Sunday, 1 September 2013

Guderian on German Armour

I have previously pointed out that the quality of German armour degraded sharply over a relatively short amount of time. But when did it start? Early war vehicles exhibit excellent armour ductility, but the late war ones, not so much. Since it's impossible to grab samples of the produced armour, I'm going to have to rely on second-hand information. Thankfully, a rather reputable figure speaks on the subject!

"In November of 1941, high ranking engineers, industry representatives, and armament directorate officers came to my tank army in order to familiarize themselves with the Russian T-34 tank. Frontline officers suggested that we should build tanks exactly like the T-34 in order to correct the unpleasant position of our armoured forces, but this position did not receive support from the engineers. Not because they were opposed to imitation, but because it was not possible to rapidly set up manufacturing of important components, especially the diesel motor. Additionally, our hardened steel, whose quality was dropping due to a lack of natural resources, was inferior to the Russians' hardened steel."

H. Guderian, "Panzer Leader", page 268

Interestingly enough, Daimler-Benz decided to imitate the T-34 anyway, with domestic components. The result proved complicated and unreliable, and lost out to the MAN prototype in competition for the Panther project.

11 comments:

  1. "hardened" steel. What does he mean?
    The germans used either homogenious armour or -later- homogenious with subsequent special surface treatment (Einsatzhärtung).
    Face hardened armour was -to my knowledge- never used on tanks but exclusively on major naval vessels.

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    1. Conventional steel that you will find in a pot or something is not particularly hard or resistant to projectiles. Armour steel is much harder, but you can have a range of hardening for various properties. Very hard steel resists undermatching projectiles better, but fails catastrophically when hit by overmatching projectiles. The better you are at hardening armour, the less faults it will have and the less likely it is to fail when hit.

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    2. Hardened plate is better at resisting uncapped AP shot as used by the Soviets, while RHA is better against capped shot used by the western allies. Hardened plate fails by shatter when defeated. Overmatched projectiles perform better against sloped armour, whether it is hard or soft.

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  2. It has to do with the alloy in the armors. Particularly steel with a high manganese content, and as the war went on Thyssen was unable to secure that quality steel. So to make up for the lack of manganese the carbon content was likely raised which allowed it to be hardened, but lacked the ductility of armor plate. Comparing brinell readings isn't enough in these cases, it is entirely possible to have two plates with identical hardnesses while one is very elastic and another is crystalline like glass.

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  3. The high brinell hardness of some soviet armor was a point of failure due to increased spalling with the limited volume of nearly all Tanks spalling is bad, but in the VERY compact fighting compartment of the T34 it is even worse

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    1. You can get away with higher harnesses if your alloy supports it. Soviet alloys did, German ones did not.

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  4. Your assertion is demonstrably false. I own a copy of Panzer Leader, 1952 printing. It say no such thing, on p.268 or anywhere else. In fact, it's December on p.268. You should have tried to stuff your made up quote on p.248.

    I have no problem with the notion that Russians could possibly be good at something. They have many scientific and engineering accomplishments to their credit, and while their WWII armour varied greatly as far as flaws, when it was good it seems to have been very good. But shame on you for fabricating history to try and prove your thesis.

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    1. Hm ever think that different printings of the book might have different pages sizes? Shocking, I know.

      Also my quote is translated from the Russian version of the book, so the text might not be exactly the same.

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    2. It's the second paragraph of chapter eight, if you actually care.

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  5. Yes, I do actually care. My objection was based solely on a dedication to accuracy and truth. As I said, I have no emotional or idealogical objections to the Russians doing well at something. It's well known that Guderian had a high opinion of the T-34, thought it superior to Pz.IIIs and IVs, and would have preferred to use them.

    With your new directions I found the quote, in a place later in the book than I was looking. As regards the charge of fabricating the quote, my apologies. However, as you suggested, the quote in the English version is not identical:

    "As already stated, a group of responsible designers, industrialists, and officers of the Army Ordnance Office visited my Panzer Army in November 1941, with the object of studying first hand our recent combat experience when fighting the superior Russian tank, the T34, and of deciding what measures should be taken to help us regain technical supremacy over the Russians. The officers at the front were of the opinion that the T34 should simply be copied, since this would be the quickest way to put to rights the most unhappy situation of the German panzer troop: but the designers could not agree to this. This was not primarily because of the designers' natural pride in their own inventions, but rather because it would not be possible to mass-produce essential elements of the T34-in particular the aluminium diesel engines-with the necessary speed. Also, as far as steel alloys went, we were at a disadvantage compared to the Russians owing to our shortage of raw materials."

    Seeing a noticeable difference, I decided to seek out a German copy. From it we have:

    "Wie bereits erwähnt, besuchten die maß gebenden Konstrukteure, Industriellen und Offiziere des Heereswaffenamtes im November 1941 meine Panzerarmee, um sich an Ort und Stelle und an Hand der frischen Kriegserfahrungen gegen den überlegenen russischen Panzer T34 über die Maßnahmen klar zu werden, die uns wieder zur technischen Überlegenheit über die Russen verhelfen konnten. Der Gedanke der Frontoffiziere, den russischen T 34 nachzubauen, um auf schnellste Art die außerordentlich unglückliche Lage der deutschen Panzertruppe zu bessern, fand bei den Konstrukteuren keinen Anklang. Hierfür war wohl weniger die Eitelkeit des Erfinders ausschlaggebend, als die Unmöglichkeit, mit der erforderlichen Schnelligkeit wesentliche Bestandteile des T 34, besonders seinen Aluminium-Dieselmotor nachzubauen. Auch in der Legierung des Stahls waren wir durch Rohstoffbeschränkungen den Russen gegenüber benachteiligt."

    I sat down and translated it, and got this:

    "As already mentioned, the authoritative designers, industrialists and officers of the Army Ordnance Office visited my Panzer Army in November of 1941, at the point and place themselves and having at hand the fresh war experience against the superior Russian tank T34 with regard to the measures best to take, that could help us once again attain technical superiority over the Russians. The idea of the front-line officers, to replicate the Russian T34, as the fastest method to improve the extremely unfortunate situation the German panzer troops found themselves, found in the engineers no response. This was not so much an outpouring of the conceit of the inventors, but the impossibility, to recreate with the necessary speed the essential components of the T34, particularly the aluminium diesel motor. Also in the shortage of raw materials put us at a comparative disadvantage to the Russians in the alloying of steel.”

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  6. Now, from both the English, and my translation of the German, I gather a somewhat different notion that you. Clearly, the tank is regarded as excellent. However, the inability to reproduce the engine, presumably because of the aluminium, is regarded as the primary problem. As a secondary concern is that they cannot replicate the steel alloy. This does not necessarily establish that the Germans are producing low quality steel at this point, and data elsewhere from Jentz and Livingston has not shown as much either. Rather, German steel seems to have steadily declined through the war, contrary to the bizarre statement from the Americans on the other page. What Guderian's quote does establish is that the T-34's armour was made of a superior alloy, that the Germans could not replicate due to lack of materials. Now, data I have seen on Russian armour, as information that has been shown on other pages here entirely substantiates that this was so: the Russians were using excellent steel compositions, resulting in high hardness with better ductility in most cases than equivalently hardened armour of other nations, and capable of being produced in rolled or cast. This is important especially because the T-34 had a mostly cast turret at the point of his quote. German cast armour was not good; where their rolled product was consistently superior to western allied plate, their cast was soft yet brittle and flaky, so bad that it was inferior even to the badly flawed American cast steel. Russian cast armour, on the other hand, seems to have been without equal amongst cast steels, despite uneven Russian quality control. Meanwhile, Russian RHA would have been likewise unsurpassed, had they been able to ensure even production quality. The massive expansion of production lines made that impossible, as they would have been for any other nation undergoing setting up new production lines on that scale relative to existing lines. Indeed, heavy flaws in American armour attest to that very same problem. But the quote, while it points to problems the Germans were having, doesn't prove bad armour. It proves good Russian armour.

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