Review by Martin Koenigsburg
When German General Heinz Guderian was dreaming of his perfect artillery to accompany the Panzer Division of the future in the 1920s, he thought that the guns would eventually need to be fully tracked to keep up- But when WWII began, German artillery was all towed, most of it by horses- although the Panzer Units had half-track tractors and trucks as they explored mobility. Destroying Poland soon exposed that Guderian had been correct. The Wehrmacht began an arms race, putting larger and larger cannons, usually gun-howitzers onto larger and larger fully tracked chassis, running through their inventories of smaller older tanks, tanks they had captured from other European countries, primarily Czechoslovakian and French, and finally their later main medium tanks. Ian Baxter, the prolific WWII photo curator and writer takes us on a tour of the common types, the Wespe, the Hummel, and the Schlepper as well as the lesser models whose photos are more rare. I found it interesting and informative and liked seeing some photos that I had not seen before. With the emphasis on putting the most bang on the oldest vehicles, the Engines, and transmissions of these vehicles were always taking a beating. The Nazis, without a massive Car and tractor factory base in their nation or those they had conquered, were ALWAYS going to be behind with maintenance and spare parts, before we even get to battle performance of these units. Even as they got to the final inventory focused on Panzer III and IV Chassis and a strengthened Panzer II Chassis for the Wespe, they were already being overrun by the Allies, who had more capability to change vehicles in production lines. Nazi stop-gap weapons created nightmares for their logistical chains – while the Western Allies were putting all their SP Guns on the reliably improvable US M3/4 Tank running gear. It is important to note that no post-war army chose to retain any Nazi Self-propelled Guns- whilst the Allied Weapons both Soviet and Western soldiered on into the 1970s in South African, Middle Eastern, and Asian wars.
There are few adult themes and no graphic injury photos, so this is OK for the Junior Reader over about 10/11 years. This book is quite interesting for the Gamer/Modeler/Military Enthusiast, with some elements for everyone. The Gamer sees the weapons as used in combat- as well as getting some good storage ideas. Modelers will also get build/diorama ideas – as well as those good stowage looks. For the Military Enthusiast, getting a better idea of the development arcs of these mobile guns- and more of their history is a great benefit. I think a reader will get as much from this as any all b/w resource on this topic.