Organization and Markings of United States Armored Units 1918-1941
This book was first published in 2006. Charles Lemons, the former curator of the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor at Fort Knox, Kentucky, has written an excellent study of the organization and markings of the US Army, US Marine Corps and Army National Guard armor units in the interwar period. For once the book's title is perfect!
This is a big, heavy, coffee-table-type hardcover book measuring about 9" x 12", with 224 pages, over 340 b/w and color photographs and a small number of color plates illustrating some of the markings and tables of organization. The photographs are mostly top quality, which is remarkable considering the circumstances under which many of them were taken.
As far as I know, this book is unique in tackling this subject. I found it fascinating to see how the US Army evolved in the interwar period. The US Army prior to WW2 had always been almost a constabulary force, without the traditions and experience of major wars; only the US Civil War was an exception. So when the US forces had to enter WW1 and adopt modern weapons and tactics, naturally they drew on their allies' experience. Thus US Army/USMC tanks in the immediate postwar period still looked like their British and French cousins, and only gradually did the US adopt its own marking systems and organizations.
In the interwar period, the US wasn't quite sure what to do with tanks, and the organization of units changed every few years. Many National Guard divisions had a handful of tanks to give their units some experience working with them. There was no armor branch, so both the Infantry and Cavalry experimented, on a small scale, with various tank organizations.
By 1930-41, though (still the interwar period for the US), the US had evolved larger formations. In the wake of the French campaign, the US formed its first Armored Divisions based largely on German organizations.
The evolution of all of these organizational changes and their associated markings changes are ably told in this book. The numerous photos closely align with the text.
Throughout the book, we are treated with organizational tables such as the one below, showing how each type of unit was organized. This is essential to understanding the markings systems.
The organizational changes are of course critical to understanding the markings systems. The color plates sometimes use the colors of the tactical markings to help make the connection, as in the example above. Sadly, the color plates are not well produced. However, almost all the photos are clear and sharp.
The color plates are not well reproduced; they are pixellated as if they were printed at too low a resolution.
One of my favorite photos in the book is this lineup of T1-series light tanks, a T2 medium, and two-thirds of the US Army's inventory of Christie light tanks.
A typical National Guard 6-ton tank (US built FT) with the unit designation painted on the turret side. Many ARNG divisions had a tank company with a handful of tanks for training purposes.
What might have been: a T4E1 tank converted to the command role.
The grandaddy of the M3 Stuart series can be seen here, with Cavalry markings, on pre-war maneuvers.
With all the new M3 medium kits out there, there are some great markings options shown towards the tail end of the book. Here's an early M3 with the early Air Corps-style national markings, plus company and platoon markings on the turret, including the cupola. Also, Blue Drab serial numbers.
This is an excellent book with regard to historical content, writing, organization and photo reproduction. If you are curious about interwar US armor, it is the reference to have. The author's through explanation of each unit's organization and equipment, told in chronological order, allow the reader to identify US armor by period and unit. Although it was not the author's goal to trace the development of US armor technology, the story is evident to a great extent. I seriously doubt there is a better interwar photo collection anywhere. The only flaw I see in this otherwise excellent book is the poor reproduction of the color plates.
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders; Must Have for fans of interwar US Armor.
Thanks goes out to Schiffer Publications for this review sample.
Reviewed by Danny Egan
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