Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tigers in the Mud

Every now and then, I'll buy a book that a blogger recommends.  Sometimes they just review the book and it sounds interesting so I buy it. A couple of times, I've bought books recommended by bloggers that I liked to read and wound up losing interest in that blog because the book was such a disappointment.   I've bought a few that I found reading Free North Carolina.  I can't even remember all of them.  I have yet to be disappointed by any book Brock posts about.

A few weeks ago, Free North Carolina linked to a write up about Otto Carius' Tigers in the Mud.   I had seen the book on Amazon and  figured that it was just another memoir by a German soldier and he just happened to have some time in a Tiger Tank.   Its quite a bit more.

Having never heard of Otto Carius, I always thought that Michael Whittman with his 138 tank kills was the highest scoring Tank Ace ever.  The write up that Free North Carolina linked to said Carius had 150.  150 is more than 138 everywhere except in "communist core" math so that got me interested.   I won't ever make any money by knowing that but its nice to learn something new so I bought the Kindle book and began to learn more.

Most of Carius' experience was with the Tiger I.   I have always heard that "Tigers" were underpowered, unreliable, too heavy, too complex and too expensive.  Its a common statement that each one cost a million Reichmarks and that the Germans should have spent the money, time and resources building more of something cheaper.   Reading Carius' book leaves a different impression.

According to Caruis, the Tiger I had a top road speed of 45 kph and could do 20 kph cross country.  45 kph works out to about 27 mph.  Contrast that with the roughly 25 mph top speed of most variants of the nimble, quick and downright agile Sherman.    He said they only ran them 25 kph on the roads because faster speeds were hard on them but it could be done.   He says you could shift the transmission and steer it with two fingers and that it was as easy to drive as an automobile.  Underpowered and too heavy.  Uh huh.

The most common mechanical problem Carius talks about is shell fragments from Russian artillery getting into the grates on the engine decking where they cut the radiator hoses or poked holes in the radiators.  He doesn't ever  say the Tiger I was unreliable.  In fact, he liked it for its "robustness."   The only negative comment that he has on reliablity is that the carburetors were "too sensitive" compared to the diesel engines on the Russian tanks.    Just about any carbureted engine is going to have more sensitive carburetors than an engine that doesn't use carburetors.   Too complex and unreliable.   Right.

I have always suspected that historians have conflated the Panther's early reliability problems and the King Tiger's weight and power troubles with the Tiger I.  The book makes me think I may be right.  Caruis finished the war in a Jagd Tiger.  He does say those were underpowered and unreliable.   (He did like being able to shoot through a house and knock out a Sherman though).  I think he would have said so if the Tiger I suffered any of those problems.

Carius never addresses the cost issue.  He just talks about the tank for what it is but I think the book itself speaks to that point.   Time after time, Carius took his four Tiger Is out and stopped dozens of Russian tanks.  They were frequently used as a fire brigade to stop Russian breakthroughs.   So the Tiger I weighed something more than twice as much as a late model Mk IV.   Could eight or ten Mk IVs have done as much as those four Tiger Is?  Doubtful.   One of his stories involves rescuing a group of something like seventeen Stugs that were cut off by the Russians.  Did four Tiger Is cost as much as seventeen Stugs?   I don't know.   Did they use as much fuel?  Did they cost as much to maintain?   I doubt it.   It took twenty men to crew four Tiger Is.  It took as many men to crew a Mk IV or a Stug as a Tiger I.   Seventeen Stugs was eighty five men and they had to be rescued by twenty men in four Tiger Is.  If the Germans had built a lot more of something cheaper, where would they have gotten the men to crew them?  How would they have fed them if they had gotten them?  If they had the men to crew them, could they have actually  built four or five or six times as many Mk IVs as they built?  Maybe that's a question for Albert Speer.   About the only argument that can be made along the cost issue is that perhaps they should have built fewer Tiger Is in favor of more Panthers.   One is still left to wonder whether the Germans had the resources, men, guns and engines to field significantly more tanks than they did or the fuel to keep many more tanks running.

Funny how we are told that the Germans' big mistake in the air war was postponing development of jet fighters because they thought their Me 109 and FW 190 were good enough and that they made a big mistake in the ground war because they did go ahead and develop advanced, extremely capable tanks because the Mk IV was outclassed by the T-34.

(I find that I have misplaced the thumb drive that has the picture that I took of the Tiger I that was at Aberdeen Proving Grounds on it.  Dang.    Imagine something dark green that's really big and then imagine it about 20% bigger).

I think Tigers in the Mud demonstrates that the Tiger I was really, to borrow Charles Atwater's words, "a good, solid tank" and actually what the Germans needed by the time it got to the field.   Reading Caruis' book didn't leave me wondering whether the Germans should have built something cheaper instead of the Tiger I.   It left me wondering whether they wouldn't have fared a lot better if they had been  able to build 2,700 of them instead of just under half that many. 

I'm going to go see the movie "Fury" this weekend.  I am told that they actually use a Tiger I to play a Tiger I in the movie.   Those mocked up T-34s (yes, look at their wheels and tracks) that they fixed up to look like Tiger Is for the movie "Kelly's Heroes" and that made their way into "Saving Private Ryan" were better than Hollywood's usual practice of using M 47s, M 48s and M41s  (and sometimes even Shermans) for Tigers but I want to see the real thing.  I'm gonna be pig-bitin' mad if it ain't a real one.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Its Fun to be the King


This mini Purdey was presented to King George V in 1935. The gun is fully functional. It breaks down into its own guncase and it even has cartridges made by Eley-Knoch that are just under a half-inch long loaded with 1.62 grains of powder and 2.02 grains of dust shot. It is said the King would shoot moths with the gun.

Found at Sporting Classics'   Facebook Page

Wonder how it would do on spiders...

Friday, October 17, 2014

Time Travel

I went back in time for a few minutes yesterday.   Not all that far;  just twenty-five years or so.  Didn't stay long.  The trip was a spur of the moment thing and I wasn't dressed for it.

Back in that day, I hunted with a good bunch of people in a particular swamp.   The swamp got sold and then swapped around between different State agencies a few times.  It was legal to hunt there for several years after all the swaps  but the State didn't let anybody know that.  One agency had posted it and they never bothered to remove the signs when they swapped it to the other agency.   We didn't know it so we started hunting elsewhere.

I owned a third of an acre lot that backed up to the swamp but sold it when the State posted it.  The guy that bought the lot used to send me pictures of the bears, hogs and turkeys that wandered through "my" back yard.

A bunch of the swamp got sold off again a few years ago.  Until yesterday, I thought it was just one more thing that was gone forever.

I had to inspect a piece of property for an Estate and to get there I had to drive down the same road that led to the gate we used the most to get to the swamp.  Turn right just before the gate and follow the hard road to the property that I had to inspect.

I have been back in that area several times over the past couple of decades and seeing the gate always brought back all kinds of nostalgic feelings for the days when I had a key that would unlock the padlock on the gate and let me into the swamp.

Yesterday, the gate was open.

Not only was the gate open, it also had a sign that said it was a State Wildlife Management Area.

"Wildlife Management Area."   That's what I used to do there.  I helped "manage" the wildlife.  I managed to eat some of it too.

After I inspected what I went there to inspect, I went back and pulled in the gate.   A car was coming toward me so it seemed like it was OK to drive back farther.  There are all sorts of walking trails on the edges of the swamp and I figured maybe it was a trail head now.    After a few hundred yards I came to a fenced parking area that was right where we used to park on those frosty mornings back when.

There were fences where there there didn't used to be fences but there were gaps purposely left in them for people to walk through.   I walked through a gap and padded my way across a stretch of wooded upland between a grassy meadow and the swamp.  I hadn't ever hunted much in that direction so pretty soon I turned back for the road that headed where I really wanted to go.

The road looked the same except for a gate.  The gate had a gap so people could walk around it and I did.  Pretty soon it was quiet and shady.  Stagnant water stood in ditches on both sides of the road, just like always.  It was a good thing.

 I remembered getting lost trying to find a stand that was just off the road one cold morning.  Easy to do here.  I still don't know where it was.  I could see the junction where this road met "The Dike Road" that would take me deeper into the swamp.  They called it that because it was the top of a dike that had separated rice fields on a plantation 150 or so years ago.    If I let it, that road would take me miles back to the pump station with its old distillate engine block and concrete foundation; back to the stand of cypress trees where I saw a bear that everybody thought I imagined  because there weren't supposed to be any bears here then;  back to the stump where I left food for a doe so often that she would almost, but not quite, eat out of my hand.  A little farther and I'd be at the spot where I was charged by four armadillos and where I got lost on a night with no moon and had to find my way out in the dark.  Having a gator that you can't see growl at you in the dark isn't so bad when you are carrying a 30-06.  Really.

The Dike Road  was less than a hundred yards ahead.  I could see the light where this road and it met.  I could almost feel the curve of my brother's 1909 Argentine Mauser's floorplate cupped in my hand again.   My dad bought it at the local K-Mart back in the 1970s for $49.00.  It had been "sporterized" by some importer who thought they were worth more with butchered stocks and very sloppily rechambered to 30-06.    A week before he killed himself, my brother gave the Mauser to me.  I hunted with it even though I knew it wasn't particularly accurate tossing .308" bullets down its .311" bore.  That rifle, and the swamp, were what I needed back then. 

Before I got to the Dike Road, I noticed red surveyor's tape at the intersection and remembered that this was a Wildlife Management Area and that I was wearing a white shirt.  Perhaps not the best plan unless one wants to get "managed" and go to the Happy Hunting Ground permanently.  I really just wanted to visit. 

I headed back to the car.  Tried to remember all the names of the guys that hunted there.  I doubt I got half of them right.  The rest are just faces or the rifles they carried.

When I got to my car, I met a bow hunter loading his gear into his truck.   We talked a little and he told me that you had to draw a permit to do it but you could hunt the swamp again.  That Mauser has a nice 8mm barrel and a Scout scope now.    Its too late for this season but I'll put in for a permit next year.   Then I'll get to go back in time again and stay a little longer.

Monday, October 13, 2014


This one's startin' out pretty well

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How 'Bout Getting A Room Next Time?

Police: Passenger was nearly naked when truck slammed into school bus


The wife of a truck driver who slammed into the back of a Bradford County school bus Monday afternoon was naked from the waist down in the truck when the accident occurred, injuring the couple along with the bus driver and seven children.

Two of the children injured in the crash remained hospitalized Tuesday following surgery, said Bradford County Sheriff's Capt. Brad Smith.

“From the waist down she was naked, and partially clothed from the waist up. The man had clothing on,” Smith said. “People assume they were up to no good but we don't know for sure, so make whatever inferences you want to make.

The whole article is at  The Gainesville Sun.

"...traveling in an erratic manner along the southbound highway."    Um.  Ya reckon?

Might could have used this as a Hump Day post all by itself.