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Tank

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TANK. An engine of war first used by the British in their attack on the Somme (France) 15 Sept. 1916. It was invented by Maj.-Gen. E. D. Swinton, of the British army, using the propelling principle of the °caterpillar° farm tractor, invented about 1900 by Benjamin Holt, of Stocicton, Cal. It was afterward adopted in various forms by French, United States and German armies. Essentially. a motor-driven armored vehicle, carrying machine guns or other light pieces, it is capable of traversing muddy groun.d, trenches. shell craters, etc., and making its way over obstacles such as trees, parapets and debris of buildings. The tank is a land battleship for the protection of attacking troops. Like the ancient Roman testudo, or tortoise, .it was invented to over come the great finng power of defending forces, themselves sheltered from infantry fire. The German general staff had learned the de fensive value of the machine gun as demon strated at Port Arthur and elsewhere during the Russo-Japanese War and had not only ac cumulated thousands of these weapons but had great numbers ot trained units to handle them. During the first years of the war machine guns, both on attack and defense, proved tre mendously destructive to the Allies, and as action settled down into trench warfare their effectiveness was even increased. Hidden un derground during the artillery preparation for an attack, they could be brought out at the last moment to take an enormous toll in lives. Major-General E. D. Swinton. of the Royal F.ngineers„and later of the British War Cabinet, was the famous °Eye-witness° of the early months of the war, officially commissioned to report daily fighting for the press and public. This position gave him exceptional opportunity for observation all along the western front. The )(caterpillar° tractor used by the British army for towing huge guns over difficult fields suggested to him the idea of a self-propelled fort .heavy enough to withstand all but the heaviest-calibred enemy fire and yet mobile under the worst conditions. During the course of a visit paid Mr. Holt by General Swinton in 1918, the tank inventor told the story: °In July 1914 a friend of mine, a mining engineer, was looking for a cheap system of transpor tation. He wrote me and said, 'I struck a Yanlcee machine in Antwerp that they call a Holt caterpillar tractor. This machine climbs like hell.) I had lcnown of soldiers wanting nist such a machine ever since the time of J4us Cmsar. I thought, if this tractor climbs hlre hell, what we want is something that will climb to beat hell. At the beginning of the war I had a peculiar position, with a knowledge of the needs and the chance of discovering many new things. One thing was that the Germans had secretly armed themselves with thousands of machine guns. The machine gun is the most perfect man-killing gun ever made. The Germans manufactured it in England un der a British royalty. For a time before the war broke out they did not pay any royalties or submit any accounts. They knew the war was coming and they started it with 50,000 of these guns ready. They used them like artists. Our men went out against them and were mowed down by thousands.

°It appeared that the idea I had in July 1914 might produce a machine that would climb, which was absolutely right. It was obvious that launching assaults on enemy positions un .less they were first blown to dust was merely to throiv infantry into a maze of barbed wire in which they would be caught helpless, like flies on (tanglefoot,) and mown down by rifle or machine-gun fire poured in at short range from all directions. We had to have something to go across trenches and over barbed wire.

°The machine gun was proving a disease against humanity. It was invented by the late Hiram Maxim, so you Americans have the credit of producing that disease. But you have the credit of producing the antidote, too— the 'caterpillar) tractor, invented by Benjamin Holt. We started out to make that climbing machine, the machine-gun destroyer. We made a large number of them between August 1916 and March 1917, and kept it a secret. It had been whispered around that they were reser voirs to take water to our troops in Egypt.

tractor is practically a mere duplicate of Those used on thousands of farms and industrial lo cations throughout the world. The British, Russian, French and American armies, how ever, adopted it as the one feasible means of moving heavy mobile artillery over difficult ground, and over a decade of commercial and military experience together perfected the trac tion mechanism to the point of making the tank possible. The great weight of the machine is distributed over a long and fairly broad sur face resting on the ground, hence the pressure of a 12-ton tractor on the soil is actually less per square inch than that of an ordinary man's shoe, a matter of three to six pounds per square inch. Not only is the effect of weight reduced, but the large area in contact with the ground develops enormous• useful friction, or ground-grip, which is intensified usually by cor rugations on the shoes or by removable lugs or grouters. The first British tanks, viewed from the side, were rather diamond-shaped, the ex treme front being the height of a man off the ground. Since the track belts run lengthwise clear around the body, this shape brings addi tional track surface into contact with the ground during the ascent from a shell crater or ditch. The earliest' type is about 34 feet long, 12 feet wide and 10 feet high and weighs around 32 to 35 tons. A sleeve-valve motor of 120 horse power furnishes power for a road speed up to seven or eight miles per hour. Close-fitting armor sufficient to turn anything except a direct hit from a big shell protects everything but the track itself. The "male* tanks are equipped with light, quick-firing guns capable of firing shell and are essentially destroyers of machine guns. The °female* car ries machine guns only, and is used entirely against enemy personnel. Guns are usually mounted front and rear, but harbettes on the sides of the tank give the widest range of aim to the battery amidships. All available wall space is packed with pigeonholes for ammuni tion. Six to eight men usually form the crew, an engineer, mechanician, two steersmen and two to four men at the guns, one of whom may be the tank commander. Separate clutches drive the two sides of the track, and steering is done by disengaging the clutch on that side toward which it is desired to turn. The other belt then tends to turn the tank about on a pivot. The tank is grotesque in its movements, lumbering along with little outward show of motion; poking its nose suddenly down into a deep crater and as suddenly rearing upright as it climbs a bank or parapet; wallowing through the mud.; tipping at apparently perilous angles; climbing over or through ruined walls, smash ing trees, or flattening out machine-gun nests. The noise within the tank is terrific and the heat stifling. The huge shape forms a target which is almost irresistible and draws a hail of bullets which would prove more effective against attacking troops. The tanks were first used on the Somme in a surprise attack at dawn — one without artillery preparation. Their success was instant and complete and their dramatic appearance not only proved the sensation of the war up to that time but gave tremendous encouragement to the Allied forces. A similar attack at Cambrai in May 1917 gave the British forces a crushing victory, which, however, was turned into a severe defeat through no fault of the Tank Corps. The French army adopted in 1917 a tank of quite different type, mounting an armored body on what was virtually the conventional tractor propelling mechanism, only considerably longer than that of the °caterpil lar* itself. This type gave better protection to the track than the British machine, and mounted even heavier guns. During the spring of 1918 the British scored another surprise in the form of smaller and very fast tanks, called °whippets," after the breed of racing dogs. These little terrors attacked like the cavalry of past wars, outrunning and cutting down the fleeing enemy, charging machine gun emplace ments, twisting and turning with all the agility of a polo pony and clearing the way for the troops behind. The French followed with even smaller machines, known as the Renault Type, manned by two men each and traveling 10 to 12 miles per hour. A large number of these were built in American factories.

The Germans produced some large tanks, rather copying the French type than the British, but had achieved indifferent success up to the summer of 1918, when the offensive passed to the Allies. Bombs placed in their path were found an easy means of overturning them and putting them out of commission. Captured German tanks were lacking in mechanical re finement, proving that Allied initiative in the matter of tanks carried with it a superiority of inestimable value. The Allied tanks probably did more than any other single factor to offset the advantage in man power and centralized command held by the Central Powers during the second and third years of the -war. The engineers who perfected the °caterpillar* as a tractor for the American farmer and industrial user, notably Pliny E. Holt, William Turnbull and E. P. Norelius, together with the resources of the plants which supplied thousands of Holt tractors to the British and French artillery divisions, were placed at the disposal of the United States War Department after America entered the fight. The tractor in Antwerp that °climbed like hell* was only the beginning of a remarkable development that proved to be one of America's great mechanical strokes toward the winning of the war. See TRACTOR, PILLAR.