This book is the third in the "Under the Gun" series from Australia’s Firefly Books from the Oliver Publishing Group, which must bring their title list to around a dozen titles by now. This edition has more than 50 black and white photos. “Images are from the US National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) collection, showing captured or disabled vehicles; many of these have never been reproduced – 21 different vehicles are depicted in the color illustrations created by talented Chilean artist Claudio Fernandez.” With only one to three large photos per page, all with excellent captions, the reader can actually see the details the author refers to. How many times have you scratched your head trying to identify details an author points out, that he may have been able to have seen on his 8 ½ x 11 pre-publication glossy that became virtually invisible when shrunk to the small published size? The twenty-one full color illustrations give you as many or more vehicle color drawings as a comparable Concord or Osprey book. If it bothers you that the photos depict “captured or disabled (German) vehicles,” note that the excellent color illustrations are based upon many of those same vehicles before they were captured or disabled. They truly have been chosen for their appeal to modelers.
The author provides a brief history of the war in Europe from the Normandy breakout and year-ending Battle of the Bulge, to set the scene for WESTWALL German Armour in the West 1945. A chart listing the Panzers in the West in December, prior to the Bulge, shows the modeler how many of each type of fully tracked vehicles each division and brigade had. This is invaluable for a modeler who wants to mark his models correctly. Another chart shows the Order of Battle of Generalfeldmarschall Model’s Heeresgruppe B, the Army Group that would be the main strike force for Wacht am Rhein. The photo essay continues through to the surrender, concentrating on the Allied advance through the Westwall through stiff German defense. The final battles for Berlin and central Germany, etc, await a subsequent issue.
The photos are a rich source for showing variations of stowage, exhaust cowls, and use of foliage, offering the modeler a rich source for finishing his models and dioramas accurately as well as interestingly. I highly recommend WESTWALL German Armour in the West 1945 to modelers with an interest in German armor trying to defend the WESTWALL. It is priced a little more than competing publishers’ books but the photos are very impressive by their large size, superior choice, and quality of photos, illustrations and information packed into it. Publisher Dennis Oliver is planning follow-up editions as he has hit upon a successful format that is selling very well. Thanks to Dragon Models USA and the Oliver Publishing Group for the review copy and to IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review it.
Author’s note: I’ve provided a b/w photo of a Stug III G and corresponding color illustration of the exact same INTACT vehicle which corresponds to the text and the way the book is designed.