Jump to content


The Chieftain's Hatch: 100-year icon


  • Please log in to reply
38 replies to this topic

The_Chieftain #1 Posted Sep 15 2016 - 18:13

    Military Specialist

  • Administrator
  • 10166 battles
  • 9,599
  • [WGA-A] WGA-A
  • Member since:
    09-08-2011

As you are by now well aware, we now officially cross into the tank’s second century of life with the hundredth anniversary of the tank’s combat debut, at Flers-Courcelette.  This, somewhat unassuming French town is not well known, and even the monument marking the tank’s appearance on the battlefield is in a different place, the nearby town of Pozières.

 


 

I think it is no secret that I am kindof fond of tanks, and that I consider it quite fortunate that an object of my interest has also been my job, both in military and civilian service. But what has the tank actually become, why is the tank so appealing?

 

Quite a few moons ago, I picked up a book by Patrick Wright named “Tank.” In it, he took a slightly different tack to most folks, in that he focused not so much on the technical, or even operational side of tanks on which we tend to spend most of our attention, but instead more on the cultural and psychological aspects of the tank. The book has received mediocre reviews because of this unusual tack, but it is probably worth reflecting upon its premise. I’m sure lots of other articles around the Web will be doing a ‘technical development of the tank over the last century’ sort of article.

 

The tank has become the symbol of land power. It is the first image which one will usually conjure up in one’s mind when one thinks of modern battles. It is not, however, the most important component of land power, that still remains (possibly to the annoyance of tankers, aviators and gun-bunnies) the “poor bloody infantryman” (PBI) and his rifle. And of all the various pieces which make the modern and components which make a modern army, why has the tank managed to achieve this?

I would submit that there are several reasons.

Firstly, because of its genesis, when it was considered to be the master of that which was killing those PBIs. It was their savior. The fact that they tended to be rather disappointing in practice, breaking down a lot, and being rather easy to kill once someone had the bright idea of pointing artillery pieces at them, is conveniently forgotten in the grand narrative, and the tank, the wonder weapon that only the Allied Powers had, became the symbol of victory over the Central Powers which had none.


 

Of course, there’s a little bit of creative license in such a depiction, but it was the initial genesis.

Then for a while, the tank seems to have vanished from the public consciousness. The world became entranced by those magnificent men in their flying machines, the daredevils who used technology to defy gravity, and traverse land and sea at breakneck speeds in excess of 100 miles an hour and more. Militarily, a country’s might was still represented by its battleships, those mobile floating fortresses bristling with the largest guns around, massive expenditures of money and man-hours and which became visible indicators of interest when one showed up at a country’s doorstep.

 

This, of course, all changed with the arrival of the Blitzkrieg. The Germans were sure to place the Panzer divisions at the front of all the newsreels: The rapid-moving forces which sliced through the French front lines, and driving the British out of the Continent struck the imagination of all who saw it, and all of a sudden the tank (and not the half-track or lorry-borne infantry) became the symbol of what it took for a national power to have.


 

Still, these vehicles were touted as perhaps more than they were. They were either slow, unreliable, or poorly armored. Occasionally even all three. But in no other field of military development, with the possible exception of the fighter aircraft, was there such a visible and rapid race of advancement.  Compare the BTs, Pz IIIs and M2 Mediums of the beginning of the war with the IS-2s, King Tigers and Pershings which were on offer at the end of it. And this was only over six years. The B-52 is –sixty- years old, and still going. Abrams is approaching the end of its third decade of service. Thirty years before Centurion, there –were- no tanks.

 

The tank provided what was considered to be the ideal: The ability to kill one’s enemies from a position of protection. Thus, the side with the best tanks would win, and in the event that a side had no tanks, the side with any tanks would win. Or thus was the concept, reality, of course, is far different.

 

Furthermore, tanks are downright imposing. They vibrate the ground as they go past. They’re well taller than a man, and seemingly nothing will stop them as they move on. They’re seemingly invulnerable to anything a typical person is likely to be carrying. The sight of a tank’s roadwheels undulating over the tracks on rough terrain is hypnotic. And unlike aircraft, which come and go, or artillery which fires unseen, a tank is a visible statement. It can sit there for as long as it wants, a declaration that that piece of ground belongs to it, and if anyone wishes to dispute this, they had better be prepared to deal with it. In Iraq we discovered that tanks made great peacekeeping vehicles. When a tank showed up, things got peaceful. Quickly. Given this, the tank has become the ‘object to be destroyed.’ The destruction of a tank is a propaganda victory in excess of its military worth, especially in the current operating environment.


 

Thus, great effort and treasure is placed upon making a tank as capable as possible. Per-unit, they suck up huge amounts of resources. They incorporate what should be the cutting edge of technology. Similarly, great effort and treasure is placed upon counter-tank capabilities, and the ‘tank duel’ has become, in the public image, the most important part of modern warfare.

 

It is certainly true that a nation’s history has some reflection upon the position of the tank in common culture. In Russia, tanks are everywhere. They are monuments in every city, they are all but revered as the symbol of that which saved the country from the Fascist Invaders. Quite literally, the tank is placed upon a pedestal in Russia.


 

However, in the UK, you will see more love for the Spitfire and Hurricane, saviours of the country from the Battle of Britain (Again, we’re talking perception here, not reality) than you will for the Cromwell or the Flower Class Corvette, while in the US, the object which reaped vengeance for the attack which brought the US into the war was the aircraft carrier, still today the unmatched American symbol of military might.

 

So what does the future hold? Will we be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the tank? Maybe the answer to that depends on where you stand on the concept of Accelerating Change. It is possible that in 2116, terrestrial-based combat would be obsolete. But there’s no sign of it. The M1 is expected to stay in service until at least 2050, which gets us some way there (And which would make the design 70 years old), so it stands to reason that second-rate powers can be expected to retain tanks longer. The death of the tank has been repeatedly sounded, particularly since the advent of the man-portable anti-tank missile, yet the tank has always countered and returned as strong as ever. It seems unlikely that the need for a persistent, tough vehicle capable of engaging almost anything on the modern battlefield will vanish any time soon. The tracks may be replaced by wheels or hoverfans, the cannon by a hellbore or missiles, tons of metal by active defenses, but the role will remain. As long as we have such vehicles, we will have tanks and those who call themselves ‘tankers.’

 

I wonder if they’ll keep the boots?


 

 

 



Blackhorse_Six_ #2 Posted Sep 15 2016 - 18:52

    Major

  • Players
  • 45100 battles
  • 10,030
  • [HHT] HHT
  • Member since:
    03-19-2011
Damn, I miss those boots ...

iAmEbola #3 Posted Sep 15 2016 - 19:03

    Major

  • -Players-
  • 10371 battles
  • 5,778
  • [_BOT_] _BOT_
  • Member since:
    02-06-2015


madogthefirst #4 Posted Sep 15 2016 - 19:28

    Major

  • Players
  • 21699 battles
  • 7,959
  • [SHIRE] SHIRE
  • Member since:
    12-28-2011
Good stuff

stalkervision #5 Posted Sep 15 2016 - 22:00

    Major

  • Players
  • 51186 battles
  • 8,102
  • Member since:
    11-12-2013
remote control tanks and aircraft are the future of warfare

fkjackson00 #6 Posted Sep 15 2016 - 22:07

    Sergeant

  • Players
  • 31045 battles
  • 194
  • [3BAT] 3BAT
  • Member since:
    02-21-2013

If the boots are replaced, it better be with something like this.

 



WulfeHound #7 Posted Sep 15 2016 - 22:29

    Major

  • Players
  • 12888 battles
  • 26,179
  • [CMFRT] CMFRT
  • Member since:
    04-03-2011

View Poststalkervision, on Sep 15 2016 - 16:00, said:

remote control tanks and aircraft are the future of warfare

 

EMPs and other forms of signal disruption say nope.

General_malfeasance #8 Posted Sep 16 2016 - 00:20

    Corporal

  • -Players-
  • 14471 battles
  • 62
  • Member since:
    12-22-2015
Always thought FASA did a good job of predicting the future with antigrav tanks with their Centurion series of games in the renegade legion universe (https://boardgamegee...ion-blood-steel).

sleek armor and super fast, with lasers, mass driver cannons, etc. 

mapleleaftanker #9 Posted Sep 16 2016 - 03:02

    Staff sergeant

  • Players
  • 39796 battles
  • 403
  • [CNUCK] CNUCK
  • Member since:
    04-27-2012

Good read, as always.

Thanks Chief.



Walter_Sobchak #10 Posted Sep 16 2016 - 04:55

    Major

  • Beta Testers
  • 236 battles
  • 5,140
  • Member since:
    11-22-2010
I think this is the first time I have seen someone reference the Patrick Wright book in a tank forum.  I read that one a long time ago.  It's definitely different than most "tank" books.  

The_Chieftain #11 Posted Sep 16 2016 - 05:31

    Military Specialist

  • Administrator
  • 10166 battles
  • 9,599
  • [WGA-A] WGA-A
  • Member since:
    09-08-2011

View PostWalter_Sobchak, on Sep 16 2016 - 03:55, said:

I think this is the first time I have seen someone reference the Patrick Wright book in a tank forum.  I read that one a long time ago.  It's definitely different than most "tank" books.  

 

I like to think I'm fairly widely read....

 

In fariness, the book has little relevance to most discussions on tank forums, which tend to be technical or operational.



TANKGHOST #12 Posted Sep 16 2016 - 05:39

    Corporal

  • Players
  • 32439 battles
  • 46
  • Member since:
    10-17-2011
My respects to all that love armored warfare in its entertainment forum. I would never belittle WAR and it's elements because my older brother GOD rest his soul was killed in combat, Vietnam war. I give my thanks to all that have served! Yes I have served also just like my father, But I SALUTE the 100 year mark of TANKING!!! Tank On have Fun and Enjoy!!!

Edited by TANKGHOST, Sep 16 2016 - 05:52.


Tcar #13 Posted Sep 16 2016 - 06:57

    Private

  • Beta Testers
  • 5826 battles
  • 3
  • Member since:
    09-24-2010

Breach Bang Clear has been running "Tank Week" and has some interesting reads on Tank warfare recently.  I read this one tonight:

 

http://www.breachban...n-tank-warfare/

 

Nice shout out to Keith Laumer & the Bolo stories/universe.  Some of my favorite SF.



coolathlon #14 Posted Sep 16 2016 - 09:32

    Corporal

  • Players
  • 21 battles
  • 18
  • Member since:
    06-05-2012

Great read. Is there a way we can get your texts translated for EU region?

 

Also from my German point of view there's a decent urge to make people see clearly that war is nothing to praise.

Spoiler

 



Anlushac11 #15 Posted Sep 16 2016 - 09:44

    Major

  • Players
  • 33153 battles
  • 2,108
  • Member since:
    05-25-2013

View PostWulfeHound, on Sep 15 2016 - 16:29, said:

 

EMPs and other forms of signal disruption say nope.

 

Electronics can be hardened from EMP and Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum makes jamming difficult.

moogleslam #16 Posted Sep 16 2016 - 12:53

    Major

  • Players
  • 29417 battles
  • 2,903
  • [REL-A] REL-A
  • Member since:
    12-20-2013
Great piece!

blackfalconjc #17 Posted Sep 16 2016 - 15:28

    Captain

  • Players
  • 7456 battles
  • 1,996
  • [WW2AR] WW2AR
  • Member since:
    06-14-2014

View PostThe_Chieftain, on Sep 15 2016 - 23:31, said:

 

I like to think I'm fairly widely read....

 

In fariness, the book has little relevance to most discussions on tank forums, which tend to be technical or operational.

 

Hmm, that looks like a good one... I've got a bunch of books with technical specs and basic overviews of tanks, but just started getting into the "narrative of life in a tank" side, started out with "Brazen Chariots" by Rob Crisp and currently reading "Tigers in the Mud" by Otto Carius. It's nice to see through the eyes of someone (however tainted with time) what the reality of hopping in a steel beast and riding it into combat was like versus some of other "historian read a lot, heard a couple veterans tales, and filled in the rest of the blanks with anecdotes"...

 

As a physical psychological weapon though, the tank is an interesting example of how an "inanimate" object can be brought to life and present both presence and power all at the same time. Certainly the Brits figured that out in Somme, the Germans borrowed and refined this terror in Blitzkrieg, and the Soviets and American embraced in their own unique methodologies of this during WW2.



FrozenKemp #18 Posted Sep 16 2016 - 15:54

    Major

  • Players
  • 42724 battles
  • 4,706
  • Member since:
    04-24-2011

Nice article!!

 

I think it's not so surprising that the Brits love their Hurricanes and Spitfires over their tanks, because most of their tank designs during WW2 were disappointing, and they really only caught up at the end of the war. 



CapturedJoe #19 Posted Sep 16 2016 - 17:34

    Captain

  • Players
  • 4214 battles
  • 1,916
  • Member since:
    09-18-2013

View PostFrozenKemp, on Sep 16 2016 - 15:54, said:

Nice article!!

 

I think it's not so surprising that the Brits love their Hurricanes and Spitfires over their tanks, because most of their tank designs during WW2 were disappointing, and they really only caught up at the end of the war. 

 

Their biggest issue wasn't that their tanks were bad (the Matilda was a great tank and served throughout the whole war, the Cruiser tanks were better than most light tanks of the time), but that their tactics and doctrines weren't on par with the big tank armies of mainland Europe.

 

They love their fighters because they were the machines protecting England from invasion in 1940-41, saving the day while their tanks weren't succesfull at all at the time. It just fits an island nation more.



Walter_Sobchak #20 Posted Sep 16 2016 - 17:37

    Major

  • Beta Testers
  • 236 battles
  • 5,140
  • Member since:
    11-22-2010

View PostThe_Chieftain, on Sep 15 2016 - 23:31, said:

 

I like to think I'm fairly widely read....

 

In fariness, the book has little relevance to most discussions on tank forums, which tend to be technical or operational.

 

If I'm being honest with myself, I would say I'm half well read, as in I have a lot of books that still have bookmarks in them where I stopped after getting distracted by another book.




1 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users