Battleline 2, Comrade Emcha, Red Army Shermans of WW2. By Claude Gillono with Leife Hulbert; illustrations by Dennis Oliver. Soft covers, A4 size, 32 pages, plus covers. Contains 55 B&W archival photographs, six pages of color plates (including covers), one map, one chart and bibliography. ISBN 978-0-9806593-7-5.
The use of Lend-Lease tanks by the Soviet Red Army is relatively widely-known in the west amongst AFV enthusiasts. But for decades, the contributions of the Western Allies to the Soviet efforts to destroy Nazi Germany have been greatly down-played, if not completely denied by official Soviet media outlets. Of course, with the collapse of the Soviet system, more has been made known both inside the Russian Federation as well as elsewhere. In the case of this newest title from the Firefly Collection, the exploits of the Emcha, Red Army slang for the US-supplied and built M4 medium tank is the focus.
Beginning with a two-page segment of text, which includes extensive foot-notes, the authors provide a basic overview of the M4A2 and its export to the Soviet Union. The Soviets preferred diesel engines in their tanks, so for logistical reasons, they were supplied solely with the M4A2 in its 75mm and 76mm-armed versions.
Information is provided on the numbers shipped, the numbers that arrived and the numbers distributed for use. The authors note that sources do not always agree on these statistics, so the reader should beware of making specific conclusions in this regard.
A discussion of the M4A2s armament in relation to comparable Soviet tank guns indicates that the average Emchisti (M4 tanker) appreciated the high explosive capabilities of both the 75mm and 76mm guns; the .50 cal. M2 heavy machine-gun, as well as the M4A2s sighting optics and radio equipment was also well-regarded. Finally, although the M4A2s armor protection was only considered adequate, the vehicles automotive reliability apparently out-shone that of the vaunted T-34.
The text is backed by a page-long list of M4 units from 1943 to 1945, while an organization chart details the 1st Mechanized Corps as of April 1945 during the final battle for Berlin. A map shows the general dispositions of Soviet armored units from August 1944 through April 1945 from the 3rd Ukrainian Font in the south to the 3rd Byelorussian Front in the north.
A slightly disconcerting aspect of this book is the relatively wide-spread use of grey-colored type on a white page background. For my old eyes, it seemed to slow my reading down. As the saying goes, your mileage may differ.
The photographs are mostly fresh although several old favorites are (not unusually) included. A number of them show 56-degree hulls with cast drivers hoods and possibly direct-vision hoods with appliqué plates. Most however, depict the later 47-degree hulls with either the 75mm or 76mm turrets. Although it is said that the Red Army employed some M4s with HVSS, only VVSS-equipped tanks are shown. A variety of road-wheels and track types are shown as well. The best thing about these images is the variety of Soviet-applied unit and tactical markings; this is especially apparent on 76mm-armed tanks in the last months of the war. These make the rather plain OD-painted M4A2 really stand out. Several images show crew men so that we can see the various types of uniforms and head-gear that were worn. Other images depict propaganda posters as well as various medals, badges, shoulder-boards and a single belt buckle.
The color plates are created by Mr. Oliver and as expected, they are superb. Six depict 75mm-armed M4, most of which are based on the 47-degree hull. The remaining eight depict the version armed with the 76mm gun. Some of these feature thumb-nails of marking details. A further eight vehicles are depicted using just the tanks turrets since thats the only place where the markings were seen. Furthermore, where it can be determined, the types of tracks fitted are also shown on head-on views.
This all combines to present a fine selection of visual references for those who dote on the ubiquitous M4 as a modeling subject. Modelers interested in the combat on the Ostfront or others who may want a different look for their next Sherman model should look no further.
Frank V. De Sisto
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Firefly Collection books are available in North America from DragonUSA, at: www.dragonusaonline.com.
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