Author Archives: Hognose

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Garbage Trucks

garbage-truckSquashed like a bug — what a way to go.

A garbage truck fled the scene after striking and killing a 46-year-old woman with multiple sclerosis using a walker to cross a Brooklyn street Thursday night as she headed home from visiting her mother, authorities and relatives say.

The woman, identified as Alberta Bagu, was hit by the truck as she tried to cross the street near Broadway and Ditmars Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant around 10:30 p.m.

Police say Bagu was found unconscious on Broadway with severe trauma to her head and body.

A preliminary investigation indicates the private sanitation truck was moving south on Broadway between Ditmars Street and Willoughby Avenue when it hit Bagu as she tried to cross mid-block, police said.

via Hit-Run Garbage Truck Kills 46-Year-Old Woman With Multiple Sclerosis Crossing Brooklyn Street: Police, Family | NBC New York.

It’s hard to add anything to this. When the authorities bag the bad garbage man, nothing they can do will really help.

Utterly OT: An Unconventional 4th of July Dinner

Completely off topic, but here’s what’s up for din-din.

The main dish is going to be Hawaiian slow-cooked pork tenderloin, which will be seasoned with some leftover pork (with a Korean BBQ sauce) from a dinner this week that canc’d. The sauces come from Campbell pouches, but get added to.

So, the pork will go in the slow-cooker about 1100, old pork and all sauces first; it will simmer away all day; about 1700 we’ll add some pineapple slices for flavor. (This should be posted some time in the middle of all that).

Side dish: we’re kitbashing something from jasmine rice, wild rice, a lot of butter, a cup of chicken rice soup for flavor, and maybe some other spices depending on how it all tastes.

Veggies: There will be celery and carrots in with the pork. They go in at about H-3 hours. We’ll probably have green beans and maybe asparagus or broccoli (it seems like no two people of the eight attending have the same tastes in food.

And, oh yeah, gotta relocate the 3D Printer from the dining room table we’ve been working from for the last two weeks. Which means… ugh… cleaning the office so that there’s room on the credenza. Can we get an ugh?

This is either going to be a huge success or a spectacular failure.

No pressure.

Britain, Avulcular: The Last V-Bomber Flies its Last Flights

It”s hard to remember now, but there was a time when Britain, England really, was a world leader in aeronautics. Once, they were manufacturing not one, but three state-of-the-art nuclear bombers, the Vickers Valiant, the Handley-Page Victor, and the last flying example, the Avro Vulcan. The Valiant was a stop-gap, in case the Victor or Vulcan, which included much risky technology like the Vulcan’s delta wing and the Victor’s scimitar planform, failed. The Victor flew for decades as a tanker, and the Vulcan was the last dedicated long-range pure bomber — nuclear and conventional — of the RAF.

If you have not seen a Vulcan fly, you still can — this summer — before the last flying example is grounded for good.

The UK tech website The Register can’t address this without Gawker-style ignorant snark:

[The Falklands War Black Buck ultra-long-distance raids were]  the close of the Vulcan’s story with the RAF. And yet there was much affection for the old V-bombers, despite the fact that they had only provided a credible deterrent for a few years and had otherwise been undistinguished. This affection was nurtured by the RAF, which continued to have a taxpayer-funded Vulcan display unit until 1992 – ten years after the Vulcan retired as a fighting aircraft, almost a quarter-century after Polaris had rendered the V-force obsolete, and 32 years after the V-force had ceased to be credible in its primary mission.

Yeah, the bombers can’t get through missile defense. Pilots are obsolete. Robotic weapons are the future. Well, they were certainly the future when Sir Duncan Sandys wrote the White Paper that sounded the death knell of the British aerospace industry in 1957, and almost sixty years later, we’ve had Linebacker II and the ’67, ’70, ’73, ’82 and ’86 Middle East wars, two Arab WMD facilities erased from the map by the IDF AF despite the latest Russian/Soviet air defense gear, Desert Storm, and OIF, and today’s Sir Duncan wannabees are teling us that robotic weapons are the future.

Dude, where’s my jetpack?

After the RAF retired its Vulcan display flight, a nonprofit formed to maintain the plane in taxiable condition. (Yes, the British aero scene is so pitiful that people get excited to see vintage aircraft moving on the ground. But then, the US would never allow a nonprofit to adopt any postwar bomber, and our much larger nuclear alert force has no flying survivors, so who are we to bag on the Brits?)

Even after this the Vulcan To The Sky Trust came into being, and the old RAF display plane XH558 returned to the skies once more in 2007.

Now, however, the grand old warhorse of the skies is finally retiring for good. A group of companies that provided support and skills to keep XH558 going made the decision that they could no longer afford the costs associated with keeping the Vulcan in the air, especially as most of the parts no longer existed and airframe hours were becoming a major concern.

XH558 is not off to the scrap yard however, but to her new home at the Vulcan Aviation Academy where the next generation of engineers can learn their craft.

Until then, you can see, hear and feel XH558 in action on its UK farewell tour.

via Goodbye Vulcan: Blighty’s nuclear bomber retires for the last time • The Register.

Do read all three pages, as the Vulcan’s early history is very interesting.

Wednesday (?) Weapons Website of the Week: The Diplomad

(Yes, this was supposed to hit on Wednesday. We’re playing catch-up this weekend. -Ed.)

the_diplomadThe Diplomad is not a weapons blog, but it’s a blog by a guy who would have weaponized our foreign policy, if he had been in charge. But this is the State Department we’re talking about here: a bunch of reality-light college kids who are determined to play “lions lay down with lambs,” and moreover, convinced that the moral superiority of being the lamb in that scenario is its own reward.

We would have been terrible misfits in the Department of State, and we get a sense that W. Lewis Amselem, who outed himself only after retirement, was a misfit there too. He’s our kind of guy.

The original Diplomad blog was anonymous, and closed down at one point, presumably because the Diplomatic Security Service was on Amselem’s trail; fortunately, there are few safer ways to secure your backtrail than to put DSS, the armed and credentialed equivalent of the TSA, on exposing it.

Amselem was already legendary in the Department (both among angry leadership and closeted corners of competence) for a 1993 cable he wrote, tying the department’s fuzzy-thinking affirmative action bureaucracy in knots with its own words. A taste:

If you are serious about racial labels, then Department medical services should be brought in to determine degrees of racial “purity.” You can hire phrenologists and other experts on racial traits. There are lots of those people now unemployed in South Africa or under false names in Paraguay (better move on this last group fast, they’re getting old).

He reprints the entire cable here. It was a monument of snark, and made him beloved among a certain type of foreign service officer; conversely, it made him Target For Today every day in the department’s executive suites. Here’s one more snippet:

Diversity zealots are toying with explosive issues; no matter how “civilized” we think we are, eventually, as we have  seen in Yugoslavia and only God knows how many other places, we all will come out to defend our ethnicity, race, religion,  etc.–and at times violently. Call it tribalism or whatever  you want, but it’s there under the surface. Let it stay there; don’t stir it up with misguided polices.

Of course, his cautions were ignored, and the DOS is more of a mess today than it was twenty years ago when he wrote the cable.

We Honor Few Soldiers on the 4th of July

And this is the original Declaration, showing the ravages of time. But this is the document with the original signatures, not the copies most have come to know. (NARA).

And this is the original Declaration, showing the ravages of time. But this is the document with the original signatures, not the copies most have come to know. And yeah, it embiggens. (NARA).

The American Revolution was not without its military heroes, from brave, doomed Nathan Hale to bookworm turned artillerist Henry Knox, from John Stark of “Live Free or Die” fame to Israel Putnam, “Ol’ Put,” whose wartime effect comes up with completely different numbers if you’re counting battlefield success or the acclaim of his own troops. Each is interesting, and there are many more like them, men who helped us win our independence from the mother country by force of arms.

And then there are the heroes of the Continental Congress, the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The Venn intersection of the two sets turns out to be very small. Only one of the signatories of the Declaration, Delaware’s Caesar Rodney, listed his occupation as “military” (.pdf)  at the time of the Declaration — and he listed that secondarily to his main gig as a plantation owner.

The somewhat battered American tradition of separation of brass and state was a birth condition. Militarily, the greatest of the founders was certainly Washington, who had experienced service in the French & Indian War. But he did not sign the Declaration of Independence, even though he was well known to the men meeting in Philadelphia, especially the powerhouse Virginia delegation (Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lee). Like Jefferson and John Adams, many of the signers were lawyers, which goes to show that America was born in original sin. Merchants and planters were well represented, and there were two physicians (New Hampshire’s Josiah Bartlett and Matthew Thornton were both doctors).

Connecticut sent two lawyers, not Putnam; New York sent two merchants, not Benedict Arnold. Massachusetts sent four merchants and two lawyers, one of whom was also a scientist — Robert Treat Paine, one of three whose names are on the document, the others being Franklin (secondary to printer) and Jefferson (secondary to planter).

While many of the Signers subsequently served in the militia (they were, after all, prominent men and community leaders), and a few in the Continental Army, none seems to have been killed or wounded (one did get whacked in a duel with another Continental officer). None seems to have distinguished himself on the Field of Mars, except for Henry Lee. But, in another sense, all of them had won distinction enough by scribing their names on the foundational document of our Republic.

We have plenty of holidays to honor military heroes, of the Revolution and of the subsequent wars. Let today be a day to honor those visionaries who envisioned a more perfect union. Even the lawyers!

Update

This post has been corrected to note that Henry “Lighthorse Harry” Lee did indeed distinguish himself in battle after the Declaration. He led what today might be considered an SOF cavalry unit.

Philly Diddler In Jail for a While

Yerger. He's probably not so happy today as he was on Mugshot Day.

Yerger. He’s probably not so happy today as he was on Mugshot Day.

If you gotta go to prison — and everybody but his defense attorney and the members of NAMBLA seems to think Warren Earl Yerger Sr. had better go to prison — it’s good to know when you get out.

For Yerger, a Chester County, PA (think Philly suburbs) pedophile, that could be the year 2705. If he maxes his max time off for good behavior, it could be as soon as 2354. One is reminded of the old joke about the elderly con who told the judge, “But Your Honor! I’m 70, I can’t do thirty years!”

To which the man in the robe drily replied, “We understand. Do as much as you can!” We could give the same advice to Yerger.

Before we start shouting about Yerger’s civil rights, let’s consider a few facts:

  1. No matter how grisly a child abuse case is, Pennsylvania law (like that of many states) does not provide a life sentence. (The Supreme Court1 has ruled that kiddie diddling is no big deal and doesn’t rate the death penalty, as long as it doesn’t kill the kid. Presumably they’re worried about whether the next pedo can still use the kid?)
  2. It does allow the judge to stack sentences for multiple counts,and Yerger had lots of counts.
  3. This judge was not like most lawyers and judges, who seem fairly cool with the NAMBLA set, as the next-but-one extension of “rights”.

From the (Allentown, we think?) Daily Local (we lost track of that original link but here’s another):

Legally barred from imposing a full sentence of life in prison because of the nature of the charges that Warren Earl Yerger Sr. was found guilty of, Judge William P. Mahon nevertheless crafted a sentence that will last until the 52-year-old breathes his last breath, and beyond.

Mahon sentenced Yerger, who maintained his innocence at the four-hour long hearing in the Chester County Justice Center, to a total term of 339 to 690 years in a state prison. He handed down consecutive jail terms for each of the four victims on the multiple charges of rape and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, both first-degree felonies, that he was found guilty of.

It is believed to be the longest sentence ever handed down in a criminal case in the county.

Now, we’re not lawyers, but we’d worry about the durability of this sentence under appeal. Appeals courts may be more pedo-friendly (heck, regression toward the lawyer/judge mean pretty well guarantees that). But we think Judge Mahon was pretty clever. Even though we’re not lawyers, we think he defended his judgment pretty well… he had a lot of counts against Yerger to work with, and he only made the 1st Degree Felony counts (the most serious crimes) run consecutively. Those crimes included very many counts of rape and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse for each of four victims. In addition, Yerger was convicted of dozens of lesser counts, too, of aggravated indecent assault, child abuse and conspiracy — and Mahon made these run concurrently.

“Each of these charges is horrific,” Mahon said before imposing his sentence, a process that took the better part of half an hour because of the number of counts he had to work through. “What I was looking for, Mr. Yerger, was for you to accept responsibility. You have not. But the jury has imposed responsibility on you.”

The judge said that to impose any lesser sentence, or run all the terms concurrently, would diminish the impact that the crimes had on each of the individual victims.

That sounds to us like a shot across the bow of the appeals court. “Release this perv, you revictimize his victims.” Yerger was tried on 155 felony counts (they initially had over 500, but winnowed the number down for the sake of practicality) and found guilty on 140. The prosecutor suggested in the sentencing memo stacking sentences so that Yerger had an effective life sentence, and Judge Mahon ran with it, with the concurrent-minor-charges twist to defend his sentence from crim-coddling appeals judges.

Four of Yerger’s victims, three young women and a young man, testified at the trial, and the women also appeared and gave statements — forgiving Yerger, but calling for a long sentence — at the sentencing hearing. Yerger started with the kids when they were too small to remember — three and four years old. And he kept it up for years. One of Yerger’s two female partners in the abuse, his wife, also testified against him.

Yerger, his wife Leslie, his girlfriend Deb Keely: the conspiracy.

Yerger, his wife Leslie, his girlfriend Deb Keely: the conspiracy.

His wife and girlfriend have already been convicted in the case. (That’s where the conspiracy counts come from).

The case began in December 2012, when state Trooper Heather Heffner of the Reading barracks was notified of the abuse of four child victims. One of the girls, after attempting suicide and being committed to a psychiatric hospital, had confided the abuse to a college professor who directed her to a woman’s shelter, and eventually to the police.

Heffner learned that Yerger had abused the children between 1989 and 2012, first the boy and his younger sister and then the two other girls. In that 23 year period Yerger moved eight times to four different counties in the state, living in Phoenixville, Spring City, Lower Pottsgrove, and elsewhere. He began abusing the young boy when he lived in Chester County when he was 4 years old, and continued on an almost daily basis until the child was 8 and the girl 6 years old.

The sexual abuse of the youngest girl began in 1995 when Yerger returned to Chester County after having lived in McLean County in north central Pennsylvania. She was 4 or 5 years old at the time. Yerger moved to Montgomery County, living with Deborah Keeley, a girlfriend with whom he had two sons. The abuse of that girl and the other, two years older, lasted until 2012.

Keeley abused the girls as well when they were young, and Yerger also made his wife, Leslie Yerger, with whom he has two daughter and who testified against him at trial, to also join in the abuse.

The three were arrested in July 2013 when the Yergers were living in Birdsboro, Berks County and Keeley was living in Douglassville, Berks County. They have been incarcerated since.

Keeley, 49, who pleaded guilty to the charges against her just prior to the December trial, has already been sentenced. In March, Mahon ordered her imprisoned for 22 to 44 years, a term she is appealing. Leslie Yerger, 46, who testified against her husband at the trial, is awaiting sentencing.

After an evaluation by psychologist Thomas Haworth, Warren Yerger was also found to be a sexually violent predator, and will be subject to state reporting as such under Megan’s Law.

Child abuse cases are often problematical, because they often depend on victims’ eyewitness testimony of events that happened years ago — one recalls the problems with the “recovered memory” cases of the 1990s.

Yerger’s defense attorney, Laurence Harmelin, is unlikely to have helped his client much by demanding a 10-20 year sentence and thundering that anything else was redolent of… “Iran, Russia or North Korea, where such punishment … is routine.”

Actually, we don’t know about Russian law, but we’re quite certain the Iranians already would have hung Yerger by now (but only because there was a male victim; the females wouldn’t be allowed to testify), and we doubt the Norks would keep him around any longer. Points to them.

The judge and prosecutor both used the words “horrific” to describe Yerger’s conduct. Vocabulary.com says it means: “grossly offensive to decency or morality; causing horror.” Yeah. That works for us.

Say hello to Buck Rogers in the 28th Century for us, Yerger, you creep.

Number of guns used in the “most horrific crime” the judge and prosecutor have seen? Zero. Maybe criminal behavior doesn’t come from guns.

Notes

  1. Wasn’t that the Yerger, er, Burger court? Or was it the Earl Warren court that saved the life of Warren Earl here? (We’re just joking, as we really think it was the Rehnquist court. Same Harvard-Yale values: diddling is just a lifestyle, and who are we to judge/).

Sources:

  1. Allentown Daily Local story
  2. Philly.com story
  3. Google news search

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Disabled Daughters

Gypsy Blancharde: Left, posing as a cripple, and right, after walking into a police station for her mugshot.

Gypsy Blancharde: Left, posing as a wheelchair-bound cripple, and right, after walking into a police station for her mugshot.

They were victims of Hurricane Katrina, a woman and her disabled daughter, relocated to a new community, and dependent on the generosity of others. But it was only the investigation of the mother’s homicide that brought forth the discovery that the family’s suffering was all along a pose and a scam.

And who killed the scamming mom? Her scamming daughter, who despite her stint as organ-grinders-monkey in a wheelchair is not disabled after all, and the daughter’s boyfriend.

See what happens when you teach your kids the wrong values?

Gypsy Blancharde was arrested Monday along with her boyfriend in Wisconsin, more than 500 miles away from the family’s Springfield, Mo. home. She and boyfriend Nicholas Paul Godejohn are facing first-degree murder charges after Gypsy’s mother, Clauddinnea “Dee Dee” Blancharde, 48, was found stabbed to death in her bed, according to a probable cause statement.
The woman was discovered dead and Gypsy was reported missing early Monday after several disturbing Facebook messages were posted on Dee Dee Blancharde’s account, prompting friends to call police. Police now say Gypsy posted those messages from her boyfriend’s home in Wisconsin, leading officials there.

Gypsy, who neighbors reportedly believed was confined to a wheelchair because of muscular dystrophy, “can walk without assistance or wheelchair and she can do that very well,” Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott said at a news conference Tuesday.

He said police have unearthed the “appearance of a long financial fraud scheme along with this tragic event,” and cautioned the public against donating to the family, which he told CBS affiliate KOLR had a history of soliciting donations from the public online.

“Things are not always as they appear,” Arnott said.

“We really don’t know the true background of this family,” Arnott said. “….This is a tragic event surrounded by mystery and public deception.”

Completely ate up, these people. Do  Read The Whole Thing™. They even scammed a house off Habitat for Humanity!

So the daughter had her boyfriend whack her mom, and then they did a runner. One more case of criminal mastermind fail.

But, if you’re a certain kind of activist, you’re convinced that some Alaskan’s bear gun caused this.

Broke Navy Seeks Foreign Ships for Marines

first_navy_jackHandicapped by a shortage of “gators” or amphibious ships, the Navy is considering taking shipless Marine infantry and Ospreys, and hiring allied ships to carry them. Where the ships could come from is an open question, as it’s unlikely any reliable ally has enough idle gators to close what the Navy identifies as an 8-ship gap for projecting power in the North Africa region alone. Handling maritime crises in two regions of the world simultaneously would be hopeless with the current force structure, but we’d have to try.

The problem is tied up with numbers and budgets. Today’s much smaller Navy has similar responsibilities to its Cold War era self, which had twice as many warships. Moreover, many of the ships the Navy is buying now are so-called Littoral Combat Ships, which depend on stealth for survival, as they have nearly nonexistent offensive and defensive armament. These ships are useless in any kind of power projection that goes beyond simply showing the flag; they have the combat power of Yangtze River gunboats.

The Navy is weighing whether to have Marines hitch a ride on foreign warships, citing a shortage of U.S. vessels due to recent budget cuts — raising bipartisan security concerns about the leverage this could give other countries.

A key concern is whether a warship host nation could deny Marines permission to come ashore.

“Ceding our amphibious ships to other countries — it’s almost silly and I can’t believe it is even an option for the Navy,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who served as a Marine in Iraq. “Now we are going to have to ask other countries, much less financially stable countries than America, to loan us their ships so that we can base our Marines on their ships. It’s almost embarrassing.”

Along with Hunter, Fox also got disbelieving quotes from former Senator (D-VA) and SecNav Jim Webb, suggesting the apoplexy of this latest bleat of surrender from a Navy slowly disestablishing itself may be bipartisan.  You ought to Read The Whole Thing™.

Who knows, spending some time in foreign hulls getting irritated by the sailors of their navies might cause the Marines to reevaluate their famous disdain for the sailors of ours. 

A Tale of Two Temperatures

Consider this graphic. It is a somewhat crude reproduction of one in the Rheinmetall weapons design handbook. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who is unlucky at bicycles bur uncannily lucky with heiresses, thinks that we all should be criminals for discussing this online, so let’s all get our crime on and return to a subject we’ve discussed before, heat management  in automatic firearms.

temperature_over_time_mg_barrel

 

The original of this graphic is a rather dull monochrome one in the style of the rather dull, unless you are the sort of gun geek that Secretary Kerry dreams of decanting into durance vile, Rheinmetall Handbook. Our copy is the German language version, because we read po-nyemetskiy, and Amazon.com wants $300-400 for an English copy, when there is one to be had, but Amazon.de has copies of this out of print classic for about €100. (Which is going to be lunch money if they keep letting Greece set continental fiscal policy). It took us several iterations to get the slopes about right, and we got the round-count wrong: it’s supposed to be two neat Teutonic bursts of 10, and we have a rather limited and non-Aryan 8 and 9, but with that difference noted, this graphic is  close enough to discuss the phenomena at issue. Here’s what Rheinmetall says about this graphic:

The barrel of an automatic weapon is, as a consequence of the normally high rate of fire, subject to extraordinary temperature demands.

[This illustration] shows the approximate course of temperature of the inner- and outer wall of an MG barrel in two bursts of fire of 10 shots each with a pause lying in between. Feel long, or many short, bursts of fire can drive the temperature of the inner wall so high, that it has a significant influence on the material toughness and therefore on its use and employment.

In this, the cadence of fire, the number of shots in a burst, the pauses, the lengths of the pauses, and the number of bursts of fire fired rapidly one after the other, in conjunction with the thermal resistance of the barrel material and the strength of the barrel walls all play a role.

Comparable barrel-life shot counts can therefore be reached with the same firing rhythm. Often the “French anti-aircraft rhythm” is used: this is 144 shots in 12 bursts of 12 shots each, with a 2-second pause after each burst and a 20 second pause after every four [bursts]. With MG barrels, a firing rhythm of 250 rounds in numerous bursts is often used.

For testing automatic weapons and their ammunition, Rheinmetall has developed an electronic Rate and Rhythm Control Apparatus, which is described below in section 7.7 [of this book].

Measures for increasing the life expectancy of barrels include:

  • Heat-resistant materials;
  • Chroming or Nitriding the interior wall;
  • Progressive twist and rifling profile in conjunction with barrel caliber tightening.

Less effective are cooling fins and water cooling.

Barrels for MGs and machine cannon must be rapidly interchangeable.

Now, this graphic is limited in its utility because in its original version, it comes without any numbers attached (accordingly, we have eliminated from the version we show you, the numbers we used for temperature (ºC; as you might expect the Handbook exclusively uses SI units) and seconds to approximate the original. But we can draw some conclusions based on the shape and gradient of the two lines.

Our take-away is that the key point is that the baseline is higher after each burst, and that the internal temps go higher in each successive round of each successive burst. What does not show on this line is the temperature where the barrel fails. As we have seen in the M4 experiments wherein a carbine was tested to destruction, this happens at a fairly predictable and repeatable, ergo constant from an engineering point of view, temperature. As Rheinmetall points out, several roads will get you to that temperature sooner or later.

Maybe he didn’t know this, but thus is why your sergeant whacked you upside the hemmet and told you to fire shorter bursts.

Looking at the Rheinmetall data, it seems that for their test weapon, whatever it was (MG3?), the barrel recovers its temperature rather speedily after the passage of each bullet momentarily superheats it. We would attribute this to the limited ability of a small projectile’s friction to heat the much greater mass of the barrel — this is also why the internal and external temps diverge so widely. But note that the internal temp continues to ride steadily as long as a steady sequence of pause and fire is applied, and at each pause the internal and external barrel temps have diverged more widely.

The implication is that an automatic weapons barrel is going to be heated to its limits at some point, moreover, at some predictable point, in any continuous fire regime, and while some of the magic designers have used over the last century, like chrome plating and stellite liners, can give you some more rate of fire on the margins, only changing out the barrel (not usually possible in a light automatic carbine) or otherwise giving the barrel a chance to rest and recover from high temps will prevent failure.

Thus endeth the lesson. Apart from further education which may come in the comments.

 

The Rise and Fall of the Halftrack

As a kid in the sixties, you couldn’t get away from ’em. Turn on Combat with Vic Morrow, and there’d be one in every few episodes, hauling American infantry up to the point where they’d start walking. A couple years later, The Rat Patrol stuck German Balkankreuz symbols on them and made ’em the bad guys. Around that time, they made the TV news, too, carrying long columns of hard Israeli troops to victory over Egyptians, Jordanians and Syrians with more modern weapons. Our cousin’s friend Charlie even owned one and drove it on parades — and to winch State Troopers out of snowbanks in blizzards. The White M3 half-track troop carrier, and its variations, were everywhere. It, and its foreign competitors, had considerable mindshare and were intensively developed from about 1930 through 1945, but none were made after war’s end. By the time the Israelis stormed Jerusalem, the armies that developed the halftracks and used them in WWII were all out of them — they’d surplused them, and when there were no surplus takers, towed them onto gunnery ranges, where the bones of a few remain.

Why did half-tracks go from invention, to ubiquity, to obsolescence in 15 years? Why did they hang on another 20 in places like Israel? These are interesting questions, and the answers begin in World War I.

World War I Prime Movers’ Limitations

While everyone thinks of World War II as the first mechanized war, the forces of all nations saw the potential of internal-combustion motive power early, and they all built thousands and thousands of prime movers. (Germany, Britain and the US were experimenting with artillery tractors even in the 19th Century). None of these was quite like the ones that would be used in the next war. There were several ways to put power to the ground, and by 1918 several competitive ways were in use. These included:

  1. Full-tracked vehicles like the US Holt (later Caterpillar) tractor;
  2. Steel-tired wheeled vehicles
  3. rubber-tired wheeled vehicles. In 1918 this often meant solid rubber tires.

Each of these vehicles came with its own set of pros and cons. Grossly simplified:

  1. Full-tracked vehicles had superior off-road and broken-field mobility, important in the morass of the Western Front. But they were slow, had high fuel consumption per unit of work, were prone to breakdown and demanding of high maintenance (even more than other 1918 machines), and the metal tracks interacted harshly with prepared (especially macadam) roads. The complexity of the steering arrangements was a key factor in shortening tracked prime-mover life.
  2. Steel tires had fair mobility (expecially given all-wheel-drive, a new development) but had some of the same problems with roads.
  3. Rubber-tired vehicles had the worst traction of the bunch, especially given the early 20th Century’s skinny (and often solid) tires.

Every army that employed powered prime movers, which certainly included the British, German, French and US, knew two things by Armistice Day: motorized prime movers sure beat horses or laying railroad track, and they wanted a vehicle that combined the cross-country mobility of the Holt tractor with the lower maintenance of conventional tracks.

The half-track idea was simple and logical: use the tracks for power, and wheels for steering. In fact, before Holt worked out differential steering, the earliest Holt tractors had a single wheelbarrow-like “tiller wheel” out in front. Semi-tracked steam tractors had existed even earlier, but the internal combustion engine made it possible to make one light and efficient enough for military purposes.

A French engineer named Leon Kégresse took the idea and ran with it. He was working for Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and so the first halftracks were Russian vehicles; he developed a kit that could be fit to touring cars, adding a suspension with small road wheels and return rollers, and a large driving wheel and idler wheel, driving a continuous rubber track with or without metal grousers. The contraption was steered by front wheels, or, given Russian winters, skis. After the Revolution, Lenin used such a vehicle, but Kégresse left Russia. The Putilov factory, which built Austins under license, made an armored vehicle based on an Austin truck chassis with Kégresse running gear and home-grown armored skin. These saw combat in the Civil War and in the Soviet-Polish war.

Putilov Kégresse knocked out and captured by the Polish forces. It is named "Ukrainets" ("Ukrainian") and bears the slogan "All Power to the Soviets!" It looks like the Poles read the label and delivered plenty of power to the thinly-armored machine.

Putilov Kégresse knocked out and captured by the Polish forces. It is named “Ukrainets” (“Ukrainian”) and bears the slogan “All Power to the Soviets!” It looks like the Poles read the label and delivered plenty of power to the thinly-armored machine.

Information and the image of the Polish-zapped Putilov is from this Polish link and this one (which have a ton of data on these rare combat vehicles)  via Axis History Forum.

Interwar Development of Halftracks

The three biggest halftrack developers were France, the USA, and Germany, and each took a slightly different approach. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, backed away from its early enthusiasm for halftracks.

France developed and showed off several generations of Citroën halftrack, based on Kégresse’s improvements to his own design. Like all things Citroën, it was somewhat weird and woolly in its industrial design — it worked, but it wasn’t like anything the other powers put together. The vehicles were used in some celebrated explorations, like in Africa and in this ill-fated one in Canada, now represented by a beautifully restored halftrack:

France was one of the earliest adopters of the halftrack, with a Citroën model being standardized in 1923 and other Citroën and Panhard models following.

The M23 Citroën with its Kégresse drivetrain.

The M23 Citroën with its Kégresse drivetrain. FMI see the chars-français web site (French language).

 

The interwar French Army lagged its peers in mechanized-force development, and they never standardized an armored troop-carrier version of the Citroën. The armored versions, like this one, were more like half-tracked armored cars; they were discontinued a few years before the war. La Belle France had the Maginot Line, so why worry?

The USA licensed Kégresse’s patents and designs and from about 1930 worked through many iterations before arriving at the familiar White halftrack. It was a lightly armored box with pretty standard American truck running gear, except for the Kégresse-derived tracks and suspension.

Original caption: Treads for Army halftracks, fresh from the curing press of a large Ohio tire plant [BF Goodrich, Akron OH]. Grooves are buffed on the ends of the track section." Office of War Information official photo by Alfred Palmer.

Original caption: Treads for Army halftracks, fresh from the curing press of a large Ohio tire plant [BF Goodrich, Akron OH]. Grooves are buffed on the ends of the track section.” Office of War Information official photo by Alfred Palmer.

Almost 50,000 of these vehicles were made in many variants, and they were delivered to many US allies, including France and the USSR during the war, and many smaller nations postwar. The most common versions were troop carriers — with a single small door in back and no overhead cover, the M2 and M3 halftracks — and self-propelled light anti-aircraft vehicles, especially the quad .50 version, the M16 halftrack.

The Germans were initially determined to pursue versatility.

They made vehicles which could convert from wheeled to half-tracked; Krupp, Dürkopp and Horch all made experimental vehicles. These included machines that could operate on road or standard-gauge railways, and also machines that could run on wheels but then lower tracks like an airplane’s landing gear, and then raise them to revert to wheel drive. The Reichswehr term for it was “R/K Schlepper” for Rader/Ketten Schlepper,” in English, Wheel/Track Transporter.

german_experimental_halftrack_drawing

This is the Maffei K/R Schlepper design. Note the similarity of the trackes to the Kégresse design. From Spielberger, p. 56.

Maffei made one about the size of a US WWII 3/4 ton truck or weapons carrier, that achieved series production. Except, this was series production at Reichswehr production totals: 24 vehicles. Here are pictures of the Maffei MSZ 201 in street (wheeled) and off-road (half-tracked) modes. The tracks stowed above the rear wheel wells.

maffei_mz_pavement_config

MSZ 201 set up for road travel. Spielberger, p. 58.

maffei_mz_off-road

…And for cross-country travel as a half-track. Spielberger, Ibid.

By 1933 the Germans were done fooling around with these modified Kégresse designs, and had developed an interleaving suspension that would be used on all their combat and support halftracks, as well as on some of their best tanks.

1933 interleaved design prototype.

1933 interleaved design prototype.

In the end, the Reichswehr and later the Wehrmacht developed a wide range of vehicles based on this principle, from ultra-light halftrack motorcycles to massive tractors, and a parallel line of armored combat halftracks. While the US standardized on one chassis, the Germans built several different size-optimized chassis.

The Soviet Union, undergoing a cataclysmic process of forced industrialization with an emphasis on heavy and military industry, also developed prime movers, but they went for full-tracked or fully-wheeled vehicles. They experimented with halftracks — after all, it was originally a Russian thing — but they didn’t find them as reliable as their robust tractors based on tank running gear. During the war, they’d receive and use thousands of Whites via Lend-Lease, but they never saw any of the Lend-Lease weapons as anything but a wartime stopgap.

The End of the Halftrack

The US and Russia developed high-speed, reliable artillery tractors from a basis of tank automotive components. These full-track vehicles had superior off-road mobility to halftracks. With proven components in the parts bin, designers no longer feared differential steering and halftracks would be all over as military vehicles.

Surplus ones fought on. Indeed, the Israelis still have some on hand. But when the Jewish state developed its own infantry fighting vehicle, they went with a full-tracked configuration.

The half-track may not be entirely dead, but it seems to be pining for the fjords. The concept of tracked propulsion and forward steering faded from military inventories, but it did get a new lease on life — in the snow, thanks to Canadian manufacturer Bombardier. But that’s another story.