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The Chieftain's Hatch: Undergunned in Italy


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The_Chieftain #1 Posted Jan 05 2018 - 00:25

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To all whom these presents come, greetings, and a happy and prosperous new year to you. Certainly I know I’m in for an interesting one.

A short one to start the year off, with an observation on the difference between ‘the pointy end’ and ‘the bigger picture’.

In one or two of my past videos, I have observed that decisions relating to the 76mm tanks in Western Europe (i.e. why nobody bothered making a particular effort to bring them into Normandy during the invasion) was predicated partially on a perceived lack of need. The verbiage is something along the lines of “The Army equipped with its 75mm Shermans is doing well enough in North Africa and Italy, what we have is obviously working, and there is no benefit to rocking the boat.”

panzeritaly.jpg

Now, many folks have observed that this seems to bear something of a disconnect with the folks on the ground actually in those 75mm tanks. This is certainly true.

For example, on 18th March 1944, Fifth Army sent up a radio message. At this point, the landings at Anzio had been undertaken a couple months earlier and the troops were still bottled up in that pocket, the fight at Monte Cassino was ongoing, and Fifth Army was stuck battering at the unyielding Gustav Line. Not the best situation or campaign.

The radio message said as follows:

Fifth Army desires replacement of all medium tanks M4A1 and M4 with medium tank M4E6 with 76mm gun and Ford engine M4A3. 33 1/3% replacements are desired at earliest possible date. Plan to re-equip one complete battalion at a time.

If available quantities of M4E6 with 76mm gun will not meet requirements, recommend that all replacement tanks shipped to this Theater mounting either 75mm gun or 76mm gun be with Ford engine.

Recommend replacement of all M10 tank destroyers with T71 mounting 90mm gun. Sufficient T71s to equip 2 battalions desired at earliest possible date.

It is essential that each shipment of medium tanks M4E6 and T71 tank destroyers be accompanied, by authorized 5% army reserves and 60% maintenance spare parts.

Request advice if this recommendation is approved in order that supplies of 75mm gun ammunition and parts for medium tanks M4 and M4A1 and M10 tank destroyers maybe reduced and supply procedure adjusted accordingly.

76mm and 90mm ammunition should be shipped in accordance with new items shipped.

Now, there was an amendment sent on 23rd March, after they had a moment to think about it.

Delete paragraph 3, our radio, and insert new paragraph 3 as follows:

“Replacement of all M10 tank destroyers by T71 mounting 90mm gun not recommended until T71 thoroughly tested by this Theater. Ship only sufficient T71s to equip 2 battalions at earliest possible date. Request for future shipments will depend on T71 performance during testing period.

“Request cancellation of requisition for T70 tank destroyers mounting 76mm gun and 6 months spare parts”

So, obvious take-aways here.

  • Fifth Army were very obviously worried about the anti-armor firepower available to them and had completely lost confidence in the 75mm gun. Note that they were going to remove the 75mm gun from the inventory entirely. There are a couple of different tangents one can go on from here, but the idea of complete replacement of the 75mm gun matches with thinking in the US about six months earlier.
  • The T71 which was still in development and testing (And would not be approved as the M36 until June 1944) was the best chance for a 90mm gun. However, they apparently wanted to trust that the vehicle worked before going all-in. Also a similar position to that of the US.
  • The desire to stop delivery of any T70s (i.e. M18 Hellcats) is, unfortunately not explained. It could be dislike of the vehicle itself, or just a reflection that for tank destroyers, even the 76mm gun may not be enough and they would prefer the 90mm gun. However, we do have some other clues: T70 had entered combat at Anzio, and Fifth Army was not enthralled by the vehicle. (For more on this, see the T70 chapter in my book, plug, plug). Also, Fifth Army apparently did not consider it worth replacing any M10s with T70s even while the T71 testing was going on.

Why would Fifth Army have sent this message up? Well, very obviously, they were getting complaints from the guys in the tanks and TDs that they needed a bigger gun. How does this parse, though, with what was going through the minds of the guys in the UK preparing to cross the English Channel barely three months hence?

Well, look at it from the point of view of the latter group.

Firstly, of course, the US Army had landed in NorthWest Africa, and as it moved to Tunisia, encountered both normal panzers and Tigers, and generally speaking, won well enough. More Tigers were encountered in Sicily, and that fell to the Allied forces as well. Certainly Italy was proving a tough slog, but the few Tigers and Panthers being encountered by summer were similarly being dealt with.

pantheritaly.jpg

It’s not as If the US’s tankers were being hit particularly hard. To get their tanks all the way from the Atlantic coast of Africa, through Sicily and well into the boot of Italy, Armored Force had lost a few dozen men killed, and about the same number wounded sufficiently to be removed from the fight. (By the end of the war, total number of tankers killed in that theater was 80, plus an additional 62 wounded sufficiently to take them out of the war). Compared to the thousands of infantrymen and aircrew being killed, hundreds of artillerymen or engineers, or about the same amount of military police or transportation corps personnel, these are hardly figures which would sound alarm bells in higher command echelons, or in other theaters reading the weekly reports.

Here’s why the two positions are not mutually exclusive. US tankers at the pointy end could be very unhappy with their experiences of their ammunition/panzer interactions, whilst still being highly successful. A US TD gun commander, highly experienced, returned to the US from Italy in mid 1944 to give testimony on the reality on the ground said “We don’t fear the German tanks. For example, we just kill Ferdinands by bouncing rounds off the ground in front of it and into the lower hull.” (Yes, I know it’s an eyebrow-raising statement, which doesn’t even apply in the case of a hull-down vehicle, but that’s what he said). Or there’s the famous “Bounce off the underside of Panther’s mantlet and into the hull roof”. Perhaps sneaky techniques of draw/ambush, flanking, or use of combined arms might be used instead. Not unreasonably, just as any other player in a no-respawn game, most tankers found this sort of thing a little excessive and wanted an ‘easy mode’ hack. Point, shoot, job done.

elefantnaples.jpg

Please don’t get me wrong. Their desires were eminently reasonable, and Big Army was working to build those heavier-hitting tanks and TDs. However, the bottom line is “job done.” That US tankers were forced to resort to trick shots or call for help from supporting arms (what a novel concept) in the restricted terrain of Italy did not seem to be preventing them from getting to “job done”. When one starts talking about the messages being received in London or Washington, the tactical details are usually long dropped from the reports. Overseas, all they are reading is “Engaged enemy at location X. Killed this. Took that objective. Lost Y many casualties. Job done”.

tigeritaly.jpg

The relative level of difficulty to a success just doesn’t transmit, only the relative level of success. Thus, the decision to leave the 76mm tanks in the UK for Overlord is not, on the information available to the relevant commanders, an incorrect one.

Of course, there is one big, huge, glaring plot hole in all this, with flashing neon lights going “Look here”:

Surely someone would have thought to nudge the guys in the UK and say something along the lines of “By the way, the guys in Fifth Army are asking for every 76mm and 90mm gun we can send them. You might want to ask them why.”

I don’t have an answer to that. That a ball was apparently dropped somewhere is hardly unique to this situation. However, the point of this little article was to express how the difference between strategic concerns (such as “how much is it costing us to win”;) and tactical concerns (such as “how easy is it for us to win”;) can manifest itself, and both sides be quite correct.

panzeritaly2.jpg



Thumper_E23 #2 Posted Jan 06 2018 - 21:03

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Could the personalities in the commands be a reason for the disconnect between ETO and MTO.  Different communication lines to their higher commands?   

wheelsoh1 #3 Posted Jan 06 2018 - 22:04

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Great article! I really enjoy your history pieces, Chieftain.

--Wheels



general_scrubdriver #4 Posted Jan 06 2018 - 22:06

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hi chieftain, its my first chat w/@ the chieftain.

one of the main considerations of this time was the production line was just coming into effective use/service, it wasnt a few years/decade(s) before the production line had been put into use. what im getting at is having a production line in operation at that time was a very new and difficult operation, to get a in-service finished product out the end door. even now, its no simple procedure, thru urgency, and (urgent) times we have made it to a pinnacle recently, this has taken a good few decades to reach this level, and endless resources, in as many ways as (esp military)production can (endlessly) suck up. 

at that time in the war, we in the US had a very important idea of how to utilize production, the germans on the other hand, thru the war, fortunately wasted vast time and resources on design and production. this was also included in manpower usage, just for design and production, this would/did also include finishing defective models, new and heading right to the front line, and expected(in waste,also) to have an (positive) effect on the battlefield. in this stage several factors just in armor vehicles, tanks was realized, and in quite a few cases, found to have limits that would waste early efforts of germany, thereby both limiting vehicles already in usage, but the next set of models were perhaps rushed into front-line service, and not properly tested, run thru prototype testing & trials. but the urgency was irreversible, the need was beyond urgent for the axis, especially at that time. our urgency wasnt quite that much less, but esp with the UK being unconquered, and the main point the soviets were still in the war, for them WAY beyond the costs we paid, as westerners and europeans. germanys early effective models still capable of service were severely limited to be upgraded(later a point for me of this article). the main limitation in this area im aware of is the hull production, of earlier and mid-of the war models, this limitation was in the turret ring. the gun its self needs so much support, the germans for instance would take a pz3 and it could handle a 50mm/l60 gun, early in the war, this gun wasnot inneffective, the pz3n sported the biggest gun the ring could handle, a just about useless short-barreled 75. like the 75 first used on the pz4d models. actually any other improvements to that hull design were not possible. then again starting a whole new production was starting from scratch, even if (like in the pz5s case) you made an A-model, drove it to the front lines, and such, the design was untested, in no way was it tested for what it would be used, or ready. it would take at least one year (in the heat of battle) to get a good amount of bugs out. the design flaws would become evident, and this was at the usage and expense of large army formations. 

we on the other hand, at this early production era, had a vital break-thru, if it works, dont change-it!! pump those ponys out. we didnt have the stressor of having our home-land under pressure and being attacked/targeted in more frequency. if you took a new gun and installed it, for one the production line would be compromised, and it, at that time would take some time to catch-up, to the bottomless pit of demand. (<this is just one instance of the demand of the war-machine, at that time it was an earlier modern battlefield). not only would production suffer, the design coming out the last/end door would be untried,untested. how do you put the on a battlefield, we in this hemisphere dont believe in this, and fortunately it didnt come to that for us. we, seems value that our soldiers have the value of life. we want to make sure the end product being driven to the front line and in service, not only works, but has a chance. 



stalkervision #5 Posted Jan 06 2018 - 22:13

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I don't know how relevant this is but I do know that allied navel gun fire saved the allies at Anzio from some crack panzer divisions. People don't understand how important arty was in the war. In wot people want is gone but it was an integral part of any allied or german attack. 

 

The Germans renewed their attacks on 7 February in the weakened British 1st Division sector and, in two days of bitter fighting, pushed the British troops from the Factory and Carroceto. Although battered and exhausted, they managed to maintain a coherent line and were reinforced on 10 February by the 1st Armored Regiment, CCA, 1st Armored Division (itself at 50 percent strength), the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the 179th and 157th regiments of

17

the U.S. 45th Infantry Division. Ordered to counterattack and retake Aprilia on 11 February, the 179th Infantry and 191st Tank Battalion began a two-pronged attack seeking to outflank the Germans holding the Factory. In two days of costly, hand-to-hand fighting, the Americans failed to retake the lost ground, but inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. Lucas still expected further attacks in the weakened central sector and removed the British 1st Division from the line, replacing it with the British 56th and U.S. 45th Infantry Divisions. As an added precaution, VI Corps artillery was strengthened and Allied tactical air attacks were stepped up.

Spurred by the elimination of the Campoleone salient, the Germans continued their counterattack on 16 February by moving down the Anzio-Albano Road on a four-mile front. The brunt of the assault hit the 45th Division sectors held by the 157th and 179th Infantry regiments. The initial attacks by the 3d Panzer Grenadier and 715th Motorized Infantry Divisions were beaten back with heavy losses, allowing only minor penetrations, while the 180th Infantry rebuffed lighter attacks. Just before midnight, however, enemy persistence paid off. A gap was created between the 179th and 157th Infantry, which was promptly exploited by three German regiments supported by sixty tanks. By dawn the Germans had driven a two-by-one-mile wedge in the center of the 45th Division and were poised to break the Allied line, threatening the entire beachhead. Compounding the already critical situation, the 179th Infantry attempted to withdraw in full view of the enemy the following afternoon and suffered heavy casualties. All through 16-17 February the Allies scrambled to plug the gap with hastily redeployed 90-mm. antiaircraft guns, naval gunfire, and units of the 1st Armored Division. The XII Tactical Air Command flew 730 ground support sorties and later claimed that the total weight of bombs dropped and the number of bombers employed was the greatest ever allotted up to that date in direct support of ground forces.

The Germans launched a more intense assault against the 45th Division at dawn on 18 February and destroyed one battalion of the 179th Infantry before pushing the remainder of the unit back a half mile farther to Lucas' final defensive line by midmorning. Fearing that the 179th Infantry was in danger of giving way, Lucas ordered Col. William O. Darby to take command of the unit and allow no further retreat. The regiment held, later counting 500 dead Germans in front of its positions. Elsewhere, the 180th and 157th regiments also held their positions in spite of heavy losses

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Map: Holding the Beachhead

during three days of German attacks. By midday, Allied air and artillery superiority had turned the tide. When the Germans launched a final afternoon assault against the 180th and 179th regiments, it was halted by air strikes and massed mortar, machine gun, artillery, and tank fire. Subsequent enemy attacks on 19 and 20 February were noticeably weaker and were broken up by the same combination of Allied arms before ground contact was made The crisis had passed, and while harassing attacks continued until 22 February, VI Corps went over to the offensive locally and succeeded in retaking some lost ground."



jecmec2001 #6 Posted Jan 06 2018 - 23:49

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Why cant we comment/reply to other people's posts?

buffalo24a #7 Posted Jan 07 2018 - 02:15

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Good article on the use of tanks and tank destroyers in those areas of WW II.  Also like the details on the battles as Anzio.  Not many people pay attention to the Italian Theater in WW II.  Very tough fighting on both sides.  Have to remember, the Allied forces never totally broke through the Axis lines in Italy.  

TsarCidron #8 Posted Jan 07 2018 - 02:54

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From a logistic standpoint it makes sense.  

Route all the 75mm to Italy/North Africa which is a secondary theater compared to the upcoming Normandy theater.  And, route the 76mm and 90mm to Normandy makes the same sense.  Three ammo's available and in need.  Route the lesser to the lesser theater, and the better two to the primary theater.   Afterall, Italy is holding its own with the 75mm.  Why complicate supply lines and routes with changes to what is already working?  Also, hit the tougher German divisions with better armed tanks.



CourageConquers3_37AR #9 Posted Jan 07 2018 - 03:15

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Obviously the 5th Army were not playing WoT.

 

If they were, we could certainly understand why they would reconsider their previous request for the T70 (aka M18 Hellcat)--the real world Hellcat was NEVER fielded with a 90mm gun, only the 76mm.

 

And they would certainly not be requesting the T71 (aka M36 Jackson), at least not in its "stock" WoT form.  The stock WoT M36 Jackson comes with a 76mm as standard equipment, something the real world M36 Jackson NEVER had.

 

Maybe the 5th Army could tolerate WoT's uprated M36 Jackson.  But truth be told, after the grind to get up to the 90mm, the 90mm as portrayed by WoT is QUITE the let-down.  WoT's 90mm has disappointing penetration, snail-like reloading, and shockingly inconsistent round-to-round dispersion.  The gold APCR round improves nominal penetration numbers by about 52% but improves none of the bounce nor gains any damage advantage----you will routinely bounce Panther and T34-85+ hulls from the front and sides with either AP or APCR.  And tactically, WoT seems to have saddled the M36 Jackson with an unenviable camo statistic:  It loses 2/3 of its camo value upon firing.  Real-world performance of this gun was MUCH better than the hamstrung WoT version.



FrozenKemp #10 Posted Jan 07 2018 - 03:52

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View Postjecmec2001, on Jan 06 2018 - 17:49, said:

Why cant we comment/reply to other people's posts?

 

We can. Hit the "Quote" button. :) 

ToothDecay #11 Posted Jan 07 2018 - 04:05

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" Not unreasonably, just as any other player in a no-respawn game, most tankers found this sort of thing a little excessive and wanted an ‘easy mode’ hack. Point, shoot, job done."

I love the analogy.

+1

.

Carry on



Master_Beater #12 Posted Jan 07 2018 - 09:07

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"Or there’s the famous “Bounce off the underside of Panther’s mantlet and into the hull roof”. Perhaps sneaky techniques of draw/ambush, flanking, or use of combined arms might be used instead. Not unreasonably, just as any other player in a no-respawn game, most tankers found this sort of thing a little excessive and wanted an ‘easy mode’ hack. Point, shoot, job done."


Wait, there was a mod that players used? Is this what they mean by warpack and aimbots? Why even play the game if you use an aim bot? I just don't understand. I hope when the new engine comes out, WG does more to keep illegal mods out of the game.

Interesting article to read. Thanks for your time in putting it together.

PS think there maybe a typo in the article (mantlet or mantle)



Mirellemagic #13 Posted Jan 07 2018 - 11:47

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The chain of command is extremely good at ignoring things both real and imaginary.   Intel reports are generally ignored and the commanders do what they want anyway, Admiral Kimmel and General Short would gladly explain this to you.

screng #14 Posted Jan 07 2018 - 12:08

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First, what book of yours?  I got the Firepower one and its fantastic, is that the one to which you are referring or is there another I missed?

 

Secondly, I somehow have come to know more about the Canadian efforts up the East coast of Italy than I do about the outlying islands and the western coast.  I believe it was all M4A2s, and Panthers were a heck of a shock. 

 

When we get to Bloody December and the fight for Ortona, we are talking about rubble and street to street fighting with Fallschirmjäger with vast anti tank resources, including a new improvised one dropped from balconies onto the top of passing tanks.  

 

1) Do you think the HE round of the 75mm being more highly valued (in the type of fighting that was occuring more and more as the deserts of africa were exchanged for house to house fighting) than 76mm AP might have been a factor in reticence to change?  I guess what I am implying is that this message was, at an Army level, a CYA - Cover Your A** - about a year late, to explain problems in North Africa.  That, in effect, it had nothing to do with the future, or little, but was explaining away problems suffered in the past.  Its a bit of a supposition on my part but not too far of a stretch (I dont think). 

 

2) The Ford engine seems more important than the 76mm from my reading of that message - can you elaborate a bit on why please? 

 

3) Why is the M4(105) not mentioned at all?  It would seem mixed platoons of a 76mm, 105, and 2 75mms would be an ideal balance instead of this "battalion at a time" system.  

 

anyways, any reply appreciated 

 

o7

Screng

 

 

 

 

 


Edited by screng, Jan 07 2018 - 12:14.


Gwennifer #15 Posted Jan 07 2018 - 12:17

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View Postscreng, on Jan 07 2018 - 05:08, said:

First, what book of yours?  I got the Firepower one and its fantastic, is that the one to which you are referring or is there another I missed?

 

2) The Ford engine seems more important than the 76mm from my reading of that message - can you elaborate a bit on why please? 

http://www.echopoint...ory/can-openers

 

Here is the Chieftain's book, on American Tank Destroyers. Includes a code for an M56 Scorpion, but has a lot of original photos and research that nobody else has really seen before.

 

As for the Ford engine: It had the highest torque by far of the engines that were equipped into the M4 chassis, a good weight, and very, very good horsepower. I believe it was also very reliable. All in all, it was the best engine available, and any tracked vehicle without a sufficient engine is hardly of use to anyone.



screng #16 Posted Jan 07 2018 - 12:26

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View PostGwennifer, on Jan 07 2018 - 05:17, said:

http://www.echopoint...ory/can-openers

 

Here is the Chieftain's book, on American Tank Destroyers. Includes a code for an M56 Scorpion, but has a lot of original photos and research that nobody else has really seen before.

 

As for the Ford engine: It had the highest torque by far of the engines that were equipped into the M4 chassis, a good weight, and very, very good horsepower. I believe it was also very reliable. All in all, it was the best engine available, and any tracked vehicle without a sufficient engine is hardly of use to anyone.

 

Thanks!!!  Ill snag one as soon as payday hits!

 

I guess i was wondering if the Ford was diesel while, and im embarrassed I dont know the name of the engine it was meant to replace, was gasoline. 

 

 



general_scrubdriver #17 Posted Jan 07 2018 - 13:18

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heya gwennifer, recognize your old(er) stomping grounds? havent seen you around, may be a little vague as to who i am, but if you check back then, i was in the -a crew. still runnin w/(as i call him) L-to-the-big-Z. gd seein'-ya. 

general_scrubdriver #18 Posted Jan 07 2018 - 13:27

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View Postscreng, on Jan 07 2018 - 11:08, said:

 1) Do you think the HE round of the 75mm being more highly valued (in the type of fighting that was occuring more and more as the deserts of africa were exchanged for house to house fighting) than 76mm AP might have been a factor in reticence to change?

 

3) Why is the M4(105) not mentioned at all?  It would seem mixed platoons of a 76mm, 105, and 2 75mms would be an ideal balance instead of this "battalion at a time" system.  

 

o7

Screng

your #1: this is in no way like our Video Game, or in real life anything similar to what we are playing here, this, and many games that have tags as RPGs and/or mmorpgs are/can be called simulations. they are more computer generated models, and the simulation is in the computer, programmers, server, and main frame of the server, etc. he rounds in real life that didnt fully pen a target may have made quite a boom and shake on a target, on a tank it may explode mostly or all on the outside of a armored vehicle, enough 'big boom' and yes, like a soviet 155mm from a TD could really just about obliterate an opposing vehicle. im not covering soft targets, like buildings, where he would be more effective. 

#2 i think the m4 (105) was a close support assault gun, ie close range right down your throat -arty. bunker buster mainly, or house demolition. as most assault guns of the time were. 



general_scrubdriver #19 Posted Jan 07 2018 - 13:44

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View Postscreng, on Jan 07 2018 - 11:08, said:

3) Why is the M4(105) not mentioned at all?  It would seem mixed platoons of a 76mm, 105, and 2 75mms would be an ideal balance instead of this "battalion at a time" system.  

 

o7

Screng

another thing your not considering in your comment, and a real logistical problem of the time, and we came to an understanding in later conflicts, with the laws of supply and demand. having different guns listed there, you will at the least need shells for all those guns, otherwise any with out shells will be silent. how do you manage this, as they found out during the course of the 2 front (seems a little small in consideration, it would be way more than -2-fronts in total during our involvement in the war), now, how do you both account for (this is just a discussion on those particular shells mind you, and perhaps getting to a few battalions) different guns and needing different shells. on the front lines. this supply has to start in america, in this case, be shipped across the atlantic, to a port, be offloaded, stored, accounted for, find some orderly way to get in the supply chain, probably get to a supply depot, have to take supply orders from all kinds of front line and military units in support in the area, get all those other supplies, including those different shells on the supply lines to,near the front to individual units. any different needs of units, whether in any/all units, or otherwise, such as different shells, all kinds of different bullets, etc, you get the point. any different needs esp of the same kind/or type is that much more in the logistical nightmare. your guns will go silent if the current shipment is short of one type of shell. thereby defeating that purpose, mostly. -reminder, this is continuous supply and demand jam, of all different type, how do you account for if even a few, so many differing types, &needs. or your just useless, you might as well just sit there and play with your whittle.  


Edited by general_scrubdriver, Jan 07 2018 - 13:46.


stalkervision #20 Posted Jan 07 2018 - 15:25

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View PostToothDecay, on Jan 06 2018 - 22:05, said:

" Not unreasonably, just as any other player in a no-respawn game, most tankers found this sort of thing a little excessive and wanted an ‘easy mode’ hack. Point, shoot, job done."

I love the analogy.

+1

.

Carry on

 

​I don't buy that analogy whatsoever. When you may have only seconds to line up a shot on a tank that appears from no where or one that is hiding in a ambush position "firing at weak-spots" because your gun is so lame is totally impractical and near impossible in these situations. You take the fastest shot you can because it might be your azz otherwise. Chieftain you should know this. The German "elephant" commonly fired from cover in a dug in positions in Italy or even from caves and railroad tunnels to hide it from arty and air attack it was so big and the German panthers "shot trap" wasn't so easy to hit on the first shot and in fact the Germans pretty rapidly changed out that turret for one that had none.   

 

I equate the stories that tankers gave of bouncing shots up under a Elephant's front plate or very commonly bouncing shots off the Panthers turret into it hull to stories of P-47 pilots bouncing fifty caliber rounds up under the German tiger to take them out. Just tanker Bravado. More likely they were mobility killed by arty and then abandoned. I would just LOVE to see one example of a German elephant with a 75 mm round hole bounced up under it's front plate. :D






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