David Doyle has followed up his 2014 tome U.S. Half-tracks; The development and deployment of the U.S. Armyís half-track vehicles, Part one with part two titled U.S. Half-tracks; The development and deployment of the U.S. Armyís half-track based multiple gun motor carriages and gun motor carriages. You are certainly correct if you think that is a mouthful of a title, thankfully the contents will provide you more than enough to chew on for a very long time.
This review will focus on the recently released part two, for a refresher with the review of part one check out Jim Starkweatherís video review of that title, a link can be found at the end of this review.
Part two has the same strong production values as part one; good strong hard cover with spine stitched binding; this book is not going to fall apart in this lifetime with normal usage. The reference contains more than seven hundred good clear photographs, the majority in clear black and white and almost all sourced from official sources such as NARA, the Patton Museum, along with other repositories along with many from individual collections.
The book begins with a short preface and then launches into the first of eight chapters, two addendums, an appendix, and a bibliography. I thought it a bit odd that there is no real introductory section, if you are looking for that you will need to have access to volume one in the series. The chapters provide information and photographs of vehicles by type, a pretty handy arrangement if you are looking for information and photographs of mortar carriers for instance.
Speaking of mortar carriers, that is the subject of chapter one. As would be expected it covers the development of both the 81mm armed vehicles as well as the 4.2 inch mortar carriers. The chapter is somewhat light on text with only three pages of written material. It more than makes up for this lack, however, with another fifty-five pages of photographs from nearly every conceivable angle and elevation for the M4, the T19, T21, T21E1, and M21 versions of the carrier. It also includes photographs of interim and developmental vehicles such as the T2 1930ís 4.2 inch mortar carrier, the M3 White scout car armed with the 4.2 inch mortar, the T5, and T5E1 vehicles as well. What I was most impressed with was a series of photos that show the canvas shelter deployed and opened in various forms as well as nice shots of the driverís compartment, the radio arrangement, and the dashboard complete with information placards.
Chapter two covers the gun motor carriages T12 and T48 armed with the 75mm M1897A4 and the 57mm gun respectively. Much like chapter one this section is sparse on text with four written pages as part of the 27 pages of information. With this chapter the photographic evidence offers a good selection of views that detail the differing concepts for gun shields including my favorite which aimed to provide more crew protection but reminded me of the German Sig 33 Bison and would give it a run for its money in the height department. Otherwise the chapter provides good detail photos of the gun itself, ammo storage, and the gun mount area.
Chapter three details the development of the Howitzer motor carriages, T30 and T19. Again, three pages of text in the twenty four pages of material. This chapter also provides many photographs of different elevations of the vehicles as well as some excellent detail shots of the blackout headlight assemblies.
Chapter four comes in at a whopping one hundred and twenty pages and outlines the multiple gun motor carriages, M13, M14, M15, M16, M17, and others. In truth, it probably should have been broken into a couple of different chapters just to make information a bit easier to narrow down. This time around with the greater number of subjects we have eleven pages of text to accompany the photographs. Most of the photographs are nice and clear although this chapter does have a few that are a bit too dark to be of much use. While there are plenty of different elevation type views of all the vehicles as well as some nice close ups of the weapons systems there were fewer strong close up detail shots in this chapter when compared to the earlier three chapters.
Chapter five is all about field modifications, at fifteen pages quite a bit shorter than earlier chapters but it makes up for it with the interesting subject material. The chapter has only two pages of text but a surprising number of good detail shots of the fighting compartment of the M4A1 half-track mounting the 81mm mortar in a forward firing configuration. The photos of the M16B, Patterson conversion Wasp, do not have quite the same level of detail displayed generally being more of in theatre type photos with the vehicles emplaced and on alert.
Chapter six will make many happy as it follows the actual field use of the different half-track vehicles. The chapter comes in at 78 pages with only two pages of text. The chapter begins with a number of photos of vehicles in use during the Carolina maneuvers of November, 1941 and then moving to action in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, the Pacific, Europe, and even one photo in China. As you might imagine, very little in close-up detail as the obvious focus in the field wasnít too concerned with those particular aspects of photography but some great atmosphere and diorama ideas here.
Chapter seven rolls through 27 pages and covers the post-war use of half-tracks. A bit more than half of the photographs are from the Korean War and prominently feature the M16 MGMC in action.
Chapter eight is forty pages and outlines the development of the red headed step child of the half-track the three-quarter track. As such it covers the T3, T1, and T15 through T19 all of which would eventually be scrapped and mark the end of development of half-tracks in the US arsenal. With these vehicles all in prototype development there are good number of photos here that provide great detail shots of engine, suspension and undercarriages with lots of different ĺ elevation views, etc.
That marks the end of the regular chapters for the book although there are a pair of addendums that flesh out some extra detail. Addendum A provides information that came to light after the publication of volume one (isnít it always that way!) For the most part this deals with the use of half-tracks as ambulance carriers in a dedicated role. It also includes new information on handrail installation but what I thought was the best part of the chapter was some great close-up photography of some of the details that are often hard to find. Addendum B is a seventeen page treatment of the M3 Scout car and is loaded with great detail photography of both the gasoline engine and the proposed diesel engine variant of the scout car. An appendix adds the contract and registration number information for the ordnance equipped half-tracks as well as a few corrections from volume one. A one page bibliography and then we finish up with my favorite part of the book; six full page period color advertisements featuring various marks of US Army half-tracks.
At four hundred and thirty plus pages this is a weighty piece of publication for sure! The photographs, which I am guessing will be the most important aspect of the book for modelers, are more than numerous. Most are very clear, a good smattering of close-up detail shots and a good collection of photos from the field. Doyle acknowledges that some of the photographs have been published before but have never been collected together like these two volumes accomplish, an assessment I would agree with wholeheartedly. There are some drawbacks to the volume, there are no line drawings or measurement plans included. The preface makes it clear that the author felt that the photos more than make up for their absence but I know that some readers will miss them. However, if you have Part one then this is a must buy to complete the set. If you donít have Part one but have an abiding interest in the multiple or single mounted gun motor carriages then you also will probably want to add this one to your shelf.
U.S. Half-tracks Part One by Jim Starkweather