“What are we fightin’ for?
Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn.
Next stop is Viet Nam!” — Country Joe McDonald
My father was in Patton’s Third Army and I’ve been a fan of the movie, Patton, since it came out. I was born just seven years after the war ended and as a child, played “army” with my friends. By the late sixties, I thought battlefield technology had progressed past hand-to-hand combat but Viet Nam changed that. Now I wonder if we have, in Iraq and Afghanistan, brought machine guns to a knife fight.
The evolution of weapons and the impact of simple inventions are detailed in “Warrior Weapons”, the first episode of Ground War. The arming of man for battle moves naturally to the topic of movement of soldiers in the battle arena from foot, to chariots and wagons, to horseback and then motorized vehicles in “Battlefield Mobility”. “Firepower” covers the topic of artillery and the set concludes with “Command and Control”. Each episode lasts about an hour and is filled with great video clips ranging from historical archival footage to the present. Computer generated graphics illustrate the unavailable historical images and explain current technology. While not a fan of CGI, I’m pleased to see that it is used sparingly and effectively in this series (illustrating the rifling of a gun barrel, explaining sloped armor on tanks, or fortress construction/defense).
While the desire to get soldiers where they are needed quickly and safely resulted in the development of the jeep,half-track, humvee and stryker, transportation is only one aspect of the equation. Just as important are speed, armor and firepower, the three major factors of the development of the tank. Just as the helicopter became the cavalry in Viet Nam, the tank was the cavalry in World War II.