Category Archives: Tanks & AFV

Roadblock in Luzon

80 Years Ago today.

At a Roadblock on the Road to Bataan by Don Millsap, via the U.S. Army National Guard’s Heritage Collection

Luzon, Philippine Islands, December 26, 1941 — While the main attention of the beleaguered U.S. forces in the Philippines was focused on Japanese columns streaming inland from the Lingayen Gulf in the west, another enemy force came ashore on the east coast of Luzon at Lamon Bay. Company C 194th Tank Battalion from Salinas, California, was attached to a Filipino Army regiment near the town of Lucban. The 2d Platoon was ordered to make a show of force that would take it down a narrow trail. As the tank, commanded by SSgt Emil C. Morello, rounded a sharp curve it came face-to-face with an enemy roadblock. Without any hesitation, the tank smashed into the roadblock and the Japanese gun behind it.

Before being hit, Morello’s tank fired on other gun positions. After pretending to be dead, Morello and his crew escaped the next morning only to be either killed or captured, along with the other members of the 192d and 194th Tank Battalions, at Bataan.

These two battalions were National Guard units with companies from California, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. For their gallantry in action, both units were awarded three Presidential Unit Citations. Today’s 1st Battalion, 149th Armor, California Army National Guard carries on the gallant traditions of the 194th Tank Battalion.

The U.S. Army Armor & Cavalry Collection has plans to exhibit a restored early U.S. M3 light tank, identified by the sponson-mounted .30 caliber machine guns on each side: 

This type was used by the National Guard tankers of the 192nd and 194th Tank Battalions on Luzon

Alongside a Japanese Type 95 Ha-Go that has belonged to the U.S. Army since it was captured in the Philippines in 1945.
 

The Ha-Go was the most common Japanese tank of World War II. Introduced in 1935, the Ha-Go weighs 7.4 tons and is armed with a 37mm main gun and two 7.7mm machine guns.

‘Lucky Seventh’ Tiger

Original Caption: “German Tiger Tank, after being repaired by men of 129th, Ordnance Batallion, down the street of Gersonsweiler, Germany. Company B, 129th Ordnance [Maintenance] Battalion, Gersonsweiler, Germany.” 

Original Field Number: ETO-HQ-44-29921. Photographer: Private William C. Sanderson (167th Signal Company) 12/15/1944. NARA 111-SC-197752

That mother beautiful King Tiger, as Oddball would say, has been patched up by the maintenance battalion of the 7th Armored “Lucky Seventh” Division, just prior to the Battle of St. Vith, where they were rushed to support the paratroopers and glider troops of the XVIII Airborne Corps as part of the First Army. It would have been curious to know if the Americanized Tiger was used against the Germans there, as Skorzeny and his boys were infamously running around the area with assorted captured Allied and viz-modded German gear with U.S. markings at the same time. 

Formed in California in 1942 out of spare parts from the reorganized 3rd and 5th Armored Divisions, the 7th AD entered combat in Northern France in mid-August 1944, crossing through the Netherlands as part of Market Garden, then through the Ardennes and Rhineland and into Central Europe, ending the war at Grevesmuhlen on 6 May 1945 after traveling 2,260 miles across the continent. Besides the above Tiger, the unit captured an amazing 113,000 Axis POWs.

In 172 days of combat across those eight months, the division suffered 10,502 casualties or 98.4 percent of their authorized strength.

Lucky, indeed.

Loving that 106

Ran across these images from the Chilean Army while researching a piece on the IWI Galil Ace which the Chileans have adopted. Fans of the venerable old M40 106mm recoilless rifle, especially when mounted to a Land Rover, should be overjoyed.

106mm recoilless rifle, Regimiento N°19 Colchagua, exercise Ojos de San Pedro, Oct 2021. In this case, the gun could be used for avalanche control. 

106mm recoilless rifle, Regimiento N°19 Colchagua, exercise Ojos de San Pedro, Oct 2021

106mm recoilless rifle, Batallón de Infantería Motorizado Nº 15 “Calama” exercise Ojos de San Pedro Oct 2021. Likely not avalanche control…

Compañía Antiblindaje “Karut” del Destacamento Motorizado N°14 “Aysén” with M40 106mm recoilless rifle Aug 2021

Same unit and date as above, with the Land Rover, dug in

Now that is a good ambush position that American anti-armor teams of the 1950s and 60s will easily recognize.

While the M40– first fielded just after Korea cooled down in 1955– was in production at Watervliet Arsenal for the U.S. and her allies until 1970 when the TOW system was standardized, licensed copies were made by Lohner in Austria, Kia in South Korea, and SBS in Spain since then (along with unlicensed copies made in China, India, Iran, and Pakistan). Still, with a 1,500-yard maximum effective range and the ability to penetrate 700 mm of armor with advanced HEAT rounds, it has proved popular as a sort of low-tech mobile artillery as it can be carried by any vehicle capable of toting 500 pounds on a rear platform without squatting. 

On a further side note, Chile also fields 48 more capable M109 155mm SPGs (to accompany their 270 German/Dutch surplus Leopard tanks and 800 Marder/M113 APCs) while towed artillery includes three dozen Israeli 155mm Soltams and about 75 Vietnam-era M101 105mm howitzers. Further, Chile, which fields four serious battalions of Andean mountain infantry, is one of the few countries that uses the very cute OTO Melera M56 105mm pack gun (largely because neighboring Peru and Argentina have the same guns for their respective mountain men).

105mm OTO mountain gun pack howitzer, La Batería de Artillería de Montaña N°2 Maturana, Oct 2021.

Dig that snow camo

Happy 157th QAMR!

Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles, the oldest regular force unit in the New Zealand Army, turned 157 this month.

Formed 16 September 1864 as the Alexandra Troop of the Wanganui Cavalry Volunteers, the unit’s motto is Ake Ake Kia Kaha (Forever and Ever Be Strong). First deploying overseas in the Boer Wars, they continued to be very active in both World Wars as well as in recent years. 

Hard-riding New Zealand horse soldiers guard German prisoners of war captured in Palestine near Jericho in 1918.

As noted by the Army, “QAMR has a proud tradition of Operational service from South Africa, Egypt, Greece, Crete, North Africa, Italy and, more recently, in Bosnia and Afghanistan.”

These days, they ride iron horses as they have since 1942, today forming a squadron of NZLAVs, the Kiwi version of the LAV III 6×6.

Hyundai’s 120mm Laser

OK, well maybe not a laser but it sure looks like one! The Republic of Korea Army last week released several images of one of their K1A2 main battle tanks firing its 120mm KM256 smoothbore gun at a firing range.

Designed from Chrysler’s XM1– which later roughly became the M1 Abrams– the Hyundai K1 88-Tank is a beast that was intended to augment, then replace the ROKA’s obsolete M47 and M48 tanks in the 1980s and stand ready to eat North Korean T-62s (usually locally-made Chonma-ho knock-offs) for breakfast. It is perhaps most notably different from the Abrams line in the respect that most of the electronics are domestic (largely Samsung-made) and it uses an efficient German MTU 871 diesel powerpack similar to that used by the Leclerc, Challenger 2, and Leopard 2 MBTs rather than the M1’s thirsty gas turbine.

Updated with the license-built K256 120mm gun, the electronics and commo fit from the K2 Black Panther, and a redesigned armor scheme after 2012, the K1A2 is one of the most advanced and capable MBTs in the world– and they can still eat Nork T-62s, still Pyongyang’s most numerous front-line tank, for breakfast.

105mm Echos in the Russian Kurils

In the windswept and remote northern portion of Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk, currently-Russian owned Paramushir (AKA Paramushiro or Paramushiru) was part of the Japanese Empire from 1875 through 1945. During WWII, the local garrison, formed around the Imperial Japanese Army’s 91st Infantry “Future” Division (with six infantry and two artillery battalions), crisscrossing the island with a maze of coastal artillery positions and fortified bunkers, ready to pull an Iwo Jima on invading American (or Soviet) landing forces. Following the American liberation of the Aleutians in 1943, regular bomber air raids stitched up the island.

When the Russkies arrived in force on 18 August 1945, although the surrender of Imperial Japan was announced by Hirohito three days prior, both sides still wanted to fight for the frozen Kurils, and for two weeks, Soviet troops carried out the final opposed landing operation of the war.

Soviet-era painting depicts the landing of Soviet forces on Kurils, where two inexperienced Russian Naval Infantry divisions learned the same bloody lessons the U.S. Marines had already paid for on Tarawa

In the end, the Russians suffered some 1,500 casualties taking Paramushir and nearby Shumshu– which saw the last Japanese tank combat in history.

Soviet anti-tank teams on Shumshu island during the Kuril landing operation. August 1945. While the Degtyaryov PTRD-41 (shown) and Simonov PTRS-41 14.5x114mm anti-tank rifles were hopelessly obsolete by 1942 on the Eastern Front, they could still penetrate 30mm of steel armor at 500 meters, which was more than enough for Japanese Type 97 Chi-Ha/Shinimoto and Type 95 Ha-Go tanks arrayed against them in the Kuriles which boasted 25mm and 12mm, respectively, at their toughest parts.

Today, Paramushir is home to a small Russian settlement (the Japanese locals were deported to Siberia in 1947) and the parts that are not current military bases are often visited by historians of all stripes to poke around and look for WWII sites and objects. One such expedition recently photographed a fairly well-preserved Japanese Type 92 10 cm (105x737R) howitzer still buried in its hillside position.

The long-barreled Type 92 was well-known to U.S. troops, having been the bane of American positions at Corregidor and Henderson Field. The Soviets, meanwhile, had experienced the gun in 1939 at Khalkhin Gol where some guns fired so many shells in such a short period that they reportedly glowed red

Pistol Pete was a type 92 10cm field gun used by IJA at Guadalcanal.

Paging Robert German, Mr. German…

The National Training Center at Fort Irwin, in conjunction with the National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois, Wyoming, is trying to make contact with a former track crewman, for historical purposes:

Mr. Robert German, the National Museum of Military Vehicles found your Dog Tags in the M551 Sheridan you drove at the National Training Center. It looks as if you may have been on the Dragon Team, Operations Group, National Training Center The museum curator would like to speak with you and reunite you with your items. Please contact us!

The Sheridan, as we have discussed in previous posts, the much-maligned but very niche M551 Sheridan light tank err, “Airborne Assault Vehicle” entered service in 1967. The 15-ton tracked vehicle could be penetrated by 12.7mm (.50 cal) gunfire, but in theory, could zap an enemy T-34/55 with its innovative M81E1 Rifled 152 mm Gun/ Shillelagh missile launcher. It provided a lot more punch than a jeep with a recoilless rifle, in other words. 

XM551 Sheridan prototype, October 1963 (Rock Island Arsenal Museum) 

Sheridan being LAPES’d out of the back of a C-130

The 82nd Airborne’s 3rd Battalion, 73rd Armor could air-deliver 50~ Sheridans anywhere in the world in 24 hours(ish)– provided they had enough lead time!– and did so in Panama in 1989 and Desert Storm in 1990.

Meant to be replaced in airborne service with the XM8 Buford Armored Gun System, which never got off the ground (see what I did there?) the 82nd retired their aging Sheridans in 1997 but the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the NTC kept a few around for use as viz-modded OPFOR vehicles until 2004.

“M551 Sheridan light tanks cross the desert during an Opposing Forces exercise at the National Training Center. The tanks have visual modifications designed to make it resemble Soviet armor.” (NARA 170912-A-VT981-0001)

The Fog of War, from inside an AFV

Black beret-clad tankers of the 2nd/8th Australian Armoured Regiment cleaning the collective guns of an American-made M3 Grant medium tank dubbed the “Aristocrat.” While the Russians were not impressed with Lend-Lease M3s, the British liked them well enough for use in North Africa

“The 75mm main gun is firing. The 37mm secondary gun is firing, but it’s traversed round the wrong way. The Browning is jammed. I am saying, “Driver advance!” on the A set, but the driver – who can’t hear me – is reversing. And as I look over the top of the turret and see 12 enemy tanks 50 yards away– someone hands me a cheese sandwich.” –LT Ken Giles, a British M3 Grant tank platoon commander in North Africa, during the Second Battle of El Alamein.