Vehicle Markings & the 68th Tank Battalion in Vatimont

The 6th Armored Division had three Tank Battalions: the 15th, the 68th and the 69th. Each battalion had its own insignia. 
Because the 15th was known as the Wolf Pack, it had a wolf's head over an armored triangle as the battalion insignia. In some black and white photos the marking appears as a wolf head on a simple white square. Sometimes the painting wasn't even finished before the vehicle was sent into action.
Some veterans also mentioned it made them nervous to go into action with a big white target painted on their tanks.
The 69th had a Panther inside the hull stars as its battalion insignia. Apparently it is rather rare to see a 69th tank with the insignia painted on as it has only been seen on some light tanks from D Company and a couple of howitzers from HQ Company.
The 68th use two types of insignia: a "Fighting Turtle", the Disney character Toby Tortoise and a white triangle. The white triangle was by far the most used although the turtle has been seen in some photos.



Next to the battalion insignias, the tanks would also have a hull number. The tanks were numbered as follows:

  • HQ Company: 11 - 19
  • A Company: 21 - 38
  • B Company: 41 - 58
  • C Company: 61 - 78
  • D Company: 81 - 98

Each company had one Howitzer Sherman except for the HQ Company which had 3 and the Howitzer Shermans used the last number in the series. 
The rest of the tanks where a variety of Shermans: M-4, M4A3 (75mm and 76mm), Jumbos, a few composite M-4s and some "Easy 8's".
D Company was the light tank company and used M-5A1 light tanks.


Examples

Now let's look at some examples of 6th Armored Division tanks and their markings:

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This photo shows tanks of the 68th Tank Battalion which can be recognized by the white triangle on the hull. The Sherman in the foreground has number 47 which would make it a B Company tank.



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The next photo shows another tank of the 68th Tank Battalion. This one has both the white triangle and the "fighting turtle". The number of the tank is obscured by the tanker who is standing in front of it but other photos show it to be number 23 which would make it an A Company tank.



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The next one is a tank named "Army Mule". It has the wolf head on the white square so we know it belongs to the 15th Tank Battalion. The number is 34 so it's an A Company tank. Another hint as to what company the tank belongs would be the name. Very often a vehicles nick name would start with the letter of the company.



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Next we see another 68th Tank Battalion Sherman. This one has been knocked out in the woods between Bastogne and Bourcy in January 1945. We can clearly see the white triangle and the number 66 which would place it in C Company.


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Next we see another shot of the number 47 (B Company) Sherman of the 68th Tank Battalion. Sitting on top of it are soldiers of the 320th Regiment, 35th Infantry Division on January 9 1945.



Some other good examples of the marking of tanks can be seen in an old news reel which shows the movement of the 68th Tank Battalion through the French town of Vatimont on November 13 1944.

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A Howitzer of HQ Company. 




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B Company Sherman number 41.


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HQ Company Howitzer number 16.




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B Company number 57.




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Not a numbered Sherman, but still interesting: a halftrack of the 76th Armored Medical Battalion which would be attached to the 68th Tank Battalion.

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A Company number 37.




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HQ Company number 19.


Background to the footage

The footage shows vehicles of the 68th Tank Battalion moving through the French town of Vatimont (starting around 5:30 in the video). Vatimont is located to the South East of Metz. On the morning of November 12th the battalion entered the town of Baudrecourt against light resistance from the Germans. Company A joined the 9th Armored Infantry Battalion with the mission to seize the bridge across the La Rotte river between Baudrecourt and Vatimont. On arriving the Company found the bridge to be demolished and the Germans well dug in in all areas East of Baudrecourt.Infantry of the 318th Regiment, 80th Infantry Division was sent in to establish a bridgehead across the La Rotte river so the Engineers would be able to repair the bridge. Company A tanks took up positions along the railroad track south of the river and prepared to support this attack by direct fire. 

The attack began at 1400 hours November 12th and coincided with an attack on Vatimont by elements of the 9th Armored Infantry Battalion. The attack met very little resistance and the bridgehead was sucessfully established. During the night the Battalion remained in Baudrecrout while the Engineers worked on the bridge.

Shortly after noon on the 13th the Battalion left Baudrecourt and struck out for Vatimont but the soft mud and terrible state of the roads resulted in very slow movement. It was late afternoon when the column had cleared the North bank of the river and could proceed to the town of Arraincourt. 

On the way to Arraincourt the Battalion passed through the town of Vatimont. This is what the footage shows. 

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The movement of the 68th Tank Battalion on the afternoon of November 13, 1944. The 166th signal photo company recorded the movement of the vehicles through the town of Vatimont.




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The camera men shot the footage from positions 1 through 4 as seen in the above photo.



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Position 1



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Position 2



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Position 3



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Position 4



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Lastly we see a nice then & now comparison as seen from position 2 in Vatimont.

Sources:

68th Tank Battalion History

6th armored division