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Duty Before Self: The Story of the 781st Tank Battalion in World War II

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Duty Before Self: The Story of the 781st Tank Battalion in World War II

John T. Mitzel

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In January 1943, and as World War II entered its second year it was evident that U.S. tanks were outgunned, under-armored, and underpowered. In short, they weren’t cutting the mustard, but there was no time for a long development project. At Fort Knox, Kentucky, the newly-formed 781st Tank Battalion was detailed to run an around-the-clock marathon comparison test on forty Sherman tanks to find the best available configuration and fastest solution. When the results of the “Million Dollar Tank Test” were collected, what resulted was the Sherman “Easy Eight,” an easier to manufacture tank that was also such an effective fighting vehicle that it would serve for another thirty years. The 781st Tank Battalion shipped out to Europe, where, equipped with the “Easy Eight,” it thwarted Hitler’s last major offensive in the West – Operation Nordwind – and swept southern Germany as the tip of the U.S. Seventh Army’s sword.

Size: 6″ x 9″ | 98 | 224 pp
ISBN13: 9780764343407 | Binding: hard cover


John T. Mitzel lives with his wife, Kim, on a farm in southern New Hampshire with a lot of olive drab items. He is currently restoring a 1944 Ford Jeep because as he puts it, “I couldn’t afford a halftrack, or a tank, or a destroyer, or a P-40!”