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The US 57mm M1 Anti-Tank Gun

Discussion in 'Artillery' started by redcoat, Oct 19, 2009.

  1. yan taylor

    yan taylor Member

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    Hi Dr. Do you think I have made an error with the data on the British and US 2 Pdr/57mm, I thought they were virtually the same gun apart from a muzzle break, but my stats are different.
    Regards Yan.
     
  2. Earthican

    Earthican Member

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    Why was the 57mm anti-tank gun held in so low regard by the US forces in the European campaign of 44-5 ?
    It was an almost direct copy of the British 6 pdr and yet the 6 pdr remained a popular and, from most accounts, fairly successful A/T gun in the British Commonwealth forces while fighting the same enemy with the same equipment ????

    -redcoat

    The impression I get from reading infantry officer memoirs is the absence of the 57mm ATG. It seems they rarely made to the rifle line. I suspect they tended to backstop the infantry and their bazookas ***. With 3 guns per battalion and 9 from regiment they should have been a common sight to the rifle company commanders and platoon leaders.

    I suspect they were left to their own devices and would set-up near the center of town while the infantry guarded the edges. This would be tactically sound to cover multiple entry roads. The rifle companies might not have favored their presence if they weren't going to keep the panzers at a distance. Five hundred meters or less can feel uncomfortably close. Come to think of it, the ready availability of artillery may have been the preferred method to keep panzers at bey.

    *** Having read some British comments about the PIAT, that may have added to the favorable view of the 6 pndr.
     
  3. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    I think there may be four reasons why these very similar artillery anti tank guns had different reputations in British and US service.

    1 The British 6 Pdr had an APDS Armoured Piercing Discarding Sabot ammunition which would penetrate more armour than the AP round. This gave the gun a chance against the bigger beasts in the German menagerie.

    2. British and US anti tank experience of the gun was different. The British in Normandy faced a lot more armour than the US and had already achieved success using the 6 Pdr in North Africa and Tunisia. In the bocage it was far easier to deploy than the 17 Pdr. It was also a weapon used by the artillery as well as the infantry.

    3. British and US anti tank doctrine was different. The British saw anti tank guns was a purely defensive weapon. Battalion anti tank guns were sited to protect infantry positions. The towed 6 Pdr guns were deployed to ambush tank approaches with the 17 Pdrs as a back stop. US TD doctrine was originally based around stopping a "blitzkrieg" but adopted a range of other offensive roles such as additional artillery.

    4. The 6 Pdr may have attracted a positive reputation because it was THE main weapon system of British and Canadian anti tank units who fought significant actions with these weapons, and whose heroe's served the 6 Pdr. In US Service it wasn't championed by anyone in particular. The TD units championed the M10 and 3" in their post war analysis and for the infantry the 57mm gun was support weapon used by a minority of the unit. There were some heroic actions where the US made very good use of the 57mm. At Mortain the 75mm killed a few Panthers. My hero 57mm gunners are the detachment who whose half trak tractor broke down outside Trois Ponts. It was their sacrificial stand which gave the engineers time to blow the bridges which denied Peiper.
     
  4. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    Sounds pretty good, but the problem from the infantry point of view is that there was never just one panzer and you rarely got a flanking shot since they were advancing on your position. The test posits that you allow those panzers (with accompanying infantry) to get within 300-500 yards of you before firing your one shot, which may or may not disable the panzer you shoot at. After that one shot, every other panzer in the vicinity and every enemy infantryman with them, begins shooting at you. You don't get a second shot. You either run or stay there and die.
     
  5. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Here is a link from WW2talk which is an obituary from one of the soldiers who faced the first Tiger tank knocked out by the Western Allies. This was circulated in 1943-44 and may explain why the British had confidence in the 6 Pdr

    Lt-Col Stanley Edwards MC -Tiger killer. - World War 2 Talk
     
  6. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Kodiiakbeer,

    You are right, but thats where good tactics and discipline comes in. It wasn't easy for defenders infantrymen to hold their nerve and keep engaging the iaccompanying infantry to seperate them from the armour, but that is what good allied troops did, such as the Australians in 1st Alemein and the 101st Airborne on Christmas Day at Bastogne. It took cunning and a good eye for the ground to site anti tank guns so they engaged the armour in enfilade where it was hard for the enemy to overwatch and a lot of discipline to hold fire until the enemy were in the killing zone, but that is how they caught the Tigers in Tunisia. It took numbers of anti tank guns to prevent the defence being overwhelmed by tanks.

    But even without the numbers anti tank guns could make a difference, as with the gun detachment who took on KG Peiper's leading tank at Trois Ponts. There is defilade. They were where they were because thats where the half track broke down. They were outnumbered and quickly dispatched after knocking out the lead tank. But they saved the day.
     
  7. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    The test I quote above is for a Panther, which was much more heavily armored than the Mark IV killed at Trois Ponts. Even a Mark IV was a formidable task for a 57mm and a frontal shot was in most cases, completely ineffective. You had to get lucky. About half the medium tanks in the German army were Panthers by late 44 and the 3 inch guns used by the dedicated AT units were fairly effective against them, but even they had trouble with a frontal shot.
     
  8. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Hmmm. What is your evidence that the tank knocked out at Trois Ponts is a Pz IV rather than a Panther? Or are you assuming that it had to be because a 57mm could not knock out a Panther with a near head on shot?

    The accounts I read say that Peiper was leading with his Pz V at Trois Ponts. I agree that the KG starts with the Pz IV leading but after they got bogged trying to go cross country, a PzV company took the lead. Hence the spitz is a panther at Bagneuz (the massacre) and Lignieville. We know this because there are photos of the burned out Panther at Ligeneville knocked out by the 9 AD Sherman taken by the US investigating that massacre. The Panthers are certainly in the lead at Stavalot because we have the accounts of the vehicle commanders who crash through the barricade at the bridge. I cannot see where there is space to swap over the lead again between Stavelot and Trois Ponts. Nor why Peiper would bother, given that he could not afford to waste time on the AM of the 18th Dec.

    This illustrates my point about the 57mm . It actually performs better than its reputation in the US. I'll go and recheck my sources in case I may be mistaken.
     
  9. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    The Panzer IV companies went along the river, while the rest of the column followed the main road after Stavelot. The German forces don't record any losses at Trois Ponts at that time, only that they engaged some Americans, lost the bridge and turned north. Perhaps they did lose a tank with a tread hit or something that was later repaired.
    Some attached engineers did turn the Mark IV column just along the river at about the same time as the other engagement (with a bazooka) and it was this event I was thinking of. So, you're probably right - it was likely the Panthers engaged on the main road at the bridge.

    I'm aware that the engineers claim a Panther kill there, but I'm still not entirely buying it because none of my German references record a kill there.

    The book that could answer that question definitively, is Duel in the Mist I. Unfortunately, it's out of print and costs about $150. I have Duel in the Mist II, but this edition picks up after this clash. These books record each panzer loss of KG Peiper along the route and so if you know somebody with that book, they could probably answer the question right down to the turret number on the Panther killed (or not killed).
     
  10. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The secondary soruce I used was Hans Wijers whose detailed studies I have enjoyed and can relate to the ground.


    Here are links to some of the sources which I think he has used.

    Interview with the Major Robert B. Yates, Executive Officer, 51[SUP]st[/SUP] Engineer Combat Bn.
    Defense at Trois-Ponts, Company "C" 51st Engineer Combat Bn

    Interview with George L. WENDT HQ Coy 526th AI
    The 526th Armored Infantry Battalion in the Bulge
    Here is the interview with Private Ralph Bieker B CVoy 526th : an eye witness to part of the battle and an earwitness to the deaths of the gunners. The 526th Armored Infantry Battalion: Bridges, Secret Gizmos, and The Pekan - The 526th Armored Infantry Battalion: Bridges, Secret Gizmos, and The Pekan: Members

    Interview with Jim Cullen of E/36 Armored Infantry who recalled seeing the anti tank gun and the dead gunners two days later.
    JIM CULLEN

    From some other account Hans Wijers describes how the first four German AP shots miss and the other soldiers near the gun form a human chain to bring up additional ammunition - the 57mm detacvhment has seven rounds. An HE shot, short of the gun puts the gun detatchment out of action. (Maybe the small sillouette of the 57mm gun helped preserve surprise and made it more likely that the germans missed with their first shots. )

    There is no doubt that the gunners were killed after a battle and killed nor that Peiper was unable to force the bridges at Trois Ponts before the engineers blew the demolitions. All we are arguing about is whether the gun did material damage. A hit on the tracks - (a mobility kill), with the crew bailing out, is consistent with the eye witness accounts and the capabilities of the 57mm gun. The result was enough to force Peiper to La Gleize.

    There was only one way that a fight between a single anti tank and a company of tanks on that stretch of road would end, whatever the calibre of anti tank gun. The gunners must have know that this was it, but they fought until they were killed. The detachment were as brave men as any that served any artillery piece at any time in history. Under other circumstances that courage would have been recognised by some award for gallentry.
    [[URL]http://www.battleofthebulgememories.be/images/stories/articles2/3e%20squad01.jpg[/URL]/img]
    3rd Squad: AT 57mm gun “B” Company, 526th AIB
    First row – left to right: Edward R. Berdine, Doyle Isaacs, Donald D. Hollenbeck (KIA), John H. Surdo, and Albert Smith.
    Second row: Dallas N. Buchannan (KIA), Ralf J. Bieker, Donald J. Devoto (transferred to another Company few days before the battle), Lillard B. McCollum (KIA) and James L. Higgins (KIA). (Document: The Pekan)
     
  11. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    It appears it was a tread hit. That might explain why no loss is recorded there in LAH accounts. The vehicle was likely repaired and went on its way.

     
  12. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Agreed. But it was only repaired after the bridges had been blown. Donald D. Hollenbeck, Dallas N. Buchannan, Lillard B. McCollum and James L. Higgins did not die in vain.
     
  13. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Related to this topic, I have just posted a piece on my blog about the RA Gunners at St Pierre who were serving the 6 pdr. As with the 57mm gunners they have tended to be written out of history as the foccus of battalion histories has been on the battalions. For what its worth, the RA cell of 50 Div reported that they preferred the 6 Pdr to the 17 pdr because it was easier to manouvre and hide. Part of their confidence in the 6 Pdr was due to staging a fire power demonstration for ever gun layer in the division and showing that the new APDS ammunitoon would penetrate very thick armour. St Pierre was the last half hour of "Saving Private Ryan."

    The Forgotten Anti Tank Gunners of St Pierre | The Observation Post
     
  14. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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  15. yan taylor

    yan taylor Member

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    I know this thread has been idle for some time but I am trying to find some data on the British 6 pdr ATG, the two main variants were the Mk.II and Mk.IV.

    I have the total length of the Mk.II (end of trail to tip of muzzle) as 4.72m, but I cannot find the same length for the Mk.IV, it must be longer?

    And I have two very conflicting numbers for the total produced, 4.242 and 35.000, apparently because it was built in so many different countries they must have never made an accurate total, never mind a breakdown for the two marks.

    And the last question is, the 6 pdr could fire a HE shell to a range of 5.030m, how far could it fire a APC round? I have seen data that the APC could penetrate 47mm at 2000m so it must be able to fire further.

    Thanks for any help.

    Yan.
     
  16. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    I think wikipedia suggests that your figures are a little optimistic. This gives the max effectrive range of C 1,500 m - with a maximum firing range of 5000 yds . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordnance_QF_6-pounder

    Pemberton "the development of Artillery Equipment and Tactics 1950" The Classified History has a table "F"of comparative penetrations of British and German atk guns 1942-43 for 50mm & 88mm.German and 6, 17 &25 Pdr british. Only the 88mm and 17pdr have penetration figures ;listed for 2,000 yds. The figures for the 6 pdr at 30 deg angle of attack are are 75mm @ 500yds and 63 mm @ 1000 yds.

    I think this means that the British did not think the 6 pdr effective at 2000 yds. An HE round might have been effective to 5,000 yds but that is because the weapon is the explosive in the HE round.HE can be used as an area weapons, An AP round at that range would be pushed to penetrate a tin can and would not be able to hit a barn door with any accuracvy.

    That's the problem. An anti tank gun needs to hit a small target to be effective. At ranges up to 1,500 yds it can be handled the same way as a small arm. At longer ranges there are real problems following the fall of shot. It is possible to fit a tracer into the based of anti tank shot but tracer burns out typically around 1200 yds.

    It is also undesirable from an engagement point of view. Towed anti tank weapons needed a bit of surprise and a decent chance of a first round kill against tanks. That is particularly true of the smaller calibre weapons. At l;ong ranges they would be neutralised by shell fire as soon as they could be detected. Even in the western Desert British opening engagement ranges for the 6 pdr were 8090 yds and only once battle had been joined up to their maximum range of 1600 yds. (HQ RA 4th Inf Div instructions Sep 1942 - quoted in Pemberton)
     

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