Wednesday, 17 December 2014

American Tanks in the Korean War

I haven't come across any definitive report of on any tank in Korea, but pulling bits and pieces from various reports is enough to obtain some impression of how American armour performed.

The Sherman's deficiency in off-road conditions is no big secret, having been explored in the famous Swedish video

The inadequate HE shell of the 76 mm Sherman previously popped up in WWII era reports. When the only alternative was the 75 mm gun and tough enemy armour was plentiful, this was a drawback that could be begrudgingly accepted. However, in situations where enemy tanks were rare and powerful 90 mm guns were more common, it's hard not to be jealous. 

Speaking of anti-infantry weapons, bigger explosives weren't the only things that were needed.

The anti-tank capability of the Sherman is considered adequate.

While a 45 or a 76 mm gun would find the front armour of a Sherman a difficult target, the statement about the T-34-85 doesn't stand up during the famous Yugoslavian trials. When tested, the tanks appeared roughly matched, with the Sherman penetrating the T-34-85 from 900-1100 meters with armour piercing rounds, and the T-34-85 penetrating the Sherman from 1000-1100 meters. The tests also showed that the ZiS-3 could indeed penetrate the front of a Sherman, but only at a very close range (250 meters).

While the Sherman gets praise, the heavier tanks, not so much.

Yikes, 60% is not a good number. The phrasing of the evaluation of American tanks vs. the T-34-85 is interesting, as though the writer of the report had significantly more respect for the tanks he was fighting than the people in them, an opinion which appears in other reports as well.


  1. The ZiS-3 could penetrate the M4 at 250m with the late war BR-350B. With an earlier BR-350B it could only penetrate at 50m. The Koreans might have had those shells.

    The US 76mm at this time often had a stabilizer. That would of allowed a faster shot than the T-34 and may be reason they were beating them.

    "Tank-vs-Tank Combat in Korea", Vincent V McRae & Alvin D Coox, ORO Johns Hopkins University,
    1954: Tactics Division Armor Group Technical Memorandum ORO T-278.
    One chart shows that NKA for known ranges over 750 yds. 44 rounds were reported to have been fired at US tanks and only 7 hits made. All of those apparently were HE.

    1. Well that would certainly explain it.

    2. Reading more into the topic, the standard loadout of NK tanks seems to have included minimal AP. T-34-85s carried only 5 AP shells!

    3. In fairness to the Norks, the South Korean tank force in 1950 was pretty negligible. Going for a mainly HE loadout makes sense. Of course, study of North Korean archives is impossible, so we may never know their reasoning.

  2. Are above described distances from penetration test limits? And did testers use american ammo to m4? Because m4 has better front armour effectivity and his gun have better penetration as i read.

    1. The Yugoslavian tests? Yes and yes. Remember, the US shipped a ton of arms to Yugoslavia, which were very actively used.

  3. Then this is great information for me because i earlier thought the T34 85 is inferior to m4 in the mutual shooting. I deemed M4 for best tank of the WWII but after I saw that swedish video ... I have great doubts about it XD