"Fantails" used in Operation "Goldflake" - 1945

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by Wiffer, Nov 24, 2017.

  1. Wiffer

    Wiffer Member


    can anyone tell me what "Fantails" were mentioned in the War Diary of the 38 Vehicle Company in February 1945 in connection with "Goldflake". These "Fantails" were being prepared for shipping out of Italy to be used elsewhere.


  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  3. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    I just spotted this thread and on seeing the word "Fantails" my ears stood up !

    My diary for the period immediately before I joined the 4th QOH reminds me of my first sight of these amphibious monsters:

    March 1945
    Thursday 22nd. March 1945
    The 'Fantails' are now in the wood having been brought in one o'clock this morning. Weird looking things!. Spent greater part of day un-sheeting. Had to guide a new lot in at 9.30 pm.

    Friday 23rd. March 1945
    Am now I/C grease point. Only got through four of the water buffaloes. Everyone needs a bath & some rest. At 8.30 met transporters, unloaded & guided in the 'jobs'

    Saturday 24th. March 1945
    One solid day's work & then we had to go back at 8 pm

    Once I had joined my unit, I was soon to be part of the Kangaroo Army, but that's another story !

    stolpi, Mike L, Tom OBrien and 3 others like this.
  4. Wiffer

    Wiffer Member

    Thanks Owen for your prompt response to my query and the excellent photo's of the "Fantails". Thanks too Ron for recounting your experiences working with this unusual-looking piece of equipment - very interesting.

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  5. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

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  6. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    If I remember correctly the American name for these was Amtrac, short for Amphibious Tracked Vehicle, or was that Amphibious Tractor (I have a feeling it may have been the latter). They were first used in the Pacific (at Tarawa I think but don't quote me on that) and the first incarnations of the Amtrac had a bow door (much like the Higgins boat) which flopped down on the beach. Unfortunately, and especially at the very, very heavily defended Tarawa, the Japanese MG's danced a tattoo over the front of all these Amtracs which resulted in a very high casualty rate. This, and the failing radios at Tarawa, were responsible for Maj Shoup's radio message to command, "issue in doubt", something no-one wants to hear during the early stages of an opposed landing. Thereafter the Amtrac design was revised to put the door at the back thus allowing the combat soldier to disembark, under cover, whilst the heavy MG's at the bow aided in keeping enemy heads down. In this configuration it was immensely successful and was used in Italy and NW Europe, most famously on the crossing of the Rhine!

    There's a book on Amtracs some of which can be previewed on Google books here...

    Across the Reef
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2018
    Wiffer likes this.
  7. Wiffer

    Wiffer Member

    Thanks for the additional info on the Amtrak / Fantail. Much appreciated.

  8. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    Oh, Incidentally, I'd heartily recommend Col. Alexander's book on the Tarawa assault, IIRC it's called "Utmost Savagery". Alexander was a 'Tractor Rat' himself, in the Marine corp, with extensive service in Vietnam. His book is the first to offer a comprehensive idea of why the Japanese failed to mount a counter-attack on that first day ashore when the USMC were holding on with their fingertips, or as Shoup said, "an old lady with a broom could have swept us off that beach!". Apparrently the entire Japanese command structure were giving up their command bunker to accomodate the seriously wounded and were spotted in the open by one of the few radio operators who could actually get a shore to ship connection. He didn't really know what he was looking at but thought it was a bunch of high rankings in the open and worthy of an attempted shoot, one that proved to be so successful that there was no-one left to coordinate the defence. Of course it's only really speculation as there were not to many Japanese survivors after that battle. Of the more than 5,000 Japanese combat troops on that island (about a mile long and half-a-mile wide IIRC) very few surrendered and of those 28 who did, most of them were Koreans. I think the highest ranking officer they captured was a WO. The USMC also lost an enomous amount of men, over 3,000 in a 76 hour period!

    Tarawa is all but forgotten these days but coming as it id did in November 1943 it was the first, proper, opposed Landing that the Allies had mounted since Gallipoli (Dieppe was a 'raid in force') and fear of failure was uppermost in everyone's minds in the days running up to the assault. A mere six months before the Normandy landings and a lot of things were learned from Tarawa that helped make Normandy a success, not least of which was the need for a single radio command ship to keep in touch with the assault forces ashore. At Tarawa it was assumed, with dreadful consequences, that the TBY Radios used by the USMC would be sufficient to communicate with any ship in the fleet. In reality all the ships were pounding away at the island with their big guns and the percussion has been implicated as one of the prime reasons for the failure of comms on the day (that and wet radios). So at Normandy, there were a dedicated, non-firing comms ship whose functions were to keep in touch with the assault forces and relay information throughout the fleet. Seems like a sensible things to do in hindsight but in 1943 at Tarawa no-one had thought about it!
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  9. Wiffer

    Wiffer Member

    Great insight, and sounds like a most interesting read - thanks.

  10. Dave55

    Dave55 Very Senior Member

    I don't think any version of the LVT had bow doors or ramps. LCVPs got hung up on the reef at Tarawa and their men suffered a lot of casualties when the bow ramps were dropped. As far as I know all versions of the LVT had front mounted engines and transmissions so it would be difficult to have a bow ramp.
    Owen likes this.
  11. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    Dave55, well mate I won't argue with you about bow doors because it's been such a long time since I read up on Tarawa (about 10 years I think). My memory may be playing me false here but I'm sure I've seen photographs of LVT's with bow doors, and even some with Jeeps in them. it may be that I'm mistaken about a bow door and now that I think about it may it have been that there was no door at all, that in order to disembark they had to climb over the sides and this made them vulnerable to enemy fire? Whatever, it was I'm pretty sure that in "Tarawa: A hell of a way to die", or Alexander's book, that there is significant discussion about this problem and that it was resolved by the addition of a back door. But I'm now doubting myself so I may have to wander into my library and have a look through those old books! :D
  12. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    Just read up on Wikipedia (not the most reliable source, admittedly) and saw the following....

    Still, I'm going to have to go back to the books to see just exactly what it was I read all those years ago...now that I'm getting closer to my 60's the old memory no longer works as well as it once did :)
  13. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Now that I'm getting closer to my 100's the old memory no longer, etc., etc., etc., :sleepy: :sleepy: :sleepy: (sorry....... couldn't resist it ! ) :cheers:
  14. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    Bested by a nonagenarian!!!! :D:)
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  15. Dave55

    Dave55 Very Senior Member

  16. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  17. Dave55

    Dave55 Very Senior Member

    Found a Periscope Film on LVTs.

    It looks like the first production version did have the engine in the rear. It's hard to tell from the film but it looks like the radial engine was at the back with the driveshaft running through the cargo compartment to the front. Some of the ones here are pretty well armed. A few shown have 75mm pack howitzers and flame throwers.

    canuck likes this.
  18. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    Nice find mate, looking at the footloops on the side tells me that they must have expected the men to climb in and out via the sides. Seems a bit strange given that they were primarily designed for ship to shore cargo transport.

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