Spearhead: An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy, and a Collision of Lives in World War II
Authored by Adam Makos, Narrated by Johnathan McClain
Audiobook, 13 hours and 33 minutes
Published by Random House Audio
The Spearhead was the U.S. Army’s 3rd Armored Division. Specifically, the author follows the story of the Division’s 32rd Armored Regiment and 36th Armored Infantry Regiment as they fought their way across Europe and into Germany. They are the units which were immortalized in the famous newsreel film of the tank duel in Cologne, and the report of that fight from a young war correspondent named Andy Rooney.
The author relies heavily on interviews from the actual participants, and allows the story to unfold in their own words. There are several perspectives from the American side, and even a few from the German. The reader gets a ground-level narrative of armored warfare and combined arms assaults, along with the terrible attrition as units remained in the front lines day after day.
There is no sugar coating the assault on Germany. The American tankers were fighting with inferior equipment, and they knew it. There is open distain for the Sherman tank whose gun could not defeat the frontal armor of many German tanks, and whose armor could not protect the crews from the German’s guns. The Panther was a feared opponent, and could only be defeated if the Shermans were able to survive long enough to maneuver for a side shot. In the last few months one of the American crews was issued a new Pershing which evened the odds, but most of the Regiment finished the war on the Sherman.
The German story is represented as well, from the perspective of Gustav Schaefer, a Panther crewman. The Germans faced a deteriorating war situation against overwhelming odds. Shaefer’s tanks was one of the few which survived to defend Cologne against the American onslaught, the reader is shown the battle for the city from his perspective.
This book is treasure for anyone wanting to study armored warfare on the Western Front. The American way of war is the combined arms assault, the Germans employed a fluid defense in depth. Each battle is the clash of these doctrines in detail from the viewpoint of those involved. This story is well told and engaging, highly recommended.