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.

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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…]

From the Editor: Sherman Tanks of Northern Ohio

On our drive back from the MVPA convention in Cleveland this weekend, we had a chance to check out some of the armored vehicles on display in various towns along the way.  Our stops included three examples of Sherman tanks, all M4A3 models.  These tanks are located at Port Clinton, Parma Heights, and Walbridge Ohio.  We snapped a few pictures of each tank with our Samsung phone, the photos are included in some galleries below.  All three tanks are “small hatch” M4A3 tanks with the narrow gun mantlet.  The Walbridge tank is interesting in that it is a M4A3E9.  This particular Sherman variant had a suspension and drive sprocket that was spaced out from the hull to allow for duckbill extenders to be used on both sides of the track.

According to the US AFV Registry, there are two other Sherman tanks in Northern Ohio that we did not have the time to visit. One is housed at a veterans home facility in Sandusky that requires registration in order to gain access to the grounds.  The other is at a National Guard Armory in Cleveland.

M4A3

American Legion Post 703 Parma Heights OH

 

M4A3E9

Ohio Army National Guard Armory, Walbridge OH

 

M4A3

Camp Perry Military Reservation, Port Clinton OH

 

From the Editor: Off to Cleveland

Tomorrow morning we will be making the trek to Cleveland to attend the MVPA Homecoming Military Show and Swap Meet at the Cleveland Tank Plant (I-X Center).  We plan to be there Friday afternoon and evening.  If any of our regular readers plans to be there, shoot us a message at tanksonthebrain@gmail.com.

Cleveland-Tank-Plant-Homecoming-Military-Show-and-Swap-Meet-logo

 

From the Editor: Tank Pogs!

Remember the Pog (milk caps) collecting fad of the early 1990’s?  If not, don’t worry, you didn’t miss much. That said, the fad was popular enough that even some defense contractors apparently got in on the game.  We recently gained possession of these Teledyne Continental Motors “pogs” depicting the AVDS-1790 tank engine, their hydro-pneumatic suspension for tanks, a generic “combat vehicles” graphic and a military fire truck.  The beer cap is included for scale.  While we think these are pretty cool, we doubt many kids were clamoring for a Pog of the AVDS-1790.

Teledyne POGs

Message from the Editor

Regular readers may have noticed that April has seen a sharp decrease in the number of posts here.  Don’t worry, this is a temporary slow-down.  Recent events have conspired to limit the time and energy I have to put into the site right now.  These include a heavy schedule at work and dealing with an ailing parent.  I am hoping that by next week things here at Tank and AFV News will return to normal.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of some tank related objects that have recently come into my possession:

Pictured below are a couple of desktop models of US tank engines from Teledyne Continental Motors.  The one one the left should be familiar to most readers, it is the AVDS-1790-2C, the engine powering the US M-60 tank.  The engine on the right is a bit more obscure, it’s the AVCR-1360-2.  This engine was developed for the MBT-70 program and later was used to power General Motors XM-1 prototype which lost to the Chrysler Defense gas turbine powered XM-1 entry.  engine models

Speaking of the AVDS-1790, here is piece of one!  This is the cylinder head cover to one of the twelve air-cooled cylinders of an AVDS-1790.  Not sure how old this item is, but it has to have been manufactured prior to 1996 since it still has the “Continental” logo on it.

Cylinder head

Here is a drawing showing where this item fits on the cylinder.

diagram

 

From Russia I now have this wooden cutout from Uraltransmash corporation.

uraltransmesh

The last item in this post is this little clear plastic decorative item from General Dynamics in 1987 celebrating the first chips cut on their Abrams Recovery Vehicle.  The block has embedded inside it two metal chips and a graphic showing an image of the vehicle and text announcing that the Abrams Recovery Vehicle “meets user needs.”  Unfortunately for General Dynamics, it did not meet the US Army’s needs as well as the M88A2 Hercules and the Abrams Recovery Vehicle never went into production.

first chips cut

A Military, Political and Global History of Armoured Warfare: An Interview with Alaric Searle

Alaric SearleWe recently had the chance to pose a few questions to Dr. Alaric Searle, Professor of Modern European History at the University of Salford Manchester and author of the new book Armoured Warfare: A Military, Political and Global History.  His book is an impressive work, encapsulating over 100 years of AFV history into a single volume of just over 250 pages.  While there are many books that trace the technical development of armored vehicles, this book places the history of the tank within a broader historical perspective, examining its impact in not only the military realm, but also the political and economic.

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How did you become interested in the topic of armored warfare?

While I was an undergraduate studying History at Edinburgh University, I took a course on the Great War in my final year. This led to my discovery of the writings of J.F.C. Fuller, so I then decided to write a final year dissertation on the British Tank Corps in the First World War.

You state in the preface of Armoured Warfare: A Military, Political and Global History that this book was the result of your experience teaching the subject at University. What are some of the biggest challenges in terms of the preconceived ideas or lack of knowledge that students bring to the class room regarding armored warfare?

Possibly the biggest challenge is encouraging the students to move away from old and very dated works, very specifically memoirs such as Heinz Guderian’s Panzer Leader. As I have been researching German military history for around twenty years, I am fully aware of the latest German research. The students cannot usually access this research, so it often takes some persuading to change some of their idealized views of German commanders. The other challenge is to communicate to the students that there were conflicts beyond Europe and that that experience is as interesting and significant as some of the more well-known wars and campaigns. This said, we do have some very good students at Salford, so I am often surprised at how much the students already know.

The book takes a rather broad “global” approach to the subject. Was it a challenge to condense the topic down into a book that was of reasonable length?

There is a simple answer to that question – yes! While it is always possible to condense chapters and text, what I did find was that some explanations became unclear, so I had to return to the manuscript later and clear up some of the lack of precision by adding in more explanation. What was most irritating with the word length was that one or two conflicts simply could not be included. The two most obvious ones are the Soviet-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40 and the Indo-Pakistan wars. If there is a second edition of the book, then I will definitely include those conflicts.

Were there topics addressed in the book you would like to return to in a later work in more detail?

Oh, yes. I am currently working on an article comparing war elephants and tanks. I delivered an early version of this idea to a seminar at Oxford University last year. The reaction was very positive, so this has encouraged me to expand my talk into a longer article. Some of the ideas I developed in the final chapter on the visual history of the tank I would likewise want to turn into some articles. And, I am working on a full-length monograph re-examining the military theories of Major-General J.F.C. Fuller. So, there is going to be more work on this subject appearing over the next two or three years from my pen.

Typically with books about armor, the cover photo features a Tiger tank or something along those lines. Your book has a rather interesting photo of what looks like a location in Vietnam with some M113 troop carriers and a helicopter taken from the roof of an M48.  Is there a reason for why that particular photo is on the cover? [Read more…]

Happy “Tanksgiving”

tanksgiving_special

To all our readers in the USA, we hope you have a happy Thanksgiving.  To our readers outside the USA, have a great weekend.  While our goal here is to post new material on a daily basis, several events have conspired to make that impossible this month.  However, we are hopeful that moving forward we can get back to our regular schedule.  Thank you for reading!