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Analysis – Fury tank battle

Quick summary

The platoon of 4 tanks is going forward in a country lane, in column. The lead tank is the Fury (M4A3(76) HVSS), followed by M4(75), M4A1(76)W and the trailing tank M4(75). The Tiger I lies in ambush at 3o’clock. He first picks up the last tank in the column, which immediately blows up, the turret swinging in the air. The 3 remaining tanks then promptly reverse, in order to face the enemy, unharmed. The Tiger No.131 misses his second shot, who fells a few yards near Fury. Upon throwing smoke at the strangely lonely Tiger beast, Wardaddy decide to take care of the Mark VI. They rush forward, in a head-on with the Tiger. The Tiger slowly moves toward his assailants. After a few shots, the Tiger deadly 88 knocked down the M4A1(76)W after beheading his unfortunate commander. The 2 remaining Sherman then split, Fury outflanking by the left and the M4(75) by the right. Following a desperate attempt by the M4(75), the latter is blown up. Fury finally reaches the tail of the Tiger and end his fate by putting 2 rounds into the rear compartment.

 

 

 

 

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Statistic:

The Tiger 131 seems to be strangely alone. No other German tanks or infantry are present where the fighting occurred. In reality, to quote Zvi Gringold (former Israelian tank commander), “the tank is a social critter, who doesn’t move alone. “It is rather unlikely to encounter a lonely fawn in the middle of the German countryside.

Distance of engagement: From about 800 yards to less than 20 yards

Tanks knocked-out/destroyed: 4 (3 M4s and 1 Tiger I)

 

Number of shots fired

Number of hit(s)

Percentage of shot(s) that resulted in a hit

Tiger I

8

6

75%

M4A3(76)W

7

4

57%

M4A1(76)W

2

1

50%

M4(75)

2

2

100%

 

World war II tanks weren’t able to engage enemy tank on the move, contrary to current tank, unless in a specific situation (see Tank duel in Cologne for more details). So, the numbers above-mentioned are very inconsistent even whimsical. Even the Sherman, which featured a one-axis gyrostabilizer, “was not precise enough to permit the Sherman to fire on the move but rather helped the gunner keep the reticle on-target during movement”. About the Tiger I, let’s hear from Sgt. Joseph Tetreault, a M18 Hellcat commander: “Tiger tanks, while very armored, are very slow. They must come to a full stop to fire their big 88mm gun effectively. [] A moving German tank is not dangerous. It must stop to be effective.” Furthermore, since the gunner only had a monocular telescope (the Sherman had two sights, including a M4 periscopic sight useful for general observation), “the Tiger gunner was essentially blind until the tank halted.”

Thus, in fact neither Tiger I nor Shermans would have been able to achieve such a prowess. They would have had to come at a full stop to engage with high chance of success enemies target. It should also be underscored that the Tiger hit only ounce out of two shots (50% hits rate) when firing stationary, although it had a 93% probability to hit a 2.5 by 2 meters 1km away(!).

NB: Only the Tiger I first two shots weren’t on the move (which is extremely inaccurate)

·        The Tiger I first fires at the trailing tank. Contrary to what some claim, it isn’t senseless. According to Werner Otte (former 12th Waffen SS Panzer Division member and tank gunner), “When several Shermans appeared, our tank commander simply pointed to the last tank in column for our first shot. I responded ‘Ziel erkannt’ (Target identified). Then the tank commander called out, ‘Feuer frei!’ (fire at will) and I squeezed the trigger. Then I swung the barrel to the lead tank and did the same. We were always amazed that the British never seemed to catch on to this simple ploy. With the trailing tank and lead tank destroyed it was easy to pick off the rest.”

·        However, the Tiger’s commander decision to rush towards the US Platoon doesn’t make any sense, since he was able to knock them out at that distance (approximately 600 yards). As explained before, he couldn’t in reality shoot on the move, so the right decision was then to withdraw, as Tiger 131 is facing potent enemies who were able to destroy him. Wardaddy’s tactical solution to deal with this foe is also quite silly: going straight on Mark VI, without even attempting to outflank him or to dodge enemy’s shots (like real Wardaddy - Lafayette Pool - did once when in a head-on with a Mark V). In reality, the wiser idea was to fire at the Tiger from a distance, with “souped-up” ammo 76mm Sherman were supplied with.

Opposing forces:

1 US Platoon of the US 2nd Armored Division

·        1 M4A3(76) HVSS (more commonly known as M4A3E8)

·        1 M4A1(76)W

·        2 M4A1 (75)

It can be inferred that 50% of the Shermans are equipped with a 76mm gun

In reality, the 2nd Armored Division was equipped with 230 Shermans in April 1945, divided between 143 M4 (75) and 87 M4 (76). Therefore 37% of the division’s Sherman were 76mm one. We can so safely state than the movie is quite accurate on this issue. However, it should be noted that the initial platoon consisted of 3 M4 (76) and 2 M4(75) – one M4A3E8 was destroyed in the opening day.

US Tanks and Tanks destroyers strength in the ETO (April 1945)

US 12th Army Group Sherman strength (% of 76mm): 2828 (41.1% - 1164)

US 12th Army Group separate tank battalion Sherman strength: 1107 (39.5% - 438)

US 6th Army Group Sherman strength: 1500 (35.5% - 529)

US Army Tank Destroyer strength: 1908

·        1054 M36

·        427 M10

·        427 M18

M26 (T26E3) deployed strength: 39

So, that gives us a total of 7 382 medium and heavy tanks, and tank destroyer. 1093 of those were equipped with a 90mm gun (able to wipe out a Tiger 1 more than a mile away), 2985 equipped with a 76mm gun (or 3 inch gun for the M10 however with the same all-round performances) and the balance with a 75mm gun (4391). We will take a closer look at the effectiveness of the last two guns, which are involved in the tragic fighting.

Heer tank and tank destroyer strength in April 1945

“On April 10, Oberbefehlshaber West reported that it had only 44 tanks operational on the entire Western Front: 11 PzKpfw IV, two Panzer IV/70, 24 Panthers, and seven Tigers”

Consequently 44 German tanks and tanks destroyer were facing 7 382 Americans Tanks and TDs (a numerical advantage of 168:1)! It should be noted that this last figure does not include any of the many tanks of the 21st Army Group nor US light tanks (which would have been nearly hopeless against Tiger 1 though). Our platoon was so, regarding those figures, very unlucky maybe even cursed!

Technical examination of all types of tanks involved in the standoff

We will more specifically focused on the Tiger 1 performances against all three Shermans model and conversely.

Tiger 1: The Tiger 1 is a famous German heavy tank developed in 1942 and who entered service in August 1942. To quote Tank’s expert Steven Zaloga, “the Tiger 1 had earned a formidable reputation by the end of 1944, although its non-sloped armor and poor mobility meant it was being superseded by the Tiger II or King Tiger”.

Technical specifications:

Crew: 5

Length: 8.4m

Width: 3.7m

Height: 3.0m

Weight (combat loaded): 56.9 tonnes

Main gun: 8.8cm KwK 36 (92 rounds stored)

Secondary armaments: two 7.92mm (hull, coaxial)

Engine: Maybach HL 210P45, V12 gasoline engine (650 hp)

Power-to-weight ratio: 11.4hp/t

Ground pressure: 1.04kg/cm2

Transmission: Maybach OLVAR OG 401216A with eight forward, four reverse gear

Fuel capacity: 570 liters

Road speed: 38km/h

Road range: 140km

M4A3(76) HVSS:

Often designed as the M4A3E8, this improved version of the M4 Sherman saw action for the first time in December 1944. The main design features were the new HVSS suspension and 23-inch-wide track which increase the overall off-road performances (lower ground pressure which proved to be a major issue for standard Sherman during the rainy fall of 1944). It also added a muzzle brake to the 76mm gun, in order to reduce the muzzle flash, who tended to give away the position of the shooting tank.

Crew: 5

Length: 7.5m

Width: 3m

Height: 2.97m

Weight (combat loaded): 33.6 tonnes

Main gun76mm M1A2 (71 rounds stored)

Secondary armaments: two 0.30 cal (hull, coaxial); 1 0.50 cal

Engine: Ford GAA, 8-cylinder gasoline engine (500 hp)

Power-to-weight ratio:14.9 hp/t

Ground pressure: 0.75 kg/cm2

Transmission: Synchromesh, 5 speeds forward, 1 reverse

Fuel capacity: 637 liters

Road speed: 42km/h

Road range: 160km

 

M4A1(76)W: it makes complete sense: the first M4A1(76) batch were issued to the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions in July 1944

Crew: 5

Length: 7.5m

Width: 3m

Height: 2.97m

Weight (combat loaded): 32 tonnes

Main gun 76mm M1A1 (71 rounds stored)

Secondary armaments: two 0.30 cal (hull, coaxial); 1 0.50 cal

Engine: Continental R975 C4, 9-cylinder radial gasoline engine (460 hp)

Power-to-weight ratio:14.4 hp/t

Ground pressure: 0.99 kg/cm2

Transmission: Synchromesh, 5 speeds forward, 1 reverse

Fuel capacity: 662 liters

Road speed: 38km/h

Road range: 160km

M4 (mid-production)

Crew: 5

Length: 5.9m

Width: 3m

Height: 2.74m

Weight (combat loaded): 30.3 tonnes

Main gun 75mm M3 (97 rounds stored)

Secondary armaments: two 0.30 cal (hull, coaxial); 1 0.50 cal

Engine: Continental R975 C1, 9-cylinder radial gasoline engine (400 hp)

Power-to-weight ratio: 13.2hp/t

Ground pressure: 0.94 kg/cm2

Transmission: Synchromesh, 5 speeds forward, 1 reverse

Fuel capacity: 662 liters

Road speed: 38km/h

Road range: 193km

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiger 1

M4A3(76) HVSS

M4A1(76)W

M4

Weight

57 tonnes

33.6 tonnes

32 tonnes

30.3 tonnes

Engine

Maybach HL210P45

Ford GAA

Continental R975 C4

Continental R975 C1

Horsepower

650

500

460

400

Hp/weight ratio

11.4hp/t

14.9hp/t

14.4hp/t

13.2hp/t

Ground pressure

1.04kg/cm2

0.75kg/cm2

0.99 kg/cm2

0.94 kg/cm2

Maximum road speed

38km/h

42km/h

38km/h

38km/h

Fuel capacity

534 liters

637 liters

662 liters

662 liters

Road range

140km

160km

160km

193km

 

As the figures show, all Sherman version have a better tactical mobility than the German fawn, a better flotation resulting of the lower ground pressure, especially for Fury, fitted with wider 23-inch tracks. All American tanks also have a higher power-to-weight ratio which allows a better acceleration. Concerning-road speed, during an afterwar test the M4A3E8 speed of 18 miles per hour (29kmh) over terrain where tracks sank approximately one inch. Given the inferior power-to-weight ratio the performance of the Tiger 131 should be markedly lower. It’s important to note that the speed all tanks, including Tiger’s, are able to reach in off-road is way faster than how it has been represented onscreen, especially on dry land as it is depicted.

Armor protection

 

Tiger 1

M4A3(76) HVSS

M4A1(76)W

M4

Gun mantlet

[email protected]°=100mm

[email protected]°=91mm

[email protected]°=91mm

[email protected]°=89mm

Turret front

[email protected]°=110mm

[email protected]°=89mm

[email protected]°=89mm

[email protected]°=87mm

Glacis

[email protected]°=101mm

[email protected]°=92mm

[email protected]°=92mm

[email protected]°=91mm

Lower bow

[email protected]°=107mm

[email protected]°=108mm

[email protected]°=108mm

[email protected]°=51mm

Turret side

[email protected]°=82mm

[email protected]°=63mm

[email protected]°=63mm

[email protected]°=51mm

Upper hull side

[email protected]°=82mm

[email protected]°=38mm

[email protected]°=38mm

[email protected]°=38mm

 

However, all M4’s should have been up-armored since by the end of the war the tank crewmen usually add armor to their Sherman’s: sandbags (170 per tanks most of the time – roughly 3 tons), cement, or armor plate. The Third Army’s Easy Eight were up-armored with a field-expedient armor upgrade, including an additional 63.5mm to the front plate and extra-turret armor.

 

 

 

8.8cm, 76mm and 75mm tank gun ammunition

Projectile type

500m

Ammunition weight

Projectile weight

Propellant weight

Initial muzzle velocity

88mm PzGr 39

[email protected]°

16.0kg

10.0kg

2.5kg

773m/sec

76mm M62 APC

[email protected]°

11.24kg

6.8kg

1.36kg

792m/sec

76mm T4 HVAP

[email protected]°

8.16kg

4.08kg

1.36kg

1036m/sec

75mm M61

[email protected]°

9.0kg

6.8kg

0.98kg

619m/sec

 

·        The 8.8cm Kwk36 tank gun of the Tiger, the famous “acht-acht”, standard projectile for tank fighting was the Panzergranate 39 (Armor-Piercing Ballistic Cover with Tracer – APBC-T), able to penetrate 117mm of homogenous armor at 30 degrees obliquity, at a range of 500 meters. The Panzergranate 40 APCR was seldom if ever issued to the western front, as it wasn’t really needed. The PzGr 39 was able to penetrate the front armor of any Shermans types involved in the skirmish within the distance showed.

·        The standard AP shell of the 76mm gun was the M62 APC, which could penetrate 116mm of RHA at 500m. This projectile could penetrate the Tiger’s glacis plate and front turret at range of 400m or less, or mantlet at 100m. It is recalled that the protagonist were about 600 yards away from each other at the beginning of the battle. In the movie, the 76mm Shermans score two hits on the Tiger’s glacis at short ranges of 200-500 yards but the shells left only grooves. They should have penetrated the armor, considering the distance and angle. Towards the end of the fight, Fury fires right at the Tiger I mantlet at pointblank ranges but the shell ricochet. We will give the benefit of the doubt for this event, considering the AP may have hit the angled side of the turret. “In practice, the 76mm gun could penetrate the Tiger mantlet only at ranges of 100 meters or less and the hull at 400 meters.”

·        Furthermore, the Sherman mounting a 76mm gun were also supplied with “souped-up” ammunition, the T4 or M93 HVAP. Those shells were far more capable than the M62 APC, able to go through 208mm of RHA at a range of 500m, and very accurate too. Unfortunately, they were always in short supply, given the limited availability of tungsten carbide. According to Paul A. Bane Jr., Major, Executive Officer, 3rd Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment; “our tank crews had some success with the HVAP 76mm ammunition. However, at no time we been able to secure more than five rounds per tank and in recent actions this has been reduced to a maximum of two rounds, and in many tanks all this type has been expended without being replaced.” Then we can assume that the two 76mm equipped Sherman would have been supplied with two to five HVAP rounds per tanks, for a total of four to ten rounds. More than required to deal with a lonely Tiger. HVAP rounds were also very accurate. There is no doubt that against such a foe the tanks crews would have used these effective rounds.

In March 1945, 9,000 HVAP 76mm shells were issued.

·        The 75mm M61 rounds could however only penetrate the Tiger I superstructure and turret side armor within 100 meters, and rear armor too. It was unable to penetrate the frontal armor of the Tiger I at any range.

To sum up, the Tiger I was indeed able to wipe out any Shermans types represented at the distance depicted in the movie. However, the Sherman’s 76mm gun could penetrate the Tiger I frontal armor also, especially if using the “souped-up” ammunition the Shermans were supplied with, although scarcely. So, Fury and the M4A1(76)W didn’t have to hit him in the rear plate to knock him down. It’s quite funny to note that Tiger’s side armor was same as rear, so there was no point in doing so. By the way Sgt. Joseph Tetreault advised to aim at the top of bogies when facing Mark VI (which is indeed only 60mm thin).

 

 

 

 

 

 I’ve added a chart carried out the Wa Pruf, which was was the German Army Weapons Agency. Hower I’m a little bit dubbious about thoses numbers: for example it state that the KwK 36 wasn’t able to penetrate the Sherman low bow at any range, or the mantlet only at pointblank ranges (100m). The others figures seems to be right though.

 

 

Casualties: Crews of all three tanks knocked-down/destroyed were lost, despite the fact that on average one crewman was killed and another wounded when lost to enemy fire. Also, the M4A1(76)W was immadiately set on fire when hit, although only 10 to 15% of wet stowage Sherman burned in practice. I couldn’t find any conclusive illustation, but I highly doubt how both M4 (75) exploded when fired upon. In reality, the grim reputation of the Sherman was due to the poor stowage of ammunition (in the sponsons), which led to 60-80% of tanks burning. The lessons which can be drawn from these is that ammunition, when hit, caught fire and does not necessarily blow up. Furthermore, During the period of 6 June through 30 November, 1944, the US First Army suffered a total of 506 tanks knocked-out in combat (counting both those written-off and reparable). Of these 506 cases, in 104 cases there were no casualties associated with the loss of the tank. In 50 cases the casualties were not recorded. Out of the remaining 352 cases there were 129 KIA (0.37 per tank) and 280 WIA (0.80 per tank), for a total average rate of 1.16 casualty per tank lost in combat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To conclude, the point of the “Tiger vs Sherman scene” is only to illustrate the fact it supposedly took 5 Sherman’s to take down one Tiger, which is a baseless assertion. I’m not praising the Sherman as a flawless tank, and indeed “the American M4 tank has been out-gunned since the advent of the Mark IV (Special) equipped with the 75mm high velocity gun and a muzzle brake. The Mark V (Panther), Mark VI (Tiger) and most recently the Tiger II (Royal) far out-class the M4 medium tank equipped with 75mm and 76mm gun in fire power.” However, I must emphasize that both Sherman mounting a 76mm gun could knock down a Tiger I at the distance showed in the movie (especially with the HVAP round). The beginning of the scene only makes sense (An alone tank, appearing out of nowhere, is rather unlikely though), as explained. Once the smoke throwed, it become rubbish:

1.      World war II tank couldn’t fire on the move

2.      All tanks are way to slow

3.      Tactical decisions made are absolute nonsense, given the technical characteristics and tactical situation

 

 Sorry for bad english!

 

Sources:

Armored Thunderbolt: The U.S. Army Sherman in World War II (Steven Zaloga)

Panther vs Sherman: Battle of the Bulge 1944 (Steven Zaloga)

Pershing vs Tiger: Germany 1945 (Steven Zaloga)

United States vs. German Equipment: As Prepared for the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force (Isaac. D. White)

Sherman: A History of the American Medium Tank (Hunnicutt, R P)

Panther: Germany’s quest for combat dominance (Gladys and Michael Green)

GUERRES & HISTOIRE n°10

Tanks&Trucks

https://worldoftanks.com/en/news/chieftain/chieftains-hatch-us-guns-vs-german-armour-part-1/

Edited by Jagbomber47Fr
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