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Those poor old Shermans - It took 5 to kill a Tiger

Discussion in 'Sacred Cows and Dead Horses' started by T. A. Gardner, Jul 9, 2004.

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  1. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I keep getting just bits and pieces on this without a fully explanatory study explaining all of the factors involved. But... My impression is that many or most killed by the shock wave are not instantly killed as in that last discussion above, but are rendered unconscious by the actual "concussion" to the brain (your head and body get whipped about), then asphyxiate over several minutes because the lungs can no longer process oxygen with bruised or destroyed alveoli.

    In watching the movie which was heavily researched and used actual EOD techs for input, they referred to the 25 meter range as the death zone or kill zone, and this with 155mm shells which would be quite similar to 155's used in WWII - maybe the explosives today are better, but at least you have a basis there. And of course, these EOD techs are using suits that minimize damage so if 25 meters is a death zone for them, then 25 meters was certainly a death zone for unprotected men in WWII. Perhaps that death zone for the actual shock wave extended as far as 50 meters?

    How does that relate to men in a tank? I don't know... These shock waves or pulses from a near miss could certainly enter a tank if a hatch is open and kill everyone within. However, some of these anecdotes seem to refer to buttoned down tank crews so it is difficult to see how this would kill. Even with viewing slits and other openings it would seem to me that the crew would be fairly well protected.
     
  2. Thoddy

    Thoddy Member

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    Are there detailed numbers available of employed Shermans at the Western Front?
    If someone has a link would be nice Thank you
     
  3. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Look at the WW1 studies on the effects of artillery on concrete bunkers. The hit by a large calibre shell could concuss or even kill all the men inside. There were certainly reports from Tunisia of medium artillery destroying a column of tanks caught in a defile. WW2 medium artillery did not have an AT round. 5.5" and 155mm artillery at Salerno used plugged HE to engage tanks.,

    There are two problems with considering the impact of blast on men in tanks.

    1. The effects of blast may not be easy to predict. There is no definitive a hit with x calibre will be 100% fatal.

    2. The effects are neutralisation and temporary rather than destruictive. While some may be killed outright, typically any effects are temporary and likely to leave the AFV battleworthy. e.g. Lt Rosen's platoo of hy Tank Coy 503 was bombed by heavy bombers at the beginning of Op Goodwood. he did lose men killed, including at least oen who shot himself rather than endure the bombardment. "56 ton tanks were tossed around like playing cards". However, an hour after the bombardment the unit was in action.



    2.
    Blast can be
    I am not sure how much effect this .
     
  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Well the TOE's of most of the US and British units are on the web I believe. I'm not sure of the Free French, Polish, and Brazilian units. What level of detail are you looking for?
     
  5. Dave55

    Dave55 Member

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    Wow, I didn't know there were any Brazilian ground forces in Europe. I knew of their P-47s in Italy but not about Shermans.
    Do you have any pictures?

    Thanks
     
  6. Thoddy

    Thoddy Member

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    What level of detail are you looking for?

    stocks at the end of each month splitted for american british canadian units

    or useful search combinations for google
     
  7. lwd

    lwd Ace

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  8. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    The Brazilian Expeditionary Force in Italy included the 1st Fighter Group (P-47s) you mentioned and the 1st Infantry Division. Since they were supplied and supported by the US, the division was organized like an American one. Free French divisions also followed the American model and used mainly American equipment. One point, the French sometimes used "regiment" for a battalion-sized unit, three or four line companies, particularly in armored units.

    Similarly the British supplied forces like the Poles used mainly British organization and equipment. Of course "British" included some American items like Shermans, Stuarts, tank destroyers, jeeps, etc.
     
  9. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Thoddy,

    You may need to dig deep into logistic archives. I would be very surprised if this information is on the internet or with enough explanation to [provide sensible information.

    The US Government did keep figures of which country was in receipt of lease lend equipment. However that doesntl answer how many were on the Western front rather than somewhere else.

    As has been suggested you can add up the establishments and assume that in 1944 -45 Western units were at full strength. But that does not tell you the number of vehicles held in theatre reserves. The British had a more conservative policy that the US and had more replacement vehicles. In late 1944 there was a mini crisis as the US Army thought it was running out of M4s and started to ask pointed questions about how many M4 chassis were being used by the British for non fighting tanks. (OP vehicles, dozers, ARV, flails, bridgelayers etc.)

    Why are you just interested in the M4? There were three other comparable vehicles in use in the British and Canadian armies, the Cromwell and Churchill, both of which mounted the 75mm gun and the Comet which mounted the 17 Pdr. The M4 chassis was used for the M7 SP gun, which was very similar to the British Sexton, built on the Canadian Ram chassis which is almost a Canadian M4. It was alos the basis of the M10 and M36 Tank destroyers. Are you not interested in these AFVs? Or is your interest restricted to "proper" tanks
     
  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Especially sense the British had their own Lend Lease program to the Soviets and forwarded some of the equipment sent by the US (at least I've been lead to beleive that). There was also an element of US LL where a theater commnader could give stuff to allies pretty much on his own initiative. I'm not sure how much of that was captured.
     
  11. green slime

    green slime Member

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    Quite a different state of affairs than the German situation in late '44.

    Was just re-reading Barbarossa... and the antics, arguments and beaucracy involved with shuffling around armour from front to reserve, to front to,... ah, the glorious mess they got themselves into when their world descended into chaos.
     
  12. Thoddy

    Thoddy Member

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    Why are you just interested in the M4?

    it is the vast number of produced M4 and how it turns into stock.

    for instance approximately 6000 Panthers were produced

    stock increases slowly until it reaches a maximum at around June 1944 (approxiately 1100 tanks on all fronts). this stock remain remarkably constant until January 1945 The number produced indicate for about 250-300 losses each month(eastern front, western front and Italy). stock ration between east and west approximately 35% : 65%

    slightly different the situation of Tigers
    the starting stock for the western front was 128 tanks at D-day, all Tigers came out of stock until end of August with no further reinforcements until preparation of "Wacht am Rhein" - Battle of the Bulge
     
  13. Christopher47

    Christopher47 Same Song, Fourth Verse

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    I have been reading this with interest. It's amusing that a thread with this title has ended up as a sacred cow. Unfortunately, there are certain elements of truth and reality in this statement, and I'm now going to post something I hope you will all find interesting.

    I am sure you are all familiar with a magazine called "Command". An American publication, it's hobby format also contains an historical game in every issue. Issue No.36 was particularly interesting, because the game for 36 was by a Command staffer called JOHN DESCH. It's called "SS PANZER - Bloodbath at Prokhorovka", and the game itself is a little gem.

    The REALLY interesting bit is the accompanying historical article, and the designers notes that come with it. In researching for this game, John Desch had to face certain historical truths about tanks and tank combat. He also had to dig through statistics to uncover what actually happened at the largest tank battle in history. In the process, Desch exploded much of the traditional Soviet view, and found out that the Germans were not exagerrating Soviet losses at all. But instead of batting on, I'll give you some of what Mr. Desch came up with, and a little more, and then a summary from me, before i throw open my post for questions. extracts from John Desch's article will be in italics.

    Hope you enjoy.........KILLER TANKS....BY JOHN DESCH

    For decades experts in the world's major armies have spent a great deal of time exploring why so few tank crews in every outfit inflict the lion's share of the entire unit's battlefield kills. When one or two crews out of a company of 15 tanks routinely compile over 75% of the kills inflicted by the company, there is good cause for study. Virtually every possible reason has been considered, from the crews' socio-economic backgrounds to the mechanical reliability of the individual tanks used. Historical case studies have been meticulously assembled and examined to try to extract conclusions. Some of the resultant ideas have been apparent to the tankers themselves from the beginning of mechanized warfare.

    Without doubt, the most important factor is how long the crew had been together. With just school training, any crew can be made to muddle through the basics; it takes combat experience to transcend those rudiments to achieve expertise.

    Everyone in a tank in combat is extremely busy. The tank commander must aquire targets, lay the gun (or assist the gunner in doing so), and maneuver his tank within his platoon. If he's the platoon leader or company commander, his responsibility for overseeing maneuver greatly outweighs his need to fight his own tank, hence the need for good gunners who can do things on their own. The driver must know not only how to drive the tank, but also how to maneuver it within the formation while making the most of opportunites for concealment. A tank commander who must busy himself riding shotgun on his driver is not doing his other jobs. Loaders and gunners tend to be less busy, but are obviously no less important.

    Thus the trick is really to get everyone to be able to do his job- and more- without the need for supervision. For example, loaders who aren't immediately involved with their primary task (servicing the main gun), should assist the tank commander in scanning for targets. This seeming bit of common sense is really not that common in practice, and the simple fact that German loaders did more of it than their Soviet counterparts gave the panzer units a major advantage. With two pairs of eyes searching, German tank crews almost invariably got off the first shot against their opponents, (in T-34s the tank commanders also served as loaders!).

    Though equipment is less important than crew cohesion, the greater the superiority of the tank itself over those of it's opponents, the better the chances are for the crew to survive to develop skills. The most important feature of a tank in this respect is the protection it offers it's crew, followed closely by the lethality of it's main gun. It's not suprising, therefore, that the Tiger fostered more killer crews than any other vehicle in WW2. It's superiority over Allied tanks during 1942-44 is well known.

    Extraordinary efforts were usually required to knock out a Tiger. Allied tankers calculated as a rule of the thumb it usually took about 20 Shermans to knock out one Tiger. With a superiority like that, it's no wonder the Tigers often created field days for their side. Increased survivability permitted Tiger crews to live to fight another day. Virtually every Tiger ace worthy of note had more than one tank shot from under him, but only rarely did a shell hit kill an entire crew.


    FORCES AT PROKHOROVKA
    The plans laid and their objectives set, both sides continued to marshal their forces throughout the short summer night of July 11.
    The addition of the understrength 2nd Guards Tank and 2nd Tank corps, with a combined total of no more than 200 AFVs, brought the 5th Guards Tank Army up to a total of 793 main battle tanks, consisting of 501 T-34s, 261 T-70s, and 31 Lend Lease Churchills.
    The Soviets believed 2nd SS Panzer Corps had some 600 tanks available, of which 100 were reportedly Tigers and Elephants. Based on that asessment they felt 5th Guards Tank Army would match the nazis in quantity even if not in quality. In actuality, on the morning of 12 July, 2nd SS Panzers Corps had only 273 operational tanks and assault guns, many of which had been damaged and repaired several times in the preceding days, and of which fewer than 20 were Tigers, (16 to be precise, of which only 12 were operationally functioning)

    Pz III (Long barrelled only) 90
    Pz IV (Long barrelled only) 80
    T-34 (All in Das Reich) 15
    Tiger (four unservicable) 16
    Self Propelled AT...............50


    Seven out of 12 Tigers were rendered inoperable on July 12th, each requiring multiple hits with 76mm guns or greater before going down. Over 80 hits were found on one of the damaged Tigers, yet it was repaired in three days, just as soon as four replacement road wheels and a spare sprocket could be found.


    SUMMARY FROM CHRISTOPHER47

    The Russian tank arm had a massive and constant case of 'Tiger Fever', not just at the biggest engagement ever, here at Prokhorovka, but everywhere else as well. The effect of just 12 Tigers here was magnified and enhanced by nervous Soviet crews, overworked and with only four men per tank, straining with the possibility of a meeting engagement with the Big Bad Wolf, reporting every un-known bogey as a "Tiger". Russian crews were further handicapped early on in the war by having only one radio for every six vehicles, and their formations were mixed, rather than all of one type. Their early encounters meant that their very high turnover of new crews sapped their ability to gain experience to become 'experten'.

    All this was replicated by Western Allied crews. The number of experienced crews that had been in action together for some time in Normandy must have been small. Couple this with the stated inferiority of the M4 and many variants, it's propensity to catch fire (lights first time every time!) and "Tiger Fever" to boot, all must have combined to give a hefty superiority to German crews, particularly those in Tigers. Underpowered they may have been, bad transmission they may have had, poor range most certainly, clumsy around Leningrad marshland or in Italian mountains.......but abundantly present in the Tiger package were the two most important aspects in tanks; protection and armament, combined with spacious interior. Seats and periscopes were padded for comfort. T-34s, by comparison, were crudely finished, with cramped crew space. All this contributed to Tiger crews fatigueing much less quickly in an extended engagement. And all this was in combination with the best, most experienced crews, an overall superior package that made a lethal and fear inducing enemy.

    .And present at Prokhorovka was the best known German single tank commander of the war, Michael Wittmann, the Panzer Arm's 'poster boy' to be. Still only a Second Lieutenant, but already with a good enough team to be riding a Tiger, Wittmann began.his career early in the war in armoured cars, then graduating to SP guns; On July 12, 1943, Wittmann was outside of the village of Oktiabrskii, leader of a group of three Tigers and part of Captain Heinrich Kling's 13th Heavy Panzer company. The 13th was at the very spear point of 'Liebstandarte' positions, right in front of Hill 252, and the focal point for no less than 5 Soviet assaults on the day.

    The Western Allies would meet Michael Wittmann and Gunner Balthazar "Bobby" Woll the following year at Normandy..

    But for now, he was doing a fine job harvesting Soviet machines.

    CONCLUSION
    There is much validity in the "5 shermans" statement. All the most important factors that made tank crews effective were present on the German side. Many of the factors that produced heavy casualties in tank warfare were present for the Americans, and for much of the Commonwealth tank forces; German crews cut their teeth and honed their skills on the backs of uncounted Soviet tank crews, emerging with a grab bag of survival tricks from three years of fighting some of the largest and most successful tank engagements ever, including Prokhorovka. Tactically, the Tiger ruled the Steppe country, as much as it did in French countryside. However, German industry could only produce just over 5,000 units. You cannot win an industrial war like that.

    You've got to have tens of thousands of the bloody things.
     
  14. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    I am familiar with the revisionist view that the Germans "won" the tank battle at Prokhorovka,. (Though this does not explain why the German Summer Offensive ended in a disastrous retreat. There is a lot of evidence for "Tiger fever" as a disproportionate number of allied troops misidentified their opponents as "tigers". But this does not justify the sweeping generalisation that the "Tiger ruled Normandy" nor disproportionately claiming that these were the results of individual aces.

    The Tiger was not invulnerable, but one component of the German fighting capability,Well sighted and handled 75mm gun tanks were quite capable of inflicting heavy tank casualties againts allied troops who gave the Germans an opportunity to do so. On the 7th June a battlegroup of the 12 SS ambushed a regiment of 2 Cdn Armde Bde and on 8-9th Aug another battlegroup inflicted heavy casualties on the Polish armoured Division and later weiped out TF Wothington from 4 Cdn Armd Div. These were inflicted by Panther and PZ IV. If the Germans made a tactial error they paid too. 12SS lost unsustainable losses on the night 9-10 June. The second German attack by SShy Tk Bn 501 on Villers Bocage, after Wittman had been knocked out) resulted in two or three tiger hulks. On 1/2 July the Germans lost 30 tanks at Ruaray, and on 8th August the famous counter attack by Wittman resulted in his death and the destruction of all five tigers., The Germans taught their Tiger tank crews to exercise caution and reminded them that the allies had 90mm/ 3.7" guns which could KO a Tiger. .

    The Tiger was at a disadvantage in the Bocage country and in built up areas. Engagement ranges were too close for their armour to provide protection from AP shot or a hand held weapon, and the proximity of infantry might turn a mobility Kill into the fatal loss of the crew. In the open country East of Bayeux, Tiger tanks did have an advantage, which is why the Germans deployed three battalions on this sector. It shoudl also explain the cautious and systematic approach adopted by the commanders of 2nd British and 1st Canadian armies.
     
  15. Christopher47

    Christopher47 Same Song, Fourth Verse

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    Uh...I made no claims as to who 'won' Prokhorovka. The @nd SS Panzer Corps retreated, never to return, so no argument there.

    The argument was that their tanks gave a very good account of themselves, much better than the Soviets have ever given them credit for.

    The tendency was for the Soviets to explain away their losses by citing the number of tigers and elephants they had to face, in addition to a host of other AFVs.

    their own figure of 100 tigers and elephants made them look extremely red in the face when Desch found the SS had just 12 operable machines.

    %th guards tank army lost over 600 vehicles at Prokhorovka, with a good 240 of them write offs, not to mention the number of experienced crews that bit the dust, teams broken up never to be reformed.

    Oh no, Sheldrake.. tactically, the soviets had the floor wiped with them

    And this is not a revisionist view. There is no reinterpretation. the figures have always been there for all to see. Whats been happening is another example of the gentle rustle of wool being drawn over Western eyes, again, for the umpteenth time.

    Thankyou John Desch for clearing this up. I personally love to see people uncover another Russian/Soviet wartime porky.
     
  16. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    1. My beef is not over the interpretation of Kursk, but with the simplistic conclusion that the "Tiger ruled in Normandy" For what it is worth, I suspect that many of the figures issued by both sides are dubious. I am not convinced of some of the German claims for e.g. of Rudel's tank kills any more than I would trust Soviet claims about the Numbers of Germans they faced or killed.

    2. The view that the Germans wiped the floor with the 5th Guards Tank Army, does raise the question of why the SS Corps withdrew. Had they misinterpreted the last gasp of a desperate formation throwing everything forwards or was this a failure of Nerve from the top? Was there some element of Ivan Terror that influenced the Germans to call off their attack when they were "wiping the floor " with their best troops?

    3. The title of this thread has always annoyed me a little. There is the assumption that mechanised warfare was a tank duel, with the rest of the armed forces as mere onlookers. This "world of tanks" mindset distorts how WW2 is seen. The British Armour had the idea that tanks would engage other tanks, and had their backsides handed to them on a plate in the Western desert by the Germans who combined tanks,. artillery and anti tank guns. In the battle of Normandy only half of the anti tank weapons cable of destroying a Tiger tank were mounted in tanks. The rest were what SP or Towed anti tank guns. These are what caused much of the damage when the Germans attacked. Am M10 tank destroyer has even less armour than a Sherman and a 17 Pdr detachment has a\ feeble gun shield and takes 12 hours to dig in. The obsession with the "poor tank crews" ignores the sacrifices of the other arms and the reality of the risks of WW2 combat. A tank crewman was much less likely to become a casualty than an infantryman. It was safer inside an M4 than outside!.

    Most allied tanks spent most of their time brassing up infantry and facted towed anto tank guns or MkIV tanks or SP guns which their 75mm could take on. The M4 was selected as the standard tank because it's 75mm gun, based on the French M1897 was capable of dealing with dug in infantry. That was a design choice.
     
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  17. Christopher47

    Christopher47 Same Song, Fourth Verse

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    Granted Mr. sheldrake. all your points are noteworthy.

    I decided to test this on a relatively recent book. chris bellamy's book "Absolute War" was published 2007. His Russian and soviet sources are as extensive as his German ones. In the chapter on Kursk, his figure for tigers and elephants is the of misquoted "!00". The dissapointing thing is that this figure is not footnoted. It comes between no.66 and no.67. So, Mr bellamy has pulled that figure from SOVIET sources, during his reading for the book writing. In fact, he lists that figure, does not tell us where it came from, and then claims that Prokhorovka was only one of "ten other battles between vehicles of exactly similar size".

    Bellamy lists Soviet vehicle losses as "400", with German losses, "70" at Prokhorovka. And his footnotes feature stories from Kursk battlefield tours, new sources like David Glantz, and the general text has a healthy scepticism about it.

    Yet, he STILL, after all that, manages to quote the old chestnut "100 tigers and elephants". For the record again, 2nd SS Panzer corps began "Zitadelle" with THIRTY FIVE (35) tigers and NO ELEPHANTS, (all of them with Model's Ninth Army in the North.

    So as you can see, the German effort at Prokhorovka has been labouring under much Soviet bullshit for quite some time.

    I bet money that if we ask Slonik this question, he will quote a soviet source and give us the same figure, (100 Tigers and elephants). Try it on him, I dare you. I'll give you a "Like" if he gets it right. his russian pride will lead him to the higher figure, every time!
     
  18. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    On the whole, you would be getting far closer to the overall truth if you completely reversed that statement...
     
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  19. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    I don't see the relevance of P for this thread :afaics, P was not a battle between Shermans and Tigers.

    Besides, P was only a detail in a overestimated battle .

    May I also remind people that there is no such thing as a "better" tank :no one has been able to define "better"
     
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  20. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The serviceability of Tigers was low enough for both statements to be correct ;) But they are irrelevant. A T34 hit with AP from a PzIII with a 50mm L60 or Pz IV with a IV with a 73mm L43 might be just as dead as one hit by an 88., (Especially of the T34 crews had stowed extra ammunition outside the armoured bins. There were some 290 German tanks capable of knocking out the 76mm armed T34s that equipped the 5th Panzer Army. The issue at hand is the psychological impact of the Tiger on the morale of Allied tank crews.
     
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