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Robert Jackson
In Print
Pen & Sword Military (2019)

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This entry created 9 November 2020. Last revised on 9 November 2020.

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American Half-Tracks of the Second World War

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64 pages. Color and black-and-white photos.

This is the second volume in the Landcraft series, branching off from the well-known Tankcraft series. This series is intended as historical and technical guides, and only secondarily as references for scale modelers.

There's a one-page introduction, which summarizes post-WWI American development of half-tracks for artillery prime movers to the M2 half-track truck.

Design & Development (six pages) explains how the M2 introduced 'endless band tracks', which weighed less and provided a better ride; a cavalry prototype vehicle which added half-tracks to an existing M3 Scout Car; and finally, development of the T14 half-track artillery prime mover. The success of the Nazi blitzkrieg led to rushed production of three open-topped half-tracks based on the T14: the M2 Half-Track Car, M4 81mm Mortar Carrier, and M3 Personnel Carrier. The design is explained, with some comparisons to German half-tracks, and differences due to manufacturers (White, Autocar, and Diamond T).

M2/M3 in Detail (five pages) explains the differences between the M2/M3/M4 (including length and troop capacity), the front winch or front roller, fuel and storage locations, and radio equipment.

M2/M3 Variants (13 pages) explains improvements (gun rail vs pintle mountings, armored ring mount, combat tires) and failed development projects (including rejection of diesel engines). Variants include the 75mm Gun Motor Carriage and 57mm Gun Motor Carriage (tank destroyers), 75mm Howitzer Motor Carriage and 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage (self-propelled howitzers), and Multiple Gun Motor Carriages (anti-aircraft vehicles with two- and four-machinegun turrets, and 'combination' vehicles with 37mm gun and machineguns).

Camouflage and Markings comprises eight color pages (with minimal text) of profiles (side, top, front, back views), typically without date or combat theater:

  • M2 Half-Track Car
  • 75mm Howitzer Motor Carriage T30
  • Field-improvised 37mm anti-tank gun on M2 Half-Track Car
  • 75mm Gun Motor Carriage M3
  • Half-Track Personnel Carrier M5 (with interesting but unexplained camo and markings)
  • Multiple Gun Motor Carriage (four-MG version)
  • M21 81mm Motorized Mortar Carrier (larger version of the M4)
  • 105mm Howitzer Motor Carrier T19

The 16-page Model Showcase provides color photos (with intro paragraph and photo captions) of built-up models:

  • 1:35 scale M2 (title says NJARNG 117th Cav 'Essex Troop', but text explains builder lacked suitable references; title says M2 but text says M2A1 in Italy)
  • 1:35 scale M3A1 service vehicle, 23rd Tank Battalion, 12th Armored Division
  • 1:35 scale M4, Western Front 1944
  • 1:16 scale M16 MGMC, 482nd AAA AW/SP Battalion, Belgium 1944/5

Reverting to the Tankcraft format, the author lists major manufacturers and models in eight pages of Modelling Products. Brief mention of 1:56 scale Bolt Action and Blitzkrieg models, and half-page listing for Plastic Soldier 1:72 and 1:100 kits (author criticizes them as difficult to assemble).

The final In Service and In Action chapter (seven pages) summarizes early combat experience, describes changing unit organizations, combat doctrine and comparison against German half-tracks, and use of anti-aircraft half-tracks in Korea.

The book is well written and the author seems knowledgeable. It seems like a chart or two might be an efficient way to supplement information about all the vehicles and their variants. I was disappointed that the color profiles were not specific to any particular place or time.

Is the book useful for wargamers? The author's emphasis is on 1:35 scale models. There is no text on how to paint your models or what the colors/markings should be; you'll have to look through the pictures and profiles for inspiration. Some of the tactical descriptions might be useful on the tabletop, and there are a few nuggets which could inspire scenarios.

Excellent reference volume on the M2/M3/M4 and variants. Not so useful on how to paint them.

Reviewed by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian.