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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. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    This isn't entirely true. The US was fully aware of torsion bar suspension systems like those used in the Tiger, Panther and, Pz III. The US also knew about the Christie system using large diameter vertically coil sprung suspensions. The US Army's ordinance department however settled on the use of the volute spring suspension system as their standard demanding its use on designs up through 1942.
    Thus, the Stuart, Grant and, Sherman all used the volute suspension system. For vehicles capable of speeds up to 20 mph cross country this system was adequite.
    On the other hand, claiming the Germans that "the Americans [were] in the in the war with a tank far inferior to the high standards set by other tanks..." is an absurd claim.
    The Sherman was a well thought out for 1940. It had a large enough turret ring to allow easy up gunning and new turrets that could take larger guns. The track system was far superior to anything the Germans used on their tanks in terms of life (about triple that of the German or Russian designs) and at road speeds reduced gasoline consumption giving tanks better mileage when travelling out of combat areas.
    The US also continually improved their metallurgy making their armor perform better for a given thickness than that of Germany or Russia too. US tanks also had excellent radios, the best turret power traverse systems, the first operational gun stabilizer systems (and, yes, they did work when crews bothered to learn to use them). The only real drawback to the early US designs was too narrow a track (something the Germans were also guilty of on their early tanks) and too high a silouette due to the original choice of radial aircraft engines for power plants.
    With the second generation vehicles like the M-24, and M-26 these problems were rectified and these vehicles were as good as anything the Germans produced. The M-25A1, of which 300 were produced prior to June 1944 but never saw combat, was essentially a US 'Panther'tank. It had equal or better armor, a 90mm gun, equal speed and cross-country performance and, was better equipped in details than the Panther. The ordinance department decided to by-pass its production in favor of the M-26 based on promises of the manufacturers to get the later in production within a few months (which, unfortunately, did not happen).
    The same went with a plan to equip M4A3 Shermans with the M-26 turret as an interm vehicle just before D-Day (both tanks have the same diameter turret ring....thanks to good design and engineering).
    As for the T-34 it had good armor a decent gun and good automotive performance on paper. The reality was it was severly handicapped by its 2 man turret and lack of vision devices which left it virtually blind except to events happening right in front of it. It's tracks and drive train were riddled with bugs and took several years to make reliable in service. The ammunition layout left much to be desired. All but 3 rounds were stored under the floor of the turret (which also lacked a basket) making loading slow and difficult. Lack of a radio and intercom system also made the crew less efficent.
    Basically, there is alot more to a tank than just its gun and armor. It is a complex weapon system that has many more parts that make it efficent than just its gun and armor. On that basis, the US didn't do any worse than any of the other major combatants and, in many ways did alot better.
     
  2. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    There really wasn't a single reason.
    Even though the M26 Pershing had been in development since 1942, as an upgrade to the M4 Sherman, it was an on again off again project. Which is why it wasn't’ until late Feb. of 1945 that the first of them saw combat. Now while people sometimes think they used the same Ford aluminum, double overhead cam engine as the Sherman, it was really a redesigned engine to shrink its overall height while gaining about 50 horsepower. The Pershing had the GAF, while the Sherman had the GAA.

    This added to the stress on the heads, and consequently they had a tendency to fail. Also, it was coupled to an automatic three speed transmission, instead of a manual "gear cruncher". So it was a "new" engine, a "new" Torquematic transmission, and riding on a torsion bar suspension. A great many "firsts" for American armor.

    Due to its wider tracks, it actually had about the same ground pressure as the Sherman, 12-13 pounds per square inch. But its weight cut its mileage to about 0.5 mpg. That is only slightly less than the Sherman in the final "jumbo" version, but still gas mileage wasn’t a great concern to the Allies and with its larger fuel capacity the range was about the same on identical surfaces.

    New engine and power-train designs rarely, if ever, succeed in their first incarnation.
     
  3. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    In a word, no. You are overlooking the difficulty in deploying an expeditionary force that needed to be trained and equipped in America, shipped over the Atlantic Ocean, docked in England, then transported by rail to South England where they would reassemble and put into ships again to cross the Channel. Imagine all this military and logistic chaos taking place at the same time the very tanks, guns and trucks to be used in the coming battle were under going designing or being qeued for production. To introduce the Pershing tank into the intricate plans would be like performing a heart transplant while the patient is undergoing neuro surgery. In fact, in May 1944, there were ten T26 prototypes in the US Army, and they were all state side, less than one month before the Allied armies start an amphibious strategic offensive. Mind you, amphibious strategic offensive was a type of operation that military strategists pronounced impossible at the 20s-30s because of the failure of Gallipoli. This was to be practiced on the Germans, who had the best army in the world, at the part of Europe that was the best defended real estate in the world. To get any servicable tanks on the beachhead, rapidly and in overwhelming numbers, were of far greater import than what tank they actually would be.
     
  4. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Let's just stick to mobility for the moment. Your stats above are "book" values and of little relevance on their own or outside the world of engineering test tracks.
    When it comes to off road vehicular mobility there are two broad categories that really matter: Agility and flotation.
    Agility is automotive performance. Acceleration, torque, tractive power, that sort of thing. Flotation is how the vehicle's wheels, tracks, or whatever interact with the soil / ground under them. These two factors in combination are what really matters in determining an AFV's mobility at a tactical, and sometimes operational, level.

    For example, the Sherman uses a rubber bushed double pin track that is tensioned and has return rollers. While this track is not as efficent at low speeds, say under 15 mph it is actually more efficent energy-wise at speeds above that. The result is that a Sherman driving on a paved road (like in a long road march) is more economical and has less rolling resistance than a tank with a steel track lacking return rollers.
    Steel tracks also have the bad disadvantage of being very hard on most paved road surfaces. These tracks will generally tear the road up in short order. This too is a problem particularly if there are follow on units needing to use the road.

    Then there is the issue of straight weight. Heavier vehicles are restricted on what surfaces they can move and this is true to an extent regardless of ground pressure exerted by the vehicle. Here, a very heavy tank like the Tiger is at a disadvantage. It will damage all but the most heavily built roads (and in the WW II era there were few roads designed for a load use of 50 tons or more). It is restricted on what bridges it can cross (one reason the Germans increased fording capacity).

    Acceleration is how lively the vehicle is. How quick it can go from a standing start to whatever speed. This is important for a combat vehicle actually. A smooth and quick acceleration allows a crew to move out of danger more rapidly. A higher horsepower to weight ratio also says something about torque and maneuverability or "liveliness" of the vehicle.

    Anyway, what you find is that the Germans and US as two examples had very different ideas about what tanks were for and what criteria they were looking for in them. Clearly the Germans were far more concerned about the defensive capacity of their tanks. They sought long range gunfire and antitank performance. Their armor layouts more and more reflected a view that engagements would be head on. There was less concern about operational mobility that would be required in a deep offensive operation or breakthrough.
    The US on the other hand concerned themselves more, at least initially, with operational mobility. Their tanks were optimized for use in breakthroughs and not tank on tank combat. Good road and high speed automotive performance gave them what they were looking for. Excellent maintainability and reliability added to this too.

    Then the US coupled this with an unmatched civil engineering capacity. That is they could build roads where none existed. They could bridge rivers of any size in hours (the 291st Engineer battalion put three bridges across the Rhine in less than 24 hours as one example). The inclusion of masses of heavy construction machinery in engineer battalions and dozer tanks in tank battalions made a huge difference.
    For the Germans, if a bridge that could take a Tiger didn't exist for a river crossing it might be a week or more before the crossing could occur if the tank could not ford the river.

    Soils are another factor in the mobility equation. The Soviets set their tank design ground pressure for all but the heaviest vehicles at about 9 psi, at least initially. This value was chosen as it allows mobility on saturated chernozym soil common in Russia. Above this value a tank would break the crust of the soil and become bogged in the muck below.
    Thus, the repeated German surprise at the Soviets operating tanks in places they assumed tanks could never go.

    You see, I see you as looking at this like sports statistics. How many touchdowns, home runs, plays made etc., by individual players. But, tanks don't operate in a vacuum. They are part of a larger system in modern warfare. It is the system that needs examination. On the part of the Germans they failed to appreciate the need for a good maintenance and civil engineering system to go with their mechanized units.
    Instead, they optimized their equipment for great tactical performance. The US and Soviets optimized theirs for great operational performance as part of a much larger system. The result was the Germans could win locally more often than not but ended up losing the larger battle virtually every time.
    It was a design flaw in itself that their doctrine had them producing the wrong kind of tanks for the war they were fighting.
     
  5. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Tigers in trouble...

    " Rolf Ehrhardt experienced a tank attack on the east edge of the road to Roanne:

    A Number of Shermans approached on the road on the other side of a ravine. The American unit was recognized early enough and we let it approach to a favorable position. After the first miss of one of our Tigers, the Shermans unexpectedly formed a front and opened quick fire. This forced me to flee to the basement of the house where I had an observation post on the second floor. The rounds coming from our Tigers were noticeably different than the incoming. Every shot fired by an 8.8 cm was a hit in our thoughts. Suddenly the Tiger commander, Untersturmführer Hantusch, collapsed in the basement, both hands pressed to his head. His Tiger had received numerous hits which shook up its weapon system, and the electrical power was knocked out. After another round to the turret he was wounded on the head and had to abandon the smoking Panzer which could catch fire at any minute.

    Minutes later the second Tiger Kommandant, Obersturmführer Dollinger, came back and was bleeding heavily from his head and was silent. After his wound had been dressed he reported that the smoke from the rounds made it impossible to see through the gun´s optics. It was impossible for him to see his targets. The thick response of enemy hits ruined the possibility of hitting another Sherman.

    The numerical superiority of the approximately fifteen Shermans turned our superiority in weaponry into nothing. The Tiger of Obersturmführer Dollinger then received another hit which "amputated" the first third of its cannon. This caused us to realize that we had been literally crushed, which had never before been so obvious."

    From " Chronicle of the 7. panzer-Kompanie I.SS-Panzer Division Leibstandarte" by Ralf Tiemann
     
  6. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    This is not exactly correct. The British and the Americans both recognized the need for a more powerful main gun in 1943, but the British didn't exactly "offer" to supply the 17 pounder. We Americans were working on a new turret designed around our own 76mm M1 gun and the special tank destroyer vehicles which would house the 90mm at the same time as the Brits were trying to get their own 17 pounder problems worked out for mounting in a turret. Don’t confuse the 90mm with the larger 105mm which was placed on Shermans in the M4A3 105 versions, a.k. the Sherman IVB in the British list.

    Both the British and the Americans had seen the need for a more powerful gun in the Sherman, but the Americans also wished to design a new ammo storage system which could be adopted to and retro-fitted into the existing 75mm turret designs to hold down the tendency of the ammo to "brew up" when hit. This precipitated the M4A1 75mm (W) with a wet storage system, this was developed in ’43 and introduced as a stand-alone system in ’44, and also retro-fitted to existing 75mm Shermans which had the dry ammo storage.

    And let’s not forget that the Firefly was built on the M4A4 version which is longer in both hull and track length (6") than the non-Lend/Lease Sherman. The huge cumbersome Chrysler mulit-bank 30 cylinder engine required this increase in length, and it also moved the center of gravity further rearward which was a ‘good thing" for the longer barrel of the 76.3mm 17 pounder. And even then it wasn’t a great adaptation, the Brits had to cut a hole in the back of the turret to house the radio, cover it with a steel box made of steel plate, eliminate one crewman, and turn the cannon on its side so it could be loaded and fired by the same man, consequently the firing rate was about half that of the other Shermans with a three man turret crew.

    Even then the 17 pounder gun wasn’t a standard 17 pounder, but a special built model for the Sherman application, and the first ones weren’t completed and accepted until early 1944. Which ironically is the date the first M4A1 76mm (W) Shermans were accepted for service with the new M62 turret, which would NOT have accepted the 17 pounder.

    The 17 pounder’s projectile of 76.3mm could go 2,980'/sec, but the American 76 wasn’t all that far behind since it could fire a 15.4 lb AP shell at a muzzle velocity of 2,600'/sec. Later, recognizing that this was still too slow, the M1A2 L/55 was introduced, with a muzzle velocity of 3,400’/sec, which could penetrate 158mm of armor at the same distance the Firefly could penetrate 140mm (500 meters).

    It isn’t a simple matter of asking the Americans to put the British main gun into the Shermans, it is much more complicated than just "not built here" as well. That may have had something to do with it, but not the entire story.
     
  7. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Aside from what has been presented so far, the other reason the US turned down the installation was on the basis of its crudity.

    The gun had to be installed on its side to allow sufficent room to load it. Because the gunner on a 17pdr operated the gun from the Left side and in a Sherman the gunner was on the right side of the gun, a series of Rube Goldburg bell cranks and other lash-ups had to be made to allow the gunner to operate the gun controls. These introduced back lash and slop in the system making it harder for the gunner to quickly and accurately place the gun on a target.
    The size of the gun and its length in the turret also cut the gunner off from the other half of the turret. This required an additional hatch for the loader to be installed so he had a means of getting in and out of the turret.
    Then there was the ammunition supply arrangement. This required removing the hull gunner and replacing him with a portion of the now much larger rounds. The arrangements were deemed unsatisfactory by US ordinance people. I believe that one critisim here was the new ammo bins blocked the floor hatch.
    Because the gun was heavier and longer than the 75mm it also had to be counter-balanced with a large lead weight. In addition this change in weight imbalanced the turret making turning it, particularly on any incline, more difficult.

    While the "not invented here" syndrome explains part of the problem it was the very real reasons above that made the US ordinance department not want to use the gun.
     
  8. Don Juan

    Don Juan New Member

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    This just sounds like a doctor telling someone they can't have a heart transplant because it will leave their nipples slightly out of position.

    There were at least two occasions in Normandy when Firefly gunners took out five Panthers in 5 or 6 shots. There's no better proof that the Firefly installation was perfectly adequate.
     
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  9. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    Quote of the week on WW2F for me, Sir.
    A damned fine turn of phrase.

    ~A
     
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  10. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member Patron  

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    How did the Israelis manage to mount 90 and 105 mm tubes in a Sherman ? Not WW2, my apologies, but seems pertinent . I do not know how they did it, a rhetorical question.

    Gaines

    PS, Am I correct in my having read somewhere that originally 25% of Sherman's were to be 76 mm but by 1945 about 50% were ? It seems to have been a great fit for the tank.

    PPS, Quick research showed the M 1 Super Sherman used a French F 1 105 with a shorter barrel and chamber, not unlike the 17 pounder adapted as the 77MM in the UK. since the Sherman has a good sized ring , perhaps to accommodate the US 105 howitzer, it worked.
     
  11. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    There were a fair number of Shermans with 105's. Given a HEAT round they would have had a decent chance of taking out an opposing tank if they could hit it. The Pershing turret would also have fit on a Sherman I beleive and was considered at one point. Anything much bigger than the US 76mm gun would have taken either serious turret modificatioins (which I believe is what they did with the 17lber) or a new turret (whcih the US should have done and might have had they realized how long the Pershings would take to get in service.)
     
  12. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member Patron  

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    Thanks lwd , I am familiar with the M 4 105mm howitzer, an artillery piece that could fire the HESH round but believe the M 51 used the French 105 F 1 designed for their AMX 30 as a tank main gun.. I do think the Israeli's shortened the barrel and chamber but am not sure. The longer chamber and heavier recoil mechanism seemed to be the problem.

    I need to do some research on the M 50 and M 51's . I have seen some with early M 4 chassis and later 78 turrets. I guess they are the ultimate Shermans.

    Gaines
     
  13. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    Fireflies had several successful engagements to prove like that. During Operation Bluecoat a Firefly squadron destroyed three Tiger's at once including Michael Wittman's. (Villers Bogace hero)
     
  14. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member Patron  

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    "Fireflies had several successful engagements to prove like that. During Operation Bluecoat a Firefly squadron destroyed three Tiger's at once including Michael Wittman's. (Villers Bogace hero) "

    There is a good description of that incident in Wolfgang Schneider's Tigers in Normandy , from a German author. The above mentioned Firefly and it's usual companion M 4's caught the in line tigers from the flank and knocked all three out. If II remember correctly the range was about 900 yards. The Firefly commander told the other Shermans to engage Tigers 2 and 3 until he knocked out Tiger 1 which was Whitman then he could turn on the rest Apparently at that distance the 75's did considerable damage to the other two.

    Gaines
     
  15. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    I agree with the overall sentiment of the OP - but I think he has taken it a little too far. Some of the "strengths " championed what in fact fatal weaknesses.

    The OP made the observation that tanks were about much more than the gun and armour. I'd like to add to that. Unlike navies or aircraft whose the crew exist to serve the technology, Land warfare is focused on soldiers; who are equipped with a variety of weapons. The weapons themselves are merely one aspect of the physical component of fighting power. Weapons need to be supplied and maintained and operated by trained soldiers. Beyond the physical componant are the conceptual aspects of tactical and strategic competence and the intangible aspects of cohesion, fighting spirit and morale - a spiritual component..

    Tanks are weapons which are part of an armoury used by different arms and services used in combination in different phases of war. Arguably the decisive use of armour in WW2 was in sweeping operational moves such as the German Blitzkrieg of 1939-42, the North African Campaign 1940-43) the break out from Normandy 1944 and the major soviet offensives from 1943-45. This isn't the sexy stuff of tank battles a la World of Tanks, or some kind of playground Top Trumps competition about size, weight and penetration. There was little romance or heroism when Guderian's panzers brassed columns of horse drawn artillery in Poland;or when O'Connor's men rounded up acres of Italian PW or when the allied armour paraded triumphantly through cheering crowds in France in 1944. Nor is there much of the World of Tanks about acting as artillery to support an infantry assault on a bunker or a hedgerow. But this is what tanks were for; and the Sherman was much better at this bread and butter work than the Tiger.

    The German blitzkrieg was fought with tanks that were much closer to the Sherman in concept. The Mk IV had a similar weight and weaponry. The Tiger was designed as a heavy assault tank, to spearhead attacks on fortified positions. However, as WW2 developed it was mainly used as a heavily armoured anti tank gun. The Panther was designed in response to the T34. Neither the Tiger nor the Panther were ideal for the big strategic moves. Post WW2 interviews with the German commanders in the Bulge revealed that they expected 20% of AFVs to break down on a road move. The comparable figure for Shermans was 1-2% "The commander of a unit equipped with Shermans can be confident of taking 99% of his vehicles into battle" Op Dracula trial 1943. Arguably the Tiger only an excellent tank only as long as it broke down in a good fire position.

    Furthermore, the Sherman was more use in country which wasn't "good tank country." The British chose to use the M4 and not the British made Churchill in Italy because it was thought that the 30t M4 would be more use than the 40t Churchill (Though the Churchill's Merritt-Brown transmission steering mechanism allowed it to spin round in the sharp turns in Italian mountain roads and villages than the M4s with their "relatively crude Cletrac steerring"(HMSO The Universal Tank: British Armour in WW2 Pt 2: David Fletcher)) German reports from Italy also comment favourably on the M4 's mobility compared to the Panther. When Peiper was given the mission to break through in the Ardennes led with his MkIVs, which were much better suited to the country roads and forest trails than the Panther. The much photographed King Tigers are left to bring up the rear (and the road surfaces!)

    It would also have been a very poor choice for the US Army to have taken 100 M26 over 500 M4s to Normandy. In the bocage M26 is less maneuverable and no less vulnerable to an 88 or a man with a panzerfaust. Its main role was as assault artillery and 500 x 75mm is a lot better than 100 x 90mm if the enemy are mainly infantrymen in hedgerows. The US Army did not meet any Tiger tanks until August, when the TD featured while Patton's M4 were doing the real work of exploitation. (Though 100 Pershings or Centurions might have evened the odds around Caen, where most of the tank battles took place)

    It is true that the Sherman tank for tank was not the equal of the Tiger nor the Panther. But the M4 was chosen for mass production so there would be lots of them, as part of an all arms armoury including infantry equipped with bazookas, M10, M18 M36 TD backed by AAA 90mm lots of field artillery and air support. In an armoured battle the quality of all arms command - the "conceptual component" is important. The September battles in Lorraine demonstrated how commanders like Bruce C Clarke and Creighton Abrams could combined their weapons to win tactical battles. This is no different to the Germans in 1940-41 who faced British French and Soviet tanks which were far better armed and armoured and beat them through better tactics.

    Adding my 2p to the 17 Pdr discussion.

    The M4 was intended to be upgunned to use the 76mm gun developed around the same time as the 17 Pdr. My understanding is that the 76mm turned out to be a bit of a troubled design. I think they had real problems with the ammunition and in solving them the gun ended up with far less penetration that was obtained from the 17 Pdr. However, when these decision were being made, hindsight was not available and there was a lot of pressure to make the iron out the faults with the 76mm work, as this was going to be the main TD gun as well.

    I think the US Army of WW2 had to do things in a fairly rigid way. It was a huge organisation which had expanded extremely rapidly. In order to do this the emphasis had to be on doing things by the book. I used to think the US Army must have been bonkers not to have adopted the british Funnies for D day. But, I don't think the US Army of WW2 could have copied with some units with technology which had to be maintained and supplied in some unique way. Either it had be in the system or it might break the system. Expecting the US Army to adopt a few Fireflies is comparable to Macdonalds running a few Haute Cuisine restaurants.

    Maybe if the US procurement people really liked the Firefly and the 17 pdr, they might have adopted it in the way the US adopted the 6 Pdr as the 57mm Anti tank gun. But they didn't.
    Re (1) - I think the Brits might have a part to play in the demise of the M25 and why the US Army relied on the M4 in 1944. The US army plan was to deal with Germany as quickly as possible by an invasion of NW Europe, in 1942 or 1943. In 1942 the M4 looked a good enough tank and 1943 looked a bad time to retool tank factories and introduce a new tank. Through a chain of events, and British desire to avoid what would have been a certain disaster in 1942 and a probably disaster in 1943, the Allies did not stage D Day unitl 1944, leavign the US , and British with tanks lagging behind the Panther.


    Re (2) I think the OP's passionate advocacy of the M4 has blinded him to some of the excellent qualities of the T34. The "good armour, a decent gun and theoretically decent automotive perfoance " is faint praise for a tank which gave the Germans enough of a fright to ask their manufacturers to copy it. The T34/76 version had a two man turret crew and poor vision and communications. It was a 1940 tank and available in quantity in mid 1941. It was also produced in large numbers by factories in almost unbeleivalble conditions. The 1944 version the T34/85 had a 85mm gun a three man turret crew and radios.

    Two of the other areas of relative weaknesses of the T34 may actually strengths and reflect weaknesses in the M4.

    US tank designers believed that the most efficient performance was achieved using front drive sprockets. Thus the M3 and M4 series had a drive shaft from the engine at the back under the fighting compartment. However efficient this was in automotive terms, the result was tanks which were higher than desirable (or the T34) making it easier to see and a bigger targets. US tanks after the M4 used rear drive.

    It was much harder and cumbersome to load the T34 with its under floor ammunition stowage compared to ready access in the Sherman turret to the rounds standing up around the turret . However, this is probably the biggest single weakness in the M4 design. This feature and the emphasis on speed of loading may have done more damage to the fighting efficiency of allied armour than any other design decision in WW2.

    The big problem with the M4 was it's justifiable reputation for burning catastrophically if hit - brewing up. M4's were known by the Germans as "Tommy cookers" and the British as "Ronsons " - from the advert "a light every time". British crews reckoned that if hit, the crew had three seconds to get out, before the tank burned. Pity the man trapped under a jammed hatch. There are also plenty of accounts of tanks burning with someone on an open radio microphone and of the curious inspecting what was left of tank crews after the tank brewed. In fact, Sherman crew losses were far lower than might be expected from the tank's reputation. For example in the great Tank charge at Op Goodwood 18 July 1944 the British armour lost an average of one casualty (k & w) for each tank knocked out. However, fear of fire is etched into the human psyche. Every AFV crewman is aware of the risk of fire - as a sometime AFV dweller I was. Fear of a firey death may be behind the reputation that British and US armour had for caution and timidity. By contrast German training notes for Normandy reminded Tiger crews that they were not immortal. This is the moral component of fighting power.

    For a long time during the war it was believed that the cause of M4's burning out was the petrol fuel. The applique armour welded on M4s in Normandy over the fuel tanks is evidence of this belief. It was only towards the end of the Normandy campaign when scientists started looking at the problem was identified. Shermans brewed up when a hot fragment penetrated the soft brass shell cases. The M4 ammunition layout, so helpful for fast loading placed a ring of propellent around the centre of visible mass of the Sherman, the usual aiming point for an anti tank gunner. This problem was exacerbated by the high silhouette, imposed by the choice of front drive sprockets. Units which encouraged tank crews to have ready use ammunition outside the armoured bins made it even easier for the tanks to brew. (1st Coldstream Guards had a strict policy of keeping ammunition in the armoured bins and suffered only one burn-out from 20 Sherman casualties (12 penetrations of the armour) on Op Bluecoat. Source 21 AG OR report No 12.) This is a similar flaw to the problems of ammunition storage in dreadnaughts which led to three British Battlecruisers blowing up at Jutland.

    It is a sad paradox. The design of the M4 ammuntion storage, and the emphasis on speedy loading by the army which encouraged lax ammunition storage was motivated out of a desire to maximise firepower and encourage offensive and aggressive spirit among tank men. However, the unintended consequence was to create a vehicle with safety flaws which undermined crew confidence in an otherwise excellent vehicle and encouraged caution in action.

    By contrast the under floor ammunition stowage of the T34 is harder to hit and more likely to be protected by folds in the ground. The T34 did not have a reputation for brewing up. From memory the Germans didn't understand the problem either because I recall reading some panzer general's memoirs where he mentioned that the Russian diesel powered tanks didn't burn like the German petrol engined ones.
     
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  16. green slime

    green slime Member

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    As an aside, this Soviet focus on low ground pressure continued for a long time; in the '90's when Sweden was looking for a replacement vehicle, the Swedish Army were horrified to find that the Soviet vehicles could cross terrain assumed to be impassable for tanks in the far North. A combination of relative low pressure, and high speed, meant the tank could motor across areas with ease.
     
  17. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    How I love the old threads! 5 Panthers to kill a Sherman? Sure!

    Panther #1 is in the shop waiting for a new transmission.

    Panther #2 is somewhere in a field near Lviv as the transmission(see above) decided to grind all its teeth to shavings at the worst moment

    Panther #3 went into self-combustion as the replacement gas feed line was a discontinued stock item and the gas ate through the ersatz rubber.

    Panther #4 is in the shop two waiting for a new engine but said engine is on a rail siding near Koblenz while the Chemnitz marshalling yard is repaired and traffic is restored. How it got to Koblenz nobody knows.

    Panther #5 blows the Sherman at 1200m with a single shot but is concussed to death by the other four (none of which penetrated), while the rest of the 8th Guards Mechanised Corps jump over the ridgeline and pass it by to run for the waterline behind to perform an assault crossing.
     
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  18. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Here are two panthers of several knocked out by a lone Firefly [​IMG] The village of Lingevres was taken by 9 DLI supported by the 4/7th DG and held in the face of counter attacks fron three directions by the Pz Lehr. Sgt Harris of the 4/7 was positioned covering the W entrances along which one German attack was mounted. His tank was off left of the picture and KO the two panthers in the photo. Even Paul Carell tells this tale in The Invasion thery're coming.

    The rest of the story is here. http://www.glcoupar.freeserve.co.uk/battleoflingevres1944/index.htm Colonel weeods and the men who fell in this battle are in two rwos in the Bayeux CWC.
     
  19. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I read an account by an artillery observer who called in a salvo on some German armor. He was able to inspect his work later and was surprised to find all the crew of a Panther dead even though the vehicle was not hit. The crew was inside, unmarked, dead.
     
  20. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Hmm that sounds a bit of a tall tale. Where was the account.

    Being inside a tank is fairly safe from everything apart from a direct hit with a medium round. v Rosen who commanded a troop of Tiger tanks in 503 Hy Tank Bn described the effects of heavy bombing on his soldiers. He described his 56 ton tanks being "tossed about like playing cards.but he described onr man dead and another who killed himself rather than endure the bombardment. .
     
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