As with any endeavor of this type, no amount of proofing will capture all the mistakes that creep into a text. Here are some isasues we captured and some that were brought to our attention by alert readers.
Paul Hocking of the United Kingdom noted the following (paraphrased):
Page 340: The motorcycle group shown is from the 7, SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division “Prinz Eugen.” The reason is the 6-digit license plate, of which the first three digits denoted the organization. In this case, the “171” is one of several 3-digit prefixes assigned to the division. In addition, this division was the only one in the SS to receive French Somua tanks from captured stocks. One further note: All of the motorcycles are Zündapp KS750’s.
Page 341: The tactical signs on this Sd.Kfz. 250 indicate it is part of the headquarters of a Panzergrenadier-Bataillon, and the radio antennas on the far side indicate it is a communications variant. It is one of the battalions of SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 1, as indicated by the small numeral 1 immediately above the “key” insignia of th division.
Page 373:As with the initial discussion, the numbers on the license plates indicate the division of assignment. In this case, the 108 or 109 (cannot be clearly read) indicate that they belong to SS-Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 5 “Wiking.”
Page 483: These images were probably taken between November 1940 and May 1941 and not January 1944, as indicated in the text.The uniforms and the “look” point to a much earlier period. The antitank gun is not a PaK 38 (5cm) but a PaK 35/36 (3,7cm). In addition, the Kübelwagen is a very early example from the first six months or so of production.
Page 484: The Sd.Kfz. 250/8’s seen here are not in the heavy weapons company. They belong to either the 2nd or 3rd companies of the battalion, as indicated by the numeral 2 (or 3) just below the hood hoop of the front halftrack and immediately to the right of the rhomboid tactical sign. Had they belonged to the 4th Company, they would have had the numeral 4.
While discussing the discrepancies in the photo captioning, Paul also posed the following question in one email:
Wonder if you have an answer to a query I have regarding PzAA’s, please note this is not trick question, I genuinely not sure of the answer.
Maybe its already answered in one of your books, in which case I missed it.
Its basically this, in the Typ 43/44 PzAA’s there is of course a five company structure (plus Stab),.and this being a recce unit where observation and reporting those observations is primary, and clearly this can be accomplished by the first two companies, with their 2 or 3 vehicle recce squad arrangement, where at least one of the vehicles also has a long range radio for immediate information reporting.
But what about the other three companies, two with OOB’s that are purely armoured infantry and one with heavy weapons support, seemingly for those two armoured infantry companies..
It would seem that companies 3, 4 and 5 are not equipped for recce role, they have very few of the longer range radios and are not arranged in small 2 or 3 vehicle recce squads.
It almost seems that a PzAA is composed of two separate functions, two companies for obviously the recce work and three for some other sort of activity.
I guess that as required, vehicles from companies 3, 4 and 5 can be added to those of companies 1 and 2 if needed, but……………..?
One illustration, in the 12 SS Div history, there is good coverage of SS PzAA 12, and particularly of one recce squad,consisting of two 250/9 and one 250/5, crew members are named etc, they are operating near Bayeux and Caen, Normandy in early June 1944, but its always only those three, nothing else is added. In fact in one situation the 250/5 bellies out on a tree stump, and one 250/9 trying to get around it overturns. The other 250/9 eventually rights the upside down vehicle and pulls the 250/5 free of the tree stump, and back to HQ they go, There are several more descriptions of their adventures on subsequent days, but its only ever them or other similar recce squads. Their 3, 4 and 5th companies are never mentioned..
So am I missing something here or what ? you as an ex-serving officer may be able to add more, after all I guess the principle of armoured recce cannot have changed that much, but I have no idea of modern recce unit and their structure.
Hope you can enlighten, cheers PAUL.
In response, I sent him the following:
Actually, the conceptual organization of the armored reconnaissance battalion was always fairly similar to the one described for the Type 43 and 44 organizations, inasmuch as there was always at least one armored car company, which was complemented by one or more motorcycle infantry/motorized infantry company equivalents and a section (or more) of heavy weaponry.
The armored cars were scouts; they were to see but not be seen. The motorcycle infantry were the back-up force to be used when the scouts could not complete their largely non-combat missions. The latter force(s) performed combat reconnaissance. The heavy weapons sections and companies supported both.
Scouting was not supposed to involve fighting; reconnaissance meant that combat might be necessary to provide the higher command with information it needed before it committed its major combat formations. The armored reconnaissance battalion always combined both elements (along with an organic capability of providing additional heavy weapons support).
The later war organizations demonstrate the simple fact that the template employed at the start of the war was inadequate for the tasks it faced as the war evolved in terms of armor, armament, mobility and firepower. The armored cars in use through much of the war were almost always obsolete and inadequate to the task; the motorcycle infantry suffered horribly in the face of a determined foe. The use of the reconnaissance halftrack to (partially) replace wheeled armored cars was one solution; the outfitting of the motorcycle infantry with progressively more armored vehicles was an effort to address armor, mobility and armament concerns.
The mission of the armored reconnaissance battalion also evolved, as the operational situation changed dramatically to the detriment of the Germans. Combat reconnaissance replaced scouting as the primary function of the battalion. Defense replaced the offense; screening and guard missions took precedence over long-range patrolling. The armored reconnaissance battalions became increasingly adept at performing rearguard actions for the division and performing deception operations in more static defensive scenarios (e.g., simulating a larger force). In some cases, the reconnaissance companies were simply stripped away from the battalion and employed primarily with the Panzergrenadier regiments or the scout companies were attached directly to the division headquarters and the Battalion Commander effectively became the commander of an understrength Panzergrenadier battalion.
I think some of the issues you may have had with the armored reconnaissance organization the Germans fielded was the conceptual framework from which the Germans operated. For the Germans, there was scouting and there was reconnaissance—the same holding largely true in US Army usage as well–both of which were combined into a single battalion’s capabilities.
I hope this answers most of your questions, Paul.
In the meantime, noted SS author Marc Rikmanspoel sent me the following email:
About those page 373 images, those are Willi Altstadt photos from the summer of 1942. The top one shows one of the antitank ditches protecting Rostov, after its capture roughly July 29. The other two show a road in the West Caucasus, a couple of weeks later. Trees had been felled to block it, and Hans Dorr (4./Germania commander at this time) directed the cutting of the trunks to open the road up. Armored cars of Aufklärungs Abt. Wiking were then the first vehicles to advance along the road (the entire sequence is 15-20 photos).
I agree with your commentator Paul that the page 482 images appear to be 1941, or 1942 at the latest.
Dave Williams, a highly knowledgeable photo and camera collector of the period, was kind enough to allow some of his extraordinarily rare images to be used in the book. Unfortunately, after much color correction and work, the printer screwed up the rendering in the print run. Stackpole has stated it will correct the issue in subsequent reprints of the book. In the meantime, here are the images rendered closer to how they should have appeared: