Crew body recovery from inside destroyed tanks

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Maalox, Aug 18, 2010.

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  1. How are the dead crews of tanks removed?

    If the limbs have been severed, they can be passed out of the hatch part by part.

    But a human torso, let alone an intact body, weighs scores of kilos.

    Once rigor mortis has set in, how can a stiff intact body be manoeuvered through the small hatch without cutting up the unfortunate crewman?

    Whose job was it to remove dead tank crew bodies?

    Were the tens of thousands of destroyed Soviet tanks 1941-43, most with their 4 dead crew still inside, left to rust, or sent back to the Reich to be melted down, with the bodies still inside?

  2. rampant

    rampant LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    For one thing Rigor Mortis is only temporary starting to set in some 3 hrs after death peaking at around 12 hrs and then starts to disappear until 3 days - the body starts getting somewhat gloopy after that.

    I would suspect that bodies were either remove by medical teams or other troops in the AO, bodies were often buried close by and quickly to prevent the spread of diesease. Not a job I would wish on anyone.
  3. To get the bodies of four-five 75kg men out of a tank, at least two men would be needed to go inside the tank to maneuver each body to the turret or driver's hatch, with another two men on the outside to haul each body out, probably with ropes: several hours harrowing work?

  4. rampant

    rampant LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    A whole number of factors beyond weight too: bodies may or may not have been considerably damaged by fire, this would destroy much of the weight (incinerating the flesh entirely or partially), this would also severely compromise the integrity of the body, skin and flesh that has been burnt parts easily from other flesh and bone. If the body was to be removed whole it would have to be wrapped somehow to prevent it disintegrating, limbs falling off etc etc.
  5. I've seen a photo of this job being done with a brewed-up British tank in Libya in WW2. The two poor non-incinerated bastards were standing on either side of a hatch, and using a pair of what looked like long wire hooks (like the sort used to pull on riding boots). The other ends were hooked under the arms of a vaguely-humanoid-looking lump of charcoal with white bits of bone showing here and there.
  6. At the risk of sounding inappropriate - with a bloody powerful hose!
  7. A couple of comments:

    Burned bodies are surprisingly light as the moisture has cooked off to a significant event. Anytime I have dealt with burned bodies I have been surprised how light they are especially dead kids. ( I hate dealing with dead kids though)

    As to rigor mortis, with a bit of effort rigor can be forced out by forceful manipulation of the limbs. Also, often burned bodies go into what is called the "pugilist" position with the hands clenched and forearms close to the chest.That might make it easier.

    When electrical workers get killed down a high voltage hole we used to send down a short narrow backboard such as would be used for vehicle extrication, strap the body to it with straps like safety belts and haul up on the board. It works well but you can't bag them first and the press are often like vultures trying to film/video this and the body is visible. This clearly would be of less concern in a combat area. The US is however very sensitive about pictures of the dead. During the Grenada invasion a naval officer's family first found out about his death when a picture of his body appeared on the cover of a national magazine. Shameful act by the magazine. I would name and shame them but I don't have the TIME.
  8. jim24

    jim24 Book Reviewer

    In most Armoured regiments in WW2 it was the Padre who was in charge of body removal and burial, but the hardest thing to remove is the body fat that has melted and run into the belly of the tank, this would probable require a steam hose
  9. Having read Antony Beevor's excellent book on D Day and the Battle for Normandy the tools of choice became a spoon and metal mug. The krauts didn't call the Shermans 'Tommy Cookers' for nothing. Poor brave men, God bless'em.
  10. Andy_S

    Andy_S LE Book Reviewer


    You seem to know what you are talking about (fireman?) so - at risk of sounding ghoulish - may I ask you a couple of questions?

    Full disclosure: I am writing a book on the Korean War (see more about my, my work, in my sig, below) A number of incidents therein include napalm.

    (1) Was curious to hear about the "pugilist" position you mention. One of the anecdotes a commando remembered from the Chosin Reservoir campaign was a dead enemy by the side of the road, incinerated by napalm, with his hands held out before him, almost as if in prayer; a passing marine (for a joke) had placed a piece of candy in his palm. Would his posture have been caused by the intense heat...?

    (2) Another anecdote from the advance through North Korea: A Middlesex major came across a civilian family, all crouched as if frozen, against a wall. All were dead, but with no external marks on them. Could this have been from napalm's suffocating effect, or some kind of internal rupturing from explosive blast?

    If you woud prefer to take this to PM, fine with me. As noted, this is a rather ghoulish enquiry, so fully understood if you do not wish to comment, but thanks in advance for any assistance. If you do reply, will be happy to acknowledge you in the final work.
  11. An uncle of mine did the dirty work in WW2 in Churchill and Valentine tanks, volunteers were required, after REME Workshop repair the tanks would be given a thin coat of parrafin inside to disguise the smell, new crews could be superstitious. Nowadays you often don't find much inside, I found white bone dust in one, a dust pan and brush did the trick.
  12. Yep. Read a biog some years ago about that. He used to use a cleaver to cut the bodies up into pieces he could manhandle out on his own. I'll never have a bad word said about the old sky pilots, they always volunteer for the most distasteful tasks like that to spare the lad.
  13. As the poster above said, it was often the self-imposed job of the Padre to recover the remains of the lads killed in his Battalion's tanks.

    A book on the 9th RTR by a 9 RTR officer, Peter Beale, describes this with extracts from the Padre's diary including things such as :

    ( not exact quotes ) " I have to do this job, there is no way the lads who may die this way themselves should have to see and do this "

    "Really horrible job today, really sick making "
  14. Talk about a test of one's faith! :omg:
  15. The tank overalls and 'Pixie' suits issued to tankies in WW2 had a canvas strap firmly sewed in to the suit and which stuck out fo the neck so it could be used to haul the wearer out of the tank.