series of books by now should require no introduction, and has now reached sixteen volumes. The books have made high-quality photos of knocked-out tanks and AFVs from battlefields all over Europe and the Eastern Front accessible to modelers and wanting to recreate the carnage of war, and history buffs interested in the nuts & bolts of combat. Their latest entry covers the Battle of the Bulge.
My college-age son and I spent the better part of three days touring Bastogne
and the rest of the Ardennes' battlefield, including Houffalize
in 2013. The first thing we noticed is the battlefield is enormous, stretching for nearly 90 miles from West of Trier up to the border with the Netherlands (much like the Normandy battlefield which is 80km wide). So when one says "the Bulge," that literally covers a lot of ground.
Not surprisingly, much has been written about the LSAH 1st SS Division's attack in the Malmedy area (especially the highly-colorful Kampfgruppe
Peiper), due in part both to their infamous atrocities at that baleful crossroads and the Tiger IIs and other vehicles in the battle group (the popular Duel in the Mist
series of books, also published by Panzerwrecks
, has further brought this sector of the battlefield into sharp relief). The other focus of course is usually Bastogne, where the 101st Airborne heroically held out while surrounded, effectively preventing the Germans from breaking out into the Allied rear beyond the Ardennes forests and moving on to their ultimate goal, the port city of Antwerp where the Allies were bringing in supplies and materiel.
This is an over-simplification, since the 101st would never have reached Bastogne without the furious rear-guard action conduction by the 28th Infantry Division which delayed the German spearhead through St. Vith for nearly a week. Additionally, Bastogne was primarily an infantry and artillery battle, while a significant amount of metal came through (or ended up) in and around the villages and towns astride the roads to that vital hub.
Given the evidence from this book, the battle impacted many towns and villages; even today, tanks and other AFVs can be found in a multiplicity of locations, either in local museums or as stand-alone monuments to the struggle that occurred there in the Winter of 1944-45. This book looks at places not usually covered in the usual list of suspects, especially Luxembourg, which the Germans used both to launch the offensive and for their (often unsuccessful) path of retreat.
As with other Panzerwrecks
titles, the 96-page book is organized into a series of vignettes around knocked-out vehicles in their original position (or shortly thereafter), usually shown from a variety of angles, all taken shortly after the battle or less than a year later. It has no particular plan, but does include three "themed" sections:
1. "Subterfuge - Allied or German?" about the use of Beutepanzer
(captured vehicles) and deceptive AFVs like the Ersatz M10 tank destroyer
2. "Mauled in Marnach" (a town in Luxembourg where the Allies caught the retreating Germans after the battle)
3. "Wrecks at Celles" the "high watermark" of the German offensive
The volume opens in the Southeast quadrant of the battlefield with photos of a Panther and one of the only Tiger Ones that fought in the campaign (part of the s.Pz.Abt. 506). They're resting in Rodershausen just over the border from Luxembourg in Germany and around 50km from Bastogne. The road to Bastogne passes through Marnach (mentioned above) and Clervaux, where a Sturmgeschütz III is shown fittingly in a cemetery. Clervaux isn't far from St. Vith where a hapless StuG IV is evidence of the bitter fighting that went on here at the start of the battle. Heavy fighting went on all around St. Vith, and there's a Pz. IV that looks as though it was sabotaged when abandoned by its crew.
Pp. 14-15 has a series of photos showing a StuG III after the battle and then in 1946 when it has been picked clean by souvenir hunters and scavengers. Then we turn to the first themed section about tanks and APCs modified or marked to fool soldiers trying to deal with the fog of war. There are some excellent potential dioramas here, and I highly recommend this section for those of you in search of inspiration for something "different." There are Shermans, modified Panthers (the so-called Ersatz M10s), half-tracks from both sides, and a few armored cars.
Shifting from the "Subterfuge" section are some vehicles in unidentified locales, including a Jadgpanzer 38 (more commonly-known by its nickname Hetzer
). These stubby little tank destroyers were used extensively during the campaign, and one can be seen today at the Bastogne Barracks museum
Given the popularity of Tigers and the infamy of Malmedy, it's not surprising the next set of photos includes a Tiger II outside that infamous town. A Tiger II is preserved at the museum in the small town of La Gleize, Belgium
near the northern portion of the battlefield. The book then jumps south again to Houffalize for photos of a Pz. III in Beobachtung
("observer") mode, including one with children poised atop.
Another Tiger I is shown at Oberwampach east of Bastogne, in January 1945 and then in warm weather. The Germans decided to let their mechanized columns flow around Bastogne, believing they would force the Americans into surrendering, but ultimately over-extending their vehicles and preventing them from receiving reinforcements and supplies (the Germans also failed to capture several fuel dumps that might have changed the course of the battle).
The scene then jumps back up to Ligneuville near Malmedy for a wrecked Panther in front of a hotel, followed by a series of destroyed Panthers from the Panzer Lehr Division near Neffe, the limits of its march westward (there is another Neffe just east of Bastogne, which is not the same). The photo on p. 43 calls out for a diorama with a Panther that has lost its left track to a mine, and which sports diagonal-striped camo and a wrecked stone wall beside it.
A more-unusual subject is next: a Krankenpanzerwagen
("armored ambulance vehicle"), a modified Sd.Kfz.251/8 from the rarely-mentioned Führer-Begleit-Brigade
in Derenbach, east of Bastogne. Part of the Großdeutschland
division, the Führer-Begleit-Brigade
had been strengthened with various other units to provide some additional punch for Manteufel's Fifth Panzer Army. For fans of unusual Beutepanzer
vehicles, p. 46 has a Somua MCG S (307) in Winter camo from Sturmgeschütz Abteilung
200, along with another French chassis used for a radio communications platform. These sorts of gems are what make the Panzerwrecks
series so valuable to the hobby.
After it became clear to the Germans their offensive had failed, whether splitting the Allied forces down the middle, capturing Antwerp or even securing stocks of fuel for the panzers, they began their withdrawal back to the Siegfried Line that was supposed to prevent the Allies from breaching the Reich. Unfortunately, the weather had cleared, and now Allied air power and ground power decimated those vehicles caught in the open. The themed section "Mauled in Marnach" covers the area of Luxembourg east of Bastogne where Panthers, StuGs and Pz. IVs and other AFVs are shown blown apart in large craters consistent with bombs and rockets.
The photos are from a swath of small villages including Kalbourn, Bourscheid and Grandmenil. The photos are excellent for those who would scratch build their own structures, since I find few of the styrene buildings sold as "Ardennes" to be consistent with period images.
The next section includes the "Wrecks at Celles," where the US assembled a motor pool of captured and damaged AFVs and artillery (including some nice photos of Late War SiG 33 105mm guns). As was pointed out above, Celles was the furthest point the Germans reached in their advance, and turned into a "black hole" for their mechanized units, thanks in great part to Allied air superiority.
The final pages of the book look at various vehicles, including some guns, self-propelled guns and tanks, mostly located in Luxembourg.
Once again, this Panzerwrecks
is a trove of interesting photos. Whether you are looking to reproduce one of the wrecks profiled, or simply want to have a better understanding of how tanks are disabled and destroyed, this book is excellent. The quality of the reproduction is outstanding in a paperbound volume of this price point, and I am glad to add it to my collection of other books from this series.
Thanks to Panzerwrecks for providing this review copy. Be sure to mention you saw the book reviewed here on Armorama when ordering.