Duty Before Self: The Story of the 781st Tank Battalion in World War II

Duty Before Self: The Story of the 781st Tank Battalion in World War II

by John T. Mitzel


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In January 1943, and as World War II entered its second year it was evident that U.S. tanks were outgunned, under-armored, and underpowered. In short, they weren't cutting the mustard, but there was no time for a long development project. At Fort Knox, Kentucky, the newly-formed 781st Tank Battalion was detailed to run an around-the-clock marathon comparison test on forty Sherman tanks to find the best available configuration and fastest solution. When the results of the "Million Dollar Tank Test" were collected, what resulted was the Sherman "Easy Eight," an easier to manufacture tank that was also such an effective fighting vehicle that it would serve for another thirty years. The 781st Tank Battalion shipped out to Europe, where, equipped with the "Easy Eight," it thwarted Hitler’s last major offensive in the West – Operation Nordwind – and swept southern Germany as the tip of the U.S. Seventh Army’s sword.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780764343407
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.
Publication date: 01/28/2014
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

John T. Mitzel lives with his wife, Kim, on a farm in southern New Hampshire with a lot of olive drab items. He is currently restoring a 1944 Ford Jeep because as he puts it, "I couldn’t afford a halftrack, or a tank, or a destroyer, or a P-40!"

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 6

1 Tanks, but no Tanks 7

2 You're in the Arm)' Now - Roots of the 781st Tank Battalion 12

3 The "Million Dollar Tank Test" 15

4 "And the Winner Is" 24

5 More Testing 36

6 Meanwhile, back at the War - 1943 41

7 1943 The "House Band" Departs 45

8 Moving Out 55

9 The "Champagne Campaign" 71

10 Sons of Bitche 87

11 Withdrawal 95

12 The Adversaries 99

13 "Nordwind" 106

14 Wingen-Sur-Moder 111

15 The Western Onslaught 120

16 Sessenheim 127

17 End of the Solstice 133

18 Rebuilding 141

19 Operation Undertone 151

20 Race to the Rhine 157

21 Heilbronn 164

22 Breakout! 180

23 Chasing a Ghost 190

24 Postwar 202

Maps 213

Bibliography 215

Index 220

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Duty Before Self: The Story of the 781st Tank Battalion in World War II 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome read - I couldn't put it down! A nice balance of technical details for the tank "nuts" and a great story with lots of personal stories told by veterans.  The author has a nice style that's very readable and includes some dry humor as well. This book gives "Unbroken" a run for its money!