Tank vs Creaky Old Bridge – Who Wins?

Tanks are designed to be resistant to most threats on the battlefield, like small arms fire, large calibre weapons, toxic battlefield conditions and not to mention other tanks. Without sufficient firepower, a tank is a terrifying force to be reckoned with.

However, while they may be able to survive a hail of machine gun fire, artillery barrages and high velocity anti tank guns, if they come up against a simple river, swamp or ditch, a tank isn’t so mighty.

Because of their heft, tanks usually have poor power to weight ratios, and lack traction on extreme terrain. Meaning they do not have the ability to tackle wide trenches, steep hills or swampy ground. This fact is well known by militaries, so they usually provide tanks with lots of support, like portable bridges and fascines. Unfortunately, in times of war, this level of preparation can become secondary to the objective.

The huge weight of a tank in a relatively small area means if they attempt to use a locally built bridge, especially ones built before WW2, which weren’t expected to support much more than a large truck, it can end in watery disaster. This scenario wasn’t an uncommon one during WW2, as the rapid and fluid pace of combat meant decisions had to made fast, even if they were a gamble.

Some of the heavier German tanks were able to be sealed up, and wade through a river with support. This process took time and many commanders simply went for the fastest option. When its between a Soviet 85 mm round or a creaky old bridge, you can see why!

This didn’t always go to plan – here are some examples of when those risks didn’t pay off.

 

This British Mark V “Flying Fox” collapsed a canal bridge at Masnieres. All of the crew survived. The wreckage of the tank was later used as the foundations of a new bridge erected by the Germans.
This British Mark V “Flying Fox” collapsed a canal bridge at Masnieres. All of the crew survived. The wreckage of the tank was later used as the foundations of a new bridge erected by the Germans.

 

M3 Lee tank falls through a bridge in Monroe, NC 1941.
M3 Lee tank falls through a bridge in Monroe, NC 1941.

 

A Tiger I from Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 506 after falling through a bridge, 1945.
A Tiger I from Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 506 after falling through a bridge, 1945.

 

On 23 November 1943, Tiger 133 crashed through this wooden bridge near Putoschka, killing the tank commander
On 23 November 1943, Tiger 133 crashed through this wooden bridge near Putoschka, killing the tank commander

 

M4A3E8 tank on a bridge that collapsed with weight of vehicle during operation Grosblieberstroff on the Saar. Tank is from 749th Tank Battalion. Dated February 18, 1945.
M4A3E8 tank on a bridge that collapsed with weight of vehicle during operation Grosblieberstroff on the Saar. Tank is from 749th Tank Battalion. Dated February 18, 1945.

 

This wooden bridge had no chance against this 70 ton Panzerjäger Tiger (P).
This wooden bridge had no chance against this 70 ton Panzerjäger Tiger (P).

 

This Panzer III lays where it fell, after the wooden bridge it was crossing collapsed near Dnieper, Soviet Union, August 1941.
This Panzer III lays where it fell, after the wooden bridge it was crossing collapsed near Dnieper, Soviet Union, August 1941.

 

 

This Panther from the 1st Panzer Division crashed through this bridge on the Eastern Front, fall 1944.
This Panther from the 1st Panzer Division crashed through this bridge on the Eastern Front, fall 1944.

 

A captured KV1 tank proved to heavy for the bridge
A captured KV1 tank proved to heavy for the bridge

 

Same tank, different angle
Same tank, different angle

 

Recovery vehicles prepare to tow a Sherman tank of the Irish Guards out of a stream where it landed after collapsing a bridge on the slip road leading to the Bremen-Hamburg autobahn, 20 April 1945.
Recovery vehicles prepare to tow a Sherman tank of the Irish Guards out of a stream where it landed after collapsing a bridge on the slip road leading to the Bremen-Hamburg autobahn, 20 April 1945.

 

Men of the 8th Eng Bn, 1st Cav Div put logs under weakened support of a bridge near Yangzi, Korea, to prevent its collapse until a tank retriever can arrive and remove the M-4 tank. 28 Jan 1951
Men of the 8th Eng Bn, 1st Cav Div put logs under weakened support of a bridge near Yangzi, Korea, to prevent its collapse until a tank retriever can arrive and remove the M-4 tank. 28 Jan 1951

Another Article From Us: Does this Cold War Spy Mission have a Connection to the Recent Floods in India?

 

German engineers build a bridge over the collapse of the Soviet tank KV-1. Initially, this tank in May 1941, was sent to Kharkov armored school,. According to the ‘Report on the motion of the material part of the 27th TP 14th TD’ July 15, 1941 ‘tank KV-M first tank battalion, going from repair in the area of ​​Vitebsk Vitebsk on the highway, the bridge collapsed.
German engineers build a bridge over the collapse of the Soviet tank KV-1. Initially, this tank in May 1941, was sent to Kharkov armored school,. According to the ‘Report on the motion of the material part of the 27th TP 14th TD’ July 15, 1941 ‘tank KV-M first tank battalion, going from repair in the area of ​​Vitebsk Vitebsk on the highway, the bridge collapsed.