In 1955, the NATO powers agreed that West Germany needed to develop its own army to serve as the front line in any possible invasion of Western Europe by the Warsaw Pact. The new force came into being in 1956 as the Bundeswehr, borrowing arms and equipment from the US and others. A tank force was a must since the plains of Germany lent themselves to massed ranks of T-34’s and IS-3’s, and the new US Army M47 was chosen to be the MBT. To arm the reconnaissance troops (and later TD formations) they picked the new M41 light tank, which packed a considerable punch with its 76mm gun.
Both vehicles were available in numbers after the Korean War finished, and would serve as stop-gaps until Germany could begin designing its own hardware. In the end, the M-47’s lasted until the end of 1967 while the M-41’s remained on strength until 1969, with both enjoying lively re-sale careers around the world.
In this book from Tankograd Publishing the author, Stefan Marx, points out that in German documents the tank designations gained a space or hyphen between the M and the number, so the US “M41” in German service was called “M 41” or “M-41”.
Published in 2006, this book sets out to document the use of these two American-built tank types by the newly-formed Bundeswehr.
The book is 64 pages long, with a total of 125 monochrome pictures. The general format includes a page of background to the Bundeswehr, a page of conclusion on the two vehicles, and two main sections each dedicated to one type. These sections start with text, are packed with photos mainly two-per-page, and excerpts from the Tech Manual at the end mainly illustrating internal details. The TM sections include a full-page stats table.
Text and captions are all provided in both German and English, with English evidently the second language as evidenced by some awkward phrasing. This means the text sections are really only half as big as they seem. Sadly none of the photos have dates, so the reader will need to have an independent knowledge of dating clues. (Generally the early 1956-59 photos have no crosses on the turrets, and the crews wear SS-style camouflage, while the turret-mounted smoke dischargers first appeared around 1965.)
Likewise, unit markings are not discussed or illustrated. The pictures themselves are nice and sharp, providing lots of detail. Quite a few are of the same tank or event, allowing multiple angles for modelling detail – my favourites are of M-47’s being loaded onto railway flatcars. Unfortunately they are all monochrome – is this what was available, or were some colour shots “monochromed” to fit a printing format?
The M-41 section is 22 pages long, consisting of a five-page text, four picture-heavy pages from the Tech Manual, two pages on the GTI upgrade, and 29 in-service photos. The M-47 section is 38 pages long, with six pages of text, four tech Manual pages, and 59 in-service photos.
I was drawn to this book a year ago at a show, since the Italeri M47 was sitting on my workbench. It has proved invaluable, especially as I now have a particular image I will model. However, this book does not in itself provide a full reference on either tank – the reader will need to know about the tell-tale dating evidence to avoid mixing details that changed over time.
Highs: Great photos and interior details for the modeller. Good potted history of each tank.Lows: No dates or unit marking info. English text could be smoother.Verdict: A great reference for anyone modelling these tanks in Bundeswehr service – well worth the price.