Pen & Sword- Pictorial History of the US 3rd Armored Division in WWII
Author: Darren Neely
Hardcover, 320 pages with 400 black and white photographs
From the Pen & Sword website:
¨The Third Armored Division, famously known as the “Spearhead Division”, had an illustrious combat career in WW2. One of only two “heavy armored” divisions of the war, the 3rd Armored joined the battle in the ETO in late June of 1944, was bloodied almost immediately and was at the front of the American advance through the hedgerows of Normandy and the rapid advance through France into Belgium by September 1944. The 3rd was one of the first units to breach the vaunted Siegfried Line and then fought a series of back and forth battles with the German army in the Autumn of 1944 as the weather conditions and determined tenacity of the German defenders produced an Autumn stalemate. The 3rd was rushed to the Ardennes front in December of 1944 in response to Hitler’s winter offensive and they famously fought battles at the defense of Hotton, Grandmenil and then pushed the Germans back to the border after vicious battles in places like Ottre, Lierneux, Cherain and Sterpigny. The early days of the Bulge battles would find the lost unit of Col Samuel Hogan’s 400 men who were surrounded for days and fought their way back to friendly lines. After a brief rest and being outfitted with 10 of the T-26 Pershing tanks, the 3rd was at the spearhead of the 1st Army advance into Germany, across the Rhine and into the Harz mountains and the liberation of the Nordhausen concentration camp. This final campaign would see the highpoint of the famous Cologne tank duel between a Pershing and German panther, made famous by the recent book “Spearhead” by Adam Makos. Then, just a few weeks later the beloved commander of the division, Major General Maurice Rose, was tragically shot by a German tank commander when trying to surrender Paderborn, Germany. The 3rd would end the war at the tip of the American advance into Germany before the war ended.´
The book itself is comprised of photographs donated from collections of combat photographer and soldiers´ families. The text is minimal but provides an excellent background timeline of the division from their entry in the war in Normandy through to the end. There are no chapter titles, but the four chapters are essentially chronological in order. Each chapter provides about 3-4 pages of text and then dozens of excellent photographs. They are typically two to a page, but scattered throughout are whole page photos. The captions provided for each more than make up for the lack of textual content.
Chapter 1 focuses mainly on the opening stages of the Spearhead Division´s actions in Normandy. We get some photos of General Eisenhower and Field Marshal Montgomery checking out a Sherman tank. We get a good look at the various modifications made on the tanks to deal with the bocage terrain of the hedgerows. Dozer tanks and various iterations of the hedgerow cutters are featured, including the T2 Douglas device typically associated with the division and the more common Cullen hedgerow-cutter.
Annabelle and the Stuart
Chapter 2 focuses on events leading up to the Battle of the Bulge. As the division moved steadily on, they faced stiffer and stiffer resistance. This chapter illustrates these hardships with many photos of wrecks from both sides. Operations in the chapter include the liberation of Belgian towns and the eventual arrival at the Siegfried Line or Westwall.
Chapter 3 focuses on the Bulge period and the extreme combat conditions faced. Of particular note is the story of ¨Hogan´s 400¨, which revolves around Task Force Hogan who were surrounded at Marcouray. Forced to leave the seriously wounded behind, Hogan disabled his vehicles and the unit made their way back to friendly lines back at Soy on December the 26th. After success in the Ardennes and some serious rest and refit, the 3rd Armored prepared to move into Germany. Chapter 4 takes us into the bitter but inevitable end of the Reich and focuses on the introductory phases of the Pershing tank´s trial by fire...focusing in on Cologne and the events featured in the Adam Makos Spearhead book.
This book is a literal gold mine of photos. The text is informative if scarce, but it sets up the series of subsequent photos provided in the book. There are a few photos that are difficult to see details in due to the darkness of the images-- but considering these photos are over 75 years old, that is totally understandable. In the end, there is loads of inspiration for the modeler and the book is a great resource for the historians and WWII buffs in the mix. This brings some great ideas for those Allied tanks in your stash.
Highly Recommended for anyone interested in the operations of the 3rd Armored Division in WWII.
Thanks goes out to Casemate Publishing for this review sample.
Reviewed by Michael Reeves
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