Cover image for Tank warfare in the Second World War : an oral history
Tank warfare in the Second World War : an oral history
Forty, George.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London : Constable, 1998.
Physical Description:
248 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D793 .F67 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The tank is only as good as its crew, who are required to fight in a noisy, jarring, explosive-filled "box," knowing that, at any moment, they could be blown to bits. Lieutenant Colonel George Forty, who himself served for 32 years in Britain's Royal Tank Regiment, has gathered a vast range of firsthand accounts from the crewmen of both Allied and Axis powers, covering every theater of the war. The accounts are sometimes deceptively humorous, typifying the bravado shown by soldiers in the face of danger; almost all are revealing and deeply affecting. Illustrated with many previously unpublished photographs,Tank Warfare in the Second World Waris essential reading for those interested in military history.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The new book from a prolific writer on armored warfare relays the personal experiences of mostly British and American soldiers. It covers the usual topics--entry into service, training, living in the field, living with crew mates, first and subsequent combat experiences, being wounded, rest and relaxation, etc.--frankly, and it includes some details new to the historiography of tank warfare, as well as some unfamiliar and informative photographs. Altogether, the book saliently attests that being able to ride to battle did not always outweigh riding in a large target and that much support work was essential to keeping frontline tanks firing. Perhaps some knowledge of the basics of tank warfare is necessary to fully appreciate the book, and it is sad that, because Russian veterans have mostly passed on without recording their memories, there is so little said about the Eastern Front. Nevertheless, Forty has produced an invaluable book for serious World War II and tank warfare students of all stripes. --Roland Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

British author Forty, well known for his work on armored warfare and his illustrated campaign histories, illuminates the experience of tank warfare through interviews, personal communications and oral histories from American, British, French, German and Soviet soldiers. The men recall everything from enlistment (or draft) through training to combat and its aftermath. Whatever the army, the experiences were similar. British, Russian or American, a tank crewman's war was structured by the requirements of driving, maintaining and utilizing a complex, fragile weapons system. An individual's mistake or a failure of teamwork, an overheated engine or a jammed turret, could prove fatal. Foot soldiers envied the tankers: not only did tank crews ride everywhere and go into battle sheltered by armor, but they were able to carry such luxuries as stoves or extra blankets in their vehicles. Forty's narrators, however, make it abundantly clear that armor plating could seem paper-thin under the muzzle of a German 88 or a British 17-pounder. With fighter-bombers overhead, even a Tiger tank was no more than a large, slow target. Nicknames like "Zippos" or "Tommy cookers" paid grim tribute to the flammability of damaged tanks. In particular, Forty's chapter on casualties, with its repeated, matter-of-fact descriptions of crews reduced to ash or burned alive, offers harrowing testimony to the fact that no one in combat has an easy war. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved