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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. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Yes, especially the 90-mm guns. Even if the armored division being supported had 76-mm tanks those were still a minority in the tank companies whereas the TD platoon were at least armed with 76-mm weapons. There was a late Autumn engagement between the 2d Armored Division and the 9th Panzer Division, and the Americans said over half of the kills went to the M-36s supporting the tanks with their big 90s. This action convinced the 2d AD tankers that they needed more firepower above all other considerations.

    There were also training. Tank Destroyer crews were very well trained compared to average separate tank battalion or even armored division tank crews. On a side note, Steven Zaloga claims that in Armored Thunderbolt that Bradley ordered all tungsten carbide tipped rounds in the 12 Army Group to be distributed equally between all tanks and tank destroyers. The overall number of rounds issued per crew was still minuscule though.
     
  2. JBark

    JBark Member

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    I don't have it in front of me right now but I believe this is Zaloga's stand on it as well as Baily's (Faint Praise.) Baily believes that the M26 could not have reached the ETO any sooner than it did.
     
  3. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    The issue is not M26 but the 90-mm gun for the M4 tank.
     
  4. JBark

    JBark Member

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    Yes, and the 90mm gun would not have reached the ETO any faster on the M4 than it would on the M26. On the M26 it would have been on a heavier armored vehicle which, IIRC, carried more ammo.
     
  5. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Could a 90mm equipped Sherman have entered service service sooner than the M-26 Pershing? Almost certainly!

    The Armored Board had foreseen the problem with the inferior 75mm gun and had requested, in late 1943 that 1000 M4A3 Shermans equipped with the 90mm gun be produced in time for the invasion of France. Ordnance disagreed with the Armored Board and responded that the 90mm gun would seriously overload the Sherman chassis. Ordnance made a counterproposal that the solution to the problem should be the early production of the T-20 tank series with the 90mm gun(although the 90mm gun was not considered as the main weapon until the T-25, on the earlier T-2x tanks the 76mm was the weapon of choice). The final result was that Army Ground Forces turned down the Armored Board's proposal with the reasoning that destruction of enemy tanks was the purview of Artillery and Tank Destroyers, and that by giving the Shermans a more powerful gun would only encourage them to actively engage in tank-vs-tank battles, thus making them less effective in their intended role as a maneuver element & weapon of exploitation.

    Hunnicutt covers the debate about the 90mm Sherman on pgs. 212-213 in his Sherman book.
     
  6. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    I found at one point info that Patton had something to do with it...??

    "In early 1944, the US Army faced a critical decision regarding its armored forces: should it retain the M4 Sherman as its primary tank or accelerate production of the new M26 Pershing heavy tank? Although many armored commanders favored the Pershing, the tank debate continued until Lt Gen George S. Patton, the Army’s leading tank "expert," entered the fray. Patton favored the smaller (and supposedly more mobile) Sherman, noting that "tanks were not supposed to fight other tanks, but bypass them if possible, and attack enemy objectives in the rear." Ultimately, senior Allied commanders—including Gen Dwight Eisenhower—backed Patton and decided to increase production of the Sherman.

    probably from the Belton Y Cooper´s book.
     
  7. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    This has been called to question and I don't believe it has been well documented. For the invasion force it probably was a good idea however. The Sherman was getting near the max weight that the most common crains could lift so a heavier tank might have meant considerably fewer operating in Normandy at the time. It's also not at all clear that the M-26 would have done much if at all better in the bocage than a the M-4 did.
     
  8. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Having read Zaloga I do not recall it was his contention that 90-mm. gun M4 tanks would have been as slow to reach the field as the M26. While Cooper's alleged meeting never took place, the US Army's Official History for the Ordnance branch stated that the plans to upgun the M4 with the 90-mm. guns were scraped in favor of M26 Pershing, which the manufacturer insisted would come into action much sooner than it actually did.Certainly there was no technical difficulties involved in mounting the M36 turret (which had a very thick mantlet plate of 100-mm) on Sherman tanks (known as the M36B, 2,000 produced on the field). Unless there was a scarcity of turrets I can't see why upgunning the M4 would have been a problem.
     
  9. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Found it. According to The Ordanance Department: On the Beachhead and At Battlefront, the Armored Force Board insisted to have a M4 tank firing the 90-mm gun. General Barnes in charge of acquisitions objected to it, who at the time was invested in the T-20 series, wishing to sell the Army Ground Forces the idea that they should have a T-20 series tank armed with the 90-mm. cannon to be its battle tank.

    An attempt by the Armored Force Board in the fall of 1943 to provide the M4 with a more powerful gun, the 90-mm., had failed. Ordnance had begun development work on the 90-mm. antiaircraft gun to adapt it for use on tanks and gun motor carriages early in the war, after reports from Cairo had indicated that the Germans in Libya were successfully using their 88-mm. gun against tanks, and the new antitank 90-mm. was standardized as the M3 in September 1943. Thereupon, the Armored Force Board, believing that the M4 tank was the one tank that could be delivered in time for the invasion of
    [328]
    [HR][/HR]Europe, recommended that the 90-mm. gun be installed on a thousand M4A3 tanks. Maj. Gen. Gladeon M. Barnes, chief of the Ordnance Department's Research and Development Service, refused to go along with the recommendation; and General McNair turned it down on the advice of his 6-3, Brig. Gen. John M. Lentz.[SUP]32[/SUP]
    Barnes had nothing against the 90-mm. gun; on the contrary, he and Col. Joseph M. Colby, chief of the Development and Engineering Department at the Ordnance Tank-Automotive Center in Detroit, had done everything they could to get it to the battlefield on a gun motor carriage, over the determined opposition of Army Ground Forces, whose New Developments Division continued to insist that 75-mm. and 76-mm. guns were adequate. Thanks largely to Barnes's efforts, backed up by the Tank Destroyer Board, the M36 self-propelled 90-mm. got to Europe in time to play its part in the Roer plain battles. But Barnes did not want the 90-mm. on the M4 tank. He believed that the gun was too heavy for the tank; that it produced "too much of an unbalanced design."[SUP]33[/SUP]
    At the time, Barnes was in the thick of a fight, which he still hoped to win, to get a better tank than the M4 to the battlefield in 1944- The new T20 series tank, authorized by Services of Supply (later ASF) in May of 1942, was designed with more armor protection, lower silhouette, and more speed than the M4. By early spring of 1943, the Ordnance effort was concentrated on the T23. Wider, heavier, and lower than the M4, with wider tracks and therefore lower ground pressure, it had a rear drive and an electrical transmission, which made it much easier to operate. The T23 was highly maneuverable and could do 35 miles an hour, as compared with the 29 miles of the fastest M4; its frontal armor was 3 inches thick, about an inch thicker than that of most of the M4's.[SUP]34[/SUP] The design, according to an impartial observer, "would have kept the United States in the forefront of medium tank development."[SUP]35[/SUP] In April of 1943, ASF authorized Ordnance to procure 250 of these new tanks.[SUP]36[/SUP]
    Very early in the development work on the new medium tank, in the fall of 1942, Ordnance found that it was possible to mount the 90-mm. gun on the T23-Barnes was all for it, and was strongly supported by General Campbell, Chief of Ordnance; but Maj. Gen. Jacob L. Devers, then commanding general of the Armored Force, refused to go along, and in the end the T23 mounted the 76-mm. gun. In an effort to get more firepower, Ordnance produced a second design, the T25 mounting the 90-mm. gun; and a third, the T26, with the 90-mm. gun, an additional inch of armor, and tracks five inches wider. Ordnance recommended
    [329]
    [HR][/HR]that 40 of the 250 new tanks authorized be of the T25 type, and that 10 be T26's, and ASF approved. All had the electrical transmission.[SUP]37[/SUP]
    Then began the battle to get the new tanks accepted by the using arms. Unfortunately, the electrical transmission laid the tanks open to some cogent objections. It added about 3,800 pounds to the weight, increasing the ground pressure and adding to the difficulty of getting the T25 and Ts6 over Bailey bridges (and on European railroads), even after the revision of AR 850-15 in August 1943, raising the Engineers' tank weight limitation for bridges to 35 tons. Also, prolonged tests of the T23 at Fort Knox, Kentucky, by the Armored Board indicated that the electric drive would require excessive maintenance. For these reasons, the T23 was ultimately considered unsatisfactory by Army Ground Forces for use in overseas theaters. Because of the weight consideration, the decision was made in August 1943 to convert the T25 and T26 to torquematic transmission; in this form they were redesignated the T25E1 and T26E1.[SUP]38[/SUP]
    Even with the weight objection removed, it seemed all but impossible to sell Army Ground Forces on the new tanks. Ground Forces was sold on the M4, so easy to ship and to handle; it was committed to the "exploitation" role of armor; it had not as yet had any experience with armored operations comparable to that of the Germans in Russia, which had led the Germans to develop the Panther and Tiger tanks. General McNair had no objection to "experimenting" with 90-mm. tanks, but felt that by supplying them AGF would be encouraging tank versus tank battles instead of giving antitank work to the field artillery and tank destroyers to which he thought it belonged. In October 1943 General Barnes's urgent recommendation for immediate production of 500 each of the new tanks, T25E1 and T26E1, and the T23 was turned down.[SUP]39[/SUP]
     
  10. leccy1

    leccy1 Member

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    This quote I would tend to place in a specific context, what tank would the average German Infantryman see more of, T34's or their own supporting armour? I am of the opinion it would be Soviet armour so morale would be adversly affected, similar to the anti RAF feeling at Dunkirk.

    By the British and US maybe, the Soviets had faced them in 1942, the British also showed they could be stopped by 6pdr fire, did that have any bearing.

    Just what was the death rate for Sherman crews, reading a few statistics I have found it seemed to round out at 1 per destroyed tank so 1/5th, how does that compare with any other armoured vehicle. Do you have any references for the statistics?

    As an example the early 17pdr HE rounds used the same propellant as the AT rounds, this meant they had to have thicker walls to the shell to withstand the shock of firing, thicker walls mean less HE fill. Later rounds had less propellant so meaning the shell cases could be thinner and more HE fill could be used.

    The rounds were kept the same weight and used the same propellant as this simplified training and sighting, only one set of sight settings required for all rounds as they were pretty closely matched ballisticly.

    Reducing the propellant charge allowed the weight of the HE fill to be increased and increased the barrel life as you stated.

    I see a lot of claims that the German armour was inferior to the French but the majority of French tanks had low velocity infantry support weapons with no AT capability (not to mention over 600 were Renault FT17's), Those that had good AT capability's were generally hampered with poor range, limited view, one man turrets, lack of radios, poor reliability.

    It takes alot to make a tank good, thick armour alone does not make them superior, just harder to knock out.

    With the Stugs I have read that they were refused by the armoured corps due to the difficulty they had already in training enough men for the new tanks coming out of the factorys along with the doctrine and tactics, introducing a fundamentally new piece of equipment would make this harder. The Infantry had their light portable infantry guns and so the Stugs went to the artillery as close assault support weapons.

    The Soviet soldiers seem to be quite ready to criticise the tanks they served in, I have read accounts from Soviet tankers calling just about all of their vehicles as 'A Coffin for x Brothers' (strangely not about the Valentine 'Light' Tank), the Sherman seemed well liked for crew comfort but had many faults related to flotation and climbing abilities.

    More likely that until recently the information from the former Soviet Union was rather limited in the west about the equipment and personal views.
     
  11. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    I'm mildly surprised (but not really) that this went down the old M26/T23/90mm route yet again - you'd have possibly thought people would have had enough of it.
    http://www.ww2f.com/armor-armored-fighting-vehicles/39015-why-didnt-us-standardize-t23e3-2.html
    http://www.ww2f.com/wwii-films-tv/25506-sherman-deathtrap-2.html
    Etc. etc, etc. Many others out there.
    (And I don't think anyone serious now takes Cooper's book as any sort of decent source, it having become so tainted with assertion and 'Ambrose-ism' - interesting as a memoir, but not credible as a source on armoured production and the debates therein).

    Back to T34's perception as a better machine...
    A very significant point I feel.
    When looking at WW2 historiography in relation to 'The Eastern Front', we can't ever forget just how much of the accepted picture until about 15 years ago was near exclusively built on German accounts - from interrogation & analysis by Western Intelligence to General's memoirs, and all created within the context of the cold war and a relatively closed information stream from the Soviet sphere.

    Germans in 'The East' (perhaps a telling point that we even use the German term for the theatre) were soundly beaten by an enemy using T34 as their main tank - apologists on the German side for their complex defeat would therefore, it seems to me, often cite the T34 as a remarkable/superior/effective machine.
    Add to that the T34s long postwar service, and the necessity in the Western military to keep bigging up (whether rightly or wrongly, justifiably or not) Soviet strengths in order to keep the perceived threat high enough to justify their own required advances in technology & equipment. Combine that with much of what would come from the Soviet side for 50 years postwar being strong Propaganda, and there's a reasonable basis for a 'perception' of a machine maybe somewhat out of proportion to the actuality.

    Whatever.
    M4 & T34 - not perfect (what is), but both did the work that was put in front of them with an appropriateness for the task, & in the context of the realities of the day.

    I've got Michulec's book on T34 - 'Mythical weapon', certainly the most in-depth coverage yet in print that I've seen, and he's quite critical, but I must confess I haven't read it properly as the style is such heavy going. Might have to give it another go... but it's a brick of a thing and a tad hard to read in bed...

    ~A
     
  12. JBark

    JBark Member

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    Read again. Zaloga points out on page 128 (from Armored Thunderbolt) that the first discussion of putting a T26 turret on the M4 occurred in April 1944 after it had been realized that the Panther numbers were much higher than previously thought. Chrysler put together a prototype but Ordnance halted the hybrid. The caption under the photo of the states it was ended when they realized these tanks would arrive in Europe no sooner than the T26E3.

    Ain't she a beaut though. Imagine what our discussions might be about if she had been made in numbers;

    View attachment 16530
     

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  13. JBark

    JBark Member

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    I got beat up on another forum for referring to Michulec's book as a good reference on the T-34. Apparently he is thought of, in some circles, as heavily biased because he is a Pole. All Poles hate Russians and anything Russian I was told. I too have skimmed it but need to give it a good reading. The unfortunate thing is that getting good, accurate info on T-34's during the war is limited and varied. The U.S. received ...was it one or two...to test at Aberdeen. The question is whether these tanks were made pre-war or during the early part of the war (after the Soviets scaled down cost and time to make the tank out of desperation.) Good thing to also note that post war T-34's would not be hurried and should reflect an increase in quality.
     
  14. Walter_Sobchak

    Walter_Sobchak Member

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    The Michulec book is definitely a mixed bag. It's very detailed with a ton of information but it also is extremely biased. I wouldn't have problems with anyone using it as a source for information, but I am a little leery of some of the author's conclusions. I believe it is out of print and copies are quite expensive, but fortunately there are PDF version available for download through torrent and download sites if one googles the book title.
     
  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I remember reading something just a bit different. I think it was something to the effect of they wouldn't arrive more than a few (1-3?) months earlier than the T26. However the T26 arrived several months later than they were looking at at the time. Of course I can't find the source of that now so it's possible I'm misremembering.
     
  16. JBark

    JBark Member

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    I was advised that this Amazon.com: Russian Armour Volume 4: T-34 Medium Tank (1939-1943) (9780711032651): Mikhail Baryatinskiy: Books is one of the better English text sources. I have to wonder if these are bias free?

    I'm shocked, shocked I say to hear that such things go on.;)
     
  17. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    If that is his contention, it doesn't square with Ordnance Department's official history. Probably there were two attempts to mount the 90 on the M4 tank, the first one in 43 that never went past the conceptual stage, and the second at 43 by which time it was too late.
     
  18. JBark

    JBark Member

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    I should pull out Faint Praise but I am not at home. IIRC Baily feels the Army's history was not correct and easily dumped responsibility where it did not belong. I find it hard to see anyone beating the drum for the need of the 90 to fight the Panther in '43. Our reports were that it was an independent battalion tank like the Tiger based on the Soviet reports form Kursk and our experience in Italy was no different. Why would anyone be discussing a need for it in '43?
     
  19. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Now I am speculating, but is it hard to believe that at least some officers would be prevailed upon by the British? They seem to have taken the threat of future German armor seriously. Also, the Army's history is fast to point out that the overall institutional momentum for more powerful guns did not amount to much.
     
  20. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Given that the British were already actively working on mounting the 17-pounder on a tank hull in 1942, and actively working on mounting the 17-pounder on a Sherman by early-to-mid 1943, I would think that the US Army's Armored Board would have been, as you say, "beating the drum," on the idea of a getting the 90mm into a tank by mid-to-late 1943 at the latest. Still, the US Army's internal squabbles over the use of tanks are well-documented, as is their quick back-tracking once the Shermans entered combat in Normandy. At which point, most, in not all resistance to up-gunning the Sherman and getting the 90mm into action, quickly disappeared.
     

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