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Helion Books - Italian Soft-Skinned Vehicles of the Second World War, Volume 2

ISBN Number: 978-1-804514-91-7 Publisher: Helion and Company
Published: Friday, January 26, 2024 Retail Price: $59.95 USD
Reviewed By: Chuck Aleshire

Helion Books

Italian Soft-Skinned Vehicles of the Second World War, Volume 2

 Motorcycles, Cars, Trucks, Artillery Tractors 1935-1945

The Italian armed forces of World War II seem to have been perhaps the most often overlooked member of the Axis forces, particularly when it comes to reference works on Italy’s weapons and equipment. Italian war fighting equipment in general is not really regarded very highly, especially when compared to other combatants of WWII. This may not be quite fair, as Italy certainly did not have the industrial capabilities or capacity of the other powers such as Germany, the US, the Soviet Union or the UK. 

This new two volume set of books from Helion promises to shed some much needed light on the non-armored vehicles used by the Italian armed forces of WWII, including vital background on the how’s and why’s of Italian military vehicle development and production.

Please note that this is Volume 2 of a two volume set. Volume 1 of this set was recently reviewed by AMPS quite favorably. To see that review, use this link: https://www.amps-armor.org/SiteReviews/ShowReview.aspx?id=15237

Volume 1 of this set gave the reader a solid background regarding the state of Italy’s vehicle development and production capabilities in the 1930’s - 40’s, and then proceeded with quite comprehensive looks at Italy’s WWII military motorcycles, cars, and light trucks. This follow on companion book then picks up with the medium and heavy trucks, artillery tractors, specialty vehicles, and trailers.

Vital Statistics

Format - softcover,  portrait format

 Page Count - heavyweight, glossy paper,  226 pages

 Size - 10.0" x 8.0”

Photos - 480+ mostly B&W period images, a handful of full color images.

Tables / Drawings / Diagrams -  line drawings, three dimensional views, some full color renderings

All text and photo captions are in English

What’s in the Book?

Above - the table of contents for Volume 2. This book picks up where Volume 1 left off, examining medium and heavy trucks, artillery tractors, special purpose vehicles, and trailers. The book closes with some particularly valuable appendices.

Please Note - as this is Volume 2 of a two volume set, chapter numbering takes up where Volume 1 left off. Thus, the opening chapter in this volume is chapter 5.

Chapter 5 of this two volume set covers the Italian medium and heavy trucks used in World War II, and is the largest chapter in this book at a whopping 126 pages. In leafing through the pages of this chapter, it’s quite easy to see why so many pages are devoted to these trucks, as there is a very wide range of them. 

Above - You will find in-action photographs of the vehicles sharing the same two page spread as the more formal profile photographs of the vehicles, making for a visually interesting presentation.

Above - as with Volume 1, this book contains a great many well executed line drawings of various subject vehicles, sure to be appreciated by model builders. I just wish that we’d see mainstream kit manufacturers producing more of these interesting Italian vehicles!

The authors do a good job of presenting the reader with lots of information on the vehicles presented in this book, with clearly written text, interesting as well as informative. For each vehicle, developmental and service history is given, vehicle specifications / performance data is presented, as well as information on variants if any. All are laid out in an orderly, “readable” manner.

The photo or drawings captions are clear and concise, with areas of special interest called out.

Scattered throughout the book are interesting photographs of various Italian vehicles in the field. Most of these photos originate from Italy’s African campaigns, with a lesser number of images of Italian vehicles in service in Russia and other places. Most of these wartime in-action style images are of good quality, with just a few a bit less than perfect. As always, an imperfect image of an interesting subject is far preferable than no image at all.

The variety of medium and heavy trucks fielded by Italy in World War II was much wider than I’d imagined, and the authors have chosen a great many fascinating photographs of them for use in this book.

Above left side- a couple of really cool images of a Lancia Ro truck loaded with a Pavesi artillery tractor. Not something you see just every day, and really unusual! And above right, a Lancia Ro truck serving in the Spanish Civil War, all dolled up with a dramatic camo paint scheme. Great images!

The trend in most armies of WWII was to mount guns on just about any vehicle that could take them, and the Italians were no exception. Above are some nice images of some improvised self propelled guns. 

A Note on Photo Sizes - photographs in this book range from roughly 1/8 page sized up to 1/2 page in size. This is a fairly good sized book at 8” x 10”, and it’s printed on quality high-gloss paper, so even the smallest images are clear enough for details to be easily made out.

Above - as with it’s companion Volume 1, this book has a few pages of single aspect, full color views of selected Italian soft-skins, useful for showing base colors used by the Italians.

Above - there are 8 pages of full color period photographs of various subjects, showing camouflage and weathering of vehicles.

The book’s sixth chapter examines Italy’s various artillery tractors, with some being quite distinctive, such as the Pavesi series seen in the above images. In many cases, Italian soft-skin vehicles of World War II had a very distinctive appearance, and their artillery tractors were no exception to this. 

Above - another two page spread containing very nice photographs and outstanding line drawings, showing the Pavesi tractor from 4 angles. The Pavesi had a two frame design that allowed articulation of front and rear vehicle frames, giving it the ability to traverse really rough, uneven ground.

Above - The SPA TL 37 artillery tractor, the top left photo shows it wearing the balloon desert tires. Another of the interesting Italian designs that were rather eye-catching. Also above, more of the nice line drawings, and a 3d drawing of the vehicle’s unusual transmission system.

If the vehicle shown above looks familiar to those with a knowledge of German halftracks, there’s a good reason for that. The above vehicle is the Breda 61 artillery tractor based on the German Sd.Kfz 7, which was made by Italy under license, incorporating some Italian design changes.

Also seen above is the way that the authors present specifications / performance data for vehicles throughout this book.

Above - throughout the book, the authors make use of original, period drawings and documents.

Above - Italy had a couple of the more interesting special purpose vehicles found in WWII, these are well covered in the book’s chapter 7. Seen above is the AS 42 Sahariana desert fighting vehicle, designed and produced by Italy in response to the successes of the British LRDG in North Africa. 

Above - Another of the interesting Italian special purpose vehicles, the AS 43. Note the tri-color camouflage scheme. Many of these vehicles were confiscated and used by German forces once Italy dropped out of the war.

The 8th and final chapter of this book ( and of the two volume set ) addresses the trailers used by Italian forces in World War II. These trailers fell into two general categories, those for hauling AFV’s and those for general cargo. Both types are well described and illustrated in this chapter.

This volume closes with three appendices, all of which are quite informative and interesting. The largest of the appendices covers camouflage and markings of Italian soft-skins, example pages seen above.

Above - another of the appendices, this one giving information on German use of Italian vehicles.

Conclusions

The authors have done a masterful job in presenting the information in this book (indeed, in the entire two volume set). This book is laid out in a methodical, logical manner, making it easy to find a specific vehicle one may be researching.

Each vehicle is examined thoroughly from development and service history, technical description, and with technical and performance data provided. Crisp, clear, well chosen images of the vehicles are provided, being a good mix of “formal portrait” style as well as some interesting “in the field” images as well. The line drawings as well as other renderings and historical documents are of great value.

This two volume set will be THE definitive reference work on Italian WWII soft-skinned vehicles for a very long time to come, it’s that good. The author’s have done modelers and the military history community a great service in putting this two volume reference set together. 

Highly Recommended! ( A Must Have for Italian or North African campaign enthusiasts )

Thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy

Reviewed by Chuck Aleshire, AMPS Chicagoland

AMPS 2nd Vice President, Midwest Region

 

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