PeKo publishing are well-known for their series of photo-albums dedicated to various armoured vehicles (both German and Soviet) from WW2. However, their portfolio is expanding to further titles, where the narrative text takes most of the pages. Noteworthy is their choice of subjects from more general things like Panzer IV or StuG they also pay attention to rare vehicles like Zrinyi II SPG or selected units, which have not been covered by other publishers.
The current title is about combat history of German Panzer-Abteilung 103, a unit equipped with StuG III tank destroyers. It is authored by Norbert Szαmvιber who has already written a number of excellent books about other units and operations. Here, the text is mostly based on the war diary or Krigstagebuch of Pz.Abt. 103 that covered the period between summer 1943 and spring 1944; with the help of other sources like NARA where necessary.
The book has a hard cover and quite large pages slightly bigger than A4. The quality of print and paper is exceptional and I did not notice any language issues. In total there are 118 pages which are divided into six chapters (plus introduction). The text is supported by approximately 35 maps and documents (black and white or colour) as well as 6 photographs.
The chapters are the following:
Re-establishment of the German Panzer-Abteilung 103 and its transport to Italy
Italy pulls out of the war
Fighting from Salerno to the River Volturno
In the Bernhardt Line
Against the Anzio bridgehead in the area of Aprilia
Holding manoeuvres up to the river Arno
The first chapter focuses on formation of this unit, which originated from 3rd Motorized Infantry Division. 3rd MID was destroyed at Stalingrad in 1942 and then re-established in France. Pz.Abt 103 was formed by veterans on the North African theatre and equipped with assault guns (StuG III) instead of tanks. This of course required extensive fire training as well as tactics. In the middle of July 1943 the unit was ordered to move from France to Italy and a number of important observations were made during the march. These little facts are quite interesting for modellers as they would allow making an accurate model.
Second chapter tells about the change of the political and war situation in Italy and how Pz.Abt103 as well as other German units had to deal with it. For example it reports on the fighting between Italian and German units, the Italian surrender and inspection of captured vehicles.
The rest of the book contains a very detailed report on Allied performance in Italy. Fighting between American and German units are described and how this affected the PzAbt103. Tactical decision, training, battle performance everything is written in detail. Many of the records talk about small villages and positions of German and Allied units and although they are illustrated by small tactical maps (presumably from German war diary) I wish there was a larger section of map included with marked positions and of the key events. Finally, after months of battles against Allied forces the unit was ordered to retreat from the front and relocate to another area on the Western Front. They left their Wespe SPH to other German units in Italy, but nothing is known whether the same happened to StuGs. 20.08.1944 the last record about the Pz.Abt.103 available and this is where the book ends as well. What happened with the remaining personnel and vehicles after that is not mentioned and I assume it is not known?
In conclusion I think this is a well-produced book, that would be interesting to those people with an interest in history or modellers that prefer to base their models on actual events. It gives a detailed picture of Pz.Abt103 performance and of the German tactics in Italy. Various facts from this book can be used as a basis for modelling a vehicle from that unit as the text mentions adjustments of StuGs and other interesting nuances.
Highs: Interesting book that gives insights into operation of Pz.Abt 103 in Italy.Lows: I wish there was a larger map to show the overall area of operation for that unit.Verdict: Highly recommended for all interested in combat history of German anti-tank units.
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