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Pershing's Tankers: Personal Accounts of the AEF Tank Corps in World War I

edited by Lawrence M. Kaplan foreword by Dale E. Wilson

Availablecloth$50.00s 978-0-8131-7604-8
AUSA Books
312 pages  Pubdate: 10/05/2018  6 x 9  17 b&w photos, 5 maps, 3 tables

LISTEN: Lawrence M. Kaplan discusses his new book, Pershing’s Tankers: Personal Accounts of the AEF Tank Corps in World War I, on the War Scholar podcast. | Listen online here

After the United States declared war against Germany in April 1917, the US Army established the Tank Corps to help break the deadlock of trench warfare in France during World War I. The army envisioned having a large tank force by 1919, but when the war ended in November 1918, only three tank battalions had participated in combat operations. Shortly after, Brigadier General Samuel D. Rockenbach, Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) Tank Corps under General John J. Pershing, issued a memorandum to many of his officers to write brief accounts of their experiences that would supplement official records. Their narratives varied in size, scope, and depth, and covered a range of topics, including the organizing, training, and equipping of the tank corps.

For the first time since these reports were submitted, Pershing’s Tankers: Personal Accounts of the AEF Tank Corps in World War I presents an unprecedented look into the experiences of soldiers in the US Army Tank Corps. The book provides fresh insight into the establishment and combat operations of the tank corps, including six personal letters written by Colonel George S. Patton, Jr., who commanded a tank brigade in World War I. Congressional testimony, letters, and a variety of journal, magazine, and newspaper articles in this collection provide additional context to the officers’ revealing accounts.

Based on completely new sources that include official US Army personnel reports that were previously unknown to researchers, this illuminating work offers a vivid picture of life and activities in the US Army Tank Corps in France. Revealed is a rare glimpse into the thoughts and experiences of a broad cross-section of men from the senior leadership down to the platoon level, and a behind-the-scenes look into how this first generation of “tankers” helped develop new war-fighting capabilities for the US Army.

Lawrence M. Kaplan is a professional military historian who has worked for both the US Army and the Department of Defense. He is the author of Homer Lea: American Soldier of Fortune, and the editor of The Artillery Service in the War of the Rebellion, 1861–65, and The Purge of the Thirtieth Division.

[A] well-rendered and comprehensive account of the heroic exploits of the AEF under the command of Gen. John J. Pershing. Expertly distilling a combination of interviews and first-hand reminiscences, private correspondence, and official reports, Pershing’s Tankers is a thorough chronicle of America’s involvement in World War I. -- YES! Weekly

Lawrence Kaplan has pieced together a remarkable collection of thoughts from America’s first group of tankers on their experiences in that conflict. Kaplan has organized Pershing’s Tankers well, walking the reader from the broad context of the war and the advent of the tank on the battlefield down through the organization of the US Tank Corps and, ultimately, to the experience of the individual crews.

Kaplan has provided a window into the thoughts, struggles, fears, and triumphs of these soldiers from a
century ago as they fought the Germans while mastering the most advanced technologies of their modern world. These personal reminiscences of service in the tanks illustrate the fortitude required to fight the
enemy, bureaucracy, and non-believers in fielding the capabilities needed to win on the modern battlefield. -- Strategy Page

This work consists of over 80 letters, after action reports, citations, and the like from some scores of soldiers or journalists, with George S. Patton prominent among them. While these constitute the raw materials of history, they do offer often excellent snap shots not only of the combat experience of the Tank Corps, but also of the evolution of the Army’s thinking on the proper ways to organize and employ tanks. A valuable read. -- NYMAS Review

The book gives a very personal look at the dawn of armored warfare and the men who brought it forward. -- Military Heritage

A fascinating and valuable collection. Beginning with a concise but informative overview of tank corps history, it continues with a clearly organized series of personal accounts describing the formation, deployment and combat history of this unique unit. -- AUSA

Kaplan has assembled a most compelling story of American tank combat in World War I. His compilation was an eyeopener for this reviewer and is highly recommended to students of the Great War or of armored force development. -- The Journal of America’s Military Past

Personal Experiences from the U.S. Army Tank Corps in World War I immerses the reader in the world of the American tanker during the Great War. Through a compilation of reports, personal experiences, correspondence, and press stories, Dr. Kaplan brings alive the challenges and accomplishments of these soldiers, making this work a must have for scholars and casual readers alike. -- Robert S. Cameron, author of To Fight or Not to Fight?: Organizational and Doctrinal Trends in Mounted Maneuver Reconnaissance from the Interwar Years to Operation IRAQI FREEDOM 

The individual experience reports in Pershing’s Tankers add an interesting and compelling firsthand context, and the letters and newspaper excerpts—especially those from General George S. Patton—greatly contribute to this engrossing historical narrative. -- Jonathan Casey, Director of Archives and the Edward Jones Research Center, National World War I Museum and Memorial

Larry Kaplan has done a great service to those interested in the First World War or in the United States' first foray into armored warfare. Through the compilation of colorfully written narratives from nearly fifty Tank Corps officers, letters written home by a young George Patton, and a selection of contemporary newspaper accounts, Kaplan has captured the flavor of what it was like for Americans to serve in the newest, and shortest-lived, branch of the US Army. Anyone fascinated by how individual servicemen and journalists interpreted the American military experience during the Great War should have this volume on their shelf. -- Patrick Osborn, archivist and coauthor of The Hindenburg Line