Did you know that sandbags were used during war time to protect tanks against heat weapons, such as grenade launchers. However, the sand bags (along with the wire mesh, wood, and even concrete used to hold them in place) was more of a field improvisation. During World War II, it was rare to see a tank without such adornment.
But, in the summer of 1944, General George Patton had declared that the use of sandbags was a pointless endeavor, as it did more damage to the tanks machinery due to the extra weight, than it did in providing armored protection. And so they were forbidden from being used on American tanks.
Then came the Battle of the Bulge.
World War II had been rage for almost five years. The Allied forces were beginning to breath a sigh of relief, as it appeared they had Adolf Hitler on the run. Restaurants were re-opening, people were throwing parties, soldiers had time for some fun of their own.
All the while, Adolf Hitler was planning a last ditch effort. His plan – attack the allied forces; split the American and British alliance apart; convince those left to join Germany in its war against the Soviet Union; ultimately hoping to play peacemaker in the end.
The Battle of the Bulge began December 16, 1944 in Belgium, France. Nearly 250,000 German soldiers, equipped with 1,000 tanks and 2,000 aircraft’s attacked allied forces over the 80 mile Western Front. It began with a 90 minute barrage of bombs, bullets, and soldiers parachuting from planes. Hundreds of soldiers were captured, thousands were killed.
It was winter time, and temperatures fell well below freezing. Wounded soldiers were trapped in foxholes and literally froze to death. Other soldiers, who were lucky enough to make it to a medical facility were patched up and sent back out to fight. The German army at one point had created a bulge (hence the name) in the American line of 50 miles wide by 70 miles deep.
By the end of December, the allied forces were gaining ground back, as the Nazi army was running out of fuel and other resources, and the roads were becoming too difficult to travel. The battle officially ended one month after it began, on January 16, 1945 and by early February, the allied forces had fully taken back their front.
More than 500,000 troops were deployed to the area, and sadly more than 75,000 were wounded or killed. The Battle of the Bulge was the largest battle ever fought by the U.S. Army as well as the largest battle of World War II.
The US Army lost 300 tanks in the battle. In the Spring of 1945, Patton ordered extra armor plates for the American tanks. Maybe sandbags weren’t the solution to strengthening the tanks durability, but it was clear that without their protection, something else was needed.