Book Review: Can Openers

We will start this book review with this video produced by book author Nicholas Moran giving a description of the work in his own words.   The background footage scrolling behind him gives a pretty good idea as to the layout of the book for those that are curious.

 

Mr. Moran was kind enought to provide us with a review copy of the book so that we may share our thoughts on it with our readers.  From this point forward, we will refer to Mr. Moran by his nickname “The Chieftain” for the simple fact that it’s a pretty cool moniker.

Can openersIn the video above, The Chieftain makes a reference to his book as a “Hunnicutt for tank destroyers.”  This is an apt description.  Those familiar with the works of Richard Hunnicutt will know that his ten volume work contains a detailed history of US armored vehicle development, each volume dedicated to a specific vehicle type, such as Medium tanks, Heavy tanks, halftracks, etc. However if you scan through the titles of his books you will find one title conspicuously absent, US tank destroyers. To be sure, tank destroyers are included in his books, but scattered over about five different volumes and generally regulated to the later pages of the volume. For example, if you want to read about the tank destroyers that saw service during WWII war, you will need to go to the Hunnicutt Sherman book for the M10 and M36, the Stuart book for the M18, the Halftrack book for the M3 GMC, and the Armored Car book for the various wheeled tank destroyer models.

Fortunately, this dilemma has been solved by the new book Can Openers: The Development of US Anti-tank Gun Motor Carriages by World of Tanks researcher and historian Nicholas “The Chieftain” Moran. Known in part to the wider public for his Inside the Hatch video series, this book marks his first foray into book writing. Those that follow his articles on the World of Tanks website and in the “Chieftain’s Hatch” section of the World of Tanks online forum will recognize his writing style in this volume. The sarcastic wit of The Chieftain comes through in the text, making it a bit more easy to digest than the relatively dry writing style of Hunnicutt.

It should be pointed out that this is a developmental history of US tank destroyers and is focused on describing the various different models and prototypes and providing some background as to why each vehicle was accepted or rejected. It is not an in-depth history of the tank destroyer branch itself. For that, we would suggest Charles Baily’s Faint Praise or Steven Zaloga’s writings.  For a history of the tank destroy battalions during WWII, we recommend Harry Yeide’s book The Tank Killers.  Speaking of Harry Yeide, he provides a nice forward for this new book.

It is obvious that Mr. Moran has spent a good deal of time in the archives compiling the information and collecting the photographs for the book. This is not a rehash of previously published materials, and those familiar with the subject will be pleased to find photos they have probably never seen before. The book is also sprinkled with quotes from letters and memos from the various US Army officers involved in the development of these tank destroyers. These quotes do much to explain the thinking and rationale of the people responsible for this assortment of oddities and experiments, helping to explain how some of these vehicles that seem so obviously flawed to those of us with the benefit of hindsight came to be.

The history of US anti-tank Gun Motor Carriages (GMC’s) presents some of the stranger armored vehicles to come out of the ordnance department during the war. Certainly, there is much in the pages of this volume to make one shake their head and wonder what exactly was going through the heads of the designers. In particular, the early attempts to mate a high velocity anti-tank weapon to a light wheeled chassis produced a number of ill-conceived contraptions.  For those that enjoy contemplating such machines, The Chieftain has assembled an admirable history.

Since we reviewed this from a digital copy, we have not had a chance to examine an actual copy.  However, we have been informed that in terms of size and paper quality, this book is very similar to the World of Tanks reprint of the Hunnicutt Firepower book by Echo Point.

If you would like to pre-order this book, please do so at http://www.echopointbooks.com/history/can-openers

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