https://archives.library.illinois.edu/b ... tanks-ww2/
A Poor Defense: Sherman tanks in WW2
Posted on November 22, 2013 by
Contributed by Nicholas Hopkins
The popularity of the Sherman was not due to its superior design, but its availability and mass production. On the contrary, this tank suffered from serious design flaws.
Shermans were under-gunned when fighting German Tiger tanks and out-maneuvered when facing German Panther tanks.
Because of their insufficient armor, the insides of Sherman tanks were prone to catching fire
during combat. This problem was compounded when fires ignited shells and other munitions inside a tank. Sherman M4’s were jokingly referred to by British soldiers as “Ronsons”, a brand of lighter whose slogan was “Lights up the first time
, every time!”[iv] Polish soldiers referred to them simply as “The Burning Grave”.
In the course of the war, tactics of coordination, as well as better ammo storage systems, were implemented to reduce the tank’s many deficits.
The Sherman M4 medium tank proved to be both a “death trap” for American soldiers and a poor defense against German tanks. However, its use by almost all of the Allied Forces was crucial to their ultimate success in WWII.
The M4 Sherman had many failings, but it was reliable.
General Eisenhower wrote General Clark about the high loss rates of the M4 tanks and the reason for this. Simply put Clark wrote back telling General Eisenhower this statement: Our Sherman’s have to be within 600 yards of the German tanks and on their flanks, meaning rear to be able to take out these tanks. The German’s can take out the M4 at 2000 meters head on. These are the reasons: the M4 had a cannon which fired a shell at 2000 meters per second, the German’s had cannons which fired a shell at up to 3700 feet per second, meaning it could smash through the armor on the M4 like a hot knife cutting through butter.
Our tanks could hit theirs multiple times while they only needed one shot to either destroy or incapacitate ours.
They also show one of the stugs up on a slight hill who knocked out 17 Sherman’s before retreating due to someone figuring out they had a problem. 85 men were killed before they made the decision and as one historian states, simply put it was murder to send these tanks into battle.
Lastly it takes 6 tanks to kill one german tank, 5 which get destroyed and the sixth who finally is able to get around behind it to knock it out. But only if the German tank didn’t knock out the runners first leaving 4 tanks for pretty much target practice.
http://chris-intel-corner.blogspot.com/ ... f-war.html
Thursday, July 19, 2012
WWII Myths - T-34 Best Tank of the war
The revolutionary design of the T-34
Moreover there were several problems created by the sloped armor in the front, the sides and the back of the vehicle. This choice seriously diminished the internal space of the T-34. Tanks are always crowded on the inside. The T-34 however had a huge problem when it came to internal space.
The limited space not only affected crew performance but turned the T-34 into a deathtrap. Due to the limited internal space a penetration by an A/T round usually led to the destruction of the tank and loss of 75% of the crew. In the Sherman the figure was only 18%. The turret also suffered from a lack of space. It was so cramped that it affected movement.
Fuel tanks in the fighting compartment
The T-34 had limited internal space due to the sloped armor in the front, the sides and the back of the vehicle. There were fuel tanks in the engine compartment and at the sides of the hull. The presence of fuel tanks inside the fighting compartment made any penetration of the tank likely to lead to the complete loss of the vehicle
Although the T-34's sloped sides reduced the likelihood of the tank being penetrated by enemy projectiles, it also led to a decrease in internal hull volume. In the event that the T-34 was penetrated, the projectile was far more likely to produce catastrophic damage among the fuel and ammunition stored in such a small space. The side sponsors of the T-34's fighting compartment in particular contained fuel cells that if penetrated could lead to fire and the destruction of the tank.’
Serious design flawsApart from the limited internal space there were two more serious design flaws.
One was the lack of turret basket (a rotating floor that moves as the turret turns) for the loader. This meant that the person loading the shells had to follow the movement of the gun and at the same time keep an eye on the floor so he doesn’t trip on the spent casings.
The other major issue was the two-man turret which forced the commander to also act as the gunner. This drastically limited combat performance as the commander could not focus on leading the tank but instead had to engage targets.
The armor of the T-34 had a high Brinell rating, meaning it was very hard. This was advantageous in defeating antitank rounds of caliber equal or lower to the armor’s thickness but had the disadvantage that it could lead to spalling.
Combined with manufacturing flaws in the construction of the tank this meant that the T-34’s crew was often in danger even when hit by tank rounds that did not penetrate the armor.
Automotive performanceChristie suspension
The Christie suspension
used on the T-34 had the advantage that it allowed for high speeds on road. Its disadvantages were that it took a lot of internal space and it had poor stability in rough terrain.
A German test of tank pitching motion at the Kummersdorf testing facility (1km undulated track) showed that the T-34 had the worst stability compared to the Pz IV, Tiger, Sherman and Panther (2).
The Christie suspension was a technological dead-end and the Aberdeen evaluation says: ‘The Christie's suspension was tested long time ago by the Americans, and unconditionally rejected’.
Another major problem was the unwieldy gearbox. It had poor reliability and it needed excessive force to change gears, leading to driver fatigue. The study ‘Engineering analysis of the Russian T34/85 tank’ says (4):'Rough steering due to the use of clutch and brake steering control, and
Difficulty in shifting due to the use of a spur gear clash-shift transmission (no synchronizers, no clutches) and a multi-disc dry clutch, undoubtedly make driving this tank a difficult and very fatiguing job.’
The T-34 had a large caliber gun. The initial version was the L-11 76mm of 30.5 calibers. This was quickly replaced with the F-34 76mm of 42 calibers and the T34/85 had the ZiS S-53 85mm of 54.6 calibers.
The caliber numbers look impressive. After all the main German tank of 1941-43 Pz III had a 50 mm gun and that of 1943-45 Pz IV had 75mm. However Soviet tank guns suffered from low velocity leading to poor penetration and accuracy at long ranges.
Lack of radio
Initially only the unit commander’s tank had a radio. In the course of the war radio was used more widely but even in 1944 many tanks lacked a radio set. The lack of radio meant that Soviet tank units operated with little coordination.
German combat reports show that T-34 tanks had serious difficulties in navigating terrain and identifying targets. The problem was that the vision devices made it hard for the driver and the gunner to see what was happening.
The gun sights in Russian tanks are far behind the German designs
. The German gunners need to be thoroughly accustomed to the Russian telescopic gunsights. The ability to spot a hit through the gunsight is very limited.’
In a Russian tank it is difficult to command a Panzer or a unit and at the same time serve as the gunner Therefore fire direction for the entire Kompanie is hardly possible, and the concentrated effect of the unit’s firepower is lost. The commander's cupola on the T 43 makes it easier to command and fire at the same time; however; vision is very limited to five very small and narrow slits.’
The T-34 was supposed to be a simple and rugged vehicle that seldom broke down. Authors like to compare it to the more complex German tanks that supposedly broke down often. The concept of the T-34 as a reliable tank is another myth of WWII.The majority of vehicles in 1941 were lost due to equipment malfunction. The same reliability problems continued during the period 1942-44.
In 1941 T-34 tanks often had to carry a spare transmission strapped on the back
to counter equipment failures (10). In 1942 the situation worsened since many vehicles could only cover small distances before breaking down. In the summer of 1942 the following Stalin order was issued to units (11): ‘Our armored forces and their units frequently suffer greater losses through mechanical breakdowns than they do in battle.
For example, at Stalingrad Front in six days twelve of our tank brigades lost 326 out of their 400 tanks. Of those about 260 owed to mechanical problems. Many of the tanks were abandoned on the battlefield. Similar instances can be observed on other fronts. Since such a high incidence of mechanical defects is implausible, the Supreme Headquarters sees in it covert sabotage and wrecking by certain elements in the tank crews who try to exploit small mechanical troubles to avoid battle.’
Henceforth, every tank leaving the battlefield for alleged mechanical reasons was to be gone over by technicians, and if sabotage was suspected, the crews were to be put into tank punishment companies or "degraded to the infantry" and put into infantry punishment companies.'
The constant complaints from the front forced the authorities to investigate the problems with T-34 production. In September 1942 a conference was held at the Ural tank factory by the Commissariat of tank industry (12). The conference was headed by Major General Kotin, People’s commissar of the tank industry of the USSR and chief designer of heavy tank ‘Kliment Voroshilov’. In his speech he said:
''Now ... there are a lot of complains about the T-34. You all know the reasons for flaws in the tanks.
The first reason –inadequate visibility from the tank; the second reason, and this is the weak link that always accompanies our vehicle in the Army – final drive. And third, the main issue that we have today – insufficient strength of the idler wheel's crank. These issues are the major defects of the T-34 today. Having considered these issues from engineering and technological points of view I would like to discuss another issue, the one that directly resulted solely from our production deficiencies. They are: negligence during production of combat vehicles in the factories, carelessness of assembly and quality control of vehicles. As a result during combat employment our tanks sometimes cannot reach the front lines, or after getting to the territory occupied by the enemy for conducting combat operations, sometimes they are forced to remain on enemy's territory because of some little things... We have to make sure that as a result of this conference all shortcoming will be uncovered and following this conference all corrections in the tank will be implemented in the shortest possible time...Recently comrade Morozov and I visited comrade Stalin. Comrade Stalin drew our attention to the fact that enemy tanks cover a lot of ground freely, and our machines although are better, but have a disadvantage: after 50 or 80 kilometers march they require repair.
There were constant problems with the gearbox and the engine filters. The Aberdeen evaluators noted:
‘On the T-34 the transmission is also very poor. When it was being operated, the cogs completely fell to pieces (on all the cogwheels). A chemical analysis of the cogs on the cogwheels showed that their thermal treatment is very poor and does not in any way meet American standards for such mechanisms.
‘The deficiency of our diesels is the criminally poor air cleaners on the T-34. The Americans consider that only a saboteur could have constructed such a device’
The same study says in page 451 about the transmission:‘The transmission had by American standards already failed, although with extreme care it could have been used further. Teeth ends on all gears were battered as the result of clash shifting. Many pieces of gear teeth had been broken off and were in the transmission oil. The failure is due to inadequate design, since excellent steel was used through the transmission.’
The mental image of the T-34 travelling hundreds of kilometers without stopping is fantasy.
A German unit that used the T-34/76 model ’43 in combat noted
(14):‘Regardless of our limited experience, it can be stated that the Russian tanks are not suitable for long road marches and high speeds. It has turned out that the highest speed that can be achieved is 10 to 12 km/hr. It is also necessary on marches to halt every half hour for at least 15 to 20 minutes to let the machine cool down. Difficulties and breakdowns of the steering clutches have occurred with all the new Beute-Panzer. In difficult terrain, on the march, and during the attack, in which the Panzer must be frequently steered and turned, within a short time the steering clutches overheat and are coated with oil. The result is that the clutches don't grip and the Panzer is no longer manoeuvrable. After they have cooled, the clutches must be rinsed with a lot of fuel.’
Quantity vs quality
When looking into whether a weapon system is cheap or expensive the price is only one factor. The other one and I think the more important one is its performance. Is it better to build 100 cheap tanks or 50 expensive ones? The price difference might be significant but that about the other costs? 100 cheap tanks will need twice the crews and twice the fuel as the 50 expensive ones. They will also need twice the spare parts. If 50 tanks require 25 supply trucks then the 100 will need 50. You get the idea.
Then there is the aspect of losses. A cheap but poorly designed tank system will suffer more losses than an expensive but well armed and armored one. Machines can be mass produced but what about trained crews? A tank force that has limited crew casualties will have many tank aces and even the rest will be able to perform well in combat. On the other hand a country that builds large numbers of inferior tanks will lose them quickly, together with their crews. This will create a downward spiral as inexperienced crews will make up the majority of crews and thus severely limit the capability of the armored force.
The endless stream of T-34 tanks
Another myth is that there were hordes of T-34’s attacking the German formations. A simple look at the Soviet tank strength at various points in the war shows that the T-34 was not the most important tank. The light tanks T-60 and T-70 and the tank-destroyer SU-76 made up the majority of AFV’s in 1941-42 and even in 1943-45 the T-34 comprised roughly half of the Soviet frontline AFV force. In summer 1941 there were only 967 T-34’s in the total strength of 22.000 tanks. For the rest of the war:
Comparison with German and Western tanks
The German models Tiger and Panther were greatly superior to the T-34 in armor and firepower.
The T-34 was superior in mobility as its 500hp engine gave it an excellent power weight ratio. Also its wide tracks minimized ground pressure and allowed movement in soft ground. However its stability over rough terrain was not better than the German tanks.
T-34 vs PzIII
The main German tank in the period 1941-43 was the PzIII. It weighed roughly 22 tons and was armed (in that period) with a 50mm gun.The PzIII made up 28% of German tank strength at the start of operation Barbarossa. Roughly 72% of these had the new 50mm gun, the rest the 37mm (25). These guns could only penetrate the T-34 from the sides at close ranges while the Soviet tank could destroy the PzIII from long distances from all aspects.
By summer ’42 it made up 51% of German tank strength. At that time it had received a longer 50mm gun that could destroy the T-34 from 500m frontally (with special ammunition). It also received more basic armor (50mm from 30mm) plus 20mm bolted on parts. The extra armor negated the performance of the F-34 at long ranges.
Despite its theoretical inferiority the PzIII was able to fight against the T-34. What it lacked in armor and firepower it made up by having a better internal layout, better reliability and optics, a commander’s cupola and radio in every vehicle. Its main advantage versus the T-34 was its superior reliability
T-34 vs PzIVThe PzIV
was the main German tank in the period 1943-45. It weighed 25 tons and was equipped with a 75m caliber gun. During the war it was upgraded with more armor and a better gun.
The PzIV made up 13% of German tank strength at the start of operation Barbarossa (26). The model used was equipped with a low velocity 75mm gun effective against infantry but not armored targets. From mid 1942 the PzIV was equipped with the longer 75mm gun KwK 40 that could destroy the T-34 from 1.000m. The basic armor was also increased to 50mm (from 30mm) plus 30mm bolted on and in 1943 80mm standard (for the front hull).
The upgraded PzIV was superior to the T-34
in internal layout, firepower, turret basket, optics, commander’s cupola, radio in every vehicle and its frontal hull armor could withstand the T-34 rounds.
A Soviet study in 1943 (27) admitted that the Pz IV was superior to their tank
, assigning it a combat value of 1.27 to the T-34’s 1.16 (with the Pz III being the base 1.0).The T-34/85 that appeared in mid 1944 was a harder opponent due to its new gun but the PzIV still had an edge in the ‘soft’ factors mentioned above. Moreover the heavier 85mm rounds limited the number that could be carried to 56 compared to the Pz IV’s standard load out of 87. The 85 mm rounds were not stored in a safe manner (28) since 16 of the 56 rounds were in the turret This allowed the loader to use them quickly but it had the downside that a penetration of the turret led to the explosion of the shells and loss of the tank.
The T-34 is the victim of Soviet and German wartime propaganda. The Russians had every reason to build it up as the best tank of WWII. The Germans also overstated its performance in order to explain their defeats.If the T-34 was as good as propaganda made it out to be then it should have led to great Soviet victories in 1941-42. Instead what we see in that period is the poor performance of Soviet armored formations. In 1943-45 the T-34 was becoming outdated as the Germans used updated versions of the Pz IV and Stug III equipped with the powerful Kwk 40 75mm gun and of course they introduced the Tiger and Panther.
The ‘best tank of WWII’ suffered horrific losses against those tanks and even the updated version T-34/85 could not bridge the gap. According to a Soviet report (29) in the period summer 1943 - March 1945 the probability of the T-34’s armor being penetrated if hit was from 88-97%, thus any round that managed to hit the tank was practically certain to penetrate the armor.
The T-34 looked good on paper
but in the battlefield its ‘soft’ flaws led to huge losses. Meanwhile Western tanks like the M4 Sherman and Pz IV may have lacked sloped armor or wide tracks but they were better combat systems overall