Book Review: Tanks: 100 Years of Evolution by Ogorkiewicz

tanks ogorkiewiczIn the first sentence of his new book “Tanks: 100 Years of Evolution” author Richard Ogorkiewicz states that “this book is the outcome of several years of study on the evolution of tanks.”  It’s probably fair to say that the phrase “several years” is a gross understatement.  No one has been studying and writing about tanks and armored warfare for as long as Richard Ogorkiewicz.  His first book “Armor: the Development of Armored Forces” came out in 1960.  This was followed by “Design and Development of Armored Vehicles” in 1968 and by the two volume set “Technology of Tanks” in 1991.  This new book is in some ways a combination of the three previous works, updating and condensing them into a single volume.

The book is approximately 300 pages, with the first half of the book devoted to early tank development and armored forces up through the Second World War.  The second half of the book includes a description of postwar tank development organized by country.  Russia, Germany, the USA, Britain and France get the most coverage, although other countries such as Switzerland, Sweden, Israel and the tank producing countries of Asia get attention as well.  This is followed by a substantial three part appendices focused on the technical developments associated with firepower, armor, and mobility.  These appendices include a great deal of information regarding the technical aspects of tank design in a very easy to understand manner.

As with his previous books, Ogorkiewicz’s writing is clear and easy to read.  Given the size of the topic addressed in 300 pages, the book moves along quite quickly.  Despite this, even those very well versed with the topic are bound to learn something new.  The one flaw of the book is the lack of illustrations.  There are two sections of color photos, roughly 30 pages worth.  While this sounds like a lot, the pictures cover only a small fraction of the vehicles mentioned in the text.  Readers who do not have an encyclopedic knowledge of tank models would do well to keep an illustrated tank encyclopedia on hand while reading this book.  Oddly, at least two of the photos are incorrectly labeled.  One is of an early model US M60 tank that is incorrectly labeled an M60A1.  The other is of the XM1 FSED pilot labeled as an M1A1 with 120mm gun.

It is hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Ogorkiewicz to write a single volume history of the tank.  He has been writing on the topic for more than half a century and has met and corresponded with some of the most notable figures in armor history.  This book is a must have for anyone with an interest in tanks and armor history and at $25.95 is far more affordable than his older, long out of print works.

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