The US Army made a conscious decision in 1943: to ignore calls for rapid development of the heavy, 90mm-gun T26 (Pershing) to take on the Panthers and Tigers, and instead to mass produce the M4 – a medium tank that would do the job well enough rather than brilliantly, and at a practical cost in time, talent, treasure, and shipping weight.
Its 75mm gun and 50mm (2in) frontal armor were not good enough to take on a late Panzer head-to-head; but Sherman crews used their numbers, speed and agility to swarm round the Panthers and Tigers. The Panzer might survive long enough to kill one, maybe even two M4s; but in the meantime the rest of the platoon, working round onto its flanks, would be putting rounds into its more vulnerable sides and engine compartment from close up.
The Sherman also lent itself to adaptation. The 75mm gun was a good all- purpose weapon with a very useful HE round; but when its shortcomings against the new Panzers became evident, the British customized a proportion of their Sherman fleet by shoe-horning into the turret their big 17-pounder anti-tank gun. Probably the best Allied anti-tank weapon of the war, this 76mm (3in) gun could pierce at least 130mm of armour sloped at 30 degrees at 1,000 yards range, compared to about 60mm for the 75mm gun (the frontal armor of Tigers and Panthers was around 80mm). Sadly, there were never enough of these 17-pdr.Sherman “Fireflies” to issue more than one tank per platoon. The US Army turned them down, but late US Shermans received a new turret for the long 76mm M1 series gun.
So why go to all the trouble of installing a new gun in the Sherman when it only fired a projectile that was 1mm larger in diameter? Well, the typical AP M72 shot used with the 75mm M3 Gun attained a muzzle velocity of 2,030 ft/sec. The typical AP M79 shot, which was used with the M1A2 76mm Gun, achieved a velocity of 2,600 ft/sec. This additional speed provided a penetration difference in homogeneous armor at 30 degree obliquity from 2.4in (60mm), to 4.3in (109mm), a penetration difference of approximately 2 inches. To what was this new penetration performance due? It was mostly due to the additional powder used in the larger shell cartridge, but both the increased length of the barrel and the improved performance of the projectile itself also had some effect. The increased velocity of the round still wasn’t enough to penetrate a Panther or Tiger I head on at distance, but the improved performance was directly noticeable to the users, and it temporarily reduced American tankers’ complaints about the poor performance of their earlier 75mm M3 weapons.
One good point about the US Sherman’s guns was that their trajectory allowed indirect fire – wartime photos show tanks lined up track to track on slopes with guns elevated, firing HE barrages over crests like howitzer batteries, a tactic impossible for most German tanks with their high velocity cannon.
Of the many versions of the M4 which were produced, varying in armor, turret, ammo stowage, weapon, engine and suspension, the best – by acclamation – was the M4A3E8 (“Easy 8”) with a big liquid-cooled V8 engine, wider tracks, HVSS suspension, and enlarged turret with 76mm gun; these began to reach the troops soon after D-Day. They served on for some years, seeing combat in Korea; and they – and many earlier marks – would continue to serve in overseas armies for decades afterwards. A handful served in Israel’s 1948 war of independence, and many in her 1956 and 1967 campaigns; Shermans fought in the Indo-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971; and in odd pockets of the Third World a few may have soldiered on even later.
The Puma is an Infantry Fighting vehicle developed in Germany to replace the aging fleet of German Marder IFVs. The vehicle is considered to be one of the most well protected and heavily armored IFVs in the world. The Puma also offers substantial firepower, mounting a 30 mm autocannon in an unmanned turret. The Puma is currently in production through a joint venture by the German military companies, Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann at a unit cost of $7 million each. The first production Pumas were delivered to the German army in early 2015 and the total order for 350 vehicles are scheduled to be delivered in full by 2020.
The baseline Puma curbside weight is 69,000 pounds (31.5 tonnes), with the fully loaded combat weight increasing to 94,500 pounds (43 tonnes). The vehicle is approximately 24 feet (7.6 m) in length, 12 feet (3.9 m) wide with baseline armor and 11.5 feet (3.6 m) in height to the top of the turret. Operated by a crew of 3, the driver, commander and gunner are all positioned in the chassis, with the turret being unmanned. The vehicle can also accommodate a compliment of 6 dismounts. With the chassis mounted on a hydropneumatic suspension system and powered by a 1100 hp MTU V10 892 diesel engine the vehicle has a power to weight ratio of 23.3 hp/ton at its full combat ready weight. The Puma can attain a maximum road speed of 42 mph (70 km/hr) and possesses a 360 miles (600 km) operational range with on-board fuel.
The Puma design is optimized for modularity, permitting the baseline vehicle to be reconfigured to meet a broad range of mission requirements. In this regard it is similar to the German-Dutch designed Boxer. The main intended combat roles are as an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), as a fire support vehicle (IFV) and as an air defense platform. To permit mission role modifications the vehicle was configured with a high weight reserve to accommodate the necessary associated mission equipment. The vehicle front, floor and sidewalls remain unchanged during configuration change while the rear cabin area can be replaced with alternate mission modules.
The main weapon of the Puma is a 30 mm MK30-2/ABM autocannon, which is mounted in an unmanned turret. The ABM suffix indicates Air Burst Munitions, which the cannon is able to fire to engage low flying and slow moving air targets, such as helicopters. The autocannon can fire at a rate of 200 rounds per minute, and has an effective target engagement range of over 3000 yards.
The illustration above shows the details of the unmanned turreted system.
The German government expressed a preference for the 30 x 173 mm caliber autocannon over the 25 mm Bushmaster (as mounted on the M2 Bradley and LAV III vehicles) as the 30 mm rounds offered substantially improved armor penetration as compared to the 25 mm ammunition autocannon. While a heavier weapon than the 25 mm, the 30 mm autocannon is substantial lighter when compared to the alternative of the much heavier Bofors 40 mm gun, as mounted on the Swedish CV9040. Like the 25 mm autocannon the 30 mm cannon is also belt-fed, while the Bofors 40 mm utilizes 24 round magazines. The 30 mm rounds however are larger than 25 mm rounds, therefore reducing the net number of rounds that can be carried in a given space. Though in the case of the 30 mm round as compared to the 25 mm round, the penalty is not high. The Puma stores 400 rounds for the autocannon within the unmanned turret.
The autocannon is equipped with a dual ammunition feed system similar to the 25 mm autocannon. The two ammunition styles available for the autocannon are armor piercing (AP) and air burst. The AP round is an APFSDS-T and is able to effectively engage soft targets, medium armored vehicles and infantry concealed behind barriers. The air burst round is described as the multi-purpose Kinetic Energy-Timed Fuse (KETF) munition. When used for anti-aircraft engagements the round will detonate and discharge a cone of sub-munitions at the fuse setting position. The firing of ammunition occurs on a shot-by-shot selection, with no round being loaded into the breach until the gunner pulls the fire trigger, allowing for high flexibility in target acquisition.
View of main weapon, showing armor around gun barrel and associated sites. Commander’s site can be seen on the top of the turret, the gunner’s site sits below this (with blue circle). To the right (with the white circle) is one of the many drivers navigation cameras positioned around the turret and vehicle.
The Puma has significant enhanced situational awareness technologies integrated with the unmanned turret. This includes stabilized 360° periscopes for the gunner and commander with built-in therma vision and a CCD camera with zoom features. The gunner is additionally provided a thermal vision camera and laser range finder. The driver is provided with an image intensifier and 5 externally mounted cameras which offer extensive viewing capabilities outside of the vehicle. All camera outputs are fed into the on-board imagery display units which offer full views of the vehicle surroundings at all crew stations as well as in the troop compartment where applicable (i.e., APC variant). The intent is that the troops are able to play an active role in situational awareness, identifying possible targets and threats for the vehicle crew.
The secondary weapon is a coaxially mounted 5.56 mm HK MG4 machine gun, with the unmanned turret allowing for a 30 calibre and 50 calibre option as well. The MG4 fires at 850 rounds per minute to an effective range of 1,000 yards. The smaller calibre round was selected over the traditional 30 calibre (7.62 mm) machine gun as the weapon is lighter than a 7.62 mm weapon. The lower ammunition weight means more ammo can be carried. As well the 5.56 mm calibre ammunition is equivalent to that used by the rifles of the crews and troops, permitting them to use the vehicle ammunition if required. There are 2,000 rounds of 5.56 mm ammunition stored in the vehicles unmanned turret.
The unmanned turret of the Puma is also equipped with a EuroSpike LR missile launcher. The system carries two missiles which can be used to engage Main Battle Tanks, helicopters, buildings and infantry in bunkers. The missiles have an effective range of 4000 yards and are “Fire and Forget” technology, meaning that the missile will track the identified target once fired without continual direction from the gunner being required.
Puma with class B (ballistic) armor and class SC (shaped-charged) armor kits applied over frontal arc and along the sidewalls of the vehicle. Note relatively large exposed engine air inlet grill on right hand side of vehicle, which is comparatively unprotected and vulnerable tomobility kill fire.
The Puma is considered to be among the best armored IFVs currently in production, making effective use of geometry and available add-on armor systems. Constructed from welded steel the hull has been designed with a minimum of oblique angled on the contoured hull surfaces to avoid bullet traps. The baseline hull is designed to permit flexible mounting of externally applied add-on armor to meet a range of mission profiles. The primary AOA is IBD AMAP composite armor. The baseline armor protects the vehicle and occupants from Russian 14.5 mm AP rounds. The frontal arc of the vehicle also has additional AMAP class B (B for ballistic) armor applied to provide protection against medium calibre kinetic energy threats up to 30 mm cannon fire. The frontal arc and the sides of the Puma have additional up-armored kits available for when a heavy combat operational theatre is anticipated. These kits consists of AMAP class SC (SC for Shaped Charge) armor, which provides protection against shaped charge warheads. These include cannon fired HEAT rounds and RPGs.
With a mass-efficiency of 8-10 as compared to RHA (i.e., provides 8-10 times protection than RHA for a given weight) the AMAPS class SC armor has excellent multi-hit capability. The class SC is able to defeat more than one threat impact on a given module, which is untypical of shaped charge defeating armor. The class SC also provides the vehicle with additional protection against KE rounds and IEDs. AMAP-SC is not an Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) system, but rather is passive, with no explosives used. Therefore impact to a module does not constitute a threat to dismounted infantry, as is the case with ERA based shaped charged defeating armor systems.
The baseline vehicle hull is also equipped to mount a softkill Active Protection Systems designed to defend the vehicle against ATGMs. The Germany Army intends to eventually equip its Pumas with the Multifunktionales Selbstschutz-System (Multifunction Self Protection System), or MUSS, softkill system, which is currently under development. The roof of the Puma is protected against overhead artillery threats and mortar fired bomblets, and the vehicle offers anti-tank mine blast protection from threats of up to 10 kg TNT equivalent. The vehicle is also protects the occupants from Projectile Forming plate thrower mines.
The crew and vehicle dismounts are situated in seating that is suspended from the roof of the vehicle. This seating arrangement reduces forces experienced by the occupant as a result of a mine blast event, preventing or reducing the associated resulting injuries. This seating arrangement also ensure that there is no direct contact between the seat and its occupant with the vehicle floor, preventing injury to the occupant’s lower limbs. In the event of a mine blast event the crew and troops are able to rapidly egress from the vehicle through side-sliding styled roof hatches, which are easier to open than the lift-swinging style hatches.
The Puma was designed to produce a low infrared signature to make it more challenging for an enemy to identify and target, and for heat guided missiles to acquire target lock-on. The low IR signature was attained by applying IR-suppressing paint to the vehicle surface and by mixing the engine exhaust with fresh air to reduce its temperature. The temperature reduced exhaust in then venting through the rear of the vehicle which conceals the heat signature from an enemy in front of a forward facing Puma. Smoke grenade launchers are provided standard, discharged manually by the vehicle driver as deemed required to reduce visible and IR signature of the vehicle.
The fuel tanks of the vehicle are mounted on the exterior to remove the threat to the crew of potential fuel ignition in the event of an overmatch by an Armor Piercing – Incendiary (AP-I) round or shaped charge warhead. While dual externally fuel tanks increase the probability of being able to maintain mobility following a mine blast event and to therefore move beyond the immediate threat area (a feature common on many APC/IFVs).
Germany to Upgrade Infantry Fighting Vehicles in $1.2 Billion Contract
The upgraded vehicle’s fusion mode capability will help to detect camouflaged targets making this the first western vehicle equipped with such a capability.
The German military has signed a more than 1 billion euro ($1.2 billion) contract to upgrade 154 Puma infantry fighting vehicles, Rheinmetall announced in a statement.
The PSM GmbH consortium, co-owned by Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, will begin the upgrade this month and is expected to complete it in 2029.
Option of Additional Upgrade
The contract also includes an option to upgrade an additional 143 Puma vehicles at a cost of 820 million euros ($973 million).
The upgrade will modernize the vehicles according to the S1 design.
Meanwhile, 40 of Germany’s Pumas out of a total of 350 have already been upgraded to the S1 standard, the statement revealed.
The S1 Standard
The upgrade will see the vehicles being retrofitted with “standoff-capable effectors like the MELLS multirole lightweight guided missile system.”
Additionally, the vehicle will be fitted with additional sensors “such as the new driver’s vision system and an improved command-and-control architecture.”
The driver’s vision system allows the crew to “see through the armor, day and night,” which is not possible through the present periscope system, Rheinmetall explained.
Early Detection of Camouflaged Targets
The upgraded vehicle’s fusion mode capability will allow it to combine “daylight vision with a high-quality thermal image,” helping in the early detection of camouflaged targets, day or night. This is the first western vehicle equipped with such a capability as a standard feature, the statement added
Meanwhile, the S1 version is part of the German Military’s System Panzergrenadier, or mechanized infantry plan, which will see a digitized platform such as the S1 vehicle being linked with a soldier system featuring digital radio technology.
An M2A3 of 2-162 Infantry drives out of Patrol Base Volunteer in Sadr City during a QRF (Quick Response Force) mission. Note the prominent CIV, so vital to the Bradley’s effectiveness in urban operations in Sadr City and elsewhere in Iraq.
The familiar twin pillars of US armoured might in Iraq: an M1A1 Abrams and M3A2 ODS. Note the Bradley Reactive Armour Tiles, painted in CARC Tan, of this 1-4 Cavalry Bradley photographed during Operation Baton Rouge, an action designed to suppress the insurgency in the city of Samarra in October 2004
THE IRAQ WAR
On 20 March 2003 some 130,000 US soldiers, assisted by 45,000 troops from the United Kingdom, and smaller numbers from Australia and Poland, invaded Iraq. The initial offensive lasted just 41 days and on 1 May President George W. Bush announced “mission completed.” Yet before long the invasion had deteriorated into a long and bloody insurgency which would not end even with the withdrawal of US forces in 2011. During this long war, which cost 4,400 American lives and some $478 billion, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle played an important part and its role changed throughout the war reflecting its versatility and the adaptability of the men who served in it.
For the initial invasion the US Army’s Bradleys and Abrams were concentrated in Lieutenant General Wallace’s V Corps. This was comprised of the armour, cavalry and mechanised infantry regiments of 3rd Infantry Division and 4th Infantry Division, while 1-41 Infantry, detached from 1st Armored Division, served with the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division. Early in the campaign the Americans were keen to avoid the kind of urban fighting that had relatively recently proved so disastrous for the Russians in Grozny during the First Chechen War. Instead the Americans conceived of a ‘Thunder Run’ into Baghdad, a massive armoured raid into the heart of the Iraqi capital designed to induce a sense of imminent defeat and the collapse of Iraqi resistance. On 5 April a battalion-sized taskforce of 1-64 Armor, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, spearheaded by thirty M1A1 Abrams and fifteen M3A2 Bradley CFVs, passed along the west bank of the Tigris River into the heart of the Iraqi capital. By midday 1-64 Armor had left the centre of Baghdad leaving some 2,000 Iraqi dead for the loss of a single Abrams to an RPG (Rocket-Propelled Grenade) hit. The success of the first ‘Thunder Run’ led two days later to a second brigade-sized mission to seize the centre of Baghdad and its government buildings. The Iraqis had fortified the routes into Baghdad, yet it had no effect on the American advance and within a few hours of the Bradleys and Abrams of 2nd Brigade had secured the centre of the city, including the Republican Palace Complex and Ba’ath Party headquarters. The ‘Thunder Runs’ exploited the speed and survivability of the both the Abrams and Bradley. The scouts and mechanised infantry remained in their vehicles and the Iraqis had no opportunity to engage the American soldiers who refused to engage in the street fighting that had previously characterised urban operations. 2nd Brigade’s operations succeeded as well because of the training and discipline of the US forces and the flexibility afforded to the units to make tactical decisions on the ground.
Elsewhere during the invasion of Iraq the Bradley proved its worth. In the north of the country the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which had parachuted into Bashur Airfield were slowed in their advance to Kirkuk until they were joined by the Abrams and Bradleys of 1-63 Armor, 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. 1-63 Armor was part of the USAEUR’s Immediate Ready Task Force, a heavy force that had been maintained in Germany since the NATO intervention in Kosovo in 1999. The force included a Heavy Ready Company comprised of one M1A1 Abrams platoon and one M2A2 ODS IFV platoon with two additional platoons of M113A3s. The Abrams and Bradleys of 1-63 Armor were flown into Bashur Airfield on 8 April. Two days later, with Kurdish Peshmerga forces pressing the Iraqi army hard in Kirkuk and Irbil, the commander of 173rd Airborne Brigade decided to throw his limited armoured forces forward towards Irbil in a mini ‘Thunder Run’. Again, the psychological effect of heavy armour, both on the Iraqi army and the local Kurdish populace, was immense, but without the necessary logistics and mechanical support Task Force 1-63 Armor was unable to press ahead at once towards Kirkuk. Eventually TF 1-63 Armor continued its advance was instrumental in allowing 173rd Airborne Brigade to secure the vitally important Kirkuk airfields. TF 1-63 Armor showed the ability of the Bradley to be airlifted to a remote battlefield in support of light infantry and special forces and make an immediate impact. As one Special Operations soldier observed: “we have done all that we can do. We’ve bombed these guys for three weeks. We need tanks and heavy infantry to drive them off the ridge.”
The Bradley Fighting Vehicle again proved its worth during the second battle of Fallujah during November and December 2004. 2-7 Cavalry fought alongside the United Marine Corps as part of Regimental Combat Team 1 in the west of the city, while 2-2 Infantry (Mechanized) served as part of the Regimental Combat Team 7 in the east. Small groups of buttoned-up Abrams and M2A3s drove through the city subduing the insurgents with their firepower. Earlier the same year the so-called ‘Baghdad Box’ formation had been used to effect against the Shia militias in Sadr City. Interviews with the ten Bradley battalions that had participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom up to the end of 2004 revealed a generally positive view of the vehicle’s contribution. The Bradley Reactive Armor Tiles (BRAT) in particular proved very effective in protecting the vehicle and its crew against RPG attacks and only three Bradleys were lost of enemy action. The firepower of the 25mm Bushmaster cannon was intimidating and often enough to deter insurgent attacks. The greatest success, however, was the superb situational awareness of the Improved Bradley Acquisition Sub-System (IBAS) and the Commander’s Independent Viewer (CIV) on the A3 variant. These allowed the Bradley to move buttoned-up through urban areas deploying maximum firepower with maximum survivability. The survivability of the Bradley was such that some units, such as 2-69 Armor, replaced the HMMWVs of the scout platoons with M2A3s from the line companies to provide reconnaissance.
There were some issues identified, however. Most battalions identified the need for a stabilised machine gun for the Bradley commander, enhancing the ability to give suppressing fire all around the vehicle. Several also reported that they had damaged the main gun barrel in confined urban operations and requested a shorter ‘urban operations barrel.’ The experience of combat had also identified issues with the internal stowage, while the lack of a proper air conditioning unit meant that long periods of operating buttoned-up could degrade the effectiveness of the crew. Despite the praise heaped on the Bradley and its obvious effectiveness, there were still those who considered it obsolete for the wars that America would fight in the future. November 2003 saw the first deployment to Iraq of the Stryker Interim Combat vehicle, a multi-role eight-wheeled armoured vehicle, part of the new ‘Objective Force’ designed eventually to replace the ‘Legacy Force’ Abrams and Bradleys in the US Army. The deployment of the Stryker and the continued investment in the Future Combat System (FCS) programme took money away from the Bradley and the heavy armoured forces in general. In 2003-4, for example, the decision was taken not to the upgrade the M2A2 ODS and M3A2 ODS of 3rd Infantry Division and 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment to A3 standard and use the money instead in the FCS programme. The developing tactical situation also put pressures on heavy forces in Iraq. The threat of IEDs and the need to up-armour the Army’s fleet of wheeled armoured vehicles, principally the HMMWV, squeezed the resources available to support heavy armour. Indeed, the second rotation of US troops immediately following the invasion had to fight hard to bring all their heavy equipment in theatre. General Peter W. Chiarelli, commander of the 1st Cavalary Division, was at first prohibited from bringing all his Abrams and Bradleys to Iraq and had to enlist the personal support of General David D. Mckiernan, commander of land forces in Iraq, to get the decision reversed.
As the war changed into an increasingly desperate and sectarian insurgency the role of the Bradley too changed. Configured in its traditional role as part of the Armored Brigade, it continued to be valued for both its lethality and survivability. In June 2006, for example, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, arrived in Ramadi in Al Anbar province with 70 Abrams and 84 Bradleys. Instead of clearing the city block-by-block, as the US Army and Marines had done in Fallujah, the brigade established eighteen fire bases from which to mount aggressive patrols with their M1A1s and Bradleys. Joint patrols, employing Abrams, Bradleys, HMMWVs and dismounted infantry and tactics developed in the streets of Al Tharwa, Fallujah, Najaf and Sadr City, engaged insurgents at range of typically less than 200m and by early 2007 the insurgents’ attacks on US forces had largely come to a stop.
From 2007, despite the introduction of improved belly armour, high power spotlights and other improvements as part of the Bradley Urban Survival Kit (BUSK), the Bradley was withdrawn from frontline combat in Iraq as the nature of the conflict changed. The prevalence of IEDs as the insurgents’ main weapon against the US forces led to an investment in MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) of which the US procured some 12,000 between 2007 and 2012 for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the Bradley had again proved its worth. Some 150 Bradleys were destroyed by enemy action in Iraq, most of them lost to IEDs, but its firepower and protection proved an integral part in the success of US armoured forces, both militarily and psychologically, especially in the opening phases of the war.
1-12 Cavalry, 3rd ABCT, 1st Cavalry Division, were the first unit to receive the new M2A4 IFV. This has the full BUSK III package and ECP II changes.
THE BRADLEY TODAY
The withdrawal from Iraq and the decision of the US Army to deploy only Stryker Brigade Combat Teams to Afghanistan might have been thought by some to have been the final chapter in the long decline of US armoured forces that had been apparent since the end of the Cold War. Despite the cancellation of the Future Combat Systems in 2009, the Bradley and the Abrams seemed to have had their day. In 2013 seven of the US Army’s seventeen armoured brigades were de-activated. That policy changed in 2014 with the Russian annexation of Crimea and their interference in the subsequent civil war in Ukraine. Once again, the US and its NATO allies faced the prospect of a future conflict with a near-peer adversary. Operation Atlantic Resolve, the United States’ show of commitment to their NATO allies saw American heavy armour return once more to Germany and a new emphasis on the Abrams and Bradley as the chief warfighting systems of the US Army’s Maneuver Units in the shape of the Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT).
The US Army currently fields eleven ABCTs. This number was reached in 2019 by the conversion of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division from Strykers to heavy armour. This is an increase in the 2016 projection made to Congress of a force of nine ABCTs by 2021. One of these ABCTs is stationed in South Korea, part of the US VIII Army, while another ABCT is stationed in Germany as part of the ongoing Operation Atlantic Resolve. To the end of 2020 there have been seven rotations as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve and 1st ABCT, 1st Cavalry Division is, at the time of writing, serving in this role. These regular units are supplemented by five ABCTs of the US Army National Guard which regularly serve alongside their regular counterparts on exercise in both the United States and in Europe.
The Armored Brigade Combat Team is a formidable fighting force of 4,700 soldiers. Its mission is simple: ‘to disrupt or destroy enemy forces, control land areas … and be prepared to conduct combat operations to protect US national interests’. It currently fields four types of Bradley Fighting Vehicles: the M2A2 ODS or M2A3 IFV, the M3A3 CFV, the M7 BFIST and the Bradley ESV. Each ABCT contains two IFVs in its Brigade Headquarters, fourteen Bradley ESV in the Brigade Engineering Battalion, nine CFVs in the Brigade Reconnaissance Squadron, three CFV and two IFVs in the Headquarters Company of each armor and mechanized battalion, fourteen IFVs in each Rifle Company of the four mechanized infantry battalions, and four M7 BFISTs in the Fire Battalion. In 2015 there were 1,199 M2A3s and 453 M3A3s serving across the US Army’s ABCTs, while 162 M2A3s, 62 M3A3s, 377 M2A2 ODS and 197 M3A2 ODS served in the National Guard units.
The Armored Brigade Combat Team is also a highly dynamic unit which responds quickly to changes identified in a rigorous and high-intensity training environment. For example, up until 2016 the ABCT’s IFVs and tanks were organised into combined arms battalions. The change to armored and mechanized infantry battalions saw the reduction in strength of two rifle companies per brigade and an increase in the size of the brigade’s reconnaissance squadron. This was mainly driven by a shortage in manpower, but it also led to changes in tactics across the brigade. The first unit to change its organisation was 3rd ABCT, 1st Cavalry Division and it tested the new formation at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA, in the autumn of 2016.
Since 2015 US Army Bradleys have trained alongside Ukrainian armoured forces in Germany and alongside former Warsaw Pact adversaries and now NATO allies in Poland and Romania. They have trained in the former Soviet republic of Georgia as part of NATO’s Georgian Defense Readiness Program. They continue to serve as a deterrent to aggression in the Korean Peninsula and have most recently begun to conduct high-profile patrols in north-west Syria as part of the continuing war against the Islamic State. In October 2020 3rd ABCT, 1st Cavalry Division became the first unit to accept delivery of the latest M2A4 IFV. The Bradley then remains, and is likely to remain for some time, at the heart of the Armored Brigade Combat Team and the US Army’s warfighting capability.
The best introduction to the development and early history of the Bradley is R.P. Hunnicutt’s Bradley: A History of American Fighting and Support Vehicles (Novato, CA, 1999). In a similar vein, and somewhat more accessible, is Steve Zaloga’s M2/M3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle 1983-1995 (Osprey New Vanguard 18, 1995). A good photo album, covering the same period, is Jim Mesko, M2/M3 Bradley in Action (Squadron Signal: Carrollton, TX, 1992). A later, similar photo album which covers the period up to the war in Iraq is David Doyle, M2/M3 Bradley (Squadron Signal: Carrollton, TX, 2015). Michael Green and Greg Stewart’s M2/M3 Bradley (Concord Firepower Pictorials 1010, 1990) is also a good reference for early Bradleys. Hans Halberstadt’s Bradley Company (Crowood Press: Marlborough, 2001) is worth a look too
A little known episode from the fighting during the Warsaw Uprising in August and September 1944, involved the operations carried out by 1000. Sturmtiger-Kompanie. A prototype of the Sturmtiger was sent to Warsaw and off-loaded at the station in Pruszków on August 15, 1944. This station was prepared for receiving and handling heavy vehicles like the Sturmtiger, the mortar “Karl” Gerät, and possibly railed artillery, and was equipped with two railway cranes with huge lifting capacity. Similar equipment was available at the station in Nasielsk where the Tiger-Battalions Schwere-Abteilung 505 and 507 were also sent, in order to then be deployed at the front outside Narwia. A second such vehicle was off-loaded on August 18. The status report from the 9th Army on August 20 (Krannhal’s op.cit. p. 378) confirms that 1000. Sturmtiger-Kompanie with two Sturmtigers was included among the units which fought in Warsaw. It was the first prototype-vehicle to arrive in Poland’s capital city, together with another such vehicle, sent out before being manufactured on a series production line, with an iron or light steel superstructure. Just such a vehicle had already been produced toward the end of 1943. This fact is confirmed by the army group Centre’s report 65004/7, with a notation written by Brigadier-General Guderian.
“To the Army Group, for the purpose of its being put to use in Warsaw: – on August 14, dispatched: one Tiger, with a 38 cm rocket firing ramp (test model), which is not suitable for use against anti-tank forces, as it is made of light steel.”
The heaviest assault guns of the Sturmtiger type were equipped with launch systems for firing 380mm calibre rockets; model Stu M RW 61, with a range of 3,600 – 4,600 metres. There were no Sturmtigers deployed along the first combat line, where these heavy vehicles weighing 65 tonnes risked falling into bomb craters, and moreover, where the use of their strong-points, or positive characteristics, was not suited to a destroyed city, with various areas often isolated by barricades. The Sturmtiger was stationed in the area around Ulica Sucha and Ulica 6 Sierpnia (now Ulica Nowowiejska), on Mokotów Field and possibly on Plac na Rozdrożu (Crossroad Square), as well.
It’s difficult to establish which targets they fired on because the heavy 380mm projectiles’ explosions have more than once been ascribed to bomb explosions resulting from railway gun shelling or, quite simply, to rocket projectiles of a different type, called Werfer – also known as “closets” or “choirs” by Warsaw’s inhabitants. At that time, the Sturmtiger was an entirely unknown entity, and the vehicles that were captured in 1945 came as a complete surprise to the allied troops.
At the end of August, a Sturmtiger, firing from the ghetto area or Kerceli Square, pounded, among other areas, Ulica Zakroczymska and the National Mint on Ulica Sanguszka in the Old Town. One other vehicle shelled resistance fighter positions in the suburb of Sadyba. On September 8-16, Sturmtigers fired on the area around Ulica Przemyslowa, Ulica Fabrycna and Ulica Naczna in Powisle. On September 8, Sturmtiger projectiles fell on insurgent positions at the Lazarus Hospital on Ulica Książęca. General von Vormann, commander of the 9th Army, made a memorably worded, harsh assessment of the Sturmtiger and its battle-fighting capabilities, “They have only factory personnel (von Vormann was referring to the first vehicle, delivered on August 15) who can’t shoot.”
By the outbreak of war with Germany in September 1939 there were only two Matildas in service, though 16 had been issued to 7th Royal Tank Regiment in France by early 1940 where they were used with success in the Battle of Arras just prior to the Dunkirk evacuation.
The Matilda is best remembered for its important part in the early Western Desert campaigns. In Libya in 1940 it was virtually immune to any Italian anti-tank gun or tank, and Matildas reigned supreme until the appearance of the German 88mm Flak gun in the anti-tank role in mid-1941, the first gun able to penetrate Matilda’s heavy armour at long range. It was not possible to fit the 6pdr gun in the Matilda (though an attempt was made to mount the A27 type turret on a Matilda chassis), due to the small size of the turret and turret ring. Thus in 1942, the Matilda declined in importance as a gun tank and was last used in action in this role at the first Alamein battle in July 1942.
At Arras the British advance ran into two pieces of bad luck. Rommel was in the vicinity, and the tanks that struck SS Totenkopf hit that division’s antitank battalion. By evening the British had stalled, and the surviving tanks retreated. On the battlefield they had achieved little, but their attack had increased German nervousness and would play a major role in the British Army’s eventual escape. On the 22nd, a small attack from the French V Corps further reinforced OKW fears.
Hitler’s “crisis of nerves” passed and was replaced with unbounded joy when he learned that the pocket-soon to be known as the Dunkirk Pocket-had been closed, and he was brimming over with praise for the army and its leaders. The next day, May 21, he was startled again, however, when two British infantry divisions and the 1st Army Tank Brigade counterattacked against Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division and the Totenkopf (Death’s Head) SS Motorized Division (SS-TK). The British strike force had only 58 Mark Is, armed only with machine guns, and 16 heavy Matilda infantry tanks, but the 30-ton Matildas were superior to any German tank in armored protection and firepower. The right-hand column took Berneville and soon ran into Colonel Georg von Bismarck’s 7th Rifle Regiment, the 1st SS-TK Regiment, and the tank destroyer battalion of the Totenkopf Division, whose shells were unable to penetrate the British tanks. Several SS gun crews were crushed to death under the treads of the Matildas, which were finally brought to a halt by the gunners of the SS-TK artillery regiment, who fired over open sights. Once they were pinned down, the British forces were bombed repeatedly by Stukas. Contrary to the reports of certain historians, the former concentration camp guards did not panic during the British attack; in fact, most of their wounded were hit in the lungs and stomach, because they ran toward the British tanks, trying to knock them out with hand grenades–a brave maneuver, but not a particularly bright one. In his excellent history of the Totenkopf Division, Charles W. Syndor, Jr., concluded that, in general, the division “performed commendably” during the attack.
The British left-hand column hit the 6th Rifle Regiment and initially experienced greater success. Once again, the German 37-millimeter anti-tank guns could not penetrate the thick frontal armor on the British infantry tanks. One Matilda was hit 14 times. They were finally halted by the combined firepower of the 78th Motorized Artillery Regiment, the 86th Light Anti-Tank Battalion (lent to the 7th Panzer by the 4th Army), and elements of the 59th and 23rd Anti-Aircraft Regiments, all firing under the personal supervision of General Rommel. Colonel Rothenburg’s 25th Panzer Regiment then launched a counterattack and forced the British armor nearly back to its starting line. By the end of the day, the 7th Panzer Division had lost 378 men killed, wounded, and missing, as well as nine medium and several light tanks. Theodor Eicke’s SS-TK lost 39 killed, 66 wounded, and two missing.
The Germans pursued the British but were halted by French armour from the 3rd Light Mechanised Division (3rd DLM). The heavier armour of the French saw the German forces stopped cold. French cover enabled British troops to withdraw to their former positions that night. Frankforce took around 400 German prisoners and inflicted a similar number of casualties, as well as destroying a number of tanks. Later on 23 May the 3rd DLM launched its own attack to try to exploit British success. The Luftwaffe and German reinforcements defeated the attack
Both von Kleist and von Kluge were somewhat shaken by the surprisingly aggressive British reaction at Arras. Kluge wanted to delay any further advances until the situation was cleared up and Rundstedt, who wanted to conserve his strength, agreed. The XIX Panzer Corps War Diary records that the British counterattack “apparently created nervousness throughout the entire [Kleist] group area.”
But it went farther than that. Both Hitler and Rundstedt took the attack as an indication that Army Group A had advanced too far, too fast, and needed to establish an adequate defense on the flanks of the Panzer Corridor. Rundstedt therefore ordered Kleist to halt his drive on the Channel ports until the fighting around Arras had been resolved. Ewald von Kleist took the 10th Panzer Division from XIX Panzer Corps and placed it in group reserve. Guderian had earmarked the 10th Panzer for an advance on Dunkirk. This would not be immediately possible.
Even after the Arras counterattack, Rundstedt had seven panzer, six motorized, and four infantry divisions in position to launch an attack into the rear of the B. E. F. At that time, Lord Gort had only two infantry divisions and a few miscellaneous units to protect his right rear. Because it halted the panzers, therefore, the counterattack at Arras represents a significant victory for the British, even though it was undoubtedly a tactical defeat.
A Panhard 178B. The APX3B turret is of the latest type with a rear episcope. Rear view showing the position of the second driver; the hull, despite having been repainted with a number belonging to the third production batch. Panhard 178B/FL1, French Indo-China, 1947.
Panhard 178 tank hunter with the Renault turret designed by Engineer J. Restany and 47 mm (1.85 in) SA 34, 1st DLC, France, June 1940.
Panhard 178, early production, 6th GRDI, 2nd Sqdn, France, May 1940.
The Automitrailleuse Panhard et Levassor Type 178 armoured car was first produced in 1935, and was developed from a design known as the TOE-M-32, which was intended for use in the French North African colonies and mounted a short 37-mm turret gun. Panhard used this design as a basis for a new French army requirement but gave the new vehicle a 4 x 4 drive configuration and moved the engine to the rear of the vehicle. The result was the Panhard 178 and the armament varied from a single 25-mm cannon on some vehicles to two 7.5-mm (0.295-m) machine-guns on others, while some command vehicles had extra radios but no armament.
The Panhard 178 was known also as the Panhard Modele 1935. The Panhard 178 was put into production for the French infantry and cavalry formation reconnaissance groups. Production was slow, but by 1940 there were appreciable numbers available for the fighting which followed the German invasion in May. Many of the Panhard 178s were in widely scattered units and were unable to take much part in the fighting that ensued, so many were seized intact by the victorious Germans. The Germans liked the sound design of the Panhard 178 and decided to take it into their own service as the Panzerspähwagen P 204(f), some of them being rearmed with 37-mm anti-tank guns and/or German machine-guns. Some of these were retained for garrison use in France, but others were later sent to the USSR, where the type was used for behind-the-lines patrol duties against Soviet partisans. Some were even converted for railway use, having their conventional wheels changed to railway wheels, and many of these ‘railway’ conversions were fitted with extra radios and prominent frame aerials.
Perhaps the most unusual use of the Panhard 178s took place in 1941 and 1942, when 45 vehicles, hidden from the Germans by French cavalry units following the defeat of 1940, were prepared by Resistance personnel for possible use against the Germans. These vehicles had no turrets, but these were manufactured under the nose of the Germans and fitted with 25-mm or 47-mm guns and/or machine-guns. The armoured cars were then secretly distributed throughout centres of resistance mainly in unoccupied France, where many were subsequently taken over by the German forces when they took over the unoccupied areas of France in November 1942.
After the Liberation the Panhard 178 was once more put into production during August 1944 at the Renault factory outside Paris. These new vehicles had a larger turret with a 47-mm gun, and were later known as the Panhard 178B. The new vehicles were issued to the new French cavalry units and were used for many years after 1945. Some saw action in Indo-China, and it was not until 1960 that the last of them was taken out of service.
Panzerspahwagen Panhard 178-P204(f)
The Panhard P-178 was the most advanced medium armoured car of the French Army when the German forces invaded France. In 1940, 360 units were already in service, and a large number of these were captured by the Wehrmacht in a serviceable condition. Before the start of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, 190 Panhard cars were issued un-modified to German units. In addition to the standard Pz Sp Wg, there was the radio-vehicle which served in small numbers as Pz Sp Wg (Fu). Forty-three cars were converted as railway-protection vehicles, fitted with rail wheels, and additional radio equipment which necessitated a frame aerial. The final development was the conversion in 1943 of some cars to a self-propelled gun, by removing the turret and replacing it by an armoured superstructure mounting the German 5cm KwK L/42, which was available in numbers following the up-gunning of the Pz Kpfw III.
A Humber Armoured Car Mk II, one of the few armoured vehicles to use the 15-mm (0.59-in) Besa heavy machine-gun as its main armament. Originally known as a wheeled tank, these vehicles gave sterling service in many theatres through the war.
The Humber armoured cars were numerically the most important types produced in the United Kingdom, for production eventually reached a total of 5,400, The type had its origins in a pre-war Guy armoured car known as the Tank, Light, Wheeled Mk I, of which Guy produced 101 examples by October1940. In that month it was realized that Guy’s production facilities would be fully occupied producing light tanks, so production was switched to the Rootes Group and Karner Motors Limited of Luton in particular. There the Guy design was rejigged for installation on a Karrier KT 4 artillery tractor chassis, Guy continuing to supply the armoured hulls and turrets. Although the new model was virtually identical to the original Guy design it was subsequently re-named the Armoured Car, Humber Mk I.
The Humber Mk I had a relatively short wheelbase, but it was never manoeuvrable and used a welded hull. The turret mounted two Besa machineguns, a heavy 15-mm (0.59-in) and a lighter 7.92-mm (0.31-in) weapon, The type had a crew of three: a commander who acted as his own wireless operator, a gunner and the driver in the front hull. The first production batch ran to 500 vehicles before the Armoured Car, Humber Mk II introduced some improvements, mainly to the front hull which had a pronounced slope. The Armoured Car, Humber Mk III had a larger turret that allowed a crew of four to be carried, while the Armoured Car, Humber Mk IV reverted to a crew of three as the turret housed an American 37-mm ( 1.45-in) gun. An odd feature of this vehicle was that the driver was provided with a lever which raised a hatch covering an aperture in the rear bulkhead for use as rear vision in an emergency.
The first Humber armoured cars were used operationally in the North African desert from late 1941 onwards, while the Humber Mk IV did not see service until the early stages of the Italian campaign, but thereafter all four marks were used wherever British and Allied troops fought in Europe. A version was produced in Canada with some changes made to suit Canadian production methods. This was known as the Armoured Car, General Motors Mk I, Fox I, and the main change so far as the troops in the field were concerned was that the main armament was a 12.7mm(0.5-in) Browning heavy machine-gun plus a 7.62 mm (0,3-in) Browning medium machine-gun. There was also an extensive conversion of the Humber Mk III as a special radio carrier known as a Rear Link vehicle. This had a fixed turret with a dummy gun. Another radio-carrying version was used as a mobile artillery observation post, and numbers of Canadian Foxes were converted for this role. A later addition to many Humber armoured cars was a special antiaircraft mounting using Vickers ‘K’ machine-guns that could be fired from within the turret; this mounting could also be used with Bren Guns. Smoke dischargers were another operational addition. A more extreme conversion was made with the Armoured Car, Humber, AA, Mk I, which had four 7.92-mm (0.31-in) Besa machine-guns in a special turret. These were introduced during 1943 at the rate of one troop of four cars for every armoured car regiment, but they were withdrawn during 1944 as there was no longer any need for them.
Humber Armoured Cars, Mark III and Mark IV, U. K.
Humber Armoured Cars were numerically the most important British-built armoured cars of World War II, well over 5,000 being produced by the Rootes Group between 1940 and 1945. The earliest Humber Armoured Car, the Mark I, was almost identical externally to the Guy Mark IA Armoured Car, and its mechanical layout although based, of course, on Rootes components was on similar lines to that of the Guy. Service experience suggested improvements and a cleaned-up front end, incorporating the driver’s visor in the glacis plate, and radiator intake improvements were introduced in the Mark II. The Armoured Car, Humber Mark III, which entered production in 1942 had a roomier turret than the Marks I-II, which allowed the crew to be increased to four. The first three Marks of Humber Armoured Car all had an armament of two Besa machineguns, one of 7.92-mm. calibre and the other 15-mm. The latter was never an entirely satisfactory weapon, being prone to stoppages, and in the Humber Mark IV Armoured Car the American 37-mm. gun was introduced in its place. Because this reduced the turret space available, the crew was reduced to three men. All the Humber Armoured Cars weighed about 7 tons and their 90- b. h. p. six-cylinder engines gave them a top speed of 45 m. p. h. They were used by both armoured car regiments (where they tended to be used at regimental and squadron headquarters if Daimlers were also available) and Reconnaissance Regiments (of infantry divisions) in most theatres of war in which British and Commonwealth troops were engaged up to the end of the war. The illustrations show a Mark III as it appeared in the North African desert about 1942, and a Mark IV of 1st Reconnaissance Regiment in Italy in 1944.
After 1945 many Humber armoured cars were sold or otherwise passed to other armies. Some were still giving good service to armies in the Far East as late as the early 1960s.
From the very beginning of the war, the employment of railway batteries in the form of guns placed at the head of trains came into use at several different locations on the front line, either on the initiative of the high command or of especially inventive local commanders. For example, in May 1861, in order to protect the network of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Union General McClellan ordered the mounting of artillery at the head of troop trains. The Dictator was another example, made famous during the siege of Petersburg between June 1864 and March 1865. This 13in coast-defence mortar lacked armour protection, and fired from a simple platform wagon. However, in this chapter we will confine ourselves to an examination of those armoured artillery batteries which demonstrated the modern aspects of the American Civil War, and which provided the inspiration for similar construction in many future conflicts, beginning with the Franco-Prussian War, until surpassed in ingenuity during the Boer War.
During the very first days of the war the Federal Government ordered the construction of an armoured wagon to protect the track workers on the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad. It was placed under the orders of General Herman Haupt, a renowned railroad engineer, but he refused to use it, considering the wagon to be a ‘white elephant’. Nevertheless, the idea of armouring railway vehicles had taken root.
The Union Army built several armoured wagons. In the Summer of 1862, General Burnside ordered the construction of armoured wagons to counter the incursions of guerrillas and Southern raiders, but they were not meant to resist artillery. These wagons were mainly built in the workshops of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
In 1862 a captain in the 23rd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment designed an armoured artillery wagon which was built by the Atlantic & North Carolina Railroad and used for patrolling the line to the west of Newberne, where the Confederates were posted in some force. Propelled ahead of an engine with an armoured cab, this wagon bore the name Monitor. The wagon front, sides and rear were all inclined vertically inwards by some 15 degrees, and were painted black, with red firing loopholes. Its front end, pierced by an embrasure for a small naval gun, was armoured with vertical rails, and the sides and rear by boiler plate. The sides were bulletproof, and the front armour resisted projectiles from field guns. The roof was left open for ventilation and light, and covered by a tarpaulin. One Confederate artillery lieutenant expressed puzzlement and alarm at the first appearance of what the Southerners called the ‘Yankee gunboat on wheels’.
Faced by the cottonclad wagon of General Finegan (see the chapter on the Confederate States of America) during the Confederate attempt to recapture Jacksonville, in Union hands ever since 10 March 1863, the Northerners built their own armoured railway battery, armed apparently with a 10pdr Parrott rifle. The fighting between the two was the first example of combat between armoured railway wagons. The siege of Jacksonville would be lifted by the Union forces on 29 March.
In the same year, the Scientific American described trials by the Northerners of an armoured engine named Talisman, on which the cab and connecting rods were protected by an iron plate four-tenths of an inch (10mm) thick, on the advice of General Haupt. However, the trials showed that only small-arms projectiles would be stopped.
A Union armoured train was built by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad with the aid of the 2nd Maryland Regiment, and was given the task of protecting the region around Cumberland. The train was arranged symmetrically on either side of the engine, which had an armoured cab. At front and rear there was an armoured battery protected by rails on three sides, the roof and rear of the wagon being left open, and then an armoured van with firing loopholes. In spite of its armour, a projectile in the boiler of the engine followed by a second striking an armoured wagon led to its destruction by the Confederates in July 1864.
The siege of Petersburg (June 1864–April 1865) saw the employment of railway artillery by the Union forces who wished to seize this strategic railroad centre where five major lines converged. The United States Military Railroad (USMR) which was by this time fully operational, deployed these weapons to such good effect that the Confederate Army was gradually cut off from outside aid. The town fell on 3 April 1865.
The Dry Land Merrimac
In June 1862 the Union Army of the Potomac advanced on the Confederate capital of Richmond. General Robert E Lee looked for a means of countering the enemy’s preponderance in heavy siege artillery, which they would be transporting into position by rail. On 5 June he asked Colonel Josiah Gorgas, the Chief of Ordnance, if it would be possible to mount a heavy gun on a railway car. The challenge was taken up by the Navy, who already had experience of armouring the famous Virginia (ex-Merrimac), which had taken on the Union blockaders and fought the first ironclad battle with USS Monitor.
On 26 June, Captain M Minor reported to Lee: ‘The railroad-iron plated battery designed by Lieutenant John M. Brooke, C.S. Navy, has been completed. The gun, a rifled and banded 32-pounder of 57 cwt, has been mounted and equipped by Lieutenant R.D. Minor, C.S. Navy, and with 200 rounds of ammunition, including 15-inch solid bolt shot, is now ready to be transferred to the Army.’ The railway gun was manned by Lt James Barry CSN, Sergeant Daniel Knowles and thirteen gunners of the Norfolk United Artillery Battery, many of whom had previously served on the Virginia.
The Battle of Savage’s Station, fought on 29 June 1862, was a Union defeat, watched by Confederate Major General Magruder from the rail overbridge. The railway gun was propelled towards the Union lines along the track of the Richmond & York Railroad by an unarmoured steam engine, with obstacles being removed or pushed aside by the gun itself. Firing explosive shells as it advanced, it forced the Union troops to abandon their lines across the track and take up flanking positions beside it, which the gunners could not counter as they had no means of training the gun to one side. Eventually, the gun had progressed so far in front of the Confederate lines that it risked being lost due to the Union flanking fire, and Lieutenant Barry ordered it to pull back.
Fifty-nine years after the event, the Confederate veteran Charles S. Gates described from memory the famous ‘Dry Land Merrimac’, as the railway gun was called by Richmond newspapers in 1862. Later descriptions, and reconstructions in model form, have been based on his recollections,5 including the painting above.
Fortunately we also have an eyewitness to the action, who fixed the scene in a watercolour. Private Robert Knox Sneden of the Union Army was a topographical engineer, who produced maps for the Army of the Potomac. Among his almost 1000 watercolours, sketches and maps was a painting of the Battle of Savage’s Station, with the railgun as the centrepiece. While answering many questions, his depiction poses others.
Private Sneden may have painted this scene from memory afterwards, as the Army of the Potomac was forced to withdraw from in front of Richmond in some disorder. He certainly stretches the platform wagon to a unbelievable length, which would be too weak to support the weight of the gun, never mind withstand the recoil. As he obviously observed the event from a considerable distance away, his rendering of the moving flatcar may not be all that accurate. Nevertheless, what his illustration does reveal is the ‘Virginia-like’ armoured casemate surrounding the cannon and its gunners, with armour on the sides as well as the front. He has correctly depicted the Union force being obliged to take up position flanking the railway track, which would ultimately oblige Lieutenant Minor and his men to pull back, for fear of being fired upon from the rear.
There has been some confusion in the minds of railway enthusiasts between this gun and the Union railway gun used at the siege of Petersburg, mounted on a fourteen-wheel wagon (see the United States of America chapter). The latter gun, however, is clearly protected by timber baulks alone, even if they do cover the sides as well as the front, and there is no covering of iron as mentioned in all the accounts of the Confederate piece.
Accounts differed as to its effects in action, and certainly the Union commanders did not make much of it in their reports. But then, mentioning the attack of an unstoppable railway weapon adding to the debacle of the battle would be like rubbing salt in one’s own wounds. After the battle, presumably recognising its tactical drawbacks, the Confederate Navy retrieved their valuable gun and the platform would be returned to freight work.