M34 Active duty

msgjd

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How about a long 6x6 story involving tire chains? .. Wonder how the M34's in the pics did in the mud and snow, versus the duals of a M35 etc..

Early one wet snowy morning a M35A2 dropside from Brigade S4 rolled into 2BN's motorpool and a few of us were sent out to unload it.. There were about 75 big, medium, and small white plastic pails in the truck. Up in front of the pails was a loose pile of lumpy cloth or nylon bags. We were to take 4 each of the small and medium pails, 8ea of the bags, and 10ea of the largest pails.. Man, the large pails were really heavy !! Each big pail contained six brand-new 1100/1200x20 single tire chains .. Medium pails were marked 900/1000x20 and small pails marked 900x16/16.5 (the M880s) .. The "moneybags" were for M151's.. Then the truck took off to distribute the remainder to the Line companies, dozens of miles away... I was to have "my" temporarily-adopted squad put one pail inside the RH door of every vehicle in the ready line according to their respective tire size, and then have everyone back indoors to resume what we had been interrupted from.. I wish I could make a funny about the result of any screwup in that task, but there were none ...

After chow we were told to get our arctic gear from our lockers, draw from supply any such items we were missing, grab an extra set of fatigues, stuff it all into no more than two duffles each man, and toss all our platoon's duffles into one of the M54's for a 3-day/2-night FTX .. Then we were to proceed to do PMCS' on our assigned trucks and get them fired up... It was a damp, cold, generally sh-tty day, very slippery climbing on truck bumpers, fenders, etc. A lot of cussing going around because of that and the fact we had not been forewarned about an FTX, other than we were heading up to "such-n-such place" for a couple overnights.. Being mid-winter and snowing, we presumed we would get to finally sleep indoors at that large training area we often went to.. Wrong! For us pee-on's, it was a surprise off-the-cuff "sucks to be you" 100% outdoor adventure of thrills and spills.. A few of the "senior" Sp4's and Sp5's (smartly) chose to not pack away every item of their arctic gear in their duffles. .. Instead, they showed up at the motor pool in their buckle-boots, trigger fingers, field pants, and woolies under their field jackets obviously ignoring the "uniform of the day" while the obedient pee-on's among us froze fingers and toes, etc while going over our trucks, .. and during the drive.

We formed up and tediously convoyed about 35 miles on a mix of clear and slushy roads, the last few miles being a road none of us had been on before.. Our section got to this large open off-road plowed area, just as the Advance convoy element was leaving it.. I could see they had their tire chains on, even the jeeps and M880's, thus we got our turn at it too .. Chained up and rolling just as the next section arrived, we climbed another few miles up a 1-lane dirt road that led through the back gate of a mountainous 11,200-acre Federal training facility jointly used by Combat Engineer, Artillery, Armor, and (years later) the 10th Mountain Div. As it became dark, we had previously been instructed to switch to "tactical/blackout" when we got to a certain Range sign.. A few minutes later we started to head steeply up an apparent mountain we couldn't see . The snow got deeper and heavy branches alongside the apparent jeep trail smacked the truck mirrors backwards.. It didn't matter, I couldn't see a blasted thing anyway except the alternating 4, 2, 4, 8, then 4 again "cat eyes" on the better-weighted M54 ahead as my bobtail M52A1's rears slipped and clawed, me failing to keep an even pace as it occasionally lost its footing on the narrow grade.. (Nobody had trailers on that FTX) ..

Anyway, at least our section made it up into where we were supposed to bivouac, and the Advance party apparently had done okay since some of them maybe had their GP tents up.. Couldn't see anything out there but occasional red lenses and someone yelling Battalion S4 didn't bring enough fuel conversion kits for our tent stoves.. The unknown OIC of that task was referred to as "Major F-up" therein afterwards .. Some resorted to trying to make firewood out of the snow and ice-covered trees.. Some were successful, some not.. Eventually the mountaintop was nothing but the sound of a few various engines and whacks and snaps of tree limbs, all failing to muffle what seemed to be a hundred cussing voices coming from every direction.. During this, the First Sergeant was going the proverbial "tent to tent" just as loudly chewing out each section about tactical noise discipline.. We little bees up on that mountain were definitely getting angrier by the minute from the fast-spreading rumors of each new snafu and shortage.

I did not hear about any serious mishaps the first night but I was sent back down the same trail the next morning to take a fellow out to retrieve a truck.. In the daylight I saw that a 1/4-mile section of what we had traversed the night before was right along the very top of the narrow spine of a high ridge, dropping steeply down a 400-meter heavily-wooded slope off to its left and right .. When I saw that, it was enough to make me bitter about the risk we were put into the night before, especially being in blackout... But then again, if we had seen in daylight what we had to cross, I don't think anybody sane would have tried it in blackout in such slippery conditions.. Just eight feet one way or the other could've been bad... Real bad... Bad Bad.. :oops:

On the 3rd afternoon we left the mountaintop upon a different and safer trail .. It made me wonder about the bad climb the first night, whether the lead vehicle got disoriented and took us the wrong way.. There were trails all over that mountain range, some looking not so bad, others maybe only a dozer could climb on a dry day... It would not be the first time nor last that soldiers got themselves killed while working its varied terrain.. It was a cold seemingly-forever FTX with several SNAFU's , but at least my company suffered nothing but the cold and some occasional kitchen tent issues (cold meals) ... Honestly, we didn't do much except try to stay warm, and 95% of the vehicles didn't have cab heaters anyway... There was no expressed training agenda the entire time... We did some maintenance, checked for loose, broken, or mis-aligned chains, re-tightened our mirror mounts, moved trucks and cut boughs to keep chains from freezing in, and did a few easy winter recovery ops with our winch trucks... Maybe the entire sh-t show was for Higher-Higher to see whether or not the Battalion could perform an outdoor winter field situation without prior notice, assuming we could all arrive in one piece. I really don't know. The tank crews themselves had been bussed to the cantonement area and got the pleasure of having classes, SQT's, and sleeping in buildings a few miles away from where we were... For the rest of us it was a totally senseless FTX, the only one of that kind I would experience in all my service years.. Let's just say similar exercises before that and after, were better-warned, better-handled, and if in winter, were done in better terrain.

Anyway, this story is about tire chains.. They are your friend and well-worth the hassle of installing them !!! If you have the type for duals, the benefits are even better !!! The line companies made it up the slope encountered the 1st night with their M35's as well as all of our 5-tons... I discovered later the Advance section (HQ , Medics, Supply, M880's, M151's) went up there on a mostly-plowed developed route but still was unsanded and very slippery, which we all lastly took to get down out of there.

Sorry to say there were no M34's in the army at the time of that particular rodeo... Guess we will never know just how sure-footed a six-wheeler with six chains can be on snow/ice (frozen ground), versus a 10-wheeler with chains only on six.. My money is on the M34 (y) .... Has anybody out there done similar ops with M135's vs M211's in the field ?
 
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rustystud

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How about a long 6x6 story involving tire chains? .. Wonder how the M34's in the pics did in the mud and snow, versus the duals of a M35 etc..

Early one wet snowy morning a M35A2 dropside from Brigade S4 rolled into 2BN's motorpool and a few of us were sent out to unload it.. There were about 75 big, medium, and small white plastic pails in the truck. Up in front of the pails was a loose pile of lumpy cloth or nylon bags. We were to take 4 each of the small and medium pails, 8ea of the bags, and 10ea of the largest pails.. Man, the large pails were really heavy !! Each big pail contained six brand-new 1100/1200x20 single tire chains .. Medium pails were marked 900/1000x20 and small pails marked 900x16/16.5 (the M880s) .. The "moneybags" were for M151's.. Then the truck took off to distribute the remainder to the Line companies, dozens of miles away... I was to have "my" temporarily-adopted squad put one pail inside the RH door of every vehicle in the ready line according to their respective tire size, and then have everyone back indoors to resume what we had been interrupted from.. I wish I could make a funny about the result of any screwup in that task, but there were none ...

After chow we were told to get our arctic gear from our lockers, draw from supply any such items we were missing, grab an extra set of fatigues, stuff it all into no more than two duffles each man, and toss all our platoon's duffles into one of the M54's for a 3-day/2-night FTX .. Then we were to proceed to do PMCS' on our assigned trucks and get them fired up... It was a damp, cold, generally sh-tty day, very slippery climbing on truck bumpers, fenders, etc. A lot of cussing going around because of that and the fact we had not been forewarned about an FTX, other than we were heading up to "such-n-such place" for a couple overnights.. Being mid-winter and snowing, we presumed we would get to finally sleep indoors at that large training area we often went to.. Wrong! For us pee-on's, it was a surprise off-the-cuff "sucks to be you" 100% outdoor adventure of thrills and spills.. A few of the "senior" Sp4's and Sp5's (smartly) chose to not pack away every item of their arctic gear in their duffles. .. Instead, they showed up at the motor pool in their buckle-boots, trigger fingers, field pants, and woolies under their field jackets obviously ignoring the "uniform of the day" while the obedient pee-on's among us froze fingers and toes, etc while going over our trucks, .. and during the drive.

We formed up and tediously convoyed about 35 miles on a mix of clear and slushy roads, the last few miles being a road none of us had been on before.. Our section got to this large open off-road plowed area, just as the Advance convoy element was leaving it.. I could see they had their tire chains on, even the jeeps and M880's, thus we got our turn at it too .. Chained up and rolling just as the next section arrived, we climbed another few miles up a 1-lane dirt road that led through the back gate of a mountainous 11,200-acre Federal training facility jointly used by Combat Engineer, Artillery, Armor, and (years later) the 10th Mountain Div. As it became dark, we had previously been instructed to switch to "tactical/blackout" when we got to a certain Range sign.. A few minutes later we started to head steeply up an apparent mountain we couldn't see . The snow got deeper and heavy branches alongside the apparent jeep trail smacked the truck mirrors backwards.. It didn't matter, I couldn't see a blasted thing anyway except the alternating 4, 2, 4, 8, then 4 again "cat eyes" on the better-weighted M54 ahead as my bobtail M52A1's rears slipped and clawed, me failing to keep an even pace as it occasionally lost its footing on the narrow grade.. (Nobody had trailers on that FTX) ..

Anyway, at least our section made it up into where we were supposed to bivouac, and the Advance party apparently had done okay since some of them maybe had their GP tents up.. Couldn't see anything out there but occasional red lenses and someone yelling Battalion S4 didn't bring enough fuel conversion kits for our tent stoves.. The unknown OIC of that task was referred to as "Major F-up" therein afterwards .. Some resorted to trying to make firewood out of the snow and ice-covered trees.. Some were successful, some not.. Eventually the mountaintop was nothing but the sound of a few various engines and whacks and snaps of tree limbs, all failing to muffle what seemed to be a hundred cussing voices coming from every direction.. During this, the First Sergeant was going the proverbial "tent to tent" just as loudly chewing out each section about tactical noise discipline.. We little bees up on that mountain were definitely getting angrier by the minute from the fast-spreading rumors of each new snafu and shortage.

I did not hear about any serious mishaps the first night but I was sent back down the same trail the next morning to take a fellow out to retrieve a truck.. In the daylight I saw that a 1/4-mile section of what we had traversed the night before was right along the very top of the narrow spine of a high ridge, dropping steeply down a 400-meter heavily-wooded slope off to its left and right .. When I saw that, it was enough to make me bitter about the risk we were put into the night before, especially being in blackout... But then again, if we had seen in daylight what we had to cross, I don't think anybody sane would have tried it in blackout in such slippery conditions.. Just eight feet one way or the other could've been bad... Real bad... Bad Bad.. :oops:

On the 3rd afternoon we left the mountaintop upon a different and safer trail .. It made me wonder about the bad climb the first night, whether the lead vehicle got disoriented and took us the wrong way.. There were trails all over that mountain range, some looking not so bad, others maybe only a dozer could climb on a dry day... It would not be the first time nor last that soldiers got themselves killed while working its varied terrain.. It was a cold seemingly-forever FTX with several SNAFU's , but at least my company suffered nothing but the cold and some occasional kitchen tent issues (cold meals) ... Honestly, we didn't do much except try to stay warm, and 95% of the vehicles didn't have cab heaters anyway... There was no expressed training agenda the entire time... We did some maintenance, checked for loose, broken, or mis-aligned chains, re-tightened our mirror mounts, moved trucks and cut boughs to keep chains from freezing in, and did a few easy winter recovery ops with our winch trucks... Maybe the entire sh-t show was for Higher-Higher to see whether or not the Battalion could perform an outdoor winter field situation without prior notice, assuming we could all arrive in one piece. I really don't know. The tank crews themselves had been bussed to the cantonement area and got the pleasure of having classes, SQT's, and sleeping in buildings a few miles away from where we were... For the rest of us it was a totally senseless FTX, the only one of that kind I would experience in all my service years.. Let's just say similar exercises before that and after, were better-warned, better-handled, and if in winter, were done in better terrain.

Anyway, this story is about tire chains.. They are your friend and well-worth the hassle of installing them !!! If you have the type for duals, the benefits are even better !!! The line companies made it up the slope encountered the 1st night with their M35's as well as all of our 5-tons... I discovered later the Advance section (HQ , Medics, Supply, M880's, M151's) went up there on a mostly-plowed developed route but still was unsanded and very slippery, which we all lastly took to get down out of there.

Sorry to say there were no M34's in the army at the time of that particular rodeo... Guess we will never know just how sure-footed a six-wheeler with six chains can be on snow/ice (frozen ground), versus a 10-wheeler with chains only on six.. My money is on the M34 (y) .... Has anybody out there done similar ops with M135's vs M211's in the field ?
Well as an "ex-Tanker" I can tell you it can be bitter cold in those tanks ! Your looking at over 60 tons of steel which can hold a lot of cold !!!!! In winter there never warm and cozy. Takes almost three days to get them warm onside, and then some idiot officer tells you to shut them down as there making too much noise. Froze my ass off so many times I don't have an ass to freeze off anymore ! Also you don't want to follow a tank battalion up any mountain road. There won't be a road left when their done. So no wonder they were trucked up there ahead of you.
You are probability right about some "big wig" wanting to know your outfits winter capabilities. Take everyone out to some remote "arm pit" area and see what happens.
 
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msgjd

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Well as an "ex-Tanker" I can tell you it can be bitter cold in those tanks ! Takes almost three days to get them warm onside, and then some idiot officer tells you to shut them down as there making too much noise. Froze my ass off so many times I don't have an ass to freeze off anymore ! Also you don't want to follow a tank battalion up any mountain road. There won't be a road left when their done. So no wonder they were trucked up there ahead of you.
You are probability right about some "big wig" wanting to know your outfits winter capabilities. Take everyone out to some remote "arm pit" area and see what happens.
yep we did several winter ops with the tanks fielded, but not on the FX i mentioned here.. That time tanks stayed "home" because the crews had classroom training and warm beds while the rest of us were on a mountain a few miles away having a "grand ol' time..." Don't know what tank you are talking about but our M48's and M60's in the 86th Brigade had personnel heaters that did a fairly-adequate job unless it was single digits or below... Are you talking about them having you shut down the main engine? Or shut down the personnel heater? In my experience the heaters could keep it almost comfortable with the pack shut down if it was in the teens or above.. Our tank crews were certainly warmer than we were in our unheated soft-top trucks. When I was doing refuels I would warm my hands over an open driver hatch while my gloves tried to dry out on the exhaust of the heater
 

rustystud

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yep we did several winter ops with the tanks fielded, but not on the FX i mentioned here.. That time tanks stayed "home" because the crews had classroom training and warm beds while the rest of us were on a mountain a few miles away having a "grand ol' time..." Don't know what tank you are talking about but our M48's and M60's in the 86th Brigade had personnel heaters that did a fairly-adequate job unless it was single digits or below... Are you talking about them having you shut down the main engine? Or shut down the personnel heater? In my experience the heaters could keep it almost comfortable with the pack shut down if it was in the teens or above.. Our tank crews were certainly warmer than we were in our unheated soft-top trucks. When I was doing refuels I would warm my hands over an open driver hatch while my gloves tried to dry out on the exhaust of the heater
My tank was the M60A1 Rise Passive. It had a heater which was usually broken, but even if it was running, it took almost all day to heat up the insides due to the amount of metal around you. That is a really large heatsink ! The commanders also didn't like personal heaters on when the tanks where not running. Some BS about batteries going dead. So when the temps dropped down into the single digits it got extremely cold in there. Plus you were driving with your hatches open during exercises. That heater could never keep up with that amount of cold air coming in. Now the driver usually was at least warm. Not hot but warm. Since the heater was next to him.
I still remember this time it was 5 degrees outside and my crew was waiting for the order to fire up the engines and get going. We had set there for 40 minutes and I had had enough and fired up the heater. I caught H@ll for it later.
 

msgjd

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My tank was the M60A1 Rise Passive. It had a heater which was usually broken, but even if it was running, it took almost all day to heat up the insides due to the amount of metal around you. That is a really large heatsink ! The commanders also didn't like personal heaters on when the tanks where not running. Some BS about batteries going dead. So when the temps dropped down into the single digits it got extremely cold in there. Plus you were driving with your hatches open during exercises. That heater could never keep up with that amount of cold air coming in. Now the driver usually was at least warm. Not hot but warm. Since the heater was next to him.
I still remember this time it was 5 degrees outside and my crew was waiting for the order to fire up the engines and get going. We had set there for 40 minutes and I had had enough and fired up the heater. I caught H@ll for it later.
I concur on all counts and had also heard the concern about conserving batteries if they were to be shut down for many hours .... I was up close and personal with the tankers only when refueling and handing over their ammo, (and road-testing potential tracked drivers during the warm months, being the BN's head licensing NCO later-on), thus I apparently had only seen the tolerable aspects of their winter living conditions and had believed they had it better in the cold than us transportation pee-ons .. I never saw them bundled up as much as we had to be .. Thanks for the details.. I was also under the impression there was a heat exchanger to bring warm air from the engine manifold to the crew, or at least some heat radiating through the bulkhead, but apparently not .. Had. a friend who was an active-duty Ft Knox TC and later was company commander in the tank BN I spent most of my time with. I remember him saying they were like an ice cube when the heater failed.. I thought he was exaggerating as I recalled many a time huddled low trying to catch every bit of heat that might come up around a truck's shifter ;) ... As for the noise of the tank's heaters, I recall having to be fairly close to the tanks before one could hear that unmistakeable pitch, thus I also agree with you about the "idiot officer" (wrongly) saying they made too much noise.. Somehow we need to mention M34 in here, and thus I have(y)
 
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rustystud

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Woodinville, Washington
I concur on all counts and had also heard the concern about conserving batteries if they were to be shut down for many hours .... I was up close and personal with the tankers only when refueling and handing over their ammo, (and road-testing potential tracked drivers during the warm months, being the BN's head licensing NCO later-on), thus I apparently had only seen the tolerable aspects of their winter living conditions and had believed they had it better in the cold than us transportation pee-ons .. I never saw them bundled up as much as we had to be .. Thanks for the details.. I was also under the impression there was a heat exchanger to bring warm air from the engine manifold to the crew, or at least some heat radiating through the bulkhead, but apparently not .. Had. a friend who was an active-duty Ft Knox TC and later was company commander in the tank BN I spent most of my time with. I remember him saying they were like an ice cube when the heater failed.. I thought he was exaggerating as I recalled many a time huddled low trying to catch every bit of heat that might come up around a truck's shifter ;) ... As for the noise of the tank's heaters, I recall having to be fairly close to the tanks before one could hear that unmistakeable pitch, thus I also agree with you about the "idiot officer" saying they made too much noise.. Somehow we need to mention M34 in here, and thus I have(y)
Yep, the good old days ! At least my body was young and able to handle that kind of abuse.
 

Buck Wampum

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Sorry to veer off-topic, but can someone direct me to a definitive guide to M34 axlees? My V-100 armored car apparently uses M34 axles (19-spline axle shafts and Detroit lockers front and rear). I'm trying to find out if the V axles were standard M34 axles or if they were heavily-modified versions. Never had the pleasure of seeing an M34 in person.....
 
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