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Thursday, April 07, 2016

A Look At How My Mind Works

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Not too long ago SVC posted a note about choices for changes to what happened in World War II. Two of the choices he offered me were for a lot of additional trucks, or for upgrading all the Sherman tanks to the Easy 8 Standard for the invasion of Europe. He noted I chose the latter, and I felt some explanation was in order.

When presented with such choices my mind tends to race over a lot of "details." Thus, while I recognized the worth of the trucks, it was the details that were the problem.

It is easy enough to imagine an increase in truck production in the United States resulting in the trucks themselves being available. It is also true that the manpower pool available in the United States was  not exhausted and the draft could have easily found the necessary personnel to operate the trucks. Bearing in mind in this latter category that we are not just talking about truck drivers. The trucks would be organized into "truck companies," and the companies themselves might be organized into battalions. The trucks would need mechanics (controlled by the higher organizations) and administrators (in the higher organizations), plus cooks and other personnel. The units would require fuel, rations, and other material support. All of this is a marginal detraction from the added lift (the tonnage the trucks could move) the trucks would provide to the Army in Europe.

The problem is shipping.

Moving the trucks from the U.S. manufacturers to England before the invasion could be done over time and not have a noticeable impact.

Moving the trucks to Europe is, however, another and significant issue.

The number of bottoms of shipping is finite, and every time you move these trucks from England to the continent, you are bumping something else.

Worse is the problem of harbor capacity. One of the major problems with moving stuff into Europe was that the capacity of Cherbourg and the invasion beaches was finite. A lot of shipping (having been shepherded safely across the Atlantic or across the English Channel) would wait for weeks to be unloaded. The trucks are thus blocking the deliveries of other things. (There are a lot of cases of merchant ships being only partially unloaded and then being sent back to the United States, part of their cargo still aboard, to pick up additional cargo.) The Logistics situation in Normandy was pretty much a mess, and it is surprising that things worked out as well as it did. You may not be aware that in some cases artillery batteries were rationed as to the number of shells they could fire in a given day because of the shortages.

So the trucks create an additional burden of bumped cargoes and personnel. Would their carrying capacity have ultimately made up for it? I have no doubt it would. But there would have been delivery delays of material and personnel as a result of adding them. They do not in and of themselves create additional harbor capacity or more ships. They MIGHT have provided enough mobility that maybe Schelde Estuary would have been cleared sooner and the major ports it supported captured and put into operation sooner, and maybe the German 15th Army would have been destroyed rather than escaping. Hard to tell.

So the tanks.

The tanks appeal to me on a number of issues. They are heavier than the earlier Shermans, but not so much that they would have reduced the numbers that could have been carried by available shipping and delivered, at least by any significant number.

But they make up for that on so many levels.

First, by eliminating the 75mm gunned Shermans there is a simplification in the delivery of main gun rounds if all of the Shermans, both those in the armored divisions and the independent battalions are using 76mm

Second, there is a simplification in spare parts as those necessary only for the older Sherman models are deleted meaning fewer spare parts are needed overall.

Third, the Easy Eight was more survivable, better able to sustain a hit.

Fourth, the 76mm was deadlier, and German vehicles that survived hits by the 75mm would be destroyed (the Panther and Tiger would still be problems, but the Easy Eight itself was, again, more survivable).

The survivability means more tanks recovered and put back into operation. Fewer crew losses both to fatal injuries and crippling injuries, which in turn means more tanks in operation at any one time.

I hope the above makes it clear why I chose the route I did.