1st tank battalion

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Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor, Fort Knox, Part 1

Although famous for its Bullion Depository, Fort Knox is in fact one of the largest military installations in America and houses about 30,000 military personnel. It is the U.S. Army’s Armor Center.
During the Second World War a number of armored vehicles and guns captured by the Third US Army were sent to Fort Knox for study and evaluation. After the war these vehicles aroused public interest and were collected together, along with various pre-war Allied vehicles as the “Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor”

1 & 2) M24 Chaffee.  American light tank of WWII which replaced the M3 and M5. Much more heavily armed than its predecessors, the M24 would serve in Korea and Vietnam, and can still be found in some militaries today. Originally lend-leased to France, this M24 saw service in Algeria with the 12e Regiment Chasseurs d’Afrique during the Algerian War

3) M48A2C Patton. American medium tank for the Cold War period, which succeeded the M47 Patton. The M48 Patton was in U.S. service until replaced by the M60 and served as the U.S. Army and Marine Corps’s primary battle tank in South Vietnam during Vietnam. Although largely resembling the M47, the M48 was a completely new design. It was the last U.S. tank to mount the 90 mm tank gun. This M48 was acquired from the Army in 1972 and is painted in the markings of the M48 Sgt. Gary Herschberger commanded on 25 November, 1969, when he was killed. Sgt. Herschberger received the Second Oak Leaf Cluster to the Silver Star for his actions that day.

4 to 6) Pzfpw III Ausf. F. German medium tank of WWII that saw extensive service throughout the war. It was intended to fight other tanks and serve alongside and support the Pzkpfw IVl; however when the Pzkpfw IV was redesigned to mount the long-barreled 7.5cm Kwk 40 gun, the Pzkpfw III effectively became obsolete in this role. This is an Ausf F, fitted with an Ausf G turret that has been rearmed with the long-barrelled 5cm L/60 gun of the later production Ausf J. It is believed to have been captured by the Third US Army from the 116th Panzer Division in Normandy during World War II.

7 & 8) StuG III Ausf. G. German assault gun and tank destroyer of WWII.  The StuG III was Germany’s most-produced AFV during WWII. It was built on the chassis of the Pzkpfw III, replacing the turret with a fixed superstructure mounting a more powerful gun. Initially intended as a mobile, armored light gun for direct-fire support for infantry, the StuG III was continually modified, and was widely employed as a tank destroyer. The Ausf G. variant increased the vehicles height, added side skirt spaced armor and an additional 80mm of armor welded to the front. This StuG was probably captured along with the Pzkpfw III above.

9) M2A1. American light tank of the interwar period. It saw limited use during WWII and was developed into the M3 Stuart. Its only combat use in American units was with the US Marine Corps 1st Tank Battalion during the Pacific War in 1942 and in the M2A4 format. The M2A1 is the initial production type with single fixed turret containing one .50 cal machine gun. Only 17 units were produced.  This tank was acquired from the Army in May 1965 and has a painted tube in place of its main armament.

10) M26 Pershing. American heavy tank of WWII, which saw limited service at the end of the war. The genesis of the Patton line. While terrifically armed and armored for its time, it was withdrawn in 1951 in favor of its improved derivative, the M46 Patton, which had a considerably more powerful and reliable engine as well as an advanced and improved suspension to better meet the demands of the specific terrain it operated in. The tiger face painted on the glacis harks back to a similar practice during the Korean War.

The Battle of Peleliu, codenamed ‘Operation Stalemate II’

Marines covered by a USMC M4A2(75) Sherman tank # A10 of Company 'A’ 1st Tank Battalion, move cautiously forward during an assault on a Japanese bunker, on the island of Peleliu in the Pacific Ocean. 15-23rd September 1944.

(Colourised by Royston Leonard from the UK)

Interior of the captured German tank A7V 542 “Elfriede” showing the position of one of the 7.92-mm MG.08 machine guns. It was captured by ‘A’ Coy 1st Battalion Royal Tank Corps, at the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, 24th April 1918
(Photo source – © IWM Q 29585)
(Colourised by Doug)

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Tank M46 from structure of the 6th tank battalion. Korea, September 1950.
M46 tank to firing positions. Korea, 1951.

M45 tanks from structure of the 6th tank battalion wading in the river Nakdong. September 1950.
M46 tanks of the 64th tank battalion, a fire support soldier of the 3rd infantry division, are preparing to repel the attack of Chinese troops. Korea, December 1950.
These M46 tanks of the 6th tank battalion were lost as a result of the counteroffensive of the Chinese people’s volunteers in the spring of 1951.
M46 tank of the 1st tank battalion Marines, equipped with “floodlight combat light” of the General Electric company. These floodlights have proved to be very effective in repelling night attacks of Chinese infantry. Korea, summer 1953.
Captured in Korea by the American tank M46 in the Central Museum of armored vehicles and armament in Kubinka.
South Korean soldiers a lecture on M46 tank design, the beginning of 1953.

Wrecked Pz.kpfw. V “Panther” with the hull number 215 from a part of the 2nd company of the 1st battalion, 6th tank regiment (2 Kompanie I/Pz.Rgt.6). In January 1944, the 1st tank battalion (I./Pz.Rgt.6) was given training Panzer division (Pz.Lehr-Div.). Tank was attacked by an American P-47 “Thunderbolt” 11 July 1944, near Le Désert, Normandy.

Challenger 2 and Leopard 2 Tank

A Challenger 2 main battle tank (left) with a Polish Leopard 2 tank on rough terrain in Poland during Exercise Black Eagle. 

The Kings Royal Hussars Battlegroup was taking part in Exercise Black Eagle under the command of the 10th Polish Armoured Cavalry Brigade and alongside the 1st Polish Tank Battalion at the Zagan Training area in south-west Poland. 

© Crown Copyright 2014
Photographer: SSgt Mark Nesbit RLC (Phot)

‘Bit’ by blister agent in roadside bomb.

U.S. Marine Capt. Stephen T. Campbell, commanding officer of 1st Tank Battalion Commanding, assesses chemical barrels set ablaze by the Marines of 1st Tanks during an operation outside Rawah, Iraq. The barrels were found by Marines conducting routine searches in the desert for weapons caches and other insurgent activities within the Al Anbar province.

(Photo by Lance Corporal Charles Howard, 18 SEP 2007. Part 5 of article by C.J. Chivers, NYTimes, 14 OCT 2014. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Also watch the Times Documentary video with soldier interviews.)

Once American forces began finding large numbers of M110 shells, it was all but inevitable that disposal teams would be exposed to blister agent.

This happened for the first time, several techs said, on Sept. 25, 2006, after militants detonated two roadside bombs near an American patrol in southern Baghdad.

Two Navy techs — Chief Petty Officer Ted Pickett and Petty Officer Third Class Jeremiah M. Foxwell — arrived at the blast site.

They found three damaged shells, decided against destroying them in a populated area, and drove them to a demolition range beside their base, according to Mr. Foxwell, who left the Navy in 2008.

There they discovered that one 155-millimeter shell had leaked a noxious liquid. As he inhaled its vapors, Petty Officer Foxwell was instantly alarmed. “It smelled overbearingly like extreme toxicity,” he said recently. “The hair stood up on the back of my neck.”

The shell contained a brown crystalline substance they had thought was a homemade explosive. A swab with detection paper tested positive for sulfur mustard.

The sailors radioed for a technical escort unit, then put on gloves and gas masks and wrapped the shell in plastic and duct tape. They waited. Hours passed. No chemical specialists arrived.

Mustard agent acts slowly on victims. Symptoms of exposure often do not appear for hours, and intensify for days.

Late that afternoon, with the sailors worried about the effects of mustard inhalation, they destroyed the shell with an explosive charge and entered the Army clinic on their base.

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Jeremiah M. Foxwell at his home in Washington. In 2006 while a Navy petty officer, he and another technician handled a leaking sulfur-mustard shell. “It smelled overbearingly like extreme toxicity,” Mr. Foxwell said. “The hair stood up on the back of my neck.” (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)

Within two days, lesions formed in Petty Officer Foxwell’s nasal passages and upper airway, according to his medical records, which noted exposure to “chemical vapors — mustard gas” from a “terrorist chemical weapon.”

But the care he would receive proved to be much less than that mandated under the Army’s treatment order.

The clinic did not perform the required blood and urine tests on Petty Officer Foxwell, according to his medical records. (His former team chief did not reply to written questions.)

Both men were returned to duty within days, though Mr. Foxwell said his breathing remained labored and his chest hurt.

Dr. Dave Edmond Lounsbury, a former Army colonel who helped prepare for the chemical warfare victims expected at the war’s start in 2003, said in an interview that Petty Officer Foxwell’s care was inadequate.

“When you first meet the patient it is impossible to tell how he is going to do,” he said. “You have to get the blood work, monitor him and follow him over time.”

“To return them soon to duty?” he said. “I would be uncomfortable with that.”

Dr. Dave Edmond Lounsbury, a former Army colonel who helped prepare for the chemical-warfare victims expected at the war’s start in 2003, says that secrecy about troops later wounded by chemical weapons was extensive.Mac William Bishop/The New York Times

The Army opened an investigation into why the chemical specialists were delayed in arriving. An officer taking statements from participants forbade Petty Officer Foxwell from discussing the incident with his peers, restricting him from issuing a warning.

“I couldn’t walk outside and tell the next route-clearance team that this was out there,” he said. “It was just not natural, the idea of not sharing. If you experience a new battlefield weapon, it is your responsibility to share that actionable information with other teams.”

Mr. Foxwell said his Navy officer-in-charge did not visit them in the clinic or submit them for Purple Hearts. The insurgents’ use of a mustard shell faded from view. “No one in my chain of command, outside of Ted, discussed the incident with me again,” he said.

After Mr. Foxwell was honorably discharged, the Veterans Administration awarded him a partial medical disability in 2008, noting chronic respiratory infections and the development of asthma.

The incident was a foreboding sign. Several months later, on March 11, 2007, two Army techs were burned.

This second exposure occurred when a team from the 756th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company was summoned to a roadside bomb made with a rusty artillery shell.

The team remotely detonated the shell and continued to the usual steps: checking to ensure the bomb was rendered harmless, and collecting evidence.

Specialist Richard T. Beasley, one of the techs, picked up the broken shell, not knowing it contained mustard agent, and stowed it in a bin on their truck beside a fresh-air intake.

CHALLENGES IDENTIFYING CHEMICAL WEAPONS IN MAKESHIFT BOMBS

SUBTLE EXTERIOR DIFFERENCES
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Some of these shells found side by side near Camp Taji contained sulfur mustard, but some didn’t. Dark dampness and compromised casing of sulfur mustard leakage are visibly distinguishable in the above photograph.

Improvised bombs were often built from Iraq’s stockpile of old artillery rounds. Dirty and corroded exteriors made it difficult to tell whether shells were chemical or conventional.

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INTERIOR DIFFERENCES

At left, a M107 conventional round, with a solid explosive core. At right, a M110 chemical round containing a small amount of explosive in the very center of the round, surrounded by a liquid chemical agent. An X-ray of internal features was sometimes the only way to tell chemical from conventional shells. But X-rays are often impractical in a war zone.

A foul smell filled the truck and irritated the soldiers’ eyes. Suspecting the shell was the odor’s source, they stopped and heaved it into a deep canal.

The next day Specialist Beasley noticed his pant leg was wet. Mustard exposure symptoms had set in. “I undid my pants,” he said, “and felt the bubble.”

His fingers were tracing a seeping blister nearly the size of his hand.

His team leader, a former sergeant who asked that his name be withheld to protect his medical privacy, discovered a similar blister on his own left leg.

At first the soldiers were confused. Then, remembering the odorous shell, the sergeant felt a rising fear. If that was mustard, he thought, and was burning their skin, what might be happening in their lungs?

The patrol sped to an Army clinic at Camp Taji.

Had the techs been burned a few years earlier, the military medical system, which had prepared before the invasion for chemical warfare casualties, might have recognized their wounds. But in 2007, with blast and gunshot wounds the predominant causes of casualties, the doctors were not ready.

The Army’s medical orders were not followed. The staff rinsed the soldiers’ eyes, put cream on Specialist Beasley’s blister, and turned them away.

“I don’t know how to describe it, except to say: confusion,” the former sergeant said. “They really didn’t know what to do. The general feel was a whole lot of people shrugging their shoulders nonstop.”

The soldiers returned to Balad Air Base, where they were stationed, and visited another clinic.

A doctor ordered treatment with painkillers, antibiotics, burn cream and cleaning of the blisters — a sensation, the former sergeant said, “like a having a wire dog brush being rubbed across your leg.”

Specialist Beasley’s medical record shows that blood and urine specimens confirmed the mustard agent exposure. But the patients were not admitted to a hospital.

Mr. Lampier, then the soldiers’ commander, said he argued that they should be evacuated to the United States. “They were raw meat trying to heal in the worst environment imaginable,” he said. “There was dust and ash and smoke from the burn pits, and they had these wounds that shouldn’t have been exposed to that.”

The soldiers remained outpatients at a clinic.

SECRECY PREVAILED. VICTIMS SAID WORD OF THEIR EXPOSURE WAS PURPOSEFULLY SQUELCHED.

All the while secrecy prevailed. The military determined the soldiers had been burned by an M110 shell. Both victims said word of their exposure was purposefully squelched.

“We were absolutely told not to talk about it” by a colonel, the former sergeant said. The order, he added, included prohibitions against mentioning mustard agent when writing home.

The secrecy was so extensive that Dr. Lounsbury said he suspected officials hid the cases even from him and two other Army doctors assigned to prepare an official textbook on treating battlefield wounds.

Their book, “War Surgery in Afghanistan and Iraq: A Series of Cases, 2003-2007,” published in 2008, provided an inventory of traumas and treatments.

“We would have certainly included this case if we had known about it,” he said, “and not just for obvious medical reasons but because here was exactly the kind of wounds at the very heart of the reason the government sent our nation to war.”

The exposed soldiers’ objections to how their cases were handled grew after their commander submitted them for Purple Hearts.

The medals were disapproved by the headquarters of the American-led coalition “because the incident was deemed to have occurred after the I.E.D. was destroyed, and therefore was no longer considered to have been in contact with the enemy,” Tatjana Christian, an Army spokeswoman, said, using the abbreviation for an improvised explosive device.

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In March 2007, Specialist Richard T. Beasley picked up a broken shell, not knowing it contained mustard agent. The next day, while on another call, he noticed his pant leg was wet. Chemical blisters erupted on his leg. (Via Richard T. Beasley)

Purple Hearts, awarded for “wounds received in action,” according to their certificates, are a respected martial decoration. They are also contentious, given the subjectivity in defining “action.”

This is particularly true in the ordnance disposal field, because improvised bombs are dangerous before and after a foe sets them out. Bombs made with chemical ordnance pose more questions, because unlike explosives, chemical agents do not pass from dangerous to harmless in a flash.

TROOPS WOUNDED BY CHEMICAL DEVICES WERE TREATED INCONSISTENTLY: SOME RECEIVED THE MEDAL, OTHERS DID NOT.

Several techs pointed out that chemical munitions found in explosive devices were a result of conscious enemy action. But troops wounded by chemical devices were treated inconsistently: Some received the medal, others did not.

Under presidential order, Purple Hearts are awarded by each military service, which follow separate rules.

The Army regulation, another spokesman said, excludes soldiers wounded by chemical agents not released by an enemy. And because this exposure was caused when the soldiers destroyed the chemical device, he said, it did not qualify for Purple Hearts.

Mr. Beasley, who was honorably discharged in 2008, said the Army’s position was dismissive. “I remember it being, basically, that we wounded ourselves,” he said, which he called “baloney.”

“I didn’t put that shell in that hole,” he said. “And I did exactly what we were supposed to do when we dealt with an I.E.D.”

In the years since he returned to the United States and left the Army, he said, the Army has never contacted him again. His follow-up care amounted to one unsatisfying visit to a doctor near his last base.

“I went to a civilian doctor who didn’t actually believe I had been exposed to mustard agent,” he said. “That was the extent of my follow up.”