The United States produced a vast number of armoured fighting vehicles during the Second World War. The most famous of these was the M4 Medium Tank, or Sherman, produced in a wide range of variants, but the US also produced a large number of tank destroyers, self propelled guns, armoured support vehicles and prototypes. This book looks at each of these types of weapon, and covers all of the production versions and major development versions and most of the many prototypes.
The author has taken a nice approach here. Instead of treating each vehicle as a separate, isolated, topic, the author tells the story of how they were interrelated, with the performance of one vehicle having an impact on the design of its successful and unsuccessful successors. He also makes the link between tank design and US army doctrine, and in particular the disastrous tank-destroyer doctrine, which stated that tanks were not intended to fight other tanks. Tanks were to exploit gaps in the German lines, while lightly armoured tank destroyers took on any German tanks that were encountered.
This was largely based on the idea that the Germans would continue to use their tanks in very large concentrated formations, as seen during the crucial attack on the Western Front in 1940. Instead they adopted a mixed arms defensive system, with tanks closely supported by infantry and anti-tank weapons. As a result American tank crews had no choice other than to fight German tanks, while the tank destroyers rarely got the change to operate against large concentrations of Panzers. What we see here is the way in which US tank designs changed after the D-Day landings, when it suddenly became clear that thicker armour and larger guns were essential.
There is plenty of actual detail on the tanks and fighting vehicles, including good material on the design process, their combat performance and changes introduced during the production run. The section on the Sherman is especially good. This is often seen as a somewhat monolithic vehicle that was produced in large numbers, but without major changes, but that wasn't the case. Green takes us through the many changes to the suspension, armour, gun and equipment introduced during the production run of the Sherman, as well as dismissing some of the myths that grew up around it.
This is a valuable history of the American armoured fighting vehicle, tells us not only what was built, but why, and how well they performed.
1 - Early Medium Tanks
2 - M4 Series Tanks
3 - Light Tanks
4 - Heavy Tanks
5 - Tank Destroyers
6 - Armored Cars
7 - Armored Half-Tracks
8 - Self-Propelled Artillery
9 - Landing Vehicles, Tracked
Author: Michael Green