Great Tank battles

Discussion in 'General' started by Tom Canning, Jul 17, 2010.

  1. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Just a "heads up "

    I have been approached by a researcher for a Canadian TV series maker for a forthcoming series on Great Tank battles to be aired this fall - she wanted to know all about various Tank Battles in Tunisia - so I connected her to Gerry Chester and he has been interviewed at length on Longstop and other Tank fracas in that area such as Djebel Kournine and Fondouk - Kasserine clean up with the two Tank Bdes and with the 6th Armoured div.

    A follow up of that Tunisian series will be the Italian campaign- where there weren't really all that many Tank Battles per se as most action was of the Infantry type with Tank support as I can only recall the 5th Cdn Armoured involved in the Frosinone area where they met up with the first PZ MkV's- to their misfortune - or the short action at the Cassino Station with the 16/5th Lancers and a few panzers - Castiglione at Trasimeno - Termoli comes to mind with 4th Armoured and 16th Panzers - then the final spring campaign again with 6th Armoured on the River Po -

    but really not "Great Tank battles"- a la Kursk - or Goodwood / Bluecoat but knowing TV - they will probably make a meal out of it
    Might be worth watching though !
  2. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Is this a Canuck series Tom?
    Presumably it'll make it's way over here eventually.
  3. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    VP - As far as I am aware -she called from Ottawa where all the head honchos operate and I usually stand to attention -- she gave me to understand that it would be aired in the US by the fall - then I happened to note that a programme of the same name was being aired last Monday here in Canada - but at that time I was busy turning on the sprinklers - and admiring the gardeners handiwork - and missed it - so I shall keep both eyes open this week !

  4. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron

    I am looking forward to seeing it. Was this an independent producer or one of the regular networks?

  5. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Randy - struck me as being independent as the big boys would call from Montreal or Toronto - If they ever do research that is - and out West ? - great scot where's that ?
    If it shows up again this monday I shall take notes...
  6. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    as promised - I did catch the "Greatest Tank battles" on the history Channel here in Canada to-night -Mondays at 8p.m.PST

    I watched for at least 40 minutes and through endless commercials and finally turned away with a severe case of Battle fatigue ! I have never seen so many Tanks knocked out- mostly Panthers and M1v's.

    Panthers killed through the sloping front plates (sic) by American Tank destroyers and M4 Shermans with their 76mm - which raised my eyebrows a notch !

    The scenario was Patton's 3rd Army at the Moselle being held up for want of fuel for a whole day for as I recalled Monty had been given all the supplies for the Ahrnem thingi - magically his Tanks of 4th and 8th Divisions (?) were refuelled in time to meet the new Panzer brigades-111th - 112th and 113rd with hordes of brand new Mk1V and Panther MKV's to push him back from entering Germany at the Moncourt area, 19th - 24th September 1944 !

    One American battalion killed off 43 assorted 1V's and V's with a loss of only 5 Sherman's and 3TD's.....? these looked like the same Ronsons there were in Italy !

    One batch of 50 Panthers was spotted by the French 2 Armoured who called in an Air Strike who used Napalm to kill off 42 leaving only 8 Panthers to fight another day - my eyebrows kicked up another notch - and suddenly I was battle worn and retired to write this saga.

    Hopefully someone else will watch this programme and tell me that I am full of beans
    and the glorious 3rd American Army did all these things at the Moselle...I must say though - that the narrators seemed to believe what they were saying .....though they didn't appear to be around my age .....very strange !
  7. Stig O'Tracy

    Stig O'Tracy Senior Member

    I believe that I recorded that show last night although I haven't watched it yet. I've seen one or two episodes of it previously and I would say that it's probably about a 1/2 hour of programming, stretched out to an hour by packing it full of cheezey 2nd rate commercials for super grass seed, craftmatic beds and Viagra. The content was largely computer generated and was quite repetitive.
  8. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    Hopefully someone else will watch this programme and tell me that I am full of beans
    and the glorious 3rd American Army did all these things at the Moselle

    If it is about Lorraine then yes it is true. 2 Panther Brigades effectively wiped out.
  9. If it is about Lorraine then yes it is true. 2 Panther Brigades effectively wiped out.

    with 5 shermans???????
  10. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    No, 5 Shermans for each Tiger :D Read again, "with the loss of 5 Shermans and 3 TDs"! That's right, look up Creighton Abrams biography :)

    Tom, are you ready now to accept that the Sherman was not as Ronsonnesque as you de-credit it to be? Have you heard about the difference between Wet and Dry Storage Shermans?
  11. One American battalion killed off 43 assorted 1V's and V's with a loss of only 5 Sherman's and 3TD's.....?

    then someone has to explain the sentence says "5", and not "5 per...". am I heavily misunderstanding something?
  12. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    Yes you are misunderstanding something. Canning is describing a total loss of 5 M-4 and 3 M-10s, I don't know right now whether these figures are correct or not but with time I can check.

    The "5 Shermans : 1 Tiger" was a joke I made about a longstanding myth about Tiger's kill ratio. I'm sure this has been discussed on this forum more than once in the past :)

    But read what Wikipedia has to say on the Battle of Arracourt.

    Here you'll find the Orders of Battle for 111th and 113th Pz Brigaden. Not a pretty sight.

    111th - The above listed OoB is the paper strength. The 111th had been engaged
    in defensive battles before the Arracourt assault and lost heavily.
    The night before the Arracourt battle,111th PzBde had 19 MkVs and 6
    MkIVs operational. After the battle,the brigade had 20 MkVs and 10 MkIVs
    in ALL conditions. In the Arracourt battle,the JgdPz IV/70 coy was attached directly to the MkIV bn (not officially part of the battalion, though).
    Most of the truck transports for the Grenadiers were either destroyed or
    broken down.The few trucks that were still operational were wood-gas and
    coal-gas powered vehicles.These were used to move the support weapons
    into the area. The Grenadiers either walked or rode the Panzers.
    113th - Armor Bns must be attached to Infantry battalions for communications--the
    tanks did not have compatible radios to talk to Brigade HQ.
  13. Rule.303

    Rule.303 Member

    I like the show, I think the digital recreations are really neat and look generally good as far as tanks/markings go. The ranges they show them at are well past perposterous often saying they were a 1000 yrds out but in reality only 100ft apart in the image.

    That being said, the amount of Veterans they interview from both sides makes it for me. I tune the narrator out from time to time. I think the shows entertaining and has some educational value though its not comprehensive by any stretch.
  14. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    All -
    I bow to the exceptional wisdom of those who have never sat in a Tank - of any make - under fire from a long barrelled 75mm of the MK1V - MkV or the MKV1 Tiger but who find entertainment in computerised - repetitive - commercial packed - as Stormin' Norman was wont to say in GUlF 1 -"Bovine Scatology" -

    and ZA - I do not know the difference of a wet or dry storaged M4 "Ronson" but I did find that programme very difficult to sit through to near the end - as my experience of American Armoured units - in action - and study - particulary their support of the French North African divisions at the Arunci Mountains in Operation Diadem - was and still is - vastly different to what was depicted last night.

    I would accept that the Germans in their brand new Tanks were insufficiently trained to take on American Armoured units with undergunned - almost clapped out vehicles -who had been fighting all the way since Cobra at the back end of July - but a 75mm AP shell penetrating the front sloping armoured shield of a Panther MKV - from a distance ?
    OR the use of Napalm in a September 1944 by Air strike -? - which no one appears to have picked up ? -
    Come on .....
    do give me some credit ! Stig has it right !
  15. idler

    idler GeneralList

    From an earlier thread:
    More on Arracourt in here (official history) and here (Pz Bde overview).
    The official history seems quite objective - not as gung-ho as later interpretations. I imagine this is the sort of battle that was studied in the Cold War period as an example of how NATO forces hoped to deal wth the Soviets.
  16. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    Here's what the US Army official history says about the results of the first day of battle, 19 Sept 1944.

    On the whole there appeared to be no reason for worrying further about a German threat in the Arracourt sector, since CCA reported that forty-three enemy tanks, mostly factory-new Panthers, had been destroyed, and that its own losses had been only six killed and thirteen wounded; three American tank destroyers and five M-4 tanks had been knocked out.

    Since it says "reported" and they did not completely control the battle area for an actual count, I would assume this includes many double counts.

    It says this about the three day battle.

    The tank battles fought from 19 through 22 September had cost CCA fourteen medium tanks and seven light tanks, totally destroyed, and a casualty list of 25 killed and 88 wounded. The German losses cannot be accurately determined, but two panzer brigades had been wrecked as combat units without bringing the Fifth Panzer Army appreciably closer to the Moselle or the 553d VG Division.

    I don't think the panzer brigades fought again as units. But there is another thread on this battle elsewhere on this forum.

    This "Great Tank Battles" program sounds a bit like what aired in the US as "Patton 360". Much video-game generated animation (VGA?) and some veterans recollections. If its not the same, I wouldn't be surprised that the imagery was the same and recycled. Personally I've seen better use of VGA to illustrate WW2 combat posted on the internet (I think a thread here has a link for the fire-fight at Brecourt Manor).
  17. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    From a sample of 1498 Allied tanks hit by gunfire in NW Europe it was found 65% burned.

    From a sample of 100 Pz III/IV tanks hit by gunfire 34% burned.
    From another sample of 30 Panthers/Tigers hit by gunfire 40% burned.

    OR0-T-117, Survey Of Allied Tank Casualties In World War II. Tables XVIII and Appendix E, Annex 7.
  18. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    Here's the climax of the French fight with the 112 Pz Brigade.

    At dawn on 13 September a small reconnaissance party, headed by four tank destroyers, left Minjonnet's bivouac and rolled toward Damas. Just short of the village it surprised some German Panthers, loosed a few rounds, knocked out a Panther, and hurriedly retired to the shelter offered by a small ridge. The German tankers made no move and soon the 12th Chasseurs was on the scene with its Sherman tanks. Colonel Langlade meanwhile had sent Massu's force around to the north of Dompaire.

    Here his observers reported the town and nearby fields "literally crawling" with enemy tanks. Langlade made a feint with his armored infantry and then, when the German Panthers started to deploy to counter this move, the French poured in a terrific fire from their tanks and field guns. But the French were not to engage the Panthers by themselves. The American air support officer with the 2d French Armored Division had succeeded in reaching XIX TAC by radio and General Weyland's headquarters dispatched the 406th Group from its base at Rennes, far back in Brittany. The fighter-bombers made four strikes at Damas and Dompaire during the day, lashing at the huddled Germans with bombs and rockets. After each air strike Massu and Minjonnet displaced forward, using the cover of neighboring apple orchards and pine groves and compressing the milling Panthers into a narrowing killing ground on the valley bottom. Eventually the French seized a cemetery, on a rise at the north edge of Dompaire, that gave them complete control of the battlefield. In the afternoon the leading tanks of the south column of the 112th Panzer Brigade were discovered moving hurriedly toward Ville-sur-Illon, apparently intent on striking the French in the rear. CCL, however, was ready for this new threat and destroyed seven Mark IV's at the first encounter. As this action continued the German losses increased, and finally the southern column abandoned its rescue attempt. Late in the day the Germans in the Dompaire sector deserted their vehicles and fled on foot to the east, leaving the battlefield to the French.

    This fight, characterized warmly by the XV Corps commander as a "brilliant" example of perfect air-ground co-ordination, not only was an outstanding feat of arms but also had dealt a crippling blow to Hitler's plans for an armored thrust into the Third Army flank. The 112th Panzer Brigade had lost nearly all of its Panther battalion-only four of these heavy tanks escaped the Dompaire debacle. In addition the Mark IV battalion had sustained some loss, bringing the total number of tanks destroyed to sixty.

    Looks like the French bested the Americans by destroying one Pz Bde in one day, where the Americans took three days to destroy two. No mention of napalm, though.

    Attached Files:

  19. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Are we talking (writing :D) about WW2 only, or do other wars count?
  20. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    Thank you for the uppercut, Tom, but I don't play computer simulation games :D

    The Sherman also had a reputation for brewing up. Early Shermans stowed ammunition in dry racks along the walls of the tank. When hit, the ammo would explode and the tank would burn. Its reputation led the Germans to nickname the tank the "Tommy cooker". The British called them "Ronsons", after the cigarette lighter with the slogan "Lights up the first time, every time!". Polish Tankers called them "The Burning Grave".

    In an early attempt to rectify the problem, Shermans gained 1-inch-thick armored plates welded to the hull outside the ammunition bins. Later models moved ammunition stowage to the floor and used bags containing a mix of water and ethylene glycol to flood "ready" ammunition below the turret, which kept the risk of fire under control.

    In more detail:
    Early Sherman models were prone to burning when struck by high velocity rounds. The Sherman gained grim nicknames like "Tommycooker" (by the Germans who referred to British soldiers as "Tommies"; a tommy cooker was a World War I era trench stove). With gallows humor, the British called it the "Ronson", after the cigarette lighter with the slogan "Lights up the first time, every time!" while Polish tankers referred to it as "The Burning Grave". This vulnerability increased crew casualties and meant that damaged vehicles were less likely to be repairable.[citation needed]

    Research conducted by the British No. 2 Operational Research Section, after the Normandy campaign, concluded that a Sherman would be set alight 82% of the time following an average of 1.89 penetrations of the tank’s armour; in comparison they also concluded that the Panzer IV would catch fire 80% of the time following an average of 1.5 penetrations, the Panther would light 63% of the time following 3.24 penetrations, and the Tiger would catch fire 80% of the time following 3.25 penetrations.[41] John Buckley, using a case study of the 8th and 29th Armoured Brigades found that of the 166 Shermans knocked out in combat during the Normandy campaign, only 94 were burnt out; 56.6%. Buckley also notes that an American survey carried out concluded that 65% of tanks burnt out after being penetrated.[42] United States Army research proved that the major reason for this was the stowage of main gun ammunition in the sponsons above the tracks.

    At first a partial remedy to ammunition fires in the M4 was found by welding one-inch thick appliqué armour plates to the sponson sides over the ammunition stowage bins. Later models moved ammunition stowage to the hull floor, with additional water jackets surrounding the main gun ammunition stowage. This decreased the likelihood of the tank catching fire. A U.S. Army study in 1945 concluded that only 10-15 percent of wet-stowage Shermans burned when penetrated, compared to 60-80 percent of the older dry-stowage Shermans[43] The belief that the fuel tank was a culprit is unsupported. Most World War Two tanks used gasoline engines, and although fuel fires did occasionally occur in tanks, such fires were far less common and less deadly than a tank's ammunition magazines igniting.[43] This assessment is supported by Buckley who notes that in many cases the fuel tank of the M4 had been found intact after the tank burnt out due to the ammunition cooking off. Tank crew testimony also supports this position; eye witness reports describe "fierce, blinding jets of flame", which is inconsistent with gasoline-related fires but fits cordite flash.[42]

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