T-54 and T-55 Main Battle Tanks, 1944-2004, by Stephen J. Zaloga, illustrated by Hugh Johnson (ISBN 1-84176-792-1, OspreyPublishing, 2427 Bond St., University Park, IL 60466, Web: www.ospreypublishing.com, phone: 866.620.6941, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Softcover, 7-1/4" x 9-3/4", 48 pages, 50 black-and-white photos, 8 color plates, 2004, $14.95).
In the estimation of author Steven J. Zaloga, the T-54/T-55 was the most important family of tanks of the Cold War, mainly because it was the series that produced the most tanks during that period (not to mention ever manufactured). A total of about 40,000 T-54s were built, and some 30,000 T-55s were produced in the Soviet Union alone. The seemingly ubiquitous family has seen service in hot spots and wars virtually around the globe.
This small monograph covers the design and production history of the T-54 and T-55; only tank versions are included, not special-purpose variants. It presents information on prototypes and production models of both series, rebuild and upgrade programs, and the Chinese-manufactured versions, the Type 59 and Type 69 tanks, similar, respectively, to the T-54 and T-55. Also discussed are ammunition, accessories, and add-ons such as mine plows and trawls, reactive armor, and active tank-defense weapons.
The T-54 and T-55 saw combat in a variety of theaters, and there is a brief section providing some facts on both tanks’ battlefield performance, from the 1956 Hungarian uprising to the 2003 Iraq war. Lacking is a discussion of the handling and performance characteristics of the tanks. Zaloga consulted a variety of Russian publications in researching this book, and he points out that there have been few works in English specifically on the T-54 and T-55. This book is a fine summary of the subject, one that Zaloga will hopefully revisit in a more expansive treatment.—Thomas R. Kailbourn