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Patton's Machineguns


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The_Chieftain #1 Posted Feb 21 2014 - 20:28

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You may recall Steve Zaloga mentioning that in Gen Bruce Clarke's memoirs, Clarke described Gen Patton as "knowing less about tanks than any general officer he ever knew."  Clicky-linky thing to Zaloga

 

Well, in my bouncing around the National Archives, I ran across a report submitted by a rather frustrated Ordnance officer who had gone to visit Patton in France to meet a request that Patton had made for more machinegun firepower. To my lasting regret, I didn't have time to scan it all, but the gist of it was that this officer had brought with him a new, high-rate-of fire .30 calibre machinegun which, in the view of Ordnance Branch, would adequately meet the request for more dakka.

 

He didn't specify the exact machinegun he had brough along, though one must consider the likelihood of ot being a derivative of the AN/M2 or T33, the "Stinger". He did however, make it clear that he thought he had wasted his trip. He went on to explain (All the below directly quoted):

 

General Patton's original request was for dual co-axial machine guns. When he first examined the modifications, he was disappointed, since he expected a new gun mount or turret. Upon this officer's explanation that the modification submitted could be furnished from available stocks in a very short time, and that the high cyclic rate guns actually afforded a greater increase in firep power than by the addition of one more co-axial gun; and that the time required to design and produce a new turret, or at least a new combination gun mount would be excessive and could not be readily installed in the field, he stated that the modification were "an excellent idea"

 

General Patton said that "the principle weapon of the tank is the machine gun" and he wanted two co-axial guns on the medium tanks, one on each side of the cannon, - one of the machine guns to be a Caliber .50 for use against thin skinned vehicles, and the other a Caliber .30 for use against personnel. Light tanks should have two co-axial Calibre .30 machine guns.

 

General Patton stated that "the German tanks are superior to ours in silhouette and in armament" and recommended careful study of all their details. The General further stated that in his opinion "a rotating turret was unnecessary and that our tanks were unnecessarily complicated and expensive"

 

The General stated that "the Ordnance Department should start designing tanks for the next war, which will come much sooner than most people realise"

 

Major General Grow, commanding general of the 10th Armored Division was not in favour of high cyclic rate machine guns and did not want any modifications made except to provide more powerful cannon. He stated that "there is nothing the matter with the present machine guns, if the modifications are adopted, we'll take them, try them out, and discard them if we don't like them"

 

General Grow. Perhaps the Ordnance officer was working from memory, but Grow commanded 6th Armored.

 

 A number of officers of his command agreed with this decision. General Patton did not.

The Chief of Staff, 3rd Army, Brigadier General Gay, stated "we don't want any high cyclic rate machine guns - they use up ammunition too damn fast"

 

General Gay, as photographed in the Korean War

 

General Dager stated that any new design of turret should have the AA gun mounted centrally and forward of the hatches that the gun may be fired by either the loader or the tank commander. He stated that little use could be made of the Calibre .50 AA machine gun, as mounted now, since the loader is ordinarily a very busy man and usually rides with his hatch cover closed, while it is nearly impossible for the tank commander to fire the gun effectively without exposing a great portion of his body.

 

On 19 January 1945 Colonel Nixon and this officer reported to General Patton the recommendations of the 4th and 10th Armored Division commanders. Colonel Nixon recommended to General Patton that the modifications not be adopted because of the confusion which he said would result from having two types of Calibre .30 machine guns in service, requiring spare parts for the new weapons, as well as the time required to get the new weapons in the tanks from the UNITED STATES. Colonel Nixon added that since the Army Air Forces had priority on the new Calibre .50 anti-aircraft barrels, it would undoubtedly be a long time before any appreciable number could be furnished to the Army Ground Forces for tank use. Colonel Nixon recommended that no change be made in tank armament until General Patton's original request could be fulfilled by new designs.

 

General Patton accepted Colonel Nixon's recommendations and so instructed this officer.

 

Comment on the value of the bow gun was as varied as the number of officers expressing an opinion. General patton said it was a "damn nuisance". Many officers expressed a desire for a gun which would fire to the front, 45 degrees to either flank, and which would have a reflecting or optical sight.

 

End extracts.

 

If this is indeed typical of the sorts of opinion that Patton had, it seems likely that Gen Clarke's opinion is valid. In addition to having contrary opinions to those of his officers, he seems to both demonstrate a lack of understanding of the capabilities of Ordnance Branch ("Ah, sure, just design a new turret for me"), or a simple disregard of Ordnance Branch's efforts. "Gee, we in Ordnance never thought about examining the enemy's equipment. Thank you for suggesting it to us, General Patton..." As for tanks not needing a turret and being too expensive, well, I'm not sure I'd agree with him on that one.



Frostopper #2 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 18:54

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To be more than fair to Patton, an intermediate-sized autocannon between the calibers of 12.7mm, and 20mm (AMX-30) have been mounted either coaxially or on the turret-roof as an AA-mount.

-But I'm pretty sure the decision to do-so in these cases came from elsewhere.


Edited by Frostopper, Feb 22 2014 - 19:01.


Arrowfoot #3 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 19:21

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Removed because of my own stupidity.


Edited by Arrowfoot, Feb 25 2014 - 22:13.


Dominatus #4 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 19:30

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View PostFrostopper, on Feb 22 2014 - 12:54, said:

To be more than fair to Patton, an intermediate-sized autocannon between the calibers of 12.7mm, and 20mm (AMX-30) have been mounted either coaxially or on the turret-roof as an AA-mount.

-But I'm pretty sure the decision to do-so in these cases came from elsewhere.

Anything larger than 13.2mm is a little large for tank use, even 14.5mm

 

View PostArrowfoot, on Feb 22 2014 - 13:21, said:

I was just wondering oh great and all knowing chieftain,  if you ever have anything good to say about Patton. He had his flaws as do all men, but he did do some pretty amassing things. Deep down I cant help but wounder if it is your British roots or your Russian pay check that inspires you to tare down the US and the Germans?

I think it's more that everyone says so much praise to Patton, even if he doesn't necessarily deserve it. Yeide does a pretty good breakdown of a more accurate side of the story.



Arrowfoot #5 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 19:40

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View PostDominatus, on Feb 22 2014 - 12:30, said:

Anything larger than 13.2mm is a little large for tank use, even 14.5mm

 

I think it's more that everyone says so much praise to Patton, even if he doesn't necessarily deserve it. Yeide does a pretty good breakdown of a more accurate side of the story.

 

Removed do to my own stupidity.


Edited by Arrowfoot, Feb 25 2014 - 22:14.


Azyur #6 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 19:42

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Patton's Machineguns - The Chieftain's Hatch

 

General Patton was a polarizing figure within his era, much like MacArthur. As a result, he attracted as much professional jealousy as he did public admiration. This is why I tend to take opinion from subordinates and rivals, like General Bruce Clarke, with a large dose of salt. One should always consider that men like Clarke, never spoke poorly of Patton until long after their service, or his death.

 

One should also note that Patton was an actual, old school, cavalry officer and Olympic fencer. His strength as a leader didn't require him to know the  sundry details of a tank's operating manual; It was in knowing how to deploy his forces in a timely and effective manner to counteract, or undermine his enemies and exploiting opportunities. This he did throughout his career.

 

As for the observations of the peeved Ordinance department bureaucrat? Clearly, we know both his recollections and temperament were strained. However, his observation that General Patton  considered axis tank designs superior is likely true and certainly astute of the General. Recall that most Army brass and departments (including Ordinance) believed the Sherman and Stuarts to be equal or superior to their German rivals, regardless of what field personnel were saying.

 

General Patton's contention that the tank mounted machine gun was the tankers' primary weapon is also correct. Even today, tankers tend to discharge far more machine gun rounds against hostile threats than main gun rounds, even in support of infantry. Patton's desire for  either the high-cyclic-rate .50 caliber in use by the USAAF, or a similar .30 caliber model is understandable. It is a shame these weapons were not prioritized for armored assets use.

 

I really would have to see the entirety of the conversation to believe that Patton believed tanks didn't need turrets. I'm sure there was context which we cannot see. As for them being too expensive? Who could honestly argue that point. In fact, they've only increased in expense since his era.

 

Finally, General Patton's opinion that the bow mounted machine gun was a nuisance is also astute, as its omission from future designs has proven. Not only was it a burden on a crewman with another responsibility, but its limited field of fire and  accompanying weak point in the glacis were, indeed, a "damn nuisance".

 

Overall, I welcome reading about Patton and the opinions of his contemporaries, but when an article seems to slant to the negative on a man, who's accomplishments cannot be disputed by objective observers, I tend to tune out.  Was Patton a saint? Of course not. Neither was he a boob, or incompetent. What he was is a confident, capable leader, who would not accept defeatism, at a time when the Allies sorely needed one.

 



Arrowfoot #7 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 19:49

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View PostAzyur, on Feb 22 2014 - 12:42, said:

Patton's Machineguns - The Chieftain's Hatch

 

General Patton was a polarizing figure within his era, much like MacArthur. As a result, he attracted as much professional jealousy as he did public admiration. This is why I tend to take opinion from subordinates and rivals, like General Bruce Clarke, with a large dose of salt. One should always consider that men like Clarke, never spoke poorly of Patton until long after their service, or his death.

 

One should also note that Patton was an actual cavalry officer and Olympic fencer. His strength as a leader didn't require him to know the  sundry details of a tank's operating manual; It was in knowing how to deploy his forces in a timely and effective manner to counteract, or undermine his enemies. This he did throughout his career.

 

As for the observations of the peeved Ordinance department bureaucrat? Clearly, we know both his recollections and temperament were strained. However, his observation that General Patton  considered axis tank designs superior is likely true and certainly astute of the General. Recall that most Army brass and departments (including Ordinance) believed the Sherman and Stuarts to be equal or superior to their German rivals, regardless of what field personnel were saying.

 

General Patton's contention that the tank mounted machine gun was the tankers' primary weapon is also correct. Even today, tankers tend to discharge far more machine gun rounds against hostile threats than main gun rounds, even in support of infantry. Patton's desire for  either the high-cyclic-rate .50 caliber in use by the USAAF, or a similar .30 caliber model is understandable. It is a shame these weapons were not prioritized for armored assets use.

 

I really would have to see the entirety of the conversation to believe that Patton believed tanks didn't need turrets. I'm sure there was context which we cannot see. As for them being too expensive? Who could honestly argue that point. In fact, they've only increased in expense since his era.

 

Finally, General Patton's opinion that the bow mounted machine gun was a nuisance is also astute, as its omission from future designs has proven. Not only was it a burden on a crewman with another responsibility, but it's limited field of fire and  accompanying weak point in the glacis were, indeed, a "damn nuisance".

 

Overall, I welcome reading about Patton and the opinions of his contemporaries, but when an article seems to slant to the negative on a man, who's accomplishments cannot be disputed by objective observers, I tend to tune out.  Was Patton a saint? Of course not. Neither was he a boob, or incompetent. What he was is a confident, capable leader, who would not accept defeatism, at a time when the Allies sorely need one.

 

 

THANK YOU wish I could give more then just +1



Xlucine #8 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 19:58

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I can see the attraction of something between the .30 and main gun, like the stridsvagn 2000 concepts with the 40mm.

amaROenuZ #9 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 20:21

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View PostXlucine, on Feb 22 2014 - 18:58, said:

I can see the attraction of something between the .30 and main gun, like the stridsvagn 2000 concepts with the 40mm.

 

The French seemed to quite like the 20mm autocannon on their AMX-30Bs, It was a solid option for situations where the main gun wasn't ideal, even if the tank didn't see much action.



Dominatus #10 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 21:03

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Honestly, the only suggestion of Patton's here that makes a whole lot of sense is tanks without turrets. Presumably, he based this observation off of the incredible StuG, probably the best German AFV in the 43-45 period. However, the needs of the Germans and the US were very different at that time, so while the Stug was great for the Germans, it's unlikely it would have been as suitable for American purposes. That's not to say the US couldn't have done well with it, but since they needed a proper turreted tank anyways, adding an extra vehicle into the lineup would probably have just complicated matters. That said, I wonder if a casemate tank destroyer would have been a good idea in the Fulda Gap.

 

High RoF machineguns, I certainly wouldn't trust some average conscript with a 1800 rpm weapon. Too easy to jam, uses up far too much ammo. Aircraft weapons need to get as much lead out onto a target in the shortest time possible, it's not nearly the same in a land engagement.

 

Now, high-calibre secondaries is a more intersting topic. The French seem to have been rather pleased with their 20mm on the AMX-30, even though the British came to the conclusion that the Polstens/Oerlikons were useless on the Centurion. Wonder if anybody knows exactly what people thought of their respective systems.


Edited by Dominatus, Feb 22 2014 - 21:04.


The_Chieftain #11 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 21:10

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View PostArrowfoot, on Feb 22 2014 - 18:21, said:

I was just wondering oh great and all knowing chieftain,  if you ever have anything good to say about Patton. He had his flaws as do all men, but he did do some pretty amassing things. Deep down I cant help but wounder if it is your British roots or your Russian pay check that inspires you to tare down the US and the Germans?

 

Yes, I do.

 

Firstly, though, I would point out that I have no British roots anywhere in my family tree as far as I know, and I would also point out that neither my lack of British roots, nor my "Russian" pay cheque have resulted in my not giving praise where I think its due, nor have I ever written any articles extolling the virtues of folks like Bill Slim or Zhukov.

 

Patton did indeed have his good points. He was an organizer, and a motivator. He found and appointed good people to work for him. He had an aggressive spirit and a good understanding of operational tactics.

 

He also, in my great and all-knowing opinion, is undeservedly elevated upon a pedestal above other officers, including US ones, who also knew what the hell they were doing, but who one doesn't hear much about because they just knuckled down to do their jobs without worrying about their place in history, who weren't particularly colourful characters, and who didn't get killed at the height of their publicity. I also believe, and I am not alone in today's officer corps, that he is a terrible example to today's young officers of how to be a leader. The leadership style may have been effective in 1943, but is, I believe wholly unsuited for today. I don't have a hate campaign against Patton who was certainly one of the US's better generals. I do have something of a hate campaign against the Patton Mythos.

 

I don't like myths. Be it that the Sherman sucked, or that Patton was the epitomy of Generalhood. I will try to set the record straight, and I do so using researched material. On any subject. I just tend to focus on the US subjects mainly because that's the local archive I dig in.

 

Quote

The great ones just know who to lead their men and let the men know about the equipment.

 

Agreed... Which may have correlation as to why Patton seemed to be the only person the ordnance officer referenced who had the particular view on the coaxial machineguns and seemed to be under some misconceptions about the development process. Yet that didn't seem to prevent him from straying out of his lane.

 

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This is why I tend to take opinion from subordinates and rivals, like General Bruce Clarke, with a large dose of salt. One should always consider that men like Clarke, never spoke poorly of Patton until long after their service, or his death

 

It is usually bad form to speak ill of fellow officers, especially when they are still in positions of command. Probably a similar reason as to why Patton publicly and repeatedly claimed that the US had the best equipment, including the best tanks, in the world. (regardless of what he said to Ordnance behind closed doors). And if you're going to speak ill of someone with a mythos, why rock the boat when you've got your own career to worry about? Clarke certainly knew his business, and had no career envy: He rose about as high in the field forces as it is possible to get, his opinion cannot be readily discounted. I haven't read his memoirs, for all I know, he thinks Patton was the greatest general he ever served under. But apparently he didn't think much of Patton's technical knowledge.

 

 

Quote

General Patton's contention that the tank mounted machine gun was the tankers' primary weapon is also correct. Even today, tankers tend to discharge far more machine gun rounds against hostile threats than main gun rounds, even in support of infantry. Patton's desire for  either the high-cyclic-rate .50 caliber in use by the USAAF, or a similar .30 caliber model is understandable. It is a shame these weapons were not prioritized for armored assets use.

 

Yet the objections voiced by his subordinates are also understandable. Even today, with 11,000 rounds of coax in the M1, we don't use high cyclic rate machineguns. I think ASF's position that the Air Forces have priority, is sensible, but certainly that's not the problem of people such as Patton. What I think is more interesting is the indication of the apparent disconnect between Patton and others, be it Ordnance or his subordinates, in the field of tank development and design.

 

Quote

As for them being too expensive? Who could honestly argue that point.

 

Me. Have you looked up the unit cost of an M4 medium? (I wonder if he even looked up the unit cost of an M4 medium.). Especially if one compares with the unit cost of one of those 'superior German tanks' which are even more complicated and expensive.

 

Quote

Finally, General Patton's opinion that the bow mounted machine gun was a nuisance is also astute, as its omission from future designs has proven. Not only was it a burden on a crewman with another responsibility, but its limited field of fire and  accompanying weak point in the glacis were, indeed, a "damn nuisance".

 

The issues of the bow machinegun have to be viewed in the overall context at the time. In the immediate post-war period, the development of ranged AT weaponry, especially hand-held, degraded the relative utility of the bow MG, as well as other advances which reduced the utility of the fifth crewman. A case in point is the Ferdinand/Elefant, which pointed out the extreme failing in not having a bow MG at the time.



The_Chieftain #12 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 21:12

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With respect to the 20mm coaxial, what I have -heard-, but not seen anything to back up, is that the crews figured that if anything was big enough to warrant a 20mm, it was probably worth the 105mm and make it blow up immediately. The extra range of elevation of the 20mm was handy, mind. Combined with the amount of room that the 20mm took up, though, and its ammo, was it really worth it?

 

Apparently the French decided 'no', and dropped down to a .50 cal coaxial. I am personally in two minds on the issue.



ZYKLOP_ #13 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 21:28

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In relation to the combination of the .30 and .50 and their purposes; the Australian and New Zealand forces after the Vietnam war mounted a turret (the T50) on the M113  and mounted the .30 and .50 in there.

 

It was a tight squeeze and the .50 had to be elevated for cocking.



Olinorth #14 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 22:09

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To paraphrase the entire article: Patton was an end user.

Even today we have great leaders who do not fully grasp the development process or engineering capabilities that are provided to them. It doesn't mean that they don't grasp some of the process, that they are stupid, or that they are lesser leaders. They are just human. I always enjoy stories that show the human side of someone that has a larger than life reputation.

Ask any group of "average" people about how good a job the last 8 U.S presidents have done and you are going to get more than your fair share of "he didn't do anything right!" for each of them. Ask them about the first 8 presidents and you will probably be lucky to get enough negative comments to fill a paragraph for all of them. When people reach a certain status the "negatives" that show they weren't perfect begin to fade away over time unless they were known for committing colossal blunders, in which case it seems to override all the good they did.



Arrowfoot #15 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 22:44

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Removed do to my own stupidity.

Edited by Arrowfoot, Feb 25 2014 - 22:15.


Arrowfoot #16 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 22:56

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Removed do to my own stupidity.

Edited by Arrowfoot, Feb 25 2014 - 22:15.


Dominatus #17 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 23:24

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We don't exactly have a "Grant Museum of Leadership" though.

Drunk_Driver_ #18 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 23:24

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A interesting read, as always

Xlucine #19 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 23:25

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View PostThe_Chieftain, on Feb 22 2014 - 20:12, said:

With respect to the 20mm coaxial, what I have -heard-, but not seen anything to back up, is that the crews figured that if anything was big enough to warrant a 20mm, it was probably worth the 105mm and make it blow up immediately. The extra range of elevation of the 20mm was handy, mind. Combined with the amount of room that the 20mm took up, though, and its ammo, was it really worth it?

 

Apparently the French decided 'no', and dropped down to a .50 cal coaxial. I am personally in two minds on the issue.

 

If 140mm cannon are adopted by NATO I'm of the opinion tankers will have to learn to live with it considering the large volume requirements of the ammunition, and with something bigger than 20mm. The CTA 40mm seems ideal for this, it's both compact (both gun and ammo) and extremely effective against IFV's and infantry /fanboy

 

View PostArrowfoot, on Feb 22 2014 - 21:44, said:

If its myths you hate, then why not go after some of the other myths out there rather then just you US ones. Ease of research is a poor excuse for not getting rid of those myths.

 

I look forward to your articles disproving commonly other commonly held myths, backed up with appropriate archival research. How well can you read russian?



Arrowfoot #20 Posted Feb 22 2014 - 23:27

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View PostDominatus, on Feb 22 2014 - 16:24, said:

We don't exactly have a "Grant Museum of Leadership" though.

 

Removed do to my own stupidity


Edited by Arrowfoot, Feb 25 2014 - 22:16.