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M103 Heavy Tank 1950-74

by Richard Chasemore Kenneth Estes

The T43 design represented the pinnacle of U.S. Army tank engineering of the late 1940s, with its cast elliptical hull and turret, Continental AV-1790 engine, cross-drive transmission, and torsion bar suspension. A range-finder and mechanical computer directed a powerful 120mm main gun in a novel electro-hydraulic turret, among other features. The heavy tank proved fairly popular with its crews, who above all respected the powerful armament it carried. Many challenges to the crewmen were taken on with a sense of pride. Typical was the job of the second loader to hand-ram both the projectile (positioned by the first loader at the breech) and the propellant cartridge into the chamber in a single movement, all within the confines of a narrow turret. The outbreak of war in Korea brought a rush order in December 1950 which led to a complete production run of 300 vehicles, considered sufficient for Army and Marine Corps requirements. As might have been expected from the rush to production, the T43E1 failed its initial trials at Ft. Knox, mostly for erratic gun controls and poor ballistic performance of the projectiles. A modification program (of over 100 discrepancies) resulted in the standardization of the T43E1 as the 120mm gun combat tank, M103 in 1956. After 1951, the Marine Corps alone retained confidence in the heavy tank program, investing its scarce funds in the improvements necessary to bring about its fielding after a hurried production run in midst of the 'tank crisis' of the year 1950-51. Without the Marine Corps' determination to bring the M103 to operational status, it seems clear that the 300 vehicles would have languished in storage before their eventual disposal. The correctness of the Marine Corps support of the M103 tank was in no small way acknowledged by the Army's borrowing of 72 M103A1 improved USMC tanks necessary for its single heavy tank battalion in Germany. No other weapon system, before the era of antitank missiles, could guarantee the destruction of the Russian heavies, which continued their service through the late 1960s. The eventual retirement of the M103 in 1972, over 20 years after manufacture and after 14 years of operational service, demonstrated the soundness of its engineering and fulfillment of its designed role. It may have been the unwanted 'ugly duckling' of the Army, which refrained from naming the M103 alone of all its postwar tanks. For the Marine Corps, it served the purpose defined for it in 1949 until the automotive and weapons technology of the United States could produce viable alternatives.

Marines Under Armor

by Kenneth Estes

In this story of men, machines and missions, Kenneth Estes tells how the U.S. Marine Corps came to acquire the armored fighting vehicle and what it tried to do with it. The longtime Marine tank officer and noted military historian offers an insider's view of the Corps's acquisition and use of armored fighting vehicles over the course of several generations, a view that illustrates the characteristics of the Corps as a military institution and of the men who have guided its development. His book examines the planning, acquisition, and employment of tanks, amphibian tractors, and armored cars and explores the ideas that led to the fielding of these weapons systems along with the doctrines and tactics intended for them, and their actual use in combat.Drawing on archival resources previously untouched by researchers and interviews of both past and serving crewmen, Estes presents a unique and unheralded story that is filled with new information and analysis of the armored vehicles, their leaders, and the men who drove these steel chariots into battle. Such authoritative detail and documentation of the decisions to acquire, develop, and organize armored units in the U.S. Marine Corps assures the book's acknowledgement as a definitive reference.

Super-heavy Tanks of World War II

by Ian Palmer Kenneth Estes

This title explores the conception and design of a range of enormous and powerful tanks that came to be designated as 'super-heavy'. The fascinating super-heavy tanks of World War II were heirs to the siege machine tradition - a means of breaking the deadlock of ground combat. As a class of fighting vehicle, they began with the World War I concept of the search for a "breakthrough" tank, designed to cross enemy lines. It is not surprising that the breakthrough tank projects of the period prior to World War II took place in the armies that suffered the most casualties of the Great War (Russia, France, Germany). All of the principal Axis and Allied nations eventually initiated super-heavy development projects, with increasingly heavy armor and armament. Much as the casualties of World War I prompted the original breakthrough tank developments, as Germany found itself on the defensive, with diminishing operational prospects and an increasingly desperate leadership, so too did its focus turn to the super-heavy tanks that could turn the tide back in their favor. Although only a small number of super-heavy tanks were built, much less saw active service, their impressive appearance and specifications - not to mention the possibilities of what might have been - have captured the interest of AFV enthusiasts, historians and military personnel. This illustrated and detailed study explores and compares these designs in unprecedented depth.

US Army Soldier

by Howard Gerrard Kenneth Estes

Osprey's survey of US Army soldiers' participation in the war in Iraq. In April 2003, after a month of heavy bombardment, Baghdad fell under coalition forces' control. The forces established the Coalition Provisional Authority and in the heart of the city, an 8km square mile "Green Zone" was formed to maintain order until the new Iraqi government became a reality.This title focuses on the lives of those soldiers whose task it was to bring stability to the area, primarily recounting the experiences of Task Force 1st Armored Division (TF 1AD) ("Old Ironsides"). The division's first operation, dubbed Iron Dig, was intended to verify the death of Saddam Hussein by finding his remains in a bombed restaurant in Baghdad. This was the first of many operations that combined combat and intelligence skills in attempts to capture or kill significant numbers of former regime leaders that were thought to be responsible for the remainder of attacks on coalition forces. This unique theater of operations severely tested the troops on many levels, both personally and professionally, as not only did they have to deal with living and fighting in extremely high temperatures, poor standards of living, and little respite, but also their operations became the center stage of a controversial debate surrounding the occupation.Discussed are the soldiers' personal experiences from recruitment, specialist training, and weaponry; to the aftermath and effects that the conflict had on them. The author, Ken Estes, uses interviews and recently declassified material to offer a full and accurate insight into this controversial theater of war.

US Marine Corps Tank Crewman 1941-45

by Howard Gerrard Kenneth Estes

The ferocity of the Pacific war almost defied the available military technology. In this environment the evolving use of tanks by the US Marine Corps played a significant role; at the end of the Battle of Okinawa, Major General Lemuel Shepherd wrote in his report that 'if any one supporting arm can be singled out as having contributed more than any others during the progress of the campaign, the tank would certainly be selected.' This book traces the history of the US Marine Corps tank crewman, including the significant changes in doctrine, equipment, and organization that World War II brought, and his experience fighting in the Pacific theater.

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