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REVIEW: Marine Corps Tank Battles in Korea

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Oscar E. Gilbert, Casemate Publishers, Paperback, 320pp, 16 pages of photos, 229 x 152mm,

ISBN: 978-1-61200-531-7, RRP £14.99.

www.casematepublishers.co.uk

Previously published as a hardback book in 2003, this informative essay tells the story of the U.S. Marine Corps tankers who were sent to Korea in response to the invasion by the North Koreans into South Korea. The fledgling force was equipped with M26 tanks as the main weapon, but some of the crews had no training on these, some had no training at all, so instruction was given on board ship and on arrival, often with the officers and NCO’s ‘boning up’ from the manual the day before.  As with his other books on the USMC Tankers, Ed Gilbert has taken the memories and notes of veterans to enhance the official records. The 90mm gun of the Pershing soon destroyed the hysteria of earlier encounters between Chaffee’s and M8 armoured cars and the Communist T34/85s. As they had so little range time, the Marines initially thought they were missing the targets, then realised that they were actually punching right through the T34 from one side to the other with the HVAP rounds.

There are plenty of photos to support the text, not only of the M26 tanks, but also supporting M4A3 dozer tanks with 105mm howitzers, the POA-CWS-H5 flame tank, M32 TRV and M39 Armoured Utility Vehicle (Hellcat hull as an APC). Later in the war the M46 was also introduced with a better recoil system and improved engine and drive train, which necessitated further learning.

The terrain, considered unsuitable for tanks, and the often atrocious weather and bitter cold, were as much the enemy of the troops as was the North Koreans and Communist Chinese. The presentation of the reminiscences of the veterans allows the reader to appreciate what they had to endure.

The Korean ‘Police action’ is often considered the forgotten war, and with the veterans now fading away, Ed Gilbert has done well to get the facts published and recorded for posterity. Two items grabbed my interest;

A mention of the use of a flail mine-clearing tank, whose description sounds similar to a WW2 Crab. Anybody know any further details?

A reference to a visit by British tankers from the Commonwealth Division with a Centurion tank. The interviewed veteran was highly impressed with its climbing ability, as it outstripped the M26. An excellent read which fills a gap on my bookshelves.        

Recommended.                                                                                                       Paul Middleton 07/09/2017

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