Tanks from the Sea

Historical notes on employment of tanks in amphibious operations

First published: 10th February 2012 | Dr. Alexander Clarke

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For the preparation of this paper the insights, corrections and comments of Commodore Michael Clapp CB RN, Major Generals Julian Thompson CB OBE RM and Nick Vaux CB DSO RM and of Dr. Alexander Clarke have been invaluable.

 

Contents

1.0. Introduction

2.0. Early years, American, Japanese and Soviet experiments

2.1. United States Marine Corps

2.2. Japan

2.3. Soviet Union

3.0. World War Two

3.1. Landing in the Pacific

3.2. The European Experience

4.0. Armour and amphibious operations after 1945

5.0. Conclusions

6.0. Recommendations

7.0. Footnotes

 

1.0 Introduction

It has been often argued that armoured vehicles have no place in amphibious operations and that modern amphibious operations are not anymore attritional in nature. Armour, especially heavy armour in the form of Main Battle Tanks (MBT) and Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) are at best second echelon forces, at worst relics of the Cold War. More often than not the tank is seen as a large, expensive and inflexible tank-killing weapon. Even a cursory look at history show that mechanized vehicles and tanks, light, medium and heavy have been actively developed and procured for amphibious operations not only for their tank killing capabilities, but also because of their inherent flexibility. It can even be argued, and at least one US Marine Corps Commandant forcefully did so, that without tanks the majority of World War II opposed landings would never have been possible.[1]

1.0.2 Yet, to be an effective weapon in expeditionary warfare armour has to be tailored, properly trained and, more importantly, its role clearly understood. Using a series of historical examples this short paper will present trends in the development of armour for amphibious operations in the course of the XX century. The first section will deal with the development of tanks and landing means before 1939; the second section will examine several operations conducted during the Second World War and the third section will try to present a summary of the role of tanks in expeditionary warfare from 1945 onward. The operations analyzed will not be exhaustive for reasons of space and time, but it is the hope of the author that the selection of historical vignettes will be sufficient to make a sound case for the use of tanks in amphibious operations. The last two sections will try to draw a summary of the importance of tanks in amphibious warfare and then present some recommendation for future developments.

 

2.0 Early years, American, Japanese and Soviet experiments

2.1 The United States Marine Corps

2.1.1 The US Marine Corps (USMC) was one of the first military entities to experiment with using armoured vehicles in conjunction with amphibious operations. The need for these vehicles was easily identified. Amphibious warfare, as practiced prior to World War II, suffered from a host of technical problems in equipment design that virtually made it useless as an offensive military operation. According to several experts at the time, the experiences of World War I had demonstrated that opposed landings were impossible.[2] Even when backed by overwhelming naval firepower the defenders enjoyed so many advantages that landings were considered a forlorn hope enterprise.

2.1.2 Three technical problems seemed to bar the development of this form of warfare:
• The lack of reliable means to coordinate naval fire support;
• The lack of landing craft designed to allow for undisrupted and easy landing on enemy beaches;
• The lack of any form of protection and heavy firepower for landed troops in the initial phase of an assault, apart from Naval Gunfire Support (NGS).

2.1.3 Of these three points the second was the most critical, but the first and the third also required a solution. American Marines, once they started to engage in a theoretical debate and experiment with amphibious landings tried to remedy all these three deficiencies. The third point also appeared tractable with available technology. After all it had already been encountered in land warfare and a solution had been developed. To provide a protected mobile gun platform to infantry tanks had been developed by both French and British armies. Reinforcing landing forces with early light tanks seemed thus an easy way to move forward. The USMC thus procured several American made French designed FT-17 light tanks and started to experiment with their use, both in ground and amphibious operations. The results of the first experiments were both encouraging and disappointing. While the FT-17 tanks proves their worth both in exercises and during a limited deployment in China, the fact was that due to a lack of suitable tank landing craft, even light tanks could not be landed safely without extensive effort and preparation.[3] This realization led the USMC to research alternatives to tanks, in the form of amphibious vehicles or very light armoured machines that can be landed safely. At the same time an independent “inventor” Walter Christie, was trying to sell several experimental tanks both to the US army and abroad, some of his models were advertised as amphibious.

2.1.4 Yet due to limited technology, limited funding and a certain “amateurish approach” to tank design in the period, the American efforts were not particularly successful. In the end the Christie tanks were less than effective machines and the US Marine Corps settled with acquiring small Marmon Herrington “tankettes” with no turrets and only machine guns as armament, a far cry even from the FT17 light tanks.[4] While they were not deemed useful for any combat role they were to be employed as light reconnaissance vehicles. The truth was that these vehicles were the only ones that could have been landed with the means available in the period. While, at least on paper, light tanks and armoured vehicles were available but suitable landing craft were not. The far more pressing problem was thus improving the available landing craft to a level where the landing of heavier vehicles was indeed possible. The lack of suitable landing craft became the bottleneck for further development.

2.1.5 This last deficiency was the most crippling, for its cumulative effect was to slow to a crawl the transport, not only of tanks, but also of troops to the beach and made the debarkation on beaches, defended or undefended, hazardous and costly. In addition the lack of success in developing amphibious tanks made landing conventional ones the only possible solution to the firepower problem during contested landings.

2.1.6 In the end, while the tanks were considered necessary, the majority of scarce pre-war research and development funds ended in the attempts to design and procure suitable landing craft. Due to the same financial constraints that tarred the development of amphibious tanks, the landing craft effort was also less than successful. While an improved landing craft was indeed designed by a privately owned shipbuilding firm, the famous Higgins boat, the craft was still unsuitable to the quick landing of vehicles. Temporary gangways had to be erected between the side of the boat and the beach to allow vehicles to disembark. But, due to the unstable nature of these gangways, the vehicles had to be extremely light making them almost worthless in combat situations. The only other alternative to such improvised devices was to use conventional harbour facilities.

2.1.7 It was not until 1941, when the Marine detachment serving in China observed Japanese Daihatsu landing barges with a forward ramp that the idea was borrowed and retrofitted on the Higgins boat allowing for the direct and quick unloading of tanks and other vehicles on the beach.[5]

2.1.8 The situation in the US at the eve of the 1939-45 conflict was far from satisfactory. Both landing craft and tank development for amphibious operations were in their infancy. An interim solution to procure light tanks, in this case 37mm armed M2A1 army light tanks, and to land them from lighters was accepted as the only way to move forward.[6] Despite the precarious budgetary situation the Marines placed high priority on tanks as part of their own amphibious concept diverting part of their meagre funds to develop and procure tanks and find a way to land them ashore.

 

2.2 Japan

2.2.1 On the other side of the Pacific Ocean both the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Imperial Japanese Army recognized that any eventual conflict involving them would have required amphibious operations and, that, to ensure success in these operations, tanks had to be landed immediately. Facing the same constraints faced by their colleagues in the United States, the Japanese quickly discarded the notion of landing conventional tanks and concentrated on creating amphibious tanks. As early as 1928, the Japanese Army had been developing and testing amphibious tanks and created several experimental models such as the SR-II, the Type 1 Mi-Sha and the Type 92 A-I-Go.[7] None of these vehicles was a resounding success, and only the Type 92 evolved from prototype stage in the form of a conventional tankette. The army efforts to produce an amphibious design were hampered by the service’s lack of expertise in naval operations. Only when the Imperial Navy took over the effort in 1940 was significant progress made. The result of these efforts was the Type 2 Ka-Mi. The Type 2 Ka-Mi was designed for the Navy’s Special Naval Landing Forces for the amphibious invasion of Pacific Islands without adequate port facilities, and for various special operations missions.

2.2.2 The Type 2 Ka-Mi was based on the Army’s Type 95 Ha-Go light tank, but with an all-welded hull with rubber seals in place of the riveted armour. It was intended to be watertight. Large, hollow pontoons made from steel plates were attached to the front glacis plate and rear decking to give the necessary buoyancy. The front pontoon was internally divided into eight separate compartments to minimize the effects of damage from flooding and shellfire. These flotation devices could be jettisoned from inside the tank once the tank had landed and begun ground combat operations. The tanks were equipped with a conventional turret with a 37mm gun. As a light tank it was severely lacking in both firepower and protection, something that was exacerbated by it being overly complex to maintain; the crew included an onboard specialist mechanic just to ensure prompt maintenance. Despite all this, its amphibious capability was good. However, the time necessary for design and production of the tank meant that it entered in service only after the initial streak of Japanese amphibious invasions had been completed and its abilities were never fully exploited.[8]

2.2.3 While the development of the amphibious tanks was proceeding at a snail’s pace the Imperial Navy put considerable efforts into the development of landing craft. A craft suitable for landing armoured vehicles was developed in the late 30’s and made operational in 1938.[9]The craft was able to carry one medium or two light tanks and, thanks to an innovative bow ramp that could be lowered, the vehicles were able to drive directly from the craft onto the beach. This important development had the effect of reducing the Army’s interest in amphibious tanks and for the first time allowed them to deploy tanks immediately during an amphibious operation without the use of port facilities.

 

2.3 Soviet Union

2.3.1 The last country to dedicate itself to the problem of supplying landing forces with armour was, surprisingly enough, the Soviet Union. While lacking a proper blue water navy the idea of amphibious operations had an important role in the coastal defence approach of the new Soviet Navy. In addition, the presence of several large rivers in European Russia and the Far East suggested that developing a vehicle useable both in landings and river crossing was a reasonable course of action not only for their Navy but also for the Army.[10]

2.3.2 While not being constrained by the lack of funding of their American counterparts or by the strict shipboard requirement of the Japanese armed forces Soviet designers were hampered by the same technical problems. Increasing armour and armament was incompatible with the requirement of being buoyant in water.[11] The resulting tank, the T-37A amphibious light tank was, from several aspects, close to the Japanese Type 2, but less capable of prolonged swimming. It was also a comparable design with the M2A1 used by the USMC.

The T-37A was based on an unsuccessful British prototype and, unlike the Japanese vehicle; it did not use any pontoons to increase buoyancy. The result was that restrictions were placed on the carrier armament that was reduced to a single machine gun. While the T-37A was produced in relevant numbers (approximately 1200 compared to 194 for the Type 2) Moscow considered it a failure and relegated it to training and reconnaissance roles. Studies for a better vehicle were indeed in progress when the Germans attacked in 1941, but due to other pressing requirements this research was abandoned.

 

3.0 World War Two

3.1 Landings in the Pacific

3.1.1 When the United States finally entered the war in December 1941, the problem of lack of suitable armour support for amphibious operations surfaced almost immediately. The available resources were scarce and, as quickly proved by combat experience, almost inadequate. The Japanese themselves who almost invariably accompanied their assault forces with light and medium tanks had proved the need for them. Their Daihatsu landing craft allowed them to land tanks on the beach and provide immediate fire support. These craft also allowed them to motorize their landing forces quickly and move inland to seize key objectives. Facing opponents that often lacked anti-tank weapons even four or five tanks immediately available proved critical in several early operations.

3.1.2 On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, the US Marines’ M2A1 were also used in overseas operations, both during the peaceful occupation of Iceland and in more demanding condition in the south Pacific. The first extended campaign fought in the latter theatre, Guadalcanal, showed indeed the necessity and importance of armoured vehicles. The M2A1 and their successors, the M3 Stuart, proved invaluable in the battle. Even if there was no opposed beach assault, the tanks were critical in repelling the first Japanese counterattack and subsequently were used both to support the defence of the perimeter and then to spearhead the offensive to drive the Japanese from the island.[12]

3.1.3 Light tanks were not without problems. Their 37mm guns proved inadequate to deal with fortified positions and the armour protection was inadequate to protect the vehicles from enemy direct fire. It was also discovered that the tanks, without infantry support were vulnerable. The loss of two tanks in the small island of Gavuto (one of the small islets bordering Guadalcanal) occurred when the tanks charged ahead of the infantry and were isolated, immobilized and finally disabled by Japanese troops.[13]

3.1.4 Guadalcanal showed the Marines that, while the tanks were indeed necessary, the setting of amphibious operations was different from the one identified by the armour theorists in the interwar period. Tanks were not the weapon of decision, but a complement to the infantry. To be effective in this role their crews had to be trained with the infantry they were expected to support and had to fully understand their limitations. Despite the successful operations of the light tanks Guadalcanal indeed showed the need for medium tanks in future operations, a lesson reinforced by the follow up operation in the Solomon’s chain and in New Britain.[14]

3.1.5 With new landing craft equipped with the bow ramp entering service the main technical problem preventing an effective unloading of medium tanks appeared to have been finally solved, but the subsequent major amphibious operation revealed an entire new set of problems that designers had not been aware of. While theoretically a tank can just drive out from a bow ramp to the beach and even cross a small stretch of water the reality was much more complicated.

3.1.6 On November 20th, 1943 the 2nd Marine division assaulted the island of Betio in the Tarawa atoll.[15] A tank battalion equipped with a mixture of M4 Sherman Medium Tanks and M3 Stuart Light tanks was integrated in the division. All were carried by landing craft to the beach. The problem was that Betio was surrounded by a coral reef. According to the expected tide the landing craft would have been able to sail over the reef and approach the beach to deliver their tanks. As insurance over this natural barrier the first infantry wave was riding tracked landing vehicles designed to climb over the reef in any tide situation.

3.1.7 The day was a bloody one. Tide conditions differed from those expected and the landing craft were unable to sail over the reef. In desperation the Tanks were unloaded at the reef and told to drive into the shallow lagoon until reaching the beach.[16] This forced the tanks to wade ashore in the lagoon. The lagoon was marked by deep holes blasted by the preliminary naval bombardment and these holes proved death traps for the tanks with several disappearing in unseen shell holes. The Shermans used at Tarawa had not been fitted with deep wading equipment and with predictable results, not only the tanks disappeared but the crew simply drowned.[17] Finally salt water damaged the radios and there was no communication between the tank crews and the infantry.[18] Once ashore there was no doctrine on how to employ tanks in cooperation with infantry. The infantry officers simply ordered the tank to go forward unsupported. The tracked vehicles climbed over the seawall only to be exposed to Japanese fire from numerous gun emplacements. It was another slaughter.[19] At the end of the day less than half a dozen tanks had landed and only a couple were still serviceable. In the end Tarawa was taken and the three surviving Shermans proved invaluable another set of lessons was learned.[20]

3.1.8 Tanks had to be waterproofed, equipped with snorkels and other wading equipment and their landing craft had to be provided with passages in the reefs.[21] Also another form of immediate support had to be provided to the infantry. To solve the latter problem, the marines returned to the concept of amphibious tanks, this time using the hulls of the proven landing tracked vehicles as a base.[22]

3.1.9 Yet even more important than technical developments, better tactics had to be developed and the problem of reliable communications between infantry and tank crews had to be solved.

3.1.10 By 1945 the USMC and, to a large extent, the US Army formations involved in the Asian theatre had developed a strong infantry-tank team concept covering different situations.

3.1.11 While reliable and useful amphibious tanks had been deployed; the USMC considered these light armoured vehicles only a stopgap measure. Despite their merits the Amtanks, the armed version of the tracked landing vehicles, were an unsatisfactory compromise. Their flotation capability was a result of compromising their armour protection. Once out of the water they were extremely vulnerable. Even if their land combat role was limited to being an armoured personnel carrier, their cross-country performance was poor due to their tracks being designed for providing water propulsion. In the end they were just a stopgap measure to provide fire support until proper tanks could be landed, usually immediately after the first wave had established a foothold.

3.1.12 The Medium tanks were the weapons of choice due to their combination of firepower, protection and mobility. The role of the medium tank was also different from the one armoured theorists had expected. Tanks were rarely used en masse; only Roi-Namur in 1944 and Iwo Jima in 1945 witnessed massed tank charges and on Iwo Jima the charge was a failure.[23] The tank role was to directly support and work in close cooperation with infantry to overcome fortifications and other strongly held defensive positions. The tank was indeed critical to keeping the attrition rate down to an acceptable level to allow the success of amphibious operations. The marines called this approach the “tank-infantry team”, a formation usually composed of one tank and an infantry platoon. The infantry was providing the tank with close protection, the tank in turn was delivering direct HE and suppressive fire. Creating that close knit team was a difficult undertaking and proficiency was achieved only when it was decided to train both tank and infantry units together instead of separate entities.[24]

 

3.2 The European Experience

While the US Marine Corps and handful of US army divisions waged an almost continuous series of landing operations in the Pacific. In Europe the situation was completely different, not for a lack of amphibious enterprises, but for their different nature. The majority of landings in Europe differed because the lack of direct opposition on the beach itself compared to the more famous operations in Asia. While intense combat was associated with almost every amphibious landing in Europe in the majority of cases the intent of the defenders was not to stop the assault on the beaches but to thrown the invaders back into the sea with determined counterattacks. There were two important exceptions to that “rule” the British landing at Dieppe and the combined landings in Normandy.

3.2.1 While the majority of the actual landings were made by the Allies the first to have faced the problem in practical terms were the Germans during their hurried preparations for the cancelled Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of the UK. Notwithstanding contemporary lore the operation planning was never so advanced to reach detailed formulation, but the German Army realized that infantry landings had to be supported by some kind of armoured vehicles. Also, they realized that sooner or later, the vaunted panzer divisions would have to cross the English Channel and invade Britain. The solution adopted was the typical hurried collection of improvised landing barges and waterproofed tanks supposed to swim ashore with the help of pontoons. While the modified tanks were successful in the crossing of the Bug River, the idea of using them across a considerable stretch of sea was more doubtful. What is interesting is that it shows both the improvised approach that armies sometimes used when considering amphibious operations and the fact that the German army understood the need to provide armour in the first waves.

3.2.2 On the allied side the idea of providing tank support for the first wave was not fully appreciated during early on. The British landing at Dieppe included armour support in the form of specially modified Churchill tanks, but apparently the main lessons of Dieppe was to avoid defended beaches and thus the importance of armoured support seemed to have been overlooked. Operation Torch and American and British landing in French North Africa could be hardly considered an opposed amphibious assault on defended beaches. While the French forces fought back and inflicted several setbacks the landing itself were mainly performed at night and against undefended beaches. American tanks were landed from improvised landing barges and their landing proved the unsuitability of jury-rigged equipment for such operations. It is also interesting to note that the majority of the planning was devoted to daring raids and coup de main rather than conventional assault landings and that the basic assumption under which the operation was undertaken was the lack of resistance.

In contrast with the overall poor planning of Torch, Husky, the invasion of the Italian island of Sicily was a fully planned assault landing. Because, owing to the perceived lessons of Dieppe, ports were not to be assaulted and the landing of vehicles on open beaches was not considered practical until proper engineer support could be established. Tanks were not included in the first wave. Still the operation shown that infantry alone was unable to deploy sufficient firepower in face of determined counterattacks. In addition Husky also shown that securing the beach and securing the beachhead were indeed two different concepts. The spirited Italian and German reaction to the landing showed that even what today is called a first echelon force had to be able to conduct fully fledged combined arms operations in varied terrain. That was especially important near Gela were the bulk of initial armoured opposition was encountered. The subsequent landings in Italy happened on mainly undefended beaches, at least for Asian or Normandy standards, but the lessons that allied planners took from Sicily was that armour had indeed to be landed very quickly.[25]

3.2.3 As far European theatre amphibious landings are concerned the pivotal even was certainly operation Overlord and the assault on Normandy in June 1944. Differently from the Italian and African experiences Normandy was a heavily defended target with fortifications sitting right on the beaches. One of the first problems the planners had to solve was the need to provide the assaulting infantry sufficient firepower to deal with coastal fortification and the assumed inevitable German armoured counterattack. In addition there was the need for an armoured exploitation force to rapidly seize objectives farther inland. In the planning stage of Overlord the pacific experience was almost completely overlooked. While General Omar Bradley insisted for having a veteran commander with Pacific experience his own suggestion were mainly ignored.[26] A further complicating factor was that while the American and British armies deployed a considerable number of tanks and other armoured vehicles their infantry formations did not include organic armoured units at this stage of the war. In the American army this was a by-product of a force structure approach deeming anti-tank and tank assets part of a central pool. While on paper this approach promised flexibility in practice it prevented the development of effective combined arms training for infantry and infantry support formations and in the European campaign Infantry division ended up having these supporting arms permanently attached. The British Army shared a common approach, but instead of having generic units in a generic Army level pool it had tank brigades tasked with this role that ended up attached for considerable time to infantry formations and a much more developed doctrine of tank-infantry cooperation producing better tactical results.

Notwithstanding differences in doctrine and force structure allied planners faced the same problems, namely landing the tanks and ensuring they would have survived the enemy defensive fire. Landings in Normandy were not only subjected to direct and indirect fire, but the selected landing sites all sported more or less extensive anti boat obstacles in the water and one the beach designed to prevent landing craft to operate. Their presence precluded landing the tanks from landing craft has had been done earlier. The solution proposed was to land tank and specialized armoured vehicles to engage these fortified structures with direct gun fire in advance and in conjunction with the first assault waves.[27]

The British Army also spent considerable time and resources to field a special armoured formation, the 79th Armoured Division equipped with vehicles designed to help in the beach assault and in dealing with the extensive German fortification belt. The vehicles of this formation were a wide array of specialized armoured vehicles based on tank chassis to support the infantry forces in the critical first waves. Tank chassis were used to provide protection for these critical tasks. While infantry engineers could have been employed in the same task the underpinning argument was that armoured vehicles promised to limit casualties and thus reduce the overall attrition rate of opposed amphibious operations.

The idea of having tanks leading the assault had considerable merit, but the execution was marred by technical limitations. Barring the recourse to specialized, and lightly armoured, amphibious tanks like the one used in the Pacific the only alternative was to make medium tanks able to sail on their own devices. A stopgap solution used in several commonwealth beaches was to have medium tanks and self-propelled guns loaded on landing craft in a way to provide direct fire during the approach to the beach. A second solution used by every involved army was to add a flotation screen and propeller to standard M4A1 Sherman tanks, called DD Shermans, and have them “swim” to the beach. Specialized vehicles of the 79th Armoured Division had simply to ride in landing craft exposed to enemy fire. Still the combination of all three answers was expected to overwhelm German defenders.

While on paper the concept was brilliant in practice the DD tanks were the weak link in the chain. Their flotation screen proved flimsy and vulnerable to enemy fire, boat wakes and adverse sea condition. While on overall numbers the majority of these swimming tanks were able to land safely their landing did not proceed according to schedule. At Utah Beach in the American sector and on the three British and Canadian beaches (Gold, Juno and Sword) due to the adverse sea conditions the tanks were released from their craft closer to shore than planned and took more time to reach the beach, landing simultaneously or after the first infantry wave.[28]

On the remaining American beach, Omaha, part of the tanks were released according to schedule and the results were devastating. The majority of the DD tanks never made to the beach and instead sunk in the heavy surf. While some sources have attributed the disaster to incompetence the deeper cause was the basic command arrangement between the Army tank companies and the Navy crewed landing craft. During the planning phase the possibility of heavy surf, too heavy for the tanks to swim into, had been raised but the final decision had been vested on the commanders on the spot. Due to the multiservice nature of the assault the agreement had been reached that the final call would have been made by the ranking officer aboard each landing craft. On June 6th that had the net effect to have the majority of tanks from landing craft were the tank officers outranked the naval officers launched in heavy surf 5000 yards from the beach and sinking, while the tanks from landing crafts where Navy officers were in charge being delivered ashore by the landing craft.[29] This episode was a clear remind of the importance of integrated training for amphibious operations and the necessity of better command arrangements.

Once ashore the tanks, while experiencing considerable losses provided much needed direct fire support, being responsible of the destruction of the majority of German pillboxes that had proved invulnerable to naval gunfire. Tanks proved also crucial in the critical exploitation phase and in dealing with the German counterattacks that developed in the first days of the operation.

 

4.0 Armour and amphibious operations after 1945

4.0.1 Despite the success of tank supported amphibious landings in World War II, the post war period saw only few big amphibious landing. The biggest opposed landings were Inchon (Republic of Korea, 1950) and Suez (Egypt, 1956). The landing in the Falklands in 1982 was opposed from the air but barely opposed by land forces.[30] Yet countless minor operations were performed in Vietnam and several interesting ones also during the largely forgotten Iran-Iraq war.

4.0.2 The foremost practitioners of “amphibious armour” in this period were again the American Marines. Even during the massive and almost suicidal reduction in effectiveness, equipment and funding orchestrated by the Truman administration, the USMC managed to retain a core of tanks and tankers. Tanks proved their usefulness in occupation duty in China, during the 1945-47 period, when they were critical in spearheading the reaction columns that had to respond to communist assaults on outposts or patrols.[31]

4.0.3 Yet it was the experience in Korea that cemented the relationship between tanks and marines. The first expeditionary USMC unit sent to Korea included a battalion of M26 Pershing tanks. Their fire support proved invaluable in the summer battles around Pusan (modern day Busan).[32] Tanks were used in a direct tank killing role against North Korean tanks and, more importantly, moving with the infantry during offensive operations neutralizing strong points in a quicker way than artillery. Being mobile and being capable of direct fire meant that they were much more effective weapons to deal with fortifications than artillery or airpower. When General MacArthur finally launched his amphibious counter offensive in September, the Inchon landing saw both tanks and amphibious tanks used, both in the actual landing operation and in the subsequent drive and city fight for Seoul.

4.0.4 The M26 Pershing proved invaluable in city fights.[33] The combination of mobility, direct firepower and protection meant tanks were the only real support weapons capable of dealing with enemy strong points, thus making a combined arms approach to operations essential. The Inchon landing and the subsequent liberation of Seoul also showed that the idea that the assault force had only to secure the beach and then a separate exploitation force would drive in land was spurious. Korea proved again that the initial assault force is the one tasked to secure the objective farther in land, especially if an operation is designed to capitalize surprise and speed of execution.

4.0.5 A similar experience to the one encountered by the US Marines in Seoul was faced by French and British troops in the streets of Port Said and Port Fuad in 1956. When the Anglo-French expeditionary forces landed in the two cities tanks accompanied them. For the British forces involved the tanks were almost a last minute addition. The 6th Royal Tank Regiment was simply dispatched to Malta to bolster the amphibious forces provided by the Royal Marines. No specific doctrine was developed. Still the presence of a core of WW2 veterans on both sides of the tank-infantry team helped.

“In 1956 3 Cdo Bde had no recent experience of operating with armour, although there was still a degree of expertise from the more senior ranks who were veterans of WW2. (For example my troop commander had taken part in major amphibious operations in Europe.) Prior to the Suez landings elements of 6RTR appeared in Malta for some limited joint training on our field firing ranges, but without the chance of practising their use in built up areas. Fortuitously many of the tank commanders and crew in this regiment were reservists who had been recalled for the operation and most of them were also WW2 veterans.”[34]

4.0.6 Tanks, form the 6th and 7th RTR were landed in Suez on November 6th after the Royal Marines had cleared the landing beaches. While the Egyptians had armour of their own in the city the Centurions of the two-tank regiments main role was to provide fire support of the infantry. In that role they were invaluable in providing direct fire support in the urban environment of Port Said.[35] Still the lack of integration between the tanks and the infantry they were supposed to support created several problems.

“The two significant limitations we were confronted with in Port Said were communications and identifying the optimum capability of tanks operating in built up areas. In those days the only effective means of talking to a tank commander was via the telephone in the rear of the vehicle. This was hazardous in the extreme as the tank could move suddenly and expose the infantryman; or indeed moves backwards and run him over! In any event the noise of battle often drowned out the conversation, while it was very difficult to identify targets accurately to tank commanders in these situations. Nowadays radio communications are infinitely more sophisticated and this problem is greatly mitigated. As far as gaining maximum advantage of the tanks destructive capability in built up areas, we generally lacked the awareness of how effective their main armament could be against buildings, or the dynamics of a joint infantry/armour advance against defended positions. (Obviously, our combined effectiveness in this respect dramatically improved as the operation proceeded.) The tank crews were also aware that our inexperience of armoured operations meant that an anti-tank threat might not be readily identified, which sometimes restricted their response in support. It also took a while for us to recognise the variety of powerful support that tanks can provide in the form of heavy machine gun fire, smoke, phosphorous or tracer.”[36] Thus emphasising the need for continuity in training in essential team operations that can so easily be lost.

4.0.7 At the opposite shore of the Atlantic Ocean the conclusion of the Korean War pushed USMC tank force in a state of flux due to budget restrictions and the politics of the Eisenhower administration, technical difficulties with the new generations of armoured vehicles and another bout of lightness mania of its leadership. When the Corps flirted with the idea of a completely airmobile force, heavier vehicles and weapons were removed from divisions and pooled in a central reserve.[37] This infatuation was indeed short lived as helicopters never delivered their expected performance, but the fact was that the removal of Tank battalions from division control severely hampered training to the point that during the Vietnam conflict several officers complained that tank and infantry were no longer able to operate as a close team and more often than not infantry officers were ignorant of combined arms operations.[38]

4.0.8 Despite these problems two full and one third of a tank battalion were employed successfully in Vietnam. While this war was not, quite wrongly, remembered for massed tank battles, tanks made themselves indispensable not as tank killers or in exploitation operations but providing direct fire support, especially in restricted terrain. A case study is the battle of Hue where tanks and light armour were used together to provide infantry with heavy fire support, artillery and airpower being severely restricted for political reasons. While the light armour drew praises for being fast and manoeuvrable, the fact was that it was also vulnerable. The M50 Ontos light anti-tank vehicles, despite their impressive firepower, were vulnerable to almost any kind of enemy weapon.[39] Only medium tanks had the required staying power in a high threat urban environment, especially with the increased availability of hand held anti-tank weapons.[40]

4.0.9 In 1982 another important amphibious operation took place and one involving forces different from the US Marine Corps. During Operation Corporate the 3rd Commando Brigade, later reinforced by the 5th Infantry Brigade was tasked to retake the Falkland Islands after Argentina had invaded this British sovereign territory. While a lot of publications have covered the air and naval war the role of armoured vehicles in the campaign is much less known. The 3rd Commando Brigade had on mixed troop of Scimitar and Scorpion light tanks attached. While the landing itself has not carried the same “epic” connotations of Normandy, Iwo Jima or Tarawa the commanding officer of the 3rd Commando Brigade, Major General Julian Thompson CB OBE RM, expected serious opposition and to increase the firepower available to his landing forces and decided to augment the firepower of his initial assault wave with Scorpion tanks in the lead landing crafts placed in a way they were able to fire with the bow ramp only partially lowered. During the actual landing the ground opposition was light and there was no need for that additional firepower on the beaches but armour played an important role in the rest of the campaign.[41] In the subsequent operations the light tank company proved decisive at the battle of Wireless ridge and its absence probably contributed to the costly battle at Goose Green. In retrospect General Thompson said:

I should have used at least a troop of CVRT at Goose Green, but did not. Had I done so the battle would have been won very much more quickly. The direct fire of the 75-mm (sic) and the 37-mm, and the mobility of the CVRT would have been crucial[42]

4.0.10 Another limited amphibious assault occurred on the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada in 1983. In the operation, dubbed Urgent Fury, a combined force of American Rangers, Paratroopers and Marines invaded the island. Only the Marines brought armoured vehicles with them the airborne forces jumping on the island without the support of their light armoured vehicles.[43] While the opposition was equipped only with light weapons and vehicles the only force enjoying freedom of manoeuvre in the island was the small mechanized force centred on 5 USMC M60 tanks and some amphibious APCs.[44] While opposition was certainly under-equipped and the island itself really small US Army and US Marine helicopters demonstrated that their vulnerability to enemy fire. Lightly equipped paratroopers and Rangers were thus lacking both mobility and firepower and were lacking weapons capable to deal with enemy forces fighting from solid buildings or fortified positions. While the planner had relied on airpower and naval gunfire to offset the lack of firepower American forces on the ground discovered the limits of these assets and displayed a reluctance to use indirect fires in densely built up areas. Helicopter gunships were employed, but proved vulnerable. A typical action was the relief of the small special operation force defending the governor’s house. With a small contingent of SEAL operators surrounded by enemy light armour and short of ammunition, the only unit capable of “breaking” the siege was the Marine’s armour column. Early attempts to provide helicopter cover for the embattled Special Forces unit ended in disaster.[45]

4.0.10 What Grenada demonstrated had already been shown in both Hue and Suez city. Surprisingly enough, the closer the terrain is, the more important proper tanks are. The proliferation of hand held anti-tank weapons had made the operation of the majority of light armour vehicles impractical or at least increasingly dangerous requiring constant increases in armour to the point that in some instances they have lost their nimbleness and speed. Countless times tanks had proven their ability to operate effectively in an urban environment while light vehicles, notwithstanding being amphibious, or being easier to maintain or faster, have been less and less useful. While it can be argued that Scorpion and Scimitar vehicles successfully proved the usefulness of light tanks in expeditionary operations during the liberation of the Falkland Islands generalizing that experience is indeed risky. The Argentine forces deployed in the islands were not well equipped with anti-tank weaponry or armoured vehicles on their own, due to the idea that the terrain was so marginal armoured operations would have been impossible.[46] The few wheeled AML 90 armoured employed never left Port Stanley and its vicinity. Indeed the success of the small British tank force was based on their “surprise” appearance. Relying only on light armour if the enemy is indeed equipped with abundant anti-tank weaponry both in the form of infantry weapons (Anti-Tank Guided Missiles or rockets) or tank of their own can be dangerous as the experiences in Hue demonstrated with the difference in survival rates between Ontos and M48.

 

5.0 Conclusions

5.0.1 First of all one important question has to be answered. Is Armour still relevant to amphibious missions?

5.0.2 It is much easier to debate about the role of tanks and mechanized operations in the more usual land military operations and capabilities. It is apparently much more difficult to define the role of armoured vehicles in amphibious operations. Even if the future cannot be exactly predicted, this is a business left to circus performers equipped with crystal balls, looking back to history is a sensible way to gather evidence to answer this important question.

5.0.3 Despite the usual contention that amphibious operations are quintessentially light infantry operations, there is indeed ample historical evidence that armour can be a critical player in such operations. In the twenties, the United States Marine Corps investigated the use of tanks and the practicability of landing them from the sea. While the initial experiment seemed to be less than successful and the Corps was enamoured with light specialized vehicles the need for medium tanks was acutely perceived in 1942. The USMC thus became a prime supporter of the utility of tanks and armoured vehicles in amphibious operations. USMC Tanks played a vital role in every campaign in the Pacific War. At the end of the conflict the tank-infantry team was deemed critical for the successful accomplishment of the mission.

Post war experiences served to buttress this assumption. What Grenada demonstrated had already been shown in both Hue and Suez city. Surprisingly enough, the closer the terrain is, the more important proper tanks are. The proliferation of hand held anti-tank weapons had made the operation of the majority of light armour vehicles impractical or at least increasingly dangerous requiring constant increases in armour to the point that in some instances they have lost their nimbleness and speed. Countless times tanks had proven their ability to operate effectively in an urban environment while light vehicles, notwithstanding being amphibious, or being easier to maintain or faster, have been less and less useful. While it can be argued that Scorpion and Scimitar vehicles successfully proved the usefulness of light tanks in expeditionary operations during the liberation of the Falkland Islands generalizing that experience is indeed risky. The Argentine forces deployed in the islands was not well equipped with anti-tank weaponry or armoured vehicles on their own, due to the idea that the terrain was so marginal armoured operations would have been impossible.[47] The few wheeled AML 90 armoured employed never left Port Stanley and its vicinity. Indeed the success of the small British tank force was based on their “surprise” appearance. Relying only on light armour if the enemy is indeed equipped with abundant anti-tank weaponry both in the form of infantry weapons (Anti-Tank Guided Missiles or rockets) or tank of their own can be dangerous as the experiences in Hue demonstrated with the difference in survival rates between Ontos and M48.

5.0.4 The experience of World War II and post war conflicts led to the conclusion that armour offered several advantages in amphibious operations. Yet some principles in its use also emerged, principles that were strikingly different from the ones developed for a more conventional land approach.

1) Tanks were mainly support weapons to the infantry, not independent ultimate weapons.

2) Tanks were essential during the fight for the beach. They were providing protected direct firepower bridging the gap between the lifting of naval gunfire barrage and the establishment of conventional artillery.

3) Tanks were critical both in the immediate exploitation inland and to repel the initial counterattacks. Without tanks it was impossible to attain initial objective beyond the beach before the enemy was able to stage a counterattack.

4) While no amphibious assault force was truly mechanized, the presence of tanks and tracked landing vehicles allowed for the formation of task-organized groups to seize specific objectives inland. If no mechanized vehicles were available, tanks were often used as improvised APCs with troops riding on them.

5.0.5 There were also several problems connected with the use of armour. The first and most evident was the need to put tanks ashore as soon as possible, the second to protect them from enemy fire. Every country and service tried to develop its own solution. The USMC first tried to land conventional tanks immediately from landing craft with the first or second assault wave but the first practical attempt to use this approach at Tarawa failed miserably. Yet the fact that the two surviving medium tanks were essential in the first 24 hours of fighting pushed the Corps to continue to develop a solution. Waterproofing them and driving them underwater with snorkels, was developed resulting in the creation of the Deep Wading kits for light and medium tanks. A hybrid between a tank and an amphibious tracked vehicle was also developed: the Amtank. The Amtank’s role was to swim to the beach with the first wave and provide initial fire support until conventional tanks could be deployed. More importantly the Marines also decided that close integration between tanks and infantrymen was required. A Marine Division had organic tank and Amtank battalions, and infantry and tanks trained together. The solution paid enormous dividends in several operations in 1944 and 1945. But while the Amtanks provided the initial fire support in a contested landing they were lightly armoured and the marines quickly found the entire light armour concept flawed. After the war the corps continued to invest resources in landing tracked vehicles and tanks while the entire concept of light armour was reformulated. After the development of the Ontos during the so-called “Hogaboom period” light armour was relegated to reconnaissance role.

5.0.6 Main Battle Tanks were used in Suez but when the UK 3rd Commando Brigade performed a major operation in Al Faw peninsula in 2003 it had to be reinforced with a full regiment of main battle tanks repeating the pattern created during Operation corporate albeit on a larger scale. The use of armour in what can be constructed of one of the latest assaults from the sea offer some insights on how hard won progresses can be easily reversed. The Armoured regiment was not under Brigade control, the Marines were not used to operating with Main Battle Tanks anymore and the fact that the regiment was only temporarily attached from another major formation meant that it presence was never a certitude. It also meant that while technological solutions can be improvised training and doctrine cannot be and it can be easily lost and forgotten.

“Armour can be exceptionally effective in direct support of amphibious operations, but only when both sides have been trained to do so and have regular opportunities to practise together.”[48]

5.0.7 But until recently, with the attachment of a cavalry squadron to the 3rd Command Brigade the idea that amphibious operations indeed require heavy armour support has been quietly discarded in the United Kingdom. The Falklands war’s experience seemed to reinforce the idea that expeditionary operations could be conducted with no enemy armour opposition and only a handful of light tanks in support.[49] Yet when the Royal Marines were required to conduct larger operations against an enemy who was equipped with armour, even if old and not overly effective, the Commando brigade had to be reinforced with a full armour regiment.

5.0.8 In world war two the USMC, the British Army and the Royal Marines understood that only medium tanks offered adequate protection and firepower in the majority of combat situations. The US Army for its part still believed that light armour would have had a role in amphibious situations. Sadly for US army tankers this assumption led to massive losses in light tanks at Omaha Beach. Yet with the exception of the US Marines the other organizations, while still recognizing the importance of armoured vehicles, quickly forgot the lessons learned in World War II about training and cooperation relying on temporary attachments and forsaking combined training and doctrine.

5.0.9 The historical evidence leads to the conclusion that tanks are indeed a necessary complement in amphibious operations. Armour is not only valuable in direct high intensity combat. Armour is almost as valuable in every operation. Armour can be used for convoy escort, reconnaissance and as the core of mobile reaction forces. Armour also conveys a sense of power and security; it can transmit an effective message of control even without using its own firepower. A tank is not only a war-fighting asset; it is also a psychological weapon. As operation Knight’s Charge demonstrated in Basra the mere presence of tanks at key intersection reasserted the government authority in the neighbourhoods.

 

6.0 Recommendations

6.0.1 The historical evidence leads to the conclusion that tanks are indeed a necessary complement in amphibious operations. Armour is not only valuable in direct high intensity combat. Armour is almost as valuable in every operation. Despite the idea that Main Battle Tanks are only tank killing machines and relics of the Cold War. The truth is that armour can be used for countless roles. In high intensity combat allowing attrition to be kept at acceptable levels. In less extreme situations MBTs provide accurate, discriminating long-range firepower. The accuracy of modern tank guns is often overlooked by uninformed commentators who instead are viewing the vehicles as relics of a bygone age. Instead they are often the only way to deliver kinetic effect without risking collateral damage, their crews, protected by armour and supported by effective targeting equipment, are less prone to extreme decisions.

6.0.2 History demonstrates that the effectiveness of tanks in everything except the most favourable terrain depends on their integration with the other combat arms. Despite the superficial advantages of temporary cross attachments and reinforcements, the US Army experience in Normandy shows that temporary attachments are not the most cost effective solution. Often these measures are not effective at all. The USMC solution to make tanks part of the amphibious establishment, despite superficial contradictions, is certainly the most commendable of the various approach described. Once the important role of tanks in amphibious operations is properly understood by all involved parties close cooperation is indeed possible. This understanding requires time and the leading effort of the amphibious service.

6.0.3 It can be said that despite their innate effectiveness today Royal Marines are at disadvantage compared to other naval infantry formations. They do not own tanks on their own and they are not training constantly with a properly integrated formation of them. While it can be expected that they will be able to overcome obstacles without them, it is a bit naïve to expect them to do it at increased cost in human life when proper support is indeed available. The MBT in amphibious operation is indeed a force multiplier. It is a weapon that can be used with less political and collateral considerations compared to air and artillery support. It also provides a sort of Holy Grail in warfare, both high and low intensity: mobile protected accurate firepower and deterrence.

6.0.4 The following recommendations for the future can thus be made:

• Create an integral, proper armoured unit under Royal Marine command. The unit could be staffed with 50/50 mix of Army and Royal Marines personnel, but has to be part of the Royal Marine’s establishment to ensure proper training and integration.

• The unit has to include MBT and lighter vehicles and has to be able to be parcelled out to a Marine Commando.

• Both Armour and traditional Commando personnel have to be trained in proper tank-infantry tactics.

 

Footnotes

[1] Major General Lemuel C. Shepard commandant USMC quoted in Estes K. Marines Under Armor, Annapolis 2000, p. 76

[2] See Speller I. In the Shadow of Gallipoli, Amphibious Warfare in the Inter-War Period, in McLeod J (ed.) in Gallipoli: Making History London 2004, pp. 136-149. Speller attributed this conclusion to the two leading naval Historians of the period Marder and Roskill (Speller, 2004, p. 136)

[3] (Estes, 2000, pp. 1-26)

[4] Originally the “tank” was supposed to be armed with a 37mm gun. Production vehicles never received it. (Estes, 2000, pp. 14-18)

[5] The Daihatsu landing craft was a generic designation for Japanese Army and Navy landing craft produced by various automotive maker from 1935 onward, the Dahiatsu usually refers to the 14-meter long version (Jentschura, H., Jung D., Mickel P. Warship of the imperial Japanese Navy 1869-1945, Annapolis 1986, p. 233). They were seen by the USMC mission in china and used as an inspiration for further development of the Higgins boat (Gilbert, 2001, p. 21)

[6] (Estes, 2000, pp. 25-26, 29)

[7] The Type 92 was a variant of the first indigenously designed armoured vehicle the Type 92 Heavy armoured Car (Jyu-Sokosha), it was considered a failed design. Zaloga, Steven J. Japanese Tanks 1939-45, Oxford 2007, pp. 6-7 and Tomczyk, Andrzej M, Japanese Armor volume 3, Gdansk 2003, pp. 3-4

[8] The Type 2 Ka Mi was accepted into service in 1943 and production started in the same year. Several examples saw action in 1944 at Saipan and Leyte (Zaloga, 2007, p. 23)

[9] Evans, D. and Peattie, M. Kaigun: Strategy Tactics and Technology in the imperial Japanese Navy 1887-1941, Annapolis 1997, p. 443

[10] For an overview on the development of soviet amphibious tanks see Bean, M. and Fowler W. Russian Tanks of World War II: Stalin’s Armoured Might, St. Paul 2002 pp. 49-52

[11] Attempt to increase armour on the follow up of the T-37 the T-40 resulted in a less buoyant vehicles for an modest increase, 14mm total, in armour (Bean & Fowler, 2002, p. 52)

[12] (Estes, 2000, pp. 49-50)

[13] (Estes, 2000 p.48)

[14] (Estes, 2000, pp. 51-53, 67-70)

[15] Probably the best account of the battle for Tarawa atoll is Utmost Savagery by Joseph Alexander. The account dwells in detail on the use of tanks and the problem in getting them ashore on Betio. Alexander, J.Utmost Savagery, The Three Days of Tarawa, Annapolis 1995

[16] (Alexander, 1995, pp. 73-77)

[17] (Alexander, 1995, p. 126)

[18] The tank-infantry phone was installed on tanks only after Tarawa and the radios on the tanks were not tied to the infantry net (Estes, 2000, pp. 65,63) (Gilbert, 2001, pp. 83, 85)

[19] (Alexander, 1995, p. 127)

[20] Despite the apparent contradiction two tanks are recognized as operational at the end of the first day but during the night another one was repaired (Colorado or China Gal according to the different sources). Owning to the confused nature of the fighting the exact tank losses on Tarawa are difficult to calculate. The 2nd marine Tank Battalion had 14 Medium Tanks operational and allocated to the operations. Between 7 and 11 were destroyed on D-day, and only two were deemed available in the first night. Three were operational in the second day and one was lost on a mine on the third day. Every night the marine maintenance team were trying to return some vehicles to operational condition this explain the variance in numbers. (Gilbert, 2001, pp. 85-104)

[21] (Estes, 2000, p. 76)

[22] Bailey, A, Alligators, Buffaloes and Bushmasters: the History of the Development of the LVT, Through World War 2 Washington 1986, p. 61 and (Estes, 2000, pp. 65-67)

[23] (Estes, 2000, pp. 78-79, 96-97) (Gilbert, 2001, pp. 252-255)

[24] (Estes, 2000, pp. 110-111)

[25] During Husky the first tanks landed only in the second day in the American sector of the 1st infantry division, while tanks landed during the first day in the 3rd Infantry division and on the 45th Infantry division sectors. There was no standardized assault plan and every division had a different approach to the assault. It is worth noting that only 10 tanks were assigned to the 1st infantry while the other two divisions had one full battalion each. To reinforce the 1st Infantry, that was bearing the brunt of the Italian and German armour led counter-attack, 7th Army floating reserve, CCA 2nd Armored division, had to be landed on July 11th in an confused fashion (Garland & McGaw-Smyth Sicily and the Surrender of Italy Washington 1993). At Salerno, American armour was supposed to land in the initial two waves but landing difficulties prevented tanks and other armoured vehicles from landing until later. Some regimental assault guns (75mm gun on M3 halftrack) landed in the third wave but, except for some spare tanks, the bulk of the armoured force landed in the afternoon of D-Day. Still it was an improvement over Sicily. Blumenson , M. Salerno to Cassino Washington 1993, pp. 80-81.

[26] (Ford & Zaloga, 2009, p. 50)

[27] While in several popular histories the US Army is blamed to have “rejected” the British specialized assault armour for use on the landing recent publication have pointed out that the US army indeed ordered several hundreds of specialized vehicles including Sherman Crabs to clear minefields, Churchill AVRE (Churchill infantry tanks equipped with Petard heavy mortars and other engineering equipment) and Crocodile (Churchill with flamethrowers) beside “swimming” Sherman Duplex Drive (DD). The order had been placed in February 1944, but the British tank industry was not able to cope with the requests and manufacture of these tanks in US would have been too time consuming, In the end only the DD tanks were able to be delivered on time. US tank battalions were allotted Sherman tanks with dozer bladed in place of AVRE tanks (Ford & Zaloga, 2009, pp. 48-49)

[28] (Ford & Zaloga, 2009, pp. 235-236, 283, 309)

[29] It is interesting to note that the DD tanks had always been regarded by scepticism in US Army and US Navy circles. According to US Navy officers the tanks were unseaworthy and unsuitable for landing. The V Corps commander, General Gerow, vehemently opposed their use on Omaha favouring Shermans equipped with deep wading trunks. The tank battalions slated to land at Omaha were hybrid units with two companies equipped with DD Shermans and 2 with Shermans fitted with deep wading equipment. Also it seems the US Army failed to appreciate the different between Italian landings and Normandy and did not take into account the effectiveness of German antitank guns positioned on the beaches. While Churchill tanks were reasonably well protected against those guns the M4a1s that formed the backbone of US tank battalions were not. An uparmoured version the M4A3E2 with frontal armour capable to withstand 88mm direct fire was in production in US but did not arrived in Europe until fall 1944 (Ford & Zaloga, 2009, pp. 49-51, 72-73)

[30] The classification of the initial landing at San Carlos in 1982 is difficult. While the ground opposition was minimal in the word of Commodore Clapp and light in the words Major General Thompson the air opposition was intense. Even the light opposition caused the loss of two helicopters and 4 aircrews. (Commodore Clapp and Major General Thompson to the author, 14/07/2011)

[31] Shaw, H. The United States Marines in North China 1945-1949, Washington 1968

[32] The 90mm gun on M26 Pershing and the 76mm on army M4A3E8 Sherman was the only ground based weapon capable to deal with T-34 tanks at anything but close range the WW2 vintage bazooka having been proved ineffective except at close range. In a single occasion a T-34 survived unscathed bazooka fire and was destroyed by a direct 90mm hit. Balin G. and Zaloga S. Tank Warfare in Korea Hong Kong 1994, p. 6.

[33] Alexander, J. Battle of the Barricades: The US Marines in the Recapture of Seoul, Washington 2000, p. 23; (Balin & Zaloga, 1994, p. 7)

[34] Major General Nick Vaux CB DSO RM to the author, 30/6/2011

[35] Munro, B. The Centurion Tank, Ramsbury 2005, p. 164.

[36] Major General Nick Vaux CB DSO RM to the author, 30/6/2011.

[37] For a discussion on the introduction of helicopter in the USMC see Rawlins, E. Marines and Helicopters 1946-1962, Washington 1976, especially chapters 5 and 6.

[38] Gilbert, O. US Marine Tank Battles in Vietnam, Newbury 2007 p. 62

[39] The M50 Ontos was a lightly armoured tank destroyer equipped with 6 106mm recoilless rifle. IT was fast well armed and sufficiently light to be air transported, the drawback was that its armour was unbelievably thin only 13mm at the front of the hull (0.5”). Hunnicutt, R. P. Sheridan The History of the American Light Tank, Novato 1995, pp. 192-196, 311 and(Estes, 2000, pp. 155-156, 157, 169-170)

[40] (Gilbert, 2007, pp. 154-155, 158) a (Estes, 2000, p. 170)

[41] While the British landing at San Carlos Bay were not recorded in history as an epic battle for the beaches Argentinean opposition was indeed present causing the loss of 2 helicopters and 4 aircrews.

[42] Major General Julian Thompson CB OBE RM to the author 14/07/2011

[43] During the period the American 82nd Airborne Division included an air droppable armoured battalion equipped with M551A1 Sheridan light tanks. They were not used in Grenada, but were used in operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989.

[44] Spector, R. U.S. Marines in Grenada 1983 Washington 1987 p. 16

[45] An attempt to provide fire support by a pair of cobra helicopters resulted in both Cobras being shot down the first while providing fire support and the second after the successful recovery of the crew of the first (Spector, 1987, pp. 10-12).

[46] As an interesting counterpoint to Argentinean assumption in the same year the Israeli Defence Force operated tank heavy task forces in mountain terrain during the invasion of Lebanon.

[47] As an interesting counterpoint to Argentinean assumption in the same year the Israeli Defence Force operated tank heavy task forces in mountain terrain during the invasion of Lebanon.

[48] Major General Nick Vaux CB DSO RM to the author, 30/6/2011.

[49] The 3rd Commando Brigade organization during the cold war seemed to reinforce this perception, yet in both of its NATO based missions, reinforcing Norway or Denmark, the brigade assumed the ability to operate with allied tank formations, Norwegian Leopards I in the former, Danish and German mechanized divisions in the latter.



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