officer - perfectly relevant. Equally relevant would have been the context, which is not supplied - the multiple massacres of Canadian troops by the 12 SS Hitler Jugend post-interrogation (134 definites). 20% of Canadian 3rd Divison combat deaths were actually murders at that point. Panzer Lehr was intertwined with the Hitler Jugend. Both wore cuff titles. Both would have been regarded as Nazi criminals by the Canadians facing them, albeit wrongly.
Later on you will read that the French Resistance were 'rebels'! Yes, seeking to free one's own country from an invader is rebellion.
I suppose the inclusion of Michael Wittman's amazing feat of arms is just about relevant. It was indeed another adjacent unit on the same sector of the line. but it does read oddly. In fact, for a while it reads like the Germans were winning every engagement!To be fair, reality does set in, but still a slanted one. For instance all Allied units are assumed to be at full strength at all times, while all German units are reported at actual strength, or using vague percentages, excluding non-Grenadiers too sometimes. Even then, the enemy cannot be made out to be much more than double (triple needed at point of impact for victory) much of the time. So the special pleading has to begin. 'They had more planes. They had naval guns, etc'. Why was crushing the smaller, inferior Poles, Greeks, Belgians, Nowegians etc etc such a great feat of arms then? It is just common sense to try and obtain local superiority of numbers. NOT doing so (when the Germans indeed could have) is just poor strategy. Bayerlin apparently said that the D Day invasion could have been halted in 5 days if they had not had air supremacy (vide P.215). It could equally have been halted if all Allied troops had one leg, or all Allied troops only had bows, or, or or.......
German prisoner numbers are not mentioned. Numbers of Allied prisoners taken by Panzer Lehr are often mentioned. Bayerlin claimed to an intefering High-Up in one anecdote that all his front-line troops were dead . In fact, many were prisoners. The Allies managed somehow to take more than a quarter of a million of them in Normandy by some terrible mistake. Didn't they know these were perfect German soldiery?
The actions before Bastogne are decribed in this book as the greatest reverse for American arms since Bataan! Apparently the only reason Panzer Lehr couldnt make the last 3 miles because the roads were too muddy. A nasty Belgian suggested they take the worst road. Why didn't they use all 3 roads then? Why not do something called reconnaisance? Actually, I do know why, and the conditions were poor, but this explanation is so lame it ruins the credibilty of that whole section. Kurowski could have looked up the real issues too. I'm afraid they included being out-fought. I cannot see why such an excellent formation has to be portrayed as if it deserved to win every time. Panzer Lehr was outstanding, just not perfect.
The translator was careful, particulary when signalling 'reverse translation' (ie English > German > English again). However, just looking up the Chester Wilmott or Field-Marshall Montgomery quotes would have been more sensible in my opinion. This is particularly in the light of numerous rather clunky phrases which come as a result of over-literal translation. The time could have been better spent on these.
What else is in there - some poor,most grainy, but interesting and even rare photos; an Order of Battle for the division, selective list of Knights Cross recipients, list of engagements, some good sketch maps from the time. I don't reget the purchase, but still dont trust the material!
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Initial post: 26 Oct 2012 22:35:04 BDT
have a loook at caen by alexander mckee
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