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OT: What the life like to be a Tanker?


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As a civilian who has never been in any kind of services,I always wonder why the life of a Tanker is, especially when it at war.

Can anyone point a good source(s) on this one? WW2 experiences preferred.

TIA

Griffin.

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"When you find your PBEM opportents too hard to beat, there is always the AI."

"Can't get enough Tank?"

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Blazing Chariots by Bob Crisp - Brit tank commander (Stuart Honeys) in the desert

Flamethrower by Andrew Wilson - Churchill Crocodile commander in NW Europe

Both very good reading.

South Albertas at War by Donald Graves is a regimental history of the SAR (4th Canadian Armoured Division) but has some great photos, and excellent appendices. The history itself is loaded with personal stories and anecdotes, but it is hardcover only and more expensive than the other two. I found Blazing Chariots and Flamethrower in my junior high school library, so you might find them in a public library where you live, or a used book store. I think Bantam published them both.

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This isn't from WWII and it's not a war story... but a buddy of mine who was an M-60 amd M1 TC answered that question for me once:

"Why walk when you can ride?"

FOr him, it was as easy as that... Well, that and he didn't think it was safe running around outside with hot metal flying around.

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Originally posted by Compassion:

This isn't from WWII and it's not a war story... but a buddy of mine who was an M-60 amd M1 TC answered that question for me once:

"Why walk when you can ride?"

FOr him, it was as easy as that... Well, that and he didn't think it was safe running around outside with hot metal flying around.

I went to an Italian Campaign veteran's reunion last September. All the infantry vets said they felt sorry for the tank crews, and said they would never have wanted to be locked up in those "goddamn tin cans."

A Three Rivers Regiment Sherman driver told me "I used to watch through my periscope as the infantry we were supporting got machine gunned. That wasn't for me."

Brave men all.

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Thanks for all the replies so fast.

I was asking about daily lives of tankers. When I play combat flight-sim, especailly the engaging Falcon 3 & 4, a daily "life" is :

You station in a base. You get "called" for a mission, you are assigned, briefed, and climbed into the cockpit. Wait for your turn to take off, pay 30 minutes for boredom, 30 seconds of blood n' sweat, another 30 minutes of boredom back home. Wait for your turn to get landed, get debriefed. Heard one of your "virtual" buddy got blown from sky, or the war is fairing well for the good guys. Time to get some rest and food, and then get another assignment. Repeats on and on... until it is your turn to be listed on the MIA list or you get transferred. Well, being kicked back to Windows Desktop is not out of the question. wink.gif

But I don't think tanker lives a life like that.

Griffin.

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"When you find your PBEM opportents too hard to beat, there is always the AI."

"Can't get enough Tank?"

[This message has been edited by GriffinCheng+ (edited 02-01-2001).]

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There's no real safe place in war. In WWII documentaries/interviews you hear all sorts of interesting views. You've already read of the infantry/tanker viewpoints. Saw an interview with a WWII era US Navy sailor and a US Marine. The Marines dreaded riding on the Battleships since they viewed it as a huge bomb magnet next to the carriers. The Japanese would mercilessly try to attack such ships, esp. carriers. The sailor served on a battleship since 1943 and felt sorry for the Marines who had to wade/swim to shore/disembark from the landing craft and go through hell. Then there's the jungles and expected fight to the death with Japanese Marines. That wasn't the way to go the sailor thought.

Hell, even as an aviator there's too many ways to die. U.S. bomber crews in WWII Europe suffered just as much casualties as the U.S. Marine Corps in the war. Pretty high enough.

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"Uncommon valor was a common virtue"-Adm.Chester Nimitz of the Marines on Iwo Jima

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I was a mechanized infantryman,and I can tell this much. It's loud and you get pounded alot as the track bounces along. Then whenyou stop someplace you spend hours doing maintainance on the vehicle that just beat you up.

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Nicht Schiessen!!

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Originally posted by Splinty:

I was a mechanized infantryman,and I can tell this much. It's loud and you get pounded alot as the track bounces along. Then whenyou stop someplace you spend hours doing maintainance on the vehicle that just beat you up.

Exactly. While I was a modern tanker, everything I've read suggests that the "lifestyle" of a tanker in the field was quite similar in WWII. Every spare moment (IE when you're not on the move) is spent caring for your mount. There's always something broken to fix on a tank, or at least maintain so that it doesn't break at a critical moment. Tankers are true craftsmen when it comes to sledge hammers wink.gif

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If you're interested in hearing added perspectives from modern-day tankers, Griffin, you might want to check over at the Steel Beasts forum at www.shrapnelgames.com . I think a few of them would be willing to relate their personal experiences with tank operation, as they had done so on earlier occasions.

Granted, you expressed a preference for WW2 tanker experiences, but there are some things that don't change in time with a tank crewman's duties & burdens.

[This message has been edited by Spook (edited 02-01-2001).]

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Ed, thanks for the link. For some unknown reasons, probably CMBO is partly to be blamed, I never get my hands on Steel Beasts and Panzer Elite, even though I enjoy M1TP2 very much.

I am gonna take a look over there.

And thanks for every of you.

Griffin.

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"When you find your PBEM opportents too hard to beat, there is always the AI."

"Can't get enough Tank?"

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Guest machineman

You might find this interesting:

http://www.rdwarf.com/kioh/afaq/m48a5.html

Quote:

"Without a doubt the most cramped and claustrophobic position was that of the gunner. Placed in the right forward

position of the turret, this was the only crewman without ready access to the outside. In addition the seat was surrounded by

the many items of equipment needed to sight and fire the gun. In my case, (I'm 6'4") when in this position, my left leg was

squeezed between the main gun and the turret hydraulic cylinder; my right between the cylinder and fire control computer; the

back of my helmet in contact with the range finder; and my face within a couple of inches of the sights. The turret power

controls projected between the legs. If not properly sealed, the filling cap for the hydraulic cylinder could pop off, spraying

scalding hot hydraulic fluid inside the turret. Most gunners learned to check this seal religiously. During live fire the gunner had to press his face hard against the sight or the recoil could knock him senseless. While firing, the turret interior filled with smoke and dust. The noise was incredible, with the radio chatter in the earphones, the crashing of the gun, and the

clanging of the ejected shell cases hitting the back of the turret wall and floor combining with the roar of the engine and

clatter of the tracks when moving."

[This message has been edited by machineman (edited 02-01-2001).]

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Well, at least the .50 cals aren't as heavy for tankers as they are for infantry...

"Why carry your weapon when your weapon can carry you?"

NTM

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The difference between infantrymen and cavalrymen is that cavalrymen get to die faster, for we ride into battle!

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Guest Mikey D

I seem to recall in winter '44-45 cases of frostbit were much higher among armor crew than infantry. Basically, you're living in a big metal refridgerator and don't even have the option to stamp your feet to keep the blood circulating.

and let's not forget summer heat! In Vietnam a U.S. tanker could usually be spotted in a group of G.I.s becasue he'd be the one dressed in nothing but shorts and a helmet.

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Machine man's quote is pretty much spot on, but STILL, I'd not trade it for any other job. I was a tanker in M-60's during the early eighties in the Marines. While I never saw action, I took it very seriously and what has been said before is all true...

Tanker life:

You wake up in the morning, the dust sticking to the oil and grease which is impregnated in your cammies, and imediatly start performing maintenance on your tank. Then you squeeze in ten minutes to eat some cold rations and off you go, rocketing across the desert to blow up some pile of tires or old APC. Next you get to stop and grease some zirq fittings and "walk track", using a hammer to tell if the track link end connectors are tight enough by the tone that the hammer makes on each one as the tank is slowly driven forward. Then back on board and you clank on down to some range to burn up 5000 rounds of MG ammo. After that you spend three hours in the hot desert sun picking up MG brass from the infinite number of nooks and crannies inside the tank. Sure your coax MG has a brass catcher bag, but that lame-ass Private you have acting as loader forgot to zip the bottom shut. Next it's time to check all the POL levels and hydralic fluids. This gets more oil and grease all over your arms, which then attracts more dust and dirt...and it's not even noon yet...

Now, put this in a combat situation where unseen Hinds, hidden grunt ATGM's, supersonic death jets and hords of advancing red armor T-80's are out to KILL you, and you get an idea of what life is like for a tanker...

It was a blast! I still remember fondly my first night riding around in a tank. I recall that the suspension was very smooth and you sort of "undulated" over the terrain, yes, there were some big bumps, but not nearly as bad as the lads in the jeeps. It felt more like a boat, than a land vehicle. I also remember the terror I felt as out 50 ton monster began sliding on ice to a shear cliff in winter. It's BAD when something that bad starts sliding and you can't stop it...

Sorry yo go on so far, but it was fungoing down memory lane...

Take care!

(former) Sgt. Sehmel, USMCR

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If you can find it ....

"HELL HAS NO HEROES, by Wayne Robinson

Now don't bite my head off here, but this is about an American Sherman crew in NW Europe. It has some good stuff on Shermans.

End of story. "

is a GREAT book abut a DD tanks that lands on D-Day and fights on day after day until the war is over.

Here's a good web page with LOTS of books referenced:

http://www.mapleleafup.org/biblio.html

scroll down for all the books

-tom w

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Originally posted by Mannheim Tanker:

Exactly. While I was a modern tanker, everything I've read suggests that the "lifestyle" of a tanker in the field was quite similar in WWII. Every spare moment (IE when you're not on the move) is spent caring for your mount. There's always something broken to fix on a tank, or at least maintain so that it doesn't break at a critical moment. Tankers are true craftsmen when it comes to sledge hammers wink.gif

But don't modern tanks come with Corinthian leather upholstery and a beer-cooler in the driver's side armrest? Not to mention the in-flight movies. wink.gif

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Ethan

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"We forbid any course that says we restrict free speech." -- Dr. Kathleen Dixon, Director of Women's Studies, Bowling Green State University

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I have been saving this quote for some time now. It is from Reino Lehväslaiho's first book, "Panssarisotaa" (lit. "Some Armored War". The translation is mine, and that particular part was very difficult to translate and I fear that a lot is lost:

The men in the point tank were nervous. The tank drove to a bend and the men held their breath like they had a common agreement. Nothing. Heavy breathing filled the tank again until it stopped when the next bend came. The men didn't bother to hide their fear; it was common property at the point. It lasted for one kilometer at a time. Then the next tank drove to the point and the previous point tank continued second. When the tank was not at point, the men breathed easier, the pressure was not as high. The tankers knew: if this kilometer stays quiet, the next one explodes, or the one after that. But once it will come and throw someone against the armor plates. The men were casting a lot when they were at the point. Nobody spoke but everybody thought about it. A man would paint a picture in his brains: If it penetrates at that point, what comes first? Will it come first or does armor plates spall first and it comes only after that? Will it hurt? It is only a meter from the man to the turret armor. How long does it take to travel that meter? Do I have time to see it? Do I realize when it comes? Do I feel it when it is time to go? The tank advanced and the gunner held tight the gun control weels. The man had a dry mouth. The soldier lived in the war. The pressure was so high that a sigh escaped the dry lips:

- Good God, be with us. If you let it happen, let it be quick.

A man can think a lot during one single kilometer. After a long kilometer, a man doesn't smile and doesn't thank but just watch the next tank take the point. At most he waves his hand as greetings. With that gesture, the tank commander seemed to throw fear away of his own tank. It always went to the next point tank, it lived there.

This quote is about the advance from Tuulosjoki River to Svir river when Lehväslaiho served as a T-26 gunner. Later he was a T-34 gunner and a T-34 tank commander. He was the only original man left in his platoon when the war ended.

- Tommi

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Originally posted by GriffinCheng+:

Ed, thanks for the link. For some unknown reasons, probably CMBO is partly to be blamed, I never get my hands on Steel Beasts and Panzer Elite, even though I enjoy M1TP2 very much.

Griffin.

I hear ya Griffin, I can't find Panzer ELite anywhere. I hear that it is the best sim for WW2 tank combat around, but I think it has been discontinued. (Anyone?) I would love to get my hands on that game. I am also trying to get a hold of Steel Beasts as well to try and at least get a feel for the combat lifestyle. (I know it will never come close, but hey, its a start.)

Anyway, I'm not sure, but I've heard somewhere that there is a book called Barbra? that was a fictional Sherman tanker's story based on a compilation of real life stories of the tanker of WW2.

I've also heard an ex-tanker who explained his reasons why he wasn't infantry by simply "I've never been bayoneted sitting in a tank."

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Originally posted by Pvt.Tom:

Here is something most people don't think about in tanks, but I always got car sick when I was in the gunners seat, (M60A3 & M1), thank God I was a loader and driver.

LOL! I hear ya...I've only been motion sick a few times in my life, and all but one of those times was in the gunner's seat of a tank. It's hot, you can't see much outside (except through a periscope or site), you're bouncing around (or like someone else aptly put it, gently swaying as though in a boat)...you get the picture.

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