Legends of Warfare
M42 Duster Self - Propelled Anti - Aircraft Vehicle
Schiffer Publishing’s Legends of Warfare series is noteworthy for its wide range of subjects; aerial, naval and ground combat are all well represented in this line. Previous books that I’ve examined from the Legends of Warfare series all share similar format, physical characteristics and quality of content. Some recent titles in this series authored by David Doyle have added pages (up to 144 pages) allowing for even more content.
With this installment in the Legends of Warfare series, prolific author David Doyle brings the reader the somewhat curious tale of the M42 Duster. Post-WWII, the Army wanted to replace earlier mobile anti-aircraft vehicles such as the M19 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage developed near the end of WWII. The decision was made to mount a pair of 40mm Bofors guns as used in the M19 onto the chassis of the M41 light tank (the Walker Bulldog), built at the Cleveland Tank Plant. This new vehicle was the M42 “Duster”, with production beginning in 1952, and ending in 1960 when anti-aircraft missile systems became more commonly used. The M42 and M42A1 (improved engine, among other things) were then removed from active duty units and sent to National Guard units. This should have been the end of the Duster saga, except for this conflict that was brewing in a far off Asian country named Vietnam….
As US involvement in Vietnam heated up, there really wasn’t a lot of need for missile batteries for low altitude anti-aircraft purposes, but it seemed that the M42 Duster could still fill the anti-aircraft role adequately. So, Dusters were pulled from Guard units and sent off to war. And as the war in Vietnam escalated, the Duster assumed what eventually became a much larger role, as a very potent mobile ground support / defensive weapon. The M42 Duster, with a high rate of fire and 40mm projectiles was quite effective against ground troops or lightly armored targets, and became a highly effective weapon for convoy duty, perimeter defense and other missions where it’s firepower was needed. The M42 Duster was highly regarded in its Vietnam service, but as the war wound down and finally ended, so did the active career of the Duster. When US ground forces left Vietnam, most Dusters were turned over to the ARVN for their use, and then went into Communist service when the Republic of South Vietnam was defeated by the North in 1975. What was left of the M42 Dusters stateside went back into National Guard service, which ended in the late 1980’s.
Format - hardcover, square format
Page Count - heavyweight, glossy paper, 144 pages
Size - 9.25" x 9.25"
Photos - 300+ black and white images, full color images
Tables / Drawings / Diagrams - tables of technical and performance data, line drawings, full color vehicle renderings
All text and photo captions are in English
What's in the Book?
As can be seen in the book’s table of contents above, just three chapters tell the tale of the M42 Duster. The largest of these chapters is the Field Use chapter, which is a gold mine of fantastic Vietnam War images of the Duster (I guess I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, here..)
This book begins with some quite nice images of pre-production versions of the Duster and its components under development. The author does a thorough job of describing the development and later the production of the vehicle.
There are several great images of the Duster being manufactured at the Cleveland Tank Plant. Above is a really interesting image of the early Duster during development alongside of its sibling, the M41 Walker Bulldog. The Duster shared a chassis with the M41, and both were manufactured at the same plant. The image shown above would make for one really nice diorama idea!
Above - the book’s first chapter contains lots of photos of what eventually became the M42 Duster. Also seen above, an informative table containing general and engine data.
Along with great full page images found throughout the book, this title also includes several nice line drawings of the Duster, seen above in both profile and top down views. These nicely done drawings are a relatively recent and welcome addition to some of the titles in this series of books.
The images of pre-production vehicles that are commonly found in this series of books are always interesting, as some of the evolutionary dead ends can be quite different from what entered production later. In the images above left, we see anti-grenade cages mounted over the gun turret. This proved to be a hindrance to gun crews, and so wasn’t adopted for production. Interesting idea though.
Moving into the book’s largest chapter, “Field Use” this volume really shines with its range of photographs of the M42 Duster performing a wide variety of actions in various situations / locations. By far the bulk of the images in this chapter are of Duster’s in use in Vietnam. These images range from Duster use at remote fire bases to convoy escort duty, to urban combat at Hue city. Fascinating images to be honest, and among the best I’ve seen yet of AFV use in Vietnam. I found them to be terribly interesting, and captioned quite thoroughly.
Above - what a terrifically composed, interesting image! The photographer obviously knew his business quite well, this photo is nearly perfect, right down to the flag flying from the second landing craft in the top center of the image.
Above - still more examples of the wide range of images found in the “Field Use” chapter.
A Note on the photos - please note that the images found in this book are far better than the photos that I took of them for review purposes. They are uniformly clear and crisp, and of great interest. No need to make excuses for any of the images found in this book. Photo sizes generally range from quarter page size up to full page in size. All images are sized appropriately to allow good study of details.
Above - a great top-down image showing the clutter in the “work space” of the Duster. A great example of the author taking pains to describe points of special interest in the images can be found in this caption, where he describes the “dud pit” seen in this image. This would be a great added feature in a diorama of a Duster position at a Vietnam fire base.
Above - another terrific full page image, showing Duster on the move, convoy duty most likely. A great image showing road created weathering.
The author does a great job of seamlessly integrating blocks of well written text / photo captions, great images and the occasional line drawings or full color renderings as seen above left. This varied content meshes quite well, giving the reader a good understanding of the vehicle, it’s history and use.
As always with books in this series by the author, the “In Detail” chapter is quite thorough, giving the reader a very complete look at the components of the subject vehicle, inside and out. These images are quite well done by the photographers, and the author does his usual great job of providing informative photo captions describing exactly what the reader is looking at.
Above left - more “eye candy”, renderings showing M42 Duster use by foreign nations; in this case West Germany and Japan. The Duster was used by quite a few nations friendly to the US, and some not so friendlies, like post - 1975 Vietnam.
Above - one final spread of “Duster in Detail” images, again showing both the quality of the images, and the thorough photo captioning.
The author has done a very nice job with this volume. All of the ingredients needed for a thorough knowledge of this vehicle, it’s history, it’s development and production, it’s use in the field, and it’s components are here. The author has presented all of these things in a logical, easily read manner.
I’ve usually found the photographs used in David Doyle’s works to be well chosen for content and quality, and this book is no exception, but I must say that the photos of the Duster in Vietnam service are exceptionally good.
As always, the author has done his typical terrific work with his clear, concise text and photo captioning work here in this volume. It’s uniformly well written and informative while remaining “readable”.
This book is a wonderful reference work on a vehicle that strikes me as somewhat under appreciated these days. I think that I last built a model of the M42 Duster sometime in the mid- 70’s, the ancient Tamiya kit. Review this book suddenly has me ready to check my stash to see if there’s a Duster in there somewhere…..and to me, that speaks volumes about how good a vehicle reference is. This book is that good by my standards.
Thanks to David Doyle Books for the review copy
Reviewed by Chuck Aleshire, AMPS Chicagoland
AMPS 2nd Vice President, Midwest Region
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