tank crewman


“White Tiger“ is a war movie, directed by Karen Shakhnazarov in 2012. It’s based on a novel by Ilya Boyashov “The Tank Crewman“, but I wouldn’t call it a proper adaptation, because a lot of things got changed or were accented in a different manner.

The main plotline remains the same, though: a badly burnt body of a man is found in a destroyed tank after a battle. To the surprise of everyone the man seems to show some signs of life, so he’s brought to a hospital where - once again, to the surprise and some horror of everyone - he recovers from the majority of damage in mere three weks and is able to go back to the battlefield as a tank operator.

The man is amnesiac, the only things he remembers are his tank fixing and navigation skills, and the fact that back then he was burnt by the White Tiger, a mysterious German tank who is rumoured to be appearing out of nowhere, destroying dozens of Soviet engines and disappearing without leaving a trace.

So the man, renamed Ivan Naydyonov, keeps searching for the White Tiger, while around them the Second World war is happening.

There may very well be a supernatural element to Naydyonov and White Tiger’s beings, but most of other characters prefer not to think about it too much.

Btw, you can watch the whole movie on Youtube with English subs - here.

KUWAIT. February 28, 1991. A wounded Ken Kozakiewicz, left, cries after being given the dogtags and learning of the death of a fellow tank crewman, in the bodybag at right. The widely published photo came to define the Persian Gulf war for many. At right is wounded comrade Michael Santarakis. The soldiers were from the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division.

Photograph: David Turnley/AP


The M1 Tanker Garand,

In 1944 US Army Ordnance initiated a program to find a shortened, lighter version of the standard M1 Garand infantry rifle.  The common M1 Garand was a long and hefty rifle, and it was decided that a carbine variant would be ideal for paratroopers and other specialist troops.  One variant that was test was the T-26, a Garand variant that featured a barrel which had been shortened by 6 inches to a total barrel length of 18 inches.  The design was one of 150 designs submitted from common soldiers who had made personal modifications to their rifles in order to meet battlefield demands. 

Testing of the T-26 began in 1944 at the Springfield Armory, and it became readily apparent that the new carbine had several issues.  First, the carbine’s recoil, muzzleflash, and report was overbearing.  Secondly the prototype was mechanically unsound.  Shortening the barrel also required shortening of the gas tube, which greatly affected the functioning of the action.  It was found that prolonged use (such as in combat) would wear down the parts of the action, leading to malfunctions and breakages.  It wasn’t until 1948 that the technical issues with the T-26 were worked out, by then the war was well over.  The T-26 was never adopted and only one surviving prototype remains, on display at the Springfield Armory Museum.

The T-26 remained a forgotten design until the early 1960’s when a businessman named Robert E. Penney Jr. visited the Springfield Armory Museum.  Penney was head of a small time military surplus firm called National Ordnance (later Alpine Ordnance), which was in the business of selling cheap M1 Garands from mismatched surplus parts.  Penney came up with the idea of the “Tanker Garand” because as a former tank crewman, he believed they would have made excellent weapons to issue to tank crews.  The misnomer stuck giving many people the idea that the Tanker Garand actually was issued to tank crews.  In the 1960’s National Ordnance produced thousands of Tanker Garands from surpluse M1 Garand parts.  It was long before other small time manufacturers also produced their own Tanker Garands.  Today, the Tanker Garand is still produced and up for sale with some small time producers.

Polish Army, 1939

Rifleman, 10th Mounted Rifles, 10th Mechanized Bde.

The only fully mechanized brigade in the Polish Army in 1939, this formation was nicknamed ‘The Black Brigade’ from its black leather coats; note the cloth collar and shoulder straps, and the deep double breast with the join down the right side. The 10th Mechanized (or Motorized Cavalry) Bde. was almost unique in the Polish Army in retaining in 1939 the old 1916 German helmet painted khaki. The coat covers normal cavalry uniform tunic and breeches, worn with riding boots; symbolic 'spurs’ - metal strips round the boot heels - were worn by motorized artillery of this brigade with service dress, but not in the field and on the evening dress boots by all brigade officers. Note cavalry leather equipmcnt with Y-straps.

Tank crewman

Tank officers wore the black leather coat, but enlisted men normally wore this simple khaki overall. The headgear is the khaki-painted Polish derivative of the French motorized troops’ helmet: examples of the imported French were also to be seen. The weapon is the ViS pistol; the canister is that of the old French RSC gas mask.

Second-Lieutenant, Highland Rifle Regiment, 21st Highland Division

Replacing the ’rogatywka’ in the 21st and 22nd Highland Divisions was this felt mountaineer’s hat derived from traditional dress in the Podhale region of southern Poland. On the front is the eagle above a rank star; on the side, above the knot of the silver cord, an eagle’ feather is fixed by a clasp in the form of the divisional emblem - a broken cross in pine twigs. This emblem is repeated both on the collar of the traditional cape - which replaced the greatcoat in mountain units - below the yellow/blue infantry stripe; and on the infantry-pattern tunic collar patches. The cape was often seen worn over the left shoulder but hanging back from the right shoulder. It obscures the ViS pistol and the sabre in this painting. The 11th Highland Div. wore the ’huculski’ hat, traditional to the Eastern Carpathians.

(Richard Hook and Steven Zaloga)