The Truth Behind the Humvee/Hummer

I have written several postings related to Various topics including the military, Voting, the economy, religion and etc in America. A list of links have been provided at bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address additional issues in these topics.

In my readings I had heard the rumor that the Humvee was ordered without armor intentionally in an attempt to show that we still needed the tank. Basically making our troops vulnerable in the modern battlefield to keep an outdated vehicle and war tactic alive. So I decided to investigate this rumor. I unfortunately don’t remember where I came across this rumor, but that doesn’t matter. One thing I do know is that the military forces throughout the world can be callous in their treatment of the human element. However, this rumor seemed to be just a little cold. But keep in mind that there are parallels in history, so the rumor became more believable . Just think back to Omaha Beach. The US military had the option to use more advanced weapons in their invasion of the beach, like the British and French did. They subsequently had far fewer casualties than did their American allies. I am sure that there are other examples in military history of this behavior.

Fortunately this rumor was easy and fairly quick to dispel. All I had to do was to read the history of the Humvee/Hummer. The military needed a more robust vehicle to replace the venerable jeep. As many remember the Jeep had a very large impact in our winning WWII. Anybody who knows anything about the jeep, would never think that it is a frontline vehicle. One designed to go into combat. It most surely was not the case. The jeep was a light support vehicle intended for troop and light equipment transport behind the enemy lines. Well the Humvee was supposed to replace the jeep. In an albeit more robust manner. The military needed a vehicle that was still nimble, but capable of carrying a heavier payload. It was never intended for battle use. So when it was designed for the military, no armor was added. The suspension was never designed with this in mind.

Unfortunately the Invasion of Panama in 1989 and two Gulf wars showed that we had gap in our military response. We had no light weight armor vehicle that could safely transport troops to the front lines and could be used to engage in guerilla style warfare. We had the Bradley fighting vehicle and the Abrams M1A1 main battle tank. Neither one was well suited to this type of desert warfare. We needed a fast attack light vehicle for our troops. So in true military fashion we tried to make due with what we already had. They quickly found out that the chassis of the M998 was not capable of handling the extra weight. So, the AM General company beefed up the chassis to handle the extra weight. They came up with the M1114 which sported an armored passenger area. It was also larger and more powerful. However the advent of the IEDs and other new weapons showed that the M1114 was still vulnerable. So the military added more armor on their own.

It was a good thought in theory, and it did better protect the vehicle and those inside more than before, but the downfall was that it made it too heavy.

The armor kits added so much weight that the chassis would begin to wear down, making the vehicle unreliable. In addition, troops found out quickly that these massive armored doors were hard to open and the vehicle was now so top heavy that rollovers happened more and more.

In 2007, the U.S. Marine Corps decided to begin replacing combat Humvees with mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicles (MRAPs), while the remaining Humvees would serve their original purpose of transportation behind the lines. Once replacement of the Humvee began, there were many alternatives introduced including the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), which would eventually take over the combat vehicle role.

While taken out of military combat, the Humvee isn’t down for the count as there are still ambulance Humvees in active use. It’s been suggested that the remaining Humvees not replaced by the JLTVs could be turned into unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) to serve as a “mobile scout” with their armor taken off to give them better mobility. This is a solid idea, since there would be no injury or death to troops and there are still tens of thousands of Humvees left. Until that time, the JLTVs and Humvees will continue to work together for our military.

So the use of unarmored Humvees in the battlefield was not a heinous plot by the military. It was simply an attempt by the military to press to service a vehicle intended for one purpose to another unintended purpose. Failure is the usual outcome in these cases. Unfortunately, when the military fails in its endeavors, deaths usually result. The M998 is still a capable vehicle when it is used for what it was originally designed for.

Resources

shop.advanceauoparts.com, “Crucial Cars: Hummer Part 1,” By Leighann Carroll; taskand purpose.com, How The Humvee Failed On The Battlefield And Sparked A Culture War Back Home,” BY ADAM K. RAYMOND; bbc.com, “The strange tanks that helped win D-Day,” By Stephen Dowling; science.howstuffworks.com, “How Bradley Fighting Vehicles Work,” By Kevin Bonsor;

Addendum

The strange tanks that helped win D-Day

When allied forces landed on the Normandy beaches on D-Day, they did so alongside a fleet of bizarre tanks with very special roles – brought into life by an eccentric British commander. BBC Future investigates.

On 19 August 1942, Allied armies put their plan for an invasion of Occupied Europe to the ultimate test – by landing troops on the beaches and trying to capture a French port.

France had, by this time, been under German control for more than two years. The landings at Dieppe would be a practical test to see if the Allied armies could land enough men and tanks to break the strong German defences.

The landings were a disaster.

In less than 10 hours, more than 60% of the 6,000 British, Canadian and American troops who landed on the beach were either killed, wounded or captured. All of of the 28 tanks which came ashore alongside them – essential if the troops were going to be able to break through the German strongpoints – were knocked out. Many were stranded, unable to move on the loose shingle, and picked off by anti-tank guns.

The failure of the Dieppe landings provided many lessons. Trying to capture a heavily defended port was likely to fail, commanders realised. Troops would have to land on sandy beaches, and their tanks would have to be able to make their way across these beaches and punch holes through the seawalls or other concrete obstacles the Germans had built up.ADVERTISEMENT

Story continues belowThe Normandy defences bristled with German strongpoints and reinforced bunkers (Credit: Nitrot/Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Normandy defences bristled with German strongpoints and reinforced bunkers (Credit: Nitrot/Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0)

One man, it turned out, had a solution. And two years later, his fleet of highly specialised – and often bizarre-looking tanks – would be one of the major reasons why the D-Day landings were a success.

Percy Hobart was a visionary British army commander. In World War One he’d served in France and Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and in the 1920s he began to realise the massive potential of tanks on the modern battlefield.

The first tanks were primitive, pioneering designs that lumbered at the pace of a walking man. They had only become available in the last two years of the war, yet they had proved decisive in some of the final Allied offensives against the German trenches. After World War One, freed from the constraints of trench warfare, tanks were becoming smaller, faster and more mobile. A new kind of tank warfare, more like the cavalry clashes of old, beckoned.

As Britain faced the threat of invasion, its leading expert on armoured warfare found himself demoted to corporal

David Willey, the curator at Britain’s Tank Museum at Bovington, says Hobart quickly became a leading light in this kind of warfare. In 1934, Hobart became the inspector of the Royal Tank Corps, and in charge of tank tactics. He was such an influential figure that Heinz Guderian, one of the leading commanders in Germany’s early victories of World War Two, had his reports translated and studied them intently, Willey says.

Hobart based his vision of fast-moving columns of tanks on the highly mobile Mongol hordes of the Middle Ages, and was one of the first commanders to predict that aircraft could help resupply these columns far behind enemy lines.

But after training a new armoured unit in the North African desert, Hobart was given early retirement – partly, it is thought, down to official hostility to his ‘unconventional’ views on armoured warfare. As Britain faced the threat of invasion, its leading expert on armoured warfare found himself demoted to corporal, and serving in the Home Guard in the Cotswolds village where he lived.

“At the museum we’ve got the ‘pike’ he was given – much of Britain’s military equipment had been left in France, so instead of a rifle he had a piece of scaffolding pole with a bayonet attached at the end. That’s what he would have used if the Germans had invaded.

“Montgomery, one of Britain’s most respected commanders, hears that Hobart has fallen out of favour; Hobart has a reputation for being a bit prickly, and has a tendency to rub some people up the wrong way.”A Sherman DD swimming tank, seen with its canvas screens collapsed (Credit: Crown Copyright/Wikipedia)

A Sherman DD swimming tank, seen with its canvas screens collapsed (Credit: Crown Copyright/Wikipedia)

A meeting between Hobart and British leader Winston Churchill was convened; Willey says Hobart asked whether he should “turn up in his Home Guard uniform or his old army uniform”. After the meeting, Hobart was reinstated – and given the task of improving Britain’s tank force.

After the threat of a German invasion had receded after the Battle of Britain, thoughts turned to how a re-equipped British army could land on the beaches of France and fight its way further inland. The Germans had prepared an extensive line of defences – known as the “Atlantic Wall” – from the Franco-Spanish border to the north of Norway. Any beaches that could be used in a landing were guarded by concrete gun emplacements, strongpoints, trenches and anti-tank ditches – and enormous quantities of mines.

When the Allied armies invaded France on 6 June 1944, they did so along five beaches of the Normandy Coast. The troops landed alongside a fleet of specialised tanks that Hobart – learning from the costly assault at Dieppe – had helped design and bring into service. The tanks were known, collectively, as Hobart’s “Funnies”. On the British and Canadian beaches where they were used – Gold, Sword and Juno – the landings were a massive success.

Hobart had realised that an invading force would need a lot more tank support

Hobart had realised that an invading force would need a lot more tank support – and they were most vulnerable when they were coming to shore. “If you put all your tanks in one landing craft, and that gets hit – how do you spread the risk?” The result was the Sherman DD (Duplex Drive) – the “swimming tank”.

There is a Sherman DD on display at Bovington, complete with a canvas screen that, once extended, helped make the tank float on water. The engine drove a propeller fitted at the rear, which allowed the DD to drive towards the shore at under 5mph (8km/h). The screen was designed to resist waves as high as 30cm – the crew, apart from the driver, often stood on the tanks hull to make it easier to jump off if it started to sink.

The tanks were supposed to be launched from their landing craft a couple of miles offshore to reduce the risk of being hit by artillery fire, but Willey says tests showed the tanks were more likely to survive in choppy waters if they were launched far closer to the shore. He says that the prospect of climbing into a 35-ton tank that would sink like a stone if anything went wrong must have been nerve-wracking enough in rehearsals – to do so under fire must have been truly terrifying.The Sherman flail tank was vital in clearing paths through minefields and barbed wire (Credit: Getty Images)

The Sherman flail tank was vital in clearing paths through minefields and barbed wire (Credit: Getty Images)

On D-Day, most of the DDs landing with British and Canadian troops – on Gold, Sword and Juno beaches – were launched close to shore; the sea was choppier than expected, and the commanders decided to bring the landing ships closer to the beach to give the DD tanks a better chance of reaching shore.

But during the American landings – code-named Utah and Omaha beaches – the DDs fared far worse. Willey says the US commanders stayed rigidly to the original plan, launching their tanks from at least two miles away. At Omaha, most of the DD tanks launched sank in the choppy waters.

The DD tanks that landed on the other beaches, folded up their canvas screens, and were then able to fight like a conventional tank. Behind them came more of Hobart’s unique creations, each of them with a particular task.

The Sherman Crabs would push their way through the minefield, and they would also rip their way through any barbed wire as well – David Willey, Tank Museum

Among the most dramatic was the Crab. This was a Sherman tank with a flail at the front – a giant drum containing chains that spun at more than 140 rpm, beating the ground. The impact would detonate any mine in front of the tank, and other tanks or infantry could safely travel behind.

“The Sherman Crabs would push their way through the minefield, and they would also rip their way through any barbed wire as well – which was a bit of a bonus,” says Willey.

“The flail crews were told that if they didn’t clear a hole, then the massive invasion behind them would fail. That’s quite a lot of expectation.

It wasn’t just the German defences that would cause problems – the very beach itself could be an issue. Part of the preparations for D-Day, Willey says, was for recon parties to land on the beaches and collect sand, to see if the beaches were firm enough for tanks.Many of Hobart's "Funnies" were modifications to the Churchill tank (Credit: Kingnothing/Wikipedia)

Many of Hobart’s “Funnies” were modifications to the Churchill tank (Credit: Kingnothing/Wikipedia)

“When they did their training, they tried to find beaches that had the same geological set-up,” says Imperial War Museum senior curator Paul Cornish. “A certain kind of sand they encountered, which they called blue clay, caused all the vehicles to bog down.”

Again, Hobart and his team had a solution; the Churchill Bobbin. The outlandish modification of Britain’s main tank had two arms in front of the tanks carrying an enormous bobbin of canvas matting – as the tank drove forward it unrolled the matting, creating a carpet for a tank to drive on. The carpet was nearly 10ft (3m) wide and more than 200ft (60m) long.

The German defenders would have had no idea what was going on

“It’s one of the most extraordinary vehicles of the war,” says Cornish. “If you can imagine what it would have been like for the German defender, seeing this crawling up the beach. They would have no idea what was going on.”

More Churchills had been modified to carry a ‘petard’; a huge, heavy mortar firing shells to shatter concrete. The AVRE (Armoured Vehicle Royal engineers) Churchills weren’t designed to fight other tanks, but to fire at concrete bunkers or even the concrete sea wall itself, blasting holes that troops and other tanks could then stream through.

Willey says the effect of the AVRE was more than just physical. “You have this huge mortar which fires shells the size of a dustbin. The explosions are enormous. There’s a real psychological factor with weapons like these.” The AVRE’s became even more valuable inland, with the mortar particularly effective in urban areas.

The ingenuity of Hobart’s vehicles continued. Many Churchills trundled onto the Normandy beaches carrying a fascine – a huge bundle of sticks that could be dropped into a ditch and allow a tank to drive across. Tanks had already used such a technique during the trench warfare of World War One, but the concept was nothing new – fascines had been used to bridge ditches right back to Roman times.The petard mortar on a Churchill AVRE could lob a 40lb dustbin-shaped shell (Credit: Crown Copyright/Wikipedia)

The petard mortar on a Churchill AVRE could lob a 40lb dustbin-shaped shell (Credit: Crown Copyright/Wikipedia)

“So many times, these issues come back in different issues, but the fundamental issues remain the same,” says Willey. Hobart’s genius, he says, was his ability to be open to ideas – and even the most old-fashioned solutions could be reworked to match the needs of a modern army.

The “funnies” also included a range of bridging tanks – some Churchills carried a girder bridge that could be placed over a wide ditches or water crossings, which was strong enough to carry the heaviest tanks.

“These bridges would be used to replace bridges that had been destroyed in the fighting,” says Cornish. 

Other engineers manned armoured bulldozers, which could push wrecked tanks out of the way or clear paths through rubble

And for high sea walls there was the Churchill Ark. The Ark had no turret, and was equipped with ramps on the front and back. It was driven up to a seawall or high obstacle, and other tanks would simply drive over it.

Other engineers manned armoured bulldozers, which could push wrecked tanks out of the way or clear paths through rubble. They could also place demolition charges against obstacles which could then be detonated from a safe distance.

More Churchill tanks, nicknamed “Crocodiles”, carried flamethrowers. Like the AVREs, these could often break resistance without huge loss of life – the prospect of being burned alive was often the final straw for German defenders. “Sometimes you would get the Crocodiles moving up and testing their flame thrower with a few practice squirts – and the Germans would surrender without another shot being fired,” says Willey.The Crocodile was a Churchill armed with a flamethrower - a terrifying weapon (Credit: Getty Images)

The Crocodile was a Churchill armed with a flamethrower – a terrifying weapon (Credit: Getty Images)

Weapons like the AVRE and Crocodile might seem barbaric, but Willey says Hobart was aware that their deployment could save lives on both sides. By the time the Normandy landings took place, Britain had been at war for nearly five years. “In the run-up to the invasion, Montgomery, the British commander, had had to amalgamate lots of units because, quite simply, we were running out of blokes.”

For the “Funnies”, D-Day was only the beginning. Many of the vehicles proved perfect for the campaign in the Normandy bocage, which took place in narrow lanes sided by dense woodland. American forces, which had initially thought Hobarts creations were too bizarre for combat, ended up using them as much as the British.

The “Funnies” were farmed out in small groups wherever they were needed, a flexible approach which only added to their effectiveness

By the end of the war, the 79th Armoured Division – the unit which controlled the “Funnies” – “was the biggest armoured unit in Europe,” says Willey. The “Funnies” were farmed out in small groups wherever they were needed, a flexible approach which only added to their effectiveness.

“The other great thing about the ‘Funnies’ is that, apart from the drivers, they were crewed by Royal engineers. These really are the experts. One of the great strengths of the British Army in Normandy is they have this engineering and bridging expertise,” says Cornish.

Hobart, says Willey, was a man “who makes things happen. He’s the right man at the right time. And he’s very determined.”The Ark could be used as a ramp for other tanks to drive over (Credit: Crown Copyright/Wikipedia)

The Ark could be used as a ramp for other tanks to drive over (Credit: Crown Copyright/Wikipedia)

“There are all these stories of him getting in his car and driving at breakneck speed late at night to turn up somewhere where something was being tested – ‘You will have this up-and-running by tomorrow, won’t you’ – and getting things done through force of will.”

“But he was also a man who would take a good idea from anyone. It didn’t matter if you were a corporal, or a retired major-general, or a scientist – if you had a good idea, he’d listen to it.”

Seventy years after the end of World War Two, most armies use specialist armored vehicles that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Hobart’s ragtag armada of bizarre creations. The “Funnies”, it turns out, were no joke at all.

History of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle

The development of the Bradley dates back to the pre-Vietnam era. The early plans of an advanced armor personnel vehicle were being discussed in the early 1960s, even as the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier was just entering service. The U.S. military recognized the need to address the needs of battlefield transport as far into the future as the 1980s and beyond. The search for a Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle (MICV) began in 1963.

The search for an MICV was long. The Army tested and rejected the MICV-65 created by Pacific Car & Foundry in 1965. It was not until 1972 that the Army signed a contract with FMC Corporation for its XM723 MICV design. Four years later, the Army merged the MICV program with the Armored Reconnaissance Scout Vehicle program, noting similarities in requirements. The resulting vehicles were the XM2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle and XM3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicle, each of which incorporated the 25mm M242 Bushmaster, which was also under development at the time.

The Bradley Fighting Vehicle entered production in 1981 and became a replacement for the M113. The Bradley is considered to be a more powerful and faster vehicle than the M113, and its better suspension increases speed on off-road terrain.

Within just a few years after the Bradley rolled into service, its survivability and combat effectiveness became targets of concern. In 1985, it underwent a series of tests as part of the Joint Live Fire Test Program, during which several U.S. and Russian munitions were used to fire on a fully loaded Bradley. In 1988, modifications were incorporated in the M2A2/M3A2 model, including:

  • New composite armor
  • Improved ammunition storage to protect personnel
  • Higher water barrier skirt to improve amphibious operation
  • Improved suspension system

These and subsequent enhancements have made the Bradley a highly survivable combat vehicle. In Operation Desert Storm, 2,200 Bradley vehicles were deployed for battle, and only three were lost to enemy fire.

M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle with its 25mm cannon elevated

M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle with its 25mm cannon elevated

In 1991, following Operation Desert Storm, further enhancements were made. The Operation Desert Storm (ODS) upgrades were implemented in the upgraded M2A2 ODS and M3A2 ODS models and included:

  • GPS capability
  • Anti-tank missile countermeasure device
  • Redesigned seating
  • Improved storage for ammunition

The M2A3 and M3A3 Bradley models were also a result of upgrades made after Desert Storm. The M2A3/M3A3 package is the most technically advanced of the Bradley models, and was approved for production in 1994. This package includes:

  • Commander flat-panel display unit
  • Mass memory unit
  • Driver display unit
  • Squad display unit in the troop compartment

With continued modification, the Army has reported that the Bradley will continue to be a key armored vehicle for the U.S. military through the first quarter of the 21st century.

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