Home Forums WWII Tank destroyers

Viewing 29 posts - 1 through 29 (of 29 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #94319

    I gather since World War II, gun-armed tank destroyers more or less disappeared.

    I believe they were a way of upgrading a gun in an armoured vehicle without worrying about that pesky turret?

    I see them as ‘ambush predators’; is this too simplistic?

    Any further advice how they were used & why, particularly for Late War/NW Europe, would be welcome.

     

    donald

    #94321
    grizzlymc
    Participant

    Are you talking ab out the German habit of putting an oversize gun in a box on a tank chassis, or the rather bizarre American idea of making a tank with light armour, no top to the turret and a marginal improvement in gunnery?

    The former seem to have been a way to put a thumping great gun on a tracked chassis and really went out of fashion because thumping great guns started appearing on tanks.  Then, with ATGM, a man could carry thumping great anti tank weapons in a back pack.

    I have never understood the latter.

    #94325

    Are you talking ab out the German habit of putting an oversize gun in a box on a tank chassis, or the rather bizarre American idea of making a tank with light armour, no top to the turret and a marginal improvement in gunnery? .

    Yes.

    Well, to be precise the US M10s. I have 2 that I’ll be fielding in Wednesday’s game. My Nazi arsenal contains 2 jagdpanthers but they aren’t invited.

    However, any generic discussion may be useful.

     

    I do know Patton hated the US tank destroyer battalions…..which means they must have had some good in them.

     

    donald

    #94334
    grizzlymc
    Participant

    Well, the big box thing was one way of dealing with an anti tank gun which was too heavy to manhandle.  I suppose that the loss of a turret is less important if you are setting up an ambush to pop off at an enemy attack, particularly if you have a monster gun.  They were meant to be part of the divisional anti tank unit.

    Now, the American thing.  One wonders, if it was possible to build a Sherman with a turret that could handle a 90mm, why strip the damn thing of its armour?  And why, oh why, let the crew be vulnerable to shrapnel?  I understand that they tended to be used as a sort of I tank, presumably because they were available to infantry commanders, tough on the crews who would have probably been better off doing that job in a Sherman with a solid roof.

     

    #94343
    Norm S
    Participant

    M10’s etc were just a way to better mobilise the A/T force. When a position was taken, getting your A/T guns up into position quickly was critical. German tactics were always to counter-attack immediately a position was lost. The Allies were essentialy an ‘attacking’ force and mobility and spring boarding from one position to another was essential.

    German tank destroyers were an expedient to up-gun cheaply. Jagdpanther in particular should stand off (1800 meres) to dominate the ground at distance and not get involved in close combat. The StuG became an A/T platform to maitain armoured vehicle numbers in the panzer regiments. The little Hetzer by contrast was a superb ambush vehicle.

    In many cases, obsolete chasis were used as tank hunter / self propelled guns. The Marder was a way of combining an old chasis with huge numbers of captured Soviet 76.2mm guns.

    The Allies were getting 17 pounders and 90mm guns into turrets by late ‘44, but the role of a tank and and mobile A/T force are different and the evolution of the tank destroyer became the missile ATWG armed light vehicles, I am not sure that our wargames separate the different roles of vehicles in the proper way, a platoon leader would be doing that in reality.

    #94347
    grizzlymc
    Participant

    I think that was why they gave up on all this stuff after 1945.  A platoon leader did what he had to.  If his battalion was ordered to support an assault on a german position by a brigade, he couldn’t bleat that his M10 was under armoured for the job and had a lousy HE shell.  Similarly, if a tankie was on hand when a german breakthrough came in, he couldn’t complain about the inadequacy of his equipment.  So, with the Pershing/Centurion he had a tool that could do the full spectrum.  The Brits experimented with the Conqueror but then equipped the Centurion with a comparable weapon.

    I think the Germans were even worse, they seemed to throw together a battlegroup from whatever was available.  Sure, a Jagdpanzer should be sitting in a quiet ambush position 500m inside german lines sniping shermans willy nilly.  But if some chocolate eating aufstragstaktic howling superior officer wants a couple of 88mm HE shells plugged into a farmhouse door, he is going to have to go up the driveway to where he can see that door.

    The Russians seemed to see tanks as a big gun on tracks, if you haven’t got a turret comrade, at least you have a driver.  Why aren’t you facing the fascists anyway?  After the war, they seemed to focus on the JSIII and its replacement (T10?) as a sort of support for medium tanks, but they never tried to push it into the T6#-8# period.

    In all, it seems to me that once the hands on people from the war took over the reins everyone abandoned all these weird toys for tanks.

    #94351
    Sparker
    Participant

    I wouldn’t be too quick to write off TDs as abandoned after VE day – the Bundeswehr continued to put great faith in KanonenJagdPanzers right up until 1990. And arguably the much vaunted S Tank was really a posh TD…

    kgp90

    http://sparkerswargames.blogspot.com.au/
    'Blessed are the peacekeepers, for they shall need to be well 'ard'
    Matthew 5:9

    #94362
    grizzlymc
    Participant

    But they replaced the Kanone with the Rakete when they could.  And the S tank was a bit less impressive than it appeared when it came out.  Because of the way super high velocity penetrators penetrate (hydrostatically?) apparently the sloping was less effective than the designers planned.  But yes, the idea of the S tank was very much along the lines of the Jagd Panther – odd given the visibility in northern Sweden.

    #94375
    Darkest Star Games
    Participant

    I am not sure that our wargames separate the different roles of vehicles in the proper way, a platoon leader would be doing that in reality.

      I think this is partly due to how most game rules work, and partly to how players handle them.  In just about every game I have ever seen players tend to us Allied TDs as tanks, but most German players use them somewhat appropriately.

     

    One thing I DO like about having TDs in games that are more RPGlite, especially open top ones, is that they can provide you with some real cinematic action when they are close assaulted.  Good times!

     

    But talking about development and usage…  I really think that the US preoccupation started with the desire to have mobile ATG that were bigger than what could be fit in tanks, and after the halftrack attempts were found to be sort-of ok they just sort of got swept up in the whole thing and kept going despite all signs pointing to the fact that the money and development should have been spent on more resilient tanks.  The TD community apparently held some sway and was able to be it’s “own thing” for too long IMO.  I do get that being able to position large ATGs quickly into newly gained positions was of critical importance but the whole supposition that a fast TD like the M18 would be able to quickly flank incoming tank formations and pummel them from their weaker side and rear proved to be not as possible as the designers had hoped due to the German habit of strongly protecting flanks.

    In the German case, the StuG was originally designed to be a mobile assault gun to support the foot troops (like the Pnz4 was to be for the tanks), not as a tank destroyer.  It was forced into that role later on as noted above.  Used appropriately on the defensive they were devastating, but not a great offensive weapon.  Of course, some were just horrible (like the Elephant/Ferdinand) that broke down so often they couldn’t be used for offensive ops…

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    #94402
    Etranger
    Participant

    Different armies, different philosophies. There was also a lot of ‘misuse’ of the various AFVs employed by different armies.

    In the US Army, ‘Tank Destroyer Command’ was a separate entity, born out of the American approach to motorised warfare, itself in part descended from the French. Mobile TD’s were meant to hunt out and aggressively defeat enemy armour, hence given more potent weaponry and training to that end. They were also given significant reconnaissance assets for that role. Unfortunately for the TD’s, to non TD officers, they looked like and all too often were considered to be ‘tanks’, leading to mission creep and inappropriate employment. Towed TD battalions were given the more traditional role as defensive AT weapons. TD Bns were officially Corps level assets, to be attached & detached from specific divisions as required for the task at hand. In reality though they tended to be semi-permanently attached to the division. (As an aside, an American infantry division in the ETO typically had an attached Tank Bn, tracked TD Bn & a reconnaissance battalion or cavalry squadron, giving them more armour than a panzer division…)

    For the US, tanks were meant to breakthrough and exploit weaknesses in the line, not go toe to toe with enemy tanks. That’s one reason why the 75mm gun was considered adequate for the Sherman as it had good HE capability and as such better suited to fighting infantry and ATG’s/artillery etc.

    The Germans started off with the StuG as mobile protected artillery, under the command of the artillery branch of the army, not as TD’s, that came much later in the war when the potency of the design & its ability to carry a higher velocity weapon was recognised & it became a major AT weapon (Stug F onwards). It never totally lost the artillery role though and a considerable proportion of later production was actually of the mechanically and structurally identical StuH, which carried the 105mm howitzer.  StuG battalions/brigades incorporated the StuH into their structure, (typically around 1/3), Most StuGs remained under artillery control.

    It was only once the shortage of tanks for the panzer divisions was appreciated that the StuG was used in a role as an ersatz tank, as it was (a) cheaper than a tank, (no turret) (b) easier to produce (the turret again) & (c) a readily available, proven design.

    The Germans also had a host of other motorised guns, initially as infantry support – the various SiGs on Pz I, II, III chassis; & as panzerjagers, motorised AT, but used as mobile ATGs rather than as aggressive tank hunters in the US fashion. They were (mostly) lightly armoured, open topped & with fixed weaponry. That did change later in the war, acknowledged by the change in name from panzerjager (‘tank hunter’) to jagdpanzer (‘hunting tank’) for the later AFVs (JagdPzIV, JagdPanther etc). These were mostly used in a defensive role though, as the German war situation demanded.

    The British always used their tank destroyers as mobile ATG’s & left them under the RA. That said, the 17 pounder equipped Sherman Firefly &  Challenger (Cromwell derivative) tended to be used as ‘overwatch’ to some extent, holding back to cover the standard Shermans/Cromwells & remaining free to engage any German armour encountered. That was very much at a tactical level, within the tank troop. The same thing occurred with the Churchill units, where the 6 pounder versions supported the 75mm versions (at least according to Gerry Chester’s now defunct NIH site).

    The Russians basically regarded anything with a gun as being suitable for engaging infantry or armour indiscriminately. They did however try to separate their armour into heavy/breakthrough tanks (KVs, JS & derived SP guns) & more general ‘tanks’ (T-34 etc).

    #94414
    MartinR
    Participant

    One of Bryan Perretts better books is “A Brief History of Blitzkrieg”, and contains an excellent explanation of the various self propelled anti tank doctrines used by the various combatants in WW2. US Tank Destroyer doctrine was actually very sophisticated and has never gone away, except today instead of M10s, tank destroyers crews ride Apache helicopters.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    #94419

    I think the Germans were even worse, they seemed to throw together a battlegroup from whatever was available. .

    I had read the flexible German ability to throw Kampfgruppe formations together from any bits lying around was a strength.

    Is this not valid?

     

    donald

    #94423
    grizzlymc
    Participant

    I think it depends.  The Brits created kampfgruppen in the desert and called them jock columns.  Monty put a stop to them.  He wanted two types of counter on his board game: armoured divisions and, infantry divisions.  Similarly, he was dubious about Tank versus Armoured brigades.

    The Germans seemed to be quite good at welding kampfgruppen from all sorts of bits of units lying around and creating a fresh unit to hammer the disorganised allies at the point where everyone was starting to fray.  They also came second.

    #94433

    They also came second.

    I noticed that.

     

    donald

    #94435
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    Hi Donald,

    Some similar ground was covered in this one.

     

    https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/

    #94492
    grizzlymc
    Participant

    Mr Picky made some very good points (as he usually does).  I am not opposed to the idea of a 90mm gun in a rotating turret on a Sherman chassis; I just think it would be better with a thicker glacis and overhead protection for the crew.  I have wondered about sticking a 90mm on a Sherman (or Lee) chassis a la stug.

    One point I would make about helicopters is that no one really knows what they will be good at or not against a symmetrical enemy.  What is certain is that they will need a complex C3 system to make ambush of massed armour formations workable.

    Interesting point about cheap shells from expensive weapons system giving more chance of intensive training than expensive shots from cheap weapon systems.

    #94495
    Etranger
    Participant

    Mr Picky made some very good points (as he usually does). I am not opposed to the idea of a 90mm gun in a rotating turret on a Sherman chassis; I just think it would be better with a thicker glacis and overhead protection for the crew. I have wondered about sticking a 90mm on a Sherman (or Lee) chassis a la stug.
    ……

    Usually? 

     

    Like this?


    This is a T53 90mm GMC, rapidly rejected by Tank Destroyer Force command.

    Or this?

     

    The T53E1 90mm GMC, even more rapidly rejected.

    The nature of the drive train and engine on the M3/M4 series made it difficult if not impossible to produce a low profile tank destroyer, & it didn’t really fit in with the TDF philosophy anyway.

    SO just stick it on a Sherman. At one point they ran short of chassis for the M36 & just put the Jackson turret onto a standard M4A3 chassis, of which there were plenty available. Add some roof armour & that’s exactly what you get with the M36B1, which comprised ~ 10% of all M36 built.

    Images from http://panzerserra.blogspot.com/2012/04/m36-jackson-tank-destroyer-part-01.html

    Now put a properly armoured M36 style turret onto a ‘Jumbo’ Sherman & you’ve got a Super-Sherman, 10 years before the Israelis did the same thing.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 11 months ago by Etranger.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 11 months ago by Etranger.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 11 months ago by Etranger.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 11 months ago by Etranger.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 11 months ago by Etranger.
    #94504
    grizzlymc
    Participant

    Might need to attend to the clutch and suspension.  I really had in mind a priest with a box on top, but yes, armour the M36 turret against shrapnel and 105mm he.

    #94513

    Hi Donald, Some similar ground was covered in this one.

    Thanks. I’m now about as clued up on TDs as any normal person would want to be.

    TWW is rapidly becoming a site you go to for some expert commentary…. Something the hobby sorely needs.

     

    donald

    #94517
    grizzlymc
    Participant

    Actually, I think the Salty one should just have his own column.  He makes me feel somewhat inadequate with my 40 years of casual reading.

     

    Note that the Brits actually built their version of the T53E1 90mm

    #94518
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    Actually, I think the Salty one should just have his own column. He makes me feel somewhat inadequate with my 40 years of casual reading. Note that the Brits actually built their version of the T53E1 90mm

     

    I’d read it.

    How do we persuade him? Bribery? Blackmail?

     

    🙂

     

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #94531
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    Threaten him with an electric razor.

    #94533
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    Threaten him with an electric razor.

     

    Wouldn’t a cutthroat razor be more threatening?

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #94548
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    Have you seen his beard!?

    An electric would take days of tearing. With a cuthroat its all over in seconds.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 11 months ago by Guy Farrish.
    #94551
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #94575
    grizzlymc
    Participant

    The best way is just to put up idiot posts; they seem to result in a red mist before his eyes as he focuses his considerable knowledge and previously unheard of data in correcting the errant poster.

    #94576
    Jemima Fawr
    Participant

    US Tank Destroyers were open-topped so that the crews could navigate by the stars.

    My wargames blog: http://www.jemimafawr.co.uk/

    #94577
    Jemima Fawr
    Participant

    Well it was worth a go…

    My wargames blog: http://www.jemimafawr.co.uk/

    #94578
    grizzlymc
    Participant

    Nonsense Ms Fawr, they were open topped to stop the crews getting rickets!

Viewing 29 posts - 1 through 29 (of 29 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.