Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Armored Bears Vol 1 - Veterans of the 3rd Armored Division

Title: The Armored Bears Vol 1
Author: Veterans of the 3rd Panzer Division
ISBN: 978-0-8117-1170-8
Pages: 327
Photographs//Maps: 146 b/w//21

This book is the first of a two volume set translated from its original German on the history of the 3rd Panzer Division. Organized and originally published in 1967 by the veterans association of the unit, it was initially intended for members of the unit itself and their families as a testimony of their history and experiences. It covers the period from unit activation in 1935 until March, 1942.

Stackpole publishing has reproduced a high quality English version of this book. The translation is, for the most part, good; however, there are a number of instances where the sentences are awkward or run-on (suggesting perhaps a direct translation between German and English). This does not diminish the overall quality of the book but does give the reader pause. The maps are divided between those hand-drawn in their original German (which work well with the narrative) and those that are reproductions of original operations maps which are of little value as they are very busy, hard to follow and overly detailed. The photographs are excellent with many that I have not previously seen. This is where the benefit of drawing upon a veterans association really paid dividends. The book also contains graphs of the organization charts of the Division at different periods in its history. These are very beneficial and are accompanied by a very easy to follow template identifying what the symbols represent.

The narrative is clear except as indicated above. This work is an operational and tactical history of the unit so there is a great deal of detail regarding small engagements and individual achievements. I enjoyed this portion of the work because it provides the reader with a much more intimate view of the goings on and experiences of the soldiers. The narrative is replete with personal anecdotes from the rank and file that adds a fantastic degree of intimacy to the account. The appendices at the back of the book provide detailed synopsis’ of the equivalent ranks between American, Waffen-SS, English and German Armies. Additionally, they provide tables of commanders, Knight’s Cross winners and Army Honour Role recipients.

One of the unique and very positive aspects of the narrative translation are the numerous footnotes provided that serve to ensure accuracy and additional information to the reader. This is of particular benefit due to the fact that there are many references and comments that would be understood by a veteran of the unit but not necessarily by a casual reader. These footnotes serve to bridge that knowledge gap and they do so very effectively.

Overall, I think that this book would be a positive addition to any historian’s library or collection; having said that, it is very detailed and tactical in nature and therefore may not be for the more casual arm chair general. Regardless, Stackpole may be proud of this production as it is of a very high quality and is very readable. One can certainly appreciate the pride that this unit’s veterans had in their accomplishments and the role that they played in the Second World War. Recommended.

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