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Myths and facts about M4 Sherman and T-34

Discussion in 'Armor and Armored Fighting Vehicles' started by RevBladeZ, May 24, 2016.

  1. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Y'know, if these things were that easy, somebody probably would done them.......
     
  2. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

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    I guess I worded that wrong. What i meant was, on the M18, M36, M10, they could have designed a turret that was closed, so it would be more like a traditional tank. The M10 had more armor and was heavier than the other TDs, so it didn't function in the way the US Army envisioned their TDs to operate because it couldn't move as quick, so that could have been the TD to modify the turret and turn it into a tank. It had sloped armor all the way around and a better canon than the standard Sherman 75mm.
     
  3. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Yes, and the M10 also had an un-powered turret that was open-top for a reason - not just visual awareness, but also because it was almost impossible to work the gun otherwise. If you notice, the later armored covers for the turret of the M10/M18 raised the height of the turret by about 8 inches; it was the only way to do it and leave room for the crew to work the gun. The M36 was so tight it was redesigned in the field so the gunner could more easily access the sight.

    So it required a redesigned,more compact gun, in a redesigned more spacious turret, which was the 76mm M1 Gun in the modified T23 turret as mounted on the M4A1 (w), M4A2 (w), and M4A3 (w). IOW a tank.
     
  4. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

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    If it was un-powered, they moved in manually with a crank or something?
     
  5. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Yes.
     
  6. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    I'm just going to report your posts as spam.
     
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  7. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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  8. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    AUSTanker: Its a shame you choose to spam the forum. Until you did, I was considering buying your book. I think I'll pass on it now.
     
  9. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Staff Member Patron  

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    AUSTanker just went into stealth mode.
     
  10. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Did you see the price for that book? It was $85.
     
  11. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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  12. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    So, Amazon allows people to review books...
     
  13. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    To get back to basics with the Sherman and its gun, the real issue was time. The British thought the Sherman was just the thing throughout the North African campaign. And it indeed was. It was equal or superior to the MK IV in every aspect of performance, including the gun. The American ordnance people worked closely with the more experienced British and Commonwealth troops and I believe that every change they recommended was adapted into the manufacturing process, or retrofitted into tanks already in the pipeline. We're talking about upgrades like wet storage, an added hatch for the loader and a floor escape hatch - I believe all of these changes were initiated by the Brit/Commonwealth experts. The Sherman was thought so highly of, that production of Stuart, Lee and Grant were severely cut to produce more Shermans.

    Of course, everyone knew it was no match for the Tiger, but until late 43 it was a better tank than any of the medium German panzers and there simply weren't that many Tigers on the battlefield.

    It wasn't until mid/late 43 in Italy that the allies came up against the upgraded MK IV and the Panther with their high velocity guns and realized they had a problem. Even then, in September 43 on the mainland of Italy, the Germans were still in conversion and most of the medium tanks with the high velocity guns were going to the east. I think there may have been a bit of arrogance at play here among the upper echelons. The air war was in full swing and growing and I think the allied high commands were convinced that they would not face a significant number of the new MK IV or Panthers by the Spring of 44 when the main invasion would take place. Had they taken this more seriously in the Autumn of 43, the bulk of the Shermans the following summer could easily have been landed with a better gun. American industry was certainly capable of making such a change in that amount of time, there was just no urgency to do so.

    The air force commanders were assuring everyone else that German industry was nearly crushed and losing ground every day. They couldn't possibly produce enough of these new or upgraded tanks to be a real threat. That was a common thread throughout the war; wildly optimistic damage reports from both American and British bomber commands, and the army commanders and political heads accepted this without much question. They didn't have a clue about the reforms Speer had put in place, the dispersal of industry, the new factories camouflaged as low value targets, the underground facilities for the most important war materiel. Many of the factories bombed were empty or had switched over to production of the least important goods. The real German war industry was increasing output at the very time allied intelligence believed it was being stamped out.

    Sorry for the book, but in short the Sherman (in my opinion), was the best tank of the war. It would have been ever better had the 76 come along before the landings. That's a shame, but the simplicity, reliability, low cost, fast production and general versatility swamped the Germans with pure numerical superiority even with the outdated gun.

    Numbers win wars. Every general who wrote a memoir will argue that it was his brilliant tactics and strategy that won the battles, but that's just ego. A platoon armed with semi-auto Garands will win against a platoon armed with Mausers. The SMLE with its faster cock-on-closing action and ten round magazine will beat an equal number of slower 5 round magazine Mausers. And when all is said and done, five Shermans will win against two Panthers. It will even win against four Panthers, because two of those Panthers are liable to break down before they reach the battle site.

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Actually, there were two sets of changes to the M4-series. The first were manufacturing improvements and modifications, such as the turret "cheek" armor, the driver and co-driver hood armor, and the side sponson armor, the shift from the three-piece to one-piece differential and transmission cover, and so on. They were all "quick fixes" and were the result of experience gained during manufacture, along with preliminary reports from its use at Alamein in October 1942 and in Tunisia in December and January 1943. They were designed as early production began and introduced as "kit fixes" or in the production line, as early winter 1942-1943, but after large numbers had already been built and shipped, so a lot of the "fixes" were installed "in the field"...most of those Shermans in England in late 1943 and early 1944 were modified there.

    The second set of changes was a complete redesign known as the "M4 series (ultimate)". It was begun in July 1943 and was essentially complete by September, with changes phasing in during November and December. It included going forward with the three armament choices envisaged in the original August 1940 design specifications - the 75mm gun, the 105mm howitzer, and the 3"/76mm gun - the turret redesigns, including the loaders hatches, commanders vision cupola, and enlarging the overall size of the basic 75mm turret to eliminate "thin spots" in the armor casting, as well as using a modified T23 turret for the 76mm gun, and also a complete redesign of the hull front, eliminating the driver and co-driver hoods, simplifying and thickening the glacis, while enlarging the hatches. Many other details were improved or modified.

    Neither set of changes were as a result of encountering the Panzer IV with the 75mm KwK l43 or L48 in Italy. Both were already encountered by the British and Americans in North Africa and Tunisia. Nor was it the Panther' the Soviets first encounter with it was in July 1943, after the M4-series redesign was already begun, and there was nothing in the initial Soviet analysis of it made available to the Western Allies that created any alarm. American forces did not encounter it until late February and early March 1943 at Anzio, where a number were captured. It was the examination of one of those captured tanks c. April-May, published as an Enemy Technical Intelligence Report on the eve of D-Day, which first set the fox loose in the hen house. Nor was it Tiger, which was well known from examples captured in Tunisia in December 1942. They were correctly assessed as being too specialized, too costly, and too limited in numbers to have a significant impact on the war.

    Finally, the first of the M4 series (ultimate) with 76mm arrived in England in April 1944, with 113 in depots there by 1 June and 156 received by the end of June. That is the manufacturing and logistic reality...the redesign was begun in July 1943, was complete in September 1943, manufacturing of the 75mm ultimate began in November 1943 and of the 76mm ultimate in December 1943, but the first ultimate 76mm wasn't in England until April and the first ultimate 75mm even later (all the initial requirement of 75mm tanks was already there, so the ultimate 75mm was shipped as a replacement). So no, the "bulk of the Shermans the following summer could" not "easily have been landed with a better gun". For one thing, the initial attempt to fit a "better gun", the 3" M7 was impractical, as was the re-designed 76mm M1, which required a turret re-design as well...and then faults in the performance of the standard APC ammunition caused the gun to perform worse than expected. Those faults were not found until May 1944 (part of the "rush" to get them in the field) and were not really solved until fall 1944, which meant the improved ammunition was not in theater until c. March 1945 in small quantities (ditto for HVAP, which was developed in six weeks in summer 1944, but took time to manufacture and get to the field...and used a restricted strategic materiel, tungsten-carbide).

    None of that had anything to do with "arrogance" in the Army leadership, but had everything to do with realities. By July 1943 it was obvious the T20/T22/T23 series of second generation medium tanks were all failures for one reason or another, but rooted in Ordnance's simple lack of experience at designing and building medium tanks. The "improved" second generation pilots were not approved until late summer, and it was expected they would not be available in quantity until November 1944 at the earliest. The result was it was simple fact that the Army would invade the Continent of Europe with the M4 as its medium tank.

    Nor did the Bomber Barons have much to do with it. Whatever they said, the production numbers in Germany were correctly estimated based upon statistical analysis of captured serial numbers in a remarkable intelligence effort. They knew the Tiger was a limited production type. Initially, they believed the Panther was as well, but given the assessment of its capabilities was badly flawed, it made little difference how many were encountered.

    Nor did Speer have much to do with the "reforms". That was Todt...and the large pre-war capital investment which came to fruition in 1942.

    Aside from those minor points though, I pretty much agree with your end assessment. :cool:
     
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  15. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I think you're getting lost in arcane detail, whereas I'm simplifying, perhaps overly so... Todt was dead in February 42, so while he may have begun the German industrial 'miracle' it was Speer who carried it through.

    Obviously there were many changes to the Sherman from the first design on. The most important changes were based on combat experience, and that experience was British and originated in North Africa - 42, 43, as you say. One can argue a variety of reasons why the gun was not upgraded before the summer of 44. Yes, the first 76's were showing up then, as well as the Firefly, but there was no urgency about this. There were not enough of them. Nobody expected the Panther to show up in such numbers, nor did they expect that all MK IV panzers would be upgraded by the time of the Normandy landings. That is arrogance or simply poor intelligence.

    I doubt a complete conversion to a better gun could have been accomplished in those 9 months, but we could have shown up with far more of them. We didn't.
     
  16. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, but the idea it was a "miracle" and that Speer did anything other than take credit for something he did not do, was a myth exploded long ago. See Budrass, Streb and Scherner, "Was armament minister Albert Speer really responsible for the German “armament miracle” during World War II? New doubts arising from the annual audits of the German aircraft producers", which has an excellent bibliography of sources for he controversy. From their abstract:

    Armament minister Albert Speer is usually credited with causing the upswing in German
    armament production after 1941. Exploring the annual audit reports of the Deutsche
    Revisions- und Treuhand AG for six different firms, we question this view by showing
    that in the German aircraft industry the crucial political changes already occurred before
    World War II. The government decided in 1938 that aircraft producers had to concentrate
    on a few different types, and in 1937 cost-plus contracts were replaced with fixed price
    contracts. What followed was not a sudden production miracle but a continuous
    development which was fuelled by learning-by-doing and by the ongoing growth of the
    capital endowment.

    Um, sorry, but the experience with the Medium Tank M4 in North Africa was British from 23 October 1942 and American from about mid-December 1942. I don't think the additional 7 weeks was all that significant. What was significant were the War Department - i.e. American - officer observers in the NATO, including Ordnance and officers assigned to the Armored Force, who reported on doctrinal and technical findings there.

    The Armored Force and Army Ordnance tried to be "urgent" about getting a 3" gun into the Medium Tank M4. The result of urgency was a mess. As I mentioned, it was assumed from the beginning the M4 would be "up-gunned", it was getting there that was the problem. In May 1942 it was planned to fit the 76mm in the T20/T22/T23. The first 76mm gun was trialed in an M4 in August 1942. BRL as early as October 1942 was looking at ways to get a 90mm into the M4.

    But guess what? They didn't work. Which meant additional work, more pilots, and more testing. Then retooling and manufacturing them, which was delayed because the priority was building tanks - not perfect or improved tanks. And guess what? The British, Soviets, and Germans all did the same at one time or another - quantity has a quality all its own is not an exclusively American aphorism.

    All leading to yet another problem - getting them in theater. In theory the War Department assumed a 75-day turnaround from requisition to delivery in the ETO. The reality was from factory to unit in the field it typically took 90 to 120 days.

    Nobody expected the Panther (or the Spanish Inquisition) until it was too late. Rumored in early 1943, encountered by the Soviets in July and incorrectly analyzed by them. By 1 June 113 M4 (76mm) were in England and another 127 were in route, which constituted about two-thirds of the January and February production. Another 310 were in route by the end of August, which meant 550 of the 876 accepted through April were on the way. Why not all of them? Guess who else wanted them? The Soviets. And the British, even though they didn't use them, giving them tothe Poles and Czechs. Too much demand, not enough supply.

    The only way we could have shown up with "more of them" is if the first installation had worked perfectly. It didn't.
     
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  17. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    To put it another way, lets look at development and production timelines.

    The Germans began development of the Panzer IV on 11 January 1934 when the specification was written. It was a 75mm low-velocity infantry-gun armed medium tank. First pilot and production prototypes were built in 1936, then in 1937 actual production began. On 26 May 1941 it was decided to upgrade the armament to the 50/L60 gun,then in November 1941 it was decided to produce it with the 75mm gun (first in L43 then L48). The gun had to be redesigned and production did not begin until March 1942.

    So, Two years from specifications to prototyping and three years to production. From the early "mature" Ausf. E and F types to thee new "anti-armor" F2 types and later it was ten months from conception to production, including five months of gun redesign.

    In contrast, the Americans began the development of the M4 on 31 August 1940. The pilot T6 was completed 2 September 1941, a year later. The first production pilot M4A1 was completed 28 February 1942, just five months later. Development of a 76mm armed version began with the development of the 3" Tank Gun M7 on 24 August 1940, which was completed 9 July 1942, so ten months, but it was for the M10 GMC, since early on it was realized it would never fit the M4 turret. Development of the 76mm then began in early 1942 and was complete 1 August 1942...then tests showed it was too long to fit in the M4 turret. So it was cut down and tested again in January 1943, and it was found unworkable in the turret. So on 3 May it was decided to fit it in the T23 turret, which led to production in December 1943.

    So just a year from initial specification to pilot, five months to production, but 28 months before the 76mm -armed version was produced.

    Why did it take less time for initial production, but longer to improve gun power? For one thing, the German adaptation was fortuitous in the design of the Pak 40 did not require significant changes. It was a modern design, developed through a series of guns in the late 1930s. The American gun had to be re-designed from scratch, based upon a design from 1918, which itself was based on a coast artillery gun from 1903, because there was virtually zero budget for significant gun development in the US Army from 1922 to 1939.

    The same reason limited tank size, since there was no significant interwar development of engines from 1933 to 1940 and then demand suddenly increased to such a degree production could not keep up and so expedients had to be used. The Wright 800 HP radial was a great tank engine, but production was prioritized to aircraft.
     
  18. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    We'll just have to agree to disagree. Todt died in February, 42. The RAF had only dropped 31,000 tons the year before, and beginning in early 42 went over to the night area bombing, which had little effect on industry. They dropped 45,000 tons in 42, most of which was not on industrial facilities. The US didn't contribute in strength until 43, and combined the UK and US tripled the bombs dropped to 157,000 tons, about half from the US who concentrated almost entirely on industrial targets. In 44, the tonnage more than tripled again to 525,000 tons, and again about half of that was US daylight raids on industrial targets.

    So, Todt certainly deserves credit for his foresight and early planning, but he never saw the reality, and I very much doubt he foresaw how thoroughly the Luftwaffe would be crushed and how exposed German industry would be No doubt, Speer was a bit of a poser who used his charm to rise to the top, yet even so, Speer was an organized, flexible man with a good mind. Todt's 1941 reality was far different than Speer's 42, 43, 44 reality. He certainly drew on Todt's basic vision, but conditions changed so quickly as the war turned around that you have to credit Speer for keeping that machine running.

    In my mind (and this is entirely hindsight mind you), if you could get an assassination team in like they did with Heydrich, the better man to kill would be Speer. That is supposing that Hitler himself would be too well covered to consider...


    You perhaps forget that the 75mm M2 and M3 are borrowed from the earlier French 75. It wasn't designed from scratch, they just used another successful gun and adapted it to use in a tank. That was a simple and practical solution to the problem of getting a good tank out the door quickly. I don't know when the first Panther and MK IV high velocity 75's fell into allied hands - Sicily? Perhaps even earlier in North Africa? And even earlier than that they had access to the F-34 and Zis-5 guns used in the T-34.

    So, they didn't need to re-invent the wheel. Surely, one or more of those guns could have been adapted to the existing Sherman turret. The 76 design had its own problems with HE/anti-personnel shells, which I'm sure you're far better versed in than I.

    I'm not an armor enthusiast like you (surely, you could bury me with engineering detail), but I think I'm as qualified as anyone to comment on the psychology or lack of foresight or arrogance (as I referred to it earlier) of those making such decisions. The Sherman was a very versatile platform, and it just puzzles me that a better gun wasn't in the works much earlier. I have hindsight working for me, but it just seems logical to have at least turned out a portion of Shermans with heavier guns, for each tank battalion. That didn't really happen until the war was nearly over, and there was no clear reason for that.
     
  19. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Certainly we can agree to disagree, but you are still wrong. :cool:

    You are essentially repeating the argument of the USSBS...we dropped a lot of bombs, but German production went up, so it was a miracle. Didn't hurt that Speer was telling them it was his miracle.

    Except they don't necessarily follow. We know German investment in armaments 1934-1939 was large. Much of it went into infrastructure and plant conversion to war materiel. We know much of that came on line in 1942. In the tank industry, Henschel at Kassel completed a major plant expansion and an entire new plant was built at St Polten, Austria, the Nibelungewerke. Both began producing in 1942.

    Nothing to do with bombing, everything to do with investment. No magic wand employed by Speer.

    You might want to do some reading in the scholarship on the subject that has been done. I know they can't compete with Speer's best seller, but...

    Er, no I don't forget that, since it isn't actually true. The only thing the 75mm M2 and M3 Gun borrowed from the M1897 was the ammunition. They used a sliding breech instead of a screw breech, completely different recoil and recuperator mechanism, different bearing faces, electrical triggering, and so forth, but otherwise were the same. Seriously, the M2 and M3 were derived from an experimental series of antiaircraft guns developed during the late 1920s and 1930s, which used the 75mm ammunition, since it was plentiful, but that is it.

    So yes, it was not designed from "scratch", it was adapted from a failed attempt at an AA gun.

    The first KwK 42 was captured with the first Panthers, at Kursk in July 1943, the first captured by the Western Allies was in late February, early August at Anzio as I already mentioned. The first Panzer IV Spezial's were encountered at Alamein in August-October 1942 by the Western Allies.

    The original gun in the T-34 1940 was the F-11, which was completely outclassed by the 75mm M3. The newer gun was the F-34, which was comparable. The "Zis" was the Zis-S-53 85mm gun in the T34-85, which was fielded in small numbers at the end of 1943 and in larger numbers in 1944...exactly like the comparable American M1 76mm gun. Ordnance tested the T-34 with the F-34 gun in mid 1942, after the M4 was already in production, so it sounds like you are asking them to reinvent the wheel?

    I'm not an armor enthusiast either; I'm a historian and analyst. I'm just trying to figure out why you think psychology is the answer when the mass of evidence is there were very real technical problems which had to be overcome in a massive bureaucracy attempting to make up for 18 years of neglect and lack of funding in just four years?

    You keep missing that a "better gun" was "in the works much earlier" - in August 1940, nine months before the Germans thought of it in the Panzer IV and a year before they thought of it in the Panther or Tiger. However, the Pak 40 was a purpose-designed, state of the art, less than a year old field piece easily adaptable to use in a tank. The 3" M7 and 76mm M1 were derived from a 40 year old coast artillery piece. Even BRL commented in October 1942 that it might be better to start with a completely new design, which as described sounded a lot like the 17-pdr or KwK 42, but the decision was not to do so because it would take too long (and, I suspect, because Ordnance knew they hadn't designed anything like that from scratch. It too eventually saw light though...in 1947 in the T37 Light Tank, which eventually became the M41.

    Lack of funding and thus experience was a major factor for US Army Ordnance, which has been obscured by the Arsenal of Democracy production miracle story.
     
  20. green slime

    green slime Member

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