A tank battle unfolds in central Germany, near the small Hessian village of Grossaltenstaten. Along the far left tree line, tanks move to the right, while another column is moving up the center.
Set up as a pre-ARTEP training evaluation, the Real Train exercise was conducted in central Germany by various units in V Corps. The cold weather helped to put a damper on this exercise. It was also my first major exercise in Germany.
A tank column pushes along a winter trail during an attack. The yellow wooden plaque on the back of the turret bustle rack is the shield of the 32nd Armor Rgt, with the inscription "Victory or Death."
Roads are still the best terrain for tanks, affording rapid and easy movement, as well as helping crews maintain orientation.
A pair of M-60a1s moving "hull down." Tankers train to use the terrain to the best advantage. One of the techniques is maintaining a low profile. Tanks either move totally exposed, hull down, or turret down. When hull down, the turret is visible, but most or all of the hull is protected by terrain. In turret down, the entire tank is masked by terrain, with perhaps the tank commander able to look over the top of the terrain feature to search for the enemy.
Tanks are simply enormous in size, especially when compared to their early relatives of the 1920s and 30s. Maneuvering them through tight areas can be a trick, and yet must be done with alacrity. Sometimes, the area is so tight that a crew member must dismount to ground guide the tank through, sometimes missing a building by inches. Occasionally, the crew misjudges their movment, and a "maneuver damage incident" results.
The size of the M-60a1 can be seen in this shot, taken during a rapid movement on the attack.
Armored forces receive support from various other arms. In this case, AH-1 Cobra gunships hover below the terrain at "nap of the earth." From this position, an observation chopper would help pinpoint enemy vehicles. The Cobra would then pop up and launch TOW anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs).
Note the snow being kicked up the rotor downwash. The truck behind the tank is a vehicle for a major department store chain in Germany, Kawe.
A unique shot through the vision periscope of the tank commander, with the reticle for the M-85 .50 cal. machine gun. The tank in the center has just broken cover and is moving rapidly cross country to its next position. Tankers move from one terrain feature to the next often in jumps, or "bounds." One of the primary tactics is the "bounding overwatch," where several vehicles move while several others hold fast and observe the terrain for enemy activity. If an enemy were to fire on the moving vehilces, the overwatching element would alert them and return fire.
One of the items for which tankers have to maintain alert is the guided anti-tank rockets, known as ATGMs. In the late 1970s, the one most well known as a threat was the Soviet Sagger, and overwatch also entailed "Sagger Watch." If the overwatching tanks saw the tell-tail signature of a Sagger launch, they would alert the moving element, and fire into the vicinity of the launch, with the objective of disrupting the aim of the Sagger gunner, causing the missile to go off target.
In this last shot, the second M-60a1 breaks cover after the first reached its next covered position.
One of the major lessons tankers learn in cold weather is the tempermental nature of the vehicle's heater! It is sensative, to say the least, and one quickly learns either how to mess with it, or to leave it alone and let the "experts" do it. Heaters were even used in the spring and fall, since it can get fairly cold at night in Germany.