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Sensitive topic WWII - Sherman tanks 
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Post Sensitive topic WWII - Sherman tanks
Well perhaps I shouldn't post this here at all, but well - I feel this is the right place.

Many history books have been proven to have things mixed up and plain wrong. In the past years I did quite a lot of reading to understand why the hell this all could have happened.

One particular issue which I discussed already (objectlively and calmly) in other forums is the fact that the US troops were forced to use Sherman tanks in the European Mainland against German Tigers and Panthers, which had about the double strength of steel and way superior fire power.
It was general Patton himself (again I only can quote from what I reead and it might have been taken out of context) who favored and ordered the light and swift Sherman tanks for Mainland Europe, since they were easy to transport, fit on railroad cars and since they were inferior to the German tanks, they were produced in high numbers (=canon fodder).
the Sherman tanks had even more problems: there engines were taken from aircraft designs and used highly inflammable gasoline instead of diesel fuel. It needed about six (!) Shermans to destroy one Tiger or Panther, because it could only be done from behind - now: how to get there and hit the targed spot on? One single shot from a German tank not only was armour-piercing like a hot knife through butter - but went right through the entire Sherman trank killing the people inside.

I won't go into any further detail - I just wonder why US Generals were sending (knowingly) inferior equipment in high numbers to beat superior enemy armament? Was it because the hardware had to be carried all over the Atlantic and some swift and lightweight tank was preferred? What about the body count? Who did this twisted math?

Maybe I am beating a dead horse here, but I genuinely suffer for the guys who had to get a knocked out Sherman tank back into combat shape. Starting with taking out the dead soldiers inside....

I know it is always hard if not impossible and therefore useless to decide or judge to second guess history. But why sacrificing so many young soldiers in such a crappy tank?

A movie should be made about this - and much more.

I apologize honestly if anyone finds this post inadequate. I just feel there is so much potential for WWII movies showing what really was going on. But then again it wouldn't be for the blockbuster audiences.


Mon Jul 22, 2013 6:47 pm
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Post Re: Sensitive topic WWII - Sherman tanks
I've always read that the U.S. tanks were considered inferior in most ways, but have never really read a good explanation as to why more effort wasn't put forth to improve the tanks. I think that it's likely that there just wasn't enough time to implement new designs and tool up since the U.S. did not face threats in the Western Hemisphere, I think most of the focus was on naval and air defenses prior to the war.

Some possible reasons might be (complete speculation based upon my very limited knowledge of military logistics and strategy of WWII):

Focus on armor improvements and use of steel may have been directed toward the naval battle with Japan.

Perhaps it was thought easier to get adequate quantities of smaller tanks through the U-boats without catastrophic loss.

Patton may have thought mobility was more important than armor in battle against the blitzkrieg and pinscher (sp?) tactics.


Tue Jul 23, 2013 8:48 am
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Post Re: Sensitive topic WWII - Sherman tanks
Very good points!
There was in fact an effort by the Britrish to improve on the Sherman tank: the "Firefly". It was a much longer gun with far greater firepower and a match for the german Tigers and Panthers - retrofitted to the Shermans. It made the Shermans heavier and less swift, but it was a great improvement. Only few were made - too little, too late.

I always feel this is a sensitive issue and it can easily be misinterpreted. I am simply interested in what was going on and why. I still think too many people (both civilians and troops) died on all sides. Of course already one person dying is one too many.

I will look a little further into the ground battles on the European mainland. For some reason there seems to me more attention on Aircraft.

Just to make my point clear: I think WWII should have been prevented completely long before it begun. The question is: could it have been prevented - and if yes by whom and how? And of course one cannot second-guess history. It is a good thing though thinking about preventing all (I mean all) those bad things from happening though. Tough call. I need do do some more serious reading and research.

I thank everyone on this board for not interpreting anything I said like these ridiculous, infantile (and sometimes dangerous) posts on Youtube suggest. I am a musician for chrissake - I play with people from all over the word - they all bring great inspiring stuff to the table.

I read in a great book (by the great Sebastian Haffner who lived in France because his wife was jewish) that the lines of Shermans came into a devastated Germany from the West, there were white bed sheets hanging out the windows - completely unexpectedly to the US troops. People wanted it to be over. So for many the lines of Shermans coming in was also a sign and lasting symbol of great relief.


Tue Jul 23, 2013 11:28 am
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Post Re: Sensitive topic WWII - Sherman tanks
Hey 3perf.

To start with, tanks were never originally designed to fight other tanks. They were designed to fight troops. That changes the face of battle a bit.

As far as the inferiority of the Sherman, tank commanders understood this and tried to avoid direct battles with the German tanks. The advantage of the Shermans was they were quick and easy to produce. At the time, R&D took a bit of a backseat to keeping the supply lines moving and I think there were about 50,000 built and shipped. They did cost less, but sometimes fielding more is better. Especially in areas where armored support is better than hiding in a hole. More tanks can fire more rounds. To an enemy target, seeing 10 come towards you when you have one (even if it is tougher) still meant they had 10x as many targets that were returning fire. It's a bit like an f-16 to f-18 comparison.

I don't view this so much as a sensitive topic as historical analysis. Politics, taxes, Zimmerman trial... those will all arouse ire. Compariing battle tanks/tactics from 70 years ago? I'll follow this thread without seething quietly.

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Tue Jul 23, 2013 4:49 pm
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Post Re: Sensitive topic WWII - Sherman tanks
Excellent points here. As inhumane as it might sond, we are talking about 70 year old strategy here.
None of the horror will ever been forgotten. On all sides.

Yes, tanks were designed to fight troops in WWI, but at the time of WWII it was very different. Otherwise the tanks wouldn't have carried armour piercing projectiles. Equal weapons against equal weapons (or their defense machinery such as FLAK air defense, or fighter planes to escort and provide the much needed defense for the by then outdatded Stuka Ju 87 dive bombers ).

Anyway: as good as your point is: at the time of WWII tanks needed to be ready to fight enemy tanks. The times when they were a secret super-weapon against ground troops was long over. Still an excellent point you have here!

A curiositry is that the Vietnam war was in large parts fought similar to the trenches of WWI. But that would be another thread.

Anyway: thanks again for instantly recognizing that I am just calmly and objectively talking about old obsolent war strategy and why some of the devastatingly bad decisions were made.


Tue Jul 23, 2013 5:16 pm
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Post Re: Sensitive topic WWII - Sherman tanks
Several things to keep in mind here:

First, a Panther or Tiger might be, in theory, a match for 6 Shermans, but the Shermans almost always had German tanks outnumbered by 10:1 or better.

Second, most German tanks weren't Tigers or Panthers--they were Panzer IVs or even older models that didn't have the same advantages over Shermans, and which were in fact often inferior to the Sherman.

Third, the Sherman had one big advantage over Tigers or Panthers--it was very reliable. Tigers and Panthers were new, cutting-edge models, and they tended to break down.

Fourth, in a tank vs tank battle, you know who wins? It isn't the tank with the better gun, or the higher speed, or the thicker armor. It's whoever scores the first hit. Well, yeah, that's an over-simplification, but in practical terms, it's not so much about which tanks are technologically superior, it's about which crews are better trained and are using better tactics. In 1940, French tanks, on paper, had pretty much the same advantages over the German tanks of the time that the Tigers and Panthers had over the Sherman later in the war, plus the French tanks had superior numbers. It didn't matter, because German armor tactics, training, and leadership were so much better than what the French had.

And finally, it wasn't so much a choice between sending American tank crew out in Shermans vs sending them out in something better--it was a choice between sending them out in Shermans vs sending them out in Shermans vs sending them out in something worse, like a Stuart or Grant. (Some American units did have Stuarts, but they were supposed to be recon units, not armored units.)


Wed Jul 24, 2013 1:46 am
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Post Re: Sensitive topic WWII - Sherman tanks
Threeperf35 wrote:
Yes, tanks were designed to fight troops in WWI, but at the time of WWII it was very different. Otherwise the tanks wouldn't have carried armour piercing projectiles. Equal weapons against equal weapons (or their defense machinery such as FLAK air defense, or fighter planes to escort and provide the much needed defense for the by then outdatded Stuka Ju 87 dive bombers ).

Anyway: as good as your point is: at the time of WWII tanks needed to be ready to fight enemy tanks. The times when they were a secret super-weapon against ground troops was long over. Still an excellent point you have here!


Actually, before the outbreak and in ithe intitial stages of WWII, tanks were mostly used as mobile artillery by the Allies and designed for attrition warfare. In contrast, the German military adopted the then new Blitzkrieg strategy, which was a form of maneuver warfare in the tradition of von Clausewitz and meant that armoured infantry (tanks supported by infantrymen) in combination with dive bombers would attempt to quickly break through enemy lines and encircle them. Allied strategy adapted over the course of the war, of course.

By the time the U.S. entered the European theatre of WWII, the Allies had achieved complete superiority in the air and primarily used aircraft to combat German tanks. The technical inferiority of Sherman tanks (they were monickered "Ronsons" after the brand of lighters, because a hit on a Sherman tank would often result in its own amunition exploding) was not so much an issue because, at least on the Western front, tank-on-tank battles were relatively rare.

I suppose that it was cheaper and easier to build the lighter Sherman tanks than heavier models as used by Nazi Germany, so a greater strength in numbers could be easily achieved. Also, the use of many standardised parts means that repairs and the supply of spare parts are facilitated. In the light of the fact that Germany was running increasingly low on resources, particularly fuel, relying on the quantity of tanks rather than individual quality would appear to be sound strategy, particularly if you are meaning to combat enemy tanks by aircraft.


Wed Jul 24, 2013 2:56 am
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Post Re: Sensitive topic WWII - Sherman tanks
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3slnEXOoSo


Wed Jul 24, 2013 5:18 pm
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Post Re: Sensitive topic WWII - Sherman tanks
I concur with what Unke said. If there is anything WW2 demonstrated for warfare moving forward, it is that air power trumps just about all other elements of a nation's military. The Pacific Theater showed how true this was in naval warfare, as the battleship was made obsolete by carrier-borne aircraft (see the suicidal Operation Ten-Go and the death of the Yamato as a key example of this). The European theater demonstrated this aptly during the early German Blitzkrieg strikes against Poland as well as the Allied domination of the battlefronts after D-Day on their drives to Berlin.

Tanks were primarily used as support weapons for their respective militaries, particularly the Americans, and speed was far more important than armor. One of the big weaknesses of the Tiger tank was that its weight made rapid mobility over uneven terrain in wet weather conditions virtually impossible.

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Wed Jul 24, 2013 5:33 pm
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Post Re: Sensitive topic WWII - Sherman tanks
Awf Hand wrote:
Hey 3perf.

The advantage of the Shermans was they were quick and easy to produce.


Exactly.

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Thu Jul 25, 2013 12:57 am
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