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Anyone who has an interest in armored warfare as practiced by the US Marine Corps, knows the name of Ken Estes. This is largely because of his previous general book on USMC armor (“Marines Under Armor”), and the memoirs of legendary Marine tanker Bob Neiman (“Tanks on the Beach”), which he co-wrote. So, his name on the book I am about to discuss is a guarantee that it will be a cut above the rest.
Following the format of the series, the author has created a fictional character (Fred Crowley) and placed him in an historical context as an example of a “typical” Marine tank crewman. So, he follows Fred from his early career in the pre-war Corps, through training and into combat. Concurrently, the story of the development, training, equipment, tactics and combat deployment of USMC tank units is told using actual historic facts and events. This allows the author to put a human context with such things as the reasons certain tank types were procured, how early training was of a necessarily improvised nature, and how the Marines developed their tank-infantry cooperation (known as “processing”) to combat Japanese defense-in-depth tactics.
The story is supported by 41 B&W photos, two maps, eight pages of color art, a chronology, a museum/collections/on-line resource list, a brief bibliography and an index. The text is exceptionally well-done as it is full of interesting information, telling anecdotes and hard facts. Beware however a few glitches, which are probably typographic errors. But, here they are so as to prevent any confusion amongst the novices. On pg. 31, a “June 7” date for the landings on Guadalcanal should be Aug. 7 (this is corrected later on the same page); pg. 44, “M2A4 medium tank” should be M4A2 (in the context of the paragraph); p.48, “Browning M37” co-axial machine gun should be Browning M1917 (I believe “M37” was a post-war designation for the co-axial machine gun on, for instance, the M48). None of these small things detract from the book’s overall worth. There are a number of very useful sidebars detailing such things as: specifications for tanks, early serial numbers and the tanks they were applied to, tank battalion organization, named and numbered tank units through 1946, experiences with certain versions of the M3 light tank, and finally, why the M4A2 was procured instead of other versions of the Sherman. The photographs are all well-reproduced, cover virtually every type and campaign, and are accompanied by very useful captions. The color art work depicts such things as: a typical tanker in 1943, profile views of the light tank types used, a training evolution (complete with flower sacks simulating satchel charges), an action on Guadalcanal, an ammunition loading evolution, an action on Tinian, and a portrait of a crew at the war’s end. These will all prove useful for figure and diorama modelers.
This is yet another excellent title from the Osprey stable and sure to be of use to AFV modelers in general, as well as fans of the legendary Marine Corps in general.
Frank De Sisto