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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > World War II > Armor in World War II > W. Allied Armor

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W. Allied Armor Discuss all non-Axis and non-Russian armor here. [seeking companion website on Allied Armor for this forum]

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  #1  
Old 24 Jul 08, 11:39
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Western allied tank design poor?

This must be a silly question, but why did the western allies not develop a tank capable of beating their German equivilents?

I know the argument that the west went for fleets of Sherman rather than any other option, but it seems hard to see anything from Matiladas to Churchills that can be called a design success - why no T-34 or Panther equivilent?
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  #2  
Old 24 Jul 08, 11:46
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Cost and timing...

Large numbers of Sherman variants could be manufactured quickly and economically. Shutting down Sherman production lines to re-tool for Pershing production, just wasn't feasible.


US Doctrine...

Tanks were not supposed to engage in tank battles. Tanks were supposed to exploit breakthroughs. Tank-Destroyers and Art'y were supposed to take care of enemy tanks. The Germans didn't always cooperate.
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  #3  
Old 24 Jul 08, 12:07
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As The Doc said, tanks were supposed to support infantry with the tank destroyers were to attack tanks. They did draw up better tanks but they were not used or made in small amuonts because of the cost.
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Old 24 Jul 08, 13:11
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Allied commanders must have seen that American and British tank designs faired poorly in the North African campaigns.

Strange that the creative energy the allies put into aircraft design seems to have been absent. I wonder if it was a function of army leadership being infelxible?
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Old 24 Jul 08, 13:44
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It was just that you could make alot more Shermans for the same price as less M-18s.

~JDB
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Old 24 Jul 08, 14:10
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Bill,

Actually tank design was driven more by what happened on the Eastern Front. The Soviets had two designs that were years better than the Germans in the T-34 and KV-1. The Germans were able to counter because they had better communications and control. The Soviet Tank designs caused the Germans to counter them. It was not until the Tunisian Campaign that Allied tanks met up with a German tank that was superior (Tiger).

The problems in British design were caused by the British. American designs turned the tide for a while in North Africa, but the up-gunned Mark IV (F-2) was able to re-establish parity. The Mark III with a long 50mm was not far behind. The trick was these two did not constitute many of the Axis tanks. Where most Allied losses occurred was to German PAK screens until they learned combined arms tactics.

Each tank had problems that could defeat it. The Soviet tanks did not have radios or turret baskets. The seats for the turret crew were welded to the chassis and did not rotate with the turret. Even the Israelis had to add turret baskets to the T-54/55 and T-62 tanks they captured from the Arabs.

Newer German tanks were underpowered and prone to mechanical problems due to weight. The Germans were fortunate that the Western Allies had to come at them.

The Western Allies chose to keep certain models in production and failed to adequately modify them. It was a political decision as much as a military one. The Israelis still have Shermans and Centurians in storage, so the designs was not so bad.

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  #7  
Old 24 Jul 08, 14:58
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To add to the other posts,...

It is something of a myth that allied designs were inferior to German designs in north Africa. Right from the beginning of the fighting in Egypt and Libya British designs could compete with their German counterparts (and matched or bettered the main Italian models). For example, the A13 Mk II Crusier and Crusader I were easily a match for the Pz IIIG throughout early and mid 1941. By the time the Germans were fielding the Pz IIIH (or equivalent) and early J models the Crusader II had arrived with thicker turret armour. In early 1942, the Pz IIIJ arrived but it was easily matched by the US M3 Medium (Lee/Grant) and later by the Crusader III (57mm gun) and the Sherman. The British 'heavies' (Matilda, Valentine and Churchill) never really had a problem with German tanks but their speed did not suit them to mobile desert operation (but Valentine was successfully used as a cruiser when required).

The early Pz IVs were not really suited for tank-to-tank combat and their small numbers (1 company per battalion) belied their support role. Only the arrival of the Pz IVF2 in late 42 gave the Mk IV its teeth and even then the main guns of allied tanks and the infantry's anti-tank guns (57mm) could deal with them (although the British 2pdr US 37mm guns did struggle to do so). Even though Rommel could only count on 27 Mk IVF2 tanks at 2nd Alamein he also had a number of Marder TDs (Russian 76mm) as well as hundred's of German 50mm, 75mm and 76mm anti tank guns and 88mm anti-aircraft guns in the anti-tank role. To these he could add a few hundred more Italian 47mm anti-tank and 90mm anti-aircraft guns to man the gun lines in the minebelts.

The allies did not really gain experience against 'superior' German tanks until Normandy simply because very few Mk VI tanks were encountered in Tunisia and Italy and they were encountered only in special battalions. The Pz V was even later to arrive and then in very small numbers because the few available were so badly needed in the east until more reliable models allowed numbers to increase in 1944. In the meantime, Lee/Grant, Sherman and Churchill were more than capable of meeting the limited allied armour needs of 1943 and Sherman, Cromwell and Churchill (backed by numerous TD designs) met and defeated the German armoured divisions in 1944 and 45. By the time the M26 and the Centurion MkI arrived the German army had been defeated and by then the concept of a heavy tank was abandoned for a more general purpose medium, or 'Main Battle Tank'.

So,...in the end, there was no need for an allied 'heavy' tank.
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Old 24 Jul 08, 15:02
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Pruitt,

Am I right in assuming then that tank on tank action was the exeption rather than the rule and anti-tank weapons were the real enemy? How would German armor have stood up against their own 88 for example?
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Old 24 Jul 08, 18:41
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Originally Posted by billscottmorri View Post
Pruitt,

Am I right in assuming then that tank on tank action was the exeption rather than the rule and anti-tank weapons were the real enemy? How would German armor have stood up against their own 88 for example?
You mean like the Germans having to face a 17Lbr? Well that Über-Tankie bloke, driving a super German super tank (Michael Wittman in a Tiger) got nailed by a "crappy" British Firefly.

I'll Echo what Purist said, its a myth that Germans where chugging around the battlefield in super tanks that far out powered the Allies. Yes they often had more powerful armament or better armour, but there was stuff against them. The Germans hated the 17Lbr. They feared it like the Allies did the 88. The Germans also rather disliked the Crusader due to its speed and manoeuvrability.

And Remember the Centurion was first designed and requested in 1943.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centurion_tank#History
The only piece of super German Kit that has matched the Centurion for length of use, is the Jerry can.

PS:
http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forum...ad.php?t=59604
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Old 24 Jul 08, 18:51
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Bill,

German tactics in North Africa led the British and later the Americans into tank traps. The Germans would show a Tank Brigade some German tanks at a distance and they would then charge the German tanks! What they did not see was the anti-tank guns dug in low to the ground. The German 5cm, 7.5cm and 7.62cm(r) PAKs were all great tank killers. If the British tanks were Matildas or Valentines, they had to use 8.8cms on them.

The Germans were using teamwork to defeat the Allies in North Africa. There were too many Cavalry officers in the Allied Armor ranks (see the enemy? CHARGE!).

Since the German tanks were often armored in a similar fashion to American and British tanks, I would anticipate similar results. The Tiger was the first German tank to make a big difference in armor and the Panther was no slouch later on. The main difference is the German tanks would not be using gasoline engines and would not burn as brightly or quickly.

In fluid battles where tanks met tanks at close quarters, there was not a whole lot of difference between tanks. Most often the Germans would retreat from such contact and set up a PAK line for the Panzers to retreat behind. Once the Allied tanks were attrited, the Panzers would come back in, hopefully on a flank to take out survivors.

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  #11  
Old 24 Jul 08, 19:06
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One problem in British tank design is early on they were designed to fit on British railway flatcars. That means they were narrow and were not wide enough to have a turret ring large enough to take cannon of more than 2 pounder size. The 6 pounder came along and was not put into production because a line producing 2 pounders was more important than one being converted to 6 pounders! These 6 pounders could be shoe horned onto most tanks taking a 2 pounder.

Some tanks like the Crusader had teething problems (like the Panther later). Many British tanks of this period also were prone to shed tracks when maneuvering at speed. Which is embarrassing with people shooting at you. It took a while to get it right. The first American tank, the M-3 Stuart was used as a medium tank by the British. It was fast, maneuverable and adequately armed (at first!). It did not shed tracks, and was maintenance friendly. The main problem was the large radial aircraft engine that made the whole tank tall in stature.

The better of the British designs in North Africa was arguably the Churchill. The narrow hull made sure its turret was never armed with better than a 6 pounder. The main problem is its speed. It was designed to use at an Infantry pace. It could go places no other tank could, though.

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Old 24 Jul 08, 22:44
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Don't forget that the Germans had been caught short as well, earlier in the war.

On the Eastern Front, they were shocked by the T-34's and KV tanks in 1941. In North Africa, they came up against the Sherman in 1942, but no one seemed to have drawn a generalisation and claimed that German designs were inferior!

I have argued elsewhere that there's nothing really magical about German armored designs like the Tiger or Panther. The Germans simply slapped on more armor and fitted longer-barrelled guns. By comparison, Allied tank designs like the T-34's and Shermans, including later designs like the Comets and the Pershings, were well balanced designs with a good balance of armor, firepower, speed, endurance and durability.
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Old 24 Jul 08, 22:58
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Ogu is right. They just put more armor and more firepower on their tanks.

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Old 25 Jul 08, 06:35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ogukuo72 View Post
The Germans simply slapped on more armor and fitted longer-barrelled guns. By comparison, Allied tank designs like the T-34's and Shermans, including later designs like the Comets and the Pershings, were well balanced designs with a good balance of armor, firepower, speed, endurance and durability.
Indeed, most german tank designs after the mkIV were all somewhat based on the MKIV chassis, resulting in underpowered things.

One note though. Allthough production lines were hard to change over to different designs, it must be said that it still was a failure to copy and reverse engineer winning designs. For example, a 88 mm cannon was shipped to America in 1942 (or beginning of 1943) by an American officer. I know it takes a lot of time and effort to set up a production line, but it is a shame that gun wasn't available in the ETO to the allies (or British 20 pounders to the Americans for that matter). A small reek of chauvinism I guess. Same for the Firefly..
America filled the gap instead with more shermans and 90 mm TD's.
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Old 25 Jul 08, 08:33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JDB5 View Post
Ogu is right. They just put more armor and more firepower on their tanks.

~JDB
I guess my question still stands - if all the had to to was up gun and armor existing chassis, what held them back. I still suspect some lack of imagination here in Allied leadership.
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