Tuesday, September 22

Read n' Reviewed: Forgotten Archives 3 The Lost Signal Corps Photos by Darren Neely from Panzerwrecks

Having been a fan of the first two books in the "Forgotten Archives" series, it was with interest that we saw a third book was incoming. We have spent a while reading this issue from Darren Neely and Panzerwrecks, see what we thought about the latest in this series in our review...

Read n' Reviewed: Forgotten Archives 3 The Lost Signal Corps Photos by Darren Neely
Published by Panzerwrecks
Author: Darren Neely
Hardcover, A4 Landscape Format (Dimensions: 275mm x 215mm)
240 pages
English Text
200+ wartime photos 
Colour artworks by Felipe Rodna
ISBN-10: 9781908032218
Price: £34.99
The third, in the "Forgotten Archives" series of books from Panzerwrecks Publishing UK and author Darren Neely, this series is summarised simply as a collection of photographs with accompanying captions of scenes of World War Two taken by cameramen from the US signals Corps that were attached to combat groups. It sounds pretty simple, but think that these photos were taken over seventy-five years ago, the men who took them have mostly passed, and the fingers of the internet and publishing of several similar types of books have exposed the best-known photos. What would there be left to publish that wasn't already uncovered?

Well, that is a good question, as all of the photographs in this series are previously unpublished, or they are shown because these have either a better quality image or a related image to a known shot that has not been shown to the public before. Put all of these factors together and it is not a small task to come out with something like this book (let alone three titles now).

The book in its physical form:
A4 in size with a hardcover binding that packs in two hundred and forty pages of thick stock, the book is mostly large scale photographs with captions below them describing the scene, the place or the peculiarities in English. There are also the texts attributed to each picture from Mr Neely that correct the captions, place names or provide extra information in grey italics next to the captions below each photo. For those of you familiar with earlier volumes of this series the look, design and feel are most familiar and fit into the series very nicely.

Each chapter of the book 
focuses on a specific US Army Corps photographer and features a small biography on him. The photos follow his journey in pretty much a chronological order the shots taken. There are ten chapters in the book:

Contents of this volume:
- Italy: Signal Corps Coverage in the Mediterranean Theater
- Sgt. Joseph DeMarco: 165th Signal Corps Photographic Company
- Field Modifications and Tests: Cameramen Visit Ordnance Units
- 11th Armored Division: From the Ardennes to Germany with the Thunderbolt Division
- 7th Army Part 1: Operation Nordwind
- T/4 Warren Rothenberger: 166th Signal Photographic Company
- V Corps: From Col. Stanhope Mason, Chief of Staff, V Corps
- 7th Army Part 2: Riviera to the Rhine
- XX Corps: General Walton Walker Albums
- Cameramen: In Action

Let's look inside...
After a brief, one-page introductory of block text which explains the working behind the book, on just how the photos and information were sourced, and where some of the information comes from. The author takes time to thank some heavyweights in this sector for their help in the book which was enlightening already for us to see, plus a tribute to the late Roddy Macdougal which is fitting and nice to see here. 

We then progress straight into the page by page layout that features in the rest of the book - one large-format photo and explanatory captions beneath. First of all the photos from Italy and the Signal Corps Coverage in the Mediterranean Theatre.

When looking through these chapters we see the first of the eight specially commissioned artworks by Felipe Rodna that mirror the photo opposite it, but this time in full colour. Bringing to life the picture in a quite unexpected and brilliant way. The reader fully comprehends some details that hey might have otherwise missed in these top quality expositional artworks that add a lot to the book - especially from the modeller's point of view.

Another feature of this book (and this series) is the inclusion of "QR" codes in the book
of "QR" codes in the book. These bar codes can be scanned by most android and apple phones, I know that in my android phone the Google assistant simply scans it for me (a quick search on google will tell you more about your own phone). Once the bar-code is scanned in through the camera, tap the link that comes up and then (with an internet connection) you can see the view on your phone as the scene captured in the book all those years ago looks now in the current day. This simple but amazing technology helps historians find these places and the reader better relate these places as they are now to what they were then.

 There are thirty-one of these QR codes throughout the book for you to compare and contrast. These either work in Google maps or in the first person in Streetview.

Italy, (+ France and England)
Relatively early into the war for the Americans, we see many of the more flimsy and embryonic American tanks in this section up to page twenty-two, with some utterly annihilated German vehicles that have been too often pushed to the side of the road for the GI's to advance past. The dry nature of the climate and the vegetation combined with the dirt and dust everywhere in these photos is very emblematic of the Italian campaign. 

The French campaigns against the Germans (in the south and the north) by the US Army are included (but not notated int he chapters) and we see many of the same types of pictures, broken and destroyed German tanks and AFV's with GI's either working, at rest, fixing or moving these wrecks or streaming past in columns on the advance. The series of photographs runs pretty much chronologically from July 1943 to August 1944.
The first of the chapters dedicated to a particular corpsman's work is next, with the photographs from Sgt. Joseph DeMarco of 165th Signal Corps Photographic Company. After a short introduction to the man, we look at his work and an acknowledgement to his son who provided the photos in this section. Although we see this section run for fifty pages, I am not sure that all passed the twenty credited to Demarco are his photos as well? The topography covered starts in France in July 1944 through till January 1945 to the snow of Strass (Straß) in Germany.

Starting his series of photos with destroyed and disabled Panzers 7 Panthers and the wreckage from Operation Cobra in Normandy, we follow DeMarco's journey, US Halftracks, Jeeps, Quad AA's Shermans, Harley Davidson Liberators, M7's, M10's, M18's and Stuarts just to name a few. That is all good to see, but the focus of a lot of the photos is on the human story of the men that are in, looking at or travelling past these machines making the story so much more inviting.

Som of Demarco's photos are of the same scene in a series, or taken just down the road from each other giving an immersion into the scene and the battlefield. The close-in examination of holed and destroyed German and US vehicles is in interesting observation from the photographer. The tigers, panthers and Stug II's lined up and destroyed by their own crews are just some of the vehicles given further exposition by the author in his captions that accompany every photo.

Some of the more interesting vehicles of the battlefield are next in the chapter called "Field Modifications and Tests: Cameramen Visit Ordnance Units". In reality, this section is eleven pages with images from a variety of cameramen showing all sorts of variations and incarnations of well-known vehicles - things like the Wasp flame thrower in action, a few shots showing a poor Panther get wrecked as a target practice object and one of my favourites, the T-34 "Caliope" rocket launching system on top of a Sherman. Some of these vehicles have been seen before, but the author has found images of them from alternate angles or in much better quality than what was originally seen to expose new insight. It is great to see these lesser known vehicles in odd incarnations in this section.

For the next thirty or so pages we see many vehicles and the men who were fighting on the Luxemburg / Belgian front during the Battle of the Bulge are shown here. We see lots of both german, US and even some poor British soldiers in the European winter travelling in Bren gun carriers (brrr) in amongst the heavily camouflaged and whitewashed vehicles. Some of these photos even show the application of the easily worn whitewash to these tanks. In this section, we see more photos, artwork from Mr Rodna and more of the QR codes the current location of the scene on Google Maps or Streetview to accompany the narrative. 

From the edge of the German border, we next travel in the short chapter titled "11th Armored Division: From the Ardennes to Germany with the Thunderbolt Division". Six pages with shots of Both German and US vehicles, mostly broken (and a headless Tiger II) German vehicles and US AFVs in various states of camo and whitewash are shown here.

The next chapter "7th Army Part 1: Operation Nordwind"  where we see fifteen pages of the aftermath of the fighting near the town of Herrlisheim. Insight from the author is most engrossing in this section, facts about how the vehicles in a particular place were taken out, the severe grouping of shots destroying another tank and the insight into some broken Panthers is great to see and also to read about.

Starting in Western France in November 1944, we next follow the story of "T/4 Warren Rothenberger: 166th Signal Photographic Company" on his travels across the cold landscape towards Germany. Rothenberger is very good at showing the human element of his photographic scenes, with the men are really a large part of the shots he had taken. There are still some very interesting vehicles are here though, large batteries of Howitzers firing, A captured British truck in German service, M10's and Shermans with the crew working all around them. Images that really show the "dogfaces" in several states of work and rest, great framing of the images are on show here in this photographer's style. Germans are shown also, with a great series of captures Jagdpanzer 38's two broken Panthers and a Panzer IV with Zimmerit being stars of this chapter from the other side.

A short chapter after this one is next, called "V Corps: From Col., Stanhope Mason, Chief of Staff, V Corps" these seven pages feature both German and US vehicles on the road from Hurtgen to Leipzig. 105mm and other shermans in action, abmbushed German StuG's and a Bergepanzer III that is the best "barn find" ever are just some of the vehicles shown here. 

the next chapter is called "7th Army Part 2: Riviera to the Rhine", it features a change of scenery from the previous chapters. The southern invasion into France in September 1944 kicks us off, with some rather interesting shots from the warmer climes before we start to see soldiers on the german Border again with thick hooded and padded clothing suggesting the campaign in France was rather short. Twenty-one pages of large format photos, some in a series finish in German in again, warmer climes in April 1945.

"XX Corps: General Walton Walker Albums" is a short chapter of cour pages showing (as would be the nature of the photographer's rank) mostly rear echelon photos of Shermans with a lone Burning StuG in there. The book is still dotted with the wonderful illustrations from Mr Rodna in this and all of the sections that explain (with the text) the scene so much better than an image in black and white. 

Last but not least - a fitting tribute to the primary sources of this book the "
Cameramen: In Action" pages show not only the photographers with a short bio on each, but some very nice photos at the end, especially of the Soviet soldiers and vehicles from the end of the war.

And that is the end of this volume...

While we are talking about credit, kudos must also go to the publisher /author in putting this package together to amalgamate the elements of unseen photos from over 75 years into a package with informative text, colour illustrations and the location finding QR codes to tell a lot of the story of these men's travels. 

The combination of these elements makes another great book in the series that any lover of this series, of modelling, or of tanks and history will appreciate greatly.

Adam Norenberg

You can purchase this book directly from Panzerwrecks Website - thanks to them for sending it to us to read and review for you.

The two previous books we reviewed from this series 
Vehicles included in this volume:
Listed on the Panzerwrecks website is a list of all of the vehicles captured in this book - for the completists out there here is that list
Allied (US)
M5A1 Light Tank
M24 Light Tank
M4 (75) Medium Tank
M4 Medium Dozer Tank
M4A1 Medium Tank
M4A1 Medium Tank Duplex Drive
M4A3E2 Assault Tank
M4A3 (76) Medium Tank
M4A3 (75) Medium Tank
M4A3 (105) Assault Gun
T34 Rocket Launcher (Calliope)
T1E3 Mine Exploder
M3A1 Halftrack
M8 Light Armored Car
M20 Armored Utility Car
M1A1 wrecker
Harley Davidson WLA
Universal Carrier
Tiger II
Tiger I
Panther Ausf.A
Panther Ausf.G
Jagdpanzer IV
Jagdpanzer 38
Panzer IV/70(A)
Panzer IV/70(V)
Sturmgeschütz IV
Flakpanzer IV ‘Wirbelwind’
Bergepanzer III
Flammpanzer III
Sturmgeschütz III
Pz.Kpfw.II fahrschule fzg
Sd.Kfz.222 Ausf.B
Panzerspähwagen 204 (f)