Tankograd American Special No. 3047
Tankograd Publishing of Erlangen, Germany is notable for their wide range of military subject publications in hardcover book as well as magazine form. Subjects of Tankograd publications include WWI warfare and weapons, WWII vehicles by nation, and post WWII subjects including a wide variety of vehicle / weapons systems, and military exercises done through the Cold War up to the present day.
The subject of this publication is the Fulda Gap, a geographical location in central Germany that was widely expected to be one of the focal points of a Warsaw Pact attack on NATO forces if the Cold War went hot. This was due to the Fulda Gap’s terrain being highly suitable for use by massed armor, and it’s providing a potentially quick route to Frankfurt, Germany, a city key to NATO forces. The Fulda Gap dominated war planners thinking on both sides of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War period. On the NATO side of the Iron Curtain, repeated military exercises were held frequently to prepare for the potential Warsaw Pact attack via the Fulda Gap.
Format - softcover, portrait format
Page Count - heavyweight, glossy paper, 64 pages
Size - 10.5” x 8.0”
Photos - 50 B&W images, 72 full color images
Tables / Drawings / Diagrams - maps, tables of unit organization
All text and photo captions are dual language, German and English, side by side text columns.
What’s in the Book?
There is no table of contents. The book opens with a Preface describing the physical characteristics of the Fulda Gap and environs, and well describes its significance in a potential clash between NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
The book (honestly, I’m never quite sure whether to call these slim, softbound publications books, or magazines…) describes several of the larger exercises that took place in the Fulda Gap during the Cold War, with a couple pages of text describing the purposes of the exercise, the participants, and actions that occurred during the exercise. This is followed by numerous pages of photographs of equipment used and exercise locations. The bulk of this book is primarily pages of interesting photographs.
The opening section of the book (a dozen pages or so) does a great job of describing the expected sequence of actions that would occur if massed Soviet armor crossed into West Germany in an attempt to drive to Frankfort, cross the Rhine and possibly wind up at the English Channel. NATO planners had every intention of blunting this hypothetical advance, using every means at their disposal to do so, including the use of nuclear weapons.
Above - the opening section also provides maps showing proposed NATO unit movements in response to the expected Soviet advance.
Photographs from several larger scale exercises held in the Fulda Gap area are extensively used in this book to show the various weapons systems and units that would have been utilized by the US V Corps to defend against Warsaw Pact forces. The specific exercises described in this book are:
Corps Training Exercise Caravan 1 (1972)
Corps Training Exercise REFORGER 81 Certain Encounter (1981)
Corps Combat Exercise REFORGER 83 Confident Enterprise (1983)
Above - for each exercise, an inset box provides interesting details on the exercise location, units involved (both blue and orange forces), numbers of vehicles involved. A detailed synopsis of exercise events and results is given.
The photographs throughout the book are well chosen for quality and interest (and will doubtless bring back memories to many who read this volume). Photo sizes range from quarter page size to half page sized, with the larger photos being in the majority. The photos are a mix of black and white, and full color. There are few if any “formal portrait” type images of the various vehicles in this book, they are more of the “in action” sort.
Above - it’s interesting to note the new and then-currently most modern vehicles being seen in these exercises as the years of the Cold War pass by. Due to the possibility of real conflict erupting in Europe (with the Fulda Gap being a flash point), the best and newest equipment NATO had was deployed here, and/or used in these exercises, such as the new M1 Abrams tanks seen above.
The photo captions throughout are given in both German and English thus making the caption space rather limited for each language, but the author somehow still manages to make the captions very complete and informative. Dates, units, vehicle identification, and other information pertinent to the image is well provided.
In addition to the text and photographs, tables such as the above are provided showing where key units were deployed in response to the Warsaw Pact threat. The table above shows where two key units ( 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment up to 1972, and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment which replaced it ) were based in two separate time periods, 1972 and 1989.
Above - book has a well balanced mix of text, photographs and background information in text form, all work well together in this book to provide a time travel type look at the Fulda Gap during very hazardous times.
There is quite a bit of information packed into this slim volume, even allowing for the fact that half the text in this book is in a language I cannot read. Tankograd has perfected the technique of doing the side by side columns of German / English text, to the degree that the reader almost doesn’t notice it. The only minor issue with this is that text size is fairly small to aging eyes. But reading glasses and good lighting is a small price to pay for the informative text!
The images are well chosen and of high quality, most large enough for good study of details. A wide range of NATO (the vast majority are American) vehicles are seen in a wide variety of actions, from the early 1970’s to the end of the Cold War.
This book is a fascinating look at one of the Cold War’s most dangerous places, and the men and machines that stood ready to defend it.
Thanks to David Doyle Books for the review copy
Reviewed by Chuck Aleshire, AMPS Chicagoland
AMPS 2nd Vice President, Midwest Region
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