The Sherman Tank

 “A Tiger can destroy 10 Sherman tanks, but the Americans have 11.”

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel

 

 

 

 

A military maxim proclaims that quantity has a quality all its own.  Some 50,000 M4 Sherman tanks were manufactured by the US during the World War II.  A speedy and maneuverable medium tank, the M4 was designed to be shipped easily by sea and rail.  As an infantry support platform it was much loved by GI’s.  The only problem was that the Sherman was totally outgunned by  German Tigers and Panthers.  One dismayed tanker recalled seeing a Tiger fire through two buildings and still take out a Sherman.  The Sherman 75 gun could not penetrate the front armor of a Tiger.  Tiger and Panther shells had little problem penetrating the Sherman’s armor, causing American tankers to sometimes refer to their tanks as Ronsons, after a popular lighter of the period.  However, the Americans usually heavily outnumbered the enemy armor they confronted and almost always could call on air support to knock out enemy tanks.  Enemy armor also had to confront endless American infantry with anti-tank weapons and mortars, backed up by plentiful artillery and abundant tank destroyers, which made most German armored offensives against American positions risky propositions for them.

 

Most losses of the Sherman were not caused by German armor.  However, the fact that the Shermans were clearly inferior to the top classes of German armor was demoralizing for American tankers.  Variants on the Sherman saw service during the campaigns in France and Germany with heavier frontal armor and  mounting heavier guns partially alleviating the problem.

Published in: on April 22, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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  1. There is a story by an Italian veteran I always tell in this context. This guy had been placed in a mountain defile – in Tunisia, I imagine – with a tank-busting gun and instructions not to let the Americans through. He was in the ideal place, and, when he saw them coming, it was a turkey shoot… until he ran out of ammo and more American tanks still kept coming. He claimed that he knew then that the war was lost.

    • I have spoken to a German veteran of Barbarossa Fabio, since deceased, who would rave about what an idiot Hitler was. He was in a scouting unit and glimpsed the spires of the Kremlin using high power binoculars in early December in 1941. He said that the manpower of the Red Army was endless and once the counteroffensive of the Russians was underway he heard about Hitler declaring war on the US after Pearl Harbor and knew that Germany was doomed. Quality long term simply cannot make up for a huge disparity in quantity.


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