This photographic history looks at the German tank destroyers of the Second World War, a rather different beast to their American namesakes. We trace their development from the early improvised attempts to match good anti-tank guns to any available tank chassis, which tended to suffer from thin armour and open fighting compartments and on to the fully armoured Jagdpanzers and Panzerjagers. The emphasis in mainly on those vehicles that entered mass production, although we do get a chapter on two of the experimental types – the Dicker Max and Sturer Emil. There is no mention of the StuG’s use as a tank destroyer, presumably because it wasn’t originally designed with that in mind.
In general the text is good, with good technical descriptions of each vehicle, and in places a good use of contemporary reports to give some idea of their strengths and weaknesses. These tend to give an accurate assessment of their performance. Things get a bit more uneven later on when we are given long accounts of individual exploits, but even here there are some good sections, in particular an account of the 560th SS Jagdpanzer Battalion’s struggles on the Eastern Front in 1945, where it was forced into a long and costly retreat, suffering heavy losses on the way.
I do have some problems with the text. The tone is sometimes rather too congratulationary – a Nashorn with a branch drapped over the gun barrel is described as ‘superbly camouflaged’, an Elefant is described as ‘majestic’ etc. Many of the accounts of combat are clearly from wartime Nazi propaganda, with hordes of Soviet armoured vehicles being wiped out by heroic German tank destroyer crews. This tends to get worse in the later chapters, and the problem is made worse by a failure to say where each extract actually came from, which makes it had to judge how honest their authors were likely to be.
Overall this is a decent history of the German Tank Destroyers, most valuable because of it’s impressive collection of photographs, which show all of these vehicles in a wide range of circumstances.
Introduction: Panzerjager in the Heer and the Waffen-SS
The Panzerjager Ente, Marder II and Marder III
Jagdpanzers: The Dicker Max and the Sturer Emil
The Hornisse/ Nashorn
The Jagdpanzer IV/ 70
Author: Pierre Tiquet