In March 1943, Gen. Percy Hobart of the 79th Armoured Division (yes, he was a Brit) was brought out of retirement and given the job of figuring out how to get armored support onto and over the beaches, in order to breach the concrete and minefields of the Atlantic Wall. A hacker in the best sense of the word, he invented swimming tanks. They were known as duplex drive (DD), because they had twin propellers that worked off the main engine. They also had water filled, airproof canvas screen around the hull, which made it look like a floating baby carriage.
He went onto invent a series of specialized tanks that became known as “Hobart’s Funnies” throughout the European Theater. They were usually mounted on Churchill and Sherman tanks and most of the modified vehicles still retained their firepower. They fell into several different varieties: “The Crab” had a giant rotating drum with lengths of chain attached to the front that would clear away any mines and flail any unfortunate Nazis that got in the way. “The Crocodile” had a flame gun attached to the front that had a range of 100 meters; it carried a trailer filled with 400 gallons of fuel behind it. The AVRE carried a fold-out bridge on it’s top. The bridge had a reach of 30 feet and could be fully extended within 30 seconds. Another tank known as the “Bobbin” carried a spool of canvas that was unwound behind the tank, leaving a stable carpet on the soft sandy beaches for treaded vehicles to follow on.
In 1943, Gen. Hobart was knighted for his contributions. His division eventually amassed 7,000 vehicles before being disbanded on August 20, 1945.