Video – WW1 German Anti-Tank Rifle Versus British Tank Armor

I’m a big fan of Forgotten Weapons and the work that they do in researching and examining historical and interesting firearms, so when Ian released this video, I was extremely pleased and wanted to share it with all of you! This is Ian’s work and research, and I make no claim to any of the material, but it’s pretty relevant for us treadheads who wonder about these things.

 

 

Here’s a link to Ian’s YouTube channel, Forgotten Weapons: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrfKGpvbEQXcbe68dzXgJuA

And here’s a link to Ian’s website: http://www.forgottenweapons.com/

If you’re interested in old, strange, and general forgotten weapons, Ian’s probably done a video or article on it and it’s a great resource for historical buffs.

What improvement on a Tiger 1 would have made the tank a true world-beater?

Another Quora question about tanks! I was happy to answer this one, it’s the sort of thing you see brought up a lot in conversation about vehicles from World War 2 and even today.

Answer by Agares Tretiak:

Thank you for asking me to answer!


There’s a lot involved in the design of a tank, beyond the immediate concerns of armor, mobility, and firepower, that have significant and long-ranging effects. Sure, on one hand you can always build a tank with immense levels of protection, but ditch your mobility or favor any one of the other basic ‘aspects’ that determines a tanks underlying characteristics. But an adjustment and change of these matters is not enough.

The ‘legendary’ Tiger I. Could it be improved? Well…

The Tiger I was a vainglorious failure, and a good example of the larger issues surrounding the design of tanks. So, let’s cover these from a strategic bent, since the only way you’ll win any war is through strategy. First, I’ll just list some of the major failures of the Tiger I on a design level, ones that may not immediately be apparent, then cover the even bigger picture involving it.

So… here we go.

  • The Tiger 1 was extremely heavy for its era, though its ground pressure was not terrible due to wide tracks, it made strategic mobility a pain and was a hindrance when the vehicle broke down.
  • It had a finicky final drive and transmission that, if abused by a driver, could become an absolute nightmare to repair or replace.
  • It had an extremely low parts commonality with other vehicles in the Werhmacht. Things like the road wheels, track links, even nuts, bolts, and wires were largely incompatible with other AFVs. This gives it (and other german AFVs) enormous logistical footprints.
  • It was designed and put into production very quickly, not allowing major flaws in its design to be worked out and addressed before it was thrown into combat.
  • It had largely vertical or near vertical armor surfaces, especially along the frontal arc.
  • It was very time consuming and difficult to build each Tiger I, due to the high level of complexity involved in its construction. This again relates to its logistical footprint.
  • Turret traverse speed was abysmal, making the vehicle less able to operate in close quarters or aim at targets at a wide arc quickly.
  • Its gas engine, while sufficient to the task of moving the vehicle over short distances, was not well suited for efficiency in terms of range or lengthy operation.

All of these issues point to a sort of… myopia, a nearsightedness regarding the wider picture and place of the Tiger I in a strategic role. The Germans were looking for a tank that could win battles. Well, they did make one. The Tiger I, when it came out, was an absolute beast in a lot of ways. But it was not a tank that would win wars.

Why? Because it was a logistical nightmare. The German military relied on two main forms of transportation. One was the train, which it made relatively effective use of until it lost control of the skies. But trains could not go everywhere.

The other was horse carts.

German supply cart stuck fording a swollen river on the Eastern front.

A Tiger I being looked over by its crew during winter.

You are not going to cover as much ground with these, in the long run, over trucks.

While the Wehrmacht had access to trucks like the Opel Blitz, they did not have them in large quantities. Moving around supplies and equipment via long baggage trains comprised of horse carts severely hampered strategic mobility for the entire German military. Horses could not feasibly be used to tow the Tiger I out of mud or on a trailer (they had vehicles that could, but they were in high demand and increasingly less common as the war dragged on and material losses increased). A horse cart carried less fuel, moved less ammo, and hauled fewer spare parts. This was a major issue, one that affected the distribution of supplies for virtually the entire war.

Strategically, the tanks needed a larger portion of the trucks, simply to keep up with their mobility, but this meant that other sections, like artillery, AT guns, and infantry had to largely make do with horses. It meant that some supplies could be moved quickly while others had to wait on carts. This is a terrible scenario for us to consider running a war in. But let’s keep going, since we’re more focused on the Tiger I.

The Tiger I was difficult to repair, though all contemporary accounts I’ve read, shower endless praise on the work done by maintenance units to keep these vehicles running at all times. It’s also clear that supplies were always tight as, in Otto Carius’ “Tigers in the Mud” he states they had to sometimes cannibalize a Tiger in order to repair others and this became more common as the war progressed. While it makes sense to do so in lieu of supplies, it also underlines how really bad the logistics situation was for even the beloved Panzer units.

The German myopia in the design of the Tiger extended into its other inefficiencies, such as its overall size and the complexity and fragility of so many parts it possessed that made it a large waste. A lot of things could have been simplified and standardized to improve the logistics around it, even small ones changing things by a significant margin.

Right, so I’ve beaten the logistics horse,

a lot today, but I cannot stress just how important logistical concerns play into winning a war, or as the questioner put it, “beating the world”. The Tiger I was not designed with strategy in mind. It was built around the idea that it would win a fight, not a war. So it won fights, and helped lose the war in the process.

That poor horse :(

What could be improved on the Tiger I? First and foremost, a very heavily redesigned vehicle that focused on increasing its parts commonality with say… Panthers and Panzer IVs or even the Panzer III. Even a 10% increase in standardization would have been a big victory for the logistics. Albert Speer did help spearhead the Entwicklung Series of tanks, but this was far too late (and still myopic, the E-100 anyone?), to change the course of the war in any significant manner.

Simplifying the design of the Tiger while improving overall durability of the parts and the speed of manufacture for the gun, suspension, engine, transmission, final drive and steering system… its a long list, but it could have been done if the Germans were looking at the matter strategically speaking.

Improvements in crew visibility (each man in the turret should have a swiveling unity sight at the least). Better armor angling, while an effort to reduce the general size of the vehicle, at least somewhat. Overlapping instead of interleaved road wheels would have kept the performance characteristics in general of the suspension, without being quite as heinous a task to repair.

“Ok, yes, it does distribute weight well, but what do we do when we need to reach ones of those back wheels, guys? …guys?”

Ditching the cringe-worthy “Vorpanzer” concept before the thing left the drawing board. The below link offers an explanation of what that was and why it was ditched… after the tank went into production.

Vorpanzer study, visualised by Liejon’s 1/35 model.

What the Germans had built with the Tiger I, Panther, Tiger II, etc, were the tank equivalents of Ferrari’s or Buggati’s or (hahaha) Porsche’s. They might be high performance, but they aren’t what you want to use off-roading or moving around heavy loads. A truck or (real) SUV will serve you infinitely better, despite being perhaps less glamorous in nature.

I’ve always argued had they focused on doing all of these same things for the Panther and just ignored the Tigers altogether, it would have been a sounder strategy to pursue in the broader sense of things. We can commiserate, fantasize, and armchair general the bejeezus out of the Tiger I, but in the end we should probably focus more on what it was, where it was, when it was, and that it happened, over these fun but ultimately less-than-productive mental exercises. Though I could probably ramble on, at length, for hours on pretty much these very same topics (and have numerous times before).

Even if the Germans in WWII had built a ‘perfect’ tank, it would not have saved them from all the other, wider, and much more important issues at play that heralded the inevitable demise of the Third Reich.

TL;DR?

Build lots of standardized, simplified Panthers instead, replace the military command structure with one that didn’t wait hand and foot on Hitler’s whims, switch the economy to a total war standing right off the bat… there’s so much involved, that the Tiger was a symptom of, that cost Germany the war. Oh yeah. Not be Nazis. That would have helped too. :(

What improvement on a Tiger 1 would have made the tank a true world-beater?

“Assembly Lines of Defense” – Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant (Chrysler) Film

Here’s another period film, related to the production of American tanks and the issues and general process that was used for the task of the industrial mass production of tanks. While it clearly blows Chrysler’s horn loud and clear, it’s pretty neat to see one of the more overlooked aspects of the war. The film is circa late 1941 or early 1942, given that we see M3 ‘Lee’ tanks.

 

“The Tanks Are Coming!” – Vintage Recruiting Film

In the build up to American involvement in World War 2, which was perceived to be inevitable by the Roosevelt administration, there were numerous films made by various studios to help increase recruitment into the Armed Services.

This one, from 1941 is a color film for recruiting men for the 1sr Armored Force. It shows some interesting insights to the training regime that may have been experienced at the time, though it’s clearly been propagandized and polished up for the sake of the film.

Please keep in mind that this film reflects the nature of its era.

Tankfest NorthWest 2016

While I will grant you it has been some time since Tankfest NorthWest 2016 (it took place on May 30th), I feel it was well worth the wait to write my article, in order to accumulate some of the pictures that were taken during the event.

And boy do we have a treat in store for you! Amongst the treats are some photos shot using surplus Soviet black and white film, which had some pretty neat effects, as well as numerous color images.

Fair warning to those with slow computers, phones, or connections: Lots of high resolution images will be in this post.


 

Tankfest NorthWest 2016 was, in essence, a great experience for me and it seems like it was a success for the Flying Heritage Collection ( Link to FHC’s Site ), which hosts the annual event in Everett, Washington. According to one of the organizers I spoke to during the event, they anticipated roughly 6000 people to attend, nearly double the number from last year. For a Memorial Day, I do not think you could have asked for better weather. The sun was bright, but the weather was somewhere in the low-to-mid 70’s (Fahrenheit).

We arrived around 9:45, to find the line was already quite substantial, stretching for maybe a quarter of a mile around the block. The lines moved fairly quickly, but my excitement mounted as I reviewed the pamphlet for the event, as I had no real idea what to expect aside from them firing the FlaK 37 8.8cm gun and that Nicholas Moran (The Chieftain) was going to be giving a presentation on American Tank Destroyer doctrine in World War II. Ushered through the gates by the friendly event staff while in a semi-ecstatic daze, I drifted around the venue to take in the sights and sounds of the event. My first object of adoration was the Jagdpanzer 38(t) aka ‘Hetzer’ that was on display.

 

NW Tankfest 2016-55


Jagdpanzer 38(t) ‘Hetzer’ at Tankfest NorthWest. Behind it, to the left, is the SS-1b SCUD-A launcher. I admire the paint job they did on the Hetzer, though it technically doesn’t match the OKH regulations (which is minor).  It is a fully restored, running Jagdpanzer 38(t).

NW Tankfest 2016-8

A closer image showing the paint scheme in detail.

From there I drifted down the line, surprised to see a German Sd.Kfz.8 Half-track as well. These things were huge, and did a lot of heavy lifting for maintenance and supply, primarily towing  artillery, moving  crew  and ammo, and even being used to help recover vehicles at times. This one is in running condition and the vehicle pretty neat looking in a utilitarian sort of way.

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The Sonderkraftfahrzeug (Sd.Kfz) 8. Look at those interleaved road wheels!

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A detail shot of the side, showing more of the driver’s position and the characteristic bench seats. Also featured is a bit of the suspension.

From there, I wandered over to the M3 Stuart and the M4A1 Sherman they had on display (both in running condition). People were scrambling about, making sure the vehicles were ready to for their runs around the tank track.

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The M4A1 Sherman ‘Boomerang’. It was being prepped for its run around the track, hence the orange vested gentleman on the vehicle and the open hatches.

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A rather nice detail shot of the turret and gun mantle on the M4A1.

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The M3 Stuart ‘Katie Sue’

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Detail shot of the Stuart. You can just barely make out some of the interior of the vehicle through the open driver’s hatch.

After these vehicles, I took a look at the M3 Half-tracks they had on display before wandering off to look at the reenactors and other displays, in the period of time before the Opening Ceremony. The all came from the Pacific Northwest group called ‘Army Group 1944’ (Website!). They were all very professional and friendly and were happy to pose for pictures and answer questions.

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M3 Half-Track up close.

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My two photographers both got images of the gentleman in the center.

 

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These guys helped educate people on the equipment and weapons that were used by all sides during World War II.

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Don’t stare for too long at the NKVD officer… he might have some ‘questions’ you need to answer.

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This guy was really impressive, dressed up as Soviet Naval Infantry. He wandered around and was happy to talk to just about anyone (I don’t know who he’s talking to in this image).

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A gaggle of German reenactors.

Here’s some of those Soviet surplus black and white film images I was talking about. I really like the grainy quality and how it handles the contrast, makes things look very authentic.

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One of the German reenactors was kind enough to pose for this picture.

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That one guy in blue jeans, part two.

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The business end of a BAR.

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Another German reenactor. This gentleman was wearing ‘Pea Dot’ camouflage and carried around that MG34 the entire time.

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An American reenactor kindly posed for this image.

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There were several female Soviet infantry reenactors at Tankfest NorthWest 2016. Here is one of those lovely ladies.

It was around this point that they started the festivities. The opening ceremony begins with the National Anthem, then they proceed with firing off, with great fanfare, the 8.8cm FlaK 37. I sadly do not have any photographs of this, but I did find a video on YouTube from last years flak firing. However, the video doesn’t really convey just how loud they are nor the physical impact one feels when one is fired.

 

It’s a two stage thing… you hear and see the gun fire, and then, barely a split second later, you feel it kick you in the chest. It was all rather exhilarating and I highly recommend you go and see it if you’ve never had the opportunity.

So, with that done, they proceeded to show off their various vehicles during their parade of tanks. I may not be able to identify some of these (sadly).

Obviously, there’s a Willy’s Jeep, followed by some sort of transport truck, a staff car, then two M3 Half-Tracks, and then their M4A1 Sherman. They had other vehicles and tanks do the rounds, but sadly those pictures didn’t quite turn out well enough.

With the M4A1 and the M3 Stuart, both stopped during their rounds to fire off their main armament a few times, both of which were pretty cool to observe. I only have clear shots of the M4A1 when it did this, unfortunately.

NW Tankfest 2016-17-2NW Tankfest 2016-16-2

After this demonstration, I went back to wandering around the museum, admiring various neat things. For instance, the Flying Heritage Collection has a captured V-2 Rocket, a Messerschmitt 163 B ‘Komet’, and the Scaled Composites Model 318 ‘White Knight’ that was part of the Spaceship One project and X Prize.

I also came across this M55 while wandering about.

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M55 ‘Eve of Destruction’

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Front angle shot of the ‘Eve of Destruction’.

Around this point, I knew that The Chieftain’s lecture was going to be starting soon, so I headed over in that direction and got to see his lecture. I was fairly disappointed by the lack of attention this got, with no video crew to tape the lecture, which was quite good. I don’t know if anyone had taped it unofficially, but I haven’t found anything on YouTube yet. At any rate, being an amateur historian, it was great to have an opportunity to personally attend a lecture on one of my favorite subjects, that being tanks. I could not  try to replicate the lecture, but I hope he has a copy somewhere. After the speech, he signed autographs and chatted with fans. I got in line, but aside from my notebook, I had nothing for him to sign besides my copy of Infantry Attacks by Erwin Rommel (which I had brought with me on the train for reading material). So I had him sign that, to which he had a chuckle. I also got to ask him a few, brief questions:

  • Has no books out currently, though he implied he’s been trying to get one or more published.
  • Most people don’t realize that he hasn’t been able to do more research on tanks lately, due to a perceived lack of interest in his work at the National Archives.
  • Research is time consuming, because many of the archives are not really organized or collated, so it can become expensive to spend time doing that, especially when he doesn’t get a lot of views or support from fans.
  • He told us the next video of ‘The Chieftan’s Hatch’ was going to be about the Littlefield Collection’s Panther (which is somewhat old news now).
NW Tankfest NicholasMoran

Nicholas Moran, ‘The Chieftain’ signing my copy of Erwin Rommel’s ‘Infantry Attacks’. We had a chuckle over the irony.

Overall, it was great to meet him in person. He was very friendly and I hope that next year I get the opportunity to meet with him again and ask more questions.

My only sticking point is that I had my World of Tanks name added (one of the perks of going up and meeting him in person) to a list of people to get a wee-bit of gold, but I never got mine… bummer.

Overall, the entire event was an absolute blast and I look forward to going again next year. I was surprised by the general lack of Wargaming’s presence, aside from The Chieftain being present and the presence of some computers set up to play World of Tanks. I would have thought they might leap at the opportunity to help promote their product more with one of their demographic groups, but there was more of a presence made by the WoT clan I’m part of, Pacific Northwest (PNW), than Wargaming itself. Given that the event had nearly double the people there this year as last, and more people who came to see The Chieftain’s presentation, they really missed out on an opportunity to connect with gamers and potential new players alike. Hopefully, they won’t make the same mistake again and we’ll see next year’s Tankfest NorthWest be even more successful.

If you ever have the chance, I recommend you go and get to experience it for yourself. While it may not have the pedigree and prestige associated with Tankfest in the UK, it’s a great way for us Yanks across the pond to get a taste of tank awesomeness for ourselves.



At this point, I’d like to thank Sarah Hickson de Salazar for providing all the wonderful color images in this article, and I’d also like to thank my brother, David, for using and sharing his precious Soviet surplus film to take photos at Tankfest NorthWest. They get all the credit for how nice the images turned out.

 

How effective would a tank ram be?

Here’s another Quora post I answered! In this case, I was asked to by another Quora user. Enjoy this interesting tidbit of history :)

Answer by Agares Tretiak:

Thank you for asking me to answer!

Ramming a tank with another tank has been used at least once in warfare, in order to cripple the enemy vehicle.
It occurred during the Operation Goodwood, when the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion (Schwere Panzer Abteilung) engaged with various British forces, including the Irish Guards, near the town of Cagny.
During the course of the battle, Lt. John Gorman, the commander of a Sherman M4 (named Ballyragget), came across a Tiger II with its turret pointed away from him.
According to his account of things, he and his driver had discussed prior to the battle what they would do if they encountered one, and they had both agreed the only hope they might have was to outmaneuver and then ram the vehicle in order to either cripple it or give them a chance to fire at point blank into a vital component of the massive Tiger II.
king_tiger_rammed
A picture of the Ballyragget rammed into the side of the Tiger II. Note the Prototype Tiger II turret of the vehicle (sometimes mistakenly called the Porsche Turret).

Given nearly this very scenario, Lt. Gorman had the driver ram the Tiger II in the side and fired an HE round into the side of the turret. The ramming supposedly unseated the track and damaged the suspension, crippling the tank, and the HE shell and physical impact of being rammed caused the German crew to abandon their vehicle.  Lt. Gorman and his crew also bailed out and Lt. Gorman began to look for a Firefly he could use to ensure that the Tiger II was completely taken out of commission
post-66801-0-93914400-1398503219An alternate angle of the same incident (afterwards).
John Gorman wrote a book of his account of the war as well as this incident and later went on to become a well-known Irish politician after the war.

Generally, ramming tanks is likely to be a last-ditch maneuver, as the outcome can and very likely will go poorly for the individual who tries it. However, it can also, if carried out successfully, be wildly successful, as it will almost certainly damage or cripple the enemy tank, especially the suspension or tracks. What happens after you ram the enemy is anyone’s guess, as the chances are your vehicle also sustained damage and might be crippled. Given that the crew awareness levels and turret rotation speeds of a well-trained tank crew in a modern tank are going to be much better than during WW2 or other eras, it really is not advisable to attempt.

How effective would a tank ram be?

What are the best looking tanks?

As you may or may not be aware, I also answer question on Quora. Here’s one I wanted to share with you all, dear readers!

Thank you for asking me to answer!

I find it difficult to rate vehicles based on aesthetic appeal, because it’s a very subjective sort of thing. What I may find attractive or interesting when it comes to a tank, may look hideous to someone else. What I can do, however, is provide a list of tanks that I like the look of.
World War 2
Panzerkampfwagen IV ‘Tiger’ Ausf. B (Königstiger or Tiger II)
I love the way this thing looks. Let’s ignore its mechanical issues, weight, and hideous cost for the war. The thing is intimidating and it looks solid and immovable.

tiger_ii_mg_7801Tiger II at Musée des Blindés, Saumur, France. The only currently known operational Tiger II.

83015b984009512adbc6e183ab3f9cc2
“Did you notice my hinterhalt-tarnung, Senpai?”

T26E3/M26 ‘Pershing’
Of the American tanks of WW2, I like how the Pershing looked the most. You can clearly see how it later contributed to the long-serving Patton series of tanks, and while the Pershing itself was not a terrific tank in many regards, it still looked good.
e61dce929763548248951c0885247da1
As one can see from the expressions of the crew, the Pershing was serious business.

Cold War (1950’s-1980’s) Era
T-54/55
Not only a revolutionary concept for a tank, it was rather good looking in my opinion.
fadf5f1ed000465b74bda8a0402c8839
Mmm. That low, curved profile…

M60A3 ‘Patton’
I liked the more streamlined look of the M60 series of Pattons, though the M60A2 ‘Starship’ was a bit of an… odd design. The M60A3 is by far my favorite version of this series, though.
d5e1fa9a146d963d9e65dfd5fe934d49
Taiwanese M60A3 Pattons on display. I really cannot think of anything goofy to say about this tank.

M103A2
America flirted with its own, real Heavy Tank designs, but the Army quickly abandoned the vehicle they came up with in favor of the M60. The Marine Corps, however, were happy to make use of the big bastard well on into the 70’s. Say what you will for the vehicle, it looks like the M60 Patton’s bigger, meaner brother.

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I can think of only less goofy things to say about this tank.

Post-Cold War Era (1980’s-Present)
Challenger 2
My favorite tank in terms of its aesthetic appeal from the modern era, is the Challenger 2. It looks like a scarier Abrams. Not that the Abrams isn’t scary, but…
296faea98405a2daa08cf81807b7dde3c99c62e93e167a3b491fbf8c46ce0618
“Rule, Britannia! Britannia rules the tanks…” (in terms of aesthetic appeal).

Leopard 2A6HEL
My next favorite looking tank is highly specific. It’s a Leopard 2 variant that the Greeks use.
faaddd462095980fe2b4fc356a632718
It has ‘Hel’ in the name and a nice camo job and it looks very ‘tank’ to me. Greece may not be able to pay for its debt, but it does have a nice looking tank.

I’m sure with more time and effort, I could put out an even longer list of ‘attractive’ armored vehicles, but I’m getting all hot and bothered by what I’ve already shared with you. Nothing says “military prowess” like a nice set of roadwheels and a big main armament.
The author is currently receiving extensive therapy for his misplaced attraction to armored
vehicles.

If you want to read more answers to this question on Quora, click the link below!

>> What are the best looking tanks? <<