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 Post subject: M26 Pershing:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2018 9:22 am 
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M26 Pershing: The U.S. Military's Nazi Tank Killer?

Warfare History Network
January 6, 2018

“We had been assured by our officers before we invaded France in 1944,” recorded Bill Harris, “that our Sherman tanks could take care of any Nazi armor we met there.”

Harris, a tank gunner in the U.S. 2nd Armored Division, had been told over and over again that the American M4 Sherman Medium Tank (the Allies’ main battle tank) was as good, if not superior, to any armored fighting vehicle in the Wehrmacht’s arsenal. Unfortunately for hundreds of U.S. and Allied tankers, including Harris, who had three Shermans shot from under him during the war in Western Europe, the nine savage weeks of fighting in the Normandy hedgerow country and the following dash across France proved the Sherman was far from the equal of the German Tiger, Panther, or even the outdated Panzer IV.

Finding a Replacement For the Sherman

Regardless of what the “Dog Faces” were told about their tanks before the Normandy invasion, some of the high brass in the U.S. Army knew otherwise due to reports coming from the Eastern Front, where the Soviet Army was scrambling during 1943 to come up with an answer to the new German heavy MK VI Tiger tank and the medium MK V Panther. In mid-1942, even as the Sherman first entered mass production (48,000 would eventually be manufactured between 1942 and 1945), the United States Army Ordnance Department, in fits and starts, embarked on a search to improve the M4. This quest started with the design of the T20 prototype intended as an improved version of the Sherman.

The main difference between the two armored vehicles was a lower silhouetted engine that made the T20’s overall profile smaller than the existing M4. In addition, the T20 was to be armed with a new 76mm M1A1 cannon, as well as fitted with 3-inch frontal armor compared to the 2.5 inches found on the Sherman.

Other contenders as upgrades for the Sherman appeared in the form of the T22 and T23. The former was an M4 with a smaller two-man turret. The T23, like the T22, was a medium tank, but with an electrical transmission and cast iron turret able to house a 76mm M1A1 gun. Both were finally rejected (although the turret of the T23 would be used in all future 76mm upgunned Shermans) for two reasons. First, their designs required entirely new and separate training, maintenance, and repair procedures. Second, the Sherman with its 75mm gun—even by late 1943—was thought by the Army to be adequate enough for modern tank warfare. Besides, as many military men argued, it would be courting trouble to impose a new tank design on the armored force with the 1944 campaign in France only months away.

As the Army Ordnance Department looked to improve upon the existing Sherman model, others in the Army sought the M4’s replacement altogether. Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers, who in 1943 directed the buildup of U.S. forces for the invasion of France and earlier was head of the Army’s armored forces, advocated the replacement of the Sherman with a more powerful tank.

A Heavy Tank For the American Army

What Devers had in mind was the T26E1, America’s first heavy armored fighting vehicle. The T26E1 had greater firepower and armored protection than the Sherman. The new tank, weighing 46 tons, sported a 90mm M3 cannon, 100mm frontal armor, a new type of gyrostabilizer, and a crew of five. Unfortunately, its 8-cylinder 500-horsepower Ford GAF engine and powertrain were not powerful enough for a tank of its weight. The engine was similar to the one used in the Sherman even though the Pershing was 26,000 pounds heavier. The result was that the machine’s powerplant was not always reliable, and its maximum speed only 20 miles per hour.

During discussions in September and October 1943, Devers urged production of the T26 be accelerated and that 250 of them be produced immediately. Upon delivery he wanted the new model deployed on a scale of one T26 to every five M4s, much like the British intended to do with their 17-pounder mounted Sherman Firefly tanks.

Obstacles For the American Heavy Tank

Devers’s quest to replace the M4 with the T26 was greatly hindered by a number of factors. First, the officers of the only two U.S. Army tank divisions to have seen combat in the war up to that point, the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions, could not come to a consensus as to whether it would be more appropriate to go with a upgraded Sherman like the T23 or with a new heavy tank like the T26.

Second, Lt. Gen. Lesley McNair, head of U.S. Army Ground Forces, opposed the heavy tank concept. He had fathered the “tank destroyer doctrine” for the U.S. Army, which stated that enemy armor would be taken care of by tank destroyers such as the self-propelled M18 Hellcat, M10, and M36, while friendly armor would be relegated to supporting the infantry and exploiting breakthroughs in enemy lines. He also opposed the introduction of the T26 due to the need to prioritize war material shipped to Europe over the 3,000-mile supply line from the United States to England. Scarce amounts of shipping transport and time, according to McNair, could not be wasted on delivering an untested weapons system at that critical point in the war.

McNair also argued that the Sherman appeared to be superior to the German tanks, the Panzer MK III and early versions of the MK IV, commonly encountered up to that time. Even the appearance of the German Tiger I failed to impress McNair with the need to counter that armored monster. He wrote Devers in the fall of 1943, “There is no indication that the 76mm antitank gun is inadequate against the German Mark VI (Tiger) tank.”

McNair was the prime proponent of arming Shermans with a 76mm gun, thus alleviating the need for the 90mm-toting T26E1. Lastly, he reasoned, because of the dominance of his “tank destroyer doctrine” and the absence of any “tank versus tank combat theory” in the U.S. Army at the time, there was no guidance available for the employment of heavy tanks whose primary responsibility would be to fight other tanks.

Getting the M26 Pershing to the European Theater

Pressing his view that the Pershing was needed, Devers went over McNair’s head to Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, who overruled McNair in December 1943 and authorized the production of 250 T26E1s. But manufacturing of the tank, ordered in January 1944 and designated production model T26E3, did not begin until November 1944. Between December 1944 and March 1945, a total of 436 units were produced with over 2,000 made by the end of 1945. In March 1945, the tank entered combat in Europe redesignated the M26 Pershing.

By September 1944, the U.S. Army Ordnance Department realized the critical need for an American tank that could take on the German Panther and Tiger after reviewing battle reports of armored actions that had taken place in France since the Normandy landings in June. They clearly revealed the superiority of the German machines over the M4. Yet it was not until the end of the year that the first batch of T26E3 tanks, the first 40 off the production line, were ready to be committed to combat. Of these, 20 were immediately shipped overseas and the others moved to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to undergo extensive field testing. The new tanks arrived at the port of Antwerp, Belgium, in January 1945, and were the only Pershings in the European Theater. The next shipment was not expected until April.

To hurry along the introduction of the new machine and observe its performance in combat, a specialist team known as the Zebra Technical Mission, under Maj. Gen. Gladeon M. Barnes, head of the Army’s Ordnance Department Research and Development Service, arrived in Paris on February 9. At a meeting with Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower, it was decided to get the new tanks into action as soon as possible. To that end, all 20 Pershings were assigned to the U.S. 1st Army and divided equally between the 3rd and 9th Armored Divisions. On February 17 the tanks were transported to an instruction facility near Aachen, Germany. By the 23rd, training for tank crews and maintenance personnel had been completed.

Assault Across the Roer

On February 26, one day after friendly infantry had secured a bridgehead over the east bank of the Roer River between the towns of Julich and Duren, the U.S. 3rd Armored Division broke out of the bridgehead and rushed eastward. The 3rd Armored, known as the “Spearhead” Division, commanded by Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose, operated as part of Lt. Gen. J. Lawton Collins’s VII Corps, U.S. First Army.

The carefully planned American assault across the Roer River was designed to clear the territory west and up to the Rhine River. The main effort was to be made by the U.S. Ninth Army in the north with Collins’s command from 1st Army guarding Ninth Army’s right flank as far as the Rhine. After this was done, VII Corps was to capture the German city of Cologne, then head south along the Rhine to rejoin other First Army units pushing southeast to the Ahr River. Within hours of the American Roer offensive, the Pershing would undergo its baptism of fire.

In its drive for Cologne between the Roer and Rhine, VII Corps would traverse 35 miles of good tank country except for the area of the Hambach Forest, which stretched between Duren and Elsdorf. Defending the vast Hambach wooded region were two depleted infantry divisions and Lt. Gen. Fritz Bayerlein’s ad hoc panzer corps made up of the remnants of the 9th and 11th Panzer Divisions and the 3rd Panzergrenadier Division.

In its drive from the Roer, 3rd Armored, with the 13th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division, attached, formed five mobile task forces, four of which were made up of one tank battalion, one armored infantry or standard infantry battalion, and a platoon of tank destroyers and engineers. The division’s left was made up of two such task forces under Combat Command B leader Brig. Gen. Truman E. Boudinot. Their immediate objective was the important road junction at Elsdorf.

The First Pershing Destroyed

February 26, 1945, was a cold day with rain falling on the muddy secondary roads upon which the 3rd Armored Division was traveling. Boudinot’s Combat Command B was split into two elements, Task Force Welborn on the left aiming for Elsdorf and Task Force Lovelady on the right heading for the village of Berrendorf. The former group was led by Lt. Col. John C. Welborn. Within his 1st Battalion, 33rd Armored Regiment was one of the new Pershing tanks, No. 38, christened Fireball by its crew. Fireball took the lead as Task Force Welborn bore down on Elsdorf. Ironically, this Pershing was originally one of Task Force Lovelady’s complement of four attached to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 33rdArmored Regiment. How it ended up spearheading Welborn’s advance has never been explained.

The deserted village of Elsdorf had been prepared for defense by the Germans with log roadblocks set up at each western approach, a few antitank guns on the outskirts of town, and some German soldiers deployed within the hamlet.

As dusk arrived, Fireball reached the edge of Elsdorf and halted in front of a log barricade on the Steinstrass Road near a level railway crossing. Upon seeing the arrival of the Pershing, the German infantrymen panicked and quit their posts. This encouraged the Pershing’s crew to try to cross the log barrier by driving over it. As the American tank tried to pass over the wooden obstacle, three Tiger I tanks from Heavy Panzer Battalion 301, attached to 9th Panzer Division, entered Elsdorf from the east and moved through the village toward its western end. Two of the Tigers stopped halfway through the village, while the third, No. 201, continued to scout ahead in the dark.

Meanwhile, as Fireball tried to barge its way over the log roadblock, an American M4 drove up and stopped just behind the Pershing. Suddenly, the night sky was torn by an explosion as the newly arrived Sherman was ripped apart by either German Panzerfaust or artillery fire. The flaming U.S. tank silhouetted Fireball perfectly in the darkness, allowing the Tiger to fire three fast rounds at only 100 yards. All three German shells hit the Pershing, knocking it out of action and killing two of its crew.

In seconds the first Pershing on the Western Front had been destroyed in action. However, the jubilation the Tiger crew must have felt at its victory over an unknown American tank type was short lived. Reversing violently to change position after shooting the American, the Tiger got hung up on a pile of rubble, its front still facing the roadblock. After several vain attempts were made to free the Tiger from its trap, the German crew abandoned the vehicle.

“Just Like Shooting Ducks”

The U.S. attack on Elsdorf continued next day with support from Allied fighter bombers. By noon, after fierce fighting, the village was cleared of the enemy. The afternoon of February 27 saw the Wehrmacht launch a counterattack to retake Elsdorf with four Tigers and two MK IVs leading the advance. Fortunately for the Americans, Task Force Lovelady, under Lt. Col. William B. Lovelady, was just to the southeast and in an excellent position to blunt the German attack.

Pershing No. 40, under the command of Sergeant Nick Mashlonik, moved forward. At 1,000 yards and while on the move, the Pershing killed a dug-in Tiger with four rapid high velocity armor-piercing rounds. Mashlonic was just getting started. He remembered, “Three other German armored vehicles were leaving Elsdorf and were on the road to my right. I waited until all of them were on the road with their rear ends exposed and then I picked off each one with one shell each. Just like shooting ducks.” The sergeant’s achievement confirmed the effectiveness of the Pershing’s firepower.

By the end of the 27th, Elsdorf was firmly in American hands. This allowed division maintenance to retrieve Fireball and take it back to Duren for repairs. The tank returned to duty on March 7.

While one Pershing was lost at Elsdorf due to enemy action, another of Combat Command B, 3rd Armored Division, experienced mechanical trouble and was withdrawn from the front on March 1. It had broken down as it crossed a Bailey bridge over the Erft Canal four miles east of Elsdorf. That same day, Pershing No. 22, attached to Company A, 14th Tank Battalion, 9th Armored Division, was disabled by a 150mm artillery shell southeast of Duren, killing its commander.

On March 6, Pershing No. 25, from Company H, 33rd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division, was knocked out of action in a northern suburb of Cologne by an 88mm round fired from a German Nashorn tank destroyer at 300 yards. The crew bailed out safely, but the hit set off the stored ammunition, burning out the turret. That same day, as the Americans tightened their grip on Cologne, elements of the 3rd Armored Division neared the Dom Cathedral in the city’s center. One final short skirmish with a lone Panther tank in the cathedral square started as the German hit a Sherman tank, killing three crewmen. A Pershing down the street immediately reacted, exchanging cannon shots with the German. The Panther burst into flames after being struck three times. Two of its five crewmen were trapped in the vehicle and burned to death.

Pershings at Remagen

While the tankers of the 3rd Armored Division, including the first Pershing tanks sent to Europe, saw fighting in World War II and completed the capture of the city of Cologne, others of the original 20 machines rushed into action in February 1945 were experiencing their own trials in combat. On the morning of March 7 in the Bonn-Remagen area about 13 miles northeast of the bridge at Remagen spanning the Rhine River, the new commander of Company A, 27th Armored Infantry Battalion, 9th Armored Division, Lieutenant Karl H. Timmermann, was called to the command post of the 14th Tank Battalion, which was spearheading the 9th Armored Division’s move toward the Rhine. There the young junior officer was instructed that he and his company would act as the vanguard for the entire advance, and that Company A, 14th Tank Battalion, with its new Pershings, would support his unit.

Timmermann’s men soon started on their way toward the Rhine and the Ludendorff railway bridge that crossed it at Remagen. At 11 am they ran in to an ambush as German infantry fired panzerfaust antitank weapons. In response, an M26 was brought to the head of the American column, where its cannon fire not only quickly dispersed the threatening enemy but forced their surrender as well. Once near the bridge at Remagen and seeing that the Ludendorff structure had not been destroyed by the Germans, Timmermann contacted his superiors. At 1 pm Brig. Gen. William M. Hodge, leader of Combat Command B, 9th Armored Division, arrived and ordered Timmermann to seize the town of Remagen and try to secure the bridge. Pershings provided fire support.

At 3:20 pm Timmermann moved up to the bridge and gave the traditional “Follow me” gesture. As he and his 120 men moved onto the span, a Pershing fired at one of the bridge towers ahead of the assault team to silence German machine-gun fire. Soon another Pershing opened up on an enemy machine-gun positioned on a half-submerged barge moored 200 yards upstream. With an American toehold on the east bank of the Rhine, the first U.S. tanks rolled across the great river at midnight. Although the Pershing crews insisted on crossing first, they were not authorized since the bridge was considered too weak to support the M26’s weight. As a result, the first U.S. armor to cross the river was the lighter M4 Sherman along with even lighter tank destroyers.

Matira and Irwin: An Experienced Sherman Crew

With World War II in Europe nearing its conclusion, the Pershing tank displayed one last example of its battlefield prowess. On April 21, 1945, near the town of Dessau, Germany, at the junction of the Mulde and Elbe Rivers, a tank versus tank contest occurred. It was truly a heavyweight bout. An American Super Pershing slugged it out with a German King Tiger.

The U.S. tank was manned by an experienced crew under the command of Staff Sergeant Joseph Matira of Massachusetts. The brave and capable noncommissioned officer had one weakness. He was severely claustrophobic, and during any fighting he usually stood up in the turret of his vehicle firing the tank’s .50-caliber machine gun. Although this habit exposed him to enemy fire, it allowed him a better view of his surroundings. His gunner was Corporal John “Jack” P. Irwin of Norristown, Pennsylvania. Matria had been in combat for nine straight months, while Irwin dropped out of high school to enlist in the U.S. Army in 1944. The 18-year-old Irwin was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, qualifying as a tank gunner. While at that station he worked on some of the 20 new Pershing tanks sent there for testing.

Matira and Irwin were with Company I, 33rd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division. After joining Matira’s M4 Sherman crew in March 1945, Irwin experienced a sustained string of combat actions. After driving 12 miles out of the American bridgehead at Remagen on March 25, Irwin’s tank was hit in the turret by enemy fire. As part of Task Force Welborn, on the 26th Irwin’s Sherman dueled with German 88mm antitank guns in the fight for the town of Altenkirchen. Moving 90 miles on March 28 to the town of Paderborn, Company I fought a vicious battle against German soldiers from the SS Panzer Replacement and Training Center located nearby. There Matira’s Sherman got stuck on a heap of rubble and had to be abandoned. On March 30 near the town of Etteln in the Ruhr Valley, Irwin’s tank was struck by fire from an enemy self-propelled gun. The entire crew bailed out, but the tank was not seriously damaged.

On April 1, Matira and Irwin were again fighting near Paderborn when their crew encountered a German Tiger I tank. The hits Matria’s tank scored merely ricocheted off the Nazi tank. Finally, a high explosive shell forced the enemy crew to abandon the Tiger due to the concussion.

Arrival of the Super Pershing

After the fight at Paderborn, Task Force Welborn sped on to the Weser River, reaching it on April 7. Three days later the Sherman was disabled by panzerfaust fire in the village of Espchenrode near the Harz Mountains. That afternoon they received a replacement tank, a Super Pershing (T26E4). This machine, which had been in action before, was one of only two deployed to Europe during World War II. Additional armor protection had been installed, and it was equipped with a new long-barreled T15E1 90mm gun that was designed to outperform the high-velocity 88mm cannon found on the German Tiger I and King Tiger.

The 90mm gun could successfully penetrate 8.5 inches of armor sloped at 30 degrees from a distance of 1,000 yards. The gun had a muzzle velocity of 3,850 feet per second, 600 feet per second faster than the 88mm gun used by the German Tigers. The new gun was also found to be extremely reliable and accurate with good range. The tank’s large tracks helped it move almost effortlessly through rough fields and muddy terrain.

By April 12 a score of German villages and towns along Task Force Welborn’s advance had been fought over, captured, and left behind as the Americans moved eastward. In many of these actions Madira’s tank had been hit, but the Super Pershing had sustained little damage. On April 14 Task Force Welborn crossed the Saale River heading for the Elbe River. As it rushed forward, Task Force Lovelady advanced to its south. The next objective for both combat teams, as well as the entire 3rd Armored Division, was the city of Dessau. Nearing Dessau Matria’s tank was ordered to backtrack five miles and clear the American supply route, which had been interdicted by marauding German units. Using high-explosive and white phosphorous shells, the Super Pershing cleared the way and reopened the supply line.

From the 18th to the 20th, Task Force Welborn stood down while bitter fighting occurred in the villages south of Dessau. On April 21, the 3rd Armored Division initiated a four-pronged attack on Dessau. The Americans advanced from several directions, Task Force Hogan from the west, Task Force Boles and Task Force Orr from the southwest, and Task Force Welborn from the south. At the time the city was defended by soldiers of the Wehrmacht School of Combat Engineers and some SS units.

Task Force Welborn’s approach to Dessau was blocked by concrete antitank barriers, which the U.S. tanks were not able to break through or climb over. Instead, the Americans used their guns to demolish the barriers, which proved to be a slow process. Once over the concrete obstacles, the tanks of Task Force Welborn, closely followed by the halftrack-mounted soldiers of the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, fanned out along the city streets.

The 20-Second Duel

Matria’s Pershing reached an intersection and began to round the corner. Waiting in ambush just 600 yards away stood a German King Tiger tank. The German fired at the M26 but missed its mark as its shell went high. John Irwin reacted immediately, firing a high-explosive round at the enemy vehicle, which merely bounced off the German tank and then exploded in the air. The Pershing cannon had been loaded with high-explosive ammunition since the crew expected to be conducting combat against infantry rather than enemy armor within the city.

Irwin shouted for his loader to put an armor-piercing round in the gun. Before he could shoot, the American tank was hit by antitank fire, which did no damage to the Pershing. It was never discovered if the shot that hit Matira’s tank had been fired by the Tiger or some other German weapon. The latter was most likely the case since a hit at that range from a King Tiger would likely have destroyed the U.S. tank.

Irwin then got off his second shot, which hit its target as the Tiger slowly moved forward over a rubble heap, exposing the German’s thinly armored underbelly. The 90mm round hit near the enemy tank’s ammunition hold resulting in a tremendous explosion, which blew the Tiger’s turret loose and killed the crew. The contest between the American and German behemoths lasted only 20 seconds.

The next morning, the Super Pershing participated in repulsing a German counterattack in Dessau’s center. The American encountered a Tiger tank that fired its 88mm gun. A German shot passed between the M26’s tracks! Another German tank came on scene as Matria backed his vehicle into an entrance way that overlooked a road. As the German Panther approached, Irwin fired, disabling the Panther’s drive sprocket and left sponson. A second shot slammed into the enemy tank’s two-inch side armor, igniting gasoline and ammunition. The Panther became a flaming torch, its wreckage blocking the Pershing until it was towed away later. Within seconds, another German tank appeared, but before Irwin could get off a shot at the newcomer the Nazi crew, out of ammunition, abandoned its tank and surrendered.

The Battle for Dessau did not conclude until April 24. It was the last combat action the Pershing took part in during World War.

20 Fighting Pershings on the Western Front

By mid-April 1945, a total of 185 new Pershings had arrived in the European Theater. Of these, 110 served with the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 9th, and 11th Armored Divisions by war’s end. There were 310 M26 tanks in theater on May 8, 1945 (VE-Day), of which 200 were actually delivered for frontline service.

It is safe to say that due to the difficulties involved in transporting the machines and training their crews, the only Pershings that could have seen sustained action were those 20 experimental models introduced in February 1945. As a result, since the Pershing arrived so late and in such small numbers, it had no major impact on the fighting on the Western Front.

This article by Arnold Blumberg originally appeared on Warfare History Network.

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 Post subject: Re: M26 Pershing:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:30 am 
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the nine savage weeks of fighting in the Normandy hedgerow country and the following dash across France proved the Sherman was far from the equal of the German Tiger, Panther, or even the outdated Panzer IV.


In fact, the 75 mm gun armed Shermans performed very well indeed during this time, even against Panthers. Experienced crews and units resisted being rearmed with 76 mm gun armed Shermans. It wasn't until the end of the summer when they neared the German border that US forces started to have trouble with German tanks.

Quote:
the absence of any “tank versus tank combat theory” in the U.S. Army at the time,


Flat out false. Tanks were indeed expected to fight other tanks. It's right there in the Army's manuals. They did expect that tanks would usually end up fighting infantry which turned out to be the case, but understood that infantry were not the only potential opponents.


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DaveAAA wrote:
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the absence of any “tank versus tank combat theory” in the U.S. Army at the time,


Flat out false. Tanks were indeed expected to fight other tanks. It's right there in the Army's manuals. They did expect that tanks would usually end up fighting infantry which turned out to be the case, but understood that infantry were not the only potential opponents.


Nick Moran aka The Chieftain aka Major(?) Moran has something to say about the 'tanks don't fight tanks' idea.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bNjp_4jY8pY

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DaveAAA wrote:
Quote:
the nine savage weeks of fighting in the Normandy hedgerow country and the following dash across France proved the Sherman was far from the equal of the German Tiger, Panther, or even the outdated Panzer IV.


In fact, the 75 mm gun armed Shermans performed very well indeed during this time, even against Panthers. Experienced crews and units resisted being rearmed with 76 mm gun armed Shermans. It wasn't until the end of the summer when they neared the German border that US forces started to have trouble with German tanks.

Quote:
the absence of any “tank versus tank combat theory” in the U.S. Army at the time,


Flat out false. Tanks were indeed expected to fight other tanks. It's right there in the Army's manuals. They did expect that tanks would usually end up fighting infantry which turned out to be the case, but understood that infantry were not the only potential opponents.


Unfortunately that's not strictly true. US Armor doctrine expected the tank force to act as traditional cavalry, only to be committed once the breakthrough had occurred. The main task of destroying enemy armour was to be the Tank Destroyer (cue dramatic music over the image of General McNair, hands on hips, head held high, bestriding a map of Germany).

"Seek, Strike, Destroy" (motto of the Tank Destroyer Command).

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Andy L wrote:
Unfortunately that's not strictly true.

Actually it is strictly true
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US Armor doctrine expected the tank force to act as traditional cavalry, only to be committed once the breakthrough had occurred. The main task of destroying enemy armour was to be the Tank Destroyer (cue dramatic music over the image of General McNair, hands on hips, head held high, bestriding a map of Germany).


That's the traditional and completely erroneous comment. See HERE

Put briefly, the Tank Destroyer force was intended as a mobile anti-tank defense tasked with countering armored breakthroughs by massing anti-tank guns against them. Tanks had a operationally offensive role that included both cavalry style sweeps and supporting the infantry and it was taken for granted that both parts of that function would involve them engaging other tanks.

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Francis Urquhart wrote:
Andy L wrote:
Unfortunately that's not strictly true.

Actually it is strictly true
Quote:
US Armor doctrine expected the tank force to act as traditional cavalry, only to be committed once the breakthrough had occurred. The main task of destroying enemy armour was to be the Tank Destroyer (cue dramatic music over the image of General McNair, hands on hips, head held high, bestriding a map of Germany).


That's the traditional and completely erroneous comment. See HERE

Put briefly, the Tank Destroyer force was intended as a mobile anti-tank defense tasked with countering armored breakthroughs by massing anti-tank guns against them. Tanks had a operationally offensive role that included both cavalry style sweeps and supporting the infantry and it was taken for granted that both parts of that function would involve them engaging other tanks.


OK, I'll rephrase that somewhat, although I did say not STRICTLY true.

The main job of destroying enemy armour was expected to be the Tank Destroyer units. Not only were they to defend against an enemy armoured attack but were also expected to foray out onto the battlefield to locate, engage and (hopefully) eliminate the main strength of enemy tanks (see Dr C. Gabel, US Army Command & General Staff College, 1985). Yes obviously US armour formations, i.e. tank rather than TD units, would be expected to encounter enemy tanks at some point, but that was very much a secondary consideration for them, as laid down in the doctrine of the early war years.

I freely admit this did change to a great degree from the end of 1943, as it also became apparent the concept of the dedicated tank destroyer arm itself was fatally flawed.

(I will also freely admit I am very biased against the Tank Destroyer concept, and the vehicles that derived from that concept, the M10/M36 GMC and the M18 GMC when used in their designed roles.)

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Andy L wrote:
The main job of destroying enemy armour was expected to be the Tank Destroyer units. Not only were they to defend against an enemy armoured attack but were also expected to foray out onto the battlefield to locate, engage and (hopefully) eliminate the main strength of enemy tanks (see Dr C. Gabel, US Army Command & General Staff College, 1985). Yes obviously US armour formations, i.e. tank rather than TD units, would be expected to encounter enemy tanks at some point, but that was very much a secondary consideration for them, as laid down in the doctrine of the early war years.


No, that is completely incorrect. Tank destroyers were NOT intended to foray out into the battlefield. They were a mobile reserve that was intended to eliminate enemy breakthroughs. See the following thread HERE and especially watch the video-lectures linked to it. Especially[ This is the history of the tank destroyer arm and goes into a lot of detail about what its role really was. Nor was tank-vs-tank combat a secondary role for US tanks with the provisio that the normal span of duties for tanks was so large that any single role represented only a small proportion of its duties.

The problem was (as it is with all units that have a limited tactical role) when commanders saw large units sitting around apparently doing nothing, they "borrowed them" for other roles. Most notably for infantry support. That then meant when the opportunity to use them in their correct role arose, they weren't available.

In this matter secondary, tertiary and quaternary sources (especially those written forty years after the fact) are worthless. They are part of a circle of agenda-driven authors who quote each other. The only valuable data is that contained within primary sources and the great value of Nick Moran's work is that he does go back to primary original source material.

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 Post subject: Re: M26 Pershing:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 4:28 pm 
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Significant amounts of the above is wrong.

Eisenhower's ETOHQ demanded seventy (70) main gun rounds in the spring of 1944 for the tank that was to be produced in 1945.

This put out of contention the T25E1 and T26E1; even though they proposed to boost the T25E1 main gun rounds from about 45~ to 58 by removing the bow machine gunner and putting 18 more rounds into his seat.

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 Post subject: Re: M26 Pershing:
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MKSheppard wrote:
Significant amounts of the above is wrong.

For sure; the OP is riddled with factual errors and shows a complete lack of understanding of what was actually happening.

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Eisenhower's ETOHQ demanded seventy (70) main gun rounds in the spring of 1944 for the tank that was to be produced in 1945.

One interesting thing about Nick Moran's second Sherman piece is that he brings out the conflict between the various levels of authority in the US Army with a complete lack of agreement on who should be driving the development of the armored force. Apparently, one symptom of that was that one side was demanding, in fact was obsessed with, increased ammunition stowage while the other was more concerned with stowing ammunition safely and efficiently and if that resulted in a load penalty, so be it.

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This put out of contention the T25E1 and T26E1; even though they proposed to boost the T25E1 main gun rounds from about 45~ to 58 by removing the bow machine gunner and putting 18 more rounds into his seat.


That may well have been a greater tactical limitation than it seemed. Apparently, that bow machine gun was more valuable that a cursory glance would suggest. According to Nick Moran, given the technology of the day, it was the most accurate machine gun in the tank when it was advancing on a defended position and was the valuable counter to anti-tank guns and panzerfaust type weapons. The turret-top weapon was unsuable in those conditions and the coaxial was slaved to the main gun which had other things to do. So, removing the bow gun actually left the tank almost defenseless against infantry. (In passing, SU-85 and SU-100 tank destroyers were not fitted with machine guns as built. Russian crews made a big point of getting trophy MG-42s and fitting them to their SUs).

Interesting thing, talking about the Russians. On a FWIW basis, a Russian armor site had a Q&A session where one of the participants asked what killed most tanks. The respondent answered that it was almost impossible to tell precisely since tanks that stopped on the battlefield got shot up until they burned. However, he suggested that British and American data for 1944/45 showed that around 35 - 40 percent of allied tanks were killed by panzerfaust/panzerschreck type weapons, 20 percent by mines, 15 percent were lost to mechanical failure and the balance (25 - 30 percent) were lost to gunfire that included tanks, tank destroyers and anti-tank guns. He added that aircraft were a statistically irrelevant cause of loss. He also added that he'd tried to get Russian figures for tank losses but the "Russian Army didn't keep records" which I don't believe for a second.

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 Post subject: Re: M26 Pershing:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:40 am 
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Slightly different perspective, from Zaloga's Armored Thunderbolt. US and UK tank losses.

54% Enemy Gunfire, no breakdown regarding AT guns, SPG, Panzerjager or Tank. For ETO alone this was 47.7% 1944 and 50.9% 1945

20% Mines

13% Non combat breakdowns

7.5% Anti tank rockets (Panzerfaust and Panzerschrecks) This is a bit misleading since the data is for the whole war, and Rockets were really only used in Late war, ETO was 11%

6% Mortars and indirect artillery

US studies ESTIMATED German losses as follows

40% Gunfire
20% Self destroyed
20% Abandoned
10% Aircraft
10% Bazooka

This is from kindle location 2703


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 Post subject: Re: M26 Pershing:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2018 11:55 am 
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That's very interesting; the data is similar enough to the Russian sources material to suggest they came from the same place, different enough to show a different treatment of that data. The Russian data does specify 1944/45 which could make a big difference. Thank you for posting that; its extremely valuable.

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 Post subject: Re: M26 Pershing:
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David, that's a very good presentation of what appears to be the same data. That 1951 British study seems to be the only data on who did what and to whom and the only differences are processing.

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When you quoted the stuff above I thought just that. I think the important thing is the difference between mid-war and 1945 when the Panzerfaust, Panzerschrek and Bazooka come into play. Those make quite a difference to the kill statistics.

That channel is somewhat dry in its presentation, but cites its sources and is generally thorough in its analysis.


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David Newton wrote:
That channel is somewhat dry in its presentation, but cites its sources and is generally thorough in its analysis.


Good to know. Thank you for pointing me to it.

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Indeed, thanks for that channel pointing @David Newton, I feel a binge watch coming up (my last one originating from this forum was Nicholas Moran channel).

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I will also add that I am a big fan of Military History Visualized. He has some really cool stuff on his channel.

[Shrug] I actually really like his presentation style. He does have some humor in his videos but it is infrequent.


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Francis Urquhart wrote:
One interesting thing about Nick Moran's second Sherman piece is that he brings out the conflict between the various levels of authority in the US Army with a complete lack of agreement on who should be driving the development of the armored force. Apparently, one symptom of that was that one side was demanding, in fact was obsessed with, increased ammunition stowage while the other was more concerned with stowing ammunition safely and efficiently and if that resulted in a load penalty, so be it.


People have been sidetracked for the last 30 years on the bureaucratic battles within the US Army over what does what and how. That merely slowed tank development by about 12~ months.

What people have missed (the forest for the trees) is the significant role that the THEATER/FRONT COMMANDER had in World War II on equipment operational status.

Theater Commanders saying "no" kill the chance of a weapons system of being deployed. Case in point, the TBY Seawolf.

It was all set to be deployed operationally from very late Summer 1945 onwards after a significant series of production battles at the Allentown plant had been worked out.

Reviews of it were nice:

A short comparative test involving the TBY-2 (BuNo. 30333). TBM-3E (BuNo. 86245) and SB2C-5 (BuNo. 83140), resulted in better performance of the subject aircraft. At set RPMs, manifold pressure and airspeed, the TBY-2 climbed flew straight and level and glided with more speed than either of the other two planes. The TBM-3E was strained in its attempt to stay with the TBY-2 and the SB2C-5 was left behind, especially at higher altitudes. None of the three planes were loaded nor did they carry passengers. It is interesting to note that an constant power settings for all three aircraft, the TBY-2 draws away gradually from the TBM-3E and rapidly from the SB2C-5.

In July 1945, the theater command, based in Hawaii; suddenly changed his mind about the TBY, and bam; from there on the Sea Wolf was going straight to the scrapyard.

Likewise, over in the AAF; George Kenney kept asking for B-29's and got told over and over "No. No. No." So he asked, "What else you got?" and ran away with the remnants of the B-32 Dominator program.

In the AGF side of things; the Army deployed two experimental types of Mortars to Hawaii in Summer 1945, a 105mm and 155mm. The using commands didn't like the 105 as it had in their view no real advantage over the existing 4.2" Chemical Mortar. But they did like the 155mm.

Guess which mortar got sent to Okinawa, arriving in August 1945?

Eisenhower's ETOHQ was offered multiple tanks from time to time (M6 Heavy Tank with the 105mm Turret and more armor to bust bunkers, T23 etc) and each time he turned them down.

In very late April 1944, ETOHQ was asked its requirements for armament for 1945 production of medium tanks and the following requirements were tentatively set up in ETOUSA headquarters on Monday, May 1:

Direct quote:

Seventy (70) rounds of ammunition is the minimum acceptable in each tank, with both types of weapon. Seventy (70) rounds is to be considered as the minimum figure -- more rounds are urgently desired.

That 70 round requirement acted like the 15-ton weight limit in 1930 for tank design -- created an impossible standard. In case you didn't know, from 1922-1930, the US Army set the weight limits of it's tank designs to be:

5 tons for light tanks (due to 5 tons being the limit for transportation by the Army's heavy trucks)
15 tons for medium tanks (“within the limits of average highway bridges, the capacity of railroads, and the limit of 15 tons placed by the War Department on the medium ponton bridge.”)

This led to Ordnance being unable to design a medium tank that could meet the Infantry Branch's protective requirement (defeat .50 AP round) and still stay under the Army's overall 15 ton weight limit.

Likewise, 14 years later that 70 round limit killed many things:

T23 Series (76mm gun): 66 to 68 rounds
T25 Series (90mm Gun): 52 rounds
T26 Series (90mm Gun): 52 rounds

The only way they got the Pershing to ETO was....

BRITISH ARMY STAFF - BRITISH MINISTRY OF SUPPLY MISSION

January 5, 1945

Major General A. W. Waldron,
Chief, Ground Requirements Section,
Army Ground Forces,
Bldg. T5 Room 102,
Army War College,
Washington, D. C.

Dear General Waldron,

The D.R.A.C. (Raymond Briggs) at the War Office has written to me, asking if I will take up a certain point with you. It is one upon which we appear to hold opposing views, and since we have always discussed our opinions quite frankly upon all matters concerning Armored Fighting Vehicles, I hope you will consider this point and let me have your considered judgment.

It appears from the revised fighting compartment of the 76MM M4 tank, heavy tank T.29, and in the re-stowed T.26E1 shown to D.D.R.A.C.(Brigadier C.A.L. Dunphie) during his last visit that the Armored Board are now prepared to accept the principle of placing unarmoured "ready" rounds high up in the tank.

On this point, as was stressed by D.D.R.A.C., the British find themselves in complete disagreement with the Armored Board.

The argument often put forward by fighting men in both our armies that individual "users" do, on many occasions, decide to carry large quantities of extra unarmoured ammunition carries no weight, in our judgment.

It is admitted that actual specific circumstances of a particular operation may well cause the user to consider such a risk justified; for instance, to avoid running short of ammunition when supply is more difficult than usual. And undoubtedly the man on the spot, on such specific occasions, is the one to assess the factors and make a decision. This is no new argument; on some occasions it may well be justifiable to carry extra fuel in exposed cans on the outside of a tank, or extra bedding for tank crews.

It appears to us that such arguments do not justify the production of a vehicle with a lower degree of protection against fire than has been proved possible to obtain.

To quote from the latest AFV (Tech) Report from Italy:

(a) Referring to Churchill tanks: "... fires in these tanks continue to be of a high percentage, and the cause, though hard to determine, appears to be due to ammunition."

(b) Referring to the existing Sherman 76 mm (with all ammunition below floor):- "One very important fact, which appears from those tanks examined after being knocked out, is that, of those seen, none had “brewed up”, although hit by 88 mm. There can be little doubt that the ordinary Sherman would have been burnt out. The answer seems to be the ammunition stowage under the floor, again confirming the opinion that ammunition is the chief cause of tank fires."

Information, which I am constantly receiving from Western Europe, is no less convincing and, in the face of it, it would appear that reversion to the old system of positioning unarmoured rounds high up in a tank is a retrograde step, which only the man on the spot is justified in taking for special reasons for a specific operation.

We appreciate that ample ready rounds permit a high rate of fire, which might be judged to offer advantage which outweigh the added danger of more likely fires. Surely the best answer is a compromise, i.e., as many ready rounds available as can be adequately armoured and housed in a small space. From my own practical experience, I would say that the absolute minimum acceptable would be five, and that seven should be tried for. Personally, I would much prefer these few armoured rounds to a large number of unarmoured rounds for normal operation.

I would be grateful if you would give me your views on this criticism.

With kindest personal regards,

Yours sincerely,

/S/
A.H. Gatehouse,
Major General


**********

12 January 1945

Dear General Gatehouse:

Thank you for referring to me the problems discussed in your letter of 5 January 1945.

We must keep in mind that the decision to use ready racks in the Heavy Tank, T26E3, and to abandon water-protected stowage was occasioned by the demands of the European Theatre for a minimum of seventy (70) rounds of ammunition stowage. In view of the heavier armor used in the T26, this headquarters approved the revised stowage.

We find that our tankers at first were anxious to carry as much ammunition as possible in the tank at the time they entered battle. However, as they became more experienced, we found that this practice of carrying extra rounds is not so prevalent. In fact, recent reports from Europe indicate that this practice is now frowned upon by many experienced tank officers.

Lack of a suitable means of battlefield resupply of ammunition has in some cases been the cause of the carrying of excessive amounts of ammunition in tanks at the start of a battle. As you will recall, we have discussed this matter on several occasions.

We have had a universal demand for ready racks from battlefield commanders.

An analysis of the tank losses in the First U. S. Army indicates that ammunition is not the primary cause of the majority of fires in burned tanks. Colonel Dean has given Colonel Bouchier copies of the reports on this subject.

The use of the turret-positioned holders for ready rounds can also be a decision of the man on the spot. The number of holders provided has been indicated by the overseas requirements for larger amounts of stowed ammunition.

While there is considerable weight in the thought that most burned-out tanks are due to initial fires in the ammunition, there is no conclusive proof of this theory, and there is considerable doubt. It is recognized that unprotected ammunition high up in either the turret or the hull of the tank offers a definite hazard so far as fires initiated by enemy projectiles piercing the tank is concerned. At the same time, it must be remembered that the space in all tank turrets is at a premium. Also, that there is a constant demand for an increase in the number of ready rounds. The placing of any worthwhile number of rounds in the turret, protected by armor will seriously reduce the space now available for the movements of the loader or cannoneer. In view of this fact and of the questioned cause of the majority of tank fires, it is believed that the calculated risk of unprotected ammunition in ready racks in the turrets of tanks must be accepted.

While we feel we must accept for the present an unarmored ready rack, studies will be initiated to determine the possibilities of armored ready racks.

Sincerely,

A. W. WALDRON,
Major General, G.S.C.


I also have extremely detailed (more than most general specifics) on the M4A3 (90mm) Sherman proposal. Let's just say by inference it does not look good for Eisenhower's ETOHQ.

Quote:
Apparently, that bow machine gun was more valuable that a cursory glance would suggest. According to Nick Moran, given the technology of the day, it was the most accurate machine gun in the tank when it was advancing on a defended position and was the valuable counter to anti-tank guns and panzerfaust type weapons. The turret-top weapon was unsuable in those conditions and the coaxial was slaved to the main gun which had other things to do. So, removing the bow gun actually left the tank almost defenseless against infantry.


If that was true, why did the BMG disappear so fast? It was the tank equivalent of the appendix from the early experiments in mechanization with multi turrets, etc because people were still uncertain over the reliability/ease of use of the early radios; so the bow gunner could man the radio/keep it running while as an ancillary task, spray random fire.

He couldn't hit anything worth a damn with the BMG; only being able to aim wildly through tracer through a periscope with poor vision.

By contrast, the coaxial is slaved to the main armament so the tank commander can direct the gunner who can have a much clearer FOV of the target area to target machine gun fire at.

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MKSheppard wrote:
Theater Commanders saying "no" kill the chance of a weapons system of being deployed. Case in point, the TBY Seawolf.

It was all set to be deployed operationally from very late Summer 1945 onwards after a significant series of production battles at the Allentown plant had been worked out.

Reviews of it were nice:

A short comparative test involving the TBY-2 (BuNo. 30333). TBM-3E (BuNo. 86245) and SB2C-5 (BuNo. 83140), resulted in better performance of the subject aircraft. At set RPMs, manifold pressure and airspeed, the TBY-2 climbed flew straight and level and glided with more speed than either of the other two planes. The TBM-3E was strained in its attempt to stay with the TBY-2 and the SB2C-5 was left behind, especially at higher altitudes. None of the three planes were loaded nor did they carry passengers. It is interesting to note that an constant power settings for all three aircraft, the TBY-2 draws away gradually from the TBM-3E and rapidly from the SB2C-5.

In July 1945, the theater command, based in Hawaii; suddenly changed his mind about the TBY, and bam; from there on the Sea Wolf was going straight to the scrapyard.

Which was absolutely the correct decision.

There were 9,839 TBF/TBM built. The vast majority were already in the fleet by early 1945. Per the quote above, the TBM-3E was only slightly lower in performance to the TBY.

Now, let's look at the threat environment, available targets, and the near future Navy light bomber demands. The TB planes would be flying under an aluminum umbrella, with a vast number of fighters escorting them. The majority of the large Japanese ships had been sunk, the Kreigsmarine wasn't a factor, and the dive bombers were better at land attack. Jets were on the way in, and fighters had really started to take over the light bomber role. The F4U could carry 4000 lbs of bombs, and a torpedo could be strapped under a Hellcat.

To convert over to the TBY, there would have to be an extensive retraining program, replacement parts stockpiled and pushed forward, and new factories set up for that specific plane. If the decision was made in January 1945, I very much doubt that there would be 500 TBY produced, and likely less than 250 pushed out to the frontline fleet. And that ignores teething troubles, which happens to every program. By comparison, the same resources could be used to get 500-700 TBF/TBM out to the fleet, because the supply line was full and the pilots ready.

Now, if the TBY had been ready for production in 1942, I can see it added to the mix. Likely in the same way as the F4U and F6F, with dual production of both TBF/TBM and of TBY, until one was found to be decisively superior. But it's not a war of individual planes, it's a war of large collections of armaments, and the one that gets the collectively superior combination wins.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2018 9:12 pm 
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KDahm wrote:
To convert over to the TBY, there would have to be an extensive retraining program, replacement parts stockpiled and pushed forward, and new factories set up for that specific plane. If the decision was made in January 1945, I very much doubt that there would be 500 TBY produced, and likely less than 250 pushed out to the frontline fleet.


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Note the TB3F! :D

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