This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

French tank designers had an ambitious idea before World War I: What if they could create a vehicle with the protection of an armored car but the firepower of an artillery gun?


This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
Saint Chamond tanks sit in a line in World War I.
(Public domain)

 

The design that eventually emerged packed a massive 75mm artillery gun into the nose of a tank named the Saint Chamond, but the offensive focus of the designers left glaring oversights in mobility and armor, allowing even pistol rounds through in some circumstances.

While French officers had considered designing an armored weapon platform before the war, the outbreak of hostilities put the effort on old. As Britain started building their first tanks, France got in on the action with two heavy tank designs of their own, the Schneider and the Saint Chamond.

The Saint Chamond was basically built around the French 75mm cannon, and this was significant firepower in World War I. Most Brtitish tanks had 57mm cannons, and the rest of of the world simply didn’t have tanks.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
A Saint Chamond tank sits in a museum in western France.
(Fat Yankey, CC BY-SA 2.5)
 

But the design compromises needed to make space for the massive cannon were significant. The vehicle drove on relatively thin and short treads, and the weight of the vehicle pushed it hard against the soil, making it questionable whether the tank would be able to navigate the muddy craters of No Man’s Land.

Worse, the cannon needed to be mounted at the front, and it couldn’t fit properly between the treads while leaving room for the cannon’s crew. So, instead, the entire length of the cannon had to sit forward of the treads, causing the tank’s center of balance to be far forwards of the center of the vehicle. As the French would later learn, this made it nearly impossible to cross trenches in the St. Chamond. Instead, crews would tip into the trench and get their gun stuck in the dirt.

Thanks to the limited traction from the treads, the tank couldn’t even back away from the trench and get back into the fight. Once tipped forward, they usually needed towed out.

But, worst of all, in an attempt to keep the already-heavy vehicle from getting too much heavier, they opted for light armor on the sides of the tank. While the front was only a little thicker, it was, at least, sloped. Col. Jean Baptiste Eugene Estienne, a French artillery officer who is now known as the Father of French Tanks, saw the Saint Chamond and tested its armor by firing his pistol at it.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
The only surviving Saint Chamond heavy tank takes part in Tank Fest 2017, 100 years after the tank first entered service.
(Alan Wilson, CC BY-SA 2.0)
 

The pistol round passed through the quarter-inch armor.

In the designers’ defense, the St. Chamond’s armor was soon upgraded to 11mm at a minimum, a little under a half-inch. The front armor was up to 19mm, almost .75 inches.

But still, when the British and French tanks made their combat debuts, the shortcomings of early tank design were quickly made apparent. Crews from both countries complained of bullets punching through the sides or, nearly as bad, impacting the armor so hard that bits of metal exploded off from the hull and tore through the crew.

French tanks had even worse trouble crossing muddy sections than their British counterparts, getting bogged down quickly. And that was if the engines held up. Often, they would breakdown instead.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
The French Saint Chamond tank had a powerful, impressive gun, but it had weak armor and was front-heavy.
(Public domain)
 

As the war continued, though, France did find a successful design: the Renault FT, a light tank with a rotating turret, 37mm gun, and decent speed. It did have even lighter armor than the St, Chamond, but its configuration allowed the road wheels to help protect the crew from the sides, and the speed let them overwhelm German defenses before too many rounds could hit them.

Best, the Renault FT could be produced in much higher numbers, meaning that German defenders couldn’t often concentrate fire on any single target.

The design was so successful that it was one of the designs America licensed for its tank corps as it joined the war and stood up its armored forces. America ordered over 4,000 of the tank, known in American inventories as M1917s, but none of them reached the actual forces in France until after the armistice.

Still, the design was liked by U.S. Army Capts. Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton, officers who would create America’s armored strength and later rise to even greater fame in World War II.

Today, the closest modern equivalent to the St. Chamond isn’t even a tank. After all, the vehicle was created to carry a large cannon into battle, and, by the end of the war, it was used more as mobile artillery than to directly attack enemy trenches. As such, it’s more like the M109 Paladin than the M1 Abrams.

And, as artillery, the St. Chamond wasn’t bad. Its weak armor wasn’t a big deal when far from the front lines, and it wasn’t important that an armored artillery platform couldn’t quickly cross a trench.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These historical sidearms of the US military perfectly show its evolution

A good sidearm is the ultimate plan B. You don’t want to have to use it, but if you do have to — it better work. They’re kind of the last line of defense for American freedom and they’ve come a long way in 240-plus years.

The sidearm has gone from a smoothbore, muzzle-loaded, single shot to SIG Sauer’s new, modular, 59-round monster which is also customizable for every user. No matter what your opinion of them might be, if they’ve ever kept you in the fight for even a minute longer, then they did their job.

These are most important sidearms the U.S. military has adopted over the last couple hundred years.


This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

1. Harper’s Ferry Model 1805

This was the first pistol ever made by a U.S. national armory. It was a flintlock pistol that lasted well into the Mexican War – but not for any particular reason besides apathy. They were heavy and tended to misfire. The Military Police Corps insignia still bears crossed 1805s to this day.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

I think we missed our chance for the Chuck Norris-Clint Eastwood movie about the 1847 Walker…

2. Colt M1847 Walker

Welcome to the dawn of a new era. This was the first mass-produced revolver and, at an astonishing 15 inches long, it was able to make its way down south in time to win the Mexican War. The “Walker” in its name comes from the Texas Ranger who helped design the .44-caliber weapon (no, it was not Chuck Norris).

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

“Colt: Now explosion free.”

3. Colt M1848 Dragoon

The 1847 held a lot of black powder, so when they exploded (as they sometimes did), it turned people off to the idea of buying another Colt firearm, which was bad for business. The 1848 revolver didn’t require so much powder — for a .44-caliber pistol, anyway. This weapon lived on all the way through the Civil War.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

4. Colt M1860 Army

This is a more powerful, updated version of a similar model Colt made for the U.S. Navy. It was widespread in the American Civil War by anyone who carried a sidearm (and by many who weren’t supposed to).

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

5. Remington New Model

Colt’s weapons production factory burned down in 1864 and the Army was still in the middle of fighting the Civil War, so they had to turn somewhere. Meanwhile, Remington’s sidearms had became more accurate without sacrificing the stopping power needed to tame the American frontier.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

6. Colt M1873 Single Action Army

Remington had a good run, but when it comes time to win the west, you need an American classic. And what could be more classic than a name that’s still known over 100 years later? We’re talking, of course, about the Colt .45. It was the standard-issue sidearm until 1892 and “The Peacemaker” also became synonymous with cowboys. This sidearm was commonly seen well into the 20th Century.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

7. Colt M1892 Double Action Army-Navy

This was Colt’s first double-action sidearm with a swing-out cylinder made for the U.S. military. The caliber was reduced to a .38, which was fine in most cases, but it famously was unable to stop charging Filipino freedom fighters, even with multiple shots, even at close range.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

8. Colt M1911

The legend. This weapon is more than 100 years old and is still used by Army and Navy special operators. They sure don’t make ’em like they used to. Easily one of the most common firearms in the world to this day, this bad boy fought in almost every conflict from World War I to today.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

9. Beretta M9

The Beretta had a troubled history. From the ammunition pressure to slide failure injuries to a lack of confidence in the weapon’s performance and stopping power, the M9 was generally not accepted as one of the premiere firearms in American history. It had the lowest approval rating of any weapon used by troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The M1911 is a tough act to follow.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 reasons you should know about the hard core Selous Scouts

Green Berets, SEALs, MARSOC — these are all well-known operator groups in the United States military. But not many know much about the Rhodesian Selous Scouts.


Named after the famous hunter Fredrick Selous, they possess the teamwork mindset of the Rhodesian Light Infantry and the skills of the Rhodeisan Special Air Service; but with harder training requirements than both, the Selous Scouts became monumental in anti-terrorist operations.

Related: 5 reasons why Luke Skywalker was operator AF

5. Rigorous selection process

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
A recruit carrying a 30 kg (66 lbs) pack of stones. (Public Domain image)

The selection process was so difficult that the recruits wouldn’t believe the instructors when they were informed they had passed.

Their boot camp was named “Wafa Wafa Wasara Wasara” which is Shona for, “Who dies — dies, who survives — remains.”

4. Extensive Training

The Selous Scouts were raised as a special forces regiment when Rhodesia was facing a terrorist threat that was armed by the Soviet Union to eliminate many European colonies in Africa. The Scouts’ mission was the clandestine elimination of these threats both in and out of Rhodesia.

For this purpose, they were not only taught tracking and survival, but they were also trained by former terrorists in the language, songs, and mannerisms of their enemies on top of learning to parachute.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
The first Selous Scout parachuting class. (Image via National Archive)

3. Expert survival skills

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
A Selous Scout waits to be inserted by helicopter. (Image source unknown)

Selous Scouts were trained to hunt and forage for their own food and water supplies.

Their survival skills allowed them to operate without external support.

2. Could shoot targets in rapid succession — without looking

Trained to shoot well-known enemy hiding spots, they eventually became so skilled that they no longer needed to look at their targets in order to hit them.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
The marksmanship training they received would prove extremely useful in their operations. (Image via Imgur)

Also read: 6 ways for a POG to be accepted by grunts

1. Always outnumbered

Selous Scouts went out in 5-10 man teams, which meant they were always outnumbered against their enemies, but their training proved to be more efficient, allowing them to inflict a high number of enemy casualties.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
Selous Scouts valued quality over quantity. (Image via Reddit user dudewatchthis)

*Bonus* Infiltrated enemy units just to eliminate them

After being trained by former terrorists, Selous Scouts were capable of infiltrating enemy terrorist units by joining their factions. These scouts would eventually turn on the terrorists, capitalizing the elements of surprise and shock to mitigate the cells.

Other times, Selous Scouts would infiltrate enemy encampments and “expose” themselves by leaving clues behind of scout hiding places and encampments, ultimately leading terrorist troops into deathtraps.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
The ability to blend in with the enemy made Selous Scouts a formidable opponent. (Image via Reddit user 4noteprogression)

While Rhodesia ultimately fell to the Zimbabwe African National Union, the Selous Scouts remain a monumental example in the world of anti-terrorist operations and helped write the book on being operator AF.

popular

4 real things Vietnam vets experienced that you won’t see in movies

We all know Hollywood tends to get a lot wrong about the military. Uniform items, tactics, and even people from history get mixed up, dropped, and/or lost along the way. But Hollywood also glamorizes a lot of what the military is and what military life is like. If we were to actually live by Hollywood war movie standards, military life would be all yelling, push-ups, and constant field training.

Who would do all the paperwork? Some salty staff NCO who will always be complaining about all the paperwork he has to do. Well, they got that part down. Here are six things Vietnam veterans really did that you’ll never see in the movies.


This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
I didn’t see this in Forrest Gump. (VietnamSoldier.com)

Sh*t burning

Yeah, the military still has this detail. But whenever you hear the telltale sounds of Hueys over the music of Creedence Clearwater’s Fortunate Son, the newly-deploying troops are always headed to some very green, very loud base filled with troops who are grilling out and kitting up to go on a search and destroy mission. These new privates are given their marching orders to go out on a combat patrol immediately, even though they’re still green. When (if) they get back, they get time to sit in the bunks and chatter.

No. While they were gone, the REMF NCOs made quick use of that grilled food. It’s time to do the private’s work. Here’s your diesel fuel, Tom Cruise. A lot of Vietnam vets say that’s the newcomer’s first work detail.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
1st Marine Division: A US Marine Corps M67 flame-thrower tank in Vietnam. An M1919A4 MG is mounted on the commander’s cupola to the right.
Original caption: Flame tank in action spraying its deadly napalm. (USMC Photo)

Counting bodies

Remember when Forrest Gump was busy rescuing Bubba from the oncoming wave of napalm that lit up the Vietnamese in the area? He barely made it out alive. What great, gripping action. The enemy was subdued, Forrest and Lt. Dan were safe, and Forrest could go on honoring Bubba and his family.

What they don’t show is probably the Beehive anti-personnel rounds that lit up the area before the napalm was dropped. After the NVA or Vietcong are pinned to trees by exploding flechettes, it’s pretty hard for them to escape the area before the napalm comes in. Some private is going to get sent to count just how many charred bodies are attached to trees. It ain’t pretty, but it happened.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
Nguyen Loung, ordnance expert John Lyons, and Dr. Dinsmore pose for the press following the surgery. (U.S. Navy Photo)

Body bag duty

When an allied troop dies, someone needs to take care of the body. That’s a junior enlisted job. In places like Saigon and in field hospitals, dead ARVN troops were bagged and moved from hospital to mortuary to burial details – really quickly if the troops were lucky. If they were unlucky, they were moving heavy, dripping bags or bodies that reeked of death and decay and were often filled with maggots.

That’s a smell you won’t ever forget, vets say.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
Amazing but fictional. (Forest Gump).

The new clueless LT

Isn’t it awesome to see a competent, intelligent, squared away officer like Lt. Dan Taylor leading American fighting men into combat? Throughout Forrest’s entire time in Vietnam, Lt. Dan led them through rice paddies, jungles, and other terrain, clearing tunnels and destroying outposts. Sure, he also led them into an ambush, but sh*t happens, and then it’s burnt to a crisp – just like that ambush.

But Lt. Dan doesn’t represent every Lieutenant who came to Vietnam. Vietnam vets remember new officers showing up to tell seasoned troops how to do their jobs, even if it was wrong or if the officer was unable to read maps.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Ernest Hemingway was almost impossible to kill

If there ever was a candidate for history’s real “Most Interesting Man In the World,” the frontrunner for the title would have to be famed writer, boxer, veteran, and adventurer Ernest Hemingway. He drove an ambulance in World War I, covered the Spanish Civil War, hunted Nazi submarines in the Pacific, gave relationship advice to F. Scott Fitzgerald, and even drank with Castro after the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

That brief paragraph barely scratches the surface of the man’s epic life. But truthfully, Hemingway should have died many, many times during his epic journey. In the end, he was the only one who could have ever ended such a life. The Grim Reaper was probably afraid to come around.


As the man himself once said, “Death is like an old whore in a bar. I’ll buy her a drink but I won’t go upstairs with her.”

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

Hemingway on crutches in World War I.

He was hit by a mortar in World War I

While driving an ambulance on the Italian Front of the Great War, Hemingway was hit by an Austrian shell while handing out chocolate. The blast knocked him out cold and buried him in the ground nearby. He was peppered from head to toe by shrapnel while two Italian soldiers next to him were killed almost instantly.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

Just not all at once.

He carried more diseases than an old sponge.

Throughout his life, Hemingway was struck down hard by things like anthrax, malaria, pneumonia, dysentery, skin cancer, hepatitis, anemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, and mental illness. Even so, he hunted big game in Africa while suffering from malaria, and even boxed the locals.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

Hemingway sparring with locals in Africa.

He got into a lot of fights.

The original Big Papa was a fan of fisticuffs. He took any and every opportunity to accept challenges to his boxing prowess, fighting the aforementioned African locals, Caribbean friends, and even contemporary authors who besmirched his good name. If anyone challenged his manhood, they could count on a physical challenge of their own.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

“Never sit at a table when you can stand at the bar.”

“I drink to make other people more interesting.”

Hemingway enjoyed a good cocktail or three. An entire book has been published with just the cocktails Hemingway enjoyed the most. His favorite was a double frozen blended daiquiri from his favorite bar in Havana, the Floridita. On one occasion, he and a friend drank 17 of the double-strength concoctions. Eventually, he had to stop drinking to mitigate liver damage. No kidding.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

Hemingway giving pointers on growing a vet beard. Probably.

The Nazis couldn’t kill him.

Hemingway was writing in Madrid when Spain was devastated by Fascist bombers and was in London when the Luftwaffe bombed that city. He was covering the D-Day landings of World War II, coming onto the beaches with the seventh wave and then moving inland through hedgerow country, moving with the Army through the Battle of the Bulge – all while suffering from pneumonia. All this after hunting Nazi submarines off of Cuba.

He even formed French Resistance members into a militia and helped capture Paris.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

God couldn’t kill him.

While on vacation in Africa, Hemingway and company were nearly killed in a plane crash. On their way to Uganda to receive medical care, their plane exploded upon takeoff. The resulting concussion caused him to leak cerebral fluid, and he suffered from two cracked discs, a kidney and liver rupture, a dislocated shoulder, and a broken skull. He still went on a planned fishing trip… where a brushfire burned his legs, front torso, lips, left hand, and right forearm.

He responded by getting up and winning a Nobel Prize.

Articles

The US Navy learned a lot of lessons the hard way at the Battle of Santa Cruz

If you wanted to visit the carrier the Doolittle Raiders flew from, the USS Hornet (CV 8), you need to go to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Specifically, the place to look is near the Santa Cruz Islands, where a major naval battle was fought 74 years ago. It is notable for being the last time the United States lost a fleet carrier.


So, what made Santa Cruz such a big deal? Partly it was because the Japanese were desperately trying to take Henderson Field, and felt they had a chance to do so. They had pushed the United States Navy to the limit after the battles of Savo Island and the Eastern Solomons. A submarine had also put USS Wasp (CV 7) on the bottom with a devastating salvo of torpedoes that also sank a destroyer and damaged USS North Carolina (BB 55).

Admiral Chester Nimitz had sent Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, who had just recovered from dermatitis that caused him to miss the Battle of Midway. Halsey decided to hit the Japanese Fleet first. The orders: “Attack – Repeat Attack!”

American planes damaged the carriers Shokaku and Zuiho, as well as the heavy cruiser Chikuma. The destroyer USS Porter (DD 356) took a hit from a torpedo fired by the Japanese submarine I-21 (although some sources claim the damage was from a freak incident involving a torpedo from a crashed TBF Avenger). USS Enterprise took two bomb hits, but was still in the fight, and would later retire from the scene after surviving two more attacks.

USS Hornet was hit by three bombs, two suicide planes, and two torpedoes in the first attack. Despite that damage, she was mostly repaired by eleven in the morning. However, that afternoon, a second strike put another torpedo into the 20,000-ton carrier. Halsey ordered the Hornet scuttled.

USS Mustin (DD 413) and USS Anderson (DD 411) put three torpedoes and over 400 five-inch shells into the Hornet before they had to retreat in the face of a substantial Japanese surface force. USS Hornet would not go down until the Japanese destroyers Akigumo and Makigumo put four Long Lance torpedoes into her hull.

All in all, Hornet took ten torpedoes, two suicide planes, and three bombs before she went down. Her sister ship, USS Yorktown (CV 5) had taken three bombs and four torpedoes before she went down at Midway, having also survived two bomb hits at the Battle of the Coral Sea that had not been completely repaired.

The lessons of the losses of USS Yorktown and USS Hornet would pay their own dividends. The United States would only lose one light carrier, USS Princeton (CVL 23), and six escort carriers for the rest of the war. Carriers like USS Franklin (CV 13) and USS Bunker Hill (CV 17) would survive severe damage in 1945, while USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and USS Forrestal (CV 59) would survive frightful fires during the Vietnam War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time CBS captured an intense firefight in Vietnam

In 1970, CBS News embedded with an Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, in Vietnam and was there when the platoon came under fire. The infantrymen, the “Blues” of the air mobile unit, were sent in whenever the troops had a known or suspected enemy to fight.


 

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
Infantry Sgt. Kregg Jorgenson is rushed behind friendly lines during a firefight in the Vietnamese jungle.(Image: YouTube/CBS Evening News)

 

The men were headed home from investigating a series of North Vietnamese Army bunkers when Sgt. Kregg Jorgenson made eye contact with an enemy soldier hiding in the foliage and gripping an AK-47. Jorgenson, a Ranger veteran and three-time Purple Heart recipient, started firing at the same times as the enemy.

Jorgenson was pretty sure he had hit his man, but as the firefight erupted, the body on the trail disappeared. As the cameras kept rolling, the platoon leader called in air support and a medevac while the rest of the platoon poured lead into the trees.

See the original news piece in the video below:

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the infamous glider regiments quietly fizzled out of history

The United States Military has always prided itself on its legacy. That’s why the historical accomplishments of a unit are almost always passed down from the old-timers to the young bloods. And if a great troop does a heroic deed, you can bet the installation where they were once stationed will have a street named after them.

The history books of the United States Military are extensive and cherished — but you won’t often see mention of the glider regiments. Outside of randomly finding their insignia on “Badges of the United States Army” posters that line the training room, you won’t ever hear anyone sing the tales of the gliders.

That’s mostly because the history of the gliders is a bit… awkward, let’s say.


This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

Still though. There was a need that the gliders filled and they got the job done… some times…

(National Archives)

Since their inception, gliders have been at odds with the paratroopers. Instead of having an infantryman jump from an aircraft and float down individually, the gliders would be filled to the brim with infantrymen that could all exit the glider at the same time and location. Gliders could also be filled with heavy equipment or vehicles and moved into the battlefield, remaining fairly silent as it glided to the ground.

And that about does it for the list of benefits to using gliders.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

Earlier anti-glider poles had explosives, but the Axis found it a bit of overkill, as the inertia alone did the trick.

(National Archives)

The thing is, all of the functions of the glider were better (and more safely) served by the helicopter. But even before helicopters were ready to take on a primary role, the Army had long abandoned gliders.

There were simply too many problems in the operating of gliders. First, gliders had to be towed by a much larger aircraft. When the time came, the glider would release the line and, as the name implies, glide to its intended destination. It didn’t have its own engine or any completely reliable means of piloting it.

Accidents were frequent. After all, there’s a reason they were unaffectionately called “flying coffins.” The glider needed to remain light (despite the heavy load in the back), so it had barely any kind of protection. The glider was literally made of honeycombed plywood and canvas, meaning air pockets or 40-mph winds could start shredding the exterior.

If the glider did manage to hold together throughout its journey, it was most left to its own devices after the departure of the towing plane. There were no brakes and steering was difficult. The only safe bet was to find a clearing, which were difficult to spot, seeing as the gliders cut the line while still miles away from their destination.

It also didn’t help that the Axis knew about the gliders’ biggest weakness: randomly placed ten-foot poles in giant clearings.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

Farewell, gliders. You won’t be missed.

(442nd Fighter Wing Archive photo)

Gliders, in the eyes of the public, were doomed from the very beginning. In August, 1943, the gliders were given their first public demonstration in front for 10,000 spectators in St. Louis. A single bolt came undone and the glider fell like a sack of bricks right in front of the grand stand. Everyone onboard, including the mayor of St. Louis, was instantly killed.

The gliders did land properly more often than not and they played an instrumental role in major Allied invasions, but the fact that a staggering eleven percent of all troops who rode in them would die (and thirty percent were wounded upon landing) was something that the military just wanted to forget about.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was Nazi Germany’s answer to the Jeep

Prior to World War II, the rising chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler, announced plans to make Germany into a motorized nation. This led to the adoption of the Volkswagen Beetle. But Hitler also ordered military versions of the vehicle developed, and these vehicles would go on to fill the same niche for the Reich that the Jeep served in America.


American Jeep Vs German Kubelwagen: Truck Face-Off | Combat Dealers

youtu.be

The road to the Kubelwagen began in the 1933 Berlin Auto Show. That was when Hitler called for a motorized Germany and then heard the plans for Ferdinand Porsche’s 25-horsepower vehicle with an air-cooled engine. Hitler demanded that it seat four and get good gas mileage, and they were off to the races.

It took a few years for Porsche to finalize the design and begin mass production under the newly formed Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Volkswagens company, soon shortened to Volkswagen.

But Hitler quickly rose from chancellor to Fuhrer, and his SS officers asked this new Volkswagen company if it could make a militarized version of its KdF Volkswagen in January 1938. The company fast-tracked the project, and the first prototypes came off the line in November.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

A Type 82 Volkswagen Kubelwagen

(AlfvanBeem, CC0)

The initial prototypes had some shortcomings in testing. They could not run at walking speed due to their gearing, and they had insufficient ground clearance as well as a less-than-robust suspension. All of these problems were quickly ironed out, though. By the time the Type 82 version, the vehicle’s second iteration, went into production in 1940, it was a capable machine well-liked by the troops.

It was fuel efficient for the time, reliable, and could carry four soldiers and the lion’s share of their gear. It was not, by default, armored or armed, though. So it rarely acted as a front line troop carrier. Instead, it served in a logistics and support role, ferrying spare parts or other key supplies to where they were needed or getting key leaders into position to observe the enemy or their own troops.

So, you know, similar to the Jeep. But there were a number of traits that separated the two vehicles.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

A Volkswagen Kubelwagen

(Staffan Vilcans, CC BY-SA 2.0)

For instance, the Kubelwagen had a 22.5 hp engine, much weaker than the Jeep’s 60 hp or even the civilian Volkswagen’s 25-hp engine. But the engine was air-cooled, which did make it a little less prone to breakdowns. And it had a wider and longer wheelbase than the Jeep as well as more storage space.

But the Kubelwagen wasn’t the only military version of the Volkswagen. A command vehicle, the Type 87 Kommandeurwagen, had 4-wheel drive and looked more like a Beetle. And the Type 166 Schwimmwagen was the most-produced amphibious car in history.

In all, there were 36 variants of the Kubelwagen as well as numerous versions of the Kommandeurwagen and Schwimmwagen. In all, about 50,500 Kubelwagens were built during the war, and thousands survived as museum and collector’s pieces. And, luckily for the owners, the vehicles shared many parts with the Beetle, and so owners could keep repairing them for decades.

When Allied troops got their hands on any of these variants, the vehicles were generally met with grudging respect. So much so that Americans put together an English-language version of the manual to help other troops maintain their captured vehicles.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Anyone who’s ever deployed can tell you there’s more to worry about in the field than just the enemy. While of course the North Vietnamese were the primary concern of American troops in the Vietnam War, just being in the jungle presented an entirely unexpected series of its own challenges – like giant centipedes.


Rumors persisted about things like fragging, rampant drug use, and even the appearance of Bigfoot in Vietnam. But when US troops weren’t earning the Medal of Honor while completely stoned, they were fighting off things that only previously appeared in their nightmares.

Related: This is the story of US troops who think they saw Bigfoot in Vietnam

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

Bring on the flamethrower.

Giant insects

As seen in the cover photo of this post, the creepy crawlers of the jungle have the space and the food necessary to grow to an insane level. That guy in the photo is Scolopendra subspinipes, also known as the Vietnamese centipede, Chinese redhead, or Jungle Centipede. It’s extremely aggressive, and its venomous bite hurts like hell, sources say. But the fun doesn’t stop with centipedes, giant scorpions were also known to bother American troops in bivouac.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

Weaver ants

Imagine you’re in some kind of tank or armored vehicle, busting down trees in the jungle when suddenly, you bust down the wrong tree, one filled with a nest of red ants. These buggers were reportedly immune to the issued bug spray and, given the choice between NVA small arms fire and dealing with red ants in the tank, tank crews would either bail on the tank or man the vehicle completely naked. They were often referred to as “communist ants” because they were red in color and never seemed to attack the Vietnamese.

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Very pretty, but also what the KGB used to kill dissidents.

Debilitating plants

Troops in Vietnam were sometimes lifted right up out of troop carriers and other vehicles by low-hanging vines that seemed innocent at first, but as soon as they were touched, constricted around an unsuspecting driver, grabbing them by the arms or neck. They became known as the “wait-a-minute” vines. But that’s just the beginning.

Vietnam’s most beautiful trees and flowers are also its deadliest. Heartbreak Grass, Flame Lillies, Twisted Cord Flowers, and Bark Cloth Trees are all powerful enough to kill a human or cause blindness upon contact or accidental ingestion, which is more common than one might think.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

Bring that flamethrower back over here.

Venomous snakes

You know what kinds of animals love a hot, humid place with lots of shade? Reptiles and amphibians, both of which Vietnam has in droves. Vietnam has so many snakes, American troops were advised to just assume they were all deadly – because most of them are. The country is filled with Cobras, Kraits, Vipers, and more. The snakes that weren’t venomous were all giant constrictors, still very capable of murdering you in your jungle sleep.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

Yes, troops were mauled by tigers.

Large wildlife

Since we’re talking about giant jungle snakes, we should discuss the other giant creatures that inhabit the wilds of Vietnam. Southeast Asia is also home to aggressive tiger species, leopards, and bears. Those are just the traditional predators. There are also elephants, water buffaloes, and gaurs, giant cows, who will go on a murder rampage that an M-16 isn’t likely to stop.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This rating was, hands down, the worst job the US military ever had

In the military, everyone loves to compare their job with others as part of a pissing contest to see who has it worst. Some cite their terrible living conditions, others tell horror stories of intense training, and the rest point to the awful, boring tasks handed to them. But there’s only one clear winner of the Absolute Worst Job contest — and that goes to the U.S. Navy’s loblolly boy.

Now, we’re not saying this to discredit your terrible MOS or rating — we’re sure yours is perfectly horrible — but unless your job is centered almost entirely around handling the medical waste that accumulated out at sea in the 1700s, then you probably can’t compete.


If reading about medical waste makes you a bit squeamish, we wouldn’t blame you if you’d instead like to check out our article about cute animals greeting returning troops. No? Alright, weirdo — but don’t say we didn’t warn you.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

Which also involved a lot of cleaning. Pre-Industrial Era medicine wasn’t known for its cleanliness.

The loblolly boy was the junior-most enlisted surgeon’s assistant back in the day. While the average operating table on a vessel consisted of the surgeon and a surgeon’s mate or two, all of the work that was deemed “below the officer” was shoveled directly onto the loblolly boy.

The name comes directly from the English slang term ‘lob,’ which meant ‘bubbling’ or ‘boiling,’ and ‘lolly,’ which was a soup or broth. This is in regards to one of the more lighthearted tasks assigned to these troops: to feed soup or stew to the injured sailors and Marines.

But since they were the lowest-ranking member of the medical team, they also had to handle the other tasks associated with nursing the wounded, like cleaning chamber pots, organizing medical supplies, cleaning medical instruments, and, of course, assisting in surgery.

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We’re not talking the cleanest of working environments here, but at least they tried their best.

(National Archives)

Back in the 18th century, amputation was a go-to answer for a lot of dire medical situations. Wound too bad? Amputation. Infection looks like it’s spreading? Amputation. Bone shattered too much? Amputation. Skin starting to turn green after you ignored a simple scrape? Amputation. It’s a pretty grim solution, but there’s no denying its effectiveness when the alternative was often death.

This was also long before anesthetics or analgesics, so the operations had to be done quickly — because, you know, that was the most “humane” way to cut someone’s leg off. They’d have the loblolly boy hold them down while Doc sawed it off. Problem is, the loblolly boy was often just a kid or young adult, which made restraining a fully grown Marine who’s getting parts cut off a significant challenge.

Old Victorian English surgeons in a hospital got the process down to 30 seconds flat. Civil War surgeons in the midst of a battle would clock in at around the same time, but the process was a whole lot messier. The loblolly boy, of course, had to clean up the inevitable splatters before the next patient came in. Disposing of amputated limbs was one of the primary duties of the loblolly boy.

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If you’re a corpsman, now you know you can always win the debate of how’s job has been historically worse.

(U.S. Navy photo)

The job wasn’t the most glamorous, but it did open the doors for loblolly boys to work their way up in the medical field. This gave an opportunity to those who would otherwise not have it — for social, economical, or racial reasons. Many of the first African American surgeons got their start in the military as loblolly boys.

Ann Bradford Stokes, an escaped slave, was taken aboard the USS Red Rover during the Civil War and became both one of the first women to enlist and one of the first African Americans to enlist in the United States Navy. Though she could not read or write during her time of service, she did her job dutifully for years and became the very first woman in U.S. history to receive a military pension.

This terrible job evolved throughout the years, later known as surgeon’s steward, apothecary, and bayman, before becoming what we today know: the hospital corpsmen.

Articles

This badass Native American fought in 3 wars and earned 42 medals and citations

The Kiowa Native Americans have a strong and proud warrior culture. Their enemies feared and respected them on the battlefield. In fact, the most decorated Native American in United States military history is a Kiowa.

Pascal Cleatus Poolaw was born on Jan. 29, 1922 in Apache, Oklahoma. In 1942, he joined his father and two brothers in the military to fight in WWII. Upon completing basic infantry training, Poolaw was sent to the European theater.

On Sep. 8, 1944, Poolaw was assigned to the 8th Infantry Regiment’s M Company near Recogne, Belgium. There, his unit launched an attack on German forces. Despite heavy enemy machine gun fire, Sgt. Poolaw led his company forward while hurling grenades at the German positions. Although he was wounded during his assault, Poolaw did not waiver. For his actions, he was awarded a Purple Heart and Silver Star — the first of many. His Silver Star citation noted, “Due to Sergeant Poolaw’s actions, many of his comrades’ lives were saved and the company was able to continue the attack and capture strongly defended enemy positions. Sergeant Poolaw’s display of courage, aggressive spirit and complete disregard for personal safety are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.”

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
Poolaw in Korea (U.S. Army)

After WWII, Poolaw stayed in the Army and served again in Korea. On Sep. 19, 1950, Sgt. First Class Poolaw and his company made an attack on an enemy position. However, they were halted by intense enemy fire. Poolaw volunteered to lead a squad in a flanking assault on the enemy’s perimeter. With Poolaw at the front, the American counterattack hit the enemy hard and fast. Through intense hand-to-hand combat and absolute determination, Poolaw successfully led his squad and routed the enemy, earning him his second Silver Star.

Less than a year later, on April 4, 1951, Master Sgt. Poolaw earned a third Silver Star. During an attack near Chongong-ni, one squad of Poolaw’s platoon became trapped by enemy mortar and machine gun fire. With complete disregard for his own safety, Poolaw exposed himself and charged across open terrain at the enemy, firing his weapon as he progressed. The solo assault drew the enemy fire off of Poolaw’s squad and they were able to move to a more advantageous position. In addition to his two new Silver Stars, Poolaw also earned another Purple Heart, and the Distinguished Service Cross in Korea.

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An honor dance welcoming Poolaw (right, holding flag) home from Korea (Public Domain)

In 1952, Poolaw returned to the states. After serving another 10 years in the Army, he retired. However, the Vietnam War brought the Kiowa warrior out of retirement.

By 1967, all four of Poolaw’s sons were in the military. Pascal Cleatus Poolaw Jr. was wounded by a landmine in Vietnam and lost his right leg. When the youngest of Poolaw’s sons, Lindy, was drafted, Poolaw re-enlisted in the Army to fight and keep Lindy off the front lines. However, by the time the elder Poolaw reached the point of departure on the West Coast, Lindy had left for Vietnam just the day before.

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Poolaw as a 1st Sgt. in Vietnam (U.S. Army)

Poolaw deployed to Vietnam as the 1st Sgt. of Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment. On Nov. 7, 1967, his unit conducted a search and destroy mission near the village of Loc Ninh. There, Poolaw and his men were ambushed by a numerically superior Viet Cong force. He immediately sprung into action and led a squad to lay down a base of fire, bearing the brunt of the attack. Under a hail of bullets and rockets, Poolaw moved amongst his troops, ensuring they were in proper fighting positions and returning effective fire.

During the engagement, Poolaw pulled wounded men back to safety despite being wounded himself. As he assisted one of his wounded soldiers, Poolaw was struck by an RPG and killed. His fourth Silver Star citation states, “His dynamic leadership and exemplary courage contributed significantly to the successful deployment of the lead squad and undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers.” Poolaw was also posthumously awarded his third Purple Heart.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
1st Sgt. Poolaw on patrol in Vietnam (U.S. Army)

Shortly before his death, Poolaw wrote a letter home explaining that he rated his job as more important than his own life. His wife, Irene, echoed this sentiment in her eulogy for Poolaw at the Fort Sill Post Cemetery.

“He has followed the trail of the great chiefs,” she said. “His people hold him in honor and highest esteem. He has given his life for the people and the country he loved so much.”

Over the course of three wars, Poolaw earned 42 medals and citations including the Distinguished Service Cross, four Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars for valor and three Purple Hearts—one for each war.

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol
Staff Sgt. Roderick Poolaw with his grandfather’s plaque at Fort Sill (U.S. Army)

Feature Image: U.S. Army photo

Articles

That time Civil War soldiers stopped fighting and played music for one another

A few weeks after the bloody battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, an odd event took place at the front lines of the Civil War armies camped on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. The two sides — camped approximately a mile from one another — engaged in a battle of the bands.


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A Union band in the Civil War poses for a photo. (Photo: CC BY-SA Jcusano)

According to University of Virginia Professor Dr. Gary W. Gallagher in his Great Courses lecture series on the war, the concert was begun by a Union band on one side of the field who played a patriotic northern song, likely “Yankee Doodle” or “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Just after they finished playing, the Confederate band opened with the song “Dixie.”

The two bands then continued playing songs for one another throughout the early hours of the night, until the Union band started playing “Home on the Range,” a song popular in both Union and Confederate camps throughout the war.

The Confederate band joined in during the song, and soldiers from each side sang along.

The entire event was captured in a poem “Music in Camp” by John Reuben Thomas.

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Thure de Thulstrup’s Battle of Gettysburg, showing Pickett’s Charge. (Scan: Library of Congress)

Like the later Christmas Truce of World War I, the peace between the warring sides was short-lived. The Civil War would rage for almost two more years before its official end in May 1865. Indeed, the bloodiest battle of the war, Gettysburg, would take place just a few short weeks after the impromptu concert.

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