Being in the Army is dangerous, even in peacetime. This is especially true of the armor and mechanized units.
Constant Enforcer 79 was a rough exercise for HQ33. HQ33 was originally part of the battalion headquarters detachment, but during the exercise all HQ tanks in our battalion were parcelled out to the platoons. This created 6-tank "heavy" platoons, instead of the usual 5 tanks. As such, each platoon leader had two 3-tank sections... in essence equivalent to two Soviet tank platoons. It was an interesting experiement, but I suspect the highers didn't think some of the platoon leaders could handle the extra vehicle.
Nevertheless, HQ33 was with my platoon. It was TC'd by SSG Kness and driven by SP4 Paul Platt. While passing Gilserberg-Appenhain the driver lost control, sending the tank sailing into the barn of a certain farmer named Leo Barth. These three photos are official Army pictures, taken by a 3AD signal public affairs guy who gave me some of the prints.
Right, a close up of the driver's hatch. When the tank hit the barn, a load of masonry came down on Platt, who just had time enough to pull his seat dump handle to keep from taking the bricks in the face. SSG Kness called out if the driver was ok, only to see bricks being thrown from the hatch!
Left, a view of the front of the tank, showing the destroyed searchlight and overall damage to both tank and barn. The gun tube is hidden, protruding into the barn. Nobody was injured, though a few kittens were killed when their nest was crushed. The soldier on the left is a controller, recognizable by the white band of engineer tape around his hat.
Left below, a local newpaper clipping of the incident. This photo was taken from the website http://m136.de/constant-enforcer, a site dedicated to chronicling the various military maneuvers in Germany during the Cold War.
The caption, in short, says that the tank caused over DM 50,000 (about $35,000 in 1979) damage overall. It then goes on to describe how the track came off the right rear sprocket (what tankers call a "thrown track") and whose barn the tank hit. After the incident, Herr Barth's son came out of the house just furious, but his father kept trying to calm him down. After all... he knew he would get a new barn!
The newspaper photo is used with permission pending. I have emailed the appropriate folks, but have not received a response either way. Until I hear differently, the newspaper clipping will stay.
Right. Besides hitting barns, a more common hazard was a broken track. These could be very troublesome, as the whole track typically weighed about 2 tons. Here a maintenance team inspects the track pins to ensure no others are cracked. In the background is an M-88 recovery vehicle (left) and an AVLB mobile bridge vehicle (without the bridge).
Left and below. A broken track is one thing. A broken torsion bar is much worse. This is MY tank, having snapped a torsion bar at Camp (now Fort) Drum, NY in Jan 1980. We were moving through an area of small trees when I told my driver to back up. He punched the accelerator and we hit an unseen ditch. At the time all seemed well until we pulled the tank onto a road. As Sgt Keck (left, and photo below) and I were trying to break into our C-Ration box (man we were hungry!), we suddenly heard a "bang" under the right rear. "Oh, oh," Sgt Keck muttered. We both knew what had happened.
We moved the tank under its own power back to the maintenance area and attempted self-recovery. Here we have the suspension arm lifted on a bracket set on the inside end connector. We have removed the hub and are about to try and pull, bang, and curse the broken torsion bar out. This failed. Instead it took a recovery team to weld a chain to the bar and yank it free with a jeep! The thing flew out like a hurled spear on the second try, with the weld breaking on the first. Unfortunately I have no photos of this as I was too busy doing the work.