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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 23 Jun 17, 23:51
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Destroying the Panthers

Quote:
Abstract: This article is an examination of the operational record of the
World War Two German Panther tank during the Normandy Campaign
of summer 1944. Challenging its perception as mechanically unreliable,
this article argues Allied combat action was responsible for a large
percentage of Panthers that were out of action. Secondly, the inferior
resources of the German tank replacement and repair program were no
match for superior Canadian Army practices during 1944. To support
these arguments the author examines Canadian and German wartime
primary documents as well as multiple secondary sources.
http://scholars.wlu.ca/cgi/viewconte...42&context=cmh

I ran across this paper. It has a very interesting description of the tank repair services and contrasts the Canadian and German systems.
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  #2  
Old 24 Jun 17, 02:26
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.Seems great.Thanks for sharing !
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Old 24 Jun 17, 06:50
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Yes very good, one additional factor is however overlooked I think. That is the chronic shortage of tank transporters available to the German army, especially ones that could take the Panthers and the Tigers which meant that getting tanks, whether damaged by Allied action or suffering mechanical failure, back to the workshops was a major problem in of itself.
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Old 24 Jun 17, 07:27
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Originally Posted by MarkV View Post
Yes very good, one additional factor is however overlooked I think. That is the chronic shortage of tank transporters available to the German army, especially ones that could take the Panthers and the Tigers which meant that getting tanks, whether damaged by Allied action or suffering mechanical failure, back to the workshops was a major problem in of itself.
I agree. The Germans went from one of the best at tank recovery to one of the worst in a few short years. Part of it was the sheer weight of the monster tanks. And the paper was a very nice find!
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Old 24 Jun 17, 08:19
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Originally Posted by RichardS View Post
I agree. The Germans went from one of the best at tank recovery to one of the worst in a few short years. Part of it was the sheer weight of the monster tanks. And the paper was a very nice find!
Indeed - the German army did have a low loader trailer that would take tanks up to the Mk IV but for anything bigger they had to use the commercial Gotha trailer most of which were commandeered (leaving German heavy industry with real problems). Finding enough prime movers was still a problem and Sd.Kfz 9s were often used in tandem (as well as some French prime movers). The set up was very slow about 7kph I think and a beautiful target for Allied fighter bombers so any movement of recovered tanks would have to be at night. Knocked out tanks could be moved short distances by being dragged by armoured tank recovery vehicles which were converted from gun tanks but it took two or more to move a Panther and they were in short supply as well.
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Old 24 Jun 17, 17:07
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One other thing that paper missed, was that the Panther, and German tanks in general, took longer to fix in many cases than Allied vehicles. If, for example, a Panther needed an engine or transmission change, it took days to a week or more to complete this task whereas a Sherman could have either changed out in a matter of hours.
Also, many tasks that required help of the workshop in a German panzer battalion could be effected by company ARV in Allied battalions. ARV didn't exist at company level in the German battalion, and were often in short supply as well. But, the German ARV, like the Bergepanther, weren't really designed or equipped to do a range of repairs to the tanks they serviced, but really rather just outfitted to recover and tow them to the workshop for repairs.
The US M32 or T3 recovery vehicles carried repair parts, tools, welding and cutting equipment, and other resources to carry out most basic repairs of a tank on the spot. They were equipped with an A frame gantry that could lift a turret or major component of an Allied tank making them capable of doing far more where a tank broke down or was damaged than their German counterparts could. That took a considerable burden off the battalion workshops in Allied units.
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Old 24 Jun 17, 18:09
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Did poor quality fuel and lubricants pose as many problems to German tanks as it did the Luftwaffe?

There are many claims that Panzers suffered transmission problems, and that the German tanks required more maintenance than others.
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Old 24 Jun 17, 20:24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AdrianE View Post
http://scholars.wlu.ca/cgi/viewconte...42&context=cmh

I ran across this paper. It has a very interesting description of the tank repair services and contrasts the Canadian and German systems.
Nice find thanks for sharing. Great contributions from TAG and Mark V too

Regards,Kurt
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Old 26 Jun 17, 00:54
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Thanks for sharing. After reading, I have a few questions about the article. The author states that he "investigated the combat record of an average Panther battalion in Normandy," but in reality the author notes that the battalion investigated is the only one with available data; despite his enthusiasm for doing a statistical analysis, he offers no evidence that this battalion is in fact an "average Panther battalion in Normandy."

Citing Jentz's Panther book pp.89-96, the author states, "Most importantly, all aspects of the final drives were strengthened on production models from September 1944 onward. These improvements consisted of strengthening the transmission’s straight cut gears, increasing lubrication and improving final drive housing durability to avoid bolts being sheared off." Jentz does indeed say, "In September and October 1944, a series of modifications were incorporated into the final drives as countermeasures to reported problems including chewed up gear teeth, broken parts, damaged bearings, and insufficient lubrication." Strengthening of the transmission gears is not explicitly mentioned in those pages (the transmission and final drive are not the same in any case?), and indeed Spielberger in his Panther book says, "All attempts to improve the final drive met with failure, despite the offers of a special bonus as an incentive."

The chart that is the centerpiece of the article has some interesting entries. The average of the "Total holdings" column has a typo and should read 50, not 80 (unfortunate, but I definitely understand that it happens). The author derives the "Total number under repair" column simply by subtracting the serviceable tanks from the total holdings. The crux of his argument is that battle damage, and then slow repair processes, caused more Panthers to be in need of repair than did mechanical deficiencies. But we aren't explicitly told why a tank is needing repair: mechanical failure or battle damage? Looking at the data, on 1 June the battalion 8 tanks under repair; on 8 June 2 tanks were damaged; on 9 June 3 were damaged; on 11 June 3 were damaged; on 16 June there were 16 tanks under repair. We can get from the 8 under repair on 1 June to the 16 under repair on 16 June by simply adding the tanks that received battle damage on 8, 9 and 11 June, but what indication is given that that is correct and not simply coincidental? None of the 8 tanks from 1 June, or any of the other 3 days, were repaired in the interim? Apparently 8 tanks were fixed from 18-20 June, when the tanks needing repair goes from 21 to 13. Similarly, on 24 June 11 tanks are under repair, and on 2 July the number is 20. Nine tanks received battle damage in the interim, but are these the only other tanks that needed repairs? None of the initial 11 or any of these 9 were put back into action by 2 July? The author says, "It is accurate to assess the tanks involved in the operations on 8–9 June 1944 as being mechanically reliable in combat, despite coming off a recent 140 kilometre road march in difficult circumstances. In reviewing accounts of this action, there is no mention of a Panther breaking down or being abandoned in combat due to a mechanical fault." If that's the case, what happened on the night of 17-18 June, when we go from 16 to 21 tanks needing repair with no fighting on those days?

Also, the results are skewed by the "New Panthers delivered" column. On 5 July there were 42 total tanks, but on 6 July there were 28 serviceable tanks and 16 under repair, yielding a total of 44 tanks (?) and what would ostensibly be a 36% rate of tanks needing repaired. However, also on 6 July, 13 new tanks were received, bringing the "Total holdings" from 42 to 55. The author includes these 13 tanks in the calculation for "Percent Under repair" (55 total tanks, 16 under repair, 29% under repair)!

The author's argument may be further undermined by his discussion of Canadian units: "What allowed such a large number of Canadian tanks to remain in action despite losses to enemy action and inevitable mechanical failure? There were four main reasons. First, the tank models in question had acceptable levels of automotive reliability."

I don't think there is much debate that the Panther got more reliable as time went on, and the Ausf.G especially was much better than the Ausf.D. The author's statistical analysis in my opinion, though, suffers from assuming the only battalion with an available combat diary is representative, having incomplete data in any case (i.e., lacking--or at least not explicitly revealing--the reason tanks were under repair), and performing a bit of cherry picking (counting newly-delivered tanks in the calculations for tanks under repair). If I was of the opinion that the later Panther was a very unreliable tank, I would not be convinced otherwise by this exercise.
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Old 26 Jun 17, 11:00
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DogDodger View Post
Thanks for sharing. After reading, I have a few questions about the article. The author states that he "investigated the combat record of an average Panther battalion in Normandy," but in reality the author notes that the battalion investigated is the only one with available data; despite his enthusiasm for doing a statistical analysis, he offers no evidence that this battalion is in fact an "average Panther battalion in Normandy."

Citing Jentz's Panther book pp.89-96, the author states, "Most importantly, all aspects of the final drives were strengthened on production models from September 1944 onward. These improvements consisted of strengthening the transmissionís straight cut gears, increasing lubrication and improving final drive housing durability to avoid bolts being sheared off." Jentz does indeed say, "In September and October 1944, a series of modifications were incorporated into the final drives as countermeasures to reported problems including chewed up gear teeth, broken parts, damaged bearings, and insufficient lubrication." Strengthening of the transmission gears is not explicitly mentioned in those pages (the transmission and final drive are not the same in any case?), and indeed Spielberger in his Panther book says, "All attempts to improve the final drive met with failure, despite the offers of a special bonus as an incentive."

The chart that is the centerpiece of the article has some interesting entries. The average of the "Total holdings" column has a typo and should read 50, not 80 (unfortunate, but I definitely understand that it happens). The author derives the "Total number under repair" column simply by subtracting the serviceable tanks from the total holdings. The crux of his argument is that battle damage, and then slow repair processes, caused more Panthers to be in need of repair than did mechanical deficiencies. But we aren't explicitly told why a tank is needing repair: mechanical failure or battle damage? Looking at the data, on 1 June the battalion 8 tanks under repair; on 8 June 2 tanks were damaged; on 9 June 3 were damaged; on 11 June 3 were damaged; on 16 June there were 16 tanks under repair. We can get from the 8 under repair on 1 June to the 16 under repair on 16 June by simply adding the tanks that received battle damage on 8, 9 and 11 June, but what indication is given that that is correct and not simply coincidental? None of the 8 tanks from 1 June, or any of the other 3 days, were repaired in the interim? Apparently 8 tanks were fixed from 18-20 June, when the tanks needing repair goes from 21 to 13. Similarly, on 24 June 11 tanks are under repair, and on 2 July the number is 20. Nine tanks received battle damage in the interim, but are these the only other tanks that needed repairs? None of the initial 11 or any of these 9 were put back into action by 2 July? The author says, "It is accurate to assess the tanks involved in the operations on 8Ė9 June 1944 as being mechanically reliable in combat, despite coming off a recent 140 kilometre road march in difficult circumstances. In reviewing accounts of this action, there is no mention of a Panther breaking down or being abandoned in combat due to a mechanical fault." If that's the case, what happened on the night of 17-18 June, when we go from 16 to 21 tanks needing repair with no fighting on those days?

Also, the results are skewed by the "New Panthers delivered" column. On 5 July there were 42 total tanks, but on 6 July there were 28 serviceable tanks and 16 under repair, yielding a total of 44 tanks (?) and what would ostensibly be a 36% rate of tanks needing repaired. However, also on 6 July, 13 new tanks were received, bringing the "Total holdings" from 42 to 55. The author includes these 13 tanks in the calculation for "Percent Under repair" (55 total tanks, 16 under repair, 29% under repair)!

The author's argument may be further undermined by his discussion of Canadian units: "What allowed such a large number of Canadian tanks to remain in action despite losses to enemy action and inevitable mechanical failure? There were four main reasons. First, the tank models in question had acceptable levels of automotive reliability."

I don't think there is much debate that the Panther got more reliable as time went on, and the Ausf.G especially was much better than the Ausf.D. The author's statistical analysis in my opinion, though, suffers from assuming the only battalion with an available combat diary is representative, having incomplete data in any case (i.e., lacking--or at least not explicitly revealing--the reason tanks were under repair), and performing a bit of cherry picking (counting newly-delivered tanks in the calculations for tanks under repair). If I was of the opinion that the later Panther was a very unreliable tank, I would not be convinced otherwise by this exercise.
Great post, but just a couple of points.

The Panther's final drive was theoretically improved Sept-Oct 44, so any real improvements in the tanks reliability would yet have taken place.

Also Panthers were delivered near combat zones by rail, thus poor reliability would not have been a major concern, and out of action, but repairable tanks could have been the norm much of the time at this point of the campaign.

Quote:
On 28 June 1944, Guderian reported on experiences in opposing the Allied landing in Normandy: The Pz.Kpfw.IV, V, and VI have proven to be successful. The Panther appears to catch fire quickly. The lifespan of the Pantherís motors (1400 to 1500 km) is significantly higher than the Pantherís final drives. A solution to the final drive problem is urgently needed.
Germanyís Panther Tank by Thomas Jentz p147

Quote:
The final drive (gear teeth and bearing) was the weakest part of the Panther.
Panther and its Variants by Walther Speilberger p60.

The Panther proves a tank is only as strong as its weakest link.
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Old 26 Jun 17, 13:18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkV View Post
Yes very good, one additional factor is however overlooked I think. That is the chronic shortage of tank transporters available to the German army, especially ones that could take the Panthers and the Tigers which meant that getting tanks, whether damaged by Allied action or suffering mechanical failure, back to the workshops was a major problem in of itself.
By 1944, these were virtually nonexistent in field panzer units. They were never available in large numbers, typically ones and twos early in the war. But, by 1944, you simply don't see them in use any more for field recovery. The norm by 1944 was simply to tow the damaged / broken down vehicle in neutral on its own tracks back to the workshop area with an ARV or another tank.
If this couldn't be done, and the vehicle was in risk of capture, the German norm was to blow the vehicle up in place to prevent its capture.
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Old 26 Jun 17, 18:27
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Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
By 1944, these were virtually nonexistent in field panzer units. They were never available in large numbers, typically ones and twos early in the war. But, by 1944, you simply don't see them in use any more for field recovery. The norm by 1944 was simply to tow the damaged / broken down vehicle in neutral on its own tracks back to the workshop area with an ARV or another tank.
If this couldn't be done, and the vehicle was in risk of capture, the German norm was to blow the vehicle up in place to prevent its capture.
Yep, and on another note

Panthers in Normandy, given the majority of tanks they faced, were likely out of action due to the much derided M3 75mm guns on Shermans, and their equivalents on British tanks.

Panthers did not generally get the chance to be unreliable in Normandy 44. This was due to the nature of the terrain. While a Panther might be able to kill a Sherman at a greater range, the close terrain simply meant that Sherman crews could wait until they got the first shot.
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Old 27 Jun 17, 19:41
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Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
By 1944, these were virtually nonexistent in field panzer units. They were never available in large numbers, typically ones and twos early in the war. But, by 1944, you simply don't see them in use any more for field recovery. The norm by 1944 was simply to tow the damaged / broken down vehicle in neutral on its own tracks back to the workshop area with an ARV or another tank.
If this couldn't be done, and the vehicle was in risk of capture, the German norm was to blow the vehicle up in place to prevent its capture.
It took two tanks or more to tow a Panther this way and then only a limited distance. By 1944 any remaining trailers were only used for tank recovery. All other movement was either by train or under their own power (which increased the rate of mechanical failure).
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  #14  
Old 27 Jun 17, 20:01
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Originally Posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
Yep, and on another note

Panthers in Normandy, given the majority of tanks they faced, were likely out of action due to the much derided M3 75mm guns on Shermans, and their equivalents on British tanks.

Panthers did not generally get the chance to be unreliable in Normandy 44. This was due to the nature of the terrain. While a Panther might be able to kill a Sherman at a greater range, the close terrain simply meant that Sherman crews could wait until they got the first shot.
A significant number were knocked out by towed 17pdr AT guns or 17pdr equipped A10s of anti tank regiments.
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Old 01 Jul 17, 16:58
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I think there is a basic problem with the logic that most Panthers were damaged/destroyed by the Allies, ergo the Panther was not unreliable. These are two entirely unrelated phenomena. The best that could be argued in this case is that Panthers were in action for such a short time before they were damaged/destroyed that their nominal reliability was irrelevant.

British reports from Normandy indicate that Panther engines were still catching fire in that theatre, and indeed, engine fires occurred on the Panthers that the British had built for them in mid-1945. But again, even if Panthers were perfectly reliable up to their very maximum 1800 km engine and transmission life, this represents a durability of only 1120 miles against 3000 for the Sherman and Cromwell. As such, the Panther would have been turned down for service in the British Army, as it would have been less durable than a Centaur, which could reliably achieve 2000 miles between overhauls.
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