German vs. Allied technology

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EKB
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German vs. Allied technology

Post by EKB » 02 Aug 2005 02:54

Panzermahn wrote:It was known, even to the Allies themselves, the German technology were quite superior to whatever the Allies had used.



There is overwhelming evidence that the opposite was true.

But I would agree that some, but not all of the panzers had better guns, ammunition, armor protection, and optical sighting systems compared to American tanks.

Panzermahn wrote:There were some cases that during the German-American battles of North Africa, Tunisia in 1942-1943, American field officers' reports about the superiority of German weapons especially high-velocity anti-tank weapons and not forgetting the Panther and tiger tanks were suppressed and hushed up by the American High Command because it was deemed to could have lower the fighting morale of American troops if it were released publicly.



Unfortunately for the Germans, the Panther had poor automotive performance and was more likely to burn than a Sherman. The following was written by a former member of the Hitlerjugend Division:

" The fact that the "Panther" could catch fire easily was attributed to the hydraulic fluid in the steering system. A few days later a "Panther" caught fire immediately from a hit on its bow plate that did not break through the armor at all. Later, when an experienced English tank sergeant was taken prisoner, he made a show of turning away before striking a match. When asked why, he said with a wink of his eye that it was better to look all around in case a "Panther" was in the vicinity, as it would burn and explode immediately. "

See pp. 64-65, Herbert Walther, The 12th SS Panzer Division -HJ-: A Pictorial History. Schiffer Publishing, 1989.

Walther didn't mention it, but when a blaze erupted in the crew compartment of any tank, it was usually triggered by the ammunition propellents. Especially if the shells were exposed intead of stored in fire-proof lockers. But the Panther tank had additional fire hazards built-in: flammable hydraulic fluid also drove the turret and this accelerated the spread of fire. To make matters worse, the Panther had continuous problems with engine fires, mainly because of leaking fluids. The Germans tried unsuccessfully to correct that defect by making changes to the motor.

Outside the panzer force all of this was suppressed and hushed up by the German High Command because it was deemed to could have lower the fighting morale of German troops if it were released publicly.

EKB

:wink:
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Re: German vs. Allied technology

Post by EKB » 02 Aug 2005 02:58

Huck wrote:As for the German wartime technology, I was just stating the obvious, it was superior to Allied military technology in most areas
In the technology race, the Germans were behind the Allies in nearly all relevant categories, including, but not limited to:


Atomic bombs

All German contributions to military science were obscured by a mushroom cloud.


Conventional bombs

The Allies had the best selection and a sufficient number of bombers capable of delivering them.


Self-guided bombs

The world's first operational self-guided missile was not invented by the Germans. It was the U.S. Navy's SWOD Mk 9/ASM-N-2, or simply known as the Bat. This weapon was remarkably advanced at the time, being steered by its own radar, and originally classified as a glide bomb. The drop tests were sometimes successful but the radar seeker head was primitive and easily jammed by ground clutter or ECM. Even though the technology was impressive, the end result was disappointing. But we could say the same about the Me 163 and other dead end projects started by the Germans. The Bat was a precursor to more advanced 'fire-and-forget' weapons.


Electronic warfare

- RADAR
- SONAR
- IFF
- ECM

EW was a seesaw battle to be sure, but the Allies generally maintained the advantage after 1943.


Electronic navigation systems

- Oboe
- GEE-H
- Shoran

Used as an aid to precision bombing. Until 1943 the Germans led the way with their ground transmitters and beam systems like Knickebein, X-Gerät, Y-Gerät and Sonne, but the signals were easily jammed, as was the original British GEE. The Germans copied Oboe in principle for their Egon system, and they were using this to bomb the U.K. in 1944.


Terrain mapping radar bombing systems

- H2S / H2X
- APS-20

Ground mapping radars were installed in Allied aircraft and functioned independently of ground stations. They were made possible by the cavity magnetron. The Germans developed a mapping radar, but too late to see service.


SEAD

In Vietnam, radar-busting aircraft were called 'Wild Weasels'. During World War II they were called 'Ferrets'. The USAAF pioneered anti-radar tactics with the B-17s of the 16th Recon Squadron, based in Tunisia (operational from April 1943). The Ferrets were stripped of all weapons and loaded with electronic gear and direction-finding antennae. They pinpointed and monitored radar sites for later airstrikes. In May 1944, a few RAF Typhoons were fitted with the Abdullah, an early form of radar homing and warning (RHAW) receiver that could ferret out radar sites. The set was tunable to all known German frequencies. The Typhoon followed the radar beam back to its source, marked the site with smoke, and called down flights of fighter-bombers to attack. The Germans learned to recognize this threat so they switched off the power and put the Flak batteries on alert. The Typhoons tried to counter that by flying an oblique course towards the radar until the last minute.


Fire control systems

- Field artillery
- Naval artillery
- Anti-aircraft guns
- Proximity fuses
- Tactical air support


Communications

The Allies had the edge at all levels from the top down to the front lines.


Codebreaking and signals interception

Although the Poles and French did so first, British cryptologists routinely read German message traffic and the U.S. Navy decoded Japanese ciphers.


Intelligence, counterintelligence, and deception

Germany was better suited to a stand-up fight than a war in the shadows. Other than a few successes by the Abwehr, Brandenburgers, the Gestapo, and Skorzeny, the Germans were usually inept at playing this game. The 'secret agents' in the employ of the Abwehr were almost invariably caught by Allied spy hunters, especially in the U.S. and the U.K. Many became double agents and most of the compelling data that fell into the hands of the Nazis is exactly what the Allies wanted them to believe.


Transport and logistics

The U.S. and British Commonwealth armies were fully motorized. The German army was mainly powered by horses, and the Nazis tried to conceal that fact in their propaganda films.


Battlefield medicine

When a soldier was seriously wounded, whether friend or foe, his best chance of survival was evacuation by the Americans.


Airborne warfare

The Allies had superior combat parachutes, jump techniques, supply delivery methods, air transports and gliders, ground-to-air signalling equipment and portable radar sets (Pathfinders).


Naval operations

- Amphibious warfare, landing craft, and vehicles
- Anti-submarine warfare
- Anti-shipping operations
- Aircraft carriers, and use of
- Shipboard aircraft


Combined operations

The Allies were more advanced in both technology and organization. Every country had interservice squabbles, but the Nazi Party made matters worse in Germany because they created private armies. They diverted manpower from other services, compromised training standards, confounded the chain of command, created more logistical problems with special equipments, and added more layers to a bloated bureaucracy.


Tanks

After 1942 the Wehrmacht maintained a minor edge in quality of main guns, ammunition and optics, but from start to finish, Soviet tanks were generally superior. Especially if we compare them by weight, e.g. T-34 vs. Panzer IV; IS-2 vs. Panther, etc. When the T-34 and KV-1 first appeared, the Germans had no effective antidote -- they had great difficulty knocking out these tanks. The Germans obviously plagiarized Russian design features when they cooked up the Panther and the Tiger II. Giant tanks were few in number, but I'd vote for the IS-3 as best overall. Interesting that Soviet tank designers embraced Ernst Diesel's engine, but the Germans did not.


Self-propelled anti-tank guns

At best the Germans achieved parity. The U.S. Army's M-10, M-36 and M-18 were turreted and better able to reposition the gun quickly -- that alone made them more survivable versus anti-tank threats. On the debit side the turrets had no roof except when field modified, so the crew was vulnerable to overhead bursts. By 1945 the Americans were using special high-performance shells for the 3-inch, 76mm and 90mm guns. Live-firing tests against derelict panzers confirmed a noticable improvement in armor-piercing power, especially by the 90mm gun. The Sturmgeschütz and various Jadpanzer had thicker armor and better optics, but they had no turret and less ability to adjust fire. The cannon fixed into the front of the hull was the main weakness -- a serious tactical disadvantage. The Soviet self-propelled guns were comparable to the German kind, if not better.


Assault engineering vehicles

The British Army tested all sorts of freakish vehicular contraptions, and some were useful.


Piston aero-engines, superchargers, turbo-superchargers

Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney had the edge over Daimler-Benz, Junkers and BMW, especially after 1942. The BMW 801 could trace its lineage to the American Hornet radials built under license agreement, but the Merlin, Griffon and turbo-supercharged R-2800 were superior at high altitudes. Mustangs with the Allison engines had less power but they were fast and competitive with German fighters at lower altitudes. The Germans had shortages of high-temperature metals so parts of their jet and piston engines failed more readily.


High-altitude fighters

Nearly all German fighters had inferior high-altitude performance, and purpose-built types like the Ta 152H were not reliable thanks to supercharger problems with the Jumo 213E. The Jumo 004 jet engines had a tendency to flame-out above 30,000 feet, especially when flights of jets were trying to hold formation. Their true operational ceiling was lowered to that height, at least when flying in groups.


Long-range fighters

Though they tried, the Germans were unable to mass produce anything comparable to the P-51A-B-D, the P-38J-L, or the P-47N.


High-altitude heavy bombers

German efforts were futile and the Heinkel 177 was their most notorious failure. The USAAF and RAF developed several proven aircraft with better engines.


Photo reconnaissance aircraft

For the same reasons mentioned earlier, the Allies had superior high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. The PR Spitfires and Mosquitoes could climb up to 42,000 feet and they were usually untouchable by German interceptors, except when they descended below 35,000 feet or had engine trouble. The USAAF F-5s could climb even higher, up to 44,000 feet, but their turbo-intercoolers were not reliable above 30,000 feet so the Lightnings usually flew at lower altitudes. The Germans had a few Arado 234s; very fast and almost impossible to intercept but their maximum altitude and performance were again limited by the reliability of the jet engines.


Nightfighters

This is a controversial subject. It's reasonable to debate whether the Germans had the best nightfighting equipment to counteract heavy bombers, but my readings indicate that Nachtjäger pilots believed that the British Mosquito was the most formidable nightfighter. Because of motor problems and other deficiencies, German nightfighter pilots had to live with lower performance from their twin-engined aircraft. The Fw 190 and Me 262 Nachtjäger were not very successful at intercepting Allied nightfighters, so it's probably safe to say that the Mosquito was the best in the business. The P-61C had better performance because of the added turbo-superchargers, but it arrived too late for combat in Europe.


Ground support air weapons

Heavy cannons
Against armored vehicles, the British underwing 40mm guns were as good or better than the German 37mm. The RAF rejected them as standard because the extra weight reduced airspeed and agility. By September 1943, the Luftwaffe arrived at the same conclusion regarding their own planes. The General der Schlachtflieger (Ernst Kupfer) condemned the Ju 87 as "no longer acceptable in any theatre of war" based on high losses. Kupfer was not impressed with the Soviet Il-2 for the same reasons. He insisted that speed and manueverability was the best recipe for survival, and would obviate the need for fighter escort. Kupfer ordered that all Stuka units would convert to the Fw 190 at the earliest possible date, and that it should not be armed with a gun heavier than 20mm.

Dive-bombing
The USAAF had a far better one than the Stuka. The A-36A was essentially a Mustang with dive brakes and low-altitude supercharger. It could place a bomb accurately and was considerably faster than the Ju 87. As it turned out, the dive-brakes were helpful but not necessary since a brake-less P-51 could vertical-bomb accurately without them. As I mentioned earlier, Ernst Kupfer demanded to abandon the Ju 87 in favor of fighter-bombers, but another reason that vertical-bombing lost some appeal is that it was more dangerous than a shallow dive when up against heavy opposition. In late 1943, Kupfer stated that dive-bombing had declined to the point where only one in 500 Stuka attacks dived vertically on targets.

Firebombs
Incendiaries were not used often by German fighter-bombers, but they were popular in the USAAF after the Normandy invasion. Napalm was useful for smothering and burning out foxholes, trenches, vehicle convoys and hard targets like tanks and bunkers. The napalm containers tumbled end-over-end as they fell and the jellied explosive mixture splashed forward as the bomb exploded, increasing the coverage on impact. Flame weapons often had a demoralizing effect on the enemy's will to fight, and operational research indicated that German soldiers were more eager to surrender when they saw napalms raining down on their positions.

Air-to-ground rockets
The British 60-lb. RP and the American 5-inch HVAR were far and away better than the unsuccessful German W.Gr.28/32.


Metal stressed-skin construction

At Junkers, and possibly other German companies, they made improvements based on U.S. technology. The Ju 88 was one of the beneficiaries.


Aircraft gun sights

The British K-14 gyroscopic gun sight used in Allied fighters was better and more reliable than the EZ-42 fitted to Me 262s.


Torpedo-firing equipment

Like the Allies, the Germans had long-lasting problems with their torpedoes because of hasty pre-war testing. There was no single source of trouble. Some torpedoes failed to launch, failed to explode, ran erratically, or passed under the target. The depth-keeping defect in the U-boat torpedoes was not corrected until 1942. In April 1940, the torpedo directorate carried out extensive tests with the impact pistol and reported a high rate of failure owing to the 'clumsy design'. The magnetic pistols also gave trouble and ultimately the Germans copied the British magnetic pistol after they captured the submarine HMS Seal.


Small arms

Overall, the Allies had better ones. The MG-42 was the best machine gun, but the M-1 Garand was the best rifle. The standard German rifle was the bolt-action Mauser 1898 which belonged in a museum. Most of the Allied submachine guns stood above the German MP-40 which was also prone to stoppages. The Soviet PPSh, Australian Owen SMG, American M-3 'Grease Gun' and the Thompson SMG were all more reliable than the MP-40. The limited issue German assault rifle (MP-43/StG-44) was flimsy, easily damaged, jammed frequently, and was impossible to repair in the field. It worked best when firing single shots.


Hand-held anti-tank weapons

Provided it was fired at less than 50 yards, the panzerfaust gave the German soldier unprecedented individual firepower against vehicles, buildings, bunkers, etc. For that they can thank the Americans, since the Germans did not have them until after they plagiarized the American bazookas. In 1945, the U.S. 17th Airborne Division was armed with (shoulder-launched) 57mm Recoilless Rifles. Though not as devastating as panzerschreck and panzerfaust hits, the 57mm Recoilless Rifle had far greater range and accuracy (the HEAT round had a max range of 4,300 yards which was amazing for a hand-held weapon). Both sides had larger Recoilless Rifles mounted on a tripod or wheeled carriage, but as far I know the Germans did not have shoulder-launched types.

EKB
Last edited by EKB on 02 Aug 2005 16:29, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Qvist » 02 Aug 2005 11:02

Hello EKB

Thank you for your very informative posts, and as you know, I do not disagree with your contention that the allies were technolgically superior in many areas. It is however possible to question some of your points, IMO:
Transport and logistics

The U.S. and British Commonwealth armies were fully motorized. The German army was mainly powered by horses, and the Nazis tried to conceal that fact in their propaganda films.
This is arguably not an issue of technology, but rather of scale of production.
Combined operations

The Allies were more advanced in both technology and organization. Every country had interservice squabbles, but the Nazi Party made matters worse in Germany because they created private armies. They diverted manpower from other services, compromised training standards, confounded the chain of command, created more logistical problems with special equipments, and added more layers to a bloated bureaucracy.
This is, again, not a question of technology. Also, interservice rivalry was not exactly an unknown phenomenon in the British and American armed forces either. One could argue, for example, that this was a much bigger problem in the relation between the RAF and the British Army than it was between the Heer and the Luftwaffe. Most German operations being clearly land-forces dominated and continental in character, there are more limited experience with this than on the allied side. However, it does not appear to me that the Germans suffered from any special problems with interservice co-operation in f.e. their Scandinavian or Aegean operations?
After 1942 the Wehrmacht maintained a minor edge in quality of main guns, ammunition and optics, but from start to finish, Soviet tanks were generally superior. Especially if we compare them by weight, e.g. T-34 vs. Panzer IV; IS-2 vs. Panther, etc. When the T-34 and KV-1 first appeared, the Germans had no effective antidote -- they had great difficulty knocking out these tanks. The Germans obviously plagiarized Russian design features when they cooked up the Panther and the Tiger II. Giant tanks were few in number, but I'd vote for the IS-3 as best overall. Interesting that Soviet tank designers embraced Ernst Diesel's engine, but the Germans did not.
Here I would not agree with you at all, I am afraid. The Panther's superiority over Western tanks was clearly much more than minor in all major attributes, something for which mechanical reliability can hardly compensate. Also, as far as I know, there were no major reliability problems with the Panther after the neccessary adjustments had been made. As for brewing up, the Sherman didn't exactly have a good reputation either, to say the very least least. And the fire-hazard factor is also relative to the much lower likelihood of armor penetration in the first place. Neither the Panther or the Tiger II plagiarised Russian designs. The Panther (and the Tiger I) was virtually invulnerable to the T-34/76, and even the T-34/85 was at a severe disadvantage vis-a-vis the Panther. The long-barrelled Pz IV introduced in early 1942 was at least a match for both the T-34/76 and the KV-1. And that's just if you consider basic attributes, and not things like communications, optics etc. As far as I can see, the only period during which one can speak of any general Soviet technolgical advantage in tanks would be for the first 6-12 months.
At best the Germans achieved parity. The U.S. Army's M-10, M-36 and M-18 were turreted and better able to reposition the gun quickly -- that alone made them more survivable versus anti-tank threats. On the debit side the turrets had no roof except when field modified, so the crew was vulnerable to overhead bursts. By 1945 the Americans were using special high-performance shells for the 3-inch, 76mm and 90mm guns. Live-firing tests against derelict panzers confirmed a noticable improvement in armor-piercing power, especially by the 90mm gun. The Sturmgeschütz and various Jadpanzer had thicker armor and better optics, but they had no turret and less ability to adjust fire. The cannon fixed into the front of the hull was the main weakness -- a serious tactical disadvantage. The Soviet self-propelled guns were comparable to the German kind, if not better.
Another advantage the Jagdpanzer IV/StuG III had over the TDs were that they were not open-topped, and hence not vulnerable to indirect fire. Together with thicker armor (and here the difference was more than marginal I believe?) and better optics, that is worth considerable more than turret traverse AFAICS? Of course, this reflects also doctrinal differences, as the TDs were intended to fulfil offensive roles in theory (for which turret traverse is more important).
Overall, the Allies had better ones. The MG-42 was the best machine gun, but the M-1 Garand was the best rifle. The standard German rifle was the bolt-action Mauser 1898 which belonged in a museum. Most of the Allied submachine guns stood above the German MP-40 which was also prone to stoppages. The Soviet PPSh, Australian Owen SMG, American M-3 'Grease Gun' and the Thompson SMG were all more reliable than the MP-40. The limited issue German assault rifle (MP-43/StG-44) was flimsy, easily damaged, jammed frequently, and was impossible to repair in the field. It worked best when firing single shots.
This I must admit I find a little one-sided (which might also be said about the whole post in general :wink: ). Why no mention of the Sten, which constituted most of the British inventory? I doubt you would find many who would put the M3 above the MP-40 as a weapon. And whatever the shortcomings of the STG-44, there was I believe no allied equivalent to it?


On a final note - before effectively reopening a discussion already closed by the moderators by starting off a new thread with a quote from the previously closed one, it is generally advisable to contact the moderators first!

cheers
Last edited by Qvist on 02 Aug 2005 11:09, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by KalaVelka » 02 Aug 2005 11:09

Provided it was fired at less than 50 yards, the panzerfaust gave the German soldier unprecedented individual firepower against vehicles, buildings, bunkers, etc. For that they can thank the Americans, since the Germans didn't have them until after they plagiarized the American bazookas. In 1945, the U.S. 17th Airborne Division was armed with (shoulder-launched) 57mm Recoilless Rifles. Though not as devastating as panzerschreck and panzerfaust hits, the 57mm Recoilless Rifle had far greater range and accuracy (the HEAT round had a max range of 4,300 yards which was amazing for a hand-held weapon). Both sides had larger Recoilless Rifles mounted on a tripod or wheeled carriage, but as far I know the Germans did not have shoulder-launched types.
And what was the effective range of the 57mm against the german panzers? In general german infantry AT weapons were better than allied. Both schreck and faust had better penetration capabilities than bazooka or piat.
Overall, the Allies had better ones. The MG-42 was the best machine gun, but the M-1 Garand was the best rifle. The standard German rifle was the bolt-action Mauser 1898 which belonged in a museum. Most of the Allied submachine guns stood above the German MP-40 which was also prone to stoppages. The Soviet PPSh, Australian Owen SMG, American M-3 'Grease Gun' and the Thompson SMG were all more reliable than the MP-40. The limited issue German assault rifle (MP-43/StG-44) was flimsy, easily damaged, jammed frequently, and was impossible to repair in the field. It worked best when firing single shots.
MG-42 was the best gpmg. Garand best rifle? I dont know about you, but I would choose anytime stg44 over that. If we are talking about the bolt action rifles allies and germans were in equal. MP40 might have been little inferior in performance against some allied smg's, but I think that it is unfair to compare just german weapons against allied ones. We should compare allied ones against the axis (and the collaborators sp?). Then the suomi M/31 SMG comes out as a winner.
After 1942 the Wehrmacht maintained a minor edge in quality of main guns, ammunition and optics, but from start to finish, Soviet tanks were generally superior. Especially if we compare them by weight, e.g. T-34 vs. Panzer IV; IS-2 vs. Panther, etc. When the T-34 and KV-1 first appeared, the Germans had no effective antidote -- they had great difficulty knocking out these tanks. The Germans obviously plagiarized Russian design features when they cooked up the Panther and the Tiger II. Giant tanks were few in number, but I'd vote for the IS-3 as best overall. Interesting that Soviet tank designers embraced Ernst Diesel's engine, but the Germans did not.
Agreed, in the start allied had better tanks than germans (or axis in general) but to say without anykind of support (except the weight) that soviet tanks were generally superior only expose your ignorance. Germans had far better guns (for example 8,8 cm Kw.K.43 L/71 and the lighter 7,5 cm Kw.K.42 L/70) and optics. Tiger II's 88mm Kw.K penetrated 152mm of armor in distance of 2000 meters using Pzgr.40/43. For comparision, IS 2's 122mm D-25T L / 43 could penetrate 104mm of armor from the distance of 2000meters using BR-471 B ( Armor Piercing Capped ). IS 3 didnt saw live combat during ww2. I could as well choose leopard 2A6 as the best german tank of ww2.
At best the Germans achieved parity. The U.S. Army's M-10, M-36 and M-18 were turreted and better able to reposition the gun quickly -- that alone made them more survivable versus anti-tank threats. On the debit side the turrets had no roof except when field modified, so the crew was vulnerable to overhead bursts. By 1945 the Americans were using special high-performance shells for the 3-inch, 76mm and 90mm guns. Live-firing tests against derelict panzers confirmed a noticable improvement in armor-piercing power, especially by the 90mm gun. The Sturmgeschütz and various Jadpanzer had thicker armor and better optics, but they had no turret and less ability to adjust fire. The cannon fixed into the front of the hull was the main weakness -- a serious tactical disadvantage. The Soviet self-propelled guns were comparable to the German kind, if not better.
Yes, US TD's had turret which was with the speed their only better ability against german counter parts. Germans had better guns, armor and optics also in this field. The russian self propelled guns were good but not as good as for example jagdpanther which I would choose as the best SP gun of the whole war.

Germans were also better in jetfighters.


/Kasper

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Post by Andreas » 02 Aug 2005 11:11

Qvist wrote: Also, interservice rivalry was not exactly an unknown phenomenon in the British and American armed forces either. One could argue, for example, that this was a much bigger problem in the relation between the RAF and the British Army than it was between the Heer and the Luftwaffe. Most German operations being clearly land-forces dominated and continental in character, there are more limited experience with this than on the allied side. However, it does not appear to me that the Germans suffered from any special problems with interservice co-operation in f.e. their Scandinavian or Aegean operations?
For the Scandinavian operations, they did. Ziemke outlines this in some detail in 'The Northern Theatre'. The Luftwaffe did not want to play ball (quel surprise!).

Regarding the Panther - a report from the invasion front quoted in Jentz' 'Panzertruppen' states 'The Panther burns astonishingly quickly'. This together with the thin (by 1944 standards) side armour must have been a bit of a drawback.

All the best

Andreas

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Post by JamesL » 02 Aug 2005 14:58

A late business acquaintance of mine was a German paratrooper. Under the SMALL ARMS category, he picked up a M1911 pistol at Normandy. He thought it was a very good pistol and wished he had it when he was on the Eastern Front.

Of course he ditched it before being captured at Brest.

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Post by Michael Emrys » 02 Aug 2005 16:33

Qvist wrote:Another advantage the Jagdpanzer IV/StuG III had over the TDs were that they were not open-topped, and hence not vulnerable to indirect fire. Together with thicker armor (and here the difference was more than marginal I believe?) and better optics, that is worth considerable more than turret traverse AFAICS? Of course, this reflects also doctrinal differences, as the TDs were intended to fulfil offensive roles in theory (for which turret traverse is more important).
Not through intent, no. The TD Corps was formed with the intent of repelling anticipated German armored thrusts, a defensive role. However, as it turned out, there were very few of those to be defended against. On the other hand, there were lots of infantry that needed armor support in their attacks, so if there were no tanks available, the TDs got used for that purpose on an ad hoc basis.

As for the disadvantages of the open topped turrets, that is true, but there were some advantages as well, though not I suppose enough to compel the practice post-war. The advantages were somewhat improved situational awareness, freer movement within the turret for the crew and of course better ventilation. And then there was the factor of an easier escape in case the TD was hit.

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Post by Jon G. » 03 Aug 2005 11:18

EKB wrote:...Metal stressed-skin construction

At Junkers, and possibly other German companies, they made improvements based on U.S. technology. The Ju 88 was one of the beneficiaries...
Actually stressed skin all-metal aircraft are a German invention pioneered by Ernst Rohrbach and Hugo Junkers. Perhaps characteristic of the Nazi regime's attitude to invention and science, Hugo Junkers died in 1935 while in protective custody, due to his refusal to sell his company's shares to the government.

Germany had a very good environment for industrial research and development, certainly better than Britain's, whose industrial base was outdated by the 1930s. Also German re-armament only really began in the mid-1930s, and that meant that there wasn't so much institutional resistance to inventive weapons developments. After all, German tanks and airplanes etc. weren't going to replace older models, and cost seems to have been a small concern only. Recent re-armament simply meant that most German weaponry would be new on the eve of war.

However the Nazis can't be credited with German ingenuity - German weapons developments drew on traditions predating Hitler's regime. If memory serves, Germany had collected 1/4 of all Nobel Prizes by 1933 - but after that year, many of Germany's most brilliant scientists would no longer contribute to German industrial R&D because they were Jews.

I think it is fair to say that the Germans had an edge in developing technological answers to specific problems for most of the war. For example, the remarkable X-Gerät radio-assisted bombing device was developed quickly after experiences in Spain, based on blind-landing radio equipment pioneered by German scientists. For more urgent developments I would cite the Panther tank as an efficient response to the T-34.

But technology alone does not cut it. While the Germans consistently came up with potential world-beaters such as the Me 262, the Panter tank and the type XXI U-Boat, they would also waste time and resources on the Maus super-heavy tank and the A4 rocket programme which gave a very poor return for the time and money invested. The Panther was fielded prematurely before teething problems had been solved, and the potential of the Me 262 was simply not understood by the Luftwaffe top brass.

For operational deployment of available technologies the Germans did poorly. For example the Germans had radar technology in 1940, indeed in some areas their radars were superior to British radars, but they simply failed to see which crucial part radar played in 1940 as an integrated part of British air defenses. The Zaunkönig (sp?) acoustic torpedo was another remarkable technological development, but it was countered by the simple expedient of throwing a petrol-driven hammer drill in a small boat pulled behind the destroyer escort that was the torpedo's intended target, thus causing the torpedo to go off-target due to the infernal noise generated by the hammer drill. That reduced what could have been a decisive weapon to a mere gimmick.

The Germans had a marginal lead in tech developments in most areas - but for the applied use of available technology, the Allies did much better.

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Post by Qvist » 03 Aug 2005 12:06

Not through intent, no. The TD Corps was formed with the intent of repelling anticipated German armored thrusts, a defensive role. However, as it turned out, there were very few of those to be defended against. On the other hand, there were lots of infantry that needed armor support in their attacks, so if there were no tanks available, the TDs got used for that purpose on an ad hoc basis.
As far as I have understood, the TDs were intended to carry the primary burden of fighting enemy armour - on the attack as well as on the defense, while tanks were primarily conceived as weapons of movement and exploitation?

cheers

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 03 Aug 2005 12:06

Shrek -

Thanks for an excellent and thoughtful post.

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Post by RichTO90 » 03 Aug 2005 13:55

Qvist wrote:As far as I have understood, the TDs were intended to carry the primary burden of fighting enemy armour - on the attack as well as on the defense, while tanks were primarily conceived as weapons of movement and exploitation?

cheers
Sorry Qvist, that is the generally accepted interpretation that has been accepted for years, but a close reading of the actual tank and tank destroyer field manuals of the time make it clear that was not in fact the case. In fact, the pattern was essentially copied from American understanding of German methods and included light tanks acting as the maneuver force, with medium tanks in the overwatch mode, supported by tank destroyers guarding the flanks and providing additional overwatch.

But defensively the American tank destroyers were meant as the primary antitank weapon, using mobility and stealth...again with exactly the same intent as for the German panzerjaeger...how many German panzer memoirs complain about the "incorrect" use of tanks as a defensive weapon? :)

Essentially the criticisim of the US tank destroyer doctrine is more than a little bit a case of the "tail wagging the dog" - tank destroyers weren't kept as an arm of service postwar, so there must have been something wrong with them?

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Post by Jon G. » 03 Aug 2005 14:23

So, US tank destroyers were apparently built with priority given to firepower, mobility and protection in that order, whereas German dedicated TDs had firepower first, protection second and mobility as a third priority. That tells us nothing about who had the 'superior' technology, merely that both sides were capable of building and fielding effective tank destroyers.

I would assume that the emergence of effective hand-held AT weapons was part reason for the US TD corps' demise after WWII?

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Post by Michael Emrys » 03 Aug 2005 16:31

Shrek wrote:I would assume that the emergence of effective hand-held AT weapons was part reason for the US TD corps' demise after WWII?
Rich can probably give you a more comprehensive reply than I. But several things come to mind. As a result of combat experience in WW II as well as the evolution of various weapons during that war, a lot of prewar thinking about tanks was discarded. For one thing, instead of building a large variety of AFVs in specialized roles, e.g., light tanks, cruiser/medium tanks, infantry/heavy tanks, tank destroyers, assault guns, etc., now the major armies of the world tended to build general purpose tanks that combined a powerful gun, adequate armor, and reasonably good mobility in a single design.

Another development was the disappearance of the AT gun to be replaced by rocket propelled projectiles, either guided or unguided, and in some cases by recoiless rifles. The AT gun had by the end of the war lost much of its reason for being. In order to be able to penetrate the armor of existing and projected tanks, they were having to become much more powerful, which also meant bigger and heavier, which also meant harder to get into position and conceal. If you have a big, heavy gun, you might as well put on a self-propelled carriage behind armor. For its anti-armor self protection, the infantry got the aforesaid RRs or rockets/missiles.

While there have from time to time been dedicated anti-tank vehicles of one type or another, with a few exceptions such as the Swedish S-tank or the German Panzerjäger, they have all employed missiles mounted on lightly armored (or even unarmored) vehicles utilizing stealth and good mobility. Not too far from WW II US TDs, eh?

One interesting development that we are likely to see is the return of the assault gun. As more and more counterinsurgency fighting happens in urban environments, a some military thinkers are calling for a heavily armored tracked vehicle with a large caliber low velocity gun. It wouldn't need to be very fast, so it could give up some mobility for lots of protection. Maybe something like an updated AVRE? :D

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Post by Andreas » 03 Aug 2005 17:07

Grease_Spot wrote: Maybe something like an updated AVRE? :D
An updated ISU-152 springs to mind more readily.

Good post Grease_Spot, although slightly western focused - I believe the Red Army kept AT guns for a while longer. But then again, they only officially got rid of their horsed Cavalry in 1955 or thereabouts, IIRC.

All the best

Andreas

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Post by Michael Emrys » 03 Aug 2005 17:26

Andreas wrote:
Grease_Spot wrote: Maybe something like an updated AVRE? :D
An updated ISU-152 springs to mind more readily.
Yeah, that's another possibility. I tended to favor the AVRE because it carries a more specifically demolition weapon, which is what I'm thinking would be needed in this situation. But I too was thinking of something in the 150-155mm range of calibers.
...I believe the Red Army kept AT guns for a while longer.
You may be right. I think they kept some SU-100s well into the '60s too.

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