We were greeted with a display of military tanks on the grounds of the General George Patton Museum. My experience with tanks has been limited to watching war movies with Papa Jim so it was an educational experience seeing all of the different "models." It seems that the changes made were to better utilize the need for which they were used or forced by the enemy's actions!
Inside we were greeted with an army Harley Davidson! They were manufactured for wartime use for the cavalry. Horses were on the way out! The cavalry was being mechanized!
The museum gives incidents leading up to and reasons for why the different wars were fought along with the results. The battles are told from the infantry and armored divisions point of view. You can see how the armored force developed from WWI through the present Iraq War.
Trenches & Barbed Wire
The American ranchers began using barbed wire in the 1870's to control livestock and mark property lines. In WWI it was used to slow the movement of soldiers. Trenches were covered with it. Soldiers called it "death rope". When they stopped to cut is they became targets of the enemy. Barbed wire entanglements often extended to a depth of several hundred yards and were taller than a man!
A display showed a German heavy machine gun that was unique for the time. It had a roller type feed capable of firing 450 rounds per minute.
Tanks were developed to take trenches and overcome the trenched machine guns.
The first tank used the American Holt Caterpillar but was not successful. Automotive development over the years offered improvements.
The first experience in battle with tanks and infantry together was not good! The infantry commanders "did not seem to grasp the concept of tanks cooperating with infantry."
How did they get their name? They were transported by train and had to be covered in canvas with a false deposition. For secrecy on the Rail Road packing slip it was labeled large water tank. Thus the workers would call them "tanks" and the name stuck!
Because the British Royal Navy built the first tank many names of the parts came from the Navy: turret, hatch, bulkhead & deck.
Bits & Pieces of Information found at the Museum
A letter sent from the German Foreign Minister to Mexico in 1917 proposing that Mexico join with them to make war on United States was intercepted by the British. In return for joining them Germany would give Mexico back the lands they lost in 1848 from U.S. This letter helped U.S. decide to join the allies in the war.
How did the Soldiers eat? The army had a "rolling kitchen" that went to the battle fields. French families sometimes offered meals. They ate food captured from the Germans. Sometimes went hungry if the fighting stopped the food from reaching them.
Fake Dirt: A mixture of paint, glue, water and chipped foam is used to make fake dirt in the museum diorama.
Foreign Tanks: Tanks from other countries are included in the displays. Some were captured. Some were used to find out new technology.
Restoration: Many of the tanks are restored to operational condition. Because of space the tanks on display are changed periodically in order to have all seen by public at some time. We saw the tracks in the outdoor display showing that it was changed.
"The Tanks are Coming!"
The movie, "The Tanks are Coming!" was filmed at Ft. Knox and released by Warner Brothers on October 4, 1941. It was nominated for an Oscar in 1942. It is a combination patriotic and recruiting vehicle for the U.S. Army.
In the Korean War animal faces were painted on the tanks intending to frighten superstitious Chinese soldiers.
How much does a tank weigh? We saw weights listed from 20 tons up to a German Tiger Tank that weighed 68 tons! In the Vietnam War one model of tank was made with an aluminum hull and was light enough to be air dropped at 17 tons.
Landing Ship Tank (LST):
A ship to move tanks was proposed by the British. A problem with ventilation had to be dealt with. A model was built at Ft. Knox because they had a lot of tanks available. The problem was solved and the model was used to train officers of the Armor School how to load and unload tanks. To move tanks it was flat bottomed and slow. The crews nicknamed it LST for Large, Slow Target!
General George Patton
The museum has a large display of General Patton's personal items. Of interest was the abandoned WWII small arms repair van that he turned into his rolling field office. It was complete with a generator for electric lights, water tank above a sink, desk, and a cot for sleeping. An antique Winnebago!
He lived an interesting life! The museum uses words from his journals and letters to describe pictures and items. This gives a personal "feel" to the pictures and memorabilia plus a look into the way he thought.He left reams of written material for biographers to use.
The theater in the museum shows a visual biography of his life. A good place to sit and rest your feet after walking through the displays!
Talk to you later "along the way"!