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Old 24 March 2015, 07:15 PM
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UEL UEL is offline
Join Date: 01 August 2004
Location: Fredericton, Canada
Posts: 9,365

I broke down and talked to one of my armoured colleagues here about this. His thinking was in line with what I was thinking, but went further. The story is likely entirely fabricated for a few reasons. Here is a summary:

- German tank rounds during that part of WWII were of the "base fused" variety. The purpose is so that the first part of the round (metal with explosive within it) will hit the enemy tank and flatten like a pancake. Then the fuse will impact and detonate, meaning that almost all the kinetic and explosive energy will be forced against the hull of the enemy tank. What this means is that there is no fuse on the nose of the projectile that can be hit by a rifle bullet.

- there is no way a standard rifle bullet (copper/lead combination) would be able to stop any tank projectile from being fired. The metals are too soft and they would essentially become smeared on the side of the barrel.

- if it was not a "squash head" round as I have explained above, it would be a steel shot (armoured piercing). However, this round would have no explosive in it whatsoever, thus, would not explode when hit or fired.

- on the off chance that this was a straight HE round (rare but not unheard of), even in WWII there were mechanical safety systems in place to prevent unintended detonation. At least two separate conditions needed to be met (usually more, but the most basic rounds had 2). First, setback force from firing needed to occur. Second, rotational force from the round leaving the barrel would occur before the fuse was armed. Hitting a fuse with a rifle bullet would not cause it to function. What it would likely do (if it did anything) would be to prevent it from functioning.

What he and I have deduced is that this story (if believed at face value) shows a soldier doing a very brave and foolhardy thing, but benefitting from a coincidental action. As or after the soldier fired the tank experienced:

1. Premature in the bore. A real risk in WWII (and still one today) where, due to issues in ammunition quality control, a round explodes while chambered. German ammunition production in 1944 eliminated almost all quality control and much of their ammunition for artillery, tanks, and aircraft was faulty.

2. Fire control systems failure resulting in explosion inside the tank. Something went wrong in the tank causing the ammunition inside the tank (and the fuel inside the tank) to explode.

3. Coindidental destruction by another anti-tank system. While this soldier is shooting his rifle, someone with a handheld system is engaging the tank, or a tank is engaging this tank, or anti-tank gun is engaging this tank. In other words, like the John Ritter and Jim Belushi comedy demonstrated, you can point your finger and kill anything you want, as long as someone else is engaging the same target as you.

I don't know why people would make up stories of bravery when there are plenty of true stories of bravery (I read one about a US soldier given the DSC for killing a German tank singlehandedly) that still give chills 70+ years later.
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