Book Alert: Nothing Impossible: Memoirs of a United States Cavalryman In World War 2

A new memoir of a WWII armor veteran has been released.  Nothing Impossible: Memoirs of a United States Cavalryman In World War 2 tells the story of the late Wallace Clement who served in the 804th Tank Destroyer Battalion in Italy.  This is a softcover book of 210 pages.

Publisher’s Description:

Merriam Press World War 2 Memoir Series
First Edition 2017

The late Wallace Clement served in three wars, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. A West Point Cadet, he entered the Army as a 2nd Lt. in 1940, rising to the rank of Major in 1944, serving with the 804th Tank Destroyer Battalion in Italy where late in the war he was captured and ended the war as a POW.

He served in the Korean War, as a Lt. Colonel, and in Vietnam as a Brig. General as assistant division commander of the 23rd Americal Division.

He was awarded every medal that a soldier can receive save for the Medal of Honor.

This is his story, written by him, and edited by a good friend, Sean Heuvel, who as a boy listened to Clement tell his tales of his service.

Photo of the Day: Prom in a Tank

Yes, we know it’s an APC, not a tank, but “Prom in a Tank” is a far catchier headline than “Prom in an APC.”  This photo comes from The Sun which reported that these British teenagers were driven to the Prom in their grandfather’s Saurer 4K 4FA.


From the Vault: Korea’s Ridge Running Tankers

Twin 50 pictureWhile the Sherman tank is so closely associated with the Second World War, it’s sometimes overlooked that these vehicles also served the US Army in a very different conflict, the Korean War.  This article from the May-June 1953 issue of ARMOR provides an account by a First Lieutenant who recounts how Sherman tank crews in Korea had to acclimate their tactics and vehicles to fighting a static war in mountainous terrain.  One thing we found rather interesting in this article was the mention that one of the Easy Eight Sherman tanks was equipped with twin .50 cal machine guns on the roof and one in the hull replacing the .30 cal machine gun.  A picture of the vehicle with the twin .50 cal guns is included in the article.  If any other photographic evidence of this particular vehicle exists, we would love to see it.

Click on the page images below to view them in full size.

Marines Under Armor: An Interview with Kenneth Estes

Tank and AFV News recently had the opportunity to pose a series of questions to retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel and professor of history Kenneth Estes.  Mr. Estes is the author of several books on tanks and armored warfare, most notably his history of the development and role of AFVs in the USMC, Marines Under Armor.  His other works include (but not limited to) Tanks on the Beaches: A Marine Tanker in the Pacific War (Texas A&M University Military History Series, 85.), A European Anabasis: Western European Volunteers in the German Army and SS, 1940-45, Into the Breach at Pusan: The 1st Provisional Marine Brigade in the Korean War (Campaigns and Commanders Series), Marine Officer’s Guide, 7th Edition and also several Osprey New Vanguard series titles.  Mr. Estes is a Seattle native and holds a doctorate in Modern European History from the University of Maryland.


You had a long and successful career with the USMC, having held positions such as Company commander, instructor, historian and writer before retiring at the grade of Lieutenant Colonel (full career synopsis available at end of interview).  Describe the beginning of your USMC career.

CPend DelMar Apr70I graduated from the Naval Academy in 1969, took the basic USMC officer course [The Basic School] Aug69-Jan70, attended USMC Tracked Vehicle School, Tank Officer Course Feb-Apr70.  At the USMC Tank Officer Course, Camp Pendleton (1970), I trained on the M48A3, M67A2 and M103A2 tanks.  This included firing the machine guns, 90mm and 120mm tank cannon and the flame projector of the M67A2. Normally each of us in that course would have preferred assignment to the U.S. Army course at Ft Knox, but only one officer per Basic School class was so detailed. However, the truth of the matter was that the USMC course was fully ‘hands on’ and personal training for just 10 tank officer trainees and therefore much more suitable, and I found out months later that lieutenants attending the Armor Officer Basic Course at Ft Knox in those years did not drive the vehicles and several missed gunnery because of range weather conditions. Moreover, the USMC Tracked Vehicle School was located at gorgeous Del Mar Basin on the coast near Oceanside CA, so one could enjoy all the merits of Californication.

You either served or trained on the M48, M60 and M103 US tanks.  What were your impressions of these vehicles?

Well, by the time I came to serve in them, these were vehicles introduced into service in 1955-58, modernized in 1963-64 with most applicable M60 upgrades and once again rebuilt during the Vietnam War. So, they were very familiar to all hands and spares were available in the system. The principal difficulty was that the USMC supply system did not function very well in delivering spare parts to the units and particularly did not draw items well from the item manager [US Army]. Army provisioning of parts was much richer for units and we envied this.

[Read more…]

Book Review: Soviet Lend Lease Tanks of World War II

When it comes to book series about tanks and armored vehicles, Osprey Publishing’s New Vanguard series certainly holds claim to being the longest running.  The publication of Soviet Lend-Lease Tanks of World War II (New Vanguard), the 247th book in the series, is a testament to the popularity and quality of these books.  Much of the success of this series has to be attributed to the authors and illustrators that Osprey has been able to assemble, with Steven Zaloga being one of the most prolific and respected of the New Vanguard contributors.  With this new title on Soviet Lend Lease tanks he adds yet another entry into his already impressive bibliography.

For those not familiar with the format of the New Vanguard titles, these books are softcover, 48 page books, with numerous photographs, illustrations, and charts.  The earlier books in the series tended to focus on fairly well known vehicles, making them decent introductory primers on the subject.  As the series has gone on, the more obvious topic choices have been largely exhausted, opening up opportunities for less explored subjects.  One such example is Soviet Lend Lease tanks of WWII, which as far as we know has never been the sole topic of a book until now.

Having long been regarded as one of the foremost experts on Soviet armor history writing in English, Steven Zaloga is the ideal candidate to author this volume.  His writing is clear and understandable, containing a considerable density of information yet never becoming impenetrable.  The photos are well chosen and the paper quality is good, making for good photo reproduction.  The illustrations are attractive and appear to be accurate representations.  Given the relatively limited length of the book, technical specifics of the various lend lease vehicles is limited.  This is understandable since these individual armored vehicles all are described in other New Vanguard titles (as well as many other books.)  The focus of the book is on the role that these lend lease vehicles played within the Red Army and the interplay between the Soviet war planners and the Western officials in charge of Lend Lease deliveries.

One of the more interesting aspects of the story of these Lend-Lease vehicles is the Soviet interpretation of their quality and classification.  For example, while the British supplied three different types of “infantry tank” via Lend-Lease (the Matilda, the Churchill and the Valentine), the Soviets had to reclassify these vehicles according to their own system.  Hence, the Matilda and the Churchill were deemed heavy tanks while the Valentine was deemed a light tank.  Given the relatively weak armament of the Matilda and Churchill tanks compared to Soviet Heavy tanks, it’s not surprising that no more of them were asked for.  On the other end of the spectrum, the Valentine was rather well armed and armored compared to the Soviet T-60 light tank, so the Valentine was requested by Soviet forces even after it was regarded as outdated by British forces.

While British tanks made up most of the early war Lend-Lease shipments to the USSR, by the later part of the war the US was making the majority of the tanks being shipped.  Of course, the ubiquitous M4 Sherman became the primary tank sent overseas from the USA, being dubbed “Emcha” in Soviet service.  The primary variant sent was the M4A2, preferred by the Soviets due to its diesel engine.  One of the more unusual US vehicles in Soviet service was the T48 57mm motor gun carriage.  Intended as a tank destroyer, this was a US halftrack with a 57mm anti-tank gun mounted on top.  After these vehicles were rejected by the British, they were offered to the Soviets who took several hundred into service, renaming it the SU-57.  The SU-57 would become the only Lend-Lease combat vehicle used exclusively by the Red Army.

For those looking for statistics regarding Lend-Lease tanks, there are two pages of charts at the end of the book that will prove very useful.  Numbers are provided for total numbers of tanks shipped and received, broken down by vehicle type, year, and country of origin.  Also provided are numbers for Lend-Lease armored vehicles in service with the Red Army by type at the end of the war.  It is rather interesting to consider that in May of 1945 there were still 40 British Matilda tanks in Soviet service!  The book ends with a final assessment, stating that while tank shipments to the USSR were by no means insubstantial, they played a relatively small role in the Lend-Lease story compared to the large amount of trucks and raw materials that were shipped.  That said, these vehicles did play a role in filling production shortfalls experienced by the Soviets, particularly in 1942 when much Soviet heavy industry was still recovering from their rather hasty relocation eastward to avoid German occupation.

For fans of Eastern Front tank warfare history, this book will fill a niche that has not been addressed in a single volume.  For those interested in the tanks of the Western Allies, it provides an intriguing look into how these familiar vehicles were regarded by a foreign user in an environment very different from the deserts of North Africa or Western Europe.  The book retails for $18 and can be found at book stores and hobby shops as well as online.

Happy Fourth of July

To all our readers in the USA, have a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July.


“Below the Turret Ring” Blog

There are a couple new posts on the blog Below the Turret Ring.  Those interested in the latest developments in AFV technology will find these posts worthwhile.  Click on the headline to read the full post.


Merkava with ears? It’s ALWACS!

ALWACS Merkava 1In the past months a number of photographs has been posted online, which shows some of the older, upgraded Merkava main battle tanks (MBTs) featuring so called “ears”. In different forums people have speculated about the purpose of the oddly shaped turret add-ons, suggesting that these might be part of a 360° close proximity surveillance system or radars for detecting the launch of rocket propelled grenades or anti-tank missiles.

In fact the upgraded Merkava II and Merkava III tanks are fitted with the advanced laser warning and countermeasure system (ALWACS), which is made by the local manufacturer Elbit Systems. The ALWACS is a softkill active protection system (APS) capable of defeating anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and other sorts of laser-guided ammunition, by distracting them or by hiding the tank using a multi-spectral smoke screen. ALWACS has also been proposed for adoption on the troubled Arjun Mk. 2 tank upgrade for the Indian Army; however it was not adopted into the upgrade package in favor of other components such as heavy explosive reactive armor (ERA).


MBT upgrade news

ZNd2HaKSTBMA number of countries has presented or ordered upgrades for main battle tanks (MBTs) in the past months. Unfortunately low activity on this blog has resulted on some of the more recent events not being properly covered. This article is trying to recapitulate a few new developments and news reports that couldn’t make it into a full-sized article. While this approach will increase the coverage of “recent” events, the quality of the post might not be up to typical standards. In three countries low-cost upgrades of the T-72 were presented, while three other news a related to the Leopard 2 tank. The Argentine Army is also looking to improve more TAM tanks.

The T-72BME is a new upgrade developed by the 140th repair plant of the Belarussian Army, which was first presented at the MILEX 2017 defence exposition. The upgrade is focused on improving the electronics mainly – in Soviet/Russian nomenclature, the original T-72 variants didn’t even feature a proper fire control system (just a “ballistic calculator”) – but it also includes a few improvments to armor protection and mobility. While called T-72BME, the MBT is apparently not based on the T-72B version, but is rather a T-72A as identifiable by it’s turret. The main change in regards to protection is an altered layout for the Kontakt-1 explosive reactive armor (ERA) compared to the old Soviet layout. The T-72B1 originally feature a single ERA row mounted flat to the turret, whereas the T-72BME now uses multiple tiles arranged into a wedge shape – similar to the Kontakt-1 ERA layout on the T-80BV and the T-72AV. The rear section of the turret and the rear section of the hull sides are fitted with slat armor, which should provide protection against older types of RPGs. The slat armor on the turret rear section is used as mounting point for Kontakt-1 ERA.

AFV News from Around the Web

Another installment of AFV news from around the web. Click in the headline to go to the full article.


IHS Jane’s – China confirms conducting trials of new light battle tank in Tibet

1704280_-_mainChina’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) has confirmed media reports that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) recently conducted trials of a new light battle tank (LBT) in Tibet.  “Recently a new type of tank has undertaken trials on the Tibetan Plateau. The trials were aimed at testing the tank’s performance and are not targeted at any country,” MND spokesperson Senior Colonel Wu Qian said during a press briefing in Beijing on 29 June.

IHS Jane’s – New Russian BMPT variant displayed in Syria

1704275_-_mainA previously unseen version of the UralVagonZavod (UVZ) BMPT tank support combat vehicle was displayed for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad when he visited the main Russian airbase in his country on 27 June.  The original BMPT Terminator was developed for the Russian Army to protect its main battle tanks (MBTs) in urban warfare operations by suppressing threats like dismounted anti-tank missile teams. However, the Russian programme was cancelled and the only known customer is Kazakhstan.

IHS Jane’s – Bundeswehr Boxer upgrade gets green light

p1440858Following approval form the Bundestag’s parliamentary budget committee, the Bundeswehr will see its fleet of Boxer armoured vehicles upgraded from the A1 to A2 standard.  The upgrade will probably be undertaken through the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR), which manages the Boxer programme for Germany, in addition to Lithuania and the Netherlands.

The Diplomat – China Tests New Tank in Tibet

thediplomat_2016-11-01_17-15-32-386x269The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has tested a new tank on the Tibetan Plateau in western China, the Chinese Ministry of Defense announced on June 29.  “Recently, a new-type of tank has undertaken trials on the Tibet Plateau. The trials were aimed to test the tank’s performance and are not targeted at any country,” PLA spokesman Colonel Wu Qian said during a regular press briefing at the Ministry of Defense (MoD) on June 29. – Army Tanks Slowly Going Green in Europe

abrams-green-1500-ts600After years of combat in the Middle East, the U.S. Army still clings to its desert-colored M1 Abrams tanks and combat vehicles.  This became a challenge for Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, when hundreds of M1s began flowing into Europe’s woodland landscape to deter Russian aggression.  Hodges recalled watching video with an Air Force friend of tanks arriving in Europe.

Stars and Stripes – US tanks on rotation to Europe unleash fury on the range (photo gallery)

image (1)GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Army tankers with the 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, let loose a hailstorm of 120 mm armor-piercing and multipurpose rounds from their M1A2 Abrams tanks during live-fire training on Tuesday.  “We are refocusing ourselves on building up our lethality and honing our fighting capabilities so we remain a strong deterrent to our adversaries,” said battalion commander Lt. Col. Jonathan Kluck.

Defense News – US Army on fast track to get Mobile Protected Firepower into force

surrogate-vehicles-deliver-superior-firepowerWASHINGTON — The U.S. Army’s plan to procure effective Mobile Protected Firepower for infantry brigade combat teams will enter a high-speed track in 2018 as it skips the technology development phase in favor of commercial off-the-shelf options, according to the Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Vehicles.  A request for proposal, or RFP, for Mobile Protected Firepower, or MPF, capabilities is expected in the last quarter of fiscal year 2017, Ashley Givens, spokeswoman for the Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Vehicles, or PEO GCS, told Defense News in a statement Tuesday.