Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Armored Bears Vol 2 - Veterans of the 3rd Panzer Division

Title: The Armored Bears Vol 2
Author: Veterans of the 3rd Panzer Division
ISBN: 978-0-8117-1171-5
Pages: 330
Photographs//Maps: 109 b/w//15
This book is the second of a two volume set translated from its original German on the history of the 3rd Panzer Division. Organized and originally published in 1967 by the veterans association of the unit, it was initially intended for members of the unit itself and their families as a testimony of their history and experiences. It covers the period from March, 1942 until August, 1945.

Continuing on from its first volume, Stackpole publishing has again reproduced another high quality English version of this book. The translation is, for the most part, very good. The maps are again mostly hand-drawn in their original German (which work well with the narrative). They have improved upon the utility of these maps quite noticeably in this second volume. The photographs are numerous and of a very high quality with many that I have not previously seen. This is where the benefit of drawing upon a veterans association really paid dividends. There are numerous fascinating anecdotes relating to the use of Cossack forces and camels by 3rd panzer forces in support of operations. The operational environment and breadth of employment history of the 3rd is really quite astounding and it is worth reviewing just to read about the adaptability of the personnel of this unit.

This work is an operational and tactical history of the unit so there is a great deal of detail regarding small engagements and individual achievements. I enjoyed this portion of the work because it provides the reader with a much more intimate view of the goings on and experiences of the soldiers. The narrative is replete with personal anecdotes from the rank and file that adds a fantastic degree of intimacy to the account. The appendices at the back of the book provide detailed synopsis of a rank table. Additionally, they provide lists of commanders, Knight’s Cross winners and recipients of the Army cross in Gold and Silver.

One of the unique and very positive aspects of the narrative translation are the numerous footnotes provided that serve to ensure accuracy and additional information to the reader. This is of particular benefit due to the fact that there are many references and comments that would be understood by a veteran of the unit but not necessarily by a casual reader. These footnotes serve to bridge that knowledge gap and they do so very effectively.

Overall, I think that this book is an outstanding compliment to volume 1 and would be a positive addition to any historian’s library or collection; having said that, it is again, very detailed and tactical in nature and therefore may not be for the more casual arm chair general. Regardless, Stackpole may be proud of this production as it is of a very high quality and is very readable. One can certainly appreciate the pride that this unit’s veterans had in their accomplishments and the role that they played in the Second World War. Strongly recommended.

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