login   |    register
Osprey Publishing [ MORE REVIEWS ] [ WEB SITE ] [ NEW STORIES ]

Book Review
Panther vs Sherman
Panther vs Sherman, Battle of the Bulge 1944
  • move

by: Keith Middleton [ KBM ]


Originally published on:
Armorama

The book consists of nine chapters, a bibliography and an index, spanning a total of 80 pages.
It's full of both photographs and computer generated illustrations. The photographs total 47, and while most were familiar, a few were new to me. The computer generated illustrations are a nice touch and they include: (1) Panther and Sherman Specifications showing front, side, and rear views of both tanks (including dimensions); (2) Cut-away interior views of both turrets; (3) see-through illustrations showing the crew members in their positions in both tanks; and (4) Panther and Sherman gun sight views that include a brief but informative discussion of the technical aspects of how the respective gunners would sight their targets.

There are also four statistical tables: (1) Tank Gun Anti-armor Performance; (2) Panther Tank/Personnel Status in Panther Units, Autumn 1944; (3) Sherman Tank Strength U.S. Army 12th Army Group; and (4) U.S. First Army Sherman Tank Strength/Losses, Autumn 1944.

Finally, there are two maps: a large scale map providing an overall view of the Battle of the Bulge, and an overhead view of a small skirmish between platoon-sized units during the Battle of the Bulge.

Content:

In the two-page “Chronology,” Mr. Zaloga provides a single timetable tracking the development and deployment of both the Panther and the Sherman. This nicely leads into the next two chapters which examine the design, development and then the technical aspects of both tanks. With regard to the development of the Panther, I found most interesting Mr. Zaloga’s recounting of the lackadaisical German approach to mass-production, the German efforts to overcome the Panther’s poor mechanical performance, and the impact of the Allied strategic bombing campaign on Panther production. As for the Sherman, Mr. Zaloga goes into a brief history of the U.S. Army’s armor and anti-tank doctrines and their impact on the design and development of the Sherman. Naturally, since this book is about the M4A3(76) Sherman, Mr. Zaloga provides a more detailed (but still brief) examination of the development of the 76mm armed versions of the Sherman. Here, Mr. Zaloga recounts the U.S. Army’s decision to cut 15 inches off the length of the 76mm gun (reducing its anti-armor performance by 10 percent) to address balance issues created when the gun was installed in the Sherman’s turret rather than find a way to rebalance the turret.

In the “Technical Specifications” chapter, Mr. Zaloga discusses the armor, mechanical performance, weaponry, and ammunition of both tanks. Here, while noting the undeniable superiority of the Panther’s armament and armor when compared with the Sherman, Mr. Zaloga also addresses the often overlooked poor mechanical performance of the Panther. Mr. Zaloga correctly points out the Panther’s superior gun and armor matter nought if the tank cannot get to the battlefield or quickly breaks down once it does. Mr. Zaloga also addresses the Sherman’s reputation as a firetrap due, not to the fact it was gasoline powered, but to the method in which its ammunition was stored. Finally, Mr. Zaloga points out those areas where the Sherman outshined the Panther, including mechanical reliability, secondary weapons, and turret traverse speed.

The next chapter is titled “The Combatants.” Here, Mr. Zaloga examines several topics, including the differing attitudes toward tank aces, the physical positions and equipment of the various crew members, the training of the crews, and unit organizations. Most interesting to me was the discussion of the impact of war casualties and declining fuel supplies on the quality of German tank crews.

The next two chapters, “The Strategic Situation” and “Combat,” finally reach the “duel” part of the book. As the name implies, “The Strategic Situation” chapter provides a very brief look at the situation on the Western Front in the fall of the 1944 as well as the planning for the German counter offensive. The “Combat” chapter examines the actual fighting during the Battle of the Bulge, and while the topic of the book is Panthers versus Shermans, descriptions of actual combat between them is very sparse to say the least. This chapter is divided into four sections. First is “Panther Graveyard: Krinkelt-Rocherath. This section recounts the famous fight in and around the twin villages of Krinkelt-Rocherath and the impact of that struggle on the German timetable. This section lacks any specific details of the actual fighting. For the interested reader, these details are available in William Cavanaugh’s excellent The Battle East of Elsenborn & the Twin Villages, which is referenced in Mr. Zaloga’s Bibliography. Next comes “Breakthrough Toward Bastogne” which is a very brief overview of the German effort to break through the American lines and seize the important crossroads town of Bastogne. Once again, a reader interested in a detailed account of this early phase of the Bulge would be better served checking into John C. McManus’s superb Alamo in the Ardennes. Next up is “Hard Ground, Angry Skies.” This section provides a broad overview of the fighting between the U.S. 3rd Armored Division and the German 2nd and 116th Panzer Divisions around Manhay, Grandmenil, Hotton, and Soy. In “Duel at Freyneux: Christmas Eve 1944,” Mr. Zaloga actually details a platoon-sized engagement between Shermans and Panthers. The inclusion of an overhead map greatly assists the reader in understanding what happened. This section also contains a very nice two-page print of the initial approach of the Panthers toward the village of Freyneux. In my opinion, this section is the highlight of the book and it encompasses a mere six pages (excluding the two page print). Finally, the chapter concludes with “Race to Nowhere,” a brief overview of the blunting of the German attack short of the Meuse River and the launching of the U.S. 3rd Army’s counter attack toward Bastogne.

There is a “Statistics and Analysis” chapter. I must admit, my eyes and brain glaze over whenever I am presented with statistical analysis of anything. Finally, comes the “Conclusion.” Here, Mr. Zaloga concludes the Panther was a failure and unable to significantly impact the course of the war due, not so much to the qualities of the tank itself, but to factors such as production and fuel shortages, declining quality of German tank crews, and poor decision making by the German command which resulted in futile offensives at Avranches, Lorraine, and the Ardennes. Mr. Zaloga then concludes the Sherman was a tactical success because it operated as “part of a well-trained combined arms team fighting alongside determined infantry and supported by superb field artillery and ample tactical air support operating within the context of more sober tactical decision-making.” It would be difficult to say it any better.

Conclusion:

I bought this book because I think Mr. Zaloga is both an outstanding AFV historian as well as a talented modeler. However, I finished reading this book thinking “Is that all there is?” That thought comes not because the content is inaccurate or poorly presented, because that definitely is not the case, but because I think the concept of the Duel series itself is flawed. This series attempts to tackle too many subjects in a single, short book and ends up shorting something. In this case, I think the examination of actual fighting between Shermans and Panthers lost out. Keeping the concept and limitation of the Duel series in mind, I rate the book as 9 out of 10.
SUMMARY
Highs: Mr. Zaloga is a very knowledgeable historian and modeler. Good platoon level history in the dual section.
Lows: The book tries to 'be' to much and cover to many topics.
Verdict: Overall a decent book. A bit light on details.
Percentage Rating
90%
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: 978 1 84603 292 9
  Suggested Retail: about $20
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Apr 17, 2009
  NATIONALITY: United States
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 86.67%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 90.22%

About Keith Middleton (kbm)
FROM: TEXAS, UNITED STATES

Copyright ©2018 text by Keith Middleton [ KBM ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of TankRat's. All rights reserved.



Comments

Great review; definitely made me interested. I'm sorry to say, though, that there is one thing that might not be on the spot. It is about the quality of the Panther, and what Mr Zaloga actually says about it. In one of the sample pages it is explicitly said that the Panther was not an adequate weapon compared to the Sherman because of the "balance between mass and quality". It's hard to judge his conclusion by this page only, but it contradicts the conclusion of the review. I guess I'll have to buy the book to find out.
APR 22, 2009 - 08:45 PM
If you're assuming that: a) the Panther was technically more reliable than the M4 (it wasn't) b) there were as many Panthers on the Western Front as people seem to think (there weren't) c) If German tactical doctrine at the end of the war was superior to that of the Allies (it wasn't) d) The Germans had superior logistics (they didn't) e) The Germans weren't totally vulnerable from Allied Air-Superiority (they were) Shall I continue?
MAY 07, 2009 - 05:29 AM
If you're assuming that: a) the Panther was technically more reliable than the M4 (it wasn't) b) there were as many Panthers on the Western Front as people seem to think (there weren't) c) If German tactical doctrine at the end of the war was superior to that of the Allies (it wasn't) d) The Germans had superior logistics (they didn't) e) The Germans weren't totally vulnerable from Allied Air-Superiority (they were) Shall I continue? [/quote] Allied report: 5 Shermans lost per beaten Panther... though what you say is true, although the point about mechanical unreliability is really REALLY over-estimated and harks back to the Ausf. D initial deployment, point of fact is, the Panther in relative number outperformed the Sherman AND the T-34. It is simply a matter of numbers of tanks available. That is what brought down the German army. Due to several strategical mistakes, being the march to Russia, fighting in the desert and not invading the UK, plus having to go into the Balkan areas due to Italy's incompetence in fighting, made their armies stretched out. Add to that that the German war industry in general terms, not due to bombing, was much smaller than what the USSR and USA could produce per day/week/month, it is easy to see where the whole thing would be going. And add to that again the bombing campaign, although that too didn't really have the impact on production as is often claimed. The German war industry was not beaten from the air. Severely hampered yes, Tiger-B production was nearly halted in IIRC june-july 1944, but not defeated. And doctrine, well, if the only orders given are to hold your ground without being allowed to retreat, you ARE going to lose everything you have. POF if one reads the page in the review, troop availability on December 1st in 101%. So MORE than actually needed. But still, the flood of Shermans, T-34's, KV-1's and all other vehicles simply swamped anything the Germans had, including excellent vehicles like the Stug and JgdPz IV.
MAY 07, 2009 - 12:31 PM
If you're assuming that: a) the Panther was technically more reliable than the M4 (it wasn't) b) there were as many Panthers on the Western Front as people seem to think (there weren't) c) If German tactical doctrine at the end of the war was superior to that of the Allies (it wasn't) d) The Germans had superior logistics (they didn't) e) The Germans weren't totally vulnerable from Allied Air-Superiority (they were) Shall I continue? [/quote] Allied report: 5 Shermans lost per beaten Panther... though what you say is true, although the point about mechanical unreliability is really REALLY over-estimated and harks back to the Ausf. D initial deployment, point of fact is, the Panther in relative number outperformed the Sherman AND the T-34. It is simply a matter of numbers of tanks available. That is what brought down the German army. Due to several strategical mistakes, being the march to Russia, fighting in the desert and not invading the UK, plus having to go into the Balkan areas due to Italy's incompetence in fighting, made their armies stretched out. Add to that that the German war industry in general terms, not due to bombing, was much smaller than what the USSR and USA could produce per day/week/month, it is easy to see where the whole thing would be going. And add to that again the bombing campaign, although that too didn't really have the impact on production as is often claimed. The German war industry was not beaten from the air. Severely hampered yes, Tiger-B production was nearly halted in IIRC june-july 1944, but not defeated. And doctrine, well, if the only orders given are to hold your ground without being allowed to retreat, you ARE going to lose everything you have. POF if one reads the page in the review, troop availability on December 1st in 101%. So MORE than actually needed. But still, the flood of Shermans, T-34's, KV-1's and all other vehicles simply swamped anything the Germans had, including excellent vehicles like the Stug and JgdPz IV.[/quote] Actually, Germany's industrial base in 1941 was considerably larger than the mainly agrarian Soviet Union's. Had the Germans rationalized their designs and settled on something cheap and simple to build, they could have easily matched Russian (though not US) production. The reason German armor is so much fun to build is the sheer insane variety of it, but this is a symptom of their chaotic and shortsighted wartime production policies. As for the Allied bombing campaign, King Tiger production was reduced by two thirds over planned goals due to strikes on the Henshel factory, and the only reason the Sturmgeschutz IV existed at all was the need to replace Sturmgeschutz III production lost when Alkett's factory was flattened.
MAY 07, 2009 - 03:45 PM
The comments you make apply to most every Osprey book IMHO - too little covering too much! They generally need to be at lease 3 x thicker to give enough detail.
MAY 21, 2009 - 09:23 PM
It's a grossly oversimplified statement. It'd take a book to answer to this, but think about the following: it does not really matter how big your gun is or how strong your armor is. What matters is how well it functions in the integrated battlefield. And in this the Sherman wins hands down. The inadequacies of the tank meant that more people died needlessly -but it did not matter in the long run. (At least not for the generals. If you were the unfortunate one to be burned alive inside of these tanks, it's a different matter. But the same goes for Panthers decimated by P-47s, IS-2s, even T-34/85s.) The Germans had nothing like the system the US had in place for logistics (to keep as many in working order as possible), for cooperation between different arms to eliminate treats. After the general location of a Panther or Tiger (or whatever) is known, the Shermans do not need to engage; the artillery or the fighter-bombers will do that for them. Cooper makes a very good case why the tank was bad; but he also points out the problems with the german uber-tanks. (Those that he's aware of, at least.) If you want to make a fair comparison, look at the IS-2; that tank was a very real threat not only to the Panther but to the King Tiger as well, though it was the same size as the latter. This does not boil down to just the numbers; that's a very simplistic way to look at this thing. (Not to mention the fact that the T-34 is one of the most influental tank designs of all time, and not just a tinbox that overswarmed the opposition by numbers...) It's about different philosophy about waging war. And industrial capacities. Logistics and maintanence. A Sherman if not burned out could be returned to service within days, and fixed in the field; a broken down Panther needed a machine shop for almost all repairs. Just to remove the final drive took 3 days. Though they were strained by a multiple front war, the Germans made some serious lapses of judgement in their planning and strategy. It's easy for me to say, as hindsight is 20/20, but they spent enormous resources on things they should not have, and left themselves open and exposed. If you want to take over the world, you really should plan better, I guess is the moral. The German tanks have an enormous fanboy-following, but they weren't perfect. The wiki entry for the Tiger and KT are simply fan-fictions, and so are other pages; but the fact is, that beside the big armor and big gun, they had not much to go with. Heavy, their operational and tactical mobility is limited (the panther somewhat better in this respect), and resource-hogs on an already strained war-economy. To illustrate the difference between the two philosophies, an analogy. (However shaky it is.) My grandfather's '49 Omega Seaman is a remarkable watch; much better all around than my Swatch Irony. But if you need to mass-produce, and service a watch, you'll probably make do with the Swatch. It has modules that are easily switched, it's parts are interchangable to a range of other watches and it's cheaper to make -and it is great if you want to know the time... If you fight a war with watches, go with the Swatch.
JUN 02, 2009 - 10:01 PM
I'd have much rather been sitting inside a Panther than a Sherman, if the combat was limited to tank vs. tank. Yes, American air power and artillery decimated more Panthers than Sherman's did and a good number of Panthers suffered mechanical problems. But, don't forget the German 88's, they produced as much -- if not more -- terror than any tank the Germans fielded.
JUN 02, 2009 - 11:15 PM
But this is the point: the war-machine was more effective of which the Sherman was but a cog. The Panther having superior armor and gun actually strained the German's ability to wage war -as did almost all of their projects from the V1-2 to the Maus. (And if I can choose, I'd pick the IS-2.) The terror of 88 and Tiger is understandable; but don't forget that 1. for a soldier who's being shot at any gun and tank is the 88 and Tiger (understandably) 2. The germans had the same scare for the T-34...
JUN 03, 2009 - 10:46 PM
We broke our quick reply box. Working on it. Until fixed go to topic to reply.
Thanks.
   
What's Your Opinion?


Photos
Click image to enlarge
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move