Category Archives: SP AT

#21 Tanks Were Knocked Out Far More Often By Mines And AT Guns. The Sherman Was No Different Here.

Let’s Talk About The Other Things That Killed Shermans, Mines and AT guns, The True Hidden Menace.

Mines, What can we say about mines, no one likes, them, but they still do a job that has to be done. We only going to cover anti-tank mines.

Changing_wheel
UK crew fixing mine damage.
The Riegel mine 43/44.

This mine was steel cased, anti-tank mine that looked like a long rectangular box. It had 17.8 pounds of TNT explosive in it. That’s enough BOOM to really mess up a tanks suspension. A really unlucky Sherman might have this go off right under the tanks rear belly, where the armor was thinnest, and blow into the engine compartment and really knock the tank out. In most cases, this mine would do enough damage the tank would need battalion level repair if that tank wasn’t written off for a total rebuild.

Production on these things started in 43, and by the end of the war, they had produced over 3 million of them. Apparently, there is no safe way to disable this mine, and the recommended way of removing it is to just blow it up. There is no telling how many of these took out Shermans, but it was probably a large percentage of the Mine losses.

The Topfmine A, B, and C.

These mines went into service in 1944. They were made from wood pulp and cardboard, with tar for waterproofing. They had a bigger charge but the metal cased mines till probably worked better. These mines went into production for two reasons, they were harder for harder for mine detectors to detect, and the case was cheap and easy to produce and used no steel.  The 13-pound charge would do a lot of suspension damage.

The Tellermine 29:

This mine was developed in the early 30s and was mostly used in training but saw limited use in Normandy. 13-pound charge meant it would be effective, but its age made it primitive.

The Tellermine 35:

This mine was used for the entire war and could even be used underwater. Steel cased like the older model, this one went into production in 35.  This mine had a slightly smaller 12-pound charge. Most of the time this mine would just blow a track off, and damage the suspension, but it could get lucky and do more damage.

The Tellermine 42:

This mine was an improvement on the 35 and used the same charge. It had improved anti-handling devices. This would be a very common mine through the end of the war. It went into production in 42 and was quickly superseded by the 43 model.

The Tellermine 43:

Image courtesy of the LoneSentry

A further improvement on the 42 model, cheaper to produce, with the same charge, this mine went into production, you guessed it, in 1943.

H-S mine 4672:

This shaped charge mine went into production in late 44 and was used to the end of the war. It basically was a panzerfaust head used as a mine. The mine shot the head out of the ground hoping for a belly hit. This mine would be bad news for wet ammo rack Shermans.  Only 59,000 were made, making it rare. This mine was very effective even with its small 3-pound charge. The Germans felt the heads were better-used don Panzerfausts, explaining the limited production.

Panzer Stab 43:

This mine was very much like the 4672 mine but didn’t launch the projectile. This mine was even rarer and was discontinued, probably because it worked, by the Germans the same year it went into production. Around 25k got made before they killed it.

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That’s a lot of mines and that’s just the mines the Germans made, I’m sure they used any stocks of captured mines they got their thieving paws on. So I’ll add Russian, British, and US AT mines here soon too.  Mines always accounted for 10 to 30% of tank losses depending on the year, month and theater you look at the losses in. There are a few pictures of Sherman tank catastrophically blown up, with the whole upper hull ripped away. They are labeled as mine damaged, and in a few cases, the labeling mentions two mines being put into the same hole, I think the ones labeled ‘mine damage’ probably lost the part about two mines in the hole to time. I suspect those photos of blown up Shermans are cases of two or more mines in one hole or an even bigger explosive like a dud Arty shell, or aircraft bomb could be put in the hole too.

Tankers probably really hated mines, in many cases minefields would be covered by well-hidden AT gun positions or even tanks, and in this role, the Panther was a pretty good tank, since it didn’t need to move much. Hitting a mine in an ambush like that could be very deadly for the crew when they bailed out to look at the damage or retreat to the rear. The random leftover mine, or stumbling into a minefield not covered by AT guns would be a big inconvenience but rarely resulted in a fully destroyed tank or lost crew members.

 

AT guns, cheap and easy to produce, these guns were a big threat to tanks but had little value to a mobile force.

AT guns were just what they sound like, large, Anti-Tank guns, on towable mounts. Most were as small and low slung as possible. Unless it was a US 3 inch AT gun, then they are huge. Even guns normally not a huge threat to a Sherman like the PAK 38 50mm AT gun could punch through the Shermans side if it was hidden well enough for the Shermans to give them the shot.  All the larger PAK guns had no trouble punching right through most Shermans.  Guns set up in ambush would have pre-range cards, giving them an advantage shooting and getting hits.  They are much easier to hide than a tank and can even have bunkers built around them. Those are all reasons why these things made Sherman tankers lives harder.

Towed AT guns have a lot of negatives. For one, they are towed, by trucks, or halftracks, they have to be limbered and unlimbered, or set up or packed up to go.  This is very hard to do in a useful way if you’re attacking with a mechanized force. By the time the guns are set up, if done at safe distances, the battle has moved on. At guns only have a small lightly armored shield, the crews would have to rely on personal foxholes or larger trench works if they had time.  The more time it had to get in place and camouflaged the position the better things would be for the gun and crew. But unless they had fortifications with overhead cover for the gun and crew, making it effectively a fixed gun, any kind of indirect fire weapon is going to make their lives hard. If the artillery fire wasn’t killing the crew, it would at least be keeping it from firing.

About half of the US tank destroyer battalions used only towed anti-tank guns. The battalions were not very successful, even during German offensives like the Battle of the Bulge. Both tracked TD battalions and towed were quickly disbanded after WWII, and towed anti-tank guns would not be a big part of most western nations militaries after the war either. AT guns would prove very useful the Germans from mid-war on after they were losing. They had a lot of these guns, and they accounted for a lot of tank kills. It was hard to determine in many cases what type of gun killed a tank, but tanks were much rarer than AT guns.

The Sherman 75mm tanks were actually better at dealing with AT guns than the later model tanks that had the 76mm gun since it had a smaller explosive charge. It was far from useless though.  A tank’s best way of dealing with an AT gun was to shoot the hell out of it with all guns available once it was spotted, and sometimes if the crew was suppressed, they’d even get a dose of the tracks.

Pak 38 50mm AT Gun:

This little gun was the main German AT gun from 1941 until superseded by the Pak 40. It was still used until the end of the war though. The Germans were so desperate they couldn’t afford to retire any weapons. Crewed by five men, it could be moved around pretty handily by the crew but required a light truck or some kind of tow vehicle to go any real distance.  I won’t go into great detail about the gun but it needed to be very close to a Sherman to knock it out from the front, not so much from the sides. Nearly 10,000 produced.

Pak 40 75mm AT Gun:

This gun was larger; almost double the weight of the Pak 38.  This gun could also take the Sherman out at the combat ranges they normally faced each other. The Germans made nearly 20,000 of these guns, so they are probably responsible for a lot of knocked out Shermans. In some cases, the same type of gun may have knocked the same Sherman out multiple times.  This gun required a bigger truck or halftrack to haul, but overall, it was a great gun.

Pak 43 88mm AT Gun:

This ‘fearsome’ gun had the same PR people as the big cats, but at least, in this case, the gun performed well, though not to the mythical levels some would have you believe. No it can’t take out an M1 ‘Abrahams’, it could take out any allied tank it faced, but it was nearly as rare as the Tiger I&II. They only produced around 2000 of these guns, so they only outnumber the combined Tigers production number of 1839, by a small margin. Overkill for most of the combat it saw, it would have been more useful if the Allies had made the same mistake of wasting resources on heavy tanks, but since they didn’t, this gun was almost entirely a waste of time.  The gun weighed almost 10,000 pounds, and it was an awkward, gun mount, even worse than the US 76 AT gun mount.  It needed a very large tow vehicle and its size and weight limited where it could be employed.

Flak 18/36/37 88mm dual purpose AA/AT Guns.
Flak 36

Another ‘mythical’ German weapon, this one started life as a mediocre AA gun that was pressed into use as a direct fire weapon when needed. As a direct fire weapon, it was pretty good, these larger and much more powerful guns were better at penning armor than anything being mounted on a tank before or at the beginning of the war.  Capable of destroying all the French and British tanks the Germans faced, this gun could even handle the T-34 and KV-1/2 tanks, and it was the only thing the Germans had in any real numbers that could. This led to it being mounted in the Tiger I. The Pak 43 was more powerful, but this gun was more numerous with over 20,000 being produced. If any allied troops were right when they thought an 88 was shooting at them it would be one of these.

flack 43

There was a Flak 41 88mm, but it was a failed attempt to improve upon the 18/36/37 failings as an AA gun.  The reason the basic 88 Flak gun failed as an AA gun was that it had optical range finding, and couldn’t lob a shell high enough to hit US heavy bombers, even the older models like the B-17. They also lacked radar ranging or laying, unlike the superior US M1/2/3 90mm AA gun system. Had these guns not found their nitch in the direct fire role they would have gone down in history as the mediocre AA guns they were.

Next up, Panzerfausts, or AT-sticks as I now call them.

Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Yeide’s The Tank Killers, The Infantries Armor, and Steel Victory, Sherman by Hunnicutt, Combat Lessons, The Rank and file, what they do and how they are doing it 1-7, and 9  WWII Armor, Ballistics and Gunnery by Bird and Livingston, TM4 Sherman tank at war by Green, Tanks are a Might Fine Thing by Stout, the Lone Sentry,  TM9-1940 Land mines, TME9-369A German 88MM AA Gun, TME30-451 Handbook on German Armed Forces 1945,  DOA Army Battle Casualties and Non Battle Deaths in WWII, FKSM 17-3-2 Armor in Battle, Another River, another town by Irwin, Wargaming’s Operation Think Tank Videos .  

#6 WWII Variants Other than Tanks: Things Built Using the M4 Chassis, Like the M10 and M36

WWII Variants, Other Than Tanks, Based on the Sherman: The Main being TDs like the M10 and M36

Tank Destroyers: Tank Hunters, Failed Role, Successful Killers

  They did Great things but the whole idea was bad. The TD Battalions of the US Army had very good combat records, but the whole concept was flawed. The idea of holding back battalion-size units to be rushed in to fight the tanks in a major attack, just didn’t work in practice, and since the US Army was on the attack most of the time, the TD units ended up being used a lot like the separate Tank Battalions, just not as good at it.

The Vehicles themselves proved useful and often found themselves attached to Tank Divisions, and used in ways never planned for.

M10: The First M4 Based TD to See Combat.  

Click the link above for a dedicated page on the M10. ↑

M10
A late production M10 with duckbill counterweights and wading trunks engages targets in France.

M10: The First Good American TD

The M10 was a tank destroyer mounting a 3-inch anti-tank gun. It used the M4A2 chassis with the GM 6046 to power it. These tanks only had an M2 .50 caliber machine gun other than their main gun. The turret lacked power traverse. It had a five-man crew and was generally liked by its crew. The American TD force was deemed a failure, but not because the men or vehicles performed badly, it was the doctrine that failed to pan out, the battalions themselves performed well overall. It was used until the end of the war, and many TD battalions preferred it over the faster M18.  The TDs lacked a co-ax machine gun, this and their open top made them more vulnerable to infantry than a tank. Even so, these units were often given tank missions. The open top did offer a big advantage in finding any enemy tanks to shoot.

One aspect of the design that shows how rushed it was, is the driver’s hatches. They were larger than the Shermans produced at the same time, but could not be opened or closed if the turret was forward. So the crew had to make a choice if the driver and co-driver were going to be able to see well or be buttoned, before the battle or movement.  The M10 lacked a turret basket, so the driver and co-driver had an easier time getting out of the roofless turret. Like all American designs, it went through a series of upgrades through its service life. The turret was upgraded and balanced better, and the crews liked to add their own roofs.  A power turret drive was never added to the tanks in US service though.

The M10A1 version of this vehicle had a Ford GAA motor. There was no difference other than and minor improvements between an M10 and M10A1. Crews added on armored roofs to their turrets, often all hinged so they could open up to really see what was going on, in the field. It was not uncommon for TD units to be used as fixed artillery for several days. This was common practice in the MTO.

The M10 Turret went through several changes, the first versions were badly out of balance, and they tried to solve this by mounting the grousers for the tracks on the back of the turret. This didn’t work well and wedge-shaped counterweights were added. This helped, but eventually, the final production M10 turrets were widened, and even bigger counterweights were added with a distinct duckbill look to them.  They came up with a full roof armor kit for the final turret, and a half cover for the early turrets that could be field retrofitted. In spite of these minor issues, the M10 started out popular with the troops, and never lost that affection.

The M10 and M10A1 had all the gear aboard to be used at artillery. A few TD battalions spent almost as much time as artillery as they did in their TD role. This capability was used often in Italy because the 3 inch gun on the M10 didn’t tear up the vital roads as much as the larger guns did. I would be surprised to find out the M36 didn’t have the same gear. They built 4993 M10s and 1713 M10A1s. At first, only M10 TDs were authorized for service overseas, and the M10A1, even though found to be automotively superior, was to be used in stateside training only. There was some doubt about the usefulness of the motorized TD before the Normandy landings, and production of the M10 was halted as many TD units were converted back to towed gun units or disbanded.

The M10 saw action in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and Northern Europe, and various Pacific Campaigns, the most notable being the retaking of the Philippines. It wasn’t really until the action started after the Allies went into Normandy that it really saw a lot of anti-armor use. In the MTO they TD units spent an awful lot of time being used as artillery units, to the point they had to learn how to swap barrels on their 3-inch guns after wearing the tubes out. The M10 in northern Europe saw lots of action but was also being replaced by the M18 and M36. The M36 was very popular, the M18 was mixed, some units love it, some units refused to give up their trusty M10s. The M10 was not popular in the Pacific, the thinner armor, lack of hull and co-ax machine guns and open top made for a much easier target destroy for Japanese troops.

M10_Wolverine_St_Fromond_France_703_TDBn_3ADiv

An M0 Wolverine on the move in St Fromond France. The M10 is with the 703 TDB attached to the 3rd Armored Division.
M10_Wolverine_Tank_Destroyers_30th_Infantry_Division_Magdeburg_Germany_1945
A pair of M10 TDs supporting the 30th Infantry in Magdeburg Germany in 1945
M10_Wolverine_Tank_Destroyers_Head_For_Front_In_Tunisia_1943
A semi-early m10 with wedge-shaped counterweights on the way to the front in Tunisia, 1943
M10_Wolverine_77th_Infantry_Division_Leyte_Island_1944
An M10 or M10 A1 supporting the 77th Infantry Division on Leyte 1944
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An M10 with the 803rd TDB in Ubach Germany
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M36 GMC moving through Speicher in 1945 supporting the 76th ID(Good Eye Stephen Weaver)
M10_Wolverine
An early M10, maybe at the Ford plant.
M10_Wolverine_And_M4_Sherman_77th_Infantry_Division_Leyte_Island_1944
Another M10 supporting the 77th ID on Layte in 1944
M10_Wolverine_32nd_Infantry_Division_Tank_Destroyers_At_Aitape_New_Guinea_1944
M10 supporting the 32nd ID near At Aitape New Guinea
M10_Moving_Thru_Hurtgen_Forest_893rd_Tank_Destroyer_Battalion
An M10 with the 893rd TDB moving down a snow and mud covered road in the Hurtgen Forest
M10_Wolverine_Tank_Destroyer_77th_Infantry_Division_632_Bn_Ormoc_Leyte_Philippines_December_1944
Late production M10 supporting the 77th ID near Ormoc in the Philippines 1944
Destroyed_M10_Tank_Destroyer_35th_Infantry_Division_454th_Tank_Destroyer_Bn_Livarchamps_Belgium_Battle_Of_Bulge_1945
An early M10 with the 454th TDB knocked out during the fighting at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge
M10_Tank_Destroyer_And_Jeep_Enter_Fresnes_France_1944
This is an M10 entering Fresnes France in 1944, unit known.
M10_Tank_Destroyer_Moves_Into_Artena_Italy_1944
An M10 moves into Artena Italy in 1944, unit unknown.
Crew_Of_A_Us_Army_Repair_Unit_Working_On_A_Shell-Damaged_Tank_Destroyer_At_An_Ordnance_Depot_Near_Anzio_Italy_1944
This image shows a repair crew fixing an M10 damaged by artillery or mortar fire near Anzio, Italy 1944
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An Army M10 somewhere in the PTO probably in the Philipines.
Us_Tank_Destroyer_M10_GI_With_Bazooka_Fontainebleau_France_23_August_1944
An M10 supporting US troops entering Fontainebleau France in August of 1944
M10_Tank_Destroyer_Heads_To_Battle_Lines_At_Bir_Marbott_Pass_East_Of_El_Guettar_In_Tunisia_1943.
An early M10 heading to the fighting near Bir Marbott past, east of El Guettar Tunisia, in 1943.
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M10 in the French town of Givenchy En Gohelle near Calais France, 1944
M10_Tank_Destroyers_At_Ford_Plant_In_Detroit_1943
M10 tank destroyers rolling out of the Ford Factory in Detroit, 1943
M10_And_M4_Tanks_On_Production_Line_At_Ford_Plant_1943
M10 and M4A3 Shermans being built side by side at Fords plant in 1943
M10_Wolverine_Tank_Destroyers_On_Production_Line_At_Ford_Plant_1943
Another shot of the Ford M10 line in 1943
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An M10 supporting the 2nd Armor Division near Tesey Sur Vire France, 1944
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An M10 with the 803rd TDB in Ubach Germany late 44
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An M10 with the 773rd TD Battalion, supporting the 90th ID near Mainz Germany in 1945
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30th ID doughs ride on 823rd TDB M10 in Germany, 1945
M10_32nd_Infantry_Division_632nd_Tank_Destroyer_Battalion_At_Aitape
This is an M10 in the Pacific, the crew is cleaning the gun, and the TD is with the 632 TDB on At Aitape
157th_Infantry_Regiment_Supported_By_M10_Tank_Destroyers_Of_A_Company_645th_Td_Bn_Under_Fire_In_Town_Of_Niederbronn_France
M10 of A Company, 645th TDB, Supporting the 157th Infantry Regiments, in the Town Of NiederbronnFrance
Camouflaged_M10_Tank_Destroyer_And_Harley_Davidson_In_Percy_France_08_1944
M10 in Percy France in 1944
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M10 in Aachen 1944
M10_Free_French_3rd_Algerian_Division_In_Omia_Italy_1944
M10 serving with the Algerian Free French 3rd Division in Omnia Italy in 1944
M10_Wolverine_Tank_Destroyer_Halloville_France_November_1944
An M10 near Halloville France, November of 1944

M36: The M10 With A Much Better Gun

Click the link above for a dedicated page on the M36. ↑

 

M36-GMC-Danbury.0004zx4t

 

Another tank destroyer based on the Sherman chassis, basically an M10A1 with a new turret mounting a bigger gun. These tanks mounted the 90mm M3 gun. Often this tank’s turret was fitted to otherwise stock M4A3 hulls due to a shortage of M10 hulls. These TDs had full power traverse. These TDs were well liked because the M3 worked well on both armor and soft targets since the M3 had a nice HE shell.

m76f telescope reticle m76f

M36B1

This TD suffered all the same problems dealing with infantry the M10 did, except in the M36 B1, since it was built on an M4A3 hull, it had a bow machine gun. This was as close to a factory produced 90mm Sherman during the war. It was also upgraded in a lot of units with some form of roof armor. It solved the drivers and co-drivers hatch problems and always had a power turret drive though.

m36 turret dia

There was a diesel-powered version based on the base M10 chassis powered by the GM 6046. There were 1413 M36s, 187 M36B1s, and 724 M36B2s.  They produced it on the M4A3 and M10 hulls because they ran out of M10A1 hulls, and no more were going to be produced. Demand for the vehicle was so great they used what they had available.  As far as I can tell they saw use only in Europe with the US Army, but the French used them in Indo-China (Vietnam).

American soldiers of Patton's Third Army standing in front of their M36 TD while rolling up a Nazi flag they have taken as a trophy after the capture of Bitberg.
American soldiers of Patton’s Third Army standing in front of their M36 TD while rolling up a Nazi flag they have taken as a trophy after the capture of Bitberg.
M36_Jackson_and_Maginot_Line_Pillbox_776th_Tank_Destroyer_Bn_Hottviller_France_1944
M36 TD with the 776th TD Battalion, near Hottviller France, next to a Maginot Line pillbox 1944
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Factory fresh M36B2, waiting to be issued to troops
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M36 being tested at Aberdeen Proving Ground 1945

 

M36_Jackson_Ardennes_Offensive
M36 in action during the battle of the bulge.
M36_702_Bn_Roer_River_1944
An M36 TD with the 702nd TDB near the Roer river, in 1944. It may be being used in the indirect fire role.
Line_of_M36_Tank_Destroyers_at_Repair_Depot_in_France_1944
What looks like a line of brand new M36 TD in a Depot somewhere in France in 1944.
M36_Jackson_in_the_streets_of_Metz_November_21_1944
This M36 looks like the crew are looking for something to shoot at. The photo was taken on the streets of Metz in November of 1944
M36_35th_Infantry_Division_654th_TD_Bn_in_Oberbrauch_Germany_1945
This M36B1 just took a shot at something, note all the smoke coming from the open turret, and how the commander appears to be looking at something. The photo was taken in Oberbrauch German in 1945 and the TD is with the 654th TDB
M36_Jackson_Tank_Destroyer_1944
M36B1 outside probably the Fisher plant in 44.
M36B1_ank_destroyer_1945
An M36B1, 1945, location and unit unknown

. . .

Artillery: they have big guns, and their crews are usually deaf. (Coming soon)

 

105 Howitzer motor Carriage M7& M7B1: 4316 produced

155 Gun Motor Carriage M12: 100 produced

155 Gun Motor Carriage M40: 418 produced

8 Inch Howitzer Motor Carriage M43: 48 produced

 

Sources: Sherman by Hunnicutt,  TM9-745, TM9-748, TM9-731b Yeide’s The Tank Killers, Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga