24 April 2014

Book Review: Panzer Operations

"Over the last 20 years I have read many accounts of the fighting on the Eastern Front both as memoirs and as third party histories. Of those accounts I would rate Panzer Operations as one of the best."

Published on 3 OCT 2004 12:00am by Scott Parrino
  1. world war ii, background / research material

Panzer Operations – The Eastern Front Memoir of General Rause 1941-1945

Over the last 20 years I have read many accounts of the fighting on the Eastern Front, both memoirs and third party histories. Of those accounts I would rate Panzer Operations as one of the best. The reason is that it solely concentrates on the tactics of panzer and combined arms operations and avoids politics and personality. Colonel General Rause is virtually unknown to most people, having received scant attention in most of the histories I have read. However, Guderian considered him “one our best panzer generals” and used him in critical situations. Panzer Operations was compiled from Rause’s memoirs and articles, which were written when he was captured by US Army Intelligence. The US Army recognized his genius as an armored warfare tactician and his memoirs were the foundation of many US Army manuals. 

Austrian-born Erhard Rause joined the Austrian Army in 1905 and was commissioned an officer in 1909. He was highly decorated during World War I and was promoted to Captain with command of an Infantry Battalion. His career progressed steadily during peace time with his promotion to Lieutenant Colonel in 1933. Prior to the Anchluss he was the Commander of Infantry School at Bruck. When the Anchluss occurred in March 1938, Colonel Rause took the Wehrmacht oath and joined the staff of Army Group Command (Vienna). He subsequently held various regimental commands and in May 1941 was appointed command of the 6th Motorized Brigade, 6th Panzer Division. 

Panzer Operations follows Rause from the opening of Operation Barbarossa, where his Kampfgruppe formed part of the advance on Leningrad. His actions in piercing the Stalin Line earned him a promotion to Major General, and due to his obvious tactical genius he was appointed to commander of the 6th Panzer Division. Rause always appeared to be given difficult problems, which he successfully solved, and his men nicknamed him Der Nochdenker (the far sighed one). He was subsequently given a Corps to command and then the Fourth Panzer Army. Hitler respected him as one of the few commanders who could defend territory successfully. He was later placed on the reserve list in early 1945 after having a face to face conference with Hitler where he told him basically that Hitler’s interference has made Germany’s defense impossible. 

I am not sure whether to thank the translator or Rause for putting together such a crisply written book. The descriptions of combat ranging from panzer battalions charging across the steppe on the way to relieve Stalingrad, the toe to toe fighting that took place during the defense of East Prussia, or the fighting against a terrific Russian defense along the advance of Leningrad made me feel as though I had been there. Rause explains the reasoning behind his tactics and how he executes them. His description of his “snail offensive strategy” and “zone defensive tactics” and how they were used is a highlight of the book. 

This book is one of the best purely military memoirs I have come across and I would recommend it to all readers of the genre. As a scenario writer I have found a source of at least a hundred different small and large unit scenarios. 

About the Author

Neil lives in the sub tropical capital of Australia, Brisbane. He is an omnivorous reader of anything that is in print but has a special fondness for military history. He played his first wargame decades ago, chess, and it is still his favorite. Neil has worked as a writer and designer for Wild Bill’s Raiders for many years. Games he has worked on includes the Steel Panthers series, HPS Squad Battles series and Wild Bill’s Design group’s SPWAW Megacampaigns.