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"Damage to tanks" Topic

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1,768 hits since 18 Apr 2017
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Deserter18 Apr 2017 2:55 a.m. PST

I see that many wargame rules take into account "damage" to tanks, with things like: "a track is broken, the tank can not move anymore but can still fire" or "the turret is hit, tank can not fire anymore but can still move etc"

I wonder how realistic and common is this? I think that if a tank can not move or fire, the crew will leave it and take cover? What was the "official" doctrine for WW2 tankers?

christot18 Apr 2017 3:52 a.m. PST

Normally they would bail out, however, there are plenty of examples of crews not bailing…not sure if this could be because it got reported due to its relative rarity.
generally crews felt much safer inside their vehicle than out.
However, an experienced crew knew that an initial strike was going to be quickly followed up by another.
How often did a crew stick around in a damaged tank only to become a total write-off and KIA seconds later?
If the vehicle was that of a platoon/company commander, he would almost always seek a fresh vehicle.
AFV's weren't inhabited by Brad Pitt.

Personal logo Jeff Ewing Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2017 4:08 a.m. PST

The second case, weapon damaged, would almost certainly mean the tank would head for the rear. I guess this is sort of a scale question: at larger scales this is functionally the same as destroying it. At lower leels it might be important to see if the tank could make its way off the table. Of course it could also be part of the scenario: I once played in a game that featured an immobilized German tank.

John Treadaway18 Apr 2017 4:52 a.m. PST

The only thing I would say on this is that a mechanical breakdown say an engine issue or even a track break may well not be visible to an opponent (who – unlike us gamers – don't have a 'gods eye view' of the battlefield). If the vehicle that's mechanically disabled but in a defensive (or even sheltered/hidden) position, perhaps the crew wouldn't feel the need to leave?

And if a vehicle is seen moving to the rear, opponents wouldn't necessarily know that the gun has failed or the turret jammed. Maybe they are going back to get more ammo or even fuel? Maybe they are moving to the rear before they swing to a flank+

It's an interesting set of scenarios components to implement.

John T

Mobius18 Apr 2017 5:08 a.m. PST

If you play with unit morale the abandoned tank has to count as a loss, while one that is still occupied is not.

ccmatty Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2017 5:17 a.m. PST

Or, like in the movie Fury, the damaged tank can destroy almost an entire German company while sitting immobile in on an intersection of country roadway…

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2017 5:29 a.m. PST

Yes, if you're 'playing' a movie…

christot18 Apr 2017 5:29 a.m. PST

" If the vehicle that's mechanically disabled but in a defensive (or even sheltered/hidden) position, perhaps the crew wouldn't feel the need to leave?"

The crew probably wouldn't think like that…They are a sitting duck.
SOP for all gunners in all armies be they ATG or tank crew would be to keep putting shells into a tank until it burns.
If the breakdown occurred for some other reason (threw a track or engine mishap), then the crew might well stay with the vehicle and try and fix it,
If disabled by indirect fire, they would probably stay with the vehicle (feel safer in than out) but if disabled by direct fire, or air attack, the'd be out as fast as possible.

Who asked this joker18 Apr 2017 6:50 a.m. PST

Or, like in the movie Fury, the damaged tank can destroy almost an entire German company while sitting immobile in on an intersection of country roadway…

Yes, if you're 'playing' a movie…

Actually, in the right conditions, a single tank can cause a lot of damage to infantry. Just the presence of a tank against infantry without AT weapons would be enough to ensure their retreat.

28mm Fanatik18 Apr 2017 6:55 a.m. PST

A tank is a "mobile pillbox." So when immobilized it's just a fixed one.

Some rules do allow crew to bail out when their tank is immobilized or otherwise disabled at the player's own discretion.

RudyNelson18 Apr 2017 7:12 a.m. PST

However during the marching scene in the movie almost every third man had a AT weapon. Never saw them use but one in the movie. Total crap of a scene. Based on the tactical situation a US habit was to aim for the track since penetrating a Tiger or Panther was harder than knocking the track off. Once disabled then you could swing around to the rear for a kill shot. A lot depended on the tactical situation as to whether to bail or stay. If it was an infantry battle with heavy fire, then it was safer inside than out. If it was a mass tank action, bailing was almost automatic. Plenty of cases of infantry contests with tanks as immobile pillboxes.

Major Mike18 Apr 2017 7:24 a.m. PST

My German landlord spent some time in tanks in North Africa and Italy as the radio operator/bow mg gunner. He said he use to play his music with either. Lost 4 tanks, one was when they had run out of ammo after having run out of fuel. In another the surviving crew abandoned the tank when only the lower half of the TC fell back into the turret, functioning tank but a total morale failure.

haywire Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2017 7:24 a.m. PST

"Out of commission, become a pillbox. Out of ammo, become a bunker. Out of time, become heroes."

christot18 Apr 2017 7:46 a.m. PST

A wargamer regards an immobilised tank as a pillbox.
A tank crewman regards it as a deathtrap

Big Red Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2017 7:57 a.m. PST

I believe German doctrine was to stay with the tank unless it was on fire. How many crew followed this is impossible to say.

TGerritsen Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2017 8:55 a.m. PST

The problem is that war is fought by humans and we can be darn inconsistent, even irrational. A hard and fast rule for all situations is unrealistic. A morale roll is probably the best you can do (failing causes a bail). There are historical cases of immobilized tanks fighting on and cases of the crew bailing. What causes one crew to stick it out and another to run? It can depend greatly on a number of both contextual and non contextual conditions.

A morale roll in each case seems to be the closest you might come to getting a reliable method of capturing the chaos of these situations.

troopwo Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2017 10:07 a.m. PST

Vehicle crews are trained how to operate and to maintain the equipment. They are also issued tools for a reason.

Radio for recovery once the fight moves on or drive off and meet the mechanics for what you can not do.

If a four inch hole appears in the armour and there is a ball of light that flashes between you and your loader before it makes another four inch hole going out the other side, I can understand why you abandon it. The next round or two will finish the job.

However, if you abandon serviceable equipment, you will probably be charged and imprisoned. Tanks are pretty expensive items on todays' or uyesterdays' battlefield too.

Mobius18 Apr 2017 10:31 a.m. PST

I agree with TGerritsen. There are a variety of outcomes if a tank suffers damage. In a melee tanks change targets if the tank they hit stops and does not fire again even if it doesn't burn. It would be a waste of ammo if they continue firing at it many times over or there are more immediate threats.

In Cold War modern times tank gunners were trained to fire one round at each tank if there are more than one threatening them. Probably different than WWII is that they assume that one round is all that it takes to dispatch an enemy MBT.

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2017 10:34 a.m. PST

Who Asked This Joker: +1.

Thomas Thomas Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2017 11:22 a.m. PST

Its a morale issue. "Damage" should cause a morale check, if failed leaves tank "knocked out".

Same applies to platoon level games (as atomic unit). Damage to platoon (some tanks KOed/damaged) causes Morale Check to determine combat effectiveness for rest of battle.

Russians required to stay with tank unless on fire. Enforcement no doubt varied.

Thomas J. Thomas
Fame and Glory Games

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member18 Apr 2017 11:52 a.m. PST

"A wargamer regards an immobilised tank as a pillbox.
A tank crewman regards it as a deathtrap"

I tend to agree with this. Several posters have mentioned bunkers/pillboxes. The biggest issue I see is that bunkers/pillboxes aren't built alone, they have supporting positions nearby (other bunkers/pillboxes, trenches, observation posts, etc…). They're built to support each other not only with interlocking fields of fire, but to deny access to flank/rear, as even bunkers and pillboxes are dead meat if they are cut off and you can get on their flank/rear.

So the immobilized tank has heavy weapons which can do a lot of damage to infantry, but 1) you have to be able to see the target, and 2) you have to keep the target off of you. Seeing the target by keeping hatches open is dangerous enough (infantry are trained to use MGs to keep tanks buttoned up), and the only way you can keep the infantry off of you (assuming we're not on a perfectly flat piece of land or a hilltop) is to keep eyes on the various covered/concealed avenues of approach, and the only way to do that is to dismount the crew to man observation posts.

A four- or five-man tank crew is not built to handle the tank's weapons and provide its own flank/rear security (I'm assuming we have an isolated, immobilized tank, a la "Fury," and not an immobilized tank with a friendly infantry platoon, or a line of immobilized friendly tanks).

To Troopwo's point, it seems to me you can read quite a bit about German, British, and US crews abandoning a vehicle that's been hit and/or immobilized until the fight has passed by, then returning with another tank or recovery vehicle to drag it back to a repair shop. Reading Stackpole's "Panzer Aces," it seems that was a regular feature with Tigers, and I recall it happening with Jagdpanthers and Nashorns as well.


Who asked this joker18 Apr 2017 12:14 p.m. PST

"A wargamer regards an immobilised tank as a pillbox.
A tank crewman regards it as a deathtrap"

German tank crews were told to stay with the tank unless it was on fire. I'm pretty sure to them, if they smelled some strong smoke, it was time to bail. grin

thosmoss18 Apr 2017 12:32 p.m. PST

The Bovington Tiger found its turret jammed, so the crew bailed out. Most sets of game rules would simply let the Tiger operate as an assault gun … but the real guys thought enough was already enough.

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2017 12:49 p.m. PST

Vehicle crews are trained how to operate and to maintain the equipment. They are also issued tools for a reason.

Radio for recovery once the fight moves on or drive off and meet the mechanics for what you can not do.

To understand the issue, we need to both separate theory from practice, and not look back at WW2 through the lenses of today's realities.

A LOT of the tanks I see in wargame AARs on this site would not have had radio communications with anyone who could recover their tank. It may be unthinkable for today's tankers, but a Polish tanker in 1939, a French tanker in 1940, a Romanian tanker in 1941, an Italian tanker in 1941-43, or a Russian tanker in 1939-43 would not have been likely to have any contact with anyone outside of visual range. And even those tanks with radio equipment might well lose contact due to terrain, weather, or the very combat actions that broke their track, or might not have a working support echelon available to play rescue-ranger.

It is clear from first-hand reports (from both sides) throughout the war that armies often found abandon tanks littering the roadside/countryside as they advanced.

Russians required to stay with tank unless on fire. Enforcement no doubt varied.

Not until after mid-1942. The orders to this effect were a direct result of reports, from numerous campaigns, of thousands of tank crews returning on foot, of thousands of tanks abandoned for minor mechanical flaws.

So yes, by mid-war the requirement was to stand with and defend the tank. Get out if you must, but dismount and use the tank's MGs and the crew SMGs to protect the tank. No leaving it unless ordered to.

Think about it. Not from the perspective of a US tanker in an Abrams with a 10-to-1 support ratio, superb basic education and advanced training and full confidence. Put yourself in the place of a tanker in 1940-45. Half the time the problem was who had gotten inside the other's OODA loop (something there was no theory to explain yet), which resulted in a rapid loss of confidence in the command hierarchy and orders.

So there you are, in your tank. Your company has been ordered to road-march to town A, to support the defense of bridge B, by coordinating with infantry Regiment C, with supporting fires by artillery battalion D. As you are marching along the road you see units of artillery D in full flight going the other direction. Then you see scattered elements of infantry C, who shout that bridge B and town A have fallen, and hundreds of enemy tanks are everywhere. Your company commander says orders are orders, and until his orders change you are all marching to town A to find the HQ of infantry C and defend bridge B. Of course he is NOT in contact with higher HQ, so he has no way to receive any change in orders, if higher HQ even knows what's going on (which they clearly didn't when they issued the orders you have). So your company continues to march forward.

Then shooting starts. Immediately one of the tanks is hit, and roles to a stop smoking. Rounds ping and dirt flies. The commander orders line-abreast and advance while firing. The company roles forward. Except your engine sputters and conks out. A couple of other tanks have been hit. You can see them smoking, and some of their crews are out and making their way back towards you, and past you. Everyone else in the company continues off into the distance.

Your driver has been in his role for 4 weeks, having completed the most basic driver training course. You feel lucky he can keep the tank in a line without ramming the tank in front of you or veering off into a ditch. Your gunner was an infantryman up until last week, and might know how to strip and clean the MG if he could figure out how to get it out of the mount in the tank.

You have seen a few tanks that sputtered out like yours, and the mechanical support crew climbed over them and got them working again in 20 minutes by pulling and clearing the fuel filter. So that might be the problem. You have some idea what that might look like, and what panel you might find it under, but you've never actually done that job before. Or you might have been damaged by one of those pinging sounds you heard. And … um … you are not entirely sure you want to work too hard at figuring it out at this point. I mean, you have no idea if there are enemy about now, or will be enemy about in a few minutes. If you just get your boys out of the tank and walk back to the battalion HQ, who would blame you?

I think a die role is the right answer. You can't model all that goes in to the crew's decision. Well, maybe you can if you are gaming one tank crew with motivation / activation roles for each member to do their jobs. I don't think that's what most of us are doing. So role a die, and see if the crew bails. Works for me.

Your mileage may vary.

(aka: Mk 1)

goragrad18 Apr 2017 1:34 p.m. PST

Along with the other considerations, it is going to depend on when the action is occurring and the relative vulnerability of the tank to the enemy weaponry being faced (as well, of course as crew quality/morale). If the tank is relatively invulnerable to most of the weaponry being used by the enemy present there is less reason to bail. Particularly if there is indirect artillery or small arms fire.

At Arras the commander of a Matilda II with his stowage smouldering and a jammed turret had his driver pivot the tank to bring the gun to bear on an abandoned 88 and destroyed with a 2pdr shot. He then returned to the rally point with the tank as his was the only remaining tank.

During an attack in Italy in fog when a Churchill ran on a line of emplaced Panther turrets the crew abandoned their tank when the track was first hit. A second round followed in seconds brewing the tank.

In the Panzer Aces books there are several instances recounted where crews dismounted to repair broken tracks during the action.

It was also there noted that German tank commanders, on the Eastern Front at least, had submachine guns and grenades handy so that they could drive off or eliminate Russian tank killer teams.

So early in the war if you were in a heavy tank and had not yet run into enemy weapons with a good chance of destroying your tank you might very well carry on with a damaged tank or stick with the immobile one.

Later in the war if you have a tank that is relatively vulnerable bailing would be more likely.

On the other hand if it is primarily a tank battle and you have a chance to repair a mobility hit, that would be a possibility.

Of course, the fellow at Arras got a MC so not perhaps a typical response.

On a final note, it was stated in an analysis of armor in the '73 War that on the Golan Heights Centurion tanks remained in action as long as at least one crew member was still capable of functioning (even when wounded). On the other hand many Syrian tanks were abandoned after being hit even if undamaged and a large number were abandoned unhit.

Who asked this joker18 Apr 2017 1:41 p.m. PST

The Bovington Tiger found its turret jammed, so the crew bailed out.

Something else too. The Bovington Tiger was taken out FRONTALLY by a 6 pounder. Most sets of rules would make it invulnerable to a 6 pounder round.

willthepiper18 Apr 2017 2:49 p.m. PST

Not sure how much this adds to the conversation, as it is only a single example, but the Churchill tank crews at Dieppe generally remained with their immobilised tanks (immobilised by track failures on the cobble beaches or simply unable to climb the seawall), and carried on firing in support of infantry until they ran out of ammunition.

Of course it helped that the Germans had no weapons present capable of penetrating Churchill armour, but nonetheless, the crews remained in action.

From link

In November 1941 the 14th CATB had 15 Churchills and 31 Matildas on strength. December saw the 14th with 35 Churchills. In May the unit was redesignated a Tank Regiment. In July 1942 the war establishment was set at 40 officers and 630 Other Ranks. The Churchills of the 14th went into action on 19 August 1942 at Dieppe. The terrain in which the tanks operated was poor, and rocks from the chert beach broke track pins on several vehicles. Concrete barriers on the beach exits were not removed when the Engineers assigned to that task were killed or unable to advance off the beach. The tank crews, however, lost no casualties to enemy fire while in their vehicles due to the heavy armour. The crews stayed at their posts until all ammunition was expended, covering the withdrawal of the infantry from the beach; few men of the (14th Canadian Army Tank Regiment (Calgary Regiment)) made it back to England.

Legion 418 Apr 2017 2:57 p.m. PST

Generally Track and Suspension damage was common. And very rarely did you have the catastrophic destruction as you see in the movies.

troopwo Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2017 4:05 p.m. PST

Will, don't use Dieppe as an example.
Rumours are still innaccurate to this day.

The Churchill tanks actually did make it into the town in support of the infantry. The supposed three foot sea wall was no challenge at all.

Upon the withdrawal of the troops from the town, the tanks withdrew too. There really was not much of a force of amphibious craft left to pick up to many troops, never mind the tanks.

As a result of sitting on the beach under fire until they ran out of ammo, almost every tank subsequently turned itself broadside as a shelter for the exposed infantry. They eventually ran out of ammo. Fir the most part the German 50mm and captured French anti tank guns did not really do much to the armour. However they did knock off the tracks. Ignore the myths of the pebble stones affecting them. Those that did not get shot out and on fire, were abandoned and set on fire by their own crews.

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2017 5:40 p.m. PST

Troopwo –

Interesting account of the Churchills at Dieppe. I have never heard/read that before.

Can you provide any sources?

(aka: Mk 1)

troopwo Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2017 6:21 p.m. PST

Mark, I have talked to survivors.
As well there is an incredible book called, "Dieppe Through the Lens". I have it buried somewhere in my librar, but I can't think of the author right now. It is near fifteen years old. I highly recommend it if you can find it. Let me suggest Advanced Book Exchange for a used copy.

It uses German and even French post battle photos of each vehicle. It also traces the travels of each Churchill through the town and back to the beach.

There might have been one or two examples of breaking a track by pivoting on the pebbles on the end, but you get that even today with the most modern tracks. After two years of coaxing the most out of horrid British vehicles , these crews knew what they were up to.

Don't forget that in 1944 the UK was running out of men. It was easier to replace tanks than to replace crewmen. Didn't the UK break up two or more infantry divisions by August of 1944?

As a side note, funny how people ask for proof but no one asks for experience working with tanks???

willthepiper18 Apr 2017 7:39 p.m. PST

Hi, Warrant,

I think with both versions, the point is made that on this one occasion at least, tank crews stayed with their immoblised tanks until they ran out of ammo. It's just one example but still makes the case that bailing wasn't the only response to a loss of mobility.

Still,you've inspired me to further research!

goragrad18 Apr 2017 11:45 p.m. PST

Another note on the Bovington Tiger – per the Churchill wiki article, the crew was wounded when the shot damaged the turret ring. That might have made them more likely to bail.

As I just noted on the 'When to stop shooting' thread the other thing about bailing from immobilized tanks is that if it wasn't moving when the track or suspension was damaged, the crew would not now it was immobile until trying to move.

As to smaller caliber shells causing damage some rule sets don't allow, an Elefant captured after being abandoned at Anzio was found ro have a 75mm APC round jamming the drive sprocket when the Elefant was being partially restored.

One reason I liked Tractics back in the day – it provided for hits on vision block, pistol ports, and other 'weak spots' in an AFV's armor.

Legion 419 Apr 2017 8:09 a.m. PST

I had heard the same about the Churchills at Dieppe as well. Pebbles may have broken some tanks. But I would have thought that sort of terrain wouldn't be a real problem generally. As opposed to have been the accepted "fact".

As a side note, funny how people ask for proof but no one asks for experience working with tanks???
LOL ! Not on TMP ! All you do is have to read about a topic and you are an expert. Regardless … e.g. never having served in/with/along side AFVs of any type. evil grin

troopwo Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2017 12:18 p.m. PST

That's ok Legion, some of us have the scars and beer gut from the breakdowns next to an appropriate gasthaus.

I am just counting my days before someone diagnoses me with aluminum pot syndrome. Then I can go on a spree right dressing the trees in a park.

Legion 419 Apr 2017 4:39 p.m. PST

LOL ! wink

badger22 Inactive Member19 Apr 2017 7:07 p.m. PST

It was always amazing howw often vehicles seemed to break right next to a gasthaus or at least an imbiss

Simo Hayha19 Apr 2017 8:52 p.m. PST

In the Panzer Aces books there are several instances recounted where crews dismounted to repair broken tracks during the action.

this always impressed me. changing a track was no easy task in my opinion. have always wanted to model a game around this.

UshCha20 Apr 2017 9:50 a.m. PST

We looked at this and decided to leave it to the player. A simple die roll will likely be wrong as without a massive contextural analysis, it is just as likely to cause a bailout that is daft as a "stay in that is daft". So more rules no improvement in accuracy. IF you had a points system (we don't) then valueing the crew in the final reconing so a lost tank but remaining crew is of a benefit in the final victory anaysis is a positive gain. In our longer games where crews may need to take on another tank, an experienced crew is valuable and not a resource you squander. we rend to role play that anyway in our games rhat ate one offs. Its the story not the winning.

thomalley21 Apr 2017 9:37 a.m. PST

In the book "brothers in Arms", a history of the 761 tank battalion it seems any time there was a mobility hit, it's grab your Thompson, jump out, and look for cover.

Legion 421 Apr 2017 2:14 p.m. PST

In the Panzer Aces books there are several instances recounted where crews dismounted to repair broken tracks during the action.

this always impressed me. changing a track was no easy task in my opinion.

WOW !!!! If they are exposed to much enemy fire. That could be bad for the crew … frown And changing/repairing tracks … yes, it is no picnic ! Plus it takes time and a lot of "elbow grease". Hopefully some one in the crew is a shorter version of the Hulk !

Wolfhag24 Apr 2017 10:23 a.m. PST

In Stackpole's book, "Panzer Aces II" on page 306 it talks about a Panther tank whose engine caught fire but the crew was unaware of it and kept fighting until they got a radio message from another tank about their situation.

I have also read accounts of German tanks being hit by Sherman WP or smoke rounds and bailing out after they panicked because the smoke was sucked into the fighting compartment and they thought it was on fire.

It was not unusual for the loader in a German tank to remove the coax MG34 and use it for protecting the crew as they did repairs. The tank carried the stock and bipod for firing it dismounted.

So to answer the question of when a crew bails from damage, I guess the age-old answer, "It depends".


Thomas Thomas Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2017 12:10 p.m. PST

I agree with Mark I that a die roll is needed to determine whether crew bails. Its more a morale consideration than a technical one. And yes crews should abandon tanks for no "good" reason – so it should be random. Some crews kept fighting even when tank on fire others bailed from non-penetrating hits (or WP hits). Anyway that's how I handle it in Combat Command – a hit generates a Morale Check -failure destorys the platoon (double damage destroys out right).

Re critial hits (ie Tigers I knocked out by 5.7Ls) most games provide for some form of critical hit (in Combat Command if you roll a "10" for penetration you roll again and add that roll to damage result). View that most games do not provide for critical hits comes from Flames of War which with its crude d6 system can't accomdate exception situations.

Thomas J. Thomas
Fame and Glory Games

Tired Mammal25 Apr 2017 4:53 a.m. PST

I am sure I have read somewhere, probably Tank Rider, cases of T34 crews abandoning them before they were hit. Just left to driving uncontrolled towards the enemy. Of course it could have been very poorly trained crews or just very experienced crews who recognised a futile attack order.

Blutarski11 May 2017 7:50 a.m. PST

Another factoid from the weird end of the tank damage spectrum according to the book "Marine Tank Battles in Korea" –

North Korean infantry were encouraged to direct fire at the muzzle of US tank guns in the hope of getting a "golden BB" down the bore. If the gun was loaded, the bullet would usually cause the projectile to jam in the barrel when fired, thus disabling the gun; if the breech was open, the result would be an angry little hornet ricocheting all around the interior of the turret.

Don't recall if "Tractics" had a rule for this ….. ;-)


Wolfhag11 May 2017 6:38 p.m. PST

A Jap tank 37mm round hit the muzzle of a Marine Sherman on Tarawa. Parts of the round exited the breach damaging it and the gun.


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