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U.S. Tank Quality?

Originally published under Ask Mr. History. Published Online: July 17, 2012 
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Why, with all its engineering and production capacity, did the United States never approach the quality of German tanks such as the Panther and Tiger?

Bernard Nelson,
Saint James, NY

? ? ?

Actually, by the end of the war the Americans, Soviets, and British were all approaching the effectiveness of their German counterparts. At the start of the war, all parties involved were building either fast-moving light tanks as a sort of mechanized cavalry or slow, heavily armed and armored infantry support tanks. The U.S. Army also produced a distinct series of tank destroyers with lighter armor and higher-velocity guns, which were expected to eliminate enemy tanks. The game-changing Soviet T-34/76, with its dual-purpose weapon, offered a medium tank that could both support the infantry and engage other tanks. Built to counter the T-34, the Germans' Tiger heavy and Panther medium tanks were inherently deadlier than both it and the M-4 Sherman, but could not be produced in like numbers, in addition to which both suffered from technical and maintenance problems. Only Albert Speer's stubborn refusal to stop production of the Mark IV medium tank, upgunned with a high-velocity 75mm gun, prevented the German Panzer force from being overwhelmed more than a year earlier than it was. Meanwhile, late in the war the Soviets produced the T-34/85 and 122mm-gunned Stalin heavy tanks, while the United States introduced the M-26 Pershing, heavily armored and armed with a 90mm gun. Britain had also taken steps to counter the Tiger by mounting its 17-pounder cannon on the Sherman Firefly, Challenger and Comet, and later a 20-pounder on the Charioteer, all leading to the postwar Centurion.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
Weider History Group
More Questions at Ask Mr. History

3 Responses to “U.S. Tank Quality?”

  1. 1
    Douglas says:

    Reflected industrial capability as much as technical design. Germany could barely match the UK in AFV production. Completely overwhelmed by Detroit iron and Red Steel. Once WWII was a long-haul affair, it became a war of armaments production, one that Germany could not hope to win against the combined Allied-Soviet might. They could merely produce the most interesting toys….

  2. 2
    mattias says:

    i think the german tanks sutch as the pzkpfw VI tiger I is the best tank of WWII, and if there was a sherman near bye it dident stand a chance.

    • 2.1
      Mike says:

      The problem the Germans had with that, mattias, is they had one pzkpfw VI Tiger, and the Americans would send 40 Shermans, some of them up-gunned to hi-velocity 76.2 main guns…and the Tiger wouldn't have a prayer…

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