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“A fantastic read . . . Whether your interest is armour or history I would highly recommend this book” (Military Modelling).
The tank destroyer was a bold—though some would say flawed—answer to the challenge posed by the seemingly unstoppable German Blitzkrieg. The TD was conceived to be light and fast enough to outmaneuver panzer forces and go where tanks could not. At the same time, the TD would wield the firepower needed to kill any German tank on the battlefield. Indeed, American doctrine stipulated that TDs would fight tanks, while American tanks would concentrate on achieving and exploiting breakthroughs of enemy lines.
The Tank Killers follows the men who fought in the TDs, from the formation of the force in 1941 through the victory over the Third Reich in 1945. It is a story of American flexibility and pragmatism in military affairs. Tank destroyers were among the very first units to land in North Africa in 1942. Their first vehicles were ad hoc affairs: halftracks and weapons carriers with guns no better than those on tanks, thin armor affording the crews considerably less protection. Almost immediately, the crews began adapting to circumstances, along with their partners in the infantry and armored divisions. By the time North Africa was in Allied hands, the TD had become a valued tank fighter, assault gun, and artillery piece. The reconnaissance teams in TD battalions, meanwhile, had established a record for daring operations that would continue for the rest of the war.
The story continues with the invasion of Italy and, finally, that of Fortress Europe on June 6, 1944. By now, the brass had decreed that half the force would convert to towed guns, a decision that dogged the affected crews through the end of the war. The TD men encountered increasingly lethal enemies, ever more dangerous panzers that were often vulnerable only to their guns, while American tank crews watched in frustration as their rounds bounced harmlessly off the thick German armor. They fought under incredibly diverse conditions that demanded constant modification of tactics, and their equipment became ever more deadly. By VE-Day, the tank destroyer battalions had achieved impressive records, generally with kill-loss rates heavily in their favor. Yet the army after the war concluded that the concept of a separate TD arm was so fundamentally flawed that not a single battalion existed after November 1946.
The Tank Killers draws heavily on the records of the tank destroyer battalions and the units with which they fought, as well as personal stories from veterans of the force.