Pierre Tiquet, German Tank Destroyers (Casemate, 2021)
In German Tank Destroyers, Pierre Tiquet surveys the machines that served one purpose and the men who fought in them. It is a story of German ingenuity and adaptation, albeit in a losing cause.
Tiquet begins with a timeline of major operations where tank destroyers were involved, then moves into his introduction of these weapons. He points out that the Germans needed a motorized anti-tank force rather than rely on cumbersome manual operated guns often pulled by horse teams. That necessity led them to manufacture anti-tank guns on existing tank chassis. These became heavier weapons as the war developed with the need to deploy heavier guns against heavier tanks. And with that explained, Tiquet examines the tank destroyer variants as they entered the battlefield.
The Panzerjäger Ente, Marder II, and Marder III are first in Tiquet’s catalogue. He describes the Ente as a ‘doughty little tank destroyer’ but it had issues, as did all the earlier models, the most obvious of which was the lack of protection for the crews. The Marder II and III had bigger guns and proved successful in all theatres, but it was tall and presented a juicy target in the open. Effective camouflage was therefore essential, and Tiquet includes some excellent photographic examples of this. Tiquet continues with the Dicker Max and the Sturer Emil. These had greater range and better optics but were heavy and only a few were built. The Hornisse/Nashorn carried the much feared 8.8cm gun on a Panzer II/IV chassis., but it too was heavy and suffered from transmission problems. Designed at the request of Heinz Guderian, the Hetzer solved the high profile problem of previous tank destroyers, and the Germans produced 2,700 of them from April 1944 to May 1945. The appropriately named Elefant comes next in Tiquet’s review. It was a massive beast with an 8.8cm gun, and highly successful in combat, but it weighed 68.65 tonnes and suffered from mechanical problems. The final tank destroyer under review is the Jagdpanzer IV with its sleek profile and long 7.5cm gun. Tiquet concludes that the German tank destroyers were developed in reaction to enemy tank development. The Hetzer and Jagdpanzer were the best of them, but they came too late to change the tide of war.
While German Tank Destroyers falls into the category of ‘illustrated books on war’ with lots of useful photographs of the machines, Tiquet’s text stands up well. He provides the technical details, as you might expect, but includes lots of testimony from the crews that served in the tank destroyers. He also adds sections on some of the major engagements where they fought. As for the photographs, they are mostly of abandoned machines, particularly those from the Battle of the Bulge, but there are also shots with proud crews and vehicles in transit, and they all tell a story. World War II vehicle enthusiasts will enjoy this, of course, but so will readers interested in combat experiences during the war.