Jump to content

Tank Destroyer Photos Posted


Recommended Posts

Indeed there are many new, but not too good, photos. Thank you. I've heard good things about your book and may soon look for a copy.

BTW, I've never heard the term TD applied to anything in the US Army aside from the M3, M10, M18, and M36, but you are applying it to towed AT guns as well as dedicated tank assault infantry teams. Can you tell me where you picked that up?

Michael

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Michael,

I've always understood that the indep towed A-Tk gun bns were 'TD'. See here for example.

Harry,

nice site. Interestingly, the blurb for Tank Killers seems to indicate that you think that the TD doctrine was sound. For example:

By VE day, the tank destroyer battalions had achieved impressive records, generally with kill/loss rates heavily in their favor. Yet the Army after the war concluded that the concept of a separate TD arm was so fundamentally flawed that not a single battalion existed after November 1946.
I thought it was conventional wisdom that the TD doctrine was deeply flawed?

Regards

JonS

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jon: My view is that TD doctrine was resonably sound when battlefield conditions matched those anticipated when the doctrine was formed--namely at the height of the German Blitzkrieg--but that it was incomplete, particularly in the absence of a plan to use TDs on the offense and in combined-arms teams. I also argue that the doctrine did not matter all that much in the real world. The army in the field figured out how to use the TDs effectively, and adjusted the de facto doctrine as new conditions demanded.

The towed 3-inch guns were tank destroyers, no ifs, ands, or buts. The towed TD was close to a conceptual failure, however, and the guns generally filled the roll of infantry antitank guns. The only tank-assault infantry teams mentioned are TD men, who were commando-trained to assault tanks as infantry when their vehicles were knocked out.

Cheers,

Harry

[ October 19, 2004, 02:19 AM: Message edited by: Harry Yeide ]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hah! I can't believe it. I recently bought(and lost, dammit)your book, Steel Victory. You wrote that CC5 is the greatest tactical wargame ever, or something to that effect. I couldn't help thinking, "Man, has he even heard of CM yet?" Of course, I had no idea that you were a forum member. Nice pics, too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Its funny that US tanks had the gyro stabilizer and the TDs didnt. For a group of commando trained tank killers, that sought to Seek, Strike and Destroy, they didnt have the equipment.

The US M10 TD did not even have power traverse!

I corresponded with a towed 76mm TD soldier and he sent me his memoirs (rough draft). They were hardly commandos. They often fired indirect missions and even had ammo with different charges for indirect fire. Some of these defensive towed units were converted late in the war to M18 Hellcats.

It would be good to know if the TD units had first dibs on special ammo like the HVAP.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by JonS:

thought it was conventional wisdom that the TD doctrine was deeply flawed?

Regards

JonS

It is, but not because TDs were ineffective. TD doctrine was flawed because regular tanks that TD doctrine said would only fight infantry kept encountering enemy tanks. TD's themselves were quite effective.

The TD doctrine was premised on encountering large masses of German tanks as had been used in earlier in the war. Against a main thrust like this, specialized TDs would make some sense. But in '44, there were very few large armored spearheads, because, among other reasons, overwhelming air superiority would make huge tank formations very vulnerable. So once the Germans began spreading their tanks out, you couldn't count on always having TDs around. Which was problematic.

FFIW, the US Army at that time used the term TD to refer to both vehicles and towed guns - if you read the official history of the bulge, for example, there are always accounts of placing a TD in an ambush position, and you often can't tell whether they're talking about an M-10 or a towed 57mm AT gun until later.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The 76mm gun in most US TDs was not effective against German heavy armor unless they had HVAP (and even then was marginal). This ammo was very rare in tank units but the TDs may have had some more than tankers.

The US 90mm gun was the most effective gun using conventional ammo but was still outgunned and out-shot (low rate of fire) by turreted tanks and German SP. This gun may not have had HVAP till very late in the war also. The M36 did have power traverse though and was probably the most successful TD solely due to its gun.

I find the whole commando aspect sort of funny and while the early training may have emphasised such heroics, in battle a bailed out TD crew would be more concerned with applying first aid and evacuating the area.

Supposedly the British had M10s in the infantry divisions as part of the AT regt. This gave a mobile response force to help the stationary 17 pdr and 6 pdr guns.

[ October 19, 2004, 12:38 PM: Message edited by: Mr. Tittles ]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Mr. Tittles:

the British had M10s in the infantry divisions as part of the AT regt. This gave a mobile response force to help the stationary 17 pdr and 6 pdr guns.

Sort of, but not really. It would help if you read up on the doctrine of how they were actually used, rather than making suppositions based on your own frame of reference.

Each of the batterys had a mix of 12 guns, and would generally be in spt of a inf bde. This meant that there was no 'mass' of SPs waiting for something to happen. The different weapons were each used to support a different phase of the battle. The SPs would follow close up behind an advance and take over from tanks on the obj, allowing the tanks to withdraw and re-org. When it was safe enough to bring forward towed guns they would move up and take over from the SPs, who would then themselves withdraw and re-org. With night attacks the towed guns generally didn't move up until dawn.

The mix of towed 6- and 17-prs was retained due to the great difficulty in getting the very large and very heavy (heavier than a 25-pr), albeit very effective, 17-pr into position.

OTOH, the corps A-Tk regts of 48 guns - half towed, half SP - were kept as a general reserve.

Regards

JonS

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Okay. Shmavis: I actually said that it was Combat Mission that was the greatest wargame ever and got me going on the book. I recommend strongly that you buy another copy, or maybe two just to be safe.

Mr. Hedges in essence gets at the heart of the doctrinal problem as it is usually cast: It was *tank doctrine* that was deeply flawed, because that said tanks should not fight tanks. The debate on that question, only bits and pieces of which you see cited in books (and I, too, left out some great stuff because of space) is fascinating. From the beginning, there was a school that argued nonsense! Tanks have to fight tanks, that's the way the real world works.

I find that discussion here tends to get too wrapped around the axel of gun penetrating power, which is only part of the story. The M10 served effectively to the end of the war, as did the M18. Tank fighting is as much about tactics and tactical circumstance as it is about gun power. You find that in Italy, TD crews were immensely confident about their ability to kill Tigers, Panthers, Ferdinands, etc., because the few times they were encountered in large numbers, the TDs could always find a way to get a flank shot using their doctrine. There was some nervousness after rough encounters in Normandy, but TD crews soon regained their confidence. In the book, I cite one commander who said casually, we have their number, because we can almost always maneuver for the kill. This, by the way, was one of the messages I tried to deliver in "Steel Victory," because the supposedly grossly inferior Sherman crews did darn well, thank you very much, except when they were completely green or caught in a toe-to-toe, head-on match where maneuver and tactics went out the window.

Excerpt from the radio logs (G=George, code for A/743d Tank Battalion) for 17 November 1944:

0917 G14 G The doughs would like us to fire in haystacks just beyond Phase Line 3. There are vehicle tracks there.

0918 G11 G10 There are friendly doughs in there up ahead. Let me pull up with you to help them.

0919 G10 G11 Don’t go sticking your head out for trouble. Be careful!

0920 G11 G10 I can see that machine gun that is firing at us, and if our doughs will get down, I can dispose of it.

G G11 Be careful of our doughs!

G14 G The doughs are 300 yards beyond Phase Line Green.

G G14 Give us coordinates, and we will give ‘em help.

G11 G We put AP and HE in there. Soon as we move, I will let you know. I think we did some good because there is no more firing coming out of there.

0922 G14 G One of our boys is laying some in there now.

0924 G11 G The doughs want us to lay a few big ones in there because they believe it to be a pillbox.

0935 G G14 I know Company C wants help to take the objective, but I will not take any more chances on roads not swept. We are with Company B now.

0937 G11 G10 Better put out panels, hadn’t we? Plenty of air support up there.

Cheers,

Harry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Forgot the commando-trained thing. The training left the TD Force thinking it was an elite formation, which it was. The photo on my site is of TD men in training with sticky bombs and molotov cocktails. The TD guys figured out almost immediately, however, that "nekkid" tank hunting was dumb and didn't do it. The recon guys, however, did some commando-like stuff.

Cheers,

Harry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Michael Emrys,

Leavenworth Papers No. 12, Seek, Strike, and Destroy: U.S. Tank Destroyer Doctrine in World War II, by Dr. Christopher Gabel of the Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas make it abundantly clear, repeatedly, that there were towed as well as SP tank destroyers. For examples, see pg. 47 for the TO&E diagram for the "Tank destroyer battalion (towed) 1943," and commentary (pg. 63) on TDs in the Ardennes campaign "On the negative side, the towed tank destroyer had proved to be a failure." I could cite many more proofs, but these should suffice.

Regards,

John Kettler

[ October 20, 2004, 03:14 AM: Message edited by: John Kettler ]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Re: communication. This limited selection of radio logs covers only a few days, but its the only such document I found in any tank battalion records. By this time, most tanks would have had the field telephones installed, but the 743d was just beginning to install SCR-300 radios in company and platoon command tanks. Some infantry desires are clearly being relayed (they want us to shoot the haystacks), but the single specific reference to means is a radio command to a tank crew to look out for a GI who is going to come point out a target, which suggests face-to-face communication.

Cheers,

Harry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by John Kettler:

Michael Emrys,

Leavenworth Papers No. 12, Seek, Strike, and Destroy: U.S. Tank Destroyer Doctrine in World War II, by Dr. Christopher Gabel of the Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas make it abundantly clear, repeatedly, that there were towed as well as SP tank destroyers. For examples, see pg. 47 for the TO&E diagram for the "Tank destroyer battalion (towed) 1943," and commentary (pg. 63) on TDs in the Ardennes campaign "On the negative side, the towed tank destroyer had proved to be a failure." I could cite many more proofs, but these should suffice.

Regards,

John Kettler

Seek, Strike and Destroy: U.S. Tank Destroyer Doctrine in World War II
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In Seek, Strike and Destroy: U.S. Tank Destroyer Doctrine in World War II, its very clear that the the US 'proved' its TD theory in silly wargames that had nothing to do with battlefield realities even at that time they were proved.

German 'blitzing' in the desert was not a fleet of massed AFV sprinting about. They used slow methodical combined arms attacks that was covered by long range antitank fire themselves. They exploited situations by applying fire superiority.

In the report to Eisenhower at the end of WWII regarding US and German equipment, its very clear that in situations where terrain dictates long range fire and vehicle flotation, US equipment was badly out classed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Mr. Tittles:

In Seek, Strike and Destroy: U.S. Tank Destroyer Doctrine in World War II, its very clear that the the US 'proved' its TD theory in silly wargames that had nothing to do with battlefield realities even at that time they were proved.

German 'blitzing' in the desert was not a fleet of massed AFV sprinting about. They used slow methodical combined arms attacks that was covered by long range antitank fire themselves. They exploited situations by applying fire superiority.

That is true and not true. The prewar exercises were without a doubt flawed in that they did not reflect Germany's combined-arms approach in some ways. But there is a phase in the TD's employment in North Africa that most folks overlook, including to some extent Dr. Gabel in his otherwise excellent Leavenworth paper. M3s from the 701st TD Bn engaged French tanks shortly after the landings at Oran in something approximating the conditions anticipated in exercises and doctrine. M3s from the same battalion exploited their fast and light advantage to deploy rapidly to support the Tunisian Task Force shortly thereafter and experienced doctrine- and exercise-like meeting engagements with Axis armor. At El Guettar in early 1943, the 601st TD Bn (M3), eventually backed by two companies from the 899th (M10), played the key role in defeating a 10th Panzer Division attack that almost perfectly fit the conditions of the exercises and doctrine. Kasserine Pass did, too, for that matter, but American commanders failed to deploy the available TD battalions according to doctrine in almost every case, and they did not prove overly effective.

German attacks against the Salerno and Anzio beachheads fairly closely resembled the conditions foreseen by TD doctrine, as did the results. So, too, did the German counterattacks against the 4th Armored Division in Lorraine, and even to some extent the fighting in the Ardennes. Exactly? No, but close enough for the TDs to do their thing as the men had been trained. And when has reality exactly matched prewar exercises?

But again, a key point is that de facto doctrine was fast emerging on the battlefield as early as North Africa. TDs took the point of armored columns, acted as assault guns, and began firing as artillery (well before Dr. Gabel says they did, by the way). None of these roles were foreseen by official doctrine. The de facto evolution continued through the war's end.

Cheers,

Harry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The prewar exercises had the tanks needing to crush the antitank guns to get a victory and the antitank guns just needed to fire to score a kill. It was like kids playing at war.

I think the British approach was a better use of M10. If the US had given each infantry division a TD battalion consisting of half towed 76mm and half M10 as an integral part of the division, it would have given them much better antiarmor protection. If the towed 76mm could have been hauled around by turretless M5 tanks, then a reasonable offense could be undertaken by the infantry divisions also.

The armored formations should have used just M18 and M36 combinations. I do not think a 30 ton M10 added that much to the armored formations.

[ October 20, 2004, 03:58 PM: Message edited by: Mr. Tittles ]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The TD policy was largely slapped down and the rewrite of the FM reflected this in the later war years. The decision to go with half towed TD further weakened the TD org and showed just how out of touch the whole US policy was. This is because other nations WERE going for some form of SP AT assets. By the time the US finally got its head out of its assets, it was converting towed TDs to M18s and M36 on the fly with little or no real training (especially no commando training).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Harry Yeide:

The only tank-assault infantry teams mentioned are TD men, who were commando-trained to assault tanks as infantry when their vehicles were knocked out.

You certainly don't see this in CM. There's another post (in the Wish List?) in which the suggestion is made that crews should carry some secondary AT capability. Fine for gun crews, but CM certainly doesn't follow early-war "doctrine." And

it shouldn't. What makes sense to a man sitting at a desk (or sitting at a computer game) does not necessarily make sense to a man just blown out of an M10.

The TD guys figured out almost immediately, however, that "nekkid" tank hunting was dumb and didn't do it. The recon guys, however, did some commando-like stuff.
And now we see why CM doesn't arm TD crews. Reminds me of the Audie Murphy MoH incident, in which a TD (wonder what it was, it had an MG) got hit and burned, and AM climbed on top as the crew snuck away and hid in the woods. A far smarter and more useful deployment of commando skills.

(Harry, you must live just across 410 from me. I'm in UP.)

[ October 21, 2004, 05:27 PM: Message edited by: Dave Stockhoff ]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...