US tank crew left behind - Rescued by Britz

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US tank crew left behind - Rescued by Britz

Post by MKSheppard » 2003-04-02 03:03pm

http://www.startribune.com/stories/303/3795143.html

M1A1 tank crews were just left behind and stranded

Sharon Schmickle, Star Tribune

Published April 1, 2003

CAMP VIPER, IRAQ -- Learning on Sunday that they had been considered missing in action was only the latest nightmare for eight Marines whose M1A1 Abrams tanks broke down in the Iraqi desert and lost contact with U.S. forces.

On Monday, for the first time, the Marines told the story of their 11-day ordeal that began on March 20, when the United States invaded Iraq from Kuwait. The Marines' 2nd Tank Battalion was in the first wave of U.S. forces.

One of the first tanks to rumble onto Iraqi sand was the Gabriel, named for the angel who in Christianity told Mary that she would give birth to Jesus, and in Islam delivered the word of God to the Prophet Mohammed.

The Gabriel's crew of four expected no enemy opposition, but the laser range finder -- or "the video game," as the crew calls it -- showed another tank.

"We waited for a positive ID," said Cpl. Ben Webster of Columbus, Ohio, the Gabriel's gunner. "It was an Iraqi T-54 [tank]. We killed it, popped the turret clean off it. . . . There was no remorse, no feeling of elation, no nothing."

They took some rifle fire from Iraqi fighters posing as camel herders, nothing serious for a tank. Then came their downfall. Anticipating tanks, the Iraqis had dug an 8-foot deep trap on the route, and the 67-ton Gabriel went into it nose down.

U.S. and British forces have dubbed the Iraqi fighters "floppies," a reference to the sandals or flip-flops many wear to disguise themselves as civilians. But there is nothing "floppy" about Iraqi military tactics, Webster said.

"These guys are pretty smart," he said. "They use techniques that are so antiquated, but so effective."

The Gabriel wasn't stuck. It was broken. An arm that helps maintain tension on the tank's wheel track was shot.

The Marines knew the rest of their unit had pushed forward, leaving the Gabriel behind. What they didn't know was that they had company a couple of miles to the north.

Another U.S. tank, nicknamed the Intimidator, had double trouble. It had started with a finicky fuel sensor that gave out entirely, and it had a break in one of the rollers that connect with the track.

There was no way to inspect the damage, let alone fix it, because the Intimidator was taking heavy artillery fire.

"I didn't sleep at all that night," said Lance Cpl. Michael Holmes of Miami. "I stayed up in the gunner's hole all night."

At one point Holmes spotted a tank he knew did not belong to U.S. forces. He asked another crew member to take a look with night vision goggles. It wasn't one tank. It was 13 -- all in a position to blast the Intimidator.

"The only thing that saved us was one man," Holmes said. "The tanks were British, and they were waiting for their commanding officer to give the authorization to fire. He knew enough about American tanks to recognize us."

The British rolled north, expecting a recovery unit to rescue the inoperative U.S. tanks. The crews expected the same, but it didn't happen. Instead, the Marines saw a barrage of attacks from U.S. aircraft. They credit the Stars and Stripes flying on the Gabriel with saving them from friendly fire.

Officers with the Marines' units could not be reached Monday for comment on why the crews weren't rescued.

On the second day after the breakdowns, the tankers lost radio contact with their units. Radio codes are routinely changed to avoid interception, and only technicians with special clearance know how to adjust the equipment to fit the new codes.

In the Gabriel, Webster went to sleep that night "trying to imagine how we were going to fix this thing."

The next morning, the crew went to work with rope, communications wire and duct tape.

When the Gabriel was rolling, after a fashion, it came upon the Intimidator.

"We made a pact before we moved that we were not leaving each other behind," Webster said. "That old saying, 'Marines don't leave Marines behind,' was real for us."

Shifting sand had covered the tracks their units had made on their race north, so they had no clear route to follow to catch up.

So, using a global positioning device, they headed north. They passed Bedouin shepherds, and eventually an Iraqi boy who seemed terrified of the tanks but eagerly scooped up the Meal Ready to Eat they tossed to him.

By the fourth day after the breakdown, they were out of water and low on food and fuel.

"Suddenly, a little moped dirt bike came speeding out of nowhere," Webster said. "We knew for sure it was British."

A British air-naval unit was camped nearby. For three days, the Marines helped guard the camp while British mechanics patched their tanks and resupplied them.

It wasn't a cure, but it was effective enough to keep them rolling.

On the road again, they traveled with a British convoy of the 216th Airborne Assault Brigade. On Sunday, the tanks limped in to a repair station at Camp Viper. The Marines learned that they had been listed as MIAs.

Before they said goodbye to the Brits, they did one more thing. They renamed the Intimidator the USA/UK.

"I even grew to like tea," Webster said.

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After their tank was damaged, the British rolled past, expecting
a recovery unit to rescue the inoperative U.S. tanks. The crews
expected the same, but it didn't happen. Instead, the Marines
saw a barrage of attacks from U.S. aircraft. They credit the Stars
and Stripes flying on the Gabriel with saving them from friendly fire.
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Re: US tank crew left behind - Rescued by Britz

Post by Warspite » 2003-04-02 03:21pm

MKSheppard wrote: At one point Holmes spotted a tank he knew did not belong to U.S. forces. He asked another crew member to take a look with night vision goggles. It wasn't one tank. It was 13 -- all in a position to blast the Intimidator.

"The only thing that saved us was one man," Holmes said. "The tanks were British, and they were waiting for their commanding officer to give the authorization to fire. He knew enough about American tanks to recognize us."

The British rolled north, expecting a recovery unit to rescue the inoperative U.S. tanks. The crews expected the same, but it didn't happen. Instead, the Marines saw a barrage of attacks from U.S. aircraft. They credit the Stars and Stripes flying on the Gabriel with saving them from friendly fire.
Just to highlight this section, for a quick reminder about FF.
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Post by RedImperator » 2003-04-02 04:29pm

What a clusterfuck. We're lucky we didn't lose two tanks and their crews.
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Post by Sokar » 2003-04-02 04:42pm

So for eleven days, some company commander failed to notice he was two tanks short........
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Post by Rubberanvil » 2003-04-02 04:48pm

Sokar wrote:So for eleven days, some company commander failed to notice he was two tanks short........
It not just him but the whole frelling company forgot about them.

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Post by Sea Skimmer » 2003-04-02 05:01pm

Sokar wrote:So for eleven days, some company commander failed to notice he was two tanks short........
Or far more likely he did noticed, passed on the word but it got lost somewhere along the vast voice radio networks until the unit had moved well along and they where forgotten about.

Everyone probably through the tanks where back with the brigade or divisional trains, possibul drafted as convoy escorts rather then being sent back.
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Post by Sokar » 2003-04-02 05:28pm

Sea Skimmer wrote:
Sokar wrote:So for eleven days, some company commander failed to notice he was two tanks short........
Or far more likely he did noticed, passed on the word but it got lost somewhere along the vast voice radio networks until the unit had moved well along and they where forgotten about.

Everyone probably through the tanks where back with the brigade or divisional trains, possibul drafted as convoy escorts rather then being sent back.
True, I was just being sarcastic. Thou after 11 days I would have begun to get a bit antsy for the returm of half a platoon of my armor. f their company was in combat thou the Company Commander may have been a bit to busy.....
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Re: US tank crew left behind - Rescued by Britz

Post by Shinova » 2003-04-02 05:59pm

MKSheppard wrote:"It was an Iraqi T-54 [tank]. We killed it, popped the turret clean off it. . . . There was no remorse, no feeling of elation, no nothing."
Why do I get the feeling that the author of the article has an anti-war slant and purposely edited what the soldier said?
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Re: US tank crew left behind - Rescued by Britz

Post by Nathan F » 2003-04-02 06:05pm

Shinova wrote:
MKSheppard wrote:"It was an Iraqi T-54 [tank]. We killed it, popped the turret clean off it. . . . There was no remorse, no feeling of elation, no nothing."
Why do I get the feeling that the author of the article has an anti-war slant and purposely edited what the soldier said?
Exact same thing was going through my head.

Really makes the tankers seem like heartless killers instead of soldiers doing their jobs.

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Re: US tank crew left behind - Rescued by Britz

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2003-04-02 06:11pm

Shinova wrote:
MKSheppard wrote:"It was an Iraqi T-54 [tank]. We killed it, popped the turret clean off it. . . . There was no remorse, no feeling of elation, no nothing."
Why do I get the feeling that the author of the article has an anti-war slant and purposely edited what the soldier said?
Many would say that depicting American crews as being happy at a killing a couple Iraqi's would make them look like unprofessional bloodthirsty morons. :roll:
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Re: US tank crew left behind - Rescued by Britz

Post by Ted » 2003-04-02 06:16pm

Shinova wrote:
MKSheppard wrote:"It was an Iraqi T-54 [tank]. We killed it, popped the turret clean off it. . . . There was no remorse, no feeling of elation, no nothing."
Why do I get the feeling that the author of the article has an anti-war slant and purposely edited what the soldier said?
If you are trained to destroy metal objects from a distance, and you do that, why would you have much emotion about it?

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Re: US tank crew left behind - Rescued by Britz

Post by Shinova » 2003-04-02 06:25pm

Ted wrote:
Shinova wrote:
MKSheppard wrote:"It was an Iraqi T-54 [tank]. We killed it, popped the turret clean off it. . . . There was no remorse, no feeling of elation, no nothing."
Why do I get the feeling that the author of the article has an anti-war slant and purposely edited what the soldier said?
If you are trained to destroy metal objects from a distance, and you do that, why would you have much emotion about it?
The author could've omitted it. It really serves no purpose other than to add a little drama to the article.
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Post by Queeb Salaron » 2003-04-02 10:21pm

Are you serious? Another friendly-fire case? Jesus. Fuck smart bombs, we need smart pilots. Someone tell these fuckers to stop shooting at the good guys. Shoot at the tanks facing AWAY from Bagdhad, assfucks. You know, the ones shooting at YOU?! Jesus Christ. What happened to intensive military training? And technology that identifies that tank below you as a GOOD GUY, someone you SHOULDN'T blow the fuck out of? I say we stick post-it notes to the missile engage buttons that say, "DON'T PUSH THIS BUTTON UNLESS YOU'RE CERTAIN THEY'RE IRAQI!" Jesus bouncing Christ.
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Post by Queeb Salaron » 2003-04-02 10:24pm

On a lighter note:
By the fourth day after the breakdown, they were out of water and low on food and fuel.

"Suddenly, a little moped dirt bike came speeding out of nowhere," Webster said. "We knew for sure it was British."
That's just fucking funny.
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Post by Sea Skimmer » 2003-04-02 10:35pm

Queeb Salaron wrote:Are you serious? Another friendly-fire case? Jesus. Fuck smart bombs, we need smart pilots. Someone tell these fuckers to stop shooting at the good guys. Shoot at the tanks facing AWAY from Bagdhad, assfucks. You know, the ones shooting at YOU?! Jesus Christ. What happened to intensive military training? And technology that identifies that tank below you as a GOOD GUY, someone you SHOULDN'T blow the fuck out of? I say we stick post-it notes to the missile engage buttons that say, "DON'T PUSH THIS BUTTON UNLESS YOU'RE CERTAIN THEY'RE IRAQI!" Jesus bouncing Christ.
And then watch as far more friendly die from a lack of close air support and tactical bombing. :roll: Thousands of bombs and missiles have been used by aircraft in this conflict, you cannot expect better accuracy.
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Post by Queeb Salaron » 2003-04-02 10:42pm

Sea Skimmer wrote:And then watch as far more friendly die from a lack of close air support and tactical bombing. :roll: Thousands of bombs and missiles have been used by aircraft in this conflict, you cannot expect better accuracy.
Somebody somewhere please provide me a statistic showing number of munitions that hit their targets vs. those that missed / hit the wrong targets / hit the wrong country... If such a statistic exists. I would greatly like to see exactly what this ratio is, because judging from what you read in the papers, there's not a whole lot of accuracy going on. PLEASE prove me wrong on this one. It'll put my heart and this argument to rest.
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Post by Queeb Salaron » 2003-04-02 10:47pm

Sea Skimmer wrote:Thousands of bombs and missiles have been used by aircraft in this conflict, you cannot expect better accuracy.
We're not talking about missiles that misfire, though. We're talking about PILOTS who fire at their own tanks. Were there some mechanical glitch and a missile were to go off track and hit, say, a maternity hospital, then maybe I could understand it. But these are American pilots firing on American tanks. Don't we have the technology to be able to identify American tanks when we see them? And doesn't it say something when BRITISH soldiers can recognize American tanks, but AMERICAN soldiers cannot? ::Sighs:: For all the claims of the US's vast technological superiority, we seem to be fucking up quite a bit. (Key word here being "seem")
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Post by Vympel » 2003-04-02 10:48pm

There is roughly 10% chance that precision guided munitions will fail. Last I heard, some 9,000 bombs have been dropped. So, as an extremely rough lower limit, some 900 have missed their targets, or hit the wrong target. Punch in other factors (pilot error- a whole host of things comes under that) and you've got over a thousand errant bombs. It's war.
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Post by Queeb Salaron » 2003-04-02 11:08pm

Vympel wrote:There is roughly 10% chance that precision guided munitions will fail. Last I heard, some 9,000 bombs have been dropped. So, as an extremely rough lower limit, some 900 have missed their targets, or hit the wrong target. Punch in other factors (pilot error- a whole host of things comes under that) and you've got over a thousand errant bombs. It's war.
So basically, whenever a pilot pulls that trigger, there's a 1 in 10 (+/-) shot that he's gonna hit something he's not / shouldn't be aiming at? Maybe this is the ignorance of being a civilian, but that doesn't sound like a great ratio to me.
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Post by weemadando » 2003-04-02 11:18pm

Queeb Salaron wrote: So basically, whenever a pilot pulls that trigger, there's a 1 in 10 (+/-) shot that he's gonna hit something he's not / shouldn't be aiming at? Maybe this is the ignorance of being a civilian, but that doesn't sound like a great ratio to me.
My personal favourite for this kind of thing is the movie Memphis Belle, where for the whole thing they are going on and on about how important it is to get a good sight on the target before they drop because of the school next door, but...

Somehow its overlooked that the formation of bombers stretched out over several square kilometres?

Anyone else find this amusing?

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Post by Vympel » 2003-04-02 11:24pm

weemadando wrote:
My personal favourite for this kind of thing is the movie Memphis Belle, where for the whole thing they are going on and on about how important it is to get a good sight on the target before they drop because of the school next door, but...

Somehow its overlooked that the formation of bombers stretched out over several square kilometres?

Anyone else find this amusing?
Oh yeah I remember that. I just went wide-eyed at the BS they were trying to pass off with that one ...
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Post by Edi » 2003-04-03 12:37am

A friend of mine at another forum was rather more acerbic in his assessment of that movie, especially considering how his father was a bomber pilot in WW2 and they'd had a little talk about the movie when they saw it on TV. Haven't seen it, but maybe I should, just to see how bad it is...

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Post by Sea Skimmer » 2003-04-03 01:39pm

Queeb Salaron wrote: So basically, whenever a pilot pulls that trigger, there's a 1 in 10 (+/-) shot that he's gonna hit something he's not / shouldn't be aiming at? Maybe this is the ignorance of being a civilian, but that doesn't sound like a great ratio to me.
No, there is a 10% chance the guidance package will fail. Often the bombs will still hit the target or very close to it, the weapon just goes ballistic and would already have been dropped fairly close to a perfect path. And in any case its far better then needing 25-50 aircraft dropping 100-200 iron weapon to get that single hit.
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Post by Illuminatus Primus » 2003-04-04 12:01am

Sea Skimmer wrote:
Queeb Salaron wrote:Are you serious? Another friendly-fire case? Jesus. Fuck smart bombs, we need smart pilots. Someone tell these fuckers to stop shooting at the good guys. Shoot at the tanks facing AWAY from Bagdhad, assfucks. You know, the ones shooting at YOU?! Jesus Christ. What happened to intensive military training? And technology that identifies that tank below you as a GOOD GUY, someone you SHOULDN'T blow the fuck out of? I say we stick post-it notes to the missile engage buttons that say, "DON'T PUSH THIS BUTTON UNLESS YOU'RE CERTAIN THEY'RE IRAQI!" Jesus bouncing Christ.
And then watch as far more friendly die from a lack of close air support and tactical bombing. :roll: Thousands of bombs and missiles have been used by aircraft in this conflict, you cannot expect better accuracy.
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