You won’t find this in any history books, but The Haunted Tank was the single deadliest tank in World War II. Despite its relative lack of armor and firepower, the M-3 Stuart tank commanded by Jeb Stuart and watched over by the ghost of General J.E.B. Stuart personally destroyed half of the German Tiger tanks in existence and shot down approximately ¼ of the Luftwaffe. If memory serves, the Haunted Tank is the only tank in history to ever sink a U-Boat or to shoot down an ME-109 while parachuting. In short, The Haunted Tank is super bad-ass.
I submit that the tank itself is bad-ass, and not just because they have an elite crew and a sort of supernatural radar in the form of the ghost. No, The Haunted Tank is tougher, faster, luckier, and just plain spunkier than any other tank on the battlefield.
In order to punch up the drama, writer Robert Kanigher always pitted the little Haunted Tank against German Tiger tanks, massively armored heavy tanks that packed long-reaching 88mm guns. In Showcase Presents The Haunted Tank, they’re the only German tanks that even appear. We never see any Panzers*, the main battle tank of the Wehrmacht, at all. But Kanigher was going for a David v Goliath thing, so the little M-3 was thrown against hordes of Tiger tanks.
Now, I don’t mean to nitpick, but the 37mm cannon in the Stuart was barely adequate against Panzers and would have had little chance of damaging a Tiger, particularly through the thick front armor. 75 mm shells would just bounce off the hulls of the 45 ton beasts. Most M-3 crews would run away run away if they encountered a Tiger by themselves. I know: I’m critiquing the military accuracy of a comic book about a haunted tank. I should let it go, huh?
Whatever The Haunted Tank lacks in firepower, it compensates with sheer plucky spirit and a can-do attitude. Look at that scrappy little armored vehicle ramming a big ol’ Tiger:
That’s chutzpah! It’s like a cross between R2-D2 and Herbie the Love Bug, only with a 37 mm cannon and twin machine guns.
I haven’t bothered counting, but The Haunted Tank blows the turrets off half a dozen Tigers in every comic. Considering that The Haunted Tank feature ran for a quarter decade in G.I. Combat, and there were fewer than 1,500 Tiger tanks ever made, I’d say that one tank was responsible for the destruction of approximately 900 of them. It’s like they have +4 Vorpal Shells of Tiger Slaying or something.
The Haunted Tank was as agile and quick as a jack rabbit; a common ploy was racing between two Tigers, causing them to fire on each other like the Nazi chumps they are. That little M-3 was always bobbing and weaving, following the cavalry doctrine of their dead guardian with the gay, reckless laugh: always keep ‘em off balance.
Of course, the crew of The Haunted Tank were all a bunch of gung-ho mo-fos as well, so they were a good match for their ride. If there’s one thing these guys were into, it was beating Nazis. And they didn’t need a tank to do it!
On more than one occasion The Haunted Tank teamed up with DC’s legendary war hero Sgt. Rock and the combat-happy G.I.s of Easy Company. That, my friends, is a recipe for a Whup-Ass Omelet. If Sgt. Rock rolls with your crew, you’re doing something right.
If I haven’t convinced you that The Haunted Tank is the physical embodiment of radness, I have failed. Showcase Presents The Haunted Tank is 500 pages packed with tales of weird warfare, all for only $16.95. You can’t beat that. And if you don’t like it, you can always use the thick book as makeshift armor for prison shiv duels. That is a multi-functional book.
I hope the fact that it’s in black and white doesn’t dissuade you. If anything, I think the lack of color really enhances the line work, particularly the stories drawn by Russ Heath. Check out this panel below of two Tigers firing ineffectively at our favorite tank:
I think that’s beautiful, with the sure-handed lines and the deep blacks. Heath was a master of his craft.
Not to be a stickler for detail again, but why are the tank commanders in the panel above screaming “shit” in German?**
Like the Confederate ghost with the gay, reckless laugh, it’s just one of those strange mysteries of war...
*My bad: Tigers actually are a type of Panzer. Like most people, when I think of Panzers I think of the Panzer III and Panzer IV models, which were far more common than the jumbo Tiger.
**Thanks to intrepid and multilingual DLB readers, I have discovered that the German words for "shoot" and "shit" are similar. Apparently the tank commanders are yelling, "To shoot!"