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"I Think The 75mm Sherman Was The Perfect "Blitz" Tank" Topic


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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Lee49403 Jul 2018 3:53 p.m. PST

Ok. Let's start the firestorm. Most US tanks spent most of their time supporting infantry by taking out mg nests, bunkers and other "soft" targets. Not fighting German armor. The 75mm gun was perfect for that job. The 17pdr or 76mm guns were not. There were issues (large or small depending on the source) with HE effectiveness, muzzle blast and ammo storage capacity. The robust, reliable and easy to maintain 75mm Sherman's were exactly what was needed to sweep the Germans out of Western Europe. Recall that the Germans did the same with "inferior" tanks in France in 1940. Ok. I'll duck now lol. Cheers!

Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP03 Jul 2018 4:14 p.m. PST

I do realise that what you've described was US tactical thinking but it begs the question as to what was,then, to face up to the Tigers etc?

Where Tank Destroyers good enough? Where tank- busting aircraft reliable enough?

If you can't face up to the German heavy tanks, you have a problem.

Of course, the Nazis were defeated but you still have to ask, " at what cost"?

28mm Fanatik03 Jul 2018 4:32 p.m. PST

At what cost indeed. The Germans never had enough Tigers and Panthers to make a difference much less win the war when it comes to the age old question of "quantity vs. quality."

But the argument rings hollow to those poor Sherman crews who provide fodder for this war winning strategy.

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP03 Jul 2018 4:50 p.m. PST

If you take a view of the "quality vs quantity" debate through the lens of history here is what you see.

1.Barbarians vs Rome -- it took several hundred years but the mob won
2.Napoleon and his Grand French armies -- the mob eventually won
3. The Famous army of Nothern Virginia and their crack generals --- the masses again
4. Hitler's blond haired blue eyed super human warriors and equipment-- done in by the many also

Perhaps something we should consider even today ??
The "us vs everbody else" mind set may be a difficult road ??

Regards
Russ Dunaway

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP03 Jul 2018 6:22 p.m. PST

So nearly as I can tell, Lee494, you're perfectly right. You're going to get beat up, though, because miniature wargamers don't fight wars: they fight battles.

A little thought experiment. Suppose in 1933 a vision of the Perfect Tank comes to Hitler--complete with blueprints--and the entire German tank budget goes into making Tiger II's. With some serious luck, they have ten battalions of them by 1940. Does anyone imagine they'd have conquered France? About half of them would have broken down in the Ardennes. But if you break that unsuccessful German invasion down into miniature wargames, you get lots of battles wargamers would pay money to fight, with ten operational Tigers blasting away at a French Division. The German loss of the war would be off table.

War is a terrible thing. The way to stop it is to win, and quickly. For that you want tanks with long range and great mechanical reliability, capable of reaching enemy logistics and command centers, not unreliable behemoths pounding away at each other in the mud. Which is why when the Germans were winning, they were concentrating on tanks much more like the Shermans than their later moving vans.

But no one wants to wargame attacks on soft targets. There's no game there. Have all the fun you want on the table, but don't confuse it with winning modern wars.

goragrad03 Jul 2018 8:10 p.m. PST

It certainly didn't help the reputation of the American armored divisions to see the tanks heading for the rear when it was reported that German armor was in the vicinity.

The infantry left behind to face German tanks had a pretty low opinion of American tankers and those war winning Shermans.

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP03 Jul 2018 8:33 p.m. PST

Using equipment and resources for their intended purpose.

Regards
Russ Dunaway

rmaker03 Jul 2018 9:05 p.m. PST

Another plus for the Sherman was mechanical reliability. And, yes, the TD's were good enough to handle Tigers, especially the M36 with its 90mm gun. Add in P-47's, P-51's, A-26's and the Tiger's (and Panther's) own unreliability and the big cats were much less a threat than they are made out to be.

Martin Rapier03 Jul 2018 10:13 p.m. PST

76mm HE was only around 10% less effective than 75m HE, and it was better at making holes in enemy tanks.

The Russians really liked their 76mm Shermans.

So I would contend that the 76mm Shermans was the perfect Blitz tank.

Gaz004503 Jul 2018 10:18 p.m. PST

Reliability and interchangeable parts, parts could be salvaged to keep others serviceable…….don't forget the 'tail'- thousands of trucks keeping those M4's advancing….the Krauts were still using horses and wagons!

Lucius04 Jul 2018 1:20 a.m. PST

If you want to win a tank duel, build a Panther.

If you want to win a world war, build a Sherman.

raylev304 Jul 2018 1:30 a.m. PST

For a good overview of the Tiger's effectiveness, mostly the lack thereof, read "Sledgehammers: Strengths and Flaws of Tiger Tank Battalions in World War II."


link

This book on Tigers provides context and analysis on the success, or lack thereof, of the Tiger tank.

Most other books on the Tiger tend to emphasize the qualities of the tank when it fought at the very tactical tank-on-tank level. This book, while noting the positive aspects of the tank at that level, considers how the tank actually functioned at higher tactical and operational levels. The bottom line – it didn't do that well.

The reason the tank was mediocre is because of its limited operating range and especially its mechanical unreliability. Even on simple road marches of 20-30 miles a number of tanks would break down, which meant that few went into combat. At the same time, once engaged, even full strength battalions would be combat ineffective within days, not due to enemy fire but to breakdowns. This was especially true during defensive actions where, when their lines of communications were threatened and they had to retreat, more Tigers would be destroyed by their own crews than were destroyed by the enemy.

Whether destroyed by the enemy or their own crews the effect was the same. For example, the Tiger battalion with the best kill ratio (1:50) saw the ratio drop to 1:12.8 when the total number of Tigers lost to breakdowns, and then destroyed by their crews, and other causes is also considered. The next best battalion had a kill ratio of 1:19 which drops to 1:7.1 due to the Tigers being destroyed by their own crews and other causes. This meant, and what frequently happened, is that although the allies may have had to confront Tigers when they had no choice, they more frequently attacked weaker units on the Tigers' flanks, forcing them to withdraw and breakdown.

Even if you like the kill ratios noted above, the Germans couldn't make enough to make a difference. Tiger units, which were generally way understrength by the time they got into action, were easily outflanked. It would be hard to find battles where the Tiger made a real difference. Obviously I wouldn't want to be in a Sherman in a head to head fight, but I'd go way out of my way to avoid that.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP04 Jul 2018 2:49 a.m. PST

The notion that "The Sherman was not as good as Panther." Doesn't in any way take away any of its own virtues. Sure in absolute terms the Sherman was lacking in armour (hold on, the front plate was comparable to a Tiger I) and firepower, but the Sherman was never the decisive piece of kit.

The war was fought with M1 Garands, Jeeps, Higgins Boats, Amtracks, trucks, B17 and B29's, SCR 300 and SCR 536, M10's, Time on Target, C-Rations, Boots, parachutes, oil, spare parts, Liberty Ships, Penicillin and nuclear bombs …

The US outmatch Germany on so many levels it's not even a close match, it never was, never at any point after the US joins in is it a matter of "How the hell are we going to defeat the mighty Germany ?" It's more a "How the hell are they still standing after all that beating by three world powers combined ?"

Germany had already lost the war, their deficit in Oil had crippled them from 1942 onwards, they kept their tanks, planes and submarines going by taking it away from everything else and using highly expensive methods to create replacements that were never enough to give them any chance to win the war.

Even if they had followed the usually suggestion to drop Tigers and Panther and build more "sensible" tanks they would have been useless for lack of oil, in that regard their use of large powerful tanks, albeit in limited numbers, was probably the smartest move. It worked, it didn't help them win, but it helped to offset facing armies for whom supplying massive numbers of tanks was not a huge problem.

So adding armour, or a bigger gun or putting all your hope on the Pershing (a box of Pandora in itself) would not have made a huge difference. Shermans won the war, even if they faced bad moments when dealing with German tanks they would often come out on top in most other cases and defeated Germans nearly all the time. And even when destroyed, Shermans were not death-traps, most crewmen got out alive only 1700 US tank crews were killed in Western Europe (and that's the total number, including men on duties outside the tank etc) and only 80 for Italy … Compared to the tens of thousands of soldiers who were killed in combat the Sherman was not a death trap, an M1 Garand on the other hand …

langobard Supporting Member of TMP04 Jul 2018 3:06 a.m. PST

I have no problem with the idea that the Sherman was a great war winning tank. Is it the "perfect" blitz tank?

One question I would like to ask, is how the Sherman stacks up against the T-34, especially in terms of cost and reliability since getting the greatest number of tanks the furthest in the shortest space of time (how close to 'the first with the most' is that?) seems to be a high priority in a 'blitz' tank, and from the Kursk counter offensive onwards, the Soviets were moving very large numbers of T34's over long distance in pursuit.

I confess that while each has advantages and disadvantages, my 3 WW2 tanks most likely to take the accolade would be the Sherman, the T34 and the PzIV (had the Germans ever bothered to build them in the numbers they needed).

Merely my 2c.

Martin Rapier04 Jul 2018 4:51 a.m. PST

The Germans predominant 'Blitz' tank was the Panzer III. They won all their great victories and advanced the most distance with the Pz III as their medium tank.

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP04 Jul 2018 5:26 a.m. PST

It certainly didn't help the reputation of the American armored divisions to see the tanks heading for the rear when it was reported that German armor was in the vicinity.

The infantry left behind to face German tanks had a pretty low opinion of American tankers and those war winning Shermans.

Interesting Goragrad. Could you be so kind as to provide documentation of US Armored Divisions, or even Independent Tank Battalions, supporting Infantry units in NW Europe heading for the rear upon reports of German armor in the area?

Most American Infantry divisions had at least one Independent Tank Battalion assigned to support them. In fact many American Infantry divisions had more armor at the time then many German armor divisions (we are talking actual not paper strength). These tank battalions were assigned on a semi-permanent basis to foster cooperation and unit cohesion.

While I can find instances of problems with the cooperation in Harry Yeide's excellent and well regarded book "Steel Victory: The Heroic Story of America's Independent Tank Battalions at War in Europe", I can not find any information on any of those units heading for the rear let alone based on just rumors of German armor.

Always learning new things here so will be interested in seeing your documents.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP04 Jul 2018 5:42 a.m. PST

(had the Germans ever bothered to build them in the numbers they needed).

Given that Halder, the chief of Staff is already considering demotorizing infantry divisions to free up fuel for the tanks and Luftwaffe in February 1940 and there are constant fuel shortages in the factories forcing occasional shutdowns in 1941 there is a clear problem.

By 1942 the necessary reserves to launch a large operation like Barbarossa are gone. The thrust to take the Soviet oilfields has failed (no thanks to Halder who leaves Army Group South with a manpower deficit of 300,000 men to "encourage" Hitler to focus on the taking of Moscow as the main objective. The German army never has more than 30 days of fuel reserves and this is only achieved by carefully rationing it and swapping it around. The production of synthetic fuel is a drain on German industry and costs a fortune.

To introduce more tanks would only have hastened the inevitable defeat of Germany. In that case investing in more powerful tanks is a sensible option, except that they do end up consuming more fuel, but still not as much as trying to achieve parity with the allies.

To fully equip all the various plans by the Army, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine (full motorization, 15000 aircraft, submarines + a complete Z-Plan) would have required 95% of world oil reserves. Germany had access to 5% at best.

Legion 404 Jul 2018 5:54 a.m. PST

We chatted about this a bit before, IIRC. Some good comments there : TMP link


TMP link

Frontovik04 Jul 2018 6:03 a.m. PST

By 1942 the necessary reserves to launch a large operation like Barbarossa are gone. The thrust to take the Soviet oilfields has failed (no thanks to Halder who leaves Army Group South with a manpower deficit of 300,000 men

To be fair that was probably just their share of the overall manpower shortage the Germans were suffering in 1942.

Fred Cartwright04 Jul 2018 6:38 a.m. PST

Interesting thought. Supposing things were reversed in 1944 the US had Tigers and Panthers and the Germans the Sherman, but the US had all the other advantages it had in 1944, plentiful supplies, complete air superiority, abundant excellent artillery support etc. Who would have won then? I think the US would still have won and it probably doesn't matter what tank you have as long as you have all the other aces up your sleeve!

Ferd4523104 Jul 2018 6:40 a.m. PST

And then there is the old chestnut, quantity has a quality all its own.H

Ragbones Supporting Member of TMP04 Jul 2018 6:55 a.m. PST

A really interesting thread. I'm no WWII expert and all of this discussion is very educational and fascinating.

Wolfhag04 Jul 2018 7:07 a.m. PST

The Sherman served well in N. Africa (its height was an advantage), best overall tank in the Pacific.

Versality: diesel or gas fuel, 105mm assault vehicle, Firefly, Jumbo, Skink 4x20mm, Funnies, ARV, mine clearing, flamethrower, fired WP and canister, T34 Calliope. The .05 second delay action HE round enabled ricochet air bursts against dug-in guns and infantry. Mounted a .50cal for the TC. You could make a case for the Jumbo being a heavy tank.

A larger and heavier tank would have been harder to land for beach assaults. I recall reading that when the war started the cranes in the US could not lift much more than a Sherman and then there was the problem of transporting across the ocean on a ship. Larger and heavier tanks mean it takes longer to get the same amount to the battle. I think overall the US was stuck with the Sherman as the tank for the war and the Allies made the most of it.

The TC had a turret override to help the gunner get the gun on target more quickly giving a better chance of getting off the first shot. The gun stabilizer (when it worked well) enabled quicker Shoot & Scoot tactics and recon by fire while moving. The gunner had a periscopic sight enabling quicker target ID and engagement.

The wet storage and hatches for all crew gave better survival rates. The fuel was not stored around or under the crew compartment like many other tanks.

If you think about it if the US had a tank comparable to the Tiger and Panther it would not have been able to solve the strategic problem the US had and Germany did not. If the Shermans broke down as often and as easily as the Tiger and Panther the Allies would still be in France.

Post War: The Israeli's mounted a French 105mm LPG gun on the Super Sherman. HEAT penetrates 160mm at 30 degrees.

Chalk it up to "Yankee Ingenuity"?

Wolfhag

wrgmr104 Jul 2018 8:00 a.m. PST

Warspite1 just posting this review of David Renders book "Tank Action"

TMP link

In this book he describes how they would use their 75mm gun to blast German infantry positions which is pretty much all they did. The odd occasion when they ran into a German tank they would use HE, firing as many as possible to scare the crew, which seemed to work.

His encounter with a Panther he describes them firing off 3 rounds of HE hitting before the Panther could reply with an AP missing. The Panther then backed away from the encounter.

UshCha04 Jul 2018 8:03 a.m. PST

The firefly was a good tank and available in large numbers to the UK in time for the Normandy campaign (1/3 were Firefly). However some tanks need good HE as supporting infantry is vital. Some UK Shermans were support tanks and had 105mm guns for HE.

Tigers in combat lists the numbers of Tigers lost to Mines, Losing a tiger to a mine is much worse than losing a Sherman to a mine as there are fewer and cost more. More tanks are lost to mines I suspect than wargamers would like to think.

There is a bitter Irony in this debate. Even with this @Awful@ tank the losses to tank crews in proportion to there numbers were far less than that of the infantry. It would be interesting to see how many infantry lives were saved by the @Awful@ tank supporting infantry, by having lots of them, than fewer more expensive tanks designed to save lives of the tankers.
A senior commanders job is to work out how to kill as few a number of his countrymen as possible. There is no simple answer and the Sherman may well be the Least Worst Option all things being equal.

Wolfhag04 Jul 2018 8:34 a.m. PST

wrgmr1,
That's the exact tactics that should be used. Since I use timing values rather than IGOUGO or activations, hits by HE will give a delay in executing a firing order allowing the Sherman to get inside the Panthers Decision Loop. HE rounds can also damage optics and jam turret rotating mechanisms. A Sherman HE round can bounce off the mantlet bottom and blast or spall through the hull roof armor of 15-17mm.

The Sherman most likely gets off the first shot because of the advantages I listed. The Panther gunner does not have a panoramic periscope sight like the Sherman does.

Hitting them with WP is even more effective. With correct tactics, timing and weapons modeling the Panther is not an uber tank.

I forgot to add the Sherman's ability to conduct fairly accurate indirect fire too.

Wolfhag

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP04 Jul 2018 10:06 a.m. PST

Langobard, you're quite right, and "perfect" would be a stretch for any complex piece of machinery. Even for "best"--well, do we only count "wet storage" Shermans? Do we subtract points for T-34 transmission troubles? It gets complicated. But the contenders for "war-winning tank" as opposed to "staving off defeat tank" do bear a very strong resemblance to one another.

Korvessa04 Jul 2018 10:27 a.m. PST

Given this:

Der Motor des Panzers ist ebenso seine Waffe wie die Kanone.
The engine of the Panzer is a weapon just as the main-gun

Then yeah – the Sherman was good.
Kind of like it's namesake. Not the greatest, very good at some things, but still a war-winner in the end.

Korvessa04 Jul 2018 10:29 a.m. PST

Robert P +1

" miniature wargamers don't fight wars: they fight battles."

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP04 Jul 2018 10:43 a.m. PST

By 1942 the necessary reserves to launch a large operation like Barbarossa are gone. The thrust to take the Soviet oilfields has failed (no thanks to Halder who leaves Army Group South with a manpower deficit of 300,000 men

To be fair that was probably just their share of the overall manpower shortage the Germans were suffering in 1942.

Alas no, the North was properly replaced and got a share of extra troops, the Middle also was fully replaced and heavily reinforced, Halder kept troops away from the South to discourage Hitler from acting on the, in his estimation – risible idea – that war would be fought over resources rather than defeat the enemy by taking Moscow.

The result is that Hitler kept his foot down and attacked the caucasus at a disadvantage taking away their last chance to grab the oil fields.

This cockup was the reason why Hitler dismissed the General Staff and took over as supreme commander.

The German army was able to keep up with losses until 1943 and into 1944, after that it was a losing battle to try to keep up with losses as troop quality fell quickly and dramatically.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP04 Jul 2018 11:07 a.m. PST

The Sherman had to be transported long distances across two oceans and had to be delivered to harbours that may not have an intact infrastructure to unload heavy tanks. For example the heavy cranes to unload heavy tanks in Antwerp were not available until December 1944 and several new cranes had to be installed in the US for the same purpose.

In addition to the crane problem there was a shortage of proper train wagons able to carry the weight of an M26, when maneuvers were planned a few years after the war (1948 iirc) it took nearly over a month to gather and move the tanks about a hundred miles.

And there lies the problem, in authoritarian systems the leader may well dictate that something is implemented at all cost and subalterns will rush to try to make it work, which is usually a net loss to efficiency.

Pershing was not a ready and operational design until shortly before it was delivered in early 1945 to troops who had to train in their use so they would be ready and thanks to Zebra the US started to implement the switch from 75mm and 76mm to 105mm and 90mm, but Germany collapsed before this could be fully implemented.

If you look up the timeline AGF and Ordnance come up with operational, battle-ready vehicles in a few months (preparatory work had started in 1942), it took the Germans nearly two years to figure the answer to the T34 and it was rushed untested into battle and suffered accordingly.

If you believe that Sherman was lacking in things like armour and firepower it was very survivable with spring loaded hatches that allowed crew to get out quickly. As said above the gunner had a periscope sight that meant that the Sherman could hide behind a crest and still observe the enemy. In a Panther you had to expose the entire turret and the gunner only had a high power optic with a narrow field of view and relied heavily on the commander to guide him to the target.

As I said earlier Shermans received critical updates like better fuse boxes and were wired so that flooding had a minimal risk of shorting out the electrics. It was tested to run from arctic to jungle conditions, something the Germans didn't need to take into account. Neither did they have to worry about repairs as tanks could be transported back to Germany by train, Shermans had no such luxury and had to be designed so that they could be serviced in the field. An officer joked that you wouldn't find a vice in a US workshop because it wasn't necessary to modify parts, nor did repair teams have to fight each other for parts as the Germans sometimes had to do.

Sherman could have taken improvements but it was a fully functional part of a well-equipped and efficient combined arms force, what the Sherman may have lacked in the opinion of some was largely made up by the incredible overall combat effectiveness of US infantry and armoured divisions and all the equipment wargamers completely overlook, but outpaced German equipment by several degrees.

Fred Cartwright04 Jul 2018 11:54 a.m. PST

If you look up the timeline AGF and Ordnance come up with operational, battle-ready vehicles in a few months (preparatory work had started in 1942), it took the Germans nearly two years to figure the answer to the T34 and it was rushed untested into battle and suffered accordingly.

The US issued the requirement for a new medium tank in July 1940 and the M4 went into action in late 42. I make that at least 2 years. The M4 was an incremental development stretching back to the M3 and M2 tanks so the basic layout and mechanics were well tried and tested.
The initial German response to the T-34 was upgunned Panzers III & IV. The decision to mount the long 75mm on the Panzer IV was taken in November 41 and the first tanks rolled off the production lines in March 42.
Both the Tiger and Panther were new designs not incremental improvements on existing models.

charared Supporting Member of TMP04 Jul 2018 1:44 p.m. PST

If you want to win a tank duel, build a Panther.

If you want to win a world war, build a Sherman.

thumbs up

mildbill04 Jul 2018 2:41 p.m. PST

US armor doctrine was to withdraw and not get in to a tank duel. Find the tanks, back up and let the airforce and artillery pound them. Move forward, if the tanks are still around, repeat. As a side note, US tanks were no larger than could be loaded on the existing rail network.

TacticalPainter0104 Jul 2018 3:15 p.m. PST

Very interesting discussion and statistics on comparative Allied and German tank losses in Normandy here

link

In particular the ratio of overall tank losses, the cause of tank losses and the ability to recover and repair.

goragrad04 Jul 2018 4:05 p.m. PST

Marc33594 – primary source was a history of the Battle of the Bulge. Read long ago in high school so it may be buried in a box, but don't have the title.

As to low overall losses for Sherman tank crews, as I recall they were putting infantry in Shermans in France as they were losing so many tankers.

mkenny04 Jul 2018 5:07 p.m. PST

As to low overall losses for Sherman tank crews, as I recall they were putting infantry in Shermans in France as they were losing so many tankers.

So says Belton Cooper. Tank crew losses can only be judged 'high' if you have a measure that shows what 'low' losses should be. Given that Infantry death rates(as a %) were far higher than for tank crews then taking a rifleman out of his slit trench and placing him in a tank makes his chances of survival much better.

JayM48104 Jul 2018 6:21 p.m. PST

Belton Cooper isn't as reliable as a Sherman.

langobard Supporting Member of TMP04 Jul 2018 7:53 p.m. PST

Robert, did the T34 have transmission troubles? I'm certainly no expert, but if it did, then yes, I would count that against it given that the Sherman seems to have astonishing mechanical reliability.

Patrick, those are very interesting problems you cite about the German industry base and as such probably toss my Pz IV suggestion into the wastebasket. That said, in hindsight, I put my idea poorly: I was more wondering what Germany could have done if they had put all their production efforts into the Pz IV rather than expending scarce resources on Tigers and Panthers (I assume that the Pz IV cost significantly less than either of those and thus they could have produced proportionally more of them.)

Even with that hopefully clarified, as has been pointed out, it was the Pz III that the Germans achieved their greatest victories with.

Wolfhag04 Jul 2018 11:03 p.m. PST

langobard,
The average cost for a Tiger I ran between 250,000-300,000 Reich Marks (RM); if a Tiger I in 1943 had cost 300,000RM, it would cost just over $1.2 USDM in USD. By comparison, a Sherman in 1942 cost $33,000 USD to produce- adjusted for inflation, it would cost just over $500,000 USD in 2017 USD to build. This meant that the Tiger cost six times what it cost to build a single Sherman- it was even far more expensive than other German tanks. The Panzer III cost 96,000RM, the Panzer IV cost 103,000RM, and the Panzer V "Panther" cost 117,000RM. What was more, the mechanical complexity of the Tiger and the constant aerial bombardment of German industrial targets by Allied bombers meant that production of German armor, and the Tiger in particular, was stunted. It reportedly took 300,000 man hours to produce a Tiger I, twice the amount of time required to build a Panther. Kassel, Germany, a site of Tiger production, was attacked 40 times over the course of the war by Allied bombers- on one occasion in October 1943, an RAF raid caused substantial damage to Henschel's facilities and killed a large number of workers, delaying production.

Production of the Tiger maxed out in April 1944, with 105 tanks produced that month. Final production of the Tiger I totaled 1,347 vehicles. This paled in comparison with the Sherman, production of which averaged over 1,200 tanks per month- eventually over 49,000 Shermans was built.

The Pak 40 cost was 12,000 Reichmarks (RM) per unit, which was a significant leap over the 8,000 RM of the Pak 38. It also required 2200 man hours and 6 months production time per unit. For the cost of a Tiger I they could make almost 200 guns.

However, the Tiger and Panther were to be "breakthrough" tanks for an offensive, the defense does not win wars. It's somewhat ironic he the German tanks that were so successful in "Blitzkrieg" were the Panzer II and Panzer III but not effective from 1942 on.

Wolfhag

GreenLeader05 Jul 2018 12:14 a.m. PST

'To fully equip all the various plans by the Army, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine (full motorization, 15000 aircraft, submarines + a complete Z-Plan) would have required 95% of world oil reserves. Germany had access to 5% at best'

I'm guessing this is hyperbole / tongue-in-cheek, as it cannot possibly be true.

Fred Cartwright05 Jul 2018 12:53 a.m. PST

I was more wondering what Germany could have done if they had put all their production efforts into the Pz IV rather than expending scarce resources on Tigers and Panthers (I assume that the Pz IV cost significantly less than either of those and thus they could have produced proportionally more of them.)

The Panzer IV was not an ideal tank for mass production. As noted above the Panther only cost an extra 14,000 RM and was a much better tank. So instead of 5,000 Panthers you get about 5,700 Panzer IV's. One of the reason the Germans switched to the Tiger II was it was cheaper and easier to build. Same reason for developing the E series tanks.

I'm guessing this is hyperbole / tongue-in-cheek, as it cannot possibly be true.

I am sure it is not, but to fully supply Germany's plans would have required considerably more oil than the Germans had access too. Lack of oil really was the Achilles heal of the German war effort.

GreenLeader05 Jul 2018 1:04 a.m. PST

Yes, agreed – but to suggest that their plans required 95% of the world's oil reserves is far-fetched to say the least.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP05 Jul 2018 1:11 a.m. PST

Belton Cooper is a must read, but he included several mistakes in his book.

His appraisal of the Sherman is based on the "destroyed bias" which is the opposite of the "survivor bias" which lead to mistakes in appraising the qualities of aircraft in combat.

Surviving aircraft were surveyed and suggestions were made to increase the protection in the areas that had been most damaged. People spotted that mistake and said that areas which had not been hit should be better protected because they were most likely the areas when hit would case a plane to be lost.

Cooper saw only destroyed Shermans, but had no real view of how many survived and what the ratio was compared to enemy tanks. In his view so many destroyed Shermans could only be explained by it being a poor design and only a larger, more powerful tank could solve the problem as fewer would be destroyed in combat.

He was never in a position to make a thorough analysis of actual wins vs losses, to him the Sherman seemed to be a perpetual loser …

Cooper reinforces the myth that Sherman was a poor design, which again is supported by various allegations by misquoting or misunderstanding certain sources.

For example it is often cited that tanks should not fight tanks. The actual doctrine states that tanks are an offensive weapon and should not be used as a defensive tool to blunt enemy attacks, that's why they introduced the Tank Destroyer branch.

Tanker manuals do have sections on engaging enemy tanks and in the attack Shermans were expected to take on said tanks. Tank Destroyers were supposed to sit in reserve and only be called upon if the enemy launched a massed armoured attack. The manual also stated that commanders could use them at their discretion and as a result the Tank Destroyers were used as as tanks, which rendered the whole idea of having them in the first place moot.

Note that there is a difference between a mobile anti-tank weapon, say a jeep with recoilless rifle, a Gun Motor Carriage like the M10 and an M4 Sherman.

Mobile anti-tank weapons continued to be used, and so were tanks, but the hybrid M10, not guite a tank and not quite a mobile AT weapon was scrapped because even though they were fully functional and successful weapon systems, they were essentially superfluous and the category was removed from the TO&E.

Also a word about T-34 and Panzer III. It would be folly to compare these tanks directly. T-34 was not mechanically complex, but it was an extremely well thought out state-of-the-art design which took the limits of Soviet production into account to deliver a capable tank that served the Red Army extremely well, many of its features would be unacceptable to other armies, whereas the Sherman while not entirely perfect for the Soviets was the closest to a "universal" tank.

A big problem is that in the 1930's and 1940's having a transmission that could power a tank of 20-30 tons was problematic. For heavier tanks the problem was even worse. The Soviets ended up solving the problem by beefing up the original design and despite wartime production forcing a high degree of expediency and cutting of corners the Soviets did refine T-34 into a very capable and durable design. Early models lasted only hours, but once proper upgrades were made models lasted much longer.

Andy ONeill05 Jul 2018 1:17 a.m. PST

95% of world oil reserves?
This would be beyond all other armies in the world together.
Can't be right.

I think some people are getting a little carried away with the "shermans are great" theme. They were demonstrably adequate. They did better against panthers and tigers than many tank stats focussed gamers would expect. They met a lot less tigers than many wargames might suggest.

The warfare through NWE wasn't particularly "blitz" for the vast majority of the time and they had plenty of shermans. If it was a "perfect" tank then wouldn't one expect the allies to be in Berlin by Christmas?

And on the baby with bathwater theme. Yes Belton Cooper went over the top and he rather underestimated the Sherman. Peeling pieces of people off the inside of tanks you're fixing is likely to effect most people somewhat.

Losses were such that tankers were given infantrymen as replacements or even went without bow gunners. This was not ideal. To what extent it impinged on operations is debatable. Logically, it must have had some sort of an effect though. By comparison, though, those big cats were manned mostly by low quality low training crews and the Sherman crews were higher quality. The effect of crew quality is something many gamers underestimate.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP05 Jul 2018 1:58 a.m. PST

The Luftwaffe plans alone to have the "perfect" fighter and bomber fleet to both defend Germany, provide tactical air support and strategic bombers to attack enemy production would have required about ten times the entire oil consumption of Germany alone. Add the maximum expansion of the submarine fleet, all the battleships, cruisers and carriers that were planned, and a full motorization of the Army and your oil needs go up drastically, and that's also factoring in the oil needed to produce all that equipment in the first place and provide a steady stream of spare parts and POL.

As for the "Shermans are great" problem I'd say it's quite the opposite. People see them die in droves on the table because rules and scenarios rarely reflect actual events. Our narrative is slanted because we tend to attribute the Germans with every possible virtue and they were only defeated by sheer dumb brute force. Every time I hear somebody claim that it was simply a numbers game and that there was always a sixth Sherman simply does not concur with the reported facts. People want to believe every German was a Wittmann and Cooper was an optimist.

Same for the Eastern Front, by 1943 the Soviets showed a high degree of skill in operational warfare that was starting to overwhelm the Germans, by 1944 the Soviets are pulling off one major operation after another at a far higher pace than the Germans or Allies ever achieved. They broke the back of the German army and it was only sheer desperation that kept the Germans going for they feared that the Soviets would utterly destroy Germany if they broke through, just as the Soviets had held on through sheer desperation in 1941-1942. The problem is that this is not general knowledge, most people rely on the German self-serving narrative which essentially dismisses the superior Soviet operational skills and the failure of German commanders to come up with a suitable answer and claims that they themselves made no mistakes, but the Soviets overwhelmed them with numbers. Once we do compare the actual numbers we find that the Soviets very rarely exceed the ratios we see the German army have during Barbarossa in 1941, except in key areas during major offensives, but on a broader front the Soviets simply outperform the Germans and the Cold War only exacerbated the problem by the need to believe that the Soviets were mindless automatons and their tactics only relied on brute force.

Set up a game of Arracourt with your favorite vanilla WWII rules and the Panthers just smash their way through the US lines as if they weren't even there. In reality the Panther crews were poorly trained, slow to react, tended to miss more often and the guys in the Shermans were fighting for their lives and by then they were mean sons of bitches who didn't want to play fair and fight the usual straight duel at a hundred yards where the Panther always wins. The Germans had poor situational awareness and were caught by surprise. Statistics prove that if you get first shot you are far more likely to win the fight because the guys on the receiving end are either busy trying to get out of their tank or they had the shock of their life and are now struggling to locate the enemy who is now ranged in and is aiming his second shot …

And this also explains why the Sherman didn't blitzkrieg across Europe, because Anti-tank capability and tactics had greatly improved since 1940. The Germans had the advantage much of the time in that they were defending, they are losing the war, but they can still inflict high casualties and have the extra benefit of often being the first to shoot in an engagement.

The Sherman was a good design because it was so much more than just a target for Panthers. It was tough, reliable, had a good weapon mix that could deal with a lot more threats than just Panthers and many never even saw enemy tanks in action. They were readily available in every unit and infantry were willing to take a lot more risks if they knew they had tanks or TD's backing them up.

And as I have tried to explain before Sherman was only a cog in the war machine. The US simply exceeded Germany on so many levels that it wasn't a fair fight. Logistics, C3R, Artillery, air power and interdiction, strategic bombing gave a devastating advantage.

I often do take the time to mention that the Sherman is not a "wonder weapon" in the classic terms, like invincible and all-devastating in combat. But neither were the Tigers and Panthers, they were vulnerable and could be destroyed, it just took a little more effort. The Sherman is a perfectly serviceable weapon system, it was not optimized towards only specific point of the spectrum like German tanks, but it beat them on many other specifications. It's a good enough tank and while the army could have made improvements, but the problem applies to many designs serving under every banner. The Sherman was not perfect, but it's not useless as the classic narrative would like us believe. It must be appreciated for all the things it got right not flaws that are skewed out of proportion because the enemy went completely crazy in making their tanks powerful at the expense of everything else.

Frontovik05 Jul 2018 2:10 a.m. PST

Fed45231

And then there is the old chestnut, quantity has a quality all its own.

If we call it Lanchester's Laws is it less of an old chestnut? ;o)

link

Frontovik05 Jul 2018 2:18 a.m. PST

Langobard

did the T34 have transmission troubles?

Early ones did. You often see them with a spare transmission lining strapped to the rear hull.

Curiously, they fixed that as it slowed production and meant resources had to be diverted.

Finally, both the T34 and Sherman were built with planned obsolescence in mind (an invention of US industry to drag them out of the Depression). Basically you allow greater tolerances in manufacture so you have fewer rejected parts and can produce more finished units. The problem is greater tolerances leads to increased wear which shortens the service life The T34 was built for 6 months including 14 hours of combat, the Sherman was 1 year and 30 hours of combat. After that both need major overhaul.

The payoff is you can produce thousands upon thousands of them.

GreenLeader05 Jul 2018 2:19 a.m. PST

No one doubts that Germany lacked the oil it needed, but claims that they would have required "95% of the world's reserves" to power the forces they were planning (and to motorise their army) strike me as baseless, and wildly wide of the mark.

The USAAF, for example, had 80,000 planes in 1944 (rather more than the 15,000 you mentioned for the Luftwaffe). If the USAAF was using 95% of the world's oil 'reserves' (well, presumably about 600%?), what was powering the RAF, let alone the USN, the RN, all those thousands of Shermans, and the Red Army?

I am also assuming you mean 'supply', rather than reserves.

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP05 Jul 2018 3:42 a.m. PST

I had thought, by now, in previous discussions we had pretty much laid poor Belton Cooper to rest. Too many criticisms to outline here but my favorite, by far, was when Mark I took a single page from the book and laid out the incredible number or errors and falsehoods in just that one page.

I don't wish to put words in your mouth Goragrad but you read a book in high school, which you can't remember the title of, on the Battle of the Bulge. No specifics on the incident, whether it was isolated or wide spread, a small unit action or larger engagement? And from that you generalize to the reputation of US armor in Northwest Europe and their propensity to retreat when faced with reports of German armor in the area?

I guess that, among other units, the 7th Armored Division didnt get the word. Many Bulge historians now believe that the train came off the rails with the stand at St Vith early in the battle. There the 7th, along with elements of the 9th Armored Division and elements of the 28th and 106 Infantry Divisions held St Vith and vicinity until ordered to withdraw on 23 December. At one point St Vith was referred to as the "armored goose egg".

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