Data on World War II Tank Engagements : Involving the U.S. Third and Fourth Armored Divisions
Overview - Merriam Press Military Monograph 321. Seventh Edition (February 2012). This monograph is a reprint of BRL Memorandum Report No. 798, published by the Ballistic Research Laboratories (BRL), Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, in June 1954. Read more...
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More About Data on World War II Tank Engagements by David C. Hardison
Merriam Press Military Monograph 321. Seventh Edition (February 2012). This monograph is a reprint of BRL Memorandum Report No. 798, published by the Ballistic Research Laboratories (BRL), Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, in June 1954. The report was unclassified on 29 August 1972 under Department of Defense Directive 5200.10 (which actually stipulates that the material was to be downgraded at three year intervals and declassified after twelve years, although such is usually not accomplished until someone actually requests such to be able to utilize or copy the document). A study of some tank engagements of World War II involving units of the U.S. 3rd and 4th Armored Divisions has been made. The numbers of Allied and enemy weapons used and lost, the combat range, advantage of the defender, the advantage of initiating the aimed fire engagement, and the engagement termination are discussed. An appendix contains the known details with explanatory remarks of the above factors and with particular remarks for each of 129 individual actions. It is observed that, in the considered engagements, a great advantage was enjoyed by the force which initiated aimed fire and that small numbers of tanks were generally involved in the tank engagement. It is shown that there is no evidence in the data that the number of weapons used by the Allied force was dependent on the number used by the enemy force, and that a majority of engagements terminated with neither force being annihilated. The limited scope of the present study precludes attempts to estimate the relative combat effectiveness of the Allied and enemy weapons. It is suggested that the tanks studied would have been greatly improved by: a) a more effective method of detection of opposing weapons and, b) reduced time to obtain a killing hit once a target was identified. To estimate the combat effectiveness of a weapon, the evaluator generally needs some information as to the contemplated condition of its employment. The exact conditions of employment of weapons in tomorrow's combat are unknown today. Their anticipation, it would appear, should contain a liberal portion of informed tactical imagination but should not fail to consider the combat experience of yesterday. It is clear that there exist no shortage of tank combat experiences. However, there is a shortage of tank combat experiences reduced to a form readily usable to the evaluator. It is the purpose of this report to present an analysis of a small portion of the available World War II combat data. In an exploratory attempt to express tank combat experiences in a usable numerical form, a study was begun at the Ballistic Research Laboratories of historical records of tank engagements of World War II. The study indicates to date that the available information is extensive, that it is scattered throughout vast volumes of records, and that its extraction is neither rapid, direct, nor impossible. The present report is a result of the first efforts of the BRL to obtain tank combat data from these historical documents. The limited scope of the study demands caution in making observations based thereupon. The reliability of the data is at best no greater than that of the materials from which they were obtained. It is noted that the engagements studied were viewed from a detailed rather than a strategic point of view. Primary efforts were toward ascertaining what the tanks actually did in battle. No attempt has been made to study the engagements as segments of the overall strategy. The data given in this report were extracted from official military documents, including After Action Reports, Combat Interviews, Journals and Files, and Unit Histories, obtained from the Departmental Records Branch of the Adjutant General's Office. 59 photos; 8 tables; 4 charts.
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