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Heavy Wrecker

Heavy Wrecker Book Review

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review April 2009 Title Heavy Wrecker
Author David Doyle Publisher Ampersand Publishing
Published 2006 ISBN 978-0-9773781-5-9
Format 112 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $19.95

First Look

There is a tired old saw in the US Army – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” But when things do break, you need to have the proper tools and equipment to do the job. It is arguable that in WWII the US Army turned out to be the preeminent force in providing purpose-built vehicles, either from the ground up or from conversions, to do the job; no other country came close.

This nice new book from Ampersand, which was available only in draft form at the IPMS USA National Show in August 2008, is now in print and is worth the wait. It covers the major recovery and repair vehicles used in WWII, and is a fitting companion to the Ampersand books on the Dragon Wagon heavy transporter and the High Speed Tractors.

After a short overview of the history of the basic vehicle types, Mr. Doyle provides 16 pages of coverage of the T2 series tank recovery vehicle, later type classified as the M31. This vehicle was based on the obsolete M3 Medium Tank chassis, and added a heavy winch and rotating boom fitted to the turret to provide assistance. If the boom was braced either fore or aft it could generate up to 30,000 pounds of lift; on its own, it dropped to 10,000. The photos also provide coverage of some of the modifications and stowage that the crews carried out, so anyone with a conversion kit and an M3 Lee kit may want to check out the details provided here.

The next section covers the T5 or M32 series of tank recovery vehicles. Based on early production M4 Medium Tanks, these vehicles were the natural successors to the M31 series and there are 28 pages of internal and external coverage of the subvariants that were produced. Coverage includes basic versions that were also used into Korea, but the A1versions with HVSS were postwar and are not covered. Mr. Doyle notes that there was no pretense of being a tank (as they had tried with the M31, adding dummy guns to the rear of the turret and crew entry hatch in the former 75mm sponson) as it was impossible to conceal the recovery functions. Ergo the M32 design was prioritized as a recovery vehicle with a heavy A-frame boom and equipment that was better laid out than in the cramped M31.

The next vehicle si the Ward LaFrance M1 wrecker, which was the first purpose-built heavy wrecker used (there is no coverage of the A-frame fitted GMC CCKW family, but those were depot level conversions and not factory vehicles). 28 pages cover the M1 and M1A1 versions as well as those built by both Ward LaFrance and Kenworth.

The next is a vehicle not that familiar to Army historians – the C2 Aircraft Wrecker, which was primarily used for airfield support and recovery operations. These were standardized vehicles but were built by Federal, Corbitt, Sterling and Biederman and were able to both use an onboard crane and tow a gooseneck trailer. There are 10 pages of coverage of these vehicles in action.

Last is the Diamond T Model 969 4 Ton Heavy Wrecker, which is unique in that it had a split boom which could be either used as two light boom cranes or one heavy-duty one. Basically a wrecker version of the same heavy truck used early in the war as a tank transporter, this handy vehicle could carry out a multitude of jobs beside just vehicle recovery. The last 24 pages of the book cover in-service and restored vehicles, with a good number of detail shots of the different bits that made this vehicle unique.

Overall this a good book and another great “gap-filler” from Ampersand. I just wish somebody would put out the kits to go with it!