Book Review
The M5 Series Light Tank & M8
A Field Guide to the M5 Series Light Tanks and the M8 Howitzer Motor Carriage.
  • m5-cover

by: Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]


Within the various books covering the PTO & ETO, there have been a fair amount of good books which cover (or include) the M5 'in the field'. However, the M5 Light Tank has not been a high-priority in more technical publications as has, for example, the M4 or the numerous excellent technical books on German equipment. Therefore this new publication from Kurt Laughlin is extremely welcome as previously, the books which have covered the M5 series, have tended to raise more questions than they answer.

The book

A Field Guide to the M5 Series Light Tanks and the M8 Howitzer Motor Carriage is written by Kurt Laughlin and is an 88-page, spiral-bound book which covers in text and (125 b w) images, the technical development of the M5 Light Tank and the M8 HMC (Howitzer Motor Carriage).

In detail

At the outset, i'll say that anyone who is expecting something similar to the highly-visual publications by Concord or Tankograd will find a very different type of book. This is more of a technical work than anything and deals very clearly with of the development and modifications applied to the M5/M5A1 light tanks and the M8 Howitzer Motor Carriage during their service in World War II. It doesn't pretend to document the vehicle in its theater of Operations. The M5 in service in other countries, continued for decades after WWII with innumerable 'local' modifications. This book deals with its technical evolution in U.S: service.

The rationale behind the book can best be summed-up with this sentence in the introduction. In this, the author says ' My focus on writing was on providing modelers a ready reference determining how a particular M5 or M8 should look'.

The book begins over two pages with a brief overview of the distinguishing features of the M5, M5a1 and the M8. This covers the areas of the turret types (M5, M5a1 & M8) along with the various Gun Mounts. The following six pages of text look at the many differences in Hull details including such important items as the engine decking, the glacis, ventilators and antenna mounts. The following three pages of text look at the suspension with highlighting of Sprockets, Bogies, Idler Configuration and Tracks. Chronologically, following these three chapters begin the photos which deal with the 'visual' references to illustrate these points. A variety of sources are used - the original 'Workshop' manuals predominate along with photos of preserved examples.

Going into more detail of the content, the point should be made that, in a sense, this book should be considered as pretty much 'unique' for the Allied modeler. The Axis modeler has, for several years now, enjoyed a series of extraordinary well-researched monographs of every conceivable subject. This, it has to be said, is really one of the first books of this type we've seen - certainly as far as the M5 is concerned.

So, returning for a moment to Kurt's 'Mission Statement', does this book provide a ready reference? The answer is a clear YES. Every possible area of interest for the modeler is covered - whether it be the various types of mantlets or the 'add-on' armor seen on later versions of the M5a1. Full details of variations within variants is also covered and although it has to be said, the defintion of the images is not what you may see in other publisher's books, the images are sufficiently clear to pick out details and with the concise and clear captions, life becomes a lot easier. Around 16 pages of the book are dedicated to the Production, Serialization and Modifications from April 1942 onwards. This, for many, may, be on first view, be regarded as an empty academic exercise, however, in understanding (and applying) the variations to the various models, it is absolutely vital. Kurt has produced a series of tables which are frankly indispensable. One of the important functions of these tables is similar to those which exist on the better references on the T34 - variants can be identified accorded to their fabricator. Three manufacturers were responsible for M5 production - Cadillac (Detroit & Southgate), Massey Harris and the American Car & Foundry. On page 85 of the book, the author identifies the variants produced by each of these companies and also talks of the sub-contactors for various casting used on the vehicles.

In Conclusion

If you want a book of images of the vehicle in service then, simply, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a book which will enable you to actually model the M5, this is the one. This is NOT, under any circumstances a book for the casual reader, rather one for those who really want to get the maximum out of the M5 or M8 in model form.
The book was privately published which allowed the author the capability to put what he felt was needed - without the restrictions of an external editor. Hopefully, with the quality demonstrated in this book, some of the technical publishers will consider similar books on other Allied subjects.
In a sense, being familiar with some of the work of Kurt Laughlin, it's exactly the kind of super-detailed book I would have expected of him and hopefully, time permitting, will be the first of a series of similar books.
An extraordinarily useful book on what, in the sense of the Technical details, has been a disgracefully neglected subject.

VERY Highly Recommended
Now, with a very accurate model of the M5a1 available in 1/35th scale along with some interesting conversion sets, all that really remains is a good technical guide to the variants and evolution. With this new book, there really is no excuse NOT to give the M5 & M8 the TLC they deserve.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:1
  Suggested Retail: $20
  Related Link: Book on Formations' Website
  PUBLISHED: May 08, 2008
  NATIONALITY: United States

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About Jim Rae (jimbrae)

Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...

Copyright ©2021 text by Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]. All rights reserved.


I'm very happy to see this review. I stumbled onto this book a couple of days ago and was sorely tempted to buy, but held off until I could learn more about it. Needless to say, this review has set the hook - I just finished ordering it at the Formations website! Thank you for the review, Jim. Dave
MAY 08, 2008 - 04:15 AM
Hey, I recognize that book... Shaun
MAY 08, 2008 - 06:45 AM

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