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American Equipment And Generals Suck, Part Whatever


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I still have Ricks' The Generals sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. It's been on the back burner after I saw a fairly lengthy talk he gave on the book when it was released. While the premise is pretty straightforward (we had better leadership in WW2 and we happened to fire Generals all the time... since WW2 we haven't fired anyone and our leadership has sucked since) he never touched on the why underlying what seems like an obvious connection. Maybe he was saving that part for when you read the book. Still, I'll get to it one of these days.

 

 

 

Sorry guys, been a busy weekend so I'm still catching up.

 

No, I would not say that is Ricks' premise at all and it would be hard for him to develop such a premise. It wasn't the threat of firing that kept American generals up to snuff in WW2. That has been rather overblown. They were in fact relieved, often, but that was not a career ender unless they really, really screwed the pooch. The thing was though that all were aware they WERE ACCOUNTABLE and were expected to have a wide-ranging set of interests in the military and political realms. They were not simply technicians, tactical and operational savants like the Germans, they were also expected to have some understanding of strategy and forward thinking, especially thinking beyond the war (which was why Patton was justifiably relieved). I have yet to think of a "modern" American senior general - theater level and above - who could think beyond tactics and operations. And I hold up as an illustration every single senior commander deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. None of them, including Petraeus, could really manage to think beyond "bang". Instead, they left it to the politicians and claimed it was "beyond their pay grade", which is the most egregious cop out of all time, especially since it left things in the hands of such intellectual heavy weights like George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Don Rumsfeld.

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Could you get a 90mm into a tank that could be easily shipped around the world like the Sherman though and could you do it in vast numbers by the start of 1943?

 

On a sort of related note, US tanks are rightly acknowledged as being good in terms of ergonomics and crew comfort, but did they take that too far? By being willing to make a few more compromises, could they have squeezed a 90mm or, heaven forbid, a 17pdr into a Sherman in time to have lots ready for D-Day?

 

It could be argued that for Normandy itself, the M4(105) would have been more useful, and those vehicles had gone into production in February 1944. The parallel being the Royal Marine Armoured Support Group taking their 95mm howitzer equipped Centaurs (not the world's best tank at the time) that were only intended to fight on the beached themselves against fixed defences and mostly to fire whilst still afloat on landing craft, inland to support infantry until their withdrawal two weeks after the invasion.

 

And please, lets not get into the argument again as to why the 76mm armed M4s that were in Britain at the time of Normandy were not taken over for the initial battles.

 

 

The 105 Sherman wouldn't have been much better as an AT gun, if at all, than the 75 mm and as I understand it, those tanks lacked power traverse.

 

As for a 90 mm, they did put a T26 turret on a Sherman as a test. The turret rings were the same size. They didn't proceed because by then, all the 90 mm guns and turrets were needed for T26 production. It may or may not have been practical to make a 90 mm armed Sherman, but to be at all useful, they would have needed it in production by the beginning of 1944. At that time, they believed the 76 would be more than good enough and it was probably more available at that time.

 

 

If you wanted an AT gun you would have done better with a 6pdr/57mm gun being mounted. By that stage there were HE rounds available for those guns both in British and US service so could still provide HE support.

 

If you wanted a gun to blast obstacles on the beaches and immediately inland then the 105mm howitzer would have been the choice. The effect of a 105mm shell hitting a PZ IV should not be immediately discounted. It should be remembered that when US crews saw panzers at longer range than their 75mm AP would have an effect, they fired HE just to try to do something.

 

If you wanted a gun that had some AT potential under good conditions, and a fair HE capability, then the 75mm gun was the way to go. Jack of all trades and master of none. That seems to be the choice that was made.

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Could you get a 90mm into a tank that could be easily shipped around the world like the Sherman though and could you do it in vast numbers by the start of 1943?

 

On a sort of related note, US tanks are rightly acknowledged as being good in terms of ergonomics and crew comfort, but did they take that too far? By being willing to make a few more compromises, could they have squeezed a 90mm or, heaven forbid, a 17pdr into a Sherman in time to have lots ready for D-Day?

 

M36: a 90mm gun on an "M4" hull. Made it into action in October 1944.

 

Another possibility the:

 

M4A3E2 Assault Tank - postwar nickname "Jumbo" - extra armour (including 1 inch on front), vertical sided turret, but about 3-4 mph slower. Built with 75mm gun but frequently re-armed by the using units with 76mm guns. (wiki)

 

By that stage the 76mm was penetrating around the same as the Tiger 1 88mm, and the armour of the M4A3E2 was not too far short of a Panther.

 

With some aforethought would have been available for Normandy, but in reality that thought is just fantasy.

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Just a thought too, but the most common opponents for a Sherman were most likely infantry and antitank guns and it was arguably better than a Panther for dealing with those.

 

Exactly, which was why a 105mm with powered traverse would have been so useful!

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as regards to bad US Generalship I hold forth the same example that I always have which is FREDENHALL!

Irrefutable evidence that the United States can produce a very bad General.

 

I would not have characterized Devers as a bad general and I am curious to wonder why someone would?

 

If one feels the need to pop balloons then Bradley and Hodges at the Huertgen

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A few more words about the Allison. It suffered from two major problems. One was the (lack of) funding. Unlike the Merlin its development wasn't subsidized. The US government ordered very few test engines then and now. And the American standards for acceptance were higher. A 150 hours vs. a 50 hour test I think. Not surprisingly the engine went hardly anywhere until 38/39. By that time the Merlin was up and running at 1060hp for years.

 

The second problem was altitude rating. The Allison was sea level rated because it was intended to be paired with the GE turbocharger. Thus the internal, single speed, single stage supercharger was merely intended to optimize fuel distribution inside the engine. Then the military realized he turbo was a long way from being ready and the barely ready Allisons had to be altitude rated. Which was done very nicely by 1943. See late model P-39s and P40-N. Early version left a bit to be desired compared to European contemporaries. The P-39 D was a real stinker. The critical altitude was a mere 12k feet and the speed dropped rapidly one you got about 12k. That would have been acceptable in Europe in 38/39. 1940 less so and not at all in 42. Add to that the short range and you understand why US pilots didn't like the plane.

 

Recommended reading: Vees for Victory by D.D. Whitney

 

http://www.historynet.com/book-review-vees-for-victory-the-story-of-the-allison-v-1710-aircraft-engine-1929-1948-daniel-d-whitney-avh.htm

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The 75 mm is a compromise between At and He performance. A 105 mm would be pretty much pure HE. By the time they stared putting 1p5s in Shermans, the preferred armament was the 76 mm which was clearly a better AT gun.

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Just a thought too, but the most common opponents for a Sherman were most likely infantry and antitank guns and it was arguably better than a Panther for dealing with those.

Exactly, which was why a 105mm with powered traverse would have been so useful!

Did the 105 fire two piece ammo or one piece like the 75?

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Just a thought too, but the most common opponents for a Sherman were most likely infantry and antitank guns and it was arguably better than a Panther for dealing with those.

Exactly, which was why a 105mm with powered traverse would have been so useful!

Did the 105 fire two piece ammo or one piece like the 75?

 

 

It was semi-fixed with variable charges. So loaded as a unitary round.

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The 75 mm is a compromise between At and He performance. A 105 mm would be pretty much pure HE. By the time they stared putting 1p5s in Shermans, the preferred armament was the 76 mm which was clearly a better AT gun.

 

No, when they started putting 105mm howitzers in Shermans was October 1942-January 1943 when the two M4A4E1 pilots were completed and tested by Chrysler. They were not accepted so a second development program began, the M4E5 with a modified gun and mount. The two pilots were delivered for testing in August 1943 and were standardized for manufacture in late 1943 with production beginning in February 1943.

 

The problem was there was no real decision on the "preferred armament" by the multitude of end users. Marines wanted 75mm and 105mm. The Armored Command wanted 76mm and 105mm with a minority holding out for 75mm instead of 76mm, the ETOUSA wanted three 105mm for every 76mm, Ordnance and ASF wanted to terminate 75mm production entirely, but the Brits were clamoring for more 75mm M4 and M4A4 that they could convert to 17-pdr. Then there was AGF, who periodically asked pointed questions like whether or not it was a good idea to throw out the baby with the bathwater...rightly so in the case in 1943 when Barnes tried to get the untested...heck, a pilot wasn't even built yet...T26 accepted for production. Barnes attitude might well be summarized as, "well, we screwed the pooch on developing the T20 and T22 and never really came up with a good reason to accept the T23, but for SURE the T26 we haven't built yet will be the perfect tank."

 

See the problem? As of June 1944 there was no settled decision on "preferred armament". It wasn't until about late July to mid August that 76mm and 105mm began dominating the discussion from the end users side and it became the clear preference by the end of fall 1944.

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P-40 question: Was the chin scoop of the E model and later too big, resulting in excessive drag? I read about this long ago, where the rationale was that the same cooling effect could have been achieved with a smaller scoop.

I also read in another magazine that one advantage the P-40 had for ground attack was that the cooling systems were clustered at the nose, making them less likely to be hit by ground fire.

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shep, I don't recall any of that from my extensive US/aviationCurtiss literature. I also don't recall what Milo wrote. "America's 100,000" has VERY detailed information of US fighters but that isn't in there. Although the P-40 underwent ... at least three major redesigns and plenty of smaller ones.

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The beard radiator wasn't a problem. Hawker went with a similar design for the Sabre engined Typhoon and Tempest, and Lockheed essentially copied it for the P-38J and later. I don't remember reading of any cooling problems for the P-40, the only engine problems I can recall were with the V1650-1 Merlin engined variant's air filters, and overboosting early engine in the P-40D/E. IIRC "God is my copilot" comments on pulling 60+ inches Hg in combat, which is only possible from overspeeding the engine and/or a lot of RAM, and was doing somewhere around 1650-1700 hp.

 

The two books Markus mentioned, Vees for Victory and America's Hundred Thousand, are the best works around on the US fighters and engines. Vees for Victory also has a very good chapter comparing the Allison and Merlin, and the Allison comes out equal or better in most respects.

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No snark please. The Garand would have been better with a detachable magazine.

Yes, in theory, but would it really be? Loading en-bloc is as fast as loading mag, and you don't have to bother with removing the mag. 8 round en-bloc vs 10 rounds mag where mags are limited commodity I would pick 8-round en-bloc every day.

You would get two more rounds but give potential magazine damage - increasing chance for stoppage. Internal mag with one use en-bloc practically removed all the magazine related feeding issues that might have plagued it.

 

20 rounder on M1 would make it more into unbalanced pig, like Italian BM59 is.

 

 

Is the BM59 notably more unbalanced than the M14?

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Is the BM59 notably more unbalanced than the M14?

 

Never handled M14. Compared to Garand BM-59 is horribly nose heavy, even if it is not that much heavier than M1.

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P-40 question: Was the chin scoop of the E model and later too big, resulting in excessive drag? I read about this long ago, where the rationale was that the same cooling effect could have been achieved with a smaller scoop.

I also read in another magazine that one advantage the P-40 had for ground attack was that the cooling systems were clustered at the nose, making them less likely to be hit by ground fire.

Probably one of those things that comes out in the numbers of efficiency, power and engineering.

 

Compare the frontal area of the P47 to a BF109. Look at the speed difference. The jug has a LOT more frontal area, but has a much more robust engine and more power and more speed.

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When it comes to infantry small arms I've always felt the failure to field a replacement for the M1919A6 was a big one. Something like the T10/T23 would have been a major improvement. Similarly they managed to completely screw up the attempt to clone the MG-42 in 30-06 that was the T24. A belt fed development of the Johnson LMG seems like another possibility that seems like it could have been explored much sooner than it was. One can debate the relative merits of either an automatic rifle or a GPMG at the squad level but it seems like the US could have had both an automatic rifle better than the M1918 and a GPMG better than the M1919.

 

It also took longer than it should have to field a decent replacement for the heavy and difficult to produce Thompson SMG. I wonder if the Reising M50 might have been turned into a good gun somehow or if the design was fundamentally flawed.

 

Finally the development of the Bazooka was an outstanding example of ingenuity but it took way too long to match what the Germans did with it and scale it up to a larger caliber.

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