Saving Willie the Whale

From the Fort Lee Traveller comes this story about the moving and planned restoration of an LVT-4 amtrak formerly stored at Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

5696b7279ea6b.imageFORT LEE, Va. (Jan. 14, 2016) — An amphibious assault vehicle that symbolized the Marine presence at the Ordnance School when it was located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., has made its way back to the Devil Dogs.

Dubbed “Willie the Whale,” the LVT-4 was moved here from Anniston Army Depot, Ala., in September 2015 but currently sits in the high bay of Randolph Hall, a Marine training facility located on the Ordnance Campus.

Claire Samuelson, museum director, Ordnance Corps Training and Heritage Center, said Willie, which welcomed thousands of Marines to the Marine barracks at Aberdeen, is undergoing some minor cosmetic work courtesy of Marines enrolled in courses at Randolph.

Full Article here

James Warford on the USMLM and the T-64

Today we present an article written by retired US armor officer MAJ James M. Warford about US efforts to gather intelligence on Soviet armor during the Cold War involving the US Military Liaison Misison.  This article originally appeared in the Nov-Dec 2011 issue of ARMOR magazine in edited form.  Mr. Warford has provided us with the original and unedited version for your reading pleasure.


 The United States Military Liaison Mission, its Tri-Mission Partners and the Quest for the “Holy Grail”

By James M. Warford

His weapons are stealth and discretion. He knows that successful collection is a deliberate and persistent endeavor which reveals the correct picture about his opponent from an emerging mosaic of separate information. Upon his individual judgment, initiative and courage, the success of USMLM is built.

 Randall A. Greenwalt, Colonel, GS

Chief of Mission (1982)

The United States Military Liaison Mission, or USMLM for short, was officially established by the Huebner-Malinin Agreement, in April 1947. The agreement authorized the exchange of military liaison teams or “missions” as there we commonly called, between US and Soviet military headquarters’ in Germany. USMLM’s primary (official) mission was to, “carry out responsibilities for liaison between CINCUSAREUR, on behalf of the US Commander in Chief Europe, and CINCGSFG (Group of Soviet Forces, Germany).”1 It was, however, in USMLM’s secondary and until the end of the Cold War, secret role where its contributions can truly be measured. Its secret role was to “exploit its liaison status and attendant access for the collection of intelligence information in the German Democratic Republic.”2 This meant that throughout its 44 year history, members of USMLM were able to spy on and gather critical intelligence information concerning the Soviet Forces deployed in East Germany.


Of all their real-life missions, many of which rival the most daring exploits described in best-selling spy novels, the task of getting up-close and personal with the brand new Soviet T-64 MBT (later confirmed to be the T-64A), and obtaining metallic scrapings of the tanks armor, ranks as one of the most daring and critically important they ever conducted. The desire to touch the enemy’s truly revolutionary new tank (the best the Soviets had to offer), represented more than just a high-priority mission; it was in fact, the quest for the “Holy Grail.”

August 1978 USMLM technical quality photography of T-64As

August 1978: USMLM technical quality photography of T-64As (USMLM History – 1978)

While in many ways, USMLM’s intelligence experts and linguists were an elite team, they were not unique. At Yalta in 1945, President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and Central Committee Secretary Stalin agreed that post-World War II Germany (and Berlin) would be reorganized into zones of occupation. Ultimately, this reorganization would include four zones; the American, the British, the Soviet and the French. Each zone was granted a liaison mission. The British mission was known as BRIXMIS, the Soviet mission was known as the SMLM (often abbreviated even further by American military forces to “smell ’em”) and the French mission know as the FMLM. The official headquarters’ for the three western missions were set-up in the city of Potsdam. Once established, the American, British and French missions were able to use their quasi-diplomatic status to observe, track and appraise Soviet military forces as they “toured” through East Germany. These “tours” normally consisted of two or three mission team members in a modified civilian sedan or (more recently) small SUVs. They would drive through East Germany both on and (more often than not), off-road. In many cases, the mission tours included tense stake-outs while hidden in the East German countryside for days at a time. If they were spotted by the Stasi (the East German State Security Police) or Soviet military forces, the chase was on. Tour members would do everything they could to avoid being detained (or “clobbered”) by their pursuers; including dangerous high-speed chases and escape and evasion maneuvers.

[Read more…]

Inside the Chieftain’s Hatch: T-55A

World of Tanks researcher Nick Moran has released a new video in his “Inside the Hatch” series.

Video” M10 (replica) driving fail

We recently were made aware of this video from this past summer and thought it was amusing enough to be worth sharing.  We are going to say it’s safe to assume these guys are not doing things properly.

More discussion of this incident over at the Historic Military Vehicle Forum.

Armor for the Ages: Churchill Crocodile

AFTA crocThe Armor for the Ages website has posted a new article on the history of the Churchill Crocodile tank that was part of the Patton Museum collection.  This vehicle currently resides at Fort Benning.  The article includes links to three photo galleries which show the vehicle at various stages of the restoration process.  British armor fans are sure to find these galleries (1, 2, 3) of interest.  According to the site:

Little is known about the Churchill Crocodile in this article. It once was part of the Tony Budge collection in Retford, Nottinghamshire, England. Mr. Budge assembled a huge collection of military vehicles in the 1980’s and 90’s but was sold off when his company, Budge Industries, was forced to downsize after financial problems. According to former Patton Museum curator Charles Lemons, the Crocodile was acquired in a Title X trade with the Center for Military History and it became part of the Patton Museum collection. It is now in storage at the Armor and Cavalry collection at Fort Benning.

Latest News from Jane’s

Here are three new stories concerning AFVs from Jane’s IHS.

1323097_-_mainEstonia buys extra CV90s from Norway

Estonia has bought additional CV90 armoured fighting vehicles (AFV) for its armed forces, signing a contract for 35 more CV90 hulls from Norway on 8 January.

The additional units will complement the 44 CV9035NL infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) that Estonia purchased from the Netherlands in December 2014.


0014437_-_mainUkrainian firms look to upgrade business on Polish PT-91s

Ukraine’s state-owned defence industrial holding UkrOboronProm is in negotiations on possible participation in an upgrade programme centred on Poland’s PT-91Twardy (Hard) main battle tanks.

According to a UkrOboronProm release and news agency Interfax Ukraine, the organisation will continue to hold talks through January with Poland’s Polski Holding Obronny (Polish Defence Holdings – PHO). As part of the discussions, a PHO delegation is expected to visit the Lviv Armor Vehicle Factory in western Ukraine, which undertakes a range of maintenance, upgrade, and modernisation work on the T-72 tank.


1535228_-_mainIndian MoD looks to close deal for 100 modified K-9 self-propelled howitzers

India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) began price negotiations with Indian private-sector company Larsen & Toubro (L&T) in late December 2015 for 100 modified South Korean self-propelled howitzers (SPHs) for around USD800 million.

Military sources said the K-9 Vajra (Thunderbolt), which is an L&T-modified version of Samsung Techwin’s K-9 155 mm/52-calibre tracked SPH produced under a collaborative agreement, was shortlisted for acquisition in late September 2015 following extended field trials that were concluded in early 2014.

Armored Oddities of Syria/Iraq

The ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq have produced a number of unusual armored vehicles.  These range from manufactured armor upgrades for main battle tanks to one of a kind homemade armored bulldozers.  We scoured a few internet forums and gathered up some of the more interesting photos into the gallery below.  Most of these photos came from here and here.


This first gallery is of tanks and AFVs with different types of add-on armor attached.  Some of these are the result of actual government programs, some are obviously “in the field” expedients.


This next gallery of is of oddball vehicles converted into AFVs.

The Chieftain’s Hatch: Equipping the Force, Part 5

chieftains hatchNicholas “The Chieftain” Moran has posted the fifth part of his series of articles on the history of US tank development during WW2.  In the is post he compares and contrasts the difference in opinions between Army Ground Forces and Ordnance regarding tank development.


Now that that salvo is over, let’s have a gander at the whole lot, and compare/contrast with Ordnance’s view of things.

It is interesting to compare the line just above, “The agency controlling the using arm should likewise control the actual development program”, with the position of General Barnes over at Ordnance: “For these reasons, it is necessary for the Ordnance Department to take a strong lead over the using services in the development of new equipment and then to get the help of those using services in determining where the weapon best fits into battlefield operations.”

Put simply, they are mutually exclusive propositions. In effect, you have the scientists saying “If we just let the using arms come up with the equipment needs, nothing ‘new’ or revolutionary would ever be developed”, and you have the using arms saying “Stop focusing on hypothetical wonderweapons, and put all your energy into this thing we know we need right now.”

Full article here.


“Tankograd” blog on T-62

tankogradThe Tankograd blog on Soviet and Russian armor has posted an in-depth article looking at the Soviet T-62 main battle tank.  As with their other posts, this piece is probably the single most detailed description of the vehicle to be found online.  A very nice collection of photos is included in the article, including quite a few interior shots of various crew stations, controls and hatches.  The fire control systems and sights are described in detail as well, as is the cannon and the various kinds of ammunition.  For fans of the T-62, this page is a “must see” item.

Tankograd – T-62: Black Sheep of the Family

“Black Knights” restore M47 Patton tanks

From the official homepage of the US Army comes this story:

size0FORT RILEY, Kan. (Jan. 12, 2016) — Soldiers, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, began restoration of two M47 Patton tanks here, Jan. 9.

Assisting with and advising the “Black Knight” Soldiers with the restoration were members from the U.S. Army Brotherhood of Tankers, or USABOT, and the Military Vehicle Preservation Society, or MVPs.

The M47 saw limited service with the U.S. Army and was quickly replaced by the M48, according to USABOT.

“This means a lot,” said Sgt. Adrian Medina, an M1 armor crewman with 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment. “Especially with having a lot of the older veterans coming in. These are tanks that are part of our heritage. A lot of technology and thought went into creating these tanks to better our jobs and everything out of these old tanks has been applied to our newer tanks like our Abrams. So it means a lot to get back into history.”

size0 (2)Medina said his unit hoped to have at least one of the tanks able to run after the restoration was complete. When finished, one tank will be displayed in front of the unit’s headquarters while the second will be placed in front of the motor pool.

“I think it’s great to get the Soldiers involved in the history,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Lowell May, former Fort Riley Soldier and the president of the local chapter of the MVPs.

May said the M47 was the first tank built after World War II and was in service through the 1950s.

“You cannot explain the feeling that you get,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Bob Trevorrow, a representative of the USABOT. “It’s a bit of history.”

size0 (1)The USABOT has grown from 500 members to 17,000 members within the past four years, Trevorrow said. They have now created a network with British and Israeli tankers as they strive for a brotherhood across the world.

“These girls are before my time,” Trevorrow said. “Some of us were in the Korean War and to see these, especially if we can get one running, that would be awesome.”

The M47 tanks will be refurbished and painted as well, Trevorrow said. He expressed his appreciation that 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, invited him to help and said he felt he was reliving history.