DAY OF THE PANZER by Mark Barnes

A story of American heroism and sacrifice in Southern France…

A story of American heroism and sacrifice in Southern France
By Jeff Danby

We were sitting round the HMVF bonfire after another full on day of Beltring festivities when
Jack produced a pile of books and said something like “Sort these out for me, Snap”. We passed the books round the assembled bunch of friends and we all agreed that, of them all, this one looked the least promising. First impressions are often misleading.

Jeff Danby has spent several years assembling and perfecting a solid account of the actions fought by elements of the US 3rd Infantry Division from Italy to the South of France. As with most books events build up to the principal battle of account, in this case at Allan, near Montpelier in August, 1944. It was there that L Company of the 15th Infantry Regiment and Shermans from B Company of the 756th Tank Battalion endured a bruising encounter with the German LXXXV Armeekorps headquarters based in the village.

This is a well paced account with plenty of detail of individuals, equipment and the organisation of a US division in combat situations. The excellent descriptions of infantrymen, tankers and supporting troops from the 15th’s Cannon Company using M8 self-propelled howitzers and the three inch gun armed M10s of the 601st Tank Destroyer Battalion make for good reading. By far the most poignant accounts relate to the author’s grandfather, Edgar R Danby, a tank platoon leader. The involvement of the French Resistance and brave civilians is given due prominence.

While not a long read, I recommend the book to those with a specific interest in the US Army in World War II. The campaign in the South of France hardly gets a lot of attention and I was pleased to read about the US advance through places such as Le Luc, Gonfarron and Pignans which I have happy memories of from past holidays. In fact I spent time there seeking out classic Dodge and GMC army trucks, which is a perfect coincidence for me.

What the book lacks in this pre-publication edition is illustrations. I would have dearly liked to put faces to the names and if this is a permanent omission it is a shame. It concludes with a roll call of the men involved, their many combat decorations and an epilogue of their post war lives. Soldiers to the end, some of these men went on to fight in Korea and Vietnam. They are all worthy of our admiration and not a little gratitude.

Jeff Danby can relax, his hard work has paid off.

Published by Casemate.
ISBN 978-1-932033-70-0

Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.