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Book Review
DUEL: Panzer IV vs Sherman
Panzer IV vs Sherman - France 1944
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]


Osprey Publishing Ltd. has released Panzer IV vs Sherman - France 1944, by armor expert Steven J. Zaloga, as the 70th title in Osprey's DUEL series. It compares two closely matched tanks in the hedgerows of Normandy during Operation Cobra
    ...from design and development through to combat, with a thorough analysis of all the human, tactical and technical elements....
The book is 80 pages long, available in Paperback, eBook (ePub) and eBook (PDF) (with different ISBN numbers). It is illustrated by Richard Chasemore.
    As the Allies attempted to break out of Normandy, it quickly became apparent that there would be no easy victory over the Germans, and that every scrap of territory on the way to Berlin would have to be earned through hard fighting. This study concentrates on, the ferocious battles between the German Panzer IV and US Sherman that were at the heart of this decisive phase of World War II. The two types were among the most-produced tanks in US and German service and were old enemies, having clashed repeatedly in the Mediterranean theater. Throughout their long service careers, both had seen a succession of technical developments and modifications, as well as an evolution in their intended roles - but both remained at the forefront of the fighting on the Western Front. Written by an expert on tank warfare, this book invites the reader into the cramped confines of these armoured workhorses, employing vivid technical illustrations alongside archive and contemporary photography to depict the conditions for the crewmen within.

Panzer IV vs Sherman - France 1944 is presented through 80 pages in 11 sections and chapters:
    Design and Development
    Technical Specifications
    The Combatants
    The Strategic Situation
    Statistics and Analysis
    Further Reading

Mr. Zaloga is highly regarded as a military historian. I find his writing insightful, interesting, easy to read, and a good balance of technical and narrative. He has access to a great deal of fascinating information and this book challenges some perceptions held about these tanks in the Western European war.

Starting the book inside the title page is a key to military symbols, author's note of US and German terminology, and a glossary of abbreviations. Next, six pages cover Introduction and Chronology, describing the origins of the PzKpfw IV in the Panzerwaffe through the Normandy campaign, and Allied tank history through the Sherman in the Normandy campaign. The book shakes up many perceptions held about these tanks, the first being that Operation Cobra employed more tanks on a smaller front than the huge Battle of Prokhorovka during the Kursk campaign. Also interesting is that in the there seems to have been a complacency with the M4's armor and firepower.

Design and Development in 10 pages relates PzKpfw IV development from the mid-1930s to the Ausf J, and the Sherman from the M2 predecessor through the Normandy campaign. More iconoclastic revelations are that a 1943-44 Soviet assessment rated the PzKpfw IV as superior to the T-34, and US Army tankers generally considered the M4 as adequately armored! Later in the book is a German account of the statistical effectiveness of the PzKpfw IV against the primary Western Allied tanks.

M4 lore holds that the Sherman was insufficiently armored. Eight pages of Technical Specifications demonstrates that the basic M4 armor was superior to the PzKpfw IV when they first met, and even with both up-armored, by Normandy the M4 hide was still thicker everywhere. The problem was that the PzKpfw IV's 75 mm was better. This is supported with descriptions and comparisons of the ammunition used. Also recounted is US Army doctrine concerning the use of HE (High Explosive) and "Willy Pete" (White Phosphorous) rounds against tanks. Additionally, expenditures of different ammo types are presented. Interesting to tank gun fans, the author mentions the debate about upgunning the PzKpfw IV with the 5 cm guns used in the PzKpfw III, and the different types of 7.5 cm guns.

The challenges of the bocage and American efforts to overcome it is described in the section comparing overall mobility.

The Combatants is 16 pages long. It explores the differences and similarities in American and German tank crews. Each member of the crew is described with their primary functions. The equipment they used is included although I would think that aspect would have been included in the previous chapter. Traverse times for the turrets are included, as are braking and steering systems.

Next, the author details the training of the combatants, their deployment, and casualties. Panzer-Lehr-Division plays prominently in the text, as does 2. SS-Panzer-Division Das Reich. Panzer-Lehr-Division composition and background is described. Against them the book compares US Army's 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions. Both sides had several other units in cooperation and some of these are discussed.

This chapter also dedicated a full page to profile two opposing commanders: German Helmut Ritgen, commander of II./PzLehrRgt 130, and American Lindsay C. Herkness, Jr., commander of 2nd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division.

US 2nd Armored Division is described from formation in 1940 through Cobra.

The Strategic Situation is four pages long.

Combat may be the part of the book most of us will read first. It begins with the July 25 fighter-bomber attacks that opened Cobra and leads the reader through the campaign. Included are battle descriptions, including a first-person account of a point-blank shootout between a Sherman and a couple of PzKpfw IVs on a narrow street in Saint-Gilles. Another account tells of a night action that did not begin until the panzers were within 6 yards of the M4s!

Twenty pages later Statistics and Analysis and Conclusion sum up this duel with Balances of Forces, Tank Technical Effectiveness, Tactical Factors and Final Results.

Photographs, Graphics and Art
This book is full of high quality photographs, probably the best overall selection of any Duel book I have seen thus far. One captures the aftermath of the point-blank shootout between a Sherman and a couple of PzKpfw IVs on a narrow street in Saint-Gilles.

All are clear and focused. Two are recent color photos of tanks on display. Many are of post-combat destruction that should be invaluable for those modelers looking to model battle damage and destroyed vehicles. Almost every image should be a useful source for modelers. Artist Richard Chasemore created another gallery of excellent illustrations proving a glimpse into a world most of us can only imagine. Modellers, again, should benefit from the cutaway art and the depictions of components. Maps help orient the reader to the overall campaign and Operation Cobra. Helping with the concept of physics and statics are many tables and charts. One graphic is from a wartime US Army diagram showing the armor of a PzKpfw IV. These many graphics are as follows.

    A. PzKpfw IV Ausf H, 5./PzLehrRgt 130, July 1944: profile; front & rear; with data on
      Width (without skirts)
      Combat weight
      Main gun
      Machine guns
      Fuel capacity
      Top speed

    B. M4A1 Meduim Tank, E/66th Armored, July 1944: profile; front & rear; with data on
      Width (without skirts)
      Combat weight
      Main gun
      Machine guns
      Fuel capacity
      Top speed

    C. SprGr 34 & M48 High-explosive rounds, PzGr 39 & M61 Armor-piercing rounds, paired with Comparative firepower, below.
    D. PzKpfw IV Ausf H crew layout.
    E. PzKpfw IV Turret cutaway keyed with 17 components.
    F. M4A1 medium tank crew layout.
    G. M4A1 Turret cutaway keyed with 17 components.
    H. Centerfold: point-blank shootout between a Sherman and a couple of PzKpfw IVs on a narrow street in Saint-Gilles, including a narrative by Lt George Wilson, pinned down in a gutter between the tanks.
    I. TZF 5B Telescopic Gun Sight
    J. M55 Telescope

    1. Complete round, Projectile, A.P.C., 75 mm, M61 cutaway.
    2. Armor illustration of PzKpfw IV Ausf H, Allied informational illustration.
    i. Comparative armor protection: actual and equivalent thickness of the PzKpfw IV Ausf H and M4A1.
    ii. Comparative firepower: PzKpfw IV Ausf H 7.5cm KwK 40 verses M4A1 75mm M3, with color illustrations of respective AP and HE rounds, as noted above.
    iii. Comparative mobility data: Engine type; Power; Transmission; Transmission speeds [forward/reverse]; Steering; Power-to-weight ratio; Max. road speed; Tank loaded weight; Fuel; Maximum range; Ground pressure.
    iv. Operational AFV strength, divisions of 7. Armee, June-August 1944, four dates for PzLehrDiv, 2.SS-PzDiv, 17.SS-PzGrDiv: PzKpfw IV; Panther; StuG and Jagdpanzer; Totals.
    v. Major German AFV losses in the West, June-Sept. 1944 per month for PzKpfw IV, Panther, Tiger, StuG III.
    vi. 2nd Armored Division tank strength, Operation Cobra, several dates, per M4 [75mm], M4A1 [76mm], M5A1.
    vii. 2nd Armored Division AFVs lost during Operation Cobra, July 26-31, 1944: M4; M5A1; M8 75mm HMC; M8 armored car; M2A1 half-track; M3A1 half-track; M4 81mm MMC half-track.
    viii. First US Army tank losses, June 6-August 5, 1944: several dates, several AFV types.
    ix. German claims of Allied tank losses in Normandy, June 6-August 5, 1944
    x. Allied claims of German tank losses, D-Day to August 1944
    xi. German kill claims verses Allied tanks by weapon type, June 6-July 3, 1944
    xii. Effectiveness of PzKpfw IV Ausf H verses Allied tanks at 1,000yd and 1,500yd: Sherman [75mm]; Sherman [17-pdr]; Cromwell [75mm].
    xiii. 2nd Armored Division casualties, Operation Cobra
    xiv. 2nd Armored Division claims of destroyed German vehicles in Operation Cobra
    xv. 2nd Armored Division claims of German casualties in Operation Cobra
    a. Operation Cobra overview, July 25-29, 1944.
    b. Operation Cobra day by day.

This is certainly a book for modelers as well as historians. Osprey's Duel series is an interesting concept. I have read several of them and enjoyed them, although some do not seem much like a duel. Perhaps more of a comparison of often dissimilar weapon systems. Yet they are very informative and full of good photos and artwork. Panzer IV vs Sherman - France 1944 is a book that does indeed pit two closely matched tanks that frequently fought each other for two and a half years. Mr. Zaloga blends technical and narration in an easily and engaging format. He explains things well and includes data that clarifies the nuts-and-bolts aspect of the text.

Another plus of the series and this book in particular are the excellent photographs and artwork supporting an insightful and educational fascinating text. The book is not perfect as there is a minor typo in discussing German gun calibers.

Panzer IV vs Sherman - France 1944 is one of the best Duel titles I have read and I highly recommend it.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on ARMORAMA.
Highs: Excellent photographs and artwork supporting an insightful and educational fascinating text.
Lows: De minimis.
Verdict: This is certainly a book for modelers as well as historians. It is one of the best DUEL titles I have read and I highly recommend it.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9781472807601
  Suggested Retail: $18.95 (USD)
  Related Link: Jim's Video Review
  PUBLISHED: Sep 14, 2015

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright 2020 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Historicus Forma or Silver Star Enterprises. All rights reserved.


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