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Curtis G. Culin III
Native son Curtis "Bud" Culin contributed substantially to the Allied breakthrough in the bocage during the Normandy invasion during the summer of 1944. Thick hedgerows impeded the progress of Allied soldiers, and when American tanks tried to crash through them, they frequently rode up and over them, exposing their unarmored undersides to enemy fire, while all their weapons were pointed skywards.
SGT Culin was serving as a tanker with the New Jersey National Guard's 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, the "Essex Troop". He developed a four pronged plow from angle iron the Germans used on the beaches of Normandy, and attached it to the front of his tank. It was dubbed the "Rhino" by those who saw it.
General Omar Bradley was summoned to see a demonstration of the device, and he ordered as many as possible to be made immediately. By the time of the St. Lo "Breakout", three out of every five American tanks were fitted with the Rhino. Both Generals Bradley (in his book A Soldier's Story) and Eisenhower credited the device with saving many lives and contributing to the Allies' success. For this important achievement, Curtis Culin was awarded the Legion of Merit.
Several months later, Curtis Culin lost a leg to a land mine in the Huertgen Forest. After recuperating, he returned home and resumed his career as a salesman. A plaque dedicated to Curtis Culin can be found affixed to a boulder on the North Union Avenue side of the Carnford Municipal building. Culin's parents, Bud and Bess, resided at 215 Holly Street until their passing in the early 1980s.
(Excerpt from Omar N. Bradley's A Soldier's Story) …
a tank sergeant fashioned from the scrap steel of an enemy roadblock the device that was at last to give our tanks an upper hand in the bocage.
The invention came on the eve of its greatest need. For the hedgerows that had frustrated our tanks in Normandy extended not only the carpet but beyond it into the path of our blitz. If Operation COBRA were to go, it was essential the armor break free and not be slowed down in the bocage. Previous attempts to force the Normandy hedgerows had failed when our Shermans bellied up over the tops of those mounds instead of crashing through them. There they exposed their soft undersides to the enemy while their own guns pointed helplessly toward the sky. Less than a week before the planned jump-off, (Major General) Gerow telephoned early one morning to ask if I could meet him at the 2nd Division. "Bring your ordnance officer along", he said, "we've got something that will knock your eyes out".
I found Gerow with several of his staff clustered about a light tank to which a crossbar had been welded. Four tusk-like prongs protruded from it. The tank backed off and ran head-on toward a hedgerow at ten miles an hour. Its tusks bored into the wall, pinned down the belly, and the tank broke through under a canopy of dirt. A Sherman similarly equipped duplicated the performance. It, too, crashed into the wall, but instead of bellying skyward, it pushed on through. So absurdly simple that it had baffled an army for more than five weeks, the tusklike device had been fashioned by Curtis G. Culin, Jr., a 29-year old sergeant….
(Ordnance Lt. Col.) Medaris sped back to the CP where he ordered every ordnance unit in the army on round-the-clock production of those antihedgerow devices. Scrap metal for the tank tusks came from Rommel's underwater obstacles on the beaches. Later that afternoon Medaris jumped a plane for England and conscripted the depots there. At six that evening the units in France discovered that more arc-welding equipment would be needed and by eight a plane was en route to England. Trucks were waiting at the airstrip when it returned before breakfast the next morning. Within a week, three out of every five tanks in the breakout had been equipped with the device. For his invention culin was awarded the Legion of Merit by the corps. Four months later he went home … after having left a leg in the Huertgen Forest.
(Excerpt from Dwight D. Eisenhower's address to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers January 10, 1961) 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.
Because this seemed like a crazy idea, they did not even go to the engineers very fast, because they were afraid of the technical advice, and then someone did have a big questions, "Where are you going to find the steel for all this thing?" Well now, happily the Germans tried to keep us from going on the beaches with great steel "chevaux de fries" - big crosses, there were all big bars of steel down on the beach where the Germans left it. And he got it - got these things sharpened up - and it worked fine. The biggest and happiest group I suppose in all the Allied Armies that night were those that knew that this thing worked. And it worked beautifully.