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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Review: Panther- Germany’s Quest For Combat Dominance

"Panther" arrived from Osprey publishing on my door step one day, and I opened it somewhat un-enthusiastically.  Why, you ask?  Because as I thumbed through the pages I saw close up photos of hatch arrangements, optics, track links, and every nook and cranny you can think of.  Now, I am not really a rivet counter and weighing in at 288 pages, I assumed Panther was going to be a struggle to get through.  But, you know what happens when you make assumptions.

Much to my surprise I stayed up FAR beyond my bedtime the first night I had Panther in my hands.  I found myself absolutely engrossed as Panther left no stone un-turned.  Every functional component of the tank is highlighted, and explained in simple terms.  From the minor problems of particular crew positions, to the configuration of the ball-bearing turret ring.  Though this may sound dry, Michael's writing has a particular way of making you excited about the subject.  I liken it to watching "How Stuff's Made".  Whenever it comes on I think "I can't POSSIBLY care about how barrels are made!".  Three hours later I realize I was so happy to see the barrels roll off the assembly line, and feel a peculiar pride in my new knowledge.

But Panther is more than just an in-depth technical look at the components written for people approaching the subject for the first time.  Although that is a feat in itself, Panther doesn't stop there.  Chock full of anecdotes (my favorite is when 2 panthers captured an entire column of sherman tanks they caught flat footed), and conclusions about the decisions made- for better or worse, regarding the tank.

Check out that centerfold!  Wowza!
The book begins with a thorough look at the evolution of German armored vehicles, and explains in good detail the experiences on the Eastern Front that lead to the demand for the Panther.  Then you read in heartbreaking detail the experiences of the battle of Kursk as the tanks fail to meet expectations, followed by their rise to prominence and eventual decline towards the end of the war.

As this *IS* a wargaming blog, I should probably point out that if any flaw can be found with this book in our context, it's that it probably won't help your tabletop game much!  While there are some good pictures for modeling and painting ideas, surely there are better sources for just color plates of panthers if you're looking for some camouflage inspiration.  Of course, I assume that by playing wargames with these tanks, you at least have a passing interest in the vehicle- and that's where this book should come in!  With the attention to detail (Michael documents a restoration process, with lots of nitty gritty details), however, any larger scale modelers out there might find this to be a valuable resource.

An example of the detail in the book
My favorite take away from this book is the discussion on the differing models of Panthers.  It's not nearly as cut and dry as I assumed!  I can't wait to call out everyone's armies: "Well ACTUALLY the Panther A in 1944 had..." etc.  All of the minor variations within a production run are described, and my inner geek was just ecstatic.

In conclusion- I admit that I am speaking as a layman.  This is the first book I've read that's totally devoted to the Panther, and I loved it.  I've already tried to pawn it off on several friends who looked at the tome, and had the same worried look I had when I first pulled it out.  For such a huge, well illustrated well written book that costs less than $25, I can ask for nothing more.  If you have even a strong affinity for the Panther, this book will not disappoint you.

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