This picture triggered a No-"Crap"-There-I-Was memory. Back in the 90s, I was a BALO (Battalion Air Liaison Officer) for a mechanized infantry unit in Germany for 2 years. In July 94 we rotated in to the Hohenfels maneuver range for our annual field exercise. Just after sundown the day before our big attack against the evil OPFOR (Opposition Forces) it started to rain. And it continued to pour throughout the night.

Despite the weather we launched our offensive on schedule. It was still dark as we tried to keep up with the commander's Bradley in our "track," an M-113 APC (Armored Personnel Carrier). I kept checking my map with a red-lens flashlight to verify our position. We were driving so fast in the darkness I didn't have time to shout a warning to my driver about the creek I spotted on the map--the one we were rapidly approaching. We plunged down the steep bank, splashed into the swirling water and couldn't get out. The stream was wide and deep enough that our treads couldn't get any traction. The commander raced off in pursuit of the OPFOR, leaving us behind.

After a couple of hours, the battalion Sergeant-Major showed up and yanked us out with his track. My team and I then spent the rest of the day racing across the rain-sodden fields trying to catch up to the battle.

At one point we were passing an M-1 tank platoon in a quagmire that, in drier times, was once a dusty dirt road. Two of the armored behemoths met the same fate as the one pictured above. Both of them sank up to the top of their chassis, with gas turbines screaming and treads frantically churning the muddy water--all in vain. They were sunk in more ways than one: Our two recovery vehicles (M-88s?) became mired a couple of hours prior, so there was no telling when they'd be rescued.

I had lost radio contact with the commander long ago, so in order to find him I looked for the vehicles with the flashing MILES lights. (MILES--Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System, the military's version of Laser Tag). The flashing lights represented vehicles that had "brewed up," as the British would say. So I just followed the trail of destruction.

Unfortunately most of the destruction was inflicted upon us. Our battalion tried evicting the OPFOR from their mountain stronghold and suffered 90% casualties in the process. I guess another 5% of our assets were still stuck in the Fatherland's mud. It looked like a scene from the Huertgen Forest (Sep 44-Dec 45), with "burning" vehicles scattered everywhere on the wooded hillside.

Even if I arrived in time to join the 90% I wouldn't have done any good. Due to the rain and solid overcast all CAS (Close Air Support) missions were grounded that fateful day.

Hmmm. Maybe getting stuck wasn't so bad after all.

Or, as Herman Melville may have penned: "My team and I survived to blog thee..."

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Comment by Tony on December 19, 2008 at 5:09pm
A second look at that pic has me convinced it's LT's at Ft Knox..... ;-)
Comment by Joe Blanchette on December 19, 2008 at 1:50pm
We "lost" an M48A5 at Camp Drum back in January '81. We had gotten EDRE'd to upstate New York from Fort Carson for Arctic Warfare Training. As a young acting Sergeant on the Brigade Staff I got to act as an OC and while we were advancing on-line in the middle of a mech-heavy company team the day after one of those wonderful Lake Effects Storms dumped several feet of snow on us, I was looking left, then right, and back again to observe the action when I looked back to the right I realized one of the tanks was gone. Did a quick 180 visual sweep and couldn't find it. Reported it over the CVC (Combat Vehicle Crewman) helmet radio and we went a looking. Eventually had to go all the way back to the start line and follow the tank's tracks until we found it sunk in pond/bog, up to the turret ring. Two M88s to pull that sucker out. Fortunately the crew were all safe. Also have some photos from Hohenfels (every February from '84-'86 (sigh)). Best shots are of an ITV that had flipped-over onto it's back. Wish I had my camera from when our sister Infantry Battalion Commander (4-16 Inf) walked into our TOC covered in mud up to his armpits. Had gotten his track mired and had to jump off and wade out to get to the S3 TAC APC.

And is Hunter-Liggett still being used for a proving ground? I thought it'd gotten turned over to the CANG when they shut Fort Ord down. Spent what felt like the coldest night of my career there while stationed with the 7th ID (Light Fighters! Masters of the Night - or was it Too Light to Fight! Glad we never had to find out).
Comment by John Bobek on December 17, 2008 at 11:40pm
Well, the tank commander could always claim creative camouflage! If it sinks any lower, no opponent will spot it, no?
Comment by Smitty on December 17, 2008 at 10:23pm
Matt:

Those toys aren't ARMOR....LOL

Smitty

I ahd one guy get arrested at the NTC by the "shrimp police".
Comment by Ted Henkle on December 17, 2008 at 7:07pm
I enjoyed everyone's comments and reading there similar war-stories. As to who cleaned the vehicle, the answer is the crew did. Going to the wash-rack was one of many post-exercise recovery rituals. The trick was to get their early to avoid getting stuck in a long line. The garrison areas of military facilities often have POV (privately owned vehicle) car washes. Almost always they were adorned with large signs reading: NO TACTICAL VEHICLES, in order to discourage enterprising soldiers/marines/airmen from beating the long line.

Oh and to add to the adventure, the mud stuck in between the treads would solidify into solid rock. I remember having to crawl under my track armed with a mallet and chisel in order to break it all free.
Comment by Tony on December 17, 2008 at 4:47pm
Been there done that too, LOL, only as a driver or gunner though, never as a TC ;-)

"Never seen anything this bad" oh ya, I've seen much worse, sometimes the driver has to get out through the turret.

"Hohenfels in July"? lucky SOB's. :-)
Comment by Eric Walters on December 17, 2008 at 12:24pm
Never seen anything this bad. Wow. I can't even imagine how this was retrieved--bet it took two retrievers to do it. Holy cow.

Aqua Tanks--the Marines have a monopoly on that. Oh, we've sunk a few, too. I remember one particular event in 1982 or so when a platoon of M60A1s were loading up onto an LCU in Ora-Wan Bay in Okinawa. One of the tanks--while fording kit fitted--forgot to reverse the air filter blowers so that engine air was sucked in from the turrent compartment instead of the air filter boxes on the fenders. Oops. Salt sea water slurped up and the engine went dead before getting the tank on the LCU. The platoon commander showed up drunk as a skunk to his General Officer Article 15 Non-Judicial Punishment hearing after the investigation was done and the rest of us learned an object lesson on the value of inspections before doing anything like this. The whole chain got removed--the lieutenant, the platoon sergeant, the section leader, the tank commander, and the driver of that vehicle. Yup.
Comment by John Bobek on December 17, 2008 at 11:09am
And who had to clean that puppy when it was finally retrieved?
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on December 17, 2008 at 10:52am
A hull-down position never looked so unsafe.

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