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Book Review
U.S. Armored Units in the North African & Italian Campaigns 1942-45.

by: Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]

Originally published on:

While not exactly ignored by modellers, the Italian Campaign and the earlier struggle for North Africa, seem to lack the popularity of the Eastern Front and the campaigns of NW Europe in 1944-45. To understand AFV development, these earlier campaigns have to be seriously considered and, in the case of the 1942 Torch landings along with the later landings in Sicily, Salerno and Anzio. these have to be seen as the forerunners to the Normandy landings of 1944 where many shortcomings in amphibious doctrine were to be graphically demonstrated. These campaigns also allowed the U.S. to 'fine-tune' its tactical doctrine, particularly with newer units such as the Tank Destroyer battalions.

The Book
U.S. Armored Units in the North African & Italian Campaigns 1942-45 (ISBN 1-84176-966-5) is written by Steven J. Zaloga who (due to the prolific amount of books and articles he has published) requires little or no introduction. The book, which is published by Osprey Publishing, follows the usual format established in the Battle Orders Series, consisting of 96 pages. Although the emphasis is clearly on text rather than graphics although there are a considerable number of photos, maps, organizational charts and statistical tables.

Chapter Headings
The book consists of eight chapters with a further two consisting of a bibliography and an index. The chapter titles are:

The Mission
Preparations for War
Unit Organization
Command and Control
Lessons Learned
Unit Status
Further Reading

About this review
The first thoughts I had, when receiving this book for review, was one which constantly nags me with any review of an Osprey title - can the limited number of pages truly do justice to such a broad subject? After reading it, I began to see what Zaloga had intended with the book. In my opinion, the intention of the book is to give the reader a grasp of the decision-making processes which led to the development of a new 'Philosophy' of armored warfare and, at the same time, explain how this process evolved in the most brutal laboratory of all - the battlefield. With this process, comes the necessary (and succinct) explanations from Mr. Zaloga, about the constant changes which the vehicle types underwent. Once again, a slight problem arises from a review such as this to make it interesting enough for the armor modeller and sufficiently engrossing for those who have a passion for the historical background.

In depth
All good books begin with a good introduction. This is no exception. Zaloga, in only 5 pages gives a brief overview of the pre and early war situation regarding U.S. Armored Forces (terrifying) and sets the scene for the historical background to what would be the development of a potent force starting virtually at zero.

The next chapter expands on the theme of the introduction by explaining in greater depth the process which the U.S. Army went through in the establishment of something which was to become considerably more than simply Armored Cavalry - mechanization had truly arrived.

The third chapter, Preparations for War, deals with two parallel developments - Armored Forces and Tank Destroyer forces. The constant changes caused by external events and technical developments are keynotes in this chapter - particularly the massive rethinking which took place following the French defeat of 1940. This is very interesting material, particularly from a historical perspective.

The next chapter (Unit Organization) takes us into the realm of the equipment with some good organizational charts showing the different periods in the evolution of both Armored and TD units. Some good material is also present about vehicle development.

Chapter five, Command and Control, again looks at organization and the imposed changes which had to be realized on the force structures.

The next chapter, Tactics, is the largest chapter as it deals with Tactical deployment, and in some detail of the major campaigns of the period, beginning with North Africa. Also covered, in this chapter, again in some detail, is the use of the TD in actual combat and the lessons learned from its shortcomings.

The seventh chapter, is, sadly, frustratingly short as it deals with one of the most fascinating aspects for any military historian - the lessons learnt and rectified. It is a chapter which tends to whet the appetite for more.

The next (and final) chapter, is effectively the U.S. 'Order of Battle' for the various campaigns covered. This, will be of particular interest to modellers who are always trying to place a particular vehicle in a particular theater.

The bibliography is useful with some particularly interesting unit histories mentioned. What is strange however, is that no on-line resources are mentioned, in particular, some of the superb Unit websites.

In the final analysis, Mr. Zaloga, has given us considerably more than a simple 'primer' although it does fall into that category of being not quite a complete history whilst being more than a simple introduction. The book is well structured and very competently written with Zaloga assuming that the market for the book is the enthusiast who will have some knowledge base of the subject in question. On reflection, it will be of more value to the Military History enthusiast than the 'strict' armor modeller although, with books of this type, there is a rule I do tend to follow whereby, to do a subject justice, it is, in my opinion, of enormous value to set the vehicle in its historical context - something which this book will help many modellers with.

Armorama would like to express its thanks to Osprey Publishing for providing this book for review.
The Italian and (later) North African Campaigns are undoubtedly an enormously rich vein for armor modellers. Not only for the sheer diversity of vehicles, but for the many new types of vehicles which were introduced during the battles in these theaters. In this book, the constantly-evolving tactical doctrine is examined along with good, concise information on the vehicle developments which took place along with an immensely useful source book of these two fascinating campaigns.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: Battle Orders 21
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Aug 04, 2006
  NATIONALITY: United States

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About Jim Rae (jimbrae)

Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...

Copyright ©2021 text by Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


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