#20 How The Sherman Compared To Its Contemporaries:  Well, it did very well!

Did American Tank Design Stand up?   It Did Just Fine.

The Sherman compared well to the other tanks in its weight class. It even fared well against vehicles much larger. The US spent a lot of money lavishly equipping these tanks, even the lend lease tanks shipped with sub machine guns for the crew and vinyl covered, sprung, padded seats, a full tool set, basically all the same things a Sherman issued to the US Army would come with, without the radios, lend lease Shermans got the British No. 19 set. The Sherman was not designed to be comfortable for its crew, ergonomics wasn’t a thing back then, but due to way it was designed and built, it was fairly comfortable as tanks of the time go.

4018613099
The Sherman in this photo is a M4A1 75 supporting the 30th Infantry Division near St. Lo, July 1944, during Cobra. The knocked out tanks are German Mark IV tanks

They were not cheaply built, and had finely fitted hulls, with beveled armor and a lot of attention to detail that was not dropped in favor of production speed in many cases until very late in the production run, but function was never compromised on. The Sherman tanks also had multiple generators, including one that had its own motor, so the tanks electrical system and turret could be run and not drain the battery, they had a stabilizer system for the main gun, and all tanks had high quality FM radios. Quality control at all Sherman factories and sub-contractors was tightly monitored, and superb. Parts were not modified to fit if they did not match the specifications and didn’t fit, they were discarded, if to many parts had to be discarded, the contractor was dropped. Sub-assemblies as big as turrets and hulls or whole tanks needing overhaul were shipped between factories and no parts had problems interchanging between factory models. One factory could rebuild another factories tank using its own parts with no problems at all. These were all very advanced features in in tank designed in the early 40s and the Germans the most advanced of the Axis nations, really couldn’t come close, instead they produced over armored, over gunned, un reliable tanks that could not be used in fast paced offensive actions.  The Nazi Germans could really only dream of having a tank arsenal like CDA or FTA.

It is also easy to discount the Sherman tanks combat value if you look at the production numbers versus the tanks it fought. Sure, the United States produced a huge number of Sherman tanks, but they supplied them to an awful lot of countries through lend lease. The British, Canadians, French, Russians, Chinese, Poland, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few nations. You also have to keep in mind,  thousands of Shermans were used in the united states for training, and some never saw combat or left the US, the ones that did were remanufactured later in the war and sent to Europe. The Sherman was built in great numbers, but not in such numbers that the Germans would see anything like 10 to 1 odds in most battles. In a few key battles the Germans managed to muster more tanks than the allies.  The Sherman was also used in large numbers against Japan.

 

German Tank three or PIII: The Best Tank The Nazis Ever Produced.

Knocked_out_Panzer_III_at_El_Alamein_1942
A knocked out PIII

This tank fought from the first days of the war and really was a great little tank. To bad the Sherman, all models, out classed it in just about every important way. The Sherman had better armor, firepower, and similar mobility. Even with its most potent gun, a long 50mm, the PIII had trouble with the Grant and Lee, let alone a M4. In the mythical but often argued about on the internet, one on one tank battle, the Sherman stomps the Panzer III every time. This chassis was at the end of its life as a tank with the 50mm and larger guns or more armor could not be fitted to it. It was a good tank, but nowhere near as good as a Sherman, but to be fair, it was at the end of its development life and the M4 was just beginning its long, long life with many countries around the globe, that would span decades.

The three biggest problems with the PIII design were the small turret ring, the suspension limit on taking more weight, and the automotive systems power, and ability to be upgraded and take more weight and the complicated design. As we know, the Shermans automotive components were able to take on a lot more weight with no real issues, it’s turret ring was HUGE, allowing it to be up gunned much more readily, and all its motor choices could handle extra weights without causing much drama or concern.  German tank designer and the industry that made them was just to primitive to produce vehicles with that much growth potential, hell, they were struggling to get motors and automotive systems to meet the base specs of their designs and be even remotely reliable, and largely failing at it, and the few good vehicles like the PIII are overshadowed by the realty bad ones that had great PR campaigns (Tiger, Panther, Tiger II I’m looking at you!).

In many ways this was the best tank Germany produced during the war. This was one of the tanks used the short time the Germans really did things in the war; this is the tank that took them to the outskirts of Moscow. And it was a great little tank; its turret ring was just too small to fit a real gun. They solved this with the StuG, but I’ll cover that later. They produced 5774 of them. It did have teething troubles, because it was a tad complicated, but unlike many later Nazi designs, the bugs were worked out and the design became one of their most reliable armored fighting vehicles. Not Sherman reliable, but about as close as a German vehicle would get

This tank continued to be used throughout the war, and was up gunned to a short 75mm howitzer for infantry support once its use as a tank became limited. The ones not converted to use the short 75 were probably used for parts, and or converted to Stug IIIs.

 

German Tank Four Or PIV: Boxy, but it Got The Job Done.

tumblr_mb2s16jLEi1rhjg28o1_1280
A knocked out and burning PIV

The PIV was a closer match to the Sherman, but still inferior in most important ways, and it was a complicated design that wasted a lot of man hours on welding. It had weaker, un-sloped armor, in a complicated hard to produce configuration. Its suspension used leaf springs and was inferior to the Shermans VVSS suspension. It had weak enough side armor, without the use of skirts, the tank could be penetrated by Russian anti-tank rifles, and the Russians had a lot of AT rifles. It started off with a low power 75mm gun that had no chance of hurting a Lee or Sherman, and was later up gunned with a 75mm similar to the one mounted on the Sherman, but slightly better.

At this point the PIV became a threat to the Sherman, the main tank threat for the whole war, but the Sherman still held all the cards with better overall armor, mobility, reliability, spotting,  gun handling(getting that first shot off) and crew comfort. The Sherman also had room to grow and would take a whole new turret and a whole slew of larger guns. The PIV was at the limits of what the hull could handle, and its turret ring was too small to accept more powerful guns, though the gun it received in the improved models was a good gun. The final version of this tank, the J was a simplified version that lacked a power turret drive or skirts, it was not to improve the combat ability, and it was done to speed up production because the Germans were desperate for more armor. Nazi Germany produced 8569 of these tanks, from 1937 to 1945.

One weakness the PIV suffered was the suspension. It was fragile and prone to breaking in rough terrain. The leaf spring setup also offered limited travel and really was probably the most limiting feature of the tank.  The Sherman was reputed to be much better in rough and mountainous terrain. If you just look at a good picture of the PIV, and count the welds, and look at how complicated the thing looks, and then consider all the man hours needed to build the thing, you see just how much time would have to be wasted making the complicated hull, in particular for a Nation like Germany that had to depend on welders, and not welding machines to put the hulls together.

This tank allowed the Germans to use maneuver warfare, and it wasn’t tied to the rail system, because it was much more reliable than the Panther or Tiger. One argument ‘wehraboos’, (for those not in the know, a wehraboos is a German WWII Army, Armor, Airplane or Ship fanatic, who believes anything and everything German was the best in WWII. You can find these people trying to push the often mythical abilities of Nazi war machines, while ignoring any evidence to the contrary, these chaps often have deep seated pro-Nazi feelings, and in some cases of the worst offenders, are out and out neo Nazis. They can often be found on game forums for any WWII game talking about how the 262 was the best fighter of the war and the King Tiger could penetrate an M1 Abrams, often misspelling the names like this Aberhams.or making other ridiculous claims like the Nazi Navy was good or the Holocaust is overblown) like to make is, Nazi Germany couldn’t really have produced more Panzer IVs and StuGs because they didn’t have the manpower to crew them.

The counter to point to that argument is, if the Germans had not produced the two ridiculous heavy tanks. Tiger 1&2, the huge maintenance tail these vehicles required could be broken up; a tiger company had the same number of mechanics and maintenance personal and their transport, as a full Battalion of PIV or III tanks.  You could take all these men, and put them into units that didn’t bleed resources, when Nazi Germany had few to spare.

They also could have manned these new units with all the men they put in the many captured tanks they used. They used large numbers of T-34 and M4A2 Shermans captured from the USSR. They should have stuck with the tanks they considered producing that were closer to these, the VK3001 (d) was almost a direct copy, Germanized to make it much harder to build and work on of course.  This tank looked a lot like the T-34 that inspired it, but apparently fears of friendly fire losses because it looked to much like a T-34 and a lack of aluminum to make the copy of the diesel the T-34 used, were probably the real reasons this tank didn’t get produced.

It turns out; the Daimler Benz proposal died for several reasons, the main being that several Nazi industrialists under Spear convinced Hitler getting a tank into production fast was more important than the tank being the best tank able to be put into production. This coupled with a propaganda campaign run by those same Nazi lackeys,  against the Daimler Benz proposal, spelled its doom.  Hitler, convinced by their arbitrary date of production argument, decided on the MAN proposal with its frontal armor increased. It would be the “Panther” tanks, we all know and love. I guess it’s really a good thing the Nazi industrialists were a bunch of clowns, greedy opportunists, and strait up lackeys to even worse men, or the Germans might have had a decent tank.

At any rate, they didn’t produce the right tank; they produced a pair of heavy tanks, and a medium as heavy as a heavy that wasted far more resources than ever could be justified by these tanks propaganda inflated war records. They probably best served in a propaganda role since they had truly fearsome reputations, but once they were met in combat a few times that wore off and the American and British tankers found ways to beat them, like just making them drive around a bit until they broke down or ran out of fuel.

 

German Tank VI Tiger: The Premier Fascist Box Tank, Great For Plastic Model Companies, But Not So Great As A Tank.

vil37
A  tiger knocked out

This tank had a big weight ‘advantage’ over the Sherman, it being a heavy tank and all, but for the most part, was so rare it had almost no impact on the war. In fact most of the SS units that used this tank lied so much about its prowess there are some doubts it got even 1/3 of its actual kills its Nazi crews claimed. It also had to be moved by train giving it limited useable mobility, and these tanks sucked up the maintenance resources of a much larger unit. The US Army faced very few of these tanks. When they did face them, they didn’t prove to be much of a problem. From North Africa to Italy and Normandy and beyond, the Tiger was a non-factor when facing US Shermans.

The Sherman had an advantage in being able to spot the huge Tiger first in most cases, it could out maneuver the bigger tank, and its guns could take it out from the sides and back, or if it got lucky, even the front. The Sherman did face this tank in British hands, but we will cover that later. It’s safe to say the way the Brits used the Sherman was different, and riskier and resulted in much higher tank loses.

The tiger ultimately did the Allies a favor by making it into production. It just wasted men and resources that could have been turned into more PIVs and STUGs. It was more of a propaganda tool, used to prop up the home front by lying about the prowess of the tank and their Aryan crews, like Michael Whitman, who was not nearly as good as the Nazi histories would have you believe.  In fact he got himself and his crew killed by trundling off all alone, probably looking for more imaginary Nazi glory.

Living, well, recently living, tank aces like Otto Carius have admitted many of their “kills” were added for pure propaganda reasons. SS unit kill claims were often discounted by half by the regular German Army and even that was probably being generous since there was no effort to confirm the kills. Most authors who write books about German tanks take these kill claims at face value. When someone bothers to compare the kill claims to the units they faced with the Soviet, American or UK records, more often than not, they were not even facing the claimed unit, and often it was not even in the same area. When they did get the unit right, the losses rarely come close to matching up. Even a nation trying to be honest often gets kill claims wrong, but Nazi Germany liked to use inflated numbers to help sooth a restless population that was starting to see the error of supporting Hitler.

If you’re feeling the urge to angrily post a comment about how I’m a Sherman fanboy and unfair to your favorite Nazi box tank, take a breath, and keep reading, cause you’re only going to get angrier.

Now let’s cover some of its many flaws. It was really big and heavy, limiting what bridges it could use. This size and weight problem affected a lot of things, automotive reliability, how easy it was to spot, how it was shipped.  The gun was decent, but for a tank of the tanks size 88mm seems pretty weak, and it wasn’t even the good one, the 88mm L71.  Can we say bad at designing cooling systems, just look at the rear deck and then a cutaway of a tiger and marvel at how much space the radiators and cooling ducts take. Now let’s talk about its suspension. There is nothing wrong with torsion bar suspension; it’s still popular today on tanks and other AFVs, where the Germans went wrong is the road wheels. The interleaved and overlapped road wheels were incredibly stupid, making maintenance or damage repair on the suspension a nightmare. Another huge problem for a vehicle that depended on rail transport, to be transported on German train cars, the normal tracks had to be removed, and a narrower set installed, then the combat tracks put back on at the destination. This was a huge hassle and time waster for the crew at the very least. The turret drive was a laughable contrivance using PTO from the engine and transfer case, meaning the tank had to be running, and at high RPM to rotate the turret at full speed.

Another thing to note is these tanks were essentially hand built.  Some people assume that means painstakingly hand crafted, and it’s sort of true. The Germans wasted a lot of time on finish items to make the tanks look nicer. I’m not sure if this was some need for the Germans to have nearly ‘perfect’ weapons, at least appearance wise, or if it was a way for the German tank industry to charge more for the tanks and make more money off the Nazi regime, but it doesn’t matter, the result was the same, a lot of wasted man hours on stuff that didn’t improve the tanks combat value.

On a Sherman tank,  just like your car, when they needed a spare part, they put in an order and quartermaster corps sends one to them through the supply system if one wasn’t in stock at the local spares depot. When the part came, in most cases it would fit, and only if damaged caused a problem would hand fitting be needed. This was not the case for the Tiger, or any other German tank, for several reasons. For the Germans, most parts would need adapting to the individual tank, making field repairs a difficult job, part of this was because they had so many different sub variants between major variants, and parts for early variants may not work on later one or would need adapting to work. On the Tiger there are so many things they changed, big and small through the short production run that parts for earlier tanks would practically have to be custom fit.  It is clear the testing period was not long enough and as they fixed problems found in the field they incorporated it in the ‘line’ instead of holding off until all the changes could be lumped in at once not slowing production, or improving the parts in a way that didn’t require a line change or were backwards compatible.  On top of that, the Germans just didn’t produce many spare parts. And what they did produce was cut way back later in the war as the ‘optimized’ production.  The lack of spare parts meant many parts came from cannibalization, but even then the parts would have to be adapted since the tanks changed so much.

Only 1347 of these tanks were even built. Numbers were not needed to kill these wasteful and stupid tanks, but they were nice to have anyway, when one did actually make it to a fight.  This tank had zero positive effect on the war for the Germans, they helped win no battles, and it just wasted resources, both material and industrial, and helped the Nazi’s lose the war that much faster. It would be nice if that’s why so many people admired these tanks, for their monumental stupidity and thus indirectly helping the good guys win, but no, it’s because it was “cool looking, or had the best armor ever, or was a technological marvel only defeated by hordes of subhuman scum”, or other completely untrue, Nazi propaganda myths about these terrible tanks.

For another view on the Tiger, check out: Germany’s White Elephant.

Another link here about the Tiger, and another, and another view about how the Sherman compares

German Tank V Panther: Bigger, Less Boxy and Less Reliable, Nazi Germany’s Fail Tank.

 

39961
Panzer V knocked out, or broken down, hard to tell

Much has been said about this tank, and most of the positive stuff is just, well, there’s no way to say it other than this, it’s BS. The panther was a ‘medium’ tank as big and heavy as any heavy tank of the time. What kept it from being a heavy was its pathetic lack of armor for a tank of its size. The side armor was so weak Russian anti-tank rifles could and did score kills on these tanks through it. This is why later models had side skirts covering the thin side armor above the road wheels, left uncovered it was vulnerable to these AT rifles, and the area wasn’t small either, pretty bad design right there.

Here is a list, off the top of my head, of the Panthers problems: It liked to catch fire due to a fuel system that leaked in more than one way. The hull didn’t let the fuel drain, making the fire problem worse, so it could cross deep rivers. The motor had a tendency to back fire or blow up and cause fires as well. The cooling system was very complicated, a damaged fan or clogged duct could cause a fire. Tilting the hull to much could cause a fire because gas that had leaked out and was in pools, would hit exhaust pipes,  the early tanks had a water proof liner, to give them a “deep fording” ability, that was a sham, just to line Nazi industrialists pockets, all later removed from production. It was found the radiators were vulnerable to damage, so plates were added above the armored grates on the engine deck. All these add-ons just pile more weight on an already overstressed, and unreliable, automotive system.

Let’s move away from the fire problems and move onto the turret problems. To rotate the turret, you had to rev the engine up. The engines were fragile. You want full traverse speed; you needed to be redlining the engine. This is because they used a Power Take Off system and tied the turret drive to the engine. This was a really bad way to design a turret drive. If you want a good laugh, go find a diagram of the Tiger or Panthers turret drive system and marvel that it worked at all. It didn’t work if the tank was on even a mild slope. The drive was so weak in these cases it couldn’t even hold the gun in place.  I’m sure if you took a electric driven hydraulic or just strait electric system it would weigh a lot less than all the parts they had to use to make the PTO system work, and not even well. This system only ‘worked’ when the Panther was running. The Sherman had a backup generator that could operate the tanks electrical system, including the turret traverse system. German tankers could only dream of such luxuries, well the ones that didn’t get to crew captured Shermans.

While we’re covering the Panthers turret, let’s talk about the gun, gunner, and commander. One of the commander’s jobs is to find targets for the gunner and get him onto them. The commander has pretty good all-around views from the turret with his nice cupola. The gunner is stuck with just his telescopic sight. He would need up to several minutes in some cases to find the target the commander was trying to get him on due to him not having a wider view scope and the commander having no turret override. The gun was a good AT gun, but not a great HE thrower, since the HE charge was smaller to accommodate thicker shell walls to keep the shell from breaking up at the higher velocities. It’s HE was far from useless though. The turret was very cramped for these men as well. And the turret sides and rear had very thin armor. The Shermans 75 would punch right through it at very long ranges with AP and even HE rounds could knock the panther out by cracking the plates and spalling the crew to death.

Some more tidbits on the Panther, its automotive systems were terrible. They were designed for a 30 ton tank, and even for that, they were not that robust. The motor and tranny would get at best, 1500 kilometers before needing to be replaced. The tracks, 1000, the suspension would start to break down around 800 or less with lots of off road use. The front dual torsion bars breaking first, and then the extra stress from the extra frontal armor kept killing them. The true Achilles heel of the automotive parts was the final drives, and their housings. The housings were weak and flexed under load, allowing the already weak gear train to bind and then destroy itself. The best they ever got these final drives to last, on the G models of the tank, was 150 kilometers on average! Replacing them was a major chore that would keep the tank down at least a day. This was confirmed in a report on post war use by the French, using captured and new production tanks. You can find it here.  Even if you tripled this life, it wouldn’t be very good, the life of these parts on the Sherman are essentially unlimited, if maintained and undamaged.

We haven’t even talked about the ridiculous road wheel system that only insane people would put on a combat vehicle.  A late war British report on a captured early model Panther said at higher speeds the suspension was terrible and essentially became solid, making for a awful off road ride. You can find the report here. The report is very interesting, if not very flattering to the Panther. Another report by the Brits on the Panther can be found here, and this one is equally damning.

It is a total myth that you needed five or more Shermans to take out one Panther or Tiger. If a Panther makes it to the fight, it’s a formidable tank, and in particular when set up as a long range anti-tank pill box they could be deadly, if they had pre ranged the area they expected the attack from even more so. When called upon to be part of a mobile tank force, they failed, and they failed hard. In many cases they would lose three or more Panthers to one Sherman.

By the time the Sherman crews of the US Army started to see Panthers in bigger numbers, they were the elite tankers and the Germans the amateurs, with the vast majority of the German crews only receiving basic training on the Panther. It showed in just about every battle. The Sherman handled these supposedly better tanks just fine. While the poorly trained, green, Nazi crews struggled with their tanks, a bad driver could cause a mechanical failure almost instantly, thanks MAN. It makes you wonder how many Panther crews did just that to avoid fighting.

In all the ways you need a tank to be good, the Sherman tank was better than the Panther.

For another view on why the Panther was just not a good tank for anything other than looking at, this post. Some of this is based on my readings of Germany’s Panther Tank by Jentz. If you get past looking at all the pretty pictures, it has a pretty damning combat recorded in that book as well.

The Germans managed to build around 6000 of these mechanical nightmares. The final production version of this tank, the G version only solved the final drive housing issues, the weak gears were never solved, and this is why the post war French report was so damning. They were not even operating them under combat conditions.  The United States produced more M4A4 tanks at CDA, and that was just the M4A4, that single factory also produced composite hull Shermans, M4 105s,(all of them) M4A3 105(all of them), M4A3 76 tanks and M4A3 76 HVSS tanks in large numbers as well. The Nazis could only dream of having a tank as reliable as the M4A4, or a single factory that could crank out so many great tanks like CDA or FTA

StuG III:  Short, Stubby and Underrated

British_troops_examine_a_knocked-out_German_StuG_III_assault_gun_near_Cassino,_Italy,_18_May_1944._NA15178
StuG III knocked out

 

This armored fighting vehicle more than just about any other was a real threat to the Sherman. The Germans built a lot of these vehicles. Since it was just about the most common AFV, the Sherman ran into it much more often than tanks like the Tiger and Panther.

The StuG was not as good of a vehicle as the PIV from a combat perspective, since it lacked a turret, but it was very good for what it was used for and a much cheaper vehicle to make. It was very popular, and when it was time to cease production, German generals threw a fit and kept it in production. They didn’t say a word when the Tiger I production was stopped.  Speilberger has a good book on this tank, it covers the PIII tank and its variants including the StuG. The book is titled, Panzer III and its variants.

The StuG, was up gunned with the same gun as the Panzer IV and was good at AT work and infantry support. Its low profile helped it stay hidden and it was mobile enough to be able re-locate and get to trouble spots. It had ok armor and was well-liked by its crews. Cheaper, easier to build, and very effective for the price, it’s no wonder it doesn’t get much attention it deserves, and Germany industry tried to kill it, and when the PIII chassis stopped production, they made a version on the PIV chassis, but it was a little bigger and not as good.

 

Tiger II: Boxy, Fat, Stupid, Unreliable, Overly Complicated and Overrated

Tiger_II_punctured_in_front_turret
Tiger II knocked out.

The Tiger II, was not a very good tank. Only 492 were built, and its impact on the war was less than marginal. Everything said about the Tiger I applies to this tank, just more so. It weighed more at 68 tons but used the same engine. So it was a huge, under powered, waste of resources. The US Air Force bombing campaign actually had an effect on this tanks production. The factory was heavily damaged and about half the total production was lost  in the bombing raid.

This tank was a non-factor in the war, and the first ones lost on the eastern front were knocked out by a handful of T-34-85s, they never even spotted. The US Army ran into a few as well, and dispatched them without much trouble. They were so slow, ungainly and problem prone, during the battle of the bulge, they were left at the rear of all the column’s, and barely made it into any of the fights.

The early turrets had a big shot trap and were filled with ready racks, easy to ignite. The production turret got rid of the shot trap but did nothing for how cramped it was, but they did forbid the use of the turret ammo racks. The gun was extremely hard to load when not level.   It was an accurate and deadly gun though. The trouble, like with all the cats, was getting it to the fight.

German armor fans like to talk about how influential the Panther and Tiger designs were, but as far as I can tell, they really had zero real impact on future tank design. In fact the Panther and Tiger series were technological dead ends that no one copied and only the French spent any time playing with the engine tech and guns. The thing that stands out for me about German tank design is they never figured, out like all the other tank making countries, that putting the motor and final drives in the back of the tank, was better than putting the tranny and final drives in the front, and having the motor in the back, and a driveshaft running through the fighting compartment was a bad design feature. This was a drawback the Sherman shared, but all future medium tank designs dropped this and went to the whole power pack in the rear setup. From the T20 series on, though the T20 tanks never went into production because they were a small improvement over the Sherman, they all had rear motor/tranny/final drives. This tank layout still dominates current tank design. The Nazi design teams seemed unable to come up with a design using this layout, other than their aborted copy of the T-34, the VK3001/3002DB tanks.

This is the tank they should have built

Let’s Talk About A Few Russian Tanks: The Soviet Union Knew A Thing Or Two About Building Tanks.

The Sherman may have face the T-34 in limited numbers during WWII, since the German captured a lot of them on the eastern front, so it’s possible it faced the T-34, and maybe even the T-34-85. This wouldn’t be the best matchup because the Germans using second hand equipment would be at a disadvantage. A few years later in Korea, the Sherman would face the much improved T-34-85 and it would be a closer match.

T-34: The Soviets Tank Of Choice For the Early to Mid Part Part of WWII

Let’s take a look at the T-34, the early model with a four man crew and 76mm gun. This tank was designed before the M4, and has some advantages and disadvantages over the M4. The T-34 had better soft ground mobility and a better motor once the bugs were worked out. But is lacked a dedicated gunner, and that really increases the work load on the tank. The guns were about equal. Any version of the Sherman would have a reliability edge from the start, but the T-34 would catch up.

T-34-76_RB8
T-34-76 1943

The Soviet Union received a fair number first gen Shermans, all M4A2 models and liked them. They considered it a fine substitute for the T-34, and the crews felt it was more comfortable than their T-34. I would give the M4 the overall edge in tank quality looking at the first gen tanks.

A rather beat up T-34-85
A rather beat up T-34-85
T-34-85: The Improved T-34 That Would See Use For Decades

This later version of the T-34 had an enlarged three man turret with an 85mm gun. This model of the T-34 was a better tank than the 75mm first gen Shermans, but about equal the later models with the 76mm gun. The M4A3 76 HVSS tanks would prove to be more than a match for the T-34-85s they met in Korea, and would really come down to crew quality.

. . .

The T-34 chassis would be used in many varied armored vehicles, a lot like the Sherman, but not as extensively. The Christie suspension would be a limiting factor. The internal springs of the design would take up to much space for the advantages they offered and torsion bar, or bolt on suspension like used on the centurion would out live the Christie suspension.
The T-34 tank and the many vehicles that sprang from its basic chassis is a fascinating subject, far to complicated to cover in a few paragraphs on another tanks web page. It really deserves its own page like this dedicated to its design. I don’t know enough about the T-34 to do it, but I hope someone gives it a try.

Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Yeide’s TD and two separate tank battalion books, Sherman by Hunnicutt, Combat Lessons, The Rank and file, what they do and how they are doing it 1-7, and 9. Archive Awareness, Oscar Gilbert’s, Marine Tank Battles in the Pacific, WWII Armor, Ballistics and Gunnery by Bird and Livingston, Tigers in the Mud, by Carius, D.W. to Tiger I, and Tiger I & II combat tactics by Jentz, Panther Tank by Jentz, Panther and its Variants by Speilberger, Panzer III and its Variants and Panzer IV and its variants by Speilberger, The Sherman Minutia Site, Son of a Sherman by Stansell and Laughlin, M4 Sherman tank at war by Green, Tanks are a Might Fine Thing by Stout, the Lone Sentry, TM9-731B M4A2, TM9-731G M10A1, TM9-745 GMC M36B2, TM9-748 GMC M36B1, TM9-750M3, TM9-752 M4A3, TM9-754 M4A4, TM9-759 M4A3, Land mines, TME9-369A German 88MM AA Gun, TME30-451 Handbook on German Armed Forces 1945, TM9-374 90mm Gun M3, FM5-20 Camouflage, FM5-20B Camouflage of Vehicles, DOA Army Battle Casualties and Non Battle Deaths in WWII, FKSM 17-3-2 Armor in Battle, FM17-12 Tank Gunnery, FM17-15 Combat Practice firing, FM17-30 The Tank Platoon 42, FM17-32 The Tank Company medium and light, FM17-33 The Armored Battalion, FM17-67 Crew Drill and Service of the Piece M4 Series, Another River, another town by Irwin, Tanks on the Beaches by Estes and Neiman, Cutthroats by Dick, The Myth of the Eastern Front by Smelser and Davies, Tank Tactics by Jarymowycz, Panzer Aces by Kurowski, Commanding the Red Army’s Shermans by Loza, The Radionerds website, The French Panther user report, Wargaming’s Operation Think Tank Videos, all the info in the data and links sections.  Historical Study, German Tank Maintenance in WWII 

 

24 thoughts on “#20 How The Sherman Compared To Its Contemporaries:  Well, it did very well!

  1. a sherman fan i see, first, russians know a lot more than just 1 or 2 things about tank designs, second the soviet union anti-tank rifle PTRD was not effective against tanks, the projectile shattered most of the time, and you used some pics of abandoned tanks for knocked out tanks. and you have to applaud the german tank designs because even with inexperienced crew they kept on fighting for 2 more years (since 1943).

    and third soviet union produced thousands of tanks 65549 t34 and t34-85 tanks to be precise, and america produced 49231 of all models of shermans, and i didnt count all the anti tank artillery and heavy and light tanks the allies produced while the germans produced less than 60000 of all their medium, heavy tanks and anti tank artillery and assault guns combined.

    there you have the reason why the allies defeated germany and the tank design is influenced by the terrain, visibility its going to fight in and the nations war doctrine.

    and tiger 1 was designed to be a breakthrough tank but was used as a defensive rlle because it was brought out in 1943 and germny was fighting defensive then.

    and you said a sherman would take out a tiger, really? why would you even compare them? shermn is medium tank and tiger1 is a heavy tank, both made for diffeerent roles, and the tiger which you said had a weak gun knocked out the first americn heavy (m26 pershing) tank that landed in germany but it was abandoned because it got stuck in a rubble.

    fourth heavy tanks are not supposed to move and do stunts like a dune buggy, they are support to lead from the front and spot and destroy enemies and breakthrough then fall back. sadly tiger was not used for an offensive battle. albert speer said that sherman was better than old model panzers, but yes panzer V and tiger 1 were better BETTER THAN SHERMANS, panzer V being more maneuvrable and a better hill climber than sherman, L.Colonel Wilson M Hawkings, T.Seargent Willard D May, tank platoon seargent Charles A Carden all said that panzer V and tiger 1 were superior to modernized shermans.

    everything i said you could find in the books and reports written by ww2 veterans help yourselves with that. you can hate nazis but you cant say their engineering and machines sucked beacuse you hate them.

    and remember germans were the first to build such heavy tanks, jet engine, made plans for an orbiting vehicle(aka satellites), guided missiles, jet powered flying bombs, used laryngophones radio communications in tank crews, stealth submarines, rocket powered aircraft, stealth aircraft( horten ho 229 when tested in usa found to have stealth properties)and inspired b2 and vulcan bombers, layed doundations for icbm, and were about to make a nuclear bomb if scientists disnt defect to usa, i can go on with this. i am NOT AND NEVER SAYING I LOVE NAZIS but i dont hate the work of german scientists and engineers work beacuse of them. dont be biased while judging technology, remember that.

    Editor Comment: I cleaned this up just a bit, it was so hard to read before since it was one massive block of text. Also G.K. covered just about everything wrong with this post

    Thank you.

    1. Let’s see, where to start off with your bullshit. the first part of your ranting is just “But German tanks were better BECAUSE I SAID SO!, Germany only lost because X” shit that closet wehraboos love to cling to, (Though, terlling him to read reports when he runs a site based on combat reports and book accounts is incredibly ironic, maybe you should’ve done the same.) this is pointless, let’s move on to your more ridiculous claims.

      1. First to build heavy tanks? So tanks like the KV-1 and Char B1 (which was far heavier then any German tank of the time period) and the Churchill never existed? Ok.

      2. The Germans didn’t invent the Jet engine, the British did. Try again.

      3. Making plans for something doesn’t count for shit if you can’t act on them, other countries had similar plans, putting them into action is another, which they failed to do. I have a plan for an invisible, invincible forcefield powered by my mind, anyone who does it first must pay me credit for thinking of it!

      4. They used glide bombs, not the same thing as missiles, and even then US made guided munitions were much more ambitious as, rather then sticking to radio control only, the US also tried Radar, Infrared, and TV guidance with success.

      5. Which was a weapon developed at a time they were never going to win the war anyway. (The chances of them ever winning was non existent, but making what amounts to an incredibly inaccurate psychological weapon when you’re getting mauled isn’t exactly a good thing.)

      6. Wiley Post invented the laryngophone, copying someone else’s idea isn’t exactly massive innovation. nor does it have anything to do with supposed superior German engineering or design.

      7. As opposed to open assault submarines? Though I guess it did help the Kriegsmarine to only focus on submarines at the cost of their surface designs being horribly outdated, poorly designed crap despite not even following treaty regulations…..wait a minute.

      8. Yeah, I mean those rocket powered aircraft that were basically suicide mobiles for their pilots, you this THIS as an amazing innovation? Germany’s rocket aircraft program is easily one of the biggest targets for mockery because of how badly designed and poorly thought out they were. there’s a reason no one tried to copy this.

      9. This one is by far the most idiotic (well, 2nd) and anyone who’s ever actually read about the topic wouldn’t ever post such bullshit, The Ho229’s mystical “stealth” properties are bullshit, it’s radar signature reduction, aside from being an unintended part of the design, was so small compared to other aircraft of the era that it made no real difference even against contemporary radar, designing an aircraft based on it vs todays radar tech would be idiotic. Also, you probably failed to check your basic history on the subject and note that Northrop, the designer of the B-2 had fully working flying wing designs while German aircraft designers were still dicking around with scale models. Inspiration for the B-2 and Vulcan? get the fuck out of here.

      10. The V-2, one of the very actual few German “wunder” project to have significant post war contributions, which is rather unfortunate to say for them considering the weapon could only hit targets the size of cities, had a rather small warhead for it’s size, and actually killed more of it’s own soldiers and laborers than enemies.

      11. Remember when I said the Ho229 being a stealth aircraft and B-2/Vulcan inspiration was your second dumbest claim? This is the first. the German nuclear program was so behind and ass backwards they never had any hope of making a working nuclear weapon ever, for Christ’s sake even at the end of the project they thought hanging uranium cubes on cables would somehow work in an enrichment process, the German nuclear program was one the most laughably pathetic projects of the entire war, and even if it went on several more years (which it never would have), they wouldn’t have gotten jack shit out of it and the US program would beat it by years 10 times out of 10. But hey, at least persecuting everyone ethnically or religiously a Jew, who happened to be their best scientists on the matter proved to be a great idea! I guess this is what you get from a society that thinks drugging it’s supreme leader and soldiers with Methamphetamine is a brilliant idea.

      Get out.

  2. After getting back my breath and climbing back into my chair which I fell out from laughter I continued reading this marvellous article. It is true, people are impressed by the what the press told them about the German “beasts” Tiger and Panther tanks.
    I is just goo somebody tell what is more historically right. Just back from a short trip though the Ardennes I saw the Tiger II and Panthers that were left behind and wondered how they just got a few kilometers over their exit points and then knocked out. Most good efforts were made by the stug and Pz II and IV units. Facing Shermans brought them to a halt. I concurrer with what you say about experience. Even an undergunned tank can be dangerous when in the hands of trained and well experienced crew. I was myself in the Armoured corps with the leopard tank in which they fixed all the bugs the Tigers and panthers had. Good they build it in 1965 and not 1945. I have to confess taht during practice shooting I severed with a shot the turret from the hull of an old sherman that was used as a target, as I lve Shermans as well as you do..

  3. You tell us that Tigers “helped win no battles”.
    Literally none, over the course of 3 years?
    Were they no help in the battle of Sidi Bou Zid? If not, how do you know?

    But you said that version changes were only “part” of the problem.
    You painted a picture of holes being drilled to fit parts and parts not fitting any tank except the one they were put into.
    Where did you get this information?

    Comments combined by admin

  4. “One reason there is 11,000 US tanks and tank destroyers In Germany in April 1945 is because the US decided to concentrate on a tank that was extremely reliable and relatively economical to build. And I don’t think anyone would claim that the Sherman was the best tank from the perspective of the tank crew, it didn’t have the best armor, it didn’t have the best gun, but from commanders perspective it was an excellent weapon. There were just lots and lots of them, so they gave the commander a lot of battlefield power”. Steven Zaloga.

    — Hi all.

    I’ve always liked everything related to the WWII … and also I love the Sherman tank ! (all my friends say I’m crazy by that).

    Jeeps_Guns_Tanks :

    I would like to congratulate you for this amazing site… but I think that a great history lover (as you are) should not forget Mr. Zaloga’s words.

    This simple thing will give meaning and a true value to the M4 Sherman, and the required respect to their crews.

    Thank you, greetings from Spain and – please – keep up the good work !

    Pep

    * And excuse my poor English.

    1. Pep,
      Thanks for you’re kind words, and I am glad you like the site. Your English is just fine too! I always try and keep Mr Zaloga’s words in mind. I got so tired of telling people to read his books like Armored Thunderbolt, it largely inspired the site!

  5. Well this article was pretty interesting to read, but well it really lack some good points:

    First it is pretty easy to understand tha you just made this article because some kind of hate against wehraboos. I mean i am with you about these guys are pretty annoying, but come on! the level of bias you used is pretty close to them. But well that is pretty common these days with internet in wargames forums and online games, most of the times people tend to care mostly about their point of view.

    Second you never talked about the difference between the allied and german doctrines and point of view in the theirs industries, like how germans made their tanks like trains with a lack of standardization while allies like car, etc. So you can make people understand why the allies won the war.

    And there is a good number of reasons why most of the german tanks had the problems you talked about, like the use of prisoners as slaves to make tanks, all your industry being bombed, all the desings were rushed since they were fighting a 3 front war, etc.

    Third, some of links you added have their problems but the rest even though they show some personals bias they are true, like the one talking about the Panther in the wargaming forum that said the panther was a shit because it wasn’t designed to support infantry, something that could be true if we see it from the point of view of the western allied doctrine, but the germans designed it to face tank more often than support infantry, that is why Stugs were a thing.

    Fourth you talked very little about the Eastern Front and Russian designs and you even said “Ruskies the guys who know 1 or 2 things about tanks desings”.

    Last, never talked about combat capability (how good they were fighting in a battle not as a whole in the war), the real reason the wehraboos are confused is that it is true those german tank were good at fighting and sometimes even better than allies tanks in SERVICE but just when they could move and those battle never were 1vs1 , most of them were impractical because all the supply and reliabiality problems.

    And at the end the Tiger I was a pretty decent tank by 1943 standards and the Eastern Front, yes the wheels were a nighmare but the reliabiality was better than the last big cats, not something that one should be proud, but at least was something.

    In the case of the Panther well it was the best that germans could made with their industry, and was the best modern desing they had by 1944, since Panzers III and IV were pretty old desing that couldn’t be upgraded.

    1. To add, german desing really affected the desings of the next generation of tanks, not mechanically, but mostly in doctrines and philosophy in regard of armors and guns, like the T34.

      Why? not because german were masters of technology or some stupid shit like that, but because they started a domino in tank desing when they first faced the T-34 making bigger, faster and more armored tanks, at least to the Russian who would later affect the Western desings in the middle of Cold War. It was obvious at the end of the war that tanks with powerful guns and heavy like front armor and mobility of a medium tank like the Panthers, T44/54s and Centurions were the future and the beginning of the MBT.

      It is funny how at the end the western countries went for heavy armor super powerful tanks to face the horde of Russians tanks.

  6. Hard to find more stupid article… German’s Pantera it’s a best tank in WW2. Sherman… if 10 will attack one Tiger maybe win, but only maybe.

  7. This statement is very interesting:
    ” For the Germans, most parts would need adapting to the individual tank, making field repairs a more difficult job.”

    Is that “most” counted by type of part, or by amount? e.g. do you count wheels as 1 part or as 16 parts?
    Anyway, could you point me to the source of this information, please? I’ll figure it out from there.

    1. I would hope the road wheels would be pretty close, and not require modification, think more like getting a replacement bracket in the cooling system to fit because the bolt holes in the particular tank were custom drilled to fit the part they had. Another example would be getting a replacement fuel tank to fit when the hull was slightly out of spec. I’ll have to poke through the Jentz and Spielberger books to see if I can find specifics. I may have to change ‘most’ to ‘many’ or ‘a lot of’

      1. Those examples that you posted (bracket and fuel tank); did they actually happen? Have you a report, or a real tank where you can see them?

          1. I think you are conflating two different things:

            a) Version changes: You are absolutely, 100% correct that the Germans made fairly trivial changes to their tank designs on a regular basis. (And as an aside, that’s probably one of the reasons folks who are into tanks are fascinated by them….there are a gazillion different variations of the PzKw-III for example). So I can see how a replacement component intended for, say, a PzKw-III G might not fit a PzKw-III J.

            b) However, the idea that anyone was producing hull plates or wheels in nonstandard sizes or with different bolt holes for key components (again, we are NOT talking about different ausfrungs here) seems awfully farfetched to me. Wouldn’t it be *harder* to do it wrong than to do it right?

  8. What’s interesting is that in addition to the inherently less reliable designs the Germans had, they were compounded by the fact that the USAAF and RAF effectively disrupted the German rail infrastructure, which meant that these tanks had to drive a long way on their own power.

    Ideally, you rail the tanks to the front to minimize the amount of time they have to drive, so there’s a big difference in reliability between a German tank that got railed into Normandy and one that had to drive the whole way from the German border.

    1. I doubt any German tank EVER drove from the factory to the front line, even in 1945. Any German unit that was moving more than a few dozen miles did it by rail.

  9. Great article. I always roll my eyes when some of my friends go on about how great the German big cats were compared to the Sherman or T-34.

    Funny comment on plastic model companies and the Tiger – I’ve always said that if the Germans were able to produce tanks in the numbers that model companies do in real life (especially compared to the Sherman), they would have won the war.

  10. It’s sad such an important tank like the Sherman is overshadowed by Machines used by Nazi scum. I don’t even know why people think the Panther looks cool, it looks like a big dumb box!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *