Panzer III vs Somua S 35
ISBN: 978 1 78200 287 1
Contributor: Andrew Nguyen
Review Date: 3 Nov 2015
In its invasion of France in May of 1940, Germany would face off against foes that had superior tanks against it. Some of the British and French tanks that the Germans faced would have superior armor and weaponry against the panzers. However, the German Army had had more time to organize its armored units into capable combat formations, its tanks had several technical advances over their counterparts, and most importantly of all; those formations had passed through the crucible that really mattered combat.
The invasion of France consisted of two parts. While most of the panzer divisions attacked through the Ardennes, several panzer divisions participated in the attack on Belgium and the Low Countries in an attempt to convince the Allies that it was the main attack and send their forces north to meet them, while the main German attack force advanced through the Ardennes to encircle them.
Panzer III vs Somua S 35 is the 63rd book in the Osprey "Duel" series. Its author is Steven J. Zaloga, who has written multiple books for Osprey Publishing. Previously the author had written about the tank battles around Sedan and the pivot point where the heaviest tanks of the German and French armies faced off against each other, the Panzer IV and the Char B tanks respectively. The focus of Panzer III vs Somua S 35 is on the tank battles in the Low Countries, which were in a sense the first true tank battles in history.
Following the standard format of the Osprey VS series, Panzer III vs Somua S 35 starts with an introduction followed by a discussion on the development of the Panzer III and the Somua. The technical characteristics of the tanks come under scrutiny before the focus turns to the crews of the tanks and their training before highlighting the units that would participate in the battle, both on the lower and higher levels. Next is the action in which these two tanks and their crews face off on the only testing ground that mattered, the battlefield. After the fighting dies down, the losses that both sides suffered come under comparison and conclusions emerge from the authorís point of view on the performance of the weapons involved and their impact on future events. Scattered throughout the pages of the book are photos, maps, and diagrams of the men and machines involved in the struggle.
The main highlight is the chapter on the battles in the Low Countries as the Germans attempted to fight their way through Belgium and pin down the allies so that they could not respond elsewhere. However, the details in the book focuses on the panzer divisions pushing against French screening forces and not much detail on the major tank battle that takes place. In the resulting engagements that occurred in Belgium, the Germans found that that despite already having combat experience and a longer time to perfect their combat formations still had problems to work out. As for the French, there were elements of the hastily created armored and mechanized divisions that actually proved sound for a modern war, particularly in the lower ranks. On the issues of the tanks, both proved to be evenly matched, strong in some areas and weak in other areas.
Overall, Panzer III vs Somua S 35 is a pretty good book on its subject matter. Despite the limited pages available, it does an admirable job in presenting the information on what was essentially the first battle between tanks of equal technical capabilities.
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