Book Alert: Patton’s Juggernaut: The Rolling 8-Ball 8th Tank Battalion of the 4th Armored Division

This month saw the release of a new book by retired general and WWII veteran Albin F Irzyk titled Patton’s Juggernaut: The Rolling 8-Ball 8th Tank Battalion of the 4th Armored Division.  Irzyk, who turned 100 years old earlier this year, is a well known figure to those interested in US Armor history.  He has appeared in numerous TV documentaries and has authored several books about his experiences as a young officer in the 4th Armored Division during WWII.

Publisher’s Description:

This is the biography, not of an individual but of a small military unit. The life span of this unit was extremely brief – less than three years. It began on September 10th, 1943 and ended on May 15th, 1946, when it ceased to exist. It is about the 8th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division.

Combat was the destiny of this Battalion. It was created as a Combat Battalion. It was organized primarily, fundamentally, and solely to fight the German Army in Europe. And fight it did, splendidly, spectacularly and courageously.

I feel very possessive about this Battalion. I was a major factor in training it for combat. I was in it every day the Battalion was in combat, much of it after assuming command at the age of twenty seven. I believe that there was a special bonding between my men and me.

It was a great honor and privilege to command these tankers and to witness what they accomplished. In my opinion, our nation has never fully understood or appreciated the fantastic role played by such boys and very young men.

They proved themselves on the toughest testing ground of man – the field of combat. Nothing in my long, full life could compare with the priceless opportunity that I had to command the men of the 8th Tank Battalion. This is their story.

Video: Chi-Ri & Chi-To Tanks Scrapped at Aberdeen

This rather intriguing video showed up on Youtube yesterday and appears to answer the question of what ever happened to the Japanese Type 5 Chi-Ri Heavy tank prototype. Sources generally state that the vehicle was either scrapped at Aberdeen Proving Grounds or lost at sea during shipment. If this video is what it says, we may have proof that it did indeed make it to Aberdeen where it was scrapped. The video is said to be from October 4, 1952 and shows a number of vehicles, including several Japanese tanks. Both a Type 4 Chi-To and the Type 5 Chi-Ri are visible. That these vehicles were scrapped rather than preserved is a rather depressing thought.

 
Here is a screen capture of the Chi-Ri.

Chi Ri aberdeen

Collings Foundation gets approval for new museum

CollingsMetroWest Daily News is reporting that the Planning Board of Stow, Massachusetts and the Collings Foundation have reached a settlement that will allow construction of a new museum to move forward.  In 2014 the Collings Foundation came into possession of much of the AFV collection from the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation.  The MVTF collection was the largest privately owned collection of tanks and armored vehicles in the world, and was the work of Jacques Littlefield, who died in 2009.  While some of the collection has been auctioned off, the most interesting and valuable items have been retained by the Collings Foundation.  Construction of a museum to house many of these rare and unique vehicles has been delayed as the Collings Foundation and the town of Stow have worked out an agreement.  According to the MetroWest Daily News article, the Collins Foundation says they hope the new museum will open this time next year.

 

Article excerpt:

STOW — With a new road being built off Main Street in Hudson, the Collings Foundation hopes its new museum will open this time next year.

The project is allowed to proceed after the Stow Planning Board and the foundation reached a settlement in Middlesex Superior Court earlier this month. The roadwork is being done under a temporary building permit, which expires Sept. 1.

This weekend’s Race of the Century event will be the last event where traffic comes in off Barton Road in Stow, a tiny lakeside street the many neighbors say is too narrow for increased traffic.

Bob Collings, co-founder of the foundation, said the road from Hudson is only major change to the plans. For several years, neighbors resisted the nonprofit’s plan to expand its collection of tanks and warplanes into a full-scale museum about American combat.

The Planning Board unanimously signed the settlement after receiving guidance from town counsel, said Planning Board Chairwoman Lori Clark during a public hearing last week.

Read the full MetroWest Daily News article here.

 

 

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.

[Read more…]

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.

pages samples and images below:

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