On a recent visit with my Dad, now 93, he asked, “How’s work.” Wrapped up in all the day-to-day problems, I blankly replied, “Work’s work.” “At least you have a job,” my Dad gently reprimanded me before asking, “What is it you do again?” “Dad!” I began with exasperation that only a son can muster, “I edit a couple of magazines and write books!” “Oh,” he said with a bit of derision in his tone, “That’s not work—that’s what you have always done!
He’s right. At the turn of the new year, I took stock. I have both of my parents, my daughter is healthy, I am fortunate to have a very loving partner, and I spend my days in an office surrounded by WWI Tank Corps memorabilia, my firearms, and a few computers. Indeed, I am a fortunate, lucky guy. As I glanced around my office during that moment of self-evaluation, I happened to notice there were a whole lot of books awaiting shelving.
That’s one of the “perks” of the job. Lots of publishers send copies of recent books, hoping that a review will find its way into the pages of Military Vehicles Magazine or Military Trader. I admit, I am pretty selective about what is reviewed. I try to make sure that a book speaks directly to the collector. Books that we recommend deal specifically with the material of culture of military history—in simpler terms, “Books about the stuff!”
As I shelved my books that had amassed during 2014, I was reminded of some great efforts. This past year was a good year in publishing. Despite the push of many publishers to print “e-books,” collectors made it perfectly clear they are not interested in those. Rather, the best works in the hobby continue to be distributed in the “old-fashioned” paper and ink media. Here is what I consider to be the best books printed in 2014 for militaria and military vehicle collectors:
The Big Macks - A Visual History Of The Mack Wheeled Prime Movers In US Army Service 1940–1958, by David Doyle (ISBN 978-0-9895547-5-6, Ampersand Publishing, 235 NE 6th Avenue, Suite B, Delray Beach, Florida 33483; (561) 266-9686; www.ampersandpubco.com. Softcover, 112 pages, more than 180 black-and-white photos, $19.95)
Sure, a lot of historic military vehicle interest is directed at Jeeps or Tanks, but sometimes, it is refreshing to whet our HMV appetite with something a different. Big Macks is more than a mouthful of juicy, hot trucks! David Doyle has assembled a nice photo-history of the early early NO-1, 2, 3, and the later NO-4,5, 6, and 7s. There are also sections on the Mac NQ, Mack M125, and Mack M125A1.
German Visor Caps of the Second World War, by Guilhem Touratier and Laurent Charbonneau. (ISBN 978-0764344589, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. 4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, Pennsylvania 19310; 610-593-1777; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web site: www.schifferbooks.com. Hardcover, 9-1/4” x 12-/1/4” 79 pages, more than 360 color photos and illustrations, 2013, $29.99)
If you judge a book by the number of pages and low price, you might miss one of the best books to introduce German WWII visor caps to come out in a long time. Authors Touratier and Charbonneau have produced an excellent survey of caps worn by members of Germany’s Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine and Waffen-SS.
Care is given to illustrating the details collectors need to see: Chinstrap details, interiors, insignia backs, and interiors and manufacturers’ labels. In fact, the appendices are, perhaps, the most important to ardent collectors. Carefully lit and color-balanced images illustrate cap piping of the Heer, Luftwaffe, and Waffen SS. In addition, a couple of pages are dedicated to standardized nomenclature of visor cap anatomy and to illustrating a few dozen maker labels.
German Visor Caps is perfect for someone just beginning to collect visor caps, it has enough detail and high quality images to satisfy a veteran collector.
Bayonets of the First World War, by Claude Bera and Bernard Aubry (ISBN 9780764344596, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310; 610-593-1777; www.schifferbooks.com; Hardcover, 9” x 12”, 80 pages, 273 color photos, 2014, $29.99).
At last! A detailed, concise look at the bayonets of all major war combatants including: Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, and the United States. The superb photography shows full views of bayonets and close-up looks at hilts, connection points, blades, and a wide variety of manufacturer’s markings. This book is a solid addition to the study of WWI weapon.
U.S. Army Soldiers and Their Chevrons, by William K. Emerson, LTC, U.S. Army (ISBN 1-932970-24-X, R. James Bender Publishing, P.O. Box 23456, San Jose, CA 95153-3456; phone: 408-225-5777; web site: www.bender-publishing.com. Hardcover, 8-3/4” x 11-1/4”, 446 pages, 920 photos and illustrations, $79.95).
In 1983, the Smithsonian Institution Press published William Emerson’s Chevrons: Illustrated History and Catalogue of U.S. Insignia. The book broke new collecting ground by sorting and categorizing the wide array of below-officer-grade rank insignia. For the few who were fast enough to buy a copy before it went out of print, it became a first-stop in studying uniform insignia. For the rest, however, the book became the target of fierce bidding and high prices in order for it to be added to a personal library.
Illustrated summary tables catalog and show each authorized chevron as well as widely worn unofficial chevron designs. All illustrations include titles and dates of wear for rapid identification.
Personally, for more than 30 years I tried to add a copy of Emerson’s Chevrons to my library. This new edition was worth the wait!
Heroes in Our Midst, Vol. 2: Troop Carrier Command, Pathfinders, Glider Troops, the Jump Uniform, by LTC (Ret.) John R. Angolia asst. by Jake Powers and George A. Petersen (SBN-13: 978-1932970265. R. James Bender Publishing, P.O. Box 23456, San Jose, CA 95153-3456; 408-225-5777; www.bender-publishing.com. Hardcover, 9” x 11”, 512 pages, 1,400 photos (most in color), $94.95).
This second volume of Heroes in Our Midst continues the in-depth study of everything WWII U.S. airborne and elite force-related. Chapters cover the Troop Carrier Command (aircraft used, uniforms and insignia, plus 116 squadron patches); Pathfinders; and Glider troops (including the evolution of garrison cap patches, all known makers of glider qualification badges, and their associated trimmings).
Period illustrations complement well-lit photographs of artifacts. The captions are well-written and packed with the kinds of details collectors need. This is, without a doubt, a “collector’s book written by one of the great collectors of our time.” You can’t call yourself an airborne collector if you haven’t digested all of the information in this paramount volume.
M19-M20 Tank Transporter: Detail In Action, by David Doyle (ISBN 978-0897477451, Squadron Signal Publications, 1115 Crowley Drive, Carrollton, TX 75006-1312; 877-414-0434; www.sspbooks.com. Softcover, 222 photographs (64 black-and-white and 158 color), $18.95)
Often overlooked by collectors and modelers, the rig collectively known as the M19 Heavy Tank Transporter was a truck and trailer combination conceived at the behest of British in 1941. The prime mover for the combination was the Diamond T model 980 or 981 12-ton truck, known as the M20, while the 45-ton capacity full trailer it towed was designated the M9.
GRUNT: A Pictorial Report on the US Infantry’s Gear and Life During the Vietnam War 1965-1975, by Antonio Arques (ISBN 9788496658493, Andre Press, distributed in the U.S. by Casemate Publishers LLC, 908 Darby Rd, Havertown, PA 19083; 610-853-9131; www.casematepublishing.com. Hardcover, 9” x 12”, 456 pages, 2000 full color illustrations, $99.00; Amazon ~$68).
This volume has been long missing in the study of Vietnam War militiaria. Carefully compiled and lavishly illustrated, Grunt examines virtually every aspect of an infantry soldier’s personal gear, from uniforms and accouterments through weapons and personal items. The book presents all of the info serious collectors want: An incredible amount of detailed photographs of personal gear accompanied by the military designation for each piece of gear. The detail is exceptional and the descriptions add and explain the purpose and the changes made in the gear over a decade of war.
Just as other Andre Press volumes, Deutsche Soldat and Heitai! have become standard volumes on collecting material related to the everyday soldiers of WWII Germany and Japan, Grunt: A Pictorial Report will fast become the go-to book for serious Vietnam collectors.
Campaign 1914: Uniform & Equipment of the British Servicemen in the First World War, Vol. 1, by Chris Pollendien. (ISBN 13: 9781628475920; Military Mode Publishing, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, UK, available in the U.S. through Advance Guard Militaria, 270 State Hwy HH, Burfordville, MO 63739, 800-233-1918; www.advanceguardmilitaria.com. Hardcover, 9-3/4” x 12”, 172 pages, more than 200 color images, $65)
This outstanding and long-awaited work is the first in a projected 5-volume series to illustrate the British soldier’s uniform and equipment of during the Great War. From scarlet dress uniforms to khaki service dress, high resolution images supported by accurate data trace chronicles the first year of WWI. The author has gathered artifacts from some of the world’s leading collections (including his own) to produce this mouth watering pictorial encyclopaedia of headgear, tunics, webbing, footwear, and ephemera. This book will enlighten the collecting world on the finer details of garments, field gear, and personal items used by Britain’s soldiers during the first tragic year of WWI.
The French Foreign Legion in Indochina, 1946-1956: History, Uniforms, Headgear, Insignia, Weapons, Equipment, by Raymond Guyader. (ISBN: 978-0764346293, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310; 610-593-1777; email@example.com; www.schifferbooks.com. Hardcover, 12” x 9”; 248 pages, more than 1,000 color illustrations, $69.99)
The vast majority of the book deals with uniforms, insignia, and field gear (in that order of prominence). Very little space is devoted to weapons, though this info is readily available through other sources. The value of this book is identifying the French and international uniforms and gear used after WWII.
The book is translated from French. As such, some of the writing might seem a bit odd, but this is a minor issue. For anyone interested in the French Foreign Legion’s role after WWII, in particular, in the early Indochina conflict, this book is essential—there are so few English works that cover this subject.
Warman’s World War II Collectibles Identification and Price Guide, 3rd Edition, by John Adams-Graf (ISBN 9781440240706, F+W Media, 4868 Innovation Drive, Bldg. #2, Ft. Collins, CO 80525; 866.949.1646; www.krausebooks.com. Softcover, 304 pages, more than 1,800 color images, $18.54)
Call this a shameless plug, but I do believe this book is a significant contribution to the hobby. Price guides are tough books to write. “Hardened” or “veteran” collector or WWII memorabilia will often have a better feel for the nuances of pricing. Because of their years of handling objects and study, these people can pick up a piece of militaria and generally recognize its value. While they will probably disagree with some pricing in the book, they will certainly appreciate the 1,800+ captioned illustrations.
What sets it apart from other price guides? For starters, I have no dog in the hunt—it has been many years since I actively collected WWII. The prices reflect prices actually paid for items rather than a collector or dealer’s wishful thinking. The pricing reflects that there has been a recession since the 2nd Edition was printed, resulting in some items sinking in value while others gained dramatically.
This book is geared toward introducing new collectors to the hobby. The WWII collectibles field is so vast there are thousands of titles dedicated to a variety of subsets ranging from bayonets and hand grenades to machine guns and Nazi Party membership badges. WWII Collectibles will provide a basis of pricing information for thousands of items, but apart from the images included in this book, the reader will have to dig further for identification purposes.