Fonthill Media- Japanese Tanks and Armoured Warfare: 1932-45
A Military and Political History
Author: David McCormack
Hardcover, 176 pages with 30 black and white and color photographs (for this review sample, a digital PDF review copy was used)
What's Inside the Covers
I will openly admit before opening this book and reading, the amount I knew about Japenese armor in WWII would probably have been insufficient to write this review at all. The author sets out to debunk many of the misperceptions that are present with most WWII history readers about the Japanese and their armour. While they may have been steeped in tradition and thought to be an unworthy opponent, their skills showed through at Pearl Harbor and in the many island jungle engagements of the war. Basing his work on archival material, McCormack seeks to lay the foundations of how Japanese tank design and doctrines for use in combat may have matched, and possible surpassed similar designs and doctrines of the Europeans and Americans in the 1930s. The book also includes thorough data on principal tanks and tank destroyers that went into production, as well as experimental designs.
The text is written in a way that is easy to understand and informative without being overwhelmed in the minutiae that a book on military and political history of armoured warfare could could easily get bogged down in. After the initial chapter on tank development, we get a taste for the challenges the Japanese faced in their border conflicts with the Soviet Union. They made the same mistake the Allies later did with them- underestimating their foes...and they did so to their own near ruin. The overwhelming number and strength of the Soviet tanks were a surprise to the light Japanese tanks and tankettes- and they were decisively beaten well enough that they never seemed to venture towards those borders again during WWII. I found the quote by well-known Soviet General Zhukov to be particularly fascinating where he mentions the sound equipment they used to mimic aircraft engines, tank movements, and troop activities such as driving wooden poles into the ground. Initially, the Japenese began to fire at the areas the noises were originating. After 12-15 days of this though, they became complacent- and when the Soviets truly organized and attacked, the Japanese were caught off guard.
Without giving too much away, each chapter tells a story of enemy forces underestimating each other, on both sides of the engagements. Typically, the forces that tended to take the initiative and advance, causing the other side to react on their heels, tended to win the day. Unfortunately, in the chaos of the Pacific Theater of Operations, the sides tended to switch often as far as who was taking the initiative one day and taking the punishment the next. The Allies belief for too long that jungle warfare made the use of armour unsuitable was their downfall, as day after day the Japanese proved them wrong. Until the lack of armor and adequate anti-tank weapons was addressed, the Commonwealth and American forces were at a disadvantage.
Before long, I had reached the end of the main part of the book. Not too bad for a few hours weekend reading- and easier than I had originally thought it would be. The subsequent sixteen appendices are of equal interest-- none too long, but brimming with information on tank groups including formation, organization, combat history, and armoured tactical principles. The book then goes into depth of the principal tank models with short descriptions and summaries of dimensions, weight, crew numbers, engine, armour thickness, and armament. Following this is a similar appendix for the self-propelled guns and tank destroyers. Further sections include production statistics, tank gun specifications, communications, and maintenenace information. We get a great section describing the tank crews, their uniforms, equipment, and tank schools.
It is always refreshing to me to see books on Pacific armour operations considering the wealth of books on the European side of the war. The fact that this one centers on Japanese armour makes it even that much more interesting. In the three pages of bibliography references at the end of the book, there is only about a handful of books or articles dedicated to the subject. This is an excellent resource to learn more and gain insight into how their tactics developed from studying British WWI tanks during the Great War, through the early teething pains in Manchuria and how they constantly evolved and adapted their tactics to meet the challenges they faced. In the end it was lack of resources and sound leadership, paired with the Allies adapting and possessing overwhelming quantities of both that led to the reversal of fortune and eventual defeat of Japan. This book has some excellent photos that lend inspiration to Pacific armor model themes and I have included some that stood out- but it is the text that really stands out.
Highly Recommended for anyone interested in learning more about the little known topic of Japanese armour in WWII.
Thanks goes out to Fonthill Media for this review sample.
Reviewed by Michael Reeves, AMPS Albany
If you liked this review, consider joining AMPS. Your annual membership
includes six copies of AMPS's magazine, Boresight,
and helps to support our ongoing reviews.
Click here for more information about joining AMPS