About Comparison of WW2 tank design and operational doctrine
|July 8th, 2009||#1|
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Comparison of WW2 tank design and operational doctrine info
We are more often treacherous through weakness than through calculation. ~Francois De La Rochefoucauld
|July 8th, 2009||#3|
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Tank design is not really my forte, as I'm more interested in the tactics, operations and strategy side of things. However, some quick responses:
1. The Tiger, despite its faults and expense, performed well as a defensive tank in the latter stages of WW2. It also performed well as a breakthrough tank and that is mainly how Germany used them whilst on the offensive. Also, the psychological impact of the Tiger tank can't be overstated.
2. German armour plate made in 1944 onwards was probably inferior to plate made earlier, due to a lack of manganese and the speeding up of the production process (there's a hot debate about this).
3. Germany's tank needs changed as the war went on. Between 1939-1943 they needed fast break-out tanks as they were generally on the offensive. After Kursk they needed more AT guns and Tank Destroyers.
4. The Panther Ausf G was probably the best tank that saw action in WW2.
5. The T34 was the best tank in action until 1942, when the Tiger 1 was introduced.
6. The heavier Tiger and Panthers were not the catalyst for change in Germany armoured doctrine. By the time these tanks were on the battlefield Germany was mainly embroiled in a defensive war - especially true of the Panther although its baptism of fire was at Kursk.
7. Allied tactical air power (or the threat of it), dithering German strategic/operational decisions and chronic German fuel shortages probably had the biggest impact on the western war in Europe.
8,. Germany's tank design never really adjusted as the war adjusted. By that I mean that they forgot one of history's greatest lessons, that quantity, so long as it's fit for purpose and available in enough numbers, will ALWAYS defeat quality in a protracted war. This seems obvious but I'm amazed at the number of times this lesson has to be re-learnt.
"An Emperor is subject to no-one but God and justice."
Frederick 1, Barbarossa
|July 8th, 2009||#4|
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This is pretty much the reason I believe that the future of the PZ-IV was better employed as a tank destroyer and the Panther should have replaced it as the offensive tank.
|July 9th, 2009||#5|
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Well, to be honest Germany was pretty much on its last hurrah when Guderian suggested that all tank production be focused on the Panzer IV. Kursk was the last throw of the dice in the East and it never had a great chance to succeed IMO. After Kursk it was defence all the way and Germany needed quantity over quality by then, something that the Red Army had done from necessity (and perhaps design) years ago. The Panzer IV wouldn't have compared very well with the IS-2 and especially the IS-3 and M-26 Pershing but by the time they were deployed it was basically all over anyway.
|July 9th, 2009||#6|
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To my mind the Jagdpanzer-IV was the best vehicle to produce in massive numbers after Kursk, back this up by either devoting all your effort to ironing out the problems with the Panther or even continuing the design of the Tiger I (I imagine they could have sloped the armour a bit in areas reducing its weight without reducing its effectiveness).
Also I highly doubt German planning was based around losing the war in early 1945 therefore they had to design their production plans for operations as far forward as 1946-47, in fact I think it is Antony Beevor's Berlin the Downfall that quotes Speers production plans for 1946.
|July 9th, 2009||#7|
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Here's a good book to read about the actual situation with the Pzkpfw IV vs. the Jagdpanzer IV - "PANZER GUNNER: From My Native Canada to the German Osfront and Back. In Action with 25th Panzer Regiment, 7th Panzer Division 1944-45" by Bruno Friesen.
Bruno Friesen was a Canadien citizen of German origin whose father, in a fit of nationalistic fervor, took him back to the mother country right before the war, where he was promptly drafted into the German Army.
He ended up as a tank gunner in a Pzkpfw IV, on the Eastern Front.
Some interesting things about his experiences:
1. In contrast to the memoirs of Otto Carius and other Tiger/Panther books, the Pzkpfw IV tank crews had to move very cautiously because of their thinner armor, always on the lookout for enemy anti-tank guns. Carius and the Tiger/Panther tank commanders had a tendency to just charge right into a melee with the enemy.
2. The Pak 40 gun of the Pzkpfw IV was very effective, and Friesen had no trouble taking out the T34s of the Russians. No descriptions of any encounters with JS2s in Friesen's book.
3. Friesen's last Pzkpfw IV was disabled by a shot to their tank gun barrel. They dismounted, and then this highly experienced tank crew was sent to the rear lines, where they waited and waited for another tank. While they waited, they were dragooned as cheap labor - cutting wood, digging, etc. - so OK, is there something WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? Did this ever happen with the Allies? No, of course not. With the US, British, and Russians, it was just the opposite. They had an excess of tanks, and a shortage of crews. When a tank got knocked out, the surviving crew were put immediately back into the fight in another tank, sometimes missing a crew member or so for a few days until another warm body was found.
4. Friesen never did get another tank - he was eventually assigned with a new crew to a Jagdpanzer IV. The biggest problem with the Jagdpanzer IV, especially the ones with the ultra long barreled L70 75mm cannon, was that it was nose heavy with the cannon mounted far forward, and very tough to maneuver in tight spots or undulating terrain, etc., because it was such a long, long, long, long structure - chassis and fixed gun had to turn and undulate with the terrain as a single unit without hitting anything, like a dip in the road, or a tree, or a hedgerow, or a building. And of course, that was pretty tough, and so the first thing that happened with Friesen's new AFV was that his driver ran into something with that long-nosed cannon and disabled their Jagdpanzer IV. They never got into combat with the thing.
Yep, the Germans were the only major tank army in history to ever produce these turretless, limited traverse self-propelled anti-tank guns in such huge numbers. Just like they were the only tank army to ever use interleaved road wheels (better flotation, better armor protection for the side hull; but greater complexity and tendency to freeze together in icy weather).
It was a time when anybody in charge could imagine anything and make it so, since nobody knew what really worked and what didn't in tank warfare.
The American counterpart to the German SPGs were the open top turrets, very thinly armored tank destroyers, courtesy of the "tank destroyer" doctrine of Gen. Leslie McNair, head of Army Ground Forces. McNair was an artillery man by trade, and so he regarded the M4's main purpose as being infantry support, as mobile artillery. The job of fighting tanks would be left to towed anti-tank guns and these open top tank destroyers.
The US tank destroyer forces did destroy a lot of German tanks, but also suffered high casualties. In a real fight with enemy tanks, towed anti-tank guns could at most fire off a few rounds before they would be spotted and annihilated by counterfire. By the end of WWII, the tank destroyer forces had largely abandoned the towed anti-tank guns. The open top turrets of the tank destroyers, on the other hand, were very vulnerable to ordinary infantry weapons such as artillery, mortar fire, grenades, and sniper fire. And of course their thin armor made them vulnerable to anti-tank fire of any sort.
So, the American forces had a superb infantry support tank in the M4, with its rugged durability, excellent high explosive 75mm shell, and its three machine guns - one of them being the .50 caliber machine gun that was much more powerful than anything the Germans put on their tanks. M4 crews were known to pack their tank full of machine gun rounds - they would sweep the entire area clear of infantry with their fire. M4s eventually had telephones installed in the rear so infantry could talk to a buttoned up tank crew. There were M4s with aircraft radios installed that served as forward air controllers to direct tactical air support. Yep, by the end of WWII, the US had tank-infantry combined tactics really figured out.
What the US forces lacked was a tank with good armor and a good anti-tank gun.
The Germans on the other hand were obsessed with having the best tanks with the best armor and the best anti-tank guns.
So how did the StuGs and Jagdpanzers end up in the infantry support role?
For the Stugs, it is clear this happened because of Hitler, and because it was the expedient thing to do. The original StuGs were fixed gun mobile artillery, assigned to the Artillery divisions, with a low velocity 75mm cannon. When the Germans encountered the T34, Hitler set off a crash program to put the Pak 40 anti-tank gun on every existing AFV out there to cope with the T34. And so the StuGs changed from mounting a howitzer to a high velocity anti-tank gun, but it remained in the artillery division.
The StuG III did knock out a lot of enemy tanks, some 20,000 or so. It was terrific at ambushing enemy tanks, but it was not effective when forced to move in the open, with infantry. A turreted tank could hit it first before it could maneuver for a shot.
What the Germans needed was a fully functional, turreted tank, with lots of machine guns, that they could mass produce and give to their infantry. But something about their rigid hierarchical thinking made the Germans decide to keep the turreted tanks with Panzer forces, and keep the StuGs in the artillery divisions, where they were essentially part of the infantry.
The Pzkpfw IV was in most respects very similar in function, armor, and firepower to the T34 and M4 tanks. At 25 tons, it was the lightest of the three. Above all else, the Pzkpfw IV really needed some sloped armor. The original Panther specs, calling for a 30-35 ton tank would have been closer to an upgrade of the Pzkpfw IV, with just the more powerful L70 75mm cannon, and a modest amount of sloped armor. But in the design process, competition between Daimler Benz and MAN caused the designs to bloat to ever more powerful capabilities; Hitler then stuck his fingers in and specified 80mm of frontal sloped armor, and the Panther ended up getting bloated into the heavy tank category.
Last edited by vrmgi; July 9th, 2009 at 21:46..