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Battle Orders 3: US Armored Divisions, The European Theater of Operations 1944–45

by Stephen J Zaloga

Published by Osprey Publishing Ltd, ISBN 1-84176-564-3, 96 pages


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Students of the US Army’s Armored Divisions ought to welcome this latest work from this prolific author. He begins by discussing the Army’s initial concepts for armored warfare and how they were modified after the Germans unleashed the Blitzkrieg upon Europe. The reasons behind the types of equipment initially procured, as well as the reasons that the Tank Destroyer Command was kept separate from the Armored Corps are also discussed.

The author then goes on to discuss the organization of the first, so-called 1942 “Heavy” armored divisions, as well as the reformed (as well as new) armored divisions in their 1943-1944 “Light” form. The concept and use of Combat Commands is also described, which highlights the US Army’s approach to flexibility on the battlefield.Organization charts are provided for the Heavy and Light divisions, as well as the organic component parts of the light divisions such as: the various headquarters units (divisional and combat command), Tank Battalions, Armored Infantry Battalions (with silhouettes detailing these two units down to platoon level), Cavalry Recon Squadrons, Armored Field Artillery Battalions, Armored Engineer Battalions, Armored Medical Battalions, Divisional Trains (supplies), Armored Maintenance Battalions and the Armored Signal Company

Many of these units are also described in various Tables of Organization and Equipment (commonly called TO&E), which give details of personal and equipment including such things as what particular weapons an individual was authorized to carry, how many officers and enlisted men were authorized, plus the numbers and types of wheeled support vehicles a unit would posses.

Attached units, particularly Tank Destroyer, Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons and Medium Field Artillery Battalions are briefly touched upon for the sake of balance. The author uses this point to provide a contrast between US and German armored formations of the era, since the German Panzer Divisions had these last three types of units as an organic part of their parent division, while the US Armored Divisions did not. Passing mention is also made of Engineer Bridging units as well as Ordnance Evacuation units. But, the book concentrates (and rightly so, considering the limits of the format) on units that are organic to the Armored Divisions. In addition, the relationship between the Armored Division and Corps, as well as Army-level formations is explained.

Other charts in the book detail strength tallies for such things as the ratio of 75mm to 76mm-armed Sherman tanks in the ETO, as well as the numbers of the newly introduced T26E3 Pershing heavy tanks and M24 Chaffee light tanks in a given unit at a given time.

The final segment of the book uses case studies of various small and large encounters to illustrate US Armored Division tactics in both the offense and defense. For the former, Patton’s dash to the Seine at the close of Operation Cobra is one example that the author cites. For the latter, he cites units of the 7th and 9th ADs during the epic defensive battles during the so-called “Battle of the Bulge”. There are also other examples cited, such as the large US tank vs. German panzer encounter in the Lorraine campaign. All of these are presented in concise text, complimented by easily understood maps.

The photographic content of the book consists of many old favorites, all with extensive and pertinent captions, as well as several new (at least to me) photos. The photos depict the various types of vehicles seen in a division as well as personnel, including several noted commanders.

The final section of the book gives brief sketches of the 15 Armored Divisions to serve in the ETO, including the 2nd through 14th, as well as the 16th and the 20th. The 1st AD, which served in Italy, is not covered. The text in this case gives a listing of campaigns and dates, while the charts detail such things as organic components of each AD as well as divisional commanders and the higher formations to which a division would be subordinated, at a given time.

Altogether, this book is a very economical, “one stop” assessment of the US Armored Divisions in the ETO, and a copy should be on every US AFV modeler’s bookshelves.

Highly recommended.

Frank De Sisto

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