Author Topic: Claymore's AH AFVs: Take 2  (Read 43605 times)

Offline Claymore

  • It's all done with smoke and mirrors!
  • Alt Hist AFV guy with a thing for Bradley turrets
Re: Claymore's AH AFVs: Take 2
« Reply #45 on: September 26, 2016, 03:58:34 AM »
This project has taken me some considerable time to research and whilst I make no apologies for the delay in posting – I wanted to double and triple check my facts where I could – I do hope that you enjoy this little bit of AFV history. If you have any more details regarding the historic background or have any additional relevant photographs, then please feel free to PM me. So here is what I have…

Of Ontos and other things


[Picture 1: Ontos]

 We are all generally familiar with the peculiar shape of the Ontos Air-Mobile Tank Destroyer and its limited, but relatively successful, service career with the US Marine Corps in Vietnam. However, I suspect that very few of us know of the full story behind the ugly duckling that never grew into the swan and which forever will be remembered by the translation of its Greek name ‘Ontos’ (Thing).


[Picture 2: Maj Gen W Miley]

 The existence of the Ontos programme, which was initiated in November 1950, owes much to the military career, experiences and vision of one Major General William (Bud) Miley (US Army). After returning from occupation duties in Japan commanding the 11th Airborne Division, Miley took up the post of Director of the Joint Airborne Troop Board of US Army Alaska, Alaskan Command with the responsibilities for formulating airborne parachute techniques, organisation, equipment and doctrine. It was from his desk that the requirement for an air-mobile tank destroyed came to fruition. Not known for his literal verbosity, it is rumoured that the specification sheet that Miley proposed was only one page long. Among the few things that it specified was that the vehicle’s running gear would be based on the M56 Light Anti-Tank Vehicle; that it would utilize the same six-cylinder, inline gas engine common to all the military’s 2½-ton GMC trucks; and that the project name should be Ontos.

 The rest is well documented history. The development contract went to Allis Chalmers’ Farm Machinery Division, with the work being carried out at the company’s Agricultural Assembly Plant in La Port, Indiana. The first vehicle was completed in 1952 and, although rejected by the US Army, the Ontos entered service with the Marines in 1955.

 Whilst there is little new to the story so far, what is really of interest is the rationale behind General Miley’s proposal for an air-mobile tank destroyer and his unspecified but clear desire to incorporate recoilless rifles into the design. To understand his thought processes we must look back at his wartime experiences when he was the General Officer commanding 17th Airborne Division.


[Picture 3: 17th Airborne Division Insignia]

 The 17th Airborne Division was officially activated as an airborne division in April 1943 but was not immediately sent to a combat theatre, remaining in the United States to complete its training. During this training process, the division took part in several training exercises, including the Knollwood Manoeuvre, in which it played a vital part in ensuring that the airborne division remained as a military formation in the U.S. Army after the poor performance of American airborne forces in the invasion of Sicily. As such it did not take part in the first two large-scale airborne operations conducted by the Allies, Operation Husky and Operation Neptune, only transferring to Britain after the end of Operation Overlord.

 When the division arrived in Britain, it came under the command of XVIII Airborne Corps, part of the First Allied Airborne Army, but was not chosen to participate in Operation Market Garden, the airborne landings in the Netherlands, as Allied planners believed it had arrived too late and could not be "trained up" in time for the operation. However, after the end of Operation Market Garden the division was shipped to France and then Belgium to fight in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge. It is worthy of note, for future developments, that during this time the Division had both the 761st Tank Battalion and 811st Tank Destroyer Battalion attached from 15- 27 January 1945.

 On 27 January 1945, the 17th Airborne Division was then withdrawn to Luxembourg to be the Theatre Reserve and to prepare for the impending assault crossing of the River Rhine. As an airborne division the 17th was not particularly well endowed with motor transport and the acquisition and maintenance of its limited resources rested as much with the bartering skills of its Maintenance Company as it did with the US Army’s Logisticians. It was on one of the Maintenance Company’s foraging trips that they came across an abandoned French Hotchkiss H39 tank which had obviously been pressed into service by the German Army. Although the vehicle had clearly been looted, there didn’t seem to be any major structural damage; indeed with a little fuel and some TLC the tank’s engine was coaxed back into life. The decision was made then and there to recover the Hotchkiss so that it could be utilised as an ersatz recovery vehicle.


[Picture 4: Hotchkiss H39 40555 abandoned in Luxembourg]

 It is at this stage in this peculiar tale that I have to take a step back in time as I have managed to track down a bit of detail regarding this particular vehicle. As you will appreciate, records form 1940 and the fall of France are limited as indeed are the specific accounts of the retreat of German forces in 1944 but, nevertheless, a bit of detective work has proved fruitful. Although the war diary of 17th Airborne Division makes no reference to the Maintenance Company’s acquisition of this diminutive AFV, an account by Tech Sergeant Clinton Hedrick notes that the vehicle’s external markings identified it as part of 233 Panzer Company and an internal plate had the number 40555 which was, more than likely, its original French registration number.

 This being the case, I then managed to trace the vehicle back to June 1940 when Hotchkiss H39 40555 was part of 27e Bataillon de Chars de Combat (BCC) which along with 14e BCC made up 4e Demi-Brigade de Chars Légers of 2e Division Cuirassée de Réserve (DCR).


[Picture 5: 27e BCC]

 27e BCC fought as part of the Division in the Battle of Abbeville 27 May-4 June 1940 where after some initial success against superior German forces, they were pushed back in total disarray with 2e DCR and 27e BCC effectively ceasing to exist as a cohesive unit. Amidst the confusion, Hotchkiss H39 40555 ran out of fuel on 6 June 1940 – such was the desperation of the crew that they did not stop long enough to disable the vehicle but simple abandoned it to the Germans who were close on their heels.


[Picture 6: Hotchkiss H39 40555 abandoned]

 What exactly then happened to 40555 is lost to the mists of time but we do know that it was taken into service by the German Army and ended up as part of Panzer Kompanie 233 which was made up of 12 x Pz-H38(f) (Hotchkiss H38/39 tanks) and 5 x Pz-S35(f) (Somua S35 tanks) and was part of 100 Heeres Panzer Brigade. The Brigade’s primary role was that of internal security with Kompanie 233 operating in eastern France. The only noticeable changes made to 40555 were the removal of the tail skid and the standard replacement of the original commander’s cupola with a flatter two-hatch design.

 At some point in late 1944, and for the second time in its career, 40555 ran out of fuel and was abandoned by its crew. Unfortunately, I could find no specific details of 40555’s 4-year life with Panzer Kompanie 233 nor is there any explanation as to how it came to end up on the side of a small country road in the depths of the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg but that is exactly where the ever-opportunistic troops of the 17th Airborne Division’s Maintenance Company found her in early February 1945.

 On 24 March 1945, 17th Airborne Division participated in its first, and only, airborne operation, dropping alongside the British 6th Airborne Division as a part of Operation Varsity. Landing with the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment was the US Army’s first delivery of the new M18 57mm Recoilless Rifles. Although limited in its intended anti-tank role, this man-portable artillery piece proved very effective as a bunker buster. Nevertheless, at 46.8lbs the M18 was awkward to fire off the shoulder and was not a popular load if needed to be carried any distance.


[Pictures 7 & 8: M18s with 17th Airborne Division]

 With the successful completion of Op Varsity on 27 March, 17th Airborne Division continued its advance into northern Germany as part of XVIII Airborne Corps. This now gave the opportunity for those Divisional Troops not committed to Op Varsity to catch up with the rest of the Division. So it was that on 28 March 1945 the 17th‘s Maintenance Company and Motor Transport joined the advance complete with Hotchkiss H39 40555.

 Whilst fighting as a regular Infantry Division was not new to the paratroopers of 17th Airborne, the lack of any attached armour was keenly felt and none more so than when facing stubborn fortified machine gun emplacements. The M18s were effective but it took a brave man to expose himself in order to engage the bunker when the back blast of the first shot fired instantly gave away his position. Exact who had the idea first is unknown but it was in the face of this thorny problem that the ever innovative men of the Maintenance Company outfitted their adopted recovery tank with 4 x M18s mounted on the outside of the turret and able to be aimed and fired from within. The combination was an immediate success with the paratroopers of the Rifle Regiments who were more than happy to call up their armoured pet rather than take unnecessary risks. With no official designation, role or name it didn’t take long before regular calls over the radio nets were requesting that ‘the Thing’ be brought forward to deal with one situation or another. These requests eventually came to the notice of the Divisional Commander, Major General Miley, who out of curiosity, if nothing else, came forward to see ‘the Thing’ in action. Again there is nothing recorded in the official Divisional War Diary regarding his encounter, but subsequent events would suggest that he was clearly impressed.











After completion of operations around Essen and Munster the Division remain in northern Germany until the end of World War II, when it briefly undertook occupation duties before shipping back to the United States. What then became of ‘the Thing’ is not recorded but it can be safely assumed that its M18 Recoilless Rifles were removed and returned to the United Sates along with the rest of the Division’s weapons. Given that Hotchkiss H39 40555 was still in running order, there is a good chance that it was handed over to the French military authorities who at the time were recovering any and all military equipment in order to rebuild their armed forces.


[Picture 9: Hotchkiss H39 post-war]

 In 1948 a consignment of 10 Hotchkiss H39s were clandestinely sent to Israel and whilst I could find no evidence to positively identify these vehicles, I still like to think that one of them may have been 40555.


[Picture 10: Hotchkiss H39 with the IDF]

 The model itself is adapted from a Bronco Models Hotchkiss H39, the M18s are from Tamiya’s US Infantry Weapons set and the selection of field/workshop tools come from the depths of my various spare part boxes. For those with an interest, here are a few in-build pictures.






Friendly fire isn't and suppressive fire rarely does!

Offline Claymore

  • It's all done with smoke and mirrors!
  • Alt Hist AFV guy with a thing for Bradley turrets
Re: Claymore's AH AFVs: Take 2
« Reply #46 on: September 26, 2016, 04:21:02 AM »
...and for those that can remember...

The Landkreuzer P.1000 'Ratte'

Still a work in progress but at 1:35 scale it is a considerable drain on resources.  Nevertheless, here is where I am...  ;)



































« Last Edit: September 26, 2016, 04:25:23 AM by Claymore »
Friendly fire isn't and suppressive fire rarely does!

Offline Old Wombat

  • "We'll see when I've finished whether I'm showing off or simply embarrassing myself."
  • "Define 'interesting'?"
Re: Claymore's AH AFVs: Take 2
« Reply #47 on: September 26, 2016, 09:00:41 AM »
Bloody awesome, Claymore! 8)

I remember watching most of these coming together & seeing them all again, now, is brilliant! :D

Love your work, man! :-*




PS: For some bizarre reason, I'm loving the "Combat Wombat", too. ;)
"This is the Captain. We have a little problem with our engine sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and, ah, explode."

Offline buzzbomb

  • Low Concentration Span, oft wanders betwixt projects
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Re: Claymore's AH AFVs: Take 2
« Reply #48 on: September 26, 2016, 09:55:02 AM »
Yo... great to see it is still "creeping along"

Offline Gingie

  • The LAV sausage-maker…goes nice with a home made beer I understand
  • Has been to Tatooine...
Re: Claymore's AH AFVs: Take 2
« Reply #49 on: September 26, 2016, 10:19:46 AM »
The Lancruzer makes me smile, shake my head, drop my jaw...all at the same time! Wonderful!

Also, I seemed to have missed the Bloodhound TEL on the first go 'round. Saaweeeet!

Offline Claymore

  • It's all done with smoke and mirrors!
  • Alt Hist AFV guy with a thing for Bradley turrets
Re: Claymore's AH AFVs: Take 2
« Reply #50 on: September 26, 2016, 03:06:04 PM »
Thanks guys, much appreciated.  :)
Friendly fire isn't and suppressive fire rarely does!

Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Claymore's AH AFVs: Take 2
« Reply #51 on: September 27, 2016, 04:27:50 AM »
Nice recovery mate.

Unfortunately it seemed that you yourself deleted your original thread.  Trying to recover a single tread once deleted is extremely difficult if not impossible.  so as to prevent anyone else from doing the same I have just modified the settings so that people can still delete individual posts but that they can't delete an entire topic.  Hopefully that will prevent a re-occurrence.
All hail the God of Frustration!!!

Offline Claymore

  • It's all done with smoke and mirrors!
  • Alt Hist AFV guy with a thing for Bradley turrets
Re: Claymore's AH AFVs: Take 2
« Reply #52 on: September 27, 2016, 05:52:10 AM »
Nice recovery mate.

Unfortunately it seemed that you yourself deleted your original thread.  Trying to recover a single tread once deleted is extremely difficult if not impossible.  so as to prevent anyone else from doing the same I have just modified the settings so that people can still delete individual posts but that they can't delete an entire topic.  Hopefully that will prevent a re-occurrence.

Thanks. 

I didn't realise I had it in me to destroy an entire Topic - ah the power!  Too bad I didn't even realise I had done it!  :o ;)
Friendly fire isn't and suppressive fire rarely does!

Offline buzzbomb

  • Low Concentration Span, oft wanders betwixt projects
  • Accurate Scale representations of fictional stuff
    • Club and my stuff site
Re: Claymore's AH AFVs: Take 2
« Reply #53 on: September 27, 2016, 07:02:50 AM »
the revisiting of all your great builds has been worth it my opinion


Offline Claymore

  • It's all done with smoke and mirrors!
  • Alt Hist AFV guy with a thing for Bradley turrets
Re: Claymore's AH AFVs: Take 2
« Reply #54 on: September 27, 2016, 02:27:53 PM »
the revisiting of all your great builds has been worth it my opinion

Thanks... a bit of a posting frenzy but back in play...  :)
Friendly fire isn't and suppressive fire rarely does!

Offline 35th-scale

  • On first name terms with someone called Nathan...
  • I wonder what scale he builds in???
Re: Claymore's AH AFVs: Take 2
« Reply #55 on: September 28, 2016, 07:21:29 PM »
Madness.....sheer madness.....sheer awesome madness!

And I mean that in the best possible way.

Offline Claymore

  • It's all done with smoke and mirrors!
  • Alt Hist AFV guy with a thing for Bradley turrets
Re: Claymore's AH AFVs: Take 2
« Reply #56 on: September 29, 2016, 02:46:40 AM »
Madness.....sheer madness.....sheer awesome madness!

And I mean that in the best possible way.

Thanks my good man.

I promised never to get this carried away but then again life is just too short not to do something crazy every now and again!  ;)
Friendly fire isn't and suppressive fire rarely does!

Offline Brian da Basher

  • He has an unnatural attraction to Spats...and a growing fascination with airships!
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Re: Claymore's AH AFVs: Take 2
« Reply #57 on: September 29, 2016, 04:15:28 AM »
You are a braver (and much more talented) soul than I am!

Talk about an epic project! Nice start too!

Brian da Basher

Offline Claymore

  • It's all done with smoke and mirrors!
  • Alt Hist AFV guy with a thing for Bradley turrets
Re: Claymore's AH AFVs: Take 2
« Reply #58 on: September 29, 2016, 06:13:55 AM »
You are a braver (and much more talented) soul than I am!

Talk about an epic project! Nice start too!

Brian da Basher

When it comes to modelling, and whiffing in particular, there is fine line between bravery and lunacy - still not convinced in my own mind which side I sit on! Thanks nevertheless...  :)
Friendly fire isn't and suppressive fire rarely does!

Offline Old Wombat

  • "We'll see when I've finished whether I'm showing off or simply embarrassing myself."
  • "Define 'interesting'?"
Re: Claymore's AH AFVs: Take 2
« Reply #59 on: September 29, 2016, 08:08:35 AM »
Oh, definitely "lunacy" but in a good way! ;)
"This is the Captain. We have a little problem with our engine sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and, ah, explode."