Monday, June 06, 2005

SGT Curtis G. Cullin Jr

Lesser Known Hero of the Invasion of Normandy

Ref Link:
Journal of the Singapore Armed Forces
Battlefield Innovation by COL Tay Swee Yee

Part of Col. Yee's article concerning Sgt. Cullin:

"History is replete with examples of how battlefield innovations helped in turning the tide of war. As early as the 16th century, the plug bayonet was replaced by the ring bayonet to allow the infantry to continue firing with the bayonet attached. 5

For the Normandy landings, multi-ship breakwaters, or Mulberries as they were called, sailed on 30 May 1944 as part of the invasion force from ports in Scotland to the five designated beaches. These artificial harbours were a tribute to engineering ingenuity. They consisted of cylindrical floats linked together and anchored in deep water to serve as breakwaters. Concrete caissons (phoenixes), some as high as a six-storey building, would be towed across the channel and sunk in place to extend the Mulberry breakwaters. In the sheltered water, rooms were provided for the anchoring of ocean-going as well as coastal ships.6

At the same landing beaches, the Allied forces were confronted with hedgerows at the egress routes, which the American troops were not trained nor prepared to overcome.

The bocage of Normandy

Tanks were particularly vulnerable when climbing over such obstacles as the lightly armoured tank bellies would be exposed to enemy fire. At such critical moments also, the tank gun could not be depressed sufficiently to return fire.

SGT Curtis G. Cullin Jr., an American serving in the 102nd Cavalry Recce Squadron, devised a sort of fork made of iron which could be attached to the front of the tank thus enabling it to cut through a hedgerow rather than climb it. A maintenance expert in the same unit then worked on the technical aspect of the problem and built forks out of salvaged iron bars which the Germans had used for beach obstacles. A frantic pace developed to equip as many tanks as possible with the simple contraption before the final breakout - "Operation Cobra".

SGT Cullin was later awarded the Legion of Merit for his innovativeness.7"

The Cullins Device located on the front of the tank.

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