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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bolt Action - Review: M4 Sherman VS Type 97 Chi-Ha

Last night I read "M4 Sherman VS Type 97 Chi-Ha", by Steven J. Zaloga, and published by Osprey Publishing. I couldn't resist checking it out, because in my limited experience, all I had ever heard about Japanese armor was negative.
M4 Sherman VS Type 97 Chi-Ha, written by Steven Zaloga, illustrated by Richard Chasemore, and published by Osprey Publishing.

Mr. Zaloga gives some great insights throughout the book, comparing Japanese tanks and doctrine with that of the Americans in the Pacific.
 "M4 Sherman VS Type 97 Chi-Ha" weighs in at eighty pages, a format anyone that's read one of these soft cover Osprey titles is familiar with. Written by Zaloga, the credited illustrator is Richard Chasemore. As you would expect from Osprey, this soft cover book as a protective coating, and overall exhibits the high quality we all expect when we buy Osprey products.

I find the depth at which the development and technical specifications of each vehicle is covered amazing. The first thirty or so pages covers all anyone but the most intense scholar would care to know about how these vehicles came to be, and what each one was capable of.

An example of the wealth of development information in this title follows:
"The Type 97 had initially been in production at three plants: the Sagami Army Arsenal, Mitsubishi's Tokyo-Kiki factory, and Hitachi's Kameari factory, so four more plants were added in early 1942 to increase the output. No sooner had this begun than the War Ministry was reconsidering industrial priorities. Having conquered a vast new empire, the IJA and IJN now faced the prospects of having to defend the conquests against American and British counterattacks. As a result, offensive weapons such as tanks were deemed less important for future defensive operations than warships and combat aircraft. In addition, the principal role for the IJA tank force had been to act as a counterweight against the Red Army in Manchuria. Since the War Ministry had rejected plans to invade the Soviet Union in concert with Germany, the plan to form ten tank divisions was substantially cut." (p. 13)

Of course, the book is also filled with amazing photographs, illustrations, and maps. Mr. Chasemore's work is consistently impressive throughout the title.

No, this is not Dano's latest plan to destroy my forces in Bolt Action - it's one of the fantastic illustrations in this book.
As I delve more and more into Osprey's books, I'm more and more surprised that they can keep providing me with things I haven't seen before. I crack each book thinking, "How many ways can you cover this material," and each one I read, I'm shown that they have found another, better way to cover the material.

The views from each vehicle's telescope, similar in some ways. Something tells me the results of the projectiles fired from the respective tanks were not at all similar.
If you're like me, however, you don't read these for the specifications as much as you do for the war stories. The nature of this book makes the stories feel sometimes slightly less personal, since the topic involves tanks on a large scale; but please note - there are some gems in here.

"A platoon of M4A3 tanks led by Lt Robert Courtwright moved towards the town, but had difficulty engaging the Japanese positions on their left flank due to the presence of friendly infantry. It was a dangerous predicament, as hidden in a mango grove were Warrant Officer Kojura Wada's platoon of three Type 97-kai tanks. Wada warned his crews to wait until the American tanks were close and only to engage them against their thinner side armor. At a range of only about 35 yards, Wada's tanks began firing in quick succession, disabling two of the M4A3 tanks immediately, including Courtwright's, and then knocking the track of Sgt Shrift's tank.

Shrift's driver was able to use the undamaged track to swing the M4A3 towards Wada's three tanks, shielding the tank with the thicker front armor. Shrift's crew quickly engaged the Japanese tanks, and Wada's was the first tank knocked out, by hits to the engine and hull. The Japanese tanks continued to fire, and expended about 60 rounds in the engagement, with many of the rounds bouncing off the thick frontal armor of Shrift's M4A3. The second Japanese tank, commanded by Sgt Kokai, received a hit through the gun mantlet, so Wada ordered Sgt Suzuki's surviving tank to attack Shrift's M4A3 at close range." (p. 50-51)

I won't ruin the ending for you, but I will say that the bravery of the Japanese tankers depicted in this book was incredible. They knew the tanks they were fighting against were superior - one story mentions how a Japanese commander was using a captured M3 Stuart instead of a Chi-Ha - but still they charged the enemy.

Just three of the many great pictures in M4 Sherman VS Type 97 Chi-Ha.

There's a ton in here for the history buff, and just as much for those guys out there like me, that just appreciate good war stories. I mentioned earlier that the first thirty pages, roughly, cover the statistics and development of the respective machines. The rest of the book focuses on the crews and the actions they participated in.

It's a great read on those merits alone, but a lot of our forum members have expressed interest in the Pacific for Bolt Action. If you're anything like me, with very limited knowledge of the theater, and plan on playing in the Pacific, you owe it to yourself to pick this up. If for nothing else, to get a feel for what it was like out there - Sherman versus Type 97 Chi-Ha.

The artwork of the interior of the turrets was excellent, and there were many photographs taken from inside the turrets as well. I had no idea the Japanese built pistol ports into the sides of their Type 97 turrets - and in hindsight they probably should have focused on a bigger gun and more armor; but cool none the less!

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