Panzers East and West

Panzers East and West

The German 10th SS Panzer Division from the Eastern Front to Normandy

Dieter Stenger

Stackpole Books, Guilford, Connecticut, 2017, 400 pages

Book Review published on: April 27, 2018

In Panzers East and West, author Dieter Stenger’s goal is to fill what he believes is a void in the history of World War II. He states that although much has been written about the Waffen-SS [Schutzstaffel], “relatively few operational histories of specific Waffen-SS units have appeared in English.” The author’s goal is to provide an operational history and to simultaneously answer questions about organization, equipment, and coordination within the German army and how SS units fought, thus providing readers an appreciation for how Waffen-SS units operated in battle.

Stenger succeeds in his goal with a combat chronology that answers all of his questions and provides a wealth of information about the 10th SS Panzer Division. This panzer division fought continuously from March 1944 through May 1945 with only short pauses between battles and without being fully resourced in either personnel or equipment. Originally organized in 1942 to counter Allied landings in France, the 10th SS Panzer Division first moved to the fighting on the eastern front, then back to the western front after the Normandy landings, and finally they ended the war back on the eastern front.

Stenger begins each chapter with an overview of what is happening at the operational level in the theater and then provides an overview of the division’s operations by highlighting the tactical successes and defeats. This approach is particularly helpful as it puts events into context. Stenger intersperses reminiscences of division members throughout the chronology. These experiences include both combat operations and general life in the division, including the inevitable bureaucracy, and providing a human feel for the operations.

One of the more interesting conclusions from the book is that although individual soldiers may not have had combat experience, the officers and noncommissioned officers did. The author shows how the leaders’ combat experience made a difference in the combat success of the division, concluding that the division “repeatedly managed to reconstitute itself into a viable fighting formation.”

The book is well researched, with Stenger using a wealth of primary sources. The only shortfall is the lack of maps that would have been helpful in visualizing the division’s operations. Even without maps, Panzers East and West provides an abundance of information that historians will find useful. I recommend the book to those readers interested in World War II history, the history of the German army, or armored warfare.

Book Review written by: Robert J. Rielly, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas