German Tank Fuel

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by davparlr, Apr 27, 2012.

  1. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    I have often seen on comparisons with the German tanks that the Sherman flamed quickly because it was gasoline fueled and the German tanks were Diesels. However, my book on armor, Tanks and Armored Fighting Vehicles, states that the Panzer IV, Panther, Tiger, and Tiger II all used gasoline as a fuel. Is this correct. If so, the flammability issue with the Sherman was in its susceptibility to German guns and maybe poor design, not gasoline. I have not read anywhere where the German Tanks flamed quickly using the same fuel. The T-34 was, however, diesel.

    Comments please
     
  2. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    #2 tomo pauk, Apr 27, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2012
    The flammability of the Sherman was related to the ammo storage, not at the usage of gasoline. After the Shermans started using wet ammo storage (the container (for, IIRC, 4 cannon rounds) made from 'sandwiched' sheet metal, water and antifreeze being 'meat' of the sandwich), the percentage of the tanks penetrated that were 'cooked' dropped sharply. M4s with such ammo storage were denoted with (W) in their 'name'.
    Further, the German AP ammo contained an amount of the HE (HE-I?) charge, making the fire inside the tank more likely. The German gunners were trying to score numerous hits at the tanks, even after they were knocked out, in order to make the tank a total, irreparable loss. In case that tank had ammo in turret, the catastrophic fire was more likely to happen.

    There were many instances of T-34s with turrets being catapulted from the hull, ammo explosions being the culprit there, too. Back in 1991, many of the 'JNA' tanks (M-84s, mostly, the Yugoslav versions of the T-72) were pictured as turretless wrecks, most notably in our hero city, Vukovar. Again, same thing - penetrating hit ignited the ammo.
     
  3. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    As Tomo has said, a lot of the "flammability" of tanks comes from the ammo and ammo storage and not the fuel.

    The flammability of the fuel is somewhat temperature dependent. Since it is the vapors that burn and not the liquid.

    Gasoline will begin to give off vapor at about 40 degrees below zero. The hotter it gets the more vapor. Diesel fuel will begin to give off vapors at a bit around 144 degrees F. However diesel will "auto ignite" ( not need separate ignition source like spark) at about 410-430 degrees F. While gasoline needs about 530-540 degrees F.
    Setting diesel on fire in the Russian winter might be a bit if a chore. Setting a diesel tank on fire in North Africa might not be difficult at all. Preheat it to over 120 degrees, put a shell though it to splash it around and help atomize it and have lots of hot surfaces for it to land on. Better than gasoline maybe but you might need lab experiments to tell you the difference.
     
  4. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Hydraulic fluid for Tiger and Panther tank turret motors was flammable. Obviously not to the same extent as gasoline and ammunition but it caused the loss of a few German tanks.
     
  5. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, everyone, that is what I was looking for. I get 'Military History' magazine and they continued to promote the "Gasoline" Sherman vulnerability to the "Diesel" German tanks.
     
  6. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Gasoline has nothing to do with it. That excellent 7.5cm/48 cannon which armed most German tanks and anti-tank guns from 1942 onward is the culprit. Not to mention millions of powerful Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck carried by German infantry during the final two years of the war.
     
  7. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    It's only magazine, don't take it too seriously, German tanks used gasoline, maybe the Shermans powered aero engines M4 and M4A1 at least, IIRC, used higher octane gazoline than German tanks but that all. And M4A2s had diesel engines, but they were either retained in States for training or sent to SU. And in fact in Normandy Pz IVs catched fire when hit at least as easily than Shermans and Panther also catch fire fairly easily if penetrated, Tiger was better in that respect.

    Juha
     
  8. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Hi octane gasoline actually has a higher auto ignition temperature than low octane. That is why they use it in high performance engines, it doesn't self ignite on the compression stroke before the spark plugs do their thing.

    Somebody might want to check on the fuel those aero engines in the american tanks used. It might have been as high as 87 octane. Hot stuff compared to 73-80 octane truck gas.
     
  9. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    IIRC in the movie 'Patton', one of the US tankers said to Patton (after the Battle of Casserine pass) that German tanks have diesel engines. So a myth is forged.
    I'd say they could use some sources to back up the claims.
     
  10. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    This is exactly my opinion.
     
  11. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    According to one source (dept. of the army technical manual TM 9-2800-1) the radial engine M-4 Sherman's would run on 80 octane fuel. As would a number of other tracked vehicles. Half-tracks and trucks needed 68-72 octane fuel depending on vehicle. This a 1953 manual. needing AV gas seems to be a myth unless low grade trainer fuel is considered HI-Octane.
     
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