Archive for November, 2009

TIGER 1 vs T-34 TANK BATTLE OF KURSK “THE LAST CITADEL” BOOK REVIEW

November 20, 2009

The awe inspiring Tiger tank...Hitler’s super weapon of the WW2 battlefield. So superior to all other tanks of the enemy that the Battle of Kursk was delayed to allow the Tiger 1 to spearhead the attack that would drive the Russians back and bring victory back to the Germans on the eastern front…or so they hoped. “The Last Citadel” by David L Robbins is a fictional novel based on this premise and this is my review.

Tiger Panzer Tank

Achtung Tiger Panzer Tank T Shirt red

Tiger 1 Tank Profile Jagd Panzer German Ww2 Rc SS sport

Tiger 1 Tank Panzer German Ww2 Rc SS sport tee

tiger tanks of kursk

Tiger Panzer Tank Iron Cross German Army red

The Last Citadel by David L Robbins, is a fictional book based on historical events surrounding the epic tank battle at Kursk Russia in 1943 during WW2.  The German forces were bogged down by the Russian winter, the Russian victory at Stalingrad and then the subsequent spring rain and mud.  In the summer of 1943 the Germans had amassed a huge force to attack Russia and regain lost ground.  This would lead to the largest tank battle in history and also lends a dynamic backdrop to this book.

Hammer Sickle T-34 Tank Russian Red Army Stalingrad

Hammer Sickle T-34 Tank Russian Red Army Stalingrad green tee

World of tanks WOT Is2 Is3 Russian Stalin armor

IS-2 Heavy Russian Read Army Stalin World of Tanks

There are 4 main characters that drive this story.  The first is a Spanish officer Captain Luis Ruiz de Vega serving with the SS Liebstandarte Panzer Division.  He was wounded in the Battle of Leningrad and is but a shell of his former greatness. The next 3 are all from the same Russian Cossack family. Dimitri Berko, a private driving the T-34 in the Soviet 3rd Mechanized Division.  He is commanded by Sergeant Valentin Berko, Dimitri’s son, and Katya Berkovna, Dimitri’s daughter, a night bomber with the famous all-female bomber squadrons of the Red Air Force, so-called the Night Witches by the Germans that they bomb.  The 3 main story lines follow de Vega being assigned to escort the new super panzer of the German Army, the Tiger 1 Panzerkampfwagen VI, via train to the front and assure that the Tigers are delivered intact.  He then starts itching for action to command one of the Tigers at the Battle of Kursk.  He soon realizes how the Tiger is most effective in battle.  With Demitri and son Valentin in the same T-34 there is much of the father/son tension along with the tank battles that ensue.

T34 Red army Mother Russia Tank ww2 spt

T34 Preferred Weapon of Mother Russia Tank ww2 t shirt

Su 152 Russian World of Tanks

Su 152 Russian Tank Destroyer Red Army Stalingrad gray

The author keeps all entities separate into what seems like 3 different stories revolving around the build up to the tank battle at Kursk.  Each character has there own well detailed back stories that are fleshed out through memories, flashbacks and boastful story telling during the breaks in the battles.  The best aspect of this book is the historical accuracy and detail of the Tiger tank and the Battle of Kursk.  This book was very close to being non-fiction in the level of detail, but also very engrossing character development.  After reading about David L Robbins amount of research that was conducted, I knew just how realistic this book was.  He had spent 3 weeks on the battlefields of Kursk in the middle of summer getting a feel for the heat and sun of the Russian steppes.  He also trained in how to derail a train using explosives as the Partisan Russian

T-34 World War 2 Russian Soviet Red Army Tank

Achtung T-34 World War 2 Russian Soviet Red Army Tank red

fighters attempted in stopping the shipment of the Tiger tanks in the story.  Time was also spent in pouring over accounts from German and Russian tankers’ first hand battle accounts.  “Hands on” equipment training was given to him ranging from small arms to the tanks at the Aberdeen Ordinance Museum in Maryland and being driven around in a restored Russian T-34 in Virginia.

David L Robbins certainly did his homework for this book and you will feel it when you read it.  This is a must read for any Tiger 1 fan and any WW2 fan in general.

Achtung Bill

The Most Important Panzer in the German Wehrmacht of WW2

November 17, 2009

During WW2 the German Army (Heer) had revolutionized the use of armored warfare by using their “panzers” to concentrate a large number of units to strike a spearhead through the enemy’s defensive lines. Much of armored combat tactics, prior to the invasion of Poland in 1939, had used the tanks sparingly spread out across wide lines making them ineffective. With the added use of the Luftwaffe (Air Force) to attack ground based targets and support the German panzers, the “Blitzkrieg” (Lightning War) was conceived. Now having said all that about the “Blitzkrieg”, the panzers were of course used in a defensive manner.

firefly sherman tank

Sherman Easy 8 tee

Russian Red Army Tanks

Kv-1 World War II Russian Red Army Tanks

Sherman Tank

Sherman Tank

As the war turned in favor of the Allies, the Germans started defending the territory they had gained, then subsequently lost and eventually had to defend the “Fatherland” of Germany itself.  So, I beg the question…what was the single most valuable panzer tank used by the Germans during World War 2? We all know of the terrifying Tiger 1 and the Panther, but what of the Panzer I, II, III or IV? Let’s start with the Pzkpfw VI…the “Tiger”.

  • The Tiger made a psychological impact on the morale of the enemy due to its long range deadly 88mm gun and the heavy frontal armor (120mm), which made it seem indestructible. The Tiger was too massive at 56 tons and no sloping armor like the Panther tank which allowed the weight to be much lower. Only about 1350 produced, but started in 1942 and the majority late in the war… too late and too expensive.
  • German Panzer 4

    German Panzer 4

  • The Panther was considered the greatest tank the Germans had by many historians, but the initial action was mired by mechanical breakdowns and fires. After those bugs were worked out the Panther went on to have about 6,557 tanks produced. The Panther had better frontal armor than the Tiger, due to the sloping, and was faster and handled bad terrain better as it was much lighter at 44 tons.  The Panther had its debut at the Battle of Kursk in 1943 starting with 84 working Panthers. Within two days, the number of operational Panthers had dropped to 40 due to breakdowns and enemy action. From then on the Panther was always outnumbered and never had the chance to really make a significant impact.
    Panther Tank
    Jagdpanther Tank

    Jagdpanther Tank

  • The Panzer IV production was just under the III’s with 13,522, it was the only tank to be manufactured during the entirety of the war. The Panzerkampfwagen IV started off with a 50mm gun, then had to match the Soviet threat from the T-34‘s and KV-1’s that were being seen in 1941 for the first on the Eastern front and had to upgrade to the 75mm gun. The Panzerkampfwagen IV was and all around “workhorse” for the Germans and was in many of the major skirmishes in all theaters of operations.
  • Panzer IV Wwii German Panzer 4 Tiger Tanks

    Panzer IV Wwii German Panzer 4 Tiger Tanks

  • The Pzkpfw III’s had 16,409 produced but were medium tanks that kept getting firepower upgrades to keep up with the Soviet tanks like the T-34.The I and II’s had a significant impact in the early stages, but were quickly over-matched by the T-34’s.
Stalingrad ww2 russian tank panzer mark 4

Stalingrad ww2 russian tank panzer mark 4 be repulsed by Russian infanrty

My vote would go to the Pzkpfw IV for the most important tank to the Germans in World War 2. The Panzerkampfwagen IV was much like the Allies’ Sherman or the T-34 tanks, where huge numbers overwhelmed the high quality, low quantity German panzers.  The Panzer IV was improved with each version, except near the end of the war, where resources were limiting performance enhancements. Had the Germans “cranked” out more of the IV’s, they would have had more spare parts, lower costs, higher rate of production and just more tanks to wage war.


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