Panzerfaust vs Sherman
European Theater 1944-45
The “Duel” series of books from Osprey is a wide-ranging line of books which examine weapons or weapon systems that were pitted against one another throughout history. The books in this series are largely standardized as to size and format, with common features in the books in this series including; looks at design and development, the human, tactical and technical elements that determined which weapon or weapons system triumphed, and the inclusion of period photographs, illustrations and drawings as applicable.
This particular volume in the series is authored by noted military historian and prolific author Steven Zaloga. The subject of this book being the clash of German man portable anti-tank technology versus the Western Allies most commonly seen tank, the Sherman, as employed in the ETO in 1944-45.
Format - softcover, portrait format
Page Count - heavyweight, glossy paper, 80 pages
Size - 10.00” x 7.25"
Photos - black and white photographs
Tables / Drawings / Diagrams - numerous tables of technical / performance specifications, drawings, full color renderings
All text and photo captions are in English
What’s in the Book?
As seen in the Table of Contents seen above, the book is laid out in a logical and orderly manner.
Encounters in the East with unexpectedly well armored Soviet tanks accelerated the German interest in next generation infantry anti-tank weapons, leading to the use of shaped charges launched first from the Panzerschreck and then the simpler, cheaper Panzerfaust series. The author does a great job of describing this evolution.
There are several really nice drawings showing the evolutionary changes in the Panzerfaust series, along with a table of technical data.
As the risk to Allied armor from these increasingly employed weapons rose, countermeasures of many sorts were tried, at unit level and all the way down to individual tanks. The author does a very nice job examining and discussed the effectiveness of these various countermeasures. Good images of these methods that were used to counter the panzerfausts are pictured.
In the Technical Specifications chapter the author discusses warhead arming and firing procedures for both the Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust weapons. Very nice full color drawings accompany this text. The author describes some of the issues encountered when these new weapons were fielded, as well as training issues, one in particular that in 1944 cost the Germans 100+ casualties. The effectiveness ( and the reason behind this effectiveness ) of these shaped charge warheads is well described, again with nice illustrations.
The “Duel” aspect of the book is now ready to be examined. The author does this in a very complete and thorough manner. This was classic Normandy bocage ( dense hedgerow ) fighting, where visibility was limited, and heavy cover assisted the defenders despite the Allied armor superiority. The combatants were the battered 352nd Infantry Division on the the German side, and the armor heavy Combat Command A from the US 3rd Armored Division.
This fight took place on June 29-30, 1944, near the small Norman village of Villiers-Fossard. US forces were trying to reduce a small bulge in their lines, expecting an action lasting about a day. The attack bogged down in the hedgerows, due in large part to German defenders well dug in, and armed with plenty of panzerfausts.
The author provides a clear, complete description of this two-day action, followed up with analysis of the results. This is supported by several tables detailing losses, as well as other pertinent information. This battle provides a pretty clear snapshot of how effective infantry armed with these new tank busting weapons could be, in certain situations. Clearly, given the sometimes “point blank” ranges of the close combat in the bocage, this was almost a best case scenario for effective panzerfaust use. At any rate, it’s fascinating reading.
Interestingly, a quick look at the Soviet’s experiences with the new German tank busters is included in this volume, along with some very informative tables of information. Soviet records indicate that something like 18-20% of tank losses during the fighting for Berlin at the war’s end came at the hands of German infantry using Panzerschrecks and Panzerfausts. Estimated front density of these weapons in some sectors was 200 per kilometer! That’s a lot of Hitler Youth and Volksturm crouched in the ruins with these potent tank busters..
The book concludes with two pages of very thorough Further Reading listings, for those wishing to dive deeper into the subjects covered in this book.
I have always enjoyed Osprey’s varied books, they usually cover interesting subjects, and given their usually shorter length, they stay focused on their subjects very well. That said, I found that this book actually exceeded my expectations.
The author does a wonderful job in providing the reader with a lot of interesting background and technical information on the subjects of this book prior to diving into the “Duel” aspect of the book. Even the most technically based text in the book is easily read and followed. The photo captions are crisply written and concise.
The images in this book are a nice mix of wartime photos of good overall quality, and full color illustrations, weapons charts and maps that are quite nicely done. In addition, this volume contains a great many tables of interesting information.
For a relatively small sized book of just 80 pages, this book packs a panzerfaust-like punch. I’m quite glad to have been given the opportunity to review it.
Thanks to Osprey Publishing for the review copy
Reviewed by Chuck Aleshire, AMPS Chicagoland
AMPS 2nd Vice President, Midwest Region
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