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Use of sand bags or logs on tanks as defense

Discussion in 'Armor and Armored Fighting Vehicles' started by DogFather, Jun 17, 2009.

  1. DogFather

    DogFather Member

    Dec 18, 2008
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    Any one know more about the use of sand bags, logs or other ways tankers protected themselves, from the Panzerfaust?

    You see sand bags on Sherman tanks, during the Normandy invasion, on variuous documentories.
  2. wokelly

    wokelly Member

    Jan 4, 2008
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    Generally ineffective and made things worse for the crews if anything. Shaped charges can actually be more effective if there is a certain amount of space between the actual cone and the impact area. Modern HEAT rounds include a space to allow for the charge to get maximum penetration, but WWII HEAT rounds did not.

    The standoff range between a HEAT round and the armor needs to be roughly 3-4 times the diameter of the round for the effects to be totally ineffective. Since German rounds were in the neighborhood of 8cm, you would need spacing of 24-32cm, between a quarter and third of a meter, before the rounds molten stream 'burnt out'.

    Sandbags and logs provided no protection, and may have in fact made the rounds more lethal since they may have detonated the round at the optimal range to get the best penetration. They wore down suspension and increased the weight of the tank, and given most of the allied tanks had pretty thin tracks and high ground pressure, the extra weight reduced mobility and increased the chances of the tank bogging down, and in battle that would certainly get the crew killed.

    Only good thing was it at least helped morale a bit for the crews in the tanks, made it more bearable to go into battle with armor most tankers probably didn't have a lot of faith in.
  3. marc780

    marc780 Member

    Oct 16, 2008
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    I have seen plenty of pictures from the Normandy campaign that showed allied tankers piling all sorts of stuff on their Sherman tanks. Usually it was practical things like spare road wheels and treads that a tanker would want to have with them anyway, so why not mount it on the front of the hull in a semi-permanent fixture and cross your fingers?

    Sometimes like you say they did use sand bags and sometimes even welded racks on the turret for this purpose. Also for that matter, many truck drivers and drivers of M-113 APC's in Vietnam, 20 years later, did pile sandbags on the floor of their vehicles as anti-mine protection. (Like the other person said the sand bags did add hella weight to the vehicle and slowed it down and used more gas, but the operators didn't care - they were interested in going home alive not getting 100,000 miles out of the Army's truck lol - )

    And i have seen pictures of a couple shermans where supplementary sheet steel armor was welded over some weak spots on the side of the hull, when this was done you could tell it was probably a factory mod (because they were welded on very neatly). But i think if i'd been Herman the German and i'd seen those welded on parts i'd use it as a target i.e. "AIM HERE FOR MAXIMUM DAMAGE TO TANK".
  4. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

    Dec 24, 2008
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    Was the German/Soviet use of wiring/armor skirts a negative as well? Because the point of Soviet wiring was to prematurely detonate the enemy warhead.
  5. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

    Sep 14, 2008
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    I haven't seen many improvvised armour on Soviet tanks, probably it would interfere with the capability to carry riders.
    The bazooka warhead was just 6cm so if the formula is correct it would require around 24 cm detonation distance to negate it and the distance of the skirts in the German tanks is about that if not more (I think the track width was around 38cm and in the III and IV the upper hull did not overhang the tracks by much).
    German armoured skirts, but not the later lighter mesh, served also to protect the weak side armour of the Pz III and IV against the soviet AT rifles.
    BTW the additional plates welded on the weak spots of the M4 are a factory fitting on mid/late production vehicles.
  6. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

    Aug 5, 2003
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    Phoenix Arizona
    Sandbags actually work fairly well against HEAT type weapons as a defense, particularly if they are filled with acutal sand, not just dirt. The way they protect the vehicle from a HEAT round is two-fold:

    First, the round's jet is dispersed by the varied density of the material through which it is moving. That is, the dirt or sand is not uniform in distribution and allows the jet to disperse more.

    Second, the sand in particular but dirt as well asorpbs the blast and heat of the jet and simply limits its penetration. A couple of layers of well placed sandbags could have easily stopped a WW 2 HEAT round from working properly.

    The same pinciple was applied post war to various attempts to limit HEAT penetration such as siliatious core armor, plastic armor (tried on a Sherman in 1944 but found to be too heavy) and then successfully using the various composite (aka Chobbham) armor systems.

    Wood planking would work too but not as well.

    The use of standoff armor like the Germans used was also common. The Soviets improvised theirs using matress springs in many cases. The original German side skirting was intended solely for defense against Soviet AT rifle fire but turned out to work against HEAT rounds too by fortitutious accident.

    As for up-armored Shermans: A kit was developed by Aberdeen Ordinance for this purpose to add 1" of armor to the glacis of the 47 degree welded hull Sherman. Units in Europe went a step further and added their own plate up to 4" thick by the expedient of cutting up German tanks and welding the armor in place on the glacis. Panther hulls were a favorite.
    This expedient couldn't be extended easily to the turret as it would have led to imbalances in the gun mount and turret rotation.
    The earlier applicae kits on Shermans were to make up for specific weak spots in the armor of dry ammo storage Shermans. In later vehicles this was incorporated into the castings or wet storage was adopted, or both. In each case the intent was to make the vehicle more survivable, not less vulnerable.
    Wolfy and Kai-Petri like this.

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