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Old 18 Apr 12, 20:23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Purist View Post
Every army has its units that did not measure up but the US Army still managed to fight from one voctory to the next despite those units that did not 'gel'.
There was never a doubt that the W Allies were not going to win.

As for the US armoured divisions, they were designed for the exploitation role, for which the Sherman fitted the bill. These divisions were an excellent balance of firepower and mobility, tanks and infantry for mobile operations. However, they were not suited for assaulting an enemy line. With the way the campaign was actually fought, the strategy employed, the closeness of the European terrain and the impact of the severe autumn/winter weather, various elements conspired to make said tank less suitable than others.

The Sherman has many strengths that makes it a better overall weapons package than any German tank imo. It was sturdy, took HE hits better than German afv's, and it had legs.
However, when it comes to actual combat power lets keep everything in perspective.

On one hand, the US 75mm M3 gun was one of the outstanding weapons of the war imo, an unfashionable view. It was more accurate than a howitzer, and carried greater HE per shell than HV alternatives, to be the best towed AT gun killer available to any W Ally tank. Given that PaK40 guns were common in NWE, more so than tanks, this is a very useful characteristic to have. Soft targets are more plentiful than hardened ones, and thus the greater rounds carried by the 75mm over howitzer and HV guns is also useful. Once you add 17pdrs and 105mm howitzers as weapon options, the M4 is looking like a decent combat tank.

On the otherhand, the M4 was never armoured/protected enough most of the time. Imo, medium tanks in 44 really should have a chance of standing up to the most overall effective tank killers in their opponents arsenal, especially over their frontal arc. As far as the Germans were concerned, you are really looking at the PaK/KwK/StuK40 range of 75mm weapons they were using in numbers. The Sherman had trouble standing up to PaK38's.

Therefore, the M4 was actually pretty good as far as firepower was concerned, but lacked protection.

Mobility is a similar story. Operationally, it was probably the best tank in WW2, period. Tactically it was adequate, even quite good providing the terrain was firm and not too steep. However, other tanks from 44 were doing better.

So far the M4 can be considered an adequate tank. Then it reveals its strength. Not only is it reliable and easy to maintain, it is relatively easy to produce and transport to where it is needed. Its strength is in numbers that can be brought to bear when required.

Therefore, can the Sherman be considered good value?

After D-Day the British had intended to have eight independent Tank Brigades to support their divisions in NWE. Due to huge resources being wasted on cruisers only 3 of these brigades were formed. These three Tank Brigades had 9 squadrons of 15 Churchills each as their main attacking component ie 675 men. The other brigades were issued with Shermans with 20 tanks per troop, ie 900 men, and renamed Armoured Brigades. To keep the combat power of each type of unit the same, the Armoured brigades were given a battalion of motorised infantry ie 600+ men.

By equipping formations with Shermans we can see there was a false economy in this case. A bit like buying a cheaper car, but one that has greater long term costs. In the case of a Tank vs an Armoured independant brigade, we are talking about c1000 men to make up the difference in combat power between a unit armed with one type of tanks and another with Shermans.

The three Tank brigades saved the CW around 2500 combat troops compared with those Armoured Brigades using Shermans. Given that Britain had to cannibalize infantry Divisions (eg 50th) to keep other divisions intact, this is an important consideration.

The Sherman was quite good, better than the T34, but not that good in cost effective terms as many believe.
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