"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

New Info

Yahoo, in their infinite wisdom, has made itself unusable for reliable e-mail.
New e-mail:
plowshareforge@gmail.com
Of course I still check the Yahoo account. They just suck for the day-to-day stuff.

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov

What's the machine gun?

What's the machine gun?
Obviously a staged look-at-me-ma photo but what is the gun?
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Thursday, April 17, 2014

You're Going To Drive To The South Pole...

Are you mental?
"Under favourable circumstances Lieutenant Shackleton computes that the machine can travel 150 miles in twenty four hours and .... he thinks there would be a fair chance of sprinting to the pole"

Or not. Pictured above: the very first car in Antarctica.
 A car, "specially built" for the British Antarctic Expedition of 1907 - 09, AKA The Nimrod Expedition, by the Arrol-Johnston company of Paisley, Scotland.
And no, the expedition was named for it's ship - not the nimrod idea that the above-pictured, overweight quadra-cycle could "sprint" the roughly thousand miles between my old place of residence, McMurdo Sound and the spot on the planet farthest from Santa's AO.
Speaking of McMudhole; Hey, there I am/was, about thirty-nine years ago on top of Observation Hill observing either Good Friday or Palm Sunday, one.
Good Baptist boy, I'd just wanted to commemorate the times when my need to go someplace else to drink a beer may been imbued  with some larger significance.
Anyhoo, from this lofty perch, I could have watched the feeble scuttlings of the first auto on the ice and been even more bored. Even the falling into the crevasse would have been seen at a distance and anti-climactic as well.
Fact was: one  of the backers of the expedition had recently acquired the  Arrol-Johnston firm, the first automaker in Britain - which was a big deal - and he wanted to deepen AJ's reputation as Scotland's only car manufacturer in the bargain. One of his 'motors' tooling around down there would make for some nice ad copy he thought.
The 4 cylinder, 15 horsepower air cooled car pictured with its special mods is, as you can see, rather breezy. But I'll bet that fold-down windshield was really nice in the summer.
The end result turned out to be a car that had some hey-look-at-me bells-and-whistles such as: solid wooden tires with steel cleats for the rear and demountable skis for the front and, and... did I mention the skis?
It failed abysmally at its job and eventually, to everyone's relief, fell into a crevasse. 
Bad idea, but for 1907, just driving it down there long enough to know it was worthless was something.
Sir Ernie though, thought it may be able to make it to the pole even though he should have known better. Therefore, I'm only going to talk about vehicles that folks thought maybe-could-be as well as the ones that actually made it regarding that pesky, last thousand miles or so from the coast and the very,very bottom.
having made that assurance, we now take our sole digression: No mention was ever made of this thing attaining the pole, it just had to work.


Said digression: A 1963, VW Beetle known as "The Red Terror".
Not just a production car but a stock, production car, painfully stock.
It was picked out at an Australian dealership for the color.
They winterized it, fabricated a clip-on cover to keep snow out of the fan vents when parked, put a roof rack and some stickers on and it was ready to go.
Twelve months and 1500 Antarctic miles later, it was seen as a raving success even considering the several re-welds necessary for her front end.
After she got home to Oz, VW took her on the 1964, BP Rally Around Australia Rally and  she won outright.
Historic VW geeks, it's still out there...Could be somebody's dream barn-find.
Point is: she hadn't even been considered for the big shot,  she just tooled back and forth between Mawson Base and the airfield but she worked, and well... unlike the biggest, boffo, technological... thing that was ever supposed to make it feasible to drive there, Goddammit!
Everyone knows the old adage; "If a little is good, a lot is better, so too much ought'a be just right."

The handy caption should help you in picking the Cruiser out of the two vehicles pictured.
The Antarctic Snow Cruiser; it existed solely so Earnest Shackleton didn't look stupid for thinking a 1907 auto could drive to the pole. This monstrosity was actually built for it and couldn't get out of its own way. It broke the ramp built for getting it off the ship and, when off the ship, sank to its belly in the snow never to move again (hardly). It's still down there, a perfect, under-the-ice, doomsday shelter that you could just drive away... oh right.
All decked out, it had a machine shop, galley, sleeping quarters and an airplane perched on top just 'cause. 
This colossal  waste began at the Pullman factory in Chicago and when completed it was too big to transport to the coast for shipment to the ice. So, they drove it there, in the process, providing much-needed, depression-era cheering-up to folks along the route. Case in point: Three days spent in Ohio, stuck in a river. Something about nineteen feet being too wide for the bridge.
Of course,by now many, many people have "roaded" some sort of motor vehicle to the bottom of the world but the very first, in fact the very first-est rig to have done so was...
Wait for it... 
A Ferguson TE20 agricultural tractor, three of them actually.
The very big deal of the International Geophysical Year  began, for the British, a year early in 1956. 
The Brits or as their gangsta counterparts referred to them: "The Commonwealth" decided that, for their bit they would finally do what Shackleton and Mawson had failed at, travelling across the continent. Not in one shot of course. they'd learned by then.
The plan was: The main body would leap-frog along, setting up camps and supply depots along the way to the pole from the starting point on the Weddell Sea.
Sir Edmund Hillary (You know... that guy... did that thing...) along with his folks the New Zealand, contingent would do similar along the "backside" of the route, from the pole down the other side to McMurdo Sound.
The frontside set-up was run by the expedition leader, Sir Vivian Fuchs and they used Tucker Snocats (Made in Oregon!).
While the thankless grunt-work of setting up Sir Vivian's supply depots for his trip home was Hillary's job and, said task having been performed, Sir Edmund, having set up his last depot (ie "the one closest to the pole") and feeling antsy the way a fella will, conferred with the lads with him (two of them. one per tractor) and they agreed that they could just... head on down to the pole; they being "almost there."
Permission was asked and it was granted, kinda so Sir Ed said:

"I continued as though the exchange of messages had never occurred ... It was becoming clear to me that a supporting role was not my particular strength. Once we had done all that was asked of us - and a good bit more - I could see no reason why we shouldn't be organising a few interesting challenges for ourselves."

Like... driving to the South Pole. I mean... it's just over there!!
Anyway, it wasn't because Sir Ed thought Vivian was a woman and someone he could bully with his manly, Kiwi charm. Hillary and his lads, Derek Wright and Murray Ellis just went for it and... apparently that was cool with Viv.
They arrived just two days before my fourth birthday, Jan. 20 1958 the first land vehicles to reach the South Pole. 
I'd wanted a theme birthday party to celebrate the occasion but mom said no. That still burns.
Anyway, these rigs were unchanged from what could have been purchased from any implement dealer in En-Zed in '56 - but for a windshield (!!) and an idler axle amidships that supported the removable tracks.
And they painted them red. Usually these tractors are called "Little Grey Furgies".
Those spacious, canvas cabs can only have made that trip between Scott Base and the pole a cozy dawdle.
Of course, Sir Viv and the Sno Cats also made it, just got there a bit later.
Not surprising they'd showed up as the Sno Cat has been the last word in getting around in the snow since the thirties.
Speaking of the SC's, everyone and his dog has seen this photo of the precariously perched Sno Cat and wondered whatever happened to it. You can all rest assured. it got out. in fact, that very rig, door code: "B", nicknamed "Rock 'N Roll" lives at the yet-to-be-realized Tucker museum in Medford. There are other pics around showing other Sno Cats of the expedition in a similar predicament. Must have been a nerve-wracking trip.
Okay, saving the best for second-to-last which shouldn't matter anyway because it's just my pick in any case.
This is one that is cool on all kinds of hit-with-a-bigger-hammer front and last one of their kind left the ice this season.
America got into the Geophysical Year thing in 1957 with the setting up of several stations, including that at the pole and my old hometown of McMurdo.
All the overland transport of anything bigger than some guy's ass, onto the icecap and on the pole was made facilitated by the... drumroll please.... Caterpillar SD-8 LGP.
Observation Hill in the background but.
Isn't she a beauty? By the way, that designation would be: Stretch D-8, Low Ground Pressure.
They were a specialty item from Cat, bought mostly by the military for use in Greenland and Antarctica.
A D-8 with (I think) a beefier engine, a longer frame and tracks that were 54" wide. I can't recall the figures but its footprint was something like a quarter that of a human walking on the snow.
When they were rigged for going the distance they could carry 1200 gallons of fuel in a saddle tank and a belly tank that reduced ground clearance to three inches and aided mightily in the ground-pressure issue as well.

"A train of the tractors transported construction cargo from Little America V in Kainan Bay to Byrd Station during the 1956-57 summer for the International Geophysical Year. The D-8 was also used during the 1960-61 summer to pull the first U.S. surface traverse to reach the South Pole."
Hardly the glamor girls but they got shit done.
Speaking of glamor, although the famously indestructible Toyota Hilux has its stylish elements and is the favorite of insurgency groups everywhere, it has made the trip in stupid-fast time.
Did ya know... there's a Victorian gazing ball at the very spot that the earth's ass-end spins around on?
Looks like the one pictured.
Anyway, follow the links. I'm tired, lazy and have spent too much time on this already.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Militor!

It's been a very long time. My apologies.
To at least make a run at making that alright, let's have another rousing tale of the U.S. Army's glacially slow grasp of concepts; that of the tactical vehicle.
The funny thing is: The Army almost got it right in 1918 - like it did ten years later with the QMC Standard Fleet trucks, discussed a few months back along with deuce-and-a-halfs (halves?).
Those early, army built rigs died of budgetitis while the Militor's demise was due to apathy and idiocy.
The big strapping fella at the head of the little procession above would be the Militor.
Bringing up the rear is the four-wheel-drive Nash Quad.
The next in line looks like a Mack AC but it's a Renault and it along with the Nash are being towed up the hill together in a test of the Militor's power and traction at Hook Mountain in Nyack, New York.
Other tricks the Militor performed included climbing boulders, negotiating mud and, as you can see above; pulling heavy shit around.
And you can tell they're serious about it; this rig's chained up on all four wheels... in the summer.
 What this expensive fuss was in aid of was this: A problem had arisen  during the recent unplesantness, one which had its roots in the fact that no one was prepared for the challenges of the first, large-scale, industrial war (We weren't paying attention in the mid-19th century - what civil war?).
Johnny-come-latelyism aside, it became obvious that the the available technology re the cross-country transport of the bigger field peices, specifically the French, Schnieder, 155mm howitzer that the Americans had adopted and later began manufacturing.
 The Militor, brain-wave of the Army Caliber Board, was a five-ton, four-wheel-drive tractor. Or, depending on the source, a three-ton tractor. The weight designations used by the army tend to be somewhat meaningless in any case. Illustrated at closing.
One of the goodies built into the militor was the clever ring-gear drive pictured next which not only kept the drive line up out of things, but also added another level of gear reduction at the hub.
Cool though it was, it wasn't a unique system. The Nash Quad used a similar one and the Walter Motor Truck Co. (Later makers of the famous Walter Snowfighter, plow-trucks) even used a spur and ring-gear as their logo.
Problem was: The Nash Quad was only a two-ton truck and the FWD was a three ton and neither had been designed as tractor units. There were a few other four-wheel-drive trucks in use in the Great War but in numbers too small to be of significance.
The big ugly thing passed with flying colors but died anyway. The bureaucrats couldn't fathom why the ARTY guys couldn't be content sticking with the old, two-wheel-drive, Liberty trucks and Macks for road transport and slower-than-Christmas track-laying vehicles off-road.
And besides; Armistice.
Seventy-five were built, most configured as tractors but a few fitted with the standard, ammuntion body.
None exist anymore because they simply got plugged into heavy pulling jobs until they wore out. It was the same way with the QMC Standard Fleet  trucks. The only photos in existence of them, short of a few during trials show them just working - pulling big cannon etc. Not too glamorous but you'd think someone would have thought: "Ya' know... these are pretty handy. Maybe we ought to make some more.
QMC Standard Fleet 6 to 7 ton 4X4
Even though these rejected dinosaurs labored on pulling their shit-duty in obscurity, one Militor got to be the designated fixer on an important, high profile - and well documented - mission.
That would be the 1919 Motor Transport Corps Convoy.
That Wiki entry mentions the Militor as a "wheeled artillery-tractor" which was equipped with a winch.
 This from Lt. Col Dwight D. Eisenhower's convoy notes, 11/1919:

"The Militor, equipped with power winch and spade in rear, did wonderful work in pulling vehicles out of holes, sand pits, etc. The 5-ton tractor was also very efficiently used for this purpose. On one occasion at least, the Militor came into camp at night towing four trucks, showing that its power plant was almost perfect.

"The Militor". Pay attention to that. This experiment in long-distance truck transport involved eighty-one "vehicles and trailers" many in multiples the point being to test as many aspects of over-the-road transport as they could at one time.
They had along several 5-ton Mack AC's, several Garfords, FWD's and Liberty trucks representing the "heavies". In addition, lots of ton-and-a-half Packards, Whites, GMC's and Dodges.
August 15, 1919. Mack AC carrying Maxwell tractor falls through a bridge in Green River, Wyoming.

They used four different types of tires and evaluated each.
The convoy also included some obvious service vehicles which weren't the one actually being scrutinized. It brought along just 'cause, a five-ton Maxwell artillery tractor. The armor had been removed of course and this little dozer served as the Militor's slo-mo compatriot in the fight to keep these citified, Army chairwarmers out of the mud on their epic, transcontinental journey.
You can read the notes and the convoy logs and overall you'll see that the Garfords sucked ass. The other heavies did okay but slowed down the real stars which were the little, two-ton-and-under trucks.
The Packards were the stars of these trouble-free Olympics but GMC, White and Dodge proved reliable as well.
On balance, lots of  good intel was gathered: The chain-drive trucks like the Mack and the Garford were useless in deep sand. Who knew?
The only shot I can find of the Militor on the road in 1919. it's parked on the street somewhere in the midwest and is being checked-out by a local in bib-alls who seems to know how to hunker down to look under equipment.
My point and I do have one: They brought the Militor so it could pull their asses out when the commercial trucks they were so convinced could emplace a 155mm howitzer got stuck.
That's what it did. It and the Maxwell tractor (Brought along as payload it being the new darling of the off-road, ARTY transport scene.
I think of things like this whenever someone asks: "Why switch to the Johnson LMG when the BAR had been used forever?"
It's because... (sotto voce): When purchasing, considering, thinking about or otherwise somehow examining any sort of military equipment expenditures, our market-centered government goes stupid.
I'm pissed off and drunkish so I'm abandoning ship.
I think the Indian spam factory may have forgotten me so I'm going to go with comments again.
I did however promise to speak to the issue of the Army's system of rating the capacity of their equipment.
Offered without comment.

And just because; fuck that no comment shit.
What's with the Militor and that crazy looking hood?
Who, other than a lunatic Frenchman...
Latil
Renault
... would have thought of putting the radiator behind the engine... retarded!
Okay, the Mack AC did it as well.
So did the early Walter trucks.
But how about these mean, lean, brush-guarded,, ugly-as-homemade-sin, Kelly Springfield log-trucks?

Sunday, December 01, 2013

BIG TRUCKS!

Like this one:
It's a Mack EXBX in Australian service. A 4X6, 18 ton, tank-transporter/prime mover.
Here's the same in use by the Soviets.
Next up: The White 920, another 18-tonner.
A brief stop in France to check out a 6X6, Latil S25T gun-tractor. Especially notable; the unditching wheels on the front. They serve the same purpose as the roller on the front of the M3 halftrack (Another proud White product). That is they prevent the bumper from digging in on hills. These are too precious for words though, they look like a parasitic twin truck growing out the front.
The Thornycroft, 30 ton, "Mighty Antar" designated big rig of the British Commonwealth for forty years.
Let's wax tacticool for a bit with the M25, 40 ton, armored tank transporter, the "Dragon Wagon".
Diamond T 980, "...one of the most successful and memorable of its class".
Although the baby of our group with only a 12 ton payload, it was available with the largest gasoline engine of any military truck during the war
A Hall-Scott 440 OHV, inline-six. 1090 cubic inches producing 240 hp.
Drop one of those into your Excursion, yo.
Having thrilled to the sight of that giant engine, let's look at another pair of Diamond T's, double-teaming an A39 Tortoise, assault tank.
Once the 240 horses that monster power-plant produced were squoze-out through a 4-speed gearbox, a 3-speed transfer case and double-reduction differentials, they'd propel the unit along at 23 mph in the highest of its 12 forward speeds - at two miles to the gallon.
Now, we'll close with something completely different.













I give you... The largest bus in the world circa 1934.
A 38-passenger, luxury land yacht covering the Damascus to Baghdad route for the Nairn Transport Co. The fifth-wheel trailer was towed by a 6X6,  Marmon-Herrington tractor.
Love the porthole on the sleeper cab.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Somebody's Got a Birthday!



One hundred and forty years old today but I'll bet the old guy still remembers the present he got for his forty-fifth.
He is said to have gushed over the shiny new Armistice and, oddly unfamiliar, peace he'd received as: "Not a bad birthday present".
Pretty classy given that he had to share his present with everyone else in the world.
I briefly mentioned Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly way back here during our discussion of the Mack AC.
Just to cover that ground quickly: He won two Medals of Honor along with only eighteen other service members in all of history.
You can check out his fruit salad below. Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross... two bronze stars on his Good Conduct Medal. They guy was a marvel.
China Relief Expedition Medal, Philippine Campaign Medal, Expeditionary Medal with one bronze star, Mexican Service Medal, Haitian Service Medal, WW1 Victory Medal with Citation Star and three upscale, French awards for gallantry.

All that having been said... what's with the hat? Looks gay - and French.
You may recall the recent nontroversy concerning the USMC's  blue-skying some ideas re new uniform hats - covers in gruntspeak.
The venerable New York Post broke the story on the 23th of last month. Lots of good fun in the comments section there. Apparently, the President is trying to make all the Marines look more unisex - for some reason. The conjecture seems to be that Obama, as an insecure, pretender-to-the-throne, finds the Jarheads too intimidating and needs to feminize them a bit so he doesn't get scared while one of them holds his umbrella (That really gravels 'em, the umbrella thing. They didn't even start watching the President until we got a black one).
The Madogre and his Dad both got in on this with solemn, ponderous pronouncements that the Marines would never stand for this, that his was further evidence in the case of Obama vs Everything Macho and Bacon.
Two days later, the Post printed their retraction/clarification but by then the story had been outed by Stars and Stripes and Business Insider as well as others but by then the seed had been planted.
What was the origin of this tantrum-in-a-teapot? The Uniform Board was thinking about switching to a universal cover as the women's hat was no longer being manufactured and a new design was needed for it in any case. They asked for comments from the rank and file with the result being that everyone's mighty panties were wound into nice tight bunches.
The observation that the new lid would make the Marines look more wussy and effeminate was lost on me although, in the illustration above the two inboard Marines do look a bit girly.
Our enemies will see us as weak if our dress uni's don't strike terror 'cause that's what armed conflict is you know: It's a fashion show.
Personally, I like the Daly hat but I don't really give a shit one way or the other. The universe put down any preconceptions I may have had regarding uniforms forty years ago when the USN decided to chuck the old Donald Duck suit in favor one resembling the Good Humor Man's. Get over it.
In BDU's everyone looks like a walking pile of androgynous laundry anyway.
In closing, let me simply state, as emphatically as I can, that:
French-bashing is the surest way to expose your ignorance of history to anyone outside of your own bubble.
The image of the "Cheese-eatin'- surrender-monkey" came from the fertile mind of Groundskeeper Willie in 1995 and was later popularized by that poster-boy of callow nepotism and smug, smarmy ignorance, Jonah Goldberg while he was selling Bush's Debacle in Iraq-el.
You may recall him as that nice Jewish boy who brought to light the Monica Lewinsky story. He's a fool.
Remember that war, the one girlie-man Msgt Daly participated in?
For the first two years of that, 80% of the line in the West was held by the French alone and they still held half after that. On that front, virtually the entire ground war was fought on French territory.
I'll begin my gentle program of reeducation by directing the reader to this treatise from Cracked.com:
"The Five Most Full of Shit National Stereotypes". I know, it's from a humor magazine. I'm spoon-feeding for those whose history comes from "The Simpsons" or Jonah G.
I'm random and rambling and neglecting the Birthday Boy.
Happy hundred-and-fortieth, Old Timer. Don't let the pussies make fun of your hat.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Deuce-and-a-half

I've shared my odd truck obsession before but I'm all set to inflict it again with what has possibly been my favorite truck of all time.
That is of course the 6X6, 2 1/2 ton payload (cross country) cargo truck used by US forces from WW2 on.


Now here's the unit everyone visualizes when they think "vintage" deuce-and-a-half, the GMC CCKW. It was the one that was produced the most and carried all the goods for the US Army in all theaters.
But, what if I told you that the first ones looked like this:

GMC again, this time an ACKWX.
Briefly on the subject of these cumbersome acronyms, they're not "Army-ese" as you might imagine. They stem from GMC's own designation system where the first letter denotes the year of the design - in this case A = 1939.
For homework, extrapolate the year that the CCKW was adopted.
The second letter, C means that a standard cab is used. Third letter; K = driven front axle. Fourth letter; W = tandem, driven rear axle. The X only shows up if it uses a non-standard wheelbase. To be accurate, the ACKWX pictured is actually the cabover model which I think looks cooler.
The 1939 cabover model provided the running gear for the only deuce-and-a-half of the war that could cross the English Channel.
Here's one now, posing with its heroic crew.


"Seeking to rescue a Marine who was drowning in the surf at Iwo Jima, this sextet of Negro soldiers narrowly missed death themselves when their amphibian truck was swamped by heavy seas. From left to right, back row, they are T/5 L. C. Carter, Jr., Private John Bonner, Jr., Staff Sergeant Charles R. Johnson. Standing, from left to right, are T/5 A. B. Randle, T/5 Homer H. Gaines, and Private Willie Tellie." March 11, 1945. S/Sgt. W. H. Feen. 127-N-114329"

Okay, I just gave the game away.  The mystery vehicle is of course the ocean-going, deepwater rig, the DUKW.


"Finally" you say, an acronym that makes sense!
Nope. Just a lucky coincidence. The famous Army "Duck" was developed in 1942... therefore the letter "D" was used. Non-standard cab = U and so on.
More about the seagoing truck another time. Lotta ground to cover.
The deuce had its genesis around 1930 when the Army Quartermaster Corps became frustrated that the manufacturers, whose products had performed so admirably in the First War, had no interest in producing anything to replace all their aging Mack AC's and FWD's.
The Liberty Truck   had been a joint product of the QMC and the Society of Automotive Engineers and had worked out well but had been somewhat of a bureaucratic nightmare.


"Between 1928 and 1932 The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps began building several different models of trucks in their Ft Holabird, Maryland shops. These trucks were known as the QMC Standard Fleet, and trucks ranging from 1-1/4 to 12 ton were built, including 4x4 and 6x6 models."

The truck pictured above is a Group IV, 6 to 7 ton, 4x4 QMC model used as an artillery prime-mover.
Alas the QMC fleet, which had been built entirely by the Army using off-the-shelf parts, suffered the same fate as many other "non-essential" programs in the Great Depression.
The good news was that QMC exercise scared the hell out of truck manufacturers. The idea that the military could build their own damned trucks if it came to it, made them more amenable to discussions of tactical vehicles when the the pre-war build-up started.

Three main manufacturers produced the deuce, GMC, Studebaker/Reo and International Harvester.
That's not all the six-by's  that were used either. We're just not going to discuss the Dodge, 1 1/2 ton, WC-63, for instance. Nor the Mack NO, 7 yard, 2 ton nor the Diamond T, 4 ton.
The three models of trucks, built by the four manufacturers (Reo built some of the Studebakers), were built to the same specifications but differred in salient details.
Despite appearances these were nothing but commercial trucks with front drive and tactical sheet metal. The standardized M-series trucks were still ten years away.
Obviously providing support for vehicles from four different companies would be a logistical headache which was minimized thus: The GMC's went to the Army, the Studebaker's to lend lease and the Internationals to the Navy and Marines.
As a result, while the GMC's churned through the European mud, on the other side of Germany the Russian Army ran on the Studebaker US6.


The Russians loved the Studebaker, referring to it as "The Studer". They started manufacturing them in '42.
Pictured above carrying Stalin's organ.
The ambassador at the time reported that a toast often offered by Soviet soldiers was: "To Stalin. To Roosevelt, To Studebaker!"
After the war, Smiling Joe Stalin even went to the trouble of writing to the president of the company to gush over these trucks:

“Just imagine how we would have advanced from Stalingrad to Berlin without them!  Our losses would have been colossal because we would have had no maneuverability.”

Uh, Joe... your losses were colossal but that's not the point.

 The Soviet mobility did kick ass on that of the Reich.
In an amazing display of misplaced priorities along with atypical, Teutonic blockheadery, Germany had built the hell out of tanks for the Russian campaign while most of their transport was still horse-drawn. What trucks they had were were just militarized, commercial trucks with little off-road capability especially on Russia's, unpaved roads during the Rasputitsa.
Alas, The firm which of all sorts of wagons from 1852 on; then on through cars, trucks and the famous and versatile M-29 Weasel  - didn't survive past 1967 even though it was the first car purchased by Lt. jg. George H. W. Bush when he left the canoe club.
Studebaker should of done an ad campaign with Stalin.

Last but far from least, we find out how the International Harvester version compared even though it's so obscure that it doesn't even have a Wiki entry.
Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is this: A builder of tractors may view the problem of cargo-truck mobility differently.
While a few IH's went to lend-lease most went to the Navy and the Marine Corps and they were all something else entirely compared to the other deuces.
What IH came up with to meet the identical specs as the others had a larger engine and a Hendrickson, walking-beam rear suspension, the off-road advantages of which can be seen in the articulation of those adorable Scammels and in the photo below of an off-the-rack Cornbinder in 1953.
It was also about 20-30% more expensive than the others as a result.

 Oh! On top of that it had two-yes-two-count-em-two, locking, rear differentials. Hey, there they are!

 

Have I exhausted this topic? Maybe. Anyway, I'm tired.
in closing, you can see from the above photo that lots of all of these rigs are still around. In fact, both in Europe and the Soviet Union, the lend-lease trucks were converted for civilian use and there are probably a bunch of them still at it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Super-Soaker

First off, let me state: Bill Whittle is an idiot.
Several months back, he put out a video wherein he likened Liberal theories of economics to a toy train set, cleverly illustrating - or so he reckoned - how out-of-touch and abstract our world-view is.
Anyway, a minute or so in he draws a contrast between the laborious, British preparation for the Somme offensive in 1916 and Patton's dynamic "style" of "leadership" post D-day. I'd offer more info but it's not germane because... Bill Whittle is an idiot.
In Bill's analogy, the Republicans resemble Old Blood and (other people's) Guts with their bold, innovative, world-changing ideas while the Democrats are just following doctrinaire strategy with zero innovation - like the Brits of 1916.
Like I said; he's an idiot.
Anyone possessed of any knowledge of the Great War whatsoever knows that every action was different.
Well, not really that different in that virtually all attacks were doomed to failure and if they were successful, even the rare taking of enemy trenches was generally short lived.
Every action involved lots and lots of dead and maimed folks whether the plan worked or not.
Every assault also had it's own special gadgets to try out and the big green-wienie pictured above is one of them.
Four of these were set up on the Somme but only two got to play. The other two were destroyed before the big day.
So what the hell was it? A huge secret for one thing - and just plain huge; fifty feet long, two-and-a-half tons heavy.
It's inventor was Captain William Howard Livens.
He was a Cambridge-educated engineer who enlisted the day war was declared but remained relatively uninvolved; at least until the sinking of the Lusitania.
It seems his fiance was supposed to have been aboard that fateful day and when he got word of the sinking, he assumed the worst.
Livens vowed vengeance on Germany even though he found out later that his betrothed missed the boat and was alive. He was going to kill some Germans.
The thinking cap he put on led him to ponder ways of delivering poison gas - or flame to the enemy more expeditiously.
The early flamethrowers were heavy, unreliable and dangerous in the extreme.
The British had no luck with their smaller flamethrowers, partly because their choice of propellant gas, either nitrogen (so called) or (mostly) "de-oxygenated" air, would ignite the fuel prematurely.
Livens' invention, the Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector, posed no such hazard.
Let's examine this thing. From the left: First off, a row of compressed-air cylinders. That would be the propellant gas.
Air lines coming from them feed into the rear end of the beast's spine; a segmented length of 14" pipe, topped by five, fuel tanks.
Along with supporting the center of the device, this length of pipe, acted as a large cylinder not unlike the body of a syringe.
The tube was filled from the tanks above with the fuel mix, a valve was opened and compressed air pushed a piston against the oil, pushing it toward the business end of this monster where awaited a nozzle with an oxy/acetylene igniter.
It was  just a big squirt-gun but safe because the propellant and the fuel made no contact.
But wait. Where is all this happening, certainly not out in the open?
The word, "gallery" in the description refers to an underground gallery. a tunnel.
Said tunnel would be dug up to within range of the German trenches and the Projector would be brought down piece by piece, entailing working parties of two to three hundred.
Then the fuel, a mixture of kerosene and fuel oil, was carried down in three-gallon cans, one at a time to fill the tanks.
When all was ready and the critical moment arrived, hydraulics would raise the monster's armored head, punching up through the dirt and... This would happen.
My figuring yields that fifty feet of tube at fourteen inches diameter amounted to around eighty gallons, all expended over a ten-second... squirt.
The squirt-gun could be loaded and discharged two more times from the tanks before that long procession of three-gallon cans would have to resume.
Did it work though, for those three squirts?
Hell yes. In the places they were used significant British gains were made. Nothing like dousing the enemy with fire before going over.
It would even work for dugouts; either burning them or suffocating the inhabitants.
Thing was:
It was all a bit much. A bit too cumbersome, expensive, heavy and - did I mention the three-gallon oil cans?
It took seventy-five of them, along with 5000 pounds of machinery - all of which had to be piss-anted through tunnels - just to get set up.
And it had to be within 50 to 100 yards of the German front line to be effective.
So, heavy on infrastructure, vulnerable to destruction prior to deployment and a huge pain-in-the-butt from the beginning...
It wants a second act.
One day Livens pondered this and wondered if the oil could be delivered to the Germans in an un-ignited state and somehow lit afire upon arrival.
He cast his eyes about and saw - of all things - one of those same three-gallon oil cans. When he realized that said can would fit nicely inside one of the twenty-gallon fuel tanks that were mentioned above as being part of the projector, he thought: "Ya know what a guy could do...".

He had the tank buried in the ground at a forty-five degree angle, pointed toward the Germans.
He rigged a fuse and tossed in a few ounces of black powder followed by a wooden disc, included to spread the initial impact of the firing charge as well as help seal the gap around the can.
Then the can, which he'd filled with "Persian distillate" topped it off.
The hoped-for conflagration was to be triggered by an oily rag tied to the handle of the can which ignited upon firing.
Well, it was a flaming success and the Livens Projector was born.
Industrial strength Molotov cocktail for the slower students.
This is the kind of brain-dead, butt-simple innovation that keeps things moving forward in our modern world.
Of course this demonstration was nothing but a test of the concept and really didn't break much new ground, innovation-wise.
This is an old idea, originally known as the fougasse.
But, the best ideas are often the old ideas.
The diagram shows a typical projector - at least what it had quickly evolved into: A welded steel tube eight inches in diameter, welded shut at one end and fitted with a base-plate (Called "the sombrero").
The drum, as it was called held either the flame mixture or one of various gases, poisonous and otherwise - with conventional fusing and bursting charges as needed.
Often they would deploy "stink agents" (Great name for a punk-band) to fool the other side into putting on their masks and freaking out.
Meanwhile you'd simply go over-the-top unencumbered by any masks or gas hysteria ,and only barely grossed-out by the smell of bone-oil - it being the Western Front in high summer and a place where nasty smells would be commonplace... I would think.
Sadly, bone-oil doesn't seem to available as a product anymore but apparently you can home-brew some.
It wasn't just the magic of Dippel's wonderful stink-oil that made this so brilliant. The projectors were used mostly to deliver phosgene gas but here's the beauty part: They were so cheap, you could have a lot of them.
It got even better when Livens got clever.
Now; as any idiot can see... this thing's a mortar.
But no... If that were the case then it would be a "gun" and would therefore fall  under the department of ordnance where guns were allotted, relative to caliber, so many to a given length of front and so on.
There were also different transportation headaches accruing to a unit of artillery which were  done away with by simply ordering engineering supplies instead.
No. These were projectors - not firearms at all.
The result of this vaguely random, slightly sly undertaking was that, at Vimy Ridge, 2000 were set up in a crescent above Arras.
Cheap, simple, reliable and you can as many as you want.
Lacks a little of the dash of the ARTY, don't you think?


"a simple weapon which does not aspire to great accuracy. Its range is limited to about 1,800 yards; the noise of firing is very loud, and at night is accompanied by a vivid flash.
Projectors are the principal armament of C.W. companies, RE."


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