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Panzer V against any US tank


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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.

All these officers quoted agree the TD's were exactly ineffective in their intended role as originally conceived as a counterattack force to armor attacks. It would have been much better it seems to have put high priority to the 76mm gun tank and start embedding them in tank plts until such time as there were 100% 76mm gun tanks and then the HVAP rd. In any regard we had numbers the Germans couldn't match even with quality in gun power.

Seems to me the TD ended up in a role that it was not designed for and that is the point as it greatly distracted the US Army's armor doctrine but yes they were cetrainly helpful. You are right to a degree that when they finally realized the concept for TD was wrong the guys in the field in the ETO changed it and handed them out to inf and arm divisions a role they were never intended for. And indeed they were then parceled out in the divisions by plt of TD's to inf or arm bns.

Your right about the TD's after Africa but again because they did not fight according to the concept they trained for but usually as split up plts in support. And the TD towed units suffered terrible casualties. You make a good valid point about the M3 weapon in the TD bns in Africa and the few M10s but the main argument of the detractors is not equipment its about concept. They didn't need TD bns just a better tank and let the tk bn take care of the armor fighting and let separate tk bns support the inf when necessary.

I feel good going with the AAR's of guys like Gen Harmon, 2d AD, especially and all the others although I realize some had personal axes to grind like Lucas who was a personal friend of Marshall and was angling for a corps which to our great regret he got.

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

Well, Zaloga is kind-of a populist author, while Osprey's are ... how to put this. They have pretty pictures and attractive maps. Not necessarily accurate maps, but they are attractive. They are like a physical embodiment of Wikipedia - a great place to start, and to get a broad overview, but not very good for detailed, thoughtful, or accurate analysis.

Call me underwhelmed.

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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.

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

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.....`

Ok, so apart from the fact that you mangled what Zaloga actually said in the Osprey book, my previous comment about Zaloga and Osprey still stands.

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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.

JC - I am actually a little surprised that you did not point out the very practical reason why an ID would prefer a tank battalion to a TD battalion was that a Tank battlaion had significantly more tanks.

BTW the M-10 did not have a power traverse so a 180 degree traverse took 80 seconds. I think the tank scores considerably better on that basis. Quite vital in more congested terrian.

However the nub of your argument :

" 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."

Seems great claim to make and one that unfortunately the US Army did not seem to believe in. Zaloga quotes there exellent record compared to towed guns in the Ardennes. He also quotes that the M-10 was successful in 14 out of 16 engagements which is a good record though not the perfect one you suggest.

What cannot be ascertained was whether 76mm armed tanks would have done aswell or better. I have to accept that the US army probably had a better feel for it than I have.

My naive view is a tank has better overhead protection from weather, mortars, grenades, VT, aircraft; and can be used both offensively and defensively, and can stay in the line longer, and reduces logistical requirements.

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Well, Zaloga is kind-of a populist author, while Osprey's are ... how to put this. They have pretty pictures and attractive maps. Not necessarily accurate maps, but they are attractive. They are like a physical embodiment of Wikipedia - a great place to start, and to get a broad overview, but not very good for detailed, thoughtful, or accurate analysis.

Call me underwhelmed.

So I can be overwhelmed can you let me know how bad Zaloga is. I would hate to be wating my time on his books if you think they are iffy.

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Some Osprey books are good summaries of the literature available, some are so-so and others are pants. I don't think you can give them a blanket label of 'pretty picture' books. I guess, if we are going to start asking for sources and then when they are given query them, we should first determine what sources can/cannot be used to support an argument. I seem to remember Osprey was a good enough source against Jasons comments about the efficacy of flame throwers versus tanks, and it has been used quite a bit by forum members on this thread, including my observation on the lack of establishing radio nets for the rapidly de-trained Panthers.

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Turning up your nose at Osprey genrally and Zaloga in particular would be unfortunate. What issues in particular do you have? Some mistakes can be found almost anywhere. Any non-primary sources can be iffy, even from good authors. I think given the subject matter that Osprey publications are no worse than average. Quite a bit of primary source material is also questionable.

Much historical research is best guess and supposition.

EDITED - re-read you post. Agreed that they are good places to start, but I think more since they are general in nature, rather than terribly inaccurate.

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Some Osprey books are good summaries of the literature available, some are so-so and others are pants.

That seems a pretty good synopsis.

I don't think you can give them a blanket label of 'pretty picture' books.

I don't think that follows though. The best you had to say was that at best they are 'good summaries of the literature available', which is pretty much in accord with what I wrote - 'a great place to start, and to get a broad overview, but not very good for detailed, thoughtful, or accurate analysis.'

The format of the books just doesn't lend themselves to being anything more than an attractive summary or overview, with all the strengths and weaknesses of that.

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Strange, when I first read your post it stopped at "pretty but not accurate". Sorry, must have missed out the qualifying statement, I resonded because I though your comments snarky. Damn, must go to bed I cannot read properly. Agree with your summary, I especially like the reading lists and summary, which are good ice breakers if you are new to the topic and the "how to wargame, (insert battle), end section, shows who they were originally aimed at.

Final thing, having spoken to some of the contributors, the real problem with Osprey's, seem to be, varried editorial quality, it's what sunk the "Gladiators" edition and the editor was a reputed Roman expert from one of our premier higher educational establishments, trouble was he was a lousy editor!

Oh, and who can forget the RDF gear on the illustration of an ACW riverine patrol vessel, trouble was the commisioned artist had failed to notice the original photo showed antlers!

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Well, Zaloga is kind-of a populist authour, while Osprey's are ... how to put this. They have pretty pictures and attractive maps. Not necessarily accurate maps, but they are attractive. Call me underwhelmed.

Vark the above is what JonS said before he changed it - so you are not cracking up : )

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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.

I disagree. These dedicated assets do not show that the TD doctrine survived wwii.

We have to see if these assets were expected to act according to the TDs doctrine of wwii. And they weren't. The main idea behind the TD doctrine was that you could sacrifice protection for speed and better gun to maneuver and engage tanks from favorite positions. In this way TDs dealt with enemy tanks and freed friendly armor to perform other missions.

ITvs Tows and all the rest, were not expected to deal by themselves against enemy armor. They were integrated at the lower levels and were used as systems to beef up the infantry AT capability. They maneuvered at local level and they were never expected to give the final answer against the enemy tank thrust.

They were more the descendents of AT batallions of wwii, but of course they followed the general thread of mechanization and these modern AT assets were put on vehicles, just like mortars, artillery and so on.

But the general idea after wii was that the best AT weapon was another tank. The main enemy tank force would be dealt with friendly tanks. Of course in order to do this and have the luxury to keep your tank force concentrated, you need to have infantry capable to defend itself against low to moderate tank threats. Otherwise you will be forced to commit tanks piecemeal to plug gaps all over the front held by the infantry.

So the modern AT systems gave answers at tactical level but they weren't design to produce the operational level answer envisioned by the proponents of the TD doctrine. This is why you don't see high level HQ and branches dedicated to tank destroyers, ITvs or Tows.

There were also other technical reasons which made difficult to justify the sacrifice of protection for better armor and speed after wwii.

One was the advancement in tank gunnery and protection. Sacrificing protection for acheiving longer range kill power didn't make much sense anymore, because of topographical limitations which remained constant. LOS restrictions wouldn't permit the realization of the theoritical advantage of a longer range weapon.

Second, the advancement of the combined arms warfare exposed even more the limitations of the TD doctrine-meaning the sacrifice of protection.

It was difficult to operate in an enviroment of combined forces when even enemy mechanized infantry with heavy .50 MGs or small cannons mounted on AFVs could penetrate the armor of a M113 "tank destroyer"- all these of course on top of the modern artillery threat.

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Turning up your nose at Osprey genrally and Zaloga in particular would be unfortunate. What issues in particular do you have? Some mistakes can be found almost anywhere. Any non-primary sources can be iffy, even from good authors. I think given the subject matter that Osprey publications are no worse than average. Quite a bit of primary source material is also questionable.

Much historical research is best guess and supposition.

EDITED - re-read you post. Agreed that they are good places to start, but I think more since they are general in nature, rather than terribly inaccurate.

I fully agree with you.

Many of the Osprey issues are quite decent and the history is very short but good however any of us at some particular point might disagree with the opinions. Osprey may not be Col David Glantz but its OK and the current products are much improved over the early years. But that is why I went back to the Leavenworth #12 Combat Studies Institute which in all aspects agreed with Zaloga.

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Adding to my previous post, here is one paragraph describing the TD doctrine which has no similarity to the employment of Tows and other AT assets post WWII.

It comes from a monograph titled "Employment of 4 TD battalions in ETO".

I should note here that the above monograph doesn't deal with the general TD doctrine debate. Still it starts by giving a general picture of the situation .

So it quotes T-61 document from TD school (school doctrine), Department of Tactics, Camp Hood, Texas, page 1

TDs are the highly mobile elements in operations against armored forces. In contrast to AT units, their role is purely offensive, even when supporting large scale defensive operations. Because of their characteristics, TDs are not bound up with positions and places on the ground.

In fact.... to bind their operations down to places takes much of the power out of their wallop. TDs are organized and equipped to strike and strike hard at tanks with great fire power and great maneuverability. Their function is not to deny the use of certain terrain feature to tanks, but to seek out and destroy the tanks themselves....

Consistent to the above is also the organization of TD units which includes even Brigade level units (FM 18-5). Of course the lack of enemy "targets" as pointed before, led to the silent abandonment of the TD doctrine and the breakdown of TDs to smaller units. This however was not the case during cold war.

A TD doctrine trying to actively engage and defeat Soviet numerous armor, would need Brigade level units equipped with TOWs but we never saw this type of organization. THis is because they served just like the WWII AT weapons, which their use according to T-61 was "to deny certain terrain feature to tanks".

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A TD doctrine trying to actively engage and defeat Soviet numerous armor, would need Brigade level units equipped with TOWs but we never saw this type of organization. THis is because they served just like the WWII AT weapons, which their use according to T-61 was "to deny certain terrain feature to tanks".

I could argue that such brigade units, "organized and equipped to strike and strike hard at tanks with great fire power and great maneuverability", actually exist, just that they fly now instead to run to achieve its objective of concentrating AT firepower.

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They were more the descendents of AT batallions of wwii, but of course they followed the general thread of mechanization and these modern AT assets were put on vehicles, just like mortars, artillery and so on. (pamak_1970)

In the US Army, mechanization of antitank systems didn't begin postwar. It started with the creation of the Tank Destroyer arm. The TD people thought of their destroyers as exactly that: highly mobile antitank guns.

Curiously enough, I was just looking through that same report a moment ago.

The document is Employment of Four Tank Destroyer Battalions in the ETO, written by a committee at the Armored School at Fort Knox, and published in 1950. The committee is made up of captains and majors in a course at the school. It examines TD organization, and then examines four battalions in action.

One of these cases looks at the 704th TD Battalion, supporting the 4th Armored near Arracourt, on 19 September 1944. A platoon of the 704th rushed from the rear to cover an unguarded key position and, there, single-handedly halted a German attack, destroying fifteen enemy tanks, for the loss of three TDs (probably mobility or firepower kills rather than total losses).

The authors had this to say about the importance of maneuverability:

It was also generally agreed that the tank destroyer missions at ARRACOURT could not have been as well performed by heavy tanks, such as M-26s, inasmuch as the tank destroyers were able to utilize speed and maneuverability over rough and muddy terrain over which M-26 tanks would have been unable to move. (79)

The conclusion of the entire report includes these thoughts:

They operated on the offensive in conjunction with friendly armor and were utilized to supplement the speed and firepower of the slower but more heavily armored vehicles. They were particularly adapted to this role when soggy terrain would not support the weighty tank. The TD vehicle, with less ground pressure, could maneuver through friendly units, outmaneuvering hostile armor as well, using this capability to attain an advantageous position, accomplish its fire mission, and move to the flank or rear for another strike.

The Committee recommends that the characteristics of the TD self-propelled vehicle, high mobility, light armor and a large gun, be fully exploited; and that this vehicle be incorporated in an organization to operate with or as a part of armor, infantry, or reformed TD units, to realize on its dual capabilities on the offensive as we as in a major defensive role against hostile forces. (126)

And also:

The primary factor in their successful employment was the mobility inherent in the TD vehicle.

It is a general recommendation that in the future design of vehicular gun mounts, stress be placed on the mobility of the mount under all conditions of terrain and weather. (128)

We are talking more about mobility in an operational sense, during approach marches - about the ability to move across difficult terrain, and to pass through other units.

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I could argue that such brigade units, "organized and equipped to strike and strike hard at tanks with great fire power and great maneuverability", actually exist, just that they fly now instead to run to achieve its objective of concentrating AT firepower

ok, but i don't see them as descendants of TD doctrine. Even during WWII we had an attempt to use air assets to fight tanks and often we had dedicated tank busting units. These units and their tactics are not related to TD doctrine.

The last is basically the product of a debate between more protection or more maneuverability-power. The application of airpower on the battlefield is not related to this dillema.

But on a broader front, we still find a type of debate which is somewhat similar to the one we saw in the TD doctrine.

Can airpower by itself confront and defeat enemy armor?

or

is it still necessary to confront enemy tanks with friendly armor?

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Well, Zaloga is kind-of a populist author

I thought he made model tanks (and very nice ones too) then wrote about them in magazines. Does this somehow invalidate his research? Or have you gone over the edge and and consider writing esoteric articles in niche magazines to be 'populism'? You oughtn't be so flip about his contribution to WWII historiography, what have you done lately?

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In the US Army, mechanization of antitank systems didn't begin postwar. It started with the creation of the Tank Destroyer arm. The TD people thought of their destroyers as exactly that: highly mobile antitank guns.

There was a misunderstanding

I talked about a tread (misspelled as thread :) ) which continued after wwii. We all know mechanization didn't start after wwii. But i think we agree that the level of mechanization continued to increase after wwii. And when all infantry in US army became mechanized, it was logical to see their supporting weapons - including AT assets to become fully mechanized too.

The fact that we see AT assets on vehicles after wwii, is not a sign that the TD survived after wwii. It is just a result of the above tread. But all these assets continued to function in the same way AT assets did during wwii, meaning supporting infantry and not riding ahead trying to locate and destroy enemy armor, which was the TD dogma objective.

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I thought he made model tanks (and very nice ones too) then wrote about them in magazines. Does this somehow invalidate his research?

Nope, but that and 20 or 30 Osprey titles to his name certainly leads me towards my conclusion.

You oughtn't be so flip about his contribution to WWII historiography, what have you done lately?

Misguided for two reasons. Firstly, you don't know what I've done (which is certainly far less than 'a lot', but still slightly more than 'nothing'). Secondly, and more relevantly, I could be a spastic illiterate mong unable to scrawl my own name on the side of a barn with a large crayon, yet still be possessed of the entirely valid opinion that, for example, anything by Carell or Irving is useful only as a BBQ fuel.

Edit: three reasons; I wasn't being flip.

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