Tanks for the Memories
In a previous post, we looked at the history of the M60 Patton tank that served the US during the Cold War and beyond. Above is an action shot of an M48 Patton charging off into battle during the Vietnam War.
During the course of the war, there were very few “tank on tank” battles. The tanks served mainly in the role of infantry support. No sight was more welcomed than to see one of these bad boys flying down the road. This variant, used by both the US and South Vietnamese units, provided ample protection for the crew. They were able to win in most engagements against enemy armor. Of course, having the war fought in the jungle and mountains of the region did limit its deployment capabilities.
After the United States pulled out, many of the M48s were turned over to the South Vietnamese. They went to good use in several engagements against their Northern counterparts. However, in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Congress began cutting off the military aid to the South and eventually actually passed laws that made the selling of fuel and ammunition to our former allies illegal.
Without that support, the tanks were unable to be put into the field and eventually the South Vietnamese were defeated. A number of the surviving tanks found their way into service with the victors but were soon abandoned in total.
So looking at the picture it is hard to say where that tank was headed, but I for one would not want to be on the other end when it got there.
Patton Would Approve (M60 Patton)
That above is an M60 Patton. The M60 and its variants served as the main battle tank for the US Army up until it was finally replaced by the M1A1 Abrams in 1997. Coming into service in 1960 it was manufactured until 1987 with over 15,000 units being built during that time. Of course, there are still numerous units in service not only in the US military but in the military of many countries around the world. The story though is how it came about.
In 1956 the people of Hungary rose up against the Soviet-backed government for a period of several months actually posed a threat to Soviet control. Though not successful the several months that the revolt lasted provided some interesting information. At one point a Soviet T54A tank found itself sitting the front yard of the British Embassy in Budapest.
Not ones to miss an opportunity the British examined the armor and armament of the tank and were impressed. The T54 mounted a 100mm gun, much more powerful than what the NATO forces of the time could muster. Soon the British and Americans were working on 105mm cannons and were looking for chassis to place them on. The US decided that they would use the M48 chassis, with the new 105mm cannon. The new design was christened the 105mm Gun Full Tracked Combat Tank M60. Unofficially it carried over the Patton designation and began a stellar career that stretched across many wars and continents.
Though officially retired in 2005 the US still maintains a number of them in storage. Even more impressive is that some of the special variants. The M728 Combat Engineer Vehicle and the M60AVLB still are in service.
Don’t you hate when this happens?
This photo was taken by William Hatfield during one of his three tours in Vietnam. Serving a US Naval Hospital Corpsman he spent most of his time in country serving as a medic attached to various Marine units.
The story behind this photo is one that is both amazing and a little scary. This is how is was related to me:
US forces would use mines to block off certain approaches to villages that were considered “non-pacified”. On occasion once the mines were deployed. The Vietcong would use the villages children at night to go out and move the mines, making it very hard for the US troops coming in the next day. The children became particularly adept at this sort of maneuver.
The next morning as the Marines approached the village they would be meet by the children and in exchange for candy, would show them where the mines had been moved to. This sort of arrangement usually worked out very well.
On the morning that the picture above was taken the same scenario played out, except one of the children did not make it out in time to conduct their business. When you aren’t sure if all the mines are out of the way you tend to be cautions. When you are in a tank, that caution slackens a bit. As expected, the tank found the mine and had a tread blown off, leading to the picture you see where the tank is being towed.
What you don’t see in the picture is that sitting on top of the tank at the time was a young Mr. Hatfield who, along with some squad-mates, decided to take the ride instead of the long walk into the village. When the mine exploded Hatfield and his squad were blown off the tank suffering shrapnel wounds all around.
Being the Corpsman, Hatfield treated the other wounded men before himself and as a result, everyone survived. By the time the other Corpsman had shown up Hatfield was weak from loss of blood, but still had the presence of mind to take the photo above. He was awarded the Purple Heart for this adventure.