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Book Review
M41 vs T-54
Walker Bulldog vs T-54 Laos and Vietnam 197175
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Models of the T-54 family of MBTs are popping up like the mushrooms its turret resembles. The M41 Walker Bulldog light tank is one of the first models many older tank modelers built. In Vietnam the Communist Goliath fought the South's David with unexpected results. The two tanks are compared and contrasted in this new Duel book that is full of inspiring stories and images for modelers.

Walker Bulldog vs T-54 Laos and Vietnam 197175 from Osprey Publishing LTD is the 94th title in the series Duel. Authored by Chris McNab and illustrated by artists Alan Gilliland and Johnny Shumate, it is catalogued with the Osprey short code DUE 94 and IBSN 9781472836120. This paperback format holds 80 pages and is also available in ePub, and PDF.

Osprey's description of the story is:
    During the Vietnam War, both the United States and the Soviet Union supplied all manner of weapon systems to the opposing sides, including tanks and armoured vehicles. Two tanks in particular took momentary prominence in the later years of the conflict. On the South Vietnamese side, it was the US M41 Walker Bulldog; for the communist North Vietnamese, the Soviet-supplied T-54 main battle tank was the core of their armoured power.

    In their first major engagement, during Operation Lam Son 719 (February-March 1971), it was the Walker Bulldog in the ascendant, but in later battles the T-54s inflicted heavy losses on their lighter opponents, taking the advantage through their superior manoeuvrability and gunnery.

    Illustrated with full-colour artwork as well as rare and revealing photographs from both sides, this book studies these two iconic tanks in Vietnamese service, examining how their differing designs and fighting doctrines affected their performance in this unique theatre of combat.

There is more to tank combat than tanks and this book will present some of those factors and how they contributed to the history recounted in this book.

Walker Bulldog vs T-54 Laos and Vietnam 197175 is told through 80 pages in 11 chapters and sections:
    Design and Development
    The Strategic Situation
    Technical Specifications
    The Combatants
    Statistics and Analysis

Mr. McNab builds a framework for the eventual 20 pages of combat and analysis by exploring and explaining the many aspects of tank warfare. He discusses Cold War expectations and the designs that resulted from them, and how those designs developed, were produced, the training of crews, and peculiarities of the combatants.

The text is fortified with excerpts from Field manuals and American advisor assessments of South Vietnam's ARVN (Army of Republic of Vietnam), and even information from the North Vietnam's PAVN (Peoples Army Vietnam). He discusses that there is more to tank combat than tanks and lays out the effects of the two strengths and weaknesses of the soldiers of both countries in The Strategic Situation and The Combatants. These chapters help he reader understand the misunderstandings and related mistakes in using the tanks, and the proper use that saw M41 groups frequently routing or decimating the Soviet MBTs.

Design and Development and Technical Specifications define, describe and compare the lightweight M41 to the heavy T-54. I was fascinated by the penetrative power of the small M41's M32A1 76mm gun against the armor plate of the Soviet tank.

Combat presents the performance of these two tanks generally against each other in three campaigns: Lam Son 719; the 1972 "Easter Offensive"; 1975's Communist conquest of the South.

Photographs, Artwork, Graphics
Osprey fortifies the text with many color and black-and-white photographs. Many were professionally shot while many were taken by soldiers in the field. The hulks of destroyed M41sand T-54s graphically depict the abilities of their anti-tank munitions against the others' armor. The effects of air attack and infantry tank killer teams are not ignored. Images include both ARVN and PAVN scenes. Several scenes scream to be reproduced as dioramas.

These photos and illustrations are very useful for modelers seeking technical and tactical information about the machines and soldiers, as well as stirring interest in modeling the subjects. Illustrations from Soviet T-54 manuals are reproduced, and color photos of tank interiors are included. The color photos are treasures showing differences of paint colors and weathering patterns.

Artists Alan Gilliland and Johnny Shumate created original color artwork for the book:
    a. M41A3 Light Tank: three views in full-color of PAVN T-54B No. 309, accompanied by technical data.

    b. T-54B Main Battle Tank: three views in full-color of an unmarked Walker Bulldog accompanied by technical data.

    c. M41A3 76mm Ammunition: seven (7) main gun rounds, with descriptions:
      1. M339 AP-1
      2. M496 HEAT-T
      3. M331A1/A2 HVAP-DS-T
      4. M319 HVAP-T
      5. M352 HE
      6. M363 antipersonnel canister round
      7. M361 Smoke

    d. T-54 100mm Ammunition: five (5) main gun shells, with descriptions:
      1. OF-412 HE-Frag
      2. S3-BR-412B AP
      3. S3-BR-412D AP
      4. 3BM8 APDS
      5. 3BK5M HEAT

    e. Map Autonomous Regions of South Vietnam: Vietnam and SE Asia, keyed to 45 regions

    f. Table ARVN armor assets in the early 1970s: by military zone, Armor units assigned, Brigade

    g. Color cutaway M41A3 Turret: keyed to 24 components, with a description

    h. Color cutaway T-54B Turret: keyed to 17 components, with a description

    i. Map Operation Lam Son 719: keyed to dozens of units, routes, and terrain features

    j. Color centerfold of two M41A3s destroying a PAVN T-54 assault

    k. Callout box PAVN armoured forces deployed in the Easter Offensive 1972

    l. Color illustration of sighting and destroying the foe: M41A3 Gunsight View, with narrative

    m. Color illustration of sighting and destroying the foe: T-54B Gunsight View, with narrative

In my book, that artwork adds greatly to the text (pardon the pun).

I think Walker Bulldog vs T-54 Laos and Vietnam 197175 from Osprey is another very interesting examination of two dissimilar tanks fighting in an area they were not envisioned to operate in. It should be a good source of information about both the M41 and T-54 family of tanks. It explains the intangible effects that training and leadership exert upon the cold metal of armored warfare. The book is full of photographs and artwork enhancing the text through the visual.

Some readers may feel that the subject is too constrained but the author frequently reminds the reader that the focus is specifically upon the clashes between the invading Communist MBT and the defending light tank. As such, once again I really have nothing to complain about.

Modellers should find a wealth of photographic and textual resources to inspire models, vignettes and dioramas of the Walker Bulldog and T-54, and Vietnam. Recommended.

Please remember to mention to Osprey and retailers that you saw this book here - on ARMORAMA.
Highs: Interesting text with a lot of technical and operational information. The book is full of photographs and artwork refining the text through the visual.
Lows: I really have nothing to complain about.
Verdict: Modellers should find a wealth of photographic and textual resources to inspire models, vignettes and dioramas of the Walker Bulldog and T-54, and Vietnam.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9781472836120
  PUBLISHED: Jul 09, 2019

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright 2020 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


Interesting review, Fred. There are a lot of T-54 kits, but not all that many with NVA markings it seems.
JUL 09, 2019 - 09:30 AM
These books by Osprey are great reference and reading material for those interested in kits or history. Or, as is the case with most of us I'm sure -both!
JUL 09, 2019 - 09:38 AM

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