U.S. Tanks, Tank Destroyers, and a Failed Armored Doctrine

       Those in charge of developing U.S. Armored doctrine in WWII believed fundamentally that the speed of a high mobile armored vehicle would more than make up for deficiencies in armor and armament.  The war proved them to be woefully mistaken.  Another huge problem was that they believed that tanks, for some reason, are not supposed to fight other tanks.  The WWI engagement of a British male Mk. IV tank by three German A7V tanks in the first tank to tank armored combat should have enlightened anyone that cared to take notice that tanks would very much be fighting other tanks in the event of another war.  However, notice the below excerpt from the U.S. Armored Force Manual of 1942, in which the offensive purposes of a tank have nothing listed about the need for them to engage enemy armor.  The commander of Army Ground Forces, General Lesley McNair, argued rather poorly that towed AT guns, as imobile as they were, were sufficient enough to do the offenisve and defensive tank fighting in WWII.  Yet as if this was not enough, the geniuses in the high command would soon emplace another failed concept, that of the lightly armored U.S. tank destroyer.

Sources:

Fox, Jacob, "The Wrong track: Errors in American tank development in World War II" (2013). Masters Theses. https://commons.lib.jmu.edu/master201019/215

       The below image of an M10 Wolverine tank destroyer may look similar to a Sherman in some respects, and thats because much of it is a Sherman.  Being very similarly equipped mechanically, the main differences between a standard M4 Sherman and an M10 Wolverine were that the M10 was much less armored, weighed slightly less, had a slightly higher max speed, and had a slightly more powerful gun.

        Yes, that is correct, the U.S. answer to a need for an armored vehicle specifically built to fight tanks ended up with a slightly stronger main gun and MUCH LESS armor than the U.S. tanks that were not supposed to fight other tanks. Makes sense right?  Well, as one can imagine, the concept never really worked out too well, and contributed to more needless casualties on the Western Front from an enemy with suffering production capabilites that had been drinking ersatz coffee out of necessity for years.

       It is worth noting that the Soviets and Germans also used tank destroyers as vehicles specifically designed to fight tanks, but they correctly realized that speed was useless in combat when compared to defensive armor and offensive armament, and thus most of their tank destroyers had very heavy AT guns and thickly armored frontal armor, usually from casemate construction.

Sources:

Fox, Jacob, "The Wrong track: Errors in American tank development in World War II" (2013). Masters Theses. https://commons.lib.jmu.edu/master201019/215

      This debacle was made worse, again by General McNair, who personally saw to the delay in the production of the M10 replacement, the M36 Jackson tank destroyer.  The M36, shown below, is almost identical to the M10 Wolverine, but with the exception of the 3inch(76mm) M7 gun being replaced by the 90mm M3.  Though the M36 also had weak armor, it was made much more effective as an anti-tank platform with the mighty 90mm, which could pack a real punch, especially with special late war ammunition such as the HVAP shell.

Sources:

Fox, Jacob, "The Wrong track: Errors in American tank development in World War II" (2013). Masters Theses. https://commons.lib.jmu.edu/master201019/215