Thursday, February 28, 2019

Nine Years...

Robert B. Goodrich
6 June 1928 - 28 February 2010

Seems like only yesterday that I was talking to him on the phone.

It also seems an eternity since I was able to talk with the man.

I miss you Dad.

Still hurts, always will I suppose.

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.

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.)

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.
(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!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

What Makes a Good Tank?

M4A4 Cutaway: 1 – Lifting ring, 2 – Ventilator, 3 – Turret hatch, 4 – Periscope, 5 – Turret hatch race, 6 – Turret seat, 7 – Gunner's seat, 8 – Turret seat, 9 – Turret, 10 – Air cleaner, 11 – Radiator filler cover, 12 – Air cleaner manifold, 13 – Power unit, 14 – Exhaust pipe, 15 – Track idler, 16 – Single water pump, 17 – Radiator, 18 – Generator, 19 – Rear propeller shaft, 20 – Turret basket, 21 – Slip ring, 22 – Front propeller shaft, 23 – Suspension bogie, 24 – Transmission, 25 – Main drive sprocket, 26 – Driver's seat, 27 – Machine gunner's seat, 28 – 75 mm gun, 29 – Drivers hatch, 30 – M1919A4 machine gun.
I know, I know, probably some of you are groaning already, "Sarge, really? Another tank post?"

Yup, I like tanks, a lot. (Seems I've mentioned that a time or two over the past couple of weeks.) While I won't say that this is "Tank Week," it could turn out that way. Because, again, I like tanks.

But I know some of you (I'm looking at you Beans, probably Paul as well) would like to chime in on what makes a good tank. I was going to do a "good tank, bad tank" sort of post, but the research on those takes a while, I mean there's reading, there's comparative studies, field testing, and the like to write a really authoritative "good tank, bad tank" post. As I have a job which pays the bills and keeps The Missus Herself happy (mostly by keeping me busy most of the day, and the week for that matter), I can't research and post stuff all the live-long day. (To quote an old railroad song...)

Before going further, just what is a tank, or armored fighting vehicle, if you prefer? Well, a tank:
  1. has a turret capable of movement through a 360° arc.
  2. has a cannon mounted in the turret. The Swedish S-Tank notwithstanding, more formally known as the Stridsvagn 103, a superb design for use in Swedish terrain, it's lack of a turret makes it, in my book, a tank destroyer, rather than a true tank. For those who need to know such things, stridsvagn is Swedish for "fighting vehicle."
  3. is (duh) armored. Not just covered in steel, armor is a special kind of steel. The M-1 Abrams is wrapped in what is called Chobham armor, which is, simply put, a composite of different materials, including ceramics, steel, and other stuff which is classified. Not even your beloved Sarge knows what's in it, you can read more about that here. Should you enjoy that sort of thing.
  4. runs on tracks. Rather like you'd see on a bulldozer. Why? Tracks are very good on rough ground, a tracked vehicle can go places a wheeled vehicle has trouble with. (No doubt I'll get an argument from Beans on that, he so loves his armored cars.)
  5. carries a crew used solely to operate the vehicle and fire the main gun. It doesn't carry infantry, while the M-2 Bradley might look like a tank. It ain't a tank.
Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle
Looks kinda like a tank, is not a tank.
So what should one look for in a tank? (Should you decide to motor on down to the used tank lot this weekend, these tips might help.)

The "big five," as I like to call them are:
  1. Firepower,
  2. Mobility,
  3. Protection,
  4. Maintainability, and
  5. Usability.
Firepower isn't just how big the cannon in the beast is, but also how effective the cannon and its accompanying optics and support equipment are. It also takes into account the muzzle velocity of the ammunition it fires, primarily armor-piercing but you want some high explosive stuff as well to discomfit enemy infantry and soft vehicles, as in trucks and cars. A general rule of thumb is that faster is better. Remember your high school physics classes?
kinetic energy (K.E.) = 1/2 times the mass times the velocity squared
The kinetic energy is how hard you punch the target (enemy tank). The mass in this case is the mass of the projectile being fired at the target (heavy is good, dense is really good, you can get a heavier projectile which is smaller in size, so you can carry more of them, for one thing), The velocity in this case is the muzzle velocity mentioned above, how fast the projectile leaves the barrel of the gun. (Think in terms of thousands of feet per second.)

How hard you can hit and from how far away makes for a very dangerous tank. The optics are important, if you can't see a target at longer ranges, your gun, no matter how powerful, isn't as useful.

Support equipment in modern tanks can mean the computers and software used to aim and fire the cannon. But in all tanks it's also how much you can raise and lower the main gun, how fast you can turn that turret. How much ammunition is carried for that big gun (and how and where it is stowed in the tank) is also what I would call support equipment. Remember that main gun is the whole reason for the tank's existence. (Which is also partly why the Bradley isn't a tank, the gun is far too small. Though very effective for its intended purpose.)

Mobility is important because you want to be able to move quickly over rough terrain. Roads are nice but the enemy doesn't stick to the roads, neither should your tanks. How good the tracks and their associated running gear on a tank are is an important consideration. Will the tracks break or fall off in a turn? How long will they last before having to be replaced? If something breaks, how quickly can the crew fix them? Oh wait, I've wandered into #4. We'll get to that. Also how good is the engine that drives those tracks? Does it guzzle fuel like a drunken sailor? (What do we do with those?) How far can it travel on a single tank of fuel? (While tanks aren't meant to travel long distances, they do tend to cover a lot of ground in battle. You don't want to "run out of gas" at noon when the fight lasts until suppertime.)

Protection means armor. It can't be thick everywhere otherwise the tank is going to be very heavy and the engine would need to be really, really powerful. Powerful engines drink a lot of fuel and take up a lot of space. So you put the armor on places it is most needed, like on the front of the tank, the part facing the enemy. Yes, yes, the enemy will get on your flank from time to time, he'll get behind you, and (heaven forbid) he'll be above you at times. (If you're really unlucky, he'll be in an A-10. Seventy years ago he would have been in a Ju-87, P-47, or Il-2 Sturmovik, all of which will be the subject of a future post. Think near future. Hhmm, maybe it is Tank Week.)

You need to protect the crew first and foremost, I mean they're the ones who operate the tank, a tank with no crew is just a big expensive "piece of steel," more or less. You also need to protect the engine, and that big cannon, and the other stuff inside the tank. You can use thinner armor if you angle the plates, which increases the relative thickness of the armor.

Par exemple -

For an armor plate of given thickness, increasing the slope increases the relative thickness. As shown here.
Maintainability is another important factor in what makes a good tank, and I mean maintainability in the field, by the crew. If they can't fix their tank when it breaks (and trust me, it will break) then you need to haul it back to a maintenance shop, often well in the rear. The crews need to be able to fix things on their vehicle with what they have on hand. Which is why you see all sorts of stuff carried on the outside of a tank: crowbars, jacks, shovels, spare bits of track, and other things to keep the beast running.

Usability means many things to me. Is the interior of the tank well designed? Are the crew members comfortable, are the things they need to do their jobs readily to hand? How hard is it to operate the tank, as in driving it, commanding it, loading the main gun, and firing that main gun. A well-armored, big gunned, fast tank, which is easy to maintain isn't worth all that much if the crew finds it hard to operate.

Maybe the steering is really hard, maybe the driver's visibility sucks. Maybe the gun has a tendency to injure the guys loading and firing it. Maybe the commander has to do more than command the tank. (Here I'm thinking of some of the early tanks in WWII where the commander had to load, aim, and fire the gun, while also telling the driver where to go.) Not good. Maybe the commander can't see squat when his hatch is closed, which is often necessary when enemy infantry is about, nothing they like better than shooting tank commanders!

Another thing about usability is how easy is it to get out of the tank when the crew has experienced what Major Moran likes to call the "significant emotional event" of having the skin of one's tank pierced by an enemy projectile. In other words, "Oh my God, the tank is on fire!" Important for crew morale, believe me!

Let's have Major Moran cover that for a few WWII tanks -

Yeah, if you can't get out of a burning tank, you know it, you've seen it happen to other crews...

You might be a bit reluctant to be a tanker, the infantry is looking better and better. (Or you could have joined the Air Force!)

In many respects, in fact in most respects, the M4 Sherman was a very good tank. Credit where credit is due and damn it, it got the job done. (Hell, even the Soviets loved 'em!)

Anyhoo, that's what I look for in a tank. You may have other criteria, which I hope you'll contribute in the comments. To wrap up, here's an interesting video of someone's "top ten" tanks of World War II. Yes, they left some out, everyone discounts the French tanks, some of them were very good, better than what the Germans had for that matter. Thing is, their pre-war doctrine (the way one uses a tank) sucked and while they were fixing that...

Hey, here come the Germans.

And yes, the computer voice in the video is very annoying at times, there are a couple of errors as well (can you spot them?), but hey, tanks!

Your turn.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

War's End

A 32nd Division soldier peers over the trench line during World War I.
(U.S. Army photo Source)
Not sure if y'all remember my series of posts* leading up to Armistice (Veterans) Day last year, but in one of those posts I mentioned Henry Gunther, the last American soldier to be killed in action in World War I. (As a bear mentioned in a comment on one of the posts in the series, "I’d wager that while Gunther may have been the last to die *in* combat, he was not the last to die *from* combat.")

The end of a war (as opposed to the "end of war") is an odd time. On the one hand there is the relief felt by those who came through unscathed, often with its attendant "survivor's guilt," - as one remembers the friends and comrades lost along the way. On the gripping hand (as my friend the Cap'n likes to say, he knows his Niven and Pournelle very well), there are those who wonder what peace will bring.

War is invigorating in some ways, it takes one outside of the normal boundaries of society, which actively discourages killing and breaking things, it brings times of excitement and sheer terror. Many who have engaged in combat have mentioned that they "never felt so alive." Understandable when you consider that being right there on the edge, that line between life and death, and surviving is something you can't experience in a normal peacetime existence. The adrenaline junkies know this, they seek the edge, they push the limits.

But of course, modern society puts many limits on those who push the limits. Try jumping off a tall building with a parachute and see if you don't get arrested!

For most though, the end of a war is looked forward to with anticipation. No doubt there are worries, one becomes cautious, no one wants to be the last man to fall. But someone has to, it's the very nature of armies that there are always those in command who will demand that the killing continues, right until it's "officially" over.

The Armistice which ended hostilities in 1918 was signed shortly after 0500, a cease fire would go into effect at 1100 on the Western Front. Not everyone got the word.

Now those soldiers in that clip no doubt fought honorably, they fought because their country called them to the colors. While atrocities occur in war, much more frequently than some care to admit, World War I wasn't an ideological conflict. It was the last of what I call the dynastic wars, wars initiated because a King or Emperor didn't get his way. Or someone had something they wanted.

World War II was an ideological war, perhaps less so in the Pacific which was, in some ways, an old fashioned war for resources and territory fought between inimical cultures. Which made it all the more bloody and unforgiving.

There were those for whom the war ended, they had survived, but a reckoning was about to come due. Yes, the victors write the history books and get to dispose of the losers as they will, but I don't think anyone can argue that the Nazis did not deserve the punishments meted out at Nuremberg.

Ruins of the Reichstag in Berlin, 3 June 1945.
After watching the clip above regarding the last moments of World War I, YouTube thought I might be interested in the following clip as well. They were correct, I thought you might be interested as well.

I had never heard of Mr. Pierrepoint before Sunday. I did a little reading up on this chap, seems that during his tenure as one of the official hangmen of the United Kingdom he executed 435 men and women between the years 1932 and 1955. This clip, from the brief research I did on the man, seems to capture his personality quite well.

He was a technician, just doing his job. He did not decide the guilt or innocence of the people he executed, the State did that, he was, shall we say, just following orders. The difference being, of course, that the men and women he executed were all guilty of capital crimes, in the case of the Nazis, crimes against humanity itself.

But from my brief reading, there was at least one instance where the State got it wrong and Mr. Pierrepoint executed an innocent man. While you cannot fault the executioner for that, I wonder how someone can face themselves in the mirror after such an event.

For the Nazis, hanging was a merciful end. Unlike those suffered by their millions of victims, guilty of nothing more than being numbered among the groups the Nazis hated. Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, members of other political parties, etc., etc.

I'm sure Mr. Pierrepoint and the other executioners lost no sleep over executing Nazis.

* The link is to the first in the series, "Six Days."

Monday, February 25, 2019

Water, Water Everywhere... *

Seems I forgot something while I was writing last week's post. Since I usually write Monday's Post on Sunday, that would have been February 17th.  That was an important date in my life. Mrs J is reminding me at this point "Not as important as September 4th or October 27th". (Our Anniversary and her Birthday, respectively) and she's right.

 40 years ago, when this picture was taken, Mom had pinned those wings on me just moments before.  A couple of things I thought of when I hit the insert button on this picture for the post.  First, Dang! I was skinny back then. (Although you wouldn't know it from the picture, I had hair back then also.)  Second, Dad was younger then than I am now.  That's a sobering thought especially when, in my mind, this didn't happen all that long ago. 

And...Yes, Sarge, that is quite likely the last time I ever wore a wheel hat.

Still that picture represented clearing the second hurdle en-route to my dream job.  (The first being, getting INTO Pilot Training.) So....a pleasant memory.

WAAAYYY back in January, when Sarge was hosting Unterseeboot Week on the Chant Channel.  (Other "Weeks" include Skunk Week, Bayonet Week.  Lately, it seems to be the ever popular "Which is .....better/first/oldest" week. (hint: the latter is Sarge))


I digress.

Anyway, in a comment in one of the Unterseeboot posts, one of the commenters had mentioned "Austin AKA Moscow on the Brazos" in reference to the Capitol of my Beloved State.  Now, I have NEVER EVER commented and hit publish before my brain read what my fingers typed, No. Never, ever, never.

Ok, maybe a few So....This is not a criticism. Merely, presenting you with a discovery.

Anyhow, I had responded to the comment and  talked about the general layout of rivers in the state, and that Austin straddled the Colorado River, rather than the Brazos River.  Not wanting to hoist myself on my own petard, I actually Googled Rivers of Texas to make sure I knew which order they were in from east to west.

Apparently, Google never forgets a question you ask.  Even if you get an answer to that question.  It must think that you have an ongoing interest in that question.  A lifelong desire for information about said subject.  C'mon Sergei, stop reading my cookies....All I wanted to know was what river flowed where.  

The reason I say this about our benevolent overloads at Google is a couple of days later, I pulled up my Browser (Firefox) and in the suggested sites list was this Site about rivers. There's a lot of graphic data  on the site.  Be patient and let it load.  

It will be worth it.  Trust me.

The site refers to a Hungarian Cartographer (Map Maker, Beans, not something to do with Middle Ages Carts), who used Computers and Geographic Data Bases to map the World's watersheds.  Each map effectively shows how each drop of rain gets to the ocean, from puddle to stream to creek to minor river to major river etc. Color captioned so you can track the watersheds of major rivers.

I have always had an interest in Maps, so.....There went the rest of the Day.


So, from top right to bottom left.  Green is the Red River (yeah, I know), Pale Blue is the Sabine River, Light Blue is the Trinity (once navigable all the way to Dallas), Dark Blue is the Brazos (running all the way from Lubbock  and flows close to College Station.  As such, the only thing Texas Tech and Texas A&M share). Pink is the Colorado (There's something to be said about color choice there.  I won't say it.). The two purplish rivers are the San Antonio and Nueces and, finally, the Blue-Green is the Rio Grande.This site has a list of all the other colored rivers/streams for those interested.

I'll bet you can guess which Father of Waters is represented by the pink watershed above.  

Finally, just for BarbaCat (and PLQ) Here's the Watershed for Washington State.

Looks like without the Columbia River, you folks would be a little thirsty.

The maps are available for purchase, should you so desire. Neither Sarge nor I have any relationship with the vendor, merely trying to avoid Internet "issues".

There are maps of watersheds for all continents and a great many countries throughout the world, and I found them fascinating.  They've also got similar maps that show Forest Cover.  I found Australia's particularly interesting. Especially, in comparison to their Watershed Map.

Hopefully, you'll find them as interesting as I did.

* Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Marine

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Which Was Better?

The American Jeep (Top) and the German Kübelwagen (Bottom)
Which was the better vehicle?
When I was a kid, one of the neighborhood dads had a Jeep, an old Willys as I recall. Not one of your modern SUVs, nope, this little vehicle looked just like it's WWII daddy and may have actually been one. We never sat around discussing it, we'd rather go riding in it. From time to time Donnie and Pete's Dad (the aforementioned neighborhood dad) would oblige us and take four or five of us (we were pretty small back then) up the old trail into the woods behind our street.

No doubt these days some prog would have a conniption at the thought of this adult driving a bunch of us lads through the woods in a vehicle with: no doors, no top, and (Heaven forbid) no seatbelts! Well, as Donnie and Pete's Dad was most assuredly not an idiot (he may have been a veteran if I recall, most dads were back then) our parents had no problem with us riding a Jeep up the hillside and into the forest. (Well, to be honest there was an old trail up into the woods which we kids called, of course, the "old Jeep trail.")

I always loved bouncing around in that little car, right there in the woods, ducking branches, and all of us hollering like a bunch of, well, kids. Go figure.

When I got older I was a proud Volkswagen owner, back when they were simple, cheap, and you didn't need to be a genius to work on them. With the right manual and just simple tools you could fix just about anything on the old Beetle (known as the der Käfer, auf Deutsch). It was also economical to operate, getting around 25 miles per gallon, back when a gallon of gas was around thirty cents, and was very good in snow, being light and having the engine over the drive wheels. Air cooled she was and I don't ever recall either of the "Bugs" I owned ever overheating.

Later on (1973) Volkswagen offered a vehicle they called the Thing, more properly the Type 181...

Volkswagen Thing
Notice the similarity to the Kübelwagen? In fact, from what I understand, Volkswagen originally manufactured the Type 181 for use by the Bundewehr, i.e. the post-war West German Army. Now as the old '68 Beetle was starting to get rather rusty (she wasn't in the best of shape body-wise when I bought her but I got a good deal and she ran like a top) I was in the market for a new vehicle.

Naturally, me being me, I hungered for a Type 181. However, the lady I was dating at the time (way previous to The Missus Herself) let me know that if I was so gauche as to actually buy one of those "Things," as she put it (with dripping sarcasm) then she would not be riding in it. Not being completely stupid, I realized that I wasn't ready to go hunting for a new girlfriend and, in point of fact, I could get a really nice brand new Super Beetle which would probably be more "socially acceptable" to my lady friend.

So I did. Loved my 1974 Super Beetle, my kid brother The Musician took care of it for me  (which meant he drove it and changed the oil when needed) when I was overseas. I drove it from Vermont to Colorado (with a very pregnant wife and a very young Naviguesser on board) for a four day trip which the love of my life could not quite get her head around at the time, Korea being a rather small country in comparison. (This being her second trip to the U.S. and the first time she had left Vermont, she wasn't really sure of the sheer size of this country compared to where she hails from.)

When we were not far from Erie, Pennsylvania, she asked -

"How much longer to Denver?"

"Three days."

"Three hours?"

"No love, three days. We have another fifteen hundred miles to go."

Dead silence, an incredulous look, and a loud sigh later, we came within hailing distance of a motel. I decided to stop for the night, letting the magnitude of our journey sink in with The Missus Herself. She argued that we should have flown, I pointed out the need to purchase a new vehicle when we got to Denver. She was of mixed feelings on the topic.

The old Beetle stayed in Denver when we left, I sold it to one of my airmen. Gave him a good deal on the car and let him pay it off over time. He wondered what would happen with me in Fort Collins and him in Denver should he decide not to pay the balance. I pointed out that that would be a pretty bad idea as Leavenworth was full of people who believed in doing stupid things.

"You're right Sarge, I'd be an idiot not to pay you."

I just smiled.

Anyhoo, none of this is addressing the title of the post. Which was the better vehicle? The Jeep or the Kübelwagen? First here's a bit of background from the Pedia of Wiki (minus all of the claptrap about what Kübelwagen means).

The Jeep
The Willys MB and the Ford GPW, both formally called the U.S. Army "Truck, ​1⁄4 ton, 4×4, Command Reconnaissance", commonly known as Jeep or jeep, and sometimes referred to as G503 are off-road capable, light, military utility vehicles that were manufactured during World War II (from 1941 to 1945) for the Allied forces.

The jeep became the primary light wheeled transport vehicle of the United States Military and its Allies in World War II, as well as the postwar period, with President Eisenhower once calling it, "one of three decisive weapons the U.S. had during WWII." It was also the world's first mass-produced four-wheel drive car, manufactured in six-figure numbers. About 640,000 units were built, constituting a quarter of the total U.S. non-combat motor vehicles produced during the war, and almost two-thirds of the 988,000 light vehicle class produced, together with the Dodge WC series, outnumbering those by almost two to one. Large numbers of jeeps were provided to the U.S.' allies, including Russia at the time – aside from large amounts of 1½- and 2½-ton trucks, some 80,000 jeeps were provided to Russia during WW II — more than Nazi Germany's total war production of their jeep counterparts, the Volkswagens Kübelwagen and Schwimmwagen, combined.
The Kübelwagen
The Volkswagen Kübelwagen was a light military vehicle designed by Ferdinand Porsche and built by Volkswagen during World War II for use by the German military (both Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS). Based heavily on the Volkswagen Beetle, it was prototyped as the Type 62, but eventually became known internally as the Type 82. 
With its rolling chassis and mechanics built at Stadt des KdF-Wagens (renamed Wolfsburg after 1945), and its body built by US-owned firm Ambi Budd Presswerke in Berlin, the Kübelwagen was for the Germans what the Jeep and GAZ-67 were for the Allies. (Source)
I'm anticipating Beans mentioning the "finickyness" of German designed vehicles as opposed to the robust, simplicity of Detroit's automotive offerings back in the day, but I  call your attention to my note above regarding the reliability and simplicity of operating and maintaining the Beetle, from which the Kübelwagen was derived. But not having had the chance to drive either the Willys or the Kübelwagen themselves, I found a video from some "experts." They did a "drive off" between the two vehicles, let's see what they said, then you can judge for yourselves. (Oh yeah, these chaps are very British.)

Truth be told, I wish I had one of each!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Coming Soon, The American Heritage Museum

Screen capture from the video
So the other day there was some chatter regarding a couple of museums here in New England which Your Humble Scribe was blissfully unaware of, which has been remedied by a couple of our faithful readers. (I was going to say "Chanters" but that makes us all sound rather like a cult doesn't it? Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

After apologizing for posting so much about tanks lately, and being told, in no uncertain terms two things: 1) It's my blog I can post whatever I want, which is true but I like it if folks actually read the stuff, and 2) Hey, no problem we like tanks as well.

Alrighty then.

I was going to post an idea Pogue suggested (aerial tank killers of World War II, specifically the Ju-87 Stuka) but a post like that takes rather a lot of research. Which I started to do at lunch at the place of gainful employment but when I realized the scope of the task at hand, I decided to postpone that idea for later. After all, my employer doesn't pay me to blog. No sir, no ma'am, put that down and get back to work Sarge.

So, Beans and I had chattered a bit about good tank / bad tank and "Gee, aren't those armored cars really, really cool." Drjim and RHT447 both brought up the Sheridan, which set Our Beans off again, apparently he likes his fighting vehicles speedy with a nice punch. So I contemplated doing a post on crappy tanks. Which would not have included the Sherman for reasons which will become clear someday. (Yesterday I posted a photo of Ike strolling by a smashed up Panther, while there are lots of photos of smashed up Shermans, they were on the winning side and oh my gosh there were a crap ton of them.)

So while I was researching other topics for a post, I ran into our old friend Major Nicholas Moran, aka The Chieftain over at the Tube of You. Lo and behold he was touring the still in work American Heritage Museum back in October of last year. I watched the video (a bit longish but hey, it was Friday night and at 65 I don't go out as much as I did, say 20 years ago) and the entrance to the museum caught my eye. If you look at the opening photo (a screen capture) you'll note that one of my favorite officers, the late Brigadier General Robin Olds is featured prominently. (How could you not notice that mustache?)

So I watched the whole thing. You will get that opportunity in a moment as well, hey, it's Saturday, kick back, have some coffee and watch the whole thing. It's easier than reading innit?

Rest assured, that when the museum opens in the spring I shall drag The Missus Herself, no doubt somewhat reluctantly, up to the Bay State for to visit the American Heritage Museum and take tons of pictures, many of which will no doubt be posted in these spaces.

I mean what's not to like? Tanks, aircraft, cars, cannon, and they even have a former Iraqi Scud missile on its launcher. (Which sat in U.S. customs for a while as the bureaucrats heads' exploded over "What to do, what to do?")

The Missus Herself, trooper that she is, has schlepped over any number of battlefields and military museums in our time together and hasn't complained nary at all. Far less than when she takes me shopping, I'm a world class foot dragger in that department. (Not to mention world class complainer.) She has a very Field Marshal Montgomery approach to shopping, deliberate and methodical. What some might call slow. I'm more of a dash in, get what I need then dash out again. Sort of like the Long Range Desert Patrol but without the training and the cool jeeps.

Anyhoo, here it is, courtesy of Major Moran, an Unofficial High Speed Tour of the American Heritage Museum.

For those who wondered, the Battle for the Airfield which the Collings Foundation holds each year is apparently in October. An event I need to see, perhaps next year.

I also need to get over to the air museum in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, seems they have a Phantom. So many things to do, so little time to do them. I know Beans, I know, I should just retire, and I will, within the next 18 months or so.

(Filthy lucre, keeps bringing me back!)

Friday, February 22, 2019

Safety Stand-Down

Staff at Chant du Départ Global Headquarters (CdDGHQ) examine artifacts from a recent safety incident.

From: Commanding General, CdDGHQ

To: All Personnel

Subj: Paper Cuts

1. On or about 21 February 2019, a staffer here at CdDGHQ was handling important documents relating to the Sarge's rather whiny post of the same date.

2. While handling these documents the staffer suffered a paper cut.

3. The paper cut required treatment with a first aid ointment of unspecified origin and covering with an adhesive bandage from a major manufacturer of adhesive bandages.

4. The staffer was released to quarters at approximately 1030 EST to allow sufficient recovery time for paper cut trauma (PCT).

5. No further details are available at this time.

6. The incident remains under investigation.

7. As of 22 February 2019, 0700 EST, this facility will enter a Safety Stand-Down period not to exceed 24 (twenty-four) hours.

8. Normal operation will recommence on 23 February 2019 at 0700 EST.


General Aloysius T. Humpersnap III,  CdDGHQ


Yes, yes, yes, I know. Yesterday's post did contain some whining, "Oh poor me, nobody commented on my latest tank post. Oh woe is me, I am unloved..." or stuff to that effect. Yes, I get needy at times, but I'm all better now.


During this (ahem) Safety Stand-Down, rather than have all of you report to the Mass Briefing Facility (what some might call the base theater) for a long boring day of safety briefings, which some of you may or may not sleep through, I thought I'd take the opportunity to go over a few administrative items.

First of all, we have a new resource over on the sidebar for those of you who like to search out information on military aircraft -

The first three are all links to Joe Baugher's most excellent site, quick links for the Air Force, the Navy and Marines, and the Coast Guard. He didn't have one for Army aircraft, yes people the Army has things which fly, lots and lots of things and not all of 'em are fling wings, er, I mean helicopters.

The fourth one is where you can search out one of the many aircraft around the world which are on static display, I think it even has museum aircraft. So use this as you will, I have sought out many an old aircraft using the Air Force site. Good stuff. (Want to know if an aircraft tail number or bureau number is the real deal, those sites will tell you. Aircraft do tend to get repainted as a more famous bird.)

Speaking of museums, apparently the Collings Foundation has completed work on their new museum up in Massachusetts, not all that far from CdDGHQ. I learned of this from a comment by John Blackshoe on an old tank post which he commented on recently. (By the way, it's okay to comment on really old posts, I will see the comment even you don't. For administrative and anti-spammer reasons, comments on old posts go into moderation. When I see it, and determine you're not a spambot, I'll publish it and answer it too!)

The American Heritage Museum
The American Heritage Museum is supposed to be opening in April and you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be visiting it, and reporting what I find in these spaces. Yes, with photos! Like they say, "Take my money!"

Thanks for that tip John!

So to wrap things up, here's a photo of General Eisenhower, out for a stroll in the country...

Yes, ignore the t**k.

It's one of these...
Man, I need to get some sleep!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Gah, The Stupid, It Burns

I used to be something of an optimist, I felt that roughly 75% of the Earth's population were morons. Not bad people mind you, just not all that bright. Now I'm not claiming that I'm a genius, far from it, there are days when I'm numbered among the ranks of the Great Moronic Hoard, that would be the GMH, and no Paul, I haven't added it to the Acronym Page yet. Maybe later, POCIR.

Anyhoo, I kind of noticed that you folks, based on the turnout for yesterday's post, aren't all that enamored of armored fighting vehicles, or tanks. At least not the clunky and weird early examples of same, nor do y'all seem particularly interested in the obscure foreigners who were involved in the early days of the tank.

Fair enough, I'll stay away from tanks, for a while at any rate.

So while reading the folks over on the sidebar, I came across this gem over at Borepatch's place. Go ahead, go on over there and read it, it's quite good.

Based on reading that, and other things that come over the transom in my day to day reading, observing, and listening, I'm now convinced that fully 90% of the world's population are morons. What's more, a larger and larger number of them (than I originally thought) are indeed actually evil as well.

Bastards. Many of whom seem determined to run for President of these here United States.

It's why we can't have nice things.

I'm going to go read my book, maybe watch another episode of Age of Tanks, but I won't bore you with that.

At least not today...

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Who Was First? (Not "Who's on first...")

An early model British Mark I "male" tank, named C-15, near Thiepval, 25 September 1916. The tank is probably in reserve for the Battle of Thiepval Ridge which began on 26 September. The tank is fitted with the wire "grenade shield" and steering tail, both features discarded in the next models. (Source)
When you mention World War I tanks to someone - well, someone who is somewhat familiar with both topics - most would have that opening photo in mind, the classic rhomboid-shaped British tank. Because after all, the British invented the tank, right?

Or did they?

From my research, it seems that the British were first to deploy an operational tank, which looked a lot like the one in that opening photo. But the idea of the tank has been around for a long time. The first to envision the tank as a weapon of war, who else but Leonardo da Vinci, a fellow who was born way too early. Now two army officers had an idea for the tank before one was ever fielded. The first guy was an Austrian. An army officer by the name of Gunther Adolf Burstyn. This fellow -

Oberleutnant Burstyn
In 1911 he designed and patented his idea for a vehicle which ran on tracks, had a rotating turret, and was armored. For the time, it looked very modern. Far more modern that the majority of tanks which saw action in World War I. He called it the Motorgeschütz, literally "motor gun." While the good lieutenant was an Austrian, he did receive a German patent (252,218) in February of 1912, according to the Army Ordnance Journal VOL. Ill Copyright 1922 WASHINGTON, D. C, JULY-AUGUST, 1922, bottom of page 36 -
Credit for the invention of the armored caterpillar "tank" as an instrument of warfare is denied to the British and conceded to the Teutons by the United States Patent Office. If the Patent Office record is correct it adds one more to the mistakes attributed to the Germans in their conduct of the war, for the shock the Germans got when the British tanks appeared in battle did not come until five years after a German patent had been taken out on a similar death-dealing machine. "Records of the Patent Office," says a Patent Office statement, "showed that Gunter Burstyn, of Austria, was granted a German patent on a caterpillar tank on February 22, 1912, which is practically a duplicate of the English type used in their offensive during 1917 and 1918.
"Drawings of this German tank reveal the fact that it was so constructed as to crawl over trenches, plow through wire entanglements and perform all the other feats that made the English tank so successful in the War. "Having issued a patent upon an armored tank of the caterpillar type in 1912, it is puzzling to understand why the German Imperial Government did not make use of it during the war, instead of allowing the English to surprise them with this new engine of destruction. (From the New York Times, April 23, 1923.)
Burstyn's Motorgeschütz
The Wikipedia entry for Oberleutnant Burstyn says he was denied a patent, this source (auf Deutsch) says he did get a patent. As did the U.S. Patent office (there was also an Austrian Patent).

The distinction, I think, is that neither the Austro-Hungarian Army, nor the German Army wanted it, their generals being "experts" in their chosen field of endeavor and how dare you question them? (Note, it is an accepted historical fact that all generals, yes, admirals too, are always preparing for the last war. To be fair, it's all they know.)

While it was cool looking, and modern, and probably would have been a war winner, the big shots said, "No." So it was kind of interesting that they went bat-shit crazy when the British attacked them with tanks during the war. (Always take what the experts say with a grain of salt, they don't know everything, no one does.)

The second guy who envisioned the need for some sort of vehicle which was protected, packed a punch, and could cross all sorts of terrain, was the guy in the next picture, a French general by the name of Estienne. The French know him as "father of the tank," which in French is "Père des Chars." (What, did you think I could miss the chance to use the language of some of my ancestors in a post?)

Jean Baptiste Eugène Estienne
This was his baby -

The Renault FT, the first "modern" tank to enter production.
Grandpa of the Sarge drove one of these!
Looks more modern than that British monster up top, neh?

Colonel (at the time) Estienne predicted that -
"Victory in this war will belong to the belligerent who is the first to put a cannon on a vehicle capable of moving on all kinds of terrain." — Colonel Jean Baptiste Estienne, 24 August 1914.
But the British got them into the field first, a favorite fellow of mine really pushed the concept -
When Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, learned of the armoured tractor idea, he reignited investigation of the idea of using the Holt tractor. The Royal Navy and the Landship Committee (established on 20 February 1915), at last agreed to sponsor experiments and tests of armoured tractors as a type of "land ship". In March, Churchill ordered the building of 18 experimental landships using Diplock pedrails (an idea promoted by Murray Sueter), and six using large wheels (the idea of T.G. Hetherington). Construction however failed to move forward, as the wheels seemed impractical after a wooden mock-up was realized: the wheels were initially planned to be 40-feet in diameter, but turned out to be still too big and too fragile at 15-feet. The pedrails also met with industrial problems, and the system was deemed too large, too complicated and under-powered. (Source)
Now many folks have been taught that the first use of tanks was at the Battle of Cambrai in the fall of 1917, but in reality that was the first large scale attack by tanks and it was successful, breaking through the German lines. Unfortunately the British intended to use horse cavalry to follow up on the breakthrough (WWI tanks were very slow, much slower than horse cavalry). Due to the primitive communications of the time, the horse soldiers didn't get the word until it was too late to advance. As many of the tanks had by then broken down, the Germans patched the holes in their line before things got out of hand.

But that was after the actual first use of tanks in combat at the Somme in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in September of 1916. Things went well at first, but many of the tanks broke down and there just weren't enough of them. For what it's worth, the French advised the British to wait until they had more tanks. Perhaps les Anglais should have listened to their French allies. (If the French had won at Waterloo, maybe they would have!)

So there's a brief look at who was first with fielding the tank. The Germans did have a tank in WWI, it was fairly effective, but with quality steel at a premium they only built about twenty of them. They took the tank more seriously in the Second World War, as we all know.

German A7V tank at Roye on March 21, 1918.
Big sucker innit?
So some of you are no doubt asking, "So Sarge, tanks, again? I thought you were in the Air Force dude?"

Why yes, yes I was. But I like tanks, rather a lot really. But I've also been watching a four part series on the tank over at Netflix (I know Beans, I know, but I don't let politics stand in the way of entertainment and education) called Age of Tanks. The first episode covered WWI, they mentioned both Burstyn and Estienne, two guys I'd never heard of before that, so that was educational.

The second episode which covered WWII wasn't quite as good, probably because there were a crap ton of tank types in that war. A lot of German tanks were mentioned, probably because they really put the tank to good use, but they didn't mention the single best German tank of the war, the Panther (PzKw V). Sure the Tigers were hyped as was the T-34, the Sherman (which the narrator kept referring to, rather annoyingly, as the "U.S. American Sherman"), but no British tanks were mentioned. None at all that I can recall.

Sure, a lot of the British tanks in WWII sucked, but hey, the tanks of the 8th Army defeated Field Marshal Rommel (Mr. Panzer hisself) in North Africa, that's gotta count for something, right?

Anyhoo, I'll report back when I watch the last two episodes. (By the way, the WWII episode ended with breathless mentions of the tank being used against civilians, and why not, they used horse cavalry against civilians in Russia, right?)

Now let me close with this, what do the various big nations call what is officially an armored fighting vehicle, or main battle tank?

Well, the Brits coined the term "tank" because the early ones looked like big water tanks, and calling them "land ships" might give away what they were going to be used for, so tank became the name. (Oddly enough, in Desert Storm, the British called their tanks, "panzers," see below.)

Now we had the Austrian Motorgeschütz, motor-gun, the Germans call them Panzerkampfwagen, armored fighting vehicles, the Russians call them "танки," (yup, tanks), and the French refer to them as chars. which is usually translated as "tank," but literally is translated as "chariots." Romantic folk those French. (I kinda like the name to be honest.)

Oh, that "panzers" thing? It's what the Germans usually call their tanks, short for that whole Panzerkampfwagen thing. So British tankers in the desert (hearkening back to their grandfathers in 8th Army no doubt) called their tanks "panzers." Sort of akin to Patton's "Rommel you magnificent bastard, I read your book!*" So perhaps the Brits were saying, in a rather British way, "Rommel, you cheeky bastard, we stole your word for tank!"

Or something.

* Probably apocryphal but a great scene in a great movie, the line delivered by a great actor as well. Also, ever the historical pedant, Rommel's book was shown in the movie as Tank Attacks, but in reality Rommel's book was Infanterie greift an, Infantry Attacks. But why confuse the audience with facts?