AFV Loss Rates in US 12th. Army Group

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Michael Emrys
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AFV Loss Rates in US 12th. Army Group

Post by Michael Emrys » 08 Nov 2007 20:50

I am posting this article, which originally appeared in the soc.history.war.world-war-ii newsgroup. Since its author, Geoffrey Sinclair, is not a member here, I requested permission to include it in our data base.

Michael
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This is an attempt to put some figures on the loss of US AFV's in France and Germany in 1944/45. Most of the data is supplied by Richard Anderson, the interpretation and conclusions are mine.

The vehicles covered are the M4 Sherman, broken down into the 75mm, the 76mm and the 105mm versions, the three types of tank destroyers, the M10, the M18 and the M36 and the two light tanks, the M5 and M24, with the note the letter M must have had its own special supply for US army type writers.

The 75mm and 105mm Shermans were present on D-Day, as was the M10 and M18. The 76mm Sherman was first used in combat for the Cobra attack, vehicles being issued to the second and third armored divisions in the week 16 to 22 July. The M36 appeared in late September to early October.

Firstly the usual diversion, this time to explain the availability of vehicles.

Sherman tanks were built by no less than 11 organizations, table is total built, company name and production start and end months.

17,947 Chrysler Detroit 8/43 to 6/45
11,358 Fisher Grand Blanc, 3/42 to 4/45
8,147 Pressed Steel Car Company, 3/42 to 7/45
3,426 Pullman Standard Car Company, 4/42 to 9/43
1,655 Lima Locomotive Works, 2/42 to 9/43
926 Pacific Car & Foundry, 4/42 to 11/43
2,300 American Locomotive Company, 9/42 to 12/43
1,245 Baldwin Locomotive Works, 10/42 to 1/44
540 Federal Machine & Welder Company, 12/42 to 12/43
1,690 Ford, 6/42 to 9/43
188 Canadian Pacific Railway, 8/43 to 1/44

Production started in February 1942 and by the end of June there were 6 production lines, by the end of the year there were 10. The peak was in August and September 1943, 11 production lines. There was then a major change, apart from a series of improvements in the tank design, see below,
production was rationalized so by February 1944 it was down to 3 lines.

This activity resulted in yearly production totals of 8,017 in 1942, 21,245 in 1943, 13,179 in 1944 and 6,793 in 1945, excluding the 188 Shermans build by Canadian Pacific, almost all of which were delivered in 1943. Grand total, including the Canadian production, 49,422.

This large overhang of production in 1943 created a pool of older versions available. This further interacted with the shipping shortages when it came to sending tanks to Europe. The result being the majority of Shermans in England in mid 1944 were from the 1943 production runs, including those stored as reserves. You have to remember the US Army pre-shipments of vehicles.

In essence the Sherman was to an extent the victim of the major US production success in 1943, even when the improved versions appeared, the 76mm from January 1944, the 105mm from February,other changes like wet stowage (all 76 mm, in the 75 mm M4A3 from-February, there was no other 75mm version in production after May) the impact of the improvements was diluted by the numbers of older vehicles in theatre, and this is after the inevitable delays due to distance and shipping availability in moving the new tanks to the combat units.

Once again ignoring the Canadian production the break down of Sherman production by gun armament was,

1944, 3,758 75mm, 7,135 76 mm and 2,286 105 mm
1945, 651 75 mm, 3,748 76 mm and 2,394 105 mm

Note 1945 is actually January to July. Of the 4,409 75mm gun Shermans built in 1944 and 1945 some 3,071 had wet stowage. So every 75mm Sherman bar the Jumbo from June 1944 onwards and 942 out of the 2,244 built January to May. The Jumbos did not use wet stowage as they were considered well enough protected, nor did any of the 105mm Shermans use the system.

When it came to the European theatre, at least 127 Shermans with 76mm guns were unloaded in June and 168 in July, these were the first arrivals of the 76mm armed version in Europe, July also saw some 105mm Shermans arrive but no 75mm versions. The first of the improved 75mm versions arrived in August, plus another 71 Shermans with the 76mm. This should mean from then on all further Shermans arriving in Europe were of the improved type.

Whether there is any difference in the way the 75 mm and 76 mm Shermans were used remains to be seen but the Jumbos (M4A3E2) were definitely used in more dangerous circumstances, for example being made the lead vehicle. This would account for at least some of any elevated loss rates the type suffered. By early October 1944, First Army had lost 3 and Ninth 2, all up First lost 32, Third 11 and Ninth Army 23, total 66 Jumbos, from a production run of 254 built in June and July 1944. Form the Jumbo construction and first loss dates you can see the time it took for the US army to move equipment across the Atlantic to France and then deploy it in the front line.

The starting assumptions are the US Armies reporting their Sherman losses had no difference in the deployment of the 75 versus 76mm versions and no real difference across the campaign in terms of the type of fighting each army undertook or opposition encountered.

Those who instantly thought Ardennes with the inevitable extra losses of broken down Shermans when First Army lost control of the battlefields are asked to wait a while.

The assumptions are also applied to the deployments of the Tank Destroyers, M10, M18 or M36. So we can compare those loss rates. M10 production ended in December 1943, M18 production was July 1943 to October 1944 and M36 production began in April 1944, but none were built in September 1944 and January to April 1945.

Sherman protection and combat power related improvements in early 1944:

The 47 degree sloped front plate, there was an increase in thickness (2 to 2.5 inches) plus the elimination of shot traps and the extra slope to improve protection. Thicker glacis. Wet Stowage. The 76mm gun, better able to knock out enemy tanks. As noted above the 75mm versions with the protection improvements comprised around 40% of production January
to May 1944, and 100% thereafter. All 76mm versions had the improvements.

All early 1944 76mm Shermans came with superior optics, compared to the 75mm versions, such optics had already been fitted to the M10 and M18. Then, probably during 1944, M18 production was fitted with an even better optics system. The 76mm Sherman production caught up with Tank Destroyer optics again in the second half of 1944 and the 75mm Sherman version, M4A3, still in production was also fitted with similar superior sights at the same time. The first of these 75 and 76mm Shermans arrived in Europe in the autumn of 1944. These improvements was rated as "nearly as good as the Germans", with the US system having a wider field of view, helping situational awareness.

It should be noted the tank destroyers received better optics earlier than the Shermans did and that some older vehicles were modified to take the better optics.

Now to the data,

1) Tank losses, usually for the week, by type and in the Sherman case by version (75/76/105) and light tanks M5/M24 by army (first, third and ninth) for 12th Army group. The report also gives the on hand strength in the combat units in the relevant time period. The period covered is from 6 June 1944 to 5 May 1945.

Unfortunately the report periods for each army were not harmonized until 6 January 1945, so the overall army group totals can only be calculated easily for the period 6 January to 5 May 1945. First and Ninth Armies use the same report dates from 17 September 1944 onwards, but Third did not.

2) Tank destroyer losses, usually for a 1 month period, ending on the 20th, for 6 June 1944 to 20 February 1945. These figures report the total number of vehicles in theatre including at least some of 6th Army Group losses.
Since these figures include reserves they inevitably mean loss rates calculated as a percentage of strength will be lower than those using the data from (1) above and they also lower the loss rates of the newer vehicles as they arrive in theatre but then take time before they are deployed. This set of data includes losses for 75 and 76mm Shermans
combined, Light tanks (M3/5/24) combined, the tank destroyers, M7 105mm SP and the M8 75mm "assault guns", which the 105mm Sherman was to replace. There are other loss figures but these are the ones that matter for this analysis.

Given the arrival times of the different vehicles to compare Sherman losses we need to reduce the time period to when the relevant formation was operating both the 75mm and 76mm version.

So for first army the time period becomes 16 July 1944 to 5 May 1945. The third army report starts on 1 August and it received its first 76mm Shermans in the week stating 19 August, and the ninth army report starts on 9 September, receiving its first 76mm Shermans in the week beginning 13 October.

For the tank destroyers the time period for loss rate comparisons is 20 September 1944 to 20 February 1945, that is after the first deployment of the M36.

The time period to be used when comparing the tank and tank destroyer loss rates, using source (2) above, is 20 September 1944 to 20 January 1945, since the report lacks an entry for 75mm and 76mm Shermans for January/February.

Methodology,

The vehicle strength for each report time period is multiplied by the number of days in the period. This is then summed and divided by the overall number of days, thereby giving the average number of tanks of each type in service over the whole time period, the total losses for the period are then totaled and losses versus the average strength calculated. So for example, losing 100 out of an average strength of 1,000 is the same as losing 50 out of 500. Using absolute numbers would mean in the above example the first type had twice the loss rates.

As can be seen from the methodology this is a guide, not an absolute number, it assumes over the course of the total time period being covered, that is 4 or more months, the employment and the amount of combat seen by the different vehicles is comparable.

First, Third and Ninth armies combined, for the period 6 January to 5 May 1945. Table is type, average strength, number of losses, losses as a percentage of average strength.

75 mm M4 / 1570 / 513 / 33%
76 mm M4 / 947 / 435 / 46%
105mm M4 / 382 / 51 / 13%
M5 / 1308 / 213 / 13%
M24 / 375 / 56 / 12%

The ratio of 75mm M4 loss percentage to 76mm is 0.71 to 1, the 76mm versions were losing more. The M24 is not a major improvement over the M5, at least as far as loss rates are concerned.

First army, for the campaign the average 75mm M4 strength was 651, losses were 1,353, or about 208% of average strength. For the period from 20 July onwards the average 75mm M4 strength is 630, with 1,070 losses, or 170% of average strength. This can be compared to the 76mm M4, for July 20 onwards, average strength of 275, with 307 losses or 112% of average strength. Meaning the 75mm version is suffering a loss rate of around 150% of the 76mm gun version.

Third army, from 1 August 1944, for the campaign the average 75mm M4 strength was 569, losses were 630, or about 111% of average strength. For the period from 19 August onwards the average strength was 574, with 494 losses, or 86% of average strength. This can be compared to the 76mm M4, for August 19 onwards, average strength of 209, with 431 losses or 206% of average strength. Meaning the 75mm version is suffering a loss rate of around 42% of the 76mm gun version.

9th Army from 9 September 1944, for the campaign the average 75mm M4 strength was 357, losses were 284, or about 80% of average strength. For the period from 13 October onwards the average strength was 403, with 282 losses, or 70% of average strength. This can be compared to the 76mm M4, from 13 October onwards, average strength of 224, with 132 losses or
59% of average strength. Meaning the 75mm version is suffering a loss rate of around 119% of the 76mm gun version.

For those who want to compare the armies, from 13 October 1944 onwards First army reported a loss of 93% of average strength for the 75mm M4 and 71% for the 76mm version. Third army (from 15 October) reported 61% and 148% respectively. As noted in the previous paragraph Ninth army reported 70% and 59%.

If you combine the 75mm and 76mm M4 strength and loss figures then first army lost 85% of M4 75 and 76mm average strength, third army 88% and ninth army 66%.

Which would indicate, as far as M4 losses are concerned third army tactics produced similar results to first army in terms of overall losses but a major reversal in the 75 to 76mm loss ratio. However Ninth Army was able to have a significantly lower Sherman loss rate. One significant reason is it suspended operations during the Ardennes attack, which really cut back on M4 losses, see below.

In absolute terms the 75mm and 76mm M4 losses were first army 757, third army 707, ninth army 414 from the October dates mentioned above to 5 May 1945.

Ninth Army served under 12th army Group from 5 September 1944, then 21st Army Group from 20 December 1944, then 12th Army Group from 4 April 1945.

At the end of this we have for the time the armies operated 75mm and 76mm M4 versions side by side First army (from 16 July 1944) reported the 75mm version loss rate, as a percentage of average strength, was around 150% of the 76mm version. Third army (from 19 August 1944) reports it to be 42%, Ninth army (from 13 October 1944) 119%. Meantime for the period 6 January to 5 May 1945 where the reports for the three armies can be combined the loss ratio is 71%.

Clearly while the 76mm Sherman should have been more survivable something Third Army was doing indicates usage or tactics played a bigger part in relative loss rates.

It is understood First Army tended to put its 76mm Shermans into the armored divisions first, whereas Third Army tended to put them into the independent tank battalions. This appears to be the biggest difference at this point in time.

Unfortunately no report giving detailed Sherman loss figures by unit can be compiled since it was the job of the depot units to officially declare a tank destroyed and they usually did not record which unit the tank came from. Any information on how the different Sherman types were used by First, Third and/or Ninth Army would be welcome.

For the 105mm Shermans for the period 13 October (First and Ninth armies) or 15 October (Third army) 1944 to 5 May 1945, First army lost 31, or 26% of average strength, Third army lost 44, or 37% of average strength and Ninth army lost 20, or 23% of average strength. The overall losses are so low that any conclusions must be treated with reserve, so while it seems Third army had a noticeably higher loss rate, in theory around 50% more than either of the other two armies, this could easily be accounted for by a unit being ambushed for example.

As an aside using the monthly figures, that is reference (2) above, gives an average 105mm Sherman strength of 347 for the period 6 June 1944 to 20 February 1945, of which 117 or 35.7% were lost, comparing this to the M8 75mm the Sherman was replacing, it had an average strength of 470 and lost 175, or 37.2%. It would indicate with the normal use of both vehicles the Sherman did not represent a great improvement in protection, within the limits of these statistics. It is clearly possible the better protected Sherman was used more aggressively because it was better protected
thereby canceling, in terms of loss rates, much of the effect of the better protection.

Light tanks, firstly the comparison between the M5 and M24. The date given is the start of the report period when the M24 was first issued to the army, the end date is 5 May 1945.

First army, for the period 21 December 1944 onwards, average M5 strength 522, 143 lost or 27%, average M24 strength 96, 13 lost or 14%. Overall light tank loss rate 25%

Third army, for the period 5 February 1945 onwards, average M5 strength 410, 74 lost or 18%, average M24 strength 130, 10 lost or 8%. Overall light tank loss rate 16%

Ninth army, for the period 29 December 1944 onwards, average M5 strength 373, 40 lost or 11%, average M24 strength 160, 33 lost or 21%. Overall light tank loss rate 14%

So First army is around 50 to 100% higher than Third or Ninth, but the overall light tank loss rate is well below that for the 75 and 76mm Shermans. Ninth Army lost more M24 but the overall total is so small it could simply be case of a unit being unlucky or being ambushed.

Here is probably the best time to account for the Ardennes losses. A clue to the sort of equipment losses an army that loses control of the battlefield can take is probably best seen in the M7 SP 105mm losses, 182 for the period 6 June 1944 to 20 February 1945, with 105 or nearly 60% in the November/December 1944 report period. Indeed there are only 3 losses over the next two months.

With the above in mind. The week 21 to 28 December saw First army write off 165 M4 with 75mm, 65 M5 and 19 M4 with 105mm, they represent, respectively, as a percentage of losses taken after 13 October 1944, 31%, 34% and 61% of those losses

The Ardennes period, the attack started on 16 December 1944 and the US counter attacks pushed the Germans back to basically their start position by 20 January 1945,

M4 losses, table is date, 75mm losses, 76mm losses, total losses.

First Army
13-20 Dec 1944 / 35 / 41 / 74
21-28 Dec 1944 / 165 / 40 / 205
29 Dec 1944-5 Jan 1945 / 31 / 12 / 43
6-12 Jan 1945 / 13 / 0 / 13
13-19 Jan 1945 / 55 / 20 / 75
Totals / 299 / 113 / 414

Third Army
10-16 Dec 1944 / 5 / 0 / 5
17-24 Dec 1944 / 3 / 29 / 32
25 Dec 1944-1 Jan 1945 / 22 / 78 / 100
2-5 Jan 1945 / 19 / 11 / 30
6-12 Jan 1945 / 28 / 32 / 60
13-19 Jan 1945 / 0 / 8 / 8
Totals / 77 / 158 / 235

Ninth Army
13-20 Dec 1944 / 0 / 8 / 8
21-28 Dec 1944 / 1 / 1 / 2
29 Dec 1944-5 Jan 1945 / 0 / 1 / 1
6-12 Jan 1945 / 1 / 0 / 1
13-19 Jan 1945 / 16 / 1 / 17
Totals / 18 / 11 / 29

By the way 9th Army had 371 M4 with the 75mm gun and 168 with the 76mm in the first time period above, for the second period it was 133 and 8. This can be compared to First Army, 514 and 314 respectively in the first time period and 806 and 370 in the second time period. This reflects things like the transfer of 2nd Armored division.

Now comes the problem of trying to account for the extra losses the Ardennes offensive caused to different armies.

If you use the average percentage of strength lost per day rather than the average tanks lost per day figure (both figures are of course influenced by the Ardennes losses detailed above) for the October 1944 to May 1945 dates being used to compare the army's losses the you find the following. The expected losses for the time periods given above for the Ardennes operation are First army 165, Third 133 and Ninth 34, if the fighting had been "typical, average". This means the "extra" M4 75 and 76mm tank loss figures caused by the attack are 261 for First, 102 for Third and minus 32 for Ninth. Using the percentage of strength figure more accurately accounts for the transfer of tanks between First and Ninth army and reflects more accurately the Third Army strength during the battle. (Using tanks lost per day gives the extra losses as 285, 91 and minus 37 respectively, not a great difference.)

The differences between the loss figures and the averages clearly reflect the situation on the ground, First Army had to abandon a number of vehicles and Third Army was involved in the counter attacks, while 9th Army suspended most activity.

Remembering in absolute terms the 75mm and 76mm M4 losses were first army 757, third army 707, ninth army 414 from the October dates mentioned above to 5 May 1945. In percentage terms of average strength then from 13 October 1944 to 5 May 1945 First Army lost around 88% of its average 75 and 76mm Sherman strength, Ninth Army lost 66%, Third Army lost 85% from 15 October 1944 to 5 May 1945.

First the over estimation of the effect of the attack, simply delete from or add to the loss figures the "extra" losses from the calculation above, in which case First army M4 losses October 1944 to May 1945 become 55% of average strength, Third 75%, Ninth 72%.

However this is simply an estimate with no basis in real data, what is required are the numbers of Shermans First army wrote off during the time period as abandoned, or destroyed by US forces, rather than destroyed by the enemy.

The best idea is to give an indication, so, table is number of Shermans abandoned by First Army, that would have normally been salvageable and the new loss percentage, for October 1944 to May 1945.

50, 79%
100, 74%
150, 68%
200, 62%

As another estimate if you delete the highest Sherman loss figure for the worst report period for the Ardennes offensive (75mm for First army starting 21 December 1944, 76mm for Third army starting 25 December 1944), then First Army's loss figure drops to 66%, same as Ninth's and Third army reports 78%.

Given the raw percentage losses and the understanding First Army loss rate is influenced by its Ardennes losses more than Third, it really does appear Third Army had a higher Sherman loss rate than First or Ninth.

First Army was operational for 336 days, 23 of which were in time periods that recorded no M4 losses, another 96 in time periods that recorded a loss of less than 0.25% of strength per day, 65 days in periods that recorded a loss of between 0.25 and 0.49% per day, 109 where the loss was between 0.5 and 0.99%, 35 days when the losses were over 1% per day, and 8 days in the peak loss period, being 2.75% of M4 strength lost per day over the report period, 21 to 28 December 1944. The second biggest daily loss rate was 6 to 12 August 1944 at 1.61%

Third Army was operational for 277 days, 7 of which were in time periods that recorded no M4 losses, another 79 in time periods that recorded a loss of less than 0.25% of strength per day, 50 days in periods that recorded a loss of between 0.25 and 0.49% per day, 108 where the loss was between 0.5 and 0.99% and 33 days when the losses were over 1% per day, the peak being 1.82% of M4 strength lost per day over the report period, in this case 12 to 18 August 1944. The second biggest loss rate was 1.64% in the period 25 December 1944 to 1 January 1945.

Ninth Army was operational for 240 days, 51 of which were in time periods that recorded no M4 losses, another 91 in time periods that recorded a loss of less than 0.25% of strength per day, 39 days in periods that recorded a loss of between 0.25 and 0.49% per day, 46 where the loss was between 0.5 and 0.99% per day and 13 days when the losses were over 1% per day, the peak being 1.14% of M4 strength lost per day over the report period, in this case 1 to 5 March 1945. The second biggest daily loss rate was 1.01% for 21 to 28 November 1944.

So percentage of time where there were no M4 75 and 76mm losses in the report period, First 7%, Third 2.5%, Ninth 21%.

Percentage of time where the daily losses were 0.01 to 0.24%, First 29%, Third 28.5%, Ninth 38%.

Percentage of time where the daily losses were 0.25 to 0.49%, First 19%, Third 18%, Ninth 16%.

Percentage of time where the daily losses were 0.5 to 0.99%, First 32%, Third 39%, Ninth 19%.

Percentage of time where the daily losses were 1% or more First 13%, Third 12%, Ninth 5%.

Ninth Army appears to have had only 1 or 2 tank battalions under command for the first 26 days of its existence, which explains half of its zero losses period.

The summary of the above is that Ninth army had secondary duties when created and was able to rest between attacks more than First or Third. It also clearly evaded taking large M4 losses, only for 24% of its operational time were losses 0.5% per day or more, compared with First at 45% and Third at 51%.

The next point is Third army was almost always up to something, only 1 report covering the 7 days 5 to 11 November 1944 indicated no 75 and 76mm gun M4 losses, the next lowest loss rate was 0.06% per day.

First army has 4 report periods, or 32 days of between 0.01 and 0.05% per day in addition to those reporting no losses. Ninth has 3 report periods, 23 days of 0.04 or 0.05% losses per day plus the zero losses reports. Third army was clearly using its tanks more often than the other two armies and in the above table effectively transferred around 5% of its combat time from zero losses to the 0.5 to 0.99% per day category, compared with First army The biggest block of 0.5 to 0.99% per day losses is the 40 days from 1 March to 12 April 1945.

The First Army periods reporting no M4 75 and 76mm losses are 13 to 20 February 1945, 13 to 20 April 1945 and 29 April to 5 May 1945.

The question becomes why did Third army do this and what did it gain for the extra expenditure?

To the light tank losses in the Ardennes,

There is no equivalent spike to First Army's 21 December period report in light tank losses for Third Army. Take away the 65 M5 tank losses (16% of all losses and 36% of the October 1944 on losses) and the First army light tank loss figure falls into line with those of Third and Ninth. Therefore it would appear light tank losses, discounting the Ardennes, were about the same for all three armies from 13 October 1944 onwards.

M4 105mm losses in the Ardennes, in the week starting 21 December First army wrote off 19 105mm Shermans, 35% of its losses for the entire campaign and 61% of its October 1944 onwards losses. The overall number of losses is too small to make solid conclusions but it would indicate the First Army 105mm M4 loss rate would "normally" be below that of Ninth, and Third Army's loss rate was over 50% higher than First or Ninth. Third Army once again seems to be using its M4's more or more aggressively.

Next on the list are the tank destroyers, the M10 and M18 were present from D-day, the M36 from around 20 September 1944. The figures come from the monthly report, reference (2) end on 20 February 1945. Note these are loss rates versus the on hand strength, not the combat unit strength and so will be lower than those calculated from reference (1).

This will also bias the figures against the M10 given its average strength remained roughly constant over the time period, while the M18 strength started at 146, climbed to 306 in December 1944 and was 448 in February 1945. Similarly the September M36 strength was 170, and it climbed to
365 by January 1945 and was 826 in February. Given the delay between arrival and issuing of vehicles you can see how the statistics will make the M10 appear worse.

For the time period D-Day to 20 February the average M10 strength was 696 vehicles and 439 were lost, or about 63% of the average strength, for the M18 it was average strength around 244, with 120 losses, or about 49% of the average strength.

For the time period 20 September 1944 to 20 February 1945 the average M10 strength decreases to 661, with 353 losses, or around 53% of average strength, the M18 average strength increases to 302, with 108 losses or 36% of average strength. The M36 average strength is 358, with 72 losses, or around 20% of the average strength.

Assuming the 3 vehicle types were used in the same manner and the strength figures are representative of front line numbers, then the conclusions are simple. Comparing the M10 to the M18, speed is armor, at least in ground combat when there is usually somewhere you can move to and hide, but the M36 indicates trumping speed is having a big gun that can make a real mess at long range of anything that can hurt you. If Admiral Fisher was General Fisher, he would have been much more correct it seems.

For the period 20 September 1944 to 20 February 1945 the figures indicate for every 1% of M36 strength lost, 1.8% of M18 and 2.7% of M10 strength was lost. Almost, but not quite 1 to 2 to 3. While the numbers here are a guide, and certainly overestimate the M10 vulnerability, it is reasonable to assume that in fact the extra speed did keep M18 losses below M10 losses, and the 90mm gun on the M36 enabled an even lower loss figure.

A final point on the Tank destroyers, despite being listed as in theatre on 6 June no M18 losses were recorded until the report starting 20 July, also only 1 M10 was reported lost before 20 June. Another point pushing up the M10 loss rate is the January/February 1945 loss of 106 M10s, or around 30% of the total losses from 20 September 1944. Also around half the M36 "combat days" were in the January/February 1945 report period, as on hand strength went from 365 to 826 and this drives down the overall loss rates. The effect of excluding these final month's figures can be seen in the next paragraph and is another warning to treat these figures as guides, not absolutes.

Now for a quick comparison between the Sherman and Tank destroyer loss rates for the time period 20 September 1944 to 20 January 1945, again using reference (2). For every 1% of M36 strength lost, 1.54% of M18, 1.67% of M10 and 2% of 75mm and 76mm Sherman strength was lost. Note the closing up of the different Tank Destroyer loss rates. As expected the Sherman loss rates were higher, given the different use made of it. In percentage terms, for this four month period, 45% of M4 average strength was lost, 38% of M10, 35% of M18 and 23% of M36.

So the conclusions are,

1) The Sherman 76mm version was a more survivable tank, thanks to better optics, better protection and a bigger gun. The later 75mm versions closed the gap except for the gun, but they almost certainly remained a minority of the 75mm versions in the ETO.

2) How much more survivable is hidden by the way the various US armies deployed the different Sherman types. By the looks of it first and ninth biased the 76mm deployments to the armored divisions, third to the tank battalions.

3) We would need losses and strengths broken down into armored division and tank battalion categories preferably by time to have a chance of figuring out what effect their different deployments or missions or tactics had on loss rates. And this information does not exist.

4) Third army appears to have an M4 tank loss rate of 10% or more above that of first and ninth once the initial First Army Ardennes losses are discounted even after some Third Army Ardennes losses are also removed. Third army clearly used it tanks more often.

5) The three armies seem to have used their light tanks in about the same way and so lost them at about the same rate, over the period from 13 October 1944 onwards, once First Army Ardennes losses are discounted.

6) The tank destroyers followed the pattern speed was armor but a big gun trumped speed.

7) The M4 105mm version was not much more survivable, as used than the M8 it was replacing. Though the low numbers of M4 105mm losses means this is at best an indication.

8) The same applies to the M24 versus M5, but this can only be a tentative conclusion thanks to even fewer M24 losses than 105mm M4 losses.

In points (7) and (8) it is possible the more capable replacement vehicle was used more aggressively, thereby negating, as far as the loss statistics are concerned, the improvement in protection.

Third clearly had few days where they did not use their M4s for some sort of combat mission. Ninth had a lot, and First is closer to Third than Ninth on this issue, but both First and Ninth had a lot of days below the 0.06% losses per day figure, which, apart from the one period with zero losses, is the lowest Third army M4 daily loss rate percentage for the entire campaign. So dragging the First army loss figure to being closer to the Ninth army figure.

Days with no M4 losses, First 23, Third 7, Ninth 51. Days with losses of less than 0.06% per day averaged over the reporting period, First 55, Third 7, Ninth 74. Of the seven Ninth army report periods saying no M4 losses, four were the date span 17 September to 12 October 1944, basically post Brest and then entering the line.

Third seems to have been a more active user of M4s and so paid the price.

And now for something related, but not directly about US tanks.

Tigers versus US Army. As far as can be ascertained at the moment the US Army first met Tigers in battle at Chateaudun. According to my sketch map it would have been against XII corps moving from Le Mans to Orleans around 16 August. At the time the corps appears to have been 4th Armored and 35th infantry. To make up for the late engagement this would probably have been the first western allied encounter with Tiger IIs, though the Tigers were reported to have mechanical problems. [Correction: In regards to when the western allies first encountered the Tiger II, it was in early July 1944, against 2nd Army.]

The next encounter was in the Ardennes, the Peiper unit and around Bastogne. Then comes some encountered by 9th Army in Holland. That appears to be it. If anyone has other battles I would like to hear them. For some reason the Tigers tended to remain deployed against the commonwealth forces. The US forces did encounter large numbers of Panthers, especially the newly formed Panzer brigades in the final four months of 1944.

Geoffrey Sinclair

Harry Yeide
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Re: AFV Loss Rates in US 12th. Army Group

Post by Harry Yeide » 22 Mar 2008 21:56

I've posted a couple of scanned documents on 12th Army Group tank strength and allocations of replacement tanks in the "Public Folder" on my website, http://homepage.mac.com/yeide/Menu2.html.

ChristopherPerrien
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Re: AFV Loss Rates in US 12th. Army Group

Post by ChristopherPerrien » 23 Mar 2008 16:29

Tigers versus US Army. As far as can be ascertained at the moment the US Army first met Tigers in battle at Chateaudun.
Actually Kasserine, but we can go with it for NW Europe.

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Re: AFV Loss Rates in US 12th. Army Group

Post by Michael Emrys » 23 Mar 2008 21:02

ChristopherPerrien wrote:
Tigers versus US Army. As far as can be ascertained at the moment the US Army first met Tigers in battle at Chateaudun.
Actually Kasserine, but we can go with it for NW Europe.
I believe the citation refers to the Tiger II. Read the rest of the paragraph, including the correction. The VI Corps also encountered Tigers at Anzio in early 1944 as well as the II Corps earlier on Sicily in July, 1943.

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Re: AFV Loss Rates in US 12th. Army Group

Post by bf109 emil » 01 Apr 2008 13:29

Tiger II or king Tigers in Italy?? Maybe mis-identified Tiger or Panther

The first use of the Tiger II in combat was in Normandy on 18 July 1944 with the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion (schwere Panzerabteilung 503). It was first used on the Eastern Front on 12 August 1944 with schwere PzAbt 501 in the fighting at the Soviets' Baranov bridgehead over the Vistula River. Later the Tiger II was present at, among others, the Ardennes Offensive, the Soviet offensive into Poland and East Prussia in January 1945, the German offensives in Hungary in 1945, fighting to the east of Berlin at the Seelow Heights in April 1945 and finally within the city of Berlin itself at the very end of the war.

The Sherman-equipped 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards claim they were the first British regiment to knock out a Tiger II, on 8 August 1944, in France.

A major problem with the Tiger was its very high production cost. During the Second World War over 40,000 American Sherman and 58,000 Soviet T-34s were produced, compared to 1,355 Tiger I and some 500 Tiger II tanks. The German designs were expensive in terms of time, raw materials and Reichsmarks, the Tiger I costing over twice as much as a contemporary Panzer IV and four times as a Stug III assault gun. [1] The closest counterpart to the Tiger from the United States was the M26 Pershing (around 200 deployed during the war) and IS-2 from the USSR (about 3,800 built during the war).

From a 30 degree angle of attack the M4 Sherman's 75 mm gun could not penetrate the Tiger frontally at any range, and needed to be within 100 m to achieve a side penetration against the 80mm upper hull superstructure. The British 17-pounder as used on the Sherman Firefly, firing its normal APCBC ammunition, could penetrate frontally out to over 2,000 m. The US 76 mm gun, if firing the APCBC M62 ammunition, could penetrate the Tiger frontally out to just over 500 m

The Panther was not employed against the western Allies until early 1944 at Anzio, where Panthers were employed in small numbers. The Panther was thought to be another heavy tank that would not be built in large numbers. Thus the US Army entered the Battle of Normandy expecting to face a handful of German heavy tanks alongside large numbers of Panzer IVs. In fact almost half the German tanks in Normandy were Panthers and the 75 mm guns of the US Sherman tanks could not penetrate their frontal armor.

US forces eventually responded with large numbers of 76 mm-armed Shermans, 90 mm-armed tank destroyers, and eventually the Pershing heavy tank. Even with these better weapons it was still difficult to penetrate the frontal armor of the Panther.
the Panther's gun was one of the most powerful tank guns of WWII, due to the large propellant charge and the long barrel, which gave it a very high muzzle velocity and excellent armor-piercing qualities. The flat trajectory also made hitting targets much easier, since accuracy was less sensitive to range. The 75 mm gun actually had more penetrating power than the main gun of the Tiger I heavy tank, the 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56.

British forces responded to the heavier German tanks with the 17-pounder gun mounted in the Sherman (the Sherman Firefly), as well as towed 17-pounders. By the conclusion of the Normandy campaign, British forces were fielding roughly a 1:4 ratio of Fireflys to 75 mm Shermans in their tank units.

*****The question i have, is
1. why US forces never fitted a 17pounder to nulify the german 88or panther 75 to counter their fire-power, or have engineers adapt as the British and Canadian units did?? and did this account for losses which could have been numbered to a lower amount??
2.Unsure, if rumour or truth, when a tank was hit, and was recovered next day, corpses inside, because of rigamortis(sp?) denied their removal through hatch conventionally, a priest was sent inside with an axe so body could be extracted from either turret, or drivers hatch and be made available or repaired and back into service???has anyone else heard this???or if not, how where bodies removed, which opens in turret, hull prevented??

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Re: AFV Loss Rates in US 12th. Army Group

Post by Michael Emrys » 02 Apr 2008 00:52

bf109 emil wrote:Tiger II or king Tigers in Italy?? Maybe mis-identified Tiger or Panther
No. If Tiger II had been intended, "Tiger II" would have been written.

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Re: AFV Loss Rates in US 12th. Army Group

Post by Username » 02 Apr 2008 02:41

This looks like a great opportunity to compare losses against other nationalities.

A snippet to add could be Belton Cooper's 'Death Traps'..
Lieutenant Cooper served with the 3rd Armored Division's Maintenance Battalion and saw action from Normandy to Germany in 1944-1945. One of the army's two heavy armored divisions, the 3rd lost 648 M4 Shermans and had another 700 tanks damaged, repaired and put back in service by the time the shooting ended in May 1945. Cooper, as one of the division's three ordnance liaison officers, was in the midst of the division's tank recovery operations.

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Re: AFV Loss Rates in US 12th. Army Group

Post by Username » 02 Apr 2008 02:59

A nice stat would be:

1. How many and what type were given to:
a. Soviets
b. British
c. US Marines/Army Pacific
d. French
e. Training facilities
f. misc

Some USA ETO units had a strong preference as to what Shermans they took from the 'pool'. Many insisted on Ford V8's as an example. These same engines were also used in some M36? But the point is that 'hotrod' formations like heavy armor may have got first crack at available replacements.

A side issue is ammo. What units got HVAP? Maybe beyond the scope of thsi discussion but a real consideration. Did M18 suck up the HVAP? Did M4/76mm get leftovers?

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Re: AFV Loss Rates in US 12th. Army Group

Post by Username » 02 Apr 2008 03:07

the Panther's gun was one of the most powerful tank guns of WWII, due to the large propellant charge and the long barrel, which gave it a very high muzzle velocity and excellent armor-piercing qualities. The flat trajectory also made hitting targets much easier, since accuracy was less sensitive to range. The 75 mm gun actually had more penetrating power than the main gun of the Tiger I heavy tank, the 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56.
Do you mean the 76mm? Well, you would still be wrong (unless you mean HVAP)

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Re: AFV Loss Rates in US 12th. Army Group

Post by ChristopherPerrien » 02 Apr 2008 06:25

Michael Emrys wrote:
ChristopherPerrien wrote:
Tigers versus US Army. As far as can be ascertained at the moment the US Army first met Tigers in battle at Chateaudun.
Actually Kasserine, but we can go with it for NW Europe.
I believe the citation refers to the Tiger II. Read the rest of the paragraph, including the correction. The VI Corps also encountered Tigers at Anzio in early 1944 as well as the II Corps earlier on Sicily in July, 1943.

Michael
Yes , you're correct Michael, but I think the article should state Tiger II or KT from the start, as the Tiger I and II were totally different critters. There's only one "Tiger tank" and it's the first one. However both tanks were fairly impervious to frontal shots by most Allied guns, yet both were vulnerable from the sides so the "methods" of dealing with both were the same, as were the effects these tanks had on Allied tanks were the same. My original post was caused by a "gut -reaction", co-incidentally concurrent with some other of my recent readings in which I have been getting a little irked by some "partial" accounts of the early performance of US units in North Africa, which never mention Tigers I's. IOWs, Kenneth Macksey can sorta KMA.

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Re: AFV Loss Rates in US 12th. Army Group

Post by Michael Emrys » 02 Apr 2008 14:40

Username wrote:Did M18 suck up the HVAP?
Yes, and so the the M10.
Did M4/76mm get leftovers?
Yes, and not many of those, but a little more in the last couple of months of the war.

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Re: AFV Loss Rates in US 12th. Army Group

Post by Michael Emrys » 02 Apr 2008 14:41

Username wrote:
the Panther's gun was one of the most powerful tank guns of WWII, due to the large propellant charge and the long barrel, which gave it a very high muzzle velocity and excellent armor-piercing qualities. The flat trajectory also made hitting targets much easier, since accuracy was less sensitive to range. The 75 mm gun actually had more penetrating power than the main gun of the Tiger I heavy tank, the 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56.
Do you mean the 76mm? Well, you would still be wrong (unless you mean HVAP)
He was referring to the Panther's 75mm.

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Re: AFV Loss Rates in US 12th. Army Group

Post by RichTO90 » 02 Apr 2008 18:02

Username wrote:A nice stat would be:
Yes, but it wasn't the subject or dataset Geoffrey was addressing. :)
1. How many and what type were given to:
a. Soviets
b. British
d. French
Those three are pretty well known. Hopefully this table doen't lose too much of its formatting, let me know if its too confusing. Note this only covers direct Lend-Lease from the US to the recipient. It does not cover in theater transfers, "Commanding General" shipments, and reverse Lend-Lease

Never mind, it didn't work and I'm not sure how I can paste in my table?
c. US Marines/Army Pacific
e. Training facilities
f. misc
Those are a bit more problematic and in many cases may only be estimated. Because of the nature of the Pacific War, three theaters and joint commands, the numbers are not centrally reported that I can find. But I'm working on them. With regards to taring facilities that is also problematic, by February 1945 approximately 7,000 M4 remained in the US, including new production unloaded and the tanks being refurbished that had been formerly used by the Armored Force training establishment, most of those never left the states, but there are at least a few that apparently were utilized as replacements very late in the war inthe ETO, again the numbers remain mysterious. "Misc" I suppose would apply to the not so significant numbers of M4 utilized as testbeds and prototypes for various projects? I've always meant to go through the tome Hunnicutt to acount for those, but so many projects, so little time. :wink: :|
Some USA ETO units had a strong preference as to what Shermans they took from the 'pool'. Many insisted on Ford V8's as an example. These same engines were also used in some M36? But the point is that 'hotrod' formations like heavy armor may have got first crack at available replacements.
I'm afraid you misunderstand the situation and the system. When conceived the M4 and M4A1 were intended to be the Standard M4 for the US Army, but the problematical supply of the Wright/Continental radial meant that alternate engine sources needed to be found. For the US Army that meant the M4A3, utilizing the Ford inline gasoline engine. The M4A2 and the M4A5 with diesel engines were always Limited Standard for the US Army, meaning they were only issued if no other type was available. The M4A4 IIRC was Substitute Standard, meaning they would be issued if Standard wasn't available and instead of Limited Standard, since it was gasoline-engined, but it was rare to find it issued since supply of M4, M4A1, and M4A3 was usually sufficient. By 1944 when the various engineering improvements were introduced to production M4, the M4A3 became the preferred Standard for the US Army while the M4 (105mm) was the only other series to be considered Standard, while the M4A1 (76mm) was considered Substitute Standard (the diesel-engined M4A2 76mm was only Limited Standard and was shipped as Lend-Lease).

Anyway, what the unit preferred had little bearing on the matter, they were issued what the theater had available, which after May 1944 was pretty limited.
A side issue is ammo. What units got HVAP? Maybe beyond the scope of thsi discussion but a real consideration. Did M18 suck up the HVAP? Did M4/76mm get leftovers?
HVAP was never produced in sufficent quantities during the war for it to have been significant. All 3-inch HVAP of course went to the TDs as did the majority of the 76mm HVAP. But some was issued to tank units with 76mm, one battalion IIRC had 66 rounds in its basic load on 8 May 1945.

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Re: AFV Loss Rates in US 12th. Army Group

Post by LWD » 02 Apr 2008 19:46

RichTO90 wrote: .... All 3-inch HVAP of course went to the TDs as did the majority of the 76mm HVAP. But some was issued to tank units with 76mm, one battalion IIRC had 66 rounds in its basic load on 8 May 1945.
Of course for any particular unit "unoffical" requisitions may have seen rounds that didn't show up on official talleys.

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Re: AFV Loss Rates in US 12th. Army Group

Post by RichTO90 » 02 Apr 2008 20:13

LWD wrote:Of course for any particular unit "unoffical" requisitions may have seen rounds that didn't show up on official talleys.
How do you requisition something, officially or unofficially, that isn't available? At any one time there was sufficient monthly production to provide somewhere between 2 and 4 rounds per vehicle capable of using them (and fewer than that if 3-inch towed is included). Also, given the small quantities produced and the urgent demand, I just don't see that there would be much opportunity to unofficially requisition any, too many parties were interested and paying close attention to the tallies for much sleight of hand.

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