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

Inside the Chieftain’s Hatch: Strv 103C part 2

In this second part of the Inside the Chieftain’s Hatch episode about the Strv 103 tank, Nicholas “The Chieftain” Moran looks at the crew positions, height restrictions, the number of people required to control the S-tank, and show the unique position of the radio operator/driver who faces backwards.

Video: Tanks 101

For those looking for an introductory video on “what is a tank”, Nick Moran from World of Tanks provides one in this new video.

Inside the Chieftain’s Hatch: M4A1 Sherman part 2

In the second part of the “Inside the Chieftain’s Hatch” episode about the M4A1 Sherman, Nicholas Moran takes a look inside the vehicle.

The Chieftain’s Hatch: The TD Archives

Nicholas Moran, North American researcher for World of Tanks has posted a new article sharing some discoveries from the archives regarding US WWII era tank destroyers.

Excerpt:

Every now and then I come across things in the Tank Destroyer Board archives which are interesting, but not necessarily suitable for a post by themselves. Sometimes I’ll put up the picture or comment on my Facebook page, but I think this collection of writings is worth sharing.

We start with some comments reported to the board in February 1945, from the ETO.

Searchlight Illumination

Searchlights employed so that the beams shine just above the height of a man will cause individuals and vehicles to cast shadows which are easily seen. This reduces the probability of surprise by the enemy in snow covered terrain. - Commanding General, 35th AAA Brigade.

[Chieftain’s Note: Those of you who make scale or Lego models may be familiar with this technique. When you drop a part, the use of a torch (flashlight) at floor level casts long shadows, making it easy to find it.]


Photo from the Korean War. Truck and Jeep-mounted searchlights were used as late as Vietnam

Rumors

Much excitement was caused in our command post when a line captain reported 25 Tiger tanks headed our way. Questioned, he admitted he had seen one tank and "assumed there were at least 25 since they usually attacked in mass." Investigation showed there was just one tank, and that between us and it was a road block covered by a minefield, bazooka teams, and three tank destroyers. 1106th Engineer Group.

[Chieftain’s Note: Well, this demonstrates the difference between information and intelligence.]

Read the full article at The Chieftain’s Hatch.

The Chieftain’s Hatch: 100-Year Icon

Over at the World of Tanks site, tanker and researcher Nicholas Moran has posted his thoughts regarding the first 100 years of tank history.  It’s a good read, we have re-posted the start of the article below with a link to the full piece.

The Chieftain’s Hatch: 100-Year Icon

We’re now celebrating the second century of the tank, 100 years since the debut of tank combat in Flers-Courcelette (though the monument that marks the introduction of tank combat is in the nearby town of Pozières).

It’s no secret I’m kind of fond of tanks, and that I consider it quite fortunate that an object of my interest has also been my job, both in military and civilian service. But what has the tank actually become, and why is it so appealing, 100 years later?

Many moons ago, I picked up the book Tank by Patrick Wright, who took a slightly different tack than most folks in that he focused not so much on the technical or operational side of tanks, but instead more on the cultural and psychological aspects. The book received mediocre reviews because of this, but it’s worth reflecting upon its premise.

The tank is the symbol of land power. it’s usually the first image in one’s mind when thinking of modern battles. But it’s not the most important component of land power; that’s still the “poor bloody infantryman” (PBI) and his rifle. So, of all the various pieces that make up a modern army, why has the tank come out on top?

Read the full post here.

Inside the Chieftain’s Hatch: Centurion. Part 1

Nicholas Moran of World of Tanks takes a look at the British Centurion.