Friday, December 20, 2013

Book Review - The Tank Killers

Earlier today I finished yet another history book that I have been working my way through over the past few weeks (ok... months): Harry Yeide's The Tank Killers; A History of America's World War II Tank Destroyer Force (Casemate, 2004).

Sideways again.... sigh...
I think I first cracked this book open sometime shortly after the Fireball Forward! miniatures games with Leo earlier this year, and a subsequent trip to Baldwin's Book Barn in West Chester that turned up a number of good deals on WW2 books.

I enjoyed this book very much. The opening section details the formative years of tank destroyer doctrine in the US Army and the training phases prior to actual combat experience. The bulk of the book works its way chronologically through the various campaigns in Africa and the European Theater of Operations. In addition to being a wargamer's treasure trove of small unit action scenario ideas, the descriptions of the combat experiences at a micro level are woven into a story of the evolution of tank destroyer doctrine at the macro level, and how the role of tank destroyers as envisioned differed so dramatically from the actual role that the TD units ended up playing.

There were also a number of things that I learned from this book in the area of equipment used and dates of service. I had always been under the impression that the self-propelled TDs in service for the bulk of the war in Europe were M10 "Wolverines" with their 3 inch (76mm) guns. This is somewhat true, but this book shows that M18 "Hellcats" (very fast, lightly armored TDs with 76mm guns) and M36 "Jacksons" (basically M10s but with 90mm guns) were in widespread use much earlier than I had thought. The first M18s were delivered in Italy in April 1944 and the M36s began replacing M10s in northwestern Europe in September 1944. By the Battle of the Bulge and subsequent operations, a mix of M10s, M18s and M36s would have been commonplace. This greatly expands the possibilities for the miniatures gamer...

There are two other Harry Yeide books that I picked up at Baldwin's at the same time as this, and I am especially glad that I did. These are Steel Victory; The Heroic Story of America's Independent Tank Battalions in the War in Europe (Presidio Press, 2003) and The Infantry's Armor; The US Army's Separate Tank Battalions in World War II (Stackpole, 2010). If they are similar at all to The Tank Killers, I will like them very much. Steel Victory is already on the night stand.

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