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Sherman 76 and T34/85 perceptions versus reality

Discussion in 'Armor and Armored Fighting Vehicles' started by Walter_Sobchak, Feb 8, 2012.

  1. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    On the German tanks it was already in the summer of 1944 a major problem that the armor was not anymore as strong as before, so the frontal armor at least got a heavy pounding or cracked from a well aimed shot due to the missing strengthening minerals in the armor, and thus I am sure more German tank crews were "afraid of a hit" than before. If the tank was not destroyed, at least the crew was probably more than ready to leave the tank after the first good hit.
     
  2. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member

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    This may be the wrong thread but a question about HE. I have read that the M-4's 76mm fired an somewhat inferior HE round than the standard 75mm. Is this true and if so why? The diameter is the same . It would appear similar projectiles could be fired so why not similar HE ? If velocity is an issue propellant charges can be varied to achieve similar velocity. I fail to see how higher velocity could be an issue but I am certainly not an ordnance expert. A certain logic escapes me here. I understand the issues of the day concerning the role of armor but it would appear to make sense that any tank should be capable of defending itself against another as well as support troops on the ground, like the MBT of today. I realise the need for fast production at the beginning of the war, the US Army being pretty depleted, but if the Army demanded it could not the M4A1E8/M4A1(76)W HVSS (Whew!!!!) have been the standard tank mid-war. Of course nothing is easy in a bureaucracy. And tank philosophy differed greatly.

    How did the advocates of "tank destroyers" imagine they would be at the right place at the right time to take on enemy armor that just showed up?

    Your patients with all this is appreciated. It just appears ashamed the well balanced "Easy 8" was not produced in greater numbers and faster.
     
  3. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    AFAIK the problem with high velocity guns firing HE is that to get high velocity you need to reduce shell weight otherwise pressure inside the barrell gets too high, so with a very long barrell you either reduce the firing charge (and then the shell will not make the best use of the gun balistics) or shoot a relatively light shell and that means less HE content. High velocity guns usually also have more barrell wear and shorter lives, not a good thing if you're using "reconnaisance by fire" tactics. AFAIK the German 75/L24 of the early Pz IV had a better HE performance than the 75/L43 and 75/L48 of the later Marks.
    AFAIK the M4 had gradual improvements, the tech for the M4A1E8 was not there in 1943. BTW I think no "easy eights" lacked wet stowage or had the 75mm and of course all had HVSS (that's why they were called "Easy Eights") so M4A1E8 is enough to identify them.

    So if you plan beyond the tactical level at one point they are going to come head to head with the enemy's tank reserves that want to prevent them doing just that, of course if your enemy has no tanks you can dispense with good AT capability but if he does and you have a poor one you will loose the critical fight even if you had an easier time against "soft" targets up to then. Tanks will shoot HE more often than AP but it's the critical "clash of armour" that really matters, only afrter you defeated the enemy armoured reserve you can freely exploit and you need AP capability for that and neither the US thin skinned TD's or the limited gun traverse German ones have high survivaability in an exploitation scenario so they are unlikely to be there when mostly needed. After the failure at Nomonhan the Japanese replaced the low velocity 57 with a high velocity 47 on their tanks for exactly that reason, the masses of French "short 37" equipped H35 and R 35 proved close to useless when it came to stopping the panzers and the less numerous "long 37" and 47mm H40, R39, Somua and B1 proved not enough.
     
  4. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Tactical competence was the reality, but the impression the Wehrmacht created was that they had better tanks. One French general told Churchill the war was lost because "technical inferiority in every category." The T-34 and KV-1 was massively superior to Pz-IIIs and it made an impression on all concerned, which is not to say different societal attitudes and expectations did not play a huge role in how weapon systems were perceived.

    Yes, though efficient weapons reduce casualties. One interesting thing Maurice Rose (commander of 3d Armored Div) wrote in his memorandum to Eisenhower was that his men felt American gunnery was far superior to the Germans, but their 75-mm. gun was not able to knock out German tanks from the front. AAR of round after round bouncing off Panther's glacis and turret certainly suggested that many German attacks wouldn't have nearly as far as it did had the US Army followed Ordnance advise to put those wonderful 90-mm. main guns on their Sherman tanks.


    Priority of tungsten went to the factories that were making the P-47s, P-51s, and B-17s. It is difficult to argue with that decision.
     
  5. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

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    Not apropros of anything, but this Brings to mind one of my favourite WW2 images:<br>[​IMG]<br><br>


    Maybe worth noting that some of T34s 'reputation' may well be bound up with the remarkable movement of entire factories and establishment of Tankograd etc.
    Sending unpainted machines straight to war from the factory gates is quite some early boost to any technical history - it has a romance about it.

    ~A
     
  6. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Both the UK and USSR's militaries, having more experience with German armor, made the wise decision to upgrade their tanks' armament regardless of the maturity of their new guns. For example the 17-pdr. weapons had excessive muzzle blast and both the 85-mm and the 17-pdr. guns lacked effective HE shells. 17-pdr. originally had no HE shells to fire whereas the 85-mm. HE rounds had over-thick shell casing and was [edit:not] nearly as potent as the US 75-mm. HE round in explosive power or fragmentation.

    I disagree. The Armor Board didn't expect tanks to be subordinated to infantry support at all. Rather they expected the Wehrmacht to deploy tanks in massed formations on open ground in the manner of Kasserine Pass where TD units could be positioned behind crisis points to stop the breakthrough. This was also the reason McNair wanted more towed instead of SP tank destroyers which turned out to be a terrible idea in Europe where A. the Allied armies were constantly on the offensive and B. combined arms in small groups were the norm.

    Additionally, I think your analysis is flawed because the self-propelled tank destroyer battalions were always broken down to platoons and put right behind the tanks or the infantry in practice, they never had trouble finding German tanks. The problem was that the SP TDs were used just like tanks, and post war tacticians decided that they might as well give all tanks that kind of firepower.
     
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  7. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Btw, my view on the M-4 tank had changed considerably over the last couple of years. Maurice Rose's report to Ike states that it was the combination of artillery, air power, manoeuver, and the sheer resilience to take losses that allowed his unit to prevail against Panther tanks. The US armored division was superior a superior fighting machine to its German counterpart because it had the logistics and heavy fire support afforded by aircraft and artillery in spite of the deficiencies of the Sherman, not because of it.
     
  8. Walter_Sobchak

    Walter_Sobchak Member

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    Which is part of the reason why they switched to a more aggressive "seek out and destroy" philosophy rather than a passive "mobile anti-tank" philosophy. Regardless, the whole idea was flawed. Its rather well explained in Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, I highly recommend that book.
     
  9. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I would argue that it's not flawed per se. It was a very reasonable doctrine if you were on the defensive and could afford to trade a fair amount of space. Remember prior to WWII the US military had to pretty much justify all it's weapons as defencive ones. Even the B-17 was sold as a defensive weapon to use against any naval attacks on the US. The problem of course was that once the US got into the war we were seldom on the defensive and when we were could not always afford to give very much ground. It would have been a very good doctrine if Mexico had made an armored thrust up through the South West or Canada had made one down through the Great Plains....
     
  10. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    While the military should plan for all possible scenarios that's taking it a bit too far :p.
    IMO a TD that cost as much as a tank is a bad bargain, but then the US could afford the waste, it was certainly more useful than towed AT guns that were nearly useless in the prevailing conditions in 1944-45 but that's not saying much.
    US style TDs were a luxury, not giving the "average" tank a gun capable of fighting enemy armour on equal terms was a mistake.
    From Panzer Leader ... we must add a few words on tank versus tank combat, Military litterature tends to steer clear of the subject invoking as an excuse our lack of experience. This attitude cannot be sustained over the long term. We will unfailingly be presented with the reality of tank versus tank action in the future, as we have already established, and the outcome of the battle will depend on the issue of that combat, irrespective of whether we are cast in the role of attackers or defenders.
    Guderian was obviously convinced tank combat would happen and be usually decisive, and history mostly proved him right, he was less prophetic when he envisioned distinct infantry, cruiser and heavy tanks, while a "specialist tank" is better at it's intended role than a "generalist" when the gun armour race pushed weights above 30t you really didn't need to make too many compromises and the era of the "specialist" tank was over.
     
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  11. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    The Tank Destroyer motto is Seek, Strike, Destroy. The Tank Destroyer doctrine is flawed, that is not to say self-propelled tank destroyers under performed. There is a quote somewhere in A Time For Trumpets that a veteran German panzer crew told American interrogators that the American weapons he most feared were the M36 tank destroyer and the bazooka. Think he was kidding?
     
  12. JBark

    JBark Member

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    The combined arms offensive gives you artillery and aircraft to aid in killing tanks.
     
  13. JBark

    JBark Member

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    Review of the facts show how valuable his opinion is. Perhaps he was making excuses for his performance??

    In the long run we still won the field despite what everyone thinks of the wonderful panzers and their crews. General White, I'm sure you know, gave an opinion of the M4 which showed an appreciation of warfare beyond the tactical level.

    Of course we know that putting the 90mm on the M4 would not have reached the battlefield any faster than the M26.

    True.
     
  14. Walter_Sobchak

    Walter_Sobchak Member

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    I'm gonna veer off into "what if" land. If relations between the west and the USSR has deteriorated after the war and the two sides came into conflict in late 45, I kinda wonder if the US tank destroyer doctrine would have been somewhat justified. Up against large numbers of Soviet armor, I suspect the TD's would have had a bit of a field day given that the 76mm and 90mm guns were effective against the T-34 and that US units would have been better at getting in the first shot than the less tactically able soviet units. I know this is purely hypothetical, but these are the geeky type of tank thoughts i have sometimes.
     
  15. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Tank Destroyers, in so far as the SP guns were concerned, performed very well against Nazi armor. In some of the rare, large scale armored engagements US armor fought in 1944 I read again and again that the TDs were notching up a disproportionate number of tank kills compared to the Sherman tanks and tank crews were quick to observe that. The problem with TD doctrine was that it was unnecessary to produce a whole family of armored fighting vehicles just to handle enemy tanks when the better solution was to put big guns and heavy armor on your tanks.
     
  16. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Subjective experience is not the same thing as objective reality. A lot of French tankers felt the German tanks were better after getting ripped to pieces by Guderian and Rommel's Panzers. We know now it is not true, but they did not.

    US Armored Division was more powerful than the Panzer Division when you consider the entire combined arms package and logistical support (not to mention more tanks!). No arguments there.


    That is arguable. Two sources diverted 90-mm. guns from Sherman tanks, one was FDR's demand for homeland antiaircraft defense and the other was the M26 project itself. The developers of the M26 assured the Army that Pershing tanks would be ready soon and the projected M26 tanks should have priority over existing M4s for the 90-mm gun turrets.
     
  17. Eastern_Front

    Eastern_Front Member

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    I also noticed that the Allies were far more critical of their tanks than the Soviets. In terms of the Soviets they were really quick to field their tanks with many tank going into combat straight after coming out of a factory and the tanks still performed well. I do have to disagree with you when you say that the German's are not very critical about their tanks because in 1935 when the Stug III plans and prototypes were being layed out by General Mainstein the Prototypes and models were tested and then re-tested many times. The only time the German's were not at all critical was at the end of the war when they had no choice but to send them straight in to combat.

    Cheers
     
  18. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I don't believe that is the case. They were not originally produced because it was thought that they would reach the field only a few months (somewhere between 3 and 6 from what I recall) earlier than the M-26. However the M-26 was delayed (about 6 months again going from memory) after this decision was made. I believe that the 90mm armed M-4 could have made it's appearance no later than the fall of 44 and perhaps earlier (though that would depend on it being asked for earlier).
     
  19. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    One of the reasons for this I believe is that the TD's were either armed with a 90mm gun or a 76mm gun. In the latter case they got priority issues of the more effective AT rounds.
     
  20. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Indeed. Have you read the Aberdeen reports on Soviet tanks?
    I guess that depends on your definition of "perform well". In an emergency it may be worth it to simply issue sledge hammers to help change gears with but that still doesn't fit my definition of good performance.
     

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