Category Archives: Urban warfare

#65 Sherman Tanks of the US Army Official History books: This one Covered the MTO

Sherman Tanks of the US Army Official History books: This post will cover the Sherman related images in “The War Against Germany And Italy, Mediterranean and adjacent areas”.

As we talked about in the last post on The Army has a series of History books they published shortly after the war nicknamed the Green books. You can find them all on the US Army Official History site the “Green Books” in PDF format. Most of these books have minimal photos, but they put out a pair three picture books and this post will cover the one on Italy, Southern France and North Africa.

This book, like the one on the northern European Campaign was not the highest quality scan, so the picture quality is not great. It is good though, and you can make out a good amount of detail in them.   There are also fewer Sherman photos, because the Sherman was not as usable in Italy, because of the terrain, but it was still a very common item on the battlefield in  the MTO. The book starts off with some images from the Torch landings and covers the fighting in Tunisia.

This is an interesting image, and the caption doesn’t say it, but that’s the R975 that powered many Sherman models they are looking over. I would love to get my hands on a high resolution version of this photo.
Lee tanks being readied by UK Troops.
I just thought this was to interesting of a photo to not include just because no Sherman, was in it.
US Radar aimed spotlights.
A M3 Lee Crew having some chow. I do not agree with the caption, the Lee was not obsolete yet, and was still capable of knocking out all German Armor. The US Army got a bloody nose at Kasserine Pass because of bad leadership, and tactics, along with green troops.
An M4A1 towing a Halftrack. The location, Sidi Bou Zid, was the location of a big battle where most of a battalion got knocked out.
In the top photo is an M6 37mm GMC, a rare and short lived Tank Destroyer. They were phased out during the fighting and replaced with 75mm M3 GMC, a 75mm gun mounted on an halftrack. This was replaced by the M10 in time for the Sicily invasion. The M10 would be the first TD to be successful and they were popular with their crews.
An M4A1 hauling ass about 60 kilometers from Tunis.
An M4A1 being used to test deep wading gear. This doesn’t look like factory produced wading gear to me, but its hard to tell with the shot quality. Most people assume the trunks were the only parts needed for it to work. It took hours of labor to prepare the whole tank for deep wading. The Shermans hull was not designed to be watertight, so all the joints had to be filled with a special tar, and it had to be applied in a ton of places requiring the removal of interior racks to get to the nooks and crannies during the process. Without the waterproofing, as soon as the tops of the suspension and the bottom of the hull got submerged water would begin coming in. The Shermans slip ring for the turrets electric power was mounted under the on the hull floor. As soon as this touched water, it shorted the tanks eletrical system out.
I didn’t know we had given the French any P-38s, but we did, enough for one squadron or so. The Sherman has to be an M4, M4A4 or M4A2. I lean towards the M4A4 since the wheels are spaced so far apart, though, the suspension is at full droop, I don’t think they would get that much closer together. The way they have it rigged is interesting, they are not using the hull lift rings, and seem to have tied into the suspension bogies, with the worn wire ropes.
I thought this was interesting, how many people know we shipped supplies and tanks through Iran into Russia and the middle eas? I wonder what kind of security these trains had? I would love to get a high res version of the train photo, the tanks are Shermans, but there is no telling the vintage.
This is another photo that made it in because it’s cool. This LST could be full of tanks, they would jus tbe inside the LST on the main deck. These vehicles are all light enough for the roof. The LST was designed for these kinds of loads, and had a ramp that could be raised and lowered to get the vehicles up there. The LST was a really interesting ship design. Check out this post for more info.
This is a Lima built M4A1. There is a larger version of this photo on the Sherman Minutia site, in there how to identify Lima Locomotive Shermans!
No tanks in this image, but the subject is interesting, and not often covered. The mosquito was an enemy to both sides, spreading several diseases, the most troubling Malaria. The US Military used pesticides to combat it, I had never heard of Paris Green before, but it’s a oldschool, fairly toxic pesticide, and they sprayed it all over the med to prevent mosquitoes. This was important, the losses through malaria can get out of hand fast if you don’t have the meds to counter it, and spraying for them is a great way to keep the risk down. In the Pacific, they sprayed a lot of DDT.  
Another LST image, this one showing the floating pontoon sections used to get vehicles ashore when the slope of the beach was not ideal for getting the LST in close enough to drive right out its built in ramp. Beaches of that type were fairly rare.
This post reminded me we have a holiday coming. Christmas overseas at war was a tough burden on US Troops. The US Military does is hardest to get these men a turkey dinner like these doughs are enjoying.  Merry Christmas everyone!
An M4 Sherman getting a new set of tracks installed. The caption mentions armor had not seen a lot of use, and that partially true. Many tank battalions would be used as artillery and would be on call when needed. That’s not really seeing action, but it’s still combat, counter battery fire wouldn’t be unheard of. You can see an M10 GMC in the background, this looks like a repair depot. See the image caption for location info.
This is a great image, I really wish I had a high res version of it. Here we have a practically invisible M10 tank destroyer. From a distance this TD would be very hard to spot.
This looks like another LLW M4A1, it has a siren that looks like the Mars brand type they used. The Inflatable Shermans are interesting. Up close they are clearly fake, but from 50 yards or from a low flying plane it would be very hard to tell a real Sherman from an inflatable.
A pair of photos of M31 ARVs doing ARV things. If a tank really gets stuck, falls into a ditch, collapses a bridge, since in deep mud, it might take two or even three ARVs or Tanks or a combo of both with a lot of towing cable to free the tank. Getting a tank stuck like that would make the driver notorious, and not in good way.
An M5 light and M4 medium in the town of Coreno Ausonio Italy, from an unknown unit, supporting the French Army.
An M31 moving a German portable Pillbox. They seem like ready made coffins. They were an interesting design, and you can make out the hole where an axle was inserted, and two wheels could be fitted along with a trailer tongue, and the thing was flipped onto its wheels and towed away by a horse or small vehicle. For more info see this post on the Lone Sentry
A vaunted Tiger, burning, on the streets of Rome. City fighting would be hard on a tank like the tiger, with bad visibility, with known blind spots, and slow turret traverse means a few determined infantrymen could sneak up on it and kill it, unless it was heavily supported by infantry.
A pair of M10s with the 5th Army entering Rome.
A huge marshaling yard at the port of Naples full of vehicles waiting for the invasion of southern France. This is just a small sample of what would be used in the invasion.
A US DD Sherman used in the Southern France landings. The DD used in this landing had much better results.
Another burned out Tiger, the Nazi version of the Gold Plated Toilet, with a useless anti magnetic mine paste applied that only added weight to an already overweight vehicle. As far as I can tell, the neither USSR, or US or British Armies had a commonly issued magnetic mine. So yeah, the Germans wasted time and treasure on some crappy paste that did not good.
These two vehicles were the true staples of the effective German armor force. The Stug III was based on the excellent panzer III, and was a way to get a nice 75mm gun onto its hull. the Stug was well liked by their crews, reliable by German standards and well suited to mobile warfare. The Panzer IV was not a great tank either, but it was the best tank Germany had, and it’s the one they should have continued to produce. Sure it had a lot of flaws, crappy suspension with no growth potential, a hull with thin armor with way to many individual plates, welds, and rivets, making it very labor intensive to build. It was also reliable by German standards, but was no Sherman. The turret was also a complicated mess of time wasting multi angle plates. Even with all these flaws, it was still a better tank than all the later German Armor because it was reliable enough to actually show up to the fight. It’s gun was good enough to deal with most of the threats it faced. It also didn’t waste huge amounts of gas because it wasn’t underpowered.
Action shot of an M7 crew firing their 105mm howitzer.
A pair of M4A1 75 tanks fording the Arno river near the gothic line. Note the line marker in the river, it probably gets much deeper to the tanks right side.
I wanted to include some photos of the terrain. Hills and mountains are tough on tanks. All that armor generally means they are not hotrods in the first place, throw in climbing steep grades, and any automotive issues with the tank are going to come out very fast. Lucky for the US and other Allies, the Sherman was an automotive masterpiece, and was reliable enough to be used in these places and still continue to work. This type of terrain really cuts the life of a tank down, in particular if the tank is already unreliable, if you have a part know to wear out in 1500 kilometers,  hilly terrain could cut that in half, or worse if the driver was bad.  
I thought this was an interesting shot along with a good illustration of the terrain. Those 6X6 trucks were pretty capable off road, but not as good as a tank in most cases. The caption doesn’t give us any info on how the truck got there. One thing I know from taking a Jeep out on trails like this, is pictures never show how steep a place is, like being there in person. I’ve taken pictures of places that gave me some serious pucker factor going up or down, and when you look the pictures over, they never convey the steepness like being at the top and looking down. Driving a tank on narrow dirt roads like this was probably not enjoyable at all. 
This is the final terrain shot, this one is long enough to give you a good idea of some of the distances involved and how tall the hills and mountains were.
The most reliable version of the Panther, the Panther Casemate! Take a panther turret, slap it on a steel bunker frame that you’re put in a hole in the ground and poor in concrete! No 150 kilometer final drives, no 1500 kilometer tanny, or 1500 kilometer maybach motor. Plus you get a bunk! 
An US tank salvage yard.
The caption of this photo said there was a M4A1 76 in it, but there are no 76mm armed Shermans in this photo. I assume the caption is accurate otherwise. Note the hilly area the tanks are in, the M4 and M4A1 would be the most difficult of the shermans to drive in this type of terrain. 
M10 TDs given to the South Africans as Lend Lease. They may have come directly from the US, or it may have been the Brits giving them M10s they had not converted to Achilles TDs with the 17 pounder.
Another LLW M4A1 and a pair of M18s with an M4A1 76w and a regular M4A1 75 in the background. The trail they are on is much steeper than it looks. This is the type of terrain the granny gear in the Shermans transmission would come in very handy on.
A pair of M32s driving through the hills of Italy in the fog.
I don’t think this is a regular Callipe.
I didn’t know ACME was involved in making bridging gear, and this does not seem like a very good idea. Is that a roadrunner in the corner of the top pic??!
A very cool shot of an M7 SPGs battery firing at night. The caption says this was prep fire.
An M10 GMC hauling ass down Highway 65.
An M10 in the background of some German POWs being marched to a containment area. They would then be shipped off to camps in England or the US. The US treated POWs very well in most cases and delivered Red Cross packages without delay.
A South African Tank unit with M4A1 76w tanks. The Brits were sent a fair number of these tanks through lend lease, but didn’t want them, so they gave them to the other members of the UK.
Ok, so I threw in one more terrain shot, because I thought this one was interesting, this is really the last one though.
This is another mis-captioned photo, at least where the Sherman is concerned. The caption says the tank is an M4A3 with 17 pounder. I can’t say there was never a M4A3 with a 17 pounder gun, because the US did have some 75mm Shermans converted, even though they were never issued, one at least was probably an M4A3. The British did not receive any M4A3 tanks for their own use. The image looks like an M4 composite hull Firefly, a very common version of the firefly based on the M4 composite hull tank. I assume the rest of the caption info is correct though.
An M18 getting a ride on a makeshift ferry.
An M10 TD waiting for some action near Lake Garda.

This concludes the photos I found relevant from CMH 12-2. The book is packed with a lot of other photos of things not Sherman related, and since you can download them for free, if you are interested in WWII history, download them and have a look. I found many of these images I had not seen before.

 

 

#55 City Tanking: The Tank Infantry Team in Cities and Towns

City Tanking: The Tank Infantry Team in Cities and Towns

Tanks and cities do not like to mix, but when your job is to support the dough on the ground, when they goes into the city, so do the tanks.  So when your Armored Division if ordered to attack into an urban area, or the infantry division you’re supporting as a separate tank battalion goes into a city, so do your Shermans. When you really think about it, it’s a lot safer in a tank in an urban environment than for infantrymen, since they face all the same threats, but the tank has armor…

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An Easy 8 in France, in a town, in action 

All the hiding places, and areas tanks can’t see or reach is what makes a town or city far more dangerous to armor. More than forest or jungle, the city gives the enemy infantry so many good places to hide, the already nearly blind tank is at just about as big a disadvantage as it could be at, and they only have firepower to use to thwart it, and at times the firepower was restricted. The clever US Army soldiers came up with solutions for this, like every other problem they encountered during the war.

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Heavy rain coming down on doughs, on an M10A1 in a city

The main threats to a tank in an urban environment are enemy grunts with TD weapons like the Panzerfaust or Panzerschreck, or even just grenades and improvised explosives.   Anti-tank guns would also still be a serious threat, but they are harder to hide in a city, but if they can be emplaced in the right kind of building, a stone, heavily constructed one, or area in the city that could cover many roads, like a hilly, mid-city park they can make a very tough strong point. In Europe, there are a lot of heavily constructed buildings too, but also large numbers of wood buildings a Sherman could bring down with ease, as long as it didn’t have a basement. If the defenders of the city have time to figure out all the good site lines and emplace things in ideal spots if they know a fight is coming, they can really make a city into a fortress.

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I threw this one in to show German tanks had all the same issues in urban areas that the Sherman did.

The defenders of a town or city have a big advantage in setting up their defenses. First off, they know the layout of the city; they would not just have maps or aerial photos to rely on. They can also blow up buildings and create roadblocks to channel attacks.  When they set their city defenses up correctly they can setup roadblocks, covered machine guns, or even AT or infantry guns, which could not be engaged by the attackers behind the roadblock because of buildings and other obstructions.  Another advantage the defenders would be sure use would be pre ranging in their artillery and having it ready to drop right on key areas. If the town had any castles or other historic, large stone buildings, these would be troublesome hard points and in some cases bigger than the Shermans cannon could deal with.

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Brit Shermans moving through an urban area

Another big threat to everyone was the sniper. A hell of a lot of tank commanders, infantry sergeants and officers got offed by German snipers. Its well know, in the ETO, MTO and north Africa, most America tank commanders fought un-buttoned, making them prime targets.  It takes a ballsy sniper to take on a tank, because if they miss and the commander spots them, he’s going to respond in one of three ways.  By shooting at him with the tanks co-ax, by shooting him with the .50, or most likely off all, the 75mm with an HE round or WP round. Or all of the above and it takes even more guts to try and shoot a panzerfaust or Panzerschreck, and they get all of the above for sure.

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771st Tank Battalion M4A3 76w tanks move through a town

All these things that make city fighting deadly for tanks make it absolute murder for the foot soldier.  In a tank you have armor, and if done right, a lot of men outside your tank there with the sole duty of defending it.  Including a dough sergeant riding on your back deck talking to your commander and when the shit hits the fan, the commander buttons up and the sergeant gets on the phone at the rear of the tank, and tells the commander what stuff to shoot. The key here though is they are outside, and the only cover they’ll have is the buildings around the tank, or the tank.  Far more doughs died in every engagement than tankers, and even more would die without the tanks around.

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An M10 in a town

The proper way to use armor in the attack on a town, or city, was to start by offering to let them surrender. If they didn’t, depending on the politics around keeping the village intact, they may or may not shell the hell out of it before attacking. In many cases, the Nazi scum were occupying buildings in towns of countries they conquered and couldn’t care less if the places were wrecked and the town’s people killed, when they were forced out. The Allies cared to some degree, but only so much, and if the Germans put up a really stiff fight, some big divisional artillery would probably be called in.

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A bunch of 5th Army tanks in a town

The next step in any case would be for the infantry doughs to move out. They move into the town ahead of the tanks, and will take the buildings on either side of the roads the tanks will be forced to work on, before the tanks move up. If there is resistance in the first buildings, the tanks will be in view of them, and help support the infantry with direct fire. Once the buildings were secure, the tanks would move up, and the doughs would begin to attack the next set of buildings, that the Shermans would now be close enough to fire into.  If the first buildings are tough, the tanks may move up a little to support the infantry pulling back.

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6th AD M4 knocked out in a Belgian town

Once the attacking force had penetrated into the town or city, they have to be ever watchful of the German counter attack, that the Nazi forces, who knew the places they were just forced out of well, would attack, and try and cut off the tanks, sometimes using clever routes the allied forces might not know about. If they succeeded the tanks were in trouble, because the infantry could attack them from several directions at once, and while the turret was facing one way, walk right up and place a charge a weak spot and blow the tank up. They key here would be if the US line was getting weak for the tanks to pull back with the doughs, shooting the hell out of the buildings as they backed out.

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a 10th AD Easy 8 in Rosswalden

Most of the time pulling back wouldn’t be needed, the Sherman tank when supported properly, could make short work of all but the most massive buildings. The 75mm guns 1.5 pound TNT HE round would make short would of wood buildings, and WP smoke would fill it with smoke and set it on fire. For harder buildings, constructed of things like brick or stone, they may have to punch a few holes with AP before sending HE rounds in through the same holes. Plus the Sherman has two medium machine guns, and the turret .50 manned by a dough adding to the firepower.  For anything really stubborn, they could bring in the 105 Sherman with its 6 pound HE charge.  We also know Shermans, even when working with independent tank battalions tried to at least operate in pairs.

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14AD M4A3 76W in an urban setting

Even using the best tactics, tanks were lost, and many doughs went down, and while in allied countries, re taking ravished and conquered lands, restraint was encouraged and often shown. This was not the case in Germany and other pro-Nazi countries. Once in the lands of the enemy, and after seeing concentration and death camps most allied troops were unwilling to show restraint when the Nazis decided to make things hard and use a town as a strong point. Burning a whole town flat wasn’t out of the question if the Nazis fought hard, or the population helped much.

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A pair of up armored M4A3 tanks in Arnoldsweiler Germany

In some crowds, it is popular to decry the treatment the German people got by the Allies when the tied had turned and it was clear Nazi Germany was done for.  I’m not going to knock the good guys for being harsh to the Germans, soldier, criminal SS or civilian, I didn’t have to fight against the most evil regime in modern human history, and see the evil shit they did first hand, and am more than willing to accept they felt some Nazis, no matter their age, sex or type, deserved no mercy.  The Nazi regime showed no mercy for the 6 million Jews, and 6 million other undesirables, after robbing them of everything including their hair, before murdering them in the death camps.  They killed tens of millions of Russian civilians, and raped so much, they planted that seed in the Russians. The Nazi German regime raped, murdered and robbed its way across Europe, they are lucky mankind had come far enough to not imprison every living adult German make or worse. This site will never support Nazi propaganda, myths, lies or popularize war criminals like many other websites on the internet.

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A pair of 3rd AD M4A1 tanks in Schevenhutte

. . .

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Several M4 and M4A1 parked in a town

There was also something called the tank raid, but it fell out of favor pretty early on, and depended on the enemy having no idea you were coming.  This was basically a commando raid with tanks; they break through in lightly defended area, and romp and stomp and then move on, before much resistance can build.

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A large photo of an M4 moving into an heavily damaged urban area.

Using these tactics, the tanks, and any infantry riding them, could do a lot of damage to a unit that was capable of knocking them out, and running away before they got the chance, AA units, any kind of artillery really. If you can think of a unit that would be behind the lines, but somewhat close, your tank raid could come and ruin their night or early morning, or late evening.  On a big scale, this is what the Armored Divisions were envisioned doing, but rarely got the chance to do.

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Milan Italy

The big danger  is in staying in one place long enough for a strong response to be formed,  moving out into a unit that knew you were coming and has armor or anti-tank guns, or getting cut off an hunted down. Other problems are tanks breaking down, and getting lost, and not having enough space for everyone on the working vehicles. So for these to work they had to have limited objectives, a way in and out, and enough good intelligence on the area to know the areas to avoid that could kill your tanks.  That’s a serious list of problems to overcome to make this work, and when tried, even in the Pacific, it usually resulted in a lot of lost tanks and dead or captured tankers and doughs.

A whole tank company or more parked in a square.
A whole tank company or more parked in a square. Huge very detailed photo

The train yard scene in the movie Kelly’s Heroes is a decent example of this, as far as movies go. This could also happen on accident when things were unsettled during a large attack, parts of units trying to get back to friendly lines could run into supply units trying to find the attackers and fights could take place.  There were cases were tanks were sent into urban areas by infantry officers who had no idea how to properly use tanks, but this went badly most of the time.  On occasion TDs were asked to fill in for tanks in the infantry support role, but this was a harder job for them since they had open top turrets, less armor and fewer machine guns.

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IC Firefly in a town in Normandy

Sources: Combat Lessons, The Rank and file, what they do and how they are doing it 1-7, and 9. Oscar Gilbert’s, Marine Tank Battles in the Pacific, Harry Yeide’s, two Tank Battalion books, and his TD book. Zaloga’s Armored Thunderbolt, and Armored Attack.