Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Discussions on WW2 in Western Europe & the Atlantic.
Yoozername
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Yoozername » 03 Dec 2016 01:46

As I said earlier, The US did some things right, and some things wrong. The US Tank Battalion is certainly a good example. The inclusion of halftracks with mortars gives a rapid response especially to ATG threats (they usually used the large HE 81mm along with the equally large WP), the somewhat unique inclusion of the 105mm armed shermans gave excellent direct firepower and indirect fire also.

The inclusion of the light tank company with M5 tanks so late in the war always struck me as odd. Did each tank battalion need them? Even the Soviets had dropped light tanks by this time. They would be more at home in a recon or cav battalion or not taken over the ocean at all. I would drop them and instead use the TD, preferably 2 platoons of M18, and one of M36, to bring the TD firepower into the Armored battalion direct fighting structure and training. That is, the 4th company of the battalion.

US Armored Division: Generic Table of Equipment and Organization Combat Units 1944-45

Armored (Tank) Battalion (Total 3 Battalions per Division)

Bttn HQ: 3x Tanks, 1x M3 H/T, 4x Jeeps, 2 rifle sqds

3 Armored Companies @ CHQ: 2x Tanks

3 platoons @ 5x Tanks

1 Armored Company: CHQ: 2x M5A1 Stuart or M24 Chaffee

3 platoons @ 5x M5A1 or M24

1 Recce Platoon: 3 sectionsQ 2x Jeep/.50"

1 Mortar battery: 3x M21, 1x M3 H/T

1 Maintenance platoon: 3x M32B1 ARV, 3x wreckers, 3 Jeeps

1 Gun platoon: 3x M4A3/105mm or M8 HMC Stuart, 2x M3 H/T

histan
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by histan » 03 Dec 2016 01:58

Hi Yoozername

Do you have a reference for this? I like collecting primary sources (sad person that I am) :)

Am I correct in interpreting this as meaning that the main use of TDs were in their secondary role?

Regards

John

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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Yoozername » 03 Dec 2016 02:15

You mean secondary roles?

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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Yoozername » 03 Dec 2016 02:28

THE GENERAL BOARD
UNITED STATES FORCES, EUROPEAN THEATER APO 408

PART SIX

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

CHAPTER 1

CONCLUSIONS

50. Training Literature.

That the employment of tank destroyers in the European Theater was not based on the methods prescribed by Field Manual 18-5.
http://www.alternatewars.com/WW2/WW2_Do ... ostwar.htm

http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/cgsc/carl/eto/eto-060.pdf
14. Outstanding Lessons. Combat in Europe developed certain weaknesses in the structure of infantry divisions, but none worthy of name in the tactical doctrine of infantry in combat. These weaknesses, while not of sufficient import to spell the difference between success or failure in battle, did serve to keep the efficiency of Infantry divisions below the maximum attainable, and demand rectification in the future.

a. The Need for Armored Units Organic in the Division. The uniformly better performance of infantry, in any operation, when closely supported by tanks is probably the biggest single tactical lesson of the European Campaign. Frequently tanks were employed primarily as close support weapons, but regardless of their role they materially enhanced the aggressiveness of infantry in the attack and its staying power in the defense. The presence of supporting armor was demanded by the infantry even when it was not essential to the establishment of fire superiority, to the countering of enemy tank threat or to the engagement of enemy assault guns. In these instances they were strictly a morale factor, greatly increasing the confidence of American infantry and, conversely, exerting, by their very presence on the battlefield, a demoralizing effect on an enemy unprepared to counter them.

The desirability of providing infantry divisions with tank battalions was recognized too late to permit integration of the two in prebattle training. As a result, teamwork between infantry and tanks was developed on the field of battle. Until the two learned each other's limitations and their respective roles in joint action, results were not good. Subsequently, where the same tank battalion remained with a particular division, excellent teamwork resulted. However, complications arose from the fact that there were only 28 separate tank battalions available to reinforce 42 infantry divisions and a shifting of battalions was mandatory. Each time an infantry division and a tank battalion met for the first time, the old problem had to be resolved.

It logically follows that since infantry-tank action is more satisfactory on the battlefield than infantry alone, the two elements should be organic in the division.

b. Inadequacy of Organic Anti-Tank Means. The anti-tank defense of the division was built around the towed 57mm gun, a weapon which proved impotent for the task. It never earned its way in combat. It had insufficient penetrating power to match the tanks normally opposed; it was too limited in mobility and cross-country maneuverability; it had inadequate speed in preparing for action and engaging moving targets. A satisfactory alternative solution was found only by the attachment of self-propelled tank destroyer battalions, mounting either 76mm or 90mm guns, to infantry divisions. As was the case with tank battalions, the number of self-propelled tank destroyer battalions, except at the end of the war, was considerably short of the total of infantry divisions.

c. The Ineffectiveness of the Infantry Cannon Company. In the prewar concept, the cannon company's designed role was that of an infantry accompanying weapon under the direct control of the regimental commander, engaging from position defilade behind the first mask from the front line those point targets most troublesome to the infantry. Because of the characteristics of the weapon and its prime mover, it was entirely too cumbersome and vulnerable to be employed as planned. Generally, it was used as an artillery battery and in many instances was attached to the supporting light artillery battalion. As such, it failed to justify its existence, for there were already more tubes available than ammunition to fire therefrom.

If the infantry has need of an accompanying gun, and the consensus of infantry commanders is that it does, then the cannon company as presently constituted must be replaced. A weapon comparable to the German 75mm assault gun - fulltracked, low silhouette, and possessing excellent battlefield mobility - is a suggestion as a point of departure. Actual caliber is relatively unimportant; the essential is its ability to move close and rapidly destroy targets by direct fire methods.

Richard Anderson
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Richard Anderson » 03 Dec 2016 04:33

Juha wrote:German tactics put great weight to counter-attacks. That pretty obivious e.g. on 6 June 44, Commonwealth troops were clearly the attacking side but Germans launched a division size (21. PzD) counter attack against them. Without their heavy 17 pdr a/t guns British would have been in deep trouble with that but with the a/t guns the attack of PzR 22 was easily stopped.
The attack by KG v. Oppeln was stopped by the Staffs Yeomanry, which engaged with elements of all three squadrons. , but only three Sherman 17-pdr of B Squadron are specifically mentioned that I recall, knocking out three German tanks. Also present were some 6-pdr of 2 KSLI, but otherwise only 41 Battery, 20 AT Regiment RA, which was equipped with M10 3" was present.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Richard Anderson
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Richard Anderson » 03 Dec 2016 07:07

Yoozername wrote:Where does it say static in all that posted material? Please save me some time as you are arguing moot points. I find it difficult to have a discussion with someone that thinks the US was in a defensive battle in the ETO. Almost all combatants stressed firing from a non-moving position. That includes a short halt or a primary/secondary/etc. US tanks DID have gyrostabilizers and could use firing on the move more than most.
Yes they did and could have, but given the reality of maintaining the equipment very few tankers ever mentioned using fire on the move.
Or, another way to look at is...
TDs move from one firing position to another when necessary - like field artillery.
Tanks are constantly on the move and only halt to fire - like infantry.
...is not correct either. You can have your own 'reality', doesn't really matter to me. But please don't put words in my mouth either. Or make statements like tying me down. And its OK if you think you are smart. Many people do that.
No, its not really correct, but it is a decent analogy. The TD's as originally conceived were highly mobile and moving from position to position, but saddling them with towed guns removed that from the equation.

Part of the problem is understanding the actual sequence of events and decisions made. For one, from the beginning of its life the TD force was intended to be entirely self-propelled and all the tactics as contained in the first FM 18-5 were geared to that. When the decision was made in the summer of 1943 to re-equip some battalions as towed it truly screwed things up, since the SP-oriented doctrine could not be employed by the towed guys.

Arguably, pushing for that was McNair's major error.
My point is that the whole 'TD Doctrine' and bloated bureaucracy did not serve its PRIMARY goal as stated. And, again, that is the Destruction of Tanks. Clearly, the whole concept was dropped at the end of WWII. They failed to develop weapons that were needed, and were then rushed in a reactionary mode to get weapons and ammunition developed quickly. They flip-flopped on what they were supposed to be doing on the battlefield, and emphasized their 'secondary' functions as 'added value'. Again, a high velocity gun like the 3 inch, with its inferior HE, introduced a logistics strain since it was a long piece of brass. heck, they even had to stock reduced charge 3 inch shells since its flat trajectory had issues clearing obstructions.
What "bloated bureaucracy" was that? Aside from the actual TD units, the TD's consisted of the TD Board of seven officers, and the TD Center at Fort Hood, which in November 1943 consisted of 21 officers and 47 enlisted men. The rest was training infrastructure which would have been required anyway.
So, to get back to the OP Title 'Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks', we can say that the TD Doctrine is to "LET US DESTROY THEM! DEFENSIVELY!"

Hardly worth the title of a 'Branch' of the military. It just seems to reek of artillery officers making more career slots for them selves.
It never was a "branch" during the war any more than armor was.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Richard Anderson
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Richard Anderson » 03 Dec 2016 07:18

Yoozername wrote:I often wonder how "out" Patton was? That is, was he privy to some of the invasion details? I say this since he had honeymooned in Normandy. As a veteran, he would have had to have noticed the terrain.
As Third Army commander he was BIGOTED and knew exactly where the invasion was to occur. I'm afraid Patton and Beatrice honeymooned in England. They planned on doing Europe, but Patton was called home to attend maneuvers in Wisconsin.
In any case, whoever the fault should be placed on, I think the lack of HVAP (especially since the Germans and Soviets were using it...and both regretting its cost BTW) or Sabot (it was being developed slooowwwwlly by the US) or even a super-bazooka (it was a program also)...etc. The US had MANY programs it seems, and very little direction of effort.
Which is the fault of AGF and McNair just how? BTW, HVAP took six weeks from initiation by a theater request to the first rounds being delivered for testing in France...what stymied the program was ASF releasing priority material in sufficient quantity. And SABOT was developed slowly by everyone...the first truly functional and accurate SABOT was postwar.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Yoozername
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Yoozername » 03 Dec 2016 07:19

histan wrote:Hi Yoozername

Do you have a reference for this? I like collecting primary sources (sad person that I am) :)

Am I correct in interpreting this as meaning that the main use of TDs were in their secondary role?

Regards

John
I can certainly supply evidence of that as far as towed TD. In fact, even when converted to M36, they appear to not have been used as 'Tank Hunters'.

Yoozername
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Yoozername » 03 Dec 2016 07:29

Patton returned to Europe and France and Germany after participating in a Olympics event. As a participant. They spent quite awhile there. 1912. He, of course, was also in France for WWI...

Richard Anderson
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Richard Anderson » 03 Dec 2016 07:40

Yoozername wrote:Patton returned to Europe and France and Germany after participating in a Olympics event. As a participant. They spent quite awhile there. 1912. He, of course, was also in France for WWI...
Why yes, but it was the claim they went there on their honeymoon I was correcting, not the notion he was never there. Accuracy is important...and there is a niggle that says that Beatrice stayed home with the children when Patton went to compete in the modern pentathlon... :D
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Yoozername
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Yoozername » 03 Dec 2016 07:52

Wow, you are quite the gossip hound...

An example of 3inch towed TD Battalion is firing 37K+ rounds of HE, 28K of them indirect. They fired 587 rounds of APC during this time (4-5 months). The APC was not fired at armored targets. In direct fire, they mixed APC with HE for buildings bunkers etc. As far as the after action reports, I see they did not engage any armor over these months. They were assigned to infantry divisions I believe.
Last edited by Yoozername on 03 Dec 2016 08:01, edited 1 time in total.

Yoozername
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Yoozername » 03 Dec 2016 07:59

German use of HVAP was known well before D-Day. Its just another case of arrogant thinking that the weapons at hand were fine for the job. The US had created a bunch of 1943 class weapons and waited till the middle of 1944 to use them. In addition to this, defects in the AP rounds they did produce were not discovered since they did faulty testing.

Juha
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Juha » 03 Dec 2016 16:09

Richard Anderson wrote:
Juha wrote:German tactics put great weight to counter-attacks. That pretty obivious e.g. on 6 June 44, Commonwealth troops were clearly the attacking side but Germans launched a division size (21. PzD) counter attack against them. Without their heavy 17 pdr a/t guns British would have been in deep trouble with that but with the a/t guns the attack of PzR 22 was easily stopped.
The attack by KG v. Oppeln was stopped by the Staffs Yeomanry, which engaged with elements of all three squadrons. , but only three Sherman 17-pdr of B Squadron are specifically mentioned that I recall, knocking out three German tanks. Also present were some 6-pdr of 2 KSLI, but otherwise only 41 Battery, 20 AT Regiment RA, which was equipped with M10 3" was present.
Thanks for correction. When I last time read on the D-Day, it was from German perspective, and they mentioned heavy A/t fire as the reason of their failure. But the targets easily mistook tank fire for a/t fire. IIRC II./PzR 22 attacked near Lebisey and I./PzR 22 at first near Point 61 and when stopped there made a new attack further north with same results.

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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Richard Anderson » 03 Dec 2016 16:11

Yoozername wrote:Wow, you are quite the gossip hound...
Is that what reading is going to be called in the Trump administration? :D
An example of 3inch towed TD Battalion is firing 37K+ rounds of HE, 28K of them indirect. They fired 587 rounds of APC during this time (4-5 months). The APC was not fired at armored targets. In direct fire, they mixed APC with HE for buildings bunkers etc. As far as the after action reports, I see they did not engage any armor over these months. They were assigned to infantry divisions I believe.
An example of what? Use of indirect fire by TD's? Tanks were used the same way. Arguably, using the TD and armor as artillery saved the American Army's bacon during the great ammunition crisis of fall and winter 1944. Or do you mean use of HE? Again, no different than armor.

Yes, they did not engage armor much. Yes, they tended to assign the towed battalions to infantry divisions, but that was because that was all that were available, until the ETOUSA began the program to rearm the towed battalions as SP.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Richard Anderson
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Richard Anderson » 03 Dec 2016 16:26

Yoozername wrote:German use of HVAP was known well before D-Day. Its just another case of arrogant thinking that the weapons at hand were fine for the job. The US had created a bunch of 1943 class weapons and waited till the middle of 1944 to use them. In addition to this, defects in the AP rounds they did produce were not discovered since they did faulty testing.
Well, the Americans and British were encountering Panzer III lang through the fall and winter of 1943. So the Germans had created a bunch of 1941 class weapons and waited till late 1943 to use them... In any case, my point was that while certain measure were quick, they weren't always a solution, while meantime the success of Ordnance getting a "1944 class weapon" in the field in 1944, after two years spent on development, wasn't all that good. But sure, lets blame lack of development, design, and manufacturing capability which was the result of 17 years of parsimony on the part of government, on "obstructionism" by a single general officer. Was he also to blame for the faulty testing techniques (it wasn't actually faulty projectile testing techniques; it was underestimation of the size and strength of German armor plate, most of which wasn't analyzed until 1944)? BTW, the Germans had a similar experience with their AP rounds in 1941 when encountering highly sloped and thick Soviet armor, and fielded solutions in the spring of 1942 - retooling and production takes time for everything.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

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