Osprey's Walker Bulldog vs T-54 (1971-75)

Author:

Chris McNab

Publisher/Distributor

Osprey Publishing

Price

$22.00 MSRP

Reviewer:

Scott Van Aken

Notes: 80 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softcover
ISBN: 978-1-4728-3612-0

One does not think of tank battles when it comes to the war in Vietnam. There isn't a lot of open ground, often times the terrain is fairly rugged, and roads are generally not first class with many turning to quagmires in the monsoon. Yet armor did play a fairly large role in operations, especially in the last years of the conflict. Though frequently used as mobile fire support, there were quite a few times when there were major tank on tank engagements.

In this book we look at the use of the US built M41 Walker Bulldog and the Soviet/Chinese built T-54/Type 59. At the time, the latter were very much capable tanks while the M41, a light tank, had been pretty well phased out of US service. This left a goodly number available to the ARVN forces in South Vietnam to use against the PAVN or the North Vietnamese army.

On paper, the edge goes to the T-54 every time as it is a well armored, large gun tank. However, the M41 was perfectly able to take out a T-54 though couldn't really stand up in a slug fest. The M41 was fast, maneuverable and able to get off a lot of rounds in a set amount of time. The T-54 gun was so large and the turret so small that the gun barrel had to be raised just to insert the next round. This took time. For the most part, ARVN tankers were superbly trained and as long as the morale was high, were able to inflict severe damage in the PAVN tank forces.

As is the norm with this series, the author provides a bit of background history to the two types as well as a look at how the crews were trained and how these tanks were used in combat against each other.  Often the outcome of combat was more determined by factors outside the specs of the tank itself. There were engagements where the M41 wiped out T-54 units and those where the T-54 virtually eliminated ARVN squadrons. The book chooses two campaigns, one of which was Lam Son 719 in 1971, the ARVN incursion into Laos near Khe Sanh. The other is the PAVN Easter offensive that took place and covered most of the northern part of South Vietnam. It was a major incursion and North Vietnam's hope that it would end the war in their favor. Both events were major deals and the author does limit himself to times where the two tanks battled each other. Add to all this some great period photos and superbly done art work and you'll have an excellent book that is well worth picking up. 

June 2019

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