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Follies of a Navy Chaplain

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Tanks for the Memories

2014, Aaron Elson

   

A Churchgoing Man

Max Lutcavish

 2014, Aaron Elson

    I never got to interview Max Lutcavish, a sergeant in D Company of the 712th Tank Battalion. He wrote the following account of an encounter between his light tank and a German Mark V in the company logbook.

    While moving in the lead vehicle of a platoon of light tanks up a road northeast from Alencon, France, the following action took place on the 12th of August, 1944:

    Upon rounding a curve we suddenly came upon an enemy truck loaded with Germans. Before my gunner, Cpl. [Fergus] O'Farrell, could fire, the truck stopped and backed around the curve. We pursued it and directed fire with the 37-millimeter and coaxial guns at a group of dismounted Germans by their truck. About that time I heard a terrific explosion. I looked to the rear and the tank directly behind me was in flames. I caught a glimpse of a whirl of dust caused by a muzzle blast to my right. Immediately I spotted the position under an apple tree at about 125 yards away. I didn't know for sure what it was or whether it could be knocked out with my 37-millimeter, but knew I had to do something quick because it was already traversing its gun on to me. There was no cover or no way to go back because of the burning tank behind me. Again I heard an explosion and felt my tank lunge forward. A bazooka had hit me in the rear and set the rear end of the tank on fire. What a position for a churchgoing man to be in! There was nothing else to do but to dish it out, so I directed fire on the gun position that looked like that of a tank. That gunner of mine was plenty fast. In less time than it takes to tell he threw eight well-placed rounds of armor-piercing into that position and had it on fire. Now we could definitely tell it was a tank, a huge one with a gun that made our 37 look like a pea-shooter. While we were wiping the cold sweat from our brow another enemy tank crossed the road about 400 yards ahead of us. We swung the turret in that direction hoping that we could chalk up another one, but the tank disappeared in the brush before the gunner could fire on it. By this time my tank was burning badly, so I ordered the crew to abandon it -- disregarding the numbers system -- and we made our way back to the rest of the platoon, toot-sweet, on foot.

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