Weapons of the Battle of the Bulge From the Photographic Archives of the US Army Signal Corps
Author Darren Neely in his book’s Introduction,
The Battle of the Bulge continues to inspire and draw the interest of the military history community. Yet, and partly due to the success of Band of Brothers, when people hear the words “Battle of the Bulge”, they immediately think of paratroopers holding Bastogne and then Patton’s tanks riding to the rescue. The fighting in the Ardennes was so much more than that and involved hundreds of thousands of soldiers on each side. In addition, it is forgotten that British and Canadians fought in the Bulge as well on the Northern shoulder. The Bulge battles are well known for the tanks of both sides trudging through the snow but like many engagements of World War II, it was fought and won by the soldier with the rifle, a machine-gun team, a well-coordinated mortar assault and infantry support weapons. This book is not a summary of the Bulge battles nor a tactical history as there have been numerous excellent accounts already published that capture that theme. This book will showcase all the weapons used by the soldiers in Bulge.
The author is true to his word, and less than ten pages (including publisher information, etc) of the book’s 309 actual pages are dedicated to the chapter introductions; the rest of the book is filled with amazing photographs. The photographs are from official US Army Signal Corps cameramen from the 165th , 166th , and 167th Signal Photographic Companies attached to various Army units during the Battle of the Bulge. There are also private photo collections from Steve Zaloga and Lee Archer.
True to the author’s word, this amazing book is divided into three chapters:
- Chapter 1 – Infantry Weapons (pp 1-61)
- Chapter 2 – Infantry Support Weapons and Artillery (pp 62-121)
- Chapter 3 – Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) (pp 122-309)
Chapter 1 focuses on rifles, sub-machine guns, Browning Automatic Rifles (BARs), and machine guns. Chapter 2 focuses on mortars, bazookas, anti-aircraft artillery and machine guns, anti-tank guns and towed artillery. Chapter 3 is where the bulk of the book is focused with AFVs, covering a large percentage of the book.
Again, the author highlights his choice,
Knocked out tanks were always of interest to the signal corps cameramen, thus this chapter is almost two-and-a-half times as large as the infantry and support weapons chapters. In many of the photos you will see the cameramen themselves or members of their photo team showing where rounds penetrated armor, ripped off tracks, or blew off the entire turret. American technical ordnance soldiers also photographed many of these vehicles for analytical reports before shipping them off to the states for further evaluation. Some of these vehicles, like the famous Tiger 332 is still available for viewing as the US Armor Museum at Fort Benning in the United States.
The strength of this book is its amazing photographs highlighting one of the coldest winters in Europe, the combatants, vehicles, and conditions encountered. Each section has a lot of details, often intermixed, that really reflect the fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. The AFVs are of particular interest, with vehicles being pressed into service against their former owners and the battle damage photographs. All of the photographs are well and succinctly captioned, with a lot of facts gleaned, allowing the reader to look more closely at details that could have been missed. If there is any niggle at all about this book, it is most likely editorial within the captions (ie, mistakes such as “30inch antitank gun”, “m36”, “M5a1”, etc; of which there were only about five examples). The photographs exponentially outweigh these easily overlooked examples. For military historians and, particularly, modelers, this book is well worth its price. The photographs are simply exquisite with ideas for models, vignettes, and dioramas on all the pages. The AFVs include American, British, and German tanks, half-tracks, self- propelled guns, anti-aircraft systems, artillery, light wheeled vehicles, armored cars in pristine condition, in use, damaged and destroyed. The captured vehicles are interesting, as are the German vehicles camouflaged to look like American forces. The M18 Hellcat made its combat debut in January 1945 and half-track aficionados will be happy. If your modeling mojo is suffering, this book may just be the cure.
The last written page in the book sums it up well,
This chapter (Chapter 3) is not meant to be a technical study but rather a pictorial history of those AFVs used by both sides, in extremely large quantities in this campaign that was fought in conditions of snow and ice that presented the armored crews with another threat and foe.
This is an outstanding book and now I must figure out which version of the ubiquitous Sdkfz 251 I will make for my group build starting in December.
This book is highly recommended for modelers, and anyone interested in a very detailed photographic history of the Battle of the Bulge.
Profuse, profuse thanks to Casemate and IPMS/USA for providing the review sample.