Your take about M-18 Hellcat

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by tomo pauk, Apr 15, 2011.

  1. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    US tank destroyers provoked many controversial issues.
    How do you rate M-18, it's design, war performance, compared with contemporaries etc.
     
  2. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    Not particulary about the M18 but open top SP guns in general. They must have been miserable places in bad weather for the turret crew. As an ex tank crewman they werent much fun in cold weather but at least you could drop the lid and keep the worst of the weather out with the heaters on. On the other side the crew must have fried in hot weather. In hot weather again at least in a tank you could stay out of the sun open up and switch the positive blowers on to get some of the fug out.

    The same goes for metallic bad weather a VT air burst overhead and you need another turret crew.

    Give me a roof any day of the week no amount of speed would make up for the lack of it.
     
  3. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    It rather depends on your point of view or tactics. For the shoot and scoot 'school' there was probably nothing better. For the stand and slug it out 'school' it would have been a disaster.
     
  4. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Most (all?) open-topped were issued with canvas cover, that kept the worst of weather out. Not as good as fixed roof, I suppose.
    IIRC VT burst was out of question for WW2 (esp. for German artillery crews to use it), though a small arms fire, or a lucky mortar crew would've had a holiday with open-tops. Also not a very safe place to be in woods, since a shell can detonate on branches. All good reasons to mount the 'hard top' in 1945 to US/Allied M-10/18/36s.
     
  5. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Artillery air bursts aren't the only problem with an open top.

    During WWII almost every infantry squad had a LMG. A machinegun positioned at a slightly higher elevation can spray the interior with bullets from ranges up to about 1km away. In fact from that distance bullet drop might be enough to hit the vehicle top with plunging fire even if the machinegun is at a similiar elevation. Won't destroy the vehicle but it will kill the turret crew. Hence an open topped tank destroyer is much more easily suppressed then a vehicle completely under armor.
     
  6. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Bullet drop at 1000yds is on the order of 5-7 feet between 900 and 1000yds. across the width of a tank turret or even the length of something like an M-7s crew compartment that means 2-3 inchs of drop at best. That is a mighty small window. below that 2-3in band and the bullet hits the facing armor, above it and the bullet clears the the rear of the fighting compartment. Considering that even a tripod mounted MG is going to have a pattern or group size several feet across at that range the squad with it's bipod mounted LMG is depending on a 'golden BB' to cause a casualty in the open topped tank destroyer.

    Firing long/multiple bursts at the TD is a great way to reveal the squads position, and draw the attention of a group of men in an armored box who have a cannon capable of firing (usually) 15lb and up high explosive shells.

    Not really a good tactic.
     
  7. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    It's also a great way to suppress the enemy TD enough so he misses the StuG assigned to support your infantry squad.
     
  8. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    What little I know about it seems to indicate that it was a reasonably effective AT vehicle and had some impressive battles, including support of Bastogne. It could have used a better gun and maybe better tactics. These light AT vehicles often became effective infantry support vehicles, e.g., Ontos.
     
  9. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    They seem to have been used as a sort of 2nd class tank even if that wasnt the intention. For infantry support you would be better off with any model of Sherman. For anti tank work you would be better off with a tank like a Sherman firefly or the Easy8 version if it could be got into service a little earlier.
     
  10. Ruud

    Ruud Member

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    in 1941 it would have been a super TD. By 1944 it was armed with a so-so gun, little armor, and great speed. Which meant it was only really good in blunting german counter attacks once these where known and it was known where they were trying to go. The USA did little shoot-skooting in NW Europe, though it was probably great for August 1944. With artillery causing most of the casualties, the M-36 did little to protect it's crew from that.

    To be fair, in an all out armor brawl, the Sherman/M-10/M-36 had only a little more staying power. The german guns on the whole were good enough to knock out most allied tanks at reasonable ranges. Allies guns could take on the Pz IV and Stugs, but had to have the right angle or luck to knock out most other german tanks.

    JMTC.
     
  11. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    That might be helpful if Germany had tanks in the quantities available to the Allies. But they didn't so American tank destroyers had little purpose most of the time.
     
  12. Ruud

    Ruud Member

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    yep, just if you happened to be at the right spot to stop a local counter attack. As infantry support, there were better vehicles.
     
  13. MacArther

    MacArther Active Member

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    I think that within the Tank Destroyer Doctrine that the US Army had set up before entry into World War Two, the M18 is a logical step on the tank destroyer tree. It had a good gun (for when it was designed), was fast, and was relatively easy to produce. Personally, I would rather have a tank with a gun that can compete with the enemy and armor that can at least survive long enough to allow for me and my crewmates to bail out if need be. The book I found with the best descriptions on this particular American TD is The Tank Killers: History of America's WW2 Tank Destroyer Force. If I remember correctly from that book, most tank destroyer crews in Europe still preferred the M10 over the M18. The crews were ok with the gun not being of the same power as the M18, because they had armor to take hits with. Also, units assigned the M18 in Italy at least, spent most of their time acting as mobile artillery because the 76mm HE shell from the M18 apparently had near the same blast effect (and shrapnel effect) as the M7 Priest's 105mm, but had the advantage of not cratering the roads and ground as much as the 105mm (don't know how this is possible, I just remember that factoid from the book). Personally, I would have preferred the Achilles (17 pounder equipped M10), or even a normal M10 over the M18.

    Side note: To the point about open turrets on both Tank Destroyers I've mentioned, the same book mentions several instances where at the company level tanks were outfitted with folding metal roofs. I don't know how prevalent this might have been, but that would seem to at least ease worries about a "golden BB".
     
  14. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    A lot of good points have been made re the plus and minus of the open top and the speed vs firepower. In the British Army the M10/M36/Achilles were considered to be anti tank guns and operated by the RA. One of the reasons for this was to reduce the likelihood of troops using them as surrogate tanks as they were not trained as tank operaters and didn't use the shoot and scoot as an offensive tactic. More an ambush and then get out before the German Artillery fire came down.

    I don't think the British had the M18 but not certain on that.
     
  15. MacArther

    MacArther Active Member

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    #15 MacArther, May 7, 2011
    Last edited: May 7, 2011
    Makes perfect sense! Also, I checked my sources and it doesn't look like the US exported the M18 to anyone until after World War II. Although, at least with the M18, I think taking a shot then moving to a better position would be better than the standard ambush from cover. Something about having 1 inch of armor maximum (and that's on the mantlet) just doesn't seem to lend to survivability. Also, it could just be an unfounded guess, but the M18 also looks like it has much more shot traps as compared to the M10s, and the M10 seems to have it a bit better with a better designed turret and front hull at a good angle.

    Also, from the stand point of the USA's initial mobile Ant-Tank vehicles, the M10 and M18 were probably a godsend for the crews as compared to the M3 and M3A1 Gun motor carriages (the M3 Half-tracks with a 75mm 1897A gun) or the M6 Gun Motor carriage (Dodge WC-55 truck with a rear facing M3 37mm gun).
     
  16. Marshall_Stack

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    I read that the tankers preferred the M10 because it had a more spacious turret to work in.

    As far as the guns, I thought that the 76mm gun on the M18 is essentially the same as the 3" gun on the M10 but made to be a little more compact.
     
  17. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    kind of, it had the same ballistic performance but that was by using higher pressures and more modern construction? Smaller cartridge case and lighter barrel.
     
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