Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Battlefield Survivor: The "Five of Hearts", U.S. Tank Veteram

The "Five of Hearts" Being Salvaged at the
Meuse-Argonne Battlefield

The AEF organized a Tank Corps in 1917 in France. By 11 November 1918, five heavy battalions and ten light battalions existed, four of which had been in combat. While tank production in the United States was proceeding, very few American-made tanks reached France before the Armistice. The Army acquired all tanks used in combat by the AEF from our allies—heavy tanks from the British and light tanks from the French. 

Company C, 344th Battalion, Tank Corps, used this French-made, two-man tank during World War I. The battalion was part of the 1st Provisional Tank Brigade commanded by Col. George S. Patton. The tank was nicknamed “Five of Hearts” because of its identification markings. The French assigned suits and numbers from playing cards to identify tanks.

The "Five of Hearts" saw heavy combat in the Fléville sector during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. During its support of the 16th Infantry of the 1st Division, the turret and 37mm gun mount became so jammed with bullets that they could not be used. Soldiers left the tank on the field of battle after the infantry secured the area but later recovered it. In 1919, it was sent to Camp Meade—the U.S. Army Tank Corps Headquarters—as a memorial to the corps’ service in the First World War.  Today, the "Five of Hearts" survives and can be visited at the Museum of the United States Army, Fort Belvoir, VA.

Source: The Great War, U.S. Army Artifacts

1 comment:

  1. The original commander of the "Five of Hearts," C/344's Lt. Harlow Wood, and 17-year old driver Cpl. Horatio Rogers were skirting Bois de Montrebeau (4 kilometers or so SE of Fléville) and heading toward Exermont when Wood received metal splinters in his eyes. Rogers, a former ambulance driver who had fibbed about his age to enter service, turned around since Wood (who had blood streaming down his face) was unable to see well enough to continue.

    After getting to a safer location and Wood out of the FT, Rogers continued to relay Wood's commands. He waved to a nearby tank to continue toward Exermont. Commanding the tank was Sergeant Arthur Snyder from 345th Battalion, whose Renault was then disabled by a German round. His own driver wounded, Snyder climbed into Wood's Renault, nabbed Rogers to drive, and continued the advance. When he crossed a stone bridge across Exermont stream, he came under the severe MG fire described in the earlier post.

    Being in Sereno Brett's 344th Battalion, however, the Five of Hearts' suit symbol would have been in a bluish-green color, not red. (Per French tank regulations, and as explained in Charles Lemons' "Organization and Markings of United States Armored Units, 1918-1941.") Ranulf Compton's 345th Battalion's symbols would have been in a rusty brown similar to primer used on cars, not a bright shade. Unfortunately, the current display at Fort Belvoir not only preserves the incorrect bright red heart, the tank's camouflage scheme also features the same garish shade. There must have been some surplus paint around after it was moved from Fort Meade!