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The_Chieftain #1 Posted Oct 19 2016 - 21:33

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Every now and then I come across things in the Tank Destroyer Board archives which are interesting, but not necessarily suitable for a post by themselves. Sometimes I'll put up the picture or comment on my Facebook page, but I think this collection of writings is worth sharing.

We start with some comments reported to the board in February 1945, from the ETO.

Searchlight Illumination

Searchlights employed so that the beams shine just above the height of a man will cause individuals and vehicles to cast shadows which are easily seen. This reduces the probability of surprise by the enemy in snow covered terrain. - Commanding General, 35th AAA Brigade.

[Chieftain's Note: Those of you who make scale or Lego models may be familiar with this technique. When you drop a part, the use of a torch (flashlight) at floor level casts long shadows, making it easy to find it.]


Photo from the Korean War. Truck and Jeep-mounted searchlights were used as late as Vietnam

Rumors

Much excitement was caused in our command post when a line captain reported 25 Tiger tanks headed our way. Questioned, he admitted he had seen one tank and "assumed there were at least 25 since they usually attacked in mass." Investigation showed there was just one tank, and that between us and it was a road block covered by a minefield, bazooka teams, and three tank destroyers. 1106th Engineer Group.

[Chieftain's Note: Well, this demonstrates the difference between information and intelligence.]

Don't Reply to German Small Arms at Night

Tank destroyer crews should not reply to enemy small arms fire at night. One night a tank destroyer platoon ignored considerable enemy machine pistol fire. At dawn, seven enemy tanks were discovered in the area from which the fire had come only 200 yards away - ready to engage any answering weapons. All of the tanks were destroyed. - No unit named.

[Chieftain's Note: An interesting observation; one I'm not sure of the traction it'd get today.]

Briefing

When preparing for an operation we try to give our company and platoon commanders and platoon sergeants a short flight in a cub plane over the area in which they are to operate. This follows the ground, map and sand table reconnaissance. - CO, 771st TD Bn.

[Chieftain's Note: This brings back my common refrain that there's a lot more to a balanced army than just big guns and thick armor. Those resources spent on such light aircraft could be spent on bombers or fighters, but the sort of advantage demonstrated here is a significant leg up on the opposition.]

Interview with 1st ID Officer, Served Nov. 1942 to Mar. 1944

In Italy, an effective team composed of engineers, infantry, and one tank destroyer has been used against German pill boxes. A small patrol, perhaps 1 platoon of engineers and 1 platoon of infantry, moves forward at night towards enemy pillbox. Engineers make a path through mines. Arriving at a point where aerial photograph indicates probably location of pillbox, patrol listens in darkness to hear enemy personnel talking or in some other way determines the exact location of pillbox. Spot is then marked by a stake, a chalked cross, or by reference to some rock or tree. Patrol then retires to base. Next day the infantry platoon leader guides an M10 along the path cleared through the minefield. Infantryman rides in M10 fighting compartment with the TD crew. Arriving within 75 yards of the pillbox, camouflaged pillbox cannot be seen by the M10 crew. But the infantryman nevertheless sights the gun directly on it using as reference the stake or rock or chalkmark he made the night before. Pillbox is then destroyed by one shot fired point blank at 75 yards range. Significance: Teamwork.

[Chieftain's Note: Slow but sure. Note how it takes a full day to reduce one single pillbox, with the knowledge that there will likely be another one a few hundred yards later the next day. However, it gets the job done with little risk. It also seems that the M10 needs to effectively blind fire through foliage, by use of basically a range card prepared by the infantry. It would be interesting to know how many times they missed, and had to try again the next night.]


A common or garden German pillbox

In Tunisia, an infantry unit was dug in behind a hill and saw about 50 German tanks attacking them. Friendly artillery was laying indirect fire on the tanks but failed to stop them. Infantry then looked back and saw M10s approaching from the rear. But the infantry had not been oriented as to the existence of the M10 and through that these were some strange variety of German or Italian tanks. They seemed to be completely surrounded by enemy tanks. Then the M10s took firing positions and amazed the infantry by promptly destroying eleven enemy tanks and causing the remainder to withdraw. Interviewed officer was wounded at this action. He states that in subsequent similar actions, infantry not only recognized the M10s but broke into cheers at their approach. Significance, however, is that troops must be taught to recognize friendly units before the battle, and not during it.


M10s in Tunisia. Note that the guns are locked to the rear, this was necessary for any movement outside of contact.

Interviewed infantry officer tells of effective use made of phosphorous shells fired from 4.2" mortars. States that shells were fired by Chemical Battalion and had the effect of incendiary bombs, burning everything they touched. States that captured Germans had skin burns from these phosphorous shells, and seemed to have been demoralized by them.

An M10 of the 601TD Battalion which had run over a mine overturned. The crew was unhurt, the M10 was later recovered and re-employed.

Interview with Lt. Louie A Romani

This officer served as an enlisted man and as a platoon leader with the 701st TD Battalion in the African and Italian Campaigns. He received his training at Fort Knox, KY for six months and went overseas in May 1942, where he remained for thirty-four months. He received a battlefield promotion during the African Campaign. The 701st TD Battalion was equipped with M3s and M10s.

[Chieftain's Note: This implies a few things: One, he was involved from the very beginning, the 701st being one of the first TD battalions to see combat. Two, as a battlefield commission, he's presumably fairly respected and reputable, which colors some of his comments below.]

Employment of the Battalion

The battalion was primarily used on secondary missions as reinforcing artillery and, as such, fire harassing fire TOT. They were also used against pillboxes, fortified houses and in close support of infantry with both direct and indirect fire.

Close Support of Infantry and Tanks

As a rule, one platoon of TDs was attached to each infantry company. In these cases, the platoon usually remained in a position in readiness where indirect fire positions were prepared. When targets were located by the infantry, they moved forward to prepared positions with hull defilade and took the targets under fire. After completing firing, they again returned to the indirect fire positions.


M10s supporting infantry

The unit feld that the knocking out of AT guns was not a mission for TDs and therefore would not usually engage them, but left them for the tanks to dispose of.

[Chieftain's Note: At first glance, this seems a bit counter-intuitive: Why send targets up for the equipment specifically optimized to destroy them to engage? However, the true advantage of the AT gun lies in its concealability. If it's already identified, then a tank is not as disadvantaged as it may be at first. That said, I still would have lobbed a few indirect HE rounds at it.]

Primary Mission

In operating against enemy armor, wherever it was possible, destroyers were sited in depth with two guns in the center and one on each side, the latter in flanking fire positions.

It was found that the M10 was very effective against Mark V and Mark VI tanks and the Ferdinand self-propelled guns, up to a range of 1,000 yards, with the best range between 400 and 800 yards.

This unit trained their gunners to shoot just short of the tank on rocky ground so that the round would bounce into the tank from underneath.

[Chieftain's Note: I'm really not sure what to make of this one. At first thought, one thinks it's an act of desperation or just detached from physical possibility. However, the interviewee is a solid, dependable soldier. He obviously feels that the M10 is the master of the German heavies. I'm going to rate this one as "possible, but with a question mark." Ideally it shouldn't be necessary to try for such trick shots to begin with, but as long as the crews are confident and they actually get the kills, who's going to complain? I don't believe he's claiming that they got most of their kills that way.]


However they managed it, this Elefant met its end at the hands of Americans

Pillboxes

It was found that APC ammunition was very effective against concrete and hardened steel pillboxes. These were taken under fire at ranges from 500 to 800 yards and on the average of ten to fifteen rounds were sufficient to reduce the pillbox.

Normal procedure was to assign two guns to a pillbox from positions which were not close together and control them by radio. Both guns then fired on a predetermined point which was usually the center of the pillbox.

Indirect Fire

In indirect fire, this unit was employed both by company and by platoon. When employed as a platoon, they operated their own FDC. When operating as a company, the artillery sometimes operated the FDC and at other times it was operated by company headquarters. Most of their missions were TOT harassing fires.

Night Fire

The infantry usually designated, during the day, the target to be engaged at night and in many cases this allowed eight hours for reconnaissance and the location of position and determination of range. At night the TDs (usually two guns) occupied predetermined positions, kept their motors running and notified the infantry when they were in position. The infantry then illuminated the target by flares, and the TDs fired as many rounds as possible very rapidly and then withdrew before the enemy artillery came down on their positions. In at least one case, sixty rounds were fired by one gun in this manner.

Against Personnel

In some instances, TDs were used in direct fire against personnel and it was found that best results were obtained by using HE with fuse delay and aiming just short of the infantry which caused an air burst about ten feet over the enemy.

Replacements

Replacements were received from all branches of the service, some coming from TDRTC (Tank Destroyer Recruit Training Center). These replacements were better trained and more efficient than those received from other branches.

[Chieftain's Note: Many of the combat arms branches, of course, took replacements from wherever they could. This is probably the single biggest failing of resource management that the Army Ground Forces was responsible for.]

Battalion Commander

Battalion commander and his staff served to coordinate supply and as a special staff officer on the staff of the divisional commander.

[Chieftain's Note: This is, unfortunately, a reflection of the reality of the units being parceled out to supported units. We continue to do so today: I spent my Afghan tour in Squadron staff because the Troop I commanded was split amongst various PRTs around the country.

Reconnaissance Personnel

Recon personnel did little or no reconnaissance for the unit due to the static situation. They were used mainly with infantry as security detachments and at times held a part of the front line.

[Chieftain's Note: Bear in mind that TDs were by doctrine a reactive and defensive measure; TD recon could be pointless. However, when employed as battalions and brigades, there would be more call for organic recon. Note also the comment by the 771st TDB commander about air recon in the ETO. This could be because the ETO was more dynamic than Italy.]

Security

This battalion was streamlined and the security personnel were practically eliminated. Those that were left were used as replacements in the gun companies.

When TDs were operating with infantry of tank units, security was provided for them by such units, but it was found by this officer that unless the TDs were actually needed by some other unit, no consideration was given to local security of TDs.

Relief

Due to the static situation, a mobile reserve was usually held out. Therefore, the TDs actually in combat were able to be withdrawn by platoon or by company and given three or four days about once a month for maintenance, rest and training in a rest area.

[Chieftain's Note: As you can imagine, that's not a very long time to do all that. Maintenance would mean something more than just checking the oil or changing a roadwheel.]

Mechanical Failures

None.

[Chieftain's Note: OK, the reliability of US equipment is legendary, but I would honestly expect this to mean "nothing systemic and worthy of note." I'm sure something broke down over three years of combat.]

Spare Parts

There was little call for replacement of spare parts in the vehicles of this battalion. Division ordnance had approximately one company in excess destroyers and as they were in need for replacements, the destroyer was replaced by another entire vehicle.

[Chieftain's Note: I can only presume that the Germans would have murdered to have so many vehicles that they could afford to have some lying around. However, from the perspective of the commander, this is an ideal setup, with a very high operational readiness rate.]

Personal Belongings

Personal belongings were kept in a pool in the battalion area under a guard from their own unit.

[Chieftain's Note: It's a shame that such things are necessary amongst comrades in arms... but as I've said before, "STEAL" is a military acronym.

Ammunition Load

Ammunition was loaded on the decks of the destroyers and in every available space so that there was no certain load. Approximately one third of the ammunition carried was AP or APC (whatever was available) and two-thirds HE.

[Chieftain's Note: You can never have too much ammunition, unless you're on fire, and ammo capacity is a frequently-referred-to factor in the design of America's armored vehicles. It was a primary reason why AGF and Armored Force tried to keep with the 76mm over the 90mm for as long as possible until it was clear that the armor/penetration war just could not be kept pace with.]

Communications

The communications within this officer's unit are described as fair. Within the platoon they were good. While the company headquarters could reach the platoon, the platoon could not reach the company. It was found that while the SCR 610 worked very well when tested, the range was not over 1,000 yards after moving over rough terrain.

When working with the infantry, this platoon was furnished the SCR300 for communication with the supporting unit.

In static positions, wire was laid to the gun and the remote control unit was used.

In indirect fire positions, wire was laid to the FDC.



E25_Syndrome_Yuno #2 Posted Oct 19 2016 - 21:58

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- This unit trained their gunners to shoot just short of the tank on rocky ground so that the round would bounce into the tank from underneath. -

 

I find a lot matters exaggerated or even perhaps made up completely  in this article. A lot of information in it is honestly very hard for me to believe.

The sentence I quoted up there seems the most vague, regardless nice read and I can understand why you would write it.

Still it seems really exaggerated to me.



YANKEE137 #3 Posted Oct 19 2016 - 22:11

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My father was a US Army vet in WWII and this is one of his stories:

In 1945 he was driving a truckload of 155mm rounds up to the front when he got to a small town on the west side of the Rhine. He was stuck in a traffic jam with a column of Sherman tanks when the Germans began firing at them from across the river. The German shells were hitting the water some distance away and then skipping up and hitting the west side.  " They were skipping them like stones" he said. He was stuck there until an officer realized he had a truckload of artillery shells  and the tankers were suddenly all too eager to make way for him to get out of there. Apparently the Germans did not succeed in doing any useful damage. He said these were 88mm guns, but like most GI's, every gun was an 88mm and every tank was a Tiger.



Content_WG #4 Posted Oct 19 2016 - 22:16

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A few odds and ends found in the archives of the Tank Destroyer Board.

Full news text

YANKEE137 #5 Posted Oct 19 2016 - 22:16

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View PostGasai__Yuno, on Oct 19 2016 - 21:58, said:

- This unit trained their gunners to shoot just short of the tank on rocky ground so that the round would bounce into the tank from underneath. -

 

I find a lot matters exaggerated or even perhaps made up completely  in this article. A lot of information in it is honestly very hard for me to believe.

The sentence I quoted up there seems the most vague, regardless nice read and I can understand why you would write it.

Still it seems really exaggerated to me.

 

I don't know about tanks but you can shoot a bullet underneath a car or make it fly parallel to a wall by firing from less than a 45 degree angle to the pavement or wall (a hard wall like brick). I've done it. It's hard to believe until you see it. I don't see any reason a tank shell wouldn't behave the same.

less than 45 degrees gives parallel path, greater than 45 causes it to come back up at reverse angle. Kids don't try this at home.


Edited by YANKEE137, Oct 19 2016 - 22:35.


CheekiBreeki_ #6 Posted Oct 19 2016 - 22:18

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Content is back :o!

Oagr_19D30 #7 Posted Oct 19 2016 - 22:35

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View PostGasai__Yuno, on Oct 19 2016 - 12:58, said:

- This unit trained their gunners to shoot just short of the tank on rocky ground so that the round would bounce into the tank from underneath. -

 

I find a lot matters exaggerated or even perhaps made up completely  in this article. A lot of information in it is honestly very hard for me to believe.

The sentence I quoted up there seems the most vague, regardless nice read and I can understand why you would write it.

Still it seems really exaggerated to me.

 

Spend some time around real tanks and real rifles... you'll be amazed at the tricks that experienced gunners and riflemen have picked up over the years.

This is why I wish you guys would do more events at or near military bases; most of them have museums with tanks on display, and if you advertised that you were bringing a WW2 tank to post/base you'd get a HUGE  turnout from the service members on base, AND all the retirees in the local community as well.  I guarantee you that's the market you need to tap into if you want to get more people playing this game... just leave meathead and the 'crushing it' [edited] behind please.


Edited by Oagr_19D30, Oct 19 2016 - 22:51.


E25_Syndrome_Yuno #8 Posted Oct 19 2016 - 22:38

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View PostOagr_19D30, on Oct 19 2016 - 21:35, said:

 

Spend some time around real tanks and real rifles... you'll be amazed at the tricks that experienced gunners and riflemen have picked up over the years.

 

That comment of yours is not very mature.

Just to note that I have in fact been in the military service for my country ( Finland ) It is mandatory around here.

Regardless this kind of matters are not relating to the subject and I will not continue on this.



saru_richard #9 Posted Oct 19 2016 - 22:38

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View PostCheekiBreeki_, on Oct 19 2016 - 22:18, said:

Content is back :o!

 

back again!

Oagr_19D30 #10 Posted Oct 19 2016 - 22:43

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Thanks Chieftan, great read.  It especially reinforces the TD role as firing blind off spots from infantry.  I've recommended it before, and I'd like to pile onto it here as well... please give the 'anti-camping' arty aerial view to TDs to represent the role they often played in combat.  It could be a 'two-birds one-stone' move... no more sky cancer, and the game keeps its 'anti-camping' capability... just in a TD is all.

Edited by Oagr_19D30, Oct 19 2016 - 22:49.


Oagr_19D30 #11 Posted Oct 19 2016 - 22:49

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View PostGasai__Yuno, on Oct 19 2016 - 13:38, said:

 

That comment of yours is not very mature.

Just to note that I have in fact been in the military service for my country ( Finland ) It is mandatory around here.

Regardless this kind of matters are not relating to the subject and I will not continue on this.

 

Apologies, no offense meant.  I'm sure as a junior military member (not sure if you served in Army, Air Force, Navy) you found yourself learning all kinds of things from your more experienced NCOs... that's what I mean by that.  When I first came in during the 80s we had a lot of older guys who'd picked up quite a few tricks along the way.  Shooting low to have the round bounce up was a fairly well discussed 'trick' I heard the older guys teaching the younger gunners.  They would even have them practice it on their gunnery ranges... unofficially of course.

badperson #12 Posted Oct 19 2016 - 23:59

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View PostGasai__Yuno, on Oct 19 2016 - 21:58, said:

- This unit trained their gunners to shoot just short of the tank on rocky ground so that the round would bounce into the tank from underneath. -

 

I find a lot matters exaggerated or even perhaps made up completely  in this article. A lot of information in it is honestly very hard for me to believe.

The sentence I quoted up there seems the most vague, regardless nice read and I can understand why you would write it.

Still it seems really exaggerated to me.

 

View PostOagr_19D30, on Oct 19 2016 - 22:35, said:

 

Spend some time around real tanks and real rifles...

 

This is a well-known trick to increase your hit probability on a rifle pop-up range. Aim a little short if you're not sure of the elevation.  If it goes high, you hit,  If it goes low, you still have a chance of a "hit" from the ricochet or from rocks kicked up by the impact.  But tripping the sensor on a rifle pop-up target isn't quite the same beast as penetrating armored vehicles with a ricochet.  Also, this sounds alarmingly close to the (now-discredited) claim of fighters bouncing .50 rounds into the bellies of tanks.  I would like to hear more about this from other tankers, not second-hand, and preferably in range conditions not combat, before I take it at face value.  We all know how combat reports tend to be wildly inaccurate.

 

View PostOagr_19D30, on Oct 19 2016 - 22:49, said:

Shooting low to have the round bounce up was a fairly well discussed 'trick' I heard the older guys teaching the younger gunners.

 

Oagr, do you know anything about what these bounces were capable of on a realistic target?  Or was this just a trick?



Romanose #13 Posted Oct 20 2016 - 00:25

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You know, this comment is about the unorthodox shooting of M-10's vs German heavies (skipping rounds into the underside of tanks), and maybe it belongs in the LT threads, but I think it merits mention.

 

I used to discuss history with an old friend of mine. We fell into his days in France as a driver in an M-5 Stuart. Their method of taking out Tigers was to get close enough to the tank to alert the crew, but not too close. They'd continuously circle the Tiger until they killed the Tiger's traverse battery, then put a round into the engine and sit. Tiger's crew either surrendered or took grenades down the hatches.

 

Interesting strategy, and pretty unorthodox, but he survived (as the driver !).



Oagr_19D30 #14 Posted Oct 20 2016 - 01:03

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View Postbadperson, on Oct 19 2016 - 14:59, said:

 

 

This is a well-known trick to increase your hit probability on a rifle pop-up range. Aim a little short if you're not sure of the elevation.  If it goes high, you hit,  If it goes low, you still have a chance of a "hit" from the ricochet or from rocks kicked up by the impact.  But tripping the sensor on a rifle pop-up target isn't quite the same beast as penetrating armored vehicles with a ricochet.  Also, this sounds alarmingly close to the (now-discredited) claim of fighters bouncing .50 rounds into the bellies of tanks.  I would like to hear more about this from other tankers, not second-hand, and preferably in range conditions not combat, before I take it at face value.  We all know how combat reports tend to be wildly inaccurate.

 

 

Oagr, do you know anything about what these bounces were capable of on a realistic target?  Or was this just a trick?

 

I wasn't referencing shooting low on the rifle range, but I can verify that it works on the automated 'pop-up' target ranges.  The first time I saw it done was by a terminal E-6... I watched each of his shots go into the dirt in front of the target, I was telling him he was shooting too low and it didn't dawn on me what he was doing until someone else pointed it out... he qualified expert and hit 40/40.

To answer your question, the OP here shared by Chieftan is the first I've heard of it working with a tank round in combat.  I'd heard it recommended to tank gunners, and I forget which table gunnery they were on but I heard a gunner being instructed 'If you have hit x amount when you get to the last target go ahead and try this...'  meaning if they were doing good enough on the table and wanted to try the 'trick shot', they could afford to miss it and still qualify. 

Our recent armored combat experience in Iraq may not be the gold standard to go on in discussions like this.  We had them pretty well outmatched and I don't know of anyone being in a situation to have to try something like this.  The trick-shots I heard of were more along the lines of using 'Kentucky windage' to shoot tanks through berms based on their observed exhaust heat signature.



EatMyAmmo #15 Posted Oct 20 2016 - 01:11

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I wondered about your narrator, Romani. A Second Lieutenant Louis Romani stars in a five page story in Dell Comics' War Heroes 5 (p36, pub 1943). You can read it here : http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=25473 

 

Given his length of service, is his level of promotion a little low?



The_Chieftain #16 Posted Oct 20 2016 - 01:38

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View PostEatMyAmmo, on Oct 20 2016 - 00:11, said:

I wondered about your narrator, Romani. A Second Lieutenant Louis Romani stars in a five page story in Dell Comics' War Heroes 5 (p36, pub 1943). You can read it here : http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=25473 

 

Given his length of service, is his level of promotion a little low?

 

Well, given he started out as a private...

JRingo20 #17 Posted Oct 20 2016 - 02:16

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View PostGasai__Yuno, on Oct 19 2016 - 15:38, said:

 

That comment of yours is not very mature.

Just to note that I have in fact been in the military service for my country ( Finland ) It is mandatory around here.

Regardless this kind of matters are not relating to the subject and I will not continue on this.

 

Bye!:sceptic:

Zinegata #18 Posted Oct 20 2016 - 04:40

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Quote

Chieftain's Note: I'm really not sure what to make of this one. At first thought, one thinks it's an act of desperation or just detached from physical possibility. However, the interviewee is a solid, dependable soldier. He obviously feels that the M10 is the master of the German heavies. I'm going to rate this one as "possible, but with a question mark." Ideally it shouldn't be necessary to try for such trick shots to begin with, but as long as the crews are confident and they actually get the kills, who's going to complain? I don't believe he's claiming that they got most of their kills that way.

 

It seems that they were trained to do the trick shot up the bottom of the tank only when the terrain was rocky. And in any case as with most real-life engagements the side on the receiving end of high-velocity anti-tank fire is often going to be thinking of running or even bailing even if the shots bounce since they don't get an extra life beside the one they have.



VariaVespasa #19 Posted Oct 20 2016 - 07:52

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You were dubious about the gunners aiming short in order to ricochet up into the underside of enemy tanks, but the later entry about how they used HE against infantry suggests they were doing the same thing, aiming short to ricochet up over the target for airbursts, yes?

The_Chieftain #20 Posted Oct 20 2016 - 08:02

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View PostVariaVespasa, on Oct 20 2016 - 06:52, said:

You were dubious about the gunners aiming short in order to ricochet up into the underside of enemy tanks, but the later entry about how they used HE against infantry suggests they were doing the same thing, aiming short to ricochet up over the target for airbursts, yes?

 

The latter is a known technique, which accepts anything from nose deformation to deflection while still retaining some effectiveness. I have never tried it, but what would bouncing off a rock do to the nose of a penetrator or its trajectory, if the rock isn't hit square?




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