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

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  #31  
Old 03 Jul 17, 09:02
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Originally Posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
By December 1944, you are undoubtedly correct. However, the report concerns the 12th Pz Rgt in Normandy, a unit that had been there for several months, so we could expect the tanks to be in good running order, and crews at least capable in their roles.

.
I have just read a US Intelligence Bulletin on German tank repair and recovery written sometime about 1943. From 1940 each Panzer battalion had a repair section. This was responsible for carrying out all the service checks on the tanks and taking what ever action arose (topping up reservoirs , changing plugs etc etc.) It would appear that the tank crews had no responsibility for the serviceability of their tank. The repair section were also responsible for any repairs that could be carried out within four hours although there were significant restrictions on the size of any welding job they could undertake.

Anything bigger required the tank to be taken to the Regimental workshops - each regiment had a workshop company including two repair platoons and one recovery platoon plus sections to look after radios, gun sights etc. This was usually located 15 or 20 miles behind the fighting area and handled repairs that could be done within 12 hours - for anything taking longer the tank was moved back to other facilities which the report is a little vague about. A battalion's repair section accompanied it on the march. Should a tank break down it was left behind with a couple of vehicles (usually motor cycle combos) from the repair section. Thus on a long march the repair section could end up strung out in the wake of its battalion. The repair section truck always stayed with the repair vehicle left farthest to the rear If a repair was not going to be able to be made in the four hour window then it was collected for the repair platoons by the recovery platoon. A German POW taken in North Africa revealed that most of the men in the recovery platoon apart from the drivers were unskilled .

The men in the repair sections appear initially to have been relatively unskilled men returning to the Repair Platoons for training when quiet periods allowed. The repair platoons might also send experienced mechanics out to the repair sections to instruct them on jobs that they found difficult.

It would seem that the bulk of mechanical knowledge and ability was concentrated to the rear and the men with the tank battalions had only limited capacity. Whether or not this reflects a shortage is unclear.
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  #32  
Old 03 Jul 17, 09:12
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Not a tank person so will bow to greater wisdom on this but from reading Forczyk's interesting EF books the Panther (and Tiger have issues with):
- Some mechanical reliability (but not always a as bad as had been painted)
- Lack of recovery facilitates
- Increasingly poor crew training
- High use of POL and spares for operations
- Lack of POL / spares in sufficient quantities

NWE is different in crucial ways, obviously, but the underlying issues remains relevant. He also posits particular with reference to the Red Army but also the Panzerwaffe as time goes on the necessity of thorough check on major systems at each march stop / pause in operations. Tired, poorly-trained crew and / or those with insufficient parts and tools can make the reliability of even a capable vehicle far worse quite quickly.
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  #33  
Old 03 Jul 17, 11:07
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluenose View Post
Not a tank person so will bow to greater wisdom on this but from reading Forczyk's interesting EF books the Panther (and Tiger have issues with):
- Some mechanical reliability (but not always a as bad as had been painted)
- Lack of recovery facilitates
- Increasingly poor crew training
- High use of POL and spares for operations
- Lack of POL / spares in sufficient quantities

NWE is different in crucial ways, obviously, but the underlying issues remains relevant. He also posits particular with reference to the Red Army but also the Panzerwaffe as time goes on the necessity of thorough check on major systems at each march stop / pause in operations. Tired, poorly-trained crew and / or those with insufficient parts and tools can make the reliability of even a capable vehicle far worse quite quickly.
The Tiger 2 was actually a fairly reliable tank, especially for a heavy. Where it failed was that it used to chew up most roads it was on, preventing non track vehicles from following. This was why Joachim Peiper led his attack with Panzer IV's, during the 'Bulge', which defeats the whole purpose of having heavies in the first place.

The Panther had almost all its defects dealt with by the G model. The problem with this tank, regardless of D, A or G, was its final drive, which was never solved. This limited its range to about 150km (less than 100 miles) before a major overhaul was usually needed. This is why Panthers fail as an offensive weapon, and thus as a tank.

Imo, what the Germans actually needed was a reliable, easily maintainable, relatively thrifty tank with a big AT gun. What they needed was the Firefly.
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Old 03 Jul 17, 11:14
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Sure. The point I was making was that, beyond specific defects of the platforms themselves, there seems to have been numerous tank-agnostic reason why German non-combat losses rose.


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Imo, what the Germans actually needed was a reliable, easily maintainable, relatively thrifty tank with a big AT gun. What they needed was the Firefly.

Pz. IV Ausf. G with the long 75?
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  #35  
Old 03 Jul 17, 11:36
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Originally Posted by Bluenose View Post
Sure.

The point I was making was that, beyond specific defects of the platforms themselves, there seems to have been numerous tank-agnostic reason why German non-combat losses rose.
I agree with the report in the OP that Panthers were generally shot up in Normandy, rather than breaking down, and by 75mm 'popguns' at that. Panthers did not have to move far, and combats were down to who shot first, the terrain almost making size of gun and thickness of armour irrelevant. The ambush nature of the combat meant Allied crews simply waited until the enemy tanks were closer before firing.

The big difference is that with Tigers, the Allies are having to deal with up to 80mm side armour, rather than around half that in Panthers. This means that a Tiger can get much closer before western 75mm rounds are penetrating, and supporting German infantry are more able to get on top of their opponents.

Another reason why the Firefly would have been a better tank than the Panther, was its slightly thicker side armour, and smaller size, giving greater overall protection from flanking shots. Panthers were also noted for catastrophic explosions, probably due to unprotected rounds stored on the turret sides.

I can totally understand why the Panther was generally knocked out in combat rather than becoming broken down.
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  #36  
Old 03 Jul 17, 11:40
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The Germans started the war with two tanks with relatively low overhaul lives in the Panzer III and Panzer IV, and degenerated from there. They didn't set themselves up with the logistical and administrative facilities to service large tank formations over long distances. At the beginning of the war the British were equally remiss, and didn't even have the compensation of the Germans' tactical ability.

It appears to me that none of the supposed pre-war "great thinkers" on armoured warfare, whether Fuller, Liddell-Hart, Hobart or Guderian, actually thought through the full implications of fielding a large armoured force over an extended period of time.
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Old 03 Jul 17, 13:04
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Originally Posted by Don Juan View Post
The Germans started the war with two tanks with relatively low overhaul lives in the Panzer III and Panzer IV, and degenerated from there. They didn't set themselves up with the logistical and administrative facilities to service large tank formations over long distances.
Indeed US intelligence reported the creation of "lichter" (light) workshops to support Pz III and IV units with only one repair platoon instead of two. One imagines that this freed up resources for the Panther and Tiger regiments
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Old 03 Jul 17, 16:56
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Originally Posted by Don Juan View Post
The Germans started the war with two tanks with relatively low overhaul lives in the Panzer III and Panzer IV, and degenerated from there. They didn't set themselves up with the logistical and administrative facilities to service large tank formations over long distances. At the beginning of the war the British were equally remiss, and didn't even have the compensation of the Germans' tactical ability.

It appears to me that none of the supposed pre-war "great thinkers" on armoured warfare, whether Fuller, Liddell-Hart, Hobart or Guderian, actually thought through the full implications of fielding a large armoured force over an extended period of time.
I am a great believer in an almost alternative history POV why Germany did so well during the 'Blitzkrieg' years. After WW1, Germany was left with but a shadow of its former army strength in terms of numbers, but as far as quality went, it was top notch. Historically, Germany/The Holy Roman Empire, was always surrounded by strong enemies, whether the French, Italians, Danes, Poles etc etc. As a basically land locked country, it always needed a quick victory against one foe, so that it was then able to deal with a sudden invasion from another. The cadre that was left had to plan against defeating one country rapidly, hence Guderians vision. Initiative was the key.

Hitler made this plan not just possible, but a mechanism for victory. Along with an officer corps that was already supremely able, Hitler created almost millions of 'robots' willing to follow a military leadership, youths promised victory from the ashes of defeat. He then equipped them with possible war winning weapons.

When the war turned south at the end of 1941 for the Nazi's, kit was blamed, especially their tanks. The T-34 was stated to be the problem, not the fact the Heer was not prepared for the Freeze, despite all the obvious signals about the Russian winter weather.

Therefore we have the Panther. This was designed to be one level better than the probable next incarnation of the T-34/76, which was historically the T-34/85. A reliable Panther would have been better than that Soviet tank, but it wasn't. The Panther was as much about Nazi propaganda, a tank that appeared far better than other mediums (on paper) than its opponents.

War is not fair. Just because the Panther appears to be a better tank than its opponents on most attributes is actually irrelevant. All that matters are those attributes that matter. I tend to use the Wildcat as an example, specifically the F4F-4. On many levels it was inferior to the Zero. It did not have 20mm cannon, nor its counterparts range. It could not turn, climb, barrel roll or otherwise manoeuvre like the Japanese fighter. A dogfight between the two aircraft would result in a likely win for the Zero. However, once US pilots learned the strengths of their machines, the F4F controlled the skies from 42 onwards, taking the skies against enemy veterans. While the Wildcat was inferior in many ways, it could sortie at a higher ceiling, and dive faster. This meant the F4F's had an attack option the Zeros could not counter, simply falling upon the Japanese, refusing to dogfight, and once out of the melee, climbing beyond the reach of the enemy. The problem with the F4F was if they were slow and low, unless they had a friend. One well known particular manoeuvre meant that even then, the Zeros were history, simply because they were tough enough to survive enemy gunfire before their antagonist was shot from the sky by their mate.

War is not fair. The attributes that makes a piece of kit a winner is not by how good as it is overall by a Top Trump methodology. It is those few attributes that actually matter.
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Old 04 Jul 17, 05:08
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Therefore we have the Panther. This was designed to be one level better than the probable next incarnation of the T-34/76, which was historically the T-34/85. A reliable Panther would have been better than that Soviet tank, but it wasn't. The Panther was as much about Nazi propaganda, a tank that appeared far better than other mediums (on paper) than its opponents.
Does not the decision to increase armour to 80mm screw the drive-train design? It also adds another supply-chain complication and adds a less fuel-efficient vehicle with which to operate and recover.

So foot-shooting on behalf of the Wehrmacht, when it comes to availability and continuous operational generation. The Panther is not, when it arrives, an operational manoevre tank and suffers from both specific and wider issues.
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Old 04 Jul 17, 06:14
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Originally Posted by Bluenose View Post
Does not the decision to increase armour to 80mm screw the drive-train design? It also adds another supply-chain complication and adds a less fuel-efficient vehicle with which to operate and recover.

So foot-shooting on behalf of the Wehrmacht, when it comes to availability and continuous operational generation. The Panther is not, when it arrives, an operational manoevre tank and suffers from both specific and wider issues.
The IS-2 and Churchill VII were of similar weight, but had around double the side armour of the Panther at nearly 4" as opposed to less than 2", and both were reliable. Further the Soviet tank was more fuel efficient than the Panther, up to 0.83 mpg compared to 0.75 mpg. Churchill was up to 0.95 mpg.

Like the KV-1, the Panther was simply too much tank for the technology of its time, although there was a theoretical solution, using the final drive in the Jagdpanther. However, given the high turnover of Panthers, and the complexity of the alternative, it was not used.

The fact remains that the Panther was a very large tank, as tall as a Tiger 1 and even longer. Coupled with relatively thin side armour and unprotected ammo storage in the turret, it was neither a safe tank to be in either. It only had three outstanding features, a great gun, an excellent gunsight and thick sloped front hull armour. Flotation was also better than the Sherman and Cruisers. In all other areas, it was equal to awful in comparison.
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Old 04 Jul 17, 06:21
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The fact remains that the Panther was a very large tank, as tall as a Tiger 1 and even longer. Coupled with relatively thin side armour and unprotected ammo storage in the turret, it was neither a safe tank to be in either. It only had three outstanding features, a great gun, an excellent gunsight and thick sloped front hull armour. Flotation was also better than the Sherman and Cruisers. In all other areas, it was equal to awful in comparison.
So they should really have stuck with the Pz. IV long 75mm? To be honest, I was thinking more of the operational disadvantages that it represented; supply, spares, fuel, recovery issues.
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Old 04 Jul 17, 07:09
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So they should really have stuck with the Pz. IV long 75mm? To be honest, I was thinking more of the operational disadvantages that it represented; supply, spares, fuel, recovery issues.
The Germans seem to have succumbed to the idea that bigger is always better. In this they may have been taking their cue from their leader. Large weapons fascinated Adolf Hitler and he was prepared to authorise their development regardless of their actual cost and practicality. This tendency certainly extended to tanks. The P1000 project was intended to produce a super heavy tank and created a design for a colossal vehicle mounting the same turret that was used on German pocket battle ships such as the Graff Spee and the Lutzow. This land iron clad would have been armed with twin 11-inch (275 mm) guns. Had it been built it is difficult to see what use such a tank would have been, it would have been impossible to transport it anywhere and keeping it fed with fuel and ammunition would have been a logistical nightmare. The size of gun alone was sheer overkill. Albert Speer, the German armaments minister, was horrified at the potential waste of resources and managed to use the tangled bureaucracy of the 3rd Reich to place sufficient administrative obstacles and delays on the project so as to effectively kill it. Deprived of one fantastic project Hitler then issued verbal instructions to Porsche and Krupp for the design of a tank of more than 100 tons weight to be called the Mammut (Mammoth) thus bypassing the existing channels for examining and approving military projects (and Speer). The design was completed in 1943 and Hitler approved the construction of the vehicle, now to be called the Maus (Mouse).

I'm of the opinion that this illustrates the climate of thinking in the 3rd Reich - bigger and bigger without considering issues of support and logistics and accounts for the size of the Panther and the two Tigers. It's possible to make the argument that what Germany needed was more tanks rather than bigger ones that would not only put a strain on support in the field and on transportation but also on the hard pressed industrial base. Improvements to the Panzer IV might have been a better use of resources.
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Old 04 Jul 17, 08:03
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The Germans seem to have succumbed to the idea that bigger is always better. In this they may have been taking their cue from their leader.
It certainly appears that way; Porsche seemed to have a malign influence on Hitler's view of defence production. Tooze has a very dim view of the effect that this Fuehrer-driven decision process had on tank production, for instance.

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I'm of the opinion that this illustrates the climate of thinking in the 3rd Reich - bigger and bigger without considering issues of support and logistics and accounts for the size of the Panther and the two Tigers. It's possible to make the argument that what Germany needed was more tanks rather than bigger ones that would not only put a strain on support in the field and on transportation but also on the hard pressed industrial base. Improvements to the Panzer IV might have been a better use of resources.
I think you are quite correct, but Germany also has the issue of more tanks = more crews = more support and so forth; not without a penalty. Should be noted also that the big tanks are less compatible with what won the victories of 1941-42; mobility, wide-sweeping flank operations, ability to regroup and shift Schwerepunkt. A Tiger looks good and a Panther had merit but they are low-mobility, fuel-hungry, tactically-oriented tanks. The Pz. Korp operational mobility concept disappears, though this should not ignore the diminish capability of German ID that also draws the tanks into smaller formations as corset stiffeners; in that areas the larger tanks do have a useful role.

I think Guderian wanted to prioritize 75mm IVs as the cornerstone of his 1943 programme, which possibly says a lot.
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Old 04 Jul 17, 13:46
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Actually both the Panther and Tiger were good tanks for their price. Only the King Tiger was clearly not worth his price.
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Old 04 Jul 17, 16:28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluenose View Post
So they should really have stuck with the Pz. IV long 75mm? To be honest, I was thinking more of the operational disadvantages that it represented; supply, spares, fuel, recovery issues.
The Panzer IV was very old in 1944, and only its excellent gun, possibly the best tank gun of WW2, kept it a viable front line tank. In every other respect the Sherman was either equal to far superior.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Emtos View Post
Actually both the Panther and Tiger were good tanks for their price. Only the King Tiger was clearly not worth his price.
The Tiger 1 probably was. It dominated the battlefields in the East 1943, and was a main reason why the Soviets went T-34-85 rather than the T-43, arguably a mistake.

The Panther just did not have the legs to be an offensive weapon, thus a failure as a tank. However, as Don Juan said, as a disposable piece of defensive kit, it was pretty good, although only useful to an army relentlessly pushed back again and again.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluenose View Post
So they should really have stuck with the Pz. IV long 75mm? To be honest, I was thinking more of the operational disadvantages that it represented; supply, spares, fuel, recovery issues.
They tried putting the KwK42 on a Panzer IV. You only need to look at the result to know why it was a failure. A Sherman Firefly was what the Heer needed. Same AT firepower as a Panther, about the same level of crew protection overall (really), yet with greater reliability, greater fuel economy and reduced maintenance. Ergonomics were also superior, as well as all round observation for most crew members.

However, a Firefly type of tank would not save the Nazi's. Hitler may have been crazy with some of the projects he supported, but being 'sensible' with new kit was not going to stop Adolf from losing. The US was sensible, and with a stronger economy, and Germany needed 'new' to stop just this juggernaut, nevermind the Soviets as well.
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