Orange Tracks On Vietnam Tanks

I know that metal tracks only get very rusty when it is very damp, and that Vietnamese soil is naturally reddish. So do metal tracks actually get rusty in Vietnam, or are they just coated with orange dirt?

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Now isn’t this something of a tricky question?
Either way it’s iron oxide, wheter it comes from the soil or from the tracks themselves. The way I understand it is also that the tracks rust almost all of the time, but once the vehicle moves, they get sanded all the time with well, sand, that is the little stones contained in the soil.
In the end it’s best to get some good photots and try to model what you see there.
Good luck with your builds and have a nice day

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It is my understanding that most tank tracks are made of manganese steel. This formulation is used precisely because it is strong and resists the formation of rust. When iron rusts, it becomes brittle and flakes away. Tank tracks often have a number of small, relatively thin parts, such as bushings and track pins. If those parts were made of iron, then would quickly deteriorate and break. A quick search for pictures of manganese steel will show the color range to shoot for. Also be aware that nations with lower industrial capacity tend to use less manganese in steel production and that affects color. (As an aside, during World War II, German production of manganese steel was steadily throttled. Such steel was made throughout the war but overall quality diminished.) I would expect track steel used by the United States to be very high quality during all eras.

South pacific isles and lands were formed relatively recently through volcanic activity. Volcanic rock contains a lot of iron, iron being the most abundant element comprising the Earth by total mass (but not by number of atoms). Oxygen is the second most abundant element comprising the Earth by total mass. When volcanic rock erodes, a lot of it chemically transforms into iron oxide–rust. This is what gives volcanic soil its rich red color.

So, if my understanding is correct, most tank tracks are very slow to rust but volcanic soil is full of rust.

During my trips to Guam, I had many opportunities to hike through the upland areas. The soil in those areas is rich red, very fine, very deep, very moist, and clings to everything. I was unable to wash it out of my clothing. On more than one occasion I sunk knee deep into the soil. The suction action was so strong it would pull the hiking shoes off my feet if I was not careful. On one hike, I came across a derelict Sherman tank and LVT. They never made it out of the mud. I strongly suspect the volcanic soil in Vietnam has exactly the same qualities but I never made it to Vietnam to check. (I wanted to.)

I could be wrong but that is where my own research stands. Hopefully, someone with direct experience can offer more insights.

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I don’t know about the manganese content of modern tracks, but US tracks do rust up pretty quickly. In the desert, they would get a light rust covering even sitting over night. But as Pawel pointed out, as soon as you start to move, the sand cleans the rust off. On the other hand, tanks in Germany had a permanent coat of dark red-brown rust. This is usually not a problem, as the tracks will get worn out from use long before there is any danger of them rusting through. Museum pieces and gate guards are a different story, but they often paint their tracks for this reason.
Pawel and Damraska are correct about red soil having a high iron oxide (Rust) content. In this case, it doesn’t matter where the rust comes from, it will color the tracks with a red/rusty color.


The dark brown rust is a coating like blueing is a coating. Most of the time the rusting process stops at that stage. I do not recall photos of turrets rusting through. The rust layer prevents further rusting. Here is an example. The tank was damaged long ago and left as it was. It is covered in a thin layer of dark brown rust that sealed the metal from further oxidation. Upon closer examination, you will see none of that thick flaking type of rust…


I have an old pair of pliers I found in the middle of a field when I was a kid (about a million years ago now). They had that brown coating. Bet set of pliers I ever had, still use them on a daily basis. I never cleaned them up, they are still just as brown as the day I found them. Never rusted up or changed color in any way, ever.