Panzer Battles

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Panzer Battles
Author Friedrich von Mellenthin
Original title Panzerschlachten
Language German, English
Genre Memoirs
Publisher University of Oklahoma Press
Publication date
1956 (U.S. edition)
Media type Print

Panzer Battles (German: Panzerschlachten) is the English language title of Friedrich von Mellenthin's memoirs of his service as a staff officer in the Panzerwaffe of the German Army during World War II. Aimed toward his Western audience of NATO military leadership who sought his counsel after the war, it was instrumental in forming the popular Western views of Eastern Front military operations up to the mid-to-late 1990s, when Soviet archival sources became available to Western and Russian historians. Some of the content of his literary and theoretical output would go on to be embraced in elements of U.S. and NATO military doctrine, including the U.S. Army's AirLand Battle doctrine. This legacy is viewed as both positive and negative by different academics and military professionals.

The first English edition, as Panzer Battles: A Study of the Employment of Armor in the Second World War, was published in 1956 by the University of Oklahoma Press. Panzer Battles was reprinted six times in the U.S. between 1956 and 1976.


The book covers von Mellenthin's personal recollections and operational information on the major operations in which he participated, across every major theater of the war, with substantial coverage of his time as Erwin Rommel's intelligence officer in the Afrika Corps and his time as the Chief of Staff for XXXXVIII Panzer Corps in Russia.[1][2]


Upon its release in English in 1956 Panzer Battles was widely read both professionally and academically. The book was a staple on professional military reading lists in NATO member states and was widely cited in academia for decades.


Panzer Battles has been extensively cited in military reading lists and professional studies since its release. David T. Zabecki called it a seminal and comprehensive work on mechanized combined arms warfare and said its lessons and principals were of immeasurable value to the post-Vietnam American military.[3] Then Major Timothy Wray, writing for the U.S. Combat Studies Institute, wrote in 1986 that Panzer Battles was among a series of post-war memoirs that filled an early vacuum of good English language studies of the Eastern Front, causing an undue influence in the Western understanding of that conflict. From those memoirs Wray identifies Panzer Battles as having serious issues of omission in regards to important qualifying data and contextual background.[4] In 1997, the official United States Marine Corps review of books for its professional military reading list, assembled by Paul Van Riper for the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, still lauded it as "a virtual Bible" on armored warfare, with special praise given to the "Psychology of the Russian Soldier" section and the book's maps, which it says offers more tactical and operational clarity than nearly any other military work.[5]


Immediately upon its release Dartmouth History professor Henry L. Roberts called it an excellent account, offering interesting observations.[6]

Sovietologist Colonel John Jessup considers the book a good representation of perspective from the "younger generation" of German officers. Military historian David Glantz called it an "operational/tactical account of considerable merit", which showed the negative impact of Hitler's interference in the military operations. He echoes the professional assessment of Col. Wray, pointing out that it was written without the benefit of either German or Soviet records and so suffers from incomplete or incorrect interpretations of Soviet forces, dispositions and intentions.[2] Paleoconservative military theorist William S. Lind considers it an excellent account of its subject matter full of valuable lessons, including it in his Maneuver Warfare Handbook basic reading list for students of armored warfare.[7] Some historians and academics have taken issue with the political and historical context of the book, such as Wolfram Wette, who lists von Mellenthin in the group of German generals he considers to be authors of apologetic, uncritical studies on World War II.[8] Additionally, co-authors Ronald Smelser and Edward J. Davies characterize Panzer Battles as an "exculpatory memoir" within a post-war revisionist narrative.[9] Other modern historians have also highlighted the depiction of "Russian" opponents in derogatory or racial terms, such as "primitive" and "Asiatics," in the books section devoted to the "Psychology of the Russian Soldier."[10][11] Robert Citino notes the influential nature of von Mellenthin's works in shaping the perceptions of the Red Army in the West as "a faceless and mindless horde" whose idea of military art was to "smash everything in its path through numbers, brute force and sheer size". Citino includes Panzer Battles among the German officers' memoirs that are "at best unreliable and at worst deliberately misleading", an opinion echoed by historian Daniel Franke, who characterized its impact on the post-war reputation of the Wehrmacht as "baleful," while still recommending it as an important book.[12][13]


  • Mellenthin, Friedrich von (1971) [1956]. Panzer Battles: A Study of the Employment of Armor in the Second World War (First Ballantine Books ed.). New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-24440-6.