Day-to-day of a tanker in WWII?
March 14, 2014 9:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for non-fiction books that describe the day-to-day life of an allied tanker (guy in a tank or other AFV) in World War II.

The more detailed about the tank and operating the tank, the better. Logistics about spending weeks traveling in a tank across a country, things like that. Nothing is too mundane.

I'm not looking for: The history of a tank battalion, dry accounts of battles ("On June 16th the 7th Armored Division moved north to wherever..."), or books by commanders talking about leadership. Also not looking for a general guide to armor warfare or tanks. WWII only, not modern.

I'm looking for a memoir by a guy who was in a tank or other Armored Fighting Vehicle (position doesn't matter) where he talks about things unique to being in a tank or AFV. Pictures aren't necessary; there are plenty of reference books out there.

I'd prefer United States Army, WWII, European Theater. However, if there's a great book about, say, a British tanker in North Africa, I'd like to hear about it. I'm also looking for non-fiction but if there's a novel out there that would be accurate enough, that would read like a memoir, that's fine. Allies strongly preferred.

Suggestions of documentaries might be fine as long as they're a bit meatier than your average History Channel pile of crap.

Context, in case it will help: I build armor models and I'm trying to learn more about the environment in and around tanks in order to improve the building experience, and my son has been playing World of Tanks so I'm trying to latch on to that to get him into some history. Priority is me though, so the book doesn't need to be kid friendly.
posted by bondcliff to Technology (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Keith Douglas, Alamein to Zem Zem (summary here, extract here) is the classic account of the British campaign in North Africa. Here, to give you a taster, is his description of the run-up to El Alamein:
On the main tracks, marked with crude replicas of a hat, a bottle and a boat, cut out of petrol tins, lorries appeared like ships, plunging their bows into drifts of dust and rearing up suddenly over crests like waves. Their wheels were continually hidden in dustclouds: the ordinary sand being pulverised by so much traffic into a substance almost liquid, sticky to the touch, into which the feet of men walking sank to the knee. Every man had a white mask of dust in which, if he wore no goggles, his eyes showed like a clown's eyes. Some did wear goggles, many more the celluloid eye shields from their anti-gas equipment. Trucks and their loads became a uniform dust colour before they had travelled 20 yards: even with a handkerchief tied like a cowboy's over nose and mouth, it was difficult to breathe.
Douglas survived the Battle of El Alamein, but was killed in action during the Normandy invasion in June 1944, aged 24.
posted by verstegan at 10:18 AM on March 14, 2014

You might want to try Alan's War. It's an illustrated memoir. Alan Cope was a very young soldier when he landed in Normandy on or shortly after D Day. Years later, the French artist, Emmanuel Guibert, illustrated Cope's war stories.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 11:53 AM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Brazen Chariots by Robert Crisp is a classic. North African theatre.
posted by word_virus at 12:53 PM on March 14, 2014

How about one about Riding with Patton about a midwest farm boy mechanic who can get machines running like with nothing but duct tape and baling wire.
posted by mearls at 7:24 PM on March 14, 2014

Actually I think I meant this one. Death Traps:
posted by mearls at 7:30 PM on March 14, 2014

Panzer Gunner was highly recommended by a buddy of mine.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 1:37 PM on March 17, 2014

Four Tankers and a Dog is a Polish book and TV series. It's fiction, but was made in cooperation with the Polish Army, so it's regarded as technically accurate.
posted by Tom-B at 6:35 PM on March 17, 2014

Apologies for the delay, but it took a bit of digging in the front room to find this... I have a book called "Tank Warfare in World War II", which is a collection of first-hand accounts 'compiled by a former member of the Royal Tank Regiment'. It has a Western Front bias, IIRC.
posted by pompomtom at 5:20 AM on April 7, 2014

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