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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > World War II > Armor in World War II

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Armor in World War II Discuss all aspects & disciplines of World War II Armor here.

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  #1  
Old 14 Dec 16, 19:03
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Why didn't the West mass produce assault guns?

For Assault Gun, we are not talking about SP artillery such as the M7 Priest, or even the Su-76, but dedicated front line afv's such as the ISU-152, SU-122, Sturmpanzer IV and Stugs.

The Heer loved their assault guns (AG's), the Stug being the most massed produced 'tank' made by Germany in WW2. Upon seeing such assault guns in action, the Soviets also made them in huge quantities. Given that the Soviets and especially the Germans often understood armoured warfare at a level above the West, at least early in the War, why no AG in the West? Was it an oversight?

The West did have CS tanks, to deliver greater HE, such as 105mm Sherman and 95mm Cromwells, but these were issued to armoured and tank Squadrons, and not used separately, certainly not in quantity.

Given that AG's are cheaper to produce than tanks, and that you get the same firepower (and more armour in German Stugs), than the equivalent tank, why not use a greater amount of AG's attached to Infantry units, rather than a fewer amount of tanks?
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  #2  
Old 14 Dec 16, 20:21
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I am not sure what you mean by "Why didn't the West mass produce assault guns?"

USA produced the M-10 (6 400 built), also converted to the Achilles by the Brits and the M-18 (2 500 built) Hellcat, in great numbers. they also converted jeeps to carry AT guns.

At the later stage of the war mid'44, they started to built the M36 with the 90mm gun in great numbers as well (6 400)

just go to wiki...
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Old 14 Dec 16, 20:39
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I would imagine the large numbers of Tank Destroyers and Self Propelled Howitzers got in the way of any call "Assault Guns" like the German and Soviet variety. The British did make some open top Tank Destroyers early on.

Tanks do have an advantage over Assault Guns. They carry the main gun higher off the ground. The Jagdpanzer IV seems to have had a nasty habit of digging the end of the main gun into the ground when the elevation changed in front rapidly. The Panther carried the same gun and never had that problem.

The Americans and British designed Super Assault Guns. The British effort became the A-39 Tortoise. The American effort was designated the Gun Motor Carriage T-95 in 1945. In 1946 it was re-designated the Super Heavy TankT-28. Neither design went into series production. Both would have faced problems in the field from their weight. Transport and Wrecker Service would also have been a problem.

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Old 14 Dec 16, 20:57
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aloess View Post
I am not sure what you mean by "Why didn't the West mass produce assault guns?"

USA produced the M-10 (6 400 built), also converted to the Achilles by the Brits and the M-18 (2 500 built) Hellcat, in great numbers. they also converted jeeps to carry AT guns.

At the later stage of the war mid'44, they started to built the M36 with the 90mm gun in great numbers as well (6 400)

just go to wiki...
There's a semantical difference here. An assault gun would go into battle alongside the infantry, while US tank destroyers would ambush enemy armor using their organic reconnaissance assets to find the enemy tanks that had broken through the friendly front. American tank destroyers were not intended to be used as assault guns, and suffered when they were pressed into service as such by field commanders. They had intentionally light armor, open turrets, and initially their high-velocity guns didn't have as powerful high-explosive shells as tank guns. Though to be fair, I'd probably prefer one of those to an SU-76 (which was a dedicated front line AFV...?) or something similar...
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Old 14 Dec 16, 23:48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DogDodger View Post
There's a semantical difference here. An assault gun would go into battle alongside the infantry, while US tank destroyers would ambush enemy armor using their organic reconnaissance assets to find the enemy tanks that had broken through the friendly front. American tank destroyers were not intended to be used as assault guns, and suffered when they were pressed into service as such by field commanders. They had intentionally light armor, open turrets, and initially their high-velocity guns didn't have as powerful high-explosive shells as tank guns. Though to be fair, I'd probably prefer one of those to an SU-76 (which was a dedicated front line AFV...?) or something similar...

While what you say is true about US TDs doctrine, i think its a mentality difference. a SU-152 might have been an assault gun, but did poorly in a TD role unless it had an opportunity to shoot a german tank at very close range, which had devastating effect for the crew inside, when a hit was scored. Also, the su-85, su-100 and isu122 were ''TDs'' in all respect, not assault guns, and their role wasn't to support infantry, the role of infantry was to support them, while they destroyed german AFVs. So that leaves us with a few assault gun that could also destroy tanks. StuH42, SU/ISU-152, SU-122, SU-76, StuGIIIA-E etc.

So yeah i guess USA and England lacked those type of assault gun, although there was a few mods like the AVRE, Crocodile and so on.

''Given that AG's are cheaper to produce than tanks, and that you get the same firepower (and more armour in German Stugs), than the equivalent tank, why not use a greater amount of AG's attached to Infantry units, rather than a fewer amount of tanks? ''

For the same reason i guess Assault guns aren't produced anymore today, given enough resources, Tanks are superior with their turret and mobility, and can do pretty much everything an assault gun could do. There is also the number of ammo carried, which was very low in a su-152 and required extra strong loaders. With all the artillery support US troops had, i guess they didnt feel the need to build specific assault gun.
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Old 15 Dec 16, 00:15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aloess View Post
I am not sure what you mean by "Why didn't the West mass produce assault guns?"

USA produced the M-10 (6 400 built), also converted to the Achilles by the Brits and the M-18 (2 500 built) Hellcat, in great numbers. they also converted jeeps to carry AT guns.

At the later stage of the war mid'44, they started to built the M36 with the 90mm gun in great numbers as well (6 400)

just go to wiki...
Those are Tank Destroyers, which is a different role than Assault Guns, although they did overlap somewhat.

Roughly...

AG - Direct fire self-propelled armored artillery to provide direct support for infantry. German infantry would use the regiment's 75mm and 150mm infantry guns for direct support, but they could take some time to move into place. An attached battery of StuG III could keep up easily was much better protected.

TD - Ambush enemy tanks then move to an alternate position and ambush more. When there was a shortage of enemy tanks to shoot at, the Allies would sometimes use the TDs as longer range AGs.

Back to the original question...

The turretless AG (and TD) was a way to create a cheaper and more easily produced armored vehicle with a gun equal or larger than the tank. This put more AFVs in the field for both sides on the Eastern Front.

The Allies, particularly the US, had few problems producing lots of tanks. The bottleneck was shipping them overseas. The US already had 75mm and 105mm HE capability in turreted vehicles, so there was no benefit to designing a German/Russian style non-turreted AG. The Shermans could fill the role easily without adding a new type to manufacture and maintain. Most US infantry divisions in the ETO ended up with both an attached tank battalion and a TD battalion. That covers both the AG and TD roles.
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Old 15 Dec 16, 07:55
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DogDodger View Post
There's a semantical difference here. An assault gun would go into battle alongside the infantry, while US tank destroyers would ambush enemy armor using their organic reconnaissance assets to find the enemy tanks that had broken through the friendly front. American tank destroyers were not intended to be used as assault guns, and suffered when they were pressed into service as such by field commanders. They had intentionally light armor, open turrets, and initially their high-velocity guns didn't have as powerful high-explosive shells as tank guns. Though to be fair, I'd probably prefer one of those to an SU-76 (which was a dedicated front line AFV...?) or something similar...
Good points. In context, the American case conceived a defensive role for the tank destroyers when the Allies were generally on the offensive. Second, Americans did not understand the panzer division was capable of close integration among the arms, but at the tank's level of mobility, not the infantry. Second, the Americans did not appreciate the evolution in the technologies of the tanks as the war evolved and was behind the curve, unlike the German and Soviet awareness on the eastern front, which, in the Soviet case, saw the SU-76 viable, then not, and led to the Su-122, Su-85.

The American situation was complicated in doctrinal antitank matters. Neither the Infantry nor Field Artillery accepted fully the antitank task as its own, hence no doctrine upon which no training guidance to the field units. This situation, as one author noted, led to a tank destroyer doctrine that "was never fully realized in combat, and, in fact, the successes attained by tank destroyer units in battle came about despite tank destroyer doctrine, not because of it."
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Old 15 Dec 16, 09:45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NoPref View Post
TD - Ambush enemy tanks then move to an alternate position and ambush more. When there was a shortage of enemy tanks to shoot at, the Allies would sometimes use the TDs as longer range AGs.
That was just theory. In practice rank destroyers were not used as they were intended to but were employed as a combination of multipurpose ersatz-tanks and self-propelled artillery.
One can also question the rationale of German practice of producing so many variations of StuGs, jagdpanzers, assault tanks and other stuff. In most cases they offered little real advantage for the task of supporting infantry compared with "normal" tanks. In other words separate battalion equipped with "normal" tanks would work just as well. AFV design after war mostly went with more or less universal MBT, the assault guns happened to be a dead end.
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Old 15 Dec 16, 09:54
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anything an assault gun can do, a tank can do better or as well.

The only adavntage is a lower profile, but in a fixed position, if you sit hull down, that advantage also applies.

Ass ault guns are not fire on the move vehicles. They are more of a weapon for defense than offense.

the russians loved them because they were much simpler and cheaper, and could be used with not nearly as much crew training.

An army on the move needs a tank.

An army on the back foot uses anything thats cheaper.
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Old 15 Dec 16, 10:14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drusus Nero View Post
anything an assault gun can do, a tank can do better or as well.

The only adavntage is a lower profile, but in a fixed position, if you sit hull down, that advantage also applies.

Ass ault guns are not fire on the move vehicles. They are more of a weapon for defense than offense.

the russians loved them because they were much simpler and cheaper, and could be used with not nearly as much crew training.

An army on the move needs a tank.

An army on the back foot uses anything thats cheaper.
You cannot use a gun primarily for defence and call it an assault gun! That is why a gun designed to be used in an offensive manner is called an assault gun. It has got to be one or the other. I can see the point you are driving at , but to support your theory you can no longer refer to it as a assault gun. lcm1
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Old 15 Dec 16, 11:39
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I think the answer would be that they didn't need them. With the volume of tanks accompanying infantry units and throwing in TD's (which also carried HE rounds) and the various SPG's that could easily be called upon to fire directly when needed (I read once about an M12 firing on a pillbox and the surrendering Germans complained that the use of the 155mm in this way should be considered a war crime!) it would seem that the Allies had plenty of HE being thrown in the battlefield and didn't need to spend the time or money on R7D for another redundant vehicle.
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Old 15 Dec 16, 11:57
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drusus Nero View Post
The only adavntage is a lower profile, but in a fixed position, if you sit hull down, that advantage also applies.
Also a bigger gun in many cases. And BTW Sherman 105-mm was a closest thing to assault guns per se the US Army had. It should be added that SP gun could be a way to make a viable armored vehicle out of completely outdated tank by supplying a better armament and armored protection (T-70 ->SU-76, Pz. 38 ->Hetzer etc)
Again a German practice of producing StuG IV on Pz IV chassis is hard to explain in rational terms.
Quote:
Ass ault guns are not fire on the move vehicles. They are more of a weapon for defense than offense.
I don't think that the battle practice supports such a narrow slot. The bulk of Soviet SUs were employed in the offensive phase of the war, after all.
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Old 15 Dec 16, 15:44
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A better answer lies in how each military decided what kind of AFV to build.

In the US Army there were four branches involved in AFV design to one extent or another: Infantry, Tank destroyer, artillery, and cavalry.

The infantry branch became the armor branch and they wanted tanks... tanks with turrets. The TD branch wanted a bigger gun, open tops on their vehicles to give better vision to the crew and allow for more depression of the gun. Artillery wanted something with an artillery piece plopped on top of it. The cavalry wanted light tanks and armored cars.
So, that's what got built.

The British were just struggling to supply their forces enough tanks and their cavalry and armor branches were largely on the same page as to what they wanted: An infantry tank and a cruiser tank. Some light tanks and armored cars were thrown in for reece work.

The Germans had the same thing going. They had the panzer (armor) branch, artillery, and panzerjager (antitank) branches all working towards different ends. Panzer wanted tanks with turrets for offensive operations. The artillery branch wanted the self-propelled assault gun to support infantry with what amounted to direct artillery fire.
The panzerjager branch started off with improvised vehicles that had an antitank gun plopped on top of some obsolete or obsolescent tank or half track. Taking a page from the artillery their next generation was heavily armored and had a big antitank gun fixed in the hull front on a fully tracked chassis.
So, the Germans ended up with lots of SP guns mainly because the two branches that were buying product wanted them that way.

The StuG IV came about because of a shortage of StuG III due to production bottlenecks. It was a stopgap more than anything. The Pzjr IV came about because the Pz IV was slowly being phased out as a tank.
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Old 15 Dec 16, 16:37
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Inexperience and refusal to adapt. We didn't think in terms of heavily defended concrete fortifications until too late.

The Soviets rapidly came up with assault guns that got larger and larger ending in the ISU152's.
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Old 15 Dec 16, 18:10
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Weren't the Americans able to bring up 155 SP's to fire point blank at these concrete bunkers?

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