Tank Destroyers..... usa Vs germany

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by chipm, Aug 31, 2019.

  1. chipm

    chipm Well-Known Member

    I would really struggle to try and spell (much less pronounce) the names of German Tank Destroyers.
    But you guys get my meaning. Typically no turret, very low profile, a decent amount of armor and a "powerful" 75/76 mm gun.

    Contrast that to the Allies (i think i have the numbers right) M10 and M18 TD's
    They had (open) turrets, rather thin skins, fast top speeds, but also sported a canon that was similar to The Germans 75/76..... if i am not mistaken.

    I am not suggesting that one was "right" and the other "wrong"
    But the differences are big. Not sure other Weapons/Vehicles differed so much as the USA Vs German tank destroyers.

    Did the two armies plan to use them differently, is that why they varied so much.?
    Or did they simply build them different from one another, but planned them for similar duty? :)

    Thank You
  2. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    Building an AFV without a turret costs a lot less and Germany was fighting a poor man's war whilst the Allies could fight a rich mans war,Turretless gives one a good low profile but restricts tactics as one can only move the gun a little and have to rely on pointing the whole vehicle. This can be sometime awkward if the enemy approaches you on your flank. On the other hand the turret can limit the size of gun you can mount. Britain did field a turretless tank destroyer in the form of the Archer. This allowed the potent 17 pounder AT gun to be mounted on the hull of the relatively diminutive Valentine tank. The price paid was that the gun fired to the rear and the driver had to leave his seat before it was fired (or loose his head) so this made it maily suitable for ambush from a stationary position.
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  3. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    There WERE different uses and purposes, but the Germans also had two different types of vehicles with two different purposes.

    US - "tank destroyers" were intended to operate in large forces and act as a rapid-response force to counter German armoured pushes as seen in France in 1940
    German "assault guns" - the "Stugs" - were originally intended as infantry close support, to destroy bunkers and so on
    German "tank hunters" - Panzerjägers - were intended as ambush anti-tank hunters. Generally open-topped with large guns for their chassis mounted at the rear of the vehicle, facing forward, but also later the Elefant, Jagdpanther and Jagdtiger

    Sorry if I've got any of this wrong. I believe these different German vehicles were crewed by different branches.
  4. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    In Normandy many Stugs were deployed as anti tank weapons
  5. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    True. I think their role evolved. Someone who knows more than me would have to fill in more of the details.
  6. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Stugs were used by multiple types of units. They started as self-propelled pieces used by the artillery and the models of 1940-41 were armed with short-barrelled 7.5-cm guns. During 1942-43 newer Stugs were armed with long-barrelled 7.5-cm guns capable of engaging tanks. They then started to appear in Panzer Assault Gun Bns, principally with the Motorised Infantry Divisions that were then being rebranded as Panzer Grenadier Divs. Later in 1943 the 'new' Panzer Division was supposed to have a Panzer Regiment of three Bns, one each Panther, Panzer IV and Stug. This never actually happened and a few Pz Regts ended up with a combined Stug/Pz IV Bn instead. By 1944 some Infantry (Grenadier) Divs could include Stugs in their Anti-tank unit. So by late war Stugs were being used in Artillery, Panzer and Panzerjager units (and of course Parachute ones).

    The early Panzerjagers were indeed mostly open topped, typically an now older tank chassis (Panzer II or Czech type) onto which was mated an anti-tank gun, anything from 4.7-cm early on to 7.5-cm or captured Soviet 76-mm by mid-war. The purpose built, fully enclosed tanks hunters I think only came in around 1944.

    The arguments over US Tank Destroyer doctrine litter many internet forums, in short as noted they were intended to provide a significant blunt to massed Panzer attacks and were conceived of as a distinct arm of service, rather than an adjunct to Field Artillery or Armor. They never fought in the concentrated manner that was planned but provided important support for US Infantry Divs, not just in atk but also as general fire support.

  7. idler

    idler GeneralList

    There is also the defensive/offensive distinction between the Panzerjagers (tank hunters) which pretty much covered any anti-tank weapon on any vehicle, and the more highly-evolved Jagdpanzers (hunting tanks).
  8. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    Indeed - the first category could be said to date from WW1 when AA guns mounted on lorries were used against British Mk IV tanks at Cambrai and a pair of 88mm guns were mounted on the track units of a German A7V tank in 1918
  9. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    The whole area is quite complicated.
    Part of why I long ago began to think of TDs as 'Self-Propelled Anti-Tank Guns' (SPATGs), which I think better clarifies them as machines.

    The British see them pretty clearly as artillery, mostly placed under RA control.

    The US (initially) as an almost separate arm of service within mechanised forces. (Though the US Tank Destroyer doctrine is one of the most complex & controversial stories of their development & deployment.)

    The Germans as a mix. From adjuncts to the Sturmartillerie through to the dedicated hunters, as mentioned above.

    Nobody ever really quite developed a unified theory of the concept, so they can be quite tricky to discuss.
    Evolutionarily, they're a bit of a dead end. Concepts gradually shifting to the long-range 'sniper' machines like Conqueror, & assorted missile-carrying devices, but as tank guns became more powerful, with MANPAT & air having tremendously effective missiles, then stopping their particular gap became far less relevant.

    In some ways, the different national WW2 technological solutions is explained by their tank forces. The UK is moving towards 'The Universal Tank' with Firefly, Comet & Centurion, so their TDs continue as a bolster to the medium tank guns, development of SPATGs remains a stop-gap & slightly niche interest.

    The Americans have a mass of Medium Tanks with 'Medium' guns. They're certainly driving towards something else, but their assessment of the anti-armour issue at staff level (combined with a realistic appreciation of timescale to bring in next generation tanks) & vast industrial power means the M18s, 36s etc. continue to make sense.

    Germany had focused on HV guns in tanks from an earlier point. And their Sturmartillerie concept was there to back up the infantry, so I don't find it that surprising they went in several different directions. They also had all those captured chassis design/production capacities from the occupied territories, so things like PzJgr 38 & Marder make more sense, rather than diverting effort from mainstream design.

    As to the actual questions here :unsure:...
    Annoyingly, the answer to both is... 'yes, sort of'.
    The US had (to simplify tremendously) a concept of hit & run. Assisting armoured formations where need was greatest with mobility & firepower prioritised at the almost complete expense of protection with a dedicated command structure for that backup. (Google 'Tank Destroyer doctrine McNair' for a tortuous tale.)

    The Germans continued to see the gun as the absolutely dominant factor, so went for protecting that & its crew as the next priority, hence casemated boxes. Their doctrine of counterattack followed by the turn of their war to a defensiive struggle meant heavily protected & concealable HV guns holding a baseline had a solid perceived role (with further complications introduced by Stuggish things being more multi-purpose).

    You're right that neither was particularly 'wrong', but all so different that it's actually hard to say precisely what a Tank Destroyer was at all in any meaningful way.
    Take up the chance to see an M18 at full chat & be astonished at the speed of the thing. Watch the Gibb Jagdpanther roll by & be equally impressed by its solidity.

    With apologies for the essay.
    Trapped beneath a Kitten...
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  10. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    In summer 1942 when the relevant committee discussed SPs, the logic that carried the day was basically "armoured forces will continue to have anti-tank elements in them, and the anti-tank guns need to be able to keep up with the tanks, so we need some on tracked mounts so they can keep up". The planned vehicle for this was the American M10 with a 17-pounder put in, and the backup was the Archer. You can call them stop-gaps, but they satisfied a need within the RA. I don't think the tank forces were actually relevant to the decision.

    The general philosophy I've seen (from which year, I can't remember) was "the anti-tank SP should have a bigger gun than the tank". (After all, how else could they be justified?) At the time the 17-pounder M10 was envisioned and the Archer designed, both satisfied that same requirement as Firefly didn't exist. It's just that the army didn't introduce a larger gun during the war, and the tanks had time to "catch up".
  11. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Think I'm just making a wider point about evolutionary progress.
    The UK's serious interest in armoured SPATGs withered quite quickly (Archers to Egypt, etc.). Other nations pressed on.

  12. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    True but I would attribute that to the following:
    - Low post war budgets
    - Then (1949?) the latter led to AT duties being assigned from the RA to the RAC

    Even though there were a couple of heavy gun SP prototypes developed (FV4005 in the 1950s, not 60s as I originally wrote here) there was no longer an organisation which would need or demand them.
  13. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    I'd attribute it to the British understanding what was going to be possible quite soon. Centurion & IS3 were showing promise even just from physical attributes re. solving the 'Universal' gun problem - Conqueror, & the L7 for standard tanks, would come. Alongside effective missiles.
    AT guns, SP or otherwise, quickly became an irrelevance in strategic thinking.

    I suspect we're agreeing here, while also disagreeing. :unsure:
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  14. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    I think so - so let's agree to agree and disagree? :D

    As far as US TDs go, their tank destroyer branch was disbanded shortly after the war. There's some interesting stuff in the wikipedia article about the army's experience in the Ardennes. (Tank destroyer battalion (United States) - Wikipedia)
  15. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    From everything I've read, the tactical distinctions between the various categories of German SPs tended to become blurred over the course of the war. A Stug with a 75mm L/48 could serve equally well in either the infantry support or anti-tank roles. The same could be said, I'd imagine, of the Jagdpanzer IV with the same gun. US TDs were employed in just about every role imaginable: anti-tank, infantry support, mobile field artillery.

    I am designing a notional WWII Allied army which includes a battalion/regiment of US TDs at division level. Besides backing up the field artillery and giving some infantry support, they can also be used in the designed forward mobile anti-tank role. The notional division also has a regiment/battalion of towed 17 pdrs which provide a more conventional AT screen further back. Late in the war this unit gets some troops/a battery of Archers for just a little extra mobility and speed of emplacement; these are not employed in the same way as the more complex and versatile US TDs.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2019
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  16. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    I seem to recall reading in Guderian's Panzer Leader that one of his main complaints was not being able to get direct command of the StuGs away from the artillery. I can't find the passage now but did find this interesting tidbit on page 279 concerning a new construction program introduced in Sept of 1942.

    "In order to do as little damage as possible to tank production it was ordered that the self-propelled guns be armored with unhardened steel."
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
  17. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    That is interesting but thinking about it unsurprising. Shortage of alloying metals for special steels was a pressing problem for the Third Reich. By 1942 they were using up most of the reserves looted from occupied countries. The secret trade agreements that followed the Molotov Ribbentrop agreement had provided a flow from the Soviet Union but for obvious reasons this had dried up in 1941. Using mild steel not only saved on such material directly but didn't require tungsten steel tool bits for machining. By 1942 commercial pressure on Spain and Portugal had severely limited supplies of Tungsten (Wolfram) from that direction. Although Franco was sympathetic to Germany the Spanish economy had not recovered from the civil war and Spain was heavily dependant on imports that Britain could control. British agents were also involved in undercover skulduggery to stop the flow of contraband tungsten from those counties. The other source of supply was Yugoslavia but increasing partisan activity was having an effect on production.
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  18. chipm

    chipm Well-Known Member

    "Better Late Than Never" :)

    Great info...very interesting.!
    Just wanted to fall back in here and say Thanks to all the replies.
    I Appreciate It

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