by Mike Denny
It’s not always the think tanks and military scientists who invent new military equipment.
Military personnel are a crafty bunch. They surprise their commanders and buddies with many good — and, let’s be honest, some bad — innovations. Some of these battlefield creations even surprise the teams of scientists and industry professionals designing military equipment. When faced with limited resources, the battlefield innovations of the rank-and-file troops have become a staple of military kits. Weapon systems and generals don’t win wars alone; it is the dog-tired foot soldier who eventually helps the victor cross the finish line.
Many of these innovations were strictly for improved comfort, like the battlefield home brew or the stills created by pioneering troops confined to trenches in World War I. Defeating scurvy with booze and citrus fruit was a major battlefield improvement asCrispin Burke wrote last year. The woobie, or poncho liner, is another example of relatively low-tech equipment being used to improve battlefield effectiveness.
Here are some inventions from the every-day soldiers and uniform-wearing MacGyvers who used all available resources to implement crafty solutions.
1. Hedgerow Plow, also known as the Rhino Tank
The hedgerows of Normandy and northern France during the beachhead breakout in the summer of 1944 were natural barriers providing cover and concealment to Nazi forces defending the area. Utilizing the hedgerows, German teams of infantry and armor wreaked havoc on Allied forces attempting to break out of the precarious beachhead. A New Jersey National Guard tanker, Sgt. Curtis Grubb Culin III, a tank commander in the 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, realized there had to be a better way. Seeing leftover scrap steel from German roadblocks, Culin and his fellow soldiers fabricated a plow attachment for their unit’s Sherman tanks to breach the hedgerow walls and regain mobility.
Referred to as a “Rhinoceros,” or “Rhino tank,” these M4 Shermans caught the eye of the division commander who wisely ordered the plow fabricated across the force. This battlefield adaption exists to this day: The M1 Abrams variant, called the Assault Breacher Vehicle, has a similar plow, which the Marine Corps recently used in Afghanistan. Culin later lost a leg in the Hurtgen Forest, but was awarded a Legion of Merit and recognized with a monument in his hometown of Cranford, New Jersey.
Read the Remainder at Task and Purpose