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Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck Hardcover – 1 Sep 1989
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The story of a soldier who was awarded his country's highest military decorations, including the German Cross in gold and the Knight's Cross. Commander of Germany's 21st Panzer division during World War II and a protege of Field Marshall Rommel, Colonel Hans von Luck served in an army that is widely regarded as one of the most powerful in history. His memoirs provide a firsthand account of German tactics in combat. Von Luck was present at several historical junctures of the war - the invasion of Poland in 1939, the battle for France with Rommel in 1940, the march on Moscow in 1941 and the fighting at Kasserine Pass in North Africa with Rommel in 1942. After being wounded in North Africa, von Luck was eventually posted to Paris in 1943 to school junior officers in tactics. Returning to action, he participated in the struggle to repel the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, and battled French and American forces in 1944. Finally, he was part of the ill-fated defence of Berlin in 1945. Von Luck anticipated that the Axis powers were likely to be defeated after the failed invasion of Russia.By recounting his tale of the war with sensitivity and humanity, he validates the longstanding tradition of an officer and a gentleman.
About the Author
HANS VON LUCK is a Professional Soldier. A battalion commander of Germany's 21st Panzer Division during World War II, he received his country's highest military decorations for courage, including the German Gold Cross. He was a student of, as well as a commander serving under, Field Marshall Rommel.
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For all that, its an interesting personal account of WW2 on active service on all European fronts including pre-war dalliance & post war captivity. I dont believe I have read ANY personal account which covers so much.
If you want a harrowing front line account (WW1) then 'Storm of Steel' is essential reading. If you are after something more factual and in depththen anything by Antony Beevor. If however you want to know how the US of A won WW2 in Europe unaided... then Stephen Ambrose is the scribe of choice.
One fatal handicap is the omission of maps; without these the quick-moving list of battle locations in Russia, N Africa and Normandy means much less than it might do.
But more than this, Luck never lets go of his cloak of reticence to reveal much about himself. We learn little of the fighting tactics which enabled the rapid advance in Russia, nor is there any real explanation of just how the German forces, ill-supplied, let down by the Luftwaffe and knowing that the war was all but lost, put up such a fight against the odds. His attitude to the 1944 plot on Hitler's life is hinted at but not explored. It is also frustrating to learn that he had friends in Paris with whom he consorted while on leave, but this intriguing situation is never fully explained, either. Did his superiors know about this? If so, did they approve? Luck was in an excellent position to understand and comment on the effects of the occupation upon his friends and upon the wider French populace, but again he remains silent.
At the end I was left with the sense of how much more interesting these memoirs might have been had the author had a strong editor to work with him on recasting and supplementing his material.
I originally bought the book for the war years and found them fascinating; even funny in places with his North African desert stories, but the eye opener of this book was the story of his time in Russia after the war.
If you are looking for the military history of a most accomplished soldier you will find it in this book, but you will also find an even more interesting story of life amidst the Stalinist regime in the Gulags.
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Seems like it was heavily redacted, and suffers of amnesia.