TFB on Kubinka Tank Museum

Tank-Museum-3-660x440The Firearms Blog has posted a review of the Kubinka Tank Museum outside of Moscow.  This is not a particularly in-depth review, but it does include some nice photos of the museum and some of the vehicles housed there.  The vehicle descriptions are not particularly detailed, something not unexpected given that this is posted on a firearms blog, not an AFV themed blog.  Enjoy it for what it is.

Click here to view the post at TFB: The Russian Kubinka Tank Museum

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.

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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 Review: Forgotten Archives 2: The Lost Signal Corps Photos

Over the past two decades, the Panzerwrecks series of books has become known for quality books showcasing photos of WWII armor.  Founded by Lee Archer and Bill Auerbach, Panzerwrecks has became both a book series and a publishing house focusing on  armored warfare in WWII.  Unfortunately, co-founder BIll Auerbach passed away in 2015, but Panzerwrecks has soldiered on, both with the original Panzerwrecks series andForgotten-Archives-2-Jacket-600px with titles by a new generation of authors.  One such writer/researcher is Darren Neely.  Last year Panzerwrecks released his book Forgotten Archives 1: The Lost Signal Corps Photos.  This month saw the release of the follow-up book, Forgotten Archives 2: The Lost Signal Corps Photos in the UK with release in the US coming this July.

We had a chance to examine a copy of this latest book and it is a very handsome volume indeed.  This is a large hardcover volume of 240 pages.  Primarily a photo book, the pages are printed on high quality glossy paper and the photo quality is excellent.  The black and white photos, of which there are 252, are generally printed one to a page making it very easy to see the details contained in the images.  There are also a small number of nicely done color illustrations by artist Felipe Rodna.

The subject matter of the book is, of course, WWII armor, specifically US and German armor in the ETO 1944-45.  This ground has been covered extensively over the years by numerous authors and publishers.  Probably everyone with an interest in WWII armor has had the experience of getting a new book on WWII tanks and upon cracking it open, finding the same familiar photos that get recycled year after year.  Fear not, this is not the case with Forgotten Archives 2.  What makes this new book unique is that the author was able to work with the families of eight former US Army Signal Corps photographers, going through the photo collections that these men brought back from the war.  Each photo is accompanied by the original caption written by the wartime photographer as well as a caption by the author, noting any errors or discrepancies in the original captions.  The book is arraigned by photographer, each chapter dedicated to a particular Signal Corps soldiers’ collection.  In organizing the book this way, each chapter tells the story of that particular photographer, marking the places they passed through and the things they saw and experienced.  Being presented in this way, the book becomes a tribute not just to the fighting men captured in the images, but also to the men who risked their lives behind the camera.

For those looking for original, never before seen photos of US and German armor in the ETO, we highly recommend this book.  Both the content and the presentation are top notch and should prove a valuable reference for both tank historians and model builders.  The book is currently available at the Panzerwrecks website.

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Discover Magazine: Memorial Day Parade 1922: Runaway Tank Kills Veteran

Here is an interesting blog post from Discover Magazines website about a tragic accident involving some tanks in a Memorial Day Parade in 1922.  We have posted the first couple paragraphs of the post below.  The entire piece may be read here.

Memorial Day Parade 1922: Runaway Tank Kills Veteran

By Jeremy Hsu

New York City Memorial Day celebrations have featured parades of military hardware almost since the earliest commemorations following the U.S. Civil War. Barely 15 years after that war’s end, Union Army veterans from New Jersey marched alongside a battery of rapid-fire Gatling guns in a New York City parade described as being “intended to eclipse all former demonstrations.” As World War I loomed just beyond the horizon in 1914, crowds cheered a “wicked looking battery of machine gun troop of New York Cavalry” and the “brave array of war equipment” on parade. But in 1922, one unfortunate military veteran was crushed to death between two light “whippet” tanks on parade after one of the armored vehicles’s engines started up for unknown reasons.

The sergeant of the Bronx National Guardsmen of the 27th Tank Company who died in that freak Memorial Day incident was named Julian Stahlschmidt. A board of inquiry later awarded him a posthumous medal of valor for trying to “stop a tank which had run amuck, threatening the lives of throngs who lined the sidewalks watching the parade.” It’s not clear from the initial New York Times story whether or not the tank had actually been threatening to crush crowds of spectators lining Riverside Drive along Manhattan’s Upper West Side. But it does seem that Stahlschmidt was trying to switch off the runaway tank’s motor when he slipped and fell between the armored vehicle and the tank lined up ahead of it.

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Strong Europe Tank Challenge

1000w_q95This past weekend saw the Strong Europe Tank Challenge event take place in Grafenwoehr, Germany.  Tank crews from six NATO or NATO-allied countries competed in a series of tests to prove which crew (and vehicles) were the best.  The competing nations included the USA, France, Germany, Poland, Austria and Ukraine, each country entering a platoon of four tanks and crews.  The inclusion of Ukraine marked a first time for that country in the competition, as well as for their T-64BV tank.  The competition was won by Austria, whose crews were operating Leopard 2A4 tanks.  Second place was taken by German tankers in Leopard 2A6 tanks.  Third place was awarded to the US platoon and their Abrams M1A2 SEP tanks.  Poland operated Leopard 2A5 tanks and France had their LeClerc MBT.  Stars and Stripes noted that Poland, France and Ukraine all scored close to the top three countries, making for a tough competition.

For more on Strong Europe Tank Challenge, check out these links from various media sources from the competing contries.

Stars and Stripes – Austria blasts its way to first place at Tank Challenge

KyivPost – Ukrainian tankmen come fifth in NATO tank biathlon

Daily Mail – Gearing up for World War Three: Nato tanks put on massive show of strength in Germany while Putin’s troops practise dropping their armour by parachute

DVIDS – Tank Challenge 2017 Photo Gallery

Scout – Which Country Won a European Tank Challenge?

And from Russian media…

Sputnik International – Members Only! NATO Holds Its Own Copycat Tank Biathlon Contest

RT – Austria blasts past Germany to win NATO’s tank games (VIDEO)

Here is video footage from the competition, from the youtube channel Military Material

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Video: High-Speed tour of Saumur

Nick “The Chieftain” Moran from World of Tanks gives a high speed tour of the French tank museum at Saumur in this 25 minute video.