Saturday, May 28

Read ‘n Reviewed: Focusing in on the Hetzer – Lee Archer’s new book about the Jagdpanzer 38

A new series from the creators of “Duel in the Mist and the “Panzerwrecks” series – One that features on a single AVF in one book – and the first being the Jagdpanzer 38? Let’s take a look at it in our Read n’ Review…

Read ‘n Reviewed: In Focus 1: Jagdpanzer 38
Published by Panzerwrecks
By Lee Archer
Colour artworks by Felipe Rodna
No of Pages: 112
No of Photos: 117/ Colour artworks: 7
Format: Softcover Landscape 280x210mm
ISBN: 978-1-908032-13-3
price:  £21.99/ US $31.23

Lee Archer’s series of Panzerwrecks books has made his company quite well known and respected in the military history and with modellers looking for resources or just that little bit of inspiration. Now the team behind these books has turned their attention to a new focus – the “In Focus” series of books, which starts with Issue I – featuring the Jagdpanzer 38 (Sd. Kfz.138/2), better known to many people as the “Hetzer.”
Although I will stress here that this book is a completely different series to it’s stable-mates, physically this is a familiar form to those who are familiar with the Panzerwrecks series. The softcover landscape book (280x210mm) is mainly photographically driven. Usually one picture to its 112 pages (117 in total) and the inclusion of some colour artworks (7) which we will talk about later.

From the off the author’s style of writing impresses with its frankness and honesty. This series is set to look at the vehicle in detail but It is not meant as an exhaustive history. More like a pictorial walk through the photos that have been secured through the many collections and museums worldwide that many of us have heard about. It’s more of a one-stop for people seeking real-life pictures of their particular favourite vehicle than a text based technical examination. There are some manual drawings of parts of the tank in this book but they are supplementary rather than the focus.

Into the book we see straight away something I like. A series of five pages of pictures of a single wrecked Hetzer with US GI’s in several different angles. These reveal details not only about this vehicle but it’s former masters and conquers. The BMM vehicle in several states in the time that spans between the first and last shot in this series reveal little changes. The Author in these and every pictures throughout reveals details about the context and subtext of the scene and the vehicle, often where it was made and where it came to an end. Each of the photograph’s sources are credited on the page as well which is good.

The early part of the book already shows us something new in this series. A bunch of illustrations that flesh out each of the tanks in the adjoining page, but in full colour with a little more often visible from the artist’s and the author’s examination. These seven drawings throughout the book by Felipe Rodna make these tanks come to life. He draws them like a top modeller might paint them. I have to laugh at the Author’s comment that probably after the book is published that someone will come forward with new evidence on the colour schemes. But to me, these colour schemes look late war enough and typical to the Hetzer colours I have seen. Original colours are given in their German names to help modellers or researchers.

We see Hetzers with eyes and eyebrows, stuck in ditches and with interesting modifications to carry personal equipment and boxes. Again there are drawings in colour to better flesh out the details we may have missed in a photo with text to bring something to our attention and pictures like this one below – showing a scene of waste and abandonment by a river side. This Hetzer was sabotaged by its crew before they left it in Italy.

We see some broken, exposed and sabotaged Hetzers in the next batch of pages before we go into a four-page account by a Hetzer crewman about his service in the 38t in the cauldron of the Kurland pocket late in the war. This is a little-known battle with the Germans surrounded by the Soviets that is worth a book in itself. This large but easy to read break in the book fits in very well with the pictorial evidence in photographs and gives us a feeling of what it was like to serve in these little tanks. First-hand accounts like this (especially the story of the men retrieving the bodies of their frozen dead comrades – one with a picture of his wife in his hand - are rare nowadays and I cannot get enough of this type of thing as long as it is balanced with pictures like we see here.

We see many pictures of Hetzers close up next – some good images that will help many readers are here from many fronts in the war. A lot of sunny pictures as well as some colder looking pictures from the eastern front. I do like the constant sharp eye that the author brings to these pictures and informative text. Often you miss completely these details and it’s good to have that guide to help you find out more about these tanks. Comparisons with men as well as other tanks like in these pictures below are a good indication of the Hetzer’s size and handy to have.

We closely examine some of the later war models with the extension of the mantlet in several pictures, text and a coloured drawing before we wander through both German pictures and those taken by her enemies. This series of photos taken by Czech soldiers is very candid, and the author’s lament at not being able to read the chassis number made me giggle. Priorities hey?

In the theme of a subject in groups of pictures we are seeming to see there are lots of pictures of people, children and other civilians, next to or on top of these captured or out of action Jagdpanzer 38t’s in the next 20 or so pages.

A Jagdpanzer 38t making his way over a rail line is a team effort we are to learn in this book…
These pictures with kids and other “civvies” are great for diorama builders who want to separate themselves from the nasty business of war. Although there are several pictures of Hetzers with their victims on the roads as well.

The most famous picture of a Hetzer that I know, the knocked out vehicle in Halloville in France is seen with a colour illustration to better show it’s camo next. This series of shots and several other in the next batch of pages with GI’s next to some destroyed vehicles is an interesting contrast to the shots with the brand new Hetzers in Italy or Yugoslavia which look very new in these shots. We have a diagram and a report from the allied examiners in a report about the interior controlled MG mount on these latter vehicles – it makes for interesting reading and a better understanding in this book.

Lastly, some overturned and completely blasted open Hetzers take up the last ten or so pages of the book along with one more pictures combined with a coloured illustration again.

It is hard to top a series like the Panzerwrecks books – but this book which is much more focused on one vehicle has a lot of merit and the way that the pictures, text and illustrations are sewn together gives the reader a lot of insight and new knowledge about this tank.

If this is the start of a new series count me in, I love this little book about quite a favourite bit of Armor. It’s great inspiration and a good guide to future modelling for me.

Adam Norenberg

You can now get this book from the Panzerwrecks site online.