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The Sherman Tank And Gas Used By An Armored Division


Colin Williams
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During the exploitation after the victory at Falaise, the inability to provide forward units with sufficient gasoline severely limited the extent of the advance. Apparently an American armored division was supposed to use ~1000 gallons for each mile of an advance but reality was closer to 2000 gallons per mile, primarily because of the extra distance individual vehicles would travel for a given advance for the division as a whole. Estimates are that a tank would travel ~2 miles for each mile the division advanced, with some vehicles (supply trucks, recon, etc.) could travel ~7 miles for the same mile of advance.

 

The non-diesel versions of the M4 averaged about 1 mpg on road and 0.5 mpg cross country. With ~230 tanks and SPs based on the Sherman chassis in each armored division, 1 mile of division advance would require somewhere between 460 and 920 gallons of gas out of the 2000 required for the division, which works out to 23 to 46% of the total. To be conservative, I'll assume 30%.

 

The diesel Sherman averaged about 1.75 mpg on road, which translates to ~60% of fuel required for each mile travel. In theory, use of diesel Shermans would have reduced fuel consumption by each division from 2000 gallons per mile to about 1750 gallons per mile. Would exclusive use of diesel Shermans in NW Europe have enabled Patton to exploit across the Moselle and break the Siegfried Line in erly September?

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It would have complicated supply. With gasoline shermans there needs only type of fuel to be provided and transported. With Diesel Sherman's all the other vehicles in the division like lorries, jeeps etc would have needed there own tanker fleet for bringing them gasoline fuel. Prettybmuchbthe same reason most militaries today run pure diesel fleets to simplify logistics. There was simply not enough capacity for Diesel engine production in the US of A to build a fleet of pure diesel vehicles. Also small vehicle diesels were in their technological infancy making their own problems.

 

In the PTO Diesel engines were used because they could be refueled with the navies Diesel for the ships and boats that is transported there anyways.

 

 

So no, I would probably not have helped. It would have been probably more useful to provide more tanker vehicles and supply more fuel from the rear.

Edited by Panzermann
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So no, I would probably not have helped. It would have been probably more useful to provide more tanker vehicles and supply more fuel from the rear.

It probably would have helped if they had and used tankers. I suppose the idea was that any truck could carry five gallon cans and 55 gallon drums, thus no need for a dedicated and specialized vehicle. But I don't think a less efficient method of moving fuel could be found.

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The M10 tank destroyers used diesel without any apparent complications to the army logistical system.

 

In the Pacific the few M4A2s were greatly outnumbered by the LVTs and their gasoline consumption, but in any case there were few distant marches conducted. The USMC acquired M4A2 medium tanks simply because they were available in mid-1942, and they would have had to wait several months to obtain the two battalions they then needed in any other model M4, as only the Russians were then accepting the diesel tank. The USMC changed over to the M4A3 in 1945 in any case. There was no consideration of diesel fuel being more easily obtained because of the USN landing craft, ever. That has lived on as a myth.

Edited by Ken Estes
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So no, I would probably not have helped. It would have been probably more useful to provide more tanker vehicles and supply more fuel from the rear.

It probably would have helped if they had and used tankers. I suppose the idea was that any truck could carry five gallon cans and 55 gallon drums, thus no need for a dedicated and specialized vehicle. But I don't think a less efficient method of moving fuel could be found.

There were no tankers? I knew the British and Germans made do with barrels and jerry cans, but somehow I thought the US at least had tankers.

 

When fuel is delivered in separate small containers like barrels and canisters a mixed fuel vehicle fleet is probably not that difficult to run anymore, because a single truck can transport a mix. But that is the only advantage I can think of for transport in small containers.

 

 

Why did nobody use tanker vehicles? Add a pump and refueling is so much faster. And is much less annoying. From personal experience: refilling about 1000 l of Diesel fuel with jerry cans ain't fun and takes a long time, as we did for training with one of our Leo2.

 

 

@Ken Estes: thanks for the correction of this truism on Diesel Shermans and the USMC. :)

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As I recall from other discussions here, one of the big problems was that in the early days of the invasion US units discarded the empty fuel cans rather than sending them back to be refilled. This caused a shortage of fuel cans so even when there was sufficient fuel in depots the ability to bring it forward was limited.

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A foldable funnel for holding two jerry cans at once is part of the equipment of Leopards, Marders etc. It is put on the tank inlet and two jerry cans can be put on there for emptying comfortably. And it is not as complicated as this british contraption.

The Bundeswehr is using it and it is less complicated than the British counterpart? Hard to imagine, but I suppose they could have bought their own contraption from yet another country.

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There were no tankers? I knew the British and Germans made do with barrels and jerry cans, but somehow I thought the US at least had tankers.

 

When fuel is delivered in separate small containers like barrels and canisters a mixed fuel vehicle fleet is probably not that difficult to run anymore, because a single truck can transport a mix. But that is the only advantage I can think of for transport in small containers.

 

 

Why did nobody use tanker vehicles? Add a pump and refueling is so much faster. And is much less annoying. From personal experience: refilling about 1000 l of Diesel fuel with jerry cans ain't fun and takes a long time, as we did for training with one of our Leo2.

 

 

 

There were 750-gallon tanker trucks and a 750-gallon skid tankers that could be fit into the bed of a 2 1/2-ton truck, giving it the capacity to haul 1,500 gallons. However, each could then theoretically fill two vehciles at a time and usually using slow handpumps only. Using cans allowed multiple vehicles to be refueled simultaneously. It also lowered the risk of a single enemy artillery round knocking out the refueling of a large number of vehicles - dispersal was seen as an advantage.

 

So the 750-gallon tankers and the 2,000-gallon tanker trucks (the 2,000-gallon tankers were problematic since many were defective and leaked) were part of the army logistic tail, organized as QM Transportation Corps Truck Companies, along with Gasoline Companies, which were distribution units equipped with truck-portable electric pumps. POL arrived over the beach or through ports in bulk either pumped directly to the shore from tanker vessels to holding tanks, tanker trucks, drums, or cans, then was distributed forward either direct to units if in drums or cans, or to a Gasoline Company in tanker trucks or drums where they were typically decanted into cans.

 

The real problem became, as was mentioned, that units developed a tendency of discarding the cans after refueling rather than recycling them for reuse. IIRC by late July they estimated that something like a million cans were discarded around the Normandy countryside alone. On top of that manufacture of the cans had ended just before demand for them suddenly skyrocketed - the same problem occurred with artillery ammunition BTW - so the primary refueling device, along with the fuel, suddenly became a scarce item.

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There were 750-gallon tanker trucks and a 750-gallon skid tankers that could be fit into the bed of a 2 1/2-ton truck, giving it the capacity to haul 1,500 gallons. However, each could then theoretically fill two vehciles at a time and usually using slow handpumps only. Using cans allowed multiple vehicles to be refueled simultaneously. It also lowered the risk of a single enemy artillery round knocking out the refueling of a large number of vehicles - dispersal was seen as an advantage.

 

 

Sorry, brain-fart, two 750-gallon skid tanks could be fit in the bed of a 2 1/2-ton truck. With a tanker trailer that was 2,250 gallons, but was also overloading the vehicle so it could only be used on good roads and with additional wear and tear accepted. OTOH, it was possible to fit no fewer than about 468 5-gallon tanks into the bed of a 2 1/2 ton truck, so 90 more gallons, without using a trailer, but really overloading (7 1/2 tons was the accepted max overload).

Edited by Rich
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There were 750-gallon tanker trucks and a 750-gallon skid tankers that could be fit into the bed of a 2 1/2-ton truck, giving it the capacity to haul 1,500 gallons. However, each could then theoretically fill two vehciles at a time and usually using slow handpumps only. Using cans allowed multiple vehicles to be refueled simultaneously. It also lowered the risk of a single enemy artillery round knocking out the refueling of a large number of vehicles - dispersal was seen as an advantage.

Nothing about technology in 1944 would prevent refueling as we did in 1984. Air powered pumps with either the fuel truck traveling to each individual tank or, the tanks two by two going to the fuel truck for service station style fill up. I'm also pretty sure dispersal was still seen as an advantage in 1984. With all the labor and time required to fill individual 5 gallon cans and then the labor and time needed to disperse the filled cans to the individual users, and then the time required to fill the individual vehicle fuel tanks with 5 gallon cans, and then the time and labor required to recycle those 5 gallon cans, one can only conclude that somebody thought their use of tremendous value. Not just tactical value, but strategic value as well.

 

But in any case saner heads prevailed such that five years later tankers were being used almost exclusively.

 

BTW, I think you'll find that the 2 1/2 ton fuel trucks of the era were either a dedicated tanker with one large 660 gallon tank, or cargo trucks with two smaller 375 gallon tanks (total 750 G).

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Nothing about technology in 1944 would prevent refueling as we did in 1984. Air powered pumps with either the fuel truck traveling to each individual tank or, the tanks two by two going to the fuel truck for service station style fill up. I'm also pretty sure dispersal was still seen as an advantage in 1984. With all the labor and time required to fill individual 5 gallon cans and then the labor and time needed to disperse the filled cans to the individual users, and then the time required to fill the individual vehicle fuel tanks with 5 gallon cans, and then the time and labor required to recycle those 5 gallon cans, one can only conclude that somebody thought their use of tremendous value. Not just tactical value, but strategic value as well.

 

But in any case saner heads prevailed such that five years later tankers were being used almost exclusively.

 

Sure, no argument at all that your experience 40 years later or the army's practice five years later was different, but I thought the question was how and why they did it in 1944? The rationale was dispersion, coupled with the simple fact they just didn't organize or equip that many Gasoline Companies, which theoretically could have been made mobile and used to do it the 1984 way.

 

BTW, I think you'll find that the 2 1/2 ton fuel trucks of the era were either a dedicated tanker with one large 660 gallon tank, or cargo trucks with two smaller 375 gallon tanks (total 750 G).

 

 

Could very well be since I was going totally by memory. However, if so, then the rationale of loading more 5-gallon cans in the truck becomes even more attractive - 2,340 gallons per load versus 660 or 750?

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Sure, no argument at all that your experience 40 years later or the army's practice five years later was different, but I thought the question was how and why they did it in 1944? The rationale was dispersion, coupled with the simple fact they just didn't organize or equip that many Gasoline Companies, which theoretically could have been made mobile and used to do it the 1984 way.

 

Could very well be since I was going totally by memory. However, if so, then the rationale of loading more 5-gallon cans in the truck becomes even more attractive - 2,340 gallons per load versus 660 or 750?

 

I know why, and it had nothing to do with leaking tankers fore the decision was made before tankers were understood to be problematic. Why is because somebody, for some reason, thought tying up tens of thousands of man hours, not to mention the greater infrastructure required to transfer into 5 gallon cans, was a small price to pay for distribution to dispersed individual vehicles. At the very least the thinking was extremely flawed.

 

Check your math and or your sources. There is absolutely no way one 2 1/2 ton truck from 1944 (95HP) would be capable of carrying/towing almost 20,000 pounds of fuel and cans. Even the dedicated modern 10 ton HEMETT Tanker (450HP), is only capable of carrying 2,500 gallons of fuel in a single tank, much less in far less weight efficient 5 gallon cans.

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I know why, and it had nothing to do with leaking tankers fore the decision was made before tankers were understood to be problematic. Why is because somebody, for some reason, thought tying up tens of thousands of man hours, not to mention the greater infrastructure required to transfer into 5 gallon cans, was a small price to pay for distribution to dispersed individual vehicles. At the very least the thinking was extremely flawed.

 

 

Check your math and or your sources. There is absolutely no way one 2 1/2 ton truck from 1944 (95HP) would be capable of carrying/towing almost 20,000 pounds of fuel and cans. Even the dedicated modern 10 ton HEMETT Tanker (450HP), is only capable of carrying 2,500 gallons of fuel in a single tank, much less in far less weight efficient 5 gallon cans.

 

 

Why yes, the thinking was extremely flawed, which is why five years later and then you 40 years later didn't do it that way. But it wasn't because "somebody, for some reason, thought" anything of the sort.It was because it was believed that was a "better" way, quite possibly because that was the way the Germans and the British did it.

 

And I'm afraid that lack of equipment was very much a part of the problem. The problems with leakage in the few 2,000-gallon tanker trucks are in the Historical Report of the Transportation Corps ETO, VI, Ch. V, 14, and VII, Ch. V; CONAD History, pp. 188–94, 213–16, but as big a problem is there were so few of them. Nine companies were eventually received in the ETO, while there weren't many more of the 750-gallon trucks either - 27 companies of which only four were assigned to bulk POL hauling, and the Gasoline Companies had some as well...and yes, it was a 750-gallon tank then, but the skid tanks were 375-gallon...except later when they finally received some of the new 10-ton truck-trailer combinations they loaded them up with four 750-gallon skid tanks borrowed from the Air Force.

 

Anyway, I'm staring at a photo of a GMC CCKW at a Gasoline Company filling point with jerry cans stacked three high, 12 across, and in nine rows, with a tenth row braced against the gate of 12 across and two high, so I did miscount, it was 360.

Edited by Rich
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Perhaps the "problem" was simple historical inertia. I admit I know very little on U.S. WW2 logistics but my guess is that the pre-war gas tanks U.S. tanks and the later Stuarts and Shermans were small enough that this was not considered a problem, if the problem was even thought of at this time. I presume the gas tanks of post WW2 tanks are larger than their predecessors?

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Perhaps the "problem" was simple historical inertia. I admit I know very little on U.S. WW2 logistics but my guess is that the pre-war gas tanks U.S. tanks and the later Stuarts and Shermans were small enough that this was not considered a problem, if the problem was even thought of at this time. I presume the gas tanks of post WW2 tanks are larger than their predecessors?

 

Well, part of it is that up through about 1936 the only "tanks" were the Infantry's old Renault's, which were transported by trucks to battle and only required sufficient fuel to fight...such as they could (very successful in the Battle of Anacostia though), and the Cavalry's few Combat Cars...all 35-odd of them. There just wasn't much experience gained in best practices.

 

Logistical methods also played a part. The division was supplied from rail or truckheads and had no integral fuel haulers of its own in the division trains. Instead:

 

"g. Refueling.-(1) Personnel should be trained to refuel vehicles quickly. When practicable, extra fuel for the day's march should be carried on the vehicle. Refueling should be done on every possible occasion so that fuel tanks are as full as practicable at all times."

 

That was easiest done with fuel in cans carried on the actual vehicle, which were periodically trucked to the rail/truckhead for refilling. It worked, especially on the small scale and low intensity of peacetime maneuvers, so there was little incentive to change until accumulated combat experience demonstrated the problems.

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Perhaps the "problem" was simple historical inertia. I admit I know very little on U.S. WW2 logistics but my guess is that the pre-war gas tanks U.S. tanks and the later Stuarts and Shermans were small enough that this was not considered a problem, if the problem was even thought of at this time. I presume the gas tanks of post WW2 tanks are larger than their predecessors?

 

Well, part of it is that up through about 1936 the only "tanks" were the Infantry's old Renault's, which were transported by trucks to battle and only required sufficient fuel to fight...such as they could (very successful in the Battle of Anacostia though), and the Cavalry's few Combat Cars...all 35-odd of them. There just wasn't much experience gained in best practices.

 

Logistical methods also played a part. The division was supplied from rail or truckheads and had no integral fuel haulers of its own in the division trains. Instead:

 

"g. Refueling.-(1) Personnel should be trained to refuel vehicles quickly. When practicable, extra fuel for the day's march should be carried on the vehicle. Refueling should be done on every possible occasion so that fuel tanks are as full as practicable at all times."

 

That was easiest done with fuel in cans carried on the actual vehicle, which were periodically trucked to the rail/truckhead for refilling. It worked, especially on the small scale and low intensity of peacetime maneuvers, so there was little incentive to change until accumulated combat experience demonstrated the problems.

 

 

The normal refueling procedue was:

 

"Trucks from units report to fuel and lubricant dumps and draw fuel and lubricants to replace consumption, so as to maintain a constant level of maximum capacity in the division. Empty cans arrive at dump with caps loosened, but not removed. Each driver carries a slip of paper showing number of empty cans in his truck and type of fuel and lubricant required. Trucks load singly and expeditiously. Men remain quiet. No visible lights are permitted." FM 17-50, Armored Force Field Manual, 7 November 1942, p. 64. On the same page it is noted that the normal load for the 2 1/2 ton truck was 125 5-gallon "drums" so 360 was definitely overloading them; 2.5 tons as opposed to 7.2. tons.

Edited by Rich
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I presume the gas tanks of post WW2 tanks are larger than their predecessors?

The M46 and M47 could hold 232 gallons of fuel and the M48/M48A1 200 gallons, while the Shermans could hold ~160-175 gallons and M26 183 gallons.

 

They definitely needed the larger fuel capacity. There was nearly an inverse relationship between gas mileage and weight for tanks at this time.

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