Thursday, January 21, 2016

Tank Vs. Citroen 2CV: Polezei on German Roads


Versus This:

During the three years I was a tank commander in West Germany during the Cold War, we rolled through towns, down country roads and along the autobahn in miles-long columns.  Our battalion, the 1st-70th Armor, put 54 tanks and nearly 100 support vehicles on the often narrow roads for field training exercises.  

Most of the time, the local drivers fell in line behind our columns and waited for us to get out of the way.  Sometimes they got impatient.  

One night as Bravo Company rolled along a narrow country road near Fulda, a blue Citroen 2CV started passing tanks in the column, swerving back between the tanks to avoid head-on collisions with oncoming traffic.  

You would think it is easy to avoid hitting a tank, but in the dark, the edges of a tank are not clear--no marker lights like a semi.  And the drive sprockets are in the rear of a tank.  The 1750 cubic-inch engine propels the tank through those sprockets.  

Here is a view of the sprocket.  Smoke from the V-12 diesel engine pours through the center grill, obscuring the back of the tank more.

After passing a half-dozen tanks, the driver of the Citroen misjudged the seventh.  He drove into the track at the rear of the tank.  The sprocket tore the front of the car off and flipped the rest of the it into the adjoining farm field.  The column stopped.

Two medics following the column ran to check the driver and passenger of the car.  All columns also had a jeep following with a German and an American officer and a lot of cash ready to pay claims for damage on the spot.  That jeep drove to the crash site.  Within another minute, the Polezei, German police, were at the scene.  The driver of the tank was a mess thinking he was in trouble for the accident.

The Polezei looked at the driver, waved off the settlement officers and the medics and said, "Betrunken."  Drunk.  They marched the driver to their car and took him away and told us to move on.

The driver was drunk.  It was his fault.  We moved on.  No breathalyzers, no legal niceties.  Justice is swift on German roads.

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