Jagdtiger, The Most Powerful Armoured Fighting Vehicle of World War II Vols. 1&2
Title: Jagdtiger, The Most Powerful Armoured Fighting Vehicle of World War II - Volume I - Technical History
Publisher:Schiffer Publishing, Atglen, Pennsylvania, 1999
Format:Hardcover 230 x 310mm (9" x 12"), 139 pages, 170+ b&w photos & 60 line dwgs.
As its sub-title implies, this first book of a two volume set covering this massive tank destroyer, tackles the vehicle itself. Areas covered include chapters on assembly, hull and armour plate, main armament, secondary armament, the engine, the lubrication system, cooling system, fuel system, starting up, the clutch, gearbox, steering unit, brakes, final drive, the 2 suspension systems, tracks, sprockets and idlers, electrical systems, optics, tools and auxiliary equipment, crew controls and stations, and suppliers to the production program.
In short, everything you ever wanted to know about the manufacture and operation of this vehicle is covered. Material has been gathered from a number of primary and secondary sources and combined to present a very complete 'nuts and bolts' look at the Jagdtiger, by an author who, as an engineer by trade, is well qualified in this pursuit, and who has had a long interest in this heavy SPG.
Text is well laid out, logical, and easy to navigate, and is backed up with numerous photos and sketches which will be very handy both for modellers as well as those just wishing to discover more about this vehicle. It could possibly have benefited from just a few more interior views for modellers as per Spielberger's Tiger I & II and Their Variants, but enough are given to cover it pretty well so its only a minor nit-pick. All in all though, its very thorough and should well and truly satisfy most German Armour enthusiasts with a technical interest in this vehicle.
Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5) - Recommended
Title: Jagdtiger, The Most Powerful Armoured Fighting Vehicle of World War II - Volume 2 - Operational History
Author: Andrew Devey
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, Atglen, Pennsylvania, 1999
Format: Hardcover 230 x 310mm (9" x 12"), 160 pages, 250+ b&w photos & 40 line dwgs.
The second of the set is perhaps the one which will hold most interest for modellers and enthusiasts, as it exhaustively covers the relatively obscure operational history of the 2 units that ran them - s.Pz.Jg.Abt.512 and 653. Until now only snippets of 1. and 2.Co. s.Pz.Jg.Abt.512's history had been seen in mainstream print, via their CO's (Albert Ernst's and Otto Carius') bios, and until the recent publication of Karl-Heinz Münch's Combat History of the s.Pz.Jg.Abt 653, little was known of this unit either. But this new Schiffer title presents both together and comprehensively for the first time.
Beginning with a chapter on the overall war situation in the years of the Jagdtiger's introduction and employment - 1944/5, chapters covered include those on testing and training, deployment, camouflage and markings, 653 month by month from its early days with Ferdinands and Elefants through to the end in May '45, 512 month by month from January to April '45, Jagdtigers not deployed to these units, the fate of the vehicles after the war, surviving museum examples, and lastly a very well done scratchbuilt 1:12th scale model of one by the author which fires .410 shotgun shells!
For those who already have a fair amount on this vehicle, there is a lot of new material covered including quite a few fresh shots. All 11 of the Porsche running gear vehicles have now finally been positively ID'd, traced and given photos, plus a lot of familiar shots of vehicles are well captioned and correctly assigned their respective units and Fgst. No.s (where known), for the first time.
The unit accounts are very well researched and a great read with a lot of missing information presented to complete the overall picture. At last an account on the elusive 3/512 of Lt. Schrader is given (though according to p.274 there is still a little doubt as to who actually had 2nd and 3rd companies - Carius or Schrader!).
Along with this some very interesting shots are presented of 3.Company vehicles which were new to me, including one carrying a "Y" marking (vs. the "X" call signs seen on Ernst's 1.Co mounts; "X1", "X5", & "X7" etc.).
A minor point of interest is that the author seems to discount the issue of any of the 4-8+ produced 88mm-armed versions from the factory, with all evidence pointing to their destruction there. So with current 'claims' of one being found in Eastern Poland it will be interesting to see if there is still more digging to be done in this area. But overall if Jagdtigers are your cup of tea then this title is simply a must.
My only real disappointments are firstly in the "colour" plate section, which features 13 small though obviously very competently rendered illustrations by the author, which for some inexplicable (and inexcusable) reason known only to Schiffer, have been, you guessed it, printed in "black and white", thereby totally negating their inclusion! At first glance, they are that well done that they just appear to be duplicate photos, but as monochromes are obviously of no help at all in appreciating the author's colour scheme interpretations in shades of grey.
Secondly, the size and quality of the bulk of the actual photos is also bit of a letdown too. While some are large and clear like the amazingly sharp double page shot on the front title pages of both books showing Ernst's 1.512 vehicles at the surrender ceremony in Iserlohn, the majority sadly seem to be meanly sized, dark, and worst of all, of quite poor quality. This is made even more evident by the fact that many of the 653 shots for example are seen in Münch's book printed much sharper and lighter. Many pics seem to have simply been poorly scanned or photocopied from other sources, leaving them very grainy and 'pixelly', which will no doubt be a major annoyance for modellers wishing to pick up all the fine details. In a number of instances the caption calls out a feature of interest on a shot that is so murky in these plates that it can't even be seen! In this day and age with all the digital enhancement software available, photos of this low standard in a glossy paged book such as this, are a real shame. These grievances with the illustrations, in this volume in particular, in my opinion, really do detract from what is otherwise a very useful and complete reference work on this heavyweight.
But apart form these qualms it is an invaluable research title for the serious German Armour enthusiast or modeller with a soft spot for these beasts, and will no doubt be the standard reference work on them for many years to come.
Rating:**** (4/5) - Recommended
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