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A low Panther/Sherman exchange rate could have be due to FEAR on the part of the Sherman crews. Like in those wild west movies where the local gunslinger has such a fearsome reputation than nobody's willing to face him down. No gunfights mean no lopsided exchange rate. And also, what did they usually do in those cowboy movies to deal with the gunslinger? They'd 'bushwhack' him! Sneak up and shoot him in the back! :)

Any tanker with half a brain would seek to bushwhack the enemy regardless of whether they were superior or not. Hit 'em hardest where it hurts. Standing toe to toe with the enemy and duking it out is just silly.

While the Panther has its pluses and the M4's and Cromwells their minuses, the short answer is that the Germans in Normandy were simply out fought by the Allies. Their tank doctrine was seriously flawed as evidenced by their comprehensive loss on the Eastern and Western fronts.

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Their tank doctrine was seriously flawed as evidenced by their comprehensive loss on the Eastern and Western fronts.

It was flawed for the circumstances they found themselves in during the last two years of the war. Earlier it had worked fine.

I think the real failure lay in their strategic concept as formulated by Hitler. To start a war against the most powerful industrial nations in the world was a high-risk venture taken to the nth. degree.

Michael

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It was flawed for the circumstances they found themselves in during the last two years of the war. Earlier it had worked fine.

Yes, just like all bullies they found it easy to ride rough shod over ill prepared and ill equipped enemies who were caught with their pants down. Once the Allies actually developed a credible response the Germans fell to pieces

I think the real failure lay in their strategic concept as formulated by Hitler.

Blaming Hitler is always the fall back, sure he was an idiot but the German army was beaten on the field which had nothing to do with him.

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Yes, just like all bullies they found it easy to ride rough shod over ill prepared and ill equipped enemies who were caught with their pants down. Once the Allies actually developed a credible response the Germans fell to pieces.

France was neither ill-prepared nor ill-equiped. In the middle of an upgrade cycle, sure, but it was no Poland. They had a modern force and eight months to prepare it. The Germans, including Hitler, didn't even expect Case Yellow to overrun the entire country; they just wanted breathing room in the west and ports on the coast. Man for man, the German army remained unmatched throughout the war. And I certainly wouldn't agree that the German army fell to pieces. In the spring of 1945, maybe. But not until their entire country was already being torn apart around them.

Blaming Hitler is always the fall back, sure he was an idiot but the German army was beaten on the field which had nothing to do with him.

I agree that the German high command wasn't any better than Hitler, but it's still true that Germany lost because they didn't have any real strategic plan. Germany's military success has been based on short and highly aggressive wars for at least the past few hundred years. Their army was consistently unmatched tactically on the field. The problem was, it's leaders never understood that destroying the enemy in front of you may not end the war. And when neither the UK nor the USSR surrendered after losing badly in the field (to say nothing of arbitrarily declaring war on the US), Germany had no options left. The German army probably could have done better on the defensive, but they also could have done far worse; see virtually every other military involved in World War II.

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I find it amazing that a tank vs tank debate always ends up expanding to the point where its about the entire war.... nothing even close to the two tanks being debated here.

Panther was better than sherman all other things being equal.... thats the truth. one tank vs one tank.

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Panther was better than sherman

That is the whole nub then isn't it? Defining "better". You can't do that without considering the wider picture.

A tank that is too expensive to produce, breaks down before it gets into combat and does not meet the tactical requirements is hardly better.

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I find it amazing that a tank vs tank debate always ends up expanding to the point where its about the entire war.... nothing even close to the two tanks being debated here.

Panther was better than sherman all other things being equal.... thats the truth. one tank vs one tank.

I find it equally amazing when people insist on comparing the superiority of one cog over another without addressing the question, which came from a better machine. Sure, in a sandbox battle the Panther trumps the Sherman but what does that prove, my gun's bigger than yours, my armour's thicker than yours, a pretty puerile metric really.

It was flawed for the circumstances they found themselves in during the last two years of the war. Earlier it had worked fine.

I think by mid-43 there doctrine was pretty much flawed, as evidenced by Kursk

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France was neither ill-prepared nor ill-equiped.

To fight WW2 they were, they simply sat behind a fortification and waited for the trenches. Guderian had other plans for which UK and France were ill prepared and ill equipped. They had plenty of gear, just the wrong gear for the war that were to fight.

Their army was consistently unmatched tactically on the field.

Rubbish they were comprehensively defeated in nearly every engagement from late '42 on.

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The Panther was complex, complicated, expensive, and finiky.

It was mechanicaly unreliable, and prone to breakdown.

It required a huge logistics train.

It was severely underpowered, and overweight.

It was very expensive to produce.

It was an excellent long range tank killer. Ideal for defence across open steppes... but could not be swung around and rushed to another sector without railway support.

It was an engineering marvel, but far too specialized to be a good tank.

The M4 Sherman was a simple and reliable, general purpose tank.

It was better than adequate in every role. (ie: fair to good/very good)

It was easy to repair and maintain.

It was also cheap to build.

It could (and did) cross europe under it's own power. Something no Panther could do.

The Sherman was an excellent tank by virtue of it not being excellent in any one area, but fair to good in most, and very good in a few.

It was a go-anywhere-do-anything tank.

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Can't it be said simply that the Sherman performed better for its intended role as a war-winner than did the Panther?

Why compare the two directly when there is little purpose to it? They were both instruments of warfare, product of different times and different philosophies, made with different roles to fulfill. When they were tested in combat, one side had superior results given an overall better strategic, logistical and coalition warfare situation than the opposing side. In the East the Panther could not stop the advance of hordes of technically inferior T34's and in the West it similarly failed to stop the Allies from maneuvering their masses of outmoded Shermans to victory.

IMO the Nazis fumbled away almost every technological edge they ever had with misuse or abuse on the battlefield. A fact for which I remain grateful. :)

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Fully agree with DLaurier's list. Was doing something similar earlier but he's done a better job. Two comments I'd make:

Sherman Firefly gets my vote as the best Western tank of WW2. All the virtues of a Shermie, plus a big gun and it's got a bit of Blightly in there.

Despite agreeing with the overall sentiment that the Sherman is the "better" tank, I still think if I'd been a WW2 tanker I'd have been happier sitting in a Panther facing Shermans, than visa versa. Mind you I'm ignoring the added fear of Jabos...

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France was neither ill-prepared nor ill-equiped. In the middle of an upgrade cycle, sure, but it was no Poland. They had a modern force and eight months to prepare it. The Germans, including Hitler, didn't even expect Case Yellow to overrun the entire country; they just wanted breathing room in the west and ports on the coast. Man for man, the German army remained unmatched throughout the war. And I certainly wouldn't agree that the German army fell to pieces. In the spring of 1945, maybe. But not until their entire country was already being torn apart around them.

I'll dispute that.

By 1944 the Soviet routinely converted roughly a 2-1 overall strategic advantage in force, to repeated operational victories. And not little victories either: for instance the Bagration offensive basically wiped out Army Group Center, inflicted half a million Axis casualties, threw the Germans back about 250 kilometers - and all this over the course of roughly 45 days. It was the worst military disaster suffered by German arms, in Germany's entire history.

During the Minsk offensive, which was a piece of the Bagration operation, the Red Army penetrated 100 - 150 kilometers into the German rear area, and two full German armies were encircled and for practical purposes wiped out.

This German performance is not, in my opinion, evidence of German man for man military unmatched by its Soviet opponents.

I would say it is rather evidence of a German army leadership that failed to understand that clinging to the Frederickian rule that winning the battles wins the war was not only outdated but dangerous for the safety of the German nation, plus German army soldiers realizing that their leaders had no solution but to place German soldiers in the path of the Red Army and, generally speaking, hope for the best.

There was never a recognition by the German leadership, even after the war, that the Soviets were brilliant at shuffling and concentrating forces, and of developing and exploiting a breakthrough ruthlessly. Over the entire Cold War, all the German generals kept saying: Well, it was overwhelming numbers that defeated it.

Then the Wall comes down, the Soviet archives open up, and it turns out the Stavka was hands down better than OKH at obtaining useful military effect with the resources at hand.

I agree that the German high command wasn't any better than Hitler, but it's still true that Germany lost because they didn't have any real strategic plan. Germany's military success has been based on short and highly aggressive wars for at least the past few hundred years. Their army was consistently unmatched tactically on the field.

This was simply not the case by Summer-Autumn 1944 on the East Front. Probably not in NW Europe either. Certainly, the German schnell divisions retained some skill. But for every panzer, ss motorized, or fallschirmjaeger division, how many German infantry divisions were there? Security divsions? Luftwaffe divisions? SS cavalry divisions good for little but committing atrocities against civilians?

Overall, the tactical quality of German army units was already worsening by Spring 43 and by summer 44 - I'm speaking generally here - the German leadership considered only a small percentage of its army capable of sustained offensive action. Further, they knew full well their soldiers were incapable of standing for any length of time against a sustained Red Army offensive. The lacked the training, the will, the equipment - you name it and the Reds were by summer '44 on an overall basis superior.

As was demonstrated repeatedly when a Soviet offensive hit a prepared German defensive line, which the Germans manned with their infantry. Usually it failed in less than a day, sometimes it was a matter of hours.

Certainly, if one chooses to think the German army was just panzer and ss units, and compares those units to the Red army as a whole, one could construe things so that yes the Germans maintained a tactical edge right until the end of the war.

I would not call that a reasonable assessment of the actual case, however. Further, if one reads the Soviet histories, it turns out that for pretty much every German account of ueber-panzers destroying dozens of T-34s, there is a Soviet account of heroic Red soldiers achieving amazing results against superior German numbers and equipment.

The problem was, it's leaders never understood that destroying the enemy in front of you may not end the war. And when neither the UK nor the USSR surrendered after losing badly in the field (to say nothing of arbitrarily declaring war on the US), Germany had no options left. The German army probably could have done better on the defensive, but they also could have done far worse; see virtually every other military involved in World War II.

Well, strangely enough, we can check that. As it happens, the German army had plenty of opportunity to fight defensively, and only defensively, against the Red Army; from roughly July 1943 - May 1945 it is possible to say the German army ONLY fought defensively. OK, there were corps-sized counterattacks every once in a while and more rarely Hitler would order something like the Balaton offensive, but aside from that the Wehrmacht and the SS were stepping backwards and only backwards for close to two years.

Over that time period, the Red Army not only liberated its own territory, it overran the Balkans, all of East Europe, knocked Finland out of the war, made Romania turn coat and leveled the German capital. This result was achieved as the Germans concentrated what resources they had against the Soviets, which they - rightly - saw as the major threat.

I see little evidence of superior German tactical skill in all this, nor do I see much evidence of the Germans performing better when they stood on the defensive.

What I see is a German army that was outclassed. OK, given extremely good defensive terrain (hedgegrows, a city) they could hold up Allied forces for a while, and as long as that particular little tactical defensive battle was going on in those very narrow circumstances they would "win" for a while. But sooner or later the battle would go fluid and that would be it, of all those defensively capable panzers most would break down or run out of gas, the German infantry units would come apart at the seams, and the minor nation soldiers conscripted to fight for the Germans would look for the first opportunity to surrender.

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Panther was roughly 15% more in costs than your average panzer iv. That's pretty amazing considering the quality of the tank. I think I read somewhere it was 140,000 RM, compared to 115,000 RM. The out the door cost was in the neighborhood of 210,000 RM. That compared to the Tiger, whose out the door cost was, in some circles 1M RM, (I tend to use the Tigerfibel as reference, which pegged it at 800,000 RM. but, the Germans managed to produce 5000+ Panthers of all variants in two years, and to think in that same time the US probably produced 5x that number in Shermans really gets to to the meat of the matter, Germany could not produce enough of anything to sustain total war.

I offer think what would have happened if the Germans were on a war footing from 1939 onwards, and I still think that eventually they would have been beaten. I just don't see how an economy that was fighting a protracted two front war of attrition could win, regardless of the superiority of their technology. I mean some argue that Hitler knew he was losing the arms race in 1937, 1938 and he went for broke. He had three years to knock Russia, England and France out of the war, and he only accomplished one of the three by 1942, and by that date, it was too late.

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To fight WW2 they were, they simply sat behind a fortification and waited for the trenches.

They might have been better off if they had. Instead, the 7th. Army and the BEF left their prepared defenses and went charging into Belgium where they were cut off and forced to retreat to Dunkirk. Those were the best divisions in the Allied army. Without them, the battle in the West was unwinnable.

Guderian had other plans for which UK and France were ill prepared and ill equipped. They had plenty of gear, just the wrong gear for the war that were to fight.

Much of their gear was sub-optimal, true, but the same thing could be said of the horse-drawn German army. What really hurt the Allies was the 1918 style command and control structure, which meant that units at the front tended to not get their orders until those orders were outdated by 24 or more hours.

Michael

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Man for man, the German army remained unmatched throughout the war. And I certainly wouldn't agree that the German army fell to pieces. In the spring of 1945, maybe. But not until their entire country was already being torn apart around them.

Big Duke argues that the Red Army was better man for man by 43. I can't argue one way or the other. But there are pretty persuasive arguments that by late 44, the US army was better man for man. Keith Bonn's book "When the Odds were Even" is a good example.

http://www.amazon.com/When-Odds-Were-Even-1944-January/dp/0891416021

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At Kursk the Germans attacked against a deeply entrenched enemy at 1:3 odds. They lost. Yet they somehow managed to inflict roughly 3 times as many casualties as they suffered. I'm sure someone more knowledgeable than me can explain that, but it seems to me that if we are talking about the tactical level, the one applicable to CM, just pointing out that the Germans lost and therefore concluding that they were not very good at any level may be too simple.

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I've spent a great deal of time studying the second and third (and forth) battles of Kharkov, which to me exemplify the clash of doctrines the Germans were struggling with. On one side, a mobile flexible defense, an elegant combined arms offensive, a static hold at all costs defense and blitzkrieg.

The results encompass everything that the Germans were good and bad at. I can't go into all the details of those engagements and what gleaned from the information, but what I can say is at the micro level it's an excellent allegory to the larger German tactical and strategic relalaties.

I've tried to uncover information about the lesser known strategy in 1943 that Manstein called for call "backhand blow". The elastic defense that worked so well for him in kharkov Kursk to me is an example of the enormous struggle the Germans were faced with in a changing environment. It's clear that many felt, including hitler that it's outcome was clearly "not in the bag". Again, given the quality of units in Kursk, I often wonder what would have happened if mainstein had gotten his way and moved to a more mobile, non hedgehog defense. When I go there, all I come away with is that it would have lengthened the war, never changing the eventual outcome.

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