Cover image for Camp Colt to Desert Storm : the history of U.S. armored forces
Camp Colt to Desert Storm : the history of U.S. armored forces
Hofmann, George F.
Publication Information:
Lexington, Ky. : University Press of Kentucky, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxii, 633 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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UE160 .C36 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The tank revolutionized the battlefield in World War II. In the years since, additional technological developments--including nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, computer assisted firing, and satellite navigation--have continued to transform the face of combat. The only complete history of U.S. armed forces from the advent of the tank in battle during World War I to the campaign to drive Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991, Camp Colt to Desert Storm traces the development of doctrine for operations at the tactical and operational levels of war and translates this fighting doctrine into the development of equipment.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

No comprehensive account of U.S. armor doctrine, technology and practice has ever been written. This anthology takes a long step toward filling that gap. University of Cincinnati history professor Hoffmann (The Super Sixth) and retired general Starry (Mounted Combat in Vietnam) outline the synergies among political, operational and material factors that shape American approaches to the tank in battle. While the contributors all uphold high intellectual standards, the work would have been improved by a stronger defining concept and firmer editorial control. The Korean War is given almost as much text space as the WWII European theater. The chapters on the Patton, Abrams and Bradley systems focus on design and procurement in mind-numbing administrative detail. These, however, are minor problems in a book that boasts some of the best available analyses of mobile war as practiced by the U.S. At the top of the list is Christopher Gabel's essay on WWII armor operations in Europe, a model for its balanced evaluation of American strengths and weaknesses. Stephen Borque's analysis of armor in Desert Storm is also a masterful operational narrative. In back-to-back chapters, Dale Wilson and Tim Nenninger combine for an overview of American armor from 1917 to 1939. A definitive chronicle in one voice remains to be written, but this edited collection will stand as a valuable resource for military historians. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Editors Hofmann and Starry and 12 other contributors have produced an extensive yet quite readable study of the development and use of the tank by the American military. From its humble beginnings in World War I, the tank has played an important role in American military history. The contributors use their combined military expertise and trace the history of the armor from the tank's crudely effective role in World War I to the route of Iraq from Kuwait in Desert Storm. Here we find not just military history but an expert study of how a weapon of war, the tank, has interacted with political and other forces and evolved into its present form. Also discussed are the personalities and policies of our military and civilian leaders. Each chapter is written by a different author utilizing numerous sources and has a bibliography. All chapters combine into a cohesive and educational study. Recommended for academic and large public libraries and special collections.ÄDavid M. Alperstein, Queens Borough P.L., Jamaica, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Excerpt World War I The Birth of American Armor Dale E. Wilson One of history's great ironies is that the nation that spawned the technology from which the tank was created did not play a role in that vehicle's conception. It is equally ironic that the United States, which later became known as the "arsenal of democracy," was unable to produce a single armored vehicle that saw combat with its Tank Corps. Although the Army trained more than twenty thousand tank officers and crewmen in less than a year, and shipped more than half of them to France, it was able to send only three battalions into combat--in vehicles borrowed from its European allies. Finally, in what can only be called one of history's most prescient acts, the U.S. Army chose George S. Patton Jr.--whose name would become synonymous with armored warfare a generation later--to be the first Soldier in its ranks assigned to duty with tanks.     That is the rough framework for the story of the World War I Tank Corps. It is a fascinating tale, fraught with important lessons for combat leaders charged with preparing men to employ new weapons in battle and materiel managers who must work to get those weapons into Soldiers' hands. Sadly, historians have largely ignored it. What follows is a brief look at how the U.S. Army first incorporated the tank into its force structure, developed doctrine for its employment, and trained and fielded a small but competent tank force on the battlefields of France during World War I. In June 1917, Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the recently arrived American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), read a report on British and French tank operations submitted to the director of the Army War College by the American military mission in Paris. Pershing, greatly impressed by the report, which included the personal observations of Maj. Frank Parker, a liaison officer who observed French tank operations in the April offensive, immediately appointed several committees to study tank warfare. He also instructed several members of his staff to visit the front lines and look at British and French tank organization and tactics. Despite misgivings expressed by some of these observers, Pershing concluded that a mix of British heavy tanks and French light tanks would be a valuable asset when the AEF went into battle.     At the time, the Allies had only five tanks in production: the British Mark IV and V heavy tanks, and the French Schneider, St.-Chamond, and Renault vehicles. However, neither the Schneider nor the St.-Chamond could truly be classified as a tank. They were actually lightly armored tracked artillery carriers that had to be accompanied by infantry skirmishers who carefully marked the routes the vehicles should follow. All of the American observers agreed that the Schneider and St.-Chamond were unsuited for tank operations.     Inspired by the observers' reports--and the inability of members of a joint British-French tank board to reconcile differences in the Allies' theories on tactics and equipment--Pershing directed that a board of officers be convened to perform a detailed study of British heavy tanks and the French Renault Char FT ( faible [light] tonnage ) light tank. The members of the board (Cols. Fox Conner and Frank Parker, Lt. Col. Clarence C. Williams, and Maj. Nelson E. Margetts) submitted a report of their findings on 1 September. They concluded that the tank would play an important role in the war and that Pershing should create a separate Tank Department with a single chief reporting directly to him. They further recommended that a force of more than two thousand tanks be procured by the AEF, with a 10-to-1 mix of light to heavy tanks, and that production be geared to provide for a 15 percent monthly replacement rate.     Pershing responded by assigning Lt. Col. LeRoy Eltinge, an operations staff officer, the job of drafting specific requirements for a "Combat Tank Service" for the AEF. Working closely with other members of the AEF staff, Eltinge determined that a force of six hundred heavy and twelve hundred light tanks, more than eight hundred trucks and automobiles, 180 motorcycles, and nearly fifteen thousand men would be needed to support an Army consisting of twenty fighting and ten replacement divisions.     Eltinge reported that the French were willing to permit manufacture of the Renault in the United States. They agreed to supply detailed plans and a production copy of the vehicle in exchange for two thousand copies of an American-made version. The British, acting in the same spirit of cooperation, offered to provide complete plans and specifications so the United States could produce their Mark VI (a 27-to 30-ton heavy tank that was never built) design.     Word of plans to create a Tank Corps quickly filtered through the AEF. Among those it reached was Capt. George Patton, post adjutant and commander of the AEF headquarters company at Chaumont. Patton, a cavalry officer who had been Pershing's aide-de-camp during the Punitive Expedition in Mexico, was frustrated in his current position and anxiously sought assignment to a combat unit. After discussing the anticipated role of tanks in the AEF with Eltinge and Col. Frank R. McCoy, the Assistant Chief of Staff, Patton submitted a request for transfer on 3 October.     On 10 November, AEF headquarters issued orders directing Patton to report to the Commandant of the AEF schools at Langres for the purpose of establishing a tank training program. First Lt. Elgin Braine, an artillery officer with a background in mechanical engineering, was detailed to serve as Patton's assistant. The pair had been at Langres for little more than a week when they were ordered to report to the French light tank center at Chamlieu near Paris for two weeks of training, then on to the Renault tank production facility at Billancourt.     During their visit to the training center Patton and Braine observed or participated in all phases of individual and crew training, watched maneuver training, and talked at length with members of the center staff. Patton also had several meetings with Brig. Gen. Jean E. Estienne, commander of all French tank forces. On 1 December Patton joined Col. Frank Parker for a visit to the Royal Tank Corps's (RTC) headquarters at Albert. The two Americans met with Col. J.F.C. Fuller, the RTC operations officer, and the trio discussed the mass employment of tanks in the recent British offensive at Cambrai, tank doctrine, and tactics. Two days later, Patton linked up with Braine and together they toured the Renault tank works at Billancourt. After seeing all that went into construction of the vehicles, they recommended four minor improvements which the French later incorporated: a self-starter, a self-sealing fuel tank, an interchangeable mount so that each tank could carry either a 37mm gun or a machine gun, and a firewall between the crew and engine compartments.     Patton was particularly concerned over the "great difficulty" French tankers had getting their manufacturers to cooperate. Foreseeing the possibility of American builders being equally recalcitrant, he included a veiled warning in his subsequent report on light tanks calling for officers charged with tank procurement to take a hard line when dealing with manufacturers.     The two tank officers returned to GHQ at Chaumont and briefed Colonel Eltinge on their findings. Eltinge, still temporarily in charge of the AEF tank project, instructed them to prepare a formal written report. The pair set about drafting it and, on 5 December, Patton wrote his wife that he was excited because "no one knows any thing about the subject except me. I am certainly in on the ground floor If they [the tanks] are a success I may have the chance I have always been looking for."     Patton submitted a double-spaced, fifty-eight-page report on 12 December 1917. Later, while organizing his files, he penciled on the envelope containing the paper: "Original Tank Report. The Basis of the U.S. Tank Corps. Very Important. GSP." He was right. The document served as the foundation for subsequent tank developments in the AEF. At least one of his recommendations (a proposal that tanks be organized in platoons of five tanks, with three platoons to a company and three tank companies to a battalion) survived as part of American tank organization until the early 1980s.     The report, divided into four sections, includes a detailed mechanical description of the Renault light tank, recommendations for the organization and equipping of light tank units, a discussion of tank tactics and doctrine, and proposed methods for the conduct of drill and instruction.     The most engaging part of the report is Patton's discussion of tactics. He envisioned several missions for the tanks in their infantry support role: (1) clearing wire obstacles, (2) suppressing enemy crew-served weapons and preventing the enemy's infantry from manning the parapets after the preparatory artillery barrage lifted, (3) helping the doughboys mop up on the objective, (4) guarding against counterattack by patrolling ahead of the most advanced infantry positions, and (5) exploiting the attack supported by reserve infantry, seeking "every opportunity to become pursuit cavalry."     He concludes his discussion of tank tactics with the observation that heavy tanks were more independent and should thus precede light tanks in the attack--especially when no artillery preparation was employed--capitalizing on the heavy tanks' superior ability to cut wire. Nevertheless, he thought light tanks held an advantage in mobility because they could be easily transported by truck or trailer, whereas the heavy tanks could only be moved by rail.     Subsequent operations proved Patton's ideas at least partially correct. Employed almost exactly as he had proposed, the light tanks had a difficult time keeping pace with the infantry at Saint-Mihiel because of poor ground conditions and the rapidity of the German retreat. However, they were a valuable asset in support of the Meuse-Argonne offensive. His innovative ideas on operational mobility were never tested because the AEF lacked sufficient trucks to transport the light tank force. Instead, they had to be moved by rail to both the Saint-Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne sectors, then under their own power during operations. This meant conducting long road marches to link up with units at the front, contributing to a high mechanical failure rate as the tanks were forced to conduct extended operations without benefit of overhaul.     The report was so thorough and Patron's proposals so well reasoned that the majority of them were enacted. As commander of the light tank training center and school at Bourg, he was able to implement the training program he devised. It was a simple plan calling for recruitment of sufficient men to fill two companies, training them to a battle-ready standard, then using them as cadre to train additional companies. His rationale for this program was that not only would the men learn the skills needed for combat but they would have time to develop unit cohesion and esprit de corps--attributes he considered essential for battlefield success. The relative ease with which he was able to recruit and train two battalions of light tank troops (the 326th and 327th) for combat in less than five months bears witness to the soundness of his ideas.     Development of heavy tank training and tactics followed a different track. The focus within the AEF was on light tanks, so it was left to the Tank Service in the United States, a separate entity that came into being in January 1918, to provide the first heavy tank battalion--the 301st. To ensure that the 301st's officers and men would be ready for combat by the time the AEF needed them, Col. Samuel D. Rockenbach (who had been appointed Chief of the AEF Tank Corps in late-December 1917) was ordered to form a heavy tank training center at Bovington Camp in England, adjacent to the British tank school at Wool. British tankers conducted most of the Americans' initial training. Then, when the unit was ready to deploy to France, a number of officers and men from the 301st were ordered to remain at Bovington to form a cadre to train additional heavy tank units as fast as they could be recruited and shipped to England.     Aside from volunteers recruited by Patton in France, nearly all Tank Corps personnel volunteered in the United States and were shipped to one of several tank centers before deploying overseas. The task of training the initial influx of volunteers fell to Capt. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had been ordered to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in March 1918 to establish a training center called Camp Colt and prepare for their arrival. Additional Tank Corps training centers were established at Camps Summerall and Tobyhanna, also in Pennsylvania, and Greene and Polk in North Carolina that summer. Colt remained the largest, and by war's end Eisenhower was a lieutenant colonel. He commanded a force of more than ten thousand officers and men when Colt's personnel strength reached its peak in September 1918.     Col. Ira C. Welborn, Commander of the Tank Service in the United States, was so impressed by Eisenhower's administrative ability--particularly his creation of a meaningful training program despite the lack of resources--that he recommended "Ike" for the Distinguished Service Medal and offered him promotion to colonel if he would agree to remain stateside. Eisenhower refused. More than anything, he wanted to get into the fight in France. Unfortunately for Ike, the Armistice was signed before he could deploy. Getting vehicles into the hands of the men who would ride them into battle was much more difficult than originally envisioned. In the fall of 1917, Majs. James A. Drain and Herbert W. Alden were detailed by the Chief of Ordnance in Washington to visit France and England and determine how best to produce vehicles for the AEF. They quickly reached the conclusion that licensing U.S. manufacturers to build copies of the Renault was the only viable solution. They further concluded that none of the existing British heavy tank designs were satisfactory and recommended that a joint British-American effort be made to design a suitable vehicle. They further recommended that the approved design should be assembled at a factory in France, preferably close to a major port and rail center, with engines and automotive parts from the United States, and armor plate, weapons, and ammunition provided by the British.     Their proposals were subsequently approved. Drain was ordered to remain in France, where he represented the United States on the Inter-Allied Tank Commission. Working closely with the British (the French showed no interest in the project), Drain developed specifications for a thirty-five-ton heavy tank measuring thirty-four feet long, twelve and a half feet wide, and nearly ten feet high. The tank's armor was to be of sufficient thickness to protect the crew and internal components from all small-arms bullets--including armor piercing. The American V-12 Liberty aircraft engine, which was chosen to power the vehicle, was expected to move the behemoth at speeds of up to six miles per hour. It also lent its name to the vehicle, which was designated the Mark VIII Liberty tank. Armament was to consist of seven machine guns and two six-pounder (57mm) cannon mounted in retractable sponsons. The components would be built in the United States and Britain and shipped to Neuvy-Pailloux, where an assembly plant was to be erected.     Unfortunately, the Liberty required numerous minor modifications before full-scale production could begin, and the fledgling Air Service siphoned off finished engines as fast as they came off the assembly lines--which was not fast enough for any of the parties concerned. In the end, not one Liberty engine--or any of the other components needed for Mark VIII production--made it to France from the United States. Frustrated, the British and French (who belatedly demanded six hundred of the vehicles), washed their hands of the project and Pershing ordered work on the assembly plant halted on the eve of its completion in late November 1918. The project's materiel assets were eventually shipped to Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, and a hundred Mark VIIIs were assembled there by June 1920.     Efforts to produce an American-made copy of the Renault light tank were slightly more successful but infinitely more frustrating for the officers involved in the project. As noted earlier, the French were eager to help the Americans begin production. Little work, however, was accomplished until Lieutenant Braine was detached from Patton's staff and sent back to the United States to serve as the AEF Tank Corps's liaison with the light tank production effort there. Although the French originally promised to provide two production copies of the Renault and complete sets of the plans (in metric, not English measure), all that Braine was able to obtain to take with him when he departed in February 1918 was a turret, a 37mm gun, and gun mounts.     When he arrived in New York on 13 March, Braine encountered the first in a series of bureaucratic obstacles that would plague the light tank production program throughout the remainder of 1918. No one expected him, and it took most of the day to find a berth for his shipment. At one point, Braine later wrote, it looked like his mission might end in failure when his precious cargo "almost landed in the bottom of the bay."     Given this inauspicious start, it is not surprising that Braine became increasingly bitter as he shuttled back and forth between Washington and the Ordnance Department's Motor Equipment Section in Dayton, Ohio. It seemed to him that the left hand did not know what the right was doing. Design engineers in Washington and Dayton were working on a turret design independent of each other. Furthermore, Renault's plans had to be recast with English measurements. Confusion arose over whether vehicle speed should be measured in miles or kilometers per hour. The solution was to build speedometers that measured speed in miles per hour and odometers that measured distance in kilometers. Conflict arose over whether the vehicle should be equipped with the French Poteaux 37mm gun and Hotchkiss machine gun or U.S.-built weapons. Braine favored the former but his Ordnance Department bosses ruled in favor of the latter. Ironically, the machine gun decided upon--the Marlin-Rockwell aircraft weapon--proved unsuitable for use in tanks after more than three months of attempts to modify it for that purpose. In the end, more than twenty independent contractors were involved in producing the M1917, as the vehicle became known. It was, wrote Braine, enough to "necessitate [having] a Philadelphia lawyer to keep track" of it all.     While all of this was going on, the Ordnance Department was carefully controlling the flow of information back to AEF headquarters. Braine was instructed not to communicate with his superiors in France. Furthermore, all of his official and personal mail was opened before he received it. When he complained, Braine's Ordnance Department superiors "emphatically informed me that [the] people in France were fully advised as to the progress and situation at all times."     But they were not. Patton and Rockenbach elatedly operated on the assumption that the M1917 light tank would be in full production by late spring--an assumption based on information provided to them by the Ordnance Department. By the early summer of 1918, when it was clear there would be no tanks produced in the United States in time to support First Army's initial operations, Rockenbach was forced to ask the Allies to equip the AEF's three battalions. Although faced with their own vehicle shortages, the British agreed to provide forty-seven Mark V heavy tanks--but only if the 301st was attached to the British Fourth Army--and the French promised 144 Renaults for Patton's two light tank battalions. Fortunately, both allies delivered the required vehicles in time--something the Ordnance Department, for whatever reasons, was unable to do.     Braine, thoroughly disgusted with his treatment by Ordnance Department officers, discreetly sought to make contact with Benedict Crowell, the assistant secretary of war. Thanks to the help of a friend in the Army's New York recruiting office, Braine was able to indirectly get word of the light tank fiasco to Crowell, who showed personal interest in tank production and spent five days investigating Braine's charges At about the same time, Lieutenant Colonel Drain returned from Paris and was appalled by the situation he found. According to Braine, Drain played a key role in securing the appointment of Louis J. Horowitz as the civilian head of tank production--a move Braine had earlier recommended. He was convinced that Horowitz deserved credit for breaking the bureaucratic logjam.     A possible explanation for the Ordnance Department's efforts to keep Braine from communicating with Patton and Rockenbach may be the Ford Motor Company's effort to produce a competing vehicle. A number of ordnance officers were impressed by the Ford design--a two-man, three-ton light tank--and especially by Ford's promise to quickly produce a large number of the vehicles. Hoping to gain Braine's approval, they invited him to Detroit to see a prototype demonstration. He was baffled. The Ford technicians were unable to get the engine, a complicated affair consisting of two standard Ford motors hooked up in tandem, to start. In addition, the tank lacked a tailpiece--something Braine had learned from his experience in France was needed for trench-crossing operations. He later learned that the Ordnance Department had advised the AEF Tank Corps that he approved of the design, "which was not so."     Acting independently of the AEF's tank experts, the War Department contracted with Ford to produce 15,015 of the vehicles at $4,000 each. By war's end, despite the company's highly touted assembly-line prowess, Ford managed to produce only fifteen. The remainder of the order was canceled. Although he does not directly accuse anyone in the Ordnance Department of wrongdoing, it is clear from Braine's postwar account that he was incensed by his superiors' actions, especially the decision to actively pursue the inadequate Ford design.     By early autumn the M1917 production line began to move and the first light tanks began rolling off in October 1918. Braine, anxious to get back to France, encountered resistance to his departure from the Ordnance Department, so he turned to Colonel Welborn for help. The aging Spanish-American War Medal of Honor recipient issued orders for Braine's return that same month. He barely beat the tanks he had spent so long trying to build. On 20 November 1918, almost nine months to the day after Braine left France on the USS Apples , and nine days after the Armistice, two M1917s arrived at Bourg. Eight more of the light tanks followed in December, bringing to ten the total delivered to the AEF. (Continues...) Copyright © 1999 The University Press of Kentucky. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

George F. Hofmann and Donn A. StarryDale E. WilsonTimothy K. NenningerGeorge F. HofmannGeorge F. HofmannChristopher R. GabelJoseph H. AlexanderPhilip L. BolteKenneth W. EstesOscar C. DeckerLewis SorleyRichard M. SwainDiane L. UrbinaRobert J. SunellKenneth W. EstesStephen A. BourqueDonn A. Starry
Prefacep. ix
Introductionp. xiii
1 World War I The Birth of American Armorp. 1
2 Organizational Milestones in the Development of American Armor, 1920-40p. 37
3 The Marine Corps's First Experience with an Amphibious Tankp. 67
4 Army Doctrine and the Christie Tank Failing to Exploit the Operational Level of Warp. 92
5 World War II Armor Operations in Europep. 144
6 Marine Corps Armor Operations in World War IIp. 185
7 Post-World War II and Korea Paying for Unpreparednessp. 217
8 The Marine Corps's Struggle with Armor Doctrine during the Cold War (1945-70)p. 263
9 The Patton Tanks The Cold War Learning Seriesp. 298
10 Adaptation and Impact Mounted Combat in Vietnamp. 324
11 AirLand Battlep. 360
12 "Lethal beyond all expectations" The Bradley Fighting Vehiclep. 403
13 The Abrams Tank Systemp. 432
14 The Approach of Mounted Warfare in the Marine Corps (1970-95)p. 474
15 The Hundred-Hour Thunderbolt Armor in the Gulf Warp. 497
16 Reflectionsp. 531
Select Bibliographyp. 563
About the Editors and Contributorsp. 583
Indexp. 589