Clash of Chariots: The Great Tank Battles / Iron Fist: Classic Armored Warfare Case Studies

By Stephenson, Donald Scott | Military Review, September/October 1997 | Go to article overview
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Clash of Chariots: The Great Tank Battles / Iron Fist: Classic Armored Warfare Case Studies


Stephenson, Donald Scott, Military Review


CLASH OF CHARIOTS: The Great Tank Battles by Tom Donnelly and Sean Naylor. Edited by Walter J. Boyne. 301 pages. Berklcy Books, New York. 1996. $31.95.

IRON FIST: Classic Armored Warfare Case Studies by Bryan Perrett. 222 pages. Arms & Armour Press, London. (Distributed by Sterling Publishing Co. Inc., New York.) 1996. $14.95 paperback.

Precision-guided munitions and shrinking defense budgets have put armored warfare's future in some doubt. However, there is no question a wide audience remains for books and articles about tanks and tank battles. These two books review case studies from armored warfare,s history from World War I's Western Front to the most recent Gulf War tank melees. Both books begin with the battle at Cambrai, France, in 1940, and end with Operation Desert Storm, but the similarity ends there. The authors take uniquely different approaches to the topics they emphasize.

In Clash of Chariots, the authors describe, from the German perspective, "classic" armored battles and past campaigns. Other case studies include the breakout from Normandy, Kursk, the Bulge and the Sinai in 1967 and 1973. The battle narratives are well written and the analysis is sound. Both authors are senior staff writers for Army Tunes, and they are well versed in military concepts and terms. They understand the pieces that make up the mechanized battlefield.

The authors also devote much of their books to describing armored combat's context. Thus, the reader is well oriented to the campaigns' operational context before the book delves into the details of actual tank fights. Indeed, company- and platoon-level operations get relatively short shrift until the authors discuss the Gulf War. However, the authors do not overlook the tank's relationship to other tactical weapon systems. They emphasize the importance of combined arms and the necessity for tanks to fight as part of a team.

Clash of Chariots is written with an American audience in mind, reflecting US fascination with the Wehrmacht and its panzers. Thus, the Battle of France case study highlights General Heinz Guderian's role at the crossing of the Meuse. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel is the central figure in the discussion of desert armored campaigns. The Battle of the Ardennes case study focuses on the infamous exploits of Kamfgruppe Peiper. In the study of the massive tank battles of the RussoGerman war, the authors' viewpoint is almost exclusively German, largely ignoring Soviet innovations in mechanized warfare.

Because Clash of Clhariots is drawn almost exclusively from secondary sources, the reader will glean few new insights. However, in the Gulf War case study of the Ist Armored Division's battle against the Iraqi Medina Division, Donnelly and Naylor rely on firstperson accounts.

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