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The Chieftain's Hatch: Undergunned in Italy


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Zinegata #41 Posted Jan 10 2018 - 03:47

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First of all, it's important to realize that the point of a tank vs tank engagement isn't to punch a hole in the other guy's tank. The main point of a tank vs tank engagement is to convince the crews on one side's tank or the other to call it a day; preferably with the said crews bailing out and leaving their tanks on the field to be destroyed later.

 

Punching holes in an enemy tank may be the surest way of killing an enemy tank, but it's certainly not as directly correlated to actually winning a tank vs tank engagement as people think. You can, in fact, win tank vs tank engagements without punching holes in the other guy's tank. Indeed, having finally gotten the chance to visit Bovington, it's actually quite telling that a lot of the vehicles that saw actual combat still have deep marks showing where enemy shells hit. Non-penetrating hits are not inconsequential especially if you consider that your life is on the line.

 

Secondly, I am increasingly convinced that the 76mm gun tanks would not have made that big of a difference in Normandy regardless. Indeed, I now get the distinct impression that much of the "Tigerphobia" was just a post-war misinterpretation of GI slang.

 

Quite simply, the Germans never had very many Tigers in Normandy in the first place - only three battalions worth each averaging less than ten working vehicles apiece at any given time. Most of these were not even deployed against the Americans for the most part. Yet many US Army reports frequently mention the word "Tiger". For years, the conjecture of the Internet tank community and even some historians was that these were tankers "misidentifying" the Panzer IV - which was more common and had the same boxy shape as the dreaded Tiger.

 

Here's the thing however: I've found cases where the GIs most definitely did not encounter Tigers or Panzer IVs, and yet they still called the German armor they encountered Tigers anyway

 

In particular, there's a little bridge along the Mederet river near the village of La Fiere, that was the site of an action between the 82nd Airborne and some German armor operating with the 91st Luftlande. It was here that a 57mm gun and a bazooka team of the 82nd destroyed a column of three German tanks - which in many English-language accounts (i.e. Keegan) were claimed to be either Tigers or misidentified Mark IVs.

 

The problem is that the French had done the research and are quite certain that the 91st had no Mark IVs or Tigers. Indeed having seen the bridge firsthand it was quite clear that a Mark IV would barely be able to fit on it; much less support the much heavier Tiger tank.  Instead, the 91st had tiny captured French tanks - more specifically Renault R35s - some replicas of which can be seen in their Airborne Museum at St Marie Eglise which also covers the La Fiere battle.

 

And quite frankly, I don't see any way that the 82nd's paratroopers could have mis-identified these tanks. These were frankly tiny two-man 10 ton tanks compared to the Mk IV, and if the different shape of the turret didn't give this away then the really short gun barrel should have. Moreover this was not an engagement fought at very long range, and the Germans didn't have particularly good cover on their way to the bridge either. 

 

Which leads me to think that it's more likely that many GIs simply called all German armor that they encountered "Tigers". It's a catchy name that's also an alliteration of the word "tank".

 

Moreover, an element of "We are fighting a serious enemy, please send all the help you can" that comes into play here by invoking the biggest name in the Panzer recognition manual, whereas saying "We're fighting tiny French tanks" might not quite elicit the same response. Which in many ways is the same thinking that seems to have driven the request for the 76mm guns. Yes, they could deal with the enemy even with existing weapons, but the soldier enduring machine gun fire from an R35 would still prefer to have a bigger gun to shoot at them with rather than just a bazooka and a 57mm gun.


Edited by Zinegata, Jan 10 2018 - 03:51.


FrozenKemp #42 Posted Jan 10 2018 - 04:21

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View PostTsarCidron, on Jan 07 2018 - 21:27, said:

 

Simple.  To valuable.  Land the more expendable armor first.  Soak up some shells, have the incoming shells reveal gun nests, etc.  Saving the better guns/tanks for later stages, such as the breakout and retaking of France, and the rush to the Rhine.

 

that was not why the 76mm Shermans were not deployed.



FrozenKemp #43 Posted Jan 10 2018 - 04:23

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Good post Zinegata!

Trapster99 #44 Posted Jan 10 2018 - 12:08

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Chieftain, it is interesting to note that most of the pictures that accompany your article are of German tanks knocked out by aircraft.  Note the extensive damage to the tops of the German tanks and lack of penetration holes in the side/front of the hulls.  Notice the Tiger pulled off to the side of the road with its barrel pointing upward?  Yeah, those German tanks were taken out by aircraft.

 

If I were in a tank with a 75mm gun, I'd call for airstrikes too.



FrozenKemp #45 Posted Jan 10 2018 - 13:00

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View PostTrapster99, on Jan 10 2018 - 06:08, said:

Chieftain, it is interesting to note that most of the pictures that accompany your article are of German tanks knocked out by aircraft.  Note the extensive damage to the tops of the German tanks and lack of penetration holes in the side/front of the hulls.  Notice the Tiger pulled off to the side of the road with its barrel pointing upward?  Yeah, those German tanks were taken out by aircraft.

 

I don't think you can draw that conclusion because we don't see all the sides of the vehicles.  The Pz IV, must have suffered an ammunition explosion and I suspect something similar with the Ferdi.  And we know that the kill rates of at least RAF ground attack aircraft were massively overstated. 


Edited by FrozenKemp, Jan 10 2018 - 13:00.


alanvaichus #46 Posted Jan 10 2018 - 17:51

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Great article.

 

I think the difference between strategic and tactical concerns is a great discussion, applicable to any time period, and one worth remembering, i.e. not dropping the ball on.

 

Alan



Zinegata #47 Posted Jan 11 2018 - 03:50

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View PostTrapster99, on Jan 10 2018 - 19:08, said:

Chieftain, it is interesting to note that most of the pictures that accompany your article are of German tanks knocked out by aircraft.  Note the extensive damage to the tops of the German tanks and lack of penetration holes in the side/front of the hulls.  Notice the Tiger pulled off to the side of the road with its barrel pointing upward?  Yeah, those German tanks were taken out by aircraft.

 

If I were in a tank with a 75mm gun, I'd call for airstrikes too.

 

The extensive damage to the top is because that's where the ammunition tends to blow out; not because it was the entry point of the thing that killed the tank. The chance of a tank getting a bomb dropped on it to the point that the entire turret gets crushed is basically nil; bombers in this period had difficulty targeting entire neighborhoods to begin with.

 

Moreover what does the Tiger's barrel pointing upward have anything to do with air attack? Its gun is not capable of engaging aircraft at all. Assuming that it was bombed to death by airplanes just because its gun was pointed a little skywards is an incredibly off-base assessment.



GePunkt #48 Posted Jan 11 2018 - 18:36

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The_Chieftain

 

1) 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."

...

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.
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2) 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.

 

1)

a) Tank optics.

The call to send tanks with 76-mm and 90-mm guns may have been triggered by the fact that German tank optics were superior to Allied optics, especially in Shermans, where then blur would only allow Sherman gunners to see the shapes of enemy tanks at ranges above 800 meters, which means that they could not see details on/of enemy tanks (say a hatch, obversation port, lower frontal plate, etc.). In the main, starting around 1943, Sherman tank optics had been equipped with more lenses and provided higher magnification levels (especially with the 5x optics) than the Pz.IV's optics (2.5 x), but they created more blur than the lenses used in their German counterparts.

 

In his book "The foundation of vacuum coating technology" (2003), author Donald M. Mattox (B.S. degree in Physics from Eastern Kentucky State University and M.S. degree in Solid State Physics in 1960 from the University of Kentucky) describes some of the techniques used by the Germans, which led to their advanced optics. Some of the corresponding German patents were granted around 1938/1939, declared to be military secrets right away and not published.

 

Zeiss used a special technique developed in 1938 which involved an AR coating on the lenses, reducing the loss (of clarity) per lense to 3-4%, which allowed for the production of sighting systems with 4 lenses and more, while maintaining the clarity of a Western Allied gunsight that carried 1 or 2 lenses only. The Western Allies didn't know about that production method until after the war.

 

Without this kind of treatment, a tank's periscope system would lose 10% of clarity with each lense that was added. This turned out to be a real show-stopper in all the US army optics that employed 3 or more lenses. According to the sources I read, a loss of 40% of clarity (ie. in a system with 4 lenses) would definetely impact the usability of such (multi-lenses) system, so a US tank periscope with 4 lenses was not too helpful for a tank gunner, while the Germans didn't have these high clarity losses in their 3- and 4-lenses systems. On top of that, the FOV in US multi-lenses systems was reduced, even down to 12 degrees in quite some systems, while the Panther's gun periscope had a FOV of 25 degrees. So, generally, German tanks in Africa had partially inferior (Pz.III?) magnification, the same (PzIV?) or even better magnification (Tiger?), but absolutely superior clarity, and twice the field of view if compared to Allied systems.

 

Throughout the war, the Western Allies struggled with the inferior quality of their tank optics. In turn, the Russians managed to copy some elements, which led to halfway decent optics in the IS-2 (astounding max range) and in one or another high calibre TD.

During the African campaign, the shortcomings of the US tanks' optics had alarmed US officials, so that - as a result - the US put quite some effort into overcoming what I would call the "optics-crisis" of 1943.

Mattox mentions a conference held in 1943, which was an attempt to address and improve US optics, and to overcome the "optics-crisis":

 

Quote

"The conference had about 132 attendees. The proceedings of this conference (112 pages) is probably the first extensive publication on coating optical elements. [161]."

 

The US Army obviously knew at least that proper coating appeared to be vital for getting better optics, thus they sponsored the conference. Pre-processing the lenses (which the Germans did, Bauer used plasma cleaning of glass surfaces at the Zeiss Company as early as 1934) may have been vital too, but I don't know if that had been part of the Committee's evaluation, as the focus was on new/better coating technologies. The question is what the particular findings of this conference were, and when (and how) that showed on actual production models of tank optics. Throughout the war the Western Allies had not found a proper way/technology to ultimately improve image clarity. Either as a general makeshift solution or as an actual result of the conference, the US tried to overcome the actual disadvantage by introducing optics with way higher magnification levels (ie. 5x), which (of course) involved mounting more lenses, which then resulted in even more blurry images at medium - long distances (800 meters and above), again.

These later tank optics were somewhat better, since the higher magnification helped to some extent, but the US optics still did not even closely match the quality of most (if not all) of the German optics.
 

This resulted in situations where US Shermans got hit by Pz.IV tanks at distances of 1200 meters, without the Sherman crews even being able to spot the enemy tank, according to US veteran accounts collected by Zaloga, as their optics provided too much blur. While Sherman optics with the highest magnification levels could spot enemy movement up to several kilometers (3-4, IIRC, according to Zaloga), the omnipresent blur in their optics hampered engagements at longer distances.

 

The M10 periscope was then the most sophisticated US periscope at the time, as it combined 2 telescopes in one body that featured a 6x-system and a 1x-system:

  

ORIGINAL: Office Chief of Ordnance 1 October 1944, in an info brochure about the M10 periscope:

"This periscope is constructed on principles entirely different from those previously considered, for it is really two self-contained telescopes in one body which is linked with the gun.There is a 1-power optical system which is used for firing at near targets and a 6- power system for firing at distant or indistinct targets. The 6-power telescope has a true field of view of 11° 20’, a 7 mm- exit pupil, and eye relief of 29 mm. The 1-power instrument has a vertical field of view of 8” 10’, a horizontal field of view of 42° 10’, and unrestricted eye relief. The 1-power telescope has an infinity reticle and the B-power instrument has the standard antitank type reticle, graduated for use with the tank gun."

 

These high power periscopes were prioritzed for the use in tank destroyers.

 

b) Ineffective 76 mm guns

 

While the radio call quote by Chieftain indicates that the US forces in Italy had lost faith in the 75 mm guns, it also hints towards their hope for the supposedly better performance of the 76 mm guns and particularly for their new HVAP rounds, but these rounds were pretty rare, and - on top of that - 60% of the (low) production output was directed to M10 units using the 3-inch gun:

 

ORIGINAL: M4 (76mm) Sherman Medium Tank 1943-65 by Steven J. Zaloga, Jim Laurier

"An order for 20,000 HVAP rounds was issued in the late summer, but production never kept up to demand because of shortages of tungsten. This production was to be equally divided between 76mm and 3 inches, the latter for the M10 3-inch GMC tank destroyer. The HVAP ammunition underwent continual refinement throughout the autumn and finally type-classified as the M93 76mm fixed shot HVAP-T in February 1945. The first distribution of HVAP ammunition to tank units took place in Belgium on September 11, 1944 to the 3rd Armored Division and the 746th Tank Battalion. Tankers were very enthusiastic about the performance of the new ammunition, but it was never available in adequate quantities - hardly one round per vehicle per month. By the end of February 1945, each 76mm tank had received, on average, only five rounds of HVAP. By early March, a total of about 18,000 rounds of HVAP had been delivered to the ETO of which 7550 76mm rounds (42 percent) and the rest 3-inch ammunition for the M10 tank destroyers. The 6th Army Group, fighting in Alsace in December 1944-January 1945, received little or no 76mm HVAP ammunition."

 

In July 1944, the US Army conducted several field tests firing at a captured or damaged Panther tank, which actually displayed the low effectiveness of the 76 mm gun when facing German Panther tanks:


 

ORIGINAL: U.S. Army Test No.2
Firing Tests conducted 12-30 July 1944 by 1st U.S. Army in Normandy.

"7) 3-inch Gun, M5, mounted on Motor Carriage, M10
a) APC M62, w/BDF M66A1 will not penetrate front glacis slope plate at 200 yards. Will penetrate gun mantlet at 200 yards and penetrate sides and rear of the 'Panther' Tank up to 1500 yards.

b) AP M79 will not penetrate the front slope plate or the mantlet at 200 yards. It holds no advantage over APC M62 ammunition w/BDF M66A1."

 


The tested 3 inch gun (76mm M5) was mounted on a M10 carriage, so, when looking at this US Army test, one has to consider the fact that the M5 guns basically fired the same shell as the 76mm Shermans, but the M5's rounds had different chambers (holding bigger propellant charges), providing a somewhat higher velocity.
The British 17-pounder and the US 90-mm rounds had 100% more chamber capacity than the M1 shell, thus way higher velocities. Last but not least, the M5 was a pure (towed?) AT gun, not designed to be employed in Shermans.
The 76 mm M1 employed in the Shermans had a way lower performance regarding penetration.

According to the US field test, that M5's (mounted on the M10) M62 shell did not penetrate the Panther's sloped frontal armor ( 80 mm at 35° ) at 200 yards (182.88 meters).

The US thought they had a great upgrade (76mm) for the Sherman (with its 75mm gun), but they were really disappointed regarding the 76mm's actual performance in the field, when facing Panther tanks. The british employed a different gun in their Sherman "Firefly" variant (the 17 pounder AT gun), which turned out to be the most effective Allied AT gun during the war (regarding loss/kill ratio), and which had an actual chance against a Panther. The US passed when the Brits offered to share these guns.

 

According to multiple sources, the US Sherman's usage ratio of AP and HE ammo was 1:4 even until the Korean war, they often avoided to engage well armored enemy battle tanks (like the Panther) as the Shermans were usually destroyed in open terrain, well before they could have scored a substantial hit (due to inferior optics and guns), so they often passed the job to the tank destroyer units or (the very rare) Pershing tanks (only 20 Pershings made it to the ETO, with 1 Pershing distributed to each tank unit), while they focused on engaging Panzer IV tanks and on providing Infantry support.

 

c) Germany's new main battle tank

 

Another factor triggering the radio call could have been that the Russians clearly reported about an increasing number of engagements that involved Panther tanks, which may have led the Italian theater command to the conclusion that the Panther would become Germany's new MBT, so that they would need guns with more punch as soon as possible. In fact, though, the Pz. IV remained to be the main workhorse on the Italian theater, StuGs and other TDs had to make up for the general lack of Panthers and heavy tank bns, which were mainly employed on the Eastern Front and (partially) in France (and Holland later on). The Italian terrain offered many positions where German tanks could engage Allied tanks at long distances from mountain ranges and elevated positions, where then even single dug-in Pz. IV tanks could create hold-ups for days. This might have been one trigger for requesting guns with more punch (and higher effective ranges).

 

2)

a) Losses in Sicily and Italy

 

The_Chieftain

"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)."

 

I am not sure whether these numbers are correct, or not.

According to author Zaloga and SHAEF, the losses of 5th Army (Sicily, Italy) amounted to 1,414 tanks, tank destroyers and self-propelled guns, including 1,171 M4's until May 15, 1945. The number of "80" killed tankers does not sound believable.

 

The_Chieftain

"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."

 

I doubt that Allied tank gunners would (or even could, due to inferior optics) aim for hitting that particular part of a Panther's mantlet at range. With the Panther Version A, there were rare instances where - due to the Panther's gun mantlet design - Allied rounds bounced off the mantlet, deflecting almost vertically right down into the driver compartment, killing either the driver or the radio operator. These Panthers were usually still operable as they could still use their guns, as neither the engine, nor the ammunition could be hit that way, so they "just" had a hole in the hull's roof and had to replace the "unlucky" crew member. These tanks could be repaired, too. The Germans catered for these rare instances and changed the gun mantlet design on the Panther (with the G version), eventually.

 

b) Shermans shifting to an infantry support role

 

The radio call also indicates that the Italian theater command anticipated the Sherman's general shift towards an infantry support role, which actually kicked in during or right after autumn 1944, as the 75 mm and the 76 mm guns (without sufficient HVAP loadouts) had proven to be ineffective against German Panthers and decently armored TDs above 200 yards (during frontal attacks). Except for Schwerpunkt deployments of elements of some heavy tank bns, the Germans in Italy - in the main - did not have many assets (Panthers, Tigers) at their disposal, so - more than often - they had to rely on rather old equipment, such as partially or completely (skirts) upgraded StuGs and Panzer IV's, or tank turrets embedded (means mounted on) in fortifications. Still, at the time of the radio call, elements of a Panther tank regiment were deployed near Nettuno (February/March 1944) to bolster the Gothic Line, but then rushed in to help to contain the Allied bridgehead at Anzio, so their unpleasant appearance (and the Sherman 75 mm's and M10's performances when facing those Panthers) might have been another trigger for the radio call in March.

 

A Panther with multiple hit marks (no penetrations), obviously caused by several different calibres:

 

https://www.worldwar...h_hit_marks.jpg

 

Panther turrets (either cannibalized from Panthers that couldn't be repaired, or custom-produced "East Wall turrets", both meant to be mounted on bunkers and fortifications ) were also used as armament on German standard bunkers in Italy. The so-called "Pantherturm" (turm = turret) turret was deployed in Italy around March and April 1944 on the Gothic Line, and - despite the rather low numbers - had proven to be highly successful, according to Zaloga.

 

Panther turret on the Gothic Line:

 

 

 



Dastank56 #49 Posted Jan 11 2018 - 22:02

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It comes down to this the boots on the ground knew we were out gunned

And , we didnt fool the germans either they used the SHERMANS FOR 

for TARGET PRACTICE . and.PLEASE TELL ME THE TACTICS YOU

WOULD USE WHEN PANZERS COULD KILL AT 2 KLICKS AND Shermans 

well they just bounced off ; they knew this in 1942 and in North Africa .

Ok lets rush them and one out of 5 get in range to use the 75mm.

so 20 mothers get a telegram DOD.to bad should have joined the Navy

 

 

 



KilljoyCutter #50 Posted Jan 11 2018 - 22:36

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I'm sure there's a sentence buried in there somewhere. 

Grease_Spot_ #51 Posted Jan 12 2018 - 02:21

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A certain LTG Leslie McNair, CO, Army Ground Forces (nowadays known as Training and Doctrine Command, the boffins responsible for training and equipping soldiers and units deploying overseas) held that tanks were to support infantry, and as such only needed a competent HE capability (the short 75 of your basic M4 Sherman in this case) and armor sufficient to shrug off small arms, arty and such AT weapons as the German 37mm Pak which was state of the art at the time of this decision.  The Tank Destroyer Corps were supposed to be the panzerscalp  hunters.  This even though they had no vehicle capable of acting in the capacity as imagined until the M8 Hellcat hit the ground. I know all about the M10/M36's. The concept was for tank hunters that could stick and move, something that being based on the M4 chassis, was not in the cards for the Wolverine/Jackson though they did useful work in the interim.

 

LTG McNair was killed in action while observing the frontline bombardment carried out by 8AF units in front of 4th Inf Div at Normandy in an attempt to break out of the bocage.  As was not surprising at the time, the buffs missed and clobbered 4th ID, killing LTG McNair in process.  It may or may not be coincidence that M4's equipped with long barrelled 76.2mm guns started appearing shortly afterwards.  Probably after seeing 17pdr Fireflys and having tankers saying 'I got to have me one of those!'

 

We will whinge later about the railroad wallahs in England forcing the prewar Royal Army to limit their tanks to 2pdr armament because anything larger would cause the tanks to overhang the rail cars they'd be carried on.

 

Grease_Spot_ Maximum WoT Noob, and recovering retired tanker/cavalryman


Edited by Grease_Spot_, Jan 12 2018 - 03:24.


Grease_Spot_ #52 Posted Jan 12 2018 - 02:41

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"I doubt that Allied tank gunners would (or even could, due to inferior optics) aim for hitting that particular part of a Panther's mantlet at range. With the Panther Version A, there were rare instances where - due to the Panther's gun mantlet design - Allied rounds bounced off the mantlet, deflecting almost vertically right down into the driver compartment, killing either the driver or the radio operator. These Panthers were usually still operable as they could still use their guns, as neither the engine, nor the ammunition could be hit that way, so they "just" had a hole in the hull's roof and had to replace the "unlucky" crew member. These tanks could be repaired, too. The Germans catered for these rare instances and changed the gun mantlet design on the Panther (with the G version), eventually."

 

Even today, with much better optics and accuracy (a standard M4 Sherman sporting a short 75 was considered to have a probability of hit of a same sized stationary target from the halt of 50% at 500 yards.) we don't train to snipe at hatches, cupolas, bow guns, etc.  It's 'aim center of mass and pull the trigger.'  If you're on a two way tank range with permanent garaging for failure you don't piss around on the margins.  Auto-aim and keep shooting til the bugger blows up.

 

A properly prepared M1 Abrams can put a three round APFSDS-T group on a target at 1500 meters that you can cover with a helmet, on a range.  We still train center of mass and hammer them til they blow.  You don't have time to be trifling.

 

Grease_Spot_ Maximum WoT Noob, and recovering retired tanker/cavalryman

 

And just sayin', one hit with an american round from an american tank, and all former soviet union tanks blow the f up.  Their ammo is on the floor, exploitable by pretty much anyone. An HE penetrate should be a guaranteed ammo rack, [edited].


Edited by Grease_Spot_, Jan 12 2018 - 03:45.


FrozenKemp #53 Posted Jan 12 2018 - 02:54

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Well said Grease Spot. But I don't think the British guns were limited to 2 pounders because of train tunnels. (Tank WIDTH, yes.)  thr 2 pounder was capable of defeating the armour of any pre war tank, I think.

 

The problem was the immense losses of guns and other materiel in the fall of France.   It sent the UK back to frantically rebuilding whatever they could and even when they had the 6 pounder design they were afraid of reduced production rates that would be involved in changing factories over and in making larger guns. 

 

Plus they kept making the terrible mistake of not allowing in the designs for the up-gunning of tanks.



Grease_Spot_ #54 Posted Jan 12 2018 - 03:51

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View PostFrozenKemp, on Jan 11 2018 - 19:54, said:

Well said Grease Spot. But I don't think the British guns were limited to 2 pounders because of train tunnels. (Tank WIDTH, yes.)  thr 2 pounder was capable of defeating the armour of any pre war tank, I think.

 

The problem was the immense losses of guns and other materiel in the fall of France.   It sent the UK back to frantically rebuilding whatever they could and even when they had the 6 pounder design they were afraid of reduced production rates that would be involved in changing factories over and in making larger guns. 

 

Plus they kept making the terrible mistake of not allowing in the designs for the up-gunning of tanks.

 

They bitched because the increase in turret ring size required because of the size of the gun increased the size of the turret ring and thus the width of said tank.  Don't need much room to schlep a 40mm round,need more to schwing a 6pdr (57mm) or larger.  More room to schwing?  Wider tank.

Edited by Grease_Spot_, Jan 12 2018 - 03:58.


Grease_Spot_ #55 Posted Jan 12 2018 - 04:02

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View PostFrozenKemp, on Jan 11 2018 - 19:54, said:

Well said Grease Spot. But I don't think the British guns were limited to 2 pounders because of train tunnels. (Tank WIDTH, yes.)  thr 2 pounder was capable of defeating the armour of any pre war tank, I think.

 

The problem was the immense losses of guns and other materiel in the fall of France.   It sent the UK back to frantically rebuilding whatever they could and even when they had the 6 pounder design they were afraid of reduced production rates that would be involved in changing factories over and in making larger guns. 

 

Plus they kept making the terrible mistake of not allowing in the designs for the up-gunning of tanks.

 

Train tunnels are all about width. I've seen many instances of troop trains in tunnels too narrow for the load.

Zinegata #56 Posted Jan 12 2018 - 04:15

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It's really unfortunate that the premise of very many Internet tank commentators remain very off-base, as they are still clinging to a particular mythological narrative that was invented in the 70s and 80s regarding German Panzer Corps superiority. These myths are again manifesting themselves in this thread.

 

In reality, even a rather top-level review of Allied documents available since the 1950s would have clearly shown that the Allied tank forces in fact performed very well and had rather low casualties - and these documents are the ones that The Chieftain have brought to light in his some of his most famous videos.

 

Moreover, that many posters remain resistant to the reality of tank combat in World War 2 in favor of clinging to "alternate facts" really goes to demonstrate how the loose standards of American and British military history writing was in many ways the precursor to today's "fake news" culture. People prefer to pretend that they can disagree with the facts and find other ones to support their fantasies.

 

Here are some particular "alternate facts" mentioned in this thread that need debunking (again):

 

1. Superior German Optics

 

This is a grave misconception that came about because an armchair physicist did not understand that the requirement for combat spotting is distinct and different from the optics needed for a high-definition camera. It is theoretically great to be able to see objects at great distance with greater clarity. In practice however both sides employed cover and camouflage so all you would be seeing in high quality is a bush and not the tank or anti-tank gun hiding behind it.

 

Instead, what's more important in combat is having multiple observers with good fields of vision. This is why armies have fought over the "high ground" long before the invention of tanks or even firearms. 

 

In the case of tanks this means having multiple periscopes for each crew position and that these periscopes should have wide fields of vision. High clarity at long range is important only for the gunner and that only comes into play if the crew is able to spot a target to begin with (and often this is via spotting the muzzle flash of weapons fire, which is visible regardless of optic quality).

 

Unfortunately what most "German optic" discussions ignore is that the Germans actually regressed in terms of providing their crews with lots of wide-vision periscopes, and the Panther in particular limited the gunner to a very narrow-view scope. By contrast the Sherman's suite of periscopes was improved steadily so that pretty much every crewman could help in spotting.

 

Besides, how valuable is a really clear scope in combat anyway when you're fighting in Normandy hedegrows where the average engagement range was 500 meters? Again you are not trying to take photographs here. What's more important was that you weren't tunnel-visioned to the point that you couldn't even see that an enemy infantry squad had already flanked you.

 

2. The 76mm Gun vs the Panther's Front Slope

 

First of all, let's be clear here - the Panther's front slope was largely immune to most Allied tank guns. 

 

This however does not equate to the Panther being largely immune to Allied tank guns. 

 

Indeed, it's worth noting that the main test of the 76mm gun against the Panther - conducted at Isigny in August '44 - was only possible because the American forces had in fact completely crushed a German attack from the Panzer Lehr Division in July. Where do you think they got the captured Panthers from? Generous donations from the Panzer Armor Museum?

 

In fact, it's worth noting the German side of the story: Panzer Lehr's commander, after losing a quarter of his tanks to American infantry units with only 57mm guns and 75mm Shermans for no real purpose during the July attack, concluded that the Panther was unsuitable for Normandy and that it was better to use the older, smaller Mark IVs. Indeed earlier combat experience by the Panzer forces against the British generally resulted in the same conclusion: Panthers get killed distressingly quickly in the Normandy hedgegrows even against puny PIATs and 6 pounder guns.

 

And the reason for this was really simple: The Panther may have good front armor but its sides were completely terrible. It's on record that the Germans knew that the Panther was vulnerable to 14.5mm anti-tank rifles from the side, which is why they installed the side skirts to begin with. What more if it got hit by a real anti-tank gun like the 57mm? What more if it got hit by the 76mm?

 

What this demonstrates - and WoT players should know this really well - is that armor thickness is not as important as how that armor is spread around compared to the expected power of the incoming shells. Having immunity in the front plate - which is less than 25% of the surface area of the tank - is much less valuable than having a decent chance of bouncing a shell to the sides; which is more than 50% of the surface area of the tank. Indeed, British studies show that 70% of hits to their tanks are not in the frontal arc of the tank in the first place.

 

3. Low US Tank + Tanker Casualties

 

Only 3% of US tankers were killed in ETO, which was a much lower proportion than the number of infantrymen killed. Losing only 80 tankers in North Africa is in fact totally unsurprising.

 

The issue, which was perpetuated by Stephen Ambrose in his quest to glorify the "Greatest Generation" by plagiarizing entire paragraphs and insisting that the Panther was equipped with an 88mm gun, is that many, if not the majority of tank losses on both sides were due to non-combat causesTanks in fact breakdown a lot.

 

Moreover, the breakdown issue is optically worse for the side with more tanks.

 

To demonstrate: Let's assume the US Army has 10,000 tanks. The Wermacht has 1,000.

 

If both sides have a 10% breakdown rate, then the US Army would "lose" 1,000 tanks. Meanwhile, the Wermacht would "only" lose 100 tanks. Hence, it would seem like the US Army lost ten times more tanks than the Germans (10:1 kill ratio!) when in reality it nobody was killed in most of these "losses" and this was actually just the mathematical consequence of having many more tanks than the enemy.

 

A close observation of actual tank vs tank engagements (wherein tanks actually shoot at each other instead of waiting for each other's tracks and engines to fall apart) would in fact reveal that they tended to be extremely rare, and that the Allied tankers generally gave as good as they got. The Brits tended to lose on a 1:1 basis, while the American study showed that the Sherman in Armored Divisions notched a 3.6:1 kill ratio in their favor. It didn't take five Shermans to kill a Panther. It in fact took four Panthers to kill a Sherman.

 

And that's before we get to the crew survival stats when tanks are actually hit in combat. The US Army Sherman was extremely survivable with only a 50% chance of a single crewman being killed on average after a hit; largely because of wet stowage in the ammunition compartment to prevent instant fires and a very high "Oh My God The Tank is On Fire" score. The lack of wet stowage and helmets basically doubles the casualty rate on the British side. The German tanks in many ways were worse.

 

Oh, and as a side note to the low casualty figures among the tankers: It's worth noting that many of these casualties occurred with crewmen who were outside of their tank at the time. Actual direct combat against stuff that could really kill tanks was again a rare exception rather than the rule. 

 

4. The McNair Stopped the 76mm Sherman Myth

 

McNair wasn't the one that "prevented" the US Army from getting 76mm Shermans.

 

In fact, the US Army had 150 of the things already in England on June 6, 1944. Indeed, I would not be surprised if the Soviets had some 76mm Shermans already on-hand by this date, as the earliest known deployment was in August of that year! (It may be even earlier)

 

As Chieftain already noted in his "Myths of American Armor" video, the 76mm Sherman was available as of January 1944. That's why there were units already in England and that's why the Soviets already got theirs. It was the field commanders who rejected the switch. Indeed, it's worth noting that some Divisions were still rejecting the 76mm Sherman all the way to the Sigfried Line - they simply never saw the need and thought their 75mm Shermans were fine.

 

McNair's biggest "mistake" with regards to Tank Destroyers was his insistence on Towed Tank Destroyer units, which was defensible in concept given how successful the German and British towed units were. In practice however the US Army was basically on the offensive all the time so the Towed Units tended to either get left behind or suffered disproportionate losses on the offensive; which is why they tried to switch back to tracked TDs again afterwards.


Edited by Zinegata, Jan 12 2018 - 04:41.


Zinegata #57 Posted Jan 12 2018 - 04:26

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View PostFrozenKemp, on Jan 12 2018 - 09:54, said:

Well said Grease Spot. But I don't think the British guns were limited to 2 pounders because of train tunnels. (Tank WIDTH, yes.)  thr 2 pounder was capable of defeating the armour of any pre war tank, I think.

 

The problem was the immense losses of guns and other materiel in the fall of France.   It sent the UK back to frantically rebuilding whatever they could and even when they had the 6 pounder design they were afraid of reduced production rates that would be involved in changing factories over and in making larger guns. 

 

Plus they kept making the terrible mistake of not allowing in the designs for the up-gunning of tanks.

 

Death by Design written by Peter Beale has a much less charitable view.

 

While the immediate need to replace material lost in France drove production of the 2 pounder, the British Tank boards were nonetheless beset by a lack of prioritization and foresight. 

 

For instance when the 6 pounder began development the British tank board basically ignored any notion of mounting it on one of their new tanks. The 6 pounder development team in fact decided to go against orders and came up with a version that could be mounted on tanks anyway, which was only accepted after great reluctance and howls of complaints from the frontline over the inadequacy of the 2 pounder. To make matters worse, it seems in large part that this was due to the Board trying to favor certain suppliers; which accounts for how the British built so many Covenanters (1,700!) despite being a patently useless and obsolete vehicle by the time it was ready for service.

 

After that there was a great deal of controversy within the British Tank Board over the adoption of the 75mm gun, as they decried the need for a dual-purpose gun. It basically took Monty sending a strongly-worded note after El Alamein that the 75mm gun was both necessary and superior to the 6 pounder in most combat situations before they accepted the up-gunning British tanks to the 75mm. 

 

To be fair, Beale has a bit of an axe to grind. But it's hard not to take his side; especially given how the "weak British tank gun" issue was in fact brought all the way to Parliament by some scrupulous individuals but were nonetheless ignored by a seemingly indifferent British establishment still convinced of their own equipment's superiority; a provincialism that extends to this day. 


Edited by Zinegata, Jan 12 2018 - 04:28.


GePunkt #58 Posted Jan 13 2018 - 11:03

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Zinegata

 

It's really unfortunate that the premise of very many Internet tank commentators remain very off-base, as they are still clinging to a particular mythological narrative that was invented in the 70s and 80s regarding German Panzer Corps superiority which is manifesting itself in this thread. In reality, even a rather top-level review of Allied documents available since the 1950s would have revealed that the Allied tank forces in fact performed very well and had rather low casualties - and these documents are the ones that The Chieftain have brought to life in his videos.

 

That many posters remain resistant to the reality of tank combat in World War 2 in favor of clinging to "alternate facts" really goes to demonstrate how the loose standards of American and British military history writing was in many ways the precursor to today's "fake news" culture. People prefer to pretend that they can disagree with the facts and find other ones to support their fantasies.

 

Some particular "alternate facts" mentioned in this thread:

 

1. Superior German Optics

 

This is a grave misconception that came about because an armchair physicist did not understand that the requirement for combat spotting is distinct and different from the optics needed for a high-definition camera. It sounds great to be able to see objects at great distance with greater clarity, until one realizes that both sides employed cover and camouflage so all you would be seeing in high quality is a bush and not the tank or anti-tank gun hiding behind it.

 

In reality, what's more important in combat is having multiple observers with good fields of vision. This is why armies have fought over the "high ground" since before the invention of firearms.


 

In the case of tanks this means having multiple periscopes for each crew position and that these periscopes should have wide field of vision. High clarity at long range is important only for the gunner and that only comes into play if they are able to spot a target to begin with. Unfortunately what most "German optic" discussions ignore is that the Germans actually regressed in terms of providing their crews with lots of wide-vision periscopes, and the Panther in particular limited the gunner to a very narrow-view scope. By contrast the Sherman's suite of periscopes was improved steadily so that pretty much every crewman could help in spotting.


 

Besides, how valuable is a really clear scope in combat anyway when you're fighting in Normandy hedegrows where the average engagement range was 500 meters? What's more important was that you weren't tunnel-visioned to the point that you couldn't even see that an enemy infantry squad had already flanked you.

 

 

Being able to aim at the lower hull area (for instance) and not just some random point on a fuzzy shape in the distance can be valuable. Also, France (and the Netherlands and the Ardennes later on) did not just feature hedgerows. In turn, the hedgerows negated the German advantage regarding optics and effective range, that environment clearly helped not just to hold the bridgehead, but also to break out of it, eventually, as infantry could deal more damage and create vital hold-ups during German counterattacks. Lt. Winters' Coy's defense against a German mixed armored/mech. counterattack depicted in one episode of the Band of Brothers series was a textbook reverse-slope defense that managed to hold (and save) the divisional flank, until tanks could be brought to that sector. The US paras had picked and dug defensive positions at the bottom of the slope.

 

The layout of the terrain and the hedgerows made German infantry ambushes (say MG42 positions, roadblocks) more lethal, but also led to situations - like the incident where 1 or 2 US AT guns (either operated by US paras or Inf) placed on the side of the road could crush an entire German armoured column consisting of outdated french tanks and armored cars that was rushed in as early reaction force in an attempt to contain the American bridgehead - where then an infantry group, equipped with one or another AT gun and bazookas, managed to hold up the bulk of a German spearhead. While the mentioned German formation sported outdated French tanks and a mix of APCs and obsolete German AFVs, and while quite some of their crews and officers lacked experience, the group definetely outgunned the US group, so the hedgerow terrain was definetly helpful for Allied efforts, and enabled Allied units to set up defenses or perform flanking manoeuvres.

 

Zaloga and other authors (Green et al.) interviewed tank veterans and also collected various veteran accounts that confirm that German optics were superior. Some of these veterans actually got to compare the optics, basically by getting into German tanks and having a look themselves.


 

Quote from "Panzers at War", by G. Green, page 60:

 

G. Green:

"German optical sights were far superior to anything the Western Allies or the Red Army mounted on their tanks during World War II.

Tom Sator, an M4 Sherman medium tank crewman who served in the U.S. Army's 4th Armored Division in Western Europe from late 1944 through the end of the war, remembers his first chance to look through the gunner's sight on a Pz.Kpfw.IV with the long 75mm gun tube:


 

"There was always a lot of talk about the effectiveness of the German tank guns against us. It is true that they had to stop to fire, but they started firing from 1,200 to 1,500 yards (1,096 to 1,371 meters). Their first shot was always a hit. We, on the other hand, had to get within 500 to 600 yards (457 to 548 meters) to be within effective firing distance, and even our best gunners needed at least two shots before they could score a hit.


 

Our CO (commanding officer), Captain Jimmy Leach, sent the platoon sergeant down to my tank during one of the lulls between German artillery barrages, and he hollered up, 'Hey Sator, you speak German?' 'Yeah, why?' I answered. 'The radio in that abandoned German tank (Pz.Kpfw.IV) back there is alive. Captain wants you to listen and see what they are talking about'. So, I went with him. Sure enough, when we got there, you could hear the radio squawking. I climbed in and put the gunner's earphones on. It was difficult to hear, and because the guy was talking in a strange dialect, I could understand only a few words here and there. Then I saw the gun-sight and I figured I might as well look through it while I was there, and as soon as I did, almost immediately, the realization came to me why the German tank gunners were so accurate. 'Shyte, I wanna go home' is the only thing I could think of at the moment. Their sights were so far superior to ours that we didn't stand a chance."


 

 

Another detail contributing to the range advantage was the reticle used in German tank optics:

The TZF 9b and c-variant sights of the Tiger for instance offered a sophisticated range-finder (outer ring with exact predefined distances to make range-finding easier and triangles - the mili-radians - to help with measuring the distance to the target - as part of the cross-hair). According to the Tiger manual, published and partially authored by Guderian, the tank commander had to measure the distance with his scope, and then compute / translate the amount of triangles into distance in meters. The gunner then set the gun elevation (with his visor) according to the distance announced by the commander. The Tiger's manual also offered prepared range tables and settings for common distances, but also offered the formulas to calculate less common distances. If crews were trained, the whole process took less then 30 seconds. Crew members (loader, driver) were supposed to help with the calculation, but they also had to memorize the range tables from the Tiger manual. Every crew member had to learn these (formulas and common distances) by heart. When the predefined marks would match the size of the target in the scope, the commander could just relay the exact distance to the gunner who would then just set the right elevation with his visor and fire (and score a hit with the first round). This allowed for very short target acquisition and range finding cycles at longer distances and was also a perfect tool for setting ambushes. The Panther had a similar reticle, and the Panzer IV had the same triangles for distance measuring, but a somewhat less detailed outer ring, or even no ring. All sported the "Mili-radian sights", though.

Sherman optics/reticles only had little dots and dashed lines. The M70F reticle introduced in 1943 offered a better reticle pattern than earlier scopes, but it was still a rather rudimentary tool, as it was still forcing crews to find the right elevation by trial and error. Experienced gunners memorized some distances (the number of elevation dashes), but usually still needed to fire 2 shots to score a hit, at least. The dashes made it really hard to measure the target's size (thus the distance), and there were no range tables. In the main, the dashes only gave a gunner a rough lead regarding gun elevation, but after a particular elevation was set and the first round fired, the gunner still had to re-adjust and go by trial and error, usually, in addition to trying to having to get closer to a given German tank just to get into effective range. Literature is consistent with veteran accounts, there.


Around 8 years ago I read a West Point officer's (forgot the name) military history thesis, which stressed that lense coating and processing of lense surfaces created a vital advantage, which was only matched (to some extent) by the Russians towards the end of the war in Europe.

 

Zinegata

"A close observation of actual tank vs tank engagements (wherein tanks actually shoot at each other instead of waiting for each other's engines to fall apart) would in fact reveal that they tended to be extremely rare, and that the Allied tankers generally gave as good as they got. The Brits tended to lose on a 1:1 basis, while the American study showed that the Sherman notched a 3.6:1 kill ratio in their favor. It didn't take five Shermans to kill a Panther. It in fact took four Panthers to kill a Sherman."

 

The claim that 5 Shermans were needed to kill one Tiger/Panther is as false as the 3.6:1 ratio, and SHAEFs careful estimation, in autumn 1944, that 8-10 Shermans would get knocked out before 1 Panther could be killed, didn't become true either. The numbers for Overlord suggest an overall death ratio of 2:1 (US:German) in tanks and TDs in favor of the Germans. During Operation Cobra, the Allies sported a quantitative superiority of 13:1 in tanks and TDs, but the actuall death ratio was 1.6:1 (British:German) in favor of the Germans, despite the deployment of 76 mm Shermans for Cobra.

 

EDIT 2: The 3.6:1 ratio emerged as a result of a sample set of 30 battles reviewed after the war, and it is not clear whether these were actually representative for the sum of battles (thus losses) in the ETO as a whole, or not. Different preconditions (eg. types of terrain), different stances (eg. defensive during the German counterattacks in Normandy/Mortain, offensive after the breakout, defensive in the Ardennes, offensive during the attritional slow advances at Caen, in the Hürtgen Forest, and in Italy at several German major defensive lines), and different unit compositions (with inf/aerial/artillery/AT gun support, or without air support for days, like during the Battle of the Bulge - , or even without any inf support as pure armor encounters) make it hard to compute a representative sum of digits. Also, larger armor clashes like in Russia or like in the desert were rather rare.

For the tactical approach, it's probably safe to say that in small scale engagements a Sherman platoon (5 tanks) was probably needed in order to outmaenouvre or boot a tiger from a favorable defensive or camouflaged position.


Also, in France, the Germans employed 400 outdated captured tanks, and the smaller groups rushed to the Normandy sector turned out to be easy kills for Allied AT guns. Surprisingly, some of these tanks and a higher number of Pz. IV tanks later on were reported as Tiger tanks by Allied combat units, which hints towards the general habit that many Allied troops may have referred to every bulky looking tank as Tiger. From a distance, the latest Pz.IV's (without skirts) vertical upper frontal armor plate may have looked like the frontal plate of a Tiger, to some troops, which might have contributed to faulty kill reports and numbers.

Some German infantry units in Normandy that were supposed to properly support tank units, were understrength and/or their "Kampfwert" (combat value) ratings ranged between "II" ( "limited offensive capability" ) and "V" ("unsuitable for combat", eg. the 243rd Infantry Division), which made armor deployment more risky for the Germans. In the hedgerow terrain, some Tigers were separated and then flanked by Shermans or Allied inf units, on one or another occasion several Shermans would be sent to try and deal with such lone Tiger. But a general kill/death ratio cannot be derived from looking at such small scale encounters. When a Tiger angled correctly, the hull armor represented 180 mm of effective armor. A Sherman had to flank or get as close as 2-300 meters in order to score an effective hit. Such manoeuvres were easier to perform when hedgerows and other terrain features could be used, obviously. The Tiger's rather low turret traverse speed (60 seconds for a 360°-turn on early Tigers, 30 seconds for a full turn on later Tigers) then turned out to be a fatal feature. If flanked, a Tiger had to turn its hull too, to speed up turret traverse, which resulted in having to show its side to some of the other Shermans.

But if a distant Sherman angled correctly, there was also a chance to bounce the shell of a Tiger, as the Tiger's gun did not have the punch of the Panther's gun.

The lack of fuel, the failure of engines/clutches/gear boxes and especially damages caused by Allied AT guns - and the subsequent abandonment, were more vital factors. The biggest single cause of loss of Tiger tanks in France was the abandonment and destruction by their own crews (just like with German heavy tanks and heavy TDs during the Battle of the Bulge), according to Jentz.

 

In Normandy, due to the initially low numbers of Shermans, tank vs tank encounters were rather rare, indeed.

A British ORS analysis of 75 mm Sherman tank casualties in June and early July 1944 (report no. 12) and the analysis of German tank casualties between June 6 and August 1944 (report no. 17) state that (of a sampled number of 223 eliminated German tanks) 48% of the German tanks were destroyed by their crews and 28% percent abandoned. Only 11% were knocked out by Allied AP shots (fired from tanks, towed AT guns, TDs, SPGs), 11 of these were Panthers, 11 Pz.IV and only 1 was a Tiger. 2 Pz.IV got knocked out by aerial bombs, 2 Panthers and 5 Panzer IV were knocked out using aerial rocket projectiles (3% in total) launched from tactical fighters/bombers. 1 Panther was trashed by an air cannon.

Of a total of 27 Tiger casualties in August 1944, 1 was knocked out by AP shots, 20 were destroyed by their crews, and 6 just abandoned (where the state of the tanks remains unclear) by their crews.


http://lmharchive.ca...hapter-Ten1.pdf

 

There are 3 other (often overlooked) factors contributing to inflated kill ratios and overrating the Sherman's performance:


1) The post-war official US Army History covering operations in Normandy and the Ardennes concluded that the Germans had a strong record of retrieving damaged and even knocked out tanks and of getting them back to operational level, stating that the Germans managed to retrieve and repair an average of 7 out of 10 knocked out tanks, while tanks beyond repair were collected and sent back to the steel mills. That also means that some German tanks were reported to be knocked out by Allied tank crews, while they could be retrieved and repaired, in fact. If a tank was penetrated and had ended up with a hole in the front or the side, maybe killing a crew meber, but with all of its devices and engine parts appearing to be fully functional, there were also chances that the field repair shop put on welded temp fixes to get it back to the fight, before the tank was sent back to factory for a more thorough repair. Body counts on the ground after the Normandy battles and after the Battle of the Bulge also revealed that the rather high number of aerial kills claimed by Allied tactical bombers and fighters and the claims made by Allied tank crews did not match the actual body count. Evidently, aerial bombing of tanks was way less lethal than assumed, as the tanks were often just damaged or immobilized, or "just" their crew members injured or killed, while the hull could still be repaired or the turret be replaced, when tank retrievers and covering forces were available. The Germans managed to keep up that regime until very late in the war.

There are some sources (one is a US Army study) suggesting that the US managed to retrieve and repair more than 50% of their knocked out tanks.


 

2) Allied AT guns played a more vital role and generally did not get sufficient credits for their performances. Despite being hampered by the hedgerow terrain, the 57mm guns performed effectively in a defensive posture and in camouflaged positions. Later on, in the Ardennes and the Hürtgen Forest battles, the then rather outdated 57 mm guns (using APDS rounds) scored deadly side shots during various German armored counterattacks on Panthers. The British QF-17-pounder AT gun was even more successful, as it could penetrate a Panther's sloped frontal plate at ranges somewhere between 800 and 1000 meters (AP, APCBC) in theory - according to the penetration tables, and as it could still punch through 213 mm of vertical armor at a range of 1500 meters when using APDS.


 

3) While the TDs were underemployed in Italy and during the early stage after the Normandy landings, Western Allied TDs played a more vital role and were often decisive factors when it came to fending off German armor attacks, in autumn and winter 1944/45 . The TDs attached to the taskforces in the Ardennes, as well as the few TDs and arty pieces deployed at Bastogne, were vital assets. At the time of the Battle of the Bulge, the 75 mm Shermans had largely started to shift towards a pure Infantry support role, already. Against the official TD doctrine from 1942, TDs were mixed with medium tanks, as their rather thin armor and low crew protection levels did not support the envisioned offensive deployment.


 

Zinegata

"And that's before we get to the crew survival stats when tanks are actually hit in combat. The Sherman was extremely survivable with only a 50% chance of a single crewman being killed on average after a hit; largely because of wet stowage in the ammunition compartment to prevent instant fires and a very high "Oh My God The Tank is On Fire" score. The lack of wet stowage and helmets basically doubles the casualty rate on the British side. The German tanks in many ways were worse."

 

a) Ammo racks

Actually, the Germans called the Shermans used by the British Army in North Africa "tommycooker", due to their tendency to catch fire caused by poor ammunition storage. According to author Thomas Behrendt, a US Army study from 1945 evaluated that 60-80% of these early dry-stowage models burned when penetrated. The US tried to solve the problem by welding on additional armor plates protecting the racks, at first, but then they moved the racks to the hull floor in later models and put water jackets around each rack bin. 10-15% of wet-stowage Shermans would catch fire when penetrated. British and Canadian tanks suffered of burn rates of over 80% (when penetrated). US tanks in Italy, which went without wet-stowage, suffered of a 80% burn rate.


The M4s initially fighting in Normandy had not received wet-stowage racks, they had only received the welded appliqué armor (on the outside). Since the burn rates remained to be high, despite having received the upgrade (which was offered in form of the various quick fix kits, where some bloke noted that they were "neither quick nor fixes" ) , the problem wasn't solved, obviously.


The ammo racks in the Sherman used to be on the sides of the tank, but relatively close to the frontal sloped armor.plate. There were also two bays holding rounds for fast access, one,on the floor of the outer ring of the turret "basket", and 1 on the right side wall, both holding 4-6 rounds. There was also a small rack on the floor of the basket, right below the gun breech, holding another 8-10 rounds. The floor bin were not armored. The forward racks were especially vulnerable, and on top of the rather dangerous rack position, quite some Allied Sherman tankers had developed a habit of storing extra shells on the floor and outside the armored bins. Enforcing a ban of that habit and moving the racks from the sponsons to the hull's floor solved the problem, ultimately. Water jackets were added around the same time, but were then ultimately found to be less important than the racks' locations. Relocating the racks reduced the chance of burning by a large percentage.

 

The Germans put the ammo racks in their Panzer IVs and Panthers on the side as well, but kept some distance to the frontal armor. Enemy shells penetrating from the front then rather either deflected towards the floor or towards the turret. Early Panthers stored a comparatively high number of rounds on the turret walls, which caused fires and even explosions, but those racks/rounds were quickly moved to racks down at the hull's side walls and behind the tracks, which offered some extra protection. Just like the US, the Germans figured that the location of the racks mattered. The King Tiger could store rounds in the overhanging back of the turret, and there were chances that even a non-penetrating round could start a fire. Henschel went to install an armor spall screen inside the turret, which then prevented fires from non-penetrating rounds and also reduced the chance of penetrating rounds traveling to the ammo rack. Before this small upgrade, Tiger II crews solved the problem by reducing the ammo load in the back of the turret to a few rounds and by distributing the shells to other spaces inside the tank. Allied tankers in tanks with overhanging turret bustles would actually do the same, sometimes even after their tanks had received water-jackets.

 

The engine compartments of German tanks were separated from the crew compartments and were designed to keep enemy shells from penetrating (into the crew compartment). While a rear shot would knock out or damage the engine, the round did not travel into the  crew compartment, usually. The Tiger I had armored sponsons protecting the rounds.

The T-34 stored rounds in boxes on the floor, so the loader actually walked on those boxes. There were also ready racks around the turret, for fast access. While the ammo storage (on the floor) might have been safer than the side racks and turret floor ring ready racks in German, US and British tanks, the engine of the T-34 had a tendency to catch fire in some models. The Japanese pioneered with shifting to Diesel engines, which reduced engine fires.


 

b) Casualties

In general, a penetration, a fire, and even a cook-off did not neccessarily mean that all crew members were killed in the process. Even with modern inf mounted AT rockets, footage from Syria shows that one or another crew member can very well manage to escape through the bottom hatch right before or during the cook-off, but with dislocated and burned arms, though. According to an Allied study, Allied light tanks had a higher casualty rate of around 65% per crew position, Allied medium tanks had a 50% casualty rate per position, when the tank was penetrated. That means that statistically every 2nd Allied medium tank crew had to replace a crew member or several crew members during the crew's deployment time, due to injuries or death, when their tank was penetrated. According to the same study, upon penetration, usually 1 crew member was killed and 1 crew member injured, on average. The total loss of a crew (eg. ammo explosion, instant cook-off) was rather rare, and usually parts of the crews managed to escape even when their tanks burned out. This matches German veteran accounts reporting about their own crews bailing.

 

Just like in German and Russian tanks, a round penetrating the armor of a US tank could kill or incapacitate a crew member right away. Other crew members not hit by the penetrating round could still be injured or killed by splinters from the inside walls, created by the kinetic energy of the penetrator. The cute little helmets did not protect the faces of US tankers from splinters, so drivers and radio operators were still exposed to splinters that could travel with high speeds. The helmets were to be found useful at the time when vital tank parts were bolted and when bolts or bolt fragments could travel and ricochet at high speeds inside the tank, when enemy shells had hit bolted areas. Large areas of the Grant tanks were still bolted, IIRC. Earlier versions of the Pz.IV had received bolted additional armor plates on the frontal vertical hull armor as upgrades, and later upgrades were then welded. The captured Pz.38 (t) tanks employed by the Germans had a rather outdated armor design/thickness, so that additional plates had to be bolted on (25mm on the front, 15 mm on the side). German tank ace Otto Carius, who later commanded a Jagdtiger in a Heavy Tank Bn, wrote the following about that tank:


 

Otto Carius, "Tiger in the mud", 2003

 

"it happened like greased lightning. A hit against our tank, a metallic crack, the scream of a comrade, and that was all there was! A large piece of armour plating had been penetrated next to the radio operator's seat. No one had to tell us to get out. Not until I had run my hand across my face while crawling in the ditch next to the road did I discover that they had also got me. Our radio operator had lost his left arm. We cursed the brittle and inelastic Czech steel that gave the Russian 47mm anti-tank gun so little trouble. The pieces of our own armour plating and assembly bolts caused considerably more damage than the shrapnel of the round itself."

 

While the penetrating shell had cut off the radio operator's arm, the bolts and fragments traveling inside had also injured Carius (he was probably either loader or gunner, as he had served in an inf unit before).


Since the hulls of newer tanks like the M4, the T34 and the German tanks were casted, the helmets became pretty much obsolete, as they only protected parts of the forehead, the back and the sides right above the ear. That's why Germany, Russia. and other nations did not adopt such helmets.

Only during the latest stages of the war, the Germans may have wished for some additional protection, as the deterioriating supply of alloys had forced the German steel mills to change the composition of their steel armor plates. While Jentz states that late face-hardened armor plates featured pretty much the same hardness as earlier plates, he mentions that they had a somewhat higher tendency to crack and create small splinters inside, sometimes even when hit by non-penetrating rounds. This didn't affect armor protection (or hardness), but the changes created a less crew friendly evironment. In most (if not all) of such cases, crew members were mildly injured, but not killed.


A RAC (Royal Armour Corps) tank casualties survey for the NWE theater from 1945 displays that burns were still an apparent problem for British tank crews in 1945, as it (table 56) displays that  ...

"it is thus apparent that the problem of burns in tank crews is very much the same now, as it was in the desert in late 1942 and there is likely to be little use in our reiterating Chute's widely read and discussed remarks on their prevention. Suffice it is to say that if a means of preventing minor burns in tank crews could be found, it would reduce the non-fatal casualties sustained inside vehicles by something like a fifth."


http://ww2talk.com/i...45.16210/#media , page 87.


The ORS report (page 397) I mentioned above states that the quick fix kits for the Shermans were pretty useless, as "in no recorded case ..... has the extra outside applique armor resisted any hit."

This hints towards the possibilty that quite some of the British Shermans had only received the quick-fix, and the RAC quote also suggests that some British crews fell back to the habit of storing shells outside the armored bins. I am not sure whether the racks could be relocated in tanks of deployed units (means in field repair shops), as the relocation made design changes necessary, which possibly could only be implemented on the production line.


The RAC survey also indicates that 54% of burns in tank crews involved burns on the face and hands, while 21% involved burns on the hands only, and 7% covered face, hands and neck. So the majority of burns occured on exposed parts which were not protected by helmets or masks. The majority of burns were 2nd degree burns (48%) and 1st degree burns (17%), rather confined to the exposed parts (ie. hands, face, neck) and comparatively mild injuries, severe burns (more severe than 3rd degree burns) were less common (14%). The section also suggests that the development of protective means "especially gloves" would be an item "on which work could be profitably undertaken".

 

c) Survivability


It took 1.63 hits to knock out a Sherman, statistically. Technically, when the Sherman got to France, the bulk of the Sherman pool was inadequately armed, as it sported the 75 mm gun. While it proved to be a good infantry support tank in the hedgerow terrain, it could be penetrated by all German Kw.K guns, and by all towed guns in the field, it was even highly vulnerable to the Pak 40, the smallest German AT gun in use, at the time. And even infantry guns had a chance to penetrate a Sherman at (very) close range, when using hollow charge rounds.

The RAC survey discusses the survivability of Shermans, Cromwells and Comets (page 51):

 

RAC tank casualties survey, NWE, 1945 :

 

RAC tank casualties survey:

"In comparison the maximum thickness of armour on any aspect of the Cromwell, Comet and Sherman is about 100 mm, but it is in general less than this, and it is clear that all these tanks were highly vulnerable from all aspects to even the Kw.K and Pak 40, which were the smallest types of German anti-tank gun in extensive use. The vulnerability of our tanks can be measured by the ratio of penetrations to scoops which was a little over 1:1. Such a ratio gives little chance of survival if a tank is fired on, because survival will depend in this case on retaliatory action being taken before the vehicle is penetrated, for which little time is available. If the enemy range is 500 yards his chance of missing is small. If it (this must refer to the chance of missing, not the range) is assumed to be zero and if he fires 10 rounds per minute, the chance of survival is halved every 6 seconds and rapidly becomes negligible. It is therefore not remarkable that crews often bailed out as soon as their tank was hit, even though the armour was not penetrated and little damage was done. It seemed to the authors that they were fully justified in doing this under the circumstances, and many men undoubtedly saved their lives that way. Consequently, though it is realised that the practical effect in war of making the front of the tank invulnerable can only be found out by the study of the course of battles involving different types of tanks in different circumstances, it does not seem out of place here to stress again the fact that 40% of recorded angles of attack on the hull were from the sector within 22% on either side or normal to the front, and that a large proportion of this 40% would not have become casualties in the circumstances in which they did if they had presented an invulnerable front. A number more might have survived if they had been able to turn an invulnerable ...."

 

Sadly, the following page (52) is missing. "Presenting an invulnerable front" means to angle the tank properly, so that the effective armor appears to be way higher than the armor's actual thickness. As - according to this survey - 40% of the British knocked out tanks had not angled at all (or not correctly), the casualty numbers caused by enemy frontal AP shots were higher than they should have been. The same can probably be said about US tank postures.

 

EDIT 3: A US study and the ORS analysis state that 11% of the German penetrating AP shots penetrated Shermans at angles of around 36 degrees (from normal / 0 degrees = straight on), which is really an unfavorable angle. Obviously, quite a few German guns delivered the right velocities and penetration powers to support such hits.

 

According to the ORS analysis, the majority of German AP hits on sampled British Shermans were scored on the hulls' sides (55%), on the turrets' sides and on turret fronts. Only around 11% where AP shots to the hulls' front. According to the ORS, at that stage of the war, the Germans were not picky when it came to aiming at tank parts, they basically aimed at the part of the enemy tank that got in sight first (say turret), or that presented the easiest target (say the side of the hull), as their guns (Kw.K's or PaKs) had the penetration power to pen all sections of Allied medium tanks, if they did not angle.

 

A US study from 1991 reviewing the Allied offensive towards the Roer, and also the thrust through the Rur plains (as part of Operation Queen, November - December 1944), as well as the difficulties faced during the German offensive in the Ardennes (I am quoting some excerpts, as well as the parts covering the heavy German counterattack at Puffendorf and Immendorf between 17 - 21 November, 1944, during Queen):

 

UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II , The Technical Services , THE ORDNANCE DEPARTMENT: ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT , by Lida Mayo, CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY UNITED STATES ARMY , WASHINGTON, D.C., 1991

"During the First Army breakthrough battles in July and August, the 2d Armored Division tankers had learned how to fight German Panther and Tiger tanks with their M4 Shermans. They knew that the ammunition of the 75-mm. gun with which most of the M4's were armed (a low-velocity shell about 13 inches long, as compared with the 28- to 30-inch high-velocity 75-mm. shell of the Panthers) would not penetrate at any range the thick frontal armor of the Panthers and Tigers, but could damage the sides and rear. Therefore the tankers had used wide encircling movements, engaging the enemy's attention with one platoon of tanks while another platoon attacked from the rear. They had suffered appalling losses: between 26 July and 12 August, for example, one of 2d Armored Division's tank battalions had lost to German tanks and assault guns 51 percent of its combat personnel killed or wounded and 70 percent of its tanks destroyed or evacuated for fourth echelon repair. But by using flanking tactics and by enlisting artillery support to fire directly on enemy tanks, the Americans had won their battles and even managed to inflict heavy losses on the Germans.

By the time the Roer offensive began, the 2d Armored Division's firepower had been stepped up to some extent. About half the division's M4's were armed with the 76-mm. gun.14 With this gun, firing the new but scarce tungsten-carbide-cored HVAP ammunition, the tankers could penetrate the front belly plate of the Panther at 300 yards and at 200 yards had a sporting chance (about one to four) of penetrating the front slope plate. The division's tank destroyer battalion had also recently been equipped with the new M36 destroyers mounting the 90-mm. gun."

 

The 2nd Armor Division had only half its tanks equipped with the 76 mm gun.
The actual battle, with tank vs tank combat:

 

excerpt 2

"On the 17th ( of November ) , shortly after dawn, as two tank battalions of the 2d Armored Division's 67th Armored Regiment were drawn up on a slope outside Puffendorf, ready to attack toward Gereonsweiler, the men of the 1st Battalion saw long, high-velocity shells plowing furrows in the soft earth between their tanks. Then out of the heavy morning mist came a German tank; two Tigers and four Panthers moved out of the woods on the western fringe of Gereonsweiler. There was a hit; one of the Shermans went up in flames, then another and another and another, as the Germans got the range. Soon the tanks of the 2d Battalion were also being thinned by murderous fire from the big tanks. The Germans, alarmed by the speed of the American advance on the first day of the offensive, had brought up elements of the strong 9th Panzer Division—veteran of the Russian front—to Gereonsweiler and were attacking at Puffendorf with a force estimated by 2d Battalion at twenty to thirty Panthers and Tigers.

The battle at Puffendorf was tank against tank: on both sides the infantry was pinned down by artillery fire. The Germans had the advantage of position: the Americans were hemmed in by sloping ground that made flanking movement impossible. The Shermans fought back desperately, stepping up to attempt to slug it out with their 75-mm. and 76-mm. guns, but the tanks that got close enough for their guns to be effective were quickly cut down by enemy fire. And when the American tankers did score direct hits on the German tanks, their shells ricocheted off the thick armor and went screaming into the air. One Sherman fired fourteen rounds of 76-mm. ammunition at a Tiger before it had any success at all—and the next moment it was destroyed by another Tiger. When some companies were down to three or four tanks and ammunition was running low, both battalions sent back for the 90-mm. tank destroyers to come up. With the help of these "can-openers," as the tankers called the tank destroyers, the Germans were beaten off, but at heavy cost to the two battalions in tanks and men. The second day's action on the Roer plain cost the 2d Armored Division 38 medium tanks, destroyed or knocked out, and 19 light tanks; 56 men killed, 281 wounded, 26 missing; and all but a few of these losses were incurred at Puffendorf."

 

The 2nd Armored Division lost 57 tanks, with 339 men wounded, killed or missing, 11 German tanks were destroyed.
It's possible that the 5:1 myth derived from that particular battle, or similar battles.

 

excerpt 3

The American tanks came off less creditably in the battle of the Roer plain. The tankers, deprived by the terrain and mud of their ability to outflank the enemy, by the congestion in the area of their usual artillery direct support, and by bad weather of much assistance from the air, had fought magnificently; but they had become disillusioned about the ability of their tanks to defeat German armor. "Our men no longer have as much confidence in their armor and guns as they used to have," one of the 2d Armored Division tankers said two days after the Roer plain offensive. Another said, "The Germans have been improving steadily ever since we met them in Sicily," and "Our Ordnance Department needs to get on the ball."

This was not merely a momentary reaction from battle-weary men. After the war an Armored School report, prepared with the assistance of 2d Armored Division tank commanders who had participated in the action, stated that the most important factor in the set-back at Puffendorf on 17 November—"the biggest tank battle in 2nd Armored experience"—was "the inferiority of our tanks in guns, armor, and maneuverability."

At the time of the Roer plain offensive the tankers had been impressed by the superiority of the wide German tank tracks, which barely sank in the ground, while the American tracks made trenches. The tankers complained that the Shermans were too slow to get quickly out of the way of antitank fire (as the light tanks could); that their suspensions, of the volute spring type, adversely affected maneuverability (most considered the torsion bar suspension superior in maneuverability and reliability); that their silhouette was too high; and that their armor was not much better than that of the tank destroyers. Above all, the tankers complained of their guns. They had seen their 75-mm. and 76-mm. shells bounce off the front plate of the Panthers as well as the Tigers—"like hitting them with a pea-shooter." The 76-mm. gun was better than the 75-mm. but did not have enough velocity to keep the tank out of the range of the more powerful German tank guns, which were effective at 3,000 to 3,500 yards. At practical ranges the 76-mm., even with HVAP ammunition, would not successfully penetrate the glacis plate of the Panther. "The guns are ineffective, the crews know it, and it affects their morale," the tank commanders stated. They concluded that the British had the right idea when they threw away the 75-mm. guns on their lend-lease Shermans and mounted their 17-pounders. The 2d Armored Division tankers believed that their own Shermans could easily mount a 90-mm. gun.

 

excerpt 4

Not only on the Roer plain, but to a lesser extent in the Hürtgen Forest, where the wooded, boggy terrain kept the tanks road-bound, was there growing frustration with the performance of the Shermans, especially those with the 75-mm. gun. And in the Battle of the Bulge, one division commander's wish for a tank with armament to cope adequately with the German Panthers and Tigers was echoed "prayer-fully or profanely—wherever the enemy panzer divisions appeared out of the Ardennes hills and forests." Lacking such armament, the tankers stalked the German tanks, maneuvering to get a shot at flank or tail from behind the protection of walls and buildings, or lying in wait in a village lane until a German tank, advancing usually under cover of darkness or fog, got close enough for a kill broadside. With these tactics, with the help of individual heroic actions by tankers and by infantry with bazookas, and with the assistance of the ever-dependable artillery, the onrushing tide of the big German tanks was stemmed; but at great cost in American men and tanks. Between 20 November 1944 and 28 December 1944, losses in 75-mm. and 76-mm. Shermans amounted to 636.

 

EDIT 4: Interestingly, that number comes close to the total number of tanks available to the Germans when they had started their offensive in the Ardennes (557 - 600 tanks, depending on source, as well as around 667 TDs of various sizes, initially).

At the end of the chapter the US army historian covers the Zebra mission (a technical mission to introduce the new Pershing to the ETO):

 

excerpt 5

 

At the time of the ZEBRA mission, interest naturally was centered on the Pershing tank. Although the theater refused to subscribe to a blanket statement that the Pershing with the M3 gun was superior to the Panther or Tiger, all commanders considered it a step in the right direction and wanted all the Pershing tanks they could get as soon as possible. In the meantime they would settle for the M4 with the 76-mm. gun and as much HVAP ammunition as was available. They emphatically wanted no more M4's with the 75-mm. gun. When Colonel Colby tried to sell the battalion commanders of the 3d Armored Division on the Shermans they already had (being unable to offer them anything better on a large scale immediately), he ran into a hornet's nest. After the heavy casualties of the winter, they were beginning to regard the 75-mm. Shermans as deathtraps.

 

The term "deathtrap" appears to be applicable.

 

The_Chieftain covers Zebra in this article:

 

http://forum.worldof...-pershing-pt-3/

 

Zinegata

McNair wasn't the one that "prevented" the US Army from getting 76mm Shermans.

 

In fact, the US Army had 150 of the things already in England on June 6, 1944. Indeed, I would not be surprised if the Soviets had some 76mm Shermans already on-hand by this date, as the earliest known deployment was in August of that year! (It may be even earlier)

 

As Chieftain already noted in his "Myths of American Armor" video, the 76mm Sherman was available as of January 1944. It was the field commanders who rejected the switch. Indeed, it's worth noting that some Divisions were still rejecting the 76mm Sherman all the way to the Sigfried Line - they simply never saw the need and thought their 75mm Shermans were fine.


 

 

There is quite some debate about McNair's role regarding the deployment of Pershings and the switch from 75 mm guns to 76 mm guns in Shermans among historians.

A number of authors blamed McNair to a level that could be almost seen as character assassination, where McNair couldn't defend himself, anymore.

Some authors also overlooked or ignored the fact that his position did not involve the final authorization/standardization of new tanks/prototypes.

It can be concluded that the development division had wasted a lot of time on development of the T20/21/23 series, though, which were rejected by ordnance/the armor board, and which would have never been accepted by ordnance, as they had too many deficiencies. At one or another point, it had become obvious that finding solutions for these problems would have taken too much time. The engineers had partially made very elegant designs (from the engineer pov, with even an electrical drive in one version, just like Porsche did in the Maus), but these were of no practical value (they did not make the tanks faster or more agile).

Ordnance, in their post-war reviews, blamed McNair and another guy to a large extent, but even without the delay during the approval process (who or what had actually caused the delay is not relevant), they would not have gotten the untested Pershing much sooner to the ETO (1-2 months, if at all), as Chieftain points out correctly.

 

Even though it is said that Ike had rejected the Pershing even in May 1944, it was ruled that it should hit serial production months before, despite the fights between ordnance, development and with McNair trying to intervene (in whatever favor), as well as a general new focus on 90 mm guns for following projects in the near future, eventually.

Considering how much time ( the speed of the development can be described with the terms "slow" , "casual", "partially unfocused" ) had been put into the mentioned series, it's probably safe to say that a higher amount of 76 mm guns and generally more capable guns (ie. 90 mm) and more capable platforms (90 mm TD designs) could have been made available and made available earlier, if the developers had not wasted so much time on projects that didn't have a future, and if ordnance and the other involved parties had not argued/struggled as much. Quite a few tankers' lives could have been saved, if they would have possessed better equipment.

 

EDIT: It should also be noted, that the desert campaign had shown that there was a major disadvantage regarding optics (the longest confirmed AP kill-shot on Allied armor performed by a 88 mm FlaK gun was scored at a range between 2200 and 2400 meters, in that theater, they had similar quality optics, and Tiger guns (88 mm) had scored hits between 2000 and 2200 meters in Africa), which was addressed during the optics conference in 1943, but the Sherman's 75 mm guns were widely accepted to be adequate. That is understandable, as the Pz. III had remained to be the main German workhorse until the end of the campaign. Pz. IVs were deployed in lower numbers, and were then spread across the several units of the tank divisions. So it is not surprising that quite some US armor commanders were convinced that the 75 mm Sherman was sufficiently armed, even after they had landed on Sicily and on the southern tip of Italy, later on. The reality of combat in the ETO then quickly proved that this assessment was wrong and made quite a few commanders in the Italian TO rethink their initial assessments.

 

As Chieftain's radio quote displays, armor commanders in the Italian TO did request more tanks with more powerful guns. They did not request tanks with more armor, but they needed at least adequate weaponry that could properly deal with enemy armor. They also felt that the deployed TDs were only useful when they would receive more powerful guns with higher effective ranges, as TD survival rates appeared to decrease drastically, if used on the offensive. Italian TO commanders then started to attach the rather unemployed TDs to medium tank units, a practice commanders in NWE picked up (where they then attached TDs even to mixed task forces during the battle of the bulge), too.

 

Armor commanders in the NW ETO also demanded more powerful guns, starting around autumn 1944. While some authors insinuated that Patton and other commanders rejected tanks with higher (than 75 mm) calibres, as they were supposedly trapped in their 1939-1941 thinking/doctrine, personal letters from some of these officers display a different picture, showing that quite a few commanders knew that more capable guns were needed. Armor commanders became increasingly aware of the shortcomings of the 75mm and the 76 mm guns, especially with the very low production output of HVAP rounds for the 76 mm, and with their priority use in TDs. In the main, a 76 mm Sherman had either ONE HVAP round or even NONE available, that's how scarce HVAP rounds were. Without such round, even a 76 mm Sherman had to get as close as 200 yards to a Panther to get the chance to score a penetration, as the US Army field tests in Normandy demonstrated.

 

1) availability of 76 mm Shermans

 

75 mm Shermans were gradually replaced by 76 mm Shermans as they became available, once the general decision was made to perform the switch. This led to mixed units, where then only half of the 2nd Armour Division's Shermans were equipped with 76 mm guns, in November, 1944, for instance.

Similarly mixed outfits were created by gradually upgrading gun sights or installing smoke cups, as such upgrades were only supposed to be installed when tanks hit the repair shops for adjustments, repairs or maintenance, as can be seen in a number of pamphlets from Ordnance. There are pictures of large tank pools in the ETO, where only every 4th or even every 7th tank features the smoke cups. Gradual installs were one reason, another reason was that some crews had removed the cups again, as even rifle or MG bullets could either damage or trigger the electrical fuzes of the smoke charges. Some German crews complained about their cups, as well, as enemy rifle rounds had triggered their cups, which resulted in their LOS getting obstructed by screens created by their own smoke grenades. While the Germans tried to improve and protect the wiring, the ultimate solution was to move the cups inside. The Tiger II had an additional smaller hatch (slighty wider than a smoke round) that could be opened to fire a smoke round. A gun mount attached to the hatch held a grenade launcher that looked like a large calibre version of an army signal gun, but which would fire the regular tank smoke cup rounds. IIRC, the gun could also be triggered from different crew positions, as well. The launcher could be detached and used like a hand gun.
 



general_scrubdriver #59 Posted Jan 13 2018 - 16:09

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View PostGrease_Spot_, on Jan 12 2018 - 01:41, said:

Even today, with much better optics and accuracy (a standard M4 Sherman sporting a short 75 was considered to have a probability of hit of a same sized stationary target from the halt of 50% at 500 yards.) we don't train to snipe at hatches, cupolas, bow guns, etc.  It's 'aim center of mass and pull the trigger.'  If you're on a two way tank range with permanent garaging for failure you don't piss around on the margins.  Auto-aim and keep shooting til the bugger blows up.

 

A properly prepared M1 Abrams can put a three round APFSDS-T group on a target at 1500 meters that you can cover with a helmet, on a range.  We still train center of mass and hammer them til they blow.  You don't have time to be trifling.

 

grease spot, keep in mind your comment here and what you have in mind, this is modern training and for our time a basic tactic. back then 1942-44 we were effectively in our first generation of battlefield thinking, training, pretty much every aspect. your training and the equipment your using is vastly different than those urgent and undecided days. its been pointed out some thinking tends that armor is ineffective, hence lighter armor designs utilizing mobility. for one the modern tank/or AT gun design is very powerful, a few years ago, probably the late 60s or in the 70s we realized to limit tank gun size. anymore size was unnecessary, as say a 105 or esp the 120mm or 125mm size, with the overall design would punch thru any armor that has any useful type of mobility on a battlefield, and in saying also in production. a 'over sized super-heavy' not only would have difficulty making much speed, and in saying ground support would be a problem, not much in the way of cross-country capability, but the production costs would sky rocket as well. modern gun designs also employ many corresponding aspects, as well. of course in the design and employ its not just one aspect, but a gunner can point and click the trigger. 

back then as there was the urgency and the war needs, bouncing a round in a certain place either on certain tanks, or such as one case i ve been made aware of, i think its somewhere on this forum, posted sometime ago. for tigers there could be a space where the turret and the hull 'meet', sherman gunners would try to aim for that 'ring' and could get penetration there. otherwise a m4 sherman esp w/the 75 gun and even with the better performing 76mm gun are almost totally helpless from their fronts. if you were able to get to a panthers or a tigers side, ok you should be able to get thru that armor, but the opposition are active, firing, and making kills, while you may -try to maneuver. 

like is pointed out, and in the last couple of posts, what came to my mind, and i was going to post. looks like was posted a panther could hit a US tank its range may have been 1500meters or perhaps at a distance of 2000meters. the 75mm/l 70 was a very good gun for the time, the 88mm on a tiger that range of 2000meters and closer it would be effective. (oh and that is for heavier armored soviet tanks of the time). we had problems even at a range of 200meters with these models. even their panzer4 wasnt a slouch, it probably was somewhat more than a match for a sherman. the pz4 h was a good model. 



GePunkt #60 Posted Jan 14 2018 - 23:17

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View PostZinegata, on Jan 12 2018 - 03:15, said:

a) The Panther may have good front armor but its sides were completely terrible. It's on record that the Germans knew that the Panther was vulnerable to 14.5mm anti-tank rifles from the side, which is why they installed the side skirts to begin with.

 

b) It didn't take five Shermans to kill a Panther. It in fact took four Panthers to kill a Sherman.

 

I missed these statements, they are obviously either based on misinterpretation or on misinformation, like other statements in that post.

 

a) While the side armor of a Panther was comparatively thin, its turret side still featured 45 mm of armor. The hull side's upper armor consisted of 40 mm of armor, sloped at 65 degrees. Only the lower hull side featured a vertical 40-mm plate (90 degrees).

The Panther model Ausführung G featured 50 mm of armor on the hull side's sloped upper plate and 40 mm on the hull side's lower plate.

 

The 14.5 mm AT rifles (PTRS-41 and PTRD-41) used by the Russians could penetrate up to 40 mm of armor at a distance of 100 meters. With AP rounds, the more widely used PTRD-41 AT rifle could only penetrate up to 35 mm of armor, but up to 40 mm with tungsten rounds. Both rifles would only be able to reach their particular max. penetrations when the enemy vertical armor plate was aligned vertical in front of the gun and not angled at all (0 degrees). The AT rifleman then still had to pick a gap either between the wheels or between the hull side's upper plate and the track, while the enemy tank would have kept moving, most likely.

This would'nt have been an easy task, as the rifles had no scopes, but iron sights only. A hit in one of these gaps on a moving target and at 0 degrees would have been like winning the lottery. Additionally, upon full penetration, such round then still had to pen the armored ammo bins residing behind the hull's side, means after having traveled through 40 mm of armor, already. At that point, the disintegration of the round would have been more than likely, as the kinetic energy would not have been sufficient to go through the armored bins as well.

On top of that, the rounds had a high tendency to shatter on impact, due to the high velocities (between 1000 and 1300 meters/second), resulting in a lot of non-pen's even on more lighty armored targets.

 

Despite this, the Germans did install side skirts, indeed, but only as pre-emptive measure for the Eastern front, as German Ordnance and tank units had raised concerns that the Panther's side armor could be vulnerable to Russian AT-rifle fire. When the Panthers had hit the field in larger numbers, the AT rifles had been found to be largely ineffective against the newer German tanks (Tiger, Panther, but also Pz.IV with large side skirts and turret skirts - which were added as effective protection against Russian AT rifles) by the Russians already, and AT-rifle teams were then instructed to aim at observation ports, view ports and tracks, focus on fighting APCs and on anti-materiel duties. Hitting the driver's view port could damage or destroy the mirror system used by the driver, leaving him blinded, basically, or such rifle round could damage the gunner's scope, in theory. Since the scope port was a pretty small target, the driver's view port proved to be a somewhat easier target on most tank types.

Another notable detail: A given AT-rifle team was usually spotted after the first shot at such short distances (100 meters or less), as both rifles had huge muzzle blasts that would usually give away the team's position. A Panther then would have angled accordingly, and opened up to wipe out the team. In other words: focusing on a tank that could not be penetrated, turned out to be a deadly business. Another question would be if a Panther would get as close as 100 meters to an infantry position in a non-city environment without infantry support. The Panther was not designed (nor deployed) as breakthrough tank.

 

As AT-Rifles became rather ineffective, the Russians focused on developing the RPG-43 (introduced in 1943) and its successor the RPG-6 (Sept. 1943) grenade, which both turned out to be the Russians most effective weapons for inf-vs-tank close combat in WW II: The grenades could be thrown and featured a HEAT warhead that could pen 75 mm (RPG-43) and 100 mm (RPG-6) of armor. Since the impact angle had to be 0 degrees, the turret roofs and engine covers had to be the prime targets. The advantage was that they could be thrown from concealed positions, the disadvantage was that the soldier had to get within throwing distance (say 20 - 30 meters) and that the grenades would not pierce the armor at all, when the angle was off. The Germans came up with similar solutions with their PWM and PWM kz. grenades, but also developed heat charges that could be thrown like grenades but that would then stick on the enemy tanks due to their magnetic bottom plates, ensuring that the charges would be triggered at the most favorable angle. The US employed the rather unreliable 60 mm bazooka, the Germans the Faustpatrone and the Panzerfaust 30. The British had replaced their Boys-AT rifles (pen: around 19 mm - 23 mm at 91 meters) with the effective PIAT. The most effective German infantry AT weapon was probably the Panzerfaust 60 and 100 (referring to the range in meters) which could even be operated by Hitlerjugend kids during the Battle of Berlin. The Russians followed eventually with the post-war RPG-2 and following series. When the Panther hit the battlefields, AT-rifles did not pose serious problems anymore.

 

b) That is a pretty bold claim. I'd be excited to see evidence backing up that claim.

The Panther could pen the frontal armor of all Western Allied tanks at ranges between 1000 and 2000 meters. Aiming at the side of an Allied tank, a Panther could even pen at ranges of up to 3500 meters (when the crew managed to place a hit at that long distance). A Cromwell and a Churchill could pen the Panther's side armor at ranges of up to 1500 meters, a 75 mm Sherman could pen the Panther's side at ranges between 400 and 2400 meters (which was way beyond the Sherman's common combat range), or 1500 meters according to some sources, in theory. In practice, in open terrain, a Panther could engage a Sherman from distances where the Sherman was unable to respond, and even at the Sherman's usual combat range a Panther that was not angled could not be penetrated from the front. Even the 90mm M36 TDs had difficulties to pen Panthers, until they had received HVAP rounds.

 

During the Battle of the Bulge US tank losses were high. At that point, US tank units were basically mixed units consisting of 75 mm and 76 mm Shermans (supported by the attached TDs), while the German tank force employed Panthers as main workhorses, supported by attached heavy tanks, but also by TDs (even StuGs). In somewhat more open engagements German tank units then inflicted high losses on US tank units. In or near villages and generally in more confined areas that were occupied by US infantry units with bazookas and AT guns and that were backed up by TDs or tanks, Panther losses were comparatively high. In the main, these engagements were not tank vs tank, though, and they were German attempts to boot mixed bags of defenders from their positions, with the goal to transfer to their main goals (eg. the Meuse). Such environments were not Panther-friendly.

 

The only instance with an unusual (if not unnecessary) high amount of Panther losses occured during the Battle of Arracourt in September, where 1 experienced Panzer division had almost no tanks at its disposal, and where 1 green division, with green crews without sufficient training (due to lack of fuel) and without any combat experience had received a full complement of Panthers, were rushed in to mount a counteroffensive on the Allied bridgehead at the Moselle in their brand-new Panthers. Without proper recon, due to the lack of organic scout elements, the Germans pushed in blindly and got flanked by Shermans that had used fog as cover. The fog also negated the Panthers' range advantage. Throughout the battle, experienced Sherman units with TD and aerial support had outsmarted green Panther units. With this battle, it wasn't about supposedly superior Shermans, but about experienced US crews trashing green German crews.

 






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