I recently did some writing in the shoes of a tanker, and I wanted to square that writing with a first-person account of a real tanker in WW2. I did my best to source and interview an armored crewman for my writing, but I didn’t have a lot of luck.
So I was pretty happy to find the book “Spearhead,” although it came along a few months too late for the writing.
Finished the book up just now, and I’m jotting down my impressions while its memory is still fresh.
First, I was pretty pleased that my research in regard to the life of an armored crewman was pretty decent. Spearhead really didn’t have any big surprises for me, that was good. Plus, I have a fair bit of combat experience running guns in an armored vehicle, just not a tank. That helped.
But I digress. Let’s talk about the book, and why you should buy it, because you should. Especially if you’re interested in an accessible, very realistic and cross-verified account of armored warfare, or warfare in general.
I’m not interested in memoirs by generals. Don’t care much for people with agendas, either. If I read about war, I want to hear from the grunts who did the thing, not some shithead in the rear.
Well, Spearhead was told from the perspectives of the men who fought. Sometimes they lived, sometimes they died. It was very well written and meticulously researched. As a real bonus, this book features the perspective of an M26 Pershing crew, a very rare viewpoint as the Pershing was only committed to battle in limited numbers in the last months of the war.
This book gets down into the weeds of life on the front lines during the push into Germany in 1945. A false impression that some people have is that there wasn’t much fighting after the Ardennes Offensive, this is simply untrue. There was plenty, Spearhead makes this very clear.
The war shuddered to a halt, dragging countless lives down to ruin in its wake. The book discusses these people and brings them into heartbreaking focus, such as a German girl shot up by an intersection. It’s enough to make you want to weep at the waste.
This was another strong point of the book. What actually interests me far more than the combat is the aftermath- what happened to all of these people after the war? Spearhead does an excellent job of telling this story in poignant fashion.
The 3rd Armored Division, known as “Spearhead” after which the book is named, was not a glamorous outfit. But guess what- 95% of the units that bore the brunt of the fighting weren’t, either. This is what makes this such an important account- the experiences of the average fighting man are often glossed over, and we are watching the closing of a window in terms of being able to capture these stories before the last old soldier is laid to rest.
So for that reason, “Spearhead” is an important book, and a must-read not only for civilians with an interest in military history, but for staff colleges and required reading in military schools. Well, in my opinion, at least.
But knowing the Army, they’ll probably still have people reading about Douglas Fucking McArthur.
They should read “Spearhead,” instead.