Shared Dreams of Other Men
Can you still fight your initial GDP position in the squadron
sector? Without doubt, your walked the terrain, did the map
studies and the sand table exercise countless times. You may
have formally briefed the battle to your boss or explained it to
your crew at the Snack Bar over a burger using the salt and
pepper shakers as the scout and ITV team. It doesn't matter
whether you were in an M41 or M3, chances are you were much
younger, probably had more hair and a few less pounds and, in
classic armored cavalry tradition while on a training exercise,
you leaned forward in the open hatch, looked down at the map and
overlay, looked north across the German terrain, the rolling
farm land, the red tile roofs, the darting tree lines and
exclaimed in a barely audible voice, " ... what the f....?!".
in 1 / 100 000 scale, the area between Ober Fladungen and Sondheim
that was much considered in Eaglehorse GDP planning in the 1970s and
1980s. The border between the DDR and the FRG is the red hatch line
running southeast to northwest. In my recollection, the three
cavalry troops were deployed close to the border, Volkershausen to
Ober Fladungen with H Company in the vicinity of Hausen and HOW
located by Roth, due west of Stetten.
Your scope of concern may have been a single vehicle in a
fighting position, a platoon spread out over several kilometers,
a troop in wide zone or perhaps the whole squadron. In your
mind, all those grease pencil marks on the map, that calm German
terrain, all that training and everything you had ever seen or
done in the Army, your commander's guidance and your gunner's
skill had to come together at, (choose the range to fit your
years) 1000 meters, 1800 meters, 3200 meters and somehow put hot
US steel on cold Soviet steel.
The mandatory semi annual terrain walk of the GDP. On a peaceful
afternoon you would look at the map, look at the German cows
grazing, the local bus snaking north on Road # 285 towards
Fladungen / Ober Fladungen, watch the sun catch the gold crosses
on the steeples while the horizon lay dark and heavy with coming
rain, close your eyes, squeeze them shut, clear your mind and
visualize how ... to ... do ... this ... job. In the soul of a
soldier, past the leader, past the organizer, past the killer
and past the praying supplicant, you must visualize the battle
before it happens; at the heart, you must at least in some small
but important part, be ... a ... dreamer.
Words not Deeds:
First Battle of the Next War
Over the years, while you were pondering the closing speed of a
Soviet recon company, those troublesome wood lines around
Stettin and Hausen and whether you could get off two accurate
shots before dashing to the next battle position, a surprising
number of authors were pounding the keyboards to answer those
very questions ... and they got paid for it. On the non fiction
side, nothing beats Sir John Hackett's, The Third World War, and
almost everyone has read at least one Tom Clancy novel but there
were others works as well. Here, a selection of where the First
Battle of the Next War slipped out of your "battle book" crawled
into print and found its way to a used book store near you. This
is by no means an inclusive survey on the topic, but it's fun to
see where the "shoot out at Schluctern" still turns up.
Armor at Fulda
John L. Cook
ISBN: 0 380 75843 1
This "graphic novel" of 220 pages is basically a comic book
brought to life. On the "how long would it take me to read this
in the Cleveland Airport" meter, this one rates as a fifty-five
minute layover between New York and Minneapolis. The book is
heavily illustrated with photos, charts and diagrams harvested
from seemingly every Armor Magazine, Janes Fighting Systems and
Army Times printed during a five year span; the illustrations
occupy over 55% of the available page space!
showing Sov armored hover craft, Tom Swiftski Design Bureau, Moscow.
The story of the desperate fight of the crews of Company D, 2-52
Armor, 3 AD unfolds at the speed of a sabot round, blood and
steel are flying by page 57 and the battle never really lets up.
For some unknown reason, the 11th ACR and the Eaglehorse have
had their names changed although clearly the units fighting are
in the V Corps covering force. (a criticism we note in all books
we read on this topic) The men of Company D are on the forward
edge attached to the "first squadron" and the action is tightly
focused on just a few tank crews and the company tactical
operations center. Don't look for foreshadowing, irony, plot
twists or fully developed characters, this is fast and furious,
red meat served quick. An enjoyable read but stand by to groan
when seemingly every Tom Swift-Fort Knox Dream Book project ever
postulated and then thrown in the trash winds up on active duty
in the plot. Tracked re-supply vehicles driven by computers and
operating without crews, automated anti-tank ambush devices and
robotic "wing-tanks", battle along side M60A3s, M1 tanks and
M2s. A few selections from this heady blend of fact and fantasy.
Here is the
map area where the battles in Armor at Fulda Gap occur.
(the world situation has already deteriorated, US forces are in
the final hours of battle position prep, Company D is
approximately 11 Ks NE of Fulda, in the rough terrain S of the
German town of Mackenzell)
"The scars were of fresh obstacles surrounding Mittelashenbach
as the combat engineers withdrew under the watchful eyes of the
D Company sentries. Fighting berms for the tanks, newly cut from
the dark forest soil, cast their long, eerie shadows through the
"Daylight was just beginning to cut through the cold,
penetrating drizzle as SP4 Martinez returned to his camouflaged
and dug in M1A3. He had just spent the last three hours guarding
the M35 mine field to the south of his platoon's position. ...
The Cav took their job much more seriously than the battalion
and had forced the D Company tankers to work two straight
nights-all night-to strengthen their positions."
A few pages later ... you know what happens ...
"It wasn't trains he heard, it was massed Soviet artillery.
Martinez never saw the BR-472 armor piercing high explosive
projectile that blasted Sergeant Tom Jenkins. It was the first
of 500 to slam into his platoon positions in the next five
minutes. The red, white and black flashes of the explosions
blasted D 33. The tank rocked ..."
"The 7th Guards Tank Division led the assault. Close behind the
barrage came the two lead regiments of Soviet T 90 battle tanks,
buttoned down and blazing away with their auto loading 125mm
main guns. They and the new infantry assault hover craft were
the best the Soviets had in their inventory."
By page 79, Troop A is in a desperate fight ... so much for the
"run and gun" delay mission ...
"By 1000, the Soviets breached the main belt of obstacles and
were forcing the squadron to pull back from its initial
screening positions overlooking the north-south road between
Haselstein and Morles. The southern Soviet regiment had almost
destroyed Troop A, but the troop commander had escaped the trap
by sacrificing his wing tanks in a delaying action. The wing
tanks, operating in the totally automatic mode, fired at
anything that moved and created a feint toward the north. When
they ran out of ammunition, they were easily destroyed, but not
before they killed twenty Soviet tanks, infantry carriers and
air defense systems."
A night time lull in the battle, page 104 ...
"Derick (XO Company D inside the TOC) ' A lot of good men died
today, ' he said flatly. ' I think that's the hardest part;
knowing that I had to order men to die today. I just can't
believe the destruction we saw today. Bodies blown all over the
insides of vehicles. Men screaming and dying. Vehicles exploding
in front of me. Killing the enemy, I know I killed some but not
how many.' He sat down on a stool, the weight of the day's
combat taking its toll at last. ' But the men fought well, I'm
damn proud of them.'"
By page 126, the Soviet attack has lost momentum and ...
"The darkness of the night hid the exhaustion and terror of
Soviet survivors resting on the ground. Astute commanders
attempted to reroute convoys around the worst of the devastation
to spare the fresh, young soldiers of the second echelon
division from the human wreckage that covered parts of the day's
battlefield. After all, how could an eighteen or nineteen year
old soldier even begin to comprehend that over 6000 men lay dead
in a 25 mile square box and that it took only 25 hours to turn
pristine German countryside into a horrible wasteland of gray
smoke, fire and the putrid smell of death?"
We start kicking ass again on page 142 (and they are about ready
to board that flight to Minneapolis) ...
"Inside his tank, Harris acquired moving targets with the CITV
and the fire control computer memorized their positions. Then
Harris punched his ' go' button that fed the target to Martinez
tracking system. Martinez acquired the same target, the computer
automatically applied the lead and he fired. The target was
destroy. Martinez punched the button on his left cadillac.
Control of the gun was transferred to the tracking computer and
it locked onto the next target. Martinez applied final small
adjustments, then fired. The main gun recoiled as the round
blasted downrange at super high velocity."
The killing finally stops on page 220, the smoke clears and the
dust settles, we win and I look for my briefcase.
ISBN: 0 449 14562
On the airport layover- meter, Ian Slater, provides
sufficient words to accommodate a full aircraft engine change
while trapped in Kansas City enroute to Los Angeles, or, if the
blizzard that threatens to end humanity as we know it ever
strikes and you're trapped for a week, you can read the entire
eight book WWIII set while living on airport vending machine
candy bars. Volume 1 checks in at 441 pages, the complete series
is an astounding 3300 pages! I don't know if Mr. Slater was paid
by the word or by the weight of the manuscripts.
Volume 1 of the set establishes the characters and story lines
that then play out through the other novels. The scope is global
as the story bounces from the President's War Room to the
pitching deck of a destroyer to F16 dog fights to ground
operations on the central German plain and in many respects this
is Tom Clancy all over again. In Blackhorse territory briefly,
the action at the Fulda Gap is used to tell the story of tank on
tank combat, although the characters and the action here are not
central to the plot. Slater leaves the dream weapons, techo-talk
and diagrams of Cook behind; this is a standard pot boiler for
guys, the North Koreans have trigged the war and it is breaking
out at a global level ...
OP Alpha, First Squadron border observation post is overrun on
page 191 and 192:
"At Alpha HQ the infantry troops had come through the door of
the metal hut as if there were a fire, the lift-up counter
slamming back, held down by the sergeant as he kept intoning, '
Let's go Let's go! ' The M1s were coughing, then there was a
deep, throaty purr, surprisingly quiet to infantry used to the
old M60 Pattons. No one questioned whether it was a drill or
not. ... Outside as they moved beneath the pines into the
Bradley armored personnel carriers, thirteen men apiece, the
column started off for the trace near the tower."
"The East German fired back at Alpha's tower, but by then Meir
and Malvinsky were halfway down the staircase and into the jeep,
pulling back into the next position in the pines on their side
of the strip. East German rockets missed the tower, crashing
into the pines above them, setting the trees afire and throwing
long shadows across the dugout. Mier fired three scarlet
Briefly back near Fulda on page 319 ...
"At the Fulda Gap, where the Russians had been unable to use
their jellied gas bombs, the latest British Challengers, Leopard
IIs and American M1s lasted much longer in battle where foam
filled self sealing fuel tanks took many direct hits without
bursting into flames. "
While it was a good read, it was not a great read and I only
went as far as the first book in the series but if you are
looking for a low cost way to take up a lot of time, plow in
with Slater. Maybe the tank on tank stuff gets better in the
ISBN: 0 89141 290 5
This is the pick of the litter so save it for the Friday flight
back to your home city. Cell phone and lap top off and locked in
their cases, maybe a beer or two if it fits in with the driving
plan; if you were in the cavalry / armor anytime in the 1980s or
90s, you will recognize much in this book and checking in at 300
pages, it surprisingly can be done in one sitting. The tank
action starts early and never quits. Written, at the time, by an
active duty armor officer, it seems at times much less a novel
and more the running account of a bad day at the NTC. The
locations and units are fictionalized, no Fulda, no Hersfeld,
not even a Schluctern but there are some simple maps to help you
visualize the battle.
By page 45, all the key characters are introduced, primarily CPT
Bannon, the officers and NCOs of Team Yankee, oil and the Middle
East have stoked the fires for war and what is left of the
armored cavalry (unnamed) is streaming out of the covering force
"The cavalry had not lasted long as expected. The fresh
battalions of the Soviet's second attacking echelon broke the
worn and severely weakened cavalry like a twig. ... The passage
was not the neat parade like processions practiced during
training. Vehicles would come down singly, in pairs, sometimes
in groups as large as fifteen. Some were dragging damaged
vehicles. Some were limping or wobbling along like drunks, all
showed signs of damage. Trucks had their canvas tops shredded.
Tracked vehicles that had gear stowed on the outside now had it
scrambled and tossed about on top, with articles of clothing
hanging from the sides. There were even a couple of trucks
running on their rims, unwilling or unable to stop to change
A few pages later, steel on steel.
"Bannon popped his head up to get an overall picture of what was
going on. Just as he did, the 33 tank fired a HEAT-T round at a
BMP. He watched the tracer streak towards the target and impact
with a bright orange flash and black ball of smoke. The BMP
lurched forward another few meters then stopped, quivered, and
began to burn. ... He watched as two BMPs, scrambling to avoid
being hit, rammed each other and stopped. This calamity only
made it easier for Team Yankee's gunners, and both BMPs died
within seconds of each other, locked together. "
The battles rage back and forth, there is heroism and slaughter
on both sides, now and then, the point of view changes to the
Russian side. Page 241:
"Six kilometers to the east on the other side of the hill, a
Soviet tank battalion commander was in the middle of a raging
fit. As the lead tank of his second company raced along the
narrow trails to catch up with the company already engaged, it
had thrown a track making a sharp turn. Now it blocked the
trail. ... Both the battalion commander and the political
officer heard the report from the lead company that they were
being engaged by American tanks in the flank, and the attack had
to be broken off. The political officer leaned over and said '
Well, comrade, what are we going to do? The attack seems to be
Some pages later ... the final battle is joined.
"Amidst the noise of the Soviet artillery fire, the US artillery
delivered mines arrived almost unnoticed. That is, until Soviet
tanks began to run over them. The Soviet officers knew about
scatterable mines, and they knew their capabilities. There
wasn't anything the Soviets didn't know about the American
military. But to have knowledge about a weapon system does not
always mean that you know what to do about it when you encounter
that weapon. ... Tanks began to hit the mines and stop, as more
tanks hit the mines, the other tanks began to slow down. ... the
tank crews in Team Yankee began to engage the Soviet tanks in
their assigned sectors of responsibility. Firing rapidly, the
tanks began to methodically take out the Soviet tanks starting
with those closest to the Team's positions. Above the din of
battle the shouted orders of tank commanders could be heard: '
FIRE! ' ' GUNNER-SABOT-TWO TANKS-FIRE!! ' ' TARGET-NEXT
TANK-FIRE!! ' ... Like a wolf smelling blood on a crippled and
dying animal, the Scout Platoon swung around to the rear of the
Soviet regiment and began to engage. The people who started the
battle rushed forward as the battalion began the final stages of
its killing frenzy."
By page 300, the Sovs sue for peace after a month long war and
for Team Yankee, survival for some and medals for many. The
novel ends in an odd scene. Back from the fight, CPT Bannon lets
himself into his deserted and wrecked family quarters at his
home barracks. His wife and kids have long ago been evacuated
... "Honey , I'm home ... did you pick up any beer?!".
Actually he doesn't say that ... but whether its been a long
business trip or a brutal fight in the covering force area, once
it's over, you know that's what's on your mind. Happy reading!!