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3/8 CAV Mud Mayhem, Baumholder - Cold War


gwb123
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Before I post anything further, I want to say I am not making fun of the following situation or the people involved in it.

 

Mistakes happen.

 

Situations that involve heavy vehicles, mud, running water and taunt towing cables are deadly dangerous. This, and a cumulative lack of sleep on the part of the crews makes it all the more so.

 

We can only laugh about it now because nobody got hurt.

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I believe it was the winter of 1981 to 1982.

 

We had a field exercise running on the Baumholder ranges. 3/8 Cav was the recon element for the 8th Infantry Division. Like most Cav units, they were hard charging and eager to prove it.

 

I was assigned to the Division Support Command and I was manning an operations center when the call came in that we had a unit in real world trouble.

 

A tank heavy recon team had managed to get themselves mired in a draw and was having problems extricating themselves.

 

During the night, the Platoon leader was looking for an opportunity to outflank his opponents. The first mistake he made was going outside the limits of the maneuver area. His second mistake was not fully understanding the local soil conditions.

 

The previous winter had been one of the coldest in decades. This was great for tanks as the ground was frozen solid and easily allowed tanks to run over it. However the following winter was significantly warmer. The soil had not frozen to any great depth.

 

The draw, or small stream valley had definitely not frozen, possibly due to the live stream running through it.

 

One of the 2nd Brigade officers had a jeep, and took me on a wild ride to get to the site. Apparently he had not read the part of the manual that described the danger of tipping over sideways on certain grades.

 

And when we got there....

FF2b.jpg

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That was Tank#1 I believe, looking more like a submarine than land vehicle.

 

It had been in the lead of the column, and ended up in the stream when the draw narrowed. On the map, the stream looked like a thin line with a passible lane around it. The reality was a bit different.

 

When they realized they could not move forward, they tried to pivot to turn around. Unfortunately, that dug up the mud around them and they bogged down.

FF1b.jpg

FF9b.jpg

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Behind Tank #1 were two or three M113 APC's. Because of their lighter weight they had not broken the surface of the soil However behind them were Tank #2 and Tank#3. They in turn also attempted to reverse out of the mud trap and also bogged down.

 

My hot rodding counterpart is posing with Tank #2.

 

Look closely at the track which about to be peeled off.

FF3b.jpg

FF5b.jpg

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So... when you have bogged down tanks, who do you call in?

 

The M88 crew of course.

 

With the M88 weighing... 50.8 tons....

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So, of course...

 

One of the things they teach vehicle recovery specialists is the effect of suction. That is when a flat surface, such as the bottom of a tank or an M88, is in full contact with sand or mud. It greatly increases the amount of resistance and the amount of lift required to free a vehicle.

FF6b.jpg

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As things progressed, more and more mud was created.

 

I believe the M88 is about to lose a track as well.

FF4b.jpg

FF10b.jpg

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As things progressed, I moved up a hillside to get an overhead view.

 

I originally shot these photos in case they were needed to document the maneuver damage which we were certain to pay for at a later date.

 

If I recall correctly, what you are looking at is Tank #3, which had been at the end of the column, pulling the M88 that was next to Tank #2 back out of the mud. If you look closely you can see some thrown track next to the M88.

 

In the end, there was not much myself or my 2nd Brigade colleague could do for the immediate situation, so we left these folks to their work. I believe it took the better part of the next 3 days to get everything out.

 

Any romantic notions I had about tanks pretty much departed me that day.

FF7b.jpg

FF8b.jpg

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nebelwerfer

yes thats baumholder!

I live here near the training area and its raining in the moment ( but no snow!!) but all American Tanks are gone...

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post-32632-0-72315600-1371171775.jpg And underneath me I've got a perfectly good Mobile Assault Bridge! Funny what happens to tanks in the Cold War! :huh: Rhine River, Jan 1977.

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hbtcoveralls

thanks Gil, Great slice of life in the Cold War. I rode in an M-88 and it was the most awe inspiring vehicle I've ever been in. The feeling of power is palpable, so to see one stuck like that is really something.

Tom Bowers

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Tom, when I took the Ordnance Officer's basic at Aberdeen, they took us out for a day to the M-88 training area... or "pit" would be a better description. We were throwing mud everywhere, but we never got it stuck.

 

Yes, it was quite surprising to see this one get mired so deeply. I wonder how the crew felt, having to towed to safety by an M60A1!

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hbtcoveralls

Gil, That's funny because I got my M-88 ride at Aberdeen too, on the recovery range in 1991. Also never got stuck but sure got muddy!

Tom Bowers

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Wow! The word "glutinous" springs to mind...just like the conditions encountered in WW1. So, when those vehicles were towed back to base, I presume it would have taken more than high-pressure water-jets to get them back into a serviceable condition?

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Wow! The word "glutinous" springs to mind...just like the conditions encountered in WW1. So, when those vehicles were towed back to base, I presume it would have taken more than high-pressure water-jets to get them back into a serviceable condition?

 

I don't know the final outcome of the ones I shared. The hulls should be water sealed to a point...

 

"Mud" in various parts of the world could vary in it's properties... the stuff they had at Ft. Hood was very hard when it dried. I think the mud in Germany was a bit easier to wash off, but getting water in the hull or engine from that stream could be a problem.

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Wow this brings back many memories of numerous such experiences in Korea and Germany. The recovery ops guys on the 88s were always the dirtiest and most ingeniously capable mechanics you'd ever see. Ian - yes, after such exercises in places like Baumholder, Hohenfels, Grafenwoehr, or on local maneuvers (like Reforger) we would spend several hours (per tank) hosing them off at a wash rack so they could be road marched or rail loaded back to our home kaserne.

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Of course, even when you didn't get bogged down, things still got dirty... I am guessing these are from Graf or Hohenfels...in fairness, these are from the same recruiting brochure.

Army Europe tank 3.JPG

Army Europe Graf.JPG

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  • 8 months later...
paul akemann

I was a scout in 2nd plt A trp 3/8 cav when this happened....I believe it was 3rd plt that had this little problem. Personally I would NEVER have taken my tanks through there, but depending on your command structure they didn't always listen to us....tankers know best.. I think it took them 3 days to get that tank out... and we were always charging about, because DIV HQ always made us charge about..believe me, we would have enjoyed spending 2 nights in the same spot sometime

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paul akemann

I was a scout in 2nd plt A trp 3/8 cav when this happened....I believe it was 3rd plt that had this little problem. Personally I would NEVER have taken my tanks through there, but depending on your command structure they didn't always listen to us....tankers know best.. I think it took them 3 days to get that tank out... and we were always charging about, because DIV HQ always made us charge about..believe me, we would have enjoyed spending 2 nights in the same spot sometime

It did bring back old memories, and got me back in touch with some old cav buddies (including the TC of the badly stuck tank) thanks for the story...we felt kinda sorry for those guys spending 3 days up to the waist in mud digging....but then hell, it was 3rd plt

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If my memory serves me correctly it was never not muddy in and around Baumholder, except possibly in the winter if you had a good freeze.. The manuevering to the wash racks after several days in the field could get quite competitive. If first in you could be back in the company area by early afternoon on Thursday. Giving everyone Friday for personal gear clean up, and in my case as a Medic restocking my aid bag and then figure out where we were getting off to on the weekend. Great pics brings back old memories.

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