by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
Osprey Publishing brings us a book about USMC tank units of WW2, by armour expert Steven Zaloga. With 48 pages of outstanding photographs, colour artwork, and authoritative text, the unique history of Second World War Marine armour is told.
development of usmc armour
With their roots dating to armoured cars in 1916, then post-Great War Renault FT-17s, US Marine Corps armour started slower than USMC would have liked. Armoured cars deployed to Haiti in 1921, and the first platoon of tracks was deployed to China in 1927. USMC received their first specific-built fully tracked AFV with the Marmon-Herrington CTL-3 tankettes. A fragile machine-gun carrier, M-H tankettes were constantly upgraded and constantly created pleas for real tanks. As late as 1939 the Marmon-Herringtons were proved inferior to borrowed M2A4s, yet senior Marine leadership preferred the tankettes because they could load two per lighter versus one tank.
world war II
After Pearl Harbor USMC tank procurement was as chaotic as the US Army. Marine riflemen in handfuls of M2As and M3 variants were deployed to USMC outposts. These machines also landed on Guadalcanal where their gun and cannon fire greatly assisted Marines in defeating Japanese infantry and tank attacks. General Vandergrift remarked after a gruesome close-quarters battle that the blood-spattered tanks looked like meat-grinders.
As improved M3 and M5 tanks replaced M2 and worn-out M3s, they leapfrogged from island to island towards Japan. Tarawa, Bougainville, Munda, Peleliu, Guam, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Marine tanks were there. The little Stuarts were found lacking in firepower, resulting in the acquisition of M4 Shermans (USMC rarely called them “Shermans”, rather by the manufacturer, i.e., “Ford” or “GM”). Cannon fire was often ineffective against Japanese bunker forts and continuous experiments with flamethrowers progressed. Wading equipment was perfected, as was infantry communication devices.
Japan had no serious tank threat against the M4; indeed, a famous photograph shows Japanese Type 95 resting upon the engine deck of a Sherman, the proud Marine crew grinning in the foreground. Nor was there a gun threat to the M4 except for 47mm anti-tank gun fire against the flanks. Swarming by infantry and IEDs took their toll. Like the Germans on the Russian Front, Japanese close assault tactics with satchel charges and mines were required. USMC quickly improvised countermeasures with concrete, timber and sandbags, as US Army tankers did in Europe in response to the Panzerfaust.
Few organised tank battles occurred in the Pacific. The largest was on Guam and the Marines, with tanks, bazookas, and AT guns slaughtered the Japanese.
Marine tanks were invaluable supporting the Marines on foot. When the flamethrower tanks were perfected, they were always in action. More tanks were shipped to the Pacific and one can only imagine the apocalypse they would have been a part of if Japan had not surrendered. Proved in combat, armored support of Marine riflemen continued into Korea, Viet Nam, and into today.
US Marine Corps Tanks of World War II is expertly explained by Mr. Zaloga in 48 pages and 13 chapters :
II. Early Marine Armour
III. Into Combat
IV. Marine Medium Tanks
V. Operation Flintlock: The Marshall Islands
VI. Marine Flamethrower Tanks
VII. The Marianas, June-July 1944
VIII. Operation Stalemate: Peleliu, September 1944
IX. Preparations For Attacking The Inner Ring
X. Operation Detachment: Iwo Jima
XI. Operation Iceberg: Okinawa
XII. Further Reading
Mr. Zaloga brings a great deal of knowledge and conveys the subject in an easily read manner. He delivers this story with a good balance of detail and brevity; find something that intrigues you outside of the scope of this book, and he provides suggestions to expand your research. The different types of flamethrowers are discussed, their development and operations described, and their effectiveness (or lack thereof). The same detail focuses on the applied extra armour, wading equipment, and telephone connections for the accompanying infantry. M4 tanks had a variety of engines and this subject, too, is mentioned.
illustrations and photographs
Full color artwork, including a detailed cutaway, enhances the text with high quality CGI by illustrator Richard Chasemore:
1. M2A4 Light Tank, Marine 1st Tank Battalion, Guadalcanal, 1942
2. M3A1 Light Tank, Tank Company, 4th Marines, Emirau Island, Bismarck Archipelago, March 1944. Profile of a Stuart and a jerrycan explaining the UNIS (Unit Numerical Identification System).
3. M4A2 Medium Tank, Company C, IMAC Tank Battalion, Tarawa, November 1943
4. M4A2 Medium Tank, Company C, 4th Tank Battalion, Roi-Namur, Kwajalein Atoll, February 1944. An M4 with distinctive camouflage, timber augmented armour, infantry water supply, and wading apparatus.
5. M4A2 Medium Tank, Company B, Marine 4th Tank battalion, Saipan, June 1944. A 3D ‘in-action’ image showing the florescent identification paint applied to the turret.
6. M4A3 Medium Tank, Company B, Marine 4th Tank Battalion, Iwo Jima, February 1945. Technical cutaway.
7. M4A2 Medium Tank Company 4th Marines, Guam, July 1944.
8. M4A2 Medium Tank, Company B, 1st Tank Battalion, Peleliu, September 1944
9. M4A2 Medium Tank, Company A, 3rd Tank Battalion, Iwo Jima, February 1945.
10. M4A3 Medium Tank, Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, Iwo Jima, February 1945. Wavy four-colour camouflage.
11. M4A3 Medium Tank, 5th Tank battalion, Iwo Jima, February 1943 [sic].
12. M4A3 Medium Tank, 6th Tank battalion, Okinawa, June 1945. An M4 covered with supplemental armour of spare tracks.
Dozens of photos support this work. Each subject of Mr. Chasemore’s artwork is taken from photographs in the book. I may overuse the word but ‘fascinating’ is appropriate here, if for no other reason than I’ve never seen many of them before. Although in one photo I thought Osprey accidentally used an M3 Bradley image, it is actually an M4 with an armored skirt of plates welded on the hull, extending nearly to the ground. Another image is a column of Shermans festooned with extra armor, with bundles of logs lashed to their glacis. Additionally, a disabled M4 in a shell crater, covered with extra armor including extra tracks, timber, and sandbags.
Simply put, I am thoroughly happy with this book. With the wealth of information, ease of reading, quality and selection of photos and original artwork, this is an excellent book. A typo or two doesn’t bother me; we all know Iwo Jima was fought in 1945. Anyone with an interest in the history of, or of modeling of USMC WW2 armor should be very happy with this title. Wholeheartedly recommended.