Nazi Germany fielded a military with many components designed to amaze as much as to destroy. While this philosophy meant that some designs never left the drawing board, one that did was the Tiger Tank—a relatively beastly model whose gun could rip through nearly every form of enemy armor before the ill-fated tank even had a chance to strike. The units comprised of these Tigers, heavy panzer battalions, saw some of their fiercest combat on the most treacherous of battlefields—the Eastern Front.
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The 601st Tank Destroyer Battalion, the first of its kind, was stood up in 1941. The theory governing their use had yet to be tested on the field of battle. In November of the following year, Lieutenant Colonel Hershel Baker and the men of the 601st found themselves on the Queen Mary departing for that ultimate of testing grounds. Only a few months later, they found themselves along Gabès Road in Tunisia with the 10th Panzer Division bearing down upon them.
Well before the threat of World War II entered societies’ collective minds, smaller regional conflicts gradually simmered away across Europe. One of these, the Spanish Civil War, might not have drawn much notice from leaders in the United States, but the same could not be said for those who ruled Germany and the Soviet Union. In it, they found the perfect testing ground for the future weapons that would come to define the 1940s and much of our world to this day.
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Today, Foreign Policy’s Best Defense blog featured an article from War Stories‘ Angry Staff Officer. In the article, Staffer discusses the founding of WS and the motivation behind our model.
“Over drinks, Adin and I tossed these ideas around and wondered about the most effective ways to bridge this gap. It was not until I returned home that Adin approached me with the idea of a podcast that could engage the human interest angle while also tracing broader trends in warfare, through balancing narrative and dialogue. It was fortuitous timing, as I had been mulling the idea over as well. We agreed to give it a shot, and chose the topic of tanks and armor warfare for our first season. Right out of the gate we encountered some perfect “war stories” that captured our interest. They also happened to fit right into some revolutionary moments in warfare, as tanks emerged on the World War I battlefield.”
Near the end of 1917, a young captain by the name of George S. Patton received orders from the Colonel Samuel Rockenbach, the Chief of the newly created U.S. Tank Corps. Patton was tasked with developing the U.S. light tank school to train soldiers in how to operate the small, two-man Renault FT-17. However, it wasn’t long before Patton needed to take what he’d been teaching in the classroom and test it out on the field of battle at the Saint-Mihiel Salient.
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In the midst of World War I, the lumbering giants that were early tanks first came onto the battlefield. But what were they a response to, and what did they replace?
In the prologue to season one on armor, Angry Staff Officer and Adin tell the story of Deccan Horse, the cavalry unit responsible for the last charge of WWI before tanks could face down machine gun fire with little more than a dent.