Panzer IV, Thomas Anderson

Panzer IV, Thomas Anderson

The book takes a different approach to many on the Panzer IV, focusing more on its deployment within the armoured divisions, orders of battle, and combat experience than on the technical developments of the tank. The technical side is covered, but in less detail than in other books. This is a deliberate choice and the author points us towards the authors of those technical guides.

Early on there is a splendid selection of photographs of the interior of the tank, something that is often missing from similar books. Amongst other things, I learnt that the radio equipment actually formed a barrier between the driver and the radio operator, and was carried on racks in the middle of the tank. The quality of photographs is high throughout the book, and the captions provide useful information.

There is an annoying tendency to talk about the technological inferiority of the Soviet Union, and its ‘enormous human resources’. Oddly the author even acknowledges a contradiction in his approach, describing Russia has having ‘state-controlled inefficient and technically backward’ industry and then immediately acknowledging that both the T-34 and KV tanks were the result of innovative engineering work. That ‘inefficient’ industry also managed to produce around 55,000 T-34s and around 10,000 heavy tanks in 1942-45, while the Germans produced just under 50,000 tanks in total. Most of the latter part of the book is taken up with German efforts to compensate for the clearly superior Soviet tanks!

The sections on combat experience focus on the performance of the Panzer IV at the tactical level, looking at fairly small scale individual actions rather than large scale battles. We also get fascinating material from after action reports, which give us an idea of how the German tank forces saw the equipment available to them, and what changes they wanted in the Panzer IV.  I like this approach, which avoids the danger of turning a book on a particular weapon into a narrative of the entire war – the assumption is made that if you are interested in the Panzer IV then you don’t need a recap of the main events of the Second World War! It also gives more space to look at how the tank actually performed, what its flaws were, how it developed over time etc.

The book is firmed anchored in contemporary documents (although all from the German side – some Allied reports might have provided an interesting balance), and is very well illustrated throughout. Overall this is an excellent addition to the sizable literature on the Panzer IV.

1 – Origins
2 – 1936-1938 The Panzertruppe
3 – 1939 – Fall Weiss
4 – 1940 – Fall Gelb
5 – After the fall of France
6 – 1941 – The Balkans
7 – 1941 – North Africa
8 – 1941 – Barbarossa
9 – 1942 – Langrohr
10 – 1943
11 – 1944 – Technical Progress
12 - Afterword

Author: Thomas Anderson
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 304
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2021

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