Tuesday, April 16, 2019

American Armor in WWI

(Source)
So a few weeks ago, Tennessee Budd asked if I would be interested in perusing the book pictured above.

"Hhmm, the United States Tank Corps. Patton, Eisenhower, my paternal grandfather, why not?"

So I told Tennessee that yes, I would be interested. So he sent me his copy!

I received the book a couple of weeks ago. Didn't get the chance to start reading it until last week (I was still finishing up reading Snow & Steel) and was immediately enthralled.

Here is a piece of history which is often glossed over in the rush to write about the use of tanks in World War I (particularly by the British, I'm sure in France they get more about the French use of tanks) with very little (that I can recall) about the American use of tanks in that war.

Two very famous officers really got their start by their belonging to the Tank Corps in World War one. These two fellows -



Recognize them?

Yup, General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower and General George S. Patton, Jr. as young captains during the Great War (WWI as we know it here). Both officers are posing with the French designed Renault FT, speaking of which -
When the tank entered service with the French army it was called ‘Renault Char d’assaut 18 chevaux’ (Renault assault tank 18 hp) or just ‘le Char Renault’ (The Renault Tank). It was only when Renault started to develop some different armoured fighting vehicles that there was a need to differentiate it from these different designs in reports and other documents. The factory code was used and this is when it started to be called ‘Le Char Renault FT.’ ‘Renault FT’ is the accepted modern term for this tank. (Source)
I was actually very well acquainted with a fellow who spent part of his long Army career (mostly in the National Guard after the '20s) as a driver of that armored beastie standing behind "Ike" and "Georgie," my grandfather -

Louis Goodrich, United States Army
Yup, Gramp drove the Renault FT, reading Treat 'Em Rough made me understand why Gramp was always so handy around automobile engines. The early tankers were taught a lot about their mounts, I guess you could say he had engines in his blood. (He always seemed to have motor oil on his hands, something my sainted Grandmother would give him three kinds of Hell for if he didn't wash his hands properly before Sunday dinner!) He also served with Ike in Panama, there is a unit picture, somewhere, with my grandfather near the front and Eisenhower at the back. Pretty neat, I saw it as a boy, haven't seen it since before my grandmother died in 1972.

Tennessee warned me that the book is kind of dry in places, I guess I haven't hit those places yet, or we have different views on what constitutes "dry" reading. Probably has to do with unit movements later in the book, I'm still at the part where Patton is trying to get things up and running in France and Ike is getting the tank school up and running at Camp Colt in Gettysburg, PA.

Speaking of driving le Char Renault -


Man, I miss Gunny Ermey (who passed a year ago Monday, hard to believe).

A good article on the friendship between Eisenhower and Patton is here, also for a good article on the making of a general (Ike) read this.

I often wonder how the war effort in World War II would have gone without Ike at the helm in Europe and Patton running Third Army. I'm guessing things would not have gone as well as they did. (Not to mention the performance of both men during the North African campaign.)

History, I love it.



30 comments:

  1. I had a friend in high school who's dad served in Third Army. He had some really neat stories, and a book case with loot from Germany. He said the story around "blood and guts" was Patton's guts and their blood. He did mention that every time they moved up, the padre's services were very well attended. When the resistance faded away and they took their objective unopposed, the drinking and gambling were just as well attended... He's in his 90's now. He was and is a man I look up to. One of my hero's...

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  2. I miss the Gunny as well... as for tanks, the first American tanks were referred to as "Six Ton Special Tractors" since at that time the word "tank" was considered to be secret. Here's a nice summary - a few were shipped to France but none saw combat. http://www.landships.info/landships/tank_articles/M1917_6ton.html

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    1. Nice link, thanks Tom.

      We weren't in WWI long enough for industry to get really ramped up as it did in WWII. The book talks to the issues of building tanks in the U.S., at one point we wanted to design and build a heavy tank with the British. Didn't ever get going for various reasons.

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  3. I may have to track down a copy of that book!

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  4. The logistics to support tanks is staggering. With every branch scrambling for resources, consensus must have been nearly impossible. Perhaps this experience enabled Ike to see, in WWII, the necessary balance and the steely determination to achieve it, however imperfectly.

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    1. Ike did learn an awful lot during his stint with the Tank Corps. I would argue that the experience gave him the background needed to run the show in the ETO.

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    2. I bet driving a bunch of FWD trucks across the US before the war disd't hurt either. Not much of a road network pre WWI.

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  5. A nice little tank, the progenitor of the modern AFV, vs the casement style British and everyone's heavy tanks. And some served all the way into WWII.

    Did you notice the chainmail in the video? Many fine suits of medieval armor gave their lives to France and were cut up for tanker armor, leaving mostly Asian and Middle East examples of maile left. 600-1000 year old suits and pieces, chopped up. To weep for...

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    1. "Did you notice the chainmail in the video?" I watched the video twice, the only " chainmail " I saw was a couple of short pieces of chain. I think you are full of beans, Andrew.

      Paul

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    2. Beans - I know that tankers in WWI wore face masks made partially of chain mail, so they used actual medieval chain mail? Seems a waste, but what with a war on...

      Like Paul, I saw no chain mail in the video.

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    3. I was referring to the chain drape on the face of the helmet. Used to protect the face from both popped rivets and spalling from the armor.

      And, yes, hacked from actual suits of maille. The Brits used brigandine armor in some UXB units during WWI and WWII. Armor works.

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    4. His co-host is briefly seen with one of those chainmail masks, at the 2:50 mark in the video.


      https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30013368

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    5. Beans - I knew what you meant. See my response to a bear.

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    6. a bear - Now I see it! (FWIW, that thing costs a pretty penny at an auction site I noticed.)

      I need better glasses, or more patience, or both.

      Sigh, next time Beans says something...

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    7. As I said before, I have strong "Cassandra genes" as nobody listens to me... boo-hoo, boo-hoo, woe is me, woe is me, yada-yada-shish-boom-bah...

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    8. "I was referring to the chain drape on the face of the helmet." I kept looking for something attached to the helmet. When I stopped the video at the mark that a bear wrote ( i.e.: 2:50 ), I saw what I think you meant. The next time you are making an obscure, obtuse remark, perhaps you could give those of us who are not as knowledgeable and erudite as yourself a time hack so that we/I might grasp what you are on about.

      Paul

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    9. That thing hanging off the driver's face mask was what Beans meant.

      But yes Beansie, time hacks are nice, we're not all as eagle-eyed as thee.

      :)

      P.S. Paul, I wouldn't call the remark "obtuse" but it was kind of obscure for non-WWI armor aficionados. ;)

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    10. Obscure? The Frogs wore the same stuff in WWII. Not for very long, of course...

      Sorry about not flagging the time mark. I forget that most y'all aren't body armor aficionados like I am. :)

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    11. As to using medieval armor in a modern setting, well, we-uns here in America are kinda weird about stuff like armor. Those who have piles of it lying around, not so much.

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    12. So, I should show Katy that film?

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    13. Beans the 1st - I seem to recall the French doing so, but we all know the record of French armor in 1940.

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    14. Beans the 2nd - When you have piles of the stuff, re-purposing of it doesn't seem like such a big deal.

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  6. Did you know the Ike and Georgie P. were almost shot ( by themselves ) between the two " world " wars? I, too, miss the Gunny; he was one of a kind.

    I am truly glad that puttees had gone out of fashion before I joined the military. The footgear of my time was much better than that of my grandfather's or even my father's time.

    As no one else seems to have written it...

    Tanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. Now that's an incident I'll have to track down!

      No tanks are necessary, no, wait, tanks are necessary, but not...

      Oh, never mind. You're welcome Paul!

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