Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Once more, with feeling: Bush Lied, People Died!

Utah's lefty rag, the Salt Lake Tribune, has had a couple of their reporters in Iraq for the past few months attached to a local National Guard unit, the 222nd Field Artillery Battalion (the reporters even have their own blogs). Their posts have mostly been feel-good, reassuring human-interest stories but you knew, you just knew, they were itching to find something to pillory the military and the Bush Administration with.

Well, they finally found it. And what better subject than the supposed failure of the bumbling Rumsfeldian Neo-Cons to provide adequate armor for vehicles?

Now Captain Holly certainly isn't downplaying the importance of ensuring that all vehicles are adequately armored. I'm more than willing to provide the troops with whatever armor they may need, and I'm distressed to find that some vehicles are still not up to par. But I do take issue with this quote from a company commander (which, knowing the liberal media, might have been selectively edited to provide the desired effect):

Zecher only hopes the challenge is met before she has to explain to one of her soldier's parents why their child was killed in a poorly armored vehicle.

She said her frustrations are only tempered by an understanding that the U.S. military had not anticipated the challenge the insurgency would present to the Army's supply system.

"In every other war, the supply routes were not compromised as much as they are now," she said. "This is new to us."

With all due respect, this is hogwash. And having said that, Captain Holly will relate to his readers the sad tale of a US tank that wasn't quite good enough, the M-4 Sherman.

The Sherman was the main US battle tank at the start of the war and was used, with modifications, until V-E Day. Some 50,000 M-4s were made and used by the Allies.

The Sherman's design had several advantages: It was reliable, inexpensive, had good mobility and was easy to produce. Most importantly, it was relatively small enough to be shipped in large amounts across the Atlantic.

It also had several critical disadvantages; namely, it was inadequately armored and woefully undergunned. But worse than that, because it's engine was originally designed for aircraft, it used highly flammable gasoline instead of diesel fuel, in spite of recommendations from US tank commanders such as General George Patton.

In other words, it had the nasty habit of blowing up in a fireball whenever it got hit. The Germans were so impressed with it's propensity to burn that they nicknamed the Sherman "the Tommy Cooker".

The Sherman, in other words, was essentially obsolete by 1942.

Yet even though the Roosevelt Administration knew this by late 1942, based on the experience of the British in North Africa, they continued to allow great numbers of Shermans to be produced and shipped to US and Allied troops. It is not an exaggeration to say that thousands of American, British, French and Russian troops died as a direct result of the Sherman's inadequacies.

And talk about "hillbilly armor"; after the Normandy invasion, when it became obvious the Sherman couldn't stop the German 75 and 88 mm anti-tank shells, desperate GIs used metal plates, sandbags, tree trucks and wooden planks to protect themselves.

The truth is, the experience in Iraq with inadequately armored vehicles in neither unprecedented nor surprising. Every war is fought using weapons and equipment that were designed for the previous war, and no battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.

So please, spare us the snide insinuations that somehow the Bush Administration was criminally negligent. In light of history, the experiences in Iraq are par for the course.


At 10:56 AM, Blogger The Great El-ahrairah said...

That said, let it be known that the replacement for the M-4 Sherman, the Pershing (I don't remember the number, maybe M-5) didn't show up until 1945 (three years later). By that time, the Germans were on the ropes and were trying to delay the enivitable. Before the M-4 Sherman, the US fielded the M-3 Grant/Lee tanks which had the same problems as the Sherman (size, engine, etc.), but which were the only tanks available that fielded a main gun which would have a chance of defeating a German Mark-III and/or Mark-IV at the time since the Brits really didn't have anything either. The only reason that the US was able to win the war with such a tank as the Sherman was our ability to turn out hundreds and hundreds of them so even if the Germans could destroy them at will, we had lots of replacements whereas the Germans didn't have for their tanks when they were destroyed. We also developed combined arms tactics which enabled the US forces to beat the German tanks when attacked. It's a nasty little secret that American tanks were not the best in the world until the M-1 Abrams. Before that, we relied on superior tactics (like the Israelis who also used a variant of the Sherman) to off-set the superiority of German/Russian tanks. Unfortunately for the Iraqis, during the 1st Gulf War, using those tactics with a tank like the M-1 Abrams spelled doom for anything Russian.

So, to cut to the chase, eventhough people whine about not enough armor ontheir vehicles (and military doctrine in Iraq is nothing goes outside the wire unless it has been "up-armored" so I don't see what the commander is crying about), if it took the US three years to get a replacement for the Sherman which was already obsolete when fielded during the height of World War II, they should be sinigng the praises of President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld for getting the up-armor kits out to Iraq so fast. It is painfully apparent to the causal observer of history (myself) that liberals haven't taken the time to learn the lessons of the past. I guess it makes their heads hurt to see how wrong they are.

At 12:37 PM, Anonymous JPC said...

You are absolutely right about the Sherman. It was no match for the Tiger with its 88 or the Panther with its long barrel 75. Shermans were modified in the field with side armor called "bazooka pants" now apparently known as "hillbilly armor". When I was at Ft. Knox years ago we drove M60 A1 E1s. I think the Marines may still use them. At least they did in Gulf 1.

At 10:16 PM, Blogger Captain Holly said...

The Pershing was designated M-26, and it was equal to the German Panthers and Tiger I's. As you said, though, it didn't show up in decent numbers until after the Battle of the Bulge, where it could have made a significant difference.

The Marines were still using M-60's in Gulf I, but they now have M-1A1's.


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