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Normandy Hedgerow Battles in WWII :
Rhino Tanks

HEDGEROW is a topographical term for the growth of hedges and small trees typical of the Normandy region of France. The thick vegetation grows in an earthen embankment three to five feet tall and just as thick. Since Roman times, the farmers of Normandy have bordered their fields with hedgerows. Small lanes and roads run alongside these hedgerows.

This feature of the terrain caused the Allies great problems during the fight for Normandy in World War II. Allied units could not see beyond the next hedgerow. The Germans defended each embankment. The hedgerows made Normandy a natural fortress. During battles, tanks could not climb the embankments of the hedgerows without exposing their undersides to anti-tank fire. Tanks moving down the narrow, tree-covered lanes would get blasted by German tanks, assault guns, or anti-tank guns. Disabled tanks would block the lane for following tanks

A small German unit with a few machine guns supported by anti-tank weapons could prevent an entire battalion from advancing. In July 1944, tankers began welding iron beams to the front of Sherman tanks (like a set of teeth) to overcome the hedgerow problem. The tank could then drive directly at the hedgerow and plow through the mass of earth and vegetation without exposing itself. This was known as a "Rhino" conversion or Rhino tank.

The Southern California basin, where Combat! was filmed, has no topographical features similar to the Normandy hedgerows. The Combat! writers could only make reference to the landscape feature in dialog. Hedgerows are discussed in the episode "The Squad."

Thank you to Dion Osika (aka Dodger) for providing this information.

 

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