National Geographic : 1941 Jul
Around the Clock with Your Soldier Boy Let no skeptic say all Uncle Sam has for a "Panzer Division" is wooden "movie cannon" and blue prints of tanks! Hardest-hitting, fastest-moving animal in his whole Army now is the Armored Force. Maybe your boy is in "Hell on Wheels," as sol diers call this thundering juggernaut of tanks and guns that smokes up the Kentucky hills around Fort Knox (page 15). Eighty-four thousand men, or eight divisions, each with 384 tanks, 19,000 weapons, and 2,500 vehi cles, will be formed from the nu cleus trained here and at Fort Benning. This force trains men not only to fight with tanks, but against them. I got here late one rainy evening. Out on the wind-swept artillery range dummy target tanks drawn by cables raced about the hills. They looked like wild rhinos loping through Ethiopian dusk. Racing unexpectedly from behind one hill, they would dart for cover behind another. Furiously, the men behind the field guns banged at them. Groups of mud-spattered artillery officers, their slickers dripping, barked orders as thunder from the skies vied with thunder from the guns. "Bull's-eye!" somebody yelled, as a shell burst fairly on top a moving target. "Yes, and that gunner's a brand new man-and it's hard shooting now, what with darkness, and rain on his sights. "But we train 'em fast. 'You're in the artillery now,' we tell a draftee. 'That thing there with two wheels and a long nose is a cannon. To shoot it, you pull that cord, called a lanyard. . . . Go on and pull it! Get the feel of it, and hear how the gun barks. Then we'll teach you to load it, point it-and hit your target. By and by you'll learn how to aim at a target you can't even see.' " Tanks prove the day of trench war is past. They charge, indiffer ent to bullets and bayonets. Whip ping out behind, their waving aerial masts look like the lashing tails of International News Mother Earth Quakes When This Giant Speaks It costs $3,000 to fire one of these 16-inch coast-defense guns. They can throw 2,100-pound shells 25 miles. From this hidden pit, gunners never see the enemy ship. From distant observation posts the target's location is telephoned to a plotting room, whence instructions for aim are telephoned to the gun crew.