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Death Traps: The Survival of an American Armored Division in World War II
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Death Traps: The Survival of an American Armored Division in World War II

3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  394 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
“Cooper saw more of the war than most junior officers, and he writes about it better than almost anyone. . . . His stories are vivid, enlightening, full of life—and of pain, sorrow, horror, and triumph.”
From his Foreword

“In a down-to-earth style, Death Traps tells the compelling story of one man’s assignment to the famous 3rd Armored Division that spear
Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 29th 2003 by Presidio Press (first published 1998)
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Mar 08, 2012 Chuck rated it really liked it
Death Traps by Belton Cooper is a memoir of his US Army service in World War 2. Cooper served with United State Army's 3rd Armored Division fighting the Germans in 1944-1945. He served in the unit responsible for recovering damaged and destroyed tanks.

The United States World War 2 main battle tank, the M4 Sherman was obsolete by 1944. Compared to it's German opponents, it was under-gunned, under-powered and under-armored. There were two tremendous strength however. First the United States produc
J.W. Horton
Feb 20, 2014 J.W. Horton rated it really liked it
Shelves: military
This is certainly one of the better military memoirs of all those I have read over the years. The American author, Belton Y. Cooper, was a kind of laiason ordnance officer between combat units of Sherman tanks and those units further behind the combat action who maintained and repaired these vehicles. Cooper would often have to travel to and from the front lines recovering knocked out or immobilized tanks--sometimes under very dangerous conditions. There is a wealth of tank lore here, an excelle ...more
Jan 05, 2013 Evan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another excellent soldier bio, but one this time relating the challenges if the American tank crew during WWII. You first scratch your head that it's author is the maintenance officer before you discover that the reason for this is the countless deaths of other armor officers who might have been around to write their own stories has the tanks they drove not been death traps relative to their opponents.

It is filled with enthralling personal tales which get you close to men and close to the actio
Wesley Young
Aug 17, 2015 Wesley Young rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Reko Ukko
Dec 22, 2014 Reko Ukko rated it really liked it
After about a gazillion books on WW2, this was a refreshing read (on the back of watching 'Fury') - the book describes the combat and maintenance ops of the american armored division and the surprising underdog position it was in almost the whole war. This interesting tidbit is often forgotten by the contemporary military historians and the author provides some compelling arguments how the war could have ended sooner and events such as The Battle of the Bulge would have never happened - if the a ...more
Tom Blumer
Apr 11, 2011 Tom Blumer rated it really liked it
Interesting perspective from the maintenance and support perspective of armored vehicles in WWII. Less about the actual battles and more about how the ordinance and maintenance personnel overcame shortcomings in the Sherman tank.
Jeong Sihm
Mar 31, 2016 Jeong Sihm rated it it was amazing
I think this book answers my question, why the US armored divisions were equipped with M4 tanks in the Northern European Plain during WWII even though American technology and industrial power could have produced heavier tanks with a high velocity gun without difficulties. This book explains how the 3rd Armored Division was operated during many battles and campaigns in WWII from the viewpoint of a junior ordinance officer. One can see how the US armored divisions could overcome the weaknesses of ...more
Ray Pierson
May 14, 2009 Ray Pierson rated it really liked it
This is an interesting book about an officer assigned to tank recovery and repair. US tanks were no match for German monsters, and encounters seldom went well for Americans.
Copper Tea Pot
Mar 29, 2016 Copper Tea Pot rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: good-reading
Книга написана американским офицером, который принимал участие в боевых действиях, и дает ощущение реальности описанных событий - порой нелепых и некрасивых смертей, как оно бывает в жизни на самом деле.
Интересны описания многих боевых эпизодов, например короткий бой, когда курсанты немецкой танковой школы на Тиграх расстреляли колонну американских танков.
Также интересно было узнать, как уже после окончания войны в Европе американские военные развлекались на курорте в ожидании того, как их отпра
Feb 27, 2012 Martin rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Armor and WW 2 history buffs
Belton Cooper was an U.S. Army Ordinance officer assigned to the Third Armored Division (General George Patton's Division.) Cooper's job was to ensure that the 3rd Armored vehicles (tanks, jeeps, half tracks and such) were repaired and ready for combat. His insights on the defeicencies of the M4 Sherman tank are enlightening although very well known to armor historians and World War II historians. He compares and contrasts the Sherman with it's superior German opponents, the Psnzer IV, Panther ...more
Oct 18, 2013 Dachokie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war-ii
A Much-Needed Perspective of How the US fought in Western Europe …

There are so many accounts of how the Allied armies “swept” through France and into Germany following Normandy that one may not realize the costly “nuts-and-bolts” angle of how victory over Germany was achieved. Thankfully, Belton Y. Cooper decided to write about his experiences as an Ordnance Liaison Officer with the 3rd Armored Division. DEATH TRAPS fills a large void in explaining how smaller units of brave, dedicated, resilie
Eric Means
This book is a very interesting look into the actual hows and whats of maintaining the equipment of an American heavy armored division in World War 2, but it has some drawbacks/failings as well.

For one, the book essentially reads like it was transcribed from a journal with little to no editing; there is very little transition between chapters/sections. For another, the author makes little or no effort to distinguish between his own eyewitness accounts, and stories he heard second- or third-hand,
Apr 12, 2016 Johns rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My uncle fought as an artillery Captain in this division during WWII. Like similar decorated heroes, he NEVER spoke about his experiences from Normandy to the end of WWII in Germany in April of 1945. My cousin and I are having to dig out wonderful books like this one to learn more of what he encountered in his personal war with the Nazis. Belton Cooper gives a gripping account of the life of a busy lieutenant in the justly famous Spearhead division during the war. Outstanding book!
Sean Lambert
Nov 18, 2014 Sean Lambert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing account of the war

Although I still have the Dick Winters memoir ahead of this one on my list of best WWII novels, I was extremely impressed by the amount of detail about the scope of the 3rd armoured division's actions. I hope that this book will continue to be read as a lesson in doing duty to the fullest.
William Barr
Oct 27, 2015 William Barr rated it it was amazing
WW2 seen from an angle other than the front line combatant, albeit one just as dangerous.
Details the inferiority of allied armour which is now common knowledge but was vehemently denied at the time.
Gives a sense of vulnerability of flesh and blood in the confined space of a Sherman.

Bernard Robinson
Nov 04, 2014 Bernard Robinson rated it it was amazing
Great read. There are endless books about combat and to be sure there is no shortage of battle accounts in this book, but the detail the author goes into recounting the day to day workings of what is required to keep an armored division running is what sets this apart.
Wes Bartlett
Sep 01, 2014 Wes Bartlett rated it it was amazing
This was very interesting and enlightening. My dad was a tanker in WW II but never talked much about his experiences. This book made me realize how really dangerous a position he was in during the war because of the superiority of the German Tanks and their firepower as opposed to the American Tanks.
Bob Penhale
Mar 03, 2015 Bob Penhale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great History

Although Mr. Cooper tended to repeat himself, this thoughtful book shows an element of warfare typically ignored. Logistics are critical, and this story is a good one.
Steve Cobleigh
Wars are won by superior logistics is a quote you often hear, particularly from officers and mostly generals.
If that is true, then you'll get some insight into how logistics worked during WWII.
Dec 14, 2014 kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read!

Although not a literary masterpiece, this is the authoritative book on the WWII tanker's experience, told as only one who'd been there could.
Jul 01, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book of the 3rd Armored Division that fought in Europe during World War II. The author was a former second lieutenant of the United States Third Armored Division. One of the things I liked about reading this book was the comparison to the American M4 Sherman tank to the German Tiger tank. Many of the American tank crewmen were vulnerable due to the lack of thin armor which a German 88 mm shell and the panzerfaust could penetrate the American Sherman tank. Not only did the Sherman have vuln ...more
Nov 13, 2007 Kyle rated it it was ok
This guy spends a lot of time blowing his own whistle. He spent the war fixing tanks knocked out in battle, and so gained a grim perspective about armored operations in NW Europe. As an account of the Ordnance corps and their excellent work, this is a good source. He does have a general sense of complaint, however, which varies between grating and annoying. He tries to focus on the fighting itself, which he did not seem to br present for. This has been done much better elsewhere. The book would ...more
Mar 25, 2013 David rated it it was amazing
First off, I thoroughly enjoyed this as another exceptional personal memoir of an American soldier in Europe during World War Two. If you're reading this to experience the first hand stories of the man inside the tank, it likely won't be what you're looking for as Lt. Cooper was a maintenance officer and was responsible for keeping 3rd Armored rolling. None the less, this one definitely doesn't lack in the way of action, and Copper's detail into an often overlooked part of war (logistics) is sup ...more
Will Radie
Jun 27, 2012 Will Radie rated it liked it
Shelves: world-war-ii
Despite being a bit slow and not really having a focus on combat, Death Traps does fill in a lot of information about the supply and command companies in the war. It probably wouldnt hold the attention of a casual WW2 reader, but for those that want some insight into the way the war was organized and maintained, there is some good stuff here.

If you have any interest in tank warfare then this one shoots up the list of required reading.
jerry wood
Dec 26, 2015 jerry wood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good Book

Easy reading. An interesting look at the fight in the west. His perspective as a maintainer is tied in well with the combat that took place. Definitely worth reading for World War two interested folks.
Mar 10, 2014 Norbert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
it an interesting reading, from a peculiar point of view.
The author does not like the M-4 tanks at all - they were much less armoured and had a weaker main gun than the German Panther and Tiger.

But I have read praise to their depemdability by a russian tanker who fought using leand/leased M-4
And also that in the Korean war M-4 were preferred too M-26 on hilly ground
The book has got more visual appeal than reading. No doubt Hollywood blockbuster "Fury" was inspired from it.
Oct 14, 2008 Travis rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: WWII history buffs
Much more interesting than one would expect from a non-combatant (the author was attached to a tank retrieval-salvage unit). A book chock-full of fascinating and little known facts about WWII armored units, battles and equipment as well as an engrossing and authoritative memoir.
Frank Sullivan
Sep 17, 2013 Frank Sullivan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I purchased this book I had no idea how much I would enjoy it! Mr Cooper held a very important job in the war that I am sure was overlooked by many. I was amazed how vulnerable our Sherman tanks were to the enemy. If you enjoy WW 2 books then add this one to your reading list!
Jan 13, 2016 Colby rated it liked it
The book was at its best when Cooper stuck to his personal experiences as an ordinance officer (which were amazing and enlightening) When he ventured into campaign level details and high level war history, it was pretty lackluster.

Solid 3 stars... *almost* 4.
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