German Half-Tracks and Wheeled Vehicles 1939-1945, Alexander Lüdeke

German Half-Tracks and Wheeled Vehicles 1939-1945, Alexander Lüdeke

This entry in the Factfile series on German vehicles looks at the armoured cars and half-tracks used by the German Army before and during the Second World War. These include the familiar and very modern looking angular half tracked troop carriers, produced to allow at least part of the infantry to keep up with the panzers, and used for an impressively wide range of tasks.

The book was originally written in German, and in general has been translated well into English. There are one or two minor quibbles, in particular the glossary, which translates abbreviations into their German meanings (one chapter title has also remained untranslated).

Each vehicle gets at least one page, with the more important ones getting two. The most significant sub-variants also get a separate article, so quite a bit of the book is devoted to the Sd.Kfz.251 and its many variants. Ludeke has included both vehicles produced in Germany and those taken over by the Germany Army – mainly armoured cars, but including some French half tracks. Each vehicle gets development history, description, production information, stats and at least one picture – normally a wartime photograph, but include some drawings and modern photos when required.

Some of these vehicles were genuinely innovative – in particular the Sd.Kfz.251, an early Armoured Personnel Carrier (although with fairly limited armour). The Allied equivalents – the British Bren carrier or American M3 Half Track were either smaller or later.

One does get the impression that many of these vehicles, like so many German vehicles, were over-complex and thus couldn't be produced in the sort of numbers that were required. Some types are withdrawn and simplifications are introduced, but the half-tracks were by their very nature over-complex, and their US equivalents were also slowly phased out (often in favour of less complex fully tracked vehicles).

One side effect of that complexity is that many of these vehicles do look impressively advanced, but this is something of an optical illusion caused by the angular panels and distinctive style of the upper bodies, in particular of the half-tracks. Their allied equivalents were often just as technically advanced, but didn't look it (one can't help but wonder if the German habit of numbering their weapons helps with their long term appeal, giving a list to be completed).

This is a useful short reference work that gives a good overview of the range of wheeled and half tracked armoured vehicles used by the German army. The tone is nicely balanced, praising the more successful designs but also acknowledging their flaws.

Gepanzerte Vierrad-Fahrzeuge
Armoured Six-Wheel Vehicles
Armoured Eight-Wheel Vehicles
Light Armoured Personnel Carriers
Medium Armoured Personnel Carriers
Armoured Tractors and Tracked Lorries

Author: Alexander Lüdeke
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 128
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2015

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