Subject: Re: Who contributed most to defeat of Nazi Germany
From: email@example.com (John W. Schaefer)
Date: May 31 1996
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com says...
>In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, smatveyev@internetMCI.com
>>In the opinion of many analysts the best tank of the war was T-34 which
>>was mass produced by the Russians on the scale unmatched in the West.
>Previous comment I made on the above about numbers of Shermans produced.
>I did find a ref that gave 19000 T-34's made and a slightly larger number
>of T-34/85's. Given both, I doubt we approached those numbers with the
The problem with American WWII AFV engineering was that for some
reason we had no effective feedback to lead to an improved design. We had a
huge amount of tool-and-die capability, and so many plants building Shermans
and related AFVs that a new family could have been introduced on-the-fly
without an unacceptable drought of supply. Somehow, though, we took at least
a year longer than reasonable to introduce the Pershing. Meanwhile, the tech
sergeants in the armored division shops were modifying things like crazy to
try to increase performance and survivability. Even the M4A3E8, which caught
up to most of the mods, was minimally acceptable. Not a very impressive
performance from the most sophisticated vehicle manufacturing and using
nation on earth.
I've argued elsewhere that quantity is more important than quality,
but the Sherman was ridiculous, given that the resources to do it so much
better and in comparable numbers were clearly available.
After the war, the Israelis got their hands on some Shermans and
modified them well enough, with British 105s, engine mods and external armor,
that they were successful in first-line mobile combat use against T-54s
through the 70s. When they first did that work, their resource base was not
very big. All in all, our AFV design and engineering talent during WWII
should have been ashamed of itself.
>On another similar subject; my German neighbor who was in panzers during
>WWII insists the T-34 could be taken apart and put back together again
>with only 4 standardized tools. He had lots of praise for that trait!
Brilliant, eh? Supposedly many of their drivers had never driven a
motor vehicle before, but the T34 was designed tough and simple with such
drivers in mind. Crude but effective--just what they needed to win.
Subject: Re: WWII tanks
From: "John W. Schaefer" <email@example.com>
Date: Jul 07 1996
: firstname.lastname@example.org wrote in article
: Scott K. Stafford wrote:
: > A difference in *what*?!? The outcome of the campaign? The outcome of the
: > theater? The outcome of the war? The only "difference" it would have made
: > is that 50-years-later-armchair-strategists would have said better things
: > about the Sherman.
: No Scott, it would have meant that fewer American men would've had their
: bodies (or whatever could be scraped out of a brewed-up Sherman) shipped back
: in Pine Boxes, a point you seem to be missing. The cost of fielding lots
: mediocre but adequate tank instead of an adequate amount of superior tanks
: (Sherman vs M26) was measured in American bodies.
>You're forgetting the fact that not every American soldier was riding in a
>Sherman tank. In fact, only a tiny percentage of US troops in theater were
>tank crews at all. If the US Army had fielded far smaller numbers of
>"better" tanks, it might have saved tank crews--at the expense of cemetaries
>full of infantrymen who died wondering where that tank support had gotten
Once again, Scott, your arguing style is to change the opposing argument so
you can knock it down. No one but you has proposed any notion of replacing M4
production with a significantly smaller and inadequate number of M4A3E8/90s
or M26s or whatever. In earlier posts, I argued that a change to a Super-
Sherman for all of the M4 production intended for US/Brit/etc. use in Europe
could have been accomplished with no diminishment of numbers at all, under
specified realistic conditions. There was no need to revise the M4s used in
the Pacific, and the Lend-Lease tanks going to Russia were valued primarily
for their mechanical reliability during fast advances anyway--the Russians
had the good sense to use their own designs when combat power was needed.
>Your argument also ignores the telling fact that converting production from
>the Sherman to a "better" tank would have come at a cost. Factories would
>have had to retool, workers would have had to learn new skills, and
>factories would have had to stop producing Shermans for a significant time
>before the first "better" tank rolled out.
I'm a mechanical engineer with a manufacturing background, I grew up and
currently live in Flint, Michigan and have uncles and aunts who worked in
auto plants converted to WWII munitions production, I currently work as Chief
Engineer for a manufacturing company just down the road from the Grand Blanc,
Michigan plant that built M4s in WWII, an engineer friend of mine designs
AFVs for the Marines at the U.S. Army Warren, Michigan facility, and this
is an area I've studied as a hobby for a number of years. I believe I have
an excellent grasp of the manufacturing process for AFVs.
Model and design changes are engineerable events. The automobile industry
(which assembled the great majority of our AFVs) has long experience with
design-generation changeovers. The design improvements needed to move from
the M4 to an M4A3E8/90 as of 1943, based on a decision to do so as of 1941
and corresponding initiation of preparations, wouldn't have been any more
major than the changes from one automobile design generation to the next.
We certainly could have tolerated the loss of three weeks of production in
order to change to an MBT that was much more survivable--even not considering
the lives of the tankers at all, the decrease in vehicle loss rate of a
vastly more survivable AFV and thus the decrease in percentage of production
for replacement rather than force buildup would have offset that three-week
production loss in a brief period, after which we would have been
increasingly ahead on numbers.
Specifically, the gun needed upsizing to a 90; that would have no significant
impact at final assembly, and would mean a re-balancing of volumes at the gun
factories, where obsolete 75s would be de-emphasized in favor of a 90 design
that was already in production. These changes could have been anticipated and
prepared for. The labor and equipment per 90 would not have been significantly
The new gun would have required a new turret design. Evolutionary changes in
molds in heavy-casting production are easily introduced.
Additional armor in fabricated-plate form could have been added to the ductile
existing cast hull and turret designs in selected locations, without major
impacts on the manufacturing process. This would have required improvements
in our armor-plate capacity, which could have been anticipated and prepared
The various running-gear and miscellaneous improvements of the M4A3E8 would
have been introduced much sooner than occurred historically. Those changes
did not involve any difficult technology or manufacturing, and could have
been done anytime; they were dependant only on managerial direction.
A new, larger V8 diesel engine would have been the right way to accomplish a
major improvement in power/weight ratio. That would have required the
stretched hull that was already tooled for one M4 variant. The new engine
would have been the only change that would have required fundamentally new
manufacturing capability, and the sensible way to get there would have been
to build new engine-line plants starting in 1941. Engine manufacturing
capacity limited and complicated our AFV production throughout the war
anyway; the looming need for this change should have been plainly foreseeable
to the supposed planning experts who were charged with contemplating the
numbers in advance. Availability of a good high-horsepower diesel engine in
volume would have had huge impacts throughout other parts of our munitions
engineering as well, particularly for larger trucks (which would have made
our superior logistical capability even better); larger earth-moving
equipment (which would have made our superior civil-engineering capability
even better); small naval craft, large generators, small locomotives, etc.,
>Rush the changeover? Sure, and end up with a Kursk-model Panther than
>catches fire before it gets to the FEBA.
A red herring that does not contribute to the debate. Yes, I agree that it
is a bad idea to build low-quality AFVs. As if that wasn't obvious.
>And what about shipping? The Germans and Russians could accept
>monster 60-ton vehicles if they so desired, but American and English armor
>had to go to the battlefield on a ship. Even had American been able to
>swiftly match M4 production with M26 production (and in 1944, no less),
>could they have shipped them over in the same volume? How about dockyard
>cranes? Could they *all* lift a Pershing? On both ends of the Atlantic?
>In sufficient quantity to supply the battlefield?
Sorry, but your argument is transparently weak here. It is not difficult to
move AFVs of any typical weight by ship, because displaced water doesn't
care what it floats. We already moved plenty of other heavy objects
overseas by ship, including locomotives; various large machine tools, power-
plant equipment, and other heavy industrial equipment; a huge range of raw
materials in aggregated bulk, including such dense materials as rolled steel;
various landing craft; etc. And obviously you are not familiar with harbor
crane technology. Ports of the class of Baltimore, Liverpool and Amsterdam
would have had no problem adapting and adjusting their equipment mix to
handle whatever was on their traffic. The limiting factors in tonnage moved
through first-class harbors are almost always the raw length of available
dock space, the number of hours in the day, and the logistics of getting
material to and from the dockside, not the weight of the cargo itself.
Actually, movement of heavier tanks is much, much more of a stumbling block
by rail. Heavier tanks require construction of heavier railcars, and often
reinforcement of bridges. But all participants in modern war are well
aware of these engineering issues.
Subject: WWII tanks
From: "John W. Schaefer" <email@example.com>
Date: Jul 23 1996
Troy Dawson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Could the tardiness in upgrading our afv's been due to the
>allocation of engineering/management resources to more
>pressing tasks, e.g. heavy bombers, etc.
>Even the US had a finite pool of engineering talent.
Perhaps an industrial historian could do a better job
on this by bringing actual numbers to bear, but I'll take a
shot at it.
I don't think the problem was allocation of engineers
amonst industries per se. Beginning with the formation of the
automobile industry, U.S. engineers began to specialize; thus
came to be the career path as an automotive engineer--a
variation on the mechanical engineer. The aeronautical
industry followed suit. Automotive and aeronautical engineers
knew a great deal about vehicles and aircraft, respectively,
that had little or no application in any other field. This is
still the case today.
Engineering departments of all kinds consist of senior
engineers, who have crucial knowledge based on years of
experience and continuing self-education, and junior engineers,
who get the work done under the guidance of senior leaders.
College-educated junior engineers and new college graduates are
flexible amongst industries specifically because they haven't
learned much job-particular knowledge yet; their almost entirely
theoretical and academic knowledge base and their fresh
learning skills make them able to change jobs efficiently, in that
they lose little and can learn quickly. Senior engineers are not
flexible; they have much valuable job-particular knowledge that
is useless in another industry, and they have lost their learning
flexibility as they have aged and specialized.
In a wartime expansion mode, the key shortages are likely
to be of senior engineers, who can manage projects. They cannot be
rapidly created, as can junior engineers, by promotion of sharp
technicians and craftsmen and by acceleration of engineering
schools, and they cannot be done without. Thus their supply gates
how many projects can be addressed.
I believe there was little or no crossover between the
automotive and aeronautical fields in WWII because of this
characteristic of engineering knowledge. The economic planners at
the Pentagon had control over many things, but they could not
practically turn senior automotive engineers into senior
aeronautical engineers or vice versa.
It certainly was the case that the automotive industry
itself had limited knowledge resources, and possibly someone
decided to stick with the M4 throughout the war in order to use
one design cycle for a new truck or halftrack, rather than a new
bomber. But the automotive industry is structured to create and
implement new designs on a rolling, perpetual basis. We could have
done the proposed M4 evolution with some of the design effort that
went into the M10, M36, M18, and various other oddball designs
that would not have been needed if the M4 had evolved into a more