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Death Traps: The Survival of an American Armored Division in World War II Mass Market Paperback – April 29, 2003


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Death Traps: The Survival of an American Armored Division in World War II + If You Survive: From Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge to the End of World War II, One American Officer's Riveting True Story + Behind Hitler's Lines: The True Story of the Only Soldier to Fight for both America and the Soviet Union in World War II
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 355 pages
  • Publisher: Presidio Press (April 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0891418148
  • ISBN-13: 978-0891418146
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Without a doubt, this is one of the finest WWII memoirs ever written by an American junior officer. Lieutenant Cooper served with the 3rd Armored Division's Maintenance Battalion and saw action from Normandy to Germany in 1944-1945. One of the army's two heavy armored divisions, the 3rd lost 648 M4 Shermans and had another 700 tanks damaged, repaired and put back in service by the time the shooting ended in May 1945. Cooper, as one of the division's three ordnance liaison officers, was in the midst of the division's tank recovery operations. He writes about the tenacity of the maintenance mechanics and their ability to improvise and devise their own policies. Cooper is unsparing in his criticism of George S. Patton and other generals whose belief in mobility over heavy armor kept the Sherman medium tank as the standard. American tank crews quickly learned that these "death traps" were no match for heavier German tanks such as the Panther and King Tiger. Cooper describes the difficult maneuvering in the hedgerow country, the confusion of the Battle of the Bulge, the liberation of Nordhausen concentration camp and the destruction of an entire column of tanks and other vehicles. Cooper demonstrates convincingly that it was the unheralded work of the maintenance section that allowed the 3rd Armored Division to maintain its combat effectiveness. This detailed story will become a classic of WWII history and required reading for anyone interested in armored warfare. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-In a down-to-earth style, Death Traps tells the compelling story of one man's assignment to the famous 3rd Armored Division that spearheaded the American advance from Normandy into Germany. Cooper served as an ordinance officer with the forward elements and was responsible for coordinating the recovery and repair of damaged American tanks. This was a dangerous job that often required him to travel alone through enemy territory, and the author modestly recalls his service with pride, downplaying his role in the vast effort that kept the American forces well equipped and supplied. Readers will not gain any great insights on the causes of the war or the reasons why a campaign went the way it did; however, they will be left with an indelible impression of the importance of the support troops and how dependent combat forces were on them.
Robert Burnham, R. E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in WWII.
csodallas@msn.com
This book is an interesting memoir, but it is marred by unnecessary repetitions and a large number of errors regarding technical aspects of WW2 tanks.
tanksonthebrain
Belton Cooper was a army Ordnance officer with the 3rd Armored Division and it was his job to make sure the M-4 Sherman tanks ran.
Bill Hensler

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

117 of 126 people found the following review helpful By Tommytank1@aol.com on December 31, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Hundreds of books have been written about armored warfare in World War II, usually from the viewpoint of a combat commander. "Death Traps" is a first hand account of the often overlooked area of maintenance support. Belton Cooper was a army Ordnance officer with the 3rd Armored Division. He gives a different perspective of the day to day life of supporting a combat command of the 3rd AD during WWII. He served as a laision officer with the duties of evaulating knocked out military vehicles, primarily M4 Sherman Tanks. His job was to determine if these tanks could be salvaged,rebuilt and be reissued to tank crews. It is already well known that America's main battle tank was far inferior to German Armor, but Cooper explains how the M4 met its fate through numerous encounters with German Panthers and Tigers. This required Tank Commanders to rethink Armored Warfare and to come up with ways to defeat the enemy. He explains in detail the numerous obstacles that had to be overcome from the Normandy landings all the way to the surrender of Germany. You will read of the development of the famous Cullen Hedgerow device that helped break the stalmate in the hedgerow country of Normandy. Also the first trials of the M26 Pershing Tank which was so badly needed by our troops to counter heavy German Armor but was refused by General George S. Patton. Pattons view was that we needed fast tanks to go to the enemys rear to disrupt supply and command elements, did not warrant tanks like the Pershing. Coopers evaluation of the Pershing shows that if we had this tank in great numbers the war in Europe could have been over much sooner and with less loss of life. Also there is the rare story of the use of the M26A1E2(aka M26E4) Super Pershing and its encounter with a Panther.Read more ›
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65 of 74 people found the following review helpful By BK on February 4, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Deathtraps is an engrossing personal account of a of the American Tanker's experience in World War II from a unique insider's perspective, the man in charge of recovering and fixing destroyed tanks. It is a deeply personal and moving account of a man coming to grips with the horrors of war while at the same time rejoicing at the traces of humanity that remained even in the worst situations. Despite some inaccuracies and repetition it once again reinforces the fact that the M4 Sherman tank was totally outclassed for most of World War II by its German opponents. While the GI grapevine isn't 100% accurate it captures the feelings and beliefs of the armored infantry and tankers who fought and died in the Sherman. It is this insight that makes this book so valuable. Belton Cooper speaks for those who didn't make it back. The author writes with an earnestness that gives voice to those who went into battle knowing that the odds were against them. Logistics efficiency was purchased at the expense of battle losses. Whether or not that was the right choice will be debated forever but the author has earned the right to present his argument from firsthand personal experience.
Unfortunately, the lead reviewer who gave this book one star used two outrageously misleading points (among several others) to disparage this book, and rather unwittingly, the tens of thousands of American tankers who fought and died in the Sherman. He misses the point of this book by playing the part of a not-so-accurate-self-proclaimed-fact-checker and misses the story of the bravery of the crews who knowingly went into battle with an inferior weapon. Whether or not the Sherman was or was not inferior is not the point.
Read more ›
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan D. Beard on December 18, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Death Traps: The Survival of an American Armored Division in World War II is an unusual addition to the growing pile of memoirs being published as WW II veterans age and then die. It is not written by a soldier who was in the thick of combat and has brave tales to tell, nor is it the story of someone in command, explaining and justifying his decisions. Instead, Cooper was a junior officer in charge of vehicle maintenance for the 3rd Armored Division as it fought its way from Normandy to Central Germany. He was always right behind the front lines, but seldom in combat, though frequently exposed to sniper and artillery fire. The main revelation of Death Traps is obvious from its title: the famous M4 Sherman tank which was the mainstay of American armor during the war was completely inadequate when facing German tanks. American commanders, especially Gen. Patton, chose to continue producing the Sherman even when they knew it could not face German tanks and antitank guns, and American tank crews paid a heavy price for this mistake. Cooper has done his homework. Unlike many war memoirs, he has spent time reading the general histories in recent years, and gets the background information right when he discusses the pursuit across France, the invasion of Germany, and the Battle of the Bulge. But the most important thing here is the details: how the Sherman worked, how maintenance was carried out under harsh conditions, and, especially, what happened when a high-velocity 75 mm or 88 mm shell hit an M4.
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