Fury has been released and with it the latest in movies showing us sides of Americans in combat in ways only recently seen. Gone are the epic “In Harm’s Way” and “The Big Red One,” replaced by movies that bring us closer to conflict on an individual basis, rather than a fleet or division. As I make my way through a management class I had to ask myself if there was a way to compare the positions and roles in the business world to those of a tank crew.
Tank Commander-Coordinator, Gunner-Executes the mission, Loader-Assists in execution of mission, Bow/Machine Gunner-protects the unit, Driver-Steers the unit.
A Tank Commander’s primary purpose is to coordinate the efforts of the crew to effectively shoot, move, and communicate. He takes orders from the Platoon Leader or Platoon Sergeant, directs his driver to maneuver the tank to where it needs to go, establishes sectors to scan, issues fire commands to the gunner that tell him or verify what the target is and what type of round or weapon system to use.
The Gunner was afforded one of the most important jobs inside the Sherman in the firing of the main gun. By training order, the tank commander would verbally call out the target (signifying the target’s type in the process), its location and what projectile to load. The loader processed the available information immediately and loaded the fresh ammunition round into the gun’s breech. The gunners job was to traverse the turret in the desired location based on his commander’s description and line up the target, adjusting for ammunition type and target distance. The gunner had the ability to rotate the turret at full speed and gradually decrease speed once he approached the targets general direction. Once lined up with the target, the gunner would affirm the commanders verbalized target parameters and take precise aim through his available scope.
The Loader’s job was to load the main gun. This was done by the loader pulling back on a lever located on the breechlock and then depositing a “fresh” projectile round – AP (Armor Piercing) or HEAT (High-Explosive Anti-Tank) – into the breech, depending on what type of targets were called out by the tank commander. Upon hearing the target call, the order was then given for which type of round the loader was to load. Most experienced loaders generally knew from past engagements what type of shell to load once the target type was called out. Generally, only the lead tank in any column was armed with a ready-round as this was done for safety purposes so the rear portion of the column would not accidentally open fire on the forward portion in the event of an ambush. This did well in keeping friendly tankers safe from one another, but in the heat of battle, it counted seconds against a tank crew’s response time once the enemy had either opened fire or revealed themselves to the column.
The Bow Gunner doubled as the assistant driver though he had none of the driver controls allocated to his station. In the event that the primary driver would become incapacitated, the bow gunner could double in his place. The bow gunner’s position required him to be seated at the right front of the hull where his station was primarily dominated by the tail end of his bow-mounted 7.62mm anti-infantry machine gun in a limited-traverse mounting. Like the driver, the bow-gunner was also given the use of a fixed periscope after the dropping of the direct vision slots mentioned earlier. The bow gunner’s position proved useful in engaging and suppressing known enemy positions (as related to infantry) – an important component in the Sherman’s arsenal when combating anti-tank gun crews. To prove the position more important, the bow gunner could also “mark” targets or help “range” the main gun onto a target (or suspected enemy location) via his machine gun tracer rounds which could be utilized to orient the gunner’s cannon with.
The Driver sat lower in the hull than the other occupants, this design decision once again being related to the downward angle taken by the propeller shaft running from the engine compartment at rear down into the gearbox at front. The gunner and loader sat on the turret basket floor in an elevated position when compared to the driver and bow gunner while the tank commander was seated still higher in the turret with quick access to his commander’s hatch. A standing position could be attained by the tank commander via a flip-down circular seat for him to stand on. This allowed for the tank commander to rise up above his hatch and complete the ever-universal image we all have of a tank commander positioned chest-high out of his tank, assessing the battlefield before him.
Tank Crew descriptions from (http://www.militaryfactory.com/armor/detail.asp?armor_id=40)