German Wündertanks vs Shermans

Well Herman the German in his post war memoirs isn’t going to admit most of the Heers tanks in 1944 was obsolescent pre war designs with thin armour and not terribly awesome guns.
the example I always cite to back this up was the different views on sub machine guns. The Germans and Soviets each treasured the others weapons and tried to get hold of as many as they could.
 
...Thus the T(rash)-34 becomes an unkillable shell bouncing machine to the German veterans mind.

Now ask yourself with the Iron Curtain where did we in the west get our source info for combat on the Eastern front from?
Add in the way Russia reveres the T-34 as a mythical saviour of the motherland, and you get a perfect storm.
Which begs the question: If the T34 was so unbeatable, how come 82% of the total production was lost in combat?
Only the Russian mind could square those two.:mrgreen:
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
Coopers book needs to be taken with a strong pinch of salt. He has some interesting numbers, but doesn’t seem aware that German tankers were taught to keep firing at a tank until it caught fire or blew up. A burnt or blown up tank was an unrepairable tank. A suspect many of the crews of the burnt Sherman’s were in a ditch watching some daft German carry on shooting at their immobile tank.
Which also leads to the prevalence of "Shermans burn like kindling" stories, because (a) lots of crew got out of a knocked-out Sherman alive, (b) they then had more chance to see it go up (eventually).

German and Soviet tanks were more likely to burn, harder to get out of, and anyone heard complaining was likely to get a quick field court-martial and execution for "defeatism"... so few stories about how quickly a Panther blew up from a six-pounder shot through the Bacofoil side armour.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
Didn't a British submarine torpedo a German tank (or rather the pier on which it was sat) on the North African coast at some point?
Or was that in a work of fiction?
I've told before (maybe this thread, years ago). I believe it was in the comprehensive Tamiya 1/35 Tiger 1 literature, it told how in Italy, Tigers engaged an Allied warship offshore.

I cannot give any more detail, it's 40 years ago.
 
Soldiers, at least in the WWI period always seem to over estimate the abilities of the enemies weapons
That's very clearly the case with the phobia that gripped the Brits in Normandy, where the Tiger was concerned: they were very few in number compared to the total Panzer strength in that front, as I understand it, but it reached a point where practically every tank sighting was reported as "a Tiger". If memory serves, Monty put out some very strong instructions to try and quell the problem
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
The problems with historians is the quality of the stories they are told. It seems a particular angle may be sought and personal views of veterans which dont agree with the historians pet theories are ignored. I'm reading a good one now, Stout Hearts, British and Canadians in Normandy by Ben Kite. It has both sides of the story from all ranks, some good and some awful views but its a very good read indeed.
 
The problems with historians is the quality of the stories they are told. It seems a particular angle may be sought and personal views of veterans which dont agree with the historians pet theories are ignored. I'm reading a good one now, Stout Hearts, British and Canadians in Normandy by Ben Kite. It has both sides of the story from all ranks, some good and some awful views but its a very good read indeed.
I worked for Brig Kite in my last job, never read the book though as it seemed a bit toady to do so. He's a clever bloke and I wouldn't expect anything less than an academically fair study*. Part of the problem with a lot of 'popular history' is that it's put together with the final book in mind, as you say the research is then selective to say the least as it must fit the predetermined narrative.

*Had some extraordinary ideas on the correct way to make a cocktail though.
 
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ugly

LE
Moderator
It reads very well and you've explained why now so thanks very much and I think that I will be able to review it if not already done
 
The German Army of 1939-45 was no more mechanised than the British Army of 1914-18.
The key difference was that the supposedly ‘stupid’ British Generals of 1917-18 had come to the conclusion that using some 40% of its logistics chain to feed the armies horses was imparing their ability to mount operations. And while the British rapidly embraced the new fangled truck, the German Amy right up till VE Day had over a million horses on hand, complete with vast resources in veteneary services, stud farms, fodder growing, training vast numbers of men in animal husbandry and German industry suppling mountains of horse tack and carts.
There was a wonderful argument going around the German high command in early 1944 that in the event of an Allied landing in France in the summer, the equinisation of the German Army would be an advantage: There would be plentiful food in the fields for the horses of the German military to get around, whilst the Allies would be suffering from a very severe logistical bottleneck called the English Channel and could not, of course, train their trucks to eat grass. Unfortunately for the Germans... PLUTO. Of course, one must wonder if the argument was simply one made up to give themselves hope...

The use of 88s as an anti tank gun was a prime example. anti Aircraft units were used as a stop gap because of failings in german tank design and numbers. It fulfilled a great job. However, whilst being used in the AT role it’s not performing its AA role. It’s crewed by 10 guys as opposed to a 5 man crew of an AT gun, tank, or tank destroyer.
I was under the impression that the FLAK 88mm was always considered dual use, with the FLAK 18 being deployed as AT during the Spanish Civil War. Then of course there were the PAK 43 & 43/41, bespoke 88mm anti tank guns, which usually get lumped in with the FLAK guns.
OK, from the horses' mouth (i.e. German development records as found in Jentz/Doyle): The 8.8/56 was developed purely as a single-purpose weapon, anti-aircraft. Mainly because there was no point to an incredibly immobile AT gun, there was very little out there which a nice, man-handleable 37mm couldn't deal with. An AP round for the gun did not exist during the Spanish Civil War, there was no need for it. (This did not stop the gun being used against T-26s anyway, an 8.8cm HE shell impacting at that speed would do just as good a number on that tank. Same reason Sherman crews used HE against Japanese tanks: AP would just make a couple of small holes passing through).

In late 1938, a program was started to properly turn the vehicle into a dual-purpose gun: AA and bunker-busting. An AP round was developed and a gun shield designed. A self-propelled mounting was created in addition to a towed shielded version, the 8.8 auf Zugkraftwagen 12t. Interestingly, by the time the invasion of Poland happened, the utility of the vehicle as an anti-tank weapon seems to have been acknowledged, the 12t half-tracks were assigned to the heavy company of Panzer-Jaeger Abteilung 8. They also showed up in France in 1940, together with a few dozen armored SP half-track 8.8s. Thus, when the 8.8s were turned against Matildas, Somuas and B1s during the French invasion, it was not some spur-of-the-moment innovation, but neither was it foresight from the 8.8 designers ten years prior. The AA weapon had been modified into a dual-use. Much like, say, the US 90mm. It is also worth noting that in the entire invasion of France, all the 8.8 Flak units of Guderians XIX.Armree-Korps put together claimed a combined total of 9 tank kills, so the effect may be a little overstated in the campaign.

I forget the German Generals name who modified a load of French kit into tank destroyers. Once again, a great stop gap, but did anybody think of the additional logistical strain that having so many additional different types of vehicles would have?
He was a Major, name of Becker. Supposedly got the gig because he was very well connected, but it seems he wasn't incompetent. They probably did figure it out, but since it was those vehicles or nothing for many units, I guess they went with "those vehicles."

Apparently the 88mm Pak 43 had a hit probability of 30% at 2,500m in combat. The 75mm M3 on US/UK tanks had a range of over 11,000yds for their HE shell.
Far less than that. AARs from German units seem to indicate a KO rate of one per 10-20 rounds of AP fired. A 2,000m engagement against Matildas on 29May1942 resulted in 117 8.8cm AP rounds fired for five tanks claimed killed. 13Dec41, range not stated, 46 rounds AP resulted in 2x Cruiser IVs killed near El Cheima. The same unit on 15Dec41 near Bir Temrad reported "Under cover of a wadi, the battery could move up to the flank of the enemy position. The opponent was totally surprised when the 8.8cm Flak opened up with well aimed fire.[...] Results: 3x Mk II infantry tanks and one artillery battery destroyed. Fired at vehicle columns and infantry with ground bursts. Expenditures: 124 AP, 90 HE." If that's the expenditure report to kill three "totally surprised" tanks from an ambush position, I think it puts the difficulty of real-world engagements into perspective.

Similar results reported from the Russian Front, one unit claiming 4x KV-1 and 8x T-34 for the expenditure of 117 AP rounds.

They crossed swords in Korea.
In fairness, I believe they also crossed swords in Angola, and things did not go well for the Shermans. Much to be said for the crews....

I'm not sure the Sherman versus T-34 comparison is a case of quality versus quantity. According to several sources (from a quick Google search) the Americans produced nearly 50,000 of them during the war. That's a lot of quantity right there
The other thing to bear in mind is that the Americans turned down the taps in late1943/early 44. They figured they had already built enough tanks to win the war, and saw no need to spend the resources and money building more which would just sit in depots. The number of improved tanks built in 1944/45 was really considered 'just enough'. I don't know if the Soviet production ever slowed down, resulting in the larger Soviet production numbers.
 
(...) The other thing to bear in mind is that the Americans turned down the taps in late1943/early 44. They figured they had already built enough tanks to win the war, and saw no need to spend the resources and money building more which would just sit in depots. The number of improved tanks built in 1944/45 was really considered 'just enough'. I don't know if the Soviet production ever slowed down, resulting in the larger Soviet production numbers.
Do you know if the widely reported Soviet production figures were for complete new tanks built entirely from raw material, or do they include major rebuilding of tanks which were damaged or worn out? I have read records which gave targets to the same factory for both building new tanks and doing major repairs to tanks and the factory was undoubtedly paid for both types of work.

It would be interesting to know whether there were actually as many T-34s and KVs produced during the war as is commonly believed or whether the same tanks are being counted multiple times as a result of being sent back to the factory. From the factory's perspective, they are making their production targets and getting paid for it either way. Their consolidated "production" figures might include both new production as well as major rebuilds as a single number. Conversions of repaired tanks into other types of vehicles (e.g. SPGs) would complicate this still further.

To take this more directly to Shermans, do you know how the Americans handled this accounting issue? When was a tank written off, and how were major factory repairs counted in production totals? How were conversions of repaired tanks to other vehicles counted?

I was under the impression that the Germans on the other hand would track the tank until it was either irretrievably captured by the enemy or recorded as unrepairable (e.g. burned up) and then write it off the books. Thus a tank would be counted once only from the original raw material to final write-off, with conversions again being a potential problem.

The various factories and armies arranged their accounting systems to suit their own needs, not those of future historians. I have not seen anyone address this question directly. It is conceivable that there is yet another myth waiting to be addressed. This could be the myth of the handful of brave German tankers smashing overwhelming numbers of enemy tanks at little cost to themselves through the use of their superior skill and technology whereas the reality might actually be two different accounting systems giving a false impression of how many tanks each side actually produced.
 
There was a wonderful argument going around the German high command in early 1944 that in the event of an Allied landing in France in the summer, the equinisation of the German Army would be an advantage: There would be plentiful food in the fields for the horses of the German military to get around, whilst the Allies would be suffering from a very severe logistical bottleneck called the English Channel and could not, of course, train their trucks to eat grass. Unfortunately for the Germans... PLUTO. Of course, one must wonder if the argument was simply one made up to give themselves hope...
.


They really hadn't moved on much since 1940, when in all seriousness they planned to land 1/3 million horses in Britain during the follow-on waves of SeaLion.

(Which got me wondering whether there has ever actually been an opposed beach landing by horse-borne troops in history?)

Perhaps they assumed that the animal-friendly Brits wouldn't fire on all those horsies with big brown eyes..
 
They really hadn't moved on much since 1940, when in all seriousness they planned to land 1/3 million horses in Britain during the follow-on waves of SeaLion.
It's dumber than you think, they didn't have any guns that needed towing in the first wave...

(Which got me wondering whether there has ever actually been an opposed beach landing by horse-borne troops in history?)
I saw it in a movie once, it had Russell Crowe in it. :safe:

There again a cavalry charge off a boat isn't quite the maddest amphibious landing I've ever encountered. Nooo that goes to the landing made by sailing boats.
Scary thing is, it worked.

Perhaps they assumed that the animal-friendly Brits wouldn't fire on all those horsies with big brown eyes..
They wouldn't have had a chance. The chances of Sealion reaching UK shores is pretty slim!
 
Some interesting reading


Here's the summary of the UK preliminary report on the T-34. I've cut out some of the details on the engine.

In general, the report is fairly positive. The report says the tank appears to be made of good material with excellent finish where required and rough finish where this does not affect performance. Manufacturing appears to use simpler methods requiring less specialist machinery or skilled labour than would have been used in Britain.

The points which I found particularly interesting were first the one about how prisms were assembled using a lot of hand labour, while a specialist firm in Britain would have used more machinery which would have given both a more accurate assembly and a better cosmetic finish. This sort of thing is important to keep in mind when examining Soviet equipment from the era. Their economy and industry were less developed than in Britain and more dependent upon their internal market (as opposed to export) and so more production of specialised items would have been done using hand labour.

The other point is the large number of inspection stamps noted. To someone with experience in manufacturing that would indicate where quality control problems exist. You don't improve a product's quality by more inspection, rather you are trying to mitigate a known quality problem by separating out the bad ones more intensively. I suspect this indicates that they did know they had quality problems and were attempting to do something about it. However, lack of the correct specialised manufacturing equipment and more reliance on hand labour would create quality problems which inspection could only partially mitigate (the general rule of thumb in manufacturing is that each stage of manual inspection is only 85% effective).

The report notes that the simplicity design is particularly suited to the conditions in the Soviet Union, given how recently they had industrialised and how much of their industry had to be evacuated east in the face of advances by the Germans.

I will add that since the Soviet economy was largely self contained, so even in peace time their firms could never have achieved the economies of scale or degree of specialisation across the board which would have permitted them to use any approach other than focusing on simplicity.


Preliminary Report No2/0 Russian T/34
Military College of Science School of Tank Technology Chobham Lane Chertsey

As in the case of our own cruiser tanks, the T. 34 woes its origin to the Christie design. Subsequent developments in Russia and Britain, however, have not been on parallel lines, the Russians having aimed at mechanical simplicity, a large general purpose gun, stout armour, and above all a design facilitating quantity production with limited resources in specialised machine tools and skilled labour. As a result of the latter factor, certain features have received less attention than they would have had in this country, but a realistic outlook and practical approach to the requirements of a fighting vehicle are strongly manifest.

The welded hull and cast turret appear excellent from the ballistic point of view, except that there is but limited splash protection. With a few exceptions, the only three different thicknesses of rolled plate are employed. Exceptional accessibility of the transmission has been secured by a hinged tail plate, but it is not easy to get at the engine.

The 76.2mm gun is mounted in a two-man turret. The crew space appears to be restricted to an extent impairing the efficient service of the gun, but a final estimate of the fighting qualities must await the completion of the gunnery trials. The internal stowage arrangements are simple and the aim has been to carry the maximum quantities of ammunition irrespective of its accessibility.

The 39 litre 12 cylinder direct injection compression-ignition engine appears to have been developed form an aircraft power unit and, in contrast to other components, it is relatively costly to manufacture.

(...)

Materials have not yet been fully investigated, but there is no reason to suspect they are not good. The machined surfaces of castings show no flaws. Aluminium is freely used for engine castings and gear cases.

Where necessary for efficient functioning, for example, in the periscopic dial sight, the fuel pump, and certain engine components, an excellent finish is attained, but where not essential, it is often rough. No military or mechanical advantage appears to be sacrificed thereby, but a more fully developed industry might be expected to show more refinement without necessarily expending more man-hours. For instance, prism holders have been cut out and soldered up by semi-skilled hand labour whereas a specialist firm would probably find it more economical to make by machinery and the better appearance and accuracy would follow automatically. Many components bear an unusual number of inspection stamps which may indicate a high degree of control in production.

The design shows a clear-headed appreciation of the essentials of an effective tank and the requirements of war, duly adjusted to the particular characteristics of the Russian soldier, the terrain and the manufacturing facilities available. When it is considered how recently Russia has become industrialised and how great a proportion of the industrialized regions have been over-run by the enemy, with the consequent loss or hurried evacuation of plant and workers, the design and production of such useful tanks in such great numbers stands out as an engineering achievement of the first magnitude.
 
There was a wonderful argument going around the German high command in early 1944 that in the event of an Allied landing in France in the summer, the equinisation of the German Army would be an advantage: There would be plentiful food in the fields for the horses of the German military to get around, whilst the Allies would be suffering from a very severe logistical bottleneck called the English Channel and could not, of course, train their trucks to eat grass. Unfortunately for the Germans... PLUTO. Of course, one must wonder if the argument was simply one made up to give themselves hope...





OK, from the horses' mouth (i.e. German development records as found in Jentz/Doyle): The 8.8/56 was developed purely as a single-purpose weapon, anti-aircraft. Mainly because there was no point to an incredibly immobile AT gun, there was very little out there which a nice, man-handleable 37mm couldn't deal with. An AP round for the gun did not exist during the Spanish Civil War, there was no need for it. (This did not stop the gun being used against T-26s anyway, an 8.8cm HE shell impacting at that speed would do just as good a number on that tank. Same reason Sherman crews used HE against Japanese tanks: AP would just make a couple of small holes passing through).

In late 1938, a program was started to properly turn the vehicle into a dual-purpose gun: AA and bunker-busting. An AP round was developed and a gun shield designed. A self-propelled mounting was created in addition to a towed shielded version, the 8.8 auf Zugkraftwagen 12t. Interestingly, by the time the invasion of Poland happened, the utility of the vehicle as an anti-tank weapon seems to have been acknowledged, the 12t half-tracks were assigned to the heavy company of Panzer-Jaeger Abteilung 8. They also showed up in France in 1940, together with a few dozen armored SP half-track 8.8s. Thus, when the 8.8s were turned against Matildas, Somuas and B1s during the French invasion, it was not some spur-of-the-moment innovation, but neither was it foresight from the 8.8 designers ten years prior. The AA weapon had been modified into a dual-use. Much like, say, the US 90mm. It is also worth noting that in the entire invasion of France, all the 8.8 Flak units of Guderians XIX.Armree-Korps put together claimed a combined total of 9 tank kills, so the effect may be a little overstated in the campaign.



He was a Major, name of Becker. Supposedly got the gig because he was very well connected, but it seems he wasn't incompetent. They probably did figure it out, but since it was those vehicles or nothing for many units, I guess they went with "those vehicles."



Far less than that. AARs from German units seem to indicate a KO rate of one per 10-20 rounds of AP fired. A 2,000m engagement against Matildas on 29May1942 resulted in 117 8.8cm AP rounds fired for five tanks claimed killed. 13Dec41, range not stated, 46 rounds AP resulted in 2x Cruiser IVs killed near El Cheima. The same unit on 15Dec41 near Bir Temrad reported "Under cover of a wadi, the battery could move up to the flank of the enemy position. The opponent was totally surprised when the 8.8cm Flak opened up with well aimed fire.[...] Results: 3x Mk II infantry tanks and one artillery battery destroyed. Fired at vehicle columns and infantry with ground bursts. Expenditures: 124 AP, 90 HE." If that's the expenditure report to kill three "totally surprised" tanks from an ambush position, I think it puts the difficulty of real-world engagements into perspective.

Similar results reported from the Russian Front, one unit claiming 4x KV-1 and 8x T-34 for the expenditure of 117 AP rounds.



In fairness, I believe they also crossed swords in Angola, and things did not go well for the Shermans. Much to be said for the crews....



The other thing to bear in mind is that the Americans turned down the taps in late1943/early 44. They figured they had already built enough tanks to win the war, and saw no need to spend the resources and money building more which would just sit in depots. The number of improved tanks built in 1944/45 was really considered 'just enough'. I don't know if the Soviet production ever slowed down, resulting in the larger Soviet production numbers.
you and your damn knowledge and facts....
 
Here's the summary of the UK preliminary report on the T-34. I've cut out some of the details on the engine.
You missed the -3 gun depression and the very high armour hardness (which is a very bad thing). If memory serves it was about twice as hard as British armour. It was also very difficult to aim the main gun, according to that report.
 

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