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Death Traps, Belton Y Cooper

Discussion in 'The Library' started by aquist, Apr 18, 2005.

  1. aquist

    aquist recruit

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    the Survial of an American Armored Division in world War Two.Cooper saw more of this war than most junior officersand writes about it better than almostanyone...his stories are vivid,and enlightening, full of life-and pain and sorrow,horror, and triumph-Stephen E. Ambrose the guy was in recovery operations on armored vehicles andcertainly knows the why and how of tanks in combat and unequivicably condemns American tank developement and George S. Patton for rejecting the M26 Pershing for Normandy invasion use. this is a good read for us tank enthusiasts. get it.
     
  2. Roel

    Roel New Member

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    Hm.... :-?
    This book, of what I've heard, is mostly complete and utter nonsense written by a guy whose only experience with American tanks was having to fix them; that'd give anyone a bad idea of them. He ignores most of the good things about American tanks to emphasize only what went wrong with them; meanwhile he uses openly incorrect information on several points and comments on things he had absolutely nothing to do with in the first place. There seem to be a number of nicely criticizing reviews on this book on Amazon.com.
     
  3. Ricky

    Ricky New Member

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    Hmm, two very contrasting views of the same book...
     
  4. Kellhound

    Kellhound New Member

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    I've heard it was very biased, too. And gets numbers and dates wrong, but i haven't seen it myself.
    Anybody has actually compared data on the book and elsewhere?
     
  5. Boba Nette

    Boba Nette New Member

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    I read this book and found it to be quite informative.Not from a combat point of view.He goes into details about some of the goings-on behind the lines.Stuff that isn't as interesting as front line reports.He does have a very negative view of the Sherman.But part of his job was removing the bodies of the crews which were in all states of destruction and decomposition.ThIS would give anybody a negative view of the M4.
     
  6. Cholbert

    Cholbert New Member

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    I've read this book too and agree with Kriegspfarrer. Regardless of the author's view on the Shermans, the book does give a good insight into the ongoing maintenance and recovery of AFV's and their return to service as well as an idea of how the rear maintence trains worked. Because of this I would recommend it.



    PS Ricky, If you want to read it PM me and I'll mail it on as, due to (very) limited space, I only keep a select few books once read.
     
  7. canambridge

    canambridge Member

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    It's not bad as first hand memoirs go, but really isn't a fount of relable info or insight.
     
  8. Ricky

    Ricky New Member

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    Well, I received the book from Cholbert a few days back. I am just over halfway through, with an awful lot of bookmarks in the bit I've read!
    I'll give a detailed analysis when finished... :cool:
     
  9. Cholbert

    Cholbert New Member

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    Have you finished this yet? I'm curious as to the results of all the bookmarks :wink:
     
  10. Ricky

    Ricky New Member

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    My Review:

    Overall, this is a very interesting & informative book, and I immensely enjoyed it. It definately stimulates the desire to go out and do some more research on the topic - did the Germans really have ‘butterfly bombs’ (cluster bombs), was there really a poison gas depot near Alencon, etc.

    Basically it focuses on Belton’s experiences as a maintenance / liaison officer with the American 3rd Armoured Division, from just prior to D-Day through to VE (and VJ) day. He also throws in an overall view of the tactical & strategic narrative to let you know the overall context, as well as providing a soldier’s-eye view of the what/why/where of Allied Command decisions (though I think these opinions may have been added to since the war).

    The book is full of fascinating little insights into all sorts of things, from quirks of American tanks (the original Wright R975 engine was designed for constant high-rpm usage in aircraft, and had a tendency for the spark plugs to foul when the engine was left to idle for long periods) to the tactics employed by the Americans in urban warfare and the organisation of an American Armoured Division. Oh, and the origins of the bikini, but we won’t go there…

    However, Belton Y Cooper is a man with an agenda. He really does not think that the M4 Sherman was a good tank in any way, and uses any fact, any scenario he can to back his opinion.
    Some arguments are ok – he reels off the ‘vital statistics’ of the Sherman several times, comparing them to the M26 Patton, the Panther, the T-34, and (at last) the Pz.IV. His basic conclusion is – bad gun (yes, even the 76mm), not enough armour and very poor ground pressure (and therefore bad mobility in muddy conditions).

    He also criticised the fact that all attempts at a heavy tank (despite the info received from the fighting in Europe before the Americans arrived) were shelved – he blames Patton for this, the theory being that Patton wanted lots of faster / more mobile tanks rather than heavy tanks. Belton spends pages laboriously proving that the M26 actually had better mobility than the Sherman. What he never once mentions is the difficulty in shipping the M26 across the Atlantic when every ship-board crane cannot take its weight… but hey.

    However, as you may have noticed, Belton’s arguments against the Sherman are often unfair. He constantly calls it an ‘inferior tank’ because it cannot match up to the Panther, Tiger and King Tiger. It takes him to page 192 (out of 334) to even mention the Pz IV, against which the M4 apparently had ‘a good chance’… He then mentions the Pz IV a couple more times, always discussing the fact that it had a better gun than the Sherman, never the more obvious defects.
    He even has the cheek to quite regularly describe situations where Anti-Tank guns / infantry with Panzerfausts ambush a load of Shermans, and then conclude by saying “it was proved to us that we did not have a heavy tank to match the Germans” (or similar). He does this with the Bocage, with the Siegfried Line, etc etc… In one incident fairly late in the book (and the war) a column made up of a company of Shermans, 3 M36 TDs, halftracks & GMC trucks was perfectly ambushed in a valley by 10 Tiger 2s (7 attacked the front, 3 the rear). During this ambush, the Shermans knocked out 3 out of 10 Tiger 2s, which to me seems like a fair chunk of the attacking force, especially given the armour the Tiger 2 had, but Belton awards no credit, instead using hyperbole to describe the scene of the ambush, even going so far as to add this footnote: “Such was the awesome power of the Tiger against the vastly inferior M4 Sherman”. In total, 17 Shermans and 3 M36s were knocked out. Yes, a heavy toll, but it was a well-executed ambush. These things happen that way, and killing a third of the ambushing force is not a bad achievement.

    What is worse, is that as soon as the Americans slaughter German tanks in an ambush, or with AT guns, Belton skims over such encounters fairly rapidly, drawing no conclusions or parallels. And when the Americans break out of the bocage and start moving fast – no comment.

    Belton’s dream is the M26. Again he devotes pages to comparative statistics between it and the Sherman, and it and the Panther. He even talks about the M26A1E2 ‘Super Pershing’ with 70 caliber gun (I have never heard of this, but he does provide a picture) – only one made, and shipped to 3rd Division for combat testing.

    In fairness to Belton, he is fullsome in his praise of other American equipment, and he does even highlight a few good points of the M4, such as the track design (apparently you can get 5 times more use of of US tracks than German), the gyro-stabiliser (though he mentions this more with the M26), and that’s about it. However, his view is that it was designed by comittee, and this killed it.

    In conclusion – an interesting book, full of both ‘human interest’ and useful chunks of information, but one with a huge agenda, so take care when reading it.

    Would anybody else like to read it? – I am happy to mail it to whoever PMs me.

    P.S: should I open a topic with all the little questions I have? :wink:
     
  11. Cholbert

    Cholbert New Member

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    Nice review Ricky!
     
  12. Ricky

    Ricky New Member

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    Ta!
     
  13. nuvolari

    nuvolari Member

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    Super Pershing.

    For anyone wishing to learn how the Super Pershing performed when up against serious German armour, they could do worse than read any website material on Staff Sergeant Lafayette Pool, whose S.P. came up against a King Tiger in a German town centre ambush set up late in the war by the Tiger.
    Does anyone have a copy of Belton Wassname's book "Death Traps" to loan me ?
    I'd take good care of it and return in good order if it were loaned me.
    Certainly the many reviews here on this site make one curious as to just how good a book it is.
    I live in England.
    Malladyne.
     
  14. Simonr1978

    Simonr1978 New Member

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    Private message me and I'll pass on the Forum copy (Originally from Cholbert I believe, passed to me via Ricky).
     
  15. nuvolari

    nuvolari Member

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    Message for SimonR

    Thanks, me old matey, for your offer of a loan of the book "Death Trap".
    I am sorry to be a pain, but I don't know how to private message you since you seem not to have submitted your email address to this Forum ( I am probably totally wrong, but if it is there I couldn't find it ! )
    Can I ask that you email me on marlin@spugs.fsnet.co.uk ? Then we can get the jolly old ball rolling.
    Cheers,
    Malladyne.
     
  16. Notmi

    Notmi New Member

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    Re: Message for SimonR

    Short guide to private message: Below each message written by member of this forum are several icons, one of them is labeled as PM (short from private message). Find a message written by someone who you want to send PM and click that icon. It opens a similar window as normal message window except there is at top a line for username who you wish to send PM. Write message and send it by clicking submit.

    Try it.
     
  17. shermanologist on watch

    shermanologist on watch New Member

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  18. shermanologist on watch

    shermanologist on watch New Member

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    Re: Super Pershing.

    This was not Lafayette Pool as he was wounded (and lost a leg) just after the Normandy Breakout of July 1944.
    The story of the Super Pershing is told in the book 'Another River, Another Town' IIRC.
    HTH
     
  19. shermanologist on watch

    shermanologist on watch New Member

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    If you do not have access to the archives, I invite you to read the book 'Faint Praise' to understand the development of the US Armored Force and of the TD Command.
    Hard to find, hence pricey (one of the most expensive book I bought) but maybe through Interlibrary loan?
    HTH
     
  20. nuvolari

    nuvolari Member

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    Super Pershing v King Tiger

    I guess I may be wrong about who fought the combat shown above. Certainly Pool did lose a leg ( of that there is no doubt), but I didn't know that he lost it prior to the date that the above duel took place. I am sorry for being wrong, since as a published author I am well aware of the need for accuracy, even in forums such as these. It may be hard for me now to retrace my website surfing in order to obtain details of the above combat, but if anyone does want me to, I do feel honour bound to try.
    Malladyne.
     

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