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Book Review: Tank Tactics, From Normandy to Lorraine, by Roman Johann Jarymowycz, Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2001. Hard

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#1 dgmitchell



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Posted 03 June 2009 - 04:25 PM

Book reviewed by Steven Douglas Mercatante.

Website Link: http://globeatwar.com/
Just when you thought there was little more to be gleaned from the thoroughly documented armored battles in France between June and September 1944 Tank Tactics emerged in 2001 to thoroughly and thought provokingly redefine what is known about these pivotal events in World War Two. In Tank Tactics, Austrian born Roman Johann Jarymowycz has produced a book examining some of the most important armored battles defining the Normandy campaign following D-Day and the Allied breakout to the German border. In addition, Tank Tactics offers one of the more comprehensive comparisons between Second World War German, British, Canadian, French, United States, and Soviet armored forces existing today.

If this book were only an operational history of Jarymowycz’s selected Allied attempts to break free of the Normandy beachhead (Operations Atlantic, Cobra, Cobra’s pursuit phase, Spring, Totalize, Tractable and the follow up Arracourt battles in Lorraine) it would be well worth the purchase. Tank Tactics however goes much further than revisiting the desperate armored struggle between the Allies and Germany in post D-Day France. In examining the individual military traditions, development, doctrine, organization, training, and equipment of the Allied, German, and Soviet armored forces in World War II, Jarymowycz offers a thorough overview explaining how and why a massive but technically inferior Allied armored force came to be; and then confront a smaller, but qualitatively superior, German opponent.

Tank Tactics begins, most appropriately, by exploring the development of operational maneuver, from the cavalry dominated era preceding the First World War to the mechanized armies developed in the interwar years, armies, each in their own fashion replacing the horse with the tank. Tank Tactics then delves into the creation of a North American armored arm and the European influences on the U.S. and Canadian armored forces. In particular, Tank Tactics explains the problems plaguing a U.S. armored force that struggled to come to terms with the German and Russian approach to the operational art.

Jarymowycz next examines the armored battles in Normandy and then Lorraine through an interesting conceptual framework: the linkage between American and British led efforts defining Allied attempts to break out from the Normandy beachhead. Tank Tactics demonstrates how the Allied efforts were true coalitional efforts, albeit coming up short in several key indices, yet working under an organized strategic approach far more evolved than as described in past works. Although some may argue with the importance of the operations Jarymowycz chose to profile, Jarymowycz is not seeking to craft a comprehensive look at the 1944 Allied campaign in France. Rather the Allied operations Tank Tactics investigates highlight the larger study of armor and battle of maneuver defining this book. Within the larger goals motivating his book Jarymowycz takes several other unique approaches to the subject matter. For example, he analyzes how the Red Army would have done in Normandy, and compares the Allied grasp of the operational art and maneuver warfare to the Soviet.

Although Jarymowycz spends the majority of his time examining operational level military history, he also links the operational to the strategic and tactical. In particular, Tank Tactics offers a fascinating look at exactly what it was about German armor that made it so effective against the Allied armies in Normandy, but then ironically failed Germany during and following the Allied breakout. Jarymowycz’s reliance on after action reports detailing first person experiences from both the allied and German perspective are particularly illuminating in explaining the dynamics on the battlefield. To this end the chapter entitled “Who Killed Tiger?” ranks among the most appealing of the book; the chapter details a point by point analysis into the technical differences between the capabilities and performance of the armor present on the Normandy battlefields.

Jarymowycz’s operational level study of warfare and comparison of tank tactics draws its authority from his experiences and education. Jarymowcyz’s Ph.D. in history is perhaps most evident in reviewing the sources he relied upon in writing Tank Tactics. For the student of military history Tank Tactics offers more than an interesting read, it is a tremendous reference work. The footnotes at the end of each chapter (and the bibliography) provide more than just attribution for Jarymowcyz’s logically presented points; they substantially enrich the text - many even include tables of their own - complementing those found within each chapter.

Though highly technical, Tank Tactics is broken up into easily digestible parts, is supplemented with simple and easy to understand maps, charts, diagrams, tables and illustrations; all helping to explain the complicated technical issues and movements of men and machines defining each of the armored clashes profiled in his book. You will not find this book at major brick and mortar retailers, the most accessible location is online and even then, the book, as of the time of this writing, is limited in its availability. Nevertheless, if you are at all interested in armored warfare, this book is for you.

Reviewer bio: Steven Douglas Mercatante is the founder and editor of The Globe at War, a website dedicated to exploring the past one hundred plus years of global warfare. Found at http://globeatwar.com/. In addition Steven has recently completed a manuscript examining why Germany came far closer to winning the Second World War in Europe than previously thought and re-examining why Germany suffered catastrophic defeat; a manuscript stemming from over two decades researching and studying the Second World War.

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