Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Myth Busting (or Obalanie Mitów, for Our Polish Chanters)

Sounds like a job for us!
Uh, no. Sorry guys, I loved your show, I mean SCIENCE! What's not to love? But I'm going to bust a couple of historical myths today. More up my alley than yours I think, but I have no doubt that if there were things that were alleged to go fast, or things that are supposed to go BOOM, you'd be just the guys to call on.

But not today.

Today I want to talk about Poland in World War II and, as a special treat, introduce you to an historical (kind of) YouTube channel I stumbled across over the weekend (thanks to a tip from one of the readership) which also features a band which is, I understand, very popular in Poland. In fact, our own Polish Correspondent Paweł has mentioned them on more than one occasion.

(No, it's not the Foo Fighters, PLQ, you can keep reading...)

Polish Cavalry on Maneuvers in the 1930s
As a kid I learned that in World War II, Germany invaded Poland and in the space of a month forced Poland to surrender. During that short campaign I was taught that the Polish horse cavalry actually charged German tank units and were shot to pieces. The first statement has some truth to it, but it's certainly not the truth. The second statement is absolute horse dung. (Seeing as how we're talking about cavalry here.)

In reality the Poles fought hard, damned hard, killing 16,343 Germans, destroying 236 panzers, and shooting down 246 Luftwaffe aircraft. The Germans were rather shaken at the ferocity of Polish resistance and that some of their own tactics weren't as good as they thought.

Hitler had wanted to invade the West soon after the Polish campaign, his generals convinced them that they needed to rethink some of their tactics. If they suffered the same level of casualties against the French, with their very large army compared to Poland's, they might face a repeat of the First World War. Or worse.

Hitler agreed to a postponement, eventually, because of the weather the Germans didn't invade the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France until the spring of 1940. The Poles bought the West eight months. Eight months in which the western Allies essentially sat on their hands, they too expected a repeat of WWI in which staying on the defensive proved to be the winning plan. They were wrong.

Now as to Polish cavalry, men on horseback, attacking German tanks? Didn't happen. At least not in the way the propagandists and journalists (but I repeat myself) claim it happened. You can read full accounts here and here, but I'll synopsize what happened for you. (A brief off-the-top-of-my-head history lesson. A general account of Polish cavalry and propaganda can be read here. )

It's the evening of the 1st of September 1939. A German infantry battalion is resting after a hard day's slog into Poland, the invasion seems to be going well. While the tankers get all the press, these men marched into battle much the same way as Frederick the Great's troops went to war. On foot.

In a field near the town of Krojanty, in Polish Pomerania (parts of Pomerania lie in Germany as well, it's called Pomorze in Polish, Pommern in German) Polish scouts have discovered the enemy infantry, resting, obviously tired from a long day. The Poles don't care, their ancient enemy has again violated the land of Poland, for that they must die.

Polish cavalry emerges before the tired Landsers can react, many are killed, the rest are scattered as Polish steel slashes down upon the old Teutonic enemy. The Germans flee in great disorder, those who can still move anyway.

But nearby German reconnaissance elements, mounted in armored cars, react to the Polish attack and counterattack the Polish horsemen. Men on horseback are no match for machine guns firing from behind armor. With no antitank support available, the Polish cavalry are forced to fall back, leaving a number of men and horses dead upon the field.

The attack bought time for nearby Polish units to fall back to more defensible positions. It takes time for a rattled and demoralized infantry battalion to regroup and for the officers to convince the men to advance one more.

The next day, after German tanks had also arrived on the scene, a number of journalists came upon the site of the recent battle. One newsman, from Italy, assumed that because there were German tanks on the field, and a number of dead Poles and their mounts, that the Poles must have insanely attacked German armor. On horseback.

The Germans present weren't going to argue with that report, it made people forget about the embarrassment of having a battalion from the mighty Wehrmacht defeated and dispersed by Polish cavalry.

In later years the western Allies added to that myth, the goal being to paint the Germans as these efficient bad asses with this really efficient army. It's all about appropriations after all, then as now. If you paint your enemy as larger than life, you'll get more money. Sad but effective, after all, your average western politician doesn't like spending money on the armed forces unless you hold a metaphorical gun to their collective heads. In late 1939, early 1940, the Wehrmacht was that metaphorical gun. (Truth be told, the British and the French were all set to pick up where they left off in 1918. The Germans weren't.)

Remember, the Poles weren't just fighting the Germans, the Soviets stepped in to steal their piece of Poland as well. A piece they hold to this day. (Even though the USSR is long gone.)

Strength of the forces attacking Poland:

Starting on 01 Sep 39

Germany: 60 divisions, 6 independent brigades, 9,000 artillery pieces, 2,750 tanks, and 2,315 aircraft.

Slovakia (a German puppet): 3 divisions

Joined on 17 September:

Soviet Union: 33+ divisions, 11+ independent brigades, 4,959 artillery pieces, 4,736 tanks, and 3,300 aircraft.

Total manpower: 1,500,000 Germans, 466,516 Soviets, and 51,306 Slovaks

Strength of the forces defending Poland:

Poland: 39 divisions (24 of which were mobilized on September 1st), 16 independent brigades, 4,300 artillery pieces, 210 tanks, 670 tankettes (essentially a very small tank), and 400 aircraft.

Total manpower: approximately 1,000,000 men.

The cost?

Germany: 16,343 killed, 3,500 missing, 30,300 wounded 236 tanks destroyed, and 246 aircraft lost.

Slovakia: 37 killed, 11 missing, and 114 wounded.

Soviet Union: 5,327 killed, missing, and wounded - 43 tanks destroyed

Total attacking casualties: 59,000

Poland: 66,000 dead, 133,700 wounded, 660,000–690,000 captured, 132 tanks and armored cars destroyed, and 327 aircraft lost.

Total Polish casualties: 859,700–889,700 men. (Source)

Some of the German POWs held by the Poles at the cessation of hostilities in 1939.
Not the usual picture we're used to seeing of the Wehrmacht during the Polish campaign, is it?

If you get the impression that I really like the Poles, you'd be correct. I have written of their cavalry before, and probably will again. To the brave men and women of Poland, may you always be free in truth as much as you have always been free in your hearts! Niech żyje Polska!

As for the band and the new historical website? The band is Sabaton (which also has this meaning - A sabaton or solleret is part of a knight's armor that covers the foot) these guys from Sweden perform a number of songs with an historical basis, now they have a YouTube channel which combines the two - Sabaton History. Here's the first episode, which covers a battle in Poland in September of 1939. Again proving to the Germans that the Poles were not pushovers on the battlefield!

Let me know what you think. I didn't think I'd care for these guys at first, but hey, history, it's what I live for!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Nebel des Krieges

Sorry for the cryptic, "Sarge-esque", title, but if I'd have just entitled it "Fog of War" you might have blown it off with a "Whoop-de-doo, juvat's going to wax poetic how confusing combat is.  What does he know, he's never been in it." and then gone off to read some fictional website, say CNN or something.

So, given that you haven't left yet I'll continue, I was struggling to find a subject and failing, then decided to review my old standby to see if there wasn't a story or two left to tell on it.

Still have a few left to cover here, but....

Well, turns out there are still a few.  Today we will be learning about Lt Col George A. Davis.  While I've heard about virtually all the names on this monument to Medal of Honor Recipients, located on the parade field at Lackland AFB (sorry, not into the whole Joint Base-XYZ thing), I've never heard about Col Davis at all until now.  I mean, his Home of Record, as well as his cenotaph, is in Lubbock, TX  where I'd gone to College and got commissioned.  One would have thought there would be some little tidbit of history available.

None that I recall.  STxAR, how about you?

In any case, this guy should be remembered.  Here's a few of his stats.  266 combat missions in WWII totaling 705 combat hours with 7 confirmed Japanese kills.  He followed that up with an additional 59 combat missions in the Korean War for a total of (let me take my shoes off to help me add...) 325 combat sorties.  During that war, he shot down a total of 14 aircraft making him the only Jet double ace, the first ace in two wars and the leading ace in the Korean War.  He also became a double ace in only 17 days. That short period was certainly helped when  4 of those kills were in a single sortie.

Now, admittedly the F-86 he was flying in that engagement significantly out-performed his adversaries.

F-86 Source

TU-2 Bomber (3 Kills)Source

Although the last one in that engagement was a bit more formidable.


On that sortie, after shooting down the three TU-2's, then Maj Davis was exiting the fight when he noticed one of the other members of his squadron under attack by 24 MiG-15s.  Maj Davis dove to attack a two ship that was commencing their firing pass, destroying one of them and allowing the other F-86 and he to exit the fight successfully.  Maj Davis landed from this sortie with 5 gallons of fuel left.

One of Maj Davis' kills from gun camera.Source

That sortie seems, to me anyway, to have met the "...above and beyond the call of duty" criteria for the Medal of Honor.  Enormous victory, then re-engaging the enemy against extreme odds to protect a squadron mate, but...what do I know?  The Air Force awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross for that sortie.

At this point in his tour, Maj Davis was averaging one kill per 3 sorties. The Air Force, being a brand new service. not  having reached its fifth birthday, has been advertising him extensively.  Accordingly, the Chinese, and surreptitiously the Russians, want to take him out.  For that reason, the US policy was to rotate Aces out of the combat area as soon as possible after achieving that goal not only to preserve their combat skills and knowledge and pass it on to others through training, but to deny the communists a propaganda victory.

So, in January of '52, Major Davis is informed that the Air Force wants to rotate him home.  Unfortunately, they can find no one suitable to assume his command.

At this point, you know how this is going to end...don't you?

On February 10th, Major Davis is leading a 4-ship in an Offensive Counter Air mission in support of F-84s on an Interdiction mission (in English, He's flying cover to keep the bad guys from attacking the good guys who are going to drop bombs on the bad guys.  Yes, Beans, I tend to see the world in black and white.)

His element lead develops an Oxygen problem so has to RTB (they're flying at 38K', oxygen is required).  Maj Davis and his wingman continue the mission.  Shortly thereafter, they see a 12 ship of MiG-15s below them, but above the F-84s.  Maj Davis dives to attack, closes on one MiG and shoots him down, continuing the attack, he manages to get a shot at another MiG also shooting him down.  Continuing the attack, he tries to pull behind a third MiG, but MiGs from the trailing elements get behind his, now slow,  F-86 and shoot him down, killing him.

There was  some controversy over who actually shot him down,  A Chinese pilot, Zhang Jihui is officially credited with the kill, although the Russians say it was one of their pilots who shot him down.  But, but, but...There was no Russian involvement in the Korean War,  Right?

In any case, Zhang is shot down also, in fact, his parachute lands within a few hundred meters of Maj Davis' wreckage, and Maj Davis' wingman did not claim a kill.  This post postulates that the 2 F-86's he insists he shot down were, in fact, MiG-15s from his trailing flight and that one of them had shot down Maj Davis and that Maj Davis had shot down Zhang. It's confusing, but then Air to Air Combat, even in practice, is extremely confusing.

While Sarge and I were assigned at Kunsan, the ROKAF squadron there flew F-86s.  We would frequently engage in mock duels against anybody that was airborne in the Republic.  The first time I was bounced by one of the ROKAF F-86s,  and had my first glance at the attacker, I thought was it actually was a MiG.  They are very similar looking, especially from Air to Air kill ranges.  It would be easy to make that mistake. I'd say the hypothesis above is at least plausible.

So....Nebel des Krieges...Neh?

However regarding Maj Davis, it makes no difference who got the credit.  An excellent Fighter Pilot and Leader was lost.  My Wikipedia source goes in to the politics of the incident.  Read it if you're interested.  Those politics might be the reason for my total lack of awareness of this man.  IMHO, the Air Force should have tried harder to follow their rotation policies which might have preserved his life, but a Warrior's got to do what a Warrior's got to do.

Rest in Peace, Warrior!


Lt Col Davis' Citation:

Maj. Davis distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.

While leading a flight of 4 F-86 Saberjets on a combat aerial patrol mission near the Manchurian border, Maj. Davis' element leader ran out of oxygen and was forced to retire from the flight with his wingman accompanying him. Maj. Davis and the remaining F-86's continued the mission and sighted a formation of approximately 12 enemy MIG-15 aircraft speeding southward toward an area where friendly fighter-bombers were conducting low level operations against the Communist lines of communications.
With selfless disregard for the numerical superiority of the enemy, Maj. Davis positioned his 2 aircraft, then dove at the MIG formation. While speeding through the formation from the rear he singled out a MIG-15 and destroyed it with a concentrated burst of fire. Although he was now under continuous fire from the enemy fighters to his rear, Maj. Davis sustained his attack. He fired at another MIG-15 which, bursting into smoke and flames, went into a vertical dive.

Rather than maintain his superior speed and evade the enemy fire being concentrated on him, he elected to reduce his speed and sought out still a third MIG-15. During this latest attack his aircraft sustained a direct hit, went out of control, then crashed into a mountain 30 miles south of the Yalu River.

Maj. Davis' bold attack completely disrupted the enemy formation, permitting the friendly fighter-bombers to successfully complete their interdiction mission.

Maj. Davis, by his indomitable fighting spirit, heroic aggressiveness, and superb courage in engaging the enemy against formidable odds exemplified valor at its highest.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Maj Davis was promoted posthumously.  Although the Chinese identified and recovered his body, it was never repatriated to the United States.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

A Favorite Place

It has been nearly eleven years since I had the pleasure of visiting the National Museum of Naval Aviation. Love that place, not just because of all the aircraft that are in it, my daughter The WSO got her wings in the atrium there. So it will always be a special place for me.

While wandering about the Internet, thinking of something to write about, I discovered that our own favorite tanker, Major Nicholas Moran, knows things other than tanks. He knows aircraft as well!

No wonder I like the guy.

He does an unofficial high speed tour of the National Museum of Naval Aviation. It's in two parts and watching it brought back a lot of happy memories. I also note that there are a number of new aircraft there as well. When we were there in '08, I didn't know about the aircraft out back. I guess I need to make a trip down to Florida some time in the near future.

As it's Sunday and I was feeling a bit lazy on Saturday night, I decided to give you another couple of videos from the Chieftain himself. So I give you Major Moran and his unofficial high speed tour of the National Museum of Naval Aviation -

There's a special appearance by the Blue Angels in this second part -

What's not to love?

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Soldier in Three Armies

Lauri Allan Törni
I had never heard of this soldier before Friday. Born in Finland, he fought the Soviets in the Finnish Army during the Winter War of 1939 to 1940. Finland was defeated by the Soviet Union and had to cede territory to the USSR. (At one point in Finnish history, much of their land was part of the Russian Empire under the Tsars.)

While I had trouble finding out whether or not Vänrikki (2nd lieutenant) Törni had actually been a full-fledged member of the Waffen SS, while undergoing training in Austria in between the Winter War and the German invasion of the Soviet Union, he did wear the uniform of an SS-Untersturmführer (2nd lieutenant) while in training in Vienna. (Center photo.)

When the Germans invaded the USSR in June of 1941, the Finns renewed their war against the Russians, referring to the period between 1941 and 1944 (when the Finns were again forced to sue for peace) as the Continuation War. Vänrikki Törni again fought Communists. Apparently he was not a fan. (Note that for the Finns, the Continuation War was simply a continuation of their earlier war against Soviet aggression.)

After the Finns dropped out of the war Törni continued to fight against the Soviets, this time as part of a German unit. He may have worn the SS uniform during this time period, I can't say. At that point in the war things in Germany were literally falling apart. Scratch units were formed from whatever material (men and equipment) was available. Some units of old men and Hitler Youth had nothing more than an armband to mark them as soldiers.

When the war ended Törni returned to Finland and was imprisoned for "treason." (The Soviets had a lot of influence in Finland after the war.) He escaped from prison a number of times but was eventually pardoned by president of Finland. (One future Finnish president had served in Törni's unit during the war.)

Törni emigrated to the United States, becoming a carpenter, also becoming known as Larry Thorne. Apparently he found civilian life boring so he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private. He entered the Special Forces, rose to captain and eventually found himself in Vietnam where he advised South Vietnamese units and continued to fight communists.

His luck ran out in 1965 when the helicopter he was aboard crashed in mountainous terrain in bad weather. His remains were eventually recovered in 1999 and he was eventually laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery along with the remains of three of his Vietnamese soldiers. He was posthumously promoted to major.

In the 1990s, Törni's name became better known as a war hero, with numerous books being written about him. He was named 52nd in the Suuret Suomalaiset listing of famous Finns; in the 2006 Suomen Sotilas (Soldier of Finland) magazine listing, he was elected most courageous of the Mannerheim Cross recipients.

In Finland, the survivors, friends, and families of Detachment Törni formed the Lauri Törni Tradition Guild. The Infantry Museum (Jalkaväkimuseo) in Mikkeli, Finland, has an exhibit dedicated to Törni, as does the Military Museum of Finland in Helsinki.

Even before his death, Thorne's name was legendary in US Special Forces. His US memorial is the Larry Thorne Headquarters Building, 10th SFG(A), Fort Carson, Colorado. 10th Group honors him yearly by presenting the Larry Thorne Award to the best Operational Detachment-Alpha in the command. The Special Forces Association Chapter 33 in Cleveland, Tennessee is named after him. (Source)
A man I thought you should know.


Friday, March 15, 2019

In Memoriam: USS Wasp (CV-7)

USS Wasp (CV-7) entering Hampton Roads, VA, on 26 May 1942.
USS Gleaves (DD-423) is in the background.
Just as the late Paul Allen's team found USS Hornet (CV-8), they have located USS Wasp (CV-7), more fine work by a superb and dedicated crew. As for the rest of the story -
A spread of six Type 95 torpedoes was fired at Wasp at about 14:44 from the tubes of the B1 Type submarine I-19. Wasp put over her rudder hard to starboard to avoid the salvo, but it was too late. Three torpedoes struck in quick succession about 14:45; one actually breached, left the water, and struck the ship slightly above the waterline. All hit in the vicinity of the ship's gasoline tanks and magazines. Two of the spread of torpedoes passed ahead of Wasp and were observed passing astern of Helena before O'Brien was hit by one at 14:51 while maneuvering to avoid the other. The sixth torpedo passed either astern or under Wasp, narrowly missed Lansdowne in Wasp's screen about 14:48, was seen by Mustin in North Carolina's screen about 14:50, and struck North Carolina about 14:52.

There was a rapid succession of explosions in the forward part of the ship. Aircraft on the flight and hangar decks were thrown about and dropped on the deck with such force that landing gears snapped. Aircraft suspended in the hangar overhead fell and landed upon those on the hangar deck; fires broke out in the hangar and below decks. Soon, the heat of the intense gasoline fires detonated the ready ammunition at the forward anti-aircraft guns on the starboard side, and fragments showered the forward part of the ship. The number two 1.1 in (28 mm) mount was blown overboard. (Source)

Part of the Navy's statement on the finding of USS Wasp -
“Wasp represented the U.S. Navy at the lowest point after the start of WWII. Her pilots and her aircrew, with their courage and sacrifice, were the ones that held the line against the Japanese when the Japanese had superior fighter aircraft, superior torpedo planes and better torpedoes,” said Rear Adm. (Ret.) Samuel Cox, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command. “The first year of the war, it was touch and go. Those who served at that time deserve the gratitude of our nation for holding the Japanese back.” (Source)

Something I had forgotten was that before the USS Wasp and her crew were sent to the Pacific Theater they had made two deliveries of vital aircraft, Spitfires, to the island of Malta when that island was being pounded daily by the Luftwaffe and the Regia Aeronautica. She played a large role in the survival of that island. After the first delivery, Sir Winston Churchill requested that USS Wasp be allowed to have "another good sting," President Roosevelt agreed and the second trip was made.

Never forget those who paid such a price for our freedom, to the USS Wasp and her crew, Fair Winds and Following Seas!

God Speed.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

War is Hell

It is the Sixth of March, the year is 1945. German forces are in retreat on all fronts, the war is nearly over. For the diehards, the fight continues...

American forces have entered the city of Köln, most of the German troops in the area have been pulled back across the Rhine River, but at some time late Monday or very early on that Tuesday, at least three Panzerkampfwagen V Panther tanks have been ordered into the city.

Someone, somewhere, didn't get the word that the Germans were pulling back. After the tanks rumbled over the Hohenzollern bridge, German engineers were preparing to blow that bridge. All is confusion, army officers don't want to blow the bridge, knowing that there were still troops fighting on the west bank of the Rhine, in and around Köln, one SS fanatic was determined to blow the bridge, come what may. For his trouble, a German army officer drew his Walther PPK and shot the SS man.

The bridge was blown up anyway.

Stranding a small element of the German Army's 106th Panzerbrigade (Armored Brigade). Two Panthers went one way after crossing the bridge, the vehicle commanded by Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant) Wilhelm Bartelborth went another direction, which placed him and his crew in the vicinity of the famous twin-spired Kölner Dom (Cologne cathedral). There they would meet two American tanks, one an M4 Sherman, the other the very new T26 Pershing.
Kölner Dom in 1945 (left) and today.
Although the following graphic depicts a PzKw VI Ausf B Tiger, more commonly known as a King Tiger (Königstiger auf Deutsch), the crew make up as shown applied to both the PzKw V Ausf D Panther and the M-4 Sherman. Each vehicle had a five man crew and the crew positions were similar on both of those vehicles. The exception being that on the Sherman, the commander and gunner positions are switched.
Tank crew positions, Germany.
Crew positions in the Panther commanded by Oblt Bartelborth are shown below. (This is an earlier version of the Panther, Bartelborth's tank was an Ausf A, which oddly enough, is a later version that the Ausf D shown below.)

The crew positions for the M4 Sherman and the T26 Pershing are depicted below -

T26 Pershing
As I mentioned last Saturday, I planned on watching the documentary about the "tank duel at Cologne" over at Amazon Prime. Which I did, the first two parts were the only ones applicable to the fight near the cathedral, the third and fourth parts can be skipped. It's obvious (to me at any rate) that the documentary was put together by a journalist, not an historian. Though he did a lot of good research, the documentary is colored by a certain amount of opinion which led nowhere and left me wondering what the fellow's point was. There was some good footage in the piece.

One thing I learned is that while there were a number of cameramen on scene, they were, in my opinion, uniformed journalists. The guy who shot most of the film claimed to have seen things which his film doesn't show. Another cameraman claimed to have great film of the action from an entirely different angle. Unfortunately he was never able to actually produce the film. Maybe it never existed or perhaps was inadvertently destroyed, we'll never know.

One thing I do know, is that on 06 March 1945, a Tuesday, three tanks met in combat. Out of fifteen crewmen aboard those tanks, five died. In addition, a civilian vehicle wandered onto the scene, driving between the positions of the Pershing and the Panther. Both vehicles opened fire on the car, killing the driver and wounding his female passenger badly. While U.S. Army medics treated her at the scene, they had to move on, hoping no doubt that she would be picked up later.

She was not, evidence at the scene seemed to suggest that she and the wrecked vehicle were driven over by another tank. Sad, but there was one bright spot in this otherwise tragic story. The woman's sister never knew of her fate, she had just gone missing. Years later when the documentary was put together, only then did she learn of her sister's fate. At least she learned what had happened to her sibling. Many people in those days simply vanished, their fate unknown, but presumed to be dead.

In front of the cathedral.
The two M4 Shermans advanced slowly down the sides of the street, driving carefully so as not to get hung up in the rubble of the destroyed buildings to either side. Both drivers had their heads out of their hatches for better visibility. There is just too much rubble, seeing no possible path forward, both Shermans stop.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a 75 mm round from a German gun hit the tank on the right commanded by Second Lieutenant Karl E. Kellner. The shot killed the driver Private First Class Julian Patrick and the loader Technician 5th Grade Curtis Speer instantly, it also severed 2Lt Kellner's left leg just below the knee.

2Lt Kellner managed to leverage himself out of his hatch, the gunner Corporal John J. Gialluca also bailed out of the stricken tank. Assistant driver Private Oliver P. Griffin also got out through his hatch. The tank commander, 2Lt Kellner, though he managed to scramble to safety, died shortly thereafter of his wound.

The second tank's crew had jumped out to assist their comrades in the stricken Sherman. They were in no position to engage the German tank which had hit Kellner's tank.

Meanwhile, the Panther which had destroyed Kellner's tank, under the command of Oberleutnant Wilhelm Bartelborth had quickly backed up into cover behind one of the numerous ruined buildings in the area, having spotted movement down a second street leading to the cathedral.

That tank, a rare T26 Pershing commanded by Robert Early, had just spotted the enemy vehicle backing up. They couldn't get a shot at the tank itself, so Early ordered his gunner, Clarence Smoyer to put a round into the building where he suspected the German was hiding. Figuring that perhaps they could still put an armor piercing round into the enemy tank even thought they couldn't see the tank, Smoyer fired the Pershing's gun.

The shot tore down the front of the building next to the Panther, Bartelborth ordered his driver forward as he swung the turret to his right, figuring a quick shot might kill the American tank. As the Panther moved into the open, Bartelborth hesitated, the tank down the street was unfamiliar, perhaps it was one of the other Panthers from 106 Panzerbrigade?

That hesitation cost him his tank and the lives of two crewmen. The Panther was shaken as a 90 mm round from the unfamiliar tank slammed into the tank. Almost immediately the Panther started to burn.

Time to get out!

Though the following film has some errors, it presents a different look at the tank duel in front of the cathedral, I thought it worth sharing.

To the memory of brave men, in a bitter war fought over seventy years ago -

Crew of the Sherman -
Tank Commander Karl E. Kellner
Gunner John J. Gialluca
Asst. Gunner Curtis Speer
Driver Julian Patrick
Asst. Driver Oliver Griffin

Crew of the Pershing -
Tank Commander Robert Early
Gunner Clarence Smoyer
Asst. Gunner John Deriggi
Driver William McVey
Asst. Driver Homer Davis

Crew of the Panther -
Tank Commander Wilhelm Bartelborth - survived the war
König - survived the war
Unknown crewman, wounded, died later in hospital
Unknown crewman, died inside the tank
Unknown crewman, survived the battle, ultimate fate unknown


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Old Guys Rock...

1948 Ferrari 166MM Barchetta*
Heard this song on the radio on the drive home from work yesterday - while thinking, "What to blog about, what to write about?" Whoa, there's my answer, right there on the radio. I am working on another post about that tank duel in Cologne, but I needed a break from the grimness of war. This fit the bill. (Not to mention but DST is eating my freaking lunch this week, I needed an easy post! I get the concept of DST but oh my aching butt it's tiresome!)

Haven't heard that song in a while.

Rush, left to right: Alex Lifeson - 65, Geddy Lee - 65, Neil Peart - 66
Like I said, old guys rock, as does Canada. (Hey, I'm two months older than Geddy!)

Many memories are attached to this song, the first which sprang to mind was a trip to the commissary and Post Exchange (PX) at Schinnen in the Netherlands, a small U.S. Army post, now closed. I had scored a two cassette copy of Rush's greatest hits at the PX and while The Missus Herself and the progeny did the grocery shopping, I sat in the old white Jetta and rocked out to the music of Rush, which I had not heard since the mid '70s.

I'm pretty sure it was the first time I'd heard Red Barchetta, which has remained a favorite ever since.

Yes, I think I was told to "turn that down" on the drive home. Which I did, reluctantly...

Geddy Lee is the best bassist on the planet, in my estimation, his bass lines along with Neil Pert's drumming are a great combination. Alex Lifeson's harmonic work on this song is simply amazing. To me at any rate.

While your mileage may vary, I thought Rush was awesome.

And that car!


* Little Boat in Italian