Tag Archives: 1945

Za Zdarovje!

Happy National Vodka Day!

Official caption: Victory in the West: Royal Engineer Sapper Griffiths of Bootle, Lancaster, celebrating the link-up of British and Russian forces by having a drink with a Russian tankman, somewhere in Germany. Photo was taken by Sgt. Oakes 3 May 1945 IWM BU 5238

Both the Sapper and the Ivan are about the same age, teens turned into men through the forge of war. Note the Soviet’s PPS sub gun and Griffiths (dark blue) beret– narrowly covering a field haircut applied no doubt by one of his mates. Also, Griffiths appears to be wearing a German splittertarnmuster camo jacket, surely recently liberated from its former owner.

In the end, the Soviets withdrew the last of their forces from Germany in 1994. The British, meanwhile drew down British Forces Germany from around 2,800 to 185 this year. At its Cold War peak, the Corps-sized British Army of the Rhine stood ready to defend West Germany from guys that looked a lot like the once-friendly Ivan seen here.

Over the side

75 years ago.

Official caption: “Japanese ammunition being dumped into the sea on September 21, 1945.”

During the U.S. occupation, almost all of the Japanese war industry and existing armament that fell into Allied hands in the Home Islands was dismantled, with the country’s self-defense forces eventually rebuilt a decade later with U.S. military aid.

The detritus of the Empire outside of the Home Islands, on the other hand, was quickly recycled. From Indonesian separatists in Java fighting the Dutch to Viet Mihn scrapping the French soon put surplus Arisakas and Nambus to use. Meanwhile, Americans fighting the Chinese in North Korea in the 1950s often found themselves on the receiving end of Japanese-made ordnance, washed clean of its imperialist origins via the hands of Mao’s eager Red Army.

My Girl, 75 years ago today

A North American P-51 Mustang of the USAAF, nicknamed “My Girl,” takes off from Iwo Jima in the Bonin Islands, 1 June 1945.

LC-USZ62-93535

LC-USZ62-93535

As noted by the WW2 Database, My Girl is a P-51D-20NA of 457th Fighter Squadron in the 20th Air Force’s 506th Fighter Group, which was stationed at Iwo’s North Field at the time, specializing in conducting 1,500-mile round trips escorting B-29s over Japan. That would explain the two large drop tanks.

Of note:

One of the greatest limiting factors of fighter escorts from Iwo was the human factor. The B-29 was heated and pressurized. Compared to the unheated, unpressurized P-51, the bomber crews sat in secure comfort. The punishment on the fighter pilots’ bodies was compounded by the extremely high altitudes they flew to escort the bombers, usually more than 30,000 feet. This was several thousand feet higher than fighter pilots flew in Europe, escorting B-17 and B-24 bombers. The round trip from Iwo to Japan and back was nine hours, spent in a physically battered state.

A slice of the Wehrmacht, heading home

This is just dying for Osprey to make a uniform plate:

National Archives 80-G-353582

Here we see a group of German WWII Prisoners of War arriving at NAS Jacksonville, Florida, on 9 June 1945. The date is important because it is more than a month after VE-Day, the end of the war in Europe. The men are a mix of Heer, Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe non-commissioned officers wearing a variety of tropical (Afrika Korps, anyone?) and continental uniforms. All have U.S. raincoats with “P.W.” stenciled on each arm.

Odds are the group had been in an EPW camp somewhere in the South and are heading back home to a Germany that looks very different from the one they left. For train buffs, note the old Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N) cars in the background.

Also, note the U.S. Army (or more likely Florida Defense Force) personnel including a corporal with a M1917 revolver in a M1911 shoulder holster. Contrast it below with the very sweaty Florida Defense Force personnel at the Jacksonville USO in late 1942, outfitted with a variety of 1903s and M1917 rifles.

Spottswood Studio Collection

Canada’s long-running and unlikely Sherman obsession

Today the Canadian Army rocks some gently used (mainly former Dutch Army) Leopard 2A4+/2A4M/2A6M main battle tanks but their armored tradition goes way back. In the 1930s, the branch trained with early US M1917 tanks and Vickers MKVI light tanks than by 1941 was using MkIV Churchills.

In World War II, Canada actually rolled their own tanks, producing 1420 locally-built Valentines at the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Angus Shop in Montreal. While most of the V’s went to the Soviet Union for use on the Eastern Front, the Montreal Locomotive Works built a modified version of the M3 Lee medium tank as the Ram to equip Canuck units in Northern Africa early in the war.

In 1943, MLW switched from the Lee/Ram to the Sherman (called “Grizzly” in Canadian service), which included British radio gear, a 2-inch smoke mortar mounted on the turret, and a cast hull as opposed to the more common welded-hull version.

The 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade was equipped with Grizzlies in time for the invasion of Sicily in July 1943.

In all, MLW made 188 Canuck Grizzlies while others were acquired from allies.

The novice Canadian Armored Corps in Italy caught hell from both the terrain and German PzKpfw IV’s when 36 Shermans from the Three Rivers Regiment (Tank), CASF (now the 12e Régiment blindé du Canada) took on the brunt of the veteran German 16th Panzer Corps near Termoli in one of the most epic armored engagements of Canadian military history.

 

Tank Crew Italy 1944 with their Sherman M4 Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) plates done for Straths by R. Marriou in the mid-1970s

Canadian Armour (M4 Sherman) Passing Through Ortona, by Dr. Charles Comfort. Canadian War Museum (CN 12245).

The 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division, training in Britain for Operation Overlord, had their Ram tanks swapped out with the new tank just before D-Day.

Maj Gen. Bert Hoffmeister, 36, commander of the Canadian 5th Armoured Division, in front of his M4 Sherman command tank, “Vancouver” May 1944. MIKAN ID number 4233102

They also caught hell in Northwestern Europe.

M4A2(75) Sherman 10th Canadian Armoured Regiment Vaucelles, France June, 1944 Kodachrome LAC

A rare colorchrome of a Sherman V of the Canadian 29th Reconnaissance regiment (The South Alberta Regiment). The Tank was commanded by Major David Currie (VC), and the tank was named ‘Clanky’. This photo was taken in Normandy around Arromanches in July of 1944. Photo via TheShermanTank.com http://www.theshermantank.com/category/allied-use-wwii/

A rare color chrome of a Sherman V of the Canadian 29th Reconnaissance Regiment (The South Alberta Regiment). The Tank was commanded by Major David Currie (VC), and the tank was named ‘Clanky’. This photo was taken in Normandy around Arromanches in July of 1944. Photo via TheShermanTank.com

A pair of burnt out Canadian M4A2 Shermans of the 10th Armored Regiment (The Fort Garry Horse) at the foot of the church at Rots – June 1944

A pair of burnt-out Canadian M4A2 Shermans of the 10th Armored Regiment (The Fort Garry Horse) at the foot of the church at Rots – June 1944

Color photo of a Canadian Sherman Firefly tank in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, 1945, assigned to the Royal Canadian Dragoons (RCD)

Some Grizzlies were converted into the Skink anti-aircraft tank with a turret mounting four 20 mm Polsten guns– a very effective anti-personnel and AAA platform.

"Tank AA, 20 mm Quad," better known as the Skink was Canadian self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, developed in 1943-44 fully enclosed mounting on the chassis of the Grizzly Canadian-built M4A1 Sherman

“Tank AA, 20 mm Quad,” better known as the Skink was a Canadian self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, developed in 1943-44 fully enclosed mounting on the chassis of the Grizzly Canadian-built M4A1 Sherman

Other variants included the Badger flame tank and Kangaroo APC, both made from Sherman hulls.

When Hitler was vanquished, the Canadians left their Grizzlies/Shermans in Europe while in 1946 they picked up 294 “Easy Eight” M4A2(76)W HVSS Shermans cheap– just $1,460 each (Late model Shermans cost $200,000 to make in 1945). They were leftovers from Lend Lease production meant for Uncle Joe in Moscow but by that stage of the 1940s, the U.S. would rather sell them at scrap prices than give them to the Soviets.

The batch of M4A2(76)W’s (M4A3E8’s) were kept in Canada proper for training purposes, even though they were different from the Shermans forward deployed along the Rhine.

When Korea came, the Canadians borrowed 20 Shermans from the U.S. Army and Marines in-country and, after using them in often very heavy combat and tense DMZ patrol from 1951 to November 1954, returned all 20 back to the U.S.

Trooper Andy Parenteau of the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) sleeps on the back of a Canadian Sherman M4A3(76)W HVSS tank, Korea. Note the American ration box and United Nations/Canada crest on the tail

Trooper Andy Parenteau of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) sleeps on the back of a Canadian Sherman M4A3(76)W HVSS tank, Korea. Note the American ration box and United Nations/Canada crest on the tail

1952- Canadian Sherman tanks of ‘B’ Squadron, Lord Strathcona’s Horse, completing a tour of front-line duty in Korea, 16 July. Note name “Catherine” on the lead tank

British forces used Centurions in the conflict– speaking of which…

In 1952, the Canadian Army bought the first of what would be 274 Centurion Mk 3 Tanks and split these MBTs between the active units in Germany (with their Grizzles being passed on to Portugal) and at home, later adding 120 Mk 5’s to the arsenal– while transferring the Easy Eight Shermans to reserve units.

They remained in service until 1978 when Canada replaced their aging Centurions with 127 new German-built Leopard C1 (equivalent to Leopard 1A3 with laser rangefinder) MBTs and, as the buy was limited and 114 were based in West Germany, just a handful were sent home to Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, New Brunswick for training.

The days of large tank lots in Canada had come to an end.

This led to the retirement of the last Canadian reserve force Shermans in the 1970s, one of the last Western countries to do so.

Canadian Easy Eight Shermans in reserve units 1970s

Canadian Easy Eight Shermans in reserve units 1970s out for a Sunday drive

You have to admit, the camo scheme looks good on these tanks...

You have to admit, the camo scheme looks good on these tanks…and they were an instant WWII veterans parade every time they left the armory

After retirement, many Canadian Shermans remained in use well into the 1980s– as targets and gate guards.

The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) is a Primary Reserve armored reconnaissance (recce) regiment of the Canadian Forces that still has a vintage Sherman M4 as a gate guard

Ex-Canadian M4 Sherman used for target practice with anti-tank weapons, 1986

Ex-Canadian M4 Sherman used for target practice with anti-tank weapons, 1986

It should be noted that as late as 1989, the Finning Tank Drill, a rock drill used in logging road construction, was produced in British Columbia from Sherman hulls while BC’s Morpac Industries, Inc., still produces heavy-duty, off-road load crawlers based on Sherman components. It is very likely these civilian mods will be in the wilds of Canada’s western forests for decades to come.

Here is a Finning caught in its natural state:

Today some 60~ intact models are thought to still exist in the country as gate guards and museum pieces and they pop up from time to time in both their Grizzly and later Easy Eight variants for sale at reasonable prices.

The Ontario Regiment (RCAC) Museum in Oshawa, Ontario has a pair of great working Shermans, (“Bart” #78-904 and “Billy #78-856).

Overall, not a bad track record for the often derided Sherman.