Re: [G104] Re: Thin belly armour
- How does one go about in finding morning reports? My father was killed April
1st, 1945 while assigned to Co A of the 35th Tank Bn. He was killed at
Crezberg (not sure of the spelling) , I have no clue on where to look, all I
have been given is that the records were burnt at St. Louis fire, of
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, November 06, 2001 3:13 PM
Subject: Re: [G104] Re: Thin belly armour
> Bob and Ken,
> I have just located the daily company reports for the 70th Tank Bn in
> Maryland. Since I live a short distance away in New Jersey I plan on
> ride down and making copies.
> Hopefully they will have enough detail in them or names of crew members
> I may be able to locate to get the real story on what happened that day.
> Thanks for all your ideas and your imput. I'll keep you posted as to what
> find out.
> As far as schrapnel wounds, I would assume that his body was in some state
> advanced decomposition since the autopsey was down two years following his
> death as they prepared him for the trip home. Open wounds may not have
> evident at that time, although metal fragments should have been.
> Thanks again,
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While assigned to the Center for Army Lessons Learned, I was tasked
with conducting a research project that incorporated "wounds suffered by AFV
crewmen in upper mid-intensity conflict". (In English, that means large tank
on tank battles without nukes.)
I had access to Ft Leavenworth's extensive record library, as well as
support from the US Army Medical Corps records. Information was incorporated
from US and British WW2 studies, what Soviet records were available from the
Kursk battles, and the Middle East wars. Third Infantry Division was,
thankfully, almost anal retentive in their casualty reporting and statistical
breakdown of wounds and causes during the Italian Campaign.
Basic findings were that injuries varied depending on crew position.
For instance, Tank Commanders suffered severely from shrapnel wounds
which accounted for more casualties than any other source, including snipers.
This was accounted for by the almost universal trend for TC's to fight their
vehicles with the hatches open.
Ironically TC's were also the ones anecdotally (Not enough hard
information to quantify) most often blown out of the hatch without major
injury. This was due to the fact that they were the ones who most often had
their hatches open. The hatches are fairly large and more often than not the
TC was already partially out of them. The explosion therefore catapulted
them out and after which it was shear luck that they didn't get crushed or
their necks broke from the fall.
Driver's and BOG's because of their body placement (bent and deeper in
the tank) did not have so clean an exit, even if the hatch was open and are
less often reported to have "miraculous" escapes.
Driver's (and BOG's on the tanks that had them) had a slight majority
of wounds resulting from the concussion caused by mines. Even if the mine
did not penetrate, if the SM's feet were in direct contact with the floor the
force of the concussion was often enough to break the foot and drive the leg
bones up, causing them to fracture.
This was one factor that led to the development of the post war
"Tanker's Boot" which incorporated straps instead of laces. The straps
allowed easier removal with less pain to the crewman, along with quicker
escape if the boot was trapped.
Gunner's were the least likely to survive a hit by an another tank or
AT weapon. Burns were listed as the leading cause of death/casualties for
Loaders shared this fate until the advent of the loaders hatch,
whereupon shrapnel became their primary nemesis.
Crude figuring for the loser in a tank on tank engagement (four man
crew) is one killed outright, one heavily or mortally wounded, one lightly
wounded and one "Returned to Duty".
Broken bones were a common phenomenon simply from being slammed
against the armor...or the armor being slammed against them. A mine
explosion or close artillery strike could lift the tank up and slam it down,
without turning it over.
The driver and BOG do not have a lot of room, so the effect is like
shaking an object in a can...it gets hit top and bottom and side to side.
A Sherman BOG, riding with the hatch open, and only their head
exposed in the very narrow hatch opening, could very well have had his legs
and his collar bone broken at the same time, along with mortal internal
As I have experienced first hand, in less eventful circumstances,
flesh and bone give way long before rolled homogeneous steel does.
Hope this helps,
Thanks, that explaination seems to be more lodgical as to how my uncle fatal
wounds were incurred. It would make sense that they had the hatches open so
that they could more easily see what was on the other side of the hedgerow as
they passed through. I don't imagine the periscopes where that helpful under
Can't argue with that. Close encounters and open crew hatches are never
a good mix.
From Ken's description of the location and time period, his uncle was
most likely in an earlier model remanufactured M4 with the narrow hatches
that folded flat, allowing the gun a clear traverse (assuming the Driver and
BOG got enough warning to duck).
Also, from what I've read about the Bocage fight, the tactics were
dependent upon immediate location of the German ambush teams as the tanks
broke through the hedgerows. One of the methods developed was to have the
driver check the left front quadrant, the BOG check the right front quadrant
and the TC covering the front 180. In order to do this quickly, the crew had
to expose themselves as the periscopes were pointing at the sky or the ground
during the critical period before the tank plopped back onto flat terrain.
Ideally, multiple tanks would bull through at the same time, with
sufficient gun tubes to cover right, left and front; but eyes were still
critical to get the gunner on target.
- Bob, Ken, Mike and
all that have had imput on what could have caused my uncles injuries. After
reading Mike's report on tank crew injuries I decided to go back through all
the papers and records that I have accumlated since I started this research.
Lo and behold I found in the quartermasters report (who was in charge of
handling the deceased) one short line, "direct shell hit".
Now if I take Mike's report and apply it to a direct hit on my uncle's tank
plus the fact that perhaps the hatch was open this could explain the type of
injuries he suffered.
Since the day he was KIA was the first dad out of St. Lo after three days of
rest and the Germans in the area had reportedly retreated following the
intense three days of heavy bombing by the allies and Patten had roared
through the break in the German lines that the 4th Infantry and the 70th Tank
Bn had been instrumental in opening.
Just maybe they were riding with the hatch open not expecting to run into too
much resistance. I know the one surviving tank commander told me he was
riding with his hatch open when his tank was hit that day.
According to the information I have, the 4th and the 70th were headed for
Mortain via Villiedu to support another infantry unit that had bogged down in
I'll keep digging and perhaps we will all be educated a little more when I
get the daily reports.
Thanks to all,
In talking with the surviving tank commander, he remembered that a "dozer
tank" was next to his tank as they were going through the hedgerow, thus the
multiple tank theory may very well apply.
Also in reading the book, "Strike Swiftly", written about the 70th by a
member of "B" Co., he talks about how on one occasion before my uncle's
death, several Shermans had crossed a hedgerow into an open field that was
occupied by a German Tiger Tank. I believe that the Tiger (without digging
out the book) hit two or three of the Shermans before they could get back
through the hedgerow. Here again the mulitple tank theory applies.
Another incident talks about a similiar incident with a field being covered
by a pair of German tanks set up on opposite corners of a field as multiple
Shermans entered it, again the Shermans caught hell before some other tanks
got behing the German tanks and took them out from the rear. I believe he
mentions the 75mm rounds bouncing off the German tanks.
I also know that the 70th did not recieve the upgraded Shermans with the 76mm
guns until late in August of 44. the 70th was the first Tank Bn. to recieve
- Mike, and all..
A couple of quick comments....
The open hatch in a 'shooting area' was a definite no-no in my own
experience. Whenever we came into contact with the Japanese, there was always
the very real possibility that we'd be swarmed, and satchel charges thrown
under, alongside of, and inside any openings they could find. Those tactics
included but were not limited to the aforementioned satchel charges, small
mines, grenades, rifles and pistols, and even on one occasion an officer
hacking away at a .30 mg with his sword. On another occasion, an enemy
soldier had a satchel charge so heavy he couldn't lift it (no kidding). We
were alongside a small ridge, and he was trying to drag the explosive over
and drop it on top of us! To make that one even more interesting, my tank had
been knocked out a few minutes before, and I had gotten a lift in this
tank...sitting on the turret floor staring at the breech end of the 75 mm.
Having my tank knocked out and having to run through some small arms fire was
enough for me...for the day. But, then, thinking I was safe and to have the
TC yell out about this guy with the satchel charge...well, need I say more
I believe I've learned more about the Sherman by being on this list than I
ever knew before. When we received out new M4A1's, there was no tech manual,
no nothing. It was equipped with everything needed (except ammo and the
manuals). We sort of learned as we went along.
Oh, yes...we did have a brand new 2nd. Lieutenant killed in his first day
in action. He was a TC, and had his hatch open. We were a bit behind our
"lines," and it seemed a fairly safe situation (if there is such a thing in
combat). A mortar round landed close enough to inflict fatal wounds. So, you
Thank you, again, for such a fine, in depth report.
Bob & Linda May
Eight Dollar Mountain,