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Reference, History Facts, Vorwärts Immer, Rückwärts Nimmer

February 5 2012 at 6:40 PM
Frank V. De Sisto  (Login zappa93)
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HISTORY FACTS

Vorwärts Immer, Rückwärts Nimmer!, An Illustrated Guide to History and Fate of the German Assault Artillery in WW II, Volume 1, the Early Years. By: Thomas Anderson, with illustrations by Filipiuk and Giancaterina, with Hilary Doyle. Hard covers, 8 x 11.25-inches, 209 pages. Contains 231 B&W photographs, one color photograph, two maps, seven organization charts, nine monochrome unit insignia illustrations, 16 pages of color plates, appendix, glossary and bibliography. ISBN 978-3-9522968-9-9.

The Sturmgeschütze III is one of my favorite modeling subjects. While building a StuG.III Ausf.G December 1942 production version using the Tamiya base kit and the Chesapeake Model Designs resin conversion, during my research I came across Thomas Andersons excellent article in MMiR number 16. Here I felt, was a kindred spirit, since the Sturmgeschütze III along with the Panzerkampfwagen III are my favorite German AFV types. Fast-forward to 2011 and Mr. Anderson has begun publication of what is scheduled to be a three-volume treatment on this typically German answer to the problem of supporting infantry in the assault.

That this book has been published by the renowned History Facts house (their superb two-volume set on the Sturmgeschütze III has also been reported upon here at ToT), simply adds gravitas to Mr. Andersons obvious labor-of-love.

The text begins with a brief introduction, which describes the concept behind the design of the StuG.III, followed by information regarding the formation of the first training unit, the Artillerie-Lehr-Regiment, located in Jüterbog, near Berlin. This segment is accompanied by a pair of two-page maps, showing pertinent details of the training area and its environs. A number of well-captioned photographs fill out the section. This set of photos contains images of the training grounds, the men involved and, of course, the AFVs in use. The latter consist of early StuG.IIIs, Pz.Kpfw.III chassis used fro driver training, and the two support vehicles designed to accompany the StuG.III in action: the le. gep. Munitionskraftwagen Sd.Kfz.252 (referred to as a Muniwagen by the troops) and the le. gep. Beobachtungskraftwagen Sd.Kfz.253 (called Führerwagen by its users).

Then, the book covers all of the early units in turn, to include their campaigns. First are the six battery-sized units deployed (or activated) for the campaigns in the west in 1940: Stürmbatterie 640, 659, 660, 665, 666 and 667. The latter two units did not see action in the campaigns of 1940. Brief histories of the units and their formation are included, as are some anecdotes. One in particular is interesting not only for its extent, but for the fact that it was translated in 1940 by the US Military Attachés office in Berlin, and includes his own analysis. Each units segment includes an excellent selection of photographs as well as actual (as opposed to notional) organization charts. This is especially useful since, due to production shortages of the Sd.Kfz.252 and Sd.Kfz.253, substitute AFVs and semi-tracked vehicles were issued. The latter types included Munitionspanzer I Ausf.A, Befhelspanzer I Ausf.B, Sd.Kfz.10 and un-armored Sd.Kfz.251s. Each units history is accompanied by a number of photographs, all showing specific vehicle types, as well as national, unit, and tactical markings. Unit-specific modifications are also shown and described. This segment is also helpful to modelers in that it finally and correctly ties in markings with each unit, ending any guess-work (including my own!).

Next in line are the re-organized Stürmartillerie-Abteilungen, numbered 184, 185, 190, 191 and 197. Now organized with seven StuG.IIIs (the Abteiling Kommander now has one for his use), these units also had enlarged repair and supply elements missing from the initial assault gun batteries. Their training is depicted as is their somewhat limited contributions to the campaigns in the Balkans and Greece. Again each units history is accompanied by a number of photographs, all showing specific vehicle types, as well as national, unit, and tactical markings. Unit-specific modifications are also shown and described.

Several pages make up the next section, which provides some technical information on the StuG.III, the Sd.Kfz.252 and the Sd.Kfz.253. This is followed by a section showing the various uniforms and head-gear worn during this early period. The appendices contain a bibliography, a brief biography of the author, a table showing German ranks and their equivalents, and a glossary.

The final main part of the book is the section containing 16 pages of color plates. Beginning with a full-color archival image, a total of 18 vehicles are depicted. Several thumb-nail images show unit insignia and their variations. These drawings are based on scale plans by Hilary Doyle and have been created by a team called Filipiuk and Giancaterina. The plates are very well-rendered and feature correct camouflage colors and patterns for the periods depicted. It would seem to me however, that the AFVs from the later units were probably manufactured and delivered after the change to monotone Dunkelgrau was mandated. However, in this area, as in all Things Sturmgeschütz, I defer to the author. Commentary is informed and (where necessary) sometimes extensive.

This is an excellent start to the series and I have very little to criticize except for a few production issues. I noted that three of the monochrome insignia illustrations and one included in the color plate section are of low resolution. There are a very small number of typographic errors, but they are nothing to be concerned with. The paper used is not of the glossy coated stock variety, which has a slightly adverse effect on the otherwise very well-reproduced photos; the same observation applies to the color plates. Of all things, I think the latter deserves a re-think by the publishers as glossy paper adds extra depth and clarity to any image or drawing. It should be again emphasized that image reproduction is otherwise excellent, based, of course, on the quality of the original photograph.

I am delighted with this book and eagerly look forward to the remaining two volumes in the proposed series. The way in which it is organized is superb, allowing for easy access to unit-specific modeling information. Any modeler with an interest in this subject should have this book on his shelf, along-side the previous two History Facts books on the Sturmgeschütze III. I do, and I am leaving room for the remainder!

Frank V. De Sisto

The reader should note that Tom Cockle also reported upon this book a few months ago, here at ToT. It is recommended that, if he missed it, the reader check it out for another point-of-view.

History Facts books are available in North America from Casemate Publishing at: www.casematepublishing.com.

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