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M4 (76mm) Sherman Medium Tank 1943-65
M24 Chaffee Light Tank 1943-85

by Steven J. Zaloga

Osprey New Vanguard


S u m m a r y

Title, Description, Publisher, Media and Price #73, M4 (76mm) Sherman Medium Tank 1943-65 by Steven J. Zaloga, Illustrated by Jim Laurier; Osprey Publishing, Botley, Oxfordshire, England 2003, 48 pp.; price $14.95 retail  (ISBN 1-84176-542-2)
#77, M24 Chaffee Light Tank 1943-85 by by Steven J. Zaloga, Illustrated by Jim Laurier; Osprey Publishing, Botley, Oxfordshire, England 2003, 48 pp.; price $14.95 retail (ISBN 1-84176-540-6)
Review Type: FirstRead
Advantages: Good, concise operational histories of the subjects with a number of details presented in a clear format
Disadvantages: Probably not enough photos and modeling information for some enthusiasts
Recommendation: Highly Recommended to all armor fans and US fans in particular


Reviewed by Cookie Sewell

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There are a number of different book series in circulation, and many modelers in particular seem puzzled by them when seeking references. They basically boil down to "pretty" books with lots of photos but little content; "nuts and bolts" books with a great deal of material coverage but nothing on history or development; operational histories, with little specific vehicle coverage of subtypes and differences; and encyclopedic histories, which try and cover all of the bases. The latter are in the line of the Presidio Press books by R. P. Hunnicutt, but these are too expensive for many modelers to pick up as casual references and too detailed for most others.

What then, to do? The answer is to pick up two specific references on a subject, which still only runs the modeler about the cost of one single kit ($30-40). The first one is a "pretty" book with artwork and lots of photos, such as the Squadron Signal "in Action" or Concord theme books, and the second is a specific operational history of the subject at hand. Modelers can skip the latter if all they want to do is put a specific kit together and paint it, but most of them find out very quickly when in the company of their fellows that they tend to look like blithering idiots if they cannot at least understand what it is that they built, what its significance is, and why it deserves being given treatment as a model.

The Osprey series of New Vanguard publications, like its predecessor Vanguard series and their antecedent "Armor in Profile" series, focuses on an operational history of a specific weapons system. While they used to focus on armored vehicles, they now cover basically any sort of weapons system in history (a change I personally did not care for, but then again, I don't publish these books, I just buy them.)

Within its 48 pages the fixed format chosen by Osprey the reader should be provided with the following: a concise history of the development of the subject being covered, its evolution and development, its numbers produced, accurate if basic plan views of the subject, its operational use in combat and further evolution as it continued in its history. This has been very consistently covered, and whether or not the subject is an armored vehicle or a subject like Confederate ironclads, the reader receives the same treatment of each subject.

Steve Zaloga is one of the best around at this format, and he has been writing for Osprey since early in their original Vanguard series. Here, with the acquiescence of Osprey, he has broken the US M4 medium tank into different subjects, here based on the gun carried. This volume covers the later 76mm versions of the tank (M4, M4A1, M4A2, and M4A3, as well as post-war rebuilds for Military Assistance Plan MAP nations).

The book covers the reasons for the creation of the 76mm gun tanks to counter the threat of thicker German armor in Europe, as well as the bureaucratic wrangling by the various US Army boards as to why they chose this gun over the more powerful British 17-lb gun or the highly effective US 90mm. But as the new shells for the 76mm were too large for the standard Sherman turret, after only 12 had been built with the small turret a new one based on the prototype T23 tank series was developed and used for all remaining tank production. Surprisingly, after the war the older Shermans were retrofitted with the 76mm gun anyway. (As an aside, these MAP tanks can be seen for posterity as "Oddball's" tank platoon in the movie "Kelly's Heroes".)

There are some new surprises, such as the fact that US tanks were to very quietly be fitted with the 17-lber, and some tanks were converted and used by US forces at the very end of the war. Steve has found a photo of what is clearly a US tank with 17-lb gun (it has a bow gun and appears to have no loader's hatch or bustle bin) as an example of this conversion.

The book on the M24 covers the operational history of this popular light tank. Thought to have only been used by a handful of units at the end of WWII, research shows that it was far more widely used in 1945 than first thought. Over 1/3 of all light tanks in Europe were M24s when the fighting ended in May 1945. The Chaffee was a great boost to the reconnaissance units as it had an effective gun for dealing with the majority of opponents they encountered other scout units, machine gun nests, infantry in buildings, etc.

The M24 was also widely supplied to MAP and the book covers many of the nations that used this sturdy little tank.

Overall, these books are a good source of the "what" and "why" of armored vehicle histories, and compliment the photo albums. They are a good overall reference source, and the photos, while not as numerous as the "pretty" books, are all excellent, as clear as possible, and support the text.

Cookie Sewell

Review Copyright 2003 by Cookie Sewell
Page Created 23 June, 2003
Last updated 24 August, 2003

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