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Armored/Gun Trucks of the US Army in Iraq

Armored/Gun Trucks of the US Army in Iraq Book Review

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review June 2005 Title Armored/Gun Trucks of the US Army in Iraq
Author Carl Schulze, Ralph Zwilling Publisher Verlag Jochen Vollert (Tankograd)
Published 2005 ISBN 0-9734277-6-0
Format 54 pages, softbound MSRP (Euro) 14.95

Review

The invention of armor probably dates to the dawn of man, when one fellow realized he needed protection from the rocks and sticks being thrown at him by another fellow. This continued when man started using conveyances, and it is likely that the first charioteers felt the same way - the higher and thicker the protection, the better things are. But it was not until the creation of "war wagons" in the middle ages people suddenly felt you could fight back from behind protection, too.

Even when motorization took place in the 19th Century, it was not long before protected trains followed in the American Civil War and the invention of the first armored railway cars in South Africa in 1899 for the Boer War. Likewise when gasoline engines replaced steam and tires replaced rails, the same thinking followed. The champion of all time appears to be an armored Guinness delivery truck in Ireland during the "Troubles" but that is still a bit extreme.

During every other war that followed, soldiers figured out fast that mobile warfare meant that "rear area" was a rather conditional term, and that "softskin" – wood, steel, aluminum or later fiberglass bodied – vehicles were sitting ducks to artillery or in a fire fight.

While every major military vehicle since 1950 seems to have had armored kits developed to provide them protection, few of them are usually used for a number of reasons. The two main ones were the limitations on access and visibility that they instill to their "host" vehicle and the increased weight, which reduces payload and mobility. But the thought of getting blown to bits is not one most soldiers hold dear, and thus any measure that can be taken to reduce that chance is acceptable at the troop level.

I can concur wholeheartedly, having found myself in that situation in Vietnam in May 1970. I was driving an unarmored M35A1 truck when I accidentally nicked a Vietnamese on a Honda 50 and sent him flying into a puddle (we'll ignore the fact he was passing on the right, I was turning right, and the co-driver warned him off.) The enraged and soggy Vietnamese turned out to be a "cowboy" – one of the local thugs with small pistols and bad attitudes. He immediately went for what appeared to be a .32 revolver and all that was between he and I was eight feet of space and the sheet metal door of the Deuce.

About the time I figured this is not what was on my agenda for the day, I heard the sound of three M16 bolts locking up and a rather crude challenge from the cargo area to "just try it." He departed the area in a hurry, soggy bike and all, but it was about as close as I felt like coming to getting shot. (I got shot at twice more later on, but this is a book review, not my adventures in Vietnam .)

The same problems bothered the Soviets in Afghanistan, the various ethnic groups in the former Yugoslavia , and now the American forces in Iraq . And every time local troop units have had to create their own armor protection until factory kits can be provided.

This neat new book from "Tankograd" provides a good, thorough assessment of the efforts over the last two years as well as nearly 150 clear, sharp, color photos of a wide assortment of vehicles fitted with both factory kits and the locally manufactured kind – now referred to by the press as "Hillbilly Armor" protection. All of the vehicles in this book started life as softskins and have now been protected over the occupied areas of the vehicles to protect the crews from ambushes, improvised explosive devices (IEDs – booby traps), and other close combat weaponry.

The vehicles covered include light vehicles (mostly HUMMV types. 2 ½ and 5 ton tactical cargo trucks. HEMTTs of all types, and the so-called rear area types – from M915 "line haul" cargo carriers to the massive M1070 HET tractor. Both the "Hillbilly" versions and the factory kits are shown for most vehicles. Some Marine efforts such as those involving their version of the HEMTT (The Mk 48, which differs in that it articulates in the middle) as well as their heavy artillery tractors.

Also included are a number of "gun trucks" similar to the convoy escorts created and used in Vietnam by the US Army. But from what is shown here, so far none of them have the panache of the Vietnam models such as the legendary "Eve of Destruction" (now in the Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis , Virginia ) as they all are pretty drab or rusty. The sole different one in the book is an M923A2 truck with two bumpers welded together one on top of the other and a rather ferocious set of white teeth added.

Overall, this book should answer most questions about how the troops are trying to defeat the enemy's efforts and how the US Army has actually responded to the problem, not the rather uninformed opinions presented in the press.

Thanks to Peter Brown for the review sample.

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