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Old 09 July 2013, 03:46 AM
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Military G.I. stops German tank with rifle

Comment: This is the story that my dad told me. During the battle of the bulge a
sentry at a crossroad stopped a german tank by shooting down the barrel of
the tanks cannon. Which hit the fuse of the shell in the cannon or by
jamming the shell in the cannon by wedging in between the shell and the
side of the barrel. Supposedly it was in stars and stripes that the guy
got a medal for facing down a tank with only a rifle and winning.
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  #2  
Old 09 July 2013, 04:56 AM
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I could swear seeing this in a movie, but for the life of me I cannot remember any details, nor can I find anything about it with Google.

In a somewhat related case of almost-ostension, searching for it I did find an instance of a Syrian rebel destroying a tank by throwing a grenade down the barrel. Of course, a grenade could have done tremendous damage whether or not the tank's gun was loaded, so the two cases are similar but not really comparable.
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  #3  
Old 09 July 2013, 05:01 AM
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Immediately after firing down the barrel of the main gun, the man was cut down by one fo the two machine guns also mounted on the tank.

Even assuming the first option is possible (I would imagine the fuse doesn't arm until the round is fired so that a dropped round wouldn't explode inside the turret), how would you know? It isn't like the GI would be so accurate that he'd know that he actually hit the fuse. And if he was close enough to be sure (IE, right in front of the cannon), the blast down the barrel would most likely kill him too. And for the latter, while a jammed barrel can explode/burst when fired, I doubt that a (copper?) and lead bullet 3/10 of an inch in diameter would be enough to jam a round over 10 times its diameter (and about 1,000 times the mass*). It might damage the barrel, but I'd expect the bullet to be smashed by the much more massive tank round.

*Numbers are for 30-06 150 gr vs 9.4 gk 88mm.
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  #4  
Old 09 July 2013, 05:14 AM
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Good story, but given the state of the German army during the Battle of the Bulge I'd guess that if there's any truth at all to it the actual situation was probably just that the tank was out of fuel and out of ammo.
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  #5  
Old 09 July 2013, 06:25 AM
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Would a bullet even have enough energy to activate the fuse on a HE round? That'd be the only possibility - I can't see how such a small amount (150 grains = 9.7 grams or just over a third of an ounce) of material could jam the round in the barrel.

Did the 9.4gk 88mm ever use a sabot-style penetrator instead of an HE round?
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  #6  
Old 09 July 2013, 07:10 AM
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I really, really doubt that a single rifle bullet would be able to set off a tank shell, especially since IIRC the shell didn't arm until after it fired.
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  #7  
Old 09 July 2013, 07:54 AM
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Shooting down the cannon barrel usually only makes the tank angry. You have to hit it right on the knee to make it surrender.
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Old 09 July 2013, 08:04 AM
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I wonder if there is a grain of truth in that a German tank was taken out by a single rifle grenade? While still quite weak compared to a tank's armor, there is a possibilty that a rifle grenade could have found a weakened or vulnerable spot.
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  #9  
Old 09 July 2013, 08:11 AM
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Audie Murphy destroyed a tank with rifle grenades. His story could be what this is all about.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audie_Murphy
Also from the link, in a different case:
Quote:
Murphy mounted the abandoned, burning tank destroyer and began firing its .50 caliber machine gun at the advancing Germans, killing a squad crawling through a ditch towards him.
(Well, now that I actually read this, it isn't really related is it. But it could be that ol' grain o' truth again...)
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Old 09 July 2013, 07:29 PM
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Perhaps the journalist (if there was one) just didn't understand the difference between a rifle and a recoilless rifle? Kind of like how some reporters don't understand the difference between warship and battleship? I mean, the thing is barely even a (not even, depending on your definition) a ship, much less a battleship... I mean, I know the guy is in the Army, but seriously, wtf?
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  #11  
Old 18 July 2013, 01:10 AM
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It sounds like a very cool mission for a video game though.
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  #12  
Old 07 May 2014, 07:46 PM
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This isn't possible, and here are the reasons:

During World War Two, the majority of tank shells fired were called "Shot." Shot is a solid core round of steel, which when fired down the barrel would spiral due to the rifling.

The problem with the story, is that it is supposing that by firing into the barrel, the man was either able to a.) wedge the shell in the barrel, or b.) cause a high explosive round to detonate.

In the case of a.) the lead from a single bullet would NOT wedge a tank round into the barrel, since you're dealing with physics here. The steel round of the tank greatly superior to the small bullet.

In the case or b.) it would take an act of god for the man to be able to hit the detonator on a high explosive round, much less set it off.
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Old 22 March 2015, 08:48 AM
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The more time I've had to think about this, the more I've come to the conclusion that it MIGHT be possible.

The only way I can come to this, is if the story itself has been changed (as stories between soldiers are wont to do) from what really happened. The only way this could be plausible, in any sense of the word, is if the soldier in question was equipped with a Boys anti tank rifle.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boys_anti-tank_rifle

Basically, the boys fires a 55 caliber solid steel shot, which though ineffective against heavy tank armors, worked well against light vehicles such as the Panzer III and Panzer II.

The theory I have, is that in the original instance, it's not a "lone sentry" as the story claims, but instead a soldier equipped with the anti-tank rifle sent to cover a specific cross roads. The soldier is expecting to engage possibly a scout contingent from the enemy, and is supported by a platoon located nearby. (This was standard practice with Boys rifles.) As he's waiting, a lone Panzer III comes into view. The soldier engages, firing several shots. Of which at least one penetrates the vehicle. One of those shots damages the cannon breach on the tank, so the next time the tank fires, the breech block blows off and the shell explodes back into the tank.

What may have started as "So and so engaged and destroyed a tank with a boys rifle" evolved then over time to "lone sentry shoots down a barrel and..."
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  #14  
Old 22 March 2015, 09:37 PM
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I don't think that there were any Pz II or III's still in use by the German army as late in the war as the Battle of the Bulge.
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Old 23 March 2015, 06:13 AM
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The Panzer II had been pulled off the battlefield by 1943, but there were other vehicles that used its chassis that were still in combat after that, like the Wespe self-propelled artillery vehicle and the Marder II. Production of the Panzer III also halted in 1943 but the tank was still used until the end of the war (though the later models did boost the armor), and the chassis was also used for the StuG III.
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Old 24 March 2015, 12:56 AM
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The stugs were around but I really doubt there would have been any Pzk II or III. Even a Sherman could take out a Pzk III and buy that late in the war, certainly during the battle of the bulge, the German Armor would have been several generations beyond the II and IIIs.
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  #17  
Old 24 March 2015, 03:32 AM
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You're forgetting how strangled for resources the Germans were by that point. They had the ability to build tanks that outclassed the Panzer II and Panzer III by then, but they didn't have the ability to build them in sufficient numbers. The Panzer II was pulled from line combat duty well before the Battle of the Bulge, but it was still used as a recon vehicle. The Panzer III was extremely inferior to the Sherman and T-34, but Germany couldn't build enough Tigers and Panthers to make a difference. I don't think it's terribly likely to that there were any Panzer IIIs getting taken out by a single shot from an anti-tank rifle during the Battle of the Bulge, but it's not completely implausible.
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Old 24 March 2015, 01:52 PM
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The Panzer mk. IV, Panther (Pz. V) and Tiger were the main German tanks to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. There were also a small number of Tiger II's involved in the attack but unable to verify number and locations (found a pic of a captured King Tiger taken around the time of the Battle of the Bulge but miles ahead of the furthest recorded German advance so something about the description is wrong).
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Old 24 March 2015, 07:15 PM
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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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Old 24 March 2015, 07:44 PM
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The thing that makes me shake my head about this story, notwithstanding everything else people with more expertise than I have exposed, is how realistic would it be, for the allies to send out a lone sentry to blockade a road? I'm no military expert, but I'm pretty sure there's no military "unit" called "lone sentry".

Platoon, squadron, company, etc, the army runs on teamwork. I've read it many times that it's what makes the difference between a warrior and a soldier.

IOW, warriors fight as a mass of individuals, soldiers fight as a coordinated unit.
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