Best Tank of WW2 - Page 8




 
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June 5th, 2006  
Doppleganger
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ollie Garchy
Greetings,

When I looked at some of the old posts written a few years ago, maybe in this thread, one fellow's comments concerning armoured warfare in WWII struck me as quite interesting. I have forgotten his name or precisely what he wrote. He however brought up issues of armour plating quality, shell design, optical systems, etc. His overall opinions were impressive. If we judge German or even American and British designs against Soviet tanks using this type of methodology, I doubt that the "Sovs" will rank near the top. [I know, I am always hard on the "Sovs".]

How do we actually even determine a good tank from a poor one? What factors really count? For example, does armour thickness really count when even 55-mm German anti-tank cannon could penetrate all Soviet tanks at extreme ranges (using APCR)? Other than that, Doppleganger, how can we really judge the impact of German tactics on battlefield results? I don't know. I am interested in hearing your perspectives.
Hi Ollie.

Firstly I need to qualify my statement regarding the T-34. I think it is more correct to say that the T-34 was an excellent tank design and in 1940-41 an excellent tank. Thereafter, the introduction of upgunned Panzer IVs and Tiger Is allowed the Germans to level and then overtake the Soviets, until the introduction of the IS-2 redressed the balance. The IS-2 was a good design also, but it had the same issues that afflicted the T-34, namely a great design afflicted by crude manufacture.

What makes a good tank depends on what you want from the tank of course. A tank engineered like a swiss watch would have been no use at all to the Red Army in 1941, who needed a vehicle that they could make quickly and one that would be easy to maintain and repair in the field. Armour thickness is all and good, but the quality of steel/and or materials used in the construction also has to be considered.

Let us consider the Tiger 1. This tank was probably the best made tank of WW2. It was made from rolled homogeneous nickel-steel plate, electro-welded interlocking-plate construction armour with a Brinell hardness index of 255-260 (the best homogeneous armour hardness level for WW II standards). And the armour was thick for the period and although not well sloped the fact that it was thick was an asset in itself, as armour thickness and projectile diameter are inversely related. In other words, the thicker the armour compared to the size of the projectile diameter the harder the armour is to penetrate. This explains why the projectile diameters of WW2 were generally not large enough to cause the Tiger serious problems unless at very close range.

The T-34 was not made to this high standard, although the early tanks of 1940/41 were better made than those after 1941. Firstly, allow me to provide a link to details regarding testing done on a T-34 (and KV-1) at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in the US:

http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/Qu...t_aberdeen.htm

"A chemical analysis of the armour showed that on both tanks the armour plating has a shallow surface tempering, whereas the main mass of the armoured plating is made of soft steel.

In this regard, the Americans consider that, by changing the technology used to temper the armoured plating, it would be possible to significantly reduce its thickness while preserving its protective capacities. As a result the weight of the tank could be decreased by 8-10%, with all the resulting benefits (an increase in speed, reduction in ground pressure, etc.)"

The testers go on to make several more comments regarding construction. As can be seen, the American testers were not that impressed with the manufacturing process that the Soviets used in the construction of those particular 2 tanks. However, did this really matter for the Red Army, given that their operational tactics still had an essence of steamrolling rather than finesse. The Red Army needed lots of tanks and it didn't matter all that much whether they were well built or not. As someone who has argued that the Soviets did not really seem to care much for the welfare of their soldiers this seems at least not to debunk that theory.

As far as measuring German tactical superiority on the Ostfront, the easiest way to do this is to look at force relations and comparative losses between the 2 sides. I know this may be a simplistic way of looking at matters but ultimately, it's those numbers that count. Given that from the 2nd quarter of 1942 onwards, the Red Army had at least a 2:1 force ratio in their favour yet suffered a loss ratio of at least 1:2.9 (and as high as 1:6.2 in 1942) against them seems to crudely indicate 2 things.

1) That German technology of arms was significantly superior to the Red Army (we know this to be untrue).

2) That German training and tactics were superior to that of the Red Army.

One can also find evidence supporting the second point by examining the training regime and culture of empowerment of both armies, the lack of experience and relative youth of Soviet Divisional (and above) commanders compared to those of the Wehrmacht and the operational doctrines used by both armies.
June 5th, 2006  
King_Kahuna
 
 
I agree Tiger
+Gun
-expensive
June 6th, 2006  
godofthunder9010
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ollie Garchy
Greetings,

When I looked at some of the old posts written a few years ago, maybe in this thread, one fellow's comments concerning armoured warfare in WWII struck me as quite interesting. I have forgotten his name or precisely what he wrote. He however brought up issues of armour plating quality, shell design, optical systems, etc. His overall opinions were impressive. If we judge German or even American and British designs against Soviet tanks using this type of methodology, I doubt that the "Sovs" will rank near the top. [I know, I am always hard on the "Sovs".]

How do we actually even determine a good tank from a poor one? What factors really count? For example, does armour thickness really count when even 55-mm German anti-tank cannon could penetrate all Soviet tanks at extreme ranges (using APCR)? Other than that, Doppleganger, how can we really judge the impact of German tactics on battlefield results? I don't know. I am interested in hearing your perspectives.
This man should read up on the life and exploits of General Heinz Guderian!!

Let's consider something. When Germany invaded France, they went in with fewer tanks and fewer men than the French and British were fielding. But the Germans beat them in 40 days. Why? Blitzkrieg. Massing all of their tanks and slamming them to a focussed point along the enemy line was only a small part of the equation. Mobility, immediate communication between Panzergruppen commanders and between all of the tanks in each unit. Speed. A long list of tactics that were though obsolete when Cavalry because obsolete. As the first to battlefield test these tactics, they were certainly likely to remain ahead.

When Germany invaded Russia, they were outnumbered by a minimum of 2 to 1 in all of the following categories: Tanks, Combat Aircraft, Infantry, Artillery. The true numbers have been the subject of debate for some time because the Soviets purposely misreported their numbers. But anyways, if you are outnumbered 2 to 1 and the enemy is even fielding superior designs of tanks to those you are fielding, what kind of nutjob goes on the attack?? And yet, most of the Soviet Red Army, Air Force and Tanks were destroyed during Barbarossa. Vastly superior tactics is the only possible explanation for this. Of course, this goes without saying, since the Red Army had just seen Stalin purge/execute all but a tiny handful of its officers. The Red Army was truly a headless monster early in the war. And in the cruelest way possible, the Russians learned to fight smarter and smarter as the war drug on. But so did the Germans. The Germans started with a huge advantage in battlefield tactics and the Russians truly never caught up with them.
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June 8th, 2006  
Ollie Garchy
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doppleganger
So despite Hitler's arrogance regarding the Nazi industrial footing for war, for I really think it was arrogance, Hitler was winning battle after battle and country after country. Sure he became a cropper in the Soviet Union, but you can blame a faulty, hopelessy over optimistic, racist plan for that as much as his lack of pushing Germany towards a wartime footing.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doppleganger
German technology of arms was significantly superior to the Red Army (we know this to be untrue).
Hi Doppleganger,

thanks for the detailed response and sorry for the delay. The document was particularly insightful. You raise some good points. I would like to offer a bit of my own analysis using some sources including some Clausewitz.

(1) The Frictions of War (including the Economic): Clausewitz made some interesting comments concerning "frictions" that can be applied to the whole process of preparing for and waging war: "Everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced war...Friction is the only concept that more or less corresponds to the factors that distinguish real war from war on paper. The military machine -- the army and everything relating to it -- is basically very simple and therefore seems easy to manage. But we should bear in mind that none of its components is of one piece: each part is composed of individuals, every one of whom retains his potential of friction".

According to this observation, no precise formula can determine the best tank. Why? Because frictions (weather, luck, individual skill, etc and etc.) will always influence combat as much as firepower or mobility. It almost seems a pointless exercise to judge weapons systems against each other because other factors play a part in determining objective superiority. Clausewitz makes the point that an outnumbered or poorly trained army can invest in firepower to compensate for deficiencies (and vice versa). If we think about the Soviet Union, they substituted mass or numbers for operational quality. [However, as seen below, this WAS and always HAS BEEN Russian/Soviet strategy].

(2) Soviet Technology & Tactics: I interpreted the document you provided a little bit differently. This difference tends to move my mind in another direction. I would like to hypothesize that German technological superiority might have mattered more than operational skill.

Regarding Soviet weapons systems, the American authors seem to verge on ridiculing the backwardness of Soviet designs. The T-34 and KV-1 were, from their perspective, built using utterly outdated components (transmission, filters, etc.), poorly constructed for the crew, and with less-than-spectacular armour and cannon. These judgements fit with my own hypotheses...ones that I would extend to cover virtually all Soviet weapons systems. I would therefore tend to argue that German technology (a term that includes manufacturing quality) was in fact far superior to comparable Soviet systems.

Concerning Soviet tactics, consider the following statement attributed to Zhukov: "There are two kinds of mines; one is the personnel mine and the other is the vehicular mine. When we come to a mine field our infantry attacks exactly as if it were not there. The losses we get from personnel mines we consider only equal to those we would have gotten from machine guns and artillery if the Germans had chosen to defend that particular area with strong bodies of troops instead of with mine fields. The attacking infantry does not set off the vehicular mines, so after they have penetrated to the far side of the field they form a bridgehead, after which the engineers come up and dig out channels through which our vehicles can go".

The Soviet leadership and general soldiers were apparently more than willing to die en masse. Under these conditions, the Soviet "steamroller" seems to have erased the importance of German operational innovation. The Red Army only needed enough men and enough equipment to blunt German counterattacks, pin other German units in place, and puncture holes in the defensive lines. This Soviet operational policy, especially when we recognize the horrific consequences for the Soviet population, cannot be accurately judged against German systems because the AVERAGE German soldier could not be expected to conduct suicide operations.

(3) German operational changes during WWII: How could Germany counter the Soviet military philosophy of sacrifice? The German military believed, owing to their understanding of Soviet manpower, that only one response was possible...maximizing the number of Soviet soldiers killed in every engagement. The need for a higher killing ratio lay behind the weight given technological advancement. The typical German soldier needed a higher volume of fire, tanks required greater killing proficiency and artillery needed to lay down more HE in rapid succession. Hence the adoption of the STG-44, Tiger (and later Maus conceptions), and the Nebelwerfer and mortar expansion. This accorded with Clausewitz.

The Americans in particular praised German tactics and the firepower reorientation:

(a) "The tactics used by the Germans in mechanized warfare are of interest to every American in the field. German mechanized tactics are likely to follow certain set patterns. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that German commanders are clever at changing standard tactics to fit the situation at hand". (Intelligence Bulletin, September 1942)

(b) "The significance of the fire fight (Feuerkampf) is fully appreciated. The Germans adhere to the principle of fire superiority on a narrow front chosen as the "critical objective" (Schwerpunkt theory)". (Intelligence Bulletin, April 1943)

It is rather obvious that German technological improvements ultimately failed, but it is equally obvious that the loss ratios work against any claims of Soviet operational or technological parity with Germany...except, that is, if one considers soaking tactics a real (ie. modern) operational policy. In terms of Clausewitz, the Germans should have understood the potential for failure because:

a) "The first rule, therefore, would be: put the largest possible army into the field. This may sound a platitude, but it really is not".

b) "In a battle consisting of a slow and methodical trial of strength, greater numbers are bound to make a favorable outcome more certain. In fact in modern war one will search in vain for a battle in which the winning side triumphed over an army twice its size".

c) "The decisive importance of relative strength increases the closer we approach a state of balance in all the above factors". [Clausewitz mentions education, talent and cultural standards] For example, "Education may still make a considerable difference between technical corps, but what it usually comes down to is that one side invents improvements and first puts them to use, and the other side promptly copies them. Even the senior generals...have, as far as their efficacy is concerned, pretty much the same views and methods".


http://www.bartleby.com/73/2070.html
http://www-cgsc.army.mil/carl/resour...z2/glantz2.asp
http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev...19656850796725
http://www.lonesentry.com/intelbulletin/index.html
Clausewitz, On War (trans. Peter Paret).
June 9th, 2006  
Doppleganger
 
 
Hi Ollie, a well thought out and interesting response as always. I wanted to examine some of your points and offer my own perspective.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ollie Garchy
According to this observation, no precise formula can determine the best tank.
Whilst you are correct to say that there are a multitude of factors that will all contribute to the final performance of any weapon system, I don't think analysis of weapon systems in theory is pointless or fruitless. Useful comparisions can still be made between the design of say tanks and also their likely impact on the battlefield. For example, it's easy to see that the T-34 was a better tank than the T-27, all other things being equal. There's no doubt also that the T-34 could have been better, if we accept at face value the analysis undertaken at Aberdeen proving grounds. However, its basic design was sound and in some ways groundbreaking (sloped armour, wide tracks), even if its implementation in both how it was manufactured and used often left much to be desired.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ollie Garchy
It is rather obvious that German technological improvements ultimately failed, but it is equally obvious that the loss ratios work against any claims of Soviet operational or technological parity with Germany...
I want to clarify my statement you picked up on, namely:

"That German technology of arms was significantly superior to the Red Army (we know this to be untrue)."

What I meant by this was that both Germany and the Soviet Union were technologically, on the same playing field as it were, using the same types of weapon systems. Your comments following on from this had me thinking and nodding in agreement, particulary in regard to the higher volume of fire needed by the German soldier against a numerically superior enemy. One way of explaining the lop-sided loss ratio on the Ostfront is the German infantry squad system and its focus on the 3 man MG34/MG42 team. Indeed, this weapon system would seem to be an example of both technology and tactics being used in concert. Both German machine guns had an exceptionally high rate of fire (1200-1300 rounds/min for the MG42), as studies had revealed that the enemy often was only in the line of sight for a few seconds and therefore firepower for those few seconds had to be maximised. One can imagine the effect of a very high rate of fire machine gun against massed ranks of Soviet infantry charging forward towards them.

Historians and Military Experts have often struggled with explaining how the Wehrmacht remained highly effective almost up until the end, despite the average quality and numbers of their soldiers and weapon systems steadily declining since 1941. Some have postulated the 3 man MG34/42 team as being one of the main reasons why Germany remained competitive for so long. Soviet reliance on mass artillery barrages and then throwing men and tanks forward in a bludgeoning attempt to dislodge the German defenders, and with those same German defenders skillfully employing MG42 and '88 teams, may partly explain the astonishing combat casualties suffered by the Red Army in WW2, more than 11 million irrecoverable losses (KIA, POW) according to Krivosheev. If before Kursk the Germans had instead adopted a rolling defence-in-depth policy or 'Elastic Defence' as Manstein termed it, one can only speculate what may have happened on the Ostfront.

http://www.magweb.com/sample/sgmbn/sgm80soj.htm
http://www.battlefront.com/products/...quadintro.html
http://www.bayonetstrength.150m.com/...enadier_ba.htm
June 10th, 2006  
Ollie Garchy
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doppleganger
What I meant by this was that both Germany and the Soviet Union were technologically, on the same playing field as it were, using the same types of weapon systems.
Hi Dopp,

That was the problem, from the German perspective, that is. I have a few good websources on this issue, but I am currently far from home and on a foreign computer...ie. no access to the good stuff. I do have access to beer and a tv which is good because England plays in two hours. Go England go! God, I love football...or is it the excuse to knock off my liver. I love beer...no, I love Weizenbier! Just ran out, though. All I have left is Krombacher. I will write a better-non-beer-related response on Monday or so. Sorry all...but it is World Cup season.

Ollie.
June 10th, 2006  
hammerlock
 
 
"Let's consider something. When Germany invaded France, they went in with fewer tanks and fewer men than the French and British were fielding. But the Germans beat them in 40 days. Why? Blitzkrieg"

It was way more than Blitzkieg that won the war for the germans. they use dtheir tactical airforce better than the Allies. The Allies sent off their most expereinced and combat tested troops (e.i the free polish army) to Norway. The British pulled out, spilting the Allied defence in two, which cause Beligum to surrender and left France to fight alone. In all the Allies had very poor planning this allowed the Germans to get the upper hand.

It was more than just Blitzkieg.
June 16th, 2006  
LeEnfield
 
 
Much of the German Armour was destroyed by Allied Fighter Aircraft who would by stacked in ranks awaiting a call to deal with either armour our a strong point. Typhoons, Thunderbolts and Mustangs blackened the sky at times just waiting for a call
June 17th, 2006  
Ollie Garchy
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LeEnfield
Much of the German Armour was destroyed by Allied Fighter Aircraft who would by stacked in ranks awaiting a call to deal with either armour our a strong point. Typhoons, Thunderbolts and Mustangs blackened the sky at times just waiting for a call
Greetings,

can you show me the evidence that supports this claim...how about British Ops Research or German battlefield assessments (not memoirs)? "Much" is a strong word that is often used without any supporting evidence.

"Stacked in ranks" was also hardly German tactical policy. Camouflage and moving from cover to cover were always the orders of the day. Furthermore, if you look at Allied reece photos, you will notice that it was really hard to spot a house...let alone enemy equipment that is only a few metres in size and covered with leaves. How about a tank in a stone house? How about a few tanks covered in leaves moving against a green background? How about a few tanks covered in leaves moving against a green background and protected by flak? How about camouflaged tanks protected by flak moving at night? OB West ordered all tank movement at night during and after "Overlord".

When the German tanks did move and intercept the British, such as during "Goodwood" or "Charnwood" or "Totalize", tactical airpower did not stop the 21st and 12th SS from punishing Allied armour.

"On the tactical level, Goodwood was a German defensive success. They held their main positions and, although giving up some ground, prevented an Allied breakthrough into the operational depth. In all the Allies had extended their control over an extra seven miles to the east of Caen and destroyed over 109 German tanks, for the loss of 413 tanks and over 5,500 men".

I have already demonstrated how tac airpower's decisiveness during the German Mortain attack is a myth. Important yes. Decisive no. Time and time again, it was Allied artillery and particularly naval guns that did the greatest damage to German forces. The official history of the 12th SS really stresses this point.

Rundstedt was right. Rommel was totally and utterly wrong (as nearly always -- he was better as an infantry officer in WWI). A defence on the coast was the worst strategic decision made on the western front. Getting back to the tank issue, here we see how strategic factors and the usual frictions contributed to the "nullification" of superior German armour quality and tactical policy. [I tried to raise the point, however, that these elements impact our determination of armour quality. I use the words "superior German armour" with caution].

[I could go on and on about Rommel's mistakes. The Brits have loved him for years. No wonder. He was one of the principal reasons for Allied victory].

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Goodwood
June 17th, 2006  
Ollie Garchy
 
 
I found something that might be of interest for the airpower people:

http://download.microsoft.com/downlo...ualUTAW_EN.pdf

The "pamphlet" is a solid propaganda piece, but I like the following advice for pilots: (you can really tell the propaganda nature by reading how airpower helped defeat the Germans during "Goodwood" -- now that's worth a laugh or two.)

"Identifying appropriate targets--now! While you’re thinking about the target, the flak, and the need to pull out before you become part of the landscape, you also need to make sure that the target you’re attacking belongs to the enemy. Skimming along at low altitude and high speed over a crowded battlefield doesn’t give you a lot of time to make vital decisions. Are those enemy troops? Are you sure the squat form of a heavy tank glimpsed through foliage is an appropriate target? You may never know for sure whose cause will profit from the bombs you just dropped."

Furthermore, the Germans made extensive use of dummy tanks, etc.

With all of these frictions, finding an enemy target seemed like playing "Where's Waldo?".