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Sgt. Curtis G. Culin : "Hedgerow Buster"

Discussion in 'WWII Obituaries' started by Biak, Feb 9, 2012.

  1. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    The great success of the D-Day landings was almost lost until an Army National Guard Noncommissioned Officer’s ingenious plan saved the breakout from the beaches and sealed the victory for Allied forces in the Normandy Campaign.
    Four days after D-Day, June 6, 1944, Allied forces had penetrated about 25 miles inland. There, Gen. Omar N. Bradley’s First U.S. Army was bogged down in the hedgerows of Normandy.
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    The hedgerows of the Norman countryside, thick hedges three to five feet high, all atop centuries-old compressions of roots, vines and dirt three feet thick, presented a considerable tactical obstacle for the U.S. Army. When a tank attempted to transit the thick hedgerow vegetation, it rode up and exposed its lightly armored underbelly to German anti-tank weapons, or the tank simply became entangled and immobilized. Explosives were tried but this alerted German forces to the location of the breech and caused many casualties. Enter Sgt. Curtis G. Culin, 29, a citizen-soldier of the New Jersey National Guard’s 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. In one of the finest examples of battlefield innovation in the history of American warfare, Sgt. Culin, in collaboration with three others from his unit, spent July 9-13, 1944, designing a four-pronged plow using iron from German roadblocks and beach defenses.
    Nicknamed the “rhino,” the plow was mounted to the front of light and medium tanks, namely the M4 Sherman. The New York Times reported in a 1944 dispatch that the “simple attachment was thought up by Culin overnight and was manufactured for 500 tanks in 48 hours.” With the rhino attached to its front, the Sherman tanks cut a path straight through the hedgerows.
    The rhino outfitted tanks caught the Germans completely by surprise and Gen. Bradley’s First U.S. Army made a successful breakthrough of enemy lines at St. Lo on July 25, 1944 - the breakthrough that carried to the Siegfried line and ultimately led to victory in Europe less than a year later.
    For their efforts in designing the rhino plow, Sgt. Culin and the three other members of the 102nd Cavalry, including one officer who insisted it would never work, were awarded the Legion of Merit. Later in 1944, Sgt. Culin lost his left foot and had part of his right thigh blown off in the savage fighting in Germany’s Huertgen Forest.
    The Supreme Allied Commander, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, credited the rhino plow with restoring the effectiveness of the tank in leading the drive to liberate France and for providing a “tremendous boost to morale throughout the Army.”
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    In a January 1961 address to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Eisenhower, then U.S. President, gave high praise to Sgt. Culin for his invention: “There was a little sergeant. His name was Culin, and he had an idea. And his idea was that we could fasten knives, great big steel knives in front of these tanks, and as they came along they would cut off these banks right at ground level – they would go through on the level keel – would carry with themselves a little bit of camouflage for a while. And this idea was brought to the captain, to the major, to the colonel, and it got high enough that somebody did something about it – and that was General Bradley – and he did it very quickly.”
    Culin was very modest about his invention. He told the Associated Press in a postwar interview that “my invention, if you want to call it that, was something anybody in the front lines would have come up with in a few days. Our squadron just happened to be the first to try it out and develop it.”
    Culin died in 1963, but his heroic and meritorious service in World War II has not been forgotten. In 1987, a memorial was unveiled in his hometown of Cranford, N.J., only a block from the house where he was raised.


    Currently reading "A Soldier's Story" Omar N. Bradley, he tells of seeing the "Rhino" and immediately ordering as many as possible made as quickly as possible. Within a week 3 out of every 4 tanks had one.
     
  2. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    I put this on a par with the Japanese special torpedoes used at Pearl Harbor. A simple, brilliant solution to a real problem.

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  3. Spitfire_XIV

    Spitfire_XIV Member

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    Rest In Peace Sgt. Culin *salute*
     
  4. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    His modesty is laudable. However, he was the first to come up with the idea and during war, those couple of days could mean hundreds or thousands of casualties. He deserves all the credit a recognition he has received, if not more. Thank you, Sgt. Cullin and RIP. :S!
     
  5. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Just a detail: Boccage are hedges, not vines. There are no vines in Normandy, it's way too cold . The Normans grow apple trees and make cider of it and Calvados. Vines can be found further south of the Loire River and in the East

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  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Maybe a bit of a language problem here. We have vines here in Michingan and I suspect it's a fair amount colder than Normandy. Mostly Poison Ivy but a number of other types as well (including a few grape varieties). Down south they have a vine called Kudzu that will cover a vehicle if you park it in the wrong spot for a day or two (slight exageration). Over running a native grape called Muscedine in some areas as well as trees, telephone poles, and anything else that doesn't move with any speed. Back in Washington State they also had a vine Maple as well, it cold grow to some size but grows for the most part along the ground or up other trees.
     

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