43 Comments

  1. Bad news: You can’t fire off both of the bazookas at once. Seeing as you can’t stand behind recoilless rifles mounted in this manner, the first shot had better hit its target. The low grade armor on the jeep seems to have taken hits from German K bullets (armor-piercing rifle rounds). With no machine gun at the designated cut-out in the armor, this jeep would have to smash a tank on the first strike and then run away, unable to provide itself an infantry deterrent. Or the driver could resort to car-fu.

    Where’s the M1919 when you need it?

    • Agreed, Rob. Did you know that the British took a ridiculously effective approach to arming a jeep without armor? Try searching up the Long Range Desert Group (predecessor to the Special Air Service). These commandos would strip jeeps of their “non-essential” weight (including the radiator grill) and then mount up to four machine guns, two of which would be Vickers K guns (as a pair). The other two guns would vary. Sometimes there would be a Browning M1919 chambered for .303 British or a Bren. Heavier vehicles would carry heavier weapons, such as 37mm Bofors anti-tank guns or captured Breda 35 20mm anti-air guns. Armor was not provided for any of the vehicles since it would just be useless weight in high-speed motorized warfare. If you are driving an armed but unarmored vehicle, you should concentrate on speed and maneuverability in the field assuming you have already fired off the bazookas and thus ruined your concealment. The steel plates are pretty much useless if a tank does spot you first.

      As said earlier, the Germans actually made armor-piercing rifle bullets beginning in the First World War. That was a result of early tank encounters. Wouldn’t it be a shock to lightly armored vehicles to have their protection nullified by “ordinary” machine gun bullets? These GI’s are better off without the plates.

      • Good observations, Andrew — thanks!

        We do have to be careful, however, regarding the LRDG and the SAS. The LRDG was not the predecessor of the SAS. It was founded by Major Ralph Bagnold, a quiet, modest, unassuming and publicity-shy man who was not well-known during his heyday, and has been, most unfortunately, largely forgotten today. It is most unfortunate that descriptions, photographs and even anecdotes of him are almost non-existent.

        Bagnold was a regular officer of the British Army who had been educated at Gonville and Caius College of the University of Cambridge in England, and who was also a graduate of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He received his commission in the Royal Engineers in 1915, and served on the Western Front until the Armistice in 1918. In 1920, he transferred to the Royal Signal Corps, and subsequently went to the Middle East. Here, he fell in love with the desert, and began organizing weekend trips to Siwa Oasis and the Sinai with a handful of fellow enthusiasts. Their expeditions became more ambitious with time, and they were completing round trips of 6000 miles or more by the 1930’s, covering nearly all the desert areas between the Mediterranean Sea and Northern Sudan. During these years, Bagnold perfected the sun compass, invented the sand channel for unsticking vehicles from soft, clinging sand, and amassed an enormous amount of knowledge about the Western Desert, its routes and its ways. He was fortunate during this time that the Royal Geographical Society saw fit to support and encourage him, for the War Office, in its infinite wisdom, had decided it simply was not interested.

        On June 10th, 1940, Italy declared war on the Allies and mobilized an army in Libya. Just the day before, Bagnold had submitted a proposal to General Sir Archibald Wavell, Commander-In-Chief Middle East, for the formation of “Long Range Patrols” ( subsequently the Long Range Desert Group ) to act as deep-penetration reconaissance units far behind enemy lines. The proposal was approved on June 23rd, 1940 and Bagnold hurriedly recruited his old “desert trooper” friends from the pre-war expeditions, men who have become legendary in the annals of the LRDG’s colorful history and who are, ironically, better remembered than Bagnold himself. Pat Clayton of Tanganyika, William Kennedy Shaw of Palestine and Guy Prendergast were among this early group of extraordinary individuals. Later on, names like Michael Sadler, Michael Crichton-Stuart, Robin Gurdon and Martin Gibbs would be added to this roster.

        As for the vehicles used by the LRDG, Bagnold’s pre-war journeys had been made using Ford 15-cwt trucks, adequate for peacetime use but not able to carry the requisite military loads for desert warfare. The decision was therefore made to switch to Chevrolet 30-cwt trucks, and these were variously equipped with 37mm Bofors and 20mm Breda cannon as well as a variety of machine guns ranging from 0.5″ Vickers HMG’s, through 0.303″ Vickers and Breda Modello 37 8mm MMG’s to Lewis 0.303″ LMG’s. The LRDG did not favor the use of Jeeps because of their more limited range, carrying capacity and endurance for the intended mission.

        Enter a young subaltern named David Stirling. In July 1941, Stirling, whose original regiment was the Scots Guards, and who was currently serving in No. 8 Commando, boldly and literally bluffed his way past assorted mid-level and senior staff officers in Middle East Headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, to reach General Neil Ritchie, Deputy Chief-Of-Staff, Middle East Forces. Stirling proposed to Ritchie the creation of a small, highly-mobile and flexible raiding unit that would parachute behind enemy lines to destroy Rommel’s aerial assets on the ground, and therefore deprive the latter of vital air support. The economic efficiency of Stirling’s idea was very appealing — a small handful of well-trained operatives who could do serious damage out of all proportion to their numbers if they succeeded, yet would constitute a minimal loss if they should fail. It is to Ritchie’s great credit that he recognized the potential of this proposal and brought the matter personally to the attention of the new Commander-In-Chief Middle East Forces, General Sir Claude Auchinleck, who in turn saw the sensibility behind this bold idea. Three days after his meeting with Ritchie, Stirling was nominally promoted to the rank of Captain and given permission to recruit six officers and sixty men, and to establish a training facility in the Suez Canal Zone. Thus, L Detachment of the Special Air Service ( SAS ) was born. This moniker was initially really nothing more than a ruse designed to mislead enemy intelligence into thinking that special parachute units had been deployed in the Middle East Theatre, but the name eventually became permanently associated with the unit and has stuck to the present day. Among the early volunteers for the SAS were Blair “Paddy” Mayne, Jock Lewes, Bill Fraser, McGonigal, Bonnington, and Thomas. Later, other now well-known names such as Fitzroy MacLean, Gordon Alston and Randolph Churchill ( the son of Prime Minister Winston Churchill ) became part of this unique unit.

        During the early days of the Desert War, the fledgeling SAS had limited experience of the desert and how to properly cope with its exigencies, let alone navigate the vast, isolated tracts while still achieving set military objectives. To this end, it was arranged that the RAF would be responsible for dropping the SAS into action, and that they would then rendevous with the LRDG for evacuation by ground. It is a matter of recorded history that the early parachute raids against enemy airfields were a disaster, the SAS barely surviving the subsequent attempts by certain sceptical staff officers to disband them. Fortunately, cooler heads, Winston Churchill’s, Auchinleck’s and Ritchie’s included, prevailed — and the SAS were given another chance to prove their point.

        During the course of these early raids, the SAS had not failed to notice the outstanding capabilities and desert craft of the LRDG, and a decision was made to enter and egress the target area by land, the LRDG providing their superb desert and navigation skills to transport the SAS raiders to and from their destinations. For this reason, the close and intimate cooperation between the two units became inextricably intertwined over time, and this has given rise to the oft-quoted myth that the SAS was born of the LRDG. In reality, the two operated as separate and autonomous units that also happened to have many common objectives, and who did not hesitate to work hand-in-hand with each other up to the very end of the war in the Western Desert.

        Later on, when the SAS had truly gained sufficient experience with the hard lessons of desert warfare, they began to branch out on their own and experiment independently with unique concepts suited to their particular requirements. One of these was the concept of the heavily-armed fast raiding Jeep, usually equipped with either two pairs of surplus Vickers K 0.303″ aircraft guns, or a Browning AN-M2 0.50″ ( 50-cal. to U.S. readers ) aircraft HMG and a pair of Vickers K’s, all firing incendiary ammunition to set fire to parked German and Italian aircraft. Why aircraft machine guns, you may ask? The answer is simple ; at that time, a supply of surplus aircraft guns was readily available from crashed and decommissioned aircraft whereas the supply of ground-based equivalents was being reserved for the regular Army. Between that and chronic weapons and equipment shortages, Special Forces units such as the LRDG and SAS had to make do with what they could get from the tail end of the supply chain. The gun-equipped Jeep that you are referring to was therefore unique to the SAS, and was not an LRDG brain-child as some historical accounts would seem to imply. The raiding Jeep, while essentially self-contained, was still limited by its capacity and physical size, and had to depend logistically to some extent on larger support vehicles ( SAS or LRDG ) and / or pre-emplaced supply depots during deep-penetration missions.

        • Yes Earl, I remember reading about exploits of cpt. Stirling and his men many years ago. I thought it was from some sort of fairy tale; it sounded all so easy: break-in, decimate crew, demolish equipment and disappear into dessert. They seem to made most of surprised (British would say ‘un-announced’ visits) attacks on Axis installations. How they rationed water, food, ammo and gas is outside of my imagination.

  2. @ Rob R :

    Agreed. Probably fabricated from mild steel or boiler plate as an anti-splinter shield, nothing more.

    Andrew brought up an interesting point about the impracticality of firing both bazookas at once. I think this rig may have been improvised to enable two quick shots in succession, thereby reducing the delays inherent in reloading.

    The strain and exhaustion on the men’s faces is pretty evident.

    • If that is from WW2, my guess is that they are some non-combat rear unit that was ordered to be ready for a German attack during the Battle of the Bulge. They don’t look battle hardened.

      If so the strain is knowing that the Germans had better tanks, machine guns and rifles than they had and thinking at only luck would save there mortal live.

      • @Martin:

        Your guess is a miss. Take a look at the photo file’s name: 9ID in it stands for US 9th Infantry Division, the Old Reliables, one of the best combat outfits in the ETO, the guys who took Remagen and crossed the Rhein into Germany. Their combined awards in WW2 were: Medal of Honor-4; Distinguished Service Cross (United States)-76; Distinguished Service Medal (Army)-3; Silver Star-2,282; Legion of Merit-19; DFC-2; Soldier’s Medal-100; Bronze Star −6,593; Air Medal-129. Non-combat rear unit, my ass.

        • Wasn’t it he 9th Armored Division that took the bridge @ Remagen?

          These guys pictured likely are some of the US soldiers that were part of the unorganized retreat that the 9th Infantry Division caught during the Battle of the Bulge & pressed back into service. Those guys would have known 1st hand what it was like to face German’s who had 1st class weapons and ammo. That could explain why they are scared thinking that there were more coming.

        • Somehow I suspect Leszek knows this, but as a rule of thumb and through WWII, low numbered divisions were Regular formations that had existed in peacetime, and the higher numbers were either division that had been stood up for WWI and again WWII (the 82nd for example) or National Guard divisions (the 29th, 36th, 45th). By 1944 it was a minor distinction as most of the Guard character of the units had been changed by years of training, moves/adds/changes of officers, and combat replacements for units that were badly bloodied (29th in Normandy, 36th in Texas, etc).

          After the war, two hostilities-only divisions that had been made Airborne because the Regular Army wasn’t sure it wanted to mess with that were kept on — 82nd and 101st. They were glider/parachute until 1947, 101st was parachute until during Vietnam.

          As late as the 1980s the Army had around 20 divisions, most of which were the regular divisions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7th & 9th Infantry divisions, and 1-3 armored divisions stick in my mind, plus the two airborne divisions, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few. All had stellar WWII records; some had good Korea and Vietnam honors as well.

          The 9th division was a combat testbed for a while. They had all kinds of weird stuff — dune buggies, LongEZ planes, manportable (barely) ATGMs.

  3. couldn’t you reach both triggers with both hands, or use the driver as the second gunner? and where is a panzerschreck when you need one?

    • The problem is that there is no good way for the gunner to maintain his aim and avoid back blast while pulling both triggers simultaneously.

      However, having the driver act as a second gunner is a good idea. The two men could stand one on each side and coordinate their actions.

      • I think the best method of salvo shooting would be to connect the electric circuits of both bazookas in such way that pulling one trigger pushing electric impulse to the both of rockets.

        • Great idea, Speedy. Is there a selector switch to go with it?

          Also, I wonder if one would install some backup armament (like a pintle-mounted Browning M1919, perhaps) in case panzergrenadiers advance ahead of their tanks in order to prevent this jeep from doing what it does best?

        • That’s a very good idea. Now the question is : Was it actually put into practice, and if so, was it commonly used, or was it a case of more isolated individual initiative at work?

  4. That dual Bazooka Jeep rig set up has been identified elsewhere as an innovation of the Intelligence and Reconnaissance (I&R) Platoon of the 60th Infantry Regiment of the 9th Inf. Div. There is another photo that usually accompanies this one taken from the rear of the Jeep.

    • I believe the practice started very shortly after D-Day as expedient field modifications, particularly in the light of painful — and usually fatal — experiences at the hands of German armor and anti-tank artillery in the bocage country of northern France. It caught on enough to gain wider acceptance for the duration of the war, and from the advance across the Rhine onwards it was common practice to have the lead tanks in a column equipped with the extra armor to take the brunt of a German anti-armor ambush.

      • Likely near day one, Africa probably in unsuccessful defense against the 88.
        But there wern’t That many 88’s in North Africa and the Sherman, as introduced, was light years ahead of most of the German hardware…at least initially.
        Ah, what might have been.
        Just as a tip; If wondering about frontal armor thickness on a Sherman, look for acute angles on the hull, as opposed to the early, rounded angles of the cast hulls and turrets. You can make your armor as thick as the suspension will stand.
        It’s a lot easier to weld flat glacis plates onto the flat, armored sharp end of a Sherman than a round one. And a lot easier to make and weld armor steel than mild.
        Ask the Russians about the much vaunted T34 and their early soft T34s.

  5. A few observations:

    The Bazookas might not be intended for use against tanks: could be used against the back doors of pill boxes, buildings with enemy soldiers still inside, unarmored troop trucks, etc. The armor plate makes more sense in that context.

    There is what might be an empty rifle scabbard on the passenger side–outside of the armor, which is an odd place to put it.

    There is an M1 Garand propped muzzle up behind the driver’s left. That is an odd arrangement. It doesn’t look like it is slung on his shoulder. But if not, what is keeping it there, and is muzzle up the best arrangement when it is snowing?

    • G.I.’s of that era often used Army-issue condoms as temporary muzzle caps on their individual weapons [ no pun intended 🙂 ]. The condom kept rain, snow and debris out when the weapon was in the upright position [ again, no pun intended 🙂 ], and the soldier could simply shoot through the condom if he needed to deploy the gun immediately.

      I don’t see a condom on that Garand, though, unless it was edited out by the war censor.

      • Prior to a British expedition to Norway, there was concern about troops bringing their cold rifles into warm steamy buildings, and the effects the condensation would have on the rifle’s bores. Latex muzzle covers had therefore been made.

        It is said that Churchill was shown some samples, and that with a grin on his face, he’d ordered that the packaging should be labeled Condoms; size Medium, 12 inches.

        “That’ll show them who’s the master race!”

        • Winston Churchill always did have a very keen wit, as witness his verbal sparring with Lady Astor, M.P. and sundry other political figures. Thanks for that one — it made my morning!

  6. Looking at it some more, if it was shoot and scoot, the armor would be out to better use being in the back, not in the front. Or as others have pointed out, have no armor and scoot faster.

    That makes it more likely, it seems, that it was designed to delever the high explosive war head to the back door of a bunker, house, etc., that was defended only with small arms fire. Bust it open and have the infantry clean it up; no need for armor in the back in that context. Or shoot once to open it up, shoot again to delver a war head inside the structure. May have been behind their own lines–in the race into Germany some times the “front line” would skip ahead of small towns still occupied by the Germans. Which might lead to Jeeps being used for tanks instead of using tanks that were out at the front.

    An uncle of mine, past away now for several years, was a liason officer in the 3rd army. As such he was often in a jeep going between other allied units; not that dangerous, he said, as at that point in the war the Germans would not waste artillary rounds on a mere jeep. He had a story that once he and his driver decided to stop at a pub, behind their own lines, and on walking inside it was full of German soldiers. So they did a quick 360 and broke the world’s record for fast jeep driving. Point being, unless they surrendered, someone had to deal with them at it was not likely done with Shermans.

    • That’s a great personal story, Jacob — thanks for sharing it. That must have been an absolute MPS ( Mucho Panic Sweat ) moment, to say the least. The Germans would have been equally surprised, I would imagine.

    • The “shoot and scoot” method was used for the multiple bazooka rocket launcher jeep, and that was the only way I was using that reference, as it was meant to get out of the area as fast as possible after firing before enemy artillery could zero in on them. It allowed for a very mobile form of rocket artillery for an infantry unit.

      The twin bazooka jeep would also probably have to, out of necessity, be a “shoot and scoot” type of weapon. Putting armor plate all around the jeep, due to its small size, would have made it all but impossible to use effectively. And they would have to allow for the back blast of the bazookas in putting any armor plate on the rear.

      A case of the guys in the field developing what they felt was the most effective way of creating a modification based on their experience or at least based on how effective they hoped it would be. Since we have never found any other evidence I am aware of, one could perhaps assume that this was the only such modification ever attempted and the fact that no other similar vehicles were modified, or at least records of such modifications have ever been found, perhaps the twin bazooka jeep was found to be wanting as any sort of effective weapon.

    • My Mother, also gone now, as a Captain in the Army Nurse Corps “borrowed” a jeep and went into a small village in France (to find some wine) and ended up having to refuse the surrender of a “Large Number” of German Troops. 3 Nurses v. many German troops. she reports that they never got any wine… She went into France as part of the 88th wave at Omaha Beach.

  7. There are actually two photos of this modification. In he late 1970s, I was publishing a magazine, “The Military Journal.” In Issue #11, we published the two photos with this text: “These two photos show an interesting field modification to a jeep, manned by T/5 Louis Gergye and Pvt. William Jump of the I&R Platoon, 60th Regiment, 9th Infantry Division. Two ‘bazookas’ have been mounted on a .50 cal. machine gun pedestal mount; note the two different types of sights and only one retains the foregrip. The hasty construction of the sheet steel windscreen and aprons is evident and could not have provided more than limited protection (one can only imagine what it must have been like to drive while looking through that slit!). A third man, the loader, completes the crew–certainly a hazardous duty if ever there was one! 12 January 1945.”

    These are official U.S. Army SC photos, acquired by William “Bill” Auerbach (one of my business partners in the magazine at the time, who now produces the “Panzerwreck” series of books with another publisher). He acquired them a few years earlier, when those photos were still in the Army’s photo agency office in the Pentagon. The names, unit and date were taken from the photo information supplied by the photographer at the time.

    That is a M1 Garand rifle and it is stored just behind and to the left of the driver. And that is a rifle or SMG scabbard stuck in the right side. Obviously, with this modification, they had to improvise storage of personal weapons and there would be no right or wrong way, just their way. Since there was a third crew member, he could also have fired the second bazooka (a good example of why you should never assume facts not in evidence). But examining the two photos, it would not be impossible for the “gunner” in the photo to reach under and across to fire the second bazooka — awkward, to be sure, but not impossible.

    Jacob’s comment about the potential targets for this modification is probably more accurate. It could also just be used as a form of mobile rocket artillery. No doubt some of you have seen the photo of bazookas mounted (in two rows, possibly four or more in a row) on a jeep as a form of rocket artillery; the driver and passenger (loaders?) are still in the jeep and the bazookas have just fired and the driver, still in the jeep, has just ducked. It was described as a “shoot and scoot” weapon — to get the hell out of the area before enemy mortars or artillery could locate them.

    I can supply an image file of the second image showing the jeep from the left rear, to the webmaster if he would contact me. I also reprinted these images in one of the pictorial volumes I have published recently.

  8. @ Ray Merriam :

    Thanks very much for your valuable input, which explains quite a few things more clearly. Based on your observation concerning the fact that only one bazooka of the pair still retained the fore grip, could it be that the gunner trained and aimed the combo using this one weapon, while the second was basically slaved to it and triggered either sequentially or simultaneously or even both ways via a linked circuit, as Speedy has suggested? It would be certainly far better than trying to reach across and manually firing the second weapon while staying out of the way of back blast while still trying to maintain an aiming point under the possible duress of enemy fire. I am perfectly willing to admit I may have missed something, but it seems to make much more sense this way.

    I have to say that all this hardware plus ancillary equipment and a three-man crew would have made for uncomfortably crowded and cluttered working conditions in a Willys Jeep of the era. Then again, one can get used to anything, especially when subject to the exigencies of war. It’s still better than walking under the same conditions, just ask the PBI ( “Poor Bloody Infantry” ).

    It would be great to be able to examine the second photograph so that the twin bazooka set-up can be appreciated from a different perspective.

    • Your suggestion that the left bazooka was slaved to the right and both fired at the same time by the gunner is a likely possibility. Examination of both photos cannot verify such, however, at least as far as I could tell. The more likely reason for removing the fore grip on the left-hand bazooka was to eliminate it so it would not bump the driver on the head!

  9. Holly smokes… whoever came in their life close to tanks knows what they are about and whoever fought them knows how ‘easy’ it is to take them out. M1 bazooka with original 60mm grenade was of mediocre reliability and it was capable of penetrating up to 3″ of armour.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bazooka
    Therefore, idea of blowing up Pzkw.Iv Tiger could have been in realms of wishful thinking.

    Crews assigned to handle them were called “candidates for Medal of honour” as a connotation to risk involved. That also explains the makeshift shielding. Germans were after them like mad. On the other hand, to put this on light and agile jeep was not bad idea; hard to spot.

    • I can’t quite get this image through my head: A Tiger tank hunting for bazooka-carrying jeeps. Usually, the jeeps hunt the tank in that scenario and the Tiger picks them off one by one while hiding in the bushes. Either that or the German infantrymen grab up panzerfausts and panzerschecks in order to ambush the jeeps and any accompanying armor/infantry.

      • I was not there, but I give you a hint: tanks of that time had two MGs and their prime purpose was to defend against the type of threat such as this bazooka jeep. If I was tanker I’d do anything to get rid of something like this including use of main armament.

        • 3MGS, usually — a bow gun, a coaxial gun operated by the gunner, and a flexible MG on the turret, which would be inaccessible with the tank buttoned up.

          Nowadays the bow gun is gone. Last widely deployed tanks with it were the WWII vintage Sherman and T-34/85, although there might still be some M41s around somewhere. Sherman’s last rodeo was probably the Nicaraguan Civil War in 1979; the Israelis’ reserve Shermans got their asses handed to them in night fire on the Golan in 1973, and that was probably the last large-scale deployment of WWII tanks. (The Syrians used some Panzer IVs as pillboxes, but I’m not sure if that was only in 1967 or also in 73. The late Panzer IV and Panther 75mm gun was the same gun on the AMX-13, another tank that fared poorly in 1973).

          Tankers mostly train to fight tanks, but in combat they fear dismounted infantry. Infantry are vulnerable to tanks, but the real chaos occurs if the tanks punch through the combat line and get loose among the logistic trains. Which is of course what the tankers try to do, whether in Europe in 1944, Sinai in 73, or Iraq in 1992.

          Infantry AT weapons are a lot better. If you shot at one of the better German tanks with the 2.36″ rocket launcher, you’d just piss him off, and then he’d want to fight. Nowadays a Javelin can take out an MBT from outside the tank armament’s range.

          • Concise and really interesting comments, Kevin.

            Most of the flexible MG’s ( usually mounted on the commander’s cupola, at the gunner’s hatch, or both locations ) on tanks nowadays can be operated by remote control while buttoned up.

            The long-barreled 75mm gun used in all models of the PzKpfw V “Panther” was the Rheinmetall-Borsig 7.5cm KwK 42 L/70, an outstanding weapon that actually had better penetration at typical tank-versus-tank engagement ranges than the 88mm KwK L/56 main gun of the much-feared PzKpfw VI Tiger I, and which was not far short of the formidable KwK 43 L/71 of the Tiger II.

            The long-barreled 75mm main gun used in the definitive PzKpfw IV Ausfuhrung F2 was actually a Krupp development of the Rheinmetall 7.5cm Pak 40 L/46 anti-tank gun, and was designated as the 7.5cm KwK 40 L/43. It had a slightly shortened barrel and a single-baffle muzzle brake which could mitigate almost 50% of the weapon’s recoil energy when fired. Late-production PzKpfw IVF2’s, as well as the later Ausfuhrung G, H and J models, incorporated the 7.5cm KwK 40 L/48 gun, essentially an improved L/43 with a lengthened barrel and a multi-baffle muzzle brake.

            The 75mm high-velocity main gun fitted to the French-built ACR AMX-13 light tank was based on the Panther’s 7.5cm KwK 42 L/70, but had a shorter and more compact barrel and used completely different ammunition to suit the much lighter and less robust AMX-13 chassis with its GIAT oscillating turret and dual auto-loading ammunition magazines. As was to be expected, the more modern but lower-pressure gun and ammunition had a lower ballistic performance level ( and less recoil ) than the original gun in the Panther, but it was still very good considering the fact that the AMX-13 weighed a mere 13 tonnes, and gave the tank firepower out of all proportion to its small size and weight. Later models replaced the 75mm gun with a medium-velocity 90mm weapon that relied more on HEAT rather than kinetic energy technology for anti-armor penetration ; later still, a 105mm medium-velocity main gun was introduced as an option.

            The IDF’s AMX-13’s acquitted themselves quite favorably in the 1967 Six-Day War against much better-armed and armored Jordanian tanks, but did not fare so well in the 1973 Yom Kippur War due to a combination of battlefield exigencies ( for example, some units were simply thrown piecemeal into the fray at short notice to try and stem the surprise Arab attacks, these AMX-13’s being all that were available at that moment in certain sectors ) and misuse. This war also coincided with a transition point at which the light tank was starting to lose its value in conventional armored warfare. From then onwards, with the exception of applications covering specific terrain and operational requirements, the concept of the Main Battle Tank, which had evolved from the medium tank, and which had already seen its genesis more than a decade earlier, would progressively come to dominate the armored battlefield. In the majority of larger modern armies, the MBT would mostly displace the older three-tiered light, medium and heavy tank TO & E with a single, powerful, heavily-armored but highly-mobile type that met the needs of modern armored warfare doctrines, and the original role of the light tank in armored reconnaissance units was frequently taken over by IFV’s such as the M2/M3 Bradley, Marder and BMP-3.

            Probably the last holdouts in terms of true modern light tanks were the AMX-13/90, AMX-13/105, PT-76, Chinese Type 63-1 ( improved PT-76 derivative ), Norinco Type 62, Textron MLS/Cadillac-Gage Stingray, SK-105 Kurassier, M551 Sheridan, Alvis Scorpion and Swedish Stridvagn 74. Of these, only the AMX-13, SK-105 and Alvis Scorpion are still in general service with several smaller armies around the world because they are well-suited to the more-confined terrain, smaller infrastructure and/or tactical requirements of these nations. The Stingray is in service solely with the Thai Army, and for the same reasons. The Chinese PLA still adheres to the Type 62 and Type 63-1 for some of its armored units because they operate in areas of the country where the roads, bridges and other infrastructure are not capable of withstanding heavier traffic.

            There have been several attempts over the years by various manufacturers to introduce more capable replacements for existing light tanks, such as the Thyssen-Henschel TAM medium tank ( best described as an extra-lightweight MBT ). While these are generally very sound and capable designs with much to commend them, the enormous cost of large-scale replacement, along with the necessary establishment of entirely new training protocols, as well as logistical and material support trains, has usually prevented potential customers from adopting them. These end users have mostly chosen instead to upgrade their existing light tanks with new engines, drive trains, fire-control systems, applique armor and, sometimes, main armament as a more cost-effective alternative.

            However, I think the light tank is far from dead. With the advent of new technologies in armor and armament, and with the possibility of significant changes in the global political and military climate, we may see, in time to come, the introduction of a whole new generation of highly capable light tanks.

    • No, you wouldn’t be trying to blow up a PzKpfw VI Tiger I/II — you could disable it by hitting the tracks or running gear, and such was done (and you might live to tell the tale).

  10. One last observation: in the picture of the jeep from the rear, the bag over the driver’s shoulder is a gas mask bag (three lift-the-dot snaps on a bag that size is unique to a gas mask bag, I think). That could also be what is sitting on the driver’s side rear wheel well. Note that they don’t seem to be wearing ammo belts, canteens, etc. But the driver is carrying his gas mask. Were there particular times or places when a German gas attack was expected? If so that could be a clue as to the time and place of the photo.

    • Perhaps Jacob didn’t read the caption that was used when the two photos were published in the magazine I was publishing circa 1977-81, “The Military Journal” (which was the successor to the “WW2 Journal,” circa 1974-76. The caption was written by Bill Auerbach who has researched American and German WW2 military vehicles extensively. The caption, again, is:

      These two photos show an interesting field modification to a jeep, manned by T/5 Louis Gergye and Pvt. William Jump of the I&R Platoon, 60th Regiment, 9th Infantry Division. Two ‘bazookas’ have been mounted on a .50 cal. machine gun pedestal mount; note the two different types of sights and only one retains the foregrip. The hasty construction of the sheet steel windscreen and aprons is evident and could not have provided more than limited protection (one can only imagine what it must have been like to drive while looking through that slit!). A third man, the loader, completes the crew–certainly a hazardous duty if ever there was one! 12 January 1945.

      As stated when I originally posted the caption, the photos were purchased by Bill from the U.S. Army’s photo agency in the Pentagon in the mid-1970s, when the Army’s WWII SC photos were still being held at the Pentagon. The details of the men’s names, unit and date were taken from the official caption, which was printed on the back of the photos by the photo agency.

      I spent two days at that agency in 1975 during a trip there while also attending the National IPMS convention that year. Bill and I both were there at that time, and Bill made many more visits there before and after that. The official captions were stored on 3×5 file cards, which was one place where you could start your search for particular photos; they also had dozens of albums of photographic prints of each photo that you could look through. Once you found a photo you wanted, you just recorded the number and then you could order a print (at the time they were only $2.00!).

      Since then, those caption records have been sanitized to remove personal information, specifically the names and addresses (the original captions also often included the city and state of each individual identified in the photo, but due to concerns over privacy issues, that information was often censored from the caption printed on the back of the photos, although it was probably retained on the file cards.

      For those who have never seen photos from that agency before, the captions were often very detailed and where possible, the photographers were required to obtain such details because the photos would then be supplied to newspapers and magazines around the country and being able to identify the men in the photos was thought to be a way to boost home front morale. Not every photo had such details and some would have some details but not others, depending on how diligent the photographers were and situation in which the photos were taken.

      The location where these two photos were taken was not provided, but could be easily determined by where the unit was at the time. Locations were often not included or would be ambiguous, such as giving a general area rather than a specific town or city.

      Today the SC photos are in the National Archives, of course.

      As to the point about the gas mask bags, just because they are gas mask bags, doesn’t mean they contain gas masks. GIs notoriously would discard a gas mask, usually the first thing to go as they slogged along a road, but the bag could be kept as it would be useful for carrying other things.

      • Excellent follow-up information, Ray — thanks!

        Two points I’d like to make :

        1. I remember reading many older news and magazine articles from the Second World War where an individual servicemen featured in an attached photograph would be identified in detail, inclusive of his home town. Many of the war history publications today that provide positive identification of servicemen in accompanying photographs ( typically, and as a prominent example, names and other information on air crews of the 8th Air Force ) owe the sourcing of that information to those file cards and master copies of photographs you mentioned.

        2. By all accounts, gas mask bags usually proved more useful for ancillary purposes other than their original intended role. For example, the Royal Air Force WAAF’s ( Women’s Auxiliary Air Force ) and Royal Navy Wren’s ( popular abbreviated form of WRNS — Women’s Royal Naval Service ) were generally known to favor the use of the service-issue gas mask bag as a make-up ( cosmetics ) bag because it was of the perfect size and design for that purpose. Doubtless, the same happened in the service arms of virtually every other nation. Just as often, non-regulation ancillary uses for the gas-mask bag would apply to front-line troops of all the protagonists involved.

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