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Topics - Pinky

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Showcase & Gallery / M8 HMC WiP
« on: April 01, 2018, 08:19:37 PM »
I don't think I've posted this before.  I just finished modifying the .50 cal, which is from the new Sherman kit.  It has an approximation of the rigid mounting which was a feature of the M8, and I carved away the solid grip (it's still pretty crude).  I try to mount all my MGs so that the barrels point downward, to minimize the chance of breakage. 

The M8 has a few missing details added, like the barrel inside the mantlet and the antenna mount (which is slightly too far forward).

One point worth mentioning is that the moulding seams on the jerrycans have been left intact, to represent the joins on the real thing.   

I'm still looking for some appropriate plastic crew figures.

Showcase & Gallery / WIP Rubicon Shermans
« on: March 27, 2018, 08:34:43 PM »
Following on from the British Sherman's thread, here is my Rubicon Sherman III.  I've wanted to have a kit of this version of the Sherman for the longest time.  It went together quickly, and Rubicon's accessories proved very useful for representing a British Sherman in the Mediterranean in 1943.  I like it so much I'm going to build another one.

I'm also building a couple of Sherman Ic Hybrid Fireflies.  I'll put up some photos when there's something worth showing.

General Discussions / What's Warlord up to?
« on: August 20, 2017, 12:04:25 PM »
Interesting to see what Warlord are up to in the plastic kit department. 

The plastic King Tiger is out, and I'm sure it will be popular.  It would have been nice if they'd sculpted a new commander and not just re-used an existing one.  I wonder if the Zimmerit is better than the Tiger I's?  The most interesting aspect for me is being able to build the early version.

They have an Opel Blitz/Maultier on pre-order.  It includes a sprue of seated troops.  They haven't been doing these kinds of figures very well - they tend to be lumpy and less detailed than their multipart infantry.  This is the only subject that overlaps Rubicon.  I'm going to bet Rubicon's Maultier is better.

And there appears to be a plastic Char B1 Bis on the way.  That's probably the most exciting release.  Finally the early war period is getting some plastic.  I know Rubicon has plans for a T-26 and early Panzers.  Hopefully we'll see some more, like the Somua S35 and some British types.

General Discussions / New Rubicon Sherman
« on: April 02, 2017, 01:41:20 PM »
I picked up the new Rubicon M4A3E8 kit yesterday, and have been playing around with it since then.

The first point is that this kit marks another milestone for Rubicon.  It's pretty much an entirely new kit - not much remains of their original (discontinued) M4A3 kit.  There are 4 sprues packed with bits, including optional parts, accessories and crew figures (well, half figures).  The precision and accuracy of the detail is up there with their best kits, but you can also have a lot of fun personalising the model.  It's also going to be easy to build several 76mm-armed Shermans and have them all looking different.  So I think this is their best kit yet in terms of just being enjoyable to build.

The most important options are the tracks and suspension - there are 3 versions, and they take up a lot of the space on the sprues.  The basic version is virtually identical to the original, except that the chevron detail on the treads has been mounded onto the front section (but not the back - the only real flaw in this kit).  The extended end connector version is very nicely cast, and a good example of how Rubicon are prepared to push the envelope with one-piece castings.  They will fit on the original M4A3 kit, so I may replace mine.  They don't fit on the M10/M36 hull.  As an aside, the extended end connectors often broke off, so you can remove a few for added realism.  You only get enough pieces for either the basic tracks or the version with extended end connectors.

The HVSS suspension is one of the big attractions of this kit, and it's very nicely done.  All the details are there, and once again most of it is a one piece casting (although the tread detail is still only on the front section of the tracks).  The tracks are the later T80 type (distinguished by the chevron tread pattern), which were less common in WW2 than the T66 single pin type.

There is one basic hull, with optional parts for the VVSS and HVSS suspension.  The HVSS suspension involved narrow mudguards down the side which (along with the wider 23 inch track) altered the Sherman's appearance significantly, and these are separate parts which slot on very neatly. The hull hatches are separate, and other details like the rear plate and exhaust deflector have been greatly improved.  Even the spare tracks brackets have been improved (remember not to mount these on the HVSS version).

The turrets have been totally redesigned, and look very accurate.  As the instructions point out, you should only use the later version for the M4A3E8 (only very early M4A3E8s had the circular loader's hatch).  The machine-gun storage brackets are included (they are a bit fiddly).  You can't build 2 complete T-23 turrets - you have to choose.  I don't think that's an issue.  There are two .50 cals, one with a slightly thicker barrel for wargaming (a nice touch - I hope this becomes a standard feature in Rubicon kits).  The M36 turret fits the new hull easily - as the M36B1 was often fitted with extended end connectors, you can now build a very accurate model of one.

There are 4 crew half-figures, all identical except 2 are modified to attach inside the hull hatches.  No doubt most of us will replace them with figures from the forthcoming US tank crew set.  The accessories include jerrycans and spare tracks and wheels (for the VVSS version) which are basically from the Allied stowage set.  There are no spare HVSS wheels. There is an unusual version of the Cullin hedgerow device - these would be very rare on this Sherman, which entered service after the US Army left the Normandy bocage. 

So, in summary a very good kit, and a very promising start to the Sherman range.  Go out and buy some!

Wish Lists / Ideas for future tank kits
« on: March 25, 2017, 02:44:42 PM »
This thread is intended as detailed suggestions for future Rubicon tank kits.  I'm taking the Rubicon Crusader kit as the template, as it includes 2 turrets as well as the parts for a major variant (the Crusader AA).  Not only is it one of Rubicon's most accurate and well engineered kits, it's also very flexible.  The idea is to come up with more kits along these lines.   

First, the M3 Lee.  Not a great tank, or even one of my favourites, but potentially a good subject for a Rubicon multi-option kit.   

The basic Lee only served with the US Army for a short period - it had been replaced by the Sherman by the invasion of Sicily.  The only options needed for the basic Lee would be different 75mm barrels.  The Lee was also used (unmodified) by the Red Army, so that means more marking options (red stars and slogans, mostly).

It would be mandatory to include the parts for the British Grant, including the turret and sand shields (as well as some typical desert stowage).  This would be a great companion piece to the Rubicon Crusader.  Grants were also used by Australia, which means even more marking options.

The British used the Lee in Burma, and these vehicles were quite distinctive.  The kit could include some extra parts to represent the modifications made for service in Burma - smoke dischargers, extra track armour, revised stowage boxes and a low-profile cupola (although the Grant cupola would probably do).

What would really give the kit some versatility would be if it could also build the M31 Tank Recovery Vehicle.  That would mean a crane (which was substantial, and would take up a lot of sprue space), large stowage boxes, dummy 75mm gun mount and other recovery-related fittings. It might be a stretch in terms of the parts count, but it was the main US tank recovery vehicle throughout the war and would be a good addition to the existing US armour range.

Wish Lists / Anti-tank guns - what next?
« on: February 15, 2017, 11:15:34 AM »
Rubicon now has an extensive range of German vehicles and anti-tank guns in the pipeline (and I'm guessing that an 88mm and SdKfz 7 is also planned).  I'm now hoping to see something similar for the Allies.  I'd suggest that Rubicon not try and cover as many types as they have for the Germans, but focus on the really important weapons.  Here's my suggested list: 

Soviet M1937 / M1942 45mm anti-tank gun
Soviet ZiS-3 76mm infantry gun
British 2-pdr anti-tank gun
British 6-pdr / US 57mm anti-tank gun 

I'd suggest that the US M1 3 inch gun isn't worth doing, as it wasn't that widely used.  A 17-pdr would be cool though.  Of course, it would also be nice if we also got tractors for these weapons, although some (like the ZiS-3) can be towed by existing models (i.e. the Studebaker). 

I'd suggest that Rubicon holds off for a while before doing any field guns [edit: although as UVS said, a 25-pdr would be pretty good].

General Discussions / Colour photos of WW2 armour
« on: January 28, 2017, 05:24:55 PM »
Happy Chinese New Year everyone...

I spent a bit of time digging up genuine colour photos of WW2 vehicles, to get a better idea of the colours and the weathering.  Here are a few (I'm sure some of you have seen some of them before).  I've tried to find photos that haven't been re-touched, or colourised.  I haven't adjusted them at all.  There are a lot of famous colour photos from Signal, but they tend to be very washed out, probably as a result of the limitations of colour printing at the time.

US jerrycans.  The colour seems different to olive drab on most of them, but you can see some darker ones.  Note the weathering, and the spot of red near the handle.

A beautifully clear photo of a jeep (it looks fairly new).  Note the colour of the stowage, and the way the dust has accumulated.

A French Sherman, probably an M4A2 and probably also quite new.  Note how dark the olive drab is, and the light colour of the dust.  The appearance of the tracks and stowage is also interesting.

Early Churchills in training.  This shows how mud accumulates, and the different colours that result as it dries.  Note also how the paint tends to wear away rather than chip.

General Discussions / New Rubicon upgrade sets
« on: January 08, 2017, 12:21:59 PM »
I picked up the new Rubicon SdKfz 251/23 and SdKfz 250/251 command vehicle upgrade sets.  I also bought an SdKfz 250 Alte and an SdKfz 251 Ausf C (I hadn't bought their Ausf C previously) to build as command vehicles.

I think Rubicon has done a really good job with these new sets.  The command vehicle spruce is especially nice.  The various 'bedstead' (frame) antennae are well moulded, as are the radio sets.  You can build at least 2 complete vehicles from one sprue.  The crew figures are a huge step forward - I think these are Rubicon's first really good figures, and I look forward to seeing how they combine with Perry and Warlord plastics.  One minor issue - for some reason there's a bedstead antenna included for the SdKfz 250/3 Neu.  I've never seen such a vehicle.  I thought Rubicon were going to provide one for the SdKfz 251/3 Ausf D (there are a couple of photos of Ausf ads with frame antennas, although nearly all sources say the Ausf D only had a star antenna), but they didn't.

The /23 sprue is a less versatile kit, but the Pak 40 is well reproduced and crew figures are well posed (but are perhaps not quite as good as the figures on the command vehicle sprue - I think these were done earlier).  There are some subtle detail differences in the replacement upper hull provided.  Looking at this kit, it occurred to me that the US Army had tried putting anti-tank guns in half-tracks in 1942 and realised it didn't work, so this doesn't seem to have been a very sensible use of a much-needed (and expensive) SPW.  But it's a striking looking vehicle.

It goes without saying that the Ausf C is far better than Warlord's. 

I'm saving the SdKfz 250 Neu till later.

Showcase & Gallery / Oddball's Sherman - WIP
« on: September 14, 2016, 10:02:10 PM »
We've discussed this iconic tank a few times, and the retirement of Rubicon's M4A3 kit prompted me to try and build it.

It's still WiP - obviously.  There are a lot of small details to add.  The distinctive stowage (the milk churn and watering can) is proving very time-consuming to build, partly because I'm more used to 1/72 and 1/35.  The speaker was also difficult, until I found a 28mm plastic pot which is almost the right shape.  Obviously some items aren't quite right, like the boxes.  The real tank had a later model exhaust deflector, but I wasn't going to try and build that.  However, I did re-do the cupola (which still needs a periscope).

Sorry about the photos - they were taken with my Blackberry.

General Discussions / Your top 5 Rubicon kits
« on: August 26, 2016, 01:20:21 AM »
I thought it would be fun to see how everyone ranks their favourites from Rubicon's growing range.  So give us your top 5 Rubicon kits.  It can just be based on which vehicles you like, or which kits you think are the best - just tell is which approach you've taken.  Here are mine, not in order of my favourite vehicle, but in order of what I think are objectively Rubicon's top 5 kits so far:

1.  Crusader.  Beautifully designed, highly accurate, and lots of options.  A real gem.
2.  Jagdpanzer 38t.  Almost as good as the Crusader, but just a little bit less impressive and less options.
3.  SdKfz 250/SdKfz 253.  Wonderful detail, especially given its small size.  Both versions are very complete, with no compromises in accuracy.  Perhaps a bit more fiddly to build than the top 2, hence its place at number 3.
4.  M8/M5A1.  This places mostly because of the M8, which is a  very cool little vehicle and a joy to build. The kit is let down a bit by the lack of a .30 cal for the M5A1, and minor inaccuracies on the tracks, but I think it's still one of their best.
5.  SU-122/SU-85 - actually more accurate than the M8/M5A1, and more complete.  It only loses out because it's just a bit less interesting as a model, and because (unlike the others in my list) in this case Rubicon's one-piece track design results in a bit of a loss of detail.

Military Modelling is one of the longest running modelling magazines.  There was a time (before the internet and the proliferation of military reference books) when it was one of the only available sources of detailed information for military kits.  In their June issue they've done their first review of Rubicon kits, and it's very favourable.  They reviewed the Crusader and Jagdpanzer 38t, which of course means they've chosen 2 of Rubicon's best kits (in terms of accuracy, precision and detail).  Nice to see Rubicon up there with other more established kit manufacturers!

General Discussions / New Rubicon kits
« on: June 12, 2016, 10:04:49 AM »
I picked up the new SdKfz 250, SU-122/85 and Allied stowage set.

I don't plan to build the SU-122/85 yet, but looking at the sprues it's a superb kit.  It demonstrates how Rubicon's approach has been refined - there are parts for 2 different vehicles, both of which are accurate and complete.  The only 'issue' is the tread pattern, which (due to moulding limitations) isn't accurate.

The SdKfz 250 is probably Rubicon's most detailed kit so far.  The interior is especially nicely reproduced, along with all the external stowage.  Again, there are parts for 2 different vehicles, and again they are both very complete.  I think this will be a very popular kit - especially when the various upgrade sets are released.

The stowage set was the one I was particularly interested in.  It's generally good, with some very useful inclusions (like spare M4 wheels, spare tracks, MG ammo boxes and smaller ammo crates), and some nice British items (such as the 'flimsies' and funnel).  It would have been good to have more jerry cans - there are only 2 US and 2 British types per sprue.  And some of the generic boxes are identical to pieces from the German stowage set (and perhaps a bit oversized).  The lengths of spare M4 tracks are also a little awkward to work with if you want to shorten them.  There are some pre-arranged piles of gear covered with tarpaulins.  The larger of these pieces is too big for a tank, but will look good in a truck or as terrain.  The smaller piece looks great on the engine deck of a US tank.  Overall, it's an extremely useful set, and I'm sure I'll be buying many more.

I haven't yet bought the new SdKfz 251, but intend to do so.  I think Rubicon's focus on these kinds of vehicles (as well as soft-skins) is very well judged; not only are these vehicles very popular with Bolt Action players and modellers, they are unavailable in plastic from anyone else. 

Wish Lists / For the next stowage set...
« on: April 16, 2016, 11:12:45 AM » about a set containing metal boxes for all combatants?  The British and Germans in particular made use of pressed steel ammo containers, so you could almost fill a sprue with just their stuff.  But you could include things like cookers, coffee pots and even a milk churn or two.

General Discussions / Interesting Sherman facts/myths (WiP)
« on: April 10, 2016, 02:02:28 PM »
Part I

1. What was the origin of the name "Sherman"?

Most modellers and wargamers know that the US Army didn't use the name "Sherman" for the M4 during WW2.  It doesn't appear in official US documents, and wasn't used by the troops - they referred to it simply as the "M4" or just as a "medium".  The name was only used (unofficially) by a few US soldiers who'd been in contact with the British and knew they used it.  For instance, in a widely publicised letter to the Deputy Chief of Staff in March 1945, General Patton referred to both the "M5 (light, Stuart)" and "M4 (medium, Sherman)".  The Germans did use the name "Sherman" in official reports. 

The name "Sherman" was adopted by the British following a request by Winston Churchill, who found the use of letters and numbers for tanks confusing (especially when the Americans had both an M3 light tank and an M3 medium tank).  He may have personally chosen the name Sherman (as well as "Stuart", "Lee" and Grant") - there is something Churchillian about naming tanks after famous Civil War generals.  However, contrary to some accounts, the British did not use the name "General Sherman"; in fact, Churchill specifically said that the term "General" shouldn't be used.  M4s began to be referred to generally as Shermans in the US after the war, mostly as a result of usage of the name by the US press.   

Incidentally, the only official US Army tank names in WW2 appear to have been "Hellcat" (invented by Buick) and "Chaffee" (the first tank given a name by the War Department).  There is no official use of the name "Wolverine" in the context of the M10, and apparently the name "Jackson" was invented by Tamiya when they released their M36 kit.

2. Did Shermans burn more easily than other tanks?

Shermans are often described as having a propensity for burning easily when hit.  There was definitely a belief amongst troops that this was the case, particularly during the Normandy campaign.  There are numerous accounts which mention this tendency, including a well-known autobiography by a US tanker from 3rd Armored Division called "Death Traps".  The Sherman acquired nicknames like "Ronson" (because it "lights every time", as per the slogan for the cigarette lighter) and "Tommy Cooker" (named after a WWI trench stove).  Most modellers and wargamers know that this was not due to the fact that the majority of Shermans ran on gasoline rather than diesel fuel, but because of ammunition propellant igniting when the tank was penetrated.  This kind of fire started very quickly, giving the crew little time to escape.  80-90% of tank fires resulted from ammunition, and the British ascertained that this was primarily due to the poor positioning of the hull ammunition, which was stored in the sponsons.  It was also partly due to crews stowing ammunition loose in the tank, a common practice amongst US crews in particular (apparently fires were less frequent in British Guards units, which had stricter ammunition stowage discipline).  The Sherman's reputation for burning more easily than other tanks was therefore to some extent undeserved. 

Ultimately, the main reason why Shermans burned is because their armour was inadequate against German weapons like the commonly encountered 7.5cm Pak 40 and the Panther's 7.5cm KwK 42.  A hit from one of these weapons had a high chance of penetrating the Sherman, and this would trigger an ammunition fire.  German tanks were equally prone to burning - the Panther also had ammunition stowed in its sponsons, and was prone to catastrophic ammunition fires when penetrated in its (thinner) side armour.  However, German tanks were generally harder to penetrate (partly because of the inferior anti-armour performance of the Sherman's 75mm gun).  It is also worth bearing in mind that the Allies were the attackers, and that in addition to Panzers they faced large numbers of well-sited anti-tank guns and hand-held anti-tank weapons, which took a high toll of the Shermans.  Whenever the Germans mounted their own offensive operations, their tanks proved equally vulnerable to Allied anti-tank weapons - and to their own unreliability. 

Prior to the introduction of 'wet' stowage (see below), the solution was to weld armoured panels (known as appliqué armour) onto the hull sides.  This was done in the factory (either during production or as part of subsequent remanufacturing), although a large number of Shermans were modified in the UK prior to D-Day.  A curved panel was also welded over the right cheek, which had a thin spot in order to accommodate the power traverse gear until the turret was modified to incorporate a 'bulge' so that the armour thickness remained uniform.  Sherman crews also welded or hung spare track links over their tanks' vulnerable areas, although this practice did not become widespread until late 1944.  The problem was never really solved, and the Sherman's armour remained its main weakness even when its firepower and mobility were upgraded. 

3. What was 'wet' stowage and did it work?

'Wet' stowage involved relocating the ammunition stowage from the sponsons to water-protected armoured bins below the turret.  Over 35 gallons of water was required, and it was treated with ethylene glycol to prevent it freezing in cold weather.  To make room for this modification, and allow access to the relocated ammunition bins, most of the floor of the turret basket was removed (this meant that the loader walked on the top of the ammo stowage when the turret was rotated; there was still a partial floor under the gunner and commander).  This modification was made as part of the program for designing the 'Ultimate' Sherman, which began in July 1943.  This also involved the redesign of the hull, with a one-piece 47 degree glacis and larger hatches for the driver and co-driver.  On the late M4A1 this was accomplished with a new cast hull design, while the late M4 had a cast front hull and a welded rear (hence the US designation "M4 Composite", or the British "Sherman Hybrid").  Other improvements included the 'sharp nosed' transmission housing and better seats for the crew.  When the 76mm turret was introduced, appropriate 'wet' stowage for the 76mm gun was incorporated.  Shermans with 'wet' stowage had the suffix 'W' added after their designation.  105mm-armed Shermans did not have 'wet' stowage, and nor did the late production M4A2 (75mm). 

Opinion on the effectiveness of 'wet' stowage was divided.  There was a significant reduction in tank fires - according to some studies, fires were reduced to less than 20%.  However, there was a strong belief that this was mostly due to the repositioning of the ammunition below the level of the sponsons rather than any real benefit from the addition of water.  'Wet' stowage was abandoned after WW2.

4.  Did it really take 3 Shermans to knock out a Panther or Tiger?

This statement is frequently made (sometimes the ratio is said to be 5:1 or even 6:1), and it is claimed that this was officially acknowledged at the time.  It is also frequently stated that it was Allied policy to accept this ratio, on the basis that Shermans were easily replaced, while Panzers weren't.  Many histories refer to the practice of using the Sherman's speed and fast turret traverse to outmanoeuvre Panthers and Tigers in order to get a flank or rear shot, but that in the process it was normal to lose several Shermans.

So was it true?  The short answer to the question is "yes, but not always".  But the long answer is more complex.  For a start, it's important to eliminate the Sherman Firefly from the equation, because Fireflies were demonstrably capable of knocking out a Panther or Tiger themselves (provided they got the first shot - an important qualification).   

The Sherman's shortcomings only seem to have become a cause for serious concern during the Normandy campaign.  The British were more aware of the increasing armour and firepower of German armour than the Americans, having taken significant losses to the improved Panzer IV and Tiger in the Italian campaign.  This led them to try and mount a 17-pdr in a tank, which eventually resulted in the Firefly.  But it was not a straightforward process mounting such a large gun in a modest sized tank, and they were hamstrung by a shortage of suitable Shermans.  Meanwhile, most British tank crews would have to make do with the standard Sherman (or, in the case of a couple of formations, the new Cromwell). 

The standard Sherman had performed well in British service in 1942-1943, and was well liked (in part because it was such an enormous improvement on the British tanks which it replaced).  Its 75mm gun fired a very effective high explosive shell, which was very useful against infantry (and anti-tank guns), and its AP shell was still reasonably effective against the most common Panzers (principally the Panzer III and Panzer IV).  But in Normandy the Sherman proved a disappointment, and the crews soon began to lose faith in it.  Its 75mm shells bounced off the Panther's front armour, and its own armour could be penetrated relatively easily by virtually every German tank and anti-tank gun.  Even the Panzer IV, which was in many ways inferior to the Sherman, had a superior main gun - its 75mm gun would almost always penetrate the Sherman's amour if a hit was scored.  British Sherman crews suffered high losses, and morale was shaken.  When a large armoured force from 7th Armoured Division (consisting primarily of Cromwells and half-tracks) was wiped out by a handful of Tigers at Villers-Bocage, the finger-pointing began.  The British press reported: "Our Shermans, with special 17-pounder guns, are fine tanks.  They can match the Germans' best in fire power but not in thickness of armour.  But our ordinary Shermans are inferior to Tigers and Panthers.  Roughly, out of every 20 German tanks we destroy, nine are Mark IVs, eight are Panthers and three are Tigers."  The regimental history of the Irish Guards recorded that "...the problem was that only one Sherman in every four was equipped with a 17 pounder gun and that Allies defeated the Germans in Normandy only because they could afford to lose 6 tanks to every German tank."  A report on tanks losses from 6 June to 10 July recorded that, of 45 Sherman hulks inspected, 40 had been penetrated by 75mm or 88mm shells, of which 33 had caught fire.  Out of 65 hits by AP shells, 63 penetrated the tank completely.

The high tank losses can be attributed to a number of factors apart from the Sherman's inherent shortcomings.  The terrain in Normandy greatly favoured the defenders, and enabled the German tanks to ambush the oncoming Shermans.   The Cromwell was equally vulnerable, as was demonstrated at Villers-Bocage.  There was little room to manoeuvre, and a single knocked out tank could block an entire advance.  British tactics were also flawed.  But the fingers were pointed at the failings of Allied tanks (and particularly the Sherman), as a string of critical reports found their way back to the British Government.  General Montgomery was so concerned about the effect of this on morale that he expressly forbade further liaison reports.  He said publicly: "We have nothing to fear from the Panther or Tiger tanks; they are unreliable mechanically, and the Panther is very vulnerable from the flank...Provided our tactics are good, we can defeat them without difficulty."  Even allowing for concerns about morale, his comments seem to betray an almost wilful ignorance of technical issues that was common amongst senior Allied commanders.  Churchill himself had to defend the quality of Allied tanks in parliament, but the response from an MP was to quote a British squadron commander: "I know what happens, because it happened to me twice.  My squadron goes over and bumps into one of these Tigers.  There are four bangs and there are four of my tanks gone."   

The terrain beyond Caen was far more open, and the heavy losses during Operation Goodwood (which prompted the biggest crisis in confidence in the quality of the Sherman, and led to the exchanges quoted above) were the result of additional factors.  The British mishandled their armour, relying on massed assaults through narrow corridors with inadequate infantry support.  This was in part due to a growing a shortage of infantry (the rationale being that tanks could always be replaced), but also due to ongoing problems getting British tanks and infantry to cooperate properly.  And the British tanks' main enemy was German anti-tanks guns, including several well-sited 88m guns.  British tank losses during Goodwood have been exaggerated (it wasn't 500, but closer to 275, and the losses were made good quite quickly).  But the gains were minimal considering the cost, and the operation failed to achieve its objectives.  Arguably, however, it would not have gone much better with more effective tanks - the Germans had encountered very similar problems advancing against well-prepared Soviet defences during Operation Zitadelle a year before.     

The US Army had a similar experience to the British.  Eisenhower's senior officers (including Patton, supposedly an expert on armoured warfare) had rejected the 76mm armed Sherman when it was demonstrated to them shortly after D-Day.  This reflected a common complacency about the ability of the 75mm-armed Sherman to deal with German armour (there was also objections to the 76mm's poor high explosive shell and the amount of dust and smoke when it was fired).  US tankers developed tactics which used the Sherman's advantages to overcome German tanks.  In addition to using some tanks as decoys while others flanked the target and engaged its side armour, US tankers would fire smoke shells to blind the Germans, or plaster the German tank with fire so that the crew abandoned it.  Tank losses were heavy, but the issue did not generate the same level of publicity as it did with the British. 

The 75mm's poor performance led to a rush to bring the 76mm into service (see below), but it proved disappointing - when Eisenhower witnessed a demonstration against Panther hulks he commented bitterly that "you can't knock out a damn thing with it".  Even with the 76mm, the Sherman remained outgunned by the German tanks, and the problem was not resolved before the end of the Normandy fighting.  The declining quality of Panzer crew training, and the unreliability of tanks like the Panther (coupled increasing fuel shortages) helped to close the gap.  It is worth bearing in mind that by the time the US Army was fully engaged against the Germans, it was in open country beyond the bocage.  By this time, a large proportion of the best German armoured units had been ground down by the British and Canadians, and the German tanks were often mishandled, so they presented a much reduced threat.  The German practice of equipping newly-raised units with new vehicles, instead of replacing losses sustained by veteran units, exacerbated this problem.  After the Normandy campaign, American tank crews were, on the whole better trained and more experienced than German crews, and US armoured units evolved highly effective combined arms tactics that largely neutralised any technical superiority the Panzers retained. 
The Sherman's deficiencies were less important during the great drive towards the German border.  The proliferation of Panzerfausts did lead to the increasing use of spare track links and sandbags as protection (see below), but these kinds of hand-held weapons were a threat to tanks on both sides.  In fact, as historians like Steve Zaologa have pointed out, only a tank as reliable and easily maintained as the Sherman was capable of maintaining the rapid rates of advance which were achieved by the Allies at that time (Patton made the same argument in defence of the Sherman in 1945).  Arguably, the Sherman was doing exactly what it was intended for - exploiting a breakthrough rather than engaging enemy armour.  During this time, there was a reluctance to hold up Sherman deliveries by cancelling the production of 75mm tanks, so the number of 76mm-armed Shermans remained relatively low.   

As German resistance stiffened in late 1944, Sherman crews began to face more Panzers.  The Sherman's vulnerability was again highlighted, and this time the problem escalated.  Increasing US tank losses in the run-up to the Ardennes Offensive prompted critical reports in the press, including an article in the Chicago Daily News in which an unidentified soldier observed "We knew we were licked tank for tank, but the boys went in a free-for-all, ganging up on the Tiger until they knocked him out".  The Armored News reported "American tanks cannot beat Germans in open combat.  The Panther and Tiger armor will repel our tank gun shells while their 75 and 88mm guns will shoot straight through our best armor."  It was at this time that the "3:1" ratio began to be referred to in the press.  American tankers began demanding a tank with a 90mm gun, but all that was available was the M36 Tank Destroyer, which was entering service at that time. 

Tank losses during the Ardennes Offensive were heavy.  The large number of 75mm-armed Shermans were again at a disadvantage against German armour (a significant proportion of which now consisted of heavily-armed self-propelled guns).  These losses were difficult to make good as there was a shortage of replacement tanks.  In January 1945, Hanson Baldwin (a very influential journalist who specialised in military matters) ran a series of articles in the New York Times highlighting the Sherman's inferiority to German armour.  In March 1945 no less a personage than General Patton responded.  He claimed that American units had knocked out twice as many enemy tanks as they had lost, and was highly critical of German armour.  While he ignored many of the real issues (such as the Sherman's poor anti-tank capability), he made some good arguments in favour of the Sherman's reliability and availability.  Behind the scenes, he had been aware of the Sherman's shortcomings - in particular its thin armour (in 1945 he authorised the up-armouring of 3rd Army Shermans by cannibalising wrecked vehicles).  However, as with Montgomery in 1944, he felt he had to defend the quality of American equipment in order to maintain morale. 

In summary, the Sherman's thin armour and mediocre anti-tank capability were major disadvantages, and the 75mm Sherman was not well suited to the brutal slugging matches of the Normandy campaign.  However, it performed well in other situations, and it should always be remembered that Allied tankers were well supported by air power and artillery, which gave them a significant edge at an operational level.  German tanks proved almost equally vulnerable as the Sherman when used in an offensive role against well-prepared Allied forces, and normally lacked anything like the level of support enjoyed by the Allied tanks.  However, when facing a Panzer (or a Panzerjaeger) with a well trained crew, the Sherman was at a significant disadvantage.  In close terrain it was highly vulnerable to the powerful German anti-tank weapons, and in open terrain its thin armour was vulnerable to long-range German guns.  In these situations, it was common to lose several Shermans (either destroyed or disabled) in the course of knocking out a smaller number of Panzers.  It was in these situations that experience and training (as well as numbers) could tip the balance.

Note: many of the statistics and quotes in question 4 come from "The Armored Campaign in Normandy" by Stephen Napier.

General Discussions / Your favourite movie tank
« on: April 04, 2016, 09:06:50 PM »
I just re-watched 'Kelly's Heroes' - it's a bit dated now, but it's still a lot of fun.  In an era when Panzers were usually represented by M-47s with crosses, the effort they made to replicate the Tigers is impressive.  But it's Oddball's M4A3E6 that (for me) is the tracked star of the film.  So what's your favourite movie tank?  It doesn't have to be the hero of the movie - maybe just a vehicle that you particularly noticed.  Some of mine:

The Tigers in 'Saving Private Ryan'
Wardaddy's M4A2(76mm) HVSS in 'Fury'
The T-34/85s in 'Cross of Iron'
The replica Jagdpanther in 'Band of Brothers'

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