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Book Review
11
Tanks Hitler's Eastern Allies
Tanks of Hitler's Eastern Allies 1941-45
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by: Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]


Originally published on:
Armorama

introduction

The Nazi propaganda machine was amazing: so effective was Joseph Goebbels and his minions in promoting the Might of the German Armed Forces that even today, many of us are ignorant of the role that Hitler's allies played in WW2, especially the invasion of the Soviet Union. Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Finland and Italy sent millions of soldiers off to the meat grinder of the Eastern Front, with nearly a quarter of a million Romanians, Hungarians and Italians killed in action there. Another 450,000 perished in captivity (out of over 1 million POWs from the three countries). Slovakia, Bulgaria, Finland and Croatia paid a similar price in blood for supporting the true Evil Empire.

Yet few films showing Romanian or Hungarian soldiers and tanks turn up on the Military Channel's endless programming about the war, and films like "Sunflower" (about an Italian soldier who stays on in Russia after the war) are a rarity.

Not only did the Nazis play down the role of their allies during the fighting, they also refused to provide them with modern equipment. Like most countries in the 1930s, tank design and production in Eastern Europe made little progress over the hulking, slow infantry support gun platforms developed at the end of the First World War, or lightly-gunned, lightly-armored "reconnaissance" tanks intended to be the vanguard of "mechanized" fast units. What good equipment many of the allies had, they purchased from Germany, limiting their ability to form large armor formations. Still, these tankers fought bravely and did their best with inferior equipment.

Germany's refusal to help upgrade their allies' tanks led to predictable consequences: for example, when the Soviets counterattacked at Stalingrad, they deployed a fatal pincer movement around the besieged city by rolling up the 2nd Hungarian Army guarding von Paulus's left flank, and the 7th Romanian Army on his right, rather than attack the city head-on. The German Sixth Army was surrounded, and was lost in what many historians consider Germany's most-crushing military defeat in WW2.

Interest in the AFVs of the German allies on the Eastern Front has peaked recently following the release of several kits and figures, especially Bronco's Zrinyi 105mm assault gun reviewed by my esteemed colleague. Darren Baker. And now tank historian Steven J. Zaloga has written a nifty little book on the various tanks and assault guns employed by Hitler's allies.

contents

The usual Osprey format is followed, and contains chapters on:

Introduction
Slovakia
Hungary
Romania
Bulgaria
Finland
Italy
Croatia
Russia
Further Reading (and an Index)

the review

The book (as shown above) is divided into sections by nationality, and each country has a different story to tell. While Finland had a punchy mixture of captured Russian vehicles and 30 StuG III Gs purchased from Germany, the Hungarians for the most part struggled with obsolete or obsolescent vehicles like the Toldi I & II. The Romanian R-2C was just one of several vehicles from various countries that had been designed during the interwar period, and which were already outgunned and obsolete by the time they made it into production, especially against top tanks like the Soviet T-34.

Zaloga does a nice job of juggling the various nationalities, keeping the narrative interesting with crisp prose and informative details. I did not know, for example, that Romania provided the most men of all Germany's Eastern Front allies, though its army was among the worst-equipped. The solution to the weakness of Germany's allies would have been to equip them with at least second-tier German armor, but a surprisingly mercantile outlook prevented that from happening in most cases: Germany wanted cash and its allies were often cash-strapped. And with the exception of Czechoslovakia (whose Skoda works perfected the excellent Pz. 38(t), Germany's co-combatants lacked a robust armaments industry capable of developing a truly effect modern tank.

The book has abundant B&W photos of historical vehicles, as well as color illustrations that include camouflage patterns from units less well-known than the usual German suspects. This should make it a must-have for anyone who is interested in Eastern armor. And since the Romanians, for example, purchased a goodly bit of equipment from the French, there are some opportunities for modeling Tamiya's UE tractor in a different environment entirely.

conclusion

I'm really happy to see both the new AFVs representing other nationalities, as well as this book. We probably know more about the Tiger and Panther tanks than we'll ever need in several lifetimes, while tanks that were at the center of the cauldron that was the Eastern Front have up to now gone mostly unnoticed by the hobby. It's also a very interesting read that will fill in some crucial blanks in most modelers' knowledge about the armies of Eastern Europe at the start of the Second World War. That's definitely a good thing.
SUMMARY
Highs: Detailed information & photos about AFVs that have been overlooked by history and modelers both. Good quality production values.
Lows: Perhaps too obscure for some modelers.
Verdict: Highly recommended.
  Scale: 1:1
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-1-78096-020-3
  Suggested Retail: $17.95
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Aug 27, 2013
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 90.08%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 90.22%

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Bill Cross (bill_c)
FROM: NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES

Self-proclaimed rivet counter who gleefully builds tanks, planes and has three subs in the stash.

Copyright 2019 text by Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Armorama. All rights reserved.



Comments

Very interesting! Next, Osprey should publish "Tanks of Tojo's Asian Allies".
AUG 30, 2013 - 06:29 AM
This is a real question: what Asian allies did Tojo have?
SEP 01, 2013 - 06:57 AM
The only Japanese allies with consequential armed forces were Manchukuo, Mengjiang, the Reorganized National Government of China (Wang Jingwei), Thailand, and the Burmese and Indian National Armies. The Burmese National Army and Mengjiang raised light infantry units, also, Jose Laurel's Second Philippines Republic had an armed constabulary. None of these forces seem to have used any vehicles modelers would find interesting. The Indian National Army probably had armored vehicles, but I can find no record of them. Maybe pics will surface someday - the war wasn't really that long ago, after all; my dad served in it. Thailand, Manchukuo and Wang Jingwei's China operated armored cars and tankettes - Thailand had tanks before the war, and some may have served after 1941. The Japanese often turned over captured vehicles to their Co-Prosperity Sphere allies. Like the German invaders in the USSR, the Japanese sometimes turned allies into enemies by treating them badly.
SEP 01, 2013 - 08:36 AM
   

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