by: Georg Eyerman [ ]
Mr. Moran's first complete book "Can Openers: The Development of American Anti-tank Gun Motor Carriages," is a good, solid effort. With numerous large, clear photographs and a wealth of primary source materials, this book embodies the thoroughness of Hunnicutt and the easy-reading narrative of Zaloga. At 228 pages, this hard cover book is published by Echo Point Books and Media (who, incidentally, are reprinting the Hunnicutt titles on American armor). It should be noted that this book is published under the "World of Tanks" umbrella and therefore includes a set of codes for the PC game. This is the second book to be published like this; the first being the re-print of the Hunnicutt "Firepower" title on U.S. heavy tank development. This implies, perhaps, that there will be other titles in this format in the future? One can only hope.
The book is broken into four sections, the first three cover the vehicles and are delineated by the mode of transportation for the weapon system (wheeled, half-track and full tracked). Each section is further broken down by gun caliber, from smallest to largest. Many of these vehicles were being tested and developed concurrently, so this method of organization in the book helps to keep things straight. The last section contains the data sheets on the vehicles discussed.
This book is not an exhaustive history on the vehicles, but a discussion of each vehicle as it was developed for the U.S. Army's Tank Destroyer branch during World War II and shortly thereafter. There is no mention of doctrine or use of the weapons in combat, which, to my mind, has been well-covered in numerous other works.
The text is clear and easy to read. More importantly, the narrative is not as dry as Hunnicutt and a little more informal. Having watched many of Mr. Moran's "The Chieftain's Hatch" videos on Youtube, there were passages that I could almost hear him saying. Material taken from official reports is printed in italics and make for easy identification in the text.
The photos of the vehicles are U.S. Army Ordnance photographs; most of which are large and pretty clear (although the quality of the photos do vary depending on their sources). There are numerous dark shots, that in this day and age, might have been saved with some photo editing. This is my only gripe with the book. Unlike Hunnicutt's books, there are no color photographs or color plates. The inclusion of color, while nice, is not vital and does not detract from the final product. Another nagging issue, which, sadly, is endemic today with enthusiast publications are some typos and misspellings. The death of dedicated editorial staffs in today's publishers are to blame for this and mar what is otherwise fine work.
Overall, I found this a useful addition to my reference library, and well worth the money. While not insignificant at $53 plus shipping the price is reasonable. However, a note to be aware of is the fact that the publisher batch-prints the books in order to offset print them (for the best quality and cost-effectiveness); so delivery may or may not be "Amazon-esque." The story of U.S. tank destroyers is a complex and convoluted one, with false starts, dead ends and "what were they thinking?" ideas. While the tank destroyer concept was ultimately found to be fundamentally flawed and discarded after World War II, the book delivers a clear, coherent narrative that is both informative and enjoyable to read. This is a MUST HAVE for U.S. tank destroyer enthusiasts, modelers and historians.