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.

Book Alert: Soviet Lend-Lease Tanks of World War II (New Vanguard)

Tomorrow is the release of the latest entry in the Osprey New Vanguard series, Soviet Lend-Lease Tanks of World War II (New Vanguard).   This is a 48 page softcover with numerous illustrations and photos, following the well established format of previous entries in the series.  As far as we know, this is the first book to deal exclusively with the issue of the Lend Lease tanks sent to the Soviet Union.

Publisher’s Description:

The Red Army suffered such catastrophic losses of armour in the summer of 1941 that they begged Britain and the United States to send tanks. The first batches arrived in late 1941, just in time to take part in the defence of Moscow. The supplies of British tanks encompassed a very wide range of types including the Matilda, Churchill, and Valentine and even a few Tetrarch airborne tanks. American tanks included the M3 (Stuart) light tank and M3 (Lee) medium tank and the M4 Sherman tank, which became so common in 1944–45 that entire Soviet tank corps were equipped with the type. With these Western tanks, the Soviets were finally able to beat back the German tide in the East.

This study examines the different types of tanks shipped to the Soviet Union during the war, Soviet assessments of their merits and problems, and combat accounts of their use in Soviet service using full colour artwork, contemporary photographs and detailed cut-away illustrations.

Book Alert: Soviet T-10 Heavy Tank and Variants

A new book on the Soviet T-10 heavy tank is now available courtesy of Ospry Publishing. To those that like reading about tanks, Osprey is primarily know for their 48 page softcover New Vanguard series.  This book however is an entirely different creature, being a hard cover volume of 232 pages.  This book certainly has to be the most exhaustive study of the T-10 published in English.  Two well established authors contributed to this book, the UK based author James Kinnear and US based author Stephen “Cookie”  Sewell.  As with other Osprey hardcover offerings, this is a very handsome volume with high quality paper and numerous photos and illustrations.  If you are a fan of Soviet cold war armor, this title is highly recommended.

Publishers Description:

When it was introduced into service in 1953, the T-10 represented a return to the “classic” Soviet heavy tank. Although considered a major threat to NATO tank forces, it also represented the end of an era. All gun-heavy tanks like the T-10 would eventually be made effectively redundant by later models like the T-62 which had powerful next-generation armament and new ammunition types. The tank was gradually withdrawn from service in the 1970s, though the last tanks would only leave Russian service by decree of the President of the Russian Federation in 1997. As such the T-10 outlived the Soviet state that had created it.

Never exported outside of the Soviet Union and rarely used in combat, the T-10 has remained a mysterious tank, with many of its variants unknown in the West until very recently. This study, written from original Russian and Ukrainian primary source documents that have only recently been made available, uncovers the history of this enigmatic tank using 130 stunning contemporary and modern photographs of the T-10 as well as full color side-view artwork.

Available from Amazon at Soviet T-10 Heavy Tank and Variants

Book Alert: World War II German Motorized Infantry & Panzergrenadiers (Elite)

Osprey Publishing has released a new entry in their “Elite” series, World War II German Motorized Infantry & Panzergrenadiers (Elite) by Nigel Thomas and illustrated by Johnny Shumate.  This is a softcover book of 64 pages in the standard Osprey format.

Publishers Description:

In World War II Germany’s doctrine of mobile warfare dominated the battlefield. By trial and error, the Germans were the first to correctly combine the strength in tanks and in mobile infantry and artillery. This integration of mobile units, equipment, and tactics underpinned Germany’s successes in the first half of the war. As the war dragged on, the Allies sought to copy German tactics but German armies remained supreme in this type of warfare until their losses had seriously degraded their capabilities.

This study traces the development of the different types of units that came together in the Panzergrenadier branch from the interwar years through World War II. Using color photographs to display the changes in uniform, equipment, and insignia in all theaters of operations throughout the conflict, this is a complete account of Hitler’s elite armored infantry.

Book Alert: South African Armour of the Border War 1975-89

A new entry in the Osprey New Vanguard series is scheduled for release on Thursday, Feb 23.  South African Armour of the Border War 1975-89 (New Vanguard) by Kyle Harmse and Simon Dunstan is the first New Vanguard title to explore armor in Sub-Saharan Africa.  As with other books in this series, this is a softcover book of 48 pages with numerous black and white and color photos and plates.  While Kyle Harmse is a new name to us, Simon Dunstan is quite familiar, having written over 50 books on military history as well as appearing in several TV documentaries.

Publisher’s Description:

The Border War saw the biggest armoured battles in Africa since World War II. Starting as a counter-insurgency operation by the South African Defence Force (SADF) against the South West Africa People’s Organisation, South Africa became embroiled in the complex Angolan Civil War, where they came up against enemies well supplied with equipment and armoured vehicles from the Soviet Union.

With the aid of stunning illustrations and photographs, this study details the characteristics, capabilities and performance of the wide variety of armoured vehicles deployed by the SADF, from the Eland armoured car to the Ratel infantry combat vehicle and the Olifant tank. Designed for the unique conditions of the region, South Africa’s armour was distinctive and innovative, and has influenced the design of counterinsurgency armoured vehicles around the world.

Frequently requested by Osprey readers, and written by two renowned experts on armoured vehicles, this will appeal to all those interested in modern armour and the Cold War proxy wars.

Book Alert: British Battle Tanks: World War I to 1939

On August 25, a new book on British Battle Tanks: World War I to 1939 (General Military) by David Fletcher is being released.  This book is from well known publisher of military history titles Osprey Books and is a hardcover of 236 pages.  While the UK is blessed with many fine authors on tanks and AFVs, David Fletcher is in a class by himself.  For those with an interest in pre-WW2 British tank development, this book should prove a worthwhile purchase.  We have a copy on pre-order, expect to see a review of it here sometime next week.

Publisher’s Description:

When British soldiers charged across the Somme in September 1916 they were accompanied by a new and astonishing weapon – the tank. After a stuttering start armoured behemoths such as the Mark IV, Mark V and Whippet played a crucial role in bringing World War I to an end.

Marking the centenary of their battlefield debut, this comprehensive volume traces the design and development of the famous British invention during World War I and the increasingly tense years of the 1920s and 30s, from the first crude but revolutionary prototype to the ever-more sophisticated designs of later years. Bolstered by historic photographs and stunning illustrations, author David Fletcher brings us the thrilling history behind the early British battle tanks.

From the Vault: PS Magazine article on M56 Scorpion

kapowFor those that watched the “Inside the Hatch” video in the post previous to this one, you may have heard Nick Moran read a quote from a PS Magazine Article on the operation of the M56 Scorpion.  We figured that was as good an excuse as any to hunt down the original article and post it here for everyone to read.  This article comes from issue # 76 published in 1959.  For those interested in the M56 Scorpion, rumor has it that next year Osprey will be releasing a New Vanguard series book titled “M-50 Ontos and M-56 Scorpion 1956-1970, US Tank Destroyers of the Vietnam War” by Ken Estes.

 

 

And here is a video promoting the M56 Scorpion at the time that it went into service.