Thursday, April 11, 2024

Slap it on a Sherman

Let's face it.  Our nation has been teaching its kids to hate our nation and everyone in it for years.  Ages ago when we still had cable, I remember watching CNN.  Your typical roundtable discussion.  It was Larry King, but someone else was the host.  I can't remember the topic.  But I remember what some young scholar activist said.   

She said America is falling behind because we live in the age of STEM. Of science and tech and genetics.  In the last century, it was an industrial age. And that fit America fine.  After all, any stupid can be a blue collar construction worker or coal miner.  But STEM takes smarts, and that's always been outside the grasp of Americans.  

Now, she didn't say it that bluntly, but it wasn't too far off either.  I've seen that observation echoed more than once over the years.  Which, of course, is false.  America was always at the head of the race for medical, scientific and tech breakthroughs during the age of invention.  Many of the inventions I'm sure that young woman takes for granted came from America and Americans.  

But we were also a hard working, get your hands dirty, build and accomplish nation as well.  And nothing demonstrates that more than our experience in WW2.     

It's been said that the American soldier's best asset was his ability to do.  To build.  To improvise.  So many soldiers had worked with their hands, could disassemble an automobile, could build their own houses, that in the military they were quick to adapt.  And the military itself demonstrated this time and again.  We might not have had the best of anything, but our ability to improvise and turn on a dime was second to none.   

That is seen in all its spectacular glory in what my sons call 'slap it on a Sherman.'  The Sherman tanik was the second most produced tank in WW2.  Second only to the Soviet's famous T-34.  Unlike the T-34, the Sherman was found everywhere, and used by more countries than any other armored fighting vehicle.  

But beyond that, it's almost hilarious just how we were able to adapt it to anything under the sun, beyond just being an army tank.  That's where my boys get that saying.  Which they use when it comes to us improvising or having to think outside the box on a dime.  Because on any given day, that Sherman could become a bulldozer, a repair vehicle, a rocket launcher, minesweeper, or, as in the case below, a crane:

I hadn't seen that before.  It popped on on a history page I follow.  Heh.  Just one more thing.  It was used to facilitate the moving of heavy rollers to aid in the recovery of armored vehicles.  

Here are some other pics of the Sherman tank and its various identities based on the need at hand:  

The one with the iron spikes on the front is the famous 'hedgerow clippers'.  The hedgerows of Normandy famously caught us off guard.  Mammoth hedges whose roots stretched down to China, we had to go around them through sometimes narrow paths and gateways.   

The Germans, however, being the best trained of the WW2 armies, seized upon this and made sure every path through the hedgerows was heavily guarded.  Much to the misery of Americans.  Until an army Sergeant, Curtis Culin, came up with an idea, based on a conversation he had with a 'hillbilly named Roberts' (according to historian Max Hastings).  Why not take those metal anti-landing devices from the Normandy beaches, modify them, and slap them on a Sherman?  The world's biggest hedge cutters! And it worked.    

That was the old American ingenuity once celebrated, by the 1970s mocked, and today forgotten.  For me, I prefer to celebrate that sort of thinking and accomplishment.  Not the thinking that celebrates what we celebrate today. 


  1. I remember reading about those too in... I think it was Stephen Ambrose book on WW2 my grandfather had.

    You know there's a series I would watch off and on called "Malcolm in the Middle." I won't say it's great TV, but it had its moments. One episode though had the troublemaking older brother Reese (well, they are all troublemakers) join the army. As seen in the clip, he finds it a lot more bearable when he stops thinking on his own and just does as commanded. The brass think this boy is the perfect soldier and exactly what they want, up until an exercise when the radio communications break down and Reese then freezes up, unable to do anything without orders.

    This came to mind because I've been seeing a lot of discussion recently about college grads and the struggles companies are having with said grads because... well they are basically Reese. The school system has spent many years training the kids to do as their told, don't think, and now in the real world, they're waiting for orders.

    As both the silly TV show and WW2 both demonstrate, while command may think they want the New Soviet Man who will follow orders without question, it's too easy for things to go wrong and for such to be beaten by a more dynamic, free thinking force if not just the general chaos of life. (There's probably some lesson there about why the forces of Hell - who demand slavery - will always be beaten by the forces of Heaven - who freely serve but that's beyond my pay grade.)

    1. I've heard horror stories about the schools today. My son ran into a former teacher from ages back. The teacher is now retiring. Apparently non too soon, the schools described as a hot mess dumpster fire at best.

  2. (Tom New Poster)
    The person interviewed was twisting a genuine fact out of context: that Americans were slower to appreciate the value of theoretical science and "curiosity-driven" research than Europeans until the Nazis and Reds chased thousands of European scientists to our shores in the middle of the last century. A great many American inventions of the 19th and early 20th century exploited ideas first researched abroad. We saved our national enthusiasms for the practical stuff i.e. the inventions that made money, won wars and made middle-class life more comfortable. However as a culture we have realized the connection between the two since the 1950s, and the issue (such as it was) was never about intelligence but focus. We'd much rather celebrate the engineer who built the thing than the academic "egghead" who merely worked out the science behind it.
    The complainer sound like an "egghead" who feels unappreciated. :)

    1. Sadly it's all to real. I used to frequent the HuffPost ages ago, and this sort of thing was said with regularity. America has always been good for stupid violent people, not so much smart good natured types. That was back when violence was still never the answer. Whcih, along with condemning based on skin color and banning offensive materials was also bad. So I suppose you never know what they think today.


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