Panzer Reconnaissance; Tanks in Operation Bagration 1944

Being there . . . . on the Eastern Front in mid-1943 as the Red Armies grew stronger and
stronger, then, a year later, on June 22, 1944, the very third anniversary day Hitler personally
triggered the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, watch “Uncle Joe” Stalin launch his first
“superblitz” of Russia’s massive summer counteroffensives in the Russian “Year of Ten
Victories”. At last, Germany and her Allies, too, would feel the bomb, bullet, and hatchet the
Wehrmacht and SS lived by for over a thousand days across the steppes of central and
southeastern Europe. Stalin’s codename for the first of his gargantuan attack was code-named,
“Bagration”, after a Russian general who had fought in the 1812 War against Napoleon.
Planning began in April of 1944, and Joe’s objective was White Russia, or, better known as
Belorussia, the heavily forested Soviet republic bordering Poland. There, the Germans held a
huge bulge into large Soviet-occupied regions, the most important being Vitebsk. The only way
to Berlin was to steamroll right through them. Forced to make a hard decision with the D-Day
invasion of France expected any day, Hitler, fortunately for us and the Allies, incompetently
moved his troops every which way. Seeing this, the Soviet top brass exploited the enormous
mistake, and capitalized on Hitler’s vulnerability. In less than a month later, the Soviets were in
Warsaw on their way to the Brandenburg Gate. The key to their victory was not due to the
Fuhrer’s lack of strategic thought alone. Operation Bagration saw the first widespread use of
the new T-34-85 and IS-2 tanks as well as improved self-propelled guns. Yet, the battles that
took place were not push-overs. Germany’s Panther tanks finally reached technical maturity,
but only in small numbers. Meanwhile, the new German Tiger II’s were nothing special.
Using previously unpublished photos and superb new color illustrations, enjoy “TANKS IN
OPERATION BAGRATION 1944”, describing how the tanks and AFVs on both sides contributed
to the complete destruction of 17 Wehrmacht divisions that summer, and the smashing of half
a hundred more.
Reviewed and Recommended by Don DeNevi
“TANKS IN OPERATION BAGRATION 1944 – – The Demolition of Army Group Center”, by Steven
J. Zaloga, Illustrated by Felipe Rodriguez. OSPREY PUBLISHING, Bloomsbury Plc: 2023, New
Vanguard Series, 48 pages, softcover, 7 ¼” x 9 ¾”; $20. Visit,; E-
2023, 288 pages, 8” X 10”, hardcover; $50. Visit,; E-mail,
To review for a moment, Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines “reconnaissance” as
the art and skill of gaining information on enemy troops, of the terrain, or on resources. That
said, the first statement of the book’s jacket reads that “reconnaissance forces were a key
component on both sides of World War II, especially for the Panzer divisions in the Wehrmacht
in the Eastern weather. The highly mobile divisions had a vital need for good quality battlefield

intelligence, and the battalion-sized motorized units provided this. These units were equipped
with a mixture of armored cars and motorcycles. Usually, they operated far ahead of the
battlefront to survey the terrain, observe enemy positions, and identify enemy forces – key
information was always required ahead of any armored assault.
After 1942, with Germany reeling from defeat after defeat, and continually on the strategic
defensive, Wehrmacht armored reconnaissance troops found themselves fighting under
combat conditions, and, for the first time in their history, filling gaps in the front lines. At the
same time, more contemporary German equipment rolling out of the bombed but fully
functioning factories in the Ruhr Valley was rushed in, motorcycles reduced to replacement
parts, and purpose-built armored personnel carriers, i.e., Schutzenpanzerwagen, introduced. Of
course, Osprey and Anderson used carefully researched original German after-action reports,
and unpublished archival photos and other material to commingle for narration of the the full
story of the reconnaissance forces of the Panzer divisions.
A German national, Thomas Anderson is a renowned specialist in the fighting units of World
War II. Years of trawling through countless photo collections in the United States and across
Europe have paid off in this fine book. He and family live in a village south of Hanover.