Sep 17, 2016

Saturday: Tanks at 100. And falling off one.

Inside the British Tank Museum
Thursday was something of a 100th birthday for the tank.

From the linked BBC report about the first tanks used in battle, during WWI:

David Willey, curator at the Tank Museum, said: "The tanks had limited success on that first day in military terms, however their success in terms of psychology shouldn't be underestimated.
"The German troops were terrified of these machines and for the British, the tanks were a huge morale boost.
"This was a British invention, designed to save soldiers' lives, and it gave people hope, both on the front line and back at home."

Can you tell I was not a combat regular?
     My own experience with tanks was blessedly brief. It happened in Vietnam, sometime during the first half of 1970. I was am Army writer for the 5th brigade newspaper in QuangTri. 
     My assignment: travel with a tank unit going on patrol to the north. Quang Tri itself was only a short ten miles or so from the DMZ, i.e. from North Vietnam, so heading north was decidedly toward the enemy.

Wikipedia photo. My memory has the tank looking like this.
     Amazingly, though I am sure I had a camera with me, I have no photos of the journey.  I'll look for the article I wrote, but after 45 years...
     The commander of the unit told me to stick with him...on top of the third tank in the line. That was intentional. The first tank was most likely to hit a mine.
     But a short time later a mine went off underneath unlucky tank number 3. The North Vietnamese had apparently attached a timer to the mine so it would go off after the first tank passed.
     I fell off, but was uninjured. The soldiers inside were as much injured by the noise and the shock, which basically knocked the tread off. 
     We slept on the ground next to the tanks, circled like the wagons of old, that night, and as I recall I slept well. I had just turned 20, and was too young to be as scared as I should have been.
     Not too long after that, I heard there was a news anchor opening at the
The AFVN Compound, Quang Tri, Vietnam
AFVN Television Station in Quang Tri and I was granted a transfer, primarily because broadcast was my primary MOS.

     The guts of the TV Station were in a white trailer. The building to the left was a "studio", if you can it that. It was crude, but we were after all in combat zone.
     I never went out on another tank, but the close call remains with me today.
     Happy Birthday, weapon of war.

 Also: there is an American Tank Museum in Virginia.
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