Home > Reviews > USA WWII > Marine Corps Tank Battles in Korea


Marine Corps Tank Battles in Korea

by Oscar E. Gilbert

Casemate Publications. ISBN 1932033130. Hard covers, 6.25 x 9.25-inches, 308 pages, 78 B&W photographs, four maps, appendices, index and bibliography. Price: $34.95 USD, plus shipping.

Many will be familiar with the author and will know him from his old “Full Detail” AFV monograph series and his more recent book “Marine Tank Battles in the Pacific”. This latest in what is intended to be a series (a book on World War Two is available, as the above reference suggests, and another title on Vietnam is in preparation) on Marine Corps use of tanks in combat describes actions in the “forgotten war”, Korea, from June 1950 through July 1953. Relatively speaking, there is very little available on the subject of the Korean War in general and Marine Corps use of tanks in particular. So, for those reasons alone this book is a welcome addition to the study of that period in history.

Note that operations of other Marine Corps armored assets such as the LVT series of amphibious tractors is not the focus of the book, so there is very little mention of them within the text. But, there is mention (and some photographs) of the limited use of the M18-based M39 armored utility vehicle in the armored personnel carrier/re-supply role, later in the war.

In order to produce this fine book, the author has conducted extensive interviews with participants and consulted archival and published materials. This gives the book an excellent balance between the events as witnessed by the participants and the broader historic, strategic and tactical issues. It also makes for a great reading experience. The text is full of excellent “war stories” and covers a wide variety of combat and non-combat scenarios.

The reader will get an excellent idea of how unprepared for the war the Marine Corps actually was, as well as how the average Marine adapted to the situation to overcome the enemy. Life in the stink, the heat and cold of the inside of a tank in battle is underscored by many first-person anecdotes, most horrific, some humorous. Comments on the inevitable frustrations, as infantry and tank units grew aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses are sprinkled throughout the book. Not to be forgotten are the conflicts between the Marines and the US Army, (who did things differently) which show that sometimes one’s friends can be almost as dangerous as the enemy! And always, there is mention of the larger military and geopolitical picture both in Korea and Washington, which overshadowed all.

Most of the photographs are reproduced on glossy coated stock in two separate sections within the book. This gives high quality reproduction values, which allows the easier viewing of details in the photos. All of the captions, without exception, are very informative as to the various unique details of the vehicles, their locations, and the units that they represent. Many will be very useful as inspiration for both vehicle modelers and diorama builders. The remaining photographs consist of portraits of those whose story is told within the covers (plus brief “where are they now” captions). They are in a separate Epilogue at the book’s end.

The only problems I noted were the numerous typographical errors spread throughout the text (and on at least one of the otherwise well done maps). This is not necessarily the author’s fault. Certainly the publisher should have made sure that the text was adequately proofread prior to finalization for the print run. Regardless, the prospective purchaser should not let this minor point prevent them from obtaining this otherwise well produced book. You’ll not be disappointed.

Highly recommended.


Casemate Publications are available at bookstores and from the publisher at: 2114 Darby Road, Havertown, PA, USA. Phone: 610-853-9131.