|T A N K S||C A R R I E R S||G U N S||A R M O U R E D C A R S|
This is a copy of an email between Rory and Eric comparing American and English AFVs. Nothing is in any order as it is just a rambling conversation, but I found it interesting. It started because of a comment one of them made about tanks being freezing cold in winter and boiling hot in summer.
We never had much of a heat problem in Sheridans, M-60s or M-113/M-577s. I was a little surprised about the M-113/M-577 because the engine compartment is right beside the driver, but the insulation must have been pretty good. The M-60s and M-551s had the engine in the rear and enough heat would be transferred to the hull to keep it 10 to 15 degrees (F) above ambient. The back deck of the M-60 would get quite warm, though, because the cooling towers blew the air from between the air-cooled engine cylinders upwards which helped to blow the exhaust gases out the grill doors. (The exhaust outlets, with their flapper valves, extended through an aluminum and asbestos shield above the transmission and were at least a few feet inside the grill doors.)
Oddly enough, the air intakes for the M-60 engine were actually mounted to the hull panel just behind the turret and accessible from it. In the summer we would 'flip' them so that they drew air from the turret. In the winter we flipped them the other way so tye drew air from the engine compartment. I'm not sure whether this was the way it was supposed to be or if it was just a matter of comfort for us. Drawing air through the turret at least gave us a breeze which we would not have appreciated in the winter, especially if the personnel heater wasn't working, shich was the normal state of affairs.
The Centurion heater was a small flap at the rear of the turret that supposedley drew heat from the aux gennie (as far as I remember) It didnt save me from frostbitten feet in the winter of 1969/70. The Centurion had no padding so it was all bare metal.
432s where quite warm, Ferrets warmed up if you closed the drivers hatch. Scorpions where warm, I didnt crew cheiftains but my mates told me the drivers sometimes drove in sleeping bags.
(Doug - doubtless that would explain a few accidents........ frozen driver incapable of using what little was left of his reactions due to getting sleeping bag caught in controls.........)
I was driving my command 432 and the OC wanted to have a briefing under NBC conditions so I foolishy suggested that we lock it all down and get the filtration system going. Trouble was someone (officer I guess) didnt think we could take our respirators off just cos we had the NBC overpressure going. Well it was getting hot in there then I woke up outside the vehicle - no idea to this day what happened I just blacked out, my money is on overheating but who knows, I was fine right after.
NBC was not a bit nice but I think we where better equipped than the US Army we had the Charcol impregnated paper suits.
Reminds of a story we where in Sennlager doing an assault course called Salamanca - all loose sand really hard, anyway we our Sqn finished it and we where lying around waiting for the dots to stops dancing before our eyes and then we saw the next Sqn putting their gasmasks on and getting ready to do it !!!
It was actually a lot worse than that before SWA. If we were suited up (kind of unusual) and the NBC monitoring team managed to catch the first whiffs, the pessimists estimated that we would live 6 seconds after a nerve gas strike, and our deaths would not be pretty.
I thought about that more than once, and decided that, with my training, I had a better chance of doing some damage in that 6 seconds than most other people would, so I stayed.
I was close to a lot of people that came back from SWA and it appears that the recommended antidote has caused a LOT of problems. This is somewhat similar to the Pacific campaign where the troops didn't want to take the malaria medicine (names escapes me at the moment, could it have been Atabrine?) I have a feeling that the legal ramifications of forcing our troops to take the pills that they took in order to avoid a situation that didn't happen, will last a lot longer than the Agent Orange debates.
We had some gubbins for sniffing the air and some kind of patches that changed colour , and they said we would get pens for injecting outselves with Atropine to counteract nerve gas, unfortunately you had to inject yourself asap and if it wasnt a nerve gas attack you gave yourself atropine poisoning, still as we used to say - if you cant take a joke you shouldnt have joined.
I dont think anyone thought NBC protection was adequate but it never would be in the field.
I dont think anyone should think that Ministrys of Defence are like armys - MODs and staff planners play percentage games I reckon, i.e. as long as the greater percentage of troops will be ok for as long as required then its worth the risk (the risk they would not take themselves).
We went through NBC training evolutions periodically. Some times the results were pretty funny. I was assigned to give a class in mine warfare during a field training exercise once. I spent a lot of time prepping because the Secretary of Defense was supposed to be there for the class. Shortly before the class was to start someone checked the training schedule and found out that we were scheduled to be in full NBC gear during that period of time. Shortly after the class began I became convinced that the few people who could hear me at all through my gas mask probably couldn't understand a word I said. (I was wearing a 'tanker's' mask that didn't have a voicemitter.) To test my theory I started replacing words with "mmmph mmmph" at irregular intervals. Since I didn't get any strange looks I was finally 'mmmphing' full time by the end of the class. My platoon sergeant told me later that the class had been one of the best on the subject that he had seen.
We also had one engagement during gunnery qualification that was supposed to be fired with the entire crew wearing protective masks. I made sure that my crew only cheated slightly by having the masks out of the bag before the command was given. There were a lot of TCs, though, who either didn't require their crews to mask or didn't even mask themselves. After the command was given the tank had to be buttoned up anyway so no one could see them. The trick was that you don't sound the same over the radio with a mask on. Tanker's masks had a connection for the CVC helmet boom microphone but the microphone inside the mask wasn't nearly as good as the normal one. The clever TCs would adjust by holding their noses and deliberately distorting their speech during the necessary conversations with the graders and the tower. We had one sergeant that was not quite the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he was a very hard worker, etc. When he was given the command to mask, he only forgot one thing. The graders were very nice about it. They called him and said, "If you are going to do that, you are supposed to get down inside the turret first." Since he was standing head and shoulders out of the turret, holding his nose, it was obvious that this embarrassed him. They did pretty well on the engagement, though.
I didn't get to see the final results of the changes in our NBC policy after the Gulf War, but I understand that they were major. We were using the carbon impregnated suits before that and they were uncomfortable no matter what the weather was like. The rubber boots were of the 'one size fits all' variety with adjustment for boot size made using laces that went from toe flaps to side flaps to heel flaps and the were tied around the ankle. I guess the theory was that they were disposable, so why bother to make them comfortable. We hardly ever broke out a new suit or new set of booties unless someone's gear had a catastrophic failure and the equipment we used was marked 'For Training Purposes Only'. In theory, everyone was supposed to be able to change their own mask filters but the filters in the M-17 mask were almost impossible for most people to change. The filter for the tanker's mask was a cannister on a hose with straps to mount it either in the middle of the chest or between the shoulders, and was very easy to change. Before I got out I heard that we were going to change over to Israeli style masks and British suits.
The American military doesn't go in for padding very much. Even the seats in military transport aircraft were just nylon slings on aluminum frames and without seat belts. In M-60s there was a thin rubber pad on the inside of my hatch and one of my two seats was padded. The gunner and loader had padded seats as well. The driver's seat had a padded back. M-113s had padded backs on the passenger benches but the seats were still nylon over aluminum. The LVTP-7s were a little better because, although the seats were basically the same as in an M-113, if we were going anywhere near water we were required to wear thos bulky old orange kapok life jackets and they provided some very necessary padding because the average LVTP-7 driver had very little concern for the welfare of his passengers. The AMTRAC units were independent with no infantry assigend to them so the passengers were usually strangers and not likely to be able to find a particular driver, lock him in a wall-locker, and throw him out a second floor window, which is a pretty good description of what the ride was like for us.
Padding wasn't a big issue I guess we just got in and did it.
Some of the earlier vehicles where a bit short of it but later one where Ok by army standards.
I think we got seat belts probably cos its cheaper to fit them than train replacements.
Did you ever get those back seat driver arguements going in your units - I have seen more than one commander & driver fall out.. it usually starts with the driver slamming the brakes on and getting out for a chat with the commander that begins "whose driving this effing thing me or you" then goes rapidly downhill.
I dont remember being very hot in the normal type of Saracen but mostly dove the reverse cooled type or drove in cooler weather I guess. We certainly always drove with the hatches open in BAOR.
What was hot was a Scorpion gunners position, if you look at pics you will see the exhaust runs down that side.
We didn't have aux generators when I was in, although I heard that they were coming back. Our personnel heater was a large cylindrical green object of the space heater type. If it worked it could warm the entire hull of an M-60 in about an hour. We could always tell whose heater was working during the winter because their tank didn't have any snow on it. Unfortunately, this led to overcrowding situations. I remember one exercise where only two of the personnel heaters in the platoon worked. My platoon sergeant ended up with 10 people sleeping in his tank on the last night of the exercise. We had to be very careful about the exhaust pipe connection to the heaters because a number of people died of carbon monoxide poisoning over there over the years. Most of the heaters 'lit off' very hard and they would some times blow the exhaust pipe connection apart.
Driver's did suffer during the long road marches in winter. They were not allowed to button up and had no windscreen. With the gun in travel lock the bottom of the turret bustle acted as a scoop to force cold air down through the hatch. I switched off with my drivers every chance I got to give them a break and minutes seemed like hours when it was really cold. I got frost nibble on my face over there, and I think it was about 3 years before I had a full set of toenails again, but most of us wore 'tanker boots' which had straps instead of laces and usually a leather sole with a Vibram sole one the bottom. I went through tank training at Fort Knox in the winter and remember that I could feel that heat being drawn out of my feet when they were in contact with 56 tons of cold steel.
I only had two real disputes with drivers. A long running one at Fort Hood with the driver who refused to get close to trees, and the one in Germany where the driver got too close to a tree.
For most of the time I was in M-60s I had the same driver and we got along just fine. 'Fast Fred' was my Sheridan driver most of the time and, althugh he was a terrible driver, it didn't do me a bit of good to give him suggestions or orders. He pretty much went where he wanted to. I often wondered if he had ever figured out how to connect his helmet to the intercom. Fortunately, we didn't take the Sheridans to the field very often. Rory
My thanks yet again to Rory and Eric.
BACK TO INDEX