Sunday, February 12, 2006

"Iceberg, Goldberg, what's the difference?" 
I referenced our piece of crap Sheridan tanks in the post below. MANY emailers have written in to square me away: It should be piece of crap SHERMAN tanks.

I regret the error.

And this researcher runs the numbers and comes up with the daunting task faced by the US Army in 1944-1945:

How can we beat 600 Wehrmacht King Tiger tanks and 1500 Panther tanks with a measly, lousy 30,000 Shermans?

Answer: It wasn't easy. Things got very dicey around Bastogne for a while, Arnheim was a disaster, and things were really ugly in the Heurtgen forest.


I'd always bought the conventional "Shermans stank" wisdom, but recently I've read a few things here and there that have me reconsidering--or at least make it sound more complex than that.

I've read a few claims that the Sherman was better than almost anything that Germany had--when it was introduced. The problem is, we were using basically the same tank in 1945 that we were using in 1942. The Germans developed entirely new tanks--we didn't, except for the Pershing, which was too late. If it had been present for Normandy, maybe things would have been different.

That said, not only did we massively outproduce Germany, Shermans were far more reliable than German tanks. So, we often had tanks on a battlefield where they didn't have any to oppose them.

If you're looking for things to point at for the slow development of the Pershing--or even the lack of interest in building a heavy tank--I'd point to Army doctrine at the time, which was to use tank destroyers against tanks, and tanks only against infantry. That sounds incredibly stupid to me--when you're on the offensive, how do you know where the enemy tanks are going to be?

A great book that addresses some of the misconceptions of WWII is 'Eisenhower's Lieutenants'. It talks at length about some of the extreme supply shortcomings that the U.S. Army faced. i.e., switching to captured German artillery because of shortages of ammunition for our own in some cases. My Dad, who entered Germany as a replacement MP about the first of May, 1945, was not issued ammunition before the war ended, because it wasn't available. He found eight rounds in a discarded machine belt, filled his Springfield and gave the other three to his squad leader.

Also remember, our total war production didn't all go to just Europe or to just our troops. We provided thousands of tanks and other products to Great Britain, Russia and France. (Just finished reading Churchill's series, lots of interesting info in there.)

Thanks, great blog.
I think the Sherman was at least comparable to the "average" German tank (the Panzer IV) throughout the war.

I think a great deal of the problem in Normandy was not tank-on-tank superiority per se, but the terrain. Even Pershings would have had a tough time in the bocage.
I like Rommel's comments about Kasserine. "They were just green troops, that's all", or something to that effect.

Much more telling was Rommel's comment. "These people are very organized. We have much to learn from them."

(I know. He said *that* about the American Army?)
I took military history in college, and the prof made a point that pre-war tank doctrine was developed to counter Indian uprisings in the US west and thus they didn't develop tanks heavier than the weakest bridge between Texas and California could bear. Meanwhile, the chassis for the T-35 was developed here but was too heavy and was bought by the Russians.

Then again, Kelly's Heroes makes the point that the problem (beyond the logistical problems mentioned) was the lack of guns big enough to dent the armor.
There was another German general I've seen quoted as saying "The reason the American Army does so well in battle is because war is chaos and Americans practice chaos on a daily basis."
Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Site Meter

Prev | List | Random | Next
Powered by RingSurf!

Prev | List | Random | Next
Powered by RingSurf!