Thursday, February 28, 2019

So You Bought a Bunch of Tanks, Now What?

Vehicles from 7. Panzerdivision, France 1940
So after reading yesterday's post, you ran on down to Uncle Erwin's Used Panzer Lot and purchased a bunch o' tanks. (I know, not really, they are really expensive things. But humor me, as Tank Week continues...)

Tanks are great but guess what? They use a lot of fuel, if you get in a tank battle, they will burn through a whole bunch of ammunition, and those crews need to eat. (You did hire a bunch of tank crewmen, right?) So you need vehicles to carry fuel, to carry rations, to carry ammunition and spare parts. What happens when a tank breaks down and the crew can't fix it?

Can't really call a tow truck, tanks (even the little ones) are rather heavy beasties. What if you have a 30-ton tank and need to cross a bridge rated at only 10-tons? Hhmm, what's an aspiring tank general gonna do?

Tanks by themselves are useful only to a certain point. Drive one into a city, first thing you know some hooligan wearing the other side's laundry has tossed a bottle full of gasoline with a cloth fuse (lit by the way) onto the back deck of your tank. What's that? Your engine's on fire? Yeah, that sucks, better get out of the tank because, you know, "Bugger, the tank is on fire!"

If you bought a tank which is easy for the crew to get in and out of, no problem. Until you climb out of the tank and the guy who hit you with the Molotov cocktail, and all his friends, start shooting at you with rifles and other things which go boom. Kinda wish you'd brought your own infantry along didn't you? The chap with the Molotov cocktail would be bleeding out instead of flinging burning things at your nice new tank.

So yes, a tank unit needs things other than tanks.

World War II tank divisions had all sorts of support vehicles to accompany them into battle. Infantry, artillery, reconnaissance units, logistical units (beans, bandages, ammo, and fuel), and units whose job it was to haul broken tanks off the battlefield to be repaired.

When the Allies landed on D-Day there were specialist tanks which were more than a big gun. On the American beaches the tanks, theoretically, could swim ashore, on the British and Canadian beaches were tanks which could detonate mines, fill in ditches, and surmount obstacles, "Hobart's Funnies" they were called. We Yanks didn't think we'd need them, we were wrong. A lot of the DD tanks (duplex drive Shermans) wound up on the bottom of the sea as they weren't really designed to swim for very long and certainly not with rough seas!

Does this fascine make my butt look big?
A Churchill AVRE, carrying a fascine, crosses a ditch using an already deployed fascine, (1943)
There were tanks designed to travel underwater. For short distances, think rivers, and for longer distances, think English Channel. Yes, the Germans had some ideas for a Tauchpanzer or "diving tank," also known as an Unterwasserpanzer, or U-Panzer. An underwater tank, not really popular with the crews. Seems if you kept going you'd be fine, unless you ran into a big rock or an underwater depression. If you stopped, you'd sink into the sea (or river) bottom. Then the crew would drown. No fun, no fun at all.

(Source)
But let's keep things simple for the moment, let's ignore all the specialist units, let's assume for the moment that you got a package deal, a bundle if you will, down at the used tank lot. You have all the fuel trucks, ammo trucks, ration trucks, and spare parts that you might need. But you need to look at other things.

So yeah, you want your own infantry along, to prevent bad guys from dropping flaming stuff on you. Really you don't want them riding in trucks, while your tanks are haring cross country, your truck-bound infantry are trying to follow along on the nearest road. Or trying to get unstuck from the mud churned up by the tracked vehicles they're attempting to follow and support. So yes, you want your infantry in tracked vehicles as well.

In World War II both the Germans and the Allies came up with a vehicle which is sort of a cross between a wheeled and a tracked vehicle. The halftrack -

US 9th Armored Division halftracks advance through Engers, Germany, March 27, 1945.
Now while the halftrack looks like an armored vehicle, and it is, sort of, it's really used to carry your infantry close to the fighting, not into the fighting. If you armor them up enough to be safe to fight in, they're going to be heavy. Besides which, if they're running into town inside their armored box, they won't notice the Molotov cocktail guy on the roof of that building either. The tank you're supposed to support will get burned, then so will you!

So yes, you drive to the fighting, then walk into the fighting. If you're lucky, you can walk behind the tank, looking out for guys on roofs and the like. But how do you talk to the guys inside the tank without climbing up on the tank, making a nice target of yourself at the same time? Well, some GI figured that out...
The best solution was worked out by Operation Cobra, and many tanks went into combat sporting it. The fix was mounting an EE-8 field telephone in a .30 caliber ammo box on the back of the tank. This phone was wired into the tanks intercom so anyone could walk up and say, “Hey! You blind Sonsobitches!! Shoot the machine gun nest over to the right, that house you’re shooting up is empty, you stupid bastards!!” or something to that effect. This, of course, could get the infantry guy, who wanted to talk to the tank shot, since he had to stand up behind the tank, but they still haven’t come up with something better, and M1A2 Abrams tanks are getting infantry phones installed on them now. (Source)
At least he didn't have to climb onto the back of the tank to insult, er, communicate with the tankers.

Okay, so you've got infantry guys with you, riding in their own semi-armored vehicles. But say you come upon a really well dug in enemy force, with lots of big guns of their own. They really want you to cross that open field so they can shoot you to pieces. Oh what to do, what to do? Hey, let's call in some artillery!

What's that? Your artillery is towed by trucks? Where are they now, oh on the roads way in the rear. I know, let's give the gunners tracked vehicles as well! Hhmm, but they still have to tow their guns and...

Brilliant! Mount the cannons on tracked vehicles as well!

M7 Priest passes by a Humber Scout Car as it moves into position to support an attack on Caen, 8 July 1944.
So now your artillery can go cross-country just like your tanks. Better yet, as the gun and crew are right there, ready and raring to go, there isn't a whole lot of set up time as there is with towed artillery. (Gotta unhook the gun from the truck, gotta wheel the gun into position, gotta get the ammo out etc., etc.)

(Source)
Yes, the Germans used a lot of horses, not in their armored divisions, but everywhere else. The German grunt went to the war just like his granddaddy, on foot and stepping in horse crap.

Okay, so now you have your infantry with you, your artillery is keeping up nicely, oh crap, is that a P-47/Typhoon/Stuka/Sturmovik bearing down on my armored column? Oh crap!!! (It's gotta be Juvat, it's just the sort of thing he likes to do...)

Yeah, that's gonna leave a mark...
What to do, what to do?

How about getting some of these?

M16 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage
Hhmm, mount some .50 caliber machine guns on a halftrack? Works for me. Or mount something similar on a fully tracked vehicle, like this...

Wirbelwind, WWII German Self-Propelled four-barrelled Anti-Aircraft Gun on display at the CFB Borden Military Museum, Ontario, Canada.
(S0urce
(Cue juvat exclaiming how he hates those things!)

Okay, so now we're rolling, things are going great but...

Oh, oh, now what Sarge?

Dang, seems that Private First Class Schmuckatelli has burned out the transmission in his tank. His buddy Corporal Sumdood, with his ham-handed driving has completely destroyed some of the road wheels on his tank. But we're moving forward, we need to fix these beasts but repairs in the field aren't really possible...

A Grant-based ARV recovers a Daimler Dingo armoured car. Italy, February 1945.
Uh, what's an ARV, Sarge?

Glad you asked, an ARV is an Armored Recovery Vehicle. Tough enough to tow a tank, strong enough to pull it out of the mud. Some of the modern ones are real beasts -



When AAA is just not enough! (Easy juvat, I mean the American Automobile Association, not Anti-Aircraft Artillery.)

I'd like to talk about armored cars...

But not today, soon mes enfants soon!

As Tank Week continues!




84 comments:

  1. The “hybrid powertrain” tank of the future has the ability to cross water like the Tauchpanzer - just shut off the combustion engine and use battery power, like a submarine. Just hope your hatch seals are good.

    Also, that crewman being attacked by Tiffies should really be saying “your capabilities are overrated, and you can’t hit the broad side of your momma!” (Testing on a stationary Panther, painted white for visibility, showed that it took approximately 800 rockets or 3500 bombs (!) to knock out a tank.

    http://ftr.wot-news.com/2014/04/04/ground-attack-aircraft-myth-of-the-tank-busters/

    )

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    1. True. But the Germans were scared stiff of Allied airpower. As Napoleon said, the moral is to the physical as three is to one.

      After the war studies showed that your point was correct, still didn't mean the Germans believed otherwise. Besides which, we had the 800 rockets per tank to spare.

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    2. Don't forget, it took far fewer rockets to take out their fuel and ammo trucks, or the bridges that make crossing rivers easy.

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    3. A key point which the postwar bean counters ALWAYS miss.

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    4. There was a P-47 unit that perfected skip-bombing into buildings and tanks. Skip bombing is when you fly real low, drop the bomb, it skips across the ground and hopefully goes BOOOOM on the side of the target.

      Kinda like the medium bombers used skip bombing in the Pacific against Japanese ships.

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    5. Very effective, if done correctly.

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    6. Regarding Typhoon Rockets, see my later comment. This article talks about ballistics drop of the rocket as it comes off the rail and gets up to speed. Again, a steeper dive angle minimized this effect. Think of the legs on a 30, 60, 90 degree right triangle. A 30 degree angle, release altitude and range to target are critical. 60 degrees less so. 90 and release altitude (which is also range) is virtually irrelevant. However, that release altitude is extremely relevant to dive recovery. Unless you really really really want to kill the tank and your GI Insurance is paid up.

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    7. Ju-87s went in at very steep angles, 60-90°:

      Flying at 4,600 m (15,100 ft), the pilot located his target through a bombsight window in the cockpit floor. The pilot moved the dive lever to the rear, limiting the "throw" of the control column. The dive brakes were activated automatically, the pilot set the trim tabs, reduced his throttle and closed the coolant flaps. The aircraft then rolled 180°, automatically nosing the aircraft into a dive. Red tabs protruded from the upper surfaces of the wing as a visual indicator to the pilot that, in case of a g-induced black-out, the automatic dive recovery system would be activated. The Stuka dived at a 60–90° angle, holding a constant speed of 500–600 km/h (350–370 mph) due to dive-brake deployment, which increased the accuracy of the Ju 87's aim.

      When the aircraft was reasonably close to the target, a light on the contact altimeter came on to indicate the bomb-release point, usually at a minimum height of 450 m (1,480 ft). The pilot released the bomb and initiated the automatic pull-out mechanism by depressing a knob on the control column. An elongated U-shaped crutch located under the fuselage swung the bomb out of the way of the propeller, and the aircraft automatically began a 6g pullout. Once the nose was above the horizon, dive brakes were retracted, the throttle was opened, and the propeller was set to climb. The pilot regained control and resumed normal flight. The coolant flaps had to be reopened quickly to prevent overheating. The automatic pull-out was not liked by all pilots. Helmut Mahlke later said that he and his unit disconnected the system because it allowed the enemy to predict the Ju 87's recovery pattern and height, making it easier for ground defences to hit an aircraft.
      - Wikipedia article on the Stuka

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  2. Keep rolling......rolling......rolling.......keep those beasties rolling.....(apologies to Rawhide). Which artist has the Typhoons strafing? That Hercules is well named isn't it? Nice selection of photos Sarge.

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    1. I couldn't find a good source for the Typhoon painting, so I used it from an old post of mine. I'll keep looking...

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    2. And that is why you mount an mg on top of the turret. So you can shoot the skybirds as they try to poop death on you. Or let some short jacked-up LT use it against 500 troops...

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    3. It wasn't that effective against aircraft, unless you saw the bird coming, and you had the cojones to actually man it and shoot.

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  3. Hey, remember those tanks in the Pacific theater that SPIT FIRE?!?!?!? Oh baby, I wanted one of those when I was a kid. Uncle Dewey took his turn running a flamethrower on Okinawa, said it was horrible, dangerous duty. But in a TANK?? I'd hire a whole crew just to watch it work.... What, me get in there??? ummmm, thank you, no. (Maybe when I was younger, but I was almost six feet tall in sixth grade....)

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    1. Had 'em in Europe as well. A modified Churchill towing a trailer full of fuel for the flamethrower, the Brits called it the Crocodile.

      Flamethrower duty must have sucked, nobody likes them, everyone wants to shoot the flamethrower itself (not the man) to watch the operator burn.

      It is known.

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    2. The US Shermans in the Pacific had some flamethrowers that replaced the lower hull mg. Very effective against tree-top snipers and spider holes.

      Which, when you think about it, you're in a big metal can that people are shooting at and you're using jellied gasoline to shoot at them. Um... well, whatever works, dude...

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    3. Anybody who's dumb enough to shoot at a buttoned up tank with a rifle should be deep fried.

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    4. against Japanese with inferior AT weapons sherman with flamethrower had better chance of making it next to pillbox or cave entrance than infantry grunt on foot.... just saying...

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  4. I have heard that tanks are on the way out because of such advances in light antitank weapons. Do you think this is true?

    Even 45 years ago we had what they called a LAW - for light heavy tank weapon. It was a use ones, expandable bazooka that fired a rocket at the tank.

    Just saw a fascinating program on Amazon-a series on special forces around the world in battles they were in.

    Didn’t realize there was a special forces base a few miles from the Marine base at Khe Sanh.

    It was a small bass-28 Green Berets, and during Ted they were overrun by North Vietnamese tanks. They were surprised because the North Vietnamese had never used tanks before. Eight of them held out until air support the next morning in a underground bunker that the North Vietnamese kept trying to destroy with explosives.

    Anyway that LA W was new and somewhere airdropped

    They got 75 of them and started using them against the tanks only to discover that about two out of three were duds. Guess they still had some bugs to work out, or they were damaged in the air drop.

    Finally I read this story a few weeks ago and I am wondering if we will find anything strange in your basement

    https://www.newsweek.com/ww2nazi-germanynazi-artworkgerman-army1943-panthergerman-policegerman-weapons-602764

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    1. There have been advances in man-portable anti-tank weapons. Most of which require you to be pretty close to the tank. War evolves, heavily protected vehicles of one sort or another will always be around, whether they look like a tank or not, remains to be seen.

      Nothing in my basement of any interest. I had heard that story of the "Panther in the basement." How do you misplace or not notice a vehicle that big. More likely in a barn or something. For quite a while after the war they were finding all sorts of cool things stashed on farms throughout southern Germany and Austria, to include an Me-109 in pristine shape. When the war ended, the crews just walked away.

      An interesting tale nonetheless.

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    2. The future will also have things like Trophy APS, which basically detects incoming missiles and fires a shotgun at them, hopefully destroying the warhead and not shredding *too* many of the accompanying PBI.

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trophy_(countermeasure)

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    3. The future is now.

      The Russians like their reactive armor as well.

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    4. As far as the LW and similar - as anti armor weapons get better, so does the armor; the age old competition continues.
      As far as APS and reactive armor, they are another step in the competition and both have their limits. As the Russians found out in Chechnya, both can only stop a few hits and volley fire will get through. And neither is effective against kinetic energy rounds, despite claims to the contrary.

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    5. The big metal slug often succeeds where the fancy stuff fails.

      And yes sir, 'tis an age old competition indeed!

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    6. The US's Javelin anti-tank system is primo, but... there are lots of ways of defeating incoming missiles. Those wire-baskets around a lot of tanks and APCs work surprisingly well, causing the incoming round to explode at a semi-safe distance.

      Tanks will never go away, just as body armor is here to stay. One needs big-gun and Lots-Ammo at Right-Here and In-Your-Face distances, and the lowly infantryman can't do it all. Combined arms (infantry, tanks, artillery) is the way to go. Neglect any of the legs and you lose.

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    7. I think that's a safe assumption for quite a ways into the future.

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    8. there has been rumors of tanks going extinct at least since 1973 Yom Kippur when Israeli tanks sent without infantry support got badly mauled by ATGMs of first generation AT-3 Sagger aka Malutka
      since then various ways were devised of defeating ATGM, from simple cages thru explosive reactive armor (ERA) and chobham composite armor, to active defence systems shooting shrapnel out towards incoming missiles...
      all have pros and cons from price to technical complexity and ease or lack of thereof of maintenance, also sometimes impairing the tank itself, ERA exploding can make mess of optics of the tank for example...
      tanks are decisively not the invulnerbale beasts, but they never really were, at guns made a real killing grounds in ww2 (Germans perfected luring Brits in Africa into 88mm killing zones)
      they will stay because they are only ways of delivering maneuver, firepower and protection at same time

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    9. And that says it all right there.

      Well said, Paweł!

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    10. Semi-safe distance. Do tanks have aspirin dispensers?
      Excedrin headache number 153!!!

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    11. This Russian movie I have seen clips from (T-34 might be the name?) shows the crew inside a tank with shells hitting the outside. The noise seems mind-boggling, not to mention eardrum destroying. Excedrin headache number 153 indeed!

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  5. Tank you very much for this entertaining article.

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  6. Great stuff Sarge. I've seen another blog add The Chant to their sidebar because of your tank series.

    At the 3:10 mark, "Send me some Stukas!".

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCTdsKQYAw8

    While I was attending small arms repair school at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, we routinely marched by part of the tracked vehicle training course. Got to watch M-88 student crews having a blast gunning their beasts through the mud. Engine is a twin turbo V-12 diesel.

    Later, while in the field during Reforger exercises, I got to watch a sorta comedy routine with an M-88.

    I mentioned before that I was assigned as driver for our company XO, and we were pretty much un-attached go-fer's. So it develops one day that I am positioned with our jeep as traffic control on a rural two lane road. The terrain slopes down and away across a large muddy plowed field. Down in the distance to the right is a mech infantry unit (don't recall who). Seems one of their M-60s has busted it's left track. The track is rolled up and laying on the rear deck of the tank. The plan is to have an M88 tow the M60 up a single lane hard surface road to where it "Tee's" into the road I am on, about 100 yards to my left. Once there, the M60 can be loaded onto a HET 1911. The single lane road starts parallel to the road I am on, then makes a sweeping left turn and comes up slope to join my road. I have a front row seat in the second deck.

    So, they start to tow the M-60. Problem is, they have too much cable played out between the two vehicles, and the M60 slides off the road at the left turn, planting it's un-tracked road wheels firmly in the mud. What to do? The M88 reverses back towards the stuck M60 and stops. They play out some more cable. Then the M88 driver floors it. They are going to attempt to jerk the M60 out of the mud. Right.

    At this point, some of the troops closer to the action began to get a clue, turn, and make best possible speed through the thick clay mud to put some distance between themselves and what is about to happen. The M88 hits the end of the cable doing about 20mph. It doesn't even flinch. The M60 doesn't budge. The tow pintle...

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Large-heavy-duty-steel-pintle-M88-recovery-vehicle-12366185-military-tow-hook-/181356082395

    (Yeah, I know. Ebay. Who knew?)

    ...snaps off and flies through the air, landing in the mud just past the now stopped M88. So now, the road is blocked by the stuck M60, and the tow vehicle can't tow. Had they stopped and switched to tow bars (as in the above video), they might have made it. At this point, my XO figured enough was enough, and we went on our way.

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    1. Oh Lordy, towing a tank out of the mud, what could possibly go wrong?

      Exactly what you describe - great story RHT447.

      (I saw Borepatch added us, any others? I'm a big believer in reciprocal linking.)

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    2. Yes, Borepatch was the one I saw.

      And speaking or tank recovery, I have watched/read some stuff about tank recovery units (some were all black?) in Europe in WWII. Yeesh. That was some grim, gritty duty.

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    3. Yes, recovering a knocked out tank could be pretty nasty.

      I note that Belton Cooper's book Death Traps, about his experiences in a tank recovery unit cannot be relied upon as a source for how "bad" the Sherman was, the book has its flaws.

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  7. I remember seeing a halftrack parked in front of the local Northeast Philly fire station sometime during the late '60s.
    https://twitter.com/firemanshall/status/954029130785402880

    A logical extension of the quad fifties in the back of the halftrack might be the Shilka.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZSU-23-4_Shilka

    If a future post goes into tank armament detail, would it be cannonical?

    Great series of posts.








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    1. A fire department halftrack, that's just too cool.

      Ooh, don't mention the ZSU-23-4 around juvat, sets him off it does.

      Heh. Well, we've already talked about Priests and Sextons...

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    2. Priests and Sextons and Abbots.... Brits like to keep a theme to naming vehicle classes
      oh and Shilka would be nightmare to any low-flying pilot in anything less amrored than A-10, and even A-10 would not come undfamaged out of the encounter
      think upcalibred wirbelwind with modern radar fre control
      deadly

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    3. The Tommies do like their themes. I prefer naming the stuff to giving it a nomenclature. We called it the P-51, Brits tagged it with "Mustang." Good stuff.

      Also, sometimes the HQ types name it one thing, the people using it call it something else. To many it's the "A-10 Thunderbolt II," to its pilots, its ground crew, and thankful grunts everywhere, it's the "Warthog."

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    4. ZSU-23-4 (aka Shilka) was/is a very formidable opponent. Spent quite a bit of time studying bad guy armor formations to know where they were usually positioned. AGM-65 Maverick would make short work of them and had the range to launch and leave, reattacking other ZSU-23-4's as needed. AAA=HISSS! in my book.

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    5. I naturally assumed you would hate those. I wasn't wrong!

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  8. A question from the peanut gallery, for the pilots- brought up from the Typhoon painting-
    many years ago I read the advice- "never strafe along a column". My assumption was this was because strafing across a column minimizes close range shots, and forces every shooter in the column to take a more difficult deflection shot.(except for the one the plane flies over).
    Is this the correct reason? Or is the advice itself an old wives tale?

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    1. Interesting question.

      While strafing along the length of a column does maximize one's exposure to ground fire, it also minimizes the damage done to the column. The advice sounds odd, to say the least. Pilots? Juvat? (No fair using Mavericks...)

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    2. I always heard not to strafe along the column due to all the infantry johnnies getting a chance to use their personal weapons as insta-AA fire. Cross attacking the first and last vehicles, thus blocking the column is more effective, and then you shoot the people as they run away, then attack the rest of the now not-moving and somewhat unmanned vehicles.

      Though napalm along the length of the column works real well...

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    3. Believe me, the infantry types will scramble for cover. They might shoot if you come back.

      Again, strafe across the column and you'll probably miss. Strafe along it, you're bound to hit something.

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    4. Raven is absolutely correct. Look at where virtually every barrel is pointed in that convoy. Directly in front of the Typhoon (the tank turning at the Y is only seconds away from meeting the criteria). All they have to do is elevate their gun and fire. The plane takes flies into the stream of lead, no need to aim. IIRC (strafing moving targets was a textbook problem, very difficult to practice. Seems nobody wanted to drive the vehicle. Hmmm, funny that.) 45° was the theoretical "correct" angle. Maximized the lead required for your target to shoot back at you while also maximizing your target tracking (think a larger version of Sarge's Armor angle geometry) and minimizing your time on target.
      Second thing I noticed, Lead Tiffie is out of rockets. Low angle, low altitude strafe with 20MM only...well...hope you like the person you named in your GI Insurance. High Angle Strafe has a higher Probability of Kill (Pk) as the pipper doesn't travel as far (look at a 30 degree right triangle, the 60° leg is shorter than the 30° one) so you don't have to get the range part of the equation quite as accurately. The bullets will hit the earth. You're also within the AAA (Hissss!) range for much less time.
      All that having been said, nice painting and great article!

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    5. And there you have it, I bow to the actual pilot on the team!

      Thanks juvat!

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  9. You may be interested to know that the original spec for the Bradley fighting vehicle had it being amphibious without any preparation, but the 'death trap' claims of the 80's led to added armor and made it too heavy to do it. Now it can technically be amphibious when a special skirt is used, but I doubt that feature has been used outside of Aberdeen Proving Grounds.
    The US military is getting used to fighting in deserts and not worrying about cities, water features, or cold weather - hopefully they prepare for that BEFORE a war happens there!

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    1. I did not know that. Thanks!

      If you give the infantry an armored fighting vehicle, they tend to stay inside of it. The intent was to carry them to the battle, they dismount and maneuver, use the chain gun to support those maneuver elements. Stay inside and the Bradley is just an under-gunned tank with passengers.

      Don't worry, the generals always plan for the last war. We are becoming far too enamored of light infantry as well.

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  10. It seems this would be a good post for a clever comment.
    But I have nothing.
    I do remember, though, having radio telephone conversations, during gunnery exercises, where the observer requested HE rounds from the 5”/38 be fired on a simulated armored target.
    Shore bombardment is pretty much a one way battle.

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    1. It's good having a long reach.

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    2. One of the many lessons learned from the horrors of Tarawa and Makin was that shore-bombardment vessels needed to get in as close as possible. You know, the same lessons they forgot from Gallipoli...

      Getting in close was/is very important for a ship-gun.

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    3. Getting in close for direct fire is a damned good way to lose the ship. Unopposed, sure, no problem, just mind the shallows.

      If they're shooting back, forget about it. You can pound a properly built shore fortification all day long, you're just going to chip the concrete. Lay down a barrage to keep the enemy's heads down while your troops advance on the defenses, then artillery is effective.

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    4. Close indeed. Jeff Cooper served as a gunnery officer aboard the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38).

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Pennsylvania_(BB-38)

      Those interested can read some of Cooper's writings here--

      http://www.molonlabe.net/Commentaries/

      In one of his books, he recalls blasting Japanese pill boxes with the ship's 5-inch 38's at point blank range. He remarked that "It beat plinking tin cans with a .22 all hollow".

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    5. Using the 5 inchers on a battleship that close?

      Damn!

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    6. apparently during Normandy batgtles there was at least one 15-16 inch direct hit on Tiger
      not much left to be collected

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    7. After the horrors of the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands campaign specified capturing smaller outer islands for Army artillery first, then attacking the main objective. Naval ships would get close to the outer reef dropoff on the ocean side, and get in as close on the lagoon side. Shallows be damned. Point blank fire from naval rifles was very effective.

      At Roi-Namur, on the north end of Kwajalein Atoll, I got to inspect a 15" hole in a Japanese bunker (concrete made from coral is much stronger than limestone concrete.) The Navy used AP ammo for punching holes in 3' or more of superconcrete. It worked.

      At Kwajalein Island the naval bombardment basically stopped when they started missing targets because nothing was stopping the rounds. A little more complicated than that, but that was the basic concept. That anyone survived such a point-blank shelling is a miracle in and of itself.

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    8. Point being is that many did survive the shelling. Artillery is good only up to a certain point, then your infantry have to go in and winkle the enemy out. It has always been that way, probably always will be.

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    9. Yes, but the ship guns knocked out all known and, as the front moved, discovered strongpoints and guns.

      Not being able to land a bazillion tanks, they just floated some navy tanks up to the reefs...

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    10. And all that armor was very effective against the land-born guns!

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  11. Germany, 1965 at one of the Hanau Kasernes were several M88s with huge V-snow plows suitable for the high Rockies. One of the NCO's told me they weren't there to plow snow. "What for then", I asked? "Road clearing", was the reply. As in, it would suck to be a refugee trying to flee in your car and blocking the way.

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    1. And mines. Works good on mines.

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    2. WSF - The intent was for (as Beans says) mine clearing. Big metal plow shoves the mines aside, if they explode, well, big metal plow - won't hurt the vehicle.

      It's also effective at shoving stalled and broken down vehicles out of the way.

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    3. Beans - that was the main idea.

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  12. That Operation Cobra comms fix is sort of the predecessor to a FAC, except he's on the ground, and he's not forward, he's in the back. So he's a RTC, Rearward Tank Controller. That just sounds lame though so we're not instituting the RTC program. You say they're just now putting them on the Abrams? Just use a damn cell phone!

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    1. Need cell towers for cell phones. If we fought a war in California's Central Valley we'd be lost comms most of the time. DAMHIK.

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    2. Closed net private cell system! We've put them on ships.

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    3. I need to look into that.

      Ya know, for all the tanks I have...

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  13. On fuel. I remember the movie Patton where he came across the flickering and burnt remains of a meeting engagement between Germans and part of his army. One of the men still alive told him that they ran out of fuel and were forced to fight in place without maneuver. It just purely sucks to run out of fuel.

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  14. Tanks for the memories! Somebody had to say it :-)

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  15. I read somewhere that the reason the 'funnies' were not used on the US beaches on D-Day was because the sand was deemed to be not suitable for the Churchill tank, not because there was any lack of will on the part of the US Army. As an aside this non-military ex police officer believes that any future conflict probably won't be in a nice flat desert but will be in a sprawling mega city and will involve conflict on, above and below the ground and will range from police SWAT style actions to full on conflict against state and non state actors. Armoured engineering vehicles and an ability to rapidly innovate and adapt will be essential.
    Retired

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    1. As to Hobart's Funnies not making an appearance at Omaha and Utah beaches, there may have simply not been enough of them. This article makes that point, and rather well I thought.

      As to future conflicts, I think your prediction is spot on.

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  16. Just thought I'd mention: The 7th Division in the battle for France, in the photo, was Rommel's division. Your mention of the many complications of support (both battlefield and logistic) for men and machines, seems worthy of a post in itself. In "The Killer Angels", the author has General Lee refer to "the great trap of soldiering": in order to have a good army to command, a general must love the army and give his best efforts to train it and support it. Once in battle, however, he must be ready to throw it forward to its possible destruction. That strikes me as a tough problem

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    1. Oh yes, I knew that the 7th Panzer was Rommel's.

      Lee was right, you have to love your soldiers, yet be willing to order them forward, knowing that many will die.

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  17. By the way, I was also curious about the three leading tanks in the photo (too heavily gunned to be Mk2, not matching the pictures I'd seen of Mk3 or Mk4). By searching diligently around and about, I found that they were Czech Model 38 light tanks. I'd read that the Wehrmacht had used them, and there they were!

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    1. A very serviceable Czech tank, the Wehrmacht used a lot of them in the early part of the war.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)