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Published by Motorbooks International. Soft covers, 11.75 x 9-inches, 256 pages, 155 B&W photos, 212 color photos, 158 pieces of color art (includes a few maps and charts) and index. MBI order number 137441AP. Price: $24.95 USD
This lavishly illustrated book might be an ideal primer for someone just getting into the study of tanks and other AFVs. However, those of you who have been around and have a modest reference library may find this a less useful title. While there are a number of fine photos within the covers, and some of the color art is worthy, overall (and unfortunately) this book is really quite under par.
Having reviewed some other of this author’s other books from this particular publisher I approached this title with some trepidation, since I considered those earlier works to be less than acceptable. Unfortunately this book suffers from loads of poor research, more than a few improperly captioned photographs, and some information that is at best, arguable and at worst, misleading.
As is sometimes my habit, I gathered a post-it pad and a pen in order to make notes whenever I found a questionable area. Then I’d cross-check against reference that is widely accepted as being accurate, in order to confirm or deny my suspicions. Prior to reaching page 100, I had a book that had almost two dozen pieces of paper sticking out of it. What follows are only some of the things I found to be questionable. The text is at best “spotty” either when presenting its conclusions or when it comes to giving “just the facts”.
For example, on page 12, the author states that the early British Mk. I tank was “lightly armed, but heavily armoured”. As the armor was scarcely proof against rifle fire, and these tanks had two cannon and three machine guns (or five machine guns in the “Female” version), in my opinion the author got it backwards. On page 15 the author laudably goes into the matter of logistics and its importance in a mechanized force, even to discussing horses at some length. He then fails to mention that the German Wehrmacht (which he uses as an example of a highly mechanized force) was largely horse-drawn! On page 18 he says that “Panzertruppen” was the early name for Germany’s armored infantry, which is incorrect; that’s what the armored force in general, and tank crewmen in particular, were known as. On page 19, he states that “in WW2, self-propelled artillery was not common”. That’s fine, except that all of the major (and a few of the minor) combatants fielded large numbers of SP field, anti-tank and anti-aircraft artillery equipment. On page 27 he says that Israel received M48 MBTs from the US after the Suez crisis. In a word: nope. Page 28 has the RPG-7 shoulder-launched anti-tank weapon in use in Vietnam, when the earlier RPG-2 was far more common. On page 32, after properly describing early tank vs. tank actions in WW1, the author makes the astounding observation that there was “little real difference discernable in tank vs. tank actions in WW2”. So, does this mean that the battle of Kursk in 1943 closely resembled the action at Villers-Bretonneux in 1916? On page 63 he states that 48 “Jagdtiger” jagdpanzers were built, while the accepted number is “about 85” according to Jentz and Doyle’s Panzer Tracts Number 9. Page 70 describes the US M4A1 as having a nine-cylinder diesel engine, when in fact it had a nine-cylinder radial gasoline-fueled engine. Also on the same page, he would have the reader believe that the designation M4A3 also indicated that this version of a Sherman was originally built with the HVSS suspension system.
In more than a few cases, the photo captions are quite poor. Here are some examples. Page 29 depicts an ARVN M41, not an M48 as the author states. On page 31, an obviously un-damaged, but abandoned Iraqi YW-531 APC is captioned as being destroyed by a US 120mm HEAT round. Again: nope. Also on the same page, a caption accompanying an M1 “Slick” (the earlier 105mm-armed Abrams) gives the false impression that this version saw combat in Desert Storm. On page 32 the tank captioned as a French (Renault) R-35 tank is actually a Hotchkiss H-39. On page 50 the author attempts to depict the typical rhomboid shape of a WW1 British tank. However, to do so, he uses a photo of the very atypical, stretched version of the Mk. IV, the so-called “Tadpole”. On page 62 and 66, he uses virtually the same caption for two different photos of Tiger I heavy tanks, as if he’d run out of things to say about this most famous of tanks. On pages 72-73, the multi-view color drawing depicts an M4A3, not an M4A2. One of the captions goes on to state that the vehicle depicted (mounting a VVSS suspension system) had three bogies with FOUR wheels each, on each side of the hull. Sounds more like an HVSS-equipped tank to me, which is not what is depicted in the art work.
The final insult was on page 91, where the author falsely states that the T-34/85 used the turret of the KV-85, which is incorrect. For a book such as this (except for the cover montage) to not contain a single picture of a T-34/85 within the covers is quite remarkable. But that did not stop the author from captioning a 76mm-armed T-34 Model 1941 as a T-34/85 on the top of the page!
At this point, I put this book down, never to pick it up again. I would not even recommend this book as the start of a novice AFV modeler’s library, because after going through it, that person would have an awful lot to “un-learn”.
Frank De Sisto
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