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The_Chieftain #1 Posted May 02 2014 - 19:32

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Reports of M4 Mediums immolating themselves and their crews began to filter back to the US shortly after the tank’s introduction into service. Certainly the tank developed something of a reputation for being a tad easy to brew up, both with the using nation and their opposition, names such as Ronson and Tommycooker being thrown around. As an aside, it seems that a player on the forum did a little digging, and could not find any example of Ronson using the slogan “Lights first time, every time” any time during or before WWII. There’s a challenge for you guys, to see if you can validate the legend.

A conference was held at the Tank-Automotive Center in Detroit on 7th January 1943. Armored Force and Ordnance both, obviously enough, were represented.  A letter by Colonel Borden of Ordnance Department dated 12 January related the results.

“It was agreed that it would be most desirable to further investigate the incendiary effect of firing against the Medium Tank M4 to establish, if possible, whether the initiation of fire in the tank is started from the ignition of gas, gas fumes, or oil, or whether the initiation of fire is started from the ignition of ammunition in the tanks. It is, therefore, requested that the Commanding General, Armored Force, be authorised to expend two Medium Tanks M4 and the necessary quantities of ammunition to establish this.

It is expected that one tank should be equipped with full complement of ammunition, and should be cleaned completely to eliminate all gas, oil and fumes therefrom. Firings should then be conducted to establish the relative facility with which fires are started as a result of ammunition being penetrated by hot shell fragments.

The second tank should be prepared with all ammunition removed, but otherwise in operating condition with gas and oil. It should then be operated to permit a normal condition to develop of seepage of oil and gas, and an accumulation of fumes in the tank following which it should be fired upon to establish the relative ease with which fires are started by ignition of gas or oil from the explosion of shells or the penetration of the tank by projectiles or fragments thereof”

The last paragraph may require some explanation for the uninitiated. I have never seen an operating tank which did not have pooled fluids in the subturret floor. Usually hydraulic fluid, but it could be anything. The tank’s not supposed to leak, of course, but it does. That’s part of the reason they invented drain plugs!

Aberdeen received its marching orders in a letter dated 26th January. “It is requested that such investigations be pursued expeditiously and with the greatest freedom on the part of the Proving Ground to enable required information to be obtained”. It may be worth noting that in all the various letters and documents, I cannot recall ever reading a line such as that elsewhere. This was obviously considered to be a matter of some importance.

These would not be the first tests to be carried out on the subject by Aberdeen. They had tried, to a lesser extent, similar experiments with the M3A1 medium. It concluded that any ammunition can be ignited: from .30cal belt and .45ACP drums through 37mm and 75mm. The latter two being considered ‘serious’. It was also concluded that oily waste can be ignited directly by hot fragments from the AT grenade (being used for the test) and, in some cases, even without contact by the fragments.

Unfortunately, the results of Aberdeen’s test on the M4 were not in the file. But there was, however, a report from Ordnance of their observations of Armored Force testing on the same subject in Fort Knox, which they stated generally matched with Aberdeen’s results.

They beat up the M4s. First of all, the ‘stowed’ tank took three rounds of 37mm M51. The first round had fragments penetrate cartridge cases, and two rounds burned to an indicated temperature of 700F. Once the fire was put out, they restowed, and tried again. The second round caused no fire, the third didn’t sufficiently penetrate.

Then they fired a 75mm M61APC shot at the center of the turret. “Several rounds burned”

Next came a 75mm M48 Delay-fuze HE. An impact on the turret and two on the sponson were ineffective. Shooting to rounds at the area between track and sponson, however, broke the track, and split a weld between the floor and hull side plate. The ammunition stowed adjacent to the points of impact did not function.

A 105mm M1 round similarly struck the sponson to do no damage.

Next came three rounds of 75mm M61 Shell, with HE. The first round penetrated just next to the HE rounds, detonated about 4’ inside the tank, and failed to start a fire. The second round also penetrated, to no fire. The third one, however, started a fire indicated at 1,200F. Still, the HE rounds inside did not see their warheads detonate.

That was pretty much the end of that tank. Then they shot at one with the engine running.

First to impact, three rounds 37mm M51. All complete penetrations, no fire. Then two rounds 75mm M61. The first penetrated the turret, the second the sponson. This latter started a fire.

Finally, a 75mm M48 on Delay. It functioned on the sponson next to the gas tank, sprung a leak at the drain hole, and was estimated that a subsequent round would have started a fire.

The report stated:  “This concluded the actual test in connection with fires, it being agreed by all present that fires within the turret are started by hot fragments penetrating the cartridge cases” It also stated "Fires [of this type] will generate flash temperatures above 700 degrees and occur so quickly that no escape or preventative action is possible"

Fires in the engine compartment “May be caused by ignition of gasoline leaking from sprung or penetrated tanks”, but that was less important to the purposes of the tests, they were more worried about crew survival. They did not try shooting directly at the engine compartment.

Reconfiguration of ammunition stowage to horizontal (“Similar to that in the Russian tanks”) and a sleeve to cover the cartridge was recommended. Vertical stowage was considered to increase the possibility of fires.

Well, it turned out that they would use a different form of protection instead of the sleeve, the selection of which was the subject of a different set of tests.

In the meantime, since they had already written off the two hulls, they decided that they may as well put them to use by further testing of ammunition. 

Six rounds of M67 HEAT 105mm fired at the front of the first tank gave three complete penetrations, two partial penetrations, and one low-order detonation. One of the partial penetrations cracked the front slope between the two drrivers' positions for about two feet. The other patrial penetration was at the very top of the turret, so wasn't considered a viable sample. However, the report stated "3 CPs out of 5 is considered unsatisfactory", and "that Proving Ground Tests of the M67 be studied to determine whether current production ammunition of this type is satisfactory"

A 75mm M61 APC shot penetrated adjectent to an M67 impact, it was concluded that the weakened plate caused by M67 allowed the penetration.

A 105mm HE (M1) round firted against the turret, no visible effect. (If the tank was stowed with optics etc is not specificed)

Given that the M61 Shot and M61 Shell seemed to give comparable results, they also recommended investigation as to the relative merits of the HE filler.

 

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Toxn #2 Posted May 03 2014 - 17:07

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This is actually a lot less bad than I would have thought - no complete burn-outs or catastrophic detonations. Even so, this gives a 40% chance of fire for any complete penetration.

Major_1012 #3 Posted May 03 2014 - 17:27

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Well, as a history buff you know that if they had listened to George Patton the US would have never fielded a gas powered tank at all.  This would have avoided the engine fire problem completely.

 

And knowing what they did to Tucker and his car after the war, it should be born in mind that he was involved during the war, but shunned for his innovations by a military leadership which was gearing up to fight WWI again.  His armored car was shelved because it was too fast.  Too fast?  I don't understand that unless it is in the light of corruption.

 

As we all know, Tucker, who was run out of business by corporate America, has had all his auto innovations adopted since then by these same scoffing competitors, even though they derided him for it when he came up with them.

 

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The_Chieftain #4 Posted May 03 2014 - 18:00

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Major, be careful. So many people will believe that that post was made with no satire intended at all.

_Koi #5 Posted May 03 2014 - 18:01

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i love my shermanXD

never going to sell it.



Dominatus #6 Posted May 03 2014 - 18:21

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View PostToxn, on May 03 2014 - 12:07, said:

This is actually a lot less bad than I would have thought - no complete burn-outs or catastrophic detonations. Even so, this gives a 40% chance of fire for any complete penetration.

Loza talked about fires in the Sherman in his memoirs. Apparently the American HE material was quite stable, and was not very likely to detonate if the tank was on fire.



Edmond_Dantes #7 Posted May 03 2014 - 18:54

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So..........bottom line it all. What was the primary cause of Sherman fires, shells, leaking gas and fumes or hitting the main fuel storage? Sounds like they got fire from all three at various times.

Xlucine #8 Posted May 03 2014 - 19:01

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View PostThe_Chieftain, on May 02 2014 - 19:32, said:

These would not be the first tests to be carried out on the subject by Aberdeen. They had tried, to a lesser extent, similar experiments with the M3A1 medium. It concluded that any ammunition can be ignited: from .30cal belt and .45ACP drums through 37mm and 75mm. The latter two being considered ‘serious’

 

small arms ammo really doesn't burn that well, no wonder they were only interested in the bigger stuff



IEGeth #9 Posted May 03 2014 - 19:06

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One thing I remember reading about the Sherman was the reason for adopting the wet ammo rack in Michale Green's "M4 Sherman". Late in the war, a report was published detailing the loss of Sherman tanks to fires from hits to the front of the tank. Hits by HEAT rounds, which the Germans were using on just about all of their tanks, striking the lower glacis would ignite the oil in the transmission, which would leak out and pool under the ammo rack, causing the propellant to cook off. This would give it both the slow "visible" burn and the "fast" burn from the ammunition. This report  backs it up, but I wonder if the late war report is available somewhere that would give a better view of the actual conditions later in the war.



Potoroo #10 Posted May 03 2014 - 19:07

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View PostThe_Chieftain, on May 03 2014 - 04:32, said:

As an aside, it seems that a player on the forum did a little digging, and could not find any example of Ronson using the slogan “Lights first time, every time” any time during or before WWII. There’s a challenge for you guys, to see if you can validate the legend.

 

Wikipedia references Zaloga, Steve Armored Thunderbolt: The U.S. Army Sherman in World War II, Stackpole Books, 2008, p. 168:

 

The Sherman was soon derided as the "Ronson lighter," after the advertisement of the day that it "lights first time every time."

 

I have found a Ronson advertisement from the 1950s that refers to their lighters lighting "first time, every time!"

 

 

As with the 1950's advertisement, lots of 1940s Ronson advertisements refer to their "one-finger, one-action motion" (1941 ad below):

 

 

It may be that Ronson's marketing their lighters' "instant lighting" in the 1940s became encapsulated in the 1950's slogan, which in due course passed into the history books.  The idea of Ronsons as "instantly lighting" is consistent with Zaloga's description even if the slogan he used belongs slightly post-war.



Xlucine #11 Posted May 03 2014 - 19:37

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View PostPotoroo, on May 03 2014 - 19:07, said:

 

Wikipedia references Zaloga, Steve Armored Thunderbolt: The U.S. Army Sherman in World War II, Stackpole Books, 2008, p. 168:

 

The Sherman was soon derided as the "Ronson lighter," after the advertisement of the day that it "lights first time every time."

 

I have found a Ronson advertisement from the 1950s that refers to their lighters lighting "first time, every time," which makes the claim plausible.

 

Spoiler

 

 

This page says that's a 1951 advert. Odd that Zaloga would make such a mistake, chief should ban him from any future OTT for his transgressions



iraqiwildman #12 Posted May 03 2014 - 19:50

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Seven Zaloga also writes that it was determined that the ammo caused the cast majority of the fires, not the gas engine. Actually he stated that there was not much of a difference between fires in gas versus diesel engine tanks. Once the M4 went to a wet storage system under the floor, they\ fire chance went way down to even below the German tanks. Also, training the crew not to have so many ready rounds loose in the turret was a big help in preventing fires.

zapador #13 Posted May 03 2014 - 19:56

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well, apart of this 1943 year test, on the next war years the claim about M4 by their own crews (american and allies) will be continued.

 

something to point out:

 

- gasoline or diesel fuel means no significant difference for catching fires (see how many diesel tanks catch fires anyway).

- overstocking ammo inside tanks can do something about complains with tank fires (this was a common behavoir by US tank crews).

- mostly of german guns could penetrate easily the M4.

- hidraulic oil can ignited too

- wet ammo storage clearly down the rate of catching fire after a hit.
- german and russian tanks catch fires after a pen too. this was not only an issue of M4.



1SLUGGO1 #14 Posted May 03 2014 - 20:08

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View PostToxn, on May 03 2014 - 17:07, said:

This is actually a lot less bad than I would have thought - no complete burn-outs or catastrophic detonations. Even so, this gives a 40% chance of fire for any complete penetration.

 

Now do it 100 times and you might have something.



DHanson865 #15 Posted May 03 2014 - 20:13

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View PostXlucine, on May 03 2014 - 14:01, said:

 

small arms ammo really doesn't burn that well, no wonder they were only interested in the bigger stuff

 

Good video, it starts slow but the bonfire, store, and trailer tests were well worth watching.

 

I only wish mythbusters were this straightforward and detailed in their demonstrations and analysis.



LittleWhiteMouse #16 Posted May 03 2014 - 20:13

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That sporting ammunition video was very interesting and on-topic.  +1 for that!

 



Anchobi #17 Posted May 03 2014 - 20:30

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i guess this means the Sherman will be getting buffed in the next patch

Walter_Sobchak #18 Posted May 03 2014 - 20:45

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I do remember reading in Ken Estes "Marines Under Armor" that the Marine Corps grew to appreciate the less flammable fuel of their diesel M4A2 Sherman tanks.  This was due to Japanese tactics of targeting the engine compartment with anti-tank grenades in close quarters attacks. The Marines also appreciated the M4A2s duel engine configuration, which allowed it to keep running on one engine even if the other engine was damaged.  I don't have access to the book right now, otherwise I would post page numbers. 

Walter_Sobchak #19 Posted May 03 2014 - 20:57

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View PostXlucine, on May 03 2014 - 14:37, said:

 

This page says that's a 1951 advert. Odd that Zaloga would make such a mistake, chief should ban him from any future OTT for his transgressions


Speaking of OTT, I wonder if they ever plan to do another one of those.  Actually, I wish we had a time machine so we could go back in time and do an OTT with Hunnicutt, Jentz and Ogorkiewicz. 



quidda #20 Posted May 03 2014 - 21:10

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the firefighting training video was relevant and informational, however, one has to wonder why they used all centerfire ammunition in the demonstrations.  As the 22 rimfire is the most common ammunition in the world, some of the dropping and crushing tests would have been interesting to see affected on Rimfire ammunition




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