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


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Fred Cartwright05 Jul 2018 5:57 a.m. PST

Guys leave poor Belton Cooper alone. His book is as much a personal memoir of his experiences in WW2. Scraping bits of humans out of destroyed tanks on a regular basis has a profound effect on anyone with normal human sensibilities. Sure he was wrong that the Sherman was a poor design, but that doesn't alter the fact that those young men gave their lives in defence of freedom. Real people died. Something we tend to forget when we put a bit of cotton wool on to our model tanks and they are back fighting in the next game.

Fred Cartwright05 Jul 2018 6:02 a.m. PST

Many Bulge historians now believe that the train came off the rails with the stand at St Vith early in the battle.

Really? Many people believe, and that included the German generals at the time, that the train was never on the rails. Reading the post war interviews with people like Manteuffel the prevailing opinion was the offensive achieved about what they expected. None of them believed the offensive had any chance of success. I forget who the quote was from, but it went something like "Antwerp?! If we reach the Meuse, we should go down on our knees and thank God."

Legion 405 Jul 2018 6:16 a.m. PST

I think the primary thing about the M4s … Is there were many of them produced and generally easy to deploy and maintain …

28mm Fanatik05 Jul 2018 7:43 a.m. PST

Guys leave poor Belton Cooper alone. His book is as much a personal memoir of his experiences in WW2. Scraping bits of humans out of destroyed tanks on a regular basis has a profound effect on anyone with normal human sensibilities. Sure he was wrong that the Sherman was a poor design, but that doesn't alter the fact that those young men gave their lives in defence of freedom. Real people died.

Agreed. We can forgive him for his "bias" against the Sherman because in his personal experience it was a death trap. The virtues of the Sherman that we armchair generals easily tout from the comfort of our cushioned chairs are completely lost on the hapless crews who had to face superior German tanks and often lost their lives in the process.

Watching your 75mm shells ricochet harmlessly off a Tiger or Panther while return fire brew up Shermans like Ronsons can be a traumatic experience.

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP05 Jul 2018 10:14 a.m. PST

Fred;

My point is what ever chance they had ended with St Vith. I dont think you will find a competent analyst who will argue there was even the remotest chance of achieving the stated goals. But the offensive could have been more successful (successful being relative here) and more damaging if the whole operation were not so knocked off any type of timetable in the opening days.

As to Belton Cooper of course it has some merit as a memoir. I just get tired, whenever the topic comes up, of someone waiving aside any and all information by holding up Death Trap as though it was some holy relic which would drive the Sherman heretics back into their coffins :) (Please note the smiley face).

Fred Cartwright05 Jul 2018 11:39 a.m. PST

Marc I think the operation was both more successful than they hoped and less successful in other aspects. For example the Germans never expected to surround the best part of a US infantry division and force it to surrender. Yes the timetable slipped around St Vith, but the Germans still made it to the Meuse. Even if there had been less delay at St Vith I doubt they could have done better. They essentially hit the Meuse and ran out of fuel!
As for Belton Cooper there is a video which covers the same ground as the book and Belton Cooper is in it. What struck me about him as he talked was his sincerity and the emotions the memories still evoked for him. He drew his conclusions from what he saw and how it affected him. The bigger picture was way above his pay grade. I can't condemn him for that. But you are right we have way more information available to us now and any assessment of US armour in WW2 has to take that into account. I wonder if his book suited the the rhetoric of the time when it was published. Ammunition for the US Army to get what it wanted. Our boys need the best kit for the next war! When the Navy wanted more carriers and the USAF wanted bigger and better bombers for SAC the Army needed something to keep them in funding.

Lucius05 Jul 2018 11:54 a.m. PST

Stephen Ambrose, in "Citizen Soldiers", observes that in thousands of interviews with veterans of BOTH sides, he was struck by the fact that they almost always believed that the enemy had better equipment than they did, even when it was simply not true.

The lesson is that individual memoirs are invaluable for lots of reasons, but should always taken with a grain of salt.

Mark 105 Jul 2018 1:37 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.

I hope Fred will forgive me for kicking this old horse again, but … no, mildbill, that was not the US armor doctrine.

Doctrine is not what someone imagines after reading a few books. It is not what some talking head on the Histrionics Channel says 70 years after the fact.

Doctrine gets written and published. We KNOW what the doctrine was, because we have the documents that were used to transmit the doctrine across the force as the troops were trained. Doctrine is the set of standard behaviors that they are taught to the troops. In the US Army the doctrine is what you find in the Field Manuals.

US Army FM17-10 Armored Forces Field Manual, March 1942 states:

When tanks are engaged in a mission that does not contemplate the engagement of hostile tanks they should not be diverted from that mission except
(a) When forced to engage hostile tanks as a matter of self preservation.
(b) When it is apparent that the hostile attacks will seriously disrupt the operations of other troops.

(Thanks to Fred for pointing that passage out in a prior thread.)

Yes, it is true that they were to stay on mission unless someone else was in trouble. They were not to chase after other tanks whenever the mood struck them. That does not mean the doctrine was "tanks don't fight other tanks". Clearly the doctrine included tanks fighting other tanks.

The update, US Army FM17-100 Armored Forces Field Manual, January 1944, states part of the mission as:

Attack to destroy enemy armored units when forced to do so as a matter of self-preservation or when hostile tanks threaten seriously to disrupt operations of other troops.

No where in the field manuals does it state tanks were to "find them and then run away to let someone else do the fighting". No. That was NOT doctrine. The doctrine that tanks would "attack to destroy" enemy tanks if they were a risk to the armored force or other troops in their area of operation.

Really, I apologize to those who think I'm kicking a dead horse, but this issue just comes up again and again.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Mark 105 Jul 2018 2:05 p.m. PST

As for Belton Cooper … What struck me about him as he talked was his sincerity and the emotions the memories still evoked for him. He drew his conclusions from what he saw and how it affected him. The bigger picture was way above his pay grade. I can't condemn him for that.

Quite agree.

His job sucked. No way it would not affect any reasonable person. It is a credit to his humanity that it did affect him.

No reason to condemn the man for his views. But I can, and do, condemn his book as a source on issues that were, as said, "above his pay grade".

He is not a useful source on how Shermans compared technically with other tanks.

He is not a useful source on the development process and decision-making process that led to the Pershing entering combat for the first time in early 1945. He is most certainly NOT a useful source on assertions of Patton bearing responsibility for the US Army not coming ashore with Pershing tanks on D-Day.

If anyone would like to see my identification of 10 errors of fact in a single paragraph of Belton's book, I would be happy to re-post it. But I fear I abuse the membership too much already, and so will only suggest that his book not be used as a credible source.

That he claims to have opinions on these topics -- well, he has a right to his opinions. I too have opinions. That he chose to hold himself up as the guy who had been there and done that on the topics he had not been there for nor done, well I will reserve my comments. I don't claim to have been there nor done that. But I do claim a serious regard for verifiable facts. His book is easily condemned as a source of factual information.

But hey, I like first-hand memoirs. I have read many, and am always looking for more. In other threads I have mentioned Guy Sajer's book "The Forgotten Soldier". I endorse it as a memoir. But if you take his information on the sequences of events or specific combat actions of the PzGrdr Division Gross Deutchland as factual, or for that matter even the details of his uniform as factual, you are misguided. Take it as a memoir.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Lion in the Stars05 Jul 2018 5:48 p.m. PST

Pardon the split quote, but there are two point that need to be addressed.

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.

So you're down a rather marginally-effective MG. The US discarded the entire idea of bow MGs in 1953, when they stopped using M26 hulled tanks and introduced the M48. (Admittedly because bow MGs compromise the armor protection)

If you have one infantryman replacement, you put him into the bow MG slot, since any grunt can keep an M1919 going.

If you're unlucky and get two infantrymen, hrm… One in the bow MG, maybe the second in the loader slot? I'm not sure where the least-damaging crew slot is in a 4-man crew. In the Abrams, the loader often ends up as a communications manager.


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.

I read somewhere that the good crews were given Pz4s, while green crews were given Panthers or Tiger 1s (after the Tiger 2s came out) to give the green crews a chance to live long enough to become good.

You know, Flames of War ( *ducks* ) makes troop training/experience a key part of the game. Troop training/experience determines how hard it is to hit you (better troops are harder to hit), how easily you dig in, un-bog your tank, etc.

But yes, troop training/experience is far more important than a lot of games designers appreciate.

28mm Fanatik05 Jul 2018 6:30 p.m. PST

The Sherman is a bad tank to those who had to face Tigers, Panthers and Panzer IV Specials armed with the high velocity 75mm gun, but it is a good tank to those who never had to face those tanks, or only had to go against inferior German tanks like the Panzer III's and early Panzer IV's (as in N. Africa).

link

Andy ONeill06 Jul 2018 1:51 a.m. PST

@Lion,

Yes, the bow gunner was first choice for the untrained infantryman replacement.
He does a bit more than just fire a machine gun on a day to day basis. In theory he's co-driver because if the driver is injured he is the replacement.
But you're right, he mainly shoots a gun that the tank can kind of do without anyhow.
The morale effect on the rest of the crew might be worse than that of the combat effect.
This was something really didn't go down with crews.

Note also that (due to losses ) some tanks went into action without a co driver at all. An infantryman in the seat has better than nothing.

The second untrained guy is a bigger problem because yes he becomes the loader. He definitely doesn't just chuck shells in the breach of the gun. You could expect decreased efficiency in spotting and rate of fire. Maybe the odd wrong shell.

A third untrained replacement did occasionally happen and this was a huge problem because the commander had to decide between driver or gunner. Both are critical crew members.


You can read more, a lot more about the Sherman here:
link

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP06 Jul 2018 6:10 a.m. PST

Fred, I always enjoy our exchanges. I think we can both agree that the delay at St Vith gave time for the US to shore up the northern flank at the Elsenborn Ridge and pretty much took 6th Panzer Army out of the fight. With the sole emphasis now on the 5th even reaching the Meuse would be a rather meaningless accomplishment and one that would be short lived.

The Bulge has always had a particular personal fascination for me. Not to bore anyone but my late dad, who landed at Omaha on D-day, was placed, along with his unit, in reserve in the Ardennes. My father won a unit lottery and was sent back to Paris for a little R&R. Of course the Bulge hit. My dad talked about he and his buddy grabbing rides with supply vehicles to get back to their unit and not be gathered up, as many were, and thrown into whatever unit needed them.

Fred Cartwright06 Jul 2018 1:05 p.m. PST

Marc Elsenborn Ridge was never seriously threatened. The US had 2nd and 99th ID in the area and plentiful artillery support. The Germans were stopped virtually on their start line. The only ground they took was given up by the US to shorten the line and free up reserves. That stopped 12th SS. 1st SS bypassed St Vith and were stopped and subsequently pinched off as a seperate battle. The defence of St Vith slowed the right wing of 5th Panzer Army.
I have family connections with the Bulge too and it has long been an interest of mine. The more you look at it the crazier it seems. The Germans didn't have the trained troops to force the breach needed for the Panzers to be let loose and the Americans didn't react like the French did in 1940. Some interesting actions none the less.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP06 Jul 2018 7:43 p.m. PST

Read "Sledgehammer" while this has been going on, by the way--and a very good book it is, thanks.

That said, worth noting that the Tiger kill ratios given at the end are almost certainly high. As the author notes, the kills in the West are verified against British and American reports and German claims adjusted accordingly. But the kills in the East, where most of the Tiger battalions were deployed are whatever the Germans claim. That's not a slam of the participants, by the way. Somewhere back in the Mesolithic Age, I was in the Air Force history program, and they started us with the example of our claims of aircraft shot down vs what could eventually be confirmed from German records.

Still, plenty of rules make provision for Renaissance guns blowing up. Where's the set which makes provision for overheated Tiger engines setting the tank on fire?

mkenny06 Jul 2018 8:26 p.m. PST

Read "Sledgehammer" while this has been going on, by the way--and a very good book it is, thanks.

That said, worth noting that the Tiger kill ratios given at the end are almost certainly high. As the author notes, the kills in the West are verified against British and American reports and German claims adjusted accordingly.

Sledgehammers is 90% sourced from Schneider's Tigers In Combat I & II and thus is just unverified crew claims. I have seen no evidence that claims were 'checked against British sources and for the more famous Aces claims are certainly wildly inflated.
The claim that German kills are 'checked' is often made by authors like Reynolds but this 'checking' is usually as simple as this:
German Ace X claims 16 tanks on June 25.
Tank losses for UK Regiment Z are checked.
They report 20 tank casualties.
Thus the 16 kills are confirmed.
The obvious flaws-(other German tanks/infantry/AT guns knocked out tanks that day and that a casualty is not a loss) are ignored in the rush to validate the myths.

Griefbringer08 Jul 2018 5:18 a.m. PST

Yes, the bow gunner was first choice for the untrained infantryman replacement.
He does a bit more than just fire a machine gun on a day to day basis. In theory he's co-driver because if the driver is injured he is the replacement.
But you're right, he mainly shoots a gun that the tank can kind of do without anyhow.

Not sure about Sherman, but my understanding is that in some tanks the bow gunner also had the task of taking care of the tank radio.

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