Most of us will know well the “Panzerwrecks” series and today we read a new book by one of that series authors. Called “Forgotten Archives 1: The Lost Signal Corps Photos”- this book is a large volume that encapsulates a wealth of pictures captured by the men of the Signal Corps and “lost” until recently - See what we thought about the quality of this volume in today’s review…
Author: Darren Neely
Date: August 2015
No of Photos: 266
No of Pages: 240
Landscape format in hardcover (270mm x210mm)
Available from Panzerwrecks online shop for £32.99 / US $51.13
The US Army Signal Corps were well known for the great pictures that many modellers and historians draw their interest and inspiration from right up until this day. Often candid and often staged, these shots were however a great source of reference or just interesting to many people to look at. A bunch of the Signal Corps’ photos were holed up until recently, and the team at Panzerwrecks were able to secure some of the best for their new large book “Forgotten Archives 1: The Lost Signal Corps Photos”
This new large format of the “Panzerwrecks” series is a welcome return of author Darren Neely in the head writer role. It is sad to note that his long-time collaborator William Aerbach has passed away – he will be a great loss to the whole community. It is nice to see a note to Bill in the opening pages of the book. Neely had extra help from many other well-known and well red researchers and some of their material is also in this book. It is a talented line up and it makes this book all the more promising a prospect.
Physically this large book is 2cm thick and 270mm x210mm in dimension in landscape format with a glossy hard cover and pages of a nice thickness and quality. The book reminds me of the “Duel in the Mist” size and quality but in a similar way of the "Panzerwrecks" pictorial/text style from the same publishers and that is a good thing.
In the book Neely sets out to show us a bunch of photo essays with the pictures that many had either forgotten about or thought lost until recently. The large Landscape format book is a picture to a page format – with the large shots all in pretty good shape despite their age. Out of all of the shots available there are some really nicely framed and in focus images of day to day life of the ETO armies under fire, after the battle and touring through a wrecked countryside. This European setting is the focus of this book and we see the battlefield all the way from D-Day in France till the end of the war, deep in Germany. Maybe in the future we might see some of the Asian and African theatres? I am glad for one we did not drift too far afield from this one theatre in this book, but more on that later.
The book is broken up into seven main chapters of about 20-30 pages on average with a few smaller or larger than that. While for the most part the book is pictorial with an English paragraph or two in caption explaining the picture we also have a handy introduction that explains not only the setup of the Army Signal Corps organization and some of their experiences in the war but also what happened to these photos and how they came to be published here in this book after their long absence in storage. The author explains that although some similar images to these exist, that these pictures if familiar at all with flesh out some stories that you may have seen in the past. He concedes that even though some of these have been available most of the pictures inside here are new to our eyes now.
The chapters covered in this book:
Breakout and to the German Border
Breakout and to the German Border
From the Patton Museum - Through the lens of an Ordnance Officer
Ardennes - Bloodied and Counterattack
Ardennes - Through the lens of Lt. Joseph Zinni
Alsace, Germany and the End
OK let’s look at each of these and their contents briefly now…
Without heraldry we “break-in” to the “Normandy breakout” which is the first chapter. These photos have both the official plaques explaining the scene and some additional commentary by the author. The thirty pages of this chapter show a LOT of armour from both sides of the conflict in different conditions, even a completely wrecked B-110 which I almost didn’t recognize straight away. It’s interesting to see just how much the aspect of mobility was cherished as we see a liberated Kettenkrad, armoured jeeps about to get loaded into gliders and many broken down tanks receiving repair in the field in this section.
The other thing we also see here is the utter destruction on the roads. German tanks beaten up on the roads are joined by the same number almost of destroyed and immobile Shermans. There are several shots of field guns and artillery as well, and it was interesting to see the captured PAK 43 88mm guns being used by the Americans in so many of the pictures.
Something not often seen in AFV centric books are the overrun airfields of the Luftwaffe and the damage inflicted upon the aircraft there.
In the next chapter of about sixteen pages we see the pictures of an ordinance officer of the 13th armoured. His collection. This chapter has just the author’s comments next to each picture.
Several Zimmerit coated panthers are a big focus of this collection, with other German vehicles also in similar stated of distress and showing clearly close up details of the surface textures of the vehicles which is noteworthy, especially as they have broken and destroyed patterns of this material which is great for modeller’s references.
So many of these vehicles are in close cover of woods, trees and buildings this chapter reinforces the nature of the battlefield in northern France.
The countryside opens up in the next chapter. “Bogged Down” again sees us using both the title of the picture and the author’s commentary in addition. Straight away we see more open countryside. We see a lot of Shermans in the muddy terrain, reloading, stuck in the mud and some heading down the overcast roads of northern Europe.
In this eighteen pages the vehicles and men we see are mostly American in nature. But here is a real variety with several AA gun carriages, Stuarts, M3 Lees, a whole bunch of what you might expect as well as some nice shots of the men of an artillery regiment in action laying rounds on the enemy. Interesting to see the improvised camouflage of several of these “yank” tanks.
Next we go deep into winter, with thee counterattack by the Germans in the Ardennes we get to see some more German armour. At several points in this chapter (and others in this book) I must commend the author for adding a few helpful tit-bits that make you better understand a scene, the circumstances of what’s going on or the series of photos these pictures relate to. It helps fill in the story so much more than just a tittle on the picture.
A lot of heavily damaged allied armour as well as some partially destroyed and captured German machines and guns feature here amongst the gloom of December in Belgium. “The Ardennes – Bloodied and Counterattack” is a large chapter that stretches fifty-five pages and the hots in this section are quite varied in terrain, conditions of weather and subjects.
As the winter takes hold and snow gathers the nature of the tanks that are now covered with snow adds another aspect. Also seeing the troops dealing with snow is another point of interest.
You cannot blame the publisher for the next chapter only having eight pages. “Lt. Joseph Zinni – A tour of knocked out German AVF’s across Luxemburg” is just what it says on the tittle. Snow covered out of commission tank destroyers and half-tracks, a Panther and even a Tiger I are shown on these pages. This time with only the Author’s commentary.
The largest chapter in the book is next. “Alsace, Germany and the End” features the road into Germany after the “Bulge” and it weighs in at 78 pages of pictures and text. The chapter starts with an interesting series of shots of a ballistic test of wire screens on German tanks by the Americans to test their effectiveness, great shots like these here – and throughout this book make this such an engaging read.
Several shots of field modified M4 Shermans of all types are just one example of what can be found in this chapter, concrete up-armoured and the cover shot of the Sherman with the most track links ever are some examples of what is on offer in this chapter. Most of the shots show an open road with the armoured causalities along the way, be it German or American there are plenty of wrecked and ransacked vehicles as well as new tanks like the M26 that even though new is missing some paint! There are several pictures here of GI’s familiarizing themselves with the German’s wrecked abandoned AFV’s and weapons....
..and as you can se below - some surprises left by the Germans as well.
Several pictures of German captured big guns (one in the side of a house) are amongst some bridging and repair tanks. The author has taken his time to check the facts behind these vehicles, he does point out one or two inaccuracies in the official text provided and adds some valuable details to other pictures. I do like this style of pictorial book, and it really does suit the casual reader looking out for inspiration for a diorama, or a history buff looking for details of certain tanks or guns and how they were used in the field. There are certainly many types on offer – more than most people would think the Americans used in WWII. Not only American but most of the German equipment you might have found in the late war ETO theatre – not only ground but aircraft as well.
The one thing that I was thinking all along was “Where are the men that shot these?” Well I was not disappointed because at the end of the book there is a chapter of nine pages dedicated to the men of the signal corps who took these pictures you see right through the book. It is a fitting tribute to them that we see some pretty cool shots of these men in the ETO at the time all of this was going on around them. Some next to a few quite famous shots that we might have seen elsewhere. These portraits though add that human dimension to those shots. I like this touch of class at the end of this book very much.
IF you are looking for an in-depth examination with lots of text and data about the signal corps in the ETO this is not it. What this IS however is a very good, light read and beautiful pictorial of the journey from D-Day to the end of the line deep in Germany at the end of the European war.
Hopefully we can see more from the publishers on the Pacific and African/ Mediterranean theatres in time? It would be our win if these were found.
Like Panzerwrecks, only bigger, and although bigger is not always better there is enough here for almost anyone interested in pictorials of WWII.
Thanks to the guys at Panzerwrecks for sending this to us to read and review – you can get it from the Panzerwrecks online shop for £32.99 / US $51.13
As an addendum I thought I would supply the list of vehicles and AVF’s shown in this book (taken from the Panzerwrecks site so it’s correct)
T26E3 Heavy Tank
M4 Medium Tank
M4A1 Medium Tank
M4A3 Medium Tank
M4A3E8 Medium Tank
M4A1 w/E4-5 Flame gun
M4 Tank Dozer
M4A3E2 Assault Tank
Sherman IC Firefly
M24 Light Tank
M5A1 Light Tank
M3A1 Light Tank
M8 Light Armoured Car
M4A1 Mortar Carrier
M51 AA Gun
M1 105mm Howitzer
Jeeps (inc. Armored)
P47 Thunderbolt (Plane)
3.7cm Flakzwilling 43
2cm Flakvierling 38
Bf-110 G (Plane)