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Old 08-29-2004, 21:43   #1
Bill Powell
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Our Flying Tank

In Korea we had an M-47 tank go airborne on us. How is it possible that a a tank can fly, you ask? Well, I'm gonna tell you, and tell you true, how it is that almost 50,000 pounds of tank can take off like a bird.

Korea, winter of 1960-1961, we were on a division (first cav) winter field exercise, and this particular night it was 26 below zero. The crew of the M-47 was trying to stay warm in a tank with no functional heaters. We used to make heaters and stoves by mostly filling a C-ration can with sand, and filling the gaps with gasoline. The vapors rising past the sand made an excellent heater, or stove, or whatever. This tank had just had the fuel tanks topped off with gasoline. One of the crew members was shifting his weight and kicked over the C-ration can heater. When the burning gas started running under the bulkhead they hit the fire extinguishers and they didn't work either.

The crew, un-assing that tank, looked like five green blurs.

The tank was carrying seventy four rounds of 90mm, of various types, about thirty rounds of 90mm blanks, and several thousand rounds of 30 cal and 50 cal, live and blanks. After the fuel tanks ignited, all everyone could figure was the interior of the tank was super heated, and cooked off all that ordinance at one time.

The tank took off like a big assed bird, straight up, about thirty feet, and when it landed the only thing left was the turret and hull. The engine and transmission were gone and the axle shafts were sheared off flush with the inside of the hull. The M-47 had a machine gun that fired through the front of the hull, and it had a leather boot to keep the weather out. The leather boot and about eleven inches of the gun barrel were lying in place. The inch thick floor was rolled back like a sardine can lid, which is where every thing exited the tank. The range finder was found buried in a hill a quarter mile in front of the tank. The breech of the main gun was bent up at about a ten degree angle. Everywhere something was attached to inside of the turret or hull was shiny metal, like the thing was shaved off with a razor.

I was over a fourth of a mile away when it happened, and it rocked my world.
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Last edited by Bill Powell; 08-30-2004 at 04:56..
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Old 08-29-2004, 21:46   #2
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WILD Thanks for sharing Bill, and thanks for being there in the first place.
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Old 08-31-2004, 18:18   #3
CarlosDJackal
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Any pics Bill? I would love to have seen that. ;f
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Old 08-31-2004, 18:38   #4
Bill Powell
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Our flying Tank

I had photos of that, and an M-48 that ran over a Russian Box mine about fifty yards from me. But, I'm sorry, that was i961, a long time ago. Floods, shed fires, and age makes me have not the foggiest idea what happened to them.

You should have seen the crew of that M-48. They ran for ten minutes, and it took them half a day to walk back. All it did was break a track and knock a fender of. For anti-tank purposes they used to stack those mines, but this one was in a creek bed and had probably washed down from somewhere else. I was sitting in my truck, about half asleep, reading a book when it popped. It sure got my attention.
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Old 09-30-2004, 07:37   #5
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Reminds me of the tragedy that my task force sustained during Desert Storm the only two casualties we had was when two soldiers were heating up mre's in the sqaud stove stove fell over inside M113 and onto a case of AT-4 rockets and exploded
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Old 10-26-2004, 08:37   #6
Bill Powell
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Our Flying Tank

Isn't it wild? It seems the more avoidable the incident, the nastier the consequences.

When our M-47 tanks were replaced with M-48 tanks a rash of accidents happened, with one fatality that I know of. The accelerator and brake pedal were reversed from the old tank to the new.

concerning the fatality. A column of tanks stopped, and a crewman from the lead tank jumped to the ground at the rear of his tank. The commander of the second yelled for his driver to stop, and he hit the gas instead. The pointy nose of the M-48 pinned the guy's head to the back of the lead tank right at the base of his helmet.
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Old 10-26-2004, 08:45   #7
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Great post, Bill


Start your book. I want a signed edition.
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Old 10-26-2004, 08:56   #8
Bill Powell
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Our Flying Tank

Funny you should mention book. A couple of years ago a couple of friends and I did a silly little book making fun of stupid car names. I did the american car research, and all the illustrations. PM me and I'll send you a copy of that if you would like it.

How about AN OLD FART REMINISCING for a title? I think a collection of thoughts from a number of people would be cool.
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Old 02-28-2006, 14:18   #9
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The Flying M1A1

Back around 86-87 timeframe I was test driving one of our M-2 Bradley’s out in the assembly area right behind our motor pool 1- 8th and noticed that there was an M-1 down at the east end apparently doing the same thing, but due to the amount of dust they kicked up and maybe the TC not watching where they where at they blew threw the large ravine that ran north and south. It just happened while I was facing that direction and just caught them going out of sight down into the ravine and boy O boy when they came out of it they where waaay up there. I’d bet they had somewhere between six and ten feet of air under their clenched butts. When they finally made their landing both tracks broke and road wheels took off in every direction, taking out POV’s that where parked back in the area between the east and west bound lanes. Had to have broken all the torsion bars cuz this thing was sitting on the hull. I’m more than certain that they had to have been hurt cuz we all know that there’s as much padding on the inside as there is on the outside………ZERO!!

Todd, out
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Old 02-28-2006, 16:04   #10
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August 31, 2005
Knock, knock, who's there? Boom!

I recently complained about not usually getting approval to knock down houses. Well this time, at least, the request was approved.

We went out today to destroy two suspected IED (Improvised Explosive Device / Roadside Bomb) trigger houses near where the humvee was hit yesterday {1 critical injury, 3 serious}. We brought along some of the members of the platoon that had the guys hurt so that they could get some satisfaction. The first house was stubborn, made out of bricks reinforced with concrete and steel beams. We fired grenades, anti-tank rockets, 7 tank main gun rounds, and several hundred machinegun rounds (both 7.62mm and .50 caliber). Still, it refused to fall, so we drove the tank up to the house and laboriously pushed each wall over.

The second house was a sprawling building made out of mud-bricks with a mud roof. Each tank round removed a massive chunk of the house, so it fell within minutes. Both houses were extremely satisfying to knock over. Neither had anyone living in them.

On the way back, we were scanning for roadside bombs and put a few rounds into suspicious sites (dirt mounds on the side of the road, etc.). Little did we know that the bomb planted for us was placed in the middle of the road. It was a small hole, circular, about 1 foot in diameter, cut right in the pavement's center. We didn't see it until we were upon it, whereupon it exploded. Our 70-ton behemoth bounced into the air, so that the right track didn't touch the ground for 30 feet.

The tank slammed down, and the jolt knocked out all electrical power, though the engine continued to run.

Inside the tank was momentary confusion from the shock. Our first priority was to make sure no one was injured, but the intercom system was out. Checking within the turret was easy, but it was only by the driver stopping the tank that we knew that he was also ok. Knowing that, we returned fire into any possible hiding places. A car, heavily laden, sped towards us at a high rate of speed, refusing to stop. The enemy has used suicide car bombs in the past and has coordinated attacks, so the conclusion was obvious.

My tank commander shouted at me "shoot that car! shoot that car!" I couldn't see the car, because we were still in a cloud of smoke and my eyes wouldn't focus. After an unbelievably long delay, probably 5 seconds, my eyesight cleared up enough that I could make it out, so I pulled the trigger on my weapon. I only got off a few rounds before the ammo links broke. Looking down, I realized that all the ammo had been thrown out of my ammo can by the blast. I reloaded and fired again until the links broke, then again, and again. I put 200 rounds downrange into that car, a few rounds at a time. The humvee with us fired a handful of .50 caliber rounds and some rifle rounds into it as well. They quickly noticed wires running from the hole off to the side of the road, though, and they decided to investigate that instead.

Looking through my binoculars, I could make out a man lying in the ditch next to the car. He wasn't moving. I crossed my fingers. In the distance, we heard a loud concussion. When we looked, we saw a cloud of black smoke rising above the convoy coming to assist us. Another bomb. This one missed though.

It turns out that I took out every window in the car and put some holes in the door, but none of its passengers (4 total) were hit. They all dove out of the vehicle and hid in a ditch until someone came. Nothing incriminating was found in their vehicle, and they claimed that they were just oblivious to their surroundings. When questioned, they claimed that they knew nothing about the bomb planted within sight of their house. Furthermore, they claimed that there were no "Ali Baba" anywhere nearby, even though insurgents have planted a half-dozen massive roadside bombs and a car bomb within a kilometer of their abode.

The medics checked us out when we got back. My tank commander had a small cut on his nose that gave him a vicious appearance. I had a small bruise on my shoulder and a headache. The driver had a mild concussion and a small amount of neck pain. The gunner mentioned nothing wrong.

Even though it was late, the cooks had hot chow waiting for us. It felt good to get back to the safety of our base. Here's hoping that the tank is back operational quickly. Nothing is visibly wrong with it, it just doesn't work.

Update: the tank was back up and the engine running within a few hours. All that was wrong was some tripped breakers and a damaged idler arm seal.
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