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Osprey- US Battle Tanks 1917-1945

ISBN Number: 978-1-4728-5882-5 Publisher: Osprey Publishing
Published: Saturday, June 15, 2024 Retail Price: $35.00
Reviewed By: Michael Reeves

Osprey- US Battle Tanks 1917-1945

Book Specifics

Author: Steven J. Zaloga

Price: $35.00

ISBN: 978-1-4728-5882-5

Hardcover, 272 pages featuring 150 period photographs, 75 color artwork illustrations, and also 2D maps of key battles and campaigns.

What's Inside

The Osprey website labels this as a "comprehensive and detailed illustrated examination of the development and combat performance of US battle tanks from World War I to the end of World War II." That being said, it also mentions that this is an expansion of Zaloga's previous works in the New Vanguard, Campaign, and Duel series of books. I don't have these other books to correctly state how much is "new" in this book, but I can with all honesty state that this is an excellent resource for any modeler of WWI and WWII US armor. The book takes you from the Renault FT series borrowed from the French in WWI up through the various light and medium tanks used between the wars and throughout WWII up through to the M26 Pershing. The chapters are as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: US Tanks of World War I
  • Chapter 2: US Tanks in the Interwar Years
  • Chapter 3: US Tanks in World War II
  • Chapter 4: US Tanks in the Pacific Theater
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix: American Tanks by the Numbers

I found the WWI era chapter to be of particular interest as there were some truly quirky designs coming from Holt and Ford as the U.S. tried their hands at developing their own versions of workable combat armor. The Mark VIII heavy, also known as the "International" or "Liberty Tank" came along a bit too late to see any action in the actual war. It is good to see this variant out in various scales from companies like ToRo, F&A Miniatures, and Vargas Models. 

The chapter on the Interwar years focuses on various designs and examples from Christie, Rock Island Arsenal and Ft. Knox, as well as cavalry combat cars and early tank destroyers. The chapter draws to a close as we see light tanks like the M2 series and medium tanks like the M3 series. Throughout the chapter are excellent production and in-action photographs, as well as cutaway and profile drawings from various Osprey artists throughout the years. There are also ample tables of organization and equipment, comparative technical data between the variants, and production numbers throughout the interwar period.

Chapter 3 goes into in-depth detail on each of the major designs that occurred in the span of WWII. We get detailed analysis of the early war designs and evolving variants of the M3 and M5 Stuart light tanks. We then move onto commercial export tanks and lend-lease examples. The M3 medium tanks get the next highlight- with design and British influences (like the Grant and Lee naming for example), as well as their combat debut with the British 8th Army, and later with the US 1st Armored Division in North Africa. The combat sections don't rely so much on soldier accounts as more so on deficiencies and design modifications as units experienced challenges in combat. There are plenty of more excellent black and white photos and color drawings throughout. The chapter then shifts to the M4 Sherman and its early combat experiences. The remainder of the chapter shifts between advances in tank destroyer design and upgrades to Sherman designs, especially firepower. 

If I had one complaint in this chapter, it is the constant jumping around between the Sherman and the tank destroyers. The theme is pretty common-- addressing the threat that the ever more present German Panther tanks were becoming. However, some better delineation between these- maybe even a separate chapter for the tank destroyers might have been a better route. The chapter shifts to airborne and specialist tanks for D-Day, and then concentrates on armor in Normandy, innovations to tanks and tank destroyers in 1944, and sections on Assault Shermans and Duckfeet. More specialized tanks including counter-obstacle, flamethrower, and rocket tanks appear in the chapter before we shift focus to tank battles in the Ardennes and how this led to improvised armor modifications. Sections on new tanks in 1945, US Army Tank Organization in the ETO (kind of out of place here?), and US tanks in the Battle for Germany end the long chapter.

Chapter 4 focuses on US Tanks in the Pacific Theater and looks at combat throughout the war in this theater that was definitely rough going for armored operations. We see a focus on amphibious tanks here- including amtanks and amtracs. More innovations to improvised armor-- including wooden planks and wired barricades to ward off Japanese infantry charges and attacks. The flamethrower tanks proved extremely effective here and were valued tools in overcoming opposition in the island-hopping campaigns in the Pacific. 

The books ends with a brief Conclusion and an Appendix filled with production and loss charts for the various tanks. A Glossary and Further Reading section follows.


This is an excellent volume that takes single books in various US armor Osprey series and compiles them into one hardcover volume. You can find many of these titles in the Further Reading section. The photos and color artwork throughout are informative and inspirational in all regards. My only critique is the third chapter where things just seem scattered-- I would have preferred to see all the operational areas grouped together-- and not interrupted by some organizational information that might have best been placed at the beginning of the chapter or another section. Past that though, the book is a valuable resource to one looking to build some wartime American armor with some excellent cutaway drawings to help with painting your interiors from Rye Field or Miniart. This is touted as the first of two highly illustrated volumes examining the complete history of US Army and US Marine Corps battle tanks- I am curious to see what the next volume covers...hopefully the wait won't be too long!

Highly Recommended for anyone interested in the history of American armor development and production.

Thanks goes out to Osprey Publishing for this review sample.

Reviewed by Michael Reeves


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