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Books About Tanks


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It's one of those books that would definitely have been more valuable in the pre-internet era since it's basically an encyclopedia.  That said, it has very good coverage of the non-combat tracked vehicles such as prime movers and transports.  

 

 

Got one for myself... at a bargain cost of $13 plus $35.48 for handling. Damn it's pricey.

 

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I thought it might be interesting to do a post about tank books I own that were published before 1970.  I'm not including books I have in PDF format, just physical copies.  Some of these are reprints published later on.  

 

First up is The Fighting Tanks 1916-1933 by Jones, Rarey and Icks.  My copy is the 1969 reprint edition.  As far as I know, this is the first book in English to attempt to cover the topic of tanks in a comprehensive fashion.  Co-author Robert Icks would go on to be the most important American writer on tanks and AFVs of his era.  

 

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Next is a book I picked up fairly recently dating back to 1942 called "He's in the Armored Force Now."  This book is pretty much wartime propaganda, but it contains some rather interesting photos of early war training procedures and exercises as Fort Knox.  At some point I plan to scan a lot of the photos from this book and post them on my site since the book has to be public domain by now.

 

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Next up is a really interesting book, "Tanks & Armored Vehicles 1900-1945" by Robert Icks.  The title of this book is somewhat inaccurate, it really should be called 1900-1943.  I say this because the book only includes tanks up to about 1943, omitting important vehicles such as the German Panther, M18 Hellcat, or the T34/85.  That said, it's still a really impressive book with a fantastic collection of photos.  I was really surprised at the level of information and detail this book contained considering that it was written while the war was still going on.  My copy is a 1970's reprint and a rather banged up copy at that.  Obviously, it's a library discard (I'm a man of modest means)

 

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Now for one of my personal favorites, "Tanks are Mighty Fine Things" by Wesley W. Stout written on the behest of the Chrysler Corporation.  This book is propaganda pure and simple, but its still rather fun.  Lots of interesting pictures and information about the Chrysler tank arsenal.  It should be taken with a grain of salt but its a fun read and used copies are relatively affordable.

 

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This next book is an important one as far as the history of US armor goes, " Forging the Thunderbolt: The History of the U.S. Army's Armored Forces 1917-1945" by M. H. Gillie.  This is the first book to provide a detailed history of the formation of the US Armored force in the period leading up to WW2.  Published in 1947, it was a rather "fresh" history, written just a couple of years after the war had ended.  Obviously my copy is not an original, Stackpole books reprinted this as part of their Military History Series.

 

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Now we jump ahead a few years to 1960.  As far as I can tell, there were not all that many good books published on the topic of tanks in the 1950's, so I will ignore that decade.  In 1960 a book appeared by a British writer named Richard Ogorkiewicz titled "Armoured Forces."  It's a fairly compact and thick hardcover book.  It was the first book to give a really comprehensive look at not only tanks from around the world, but also a description of tank doctrine and armored unit organization up to that point.  This book was considered one of the important works on the topic at the time it was published.  My copy is a fairly roughed up library discard of the 1970 reprint published by ARCO publishing. ARCO was a pretty important publisher of tank books in the 1970s.  

 

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By the mid 1960's, we see a big increase in the number of books and articles being written about tanks and afvs.  One of the key figures in this revival is Canadian researcher and artist George Bradford.  Mr. Bradford is most well known for having published a series of scale line drawings of tanks and also being the editor and publisher of the long running "AFV News bulletin."  One of his first books was this softcover collection of his tank drawings.  The drawings contained in this book would also be featured in a popular poster common to tank enthusiasts of the time.

 

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Next we have a trio of small format softcover books from ARCO publishing.  The first of these is from 1967 and is titled "50 Famous Tanks" by George Bradford and Len Morgan.  It's a nice little encyclopedia of some of the more important tanks up to that point.  Admittedly, the internet has made this style of book fairly irrelevant since almost all the information contained in works such as this can be looked up on wikipedia or other online sources.  That said, I still like collecting these sorts of things.  My copy is not an original, it's from the second edition published in 1977.

 

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The second ARCO softcover is "German Tanks 1914-1968" by Heinz J. Nowarra.  There is not much to note about this book other than it's a small encyclopedia of German tanks.  Again, not very valuable as a source of information but still kind of cool to look through.  

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The last of our trio of ARCO books is "The Sherman: An Illustrated History of the M4 Medium Tank" by Peter Chamberlain and Chris Ellis.  As far as I can tell, this was the first book ever devoted specifically to the M4 tank.  It's a nice little read, although it's a bit dated.  Steven Zaloga states in the bibliographic section of his book "Armored Thunderbolt" that " many of the histories of the Sherman tank are badly dated, like the classic book by Peter Chamberlain and Chris Ellis, and I have not listed all of them for this reason."  That said, it's worth having since it was the first Sherman tank book.

 

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ARCO also published larger format books in the late 1960's, including "British and American Tanks of World War II" by Peter Chamberlain and Chris Ellis.  This is a nice book that I still use as a handy reference.  For the time it was published, it was really quite good with nothing else comparable on the market.  I picked my copy up pretty cheap at the local used book store, it must have been printed in relatively large numbers since prices for it on Amazon are quite reasonable (under ten bucks plus shipping.) 

 

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My last pre-1970 book is "German Tanks of World War II" by F.M. von Senger und Etterlin, translated by J. Lucas and Editted by Peter Chamberlain and Chris Ellis.  This is a rather attractive hardcover book and the author was a German officer who served in both the wartime Wehrmacht and the postwar West German army if memory serves me right.  This book was the best encyclopedia of German WW2 tanks until Peter Chamberlain and Hillary Doyle published their "Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War II" in 1978.  

 

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Incidentally, the J. Lucas listed as the translator of the Senger und Etterlin book is a pretty major wehraboo.  His full name was James Lucas and he worked at the Imperial War Museum.  He wrote quite a few books, primarily on the WW2 German army.  I remember picking up a book of his at the local used book store called "Hitler's Commanders: German Action in the Field 1939-1945" in which he looks as several different German WW2 commanders.  I got the chapter on Generalfeldmarschall Ferdinand Schorner and got rather disgusted when Lucas started talking about how he was a man of courage and honor.  Gross.   For a good description of Schorner, check out this article by Robert Citino.

 

Anyhow, I hope this is of interest to some of the regulars here.  I have a lot of books on tanks, I made this post in part to show just how little was written on the topic prior to 1970.  Guys like Robert Icks, George Bradford, Richard Ogorkiewicz, Chamberlain and Ellis were all blazing fairly new territory.  They might not have gotten everything right, but they laid the groundwork for the writers that came after them.  

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  • 4 weeks later...

I thought it might be interesting to do a post about tank books I own that were published before 1970.Anyhow, I hope this is of interest to some of the regulars here. I have a lot of books on tanks, I made this post in part to show just how little was written on the topic prior to 1970. Guys like Robert Icks, George Bradford, Richard Ogorkiewicz, Chamberlain and Ellis were all blazing fairly new territory. They might not have gotten everything right, but they laid the groundwork for the writers that came after them.

Agree about the dearth of pre-1970 tank books if you're talking about technical or scholarly research, but there were some decent histories and memoirs you might consider tracking down, especially if Mildred Gillie's book interested you. For the British, Stern and Swinton for example have both written about their role in the tank's development. Martel wrote a memoir and a history of the first 15 years of mechanization in the British Army. Fuller was of course prolific (his Memoirs is very readable, and his acerbic wit comes through in several instances), and Liddell Hart's 2-volume history of the RTR was published in 1959. That's not getting into the combat memoirs, e.g., Frank Mitchell in WW1 or Guderian and Crisp in WW2.

Post your bookshelves itt

Have some dead tree substitutes as well. :)

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Agree about the dearth of pre-1970 tank books if you're talking about technical or scholarly research, but there were some decent histories and memoirs you might consider tracking down, especially if Mildred Gillie's book interested you. For the British, Stern and Swinton for example have both written about their role in the tank's development. Martel wrote a memoir and a history of the first 15 years of mechanization in the British Army. Fuller was of course prolific (his Memoirs is very readable, and his acerbic wit comes through in several instances), and Liddell Hart's 2-volume history of the RTR was published in 1959. That's not getting into the combat memoirs, e.g., Frank Mitchell in WW1 or Guderian and Crisp in WW2.

Have some dead tree substitutes as well. :)

IMG_1543a1-vi.jpg

 

I see you have that giant new book on Kursk.  How is it?

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Is that 125mm APFSDS?

Your gonna fit in here

105 mm. And thanks, hope so. ;) There seems to be some nice work going on. 

 

I see you have that giant new book on Kursk.  How is it?

Unfortunately that book, along with the two mentioned by Martel, the one by Mitchell, and 30ish others, are still on the to do list. I'll keep you posted when I get to it.

 

Nice models!

Thanks. They were actually all gifts, and came pre-assembled (making them toys, perhaps? An interesting semantic quandary...). I have neither the skills nor patience for modeling. :)
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  • 4 weeks later...

Not tank books, but today at the book store I found these on the clearance racks.  Whitman press reprints of the official "US Army in World War II: European Theater of Operations" books.  Unfortunately they only had seven of the eight volumes (they were out of the Battle of the Bulge volume).  The good thing is that I got all seven for $40, original retail for each book by itself was 29.95.  I think these are all public domain and pretty easy to download, but I like having physical copies.  The most unusual thing about these are the included maps.  You can see in the second picture how they have cut out blank pages in the back of the book to make room for the fold out maps.  

 

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