Target, tank! 12 o'clock! Sabot! Fire!
On the way!......Target!
Target, BRDM! 2 o'clock! HE! Fire!
On the way!....Target!
Check fire! Check fire! No target sighted. Driver! Move 400 East align MLR!
That would be a scary war, wouldn't it? One we had to fight against muppets. Think about it. If you were a soldier, and you had Grover, or Fozzie in your sights and having to pull the trigger. That'd be rough.
Today, I want to tell you about a Scooter. The worlds most famous Scooter, to be exact.
No, not my cat. Although my cat is pretty famous. By association, at least. He's famous because he's my cat.*
The Scooter I'm talking about is also not the one pictured. Although he is a very famous Scooter, he isn't the most famous Scooter. That honor belongs to the Scooter everyone calls 'Vespa'.
Show me a person that doesn't know what a Vespa is, and I'll be looking at someone who probably is under the age of 10. When it comes to scooters, Vespas are what people picture in their heads.
Well, the Vespa has more functionality than most people realize. Why, I bet you never have seen a Vespa like the Vespa 150 Tap. Unless you've visited a Vespa show....or lived in France in 1956....
In 1956, France was involved in a little conflict in SouthEast Asia. They called it 'French IndoChina', while we Americans call it Vietnam.
At the time, the French were doing what the Americans would try to do less than a decade later: trying to stop the spread of communism. Hahaha.....No, not really. The French were trying to reclaim parts of their former empire that had been taken from them by Japan.
Well, the jungles over in Vietnam are dense. Even the US had issues moving vehicles through them. The French military was really put out by the fact that their enemy wasn't willing to go to where the French had their guns. Why, they made the French go find them!
So, the French developed the Vespa 150 Tap. It was a standard Vespa with a slightly reinforced frame. Oh, it also had a 75mm recoilless rifle attached to it. The M20, to be exact.
The M20 recoilless rife could fire a HEAT round that could penetrate up to 10mm of steel armor. It was a very handy weapon to support infantry with. And it was ideal for destroying enemy bunkers in the jungle.
The reinforced frame on the Vespa meant the M20 could be fired from the Vespa. How? Well, a recoilless rifle works by funneling the exhaust gasses from the round are channelled through the rear of the weapon which counter acts the natural recoil of the gun. Hence the name, recoilless rifle.
It wasn't advised to fire it from the Vespa, as there was no real way to aim it. So the tube was detachable, and the rifle would be mounted on a tripod so it could be precisely aimed.
They were paired up with a second Vespa which was outfitted to carry ammunition, and the two Vespas had a crew of two to use them. They were designed to be dropped in to the area where they were needed by parachute.
And, the French military liked them so much that, in 1959 they upgraded the design to make it more effective.
I don't usually include pictures, (or links), in my posts, but this Vespa really has to be seen to be believed. So I'm including a pic.
All told, France produced about 500 of these scooters.
The one thing the French never used them for is the one thing they were designed for, though.
By the time this model of the Vespa rolled off the line in 1956, Frances involvement in Vietnam was over. They had suffered a humiliating defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and left the country in the control of a former restaurant worker from New York, Ho Chi Minh.
But, as it has been said many times, every military is stuck preparing/fighting the last war. So they designed and produced a vehicle that would have been perfect had they had it just 5 years earlier.
Still, this was an efficient way for France move medium weapons about. You have to remember...this is the country that only 40 years earlier, in 1914, used taxis to move their troops to the front lines. (let me know if you want to hear about that one...)
* No really. I have two cats and one is named Scooter. In fact, as I write this, he's laying on the towel-bed I have on my computer desk. He likes to put his paw on my arm while I type so he can...I don't know....claim me? Well...he's doing it now. And his head is resting on the paw, too. Why....the little turd is sleeping! My other cat, Cosmo, is behind me, sleeping on the couch.