The outbreak of the Korean conflict caught America (and the Marine Corps) unprepared. The Corps' salvation was the existence of its Organized Reserve (an organization rich in veterans of the fighting in World War II), the availability of modern equipment in storage and, as always, the bravery, initiative, and adaptability of individual Marines. In this follow-up to his enormously successful Marine Tank Battles in the Pacific, Oscar Gilbert presents an equally exhaustive and detailed account of the little-known Marine tank engagements in Korea, supported by forty-eight photographs, eight original maps, and dozens of survivor interviews. Marine Corps Tank Battles in Korea details every action, from the valiant defense at Pusan and the bitter battles of the Chosin Reservoir, to the grinding and bloody stalemate along the Jamestown Line. Many of these stories are presented here for the first time, such as the unique role played by tanks in the destruction of the ill-fated Task Force Drysdale, how Marine armor played a key role in the defense of Hagaru, and how a lone tank made it to Yudamni and then led the breakout across the high Toktong Pass. Marine tankers--individually and as an organization--met every challenge posed by this vicious, protracted, and forgotten war. It is a story of bravery and fortitude you will never forget.
In the aftermath of Vietnam a new generation of Marines was determined to wage a smarter kind of war. The tank, the very symbol of power and violence, would play a key role in a new concept of mobile warfare, not seen since the dashes of World War II. The emphasis would be not on brutal battles of attrition, but on paralyzing the enemy by rapid maneuver and overwhelming but judicious use of firepower. Yet in two wars with Iraq, the tankers, as well as the crews of the new Light Armored Vehicles, quickly found themselves in a familiar role--battering through some of the strongest defenses in the world by frontal assault, fighting their way through towns and cities. In America's longest continual conflict, armored Marines became entangled in further guerilla war, this time amid the broiling deserts, ancient cities, and rich farmlands of Iraq, and in the high, bleak wastes of Afghanistan. It was a familiar kind of war against a fanatical foe who brutalized civilians, planted sophisticated roadside bombs, and seized control of entire cities. It has been a maddening war of clearing roads, escorting convoys, endless sweep operations to locate and destroy insurgent strongholds, protecting voting sites for free elections, and recapturing and rebuilding urban centers. It's been a war in which the tanks repeatedly provided the outnumbered infantry with precise and decisive firepower. The tankers even added a new trick to their repertoire--long-range surveillance. Our fights against Iraq in 1991 and in the post-9/11 years have seen further wars that demanded that unique combination of courage, tenacity, professionalism, and versatility that makes a Marine no better friend, and no worse enemy. This book fully describes how our Marine Corps tankers have risen to the occasion.
In 1965 the large, loud, and highly visible tanks of 3rd Platoon, B Company, 3rd Tank Battalion landed across a beach near Da Nang, drawing unwelcome attention to America's first, almost covert, commitment of ground troops in South Vietnam. As the Marine Corps presence grew inexorably, the 1st and 3rd Tank Battalions, as well as elements of the reactivated 5th Tank Battalion, were committed to the conflict. For the United States Marine Corps, the protracted and bloody struggle was marked by controversy, but for Marine Corps tankers it was marked by bitter frustration as they saw their own high levels of command turn their backs on some of the hardest-won lessons of tank-infantry cooperation learned in the Pacific War and in Korea. Nevertheless, like good Marines, the officers and enlisted men of the tank battalions sought out the enemy in the sand dunes, jungles, mountains, paddy fields, tiny villages, and ancient cities of Vietnam. Young Marine tankers fresh out of training, and cynical veterans of the Pacific War and Korea, battled two enemies. The battle-hardened Viet Cong were masters of the art of striking hard, then slipping away to fight another day. The highly motivated troops of the North Vietnamese Army, equipped with long-range artillery and able to flee across nearby borders into sanctuaries where the Marines were forbidden to follow, engaged the Marines in brutal conventional combat. Both foes were equipped with modern anti-tank weapons, and sought out the tanks as valuable symbolic targets. It was a brutal and schizophrenic war, with no front and no rear, absolutely no respite from constant danger, against a merciless foe hidden among a helpless civilian population. Some of the duties the tankers were called upon to perform were long familiar, as they provided firepower and mobility for the suffering infantry in a never-ending succession of search and destroy operations, conducted amphibious landings, and added their heavy guns to the artillery in fire support missions. Under constant threat of ambushes and huge command-detonated mines that could obliterate both tank and crew in an instant, the tankers escorted vital supply convoys, and guarded the engineers who built and maintained the roads. In their "spare time" the tankers guarded lonely bridges and isolated outposts for weeks on end, patrolled on foot to seek out the Viet Cong, operated roadblocks and ambushes, shot up boats to interdict the enemy's supply lines, and worked in the villages and hamlets to better the lives of the brutalized civilians. To the bitter end--despite the harsh conditions of climate and terrain, confusion, endless savage and debilitating combat, and ultimate frustration as their own nation turned against the war--the Marine tankers routinely demonstrated the versatility, dedication to duty, and matchless courage that Americans have come to expect of their Marines.
In May 1943, a self-described "really young, green, ignorant lieutenant" assumed command of a new US Marine Corps company. His even younger enlisted Marines were learning to use an untested weapon, the M4A2 "Sherman" medium tank. His sole combat veteran was the company bugler, who had salvaged his dress cap and battered horn from a sinking aircraft carrier. Just six months later, the company would be thrown into one of the ghastliest battles of World War II. On November 20, 1943 the 2nd Marine Division launched the first amphibious assault of the Pacific War, directly into the teeth of powerful Japanese defenses on Tarawa. In that blood-soaked invasion, a single company of Sherman tanks, of which only two survived, played a pivotal role in turning the tide from looming disaster to legendary victory. In this unique study, Oscar E. Gilbert and Romain V. Cansiere use official documents, memoirs, and interviews with veterans, as well as personal and aerial photographs, to follow Charlie Company from its formation, and trace the movement, action--and loss--of individual tanks in this horrific 4-day struggle. The authors follow the company from training through the brutal 76-hour struggle for Tarawa. Survivor accounts and air-photo analyses document the movements--and destruction--of the company's individual tanks. It is a story of escapes from drowning tanks, and even more harrowing extrications from tanks knocked out behind Japanese lines. It is a story of men doing whatever needed to be done, from burying the dead to hand-carrying heavy cannon ammunition forward under fire. It is the story of how the two surviving tanks and their crews expanded a perilously thin beachhead and cleared the way for critical reinforcements to come ashore. But most of all, it is a story of how a few unsung Marines helped turn near disaster into epic victory.
By 1960, following Korea, tanks and their crews had proved themselves to be a fundamental part of the Marine Corps' combined arms team. When the Marines were ordered to Vietnam in 1965, they took their tanks with them. This book explores this decision, which created a political storm. The presence of the tanks became a lightning rod for accusations of an 'escalation' of the war. Nevertheless, the tanks not only proved their value in the anti-guerrilla campaigns, but also amid the bitter conventional fighting and extraordinary casualties at Hue City. The ability to undertake such radical change and to prevail demonstrated the versatility, courage and tenacity that are the hallmarks of the 'ordinary' Marine.
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