What we regard as the 'standard' U.S. Half-Track, was, in reality, anything but. The basic vehicle, which began production in 1941 and finished in 1944. The initial (production) vehicle was classified as the M2, which, with the conversion of the behicle to carry an 81mm mortar, became known as the M4. The third 'evolution' with substantial external differences, was the M3. The latter,, with a now standardized design, was fabricated by three manufacturers - The White Motor Car Company, The Autocar Company and The Diamond T Motor Car Company. The increased demand for the vehicle amongst America's Allies brought in a fourth - International Harvester Company (IHC) whose vehicles contained marked differences,. In total, no less than 53,600 vehicles were built in something less than 3 years. Internally, there was a continual process of development with no less than NINE major improvements during the production period - these included such items as additional storage racks, heavier bogie springs or the modified spring-loaded idler.
Tankograd's New book - the basics
U.S. WWII HALF TRACK Cars M2, M2A1, M9A1 & Personnel Carriers M3, M3A1, M5, M5A1
is a 48 page, A4 Format softcover book which is edited by Michael Franz. The book contains 2 color, 214 black&white photos and 6 black and white graphic illustrations. The book, as is normal for the publications from Tankograd
, is bilingual English/German. This does not mean that the translation is in any way truncated - the titles and text are TOTALLY translated - nonw of these irritating partial translations here!
The U.S. Half-Track is an extremely complex subject and i must admit to a certain degree of 'trepidation' when I received both this and the other volume on the variants for review, as to whether or not, a total of 96 pages could actually do justice to such a complicated study area...
Tankograd have established an excellent track-record within this series by combining both contemporary images and the official U.S. Army technical/workshop manuals. Both of these sources are the basis for the book. Due to the necessity to provide both crews and mechanics with illustrated 'Owner's Handbooks' for every piece of equipment in the U.S. inventory, 60 years later, the modeler has been provided with an invaluable resource.
Tankograd Publishing have, in many people's opinion, created a superb series of books, due, in large part, to their use of 'unique' images. Their policy is to use (whenever possible) images which have not appeared in any other publications. This was obviously not practical in this book, due to the 'open-source' nature of the original technical manuals however, the 'in-theater' images are, as far as I can tell, previously unpublished. Quality, is, once again, first-rate with nicely scanned and sharp images which show a wide variety of vehicles in a number of locations.
This is not a book with a great deal of text but what there is, is both concise and informative. Captioning of the images is as complete as one could wish for with the editor having a sufficient knowledge of his images to be able, in the majority of the images, to identify location, dates and units. When the original technical images are used, he frequently adds additional captions which helps to avoid any possible confusion.
Value for the Modeler:
Good as the existing DML kits are, there are undoubtedly areas which need 'tweaking'. While the published 'tweak' lists are undoubtedly excellent, a visual reference is invaluable. This is undoubtedly where the book comes into its own and becomes a hugely valuable resource,
Print vs. Disc
In the last few years, a number of enterprizing individuals have published the technical manuals onto the useful format of CD-Roms. While a great defender of their work, simply reproducing the manuals can cause a degree of confusion for the less 'tecnical' amongst us. This book uses the 'relevant' parts of the manuals and with the captions, produces a marginally more 'user-friendly' resource. For the absolue last word on the most obscure detail, the CD-Roms are incredible resources although both can (and should) be used together.
Depth of Coverage:
This is the most impressive part of this book. Due to superb editing, the book covers, in pretty good depth, the M2, M2a1, M9a1, M3, M3a1, M5 and the M5a1.Half-Tracks. An excellent explanation is given to the differences between the IHC-produced vehicles and the White, Autocar and Diamond T manufactured vehicles. Apart from the usual areas of interest (Chassis, Power-plant, armament etc.) along with two 'bonus' sections' on Radios and Deep-water Fording equipment. One area, which I feel SHOULD have been covered is the various wheel types seen on the Half-Track as this is an area where the AM manufacturers have gone into in some detail..
This is an impressive publication. To get so much information into a limited format, is no mean acheivement in itself. To have the editorial 'discipline' to keep 'on message' is equally impressive. For those who want a good reference on the H/T this book represents extraordinary value. However, for those modeling the H/T, this will serve as a good 'core' book, I would strongly recommend looking for additional books containing more archive material as a complement. Part of me is a little disappointed that Tankograd didn't give the subject a similar treatment to (for example) their 'special' on Soviet Tractors. Again, cost (and the financial return) is what dictates to any publisher. It only remains to speculate as to whether the manufacturers will move on from the M2/M3 and consider new tooling to produce an IHC Half-track which would really give a LOT of possibilities for Foreign Half-tracks. All that remains, is to ask for Tankograd to consider another volume on the Haf-Track concentrationg on images of some of those vehicles in-theater..
The review of the companion book to this can be seen here WWII U.S. Half-Tracks GMCs (LINK)