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Panzer V against any US tank


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Catering for all eventualities is a luxury not usually vouchsafed to armies in wartime. Trying to estimate the major threats and effectively addressing them is what they try to do. I think in this case they got it about as close to right as was humanly possible.

You seem to be assuming that most Shermans were lost to German AFVs. That is not the case. Even if it were, that still leaves open the problem of Shermans functioning effectively as infantry support weapons.

Look, I am not saying the the 76 was a bad gun or that it should not have been mounted on a Sherman. Clearly, having some around was a good thing. That does not mean that the whole fleet needed to convert to the 76.

Well, gee, guess what? At the end of the war, the majority of Shermans in US service were still armed with the 75. Having a 76 or two in your platoon was assuredly a good idea, but for most of the jobs that needed doing, the 75 was the better weapon.

Michael

My suggestion was that the US Army decided the 76mm was a better option. So regardless of the number of tanks in the Army at the end of the war the 75mm was being wound down. Despite the shortage of gun barrels there were twice as many Sherman 76mm being built than 75mm in 1944 and six times as many in 1945.

The conclusion must be that in light of their experience the US Army felt the 76mm was the way to go. Given it also made TD battalions less needed and simplified logistics it is surely a logical step. And the 105mm armed Sherman provided some heavier duty HE for special occasions. : )

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dt - um, the commanders *at the time* who definitely knew better, and said so, were *fired* by an incompetent leadership for advocating superior military policies. It is not 30 years of hindsight to notice that, nor to notice that the quality of German operational direction of the war declined steeply precisely when those men were replaced. Moreover, since many contemporaries (of ours, not theirs) still have this notion that German operational direction was something they were better at, it is necessary to point out that this is not the case from the fall of 1942 on, with only a handful of exceptions - and isn't true pretty much ever from mid 1943 on. And that an enourmous portion of the operational reputation the German army gained in the first half of the war was due to the skills of literally just half a dozen men, all of whom were fired well before the end of it.

Similarly, it is not hindsight from 2011 that tell us that Russian tactical handling was inept, nor only obscure conclusions of operations research after the war (though the last does support it as factual). It was also the immediate preoccupation of a little obscure organization called ***STAVKA*** and reams of its general staff studies of what was going collosally wrong. The revisionism in the matter is our contempories pretending that losses didn't matter to Russians because they were going to win anyway - something decidedly less obvious to officers at the time, who had no such cavalier attitude toward the man for man and formation for formation underperformance of their own forces. Instead they had this crazy notion that it was their professional duty as officers to determine the causes of that difference and eradicate it, as far as possible.

I don't disagree with your analysis. Though I am not sure that until after the event that we can say the right or wrong people were fired. So yes it is easy to see who performed best WITH hindsight. I have absolute faith there were men in most forces who recognised something was wrong and deduced an answer.

But then history has a way of kicking us in the pants and ruining reputations. How would Montgomery be regarded now if Market Garden had succeeded ?

Anyway if I make the war an analogy of a 100metre race and we decide who the winners and losers are in the generalship stakes in the preliminary heats then that is not necessarily a good method. Particularly as in this case it was an 800 metre race.

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I find it ironic that they didn't put M10, 18 and 36's in the Tank Units rather than their own special commands. If the US TD's had been employed in a similar manner to the Firefly, perhaps it might have helped ?

According to Osprey books US Tank and Tank Destroyer Bn in the ETO 1944-45 and US Armored Divisions (The ETO 1944-45) tank destroyers although not organic to arm divisions were almost always assigned as one bn each to the arm divisions. (pg44 Osprey US Arm Divs) and:

(pg 70-71 Osprey Tk Dest Bn) "At the time of the D-Day landings there were 30 tank destroyer bns in England of which 11 were towed and 19 self-propelled...... Almost from the onset the bns were attached to the infantry and armored divisions." The M10 bns going mostly to armored divisions and the towed and some M10 bns to the infantry (who, says this book, much preferred the M4 tank bn as they had 50 M4's plus 6 105mm to 36 M10and the M4 had better HE rounds). Initially there were no M4 76mm tanks in Normandy (pg 30 US Arm Div) during Jun and they only were sent in from England on July 24, 1944. Still in Aug there were only 95 76mm gun tanks to about 800 75mm gun tanks in the armored divisions.

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Good stuff Narses. Seems good planning that the UK armour had the German armour to play with. If only because the 6lber, if worse came to worse, was an excellent ATG. : )

Umm, was the M1 57mm not just a rebadged/licenced 6 pounder? Would've thought if any planning entered into the matchup it would've revolved around the Fireflies and their adequacy against Kitty armour (as opposed to the shortcomings of the US armoury in that department at the outset).

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Narses,

I think Magpie is talking about having TDs embedded in the Tank Bns, not whole bns of the things within divisions.

The British sort-of went down that path after initial experiences in Normandy. The Churchill regiments in the Tank Brigades did not have any organic 17-pr, so troops of M-10s and M-10Cs were semi-permanently cross attached from the SP A-Tk regiments to given the tanks adequate A-Tk firepower at the unit (and lower) level.

They also changed the structure of the Armd Recce Regts in their Armd Divs, which initially omitted any Fireflies. Since they were effectively being used as a fourth armd regt anyway, they were issued with Fireflies to up their A-Tk firepower and make them functionally identical.

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Yes 1 per troop in fact like the Firefly

Since the Fireflies were so brand new - most having been issued in Apr or May - there were a couple of different orgns used as unit figured out what to do with the things. 1/troop was most common, but some sqns concentrated them all into one 'anti-tank' troop.

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Narses,

I think Magpie is talking about having TDs embedded in the Tank Bns, not whole bns of the things within divisions.

The British sort-of went down that path after initial experiences in Normandy. The Churchill regiments in the Tank Brigades did not have any organic 17-pr, so troops of M-10s and M-10Cs were semi-permanently cross attached from the SP A-Tk regiments to given the tanks adequate A-Tk firepower at the unit (and lower) level.

They also changed the structure of the Armd Recce Regts in their Armd Divs, which initially omitted any Fireflies. Since they were effectively being used as a fourth armd regt anyway, they were issued with Fireflies to up their A-Tk firepower and make them functionally identical.

Thanks.

I didn't pick up on that. But almost immediately they requested the M4A1 76mm gun tanks waiting in England and then embedded them in the tank bns of 2nd and 3rd Arm Divs. Though it appears we were not flexible enough because there was only a limited number of the 76mm gun tanks in England (maybe 90) and many, many M10s (743 in July). Even by Nov 44 the 2nd and 3rd Arm Divs had only 60, 76mm gun tanks and about 130 other tanks each.

Seems to me embedding one in every plt would have been a great immediate solution until numbers of the 76mm gun tank became available.

This entire problem had to do with the internal issues about the role of the tank destroyers in the Army. The head of the tank destroyer command was at war with Gen Marshall and Gen McNair over the use, capabilities and NEED for tank destroyers. Especially after their less than sterling performance in North Africa. Mc Nair's solution was to crerate towed tank destroyer bns but this proved a failure and finally Bradley wihout authorization started disbanding them at the end of 44 and asigning the personnel to self-propelled tank destroyer units.

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The head of the tank destroyer command was at war with Gen Marshall and Gen McNair over the use, capabilities and NEED for tank destroyers.

McNair was the head of TDs (and AGF)

Especially after their less than sterling performance in North Africa.

TDs did OK in NA. Their main problem was the feeble nature of most of the weapons with which they were equipped.

McNair's solution was to create towed tank destroyer bns

I don't know if he created any - the initial plan called for 220 bns, which was eventually pared back to 106 then eventually down to 78 in Oct '43. But even that smaller number saw only 50-odd comitted to battle. McNair did ensure that half would be towed and equipped with the 3-in gun, which was immeasurably better than either the towed 37mm or the 75mm M3 halftrack, based on a somewhat flawed reading of the lessons in NA. He wasn't alone in that though. The dire shortage of 105mm shells in NWE in 1944 was due to another misreading of the lessons from NA.

but this proved a failure and finally Bradley wihout authorization started disbanding them at the end of 44 and asigning the personnel to self-propelled tank destroyer units.

I doubt that was Bradley's doing, exactly. Also, as more and newer SP TDs became available units were re-equipped. They weren't disbanded and the men sent off elsewhere.

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A little run down on what US armor was actually facing in Normandy, since there seem to be decidedly unrealistic perceptions of the matter.

Before Cobra, a grand total of 79 Panthers operated on the US portion of the front in running order. Supplementing that total I count a grand total of 28 Jagdpanzers. Even those figures were not all present at once, as around 20 of the Panthers were 2nd Panzer (Heer) on the hinge between the US and British portions of the front, and some were from 2SS and slow in arriving from the south of France. In addition, by the time of Cobra losses (especially in the Lehr counterattack in early July, but also just the grinding fight throughout the month reducing both Lehr and 2SS) reduced the combined total of AFVs able to stop a 75mm round from the front and in running status to all of 63.

For comparison, the infantry divisions and independent StuG formations on the US portion of the front fielded 197 AFVs against the US, and the Panzer formations (including 17SS) added another 176 Panzer IVs and StuGs. There were also about 30 antique captured French tanks and left over Panzer III shorts and the like.

In all, only about one AFV in five that the US actually faced in July, before the breakout and Mortain attempt, could stop a 75mm short round from the front. And the absolute number of them is about 100 vehicles. The US fielded about that many 76mm Shermans and about that many again 105mm Shermans, and several times that number of M10s.

The total AFV count to that point was 500 - outnumbered by the US M10s alone.

After the breakout and into the Mortain counterattack, the Germans throw in more armor from the rest of the theater. 116th Panzer arrives, 2nd Panzer (Heer) gives the US its undivided attentions (though it is down to 21 running Panthers, its Panzer IV battalion is still nearly full strength), etc. In all this is a wave of another 100 AFVs with thick enough front armor to stop a 75mm round, and slightly more again of vanilla AFVs (mostly Panzer IVs, some StuGs). In all this brings the armor count faced to about 750 vehicles, with about 30% of them able to bounce a 75mm short round - but solidly half of that thicker front total only arrives after the breakout, under extremely poor operational circumstances. And is basically lost in a matter of days.

Meanwhile, as to the question why the US was still fielding 75mm gun Shermans - other than the obvious parallel question why the Germans were still fielding French Renaults, or 4/5ths of their fleet against the US in Normandy in the form of Panzer IVs and StuGs - the primary reason is simply when they were built.

The US built 30,000 Sherman tanks before they ever saw a Panther, because no Panther existed anywhere but on a drawing board. The US lost only a handful of tanks in the fighting in Africa, or in Italy up to Anzio, which was the first time they encountered a Panther. In the meantime, the US built more M10s than the Germans built Panthers over the entire war, a solid year earlier than the Panthers appeared.

The US simply didn't lose its mid war tank fleet. It wasn't in action continually on a long front like the Germans in Russia. A third of the German tank fleet at Kursk are turreted Panzer IIIs or short IVs - because they survived 1942. Well, pretty much the entire production run of 1942 survived for the US - where were they going to lose them?

In 1944, the factories were turning out 76mm Shermans and 105mm Shermans, not 75mm Shermans. But all those 75mm Shermans had already been built, and early enough to be at the front of the line for a boat to England. The army wasn't going to throw them into the Thames on a lark. Considering the fact that 4/5ths of the fleet they enourmously outnumbered and were going up against had no defense against their main gun at medium range, um, why in heck would they?

The *British* did face technically superior German armor, in quantity, in Normandy. The *Americans* did face technically superior German armor in the *Bulge* - when they had numerous new armor divisions, 76mm tanks spread throughout the force, 90mm TDs, and APCR. Before then they faced 100 thicker front vehicles at a time, whole frontage, on about 3 occasions (Lehr period July, Mortain, Arracourt in the Lorraine).

Got it? Not a sea of Panthers facing an equal number or even twice the number of Sherman 75s.

In fact the upgunned portion of the US fleet exceeded the uparmored portion of the German fleet they faced, while the US fleet was also numerically larger by a large factor. Enough so that the upgunned third or so of the US fleet was larger than the entire German AFV fleet they faced.

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This entire problem had to do with the internal issues about the role of the tank destroyers in the Army. The head of the tank destroyer command was at war with Gen Marshall and Gen McNair over the use, capabilities and NEED for tank destroyers.

Sadly it seems that many of the problems for the US Army were down to internal politics.

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Umm, was the M1 57mm not just a rebadged/licenced 6 pounder? Would've thought if any planning entered into the matchup it would've revolved around the Fireflies and their adequacy against Kitty armour (as opposed to the shortcomings of the US armoury in that department at the outset).

You are right about the guns with, for some reason, the M1 being designed bigger!. The reason why the British gun was better, apart from being smaller, was the ammunition.

"Anti-Armor Defense Data Study (A2D2), Volume 3. US Anti-Tank Defense At Dom Butgenbach, Belgium (December 1944)" SAIC Sep, 1990. Crew members of 57mm AT units organic to the 1st Infantry Division apparently indicated that the standard combat load for 57mm was about 30% HE and 70% APC. There are a couple descriptions of 57mm ATG's employing HE against German Infantry as well as to dispatch tank crews who are exiting from KO'd Panzer\Assault Guns. Of additional interest is that the same study indicates 57mm guns were provided with 7 to 10 rounds each of "souped-up" APDS from the British sometime during the Normandy Campaign.

quote:
The nature of the terrain, and the fog which blanketed the area, compelled Lt. Col. Daniel to place his anti-tank assets well forward, in order to have sufficient visibility to support the foxhole lines. He set up three 57mm anti-tank guns covering the road running east to Bullingen, and supported them with three M-10 self-propelled tank destroyers mounting 3-inch guns. He sent three more AT guns to bolster the main line of resistance, or MLR, in the E and F Co areas. Each of the 57mm guns had, as part of its ammunition supply, seven to ten rounds of British discarding sabot (DS) ammunition, which the British had given to the regiment before D-Day.' These rounds used a disposable sleeve, or sabot, around the penetrator for the British 2-pounder gun. The result was a lighter projectile with increased velocity, about 4200 ft/sec vice 2900 ft/sec for the normal 57mm round. With this velocity, a DS round could penetrate approximately six inches (154mm) of armor at a 30° slope. This made the obsolescent 57mm gun more effective, particularly against the heavy Panther tank and Jagdpanther tank destroyer.

I am assuming -- as I have been unable to find any evidence so far of the US manufacture of 57mm HE - that the HE came from British sources. The voluminous US Ordnance Catalogues (dated 1944) make no reference to 57mm ammunition types beyond AP & APC rounds. I have found at least one reference indicating 57mm and 6-pdr ammunition was apparently interchangeable."

http://www.dupuyinstitute.org/ubb/Forum5/HTML/000030.html

Incidentally there is some doubt regarding penetration against slope but they were small. easily hidden, and at the very short ranges in the bocage lethal if thye were defending. Penetration at range was not bad either :)

And just for interest and quite astounding to me:

I talked with a fomer platoon leader of an antitank platoon this morning. He corrected me regarding the crew's ability to move the gun. The 57mm was well balanced, and a crew of 5 could move the weapon slowly if the terrain was not too bad or if there was not deep mud. He also told me they managed to obtain a fair number of British HE rounds, but did not fire them much.

He told me an experience crew could split trails and fire the first round in about 10 seconds.

The US paratrooper units were given British 57mm discarding sabot AT rounds before the drop in Normandy. It is my understanding they were issued more of the same after Normandy. smile.gif

http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=78330

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McNair was the head of TDs (and AGF)

TDs did OK in NA. Their main problem was the feeble nature of most of the weapons with which they were equipped.

I don't know if he created any - the initial plan called for 220 bns, which was eventually pared back to 106 then eventually down to 78 in Oct '43. But even that smaller number saw only 50-odd comitted to battle. McNair did ensure that half would be towed and equipped with the 3-in gun, which was immeasurably better than either the towed 37mm or the 75mm M3 halftrack, based on a somewhat flawed reading of the lessons in NA. He wasn't alone in that though. The dire shortage of 105mm shells in NWE in 1944 was due to another misreading of the lessons from NA.

I doubt that was Bradley's doing, exactly. Also, as more and newer SP TDs became available units were re-equipped. They weren't disbanded and the men sent off elsewhere.

Thise were not my statements and conclusions but those of the author - Steven Zaoga - of the 2 Osprey pubs I sourced.

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Taken from "Leavenworth Papers #12 "Seek, Strike, and Destroy: US Army Tank Destroyer Doctrine in WW II by Dr. C. R. Gabel.

These quoted comments came after North Africa was won and are After Action Reports based on tank destroyer performances:

(pg44) Gen Harmon, Cdr, 2d Arm Div in North Africa: "...there is no need for tank destroyers. I believe the whole organization and development of the tank destroyer will be a great mistake of the war."

(pg44) Gen Devers, Chief of Arm Forces then the AGF: "The separate tank destroyer arm is not a practical concept on the battlefield."

(pg43, 44) Gen Lucas, Special Representative from Gen Marshall to North Africa: "The tank destroyer has, in my opinion, failed to prove its usefullness."

(pg44) No quotes but Dr Gabelo sources Gens Patton and Bradley being dissatisfied with the tank destroyer in North Africa fighting.

(pg43) Maj Cushman, AGF Observer & Tk Detroyer Center Observer: Author says he stated that the TD's "...can not be used offensively to seek out enemy tanks....in slugging matches with them in the open."

(pg38) Author: "The costly victory at El Guettar stands alone as the only engagement of the North African and Italian campaigns in which a united tank destroyer bn met and stopped a concerted tank attack." ( 30 attacking claimed versus 20 M3's and 7 M10s destroyed). Note: Actually a good victory as the M3 was a halftrack mounted 75.

US Tank and Tank Destroyer Battalions by Steven Zaloga (pgs 14 and 15): "Gen Bruce ( CG, TD Center) pointed to El Guettar as a shinning example of the potential of tank destroyers. Others pointed out that tank destroyers had completely failed to stop the German tank attacks at Sidi-bou-Zid and Kasserine Pass.....and that ....El Guettar was a Pyrrhic victory with....losses as high as the panzer losses." Zaloga then goes on to say this gave Gen McNair ( originally an artilleryman)a chance to push through his desire for towed 3" tank destroyer units and on March 31, 1943 after a unit test of mixed results ordered the conversion of 15 self-propelled tank destroyer units to towed.

On Bradley converting towed TD units to SP TD units:

Zaloga pg 75: "...so finally in January 1945 Bradley's 12 Army Group took matters into their own hands and began to convert all towed 3in bns to self-propelled bns.....`

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Thanks for that Narses. Page 77 "Infanantry division commanders after the war unanimously agreed that they would prefer to have the support of a tank battlaion instead of a tank destroyer battalion." Says it all really. Given the advent of VT it would seem lunatic to have continued with open-top designs regardless of anything else.

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Narses - every one of the reports of TDs in NA being unsatisfactory is about M3 halftracks with French 75s stapled into them - and those were. The M10s rocked. And in every subsequent engagement against German armor over the entire war, SP TDs rocked. The arm vastly outscored the tanks sent against them.

It was still not considered a great success because the Germans rarely did send armor against the Americans in meaningful quantities. Whenever they did, they adopted an offensive posture that let the TDs shine in their intended role. But most of the time, they had little armor and stood on defense, and then a fully covered tank with more MG firepower would have been preferable.

The complaints about TDs thus fall into 3 distinct categories, frequently conflated by actually having nothing to do with each other. (1) M3 purple heart boxes were ineffective but everyone knew that the moment they were designed. They were a pure stopgap measure until purpose built TDs reached the theater. (2) TDs spent lots of time under employed for lack of their intended opponents, in no small part because they cleaned the clocks of said opponents, very rapidly, whenever it actually came up. Underemployed or used for tasks besides those they were designed for (infantry support to indirect artillery fire), they were thought by higher ups to be a waste of resources. (3) The tankers still in 75mm Shermans wished they had the 76mm guns that had been deployed in the TDs, sooner and in greater quantity, and with more supped up ammunition. They disliked the split of firepower across two platforms and preferred just upgunning the main battle tank fleet.

But it is flat wrong to claim, as many do, that the TDs were actually ineffective in their intended role. This is just utterly false. The only time the *arm* ever failed was when they didn't have modern equipment yet. Which is not a failure of the SP TDs as vehicles, or the tactical role assigned to them, or the way they were employed. As soon as they had modern SP TDs, they beat the tar out of German armor whenever and wherever they met it.

Note, this wasn't because the individual vehicles were superior to German tanks in gun and armor terms. It is because the Germans used that armor quite poorly when they attacked into fully integrated US defenses. Which used artillery and infantry firepower to strip the tanks, and then engaged them with armored reserves, especially TDs, while the Germans had poor tactical intel - from being in the defender's zone and thus not knowing where everything was, from pushing forward without regard for flanks for operational reasons, from the defender's having lots of eyes around them, from being buttoned, from attacking in poor visibility conditions to minimize allied airpower, etc, etc. All created perfect kill conditions for the TDs, which they dutifully cashed.

This happened at El Gutter, at Salerno, against Lehr in Normandy, in the approaches to Nancy in Lorraine, in the later heavier fighting around Arracourt, and in the Bulge, especially north shoulder. You can't find a single case in the entire war, post Kasserine, of a German armor attack of any appreciable size on American forces, met by SP TDs, in which the TDs failed.

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dt - no it really doesn't "say it all really", since supporting infantry was not the TDs intended job. Supporting infantry looked like the most important job because the US was winning continually, because the German panzer arm was completely ineffective operationally. Which was a war winner, to which the SP TDs contributed quite seriously.

It is like saying someone calling in an airstrike preferred an A-26 medium bomber squadron to support by P-51s, and concluding that P-51s were useless. Um, you wouldn't be getting any air support at all if the enemy won the air to air war. Similarly, the US ID would be fighting surrounded and without armor support of any kind if the Germans had won the armor vs armor war. Because they didn't, infantry support roles looked more important. But *that* they didn't, the TDs had everything to do with.

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StellarRat - every modern infantry type formation in the US army or Marine corps has dedicated AT assets today. They just use missiles. The linear descendents of the TDs are the Improved TOW Vehicle, TOW LAVs etc.

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Isn't self-evident that they were a failure? If they were such a good idea why don't they exist now? TDs went out immediately after the war.

M36s were used well after WWII by a number of countries, including Korea (where they were effective against Soviet built tanks), France, and Pakistan.

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