Vietnam Gun Trucks, by Gordon L. Rottman, Osprey Publishing, 2011
While the Americans focused all their military resources from Special Forces squads to Boeing B-52 bombers on trying to stop the flow of men and materiel from North to South Vietnam via the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the Viet Cong used mines, remote-controlled demolitions, recoilless rifles and rocket-propelled grenades as well as small arms to ambush truck convoys supplying American and South Vietnamese firebases. To counter that menace, personnel of the U.S. Army Transportation Corps formed “hardened convoys” defended by a variety of vehicles protected with improvised armor and a potent cocktail of machine guns and rapid-fire cannons. The gun truck of choice was the five-ton M54, whose engine had the right amount of power to lug such weight at a reasonable speed—even carrying an M113 armored personnel carrier in its bed for the purpose—but as comprehensively described in Gordon L. Rottman’s Osprey “New Vanguard” book, anything from an M151 quarter-ton vehicle to a dump truck could join the 400-odd Vietnam Gun Trucks.
With the custom plating and armament came the inevitable personalized décor, and the Transportation Corps’ armored escorts boasted names and markings worthy of the most extravagant U.S. Air Force nose art. These are given generous treatment in Peter Bull’s illustrations. Besides being of value to modelers or restorers of militaria, Vietnam Gun Trucks should be a trip down memory lane for the veterans of Transportation Corps, who proved that the Viet Cong did not have a complete monopoly on ingenuity and improvisation.