Webster

The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)


Thursday, May 19, 2022

Sarin Nerve Gas as Cause of Gulf War Illness

 This is potentially huge, I Served in the First Gulf War, and since my return we have had a lot of people come back and get sick, and for years they made light of what we were complaining of.  It reminded me of the nightmare of my Dads generation and dealing with the "Agent Orange" and for years they covered it up and many G.I's died before they finally realized that there was a problem and started working on a solution.  I was afraid that they would do the same to us as they did to my Dad's generation that served in Vietnam.  he was the last one of his platoon that lived until the 2nd vaccine got him, but he already had lost half a lung, and had COPD that was linked to agent Orange.  Agent Orange related illness killed the rest of them that war and accidents didn't get. 

 

After 30 Years, Genetic Study Confirms Sarin Nerve Gas As Cause of Gulf War Illness

Helicopter Gulf War

 

Troops who had genes that help metabolize sarin nerve gas were less likely to develop symptoms.

For three decades, scientists have debated the underlying cause of Gulf War illness (GWI), a collection of unexplained and chronic symptoms affecting veterans of the Persian Gulf War. Now researchers led by Robert Haley, M.D., Professor of Internal Medicine and Director of the Division of Epidemiology at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UT Southwestern), have solved the mystery, showing through a detailed genetic study that the nerve gas sarin was largely responsible for the syndrome.

 

The findings were published on May 11, 2022, in Environmental Health Perspectives, a peer-reviewed journal supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, with an accompanying editorial on the paper by leading environmental epidemiologists.

Dr. Haley’s research group not only identified that veterans with exposure to sarin were more likely to develop GWI, but also found that the risk was modulated by a gene that normally allows some people’s bodies to better break down the nerve gas. Gulf War soldiers with a weak variant of the gene who were exposed to sarin were more likely to develop symptoms of GWI than other exposed veterans who had the strong form of the gene.

Robert Haley, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Ross Perot

Robert Haley, M.D. (left) visits with two longtime GWI research supporters, former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and the late Ross Perot, at a campus event in 2006. Credit: UT Southwestern Medical Center

 

“Quite simply, our findings prove that Gulf War illness was caused by sarin, which was released when we bombed Iraqi chemical weapons storage and production facilities,” said Dr. Haley, a medical epidemiologist who has been investigating GWI for 28 years. “There are still more than 100,000 Gulf War veterans who are not getting help for this illness and our hope is that these findings will accelerate the search for better treatment.”

In the years immediately following the Gulf War, more than a quarter of the U.S. and coalition veterans who served in the war began reporting a range of chronic symptoms, including fatigue, fever, night sweats, memory and concentration problems, difficulty finding words, diarrhea, sexual dysfunction, and chronic body pain. Since then, both academic researchers and those within the military and Department of Veterans Affairs have studied a list of possible causes of GWI, ranging from stress, vaccinations, and burning oil wells to exposure to pesticides, nerve gas, anti-nerve gas medication, and depleted uranium.

Over the years, these studies have identified statistical associations with several of these, but no cause has been widely accepted. Most recently, Dr. Haley and a colleague reported a large study testing veterans’ urine for depleted uranium that would still be present if it had caused GWI and found none.

“As far back as 1995, when we first defined Gulf War illness, the evidence was pointing toward nerve agent exposure, but it has taken many years to build an irrefutable case,” said Dr. Haley, who holds the U.S. Armed Forces Veterans Distinguished Chair for Medical Research, Honoring Robert Haley, M.D., and America’s Gulf War Veterans.

 

Sarin is a toxic man-made nerve agent, first developed as a pesticide, that has been used in chemical warfare; its production was banned in 1997. When people are exposed to either the liquid or gas form, sarin enters the body through the skin or breathing and attacks the nervous system. High-level sarin often results in death, but studies on survivors have revealed that lower-level sarin exposure can lead to long-term impairment of brain function. The U.S. military has confirmed that chemical agents, including sarin, were detected in Iraq during the Gulf War. In particular, satellite imagery documented a large debris cloud rising from an Iraqi chemical weapons storage site bombed by U.S. and coalition aircraft and transiting over U.S. ground troop positions where it set off thousands of nerve gas alarms and was confirmed to contain sarin.

Previous studies have found an association between Gulf War veterans who self-reported exposure to sarin and GWI symptoms. However, critics have raised questions of recall bias, including whether veterans with GWI are simply more likely to remember and report exposure due to their assumption that it may be linked to their illness. “What makes this new study a game-changer is that it links GWI with a very strong gene-environment interaction that cannot be explained away by errors in recalling the environmental exposure or other biases in the data,” Dr. Haley said.

Robert Haley

Robert Haley, M.D., here reviewing brain scans of Gulf War veterans, has been studying the illness for 27 years. Credit: UT Southwestern Medical Center

In the new paper, Dr. Haley and his colleagues studied 508 deployed veterans with GWI and 508 deployed veterans who did not develop any GWI symptoms, all randomly selected from more than 8,000 representative Gulf War-era veterans who completed the U.S. Military Health Survey. They not only gauged sarin exposure – by asking whether the veterans had heard chemical nerve gas alarms sound during their deployment – but also collected blood and DNA samples from each veteran

 

The researchers tested the samples for variants of a gene called PON1. There are two versions of PON1: the Q variant generates a blood enzyme that efficiently breaks down sarin while the R variant helps the body break down other chemicals but is not efficient at destroying sarin. Everyone carries two copies of PON1, giving them either a QQ, RR or QR genotype.

For Gulf War veterans with the QQ genotype, hearing nerve agent alarms – a proxy for chemical exposure – raised their chance of developing GWI by 3.75 times. For those with the QR genotype, the alarms raised their chance of GWI by 4.43 times. And for those with two copies of the R gene, inefficient at breaking down sarin, the chance of GWI increased by 8.91 times. Those soldiers with both the RR genotype and low-level sarin exposure were over seven times more likely to get GWI due to the interaction per se, over and above the increase in risk from both risk factors acting alone. For genetic epidemiologists, this number leads to a high degree of confidence that sarin is a causative agent of GWI.

“Your risk is going up step by step depending on your genotype, because those genes are mediating how well your body inactivates sarin,” said Dr. Haley. “It doesn’t mean you can’t get Gulf War illness if you have the QQ genotype, because even the highest-level genetic protection can be overwhelmed by higher intensity exposure.”

This kind of strong gene-environment interaction is considered a gold standard for showing that an illness like GWI was caused by a particular environmental toxic exposure, he added. The research doesn’t rule out that other chemical exposures could be responsible for a small number of cases of Gulf War illness. However, Dr. Haley and his team carried out additional genetic analyses on the new data, testing other factors that could be related, and found no other contributing causes.

 

“There’s no other risk factor coming anywhere close to having this level of causal evidence for Gulf War illness,” said Dr. Haley.

The team is continuing research on how GWI impacts the body, particularly the immune system, whether any of its effects are reversible, and whether there are biomarkers to detect prior sarin exposure or GWI.

References:

“Evaluation of a Gene–Environment Interaction of PON1 and Low-Level Nerve Agent Exposure with Gulf War Illness: A Prevalence Case–Control Study Drawn from the U.S. Military Health Survey’s National Population Sample” by Robert W. Haley, Gerald Kramer, Junhui Xiao, Jill A. Dever and John F. Teiber, 11 May 2022, Environmental Health Perspectives.
DOI: 10.1289/EHP9009

“Invited Perspective: Causal Implications of Gene by Environment Studies Applied to Gulf War Illness” Marc G. Weisskopf and Kimberly A. Sullivan, 11 May 2022, Environmental Health Perspectives.
DOI: 10.1289/EHP11057

Other UTSW researchers who contributed to this study include John Teiber, Gerald Kramer, and Junhui Xiao. The U.S. Military Health Survey was a collaborative effort of UTSW and a large survey research team at RTI International including Jill Dever, who also contributed to this paper. The study was funded by the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. Opinions, interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the authors and are not necessarily endorsed by the U.S. Departments of Defense or Veterans Affairs.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

10 more little known facts about the Mauser

 I shamelessly "nicked"this from American Rifleman", I have or *had* 2 Mauser pattern rifles until my dastardly kayak accident *Sniff*Sniff*.   Don't get me wrong, I like or liked my semi-auto's, the marvel of modern technology, but there is something about a good old fashioned bolt action Rifle.

Knupp Mauserfacts 0

Everyone knows the name “Mauser,” and the bolt-action rifles associated with it. Yet, there is far more that goes with the famous name than that. There were already 10 little-known facts covered previously, but thats not all. Here are 10 more facts you may not have known were a part of the Mauser story:

One: The U.S. Military Tried The Mauser, But Had to Be on the Business End Before They Were Convinced

The U.S. Army included Mausers in their 1892 trial to replace the single-shot Trapdoor Springfield. Versions of the Belgian Model 1889, including some modified to fire the rimmed .30 Government (later to be known as the .30-40 Krag) round, were evaluated. Alas, America’s first bolt-action, smokeless cartridge service rifle ended up being the Danish Krag-Jorgensen design.

In a few years, the Army would see the error of their ways when their Krag and Trapdoor Springfield-armed rifleman encountered Mausers on the battlefield. The Spanish-American War brought the U.S. under the sights of Model 1891 and 1893 Mausers, which had a clip-loading system that gave them a distinct firepower advantage over the Krag, which had to be reloaded one round at a time in its side-hinged magazine. The Mauser didn’t turn the tide for the Spanish, however, and thousands of Mausers were captured and brought back to the U.S. where they were sold as surplus through the Bannerman Company.

A Bannerman ad for captured Spanish 1893 Mauser rifles following the Spanish-American War.

The U.S. Army gave the 1893 Mauser a good looking over, and soon after, they began working on a new rifle that closely followed the Mauser design. The Springfield 1903 was so close, in fact, that it was determined that it infringed on several patents held by Mauser (who patented all its innovations in the U.S., too). Mauser and the U.S. government cordially negotiated a settlement for seven patent infringements that ranged from the Springfield’s box magazine to its extractor to its clip-loading system.

After a negotiated settlement, the U.S. agreed to pay the company a royalty on each ‘03 Springfield rifle and ammunition clip produced. This amounted to 75 cents per rifle and 50 cents per 1,000 loading clips manufactured up to $200,000, an amount reached by 1909. Mauser was very familiar with this arrangement, as many of their designs were licensed and manufactured by government arsenals, who paid the company a royalty.

A 1903A1 Springfield rifle, manufactured by Remington, showing the stripper clip of cartridges inserted.

The Mauser-based ‘03 Springfield would continue to serve U.S. forces as a front-line combat rifle through World War II and as a sniper rifle through the Vietnam War. The British had their own experience of facing the withering fire of a Mauser in the Boer War. This caused them to add a clip (which the British called a “charger”) loading feature to their Lee-Enfields and led to experimentation with a Mauser-based rifle of their own, which would eventually become the U.S. P-17 Enfield.

Two: One Of The Biggest Fans of Mauser Designs Was China

Chinese troops training with C96 pistols with shoulder stocks (right) and Chinese troops with CZ vz.24 Mauser 98-type rifles (left).

One of the earliest modern firearms used by China was the single-shot Mauser Model 1871, which they first purchased in 1876, followed by the repeating 71/84 version. Starting in 1894, China began buying the ‘88 Commission rifle which, though not a Mauser, would be one of the most prolific bolt action designs used by that country. Yet they continued to look for more modern bolt-action rifles, and in 1896, they would purchase some Model 1895 Mausers in 7 x 57 mm.

In the early 1900s, the Chinese began a trial for a new rifle, which was eventually won by a 1907 Mauser, an export version of the Gewehr 98 that was chambered in a special 6.8 x 57 mm cartridge. The 1911 Revolution interrupted the new cartridge’s full adoption and the country ended up sticking with the 8 x 57 mm for most of its weapons.

The C96 Broomhandle pistol was also extremely popular in China. When the Chinese couldn’t get enough of the pistols from Germany, they began to import copies from Spain. Spanish firms, like Astra, took the C96 concept one step further by making fully-automatic versions that, when combined with a shoulder stock, could serve as a rudimentary submachine gun. In response, Mauser introduced their own fully-automatic Broomhandle, the Model 712 Schnellfeuer-Pistole (“Rapid-fire Pistol”).

A Mauser Model 712 Schnellfeuer-Pistole with shoulder stock attached and detachable 20-round magazine. The selector switch for semi-automatic or fully-automatic fire can be seen.

The Chinese also made indigenous copies of the C96, including some chambered in .45 Auto to complement the Thompson submachine guns they were also fond of.

A copy of the C96 Mauser in .45 Auto made at the Chinese Shangshei Arsenal.

World War I made the Chinese realize that they couldn’t rely on foreign countries for their armaments, and they began producing many of their small arms domestically, including copies of the ‘88 Commission and Mannlicher 1904 rifles and the 1907 Mauser to supplement what they could import. 

When the Versailles Treaty prohibited Mauser from exporting firearms, the Chinese had to look elsewhere for new rifles. They purchased 190,000 FN rifles of the Mle. 24 and 30 patterns and 200,000 CZ vz. 98/22 and vz. 24 rifles in the 1930s. Right before World War II started, they were once again able to purchase Mausers and bought “Standardmodell” export rifles. Like earlier Mausers, these newer designs, specifically the FN Mle. 30 and Standardmodell (which would be known as the “Chiang Kai-Shek rifle," with more than half-a-million made) were manufactured domestically.

A Model 1898 Mauser rifle made at the Chinese Mukden Arsenal.

Following the Communist Revolution, the People’s Republic of China began to adopt Soviet firearms designs, while Nationalist China (Taiwan) would continue using Mausers until they could be replaced by American-supplied weapons. Chinese Mausers, however, would soldier on, being used in the Korean War and eventually in the Vietnam conflict.

Three: Mauser Started Experimenting With Semi-Auto Rifle Designs Well Before WWII (And Even Before World War I)

While the German Army would start and finish World War II with the Mauser 98K as their standard service rifle, early in the war, they recognized the need for a “selbstlader” (“self-loader”) battle rifle and they started experimenting and issuing several designs. In 1941, both Mauser and Walther came up with competing designs, both of which used the Bang muzzle gas trap principle to operate the action.

A G41(M) semi-automatic rifle made by Mauser. Note the bolt handle, which allowed the rifle to be operated as a manual repeater.

While the Walther design won out, the rifle was not without its problems and would lead to the much-improved G43 and eventually, to the revolutionary, intermediate cartridge firing, selective-fire Sturmgewehr. Mauser continued experimenting with autoloading designs. Though none would be adopted, they resulted in the development of the famous roller-delayed blowback system.

Mauser’s experimentation with semi-automatic rifles, however, started nearly half-a-century earlier. In 1898, Mauser made a series of patents for recoil-operated designs, with a rifle using those principles appearing in the same year.

An 1899 patent for a recoil-operated Mauser semi-automatic military rifle.

The Mauser C98 Selbstladegewehr, the first semi-automatic rifle made by Mauser.

Mauser produced several versions of a recoil-operated rifle in the first decade of the 20th century, which the German military evaluated but never adopted. A few sporting semi-auto rifles were also made.When World War I started, a use for a semi-automatic rifle did arise. The early days of air warfare brought the need to arm aircraft crews with a fast-firing weapon. In 1915, Mauser produced a semi-automatic “Fliegermodell” carbine that was chambered in 8 mm and used a 25-round magazine (the U.S. tried a similar concept with their bolt-action 1903). The complicated and expensive to produce rifle was quickly replaced by aerial machine guns.

A Mauser Model 1916 Flieger-Selbstladekarabiner.

Four: Mauser Produced the First Anti-Tank Rifle…It Did and Didn’t Influence The Development of the .50 BMG

One of the innovations to appear on the World War I battlefield was a heavily armed and armored vehicle, codenamed the “tank.” As tanks slowly became successful on the battlefield in late 1917, methods to counter them were developed. Because tanks could withstand even armor-piercing rounds from conventional cartridges, something more powerful was needed.

Mauser answered the call with the world’s first anti-tank rifle, called the “Panzerjäger” or “Tank Gewehr.” The rifle was basically a single-shot, oversize Model 98 that was 66.5” long and weighed 41 lbs. It fired a 13.25 mm (0.52”) semi-rimmed cartridge that had been designed as a heavy machine gun round, which launched its 809-grain hardened steel core bullet at 2,575 f.p.s. The cartridge, called the “TuF” (“Tank und Flieger” - "tank and aircraft") could penetrate about an inch of hardened steel tank armor at 100 yards (if struck at a perfect right angle), more than adequate to deal with the tanks of the day. Nearly 16,000 T-Gewehrs would be produced by the war’s end.

A Mauser Tank Gewehr compared to a Mauser 98AZ carbine (foreground).

While the anti-tank rifle concept would survive into World War II, with designs like the British Boys and the Polish wz. 35, by the 1940s, most tanks had evolved their armor to resist even the strongest of shoulder-fired cartridges.

As its name implied, an extra large cartridge like the 13 mm TuF was intended for use against aircraft as well. While the German MG18 machine gun that the TuF round was developed for never made it to the battlefield, other heavy machine gun designs did. A Hotchkiss machine gun was chambered for the 11 mm Gras cartridge, whose heavy bullet had space to hold incendiary compounds to be used against observation balloons and aircraft. Vickers would also chamber an aircraft machine gun in the Gras cartridge.

While the cartridge that would later become the .50 BMG and the Browning machine gun designed to fire it were already being developed before the Allies encountered the Tank Gewehr on the battlefield, the success of Mauser’s anti-tank rifle certainly encouraged the U.S. to continue to develop the Browning .50 after the war ended as an effective cartridge to deal with vehicles and aircraft.

John Browning would chamber the cartridge in a scaled-up version of his M1917 water-cooled machine gun that would eventually evolve into the air-cooled M2, a weapon still in frontline service with the U.S. and other nations around the world. The .50 BMG would also play a critical role in World War II’s air war. Modern rifles chambered for the .50 BMG cartridge, while not used against tanks, are highly effective in sniping and anti-material roles.

Five: Mauser Actions Formed the Backbone of the British Custom Rifle Industry and the Rest of the Hunting Rifle World

When most people think of British sporting rifles, a finely-made double rifle is what comes to mind. Bolt action “magazine rifles” were also an important part of the British custom rifle industry, and the Mauser 98 action was the basis of many of those rifles.

At the turn of the 20th century, the new bolt action rifles provided an affordable alternative to hand-built single-shot and double rifles, while still being strong, accurate and reliable. The success of Mauser’s factory-produced sporting rifles, especially in hard-hitting calibers like the 9.3 x 62 mm, led British makers to pursue their own turn bolt rifles.

While other types of bolt-actions were also used by British makers, such as the Mannlicher (with both Mannlicher en-bloc clip magazines and the Schoenauer rotary magazine) and the Lee, the Mauser was the most popular. By 1900, the John Rigby firm of London was Mauser’s agent in England. Mauser-based sporting rifles were made by Bland, Cogswell & Harrison, Gibbs, Greener, Holland & Holland, Jeffery, Purdey, Westley Richards and many others. At Rigby’s request, Mauser even designed a lengthened “Magnum” version of its action, which allowed for the development of famous hunting cartridges like the .300 and .375 H&H, .416 Rigby, .404 Jeffery and .505 Gibbs.

A Holland & Holland rifle in .375 H&H that uses a Mauser Model 98 action.

A cased Holland & Holland takedown rifle that uses a Mauser Model 98 action.

The influence of the Mauser 98 action on sporting rifles didn’t stay on one side of the Atlantic. American hunters and shooters were begrudgingly weaned off their lever actions through their exposure to Mauser-based bolt action designs, such as the ‘03 Springfield. When Winchester set about to develop their Model 54 (predecessor to the “Rifleman’s Rifle” Model 70), the company looked to the Mauser.  

Close-up of the Mauser 98 action used on a Griffin & Howe custom rifle.

Remington’s first modern bolt-action sporters, such as the Model 30, were derived from the Mauser-based P-17 Enfield. American custom makers, like Griffin & Howe, used 98 actions and the design’s controlled-round-feed extractor became the standard for dangerous game rifles. Today, Mauser 98-actioned sporting rifles can be had from Mauser themselves, as well as companies like CZ and Zastava.

Six: Mauser Made Cars

Everyone knows that FN made bicycles and motorcycles, but did you know that Mauser made cars? When the terms of the Versailles Treaty prevented the company from making and exporting firearms they looked into other manufacturing fields. Their company’s first automotive model was the Einspur-Auto (“Single Track”). As much motorcycle as car, the Einspur-Auto used a tandem set of wheels with two outriggers that retracted when the vehicle got up to speed.

Powered by the M2B15, the first version of BMW’s famous air-cooled Boxer twin, its driver and passengers sat in an open, boat-like cockpit. It was produced from 1923 to 1929. Mauser also made a more conventional four-wheeled car, the 6/24 Mauserwagen that was offered as a sedan or open-top model, from 1923-1927.

Advertisements for Mauser automobiles.

Seven: Mauser Designed and Built Machine Guns and Cannons

In addition to rifles and handguns, Mauser also designed and built machine guns and automatic cannons. World War I made the German military realize the need for a portable, belt-fed machine gun. While the terms of the Versailles Treaty limited German efforts to develop weapons technology themselves, the Rheinmetall-designed MG30 was refined and manufactured by Solothurn in Switzerland.

The magazine-fed MG30 was brought back to Mauser, where engineer Heinrich Vollmer refined it into the MG34. The MG34 was the world’s first successful general purpose machine gun. It was light enough to be transported by one man and fired from a bipod, yet its quick-change barrel and belt feed mechanism meant it could be utilized on a tripod in a sustained fire role.

A MG34 with spare parts and barrels.

The MG34 would be the basis for the MG81, a faster firing version used as a flexible-mounted aircraft machine gun, that was also manufactured by Mauser. The MG 81was used in one, two, four or six gun installations in aircraft such as the Junkers Ju-88, Heinkel He-111 and the Dornier Do-217.

Twin MG 81Z machine guns mounted in rear of the crew gondola of a Focke-Wulf Fw 189 reconnaissance aircraft.

While the MG34 had an excellent service record in the early years of World War II, Mauser and the other factories that produced it could not keep up with demand for the machined steel firearm. The same techniques of using synthetic materials and metal stampings that had been used in guns like the MP40 were applied by sheet metal specialists Grossfuss to the MG34. The result was the MG42. The MG42 was the premier World War II machine gun and was also manufactured by Mauser. It was so successful that the design is still in use today, with modern versions chambered in 7.62 NATO manufactured and deployed around the world.

In addition to fully-automatic small arms, Mauser also designed and built automatic cannons. The MG151 15 mm and 20 mm autocannon was used to arm German and Italian fighter and bomber aircraft, including the Focke-Wulf Fw-190 and Messerschmitt Bf-109.

Cleaning the barrel of the automatic cannon on a Messerschmitt Bf 109 in the Soviet Union, January 1942.

The Mauser MG 213 20 mm cannon never saw service in World War II but would be developed into the U.S. M39, which was used in aircraft like the F-86 Supersabre and  F-5 Freedom Fighter. Mauser also designed ground-based autocannons, such as the single-barreled 20 mm Flak 38 (an example of which is used to devastating effect in the final battle scene of the film Saving Private Ryan). A four-barreled anti-aircraft version, known as the Flakvierling, was also made.

 German soldiers with a Flak 30 20mm in northern France in August 1944.

When Mauser re-entered the defense market in the 1970s, they designed and built the BK-27 27 mm revolving cannon for Tornado and Typhoon fighter jets and in the 1990s, the RMK-30, a 30 mm recoilless autocannon used in ground, sea and aerial applications. Both of these systems are still marketed by Rheinmetall.

Eight: Mauser Almost Disappeared After World War II

Portions of Mauser’s factory in Oberndorf were destroyed in 1945 by Allied bombing, and the plant was occupied by the French Army in April of that year. Mauser continued manufacturing firearms for two years, including 98K rifles and HSc pistols for use by the French military. In 1947, the company was ordered to be liquidated and much of its machinery removed and the original factory records destroyed. The Mauser company survived over the next decade making sewing machines and automotive parts.

Mauser returned to the firearm business in 1965 with the Walter Gehmann-designed Model 66. The Model 66 was a departure from pre-war Mausers. It utilized a short action telescoping bolt and interchangeable barrel system. More conventional bolt action sporting rifles were made for Mauser by Heym. Production of HSc and Luger pistols also resumed.   

Mauser continued to develop their line of bolt action rifles over the years, introducing the rear-locking-lug Model 77. They produced a line of precision sniping rifles and even dabbled with a straight-pull design in the Model 96 (currently manufactured by Roessler as the Titan 16).

A Mauser SP66 sniper rifle used by Israeli forces.

In 1994, Mauser became part of the Rheinmetall group, with the sporting firearm business being spun off into its own entity. Sporting rifles are currently made by Mauser Jagdwaffen Gmbh and include the M12 and the M18 (named the American Rifleman Golden Bullseye Rifle of the Year in 2020) and the classic Model 98. 

Nine: Heckler & Koch, and Their Roller-Delayed Blowback System, Got Their Start At Mauser

Following World War II, former Mauser employees Edmund Heckler, Theodor Koch and Alex Seidel joined together to form Heckler & Koch, a machine tool and engineering firm in Mauser’s home town of Oberndorf. 

H&K returned to their firearms roots when the German Army was in the market for a new infantry rifle. They took on the Spanish CETME design, based on the roller-delayed blowback concept that Mauser was perfecting at the end of World War II, and refined it into a rifle that Germany would adopt as the G3. The G3 would go to become one of the world’s most prolific battle rifles ever made, with more than eight million produced. 

A diagram of the roller-delayed blowback mechanism of the G3 rifle, as invented by Mauser, perfected by CETME and made successful by Heckler& Koch.

 Heckler & Koch scaled the roller-delayed blowback design to a variety of firearms, from the 7.62 mm NATO G3 rifle (top) to the 9 mm Parabellum MP5 submachine gun (bottom).

Heckler & Koch took the roller-delayed principle and scaled it to a variety of firearms, from belt-fed machine guns to precision rifles to handguns and to submachine guns, in the form of the famous MP5.

One of the most famous applications of the Mauser-invented roller-delayed blowback mechanism is in the Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun, as seen here in the hands of a German GSG-9 operative.

In the 1970s, H&K moved away from the roller-delayed principle in handguns with innovative designs like VP70, a polymer-framed pistol that used an 18-round double-column magazine, and the gas-delayed blowback, “squeeze cocking” P7. From its humble origins rising from the ashes of Mauser, Heckler & Koch has grown into one of the world’s leading firearms manufacturers, with contemporary products like the HK416 or MR556, the VP9 and the G36.

Ten: The Mauser Model 1898 is One of the Most Produced and Influential Firearms Designs of All Time

The most successful turn-bolt rifle design ever, the Mauser Model 1898, shown in its Gewehr 98 form.

 A Mauser Model 98 receiver and bolt.

That the Mauser 98 is one of the most produced and influential designs of all time is certainly not a little known fact, but it bears repeating at the summation of this series. Mauser 98 rifles and copies are probably the second most widely- produced firearm design, after the AK-47 and its derivatives. Conservative estimates put production of Mauser 98-type rifles at over 100 million, approximately 10 times the total number of Glock handguns produced to date. Mauser’s heritage lives on in nearly every modern turn bolt rifle and in the company’s own contemporary products, like the M12 and M18.

 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

"How the Soviet Army Fights".

 I am a contributor on Quora and I had posted this several years ago and it keeps getting "Uplikes", I am in the 4 digits now.  I am one of the contributors for the "Grand Review of Armies", something I do enjoy because of the history aspect of it.  That being said, there is a lot of dumbassery on it, especially on politics.  it can be fun troll stomping but I do try to avoid it, nobody enjoys it except the troll. 

       As far as this comment goes, I have mostly "attaboys" and they picked up after the invasion of the Ukraine and a few positive criticism and a few butthurt people that are fanboys of the Russians and believe that the Russians are the 2nd coming.  I surmise that they are people either college students that have an affinity for communism and any criticism of their "client" state is a de-facto criticism of who they are or people that actually live there and take umbrage to what I have said.  Truth be told , what I have said was accurate to 1991, how the Russians fight now I don't know, and it looks like they have lost a lot of tactical knowledge since the cold war.  I can't crow about that, I was speaking to my brother and who said that it is the same with us, we have spent 20 years fighting "Hajj" and have forgotten how to prepare the battlefield against a peer and a near peer force.  he had told me that this was driven home during a briefing when the squadron commander was asking questions that only the old warrants that have been around in the back of the room knew the answer to, the younger guys and gals had no clue.  We also have lost a lot of institutional knowledge.  I had commented before that we are not the lean mean green machine that destroyed the Iraqi's in 1991 and 2003.  We were trained by the people that survived Vietnam and 20 years of getting our doctrine tuned and flush with cash from the Reagan years. we did what they said couldn't be done.  



One of my specialties or discipline in the service was "The Soviet Army" and how they fight. What doctrine they use in the attack.

 Basically they would use a 3 layer approach, the initial group that would be considered class "A" divisions, would attack the FEBA(Forward edge battle area) look for any weak points, then once they find it, the second echelon which would have their latest equipment and best trained units would move up, attack the weak points and force a breakthrough then run into the rear of the opposing formation and the 3rd echelon which was comprised with "class B and some class"C or V"units would provide security for the operations. This is the doctrine developed by Georgy Zhukov and it worked well against the Germans in WWII. The Soviets still trained on the same model. Casualties were of no concern to the leadership, That was one of the big differences between " us" and " them". 

I will give an example...If one of our units ran into trouble, we would call for arty or air support. It is part of our doctrine to do this. Part of the combined arms training that we do. Well the Soviets would NOT do that...The Soviets would doctrinally refuse such a request especially in the initial assaults, they wanted to save the combat power for the break through, and not "waste" it on small actions. That is why most of the artillery and free rockets were assigned directly to the Soviet Army or Front Commander, to save the resources.

 We developed "airland battle" our doctrine in the late 70's to disrupt the echelon attacks that the Soviets would do in case of an attack. Our Apache helicopters and A-10's reflected this doctrine. That is what we used in Desert Storm. the Iraqi's were trained and equipped according to Soviet doctrine. We knew that we couldn't go toe to toe in an slugging match with the Soviets, they still outnumbered us in men and tanks. I think Stalin said "Quantity has a quality all its own". So we had to be "smarter" then they were. They had a lot of top down management, whereas we trained individual initiative in our soldiers. I don’t know How the Russians do now, Their doctrine is sound and their equipment is better than it was 10 years ago. I don’t know how they “do” it anymore, I am no longer “In the Know”

 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Monday Music "Far from Over" By Frank Stallone

 Sorry I haven't been blogging much the past few days, work has ramped up and we have started our summer season.  I will be transitioning to "Night shift" in a month to support the operation so time will tell how it will affect the blogging.  I was on night shift before and I know how to handle it, but I ain't gonna lie, I had gotten used to being on dayshift and having mostly regular people hours and able to spend more time with the wife.

 

           Saw this meme and *rescued it from farcebook*, why? because I am a humanitarian, that's why.

I am continuing my string of "bugaloo" songs.  This discussion was started in the "Monster Hunter Nation, Hunters Unite", back in November of 2019? it is a Facebook group with enthusiast of the ILOH "International Lord of Hate" A.K.A Larry Correia.  We were talking about what song would we use if we looked out of our window or glanced at our security camera and saw this.....

One of the alphabet bois lining up to take down your house...What would be your "Valhalla" song and you would set it up to play as you load up magazines set up the Tannerite Rover, turn on the water irrigation system and fill it with gasoline instead of water and prepare yourself.

 I figured it would scar the alphabet boys if they come busting in and hearing a song about people having a good time and standing up for themselves and having the best music from the best decade and  playing  it Loud will scar the Alphabet Boi's as they force the stack through the door, because they will be exposed to good music for the first time unlike the crap they listen to now sipping their soi latte's and comparing notes on the latest soyburger recipes and who wears the best manbuns in the team.
 
I decided to go back to the "Disco" era, well sorta, This song popped up in my 80's channel on my Sirius/XM and it is one of the forgotten hits.  I actually liked the song, but the movie that it was based off of was horrible.  It was the story of John Travolta character after Saturday Night Fever and it probably would have been a good movie, I guess but they released the movie during the anti-disco backlash that was prevalent in the 80's.  The movie got panned brutally and even now it is considered one of the worse sequels ever.  



"Far from Over" is a song by Frank Stallone that appeared in the 1983 film Staying Alive and was also featured in the film's soundtrack. The song was written by Stallone and Vince DiCola. It was a top-ten U.S. single in September 1983, peaking at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming his only major hit. The 7" single version is slightly different from the LP version, and it was the 7" version which was played on most radio stations in the US while on the Billboard Hot 100.
The instrumental version was used as the theme for Starrcade from 1983 to 1987, and makes a memorable appearance in the famous 1984 Saturday Night Live "synchronized swimming" segment with Martin Short and Harry Shearer. Also, WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina used it for their Football Fridays broadcasts during the mid-1980s. as did WDIV-TV in Detroit, Michigan for its Sunday sports wrap-up show Sports Final Edition, which is still currently used today. The song was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. The song had renewed popularity in 2010 when Australian comedy duo Hamish & Andy proclaimed on air that the song gave the listener an extra burst of energy and dubbed the phenomenon as "The Frank Effect". A special one time concert was held in Australia as a result.
In the U.S., the song became RSO Records final top 10 single and top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100
 

 
 
Staying Alive is a 1983 American dance film starring John Travolta as dancer Tony Manero, with Cynthia Rhodes, Finola Hughes, Joyce Hyser, Julie Bovasso, and dancers Viktor Manoel and Kevyn Morrow. The sequel to 1977's Saturday Night Fever, it was directed, co-produced and co-written by Sylvester Stallone. The title comes from the Bee Gees song of the same name, which was used as the theme song to Saturday Night Fever and is also played during the final scene of Staying Alive. The choreography was arranged by Dennon and Sayhber Rawles It also goes hand-in-hand with Tony's new lifestyle, in which he is barely surviving as he pursues his dream of making dancing his career. This is along with Homefront, one of only two films which Stallone has written without being the star (although he does have a cameo).
The film received generally negative reviews from critics, and holds a score of 0% on Rotten Tomatoes as of 2016.

 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Soviets Use of the Shermans During WWII

 I knew that the Soviets got the Shermans during WWII because of "Lend-Lease", and I recall that they liked the Sherman a lot.  I was surprised that they didn't use them in Korea in a false flag incident or something because the Soviets don't throw nothing away.  They still had equipment from WWII in warehouses in Siberia at the fall of the Soviet Union.  I ran across this article on "Quora" where I am a contributor and I thought it was "Pretty Neat".

 

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Soviet Shermans: The USSR Was a Big Sherman User, and They Liked it

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Soviet crew posing in front of their large hatch hull, M4A2 75 dry, tank.

The Soviet Union received three American Medium tank types in large numbers. They received the Lee, and M4A2 75 and 76 tanks. Only the UK would use more M4A2 tanks, though they received only five armed with the 76mm gun, they got far more of the 75mm armed M4A2s.  The Soviets also received a pair of M4A4 tanks for evaluation but rejected them because of the motor.  My impression from the things I’ve read says, they liked the all of them, well not the A4, but liked the Shermans more than the Lee.

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M4A2 76w, late production, with an M1A2 gun.

Now let’s cover each tank model.

M3 Lee: The Basic Lee

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Knocked out Soviet M3 Lee tanks

The Lee was not considered a very good design by the Soviet Union, you can read their evaluation here, on Archive Awareness, but it was not all negative. They liked the transmission, differential and final drives, and in particular the steering and brake mechanism.  They felt the R975 air-cooled motor was not a great fit for tanks, for all the reasons they are not fit for tanks, mainly the size limitations they put on the tank, and as gasoline AC engines, they don’t have good low-end torque, make driving harder.  They disliked the position of the 75mm gun, and lack of sites on the machine guns.

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Soviet M3 Lee, If you look closely you can see grousers installed on the tracks

One thing I found very interesting, is in the summer, they could pack up to 10 SMG infantry into the Lee, along with the regular 7 man crew, making it into a makeshift APC. The thing would be packed full of people though.  The report says all weapons could be fired on the tank while those 10 men were stuffed in, so I guess the US Army or Brits didn’t try this because they liked comfort or something.

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A column of Soviet M3 Lee tanks.

The Lee did not fare well against the upgraded Panzer IV with long 75, and they lost a lot of them, but they never stopped using them, they just did what the British did and sent them off to secondary theaters, where tanks were still useful, and no enemy tanks were around.  Against poorly equipped, in AT weapon, Infantry, the M3 Lee was a monster of a tank. The 75mm had a great HE round, it was packed with machine guns, and had a 37mm that could sling canister.  The Soviets received 1386 M3 Lee tanks.

M4A2 75 dry: Early Small Hatch 75mm Shermans with Drivers Hoods

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Early M4A4 with DV ports in Russian Museum. One of two sent to the USSR for testing.

The Soviets received 1990 M3 75mm gun armed M4A2 Shermans. I don’t have a list of who made the early M4A2 tanks they got. They were competing with the Marine Corps and the French and Brits on priority for these tanks, and most went to the Brits.  I’ve looked through a lot of pictures of Soviet M4 tanks, or “Emcha” as they seemed to call them, the small hatch 75 tanks seem rarer than the large hatch 75 and 76 tanks.

This Post on Archive Awareness indicates, they received several hundred very early M4A2 tanks. One of the big indicators of this is the section where they talk about the suspension having the Lee style top mounted return roller, which could be jammed with mud, but then they received later models, where this return roller was moved to bracket mounted to the side of the suspension unit.

Another interesting part of that document is the problems they had with injectors and lubrication problems with the pistons.  The Army reported similar problems with early model M4A2s, with the Air cleaners, cooling system, and clutches, but nothing about the injectors.  This post on AA also indicates injector issues but was overall positive on the M4A2.  Maybe the Soviets used low-quality diesel and the injectors didn’t like it. At any rate, these issues would have been worked out by the time they started getting improved models.

M4A2 large hatch Dry: Late Model 75mm, 47-degree Large Hatch Hulls, but with Dry Ammo Racks

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M4A2 75 dry large hatch tanks in action

By late 1943 a new version of the M4A2 was going into production, and it had the improved 47-degree, single piece front armor plate, with large driver and co-drivers hatches. These would be the first tanks to get this improvement.  By the time this model went into production, priority for diesel-powered Shermans was going to the Soviets, since that was the only model they wanted, and the Brits would take the M4A4.

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An final production M4A2 75 dry tank

These improved large hatch hulls still used the dry ammunition rack setup of the early small hatch hulls, but they had the applique armor applied at the factory, and the 75mm turrets had an improved casting thickening the area that had required welded on additional armor on the older turrets. The Turrets had a oval loaders hatch and a pistol port as well, though the commander still got the older split hatch cupola with the 50 caliber mount built into it.

These tanks seemed to have been photographed much more than the small hatch 75 tanks, but I do not have a lot of photos of either. By the time these tanks were being produced, all the major reliability issues would have been worked out.

M4A2 76W: The Soviets were the Second Biggest User of 76mm Shermans

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Soviet M4A2 76w with a split loaders hatch somewhere in Germany or Austria

Production of the 75mm armed Sherman was reduced, as Sherman production was streamlined down from the 10 factories that were producing it, to the three that would  finish it off, Fisher, Chrysler, and Pressed Steel Car.  The Soviet Union received 2073 M4A2 tanks with the 76mm M1A1 gun.  This was just about Fishers whole production run on the 76mm armed M4A2.

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Shot of a factory fresh M4A2 76w tank at the General Motors Proving Ground

These tanks would have started out with wet racks, all around vision cupolas, a split loaders hatch and an M1A1 76mm gun without a barrel threaded for a muzzle brake.  A few may have even had T23 turrets without the ventilator on the rear. These would quickly be replaced with M1A1C guns with threaded barrels with a protective cap over the threads, and the split loaders hatch would be replaced with the smaller oval hatch.  These tanks would eventually be produced in the “Ultimate” configuration, with the M1A2 gun, and HVSS suspension.

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M4A2 76w with Russian Infantry loaded aboard.

These thanks saw extensive combat use with the Soviet Union, use with Guards units. My understanding is the Russians liked the M4A2 76w tanks just fine, and used them in elite units, but this has no reflection on their feelings about the tank compared to their own T-34-85 tanks.  T-34s were used in Guards units as well, and some units had both, as we can see from this AA post.  By that point in the war the Sherman and T-34 were pretty close in abilities.

M4A4: They Received Two, and that was Enough to Convince them, They Wanted No More

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The Soviets sent a group of officials and engineers to check out the Chrysler Defense Arsenal,  to review the world famous tank factories abilities, and the tank they were currently making, the M4A4. This visit took place between December of 42 to February of 43, for more details, see this post on AA.

After being given a chance to drive the M4A4 on the proving grounds and being given lectures and demonstrations of its A57 gas motor, the Soviets decided that the M4A4 was better than the M3 Lee, but inferior to the M4A2 with GM Diesel they were already receiving through lend lease. They decided the factory was impressive, but really not producing a very good tank.

Even though the Soviets showed little interest in the M4A4 tanks, two were sent to them for evaluation anyway. You can read their impressions here, but as before when they tested it in the US, they felt the motor was to complicated to be reliable.

. . .

Here are some quotes from the ‘I remember’ interview of Dmitriy Loza, Hero of the Soviet Union, pertaining to the Emchas.

 

Dmitriy Fedorovich, on which American tanks did you fight?

On Shermans. We called them “Emchas”, from M4 [in Russian, em chetyrye]. Initially they had the short main gun, and later they began to arrive with the long gun and muzzle brake. On the front slope armor there was a travel lock for securing the barrel during road marches. The main gun was quite long. Overall, this was a good vehicle but, as with any tank, it had its pluses and minuses. When someone says to me that this was a bad tank, I respond, “Excuse me!” One cannot say that this was a bad tank. Bad as compared to what?

 

Dmitriy Fedorovich, did you have just American tanks in your unit?

Our 6th Guards Tank Army (yes, we had six of them) fought in Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Austria. We ended the war for us in Czechoslovakia. Then they rushed us to the Far East and we fought against Japan. I briefly remind you that the army consisted of two corps: 5th Guards Tank Stalingrad Corps on our own T-34s and 5th Mechanized Corps, in which I fought. For the first time this corps had British Matildas, Valentines, and Churchills.

 

They delivered the Churchill later.

Yes, a bit later. After 1943 we largely declined British tanks because they had significant deficiencies. In particular, they had 12-14 h.p. per ton of weight at a time when good tanks had 18-20 h.p. per ton. Of these three British tanks, the best was the Valentine produced in Canada. Its armor was streamlined but more importantly, it featured a long-barreled 57mm main gun. My unit switched over to American Shermans at the end of 1943. After the Kishinev Operation our corps became the 9th Guards Mechanized Corps. I missed to tell you that every corps consisted of four brigades. Our mechanized corps had three mechanized brigades and one tank brigade, in which I fought. A tank corps had three tank brigades and one mechanized brigade. Yes, we had Shermans in our brigade at the end of 1943.

 

But the British tanks were not withdrawn from service, so they fought until they were gone. Wasn’t there a period when your corps had a mixture of tanks, both American and British? Were there any problems associated with the presence of such a broad variety of vehicles from different countries? For example, with supply and maintenance?

Well, there were always problems. In general, the Matilda was an unbelievably worthless tank! I will tell you about one of the Matilda’s deficiencies that caused us a great deal of trouble. Some fool in the General Staff planned an operation and sent our corps to the area of Yelnya, Smolensk, and Roslavl. The terrain there was forested swamp. The Matilda had skirts along the sides. The tank was developed primarily for operations in the desert. These skirts worked well in the desert-the sand passed through the rectangular slots in them. But in the forested swamps of Russia the mud packed into the space between the tracks and these side skirts. The Matilda transmission had a servomechanism for ease of shifting. In our conditions this component was weak, constantly overheated, and then failed. This was fine for the British. By 1943 they had developed a replacement unit that could be installed simply by unscrewing four mounting bolts, pulling out the old unit, and installing the new unit. It did not always work this way for us. In my battalion we had Senior Sergeant (Starshina) Nesterov, a former kolkhoz tractor driver (Kolkhoz is sort of farm – Valeri), in the position of battalion mechanic. In general each of our tank companies had a mechanic and Nesterov was it for the battalion. At our corps level we had a representative (whose name I have forgotten) of the British firm that produced these tanks. At one time I had it written down, but when my tank was hit everything I had in it burned up -photographs, documents, and notebook. We were forbidden to keep notes at the front, but I did it on the sly. Anyway, this British representative constantly interfered with our efforts to repair separate components of the tank. He said, “This has a factory seal. You should not tinker with it!” We were supposed to take out a component and install a new one. Nesterov made a simple repair to all these transmissions. One time the British representative came up to Nesterov and asked him, “At which university did you study?” And Nesterov replied, “At the kolkhoz!”

The Sherman was light years better in this regard. Did you know that one of the designers of the Sherman was a Russian engineer named Timoshenko? He was some shirt tail relative of Marshal S. K. Timoshenko.

The Sherman had its weaknesses, the greatest of which was its high center of gravity. The tank frequently tipped over on its side, like a Matryoshka doll (a wooden stacking doll). But I am alive today thanks to this deficiency. We were fighting in Hungary in December 1944. I was leading the battalion and on a turn my driver-mechanic clipped a curb. My tank went over on its side. We were thrown around, of course, but we survived the experience. Meanwhile the other four of my tanks went ahead and drove into an ambush. They were all destroyed.

 

Dmitriy Fedorovich, the Sherman had a rubber-coated metal track. Some contemporary authors point to this as a deficiency, since in combat the rubber might be set on fire. With the track thus stripped bare, the tank is disabled. What can you say in this regard?

On the one hand this rubber-coated track was a big plus. In the first place, this track had a service life approximately twice that of steel track. I might be mistaken, but I believe that the service life of the T-34 track was 2500 kilometers. The service life of the Sherman track was in excess of 5000 kilometers. Secondly, The Sherman drove like a car on hard surfaces, and our T-34 made so much noise that only the devil knows how many kilometers away it could be heard. What was the bad side of the Sherman track? In my book, Commanding the Red Army’s Sherman Tanks, there is a chapter entitled “Barefooted”. There I wrote about an incident that occurred in August 1944 in Romania, during the Jassy-Kishinev Operation. The heat was fearsome, somewhere around 30° C. We had driven approximately 100 km along a highway in a single day. The rubber linings on our support rollers got so hot that the rubber separated and peeled off in long pieces. Our corps paused not far from Bucharest. The rubber was flying around, the rollers had begun to jam up, the noise was terrible, and in the end we had been stopped. This was immediately reported to Moscow. Was this some kind of joke, an entire corps had halted? To our surprise, they brought new support rollers to us quickly and we spent three days installing them. I still don’t know where they found so many support rollers in such a short time. There was yet another minus of rubber track. Even on a slightly icy surface the tank slid around like a fat cow. When this happened we had to tie barbed wire around the track or make grousers out of chains or bolts, anything to give us traction. But this was with the first shipment of tanks. Having seen this, the American representative reported to his company and the next shipment of tanks was accompanied by additional track blocks with grousers and spikes. If I recall, there were up to seven blocks for each track, for a total of fourteen per tank. We carried them in our parts bin. In general the American representative worked efficiently. Any deficiency that he observed and reported was quickly and effectively corrected.

One more shortcoming of the Sherman was the construction of the driver’s hatch. The hatch on the first shipment of Shermans was located in the roof of the hull and simply opened upward. Frequently the driver-mechanic opened it and raised his head in order to see better. There were several occasions when during the rotation of the turret the main gun struck this hatch and knocked it into the driver’s head. We had this happen once or twice in my own unit. Later the Americans corrected this deficiency. Now the hatch rose up and simply moved to the side, like on modern tanks.

Still one great plus of the Sherman was in the charging of its batteries. On our T-34 it was necessary to run the engine, all 500 horsepower of it, in order to charge batteries. In the crew compartment of the Sherman was an auxiliary gasoline engine, small like a motorcycle’s one. Start it up and it charged the batteries. This was a big deal to us!

For a long time after the war I sought an answer to one question. If a T-34 started burning, we tried to get as far away from it as possible, even though this was forbidden. The on-board ammunition exploded. For a brief period of time, perhaps six weeks, I fought on a T-34 around Smolensk. The commander of one of our companies was hit in his tank. The crew jumped out of the tank but were unable to run away from it because the Germans were pinning them down with machine gun fire. They lay there in the wheat field as the tank burned and blew up. By evening, when the battle had waned, we went to them. I found the company commander lying on the ground with a large piece of armor sticking out of his head. When a Sherman burned, the main gun ammunition did not explode. Why was this?

Such a case occurred once in Ukraine. Our tank was hit. We jumped out of it but the Germans were dropping mortar rounds around us. We lay under the tank as it burned. We laid there a long time with nowhere to go. The Germans were covering the empty field around the tank with machine gun and mortar fires. We lay there. The uniform on my back was beginning heating up from the burning tank. We thought we were finished! We would hear a big bang and it would all be over! A brother’s grave! We heard many loud thumps coming from the turret. This was the armor-piercing rounds being blown out of their cases. Next the fire would reach the high explosive rounds and all hell would break loose! But nothing happened. Why not? Because our high explosive rounds detonated and the American rounds did not? In the end it was because the American ammunition had more refined explosives. Ours was some kind of component that increased the force of the explosion one and one-half times, at the same time increasing the risk of detonation of the ammunition.

It is considered noteworthy that the Sherman was very well appointed on the inside. Was this true?

It was true. These are not just words! They were beautiful! For us then this was something. As they say now, “Euro-repair”! This was some kind of European picture! In the first place, it was painted beautifully. Secondly, the seats were comfortable, covered with some kind of remarkable special artificial leather. If a tank was knocked out or damaged, then if it was left unguarded literally for just several minutes the infantry would strip out all this upholstery. It made excellent boots! Simply beautiful!

 

In your book “Commanding the Red Army’s Sherman Tanks” you wrote that the 233rd Tank Brigade’s M4A2 Shermans were armed not with the short-barreled 75mm but the long-barreled 76mm main gun in January 1944. Wasn’t this a bit early? Didn’t these tanks appear later? Explain one more time which main guns were mounted on the Shermans of the 233rd Tank Brigade.

Hmm, I don’t know. We had very few Shermans with the short-barreled main gun. On the whole, ours had long-barrels. Not just our brigade fought on Shermans. Perhaps these were in other brigades. Somewhere in the corps I saw such tanks, but we had the tanks with the long barrels.

Dmitriy Fedorovich, there were personal weapons in each Sherman that arrived in the USSR, Thompson submachine guns (also known as the Tommy gun). I read that rear area personnel stole these weapons and that few tanks arrived in units still equipped with them. What kind of weapons did you have, American or Soviet?

Each Sherman came with two Thompson submachine guns, in caliber 11.43mm (.45 cal), a healthy cartridge indeed! But the submachine gun was worthless. We had several bad experiences with it. A few of our men who got into an argument were wearing padded jackets. It turned out that they fired at each other and the bullet buried itself in the padded jacket. So much for the worthless submachine gun. Take a German submachine gun with folding stock (MP-40 SMG by Erma -Valeri). We loved it for its compactness. The Thompson was big. You couldn’t turn around in the tank holding it.

The Sherman had an antiaircraft machine gun Browning M2 .50 caliber. Did you use it often?

 I don’t know why, but one shipment of tanks arrived with machine guns, and another without them. We used this machine gun against both aircraft and ground targets. We used it less frequently against air targets because the Germans were not fools. They bombed either from altitude or from a steep dive. The machine gun was good to 400-600 meters in the vertical. The Germans would drop their bombs from say, 800 meters or higher. He dropped his bomb and departed quickly. Try to shoot the bastard down! So yes, we used it, but it was not very effective. We even used our main gun against aircraft. We placed the tank on the upslope of a hill and fired. But our general impression of the machine gun was good. These machine guns were of great use to us in the war with Japan, against kamikazes. We fired them so much that they got red hot and began to cook off. To this day I have a piece of shrapnel in my head from an antiaircraft machine gun.

Did German aircraft inflict significant losses on your equipment? In particular, what can you say about the Henschel Hs-129?

Not every time, but it did happen. I don’t remember the Henschel; perhaps there was such an airplane. Sometimes we were able to avoid bombs. You could see them coming at you, you know. We opened our hatches, stuck out our heads, and instructed our drivers over the intercom: “The bomb will fall in front of us”. But in general there were cases when tanks were hit and set on fire. Losses from these attacks did not exceed 3-5 tanks in the battalion. It was more common for a single tank to be damaged or destroyed. We faced much greater danger from panzerfaust gunners in built-up areas. In Hungary I recall that I was so tired that I told my deputy to lead the battalion while I slept. I went to sleep right there in the fighting compartment of my Sherman. Around Beltsy they had dropped ammunition to us by parachute. We took one parachute for ourselves. I used this parachute for my pillow. The parachute was made from silk and didn’t let the lice in. And I was sound asleep! Suddenly I woke up. Why? I awoke from the silence. Why the silence? It turns out that attacking aircraft had set two tanks on fire. During the march many things were piled up on the tanks: crates, tarpaulin. The battalion had halted, shut off engines, and it had become silent. And I woke up.

Did you lock your hatches during combat in built-up areas?

We absolutely locked our hatches from the inside. In my own experience, when we burst into Vienna, they were throwing grenades at us from the upper floors of buildings. I ordered all the tanks to be parked under the archways of buildings and bridges. From time to time I had to pull my tank out into the open to extend a whip antenna and send and receive communications from my higher commander. On one occasion, a radio operator and driver-mechanic were doing something inside their tank and left the hatch open. Someone dropped a grenade through the hatch from above. It struck the back of the radio operator and detonated. Both were killed. Thus we most certainly locked our hatches when we were in built-up areas.

The primary defeating mechanism of HEAT (hollow-charge) ammunition, of which the panzerfaust was one type, is the high pressure in the tank, which disables the crew. If the hatches were kept slightly open, would this not provide some degree of protection? A special order was issued before our forces entered Germany.

This is true, but just the same we kept our hatches locked. It might have been different in other units. The panzerfaust gunners most often fired at the engine compartment. If they were able to set the tank on fire, like it or not the crew had to get out. And then the Germans shot at the crew with a machine gun.

What were the chances of survival if your tank was hit?

My tank was hit on 19 April 1945 in Austria. A Tiger put a round straight through us. The projectile passed through the entire fighting compartment and then the engine compartment. There were three officers in the tank: I as the battalion commander, the company commander Sasha Ionov (whose own tank had already been hit), and the tank commander. Three officers, a driver-mechanic, and a radio operator. When the Tiger hit us, the driver-mechanic was killed outright. My entire left leg was wounded; to my right, Sasha Ionov suffered a traumatic amputation of his right leg. The tank commander was wounded, and below me sat the gunner, Lesha Romashkin. Both of his legs were blown off. A short time before this battle, we were sitting around at a meal and Lesha said to me, “If I lose my legs I will shoot myself. Who will need me?” He was an orphan and had no known relatives. In a strange twist of fate, this is what happened to him. We pulled Sasha out of the tank and then Lesha, and were beginning to assist in the evacuation of the others. At this moment Lesha shot himself.

In general, one or two men were always wounded or killed. It depended where the shell struck.

How did you co-operate with the infantry during combat?

By TOE the tank brigade had three tank battalions of 21 tanks each and a battalion of submachine gunners. A submachine gun battalion had three companies, one for each tank battalion. We had this three-battalion structure only in late 1943 and early 1944. All the rest of the time we had two tank battalions in the brigade. Our submachine gunners were like brothers to us. On the march they sat on our tanks. They kept warm there, dried their things, and slept. We drove along and then stopped somewhere. The tankers could sleep and our submachine gunners protected our tanks and us. Over the course of time many submachine gunners became members of our crews, initially as loaders and later as radio operators. We divided our trophies equally: they with us and we with them. Therefore they had an easier time of it than ordinary infantrymen.

During combat they sat on the tanks until the firing started. As soon as the Germans opened fire on our tanks, they jumped off and ran behind the tanks, frequently protected by its armor from enemy light machine gun fire.

If it happened that the tanks were limited in maneuver and speed, did you maneuver your infantry or halt them?

Nothing like that. We did not pay any attention to them. We maneuvered and they maneuvered themselves behind us. There were no problems. It would have been worse for them if we had been knocked out, so let them run behind us.

Was the tank’s speed limited in the attack? By what?

Of course! We must been fire!

How did you fire, from short halts or on the move?

Both ways. If we fired on the move, the speed of the tank did not exceed 12 km/h. But we rarely fired on the move, only in order to incite panic in the enemy ranks. Primarily we fired from short halts. We rushed into a position, stopped for a second, fired, and moved ahead.

What would you like to say about the German Tiger?

It was an extremely heavy vehicle. The Sherman could never defeat a Tiger with a frontal shot. We had to force the Tiger to expose its flank. If we were defending and the Germans were attacking, we had a special tactic. Two Shermans were designated for each Tiger. The first Sherman fired at the track and broke it. For a brief space of time the heavy vehicle still moved forward on one track, which caused it to turn. At this moment the second Sherman shot it in the side, trying to hit the fuel cell. This is how we did it. One German tank was defeated by two of ours, therefore the victory was credited to both crews. There is a story about this entitled “Hunting With Borzois” in my book.

The muzzle brake has one significant shortcoming: a cloud of dust is raised during firing from a weapon thus equipped, giving away one’s position. Some artillerymen attempted to counter this, for example, by wetting down the ground in front of their cannons. What countermeasures did you employ?

You’re correct! We might have packed the ground and covered it with our tarpaulins. I don’t recall any special problems.

Were your tank sights blinded by dust, dirt, or snow?

There were no special difficulties. Snow, of course, could blind us. But not dust. The sight on the Sherman did not protrude. On the contrary, it was recessed into the turret. Therefore it was well protected against the elements.

Dmitriy Fedorovich, our tankers who fought on the British Churchills pointed out the weak heater in the crew compartment as a deficiency. The standard electric heater was inadequate for the conditions of the Russian winter. How was the Sherman equipped in this regard?

 The Sherman had two engines connected by a coupling joint. This was both good and bad. There were cases when one of these motors was disabled in battle. Then the coupling joint could be disengaged from the crew compartment and the tank could crawl away from the fight on one engine. On the other hand, there were powerful fans located above both engines. We used to say, “Open your mouth and the wind came out your ass!” How the hell could we get warm? There were such strong drafts of air! Perhaps there was heat coming from the engines, but I will not tell you that it was warm. When we halted, we immediately covered the engine compartment with our tarpaulin. Then it stayed warm in the tank for several hours; we slept in the tank. Not for nothing did the Americans give us fleece-lined coveralls.

Were there norms of ammunition consumption for the tank?

Yes there were. In the first place, we took one basic load (BK -boekomplekt -a full set of ammo. For example the IS-2’s BK = 28 shells. -Valeri) with us going into battle. We took an additional BK on the outside of our tanks during long raids. When I raced into Vienna, for example, my commander personally ordered us to take two BK: the normal load inside and the second on the armor. In addition, we carried up to two cases of trophy chocolate on each tank and found additional provisions for ourselves. We were “on our own”, so to speak. This meant that if we had to conduct a raid somewhere deep in the rear, we offloaded rations and in their place took ammunition. All of our wheeled supply vehicles were American 2 ?-ton Studebakers. They always brought the ammunition forward to the battalion.

There is one other thing I want to say. How did we preserve our (Soviet) ammunition? Several rounds covered by a thin layer of grease, in wooden crates. One had to sit for hours and clean this grease off the rounds. American ammunition was packed in cardboard tube containers, three rounds banded together. The rounds were shiny clean inside their protective tubes! We took them out and immediately stowed them in the tank.

What kind of rounds did you carry in the tank?

Armor-piercing and high explosive. There was nothing else. The ratio was approximately one-third HE and two-thirds AP.

Did the crew receive a concussion when a round hit the tank, even if it did not penetrate the armor?

Generally, no. It depended on where the round hit. Let’s say that I was sitting in the left side of the turret and a round struck near me. I heard this hit but it did not harm me. If it struck somewhere on the hull, I might not hear it at all. This happened several times. We would come out of an engagement and inspect the tank. In several places the armor would show an impact, like a hot knife that had cut through butter. But I did not hear the round impacts. Sometimes the driver would shout, “They’re shooting from the left!” But there was no overwhelming sound. Of course, if such a powerful gun as the JSU-152 hit you, you heard it! And it would take off your head along with the turret.

I want also to add that the Sherman’s armor was tough. There were cases on our T-34 when a round struck and did not penetrate. But the crew was wounded because pieces of armor flew off the inside wall and struck the crewmen in the hands and eyes. This never happened on the Sherman.

What did you consider the most dangerous opponent? A cannon? A tank? An airplane?

They were all dangerous until the first round was fired. But in general, the antitank cannons were the most dangerous. They were very difficult to distinguish and defeat. The artillerymen dug them in so that their barrels literally were laying on the ground. You could see only several centimeters of their gun shield. The cannon fired. It was a good thing if it had a muzzle brake and dust was kicked up! But if it was winter or raining, what then?

Were there cases when you did not see from your tank where the fire was coming from, but your SMG infantry did see? How did they guide you to the source of the fire?

Sometimes they pounded on the turret and shouted. Sometimes they began to fire in the direction with tracer bullets or fired a signal rocket in that direction. And then, you know, when we went into the attack, the commander often looked around from the turret. None of the periscopes, even in the commander’s cupola, gave us good visibility.

How did you maintain communications with your commander and other tanks?

By radio. The Sherman had two radio sets, HF and UHF [high frequency and ultra high frequency], of very good quality. We used the HF for communications with our higher commander, with brigade, and the UHF for communications within the company and battalion. For conversation inside the tank we used the tank intercom system. It worked great! But as soon as the tank was hit, the tankers first action was to throw off his helmet and throat microphone. If he forgot and began to jump out of the tank, he would get hung up.