I couldn't remember if I ran the photo and story of my tank running over a HMMWV. I asked you guys in my last update to drop me a line to help my memory, but none of you responded. So I'll tell you just to make sure you don't miss all the details.
We were just about finished with the last battle of the Reliable Strike II Exercise conducted at Yakima Firing Center in Washington, January 1989. I showed you a picture of my tank crew after the battle, posing with our unit crest souvenir. What I didn't tell you, was that only a couple hours before that picture was taken, we had just run over a HMMWV near the end of the battle. Here is how it happened:
My company was the lead attack force for the last battle. We were deep into enemy territory having reached our primary objective for the battle. Our sister companies were having similar successes on our flanks and we were waiting for further instructions. My battalion commander called me on the radio and told me that there were pockets of resistance to my rear, and wanted me to pull back to clean them up so the follow-on support units could pass without being subjected to enemy fire.
I issued the commands to my company and we wheeled about to comply with our new orders. Almost immediately, we began to receive fire from our right flank. I watched as all my tanks turned on their smoke generators to provide them with some cover from the enemy's observation and fire. We were in a classic wedge formation, and the wind helped the smoke drift across the battlefield, hiding the tanks in the blankets of smoke. Since there were several tanks, and we were moving, and the wind was blowing the smoke, there were many pockets of smoke in our area. My tank cleared one of the smoke clouds, and not even ten feet in front of us was a HMMWV right in our path! It was the enemy scout platoon leader's vehicle.
My driver reacted quickly, steering to our right to avoid the HMMWV, but it was too late. We ran up and over the driver's side of the vehicle and down the other side, still turning away from the vehicle as we advanced. Now, 60 tons of rolled homogeneous steel doesn't stop too quickly, but my driver did the best he could. When we came to a stop, I was already disconnecting my communication helmet and jumping out of my hatch. I jumped onto the hull and bounded to the ground without stopping. I reached the HMMWV and expected to see crushed bodies inside the vehicle. There were a few people standing around the vehicle, but when I looked inside, there wasn't anyone there. Here's what happened to the four occupants.
The driver shit his pants. As our tank ran up and over the fender and part of the roof, he lunged to his right and cut his lip on the barrel of his M16 in its vehicle mount. The passenger behind him leaned over and was unharmed. The man sitting beside him opened to door to jump out but never made it. It happened too quickly. He also was unhurt. The scout platoon leader in the front passenger seat jumped out of the HMMWV, thinking the ground was two feet away, only to discover the vehicle was riding along the edge of a ditch. He fell six feet before he stopped, dislocating his shoulder, and knocking himself unconscious.
Because the battle was just about over anyway, they called a halt to the exercise to coordinate the damage control. My driver and I had to respond to a long questioning period by an investigating officer, but in the end, nothing became of the incident. It was a training accident that could have happened to anyone under similar circumstances and not due to negligence.
My diver was shaken up for awhile, and it took some firm coaxing to get him to realize it wasn't his fault. Fortunately, nobody was seriously hurt, or I don't know how I would have gotten him back into the driver's seat!
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