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Book Review: The Armored Fist: The 712th Tank Battalion in the Second World War by Aaron Elson

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own]

The Armored Fist: The 712th Tank Battalion in the Second World War is one of the best unit histories I have read from WWII.  It is not a traditional unit history in that it is not simply a list of engagements fought, enemy killed, and casualties suffered.  It is a compilation of the recollections of the unit’s members put into chronological order from their first combat to the end of the war.  This is not traditional battle history, instead it is the story of one unit’s participation in the war from the worm’s eye view of the average soldier.

The book itself is 256 pages of text divided into 41 mini chapters each detailing a specific incident from the unit’s history.  There is no index or bibliography.  in the middle of the book is a small section of photos taken by unit members during the war.

The writing style is engaging and you get a sense of what it was really like to fight a tank in the ETO of WWII.  while reading you get the impression that instead of reading the book you are actually sitting there listening to one of the veterans recount their experiences.  there is an immediacy to the stories that is missing from most accounts of warfare.  I thought that one of the best things about reading it is that the reader gets a very god impression of just how confusing combat is and how little each individual participant knows of what is going on in a firefight.  Each person focuses on their job in combat and only the leaders have a good overview of the situation and often they do not have even that.  that facet of combat comes out clearly in the stories of the tankers of the 712th.

This is an outstanding book and well worth reading.  I highly recommend this book.


  • https://www.facebook.com/patrick.shrier Patrick Shrier

    Independent tank battalions were generally Corps and Division assets that could be sliced off to the other elements of the division or Corps as needed to accomplish certain missions. In the case of the 712th they spent most of their time supporting the 327th IN of the 90th IN Division despite being a Corps asset. They would break off individual tank companies or even platoons to support various infantry units in both the attack and defense.

    The Armored Regiments generally belonged to Armored or Motorized divisions as organic formations.

    The independent units functioned more like Corps or Div Arty, going where they were needed. They could be used in much the same way that Div Cav was sometimes split up to support the different brigades of the division. It is actually the same concept.

    Does that answer the question?

  • https://www.facebook.com/messicus.anonanon Ohbee Messicus

    I should have formed than question better. I ment to say – What was the purpose of having independent tank battalions over breaking a regiment into smaller units? Was it to localized support to an infantry regiment from the RCO to the tank batt?

  • https://www.facebook.com/patrick.shrier Patrick Shrier

    There were Armored regiments in the US Army in WWII. The 712th just happened to be one of the numerous independent tank battalions that were also formed.

  • https://www.facebook.com/messicus.anonanon Ohbee Messicus

    You might know the answer to this – why were there tank battalions in WWII and not “regiments” like we have today(though a tank regiment is stationed in several different locations). Also why are regiments stationed in several different locations today?