Zalogan nimi on vanha tuttu jo 1970-luvun lopulta. Kaikki lukemani Zalogan kirjat ovat olleet panssaritekniikan ja -historian erinomaisesti ja taiten toteutettuja tutkielmia. Tällä kertaa aihe on harvinainen ja vähän käsitelty: saksalaisten rinnalla itärintamalla taistelleiden armeijoiden panssarijoukot. Suurista panssaritaisteluista on kirjoitettu paljon, mutta Saksan itärintaman liittolaisista tiedämme vähemmän. Loppuvuonna 1942 Stalingradin taisteluihin osallistuneet Saksan liittolaismaat käyttivät kaikki vanhentuneita ja panssaritaisteluihin kelpaamattomia malleja - tunnetuin seurauksin. Sodan edetessä liittolaismaiden asema vaihteli suuresti. Kun Romania ja Unkari valmistivat myös omia vaunumallejaan, niin muut olivat joko Saksasta ostettujen tai sotasaalisvaunujen varassa. Vaunumallien kirjo on uskomaton: vanhentuneista Skoda 35(t) vaunuista aina Hetzereihin ja uusiin Tiikereihin.
|Pz 38(t) ruotsalaisversiona Arsenalenissa.|
Foto © Historix
|Hetzer Ruotsin panssarimuseo Arsenalenissa. Foto © Historix|
Tsekkien panssarivaunuteollisuudella oli suuri merkitys lähes kaikille kirjan käsittelemille maille. Tästä osoituksena on se, että Unkari kehitti Turan I ja II -panssarivaunut sekä Zrinyi -rynnäkkötykin Skodan suunnitteleman keskiraskaan S-IIc:n, myöhemmin nimellä T-22 kutsutun vaunun pohjalta. Turanit olivat itse asiassa Pz 35(t) -vaunun suurennettuja versioita ja jo valmistuessaan vanhentuneita. Vasta Turan III mallilla olisi ollut todellista taistelukykyä pitkän 75 mm:n kanuunansa ansiosta.
|QF 4,5-inch Howitzer Hml:n tykistömuseossa.|
Foto © Historix
Neliväripiirustukset ja runsas kuvitus ovat kirjalle eduksi. Teos on kerrassaan mainio lukukokemus ja tietopaketti panssarihistoriasta ja -tekniikasta. Blogistille se oli myös kimmoke yhdistää eri matkojen antia yhteen.
|BT-42 Parolan panssarimuseossa.|
Foto © Historix
|Vaunun torni ja ase: 114 mm:n haupitsi.|
Foto © Historix
All the books I have read about tank warfare and armor technology written by the author have been very well and skillfully made researches. This time the subject of the book is a rare one and quite little discussed: the tank forces of Germany’s Eastern Front allies 1941 - 1945. There are innumerable amounts of descriptions of the great and famous armor battles of the Eastern Front. How much do we know about the role of the Germany’s small and poorly equipped eastern allies’ tank forces and their fates?
The German thrust to capture Stalingrad was reaching its height in the late autumn of 1942. Simultaneously it had become quite obvious how all Germany’s eastern allied forces were fighting in the southern Russia and Ukraine with old and obsolete tank types without any real punching power. They met the new generation Russian tanks riding themselves in ones typical of the European designs of the late 1930s. As the war progressed so did the composition of the Axis tank forces, but interestingly enough, the process was all but equal. Whereas Romania and Hungary had the industrial capacity to produce their own types, all the others had to import whatever armor they could from Germany or depend on the captured war booty. The scale of imported models is amazing, from the already obsolete PzKpfw 35(t) through the Hetzer, PzKpfw IV and ending up with the mighty Tiger I tank.
The work examines the Axis tank forces of Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy and Croatia. It gives a nice and detailed overview of the equipment, combat history and fates of these formations. The Finnish armored forces are presented and studied as a co-belligerent of the Eastern Front against the Soviet Red Army. The approach here is carefully and wisely selected one, as Finns did not have a political alliance with the Axis countries. It was more a question of military necessities and need to get armament where ever supplies were available. This applies also to the Ryti – Ribbentrop pact made in the summer of 1944. Germany tried to use the looming military defeat and the collapse of Finnish army main defensive lines in the Karelian Isthmus as a mean to blackmail Finns politically. Good for Finns, Germans failed in their attempts to fully exploit the dire situation faced by the Finnish army HQ and leading politicians.
As a curiosity, reader is presented by the quick view of the Russian Liberation Army (ROA) and its tiny armored forces. At first Germans gave some obsolete French war booty Hotchkiss H-39 tanks to form the base of the ROA's tank core. Since the H-39s lacked any real combat value, they were pressed out of service and replaced with more potent war machines at the final stages of the war. The 1st division of ROA received a company of ten Jagdpanzer 38 (t) Hetzers. They were, however, used against Germans by the ROA in the Czech uprising of May 1945 in Prague.
It is quite harsh to read how, for example, Romanian tank formations were destroyed several times during their service in the Eastern Front. On the other hand it was namely a Romanian Maresal anti-tank assault gun prototype which served as a model and basis for Germans as they developed the famous Hetzer panzerjäger.
The prewar Czech tank industry had a vast impact on Axis minor tank forces. For instance, the Hungarians developed Turan I and II tanks as well as Zrinyi assault guns by using Skoda medium S-IIc prototype (later called as T-22) as a basis for a new tank. Turan gun tanks were, in fact, only up scaled Czech LT vz. 35 types or by the German designation PzKfpw 35(t). Anyway, both Turans were out of date and obsolete even before they were commissioned. Only the Turan III would have had a chance to fight Russian tanks on an equal basis, since it was to be fitted with a long 75 mm high velocity anti-tank gun. As it turned out to be, the Hungarians didn’t manage to start the mass production of the proposed new medium type.
One of the rarest tanks in the world must be the Finnish BT-42 assault gun! Only eighteen were built and commissioned in 1943. After a year had passed, all surviving examples had been withdrawn from the service. The BT-42 was intended to be used as an anti-tank weapon, but the lack of effective AT-round made it score miserably. Once in June 1944, defending Viipuri (today's Russian Vyborg) the second largest Finnish city at the time, one BT-42 fired as many as 18 direct hits to the incoming Russian T-34 tank. Not a single shot could penetrate the enemy armor. Behind all this was the unhappy tactical misconception of the planners of the tank forces. They did not employ the BT-42 as it should have been done - to infantry close support role like the German StuH 42. The main weapon of the BT-42 is a British QF 4,5-inch howitzer. Actually, the howitzer is WWI vintage horse drawn artillery piece, intended to shoot indirect HE rounds. Even to load BT-42's weapon was quite slow, as the actual projectile and propelling charge was loaded separately before each shot.
Full color drawings, numerous illustrations and cutaway artworks are among the obvious advantages of the book. I can easily recommend it to someone who is interested in military history or tank warfare.
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