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- Tanks in the German Army
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A Photo Chronicle. Die Wehrmacht. Wehrmacht Camouflage Uniforms. Wehrmacht Auxiliary Forces. Lastkraftwagen der Wehrmacht. Verbrechen an der Wehrmacht. Wehrmacht Combat Helmets Tankograd Militar Fahrzeug - Special No. Landing Vehicles Tracked. Sex Crimes under the Wehrmacht. Wehrmacht Divisional Signs, Fahrschulpanzer der Wehrmacht The Wehrmacht: History, Myth, Reality. Camouflaged Uniforms of the Wehrmacht.
Beute-Kraftfahrzeuge und -Panzer der Deutschen Wehrmacht. Saturn Launch Vehicles. Wehrmach support vehicles. German Field Marshal Erich von Manstein commented on the effectiveness of American trucks, even in the mud of the Russian front, where they sharply increased the mobility of Russian artillery units. Another weapon that supplied supporting fires, although it was neither a cannon or assigned to the artillery, was the M1 4.
Its high explosive round had the same impact as the mm shell, and it was often used to supplement other supporting weapons. Another category of guns that often supported the infantry with direct fire and indirect fire were those mounted on tank destroyers.
Confusingly, that term was used to describe both towed antitank guns and those mounted on tracked vehicles. America built several such tank destroyers on a tracked chassis with a lightly armored, open topped turret. When the Army decided to build such vehicles, the Wehrmacht was making successful attacks with massed tanks. These highly mobile tank destroyers were intended to rush to the scene of such an attack and seal off the penetration. By the time tank destroyers were ready for employment, the days of Blitzkrieg were over but they remained successful in engaging German armor.
They were also very useful as infantry support weapons. Their highly accurate, high-velocity guns were excellent for engaging fortifications and in an indirect fire role. As mentioned earlier, the first mobile tank destroyers consisted of 75mm guns mounted on half-tracks. A better system was needed quickly, so Ordnance officials decided to use available guns and chassis. The M10, the first purpose-built tank destroyer, mounted a 3-inch naval gun which was available because the Navy had phased it out on a Sherman chassis.
While it was a fairly good weapon, the vehicle was unnecessarily large and slow. Germany continued to improve its tanks, so the Army developed the M36, which carried a 90mm antiaircraft gun. The Army issued the M36 to tank destroyer battalions in Europe in the latter part of the war. Most American armored divisions deployed three battalions of standard mm howitzers mounted, in the open, on the chassis of an M3 Lee or, more frequently, an M4 Sherman tank. While the Sherman was overmatched by German tanks in terms of main guns and armor, it was far more mechanically reliable than comparable German vehicles, and since the unarmored version that carried the artillery piece was substantially lighter than the Sherman, it seemed to handle mud quite well when compared to the standard Sherman tank.
The largest field artillery piece employed by the U. This was not the case with German artillery. General Hans Eberbach, while commanding Fifth Panzer Army against the British in Normandy, wrote that his artillery included guns from every major power in Europe. It would be hard to overstate the logistical problems this caused.
Tanks in the German Army
Acquiring the proper ammunition, let alone the firing tables and other equipment needed to keep the guns operational, must have been a nightmare. To add to his problems, the British alone had six times as many guns as he could deploy. The reliance on horses caused substantial problems in terms of speed of movement, low cargo capacity, short radius of action, and the disproportionate number of men needed to care for the animals. German horse-drawn artillery could only move at a rate of perhaps twenty-five miles a day for several days before the horses needed to rest.
These problems were only partly mitigated by using the German rail system. Intense Allied bombing of German railways slowed the movement of troops, equipment, and supplies. The raids also caused heavy losses in men and materiel. One way to appreciate the magnitude of the problems caused by horse-drawn artillery is to note that one of the reasons the German Sixth Army did not try to break out of its encirclement at Stalingrad was because most of its horses were in rehabilitation camps to the west and were outside of that encirclement. As a result, Sixth Army would not have been able to move its heavy weapons or ammunition during a breakout attempt.
Part of the reason American artillery was so effective was good forward observation. During World War I, fire was adjusted by individual batteries. Battery commanders spotted the fall of their rounds, usually from a crude tower near the guns. A fire direction center typically controlled at least a dozen guns, so better target acquisition and observation of the fall of the rounds than the Word War I practice was needed. In the fast-paced fighting of World War II, observers needed to be somewhere near or with the troops being supported, and they needed to have rapid communication with the fire direction center.
When the troops were moving, landline telephones were useless. Even in static situations, the telephones, with their vulnerable lines, had serious limitations near the front lines. Radio was a possible solution, but early AM radios were fickle and often unreliable. Major, later General, Anthony C. These provided a strong clear signal for about forty miles.
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Germany developed a family of high frequency vehicle radios for military use, but their radios were not nearly as effective as the American versions. By the last year of the war in Europe, Germany was deploying its own family of FM radios.
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The benefits were so clear that, almost instantly, an irresistible clamor for their purchase arose. The plane most used by U. The aircraft was painted olive drab, equipped with a radio, and modified with the addition of a window was placed in the top of the fuselage behind the wing. Two planes were issued to each artillery battalion. The 8-inch gun had the longest range of any American field artillery piece of the war—32, meters twenty miles.
Replying in kind to American deployment of airborne artillery spotters was not an option for Axis forces. Germany had an airplane that would have served admirably, the Fiesler Fi Storch Stork , which was designed with artillery spotting in mind. Nevertheless, like so much German equipment, it was overdesigned and therefore too expensive for Germany to use it as widely as it would have needed to be used to make a difference in German capabilities.
In addition, Allied air supremacy would have rapidly driven them from the sky. The use of aerial spotters solved the problem of a shortage of spotters on the ground. The troops frequently operated in separate small units, too many to have a spotter with each one. The spotter on the ground could only see nearby targets, leaving some units unable to call for fire. Not only could targets be far more clearly observed from the air, but targets further behind the front lines could also be engaged. The mere presence of the observation planes in the air over the front lines had the effect of severely suppressing enemy fire.
That impact was observed in both the European and Pacific Theaters. When the spotters were in the air, enemy batteries generally remained silent or limited their fire to a few rounds at dawn and dusk. So even after the plodding German batteries arrived at the front, they were often silent. When they were forced to fire anyway, the counter-battery fire had a catastrophic impact on them.
For example in the winter of , Germany attempted to hold the Allies well west of the Rhine River. When that defense collapsed Germany took heavy losses as the troops attempted to flee across the few bridges available. These batteries were destroyed or silenced.
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Allied troops on the ground in all theaters were extremely grateful. The most dramatic proof is that in , a former World War II observation pilot received a letter from a former infantryman. He had been under Japanese artillery fire on the island of Luzon when a spotter airplane came on the scene and silenced the Japanese battery by its mere presence. He was sure that the spotter had saved his life. Years later he succeeded in tracing down the pilot to personally express his gratitude.
It was common practice to combine fires of the artillery of two or more adjacent divisions in support of an attack of one of those divisions, and then shift all the fires to successive attacks by the other divisions. The four divisions fighting on the northern shoulder of the Battle of the Bulge went even further. They were supported by the fire of guns and a battalion of 4. All of these guns were placed under the direction of the assistant division commander of the 1st Infantry Division and all their fire was coordinated through his headquarters.
Gunners of the th Field Artillery Battalion fire a captured 88mm gun, 26 December American forces captured dozens of German artillery pieces, including dozens of the versatile 88s, along with tons of ammunition in the summer of and later used some of the captured ordnance against the Germans.
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The fire direction center directing the TOT broadcast a countdown to all of the batteries participating in the shoot. Each battery calculated the time of flight from their guns to the target. Each fired during the countdown at a time that caused the initial rounds from all of the guns to impact the target simultaneously. Its effect was shattering. The sophistication of American fire direction is illustrated in an anecdote in My War , a memoir by Dr. Don Fusler, a soldier who served on a 57mm antitank gun crew. His unit had occupied a large farm in western Germany.
On three occasions German artillery fire came in on them with suspicious accuracy, twice hitting tank destroyers and once the unit mess. A Russian slave laborer told them that when they had occupied the farm a German captain had been on leave there and had stayed behind with a radio when the rest of the defenders pulled out. He was captured and in his possession was a map showing all of the German artillery positions in the area.
It was turned over to the division artillery which conducted a simultaneous TOT shoot on all of the German positions. No other artillery in the world could have done that at that time. The ability to coordinate fire planning and execution with the troops being supported, to readily observe the impact of artillery fire, and to efficiently shift that fire as needed was extremely important.
Prewar studies had made it clear that a synergistic effect occurred when infantry, artillery and armor fought as a closely coordinated whole. That was repeatedly confirmed during the war. According to Weigley, this limited the effectiveness of U. This seems overblown. He is correct that the American forces did not always have as much ammunition as it might wish because they preferred to use their guns to pound German positions. In the fighting for Hill outside of St. During interrogations, German prisoners of war POWs in France frequently remarked on the heavy volume of American fire they had experienced.
The effectiveness of German artillery was limited by ammunition shortages that dwarfed those of the Allies.
Wehrmacht Support Vehicles by Robert Michulec (Paperback, ) | eBay
Even in Russia in , ammunition shortages were felt; by late that year heavy artillery units typically had about fifty rounds per gun on hand. Primarily because of supply problems, the German artillery supporting Fifth Panzer Army in Normandy could only fire about ten percent of what the British fired.
By , Germany was drafting workers of military age out of factories and munitions plants and replacing them with POWs and slave laborers.