When Chief of Staff George Marshall confronted a bristling US Congress with the budget for armored walker development and mass production in 1940, his defense of the program would endure to define the supremacy of these vehicles throughout the war; “Yes, you heard correctly Mr. Speaker, the cost of one MWA-3 [Big Joe] is equal to approximately 3.43 Sherman tanks... But just so we’re clear, are you actually telling me that you cannot discern the usefulness a 25-foot-tall iron soldier? Can you justify your hesitation to the Brits at Dunkirk, pulped under the heels of a Kraut Colossus? Or a piss-soaked Frenchman on the ass-end of the Maginot? Do you think that Hitler, in an act of sudden mercy, will hold back his knights if the United States comes trotting to war with pawns?” With this incisive retort, the nature of armored warfare and the course of the war itself, were hurled on a surreal course. One that would see the second world war, literally, transformed into a battlefield of giants.
As with so many other unprecedented new weapons that debuted in the first great war, walking armor quaked the scene of modern warfare, but did not actually approach its full potential until the onset of the next world conflict. The key advantage of walking armor over its tracked forbears is versatility and enhanced capability. Qualities which are squandered in the hands of tacticians who understand neither the evolving state of armored warfare and how best to exploit the full combat potential of such resource hungry weapons. They are high cost, high stakes weapons, able to turn the tide on impossible situations when used in expert hands. The tides of war itself swayed in such hands, in the grip of true warriors, deft gamblers and geniuses. Call them Patton, Rommel, Guderain, or Zhukov.
The ability to swap weapons, and thus combat roles, adapting to constantly changing battlefield conditions, the calculated use of variable force, was a huge advantage for Armored walkers over traditional AFVs. Roughly equivalent to the advantage of a man with thumbs over a dog with none. That said, a man joined by a good hunting dog is better than one without. Naturally, within the crucible of warfare, degrees of hybridization and mutation between hunting breeds would trickle forward like conjurings from a witch’s brew. Taking the metaphor to its extreme, one might regard walking armor equipped with specialized weapon arms as a werewolf of sorts. WWII was a coliseum with the distinction of unleashing a diverse and ever mutating variety of armored beasts to war.
To a degree, the development of walking tanks shadowed the trail of their tracked counterparts, however, early on, military officials regarded them with even more skepticism than they felt for other utterly radical concepts such as devoting an entire miltary branch to air power. When blitzkrieg swept across the European Continent, any doubts about the decisive power of armored walkers, as those felt for other new tecchnology, was soundly shattered. Walking tanks didn’t overthrow tracked armor as pivotal weapons any more than battleships were deemed more vital than bomber wings. Rather, they proved to be a hugely intensifying force when grafted to armored columns comprised of other wheeled and tracked vehicles.
*More vehicle info and specs to follow.
**The term AFW [armored fighting walker] originates from Konami's "Ring of Red"