The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

Although its opening has been delayed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the National Museum of the United States Army in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, houses historic Army artifacts like an M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle from the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, General Grant’s Forage Cap from the Civil War and an M4 Sherman tank from WWII. However, this Sherman is a rather special one. Its name is Cobra King and it holds the distinct honor of being the first tank to break through to the beleaguered 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.

Cobra King served with the 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division during WWII and fought through France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, and into Czechoslovakia. Unlike regular Sherman tanks, Cobra King is an M4A3E2 “Jumbo” experimental variant. Classified as Assault Tanks, Jumbos were equipped with thicker armor than standard Shermans and were often re-armed with high-velocity 76mm M1 main guns (although Cobra King retained its factory short-barrel 75mm M3 gun during the Battle of the Bulge). The extra armor slowed the tanks down by 3-4 mph. Jumbos also featured duckbill-style extended end connectors fitted to the outside edges of their tracks for added weight-bearing and stability.


The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

An M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo on display in Belgium bearing 37th Tank Battalion markings (Photo Credit: Public Domain)

Cobra King’s name follows the tank corps tradition of naming vehicles by the company’s designation; Cobra King belonged to the 37th Tank Battalion’s C Company. According to Army historian Patrick Jennings, Cobra King had been knocked out of action in France in November 1944. The tank was repaired and returned to action in Luxembourg. There, tank commander Charles Trover was killed by a sniper on December 23 as he stood in Cobra King’s turret. Trover was replaced by Lt. Charles Boggess who commanded Cobra King during the Battle of the Bulge.

Along with Boggess, Cobra King was crewed by driver Pvt. Hubert Smith, assistant driver/bow gunner Pvt. Harold Hafner, loader Pvt. James Murphy and gunner Cpl. Milton Dickerman. The five men led General Patton’s 3rd Army’s relief of Bastogne on December 26. Driving at full speed and sweeping the road ahead with gunfire, Cobra King made a 5-mile push through intense German resistance toward Bastogne. “I used the 75 like it was a machine gun,” Dickerman recalled. “Murphy was plenty busy throwing in shells. We shot 21 rounds in a few minutes and I don’t know how much machine gun stuff.”

Cobra King came across a team of U.S. combat engineers assaulting a pillbox. The tankers were wary of the engineers since German troops had been infiltrating U.S. lines dressed in American uniforms. Finally, one of the engineers approached Cobra King, stuck his hand out to Boggess and said, “Glad to see you.” The engineers were Americans and part of Able Company, 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. Together, Cobra King and the engineers destroyed the pillbox. The link-up marked the end of the German siege of Bastogne. For its relief of the city and the 101st, the 37th Tank Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

After six weeks in Bastogne waiting for a German counterattack, Cobra King and the 4th Armored Division rejoined the push into Germany. During this time, Cobra King became just another Sherman in the column of armor. Through February and March, the division broke through the Siegfried Line to the Kyll River and battled its way to the Rhine. On April 1, they crossed the Werra River and then crossed the Saale River 11 days later. The division continued to chase the Germans east and crossed into Pisek, Czechoslovakia in early May. After V-E Day on May 7, the division assumed occupation duties in Landshut, Germany until its inactivation the next year.

Cobra King remained in Germany while the 37th Tank Battalion was reactivated in 1951 and re-assigned to the 4th Armored Division in 1953 at Fort Hood, Texas. The 37th would later return to Europe; the division’s 1958 yearbook featured a picture of Cobra King (yet unidentified) on display at McKee Barracks in Crailsheim, Germany. In 1971, the 4th was inactivated and redesignated the 1st Armored Division. In 1994, Crailsheim was closed and all the units posted there, along with Cobra King, were relocated to Vilseck. The 1st was later relocated to Bad Kreuznach, but Cobra King stayed behind.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

Cobra King had to be refitted with a 75mm gun during its restoration (Photo by Don Moriarty)

Cobra King stood in silent vigil at Vilseck as an anonymous display tank. Jennings credits Cobra King’s discovery to Army Chaplain Keith Goode, who suspected that the display tank might be the famous Cobra King. Army historians in Germany and the U.S. confirmed his suspicion after extensive research and the tank was shipped back to the states in 2009. Though the interior was damaged beyond repair by years of weather exposure, the exterior was given a full restoration at Fort Knox, Kentucky before Cobra King was put into storage at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 2017, the tank was trucked up to Fort Belvoir amidst the construction of the Army Museum. When the museum does open, Cobra King will proudly stand on display as “FIRST IN BASTOGNE”.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

Cobra King is emplaced on its foundation (Credit National Museum of the U.S. Army)


MIGHTY TRENDING

Another T-38 trainer has crashed in Texas

A T-38C Talon II trainer aircraft crashed at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas on Sept. 11, 2018, marking the fourth accident for the aging aircraft in the past year.

The aircraft, a twin-engine, high-altitude supersonic jet and part of the 80th Flying Training Wing, crashed on Sept. 11, 2018, while taking off. The two pilots ejected safely and were taken to local medical facilities, the base said in a statement. Both pilots are said to be in stable condition.


Sept. 11, 2018’s incident follows another T-38 crash in mid-August 2018. The 71st Flying Training Wing aircraft crashed at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma on Aug. 17, 2018, becoming the sixth aircraft the US Air Force lost to noncombat mishaps in 2018, according to The Drive.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

A T-38C Talon used primarily by Air Education and Training Command for undergraduate pilot and pilot instructor training.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Steve White)

Another trainer jet crashed in May 2018 near Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi. Both pilots were able to eject safely from the plane. And all three of these incidents were proceeded by a fatal crash in November 2017. Capt. Paul J. Barbour lost his life when his plane crashed near Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas, according to Military.com. The pilot’s ejection seat was not armed at the time of the crash.

The T-38 program, according to the US Air Force, is old, expensive, and outdated, a Congressional Research Service report from May 2018 explains, noting these jets are not well-suited for training future pilots for fifth-generation fighter and bomber operations.

The contract for the replacement T-X trainer has been delayed several times due to budget issues.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

These 2 scenarios show why having a bigger Navy is better

It is one of the sneakiest, most insidious things in warfare. It can creep up on you, and you’ll suddenly find out that you no longer can do all that you wanted to do. It’s called “virtual attrition,” and while it doesn’t make many headlines, it matters more to military operations than you’d think.


So, what exactly is “virtual attrition?” Well, plain old attrition is defined by the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary as “the act or process of weakening and gradually defeating an enemy through constant attacks and continued pressure over a long period of time.” In war, these are the planes that are shot down, the ships that are sunk, the tanks that go “jack in the box,” the troops that are killed. In other words, you lost them for good.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history
An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 conducts a captive carry flight test of an AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. (U.S. Navy photo by Greg L. Davis/Released)

Virtual attrition, therefore involves “losing” the assets. Only it doesn’t involve actually destroying the asset. Here’s a couple of examples:

Scenario One: There is a factory complex in Bad Guy Land that you want to remove from the landscape. It will take 16 Joint Direct Attack Munitions to destroy. Now, four F/A-18E Super Hornets from one of the squadrons in the air wing of USS Enterprise can each carry four JDAMs, that should put enough bombs on target, right?

Well, not quite. You see, Mr. Sleazebag Swinemolestor, the dictator of Bad Guy Land, just got some brand new Russian S-300 missile systems (the SA-10 Grumble). He’s got one defending the factory complex you want to go away. He also got some brand new J-11 Flankers from China that he’s using to protect the place.

Now, sending planes into the teeth of air defenses doesn’t work out so well. We found that out the hard way in more than a couple wars.

So now, you may need some escorts. Well, we can add a couple more F/A-18Es with AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles and AGM-154A Joint Standoff Attack Weapons to deal with the S-300s, and two more loaded with a ton of AIM-120 AMRAAMs for the Flankers.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history
Aviation Ordnancemen assigned to the Diamondbacks of Strike Fighter Squadron One Zero Two (VFA-102), load a CATM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation (HARM) missile on one of their squadrons F/A-18F Super Hornets aboard the conventionally powered aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63). The CATM-88 is an inert training version of the AGM-88 HARM missile, which is a supersonic air-to-surface tactical missile designed to seek and destroy enemy radar-equipped air defense systems. Kitty Hawk and embarked Carrier Air Wing Five (CVW-5) are currently conducting operations in the Western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographers Mate 3rd Class Jonathan Chandler)

Only those four additional Super Hornets have to come from somewhere. On a carrier (or even a land base), there are only so many airframes. The S-300s and the Flankers just forced the United States to double the size of the “package” they are sending to service the target.

A carrier usually has 24 Super Hornets. Some will be down for maintenance. Some will be needed to provide air cover for the carrier or planes like the E-2 Hawkeye or EA-18 Growler. There will be other targets to hit, like bridges, air bases, headquarters buildings… you get the picture.

Now, you can’t hit all the targets you want to hit, because you need to not only make the factory go away, you need to make the defenses go away. You have lost the use of the planes as strike assets. In essence, other missions get shortchanged. That is one way virtual attrition works.

Scenario 2: China’s DF-21 has gotten a lot of hype as a threat. That ignores the fact that the RIM-161 SM-3 Standard Missile is already capable of defeating it. But the DF-21 still inflicts the “virtual attrition.”

Let’s assume that BadGuyLand’s dictator, the aforementioned Sleazebag Swinemolestor, has bought 30 DF-21s. Now, while the SM-3 has proven reliable (a success rate of about 90 percent in tests), the usual practice will be a “shoot-shoot look” approach — firing two missiles at each target, and looking to see if you got it. That is a quick way to eat up missiles, especially when you miss.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history
An SM-3 Block 1B interceptor is launched from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) during a Missile Defense Agency test and successfully intercepted a complex short-range ballistic missile target off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. (U.S. Department of Defense photo/Released)

So now, the Enterprise’s escorts have to load more SM-3s into their Mark 41 Vertical Launch Systems. The problem being, of course, they only have 96 cells each. And if you are carrying more SM-3s, you have to take other missiles out, like BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missiles, and RUM-139 Vertical Launch ASROCs.

Now, you could fix this by adding the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (originally planned for a WESTPAC deployment), with her escorts, the Bunker Hill, the Winston S. Churchill, the Harmon Rabb, and the Cole. But that carrier group has to come from somewhere… so you now have to make up for that or pray that the region stays calm.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history
The Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), steams in formation with ships from Carrier Strike Group Five (CSG 5) and the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) during Exercise Invincible Spirit. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burke/Released)

The other alternative is to add more escorts. You could strip the Mac Taylor from anti-piracy duty off Somalia, or call in the John S. McCain from her Freedom of Navigation exercise in the South China Sea, or maybe even have the Dave Nolan detach from the replenishment ships. But then you take risks by pulling those ships from those missions.

In essence, virtual attrition means you have to pull in extra assets – and the assets you pull in, no matter how good they are, cannot be in two places at once. It is not spectacular. It doesn’t make headlines, but virtual attrition is a real problem that the military has to address.

MIGHTY MONEY

Coronavirus hit the stock market hard, but how worried should you be?

With thousands of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in China and South Korea, and a rapidly growing number in Europe and the United States, the question is no longer if the coronavirus will have an effect on the global economy but rather whether it’ll be a small scratch or a giant crater.


Increasingly, the latter appears to be a distinct possibility. On Monday, analysts at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicted that a continued spread of the novel coronavirus would cut worldwide GDP growth fully in half.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

This is a scary prospect for a lot of reasons, although the most immediate impact has been a hammering of 401(k)s and other investment accounts. Last week alone, the SP 500 took a nearly 12-percent hit as skittish investors ran for the exits. No doubt, many others are thinking about the same move.

That it’s a fool’s errand to time something as complex and unpredictable as the stock market is pretty much Retirement Planning 101. And yet there’s a basic human instinct to run for the nearest exit when danger looms. Surely, it’s better to jump before the ship sinks any further, right?

Well, no. The speed with which stocks plunged last week can lead one to conclude that the freefall is going to continue. But the fact is, no one knows whether that’s true or not. Stocks actually gained nearly five percent Monday on news that central bankers are ready to take serious counter-measures (although even that doesn’t mean the sell-off is over).

Certainly, emotions are going to run high when you open your online account and see a dramatically smaller balance than the one you glimpsed just a couple weeks earlier. Now, more than ever, it may be time to simply look away for a while. For long-term investors, in particular, it’s important to keep in mind that volatility is part of the game when it comes to stocks. The point is that, over periods of a decade or longer, the market has consistently rewarded patience.

You don’t have to look back very far to see what can happen when investors start hitting the panic button. As the housing market collapse started to expose some pretty egregious risk-taking from Wall Street banks in 2007, the stock market fell into its worst bear market in recent memory. In the span of 17 months, the SP 500 lost more than half its value, falling to 676.

But here’s the key point: those who kept buying during the downswing saw the biggest gains when things eventually turned around. Even after last week’s bloodbath, the index is now past the 3,000 mark.

Kevin Mahoney, CFP, of the Washington, DC-based financial planning firm Illumint says he’s telling his primarily Millennial-age clients to sit tight when it comes to their retirement accounts. “Whether this is the bottom or not, I’m not particularly concerned,” says Mahoney. “They’re keeping their money in for another 30 or 35 years.”

Indeed, this is the beauty of dollar-cost averaging, where you invest a fixed dollar amount from each paycheck, even when the financial news looks ugly. By continuing to buy when prices drop, you end up obtaining more shares with the same amount of cash. When the market eventually turns the corner, this steady-as-she-goes investing style ends up providing you with bigger gains.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

For those who have money on the sidelines in, say, a savings account, this may actually be the perfect time to enter the market. Warren Buffett himself has used this contrarian approach to great effect, once declaring: “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”

As long as people can tolerate a fair amount of volatility in the short term, Mahoney says the recent headlines shouldn’t cause would-be investors to lay low. “Stocks are now lower than in previous weeks, so if they need motivation to act on their savings, they can view this as a financial opportunity,” he says.

Things are a little trickier, of course, for couples who own brokerage accounts that they hoped to tap in the next few months for a new home or other big-ticket purchases. “These individuals may want to evaluate whether they can be flexible with the timing of their upcoming financial goal, such as funding a down payment,” says Mahoney. “If the market continues to struggle, they may be better off waiting and continuing to save.”

For anybody else, obsessing over the latest financial news isn’t going to do you any favors. Just ask the folks who exited the market the last time stocks took a nose-dive.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Jump alongside the 82nd Airborne with a paratrooper’s wild skydive video from Colombia

About 75 paratroopers from the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and 40 personnel from US Army South spent the final days of January in Colombia, working with Colombian troops for an airborne assault exercise.


The exercise, which took place between January 23 and January 29, saw US and Colombian troops conduct airborne insertion from US and Colombian C-130 Hercules aircraft and then carry out exercises simulating the capture of an airfield.

A video recorded by one paratrooper during a static-line jump allows you to go along for the ride.

The exercise allowed US and Colombian personnel to work together and exchange strategic and tactical expertise, US Southern Command, which oversees military operations in the region, said in a release announcing the exercise.

You can see some of what they got up to in the photos below.

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US 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers Colombian soldiers from 2nd Special Forces Battalion during a dynamic force exercise in Tolemaida, Colombia, January 24, 2020.

US Army/Master Sgt. Alexander Burnett

Colombia is one of the US’s closest partners in the region, and the two countries’ militaries have worked together closely for decades. The US has also provided billions in aid to Colombia under Plan Colombia and, later, the so-called Peace Colombia.

Colombia has made achieved significant reductions in violence, but Plan Colombia has been criticized for leading to abuses by the military and human-rights violations and for being ineffective against drug production and trafficking. Peace Colombia has been criticized as too focused on military aid.

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US Army 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers and Colombian soldiers conduct airborne assault training at Tolemaida Air Base in Colombia, January 26, 2020.

US Army/Spc. Edward Randolph

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US Army 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers and Colombia soldiers during airborne assault training at Tolemaida Air Base in Colombia, January 26, 2020.

US Army/Spc. Edward Randolph

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US Army 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers conduct an airborne exercise with Colombian soldiers at Tolemaida Air Base in Colombia, January 23, 2020.

US Army/Spc. Edward Randolph

The US has increased pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government, while Colombia has been grappling with the brunt of the millions of Venezuelans who’ve fled their country due to political violence, widespread shortages, and eroding law and order.

Read more about the Venezuelan exodus and Colombia’s effort to deal with it.

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US 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers watch Colombian paratroopers descend in Tolemaida, January 23, 2020.

US Army/Master Sgt. Alexander Burnett

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US 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers and Colombian soldiers conduct an exercise simulating the securing of an airfield at Tolemaida Air Base, January 25, 2020.

US Army/Sgt. Andrea Salgado-Rivera

At a press briefing in Florida on January 23, Faller pointed to Venezuela as a “safe haven” and “base of opportunity” for dissident members of the demobilized FARC rebel group, as well as guerrillas from the ELN rebel group and “terrorists groups” involved in narco-trafficking.

Source: US Defense Department

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An 82nd Airborne Division Artillery medic and a Colombian army medic treat a simulated casualty during an exercise in Colombia, January 25, 2020.

US Army/Master Sgt. Alexander Burnett

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why ancient German women yelled at male warriors in combat

At the 58 BC Battle of Vosges, Julius Caesar was surrounded. He had to force the Germanic army under Ariovistus into combat because the German was content to starve the Romans out. Cut off from supplies, Caesar’s legions may not last long enough to attack later. So, outnumbered and surrounded, Caesar struck.

He marched his entire force toward the weakest part of the Germanic army: its camp. When the legions arrived, the Germanic women were in the army’s wagon train, shouting, screaming, and wailing… at the Germanic men.


The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history
Julius Caesar meets Ariovistus before the Battle of Vosges.

The Gallic Wars were an important moment in the history of Rome. It saw Julius Caesar’s rise in power and prestige as well as an important military and territorial expansion of the Roman Republic. But to the Romans’ well-organized and disciplined fighting force, the wailing Germanic women must have been an altogether strange experience.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

Germanic women were forced to defend the wagon trains after many battles against the Romans.

If a tribe was caught up in a fight while migrating or moving for any reason, women would not be left behind. Germanic women would yell at their fighting men, sometimes with their children on hand to witness the fighting. The women encouraged their children to yell and, with bare breasts, shouted reminders at the men that they must be victorious in combat or their families would be captured and enslaved… or worse, slaughtered wholesale.

Their shouts encouraged their men to fight harder, as women were considered holy spirits. Letting them fall into enemy hands was the ultimate failure.

The Roman Senator and historian Tacitus wrote in his work, Germania:

A specially powerful incitement to valor is that the squadrons and divisions are not made up at random by the mustering of chance-comers, but are each composed of men of one family or clan. Close by them, too, are their nearest and dearest, so that they can hear the shrieks of their women-folk and the wailing of their children. These are the witnesses whom each man reverences most highly, whose praise he most desires. It is to their mothers and wives that they go to have their wounds treated, and the women are not afraid to count and compare the gashes. They also carry supplies of food to the combatants and encourage them.

It stands on record that armies already wavering and on the point of collapse have been rallied by the women, pleading heroically with their men, thrusting forward their bared bosoms, and making them realize the imminent prospect of enslavement — a fate which the Germans fear more desperately for their women than for themselves. Indeed, you can secure a surer hold on these nations if you compel them to include among a consignment of hostages some girls of noble family. More than this, they believe that there resides in women an element of holiness and a gift of prophecy; and so they do not scorn to ask their advice, or lightly disregard their replies.The women were more than just morale builders, though. They provided aid and comfort to their men after the battle was over, of course. And they would bring supplies and food to their male warriors in the middle of the fight.

If the battle didn’t go well, however, Germanic women could take on an entirely new role. They might kill any male members of the tribe who attempted retreat. They could even kill their children and then commit suicide rather than submit to enslavement by another tribe or army.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

Women were captured en masse at the Battle of Aquaq Sextiae.

Vosges wasn’t the first time the Roman Republic encountered this phenomenon. At the 102 BC Battle of Aquae Sextiae a Roman army that was outnumbered by Germans 3-to-1 emerged victorious, according to the Roman historian Plutarch. He notes that 300 of the women captured that day killed themselves and their children rather than be taken back to Rome.

For the Germans at the Battle of Vosges, the situation wasn’t as desperate. They were all well-rested and their march from the Rhine River didn’t take a heavy toll on their strength. But the Romans were formidable and, thanks to a sudden moment of quick thinking by one of Caesar’s cavalry officers, they were able to drive the Germans back across the Rhine. When Caesar returned from Rome after the conquest of Gaul, he came back with a million slaves.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Marine snipers train to kill from helicopters

Marine scout snipers are often described more like a force of nature than a group of warfighters. The Corps has recently had just a few hundred of them at a time, but a massive mission rests on their shoulders. They’re true scouts, acting as the commander’s eyes and ears, but they’re also trained to take careful shots at foes. And they even train to hit targets from moving platforms like helicopters.


The big difference between scouts and scout snipers is right in the name. It’s also in the Corps’ definition of the job:

The scout sniper is a Marine highly skilled in fieldcraft and marksmanship who delivers long range, precision fire at selected targets from concealed positions.

But the Marine Corps is very specific that scout snipers are shooters, even going so far as to define the snipers’ primary mission as that “precision fire” and the secondary mission as “gathering information for intelligence purposes.”

So, they’re really highly observant snipers rather than scouts who have become more lethal. And being a top-tier sniper requires a certain amount of flexibility, especially in the Marine Corps where they pride themselves on their “Semper Gumby” mentality.

And so these Marines train on not just riding into battle on helicopters, but on shooting enemies from them with their precise fires. To practice, the Marines hop into Super Hueys and spit fire at targets floating in the ocean or staged on land. The shifting helicopters provide an increased level of challenge, but also allows the snipers to take out threats while inserting into the battlefield or while providing cover for infantrymen hitting the deck.

The two-man teams work together to watch over friendlies, engage enemy forces, and send targeting data and other intelligence back to the headquarters, whether they’re working from a helicopter, a ship, or a secluded ridge or rooftop on the battlefield.

A video from the aerial sniper training is available above.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The crazy steam-powered gun of the Civil War

The Civil War was one of the first industrialized wars, helping lead the world from battles conducted by marching men with muskets around each other on a large field to battles fought between small, quick-moving formations with repeating rifles, quick-firing guns, and higher-powered artillery. But not all of the weapon designs that debuted had a lasting effect on warfare.


And one of the designs that fell by the wayside was the quite weird “steam-powered cannon.”

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

As the world entered the late 1800s, breakthroughs in technology like steam engines and metallurgy allowed the world to make great industrial breakthroughs, and weapon designers hoped to harness those breakthroughs to make the U.S. military more powerful.

William Joslin and Charles S. Dickinson thought the breakthroughs in steam could make a lost weapon design suddenly work: Steam-powered guns. And they had a plan to greatly increase the rate of fire of weapons, possibly as high as 400 rounds per minute. And this was when muskets fired at 3 rounds per minute.

Historically, steam powered guns worked similarly to a conventional rifle, but instead of relying on gunpowder exploding to create high pressure and propel the bullet out of the barrel, they featured a chamber filled with water that would be heated into steam.

When water is heated into steam, it expands to 1,600 times its starting volume. So, it can give a bullet plenty of umph, but it takes a lot of time and heat to build up the pressure necessary to fire the weapon.

But Joslin and Dickinson were at the forefront of a new, steam-powered weapon design. Instead of using steam to build up pressure in the firing chamber, a steam engine would quickly rotate a mechanism and fire the round using centrifugal force.

Basically, this is a mechanized version of David and his sling to hit Goliath, but at 400 rounds per second.

The design showed promise, but the inventors had a falling out, so Dickinson created his own version and won funding for a prototype in 1860. By 1861, it was on display in Baltimore. History buffs will notice that the Civil War started in 1861, so this was an auspicious time to show off a new weapon design. Which, yes, could fire 400 balls per minute.

A steam engine powered a rotary wheel that flung ball ammunition in a closed circle before releasing it at high speeds from a barrel that could pivot within a large metal shield protecting the crew. The entire device was weighty, requiring a large boiler in addition to the barrel, rotary, and shield, and typically had to be moved with horses.

A member of the crew needed to keep feeding balls into the weapon as it tore through rounds. And it wasn’t horribly accurate, so they really needed to keep the balls going. While the weapon is sometimes described as a cannon, it fired .38-caliber rounds, larger than a 7.62mm round but still 24 percent smaller than a .50-cal.

But the worst shortcoming of the weapon was the actual speed of the rounds when they left the barrel. The centrifugal force couldn’t generate nearly the velocity that a chemically propelled or even steam-pressured round enjoyed. In fact, the Mythbusters built one and tested it, and they couldn’t get the rounds to pierce a pig at just a few feet.

Media coverage of the weapon at the time managed to muddle up some details, and the weapon became associated with Ross Winans, a states-right activist and steam expert in Maryland. The public became worried that this was a super weapon and Winans could deliver it to the Confederacy. The weapon even became known as the Winans Gun.

Baltimore police seized the weapon and then returned it to Dickinson who later tried to sell it to the Confederates. Union forces seized the weapon and it served during the war in a number of defensive positions at infrastructure in the North, but it never saw combat.

Machine Gun Powered By Steam – Mythbusters

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Machine Gun Powered By Steam – Mythbusters

While it would be cool to say that the weapon went on to change warfare or inspire new weapons that were wildly successful, the truth is that the invention of the Gatling gun and then proper machine guns made the steam-powered Winans Gun unnecessary.

And while the Winans showed some promise during the Civil War, when its high rate of fire made it seem worth the effort to improve the weapon’s muzzle velocity, other weapon breakthroughs that were incompatible with the Winans relegated it to the dustbin.

The increased prevalence of rifled barrels didn’t work well with centrifugal weapons, and weapon cartridges allowed other weapons to catch up in rate of fire but didn’t benefit centrifugal weapons. And as it became clear that attacking forces needed to become more mobile, a massive weapon requiring a steam boiler was a clear loser.

Steam obviously still has a role in warfare, nearly all nuclear-powered weapons we’ve ever designed used steam to carry the power from the reactor. But steam projectiles have, sadly, disappeared, ruining our plans for the SteamPunk Revolution.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Weekend safety briefs are on the chopping block and it’s about time

Soldiers of the Army, rejoice! It has officially come down from the Secretary of the Army Mark Esper that weekend safety briefs are freakin’ stupid and should be nixed. I’m paraphrasing, obviously — but they have been put on the chopping block.

For everyone not in the know, a safety brief is held after every Friday afternoon formation (or the final formation before an extended weekend), during which the chain of command will lecture the troops on what to do and not to do over the weekend. In short, it’s just one of those boxes to check so the commander can get a warm and fuzzy before they go relax.

The problem is that simply standing in front of adults who’ve dedicated their lives to being warfighters and treating them like kids any time they’re left alone for longer than 24 hours isn’t going to decrease the frequency of legal incidents. There are countless other, more effective ways relaying lessons like, say, buzzed driving is still drunk driving, to troops without simply, bluntly, and repeatedly telling them not to do something.


The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

If you’re the type of person who can’t be dissuaded from driving drunk by being told it’s against the law and it puts the lives of countless others around you at risk, you have no honor and do not deserve to wear the uniform of America’s finest.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Sprunk)

The standard safety brief always covers three things that are very serious topics:

  1. Don’t drive and drive.
  2. Don’t assault your spouse.
  3. Don’t assault your children.

These are three objectively terrible things that are unbecoming of a United States soldier. Anyone who commits any of these crimes rightfully deserves to have the hammer dropped on their pathetic ass. The problem is that three issues are addressed weekly to satisfy a requirement and they’re rarely given the gravity that they deserve.

To be completely fair to the Army, there are still safety stand-down days that do far more than a PowerPoint slide. There’s been no word as to whether those will still stay around, but those days actually give the situations proper attention and troops come away learning why it’s a bad idea to be inebriated and operate a 2-ton piece of steel at top speeds through an area with filled with innocent people.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

​As long as it’s not a theater-sized PowerPoint, it’s fine.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)

There is one positive aspect of a safety brief, however, and that’s when obscure laws are brought to the forefront of peoples’ minds. For example, one of the only individual safety briefs I personally remember (one that stood out from the repeated, standard, “don’t do dumb sh*t” message delivered by a disgruntled infantry first sergeant) was when someone made the blotter (a list of all the troops in legal troubles for an installation) for having an expired fishing license. I was going fishing with some of the guys that weekend and I didn’t even know fishing licenses were a thing (I’m a city boy. Quit judging me). The odd reminders are good things, and there’s a time and place for those even still.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

The ultimate irony is when the senior NCO, who literally screamed at everyone to get a freakin’ taxi, gets arrested for DUI.

(U.S. Army)

In the face of the Army canning safety briefs, some might expect the barracks to turn into some lawless Hellscape running rampant with drunken bastards committing all sorts of felonies. It won’t. Soldiers already know that breaking the law is a bad thing. Any good soldier will continue to stay in line and any sh*tbag soldier would’ve done it anyways — regardless of whether they’ve slept through several weeks of being told not to.

In fact, for many, safety briefs are a lower-echelon commander’s excuse to a higher-echelon commander should anything go wrong. They can turn to their superior and say, “but I told the troops not to do that! My hands are clean!” In reality, I think we all know it never played a role in keeping troops off the blotter.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

A smaller scale safety brief will probably happen, because old habits die hard. Honestly, these might be more effective.

(U.S. Army photo by SFC Lloyd Shellenberger)

The younger troops will be present at each and every safety brief — no exception. Troops of higher ranks will often find some reason to justify an early weekend and skip ’em. Put plainly, not everyone in the unit ever goes to all of them. When was the last time you saw a CW5 endure a safety brief?

And yet, if you take a look at the legal f*ck ups, the ranks of offenders span the gamut. Yes, there are lower enlisted who get locked up by the MPs — Get their asses. They knew it was wrong and did it anyways. Then there’s the senior enlisted who’ve been in for ages and have been present at literally hundreds of safety briefs. I think it’s safe to say that there’s little to no connection between committing a heinous act and the number of times a troop is told not to do such a thing. Simply being told that an obviously terrible something is against the law is not a way to prevent it.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last combat soldier to leave Vietnam was killed in the 9/11 attacks

Max Beilke was in the Army for 20 years already by the time he deployed to Vietnam in 1972. His time there would be much shorter than the many others who did tours in the Vietnam War. His last day in Vietnam was the U.S. military’s last day in Vietnam. What made his last footstep on Vietnamese soil so unique was that it was captured on tape for the world to see.


On March 29, 1973, Master Sgt. Beilke was given a rattan mat before he boarded a C-130 bound for home. The giver of the gift was Bui Tin, a North Vietnamese observer, there to ensure the last hundred troops at Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut Airport left as agreed. Back home, his family watched live as the man they loved, drafted to fight in Korea in 1952, headed for home from the next American war.

His service didn’t stop when he landed back in the United States. Beilke retired from the Army and, in the next phase of his life, he worked to support American veterans. Eventually, he became the deputy chief of the Retirement Services Division, with an office in Virginia. But it was part of his duties that brought him to the Pentagon on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

Max Beilke’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.

Beilke was meeting with Lt. Gen. Timothy Maude and retired Lt. Col. Gary Smith. Just as they were sitting down to begin talking, United Airlines flight 77 hit the outer ring of the Pentagon. The three men never knew what hit them. They were all killed instantly. Traces of their remains could only be found through DNA tests on the disaster site, according to the Beilke family.

Max Beilke was 69 years old. Three months later, his remains were interred at Arlington National Cemetery. The man who had survived the ends of two American wars was one of the first casualties of a new one, the longest one in American history. He left behind a legacy of gentleness and fondness for everyone who met him – including the North Vietnamese colonel sent to ensure he and the other Americans left Vietnam.

According to his biography on the Pentagon’s 9/11 Memorial site, he traveled extensively for his work and ended every presentation with the same Irish blessing,

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rain fall soft upon your fields and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

Marines love video games. It’s no secret that games like Battlefield had an influence on many of us as we decided to sign up in the first place. Slowly, you’ll come realize that life in the military is nothing like video games 99% of the time. But that still leaves that sweet, sweet 1% — which is experienced mostly during the Integrated Training Exercise.

When you’re at ITX, your battalion is put to the test to see if they can operate in combat environments. This is the thing that makes or breaks your unit. It’s what tells the Marine Corps that you’re ready to be sent on cool, important missions during deployment.

There’s a lot at stake when your unit arrives at Camp Wilson, make no mistake about that. It’s also some of the most fun you’ll have while training for a deployment. At times, the experience can feel like you’re in a video game. The types of things you do at ITX are the very reason you joined the infantry in the first place — to shoot guns and blow stuff up. This is Battlefield live.


The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

Even some of the company assault ranges were pretty cool.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

You go on cool missions

Conducing helicopter-supported raids and clearing through a large town populated with both enemies and civilians sound like objectives out of latest Rainbow Six. Sure, not all of the exercises are this cool, but even video games have their dull levels.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

There’s not much to do there, either.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Natalia Cuevas)

Camp Wilson is basically the game lobby

When playing a game online, between matches, you often get sent to a “lobby,” where you wait with other players and get prepared for the next mission. This is essentially the role of Camp Wilson: it’s a place you relax and get ready for the next event.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

You were lucky if you mostly rode in helicopters.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

You use vehicles to attack objectives

This isn’t the case for every mission but, for the most part, you’ll be taken to and from a staging area by vehicle to get as close as possible to your objective before you get out and attack. On the large assaults, you’ll be riding in Amphibious Assault Vehicles.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

The explosions are better in person.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

You finally get to witness air strikes

Twentynine Palms offers a cool training experience for units undergoing ITX evaluation — you get the ability to use and witness air strikes. That’s right: We’re talking planes flying overhead and dropping bombs that you get to watch explode. And you thought calling in an airstrike in Call of Duty felt good?

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

They’re like mortars but, bigger.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo illustration by Sgt. Justin A. Bopp)

You have artillery support

In some games, you can call for artillery support. This probably wasn’t the case during a lot of your pre-deployment training cycles. You definitely get mortars, but watching a 155mm Howitzer drop warheads in the distance is amazing. Just like air strikes, these are even better in person.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

You’ll burn through more ammo than you thought you’d ever touch.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dallas Johnson)

You fire a lot of bullets

Video games give you a lot of ammunition and so will your unit at Twentynine Palms. You’re going to get everything you need for every mission you take on, and you might get more than you know what to do with. Hopefully your trigger finger is prepared for the cramp it’s going to experience.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan special forces free 61 from Taliban captivity

Afghan special forces have freed 61 captives held by the Taliban in an operation in the southern province of Helmand, the military says.

Jawid Saleem, a spokesman for the elite commando units, said the operation was conducted late on Aug. 2, 2018, in the Kajaki district in Helmand, a stronghold of the Taliban.

Saleem said at least two Taliban militants were killed during the rescue mission by Afghan special forces.


The Taliban did not immediately comment on the matter.

The prisoners were transferred to the provincial army headquarters, said Munib Amiri, an army commander.

Those held had been captured for a range of reasons, Saleem said, from cooperating with Afghan security forces to belonging to the local police force.

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

According to Saleem, the prisoners were held in poor conditions, including a lack of proper food and health care. They were also tortured, Saleem added.

Hundreds of prisoners have been freed from Taliban prisons by Afghan security forces in Helmand Province in recent months.

On May 31, 2018, Afghan special forces freed 103 people held at two sites run by the Taliban in Kajaki district.

According to the latest report by the Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, an independent U.S. federal auditor, the militants control nine of 14 districts in Helmand. Half of the population of the province lives in areas under Taliban control.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was Chrysler’s nuclear-powered tank

The Chrysler TV-8 was an ugly duckling that would’ve waddled its way across Cold War battlefields slaying everything in its path until it was killed or ran out of ammo. It was equipped with a nuclear-powered engine that could propel it from Paris to Moscow and back with enough fuel to stop in Odessa, Ukraine, along the way.


Nucelar Powered Tanks – Fallout 4 Real

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So, first, to address the fact that the TV-8 is the ugly elephant in the room. Yes, we know that even Bethesda would look at this design in a Fallout 76 pitch session and be like, “No, not ready for primetime. That’s ridiculous.” But Chrysler wasn’t trying to create and field the world’s most threatening tank in appearance. The company wanted to create one of the most threatening tanks in practice.

To that end, they traded heavily on the obvious strategic advantage of a nuclear tank: virtually unlimited range. Gasoline has a relatively low energy density at 46.4 megajoules per kilogram. Diesel is a little better at 48 MJ/Kg. The low enriched Uranium used in many reactors boasts a whopping 5,184,000 MJ/Kg.

That means that every pound of fuel a nuclear tank carried would provide 108,000 times as much energy as a pound of diesel fuel. A similar design, the R32, was expected to have a 4,000-mile range.

So, yeah, the prototype TV-8 had an extreme range just thanks to the fuel it carried. That greatly limited its logistics needs. Sure, it needed ammo delivered along with water and food for the crew, but that’s it. No fuel trucks. No need for Patton to argue with Bradley about who got first dibs on petrol and diesel.

Chrysler wanted its prototype to survive nuclear bombs, so they packed everything in the teardrop-shaped, bulbous turret. The entire crew, the 90mm gun and its ammunition, and even the engine were up in the massive turret. The engine delivered electrical power to motors in the lightweight chassis underneath, that then propelled the 28-inch-wide tracks.

All of this equipment weighed only a total of 25 tons. For comparison, the M4 Sherman, a medium tank, weighed up to 42 tons, depending on the variant.

But the prototype had some serious drawbacks. First, it was actually powered by gasoline. It would get a nuclear vapor-cycle power plant if the design moved forward. But, more importantly, it was top heavy and provided little tactical improvement over conventional tanks. After all, most tanks aren’t lost in combat because of range problems. They’re killed by other tanks.

Of course, there’s also another serious and obvious drawback to nuclear-powered tanks: The loss of one in combat could easily irradiate the battlefield that the U.S. hoped to hold after the battle. Nuclear ships sunk at sea are surprisingly well contained by the water. Nuclear reactors destroyed on the surface of the earth would have no such protection, threatening recovery and maintenance crews.

So, any battle where a TV-8 was lost would create a large hazard zone for the victorious troops, but the TV-8 didn’t feature many improvements that would make it less likely to be killed in battle. It did feature a closed-circuit television to protect the crew from a nuclear flash, but that did nothing for anti-tank rounds, missiles, and RPGs.

In 1956, an Army review recommended the termination of the program and TV-8 never made it past that first, gas-powered prototype.

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