WWII Myths and Misconceptions (That Need to Go Away)

Discussion in 'WWII' started by Guttersnipe, Apr 7, 2018.

  1. p51

    p51 One Too Many

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    I always thought that was silly because the Germans announced it over the radio hours before he called the AP London office. Kennedy later said that was why he did so, as he thought if it was over the air, the embargo must have been lifted. His primary error was to not double check that.
    AP canned him, but he landed on his feet.
     
  2. Guttersnipe

    Guttersnipe One Too Many

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    Another demonstrably false misconception: the M4 Sherman was inferior to its German counterparts, generally a bad design, and a death trap.

    This myth stems from anecdotal incidents where American, British or Commonwealth medium tank formations suffered disproportionate losses at the hands of an "ace" Panther, Tiger or Tiger II crew. However, as ever, delving into the details demonstrates why this misconception is so very wrong.

    Survivability: During WWII, the U.S. Army Armored Command forces suffered less than 1,500 enlisted KIAs across all theaters and in all vehicle types. (Notably this number also includes men killed while outside their vehicles, for example, in artillery bombardments, by snipers, or in air attacks.) A key reason for is that the U.S. Army Ordinance Department and Army Armored Command collaborated extensively to ensure American tanks designs, including the M4, had ergonomically sounds crew compartments. Thus, the time required for crews to "bailout" of even the early "small hatch" Sherman was very low. (The same cannot be said for German, British, Italian, or Soviet tank designs!) As a result, while large numbers of M4 tanks were indeed knocked out in the drive from Normandy to Berlin, statistically speaking those crews managed to live and fight another day.

    Armor: A major critique of the M4 medium series is its armor protection, especially in relation to the German "big cats." However, this is an apples-to-oranges comparison. After all, you would not assess the performance of a cruiser by measuring it against a battleship; so why compare a 33- to 44-ton medium tank (depending on M4 sub-mark) to tanks weighing 49-tons (Panther), 60- to 63-tons (Tiger, depending on Ausf.), or 76- to 80-tons (Tiger II, depending on turret design)?

    Comparing the M4's armor protection to that of the Panzer IV (numerically the most common German medium tank of WWII) it telling. In almost all respects, the Sherman was better protected than the Panzer IV in terms are armor thickness. Moreover, the M4 benefited from its angled front-hull, which provided additional protection via angle deflection against direct-fire AP rounds. Finally, one fact that often surprises the casual observer is that the Sherman's side hull armor was roughly equivalent to that of the Panther, although the latter did benefit from sloped side armor.

    Reliability & Maintainability: Essentially all variants of the the M4 were extremely reliable and easy to work on. (The same cannot be said German armored vehicles during WWII.) For example, it only took a few hours to install a new transmission onto an M4 and, depending on the circumstances, a crew could do this themselves in the field. By comparison, servicing - not to mention actually changing -- the transmission in a Panther, Tiger and Tiger II was complex, time consuming, and swap-outs needed to be performed at a depot. Furthermore, with the exception of the A57 Multibank engine in the M4A4, anyone capable of tinkering on a Model A Ford could, more or less, maintain or repair the M4's various power plants. (Again, the same cannot be said for German tank power plants, which featured exotic, over-engineered designs.) As a result, German tank formations suffered extremely high attrition rates due to mechanical failure, whereas, Allied tank formations equipped with Shermans did not.

    Firepower: Here, the M4's designers were faced with a dilemma. The tank needed to perform dual roles: infantry support and anti-tank duties. They chose the 75 mm gun M2 (and later the M3) because it had excellent antipersonnel capabilities and was capable of taking on any tank known to exist at the time. Subsequently, in mid-1942 testing was conducted a 76 mm gun when reports of new German designs in North Africa surfaced. However, in field trials Army Armored Command reported that the larger breach of the 76 mm gun resulted in an ergonomically unsound design. As a result, the 76 mm design was shelved for a year. But when Shermans equipped with the 76 mm gun M1A1 (and later M1A1C and M1A2) were fielded, the ballistic capabilities of this family of guns were sufficient to penetrate the frontal armor of most German vehicles at the range at which most tank engagements occurred (this includes the Tiger I, BTW).

    Summary: After WWII, the U.S. and British armies conducted independent studies which came to the same conclusion, and still form the basis of modern tank tactics: he who fires first wins. This is important because the anecdotes that gave rise to the myth of Sherman inferiority occurred when the Germans were fighting on the defensive. In other words, hidden German tanks in hull-down positions were frequently able to lie wait and ambush advancing Allied tanks. However, when the situation was reversed, Shermans, even those equipped with the 75 mm, were able to do the same. Furthermore, because of how the gun optics were placed on all Shermans, they could remain almost entirely hidden while lining-up a shot, whereas German tanks needed to expose their entire turret to do the same. Thus, the Sherman was arguably better at fighting defensively than German tanks!

    For more detailed discussion refer to the lectures below:



     
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  3. Guttersnipe

    Guttersnipe One Too Many

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    The elderly author interviewed in this segment is often cited as the originator of the Sherman myth. However, there are several inaccurate assumptions. First, the cited ranges are misleading; realistically, given the limitations of 1940s optics, hitting another tank at 2,000 yards (1,828 meters for the rest of the world) was difficult and rare (for context, modern MBTs engage at such ranges). Secondly, 800 yards was a typical engagement range at the time, so guaranteed penetration at 600 yards is not particularity bad performance under the circumstances. Third, tank knockouts do not necessarily equate to crew casualties (see the above discussion of survivability). And finally, the commentator's assertion that Shermans used dangerously flammable high-octane gasoline is misleading because: (a) most Sherman variants used power plants derived from automotive rather than aircraft engines; (b) the relative combustion temperatures of high- and regular-octane fuel is irrelevant in the context of armored warfare (i.e., the heat generated by a penetrating hit or secondary explosion is such that a few degrees of temperature makes no difference); and (c) everyone, except the Soviets, used gasoline-power tank engines due to power limitations of diesel-engine technology.

     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2018
  4. 31 Model A

    31 Model A A-List Customer

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    Murphy received a battlefield commission, a far cry from a newly graduated butterbar coming into a platoon of hardened seasoned combat veterans.
     
  5. 31 Model A

    31 Model A A-List Customer

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    As for the comments about the French military, I can only speak from experience during the early 70s when the Cold War in Germany was going strong. As a mid-ranking NCO with 10 years already in, two years of combat, I was taken around to see the various kasernes that housed troops occupying Germany which were, US, French and brits. What I noticed were these things:
    The French had kasernes close to the border with their home country, France. Didn't take much to go home for the weekends. They were billeted the farthest from the East German and soviet pact countries who were just on the other side of the wire.
    Their kasernes were the darkest, most drab and dirty kasernes in all of Germany, including their equipment, motor and track vehicles were no better . The brits up north were better kept.
    Whereas most everything was rationed with Ration Cards, tea, coffee, booze and tobacco, we were not issued a ration card for five trips to the local bordello like the French were. They also received wine with their meals.
    Frenchy had it rough back in the 70s during the Cold War!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:rolleyes: BTW, we knew, us and the brits, if Ivan came across that border, it were us and only us that was to delay them until reinforcements arrived from Britian and the US.
    France might have had their heydays back whenever but they didn't and couldn't stand alone and win anything. I would say, they have more cajonas today than they did when I knew them.
     
  6. HanauMan

    HanauMan Practically Family

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    My father also served in West Germany in the 1970s and we were stationed in northern Bavaria (Daley Barracks), just 25 miles from the tanks of the Soviet 8th Army. His armored cavalry regiment did regular field exercises with the German Bundeswehr, as did the local US infantry division in the next town, and the common feeling was, at that time, that the Bundeswehr was the equal to the BAOR and more than the equal to many USAREUR units. Also, at the time there were some good Canadian divisions stationed in Germany (near the French border) who would have been quite active in case the Warsaw Pact came knocking.
     
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  7. HanauMan

    HanauMan Practically Family

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    I kind of liked the Sherman M4, many were static displays in various army bases and my friends and I used to climb into one and use it as a hideout, until the UPs padlocked the hatches. I recall that they were very roomy inside, compared to the M60s and M551s my father worked on and even if the front top hatch was blocked with the barrel you could still get out fairly easily thru the other front top hatch.

    It may be of interest, but more than twenty years after WWII Israeli M4s and Syrian Panzer IVs were slugging it out in the Golan Heights during the 1967 war.
     
  8. 31 Model A

    31 Model A A-List Customer

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    Daley Brks was another place I was taken to because my 8in HOW unit was Nuclear and our defense line at the bridge over the Fulda River, I was in Charlie Btry, short tube so we were to get to that bridge, cross over before the engineers of the 2nd Cav blew it. We, you might say, were to let go our rounds and then make a Custer Last Stand along with the 2nd Cav Regt. A and B batteries were on the other side giving us withdrawal support. Withdraw to where????????
    It was the Brits, Canucks and US who were going to hold that line. Brits to the North, we in the south and the Fulda Gap and a bit further south were the crossing places for Ivan in our area. The Canucks and BW were on the second line of defense. We all trained together during Reforgers. We and the 2nd Cav had a close bond. We were all going to make a last stand together...but, in the end, Ivan never did come across, the wall finally fell and one year after it fell, I was back in Germany as a civvie-skivvie and I drove through the border to see what was on the other side with my own eyes. All the Soviet troops were still there selling anything they had to feed themselves. I bought a pair of boots from two comrades. I took them into a local gasthouse and bought them dinner in the town of Meiningen where their kaserne was. We had a good old talk!!!
     
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  9. 31 Model A

    31 Model A A-List Customer

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    I was in Italy in the mid-60s. The Iti's line of defense were buried Shermans with there gun turrets camouflaged.
     
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  10. HanauMan

    HanauMan Practically Family

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    That is actually quite interesting.

    Yeah, I had forgotten that the Bundeswehr were not allowed near the border but that it was patrolled by the German BGS instead. I also remember the signs, East German border one mile, no Americans past this point. Never stopped my father driving us right up to the border and hiking around in the Rhon hills and having picnics on a hill overlooking the fence and some East German town beyond!

    Daley Barracks was the base that defended the Meiningen Gap sector, south of the Fulda Gap and north of the sector guarded by the 2ACR / 2 Cav. My father was with the 11th ACR but it also housed the 41st FA which had nuclear shells for their M109s, so I guess that was why you visited there? The shells came in three sections and were kept in the basement of the barrack blocks! Once, the soldiers were moving some shells and dropped one on the concrete floor, making a big dent in the casing! I seem to recall that the Federal German government knew about them but the regional local government weren't told that there were nuclear shells in their backyard. Yep, the 11th ACR was also there to hold the Russians back for as long as possible. Their survival times were measured in hours, not days! They had a OP near the Meiningen Gap called Camp Lee, I went there a few times when the dependent families were bussed up to see the husbands / fathers. I was in my mid teens, still remember the border and also the border crossing at Eussenhausen. Man, it was like something out of a spy moving! Well, its all history now I guess but we were a tiny part of it and that is pretty cool.
     
  11. 31 Model A

    31 Model A A-List Customer

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    The 41st FA Bde was stationed at both Babenhusen and Hanau when I was there. I don't think there was any nuke rounds for the 41st Grp stored outside Nato Site 5 which was located at my location Fliegerhorst Kaserne at that time. No 41st FA unit was physically at Camp Dailey. I left there as the S-2 NCO
    in 1982 and my Lt and I had to inventory all the Nuke rounds monthly, these rounds where ours and 2/5th who came to Nato Site 5 to upload their rounds. We were always long gone by the time they got there from Babenhausen. The whole 41st Bde, two 8in HOW and two Lance Bn's were not physically on the border at that time. Once every 6 months the Commanders and the firing battery plt sgt did a terrain walk using the battle plan. I was there when we used M-110 A1's. I understand after I left they went with M-109's
    The round were whole and secured incased in crates. Special Weapons Plt were responsible for acquiring them, loading them, transporting them. We just were to fire them using a 25 foot lanyard!!!! One round per gun and then the tube was deemed no longer good, destroy the breech and move out smartly!!!!:D
     
  12. HanauMan

    HanauMan Practically Family

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    Thanks for all that, always interesting to get more info.

    Funny enough, my father's first Germany posting was to Hanau in the 1960s as a mechanic in the 18th Arty. He was in one of the Lamboy kasernes working on the old M52s. He also briefly worked in Fliegerhorst in 1972 right after VN and before being posted to Bad Kissingen. In fact, we celebrated our first 4th July in Germany in Fliegerhorst as the motor pool guys had a big BBQ party. That was in 1972 and I can vaguely recall some of that. By August we had moved to Bad Kissingen and spent the next seven years in Daley Barracks until my father retired from the military in 1979.

    Bad Kissingen was also home to the 2nd battalion 41st field artillery regiment (2/41FA). The stuff about the M109 shells I got from my father years later when I began asking him about his military service. He was a SFC and I took his tales as gospel but, of course, he may have been BS me a tad! But having said that, Daley Barracks wasn't near any NATO ammo dumps (though there was a small one a couple of miles out of town) so it may have been true about keeping some rounds on base in case of a sudden attack by the Warsaw Pact? Daley Barracks was in VII Corp territory but was actually part of V Corps, so it wouldn't have been impossible for V Corp units being up by the border, I guess. All I know is that the soldiers were happy to be so far away from V Corp HQ in Frankfurt as it meant less BS visits by top brass!

    There was another artillery unit in nearby Schweinfurt, don't recall who they were but they had M107s parked on their hardstands.

    Thanks for the information. I can just imagine some GI standing there and pulling that 25 foot lanyard and waiting for a BIG BOOM....! :)
     
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  13. 31 Model A

    31 Model A A-List Customer

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    During a trip to Graf, we always fired off a Nuclear simulated round. Had the same firing effects and we went through the exact drill when firing. One such firing, the media was invited, about 15-20 different media people, cameras on tripods, the whole bit. They all line up to the left and right of the gun about 10 feet behind it. We though were 25 feet behind it, not just the lanyard dude but all of us because we knew what was coming. We too had our cameras out because there was one female reporter there in a dress. So!!! when that round went off with a charge 8 behind it, huge big fireball from the muzzle, it lifted the gun a bit, blast knocked over the tripods but it also lifted everything on the ground up including that reporter's dress. AHHH!! memories!!! the good kind!!!! :D
     
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  14. 31 Model A

    31 Model A A-List Customer

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    You do know that all five Kasernes in Hanau, including Fliegerhorst in Erlense are shut down and have been for some time now.
     
  15. 31 Model A

    31 Model A A-List Customer

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    We were V Corps Artillery so you could have had some 2/41st unit on your Kaserne that was VII Corps Arty. Our 41st HQ was located at Baboonhausen.
     
  16. David Conwill

    David Conwill Call Me a Cab

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    The A57 required experience working on a Plymouth, I take it? ;)
     
  17. p51

    p51 One Too Many

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    Well behind the front lines!
    I once dated a girl who'd taught English in Japan and she confirmed that by talking to the history teachers there.
    She also confirmed that they did teach WW2 as Japan exercising her legal rights in the Pacific until the big bad westerners beat up on poor innocent Japan, illegally.
    No mention of their treatment of POWs or other Asian nations. Comfort woman, Nanking, none of it. They go right from "doing what was okay," immediately to, "look what those round-eyed devils did by fire bombing and nuking us. We didn't deserve this!"
     
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  18. MisterCairo

    MisterCairo I'll Lock Up

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    I once dated a girl from Russia, and had to ask her what this "Great Patriotic War" she kept mentioning was all about, how it lasted from 1941 to 1945, and didn't that coincide with the Soviets fending off their former ally Nazi Germany.

    We didn't date much longer after that...

    It's all about perspective...
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2018
  19. p51

    p51 One Too Many

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    Well behind the front lines!
    Well, we sided with Russia in WW2 and then immediately we turned on one another. Same thing with China soon afterward.
    I've never faulted the prewar Russian/German partnership, in an era of national alliances.
    Or how about the fact that we were bitter enemies with Axis nations and now are friends with them.
    Everything is relative if you hop to the right point in time.
     
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  20. 31 Model A

    31 Model A A-List Customer

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    This comes to mind in this case "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". The Allies had to established a second front in both theaters. Russia was needed in this case in Europe and both factions in China, the nationals and the communist. The allies could not support one side without the other. What happened after the war was pretty much expected due to the doctrine that was set aside until the germans and the japanese were defeated. In results that happened, two regimes were defeated resulting in three others, Red China, Nationalist China and the USSR were given better foothold in the land they personally conquered defeating the common enemy. So goes World History...……..
     

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