THANKS FOR November/December’s “Heavier Metal,” about the USMC’s first use of the M4 Sherman tank in the Pacific, i.e. on the tough terrain and against the fanatical Japanese Naval Infantry stationed on Tarawa. It was a gripping description of armor in combat in the most adverse conditions one can imagine.
I never knew that any model of the M4 Sherman was powered by anything other than highly flammable gasoline (hence the German nickname Ronson). So the revelation that the Marines’ M4 A2s were diesel powered set me to researching the issue, and sure enough, the A2s had a straight 6-cylinder diesel, making them less prone to bursting into flame.
I REALLY ENJOYED the M4 Sherman “Weapons Manual.”
Articles about the Sherman tank versus Germany’s Panthers and Tigers frequently mention that the Sherman’s gun was not able to penetrate German tank armor. Yet when the Panzer IV was found to be inferior to the Russian T-34, the Germans up-gunned the 75mm L/24 gun to the 75mm L/43. So why didn’t the U.S. up-gun or lengthen the Sherman’s barrel to increase velocity and make the Sherman more competitive?
Allied tank engineers were not sitting on their hands while the Germans made “Ronsons” of their Shermans. By the end of 1944 they mounted a high-velocity 76mm weapon on existing Shermans, and developed a new variant, the M4A3E8, with a horizontal volute spring suspension and wider tracks that could better accommodate the weight and recoil of the new gun.
The Other Marines
I NOTICED THE “WWII Today” article on the Montford Point Marines receiving the Congressional Gold Medal. Recently the Women’s Army Air Force Service Pilots and Japanese American infantry men have also been recognized. As a veteran of the Merchant Marine, I would like to make a comment:
To this very day there has never been any government recognition or thanks for the Merchant Marine, the one group our armed forces depended upon for the delivery of food, tanks, planes, ammunition, clothing, oil, gasoline, and bombs— when they needed it and where they needed it. Without our efforts these military services would not have had what they needed to fight with.
The vast majority of merchant seamen were boys, ages 16 and 17, who risked aggressive attacks by enemy submarines to deliver vital cargo. The Merchant Marine suffered the highest casualty rate of any service branch, including the Marines; many were machine-gunned by enemy submarines while in lifeboats or in the water. And yet after the war, Merchant Marines had to go to federal court in order to receive veteran status.
Lost and Found
I’VE JUST READ your article “The Leading Edge,” which included author Rachel Cox’s search for her uncle’s story.
Several years ago I started looking for my own uncle, Roman Mierzejewski, a 19-year-old fighter pilot with the 325th Fighter Group, flying out of North Africa. He was lost on June 28, 1943, over Sardinia while protecting B-26s of the 17th Bomber Group. One of the few documents I have lists an Italian Air Force chaplain who identified my uncle’s body that day, and gave him a Catholic funeral the next morning. I posted a request online for information about this chaplain. Within a few weeks I got an e-mail from a young man on Sardinia: his father, then 13, saw the air battle in which my uncle’s P-40 was shot down, and watched my uncle bail out of his burning plane, too low.
We were able to travel to Italy and visit my uncle’s grave, now at the American cemetery just south of Rome. We also went to Sardinia, and met the young man’s family. They took us to the very spot where it all happened. An emotional trip.
JOHN B. MIER
Thank You to Our Eagle Eyed Readers:
GERHARD WEINBERG’S article “Four Days in December” provides an excellent analysis of Hitler’s decision to declare war on the United States. To clarify an implication: Japan did not “simultaneously invade the Pacific holdings of Great Britain and the Netherlands” on December 7, 1941. Japanese forces did not set foot on the outer islands of the Dutch East Indies until 1942, on January 11.
WILLIAM H. BARTSCH
IN “MAIL” THERE was a question and answer about the star markings on German vehicles. I believe the answer provided is incorrect. The Hermann Göring Panzer Division didn’t use the star marking; it belonged to the 15th Panzergrenadier Division, destroyed in Sicily. This unit was formed from survivors of 15th Panzer Division, which was destroyed in Tunisia, and other units in Sicily.
The 15th Panzergrenadier did fight alongside the Hermann Göring, and there is often confusion about the markings of the two units. The Hermann Göring used a series of circles with a single “clock hand,” positioned to denote battalion, company, etc. This information can be found in the “Pazergrenadier Divisions” chapter in Panzer Colors III by Bruce Culver (1984).
MacArthur’s flag-raising speech on Corregidor was March 2, not March 7.
Originally published in the April 2013 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.