They crowded around the ugly steel monsters

Monday, October 5th, 2020

To fight the North Koreans, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), the Americans needed tanks, which they had never planned on bringing to the peninsula:

Roberson and Phelps had arrived during the bad days, when the crumbling 24th held onto the Perimeter by a nail. They would never forget their arrival into the lines of the division with the new M-46 90mm-gun tanks, shipped hastily from Detroit Arsenal. It had been hell to get the big tanks to Oakland, aboard ship, and on land again at Pusan. At Pusan there had been no port facilities to handle a 92,000-pound tank; the ship’s officers had groaned and turned pale while the ship’s winches and cargo booms strained under the extreme load. But lives, after all, were more valuable than winches, and one by one the 76 tanks had crashed down on the dock.

When the armor growled and roared up to the Naktong, men from the Taro Leaf Division ran forward to meet them, many of them openly sobbing. They crowded around the ugly steel monsters and patted them as if they had been blooded horses.

Under Lieutenant Colonel John Growden, West Point 1937, who had been with Patton, the 6th Tank soon had its baptism of fire.

To Growden came a radio flash from a leading tank: “We have sighted enemy. What are our orders?”

Growden radioed back: “Are they definitely enemy?” “Affirmative!” “Then fire—that’s why the hell we’re here!” In each and every war, Americans must learn the hard way.


  1. Adar says:

    “It had been hell to get the big tanks to Oakland, aboard ship, and on land again at Pusan.”

    Few shooters [combat arms] as compared to non-shooters in the U.S Army. This is why. Logistics. Getting heavy gear to the scene of the fighting and then maintaining and sustaining for a long period requires that logistic train. Korea is on other side of the world almost.

  2. Kgaard says:

    Why did the American army not think it would need tanks in Korea?

  3. Paul from Canada says:

    This was one of the reasons the M4 Sherman was what it was. The size and weight was dictated by logistical considerations. The battlefields it fought on were all at least an ocean away from where they were made, and the ship was a long train ride away.

    The Sherman had to be small enough to fit on standard rail cars and pass thru standard rail tunnels (particularly in the UK). It also had to be light enough to be loaded and unloaded alongside a liberty ship using only on board cranes and equipment (not many full on harbours on little islands in the Pacific).

    It also had to be light enough to cross the mobile engineer (Bailey etc.) bridges in service at the time. Early in the Pershing’s service during Market Garden, they had to be left behind because they were too big for the engineer bridge, so only Shermans ended up crossing and doing the fighting.

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