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Military Cable Channel: fact or fiction? Famous Tank Battles of wwII

Discussion in 'Weapons & Technology in WWII' started by humblejohn, Apr 17, 2011.

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  1. humblejohn

    humblejohn recruit

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    I am a novice but I read a lot of books on WWII. I watch the military cable channel a lot. Lately, I have had stomach cramps watching the series-"Famous tank battles". They appear to be informative and factual but I wonder.

    Tank personnel narrate the series but they seem to be coming up with some incredible stories especially about the Sherman tank and the German Panther and Tigers.
    The narrators state that Shermans were able to disable or destroy Panther tanks with a single shot! In several other cases where the tanks were facing each other it is claimed that German tank shells "bounced off" Shermans. I have read, for example, that it took at least 3 Shermans, attacking from the rear, to disable or damage a Tiger. As far as I can see the Sherman was pretty much under-gunned and dangerous to crews.

    I am not even sure whether a Sherman, with a direct hit to the undercarriage of the German tanks, could do any damage. Even if the Sherman was "useful" the volecity and range of its guns were tepid. I think some had hi-volecity shells but I am not sure.

    My feeling is that the German equipment was far superior to anything the allies had in a lot of areas and the reason the Germans suffered so many tank defeats towards the end of the war was the greater number of Shermans. The ants eventually devoured the elephants.
     
  2. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I have watched the same channel, and I think you have it reversed. The later panzers (Panther and Tigers) were impervious to Sherman low velocity 75 mm rounds if fired at the frontal armor, while Shermans were "holed" with ease from any angle. The American Tank Destroyers however were very effective against the German armor, but they were so "under armored" they had to use the shoot and scoot tactic if they couldn't fire from a concealed position.

    The Sherman could disable any tank if it hit the track system, a tank without a track is a pillbox. And one famous German Panzer commander is recorded post war as saying that (paraphrasing); "we could take five of your Shermans, the problem was you always had number six."

    The M4 Sherman was the tank beater it was designed to be, against the then more numerous Pz IIIs and early model IVs, and when it was designed the Panzer IV was the best the Nazis were fielding in any significant number, and it was equal to or superior to that tank until the "G" model which came out after the M4 was in the field.

    Nobody made a "perfect" tank, the Panther was probably the closest to being one in this time-frame, but it had its flaws as well.
     
  3. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    "Best Tank" threads may be the most common one on the various WWII related forums. There are several here and worth reading if you are interested in the topic. Most suffer due to starting out with a poorly defined defintion of "best" which often leads to various posters using different defintions (also usually not well defined).
     
  4. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I think this is the section the original post from "humblejohn" was about, called the Greatest Tank Battles program (Discovery Channel) which deals with the Panther v. Sherman section.

    Goto:

    Greatest Tank Battles: Sherman vs. Panzer : Video : Military Channel

    For the portion dealing with the Hellcat TDs against the Panzers.

    Goto:

    Greatest Tank Battles: Battle of the Hellcats : Video : Military Channel

    This section shows the weak armor, but high speed (60mph) and powerful high velocity main gun of the Hellcat. Just let each clip play, since there are a number of short but interesting clips in this section.
     
  5. yan taylor

    yan taylor Member

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    I seen the one about The Battle of the Bulge, were a AP shell from a Jadg Tiger (128mm gun) only cracked the rear turret armour of a Sherman, man they was lucky that day.
     
  6. scrounger

    scrounger Member

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    HI; I watched a couple of programs recently about teams( one British and one American ) that restore old tanks. One group recovered a derelict panther tank , when they got to stripping down the gearbox they were amazed at how lightly built it was .They remarked that the transmission was more suitable to be in a truck instead of a 30 ton tank. From what i've seen one of the advantages the sherman tank had over it's German counterparts was their reliability and that they were easier to maintain and repair. I can't say if it's accurate or not but I remember hearing that for every German tank the allies knocked out one was taken out of action by breakdown.
     
  7. Jadgermeister

    Jadgermeister Member

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    The most reliable facts I have seen indicate only one in six German tanks were killed in combat, while the remainder were from lack of spare parts and fuel. This seems logical, as most German tank commanders sate that 75% of tanks were out of commission all the time, and it was unusual to see more than four tanks from a regiment operational at a time. Otto Carius wrote about a time when they had the astounding number of 8 out of 16 tanks available!
    You see a lot of situations where 12 tanks were broken and waiting for parts, one tank runs out of gas, another breaks down while towing it, they have to destroy both, and then are left with a pair of tanks. Sometimes they only had a single tank!

    When it comes to penetrations, dont quote me, but there is an Allied report stating something to the effect that it did not matter if the sherman had thick frontal armor, because it took something like 65-75% of hits in the side. Makes sense, as most German tanks dont sit directly out in the middle of the road, they are hundreds of meters out to the sides waiting in ambush.
    When it comes to deflections off the Sheman, I believe they stated it was 5%, which is 1:20. That would make it fairly common, having happened hundreds of times.
    Talking about the History Channel, I saw one of their tank series once where a tank commander was saying he was sticking his head out of one of the two front hatches, and one of his crewmen was out of the other. The Glacis took a hit from a German round, which bounced and took the head off the crewman.
    Sometimes shells bounce for odd reasons, an Abrams tank had a round bounce off a T-55 in the first gulf war, just to destroy it with a second round. Sometimes shots just do funny things.
    I think the most likely cause of the rounds bouncing off the Sherman would have been too hard of a cap on the shell, they are supposed to be relatively soft compared to the shell under them, but if they shatter they seriously get in the way. The inside of the cap is actually in a reverse slope to allow the shell to fit into it, so if the cap breaks and sticks to the armor, the shell itself can be deflected by its own cap.
    Also, most rounds cannot penetrate armor which has a slope more than the slope of the outside of the projectile, so if a tank with 60 degree armor is at 20 degrees, its armor is 80 degrees relative to the enemy and the shell can really only handle something like 70.
    Also take into account that the edges of the tank are quite difficult to penetrate. There isnt any airspace, its going to strike the side armor which is connected to the edge of the front armor, and most likely deflect to the outside. Hits at the very edge almost always deflect or lodge.
     
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  8. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    I think i remeber the episodes you saw. There was one about the Battle of the Bulge and another one about Canadian army Sherman tank crews in France.
    One animation showed 4 or 5 panthers proceeding along a forest path at almost a direct right angle to the Shermans. The side armor on the Panther was much thinner then on the front (as a general rule all tanks have thicker armor in front and on the turret. Armor plate on tanks is thinner on the sides, thinner still on the rear. and thineest of all on top (the "deck"). The front armor of the Panther was 80 mm and well sloped, while the side armor was half that (40 to 50 mm thick) and not so well sloped. So a well sited Sherman within the range of its 75 mm gun (about 800 m for shooting at something like a Panther), would be able to penetrate the side armor of a Panther with a good solid hit. This is what the Canadians did in that episode of greatest tank battles, the cleaned up the Panthers because the crews were not aware of their presence and offered them the second best shot possible (the best shot being a shot at the rear of the tank - this is how Michael Wittman's Tiger I tank was destroyed in August 1944 by British Firefly tanks).
     
  9. sf_cwo2

    sf_cwo2 Member

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    I hate to be the one to tell you there's no Santa... but these shows are contrived. A writer comes up with a narrative for the show, researches a few "facts", and the producers bring in "experts" and/or an eyewitness or two. The stories recounted by the vets may or may not be their own (or anyone's!). Watch their eyes and see if they are reading from a cue card or teleprompter versus recalling actual events. I've witnessed these very actions for both history and firearm programs. If you want a laugh, watch the clothing worn by an "expert" and see if it changes from show-to-show. Odds are all of those segments were shot in one day.
     
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  10. gregc

    gregc Member

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    Military Channel is full of crap there Top Ten Tanks is BS! Sherman last place? Stupid... And the same old myths about it are said once again! Will they ever go away...
     
  11. VonKoenigsberg

    VonKoenigsberg Member

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    I've seen the episode you're talking about!! Four Shermans allegedly destroyed NINE Panther tanks by themselves! It's ridiculous. A low velocity 75mm gun could not penetrate that armour from 1,500 meters.
    They interviewed several Knight's Cross holders for that program, including Fritz Langanke and Georg Bose. Bascially, they said that their tanks/assault guns weren't vulnerable against shermans except from the rear or the side, and that was probably at a significant distance. The military channel is 50/50 for fact/fiction. They will take a few facts, and build a story around them, using out-of-context exerpts from veteran interviews or selected quotations from soldiers' memoirs to support their "story". It's entertaining, but difficult to determine if it's true.

    The best B.S. moment on Greatest Tank Battles was when a Russian tank gunner was interviewed, and he said something to the extent of: "I wasn't scared ever. I woke up that morning and knew I had to kill the German devils. I wasn't scared in battle though. None of us were. We would be wounded and keep going, and didn't care about death."
    RIGHT - a 19 year old soldier, witnessing hell during the battle of Kursk or Prokorovka isn't scared - the jig is up, Russian guy! you don't have to pretend anymore - the Soviet Union is gone!
     
  12. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Greetings Gents

    just came upon this thread, if it is the Bulge than a stroang possibility was several Shermans agasint initially the 3. Kompanie of Das Reich who was travelling at an angle away twoards the small village of Oster. the Shermans were in fact in very well concealed positions between the villages of Lamormenil and Freineux. the US Shermans had a clear form of fire over the open field and hit the moving panthers from their left and behind side, leader of 3. Kompanie and RK winner Veith was KIA in the defense. 4 Panthers from 2. Komapnie commanded by Langanke, Pippert, Kirchner and Seeger faced the Shermans on open field and headed towards them in an almost suicidal attack. Seegers Panther # 211 was hit in the underplating and knocked out as the Panther negotiated a small hillock, the 3 Panthers advanced and slowly picked out the Shermans amongst their positions and as the Shermans retreated across a meadow were hit one by one and destroyed.

    this a very brief account, and let me of course add that George Winters small soft-bound book is a must have for this episode on the twin villages. A great guy to talk with .......
     
  13. scrounger

    scrounger Member

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    One of the tactics the German Army used with seemingly good results (especially in North Africa) was to assult the British tank positions and then after a short battle go into a rapid retreat the British would then give chase and be lead right into the sights of concealed 88's , the result being for the Allies would be a field full of destroyed tanks. Was this a common tactic or used just a few isolated times ? If what i heard is true the Allies kept falling for it over and over ..
     
  14. Colonel FOG

    Colonel FOG Member

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    Talk about glancing blows... Has anyone ever seen the Panther PzKpfw V sitting at Aberdeen Proving Grounds?
    Encountering it as a child, I remember seeing the large depression on its frontal armor from a shell's impact. It was so big that it could swallow my father's hand, yet no penetration was achieved.

    Anyone care to suggest why the Americans called the Sherman "The Ronson"? heh heh
     
  15. Colonel FOG

    Colonel FOG Member

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    [Ok... I have tried seven times to edit my post, and am getting a bit frustrated by it all. I'll try reposting instead. Ignore previous post, unless you are only interested in the failing memory of an old guy. LOL]

    Talk about glancing blows... Has anyone ever seen the JagdTiger (corrected) sitting at Aberdeen Proving Grounds?
    Encountering it as a child, I remember seeing the large depression on its frontal armor from a shell's impact. It was so big that it could swallow my father's hand, yet no penetration was achieved.

    EDIT:Lo and behold, I found a picture of it! Hard to believe it's still there after 42 years...
    http://www.peachmountain.com/5star/US_Army_Ordnance_Museum_Jagdtiger_tank.aspx


    Next bit: With all due respect to the vehicle and its occupants, does anyone care tosuggest why the Americans called the Sherman "The Ronson"? Hmm...??
     
  16. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    There are from what I recall no references to World War II Americans actualy calling them that. I believe there is one reference to a Canadian using that term. As discussed previously the Sherman was really not much more likely to catch fire if penetrated than the German tanks were, indeed I believe it was superior to some of them although it's not clear that the differences are statistically significant. By late war I suspect the Shermans were less likely to catch fire.
     
  17. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    The Germans called the early Sherman both the "Ronson" because like the lighter; it lit everytime, and the also called it the "Tommy Cooker" after the camp stove the Brits used. The Americans would have called it the "Zippo", but they didn't. That was because of the fire-suppression system which was retro-fitted on the older models and standard on the (W) style from the production line. It was no more likely to "ignite" than its German counter-parts, but the diesel powered versions of the M4, and the Soviet T-34 were less flammable of course.
     
  18. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    A British Sherman Firefly armed with a 17 pdr could penetrate the frontal armour of a Tiger I at over 1,000 yards. In the attack in which Whitmann was killed 5 Tiger I's were lost in minutes, 3 to a single Sherman Firefly at a range of around 800 yards.
     
  19. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    The Sherman was prone to catch fire due to poor ammo stowage, not its engine fuel. When the Americans introduced 'wet' stowage for the ammo in the later Shermans they no longer tended to burn,
     
  20. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    It was a major reason for Rommels success, but when Monty arrived he soon put a stop to it.
     

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