Panzer Divisions: The Eastern Front 1941-43 by Pier Paolo Battistelli

Panzer Divisions: The Eastern Front 1941-43 by Pier Paolo Battistelli is the 35th book in Osprey’s “Battle Orders” series, which (as the publisher notes) explores the command, deployment, organization, and evolution of forces in battle, describing elements of doctrine, training, tactics, and equipment.  As mentioned in previous posts, Osprey publishes some excellent books that are highly technical.  The Panzer Divisions were the German Army’s armored units.

Here is a description of the book as provided by Osprey:

On June 22, 1941 Germany attacked the USSR, opening the front that would bleed the German Army white.  The Panzer Divisions fought hard from the outset, with 17 of the 21 divisions deployed on the Eastern Front.  The losses of the USSR were appalling – within months almost three million men were dead and 20,500 tanks and SP guns destroyed.  Yet despite efforts to sustain this triumph, Germany’s forces would be ground down and defeated within years.

The book is divided into several segments that cover such issues as the organization of the various units within the Panzer Divisions, tactics used by the Panzer Divisions (including the initial blitzkrieg and the efforts to counter the Soviet counterattacks), and a detailed description of the weapons and equipment used in the different Panzer Divisions.

As I have discussed in previous posts, the books in many of the Osprey series are very detailed and require a true passion for the subject area covered.  I find the books interesting because they thoroughly examine the topic.  For example, in the Unit Organization section of this book, Battistelli includes  the organizational structure of a Panzer Regiment and silhouettes of the tanks that are part of Panzer Regiment 25.  These tables give a better understanding of a Panzer Regiment.

Battistelli also describes how the Panzer Divisions changed as the war progressed.  Initially, the tanks were lighter, faster, and more maneuverable to perform lightning strikes.  However, as the Russian defense stiffened and their heavier tanks took their toll on the lighter German tanks, the Germans were forced to add more armor and heavier guns to their tanks – as a result, the blitzkrieg tactics had to be abandoned for more of an emphasis on firepower.

I did have some trouble with Battistelli’s use of German terminology when describing the various Panzer units.  There is a table of abbreviations and glossary at the back of the book that is helpful, but I wonder if it would have been possible to have English translations of the terms (I do not know much about the German terminology, so I do not know if a translation was even possible).

Finally, as usual with Osprey publications, the photographs, maps, diagrams, and tables are extremely useful and helpful.  For example, Battistelli discusses a lot of different armored vehicles and without the accompanying photographs, it would have been hard to distinguish the differences between the vehicles.

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