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Book Review of

“Gun Trucks in Vietnam: Have Guns - Will Travel"

Review By Patrick Keenan - Editor

Basic Item Information


Gun Trucks in Vietnam: Have Guns – Will Travel


By James Lyles


Rhame House Publishers – Wheaton, IL USA




Vietnam Era US Gun Trucks


Soft Cover Book

Number of Pages


Number/Type of Photos and/or Illustrations

254 Color & 38 Black/White Photos and 3 Color Illustrations

Text Language


Retail Price

$39.95 USD Available at the website http://vietnamguntruck.tripod.com/hardride.html or

If you want a signed copy, you can order direct from author James Lyles via email at lyles289hp@aol.com 


Patrick Keenan

Review Date

June 5, 2012

Review Summary*

Review Type

Full Read

Basic Positive Features

Information and large number of previously unpublished photos directly from gun truck crewman. Specific Info on over 550+ separate Gun Trucks.

Basic Negative Features

None Noted.


A "Must Have"




Detailed Review


A couple months ago I found out that James Lyles, the author of the books “The Hard Ride: Vietnam Gun Trucks (Parts 1 & 2)”* was planning to release a third book regarding those same vehicles.  Needless to say I was ecstatic and looked forward to the day the new book would become available.  Well, that time is now and I’ve been lucky enough to get a review sample of James’ new book “Gun Trucks in Vietnam: Have Guns – Will Travel”. 

* I have reviewed both parts of the “Hard Ride” and they are available for your reading pleasure here at WarWheels.Net.  Check out the following links if you are interested.



Book Content

One of my first thoughts about this book (even before receiving it) was, how does it compare to the previously released two Hard Ride books?  Is it a duplication of topics/photographs or does it contain brand new material?  Well, it’s both, in a sense.  First, this one book covers most all of the general subjects covered in BOTH Hard Ride books; and then some.  There are not as many photos as contained in BOTH the Hard Ride books (combined), but the subject coverage is pretty much the same.  In addition, there are a couple new subjects covered in this book which were not touched upon (or barely covered) in the Hard Ride books; Namely sections about gun trucks with wooden armor, gun trucks based on dump trucks, and HanJin Company and South Korean gun trucks.  Cool.  On the other hand, there is one subject that is not covered in this book, but was previously covered in part 2 of the Hard Ride: M151A1 & M151A2 “Gun Jeeps”. 

Second, what’s truly great about this book is that even though, many of the general topics/subjects are the same as covered in the Hard Ride books, the specific information and photos contained in this book are brand new. For example, Part 2 of the Hard Ride covers M54 5-ton trucks with APC body shells and so does this book as well.  However, this new book has completely different photos and captions illustrating those vehicles.  Therefore, if you own one or both Hard Ride books, this book is a great supplement to those.  On the flipside, this book stands well alone and you don’t have to own Mr. Lyles’ other books; although in my opinion you’re missing out if you don’t.

With all that being said, here is a listing of information covered in “Have Guns Will Travel”:

  • Gun Truck Types

  • Maintenance Gun Trucks

  • Enemy Weapons

  • Enemy Gun Trucks

  • Operation Lam Son 719/Dewey Canyon II

  • Women on Gun Trucks

  • Gun Truck Crew Positions

  • Gun Truck (Uniform) Patches

  • Gun Trucks with Wooden Armor

  • Dump Truck Gun Trucks

  • HanJin & South Korean Gun Trucks

  • Gun Truck Weapons

  • Gun Truck Hood Nose Colors

  • Gun Truck Names & Graphics

  • Regular 2 ½ and 5-ton Gun Trucks

  • Multi-Angled “Keyhole” Armor

  • Gun Trucks with APC Hulls

  • M37 3/4 –ton “Beep” Gun Trucks

  • Quad 50 Gun Trucks

  • Ambushes and Other Action

  • Vietnam Gun Truck Replicas (Full Size)

  • Vietnam Gun Truck Scale Models

  • List of Gun Truck Names and Units (564 separate vehicles)

Accuracy of Information

The information provided in this book is probably as good as you can get anywhere on any subject.  It is top notch as it was authored by a veteran Gun Truck Crew member. In fact, Mr. Lyles was the NCOIC (non-commissioned officer in charge) of a number of gun trucks in his Vietnam era military career.  Since Mr. Lyles was personally involved with these vehicles he is (obviously) very well informed about the full spectrum of gun truck materials from individual gun truck operations/tactics, equipment, convoy procedures as well as the overall mission of the hardened vehicle concept during the Vietnam era.  In fact, the information in this book is so solid that many of the misconceptions and incorrect information previously presented as fact in other references are corrected by Mr. Lyles using photographic and/or eye-witness accounts, usually from multiple sources. 

Also, being an ex-gun truck crew member gave the author unparalleled access to PRIMARY SOURCE information and photos not normally available to most authors.  Not only did he provide a large number of photos for this book, but as an ex-gun trucker, he was able to persuade other ex-crew members to provide information and photos too.  Being “one of their own” he was able to access a treasure trove of material and photos from the other ex-gun truck crews because they knew he would do them proud.  In fact, there are literally many dozens of contributors to his books, not just a few. 

Photograph and/or Illustration Quality and Selection

The biggest strength of this book is the photo selection.  Like Mr. Lyles’ “Hard Ride” books there is a similarly large 290+ photos presented, 254 of which are in color.  Even more startling is that a great majority (if not all) of the photos have never been published before (even in the Hard Ride books).  Again, these photos come directly from Mr. Lyles or he has obtained permission to use them from ex-gun truck crewmen.  The only complaint I have about the photos is that many are smaller than I’d like to see, and the detail can’t be discerned due to that size.  However, I completely understand Mr. Lyles decision to present as many photos as possible in his books.

As one can imagine, the quality of the photos is not as professional as some references, since a majority of them were taken by the young crewmen themselves.  However, they are surprisingly good considering the age and conditions they were created in.  Remember too, these photos were NOT taken for us modelers or enthusiasts to identify widget A or the color of part B.  These were taken for themselves and I am ecstatic that these men have shared them again with us through Mr. Lyles’ book. 

Use as Reference

Although this book doesn’t contain as many photos of the author’s previously published Parts 1 and 2 of “The Hard Ride” (combined), this book equals them as one of the best references about Vietnam era Gun Trucks that I have seen in terms of quality and quantity.  I am not saying there is not some other reference equal or better to this or the “Hard Ride” combo books out there, but I haven’t seen it yet.  Again, see my previous comments and opinions about the Photographic selection and accuracy of the book as that should suffice in convincing you that these book are must haves for gun truck enthusiasts in particular as well as for wheeled fighting vehicle aficionados and modelers in general.  Throw in the fact that Mr. Lyles has increased his coverage to 564 individual gun trucks (up from 378 covered by the Hard Ride books), you get your money’s worth with this book.

Editing of Information/ Text Flow

The text flow (e.g. the writing ability of the author) and editing of the information that is provided is very good. The information is also provided in a logical and organized way and wasn’t confusing.  The author writes effectively and succinctly and is able to get his point across easily.

Quality of Print Medium

The book is bound in a soft cover book similar in size and quality to other 8 ½ “x 11” modeling reference books. The soft cover media is of a decent quality which facilitates fairly frequent use/reading of the book.  The pages are of decent quality glossy paper as well. The construction of the book facilitates fairly frequent use/reading of the book, but not overt abuse.  Obviously, all soft cover books suffer from the fact that they don’t hold up as well as hard cover books.


Like Mr. Lyles’ books “The Hard Ride: Vietnam Gun Trucks (Parts 1 & 2)”, this book is also an outstanding reference in terms of its quality and quantity of information provided about and photos of Vietnam era Gun Trucks, crews, operations, etc.  If you already own the Hard Ride book combo or not, this book is a must have for anyone remotely interested in gun trucks, armored cars or wheeled fighting vehicles.

Recommendation:  “A Must Have”

Thanks to Rhame House Publishers for the Review Sample.


Copyright: Patrick Keenan - June 5, 2012