Osprey's Early US Armor: Tanks 1916-40


Steven Zaloga


Osprey Publishing


$18.00 MSRP


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 48 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softbound
ISBN: 978-1-4728-1807-2

WWI saw several revolutionary weapons of war. One of them was the tank. Though developed by the British, the French Renault FT-17 is often considered to have been the design that has influenced tank design more than any other. It would not be, therefore, too surprising to know that this tank was what consisted of much of US WWI armor. The type was even built in the US, though once the war was over, production pretty well ceased and the tank was no longer considered to be something that the US Army had to have.

This is not to say that the concept went away, for there were forward thinking officers in the US Army that saw the benefit of the tank, but so ingrained was the horse-mounted cavalry in the senior officers that getting funding for new tank designs was quite difficult. Indeed, even in 1941, there were still horse mounted cavalry units in the US.

Thanks to the reduction in the military after WWI and the following Great Depression, money simply was not there for tanks. Not to say that the type wasn't designed, tested and put into limited use, but not in any sort of numbers.

In line with European powers, American tanks of the 20's and 30's were mostly smaller light tanks with relatively thin armor and small guns. The heavy machine gun was often considered to be adequate enough and it wasn't until the late 1930s that the use of some sort of canon capable of penetrating armor was carried. Even this was often the 37mm version, developed along the lines of the German anti-tank gun of the same calibre.

Eventually, it became obvious that the US would be involved in any war in Europe and so development of more and more modern and capable tanks followed. This book stops with the M3 light tank and M3 medium tank, but it is obvious what comes next.

The author does a very good job of covering all the different vehicles developed during this period; both the somewhat successful and those which were an obvious dead end. This is superbly accompanied with some great period photos and equally good artwork. It gives the reader an excellent look at these early American tanks and provides a lot of insight as to how these vehicles would be used as time progressed. An excellent read and highly recommended.

March 2017

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