keywords: Power steering Repeat Brown
What Bulge were they talking about? All I know is, we gotta stop any German tanks we see breaking out of those woods over there. My job is to drive this Sherman tank, keep it pointed in the right direction and avoid any bomb craters or really big trees. I’m trying to do this while peering out of a small slit in the armor plate right in front of me. The icy wind whistling in through the slit is making my eyes water, which does not help my driving. December in northern Europe is no place to be if you’re going to ride around in an un-insulated steel box.
Without warning, three big Tiger tanks come crashing through the trees and start across the snowy field, right at my group. Our tank commander is standing up, half of him sticking out of the top hatch, shouting directions to me. “Come right, don’t you see them?” He’s starting to sound panicked. “Faster, Johnson, make the turn, make the turn!” You make turns with a tank by pulling first on one lever then another to make the left and right tracks start, stop, or reverse. My arms are feeling the strain, my shoulders are aching from the heavy pulling. Power steering; wonder if they’ll ever put that on a tank.
Now he’s calling out firing instructions to the gunner and loader, “Load AP, traverse right!” (AP is armor piercing, HE is high explosive). “Fire! Repeat, fire!” Our rounds are making brown clouds all around the target Tigers, but it seems that our shells are just bouncing off their armor. The Sherman next to us suddenly explodes and a tremendous shock wave rocks our tank. The tank commander falls down through the hatch and I turn to see if I can help him. His head is missing, no help required there.
Without waiting for instructions I fall back on my training and jam the levers into a lock turn and the heavy tank spins around and we lumber to the rear, away from the battle. No commander, no hope of continuing. The Tigers are trying to pick us off, more explosions going off around us. I’m trying to do broken-field running to make us a more difficult target.
All at once we are airborne as we fall into a deep cut, no way we could have seen it while making our mad dash. We end up with the cannon jammed into the opposite side of the ditch. Our tracks spin in the soft soil, so it’s time to bail out and hope for the best. Maybe being in this hole has helped us, at least the Tigers can’t see us for a clear shot. Man oh man, why didn’t I join the Air Force?