Death Traps


By Belton Cooper, Published in 2003

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Death Traps is a shocking first-person story of the fatal vulnerability of America’s tank force in France and Germany in 1944 and 1945. When it was first introduced in the North African desert in mid-1942, the M4 Sherman was the most powerfully-armed and most heavily-armored tank in North Africa. However, unlike the Germans and the Soviets, America did little to up-armor or up-gun this main battle tank, leaving it fatally vulnerable to next-generation German tanks, such as the Tiger, Panther and Koenigstiger which it faced in ’44-45 in Northwest Europe, where the author served as head of tank recovery and repair for one of Patton’s tank divisions.

The first-person horror the author experienced in recovering, repairing and repainting (repainting was the only way to get the blood of dead Americans out of the tank interiors before the vehicles were re-assigned to the next-generation of American cannon fodder). While Cooper and his crew kept repairing and re-issuing battle-damaged tanks (we had more than a 100-percent loss rate in France, Belgium and Germany in ’44-45, he could do nothing about the ill-trained replacements that were pulled out of second-line units, given a day’s training and sent into combat against skilled Panzerwaffe troops. What makes this even more poignant is the simple fact that we could have had M26 Pershing tanks in service before D-Day, but Patton quashed that plan, saying we didn’t need Pershings (or even significantly up-gunned and up-armored Shermans).


Ned Barnett

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