Post 72: Army Motors: How the Army Updated the Armies Mechanics!
Over the years, I’ve run into the Army’s PS Magazines, the comic book style magazine distributed around the army to advise the troops in language they could too, but they were all post-WWII so of limited interest to the Sherman Tank Fanatic. RadioNerds has all or almost all of the PS Mags for download, and they are a fun read. RadioNerds is a really Fantastic site, and when I found out there was a WWII Magazine for the same purpose, though more Vehicle specific, and was not surprised to find RadioNerds also has all or just about all of them too!
The Army Motors magazines start pre-WWII, in may of 1940, and they really do not have much of interest to the Sherman fanatic until the 1943 issue, and then they have all kinds of fun information. This does not mean those pre 43 issues are not interesting. They give you a look into the problems the army was running into as it was growing, and one of those problems was draftees ruining everything!
What I mean by this is the main push of just about every issue is, follow the maintenance schedule and not be creative in trying figure out better or easier ways to do the maintenance. Some other problems would be not driving properly or even warming vehicles up right. General carelessness seemed to be enemy number 1.
Accident were another big subject across the board, I even found a chart of deaths and there causes. Horseplay was another one, with power tools in particular, got mentioned in several issues. This one I thought was amusing, and reminded me of all the times I’ve worked with men and around tools. Jokes and pranks were played, and it was just life, no need to involve HR or anything.
The general tone of these magazines was humorous, and they have several set ‘Departments’ like Connie Rodd Bulliton board, and the Rumors Department, with an Outhouse as a logo. There were lots of illustrations and comics, and they went color in late 43.
The early and late versions of later versions of Connie Rodd.
Here are some interesting examples.
A letter from a satisfied customer.
Don’t waste rubber, it makes Hitler happy, that’s his happy face.
This cartoon is a little disturbing, but the chart explains the US Vehicle maintenance system.
I downloaded this PDF, Report on The New Weapons Board 1944, someplace, but since I don’t remember where I hosted it too. The report documents the feedback the troops gave to the board on the various weapons they demonstrated.
The report was put together in early 44 to document feedback from the troops on current weapons, and proposed improvements, and replacements. There is a good amount of information on the M4 medium tank, and US Armor in general. Most of the combat feedback comes from the fighting in Italy, and North Africa.
The report also sheds an interesting light and gives evidence for the view that the US Army didn’t consider the improved early Sherman bad, and only wanted it replaced with something much better. It also gives some interesting insight into the Shermans and what condition they were in when they got to the using units.
Feedback on current equipment and changes.
The first thing is this to note about the Sherman is the first mention of it is praise for the current models. This quote stands out, “No new type is desired unless the improvement in military characteristics is sufficient to warrant the changes and defects in the present standard tanks are avoided.”
They did have a list of improvements they did want either done to the Sherman and to make sure the follow-on model, the T20 series incorporated them.
They wanted a 76mm gun like the 3-inch gun on the M10. The news of the 76mm M1 series and the new Shermans mounting the gun interested the troops a lot. They brought an M4E6 76mm Sherman to show to the troops.
Improved suspension and tracks. It turns out the rubber block tracks with no chevron were not well liked and wore out very quick in rocky, hilly terrain. The steel chevron blocks with rubber backs were well like and lasted much longer. This feedback is mostly from the MTO, the mountainous and rocky landscape was hard on tanks and even the Sherman had some issues. The complaints about the suspension had more to do with width than durability.
They wanted armored air cleaners on the M4 and M4A1 tanks. It turns out the Air cleaners mounted under the overhang on the rear hull of the M4 and M4A1 tanks were prone to damage, and this damage was not expected and didn’t pick up until Italy so there was a shortage. All other models had the air cleaners inside the hull. Some units added improvised armor and some were added later in the production runs.
Better ballistic angle around the front of the transmission housing. The old three-part differential is what they are talking about. Most early Shermans had this type, and the armor was thinner than the later cast single piece units. There were two cast versions, an early thinner, but still no worse than the three-piece unit, and a later improved thicker one. There was a demand for add-on armor over this area, but it was never approved.
More power. Yet, when the M4A3 Ford GAA powered Shermans came online, they did not want to swap them in as replacements, and only wanted whole units who trained on them stateside first to be issued the improved tanks. The M4A4 and M4A2 were not big enough improvements to switch to those motors.
Diesel engine. The US Army rejected the GM 6046, claiming it was not as reliable as the R975, but all the nations that did use this motor liked it.
They wanted better sights and fire control equipment. Many tanks in the MTO and NATO(North African Theater of Operation) had not gotten the M34A1 gun mounts with telescopic sights. The mount for the periscope sight had not seen major improvements, though there were field mods to make it work. The using arm was enthusiastic about the changes in the second gen Shermans fire control, but wanted even more advanced features, like rangefinders, and improved telescopes, since the current ones shot loose too!
There is also other tank related info.
The M3 75mm Gun – Though well-liked for infantry support and deemed to be reliable and durable, the using arms almost universally felt the German 75mm PAK 40 guns were much better anti-tank weapons, and a high-velocity 76mm gun was in demand.
75mm ammunition – these fixed rounds came unfixed, sometimes even in their travel packaging. They wanted this fixed. They wanted the WP shells ballistics to match the ballistics of the common HE shell.
Large caliber cartridge cases – Steel cases for the 75mm rounds for the M3 gun were well received and proved more durable. This was not the case for 105mm howitzer rounds.
105mm howitzer armed tanks – This was not a popular notion because the M7 105mm GMC was inaccurate when used for direct fire to support infantry assaults. The new weapons board did not agree, and plans for this vehicle were already in motion, and it would be well liked once issued.
Tank Officers – they wanted a tanker officer in the high-level headquarters to advise Division and higher level officers the best way to use tanks. AA and Tank destroyer officers were already an accepted part of these HQ staffs.
the 17-pdr gun – There was more interest in using this gun in M10s since the install was much simpler, the Sherman install was complicated and cramped and the Army was leary.
Tank Tracks – They show up again and the plain rubber block tracks could wear out in 250 miles in rocky terrain and lacked good off-road traction, and the using arm felt they were only good for training on roads. The T54E1 steel chevron type was preferred and much more durable, but the T48 rubber chevron would work in the MTO but wore out faster than steel types. The T49 bar cleat was also not good on sidehill terrain. The using arm wanted a wider center guided track in the MTO because the side guided tracks on the Sherman were prone to throwing on irregular and rocky side slopes. Extended end connectors were well received by the using arms.
Tank Suspension – Sherman suspension was found to be durable, with few volute springs failing. The biggest problem was the bogie wheels since the rubber tires had an erratic failure rate, and unlike the spring failures, usually sidelined the tank.
Ammunition stowage – They using arms were not interested in changes that reduced the number of ready rounds. The turret ready racks were very popular and crews did not like their removal with the ‘quick fix’ mods. They were willing to risk the higher fire chance, for the faster rate of fire the early storage setup allowed. The crews did not get their way on this one, at least until the M26 went into production.
The Radios – They wanted a better radio in the M32 recovery vehicles and better, more comfortable headphones for the armor crews.
The M10 GMC – This TD was very popular, and received high praise all around. The using arm did not require a replacement, just improved M10s. ♠ One thing to note, most M10 GMCs in MTO lacked the Azimuth indicator and range quadrant. Since the M10s get used as artillery a lot in the MTO, they would like replacements to have them.
Replacement gun tubes – The using arms were very annoyed, that all type of gun barrels from machine gun and mortar, to tank and artillery, were dispensed at a very miserly rate. The using arm argued replacement barrels should be bought at the rate that took into consideration how much ammunition for the same weapon was produced.
Improved fire control for all relevant vehicles – They wanted built-in rangefinders, or portable ones supplied. Better periscope and telescope sights and all vehicles that could be used for indirect fire to receive the full suite of tools to perform the task. I had never heard that some Shermans did not get these automatically. I’m not sure why some Shermans and TDs didn’t have the Azimuth indicator M19 and elevation quadrant M9. Maybe the crews dumped them to save space, maybe the tanks were rushed and built and approved without them I’ll try and find out. They mention 75% of the tanks in England had these items, but less 50% had them in the MTO. Tank units were much more commonly used for indirect fire in the MTO than they would be in the ETO.
Engines – The R975C-1 was getting around 200 hours before needing replacement. This was fine with the using arm, though they would like 60 to 100 more horsepower. The R975 needed little maintenance to reach the expected 200 hours and many run much longer. The lack of liquid cooling system has some advantages.
Powertrain – There was a higher than expected rate of clutch failure in the desert campaigns. The clutch system was also improved on the production like with improved leverage to lower the clutch pedal pressure. Many MTO units did not receive the improved clutches or linkages. The better clutches lead to better transmission life and better shifting, and even without the improved clutches, transmission life went up in Italy. The powertrain offered excellent service and generally outlived the engines by several overhauls if not damaged.
Crew comfort – the Driver and Co-drivers seats in the Sherman were found to be ok, but higher seat backs were requested along with deeper seat cushions. The Gunners seat was found to be ok but could use the same improvements as the driver’s seats but the Command and Loaders seats were deemed all but useless. These would be improved in the later models of the Sherman and various TDs. Crews do not use their seatbelts, fearing it complicating bailing out, and more padding inside was not wanted because the crews felt it was a fire hazard. The M4 and M4A1 tanks were praised for good ventilation. There was also some discussion about the value of turret baskets, and if they were needed at all.
Ammo Storage – The early Sherman ready racks in the turret were well liked by the using arms, but they felt the sponson and hull ammo racks were no good and didn’t support the 75mm Shells enough. They would often separate and dump a bunch of gunpowder inside the tank making a deadly mess to clean. The using arm tends to stuff the tank with extra rounds, adding to the shell durability problems. These problems would be addressed in the second gen improved hull tanks.
General storage – The current storage space on the Sherman was deemed ok, but better, easier to access bins were requested. They also wanted any storage in the floor to be resistant to getting filled with dirt or water.
Machine guns – The bow machine gun saw a lot of use, but its usefulness would be improved by a sighting system. One was in the works, but not at the point of this report. The M1919 machine guns, both bow, and co-ax were reliable as long as the crew was careful with the ammo. Long road trips could vibrate rounds loose in the belts and cause problems, but under normal conditions, this was rarely a problem with well-trained crews. The crews wanted a better adjustment method for matching the co-ax gun to the gunner’s site, the current one was not very good. The .50 AA mount was not well liked or considered important. Requests were made for a better mount for ground targets.
Turret hatches – The current split hatch was deemed ok, but the crews like the looks of the new all around cupola and were also enthusiastic about a loader’s hatch on the new 76 armed tanks.
Armor – There does not seem to be a consensus on how much armor a tank should have by the using arms. Armored Force troops felt the current level on the Sherman was fine, but wouldn’t mind more as long as it did not negatively affect flotation, maneuverability, and speed. ♠The British generally wanted heavier armor than the US Army. ♠♠Combat in Italy showed the differential was taking more hits than anything, and another request was made for add-on armor for the area.
Sand Shields – The general consensus on these was they were useless in any theatre and needed to be redesigned. They needed to be easier to install, and designed to not trap mud.
Flotation – The using arms wanting tanks around 10 pounds per square inch. This was very optimistic since even the HVSS Shermans came in around 11 PSI, the basic 75 VVSS Sherman around 13. It seems the Germans flooded fields in Sicily and Italy when they retreated, and Shermans got bogged down most of the time. They offered the suggestion of just stretching the Sherman since more length would help, and the British M4A4 tanks, the longest production Shermans, had no maneuverability issues.
Maneuverability – In the US Army there was a desire across the board for more maneuverability, in tanks. One thing to keep in mind though is the tanks in the MTO were older and most had single anchor steering brakes, the double anchor made the tanks easier to maneuver requiring less lever pressure. The ability to skid turn was not something US troops seemed interested in.
Accessories – The troops had a lot of feedback here. ♠ The instruments and gauges in medium tanks were not good quality, if they worked they didn’t work long. Oil pressure gauges fail, and no one worries about the motor until both oil pressure gauges die and a low oil pressure light comes on. This seems to be US feedback, I don’t recall hearing complaints from the Brits about Gauge quality. I wonder if the different tank plants sourced gauges from different companies. ♠♠ The compasses on US tanks would not stay calibrated. This would be a very annoying problem but eventually solved on second gen Shermans. ♠♠♠ Armor for the air cleaners on the M4 and M4A1 comes up again. ♠♠♠♠ The Auxiliary giving good service, and are well liked, but the using arms would like the area around the fuel tank filler for the Aux motor to be waterproofed better. They also noted replacements were hard to come by.
Modifications – ♠ The jist on this one was, in many cases modifications can be seen by inspecting a vehicle, but in others, access panels or more might have to be removed to check. The using arms proposed a record imprinted on a brass plate, attached to the vehicle, listing all the modifications that had been applied. ♠♠ They also wanted to emphasize that they did not want any modifications that would not ‘materially increase the efficiency of the vehicles’
Development – The using arms were curious about the items in development, and finding out a large organization was working to improve almost everything was a morale booster. There was also interest in the T-20 series and if any test vehicles would be sent over for some for feedback like the M4A1 prototype has been.
Information and feedback on future equipment.
The M4E6 or pre-production M4A1 76w – ♠ This improved version was well liked by everyone who checked it out. The bigger turret was a big hit, though not much bigger, it seemed roomier. ♠♠ The improved fire control gear was very well liked and considered an ‘outstanding improvement’. The 76mm gun was well liked, and everyone seemed to agree needed. ♠♠♠ The only real concern was the less effective HE round, but it was hoped they would make a better one.
The M18 76mm GMC – The first and bad impression this vehicle lefts was it had no armor, and seemed very mechanically complicated. The fire control gear was well liked. When the vehicle was demonstrated, the tracks and unthrowable tracks also got a lot of attention. No one was sure if the speed would be useful, but the maneuverability was well liked. ♠ The same story with interest in deployment, not as a replacement vehicle, but fulling trained units from the ZI would be ok. ♠♠ This vehicle was not wanted by M10 units already deployed. Units equipped with it in the ZI then deployed were better received, the M10 was still more popular. An M10 with a 90mm gun was the preferred replacement.
M4A3 75W – Even though the Ford GAA was a big improvement, it was not enough of an improvement to take them on as replacement vehicles. They were fine for them to be brought with units already fully trained on them.
The M1 Dozer blade kit – This kit was an instant hit and would have many uses, including clearing rubble after heavy artillery reduced a strong point. Currently, this has to be done by an unarmored bulldozer and casualties were high. it was hoped they would work well enough to help tanks dig in or SPG prepare a position. ♠ Through testing, they found this kit could be installed on any Sherman tank type.
This report goes into detail in the appendixes listing all the items demonstrated, and where they were demonstrated. They also include data on how many of the various items demonstrated were ordered by the various theatres.
I think it’s pretty clear the MTO was a backwater. The general shortage of spare parts in the MTO and a shortage of personnel to staff the proper echelons of repair and salvage system are also indicators of this. As they got ready for the June of 44 landings, the troops in England would be getting top priority and supplies and spares.
There is a lot of info on other weapons like artillery and small arms, not directly Sherman related and therefore, uncovered here. The report is definitely worth a download and re through. I think it offers a good insight into the thinking involved on not swapping to 76mm armed Shermans before the Normandy landings.
The Small Arms Of The US Army Tanker: Tankers Were Issued Gear, But Once In The Field, They May Have Used Other Than Issued Small Arms.
The US Army issued early Sherman tanks with a single Thompson M1928A1 .45 caliber submachine gun. The tank also had two boxes to hold a total to twelve hand grenades of various types. Two smoke and two thermite grenades were kept in a box on the left side turret wall, and there was another box under the gunner seat that held 2 smokes grenades, 4 M2 fragmentation grenades, and 2 M3 offensive grenades. The tank also had a pair of M1919A4 machine guns and the M2 HB that could be mounted on the pair of tripods issued with the tank. They had 600 rounds of .45 ACP and 4750 rounds of .30 caliber, and 300 rounds for the M2 HB. This was what the tank could officially carry, but crews often carried more .30 caliber rounds, and even main gun ammo on the floor of the tank, and they would also store small arms ammo on the outside of the tank
Later versions of the Sherman were issued with a slightly different setup. The single M1928A1 Thompson was replaced with 5, M3 submachine guns. The other major change was, all the machine guns were provided with more ammo, 600 .50, 6250 .30, and the same 600 rounds of .45 for the new SMGs. The tank was also issued with a small number of spare parts that commonly broke on all the weapons and specialized tools to service the tanks weapons.
In all cases, each member of the Sherman crew would have been issued a M1911A1 pistol as a side arm, but that was their personal weapon, and not part of the tanks gear.
Let’s talk about these weapons a little, first the Machineguns.
M2 HB .50 caliber machine gun: Who doesn’t know about this machine gun, developed before WWII, it was a legend by the end of the war and is still being used. It saw use everywhere the US Military fought. If it could mount a heavy Machine gun or guns, the Americans put one of these on it. The Sherman had one, The M16 halftrack had four, the P-47 Thunderbolt had eight! They used them on ships, jeeps, aircraft, with the infantry, and as AA guns. There is a reason this machine gun, designed by maybe the greatest firearms inventor of all time, John Browning, is still in use, its a great gun, firing a pretty good round. It’s so well liked, slightly improved version still serve with the US Military and to many other Nations around the world to list here.
The versions issued on the Sherman had a 450 to 550 RPM, and a quick change barrel that still required it to have its headspace adjusted, so not all that quick. Someone who knew what they were doing could keep the barrel from overheating by firing in short controlled bursts though, and on the Sherman, since the ammo supply was fairly small, you had to use it sparingly anyway. The machine gun would rarely leave the tank, were the lighter M1919s might be pulled and mounted on a tripod for some reason, if the crew had to fight on foot, or to setup around a perimeter at night maybe. In the Pacific, they would build a bunker under the tank and have a sandbagged enclosure at the front they could crawl into with the .30 mounted on a tripod.
M1919A4 .30 caliber machine gun: The Sherman crew was provided with two, sometimes three of these guns. They like their bigger, little brother, the M2, were designed by John Browning. For The US Military in WWII and Korea, .30 caliber meant the 30-06 cartridge. This was a pretty decent round as .30 caliber rounds go, and would serve as the Army rifle and light/medium machine gun chambering until the adoption of the 7.62 NATO round. This gun spat rounds at between 450 and 550 round per minute and it was a reliable and well liked gun. If it had a flaw, it was it was not easy to swap barrels on, for the same reasons as the M2, and it was a tad heavy for a light/medium machine gun, these are minor flaws for a vehicle mounted MG, though, in longer fights, the co-ax M1919 would burn out their barrels before the fighting was over.
The M1919 served with the US Army, and Marine Corps well into the 50s, they were eventually replaced by the M60 machine gun. These machine guns have a long and well recorded history, and my goal here is to talk about them without causing any new myths or bad information.
Now let’s talk about the Submachine guns.
M1928A1, .45 ACP submachine gun: This SMG is another American Classic, and it was a classic by WWII all on its own. Originally developed for use in WWI, it missed the war, and any Military contracts, but the gun was sold on the civilian market. Enough sales trickled in from a few small government and police agencies, along with foreign sales to keep Auto-Ordnance alive between wars. The weapon was sensationalized by the media after it was used by prohibition era gangsters and a few notable regular criminals, and this inspired some of the nation’s first federal gun control laws. In 1934 the National Firearms Act went into effect after being passed by Congress. It limited the sale of Machine guns to civilians and made the ones already in Civilian hands have to be licensed.
There was already one huge limiting factor on Thompson sales, if you were not a government agency; you had to be pretty rich to buy one. Sure, a few criminals were, but what normal Joe of the 1920s could spend $200 bucks on a machine gun when a new car cost around $400? That 200 bucks was for the basic 1921 m model with 1 magazine. When you started adding things like the wood front pistol grip, deluxe wood furniture and drum magazines and fancy cases, the price could run into luxury car range.
The M1928A1 was not all the different from the M1921, and still used the odd Blish lock and could still take the drum magazines but had dispensed with the front pistol grip. If it had a drawback it was that it was large and heavy for a SMG, but you would think this would help control it.
The Army would go on to have even simpler version of this SMG produced, but as far as I know only the M1928A1 was issued with early to mid production Sherman tanks.
M3 and M3A1 .45 ACP submachine gun: This SMG was designed to be the easiest to manufacture and cheapest SMG that could still perform as well as the M1928A1 and the M3 was born. After some use, the M3A1 came about to solve all the problems with the basic M3. The M3 looks a little like a grease gun, so that name stuck, and the weapon would go on to serve into the 1990s as tank crewmen’s weapon.
The M3A1 was a simple no nonsense weapon that filled the tank crewmen dismounted weapon role fairly well, and that’s why it no one bothered to replace the thing. It was replaced with the MP5.
From the Sherman crewman perspective, I bet they’d say, five M3A1s is better than one M1928A1.
Next up, let’s talk about the pistol.
So much has been said about the 1911, I’m not going to say much, but I’ll note for those who don’t know, John Browning designed it too. I will say this, it is not the finest handgun ever produced, nor is it even close to the worst. It is probably the most popular handgun in America, and I own two. What it was, was a reliable, tested, accurate enough handgun for soldiers, pilots, officers or anyone else who needed one. Like all handguns, it should be viewed as a last resort, and the M3A1 or M1928A1 would be more useful in all but the most close of encounters for a tank crewman.
It also may be the most written about firearm ever as well, since every issue of Guns&Ammo, Guns, Shooting, etc. had at least two stories about some variant of the gun. I would be surprised if it isn’t the most popular handgun type in the United States. The only guns that seem to rival it are made by Glock.
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Now so far, we’ve only been talking about the weaponry issued with the tank or to the crew. Soldiers and marines being soldiers and marines means as soon as they were out of an environment where the tank the tank was being inspected on a regular basis they would have started acquiring extra things for the tank. Crews of early Shermans probably worked pretty hard to get more Thompson SMGs, or used captured German or ones; the MP-40 with its folding stock was nice for tank use. I’m sure they stuffed extra grenades all over the tank along with extra .30 cal and .50 cal ammo. Depending on unit discipline and how aware they were of the risk, some crews might have carried extra main gun ammunition as well, but unprotected main gun rounds were very dangerous to the crew. It wouldn’t be impossible for something like an M1 Garand or M1 Carbine to make an appearance as well. Mounting extra machine guns on the turret for the loader was a fairly popular modification as well.