“American Knights, the untold story of the 601st TD BN”
American Knights is the Untold Story of the Men of the Legendary 601st Tank Destroyer Battalion (General Military) Hardcover – September 22, 2015, published by Osprey Press, Ltd. Oxford, England.
An unmissable white-knuckle ride from the Kasserine pass to Anzio, Operation Dragoon to the final attacks on the Third Reich, this is the gripping story of the men and machines that took on Nazi Germany’s best. This book not only reveals the technical details and origins of the 601st Tank Destroyer Battalion, it places the reader on the front lines of the European war.
As the war swung in the favor of the Allies, it became clear that no final defeat of the Third Reich would be possible until the armored monsters of the Panzerwaffe were defeated. But who would, or even could, take on the mighty Tigers and Panthers, just a handful of whom could stop entire formations in their tracks? The answer lay with the formation of a new type of unit, the Tank Destroyer Batallion. This is the story of the men and machines who made up the very first Tank Destroyer Batallion, the 601st, from their unique training and formation, to the final, desperate battles in the heart of Nazi Germany. Packed with rare material, letters, diaries and unpupublished photographs, this is an intense and intimate chronicle of the men who fought the Panzers in an astonishing 10 campaigns and 546 days of lethal combat. Re-live the excitement and terror of battling the best the Wehrmacht and SS had to offer, in every major campaign in the West.
This book was based on an earlier work by the author, An American Knight, which described the author’s uncle Lt. Thomas Peter Welch and his WWII experiences in the 601st Tank Destroyer Battalion. It explained his upbringing and early enlisted and officer training in the United States and told in Tommy’s more than 150 letters and the unpublished memoirs and diaries of the men who were there. Then it followed him to North Africa, where he contracted malaria and eventually joined the 601st in Italy and crossed the Volturno on the road to Cassino. Landing at Anzio, the battalion became trapped on the beachhead for four months until the breakout and the liberation of Rome. They were first ashore for the “Forgotten D-Day” in Southern France and were there for the resultant battles against winter and the SS in the Vosges Mountains, and smashing the Colmar Pocket. At the end, they crossed the Siegfried Line and raced across Germany to Hitler’s Eagle Nest. That book was over 480 pages long, heavily documented with over 900 footnotes, 200 plus illustrations, and numerous explanatory paragraphs giving details of army life and times.
Recognizing the amount of research and effort that went into this work, Ms. Kate Moore, editor and publisher of Osprey Press, Ltd. approached the author to expand the book and shift the focus of the book from one individual to the story of the entire battalion; from its formation to its deactivation at the end of WWII.
Taking on this challenge, and with the help of 601st family members, the author received more than 50 additional pages of original correspondence. These letters and memories filled in some important gaps and led the author to conduct additional research at the National Archives, the US Army Heritage and Education Centers and to consult other books and articles.
Ms. Moore gave some specific guidance. For example, the new book was to be between 80,000-120,000 words, limited to 100 photographs and six maps (to be commissioned by Osprey). Additionally the book should tell the whole battalion story and, while continuing to use direct quotations, would concentrate on the high action episodes. This book:
• Introduces and focuses on nine soldiers, eight from the 601st and one from the 10th engineers
• The early history of the battalion and its formation has been expanded
• The section on the battalion in England and the landing in North Africa has been expanded
• The great withdrawal from Kasserine is now featured as is the battalion’s vindication at El Guettar
• Footnotes have been reduced and are now end notes so as to not disrupt the narrative.
• All of the chapters from the landing at Salerno to the Siegfried lines have been extensively rewritten. Highlights of this include information about the battalion working with Darby’s Rangers at Salerno and the 601st Ranger rescue attempt at Anzio.
• A separate chapter on the battalion’s experience in Germany the description of the capture of Berchtesgaden is given.
• The book concludes with an epilogue which describes the major characters’ life after the war. It also includes an analysis of Lt. Welch’s PTSD provided by a US Army officer. American Knights contains at least 60 percent new material and 20 new photographs. Additional letters from the main characters are included; specifically from Sgt. Larson (Welch’s Sgt.) and Lt. Col. Tardy (Welch’s commanding officer).