The Battle of An Loc by James Wilbanks

Here is a review I wrote on the book “The Battle of An Loc” by James Wilbanks for the Military History Book Club. A must have book for anyone with an interest in Viet-Nam. This is a very good read. The Battle of An Loc was a major battle of the Vietnam War that lasted from April 13 to July 20, 1972. It culminated in a decisive victory for South Vietnam’s Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). The struggle for An Loc was one of the most important battles of the war. It saw the introduction of conventional warfare and tanks by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). The ARVN forces halted the NVA advance towards Saigon. It delayed the war’s end by three years.

The author, James Wilbanks, was present and wounded at An Loc. This is not only his account, but gives insights from the North Vietnamese and US Advisor’s after action reports plus other communist documents. The role of the unending US air support, the bravery of the US air crews, and the orchestration by the Forward Air Controllers to the battle’s victory for the ARVN and US Advisor’s is covered in warranted great detail. The inability of the NVA to have armor and infantry work together in more conventional warfare is clearly brought to light and documented. Wilbanks gives insights into Richard Nixon’s Vietnamization’s perceived success by the politicians and its ultimate failures. This is a must have read and must have addition to the library for anyone with interest in the war in Viet-Nam.

Read and reviewed by Jimmie Aaron Kepler.

Tiger Tank Manual: Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger 1 Ausf.E (SdKfz 181) Model (Owner’s Workshop Manual)

“Tiger Tank Manual: Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger 1 Ausf.E (SdKfz 181) Model (Owner’s Workshop Manual)” by David Fletcher, David Wiley and Mike Hayden and published by Zenith Press.  The Tank Museum in South Dorset in the United Kingdom (UK) was in a unique position to write a new chapter in the Tank story with its own discoveries on restoring and running Tiger 131, which is the centerpiece of the manual.

“Tiger Tank Manual” is unique as we follow the story of Tiger 131 from April 1943 in Tunisia in North Africa to its arrival in the UK in October 1943 to its renovation and refurbishing thanks to the national Lottery. It is a short work of only 164 pages. “Tiger Tank Manual” gives an amazing insight and inside look into purchasing, owning, and even operating one of the world’s most outstanding engineering feats and fighting vehicles.

The use of personal remembrances of what it was like to operate and command such a vehicle in wartime gives you a “you were there” feeling. he recollections of what it was like to be on the receiving end of the Tiger’s 88 mmm gun shared by Lieutenant Gundgin in the Foreword really helps set the book’s tone.

The pictures, illustrations, line drawings, statics are amazing. The “Tiger Tank Manual” gives the necessary background on the history and development of the tank. You get the story of Tiger 131 down including forensic and crime scene analysis of the battlefield damage to the tank to include the ammunition used against the tank!

You are given a specular cutaway drawing of the tank from the School of Tank Technology. Note: I am a former US Army Ordnance Corps officer whose military occupational specialty was maintenance. I supported the old US Army M60A2 tank. The detail in “Tiger Tank Manual” rivals any Technical Manual. I cannot over emphasize the quality and variety of the pictures. They left me with the felling I had crawled all over the vehicle as well as I examined every detail inside the tank. They are amazing.

You get a glimpse into the mind of the museum as to why they restored Tiger 131. Again, detail pictures as well as description guides you through the process. Such details as paint selection and viewpoints from volunteers working on the project make you feel part of the project.

The “Tiger tank Manual” includes a chapter on running the tank. The detail given to the start-up procedures and riving the tank makes me want to get in the driver’s seat and take it for a test drive.

The detail given to “The May back Engine” may appear to be overkill to some, but the tank enthusiast or automotive engineer will enjoy the examination of the engine and its auxiliaries. Everything from ventilation to the gearbox and transmission as well as the steering and drive shafts (final drive) is covered.

Having supported annual tank gunnery for several years had my curiosity peak in the chapter devoted to firepower. Excellent coverage is given to tank gunnery from the ammunition down to aiming and firing the gun.

The explanation of the deployment and tactics of the Tiger lets you have an understanding of the German’s strategy. The book concludes with a nice appendix of the surviving Tigers.

While the book may not be for everyone, any military enthusiast will enjoy the book. Any tanker or former tank crewmember will enjoy the book. I believe it would be a worthwhile addition to any military history library as well as any collection dealing with World War II. Additionally, automotive engineers will find the book simply amazing.

Read and reviewed by: Jimmie A. Kepler February 29, 2012. Note: Jimmie is honorably discharged as a Captain in the ordnance Corps US Army where he served as a maintenance office and supported a tank battalion (2nd Bn 77th Armor 2nd Brigade 9th Infantry Division) in 1978.