The U.S. 37-MM Gun in World War II By Charles C. Roberts Jr.

     Charles Roberts work on the development and employment of the 37mm cannon by the United States is a straightforward and informative examination of the weapon in a variety of roles to include anti-tank support for infantry, armament for tracked vehicles, and its use in unarmored vehicles, waterborne craft, and airplanes. The book is very well illustrated with a variety of black & white and color photographs, technical drawings and supplemented with tables containing ballistics information of the 37-mm shell.

    Roberts begins his analysis with a historical analysis of the development of exploding projectiles in Europe in the late 19th century, and corresponding campaigns by governments and diplomats to curtail the size and destructive power of such weapons. Their efforts resulted in the 1899 Hague Convention succeeded in codifying limitations on explosive ordnance. These limits led to professional military interest in 37-mm weapons, which were under the limits imposed by the Convention.

     Roberts covers the development of European 37-mm cannon during the early 20th century, through the First World War and during the inter-war period. By comparison, the United States did not grow interested in fielding and developing a significant anti-armor capability until the mid-to-late 1930s. American doctrine favored mobility and flexibility over heavy firepower, and thus U.S. Army infantry pursued highly maneuverable 37-mm guns that could be handled by dismounted troops, while proponents of armor supported the idea of light tanks, armed with 37-mm cannons. These weapons would prove ineffective against the heavy armor fielded by the German Army during World War Two. 

     As the book progresses, Roberts dives into details surrounding the ammunition used by the 37-mm cannon, the effort put into developing the gun trailers for the anti-tank version of the weapon, its use on a variety of light tanks such as the M2A4 and the M3 Stuart, the subsequent shift to employing the 37-mm cannon to arm reconnaissance vehicles such as the M8 Wolfhound. The shift from primary anti-armor cannon to defensive weapon came about due to the ineffectiveness of the 37-mm round against German armor. Roberts does note that American units in the Pacific armed with the 37-mm gun experienced success against less well-armored Japanese equipment.

     Charles C. Roberts is a highly educated and experienced engineer who has written several books on the Second World War. His technical expertise, knowledge of military history and matter of fact writing style combine to make The U.S. 37-MM Gun in World War II an excellent resource. Casemate Publishing has put another excellent resource on the market for researchers and hardcore history fans alike.

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