Panzer IV vs. Sherman

This episode is sponsored by free-to-play-game
World of Tanks and we take a closer look at the German Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausführung
G and the US M4A1 Sherman. And since even the specific variants of these
tanks varied quite a bit, we look at them in their Summer/Fall 1942 configurations. Why not 1944? Well, there is already a comparison out for
the 1944 setups and the early versions of these tanks lack many of the well-known modifications
we usually take for granted, as such we basically take a look at the vanilla version of these
beauties. So, let’s look at the chosen criteria, namely
Firepower, Ergonomics, visibility, armor protection including survivability, mobility and communications. Yet, unlike Zaloga, I don’t consider crew
training a factor. Nor Availability like Kavalerchik does. Since I look mostly on the technical-tactical
level, as such we look at the finished tank. Now, why not include training? Well, there are various arguments for and
against it. One major issue is, we actually know rather
little about training and it was sometimes quite different from unit to unit, e.g., here
is one example by Nicholas “The Chieftain” Moran:
“There were only a couple of units in the US Army like 3rd Armored Division that understood
how to use the stabilizer and they loved it. They thought it was the best thing in the
world. Yet, if you go to another, let’s say 4th
Armored and they go what, this is a piece of rubbish. Why is it here? And they had to undertake a specific regimen
of training to teach the soldiers. How to maintain the stabilizer and what it
can do for you.” I would find it kinda odd to downgrade the
Sherman rating in this video, because some crews were not trained on the stabilizer. Another example is the rather lackluster final
drive of the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther, this was to a certain degree addressed by the Germans
with training. Well, fair enough, but it doesn’t make the
Panther’s final drive any better and we are talking about tanks here not the squishy
things inside them. Additionally, we are assuming the tank has
a standard ammunition loadout, so no spamming of tungsten rounds for the Germans and it
is properly maintained, a decision, which I will explain in the conclusion, since we
need to get started with Firepower. The Panzer IV Ausführung G was equipped with
the long barreled 75mm gun, the 7.5 cm Kampfwagenkanone 40 L/43. Note, it is very important here this is the
L/43 not the longer and more powerful L/48, which was only introduced in April 1943. Whereas the M4A1 Sherman was equipped with
the 75 mm Gun M3 in the M34 gun mount. Now the Panzer IV values are for the Panzergranate
39, whereas for the Sherman the shell is the APC M61 shell. As previously in the Panzer III vs. T-34 video,
we will go beyond looking at just mere raw data and also qualify that data based on other
qualifying factors. Note we will stick to the technical-tactical
level, else this video would not be really possible. So, let’s look at their penetration values
against homogenous armor at a 30-degree angle. As you can see, the Panzer IV values are higher. Sadly, for the Sherman, we have the range
in yards, so the values likely would be a bit less. Now, from the quantitative side the Panzer
IV looks like the clear winner with more penetration. But then again, firepower is combination of
various factors, e.g., the quality of the sights, gun stabilization and traverse speed. So, let’s look at the qualitative aspects. First off, one major drawback of the Panzer
IV was the traverse speed of the turret. The maximum traverse speed the turret with
a powered system was 16 degree / second, as such it took 22,5 seconds to do a 360-degree
turn. In contrast the Sherman could do this in 15
seconds. Yet, another issue was the lack of smoothness
of the powered turret traverse for Panzer IV, as a British report from August 1943 notes:
“The maximum speed is relatively low, but the response is quick and the braking good. The chief shortcomings are :
(a) Accurate control with the handwheel is difficult. (b) The dead space is too wide. (c) The number of resistance steps is too
small, with the result that the characteristic is noticeably stepped, making it impossible
to follow moving targets accurately particularly at low angular speeds.” Whereas for the Sherman systems from Oilgear,
Logansport or Westinghouse were used that offered a fast, yet also smooth traverse. Next aspect is the gun stabilization of the
Sherman: “With proper training, the use of the elevation
gyrostabilizer also gave an advantage to the M4s.” Brattleboro, Vermont, USA, 2015 (1978), p.
184) Note the system did not allow to fire during
movement but allowed to keep the gun more or less aligned during movement, thus allowing
for firing more quickly after stopping. The third aspects are the gun sights. The Panzer IV G had Turmzielfernrohr 5f (T.Z.F.5f)
literally meaning turret target telescope 5 f. It had a magnifications of 2.5 and a field
of view of 25 degree. This was in stark contrast to the M4A1s system
at that time, which used a periscope sight M4 without magnification, a shortcoming the
British pointed out rather early. So, for firepower the Panzer IV is ahead of
the Sherman. It has better penetration, additionally the
sights at this point are clearly better than the US sights. Something that is addressed later with the
introduction of the M34A1 gun mount with the M55 telescopic sight, which entered production
around March/April 1943. The faster and smoother traverse and gun stabilization
of the Sherman improve its ratings, yet those features are only in certain situations. As such, in terms of Firepower the Panzer
IV achieves a minor victory. Although, I must add that advantage of Panzer
IV likely was getting smaller with closer distances, due to the higher traverse speed
of the Sherman and also the stabilizer system of the gun. Yet, I might be wrong here, since Zaloga notes
the following referring to a British study: “By the study’s definition, this meant
that it would take 11 75mm Shermans to reach parity with ten PzKpfw IV in an engagement
at 1,000yd. The study also found that the situation was
reversed at a range of 1,500yd (1,375m) where the Shermans would be more effective;”
Yet, there might be various reasons for this, anyway, let’s move to Armor Protection & Survivability
part. First, the numbers. For the Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausführung G,
we have the following numbers for armor thickness and effective armor ratings. Be aware that some Panzer IV G had additional
applique armor of 30mm at the front, but we are looking at Summer/Fall 1942 at which point
it was only used in some cases, only in 1943 it became standard. In comparison, here is the data for the M4A1
Sherman. Note that the sources differ quite a bit on
the values and angles, so I used what I consider the best source and used an armor calculator
with those values. For the degrees I took the average, also I
did not account for cast and rolled armor parts. Yet, it is without question that the Sherman
is the clear winner here on the data side. So, let’s look at the qualitative aspects. Now for the Panzer IV, the British noted in
their August 1943 report, that there were some issues with armor quality:
“Some signs of weld failure have appeared in the joints between the turret front and
side plates. Cracks have occurred in the heat affected
zone alongside the weld.” Yet, generally, it seems there were no major
issues with German armor quality at this point. Additionally, the armor scheme was matured,
and teething problems ironed out. Something that can’t be said, about the
early variants of the Sherman. Here various weak spots in the armor were
encountered during its early days in service. “[…] the Sherman had shown an alarming
tendency to catch fire. […] The Sherman’s problem lay with the
ammunition, which was stowed in ammo racks in the sponsons above the track. Hits on the upper superstructure of the Sherman
penetrated its thin side armor and almost invariably struck some of the ammunition,
igniting the highly inflammable ammunition propellant.” This was solved over time by rearranging the
ammo and also using applique armor on certain areas. Note that wet ammo storage was only introduced
in 1944. Yet, this was not the only issue with early
Sherman armor protection: “Ballistic tests showed wide variations
in the armor protection on the front of the Sherman.” Usually field kits were issued to address
these errors. Zaloga notes:
“Appliqué armor was also added over the driver and assistant driver bulges on the
glacis plate because the joint was especially vulnerable to penetration. Finally, a curved plate of appliqué armor
was added in front of the gunner since during the course of the turret design, it was found
that the turret casting was thinner in front of the gunner than elsewhere on the turret
front.” Similarly, the original Sherman turret did
not have an escape hatch for the loader, which was an issue when the tank was on fire. This was only addressed in December 1943. So, in terms of armor protection and survivability,
I am not so sure. The Sherman clearly has better values, but
there were quite many issues. The problem is, it is hard to quantify how
strongly the affected the tank, especially considering that the Sherman suffered from
an unwarranted bad reputation over the years. From my current knowledge, I would say it
is minor win for the Sherman, yet, it could also be a draw, if these shortcomings had
a significant impact. Next up on the list, is mobility. So, the quantitative data is rather straightforward
here: The Panzer IV G was about 5 tons lighter than
the Sherman with 25 tons versus 30 tons, yet besides that and the horsepower, nearly all
values are almost equal, as you can clearly see here. The Panzer IV has a bit better horsepower
to weight ratio and less ground pressure, but nothing out of the ordinary. Now, for the qualitative aspects here, I couldn’t
find anything substantial. Both had a synchromesh transmission, which
made them easier to drive. One main difference was that the Sherman had
rubber pads on the tracks, whereas the Panzer IV had only steel tracks. The rubber tracks provided better grip on
roads and also during Winter, although the versions of 1942 were not as good as later
ones. Additionally, the ride was a bit smoother. Yet, in overall, the difference in combat
was likely very limited. Generally, if I didn’t miss anything here,
it seems that on the mobility side both tanks are rather equal, one could argue that the
Sherman had an edge here, but I think it is too minor, as such this is a draw from my
side. Next on the list is crew ergonomics and visibility. Now, for an in-depth look at the M4A1 Sherman,
I highly recommend Chieftain’s video here. And since he had the pleasure to be both inside
a Panzer IV and Sherman, I asked him if there was a major difference in terms of Ergonomics. He noted:
“Not really. PzIV has the odd situation of the tc [tank
commander] being center rear, which means the gunner gets more room than in [the] Sherman. On the other hand, the loader [of the Panzer
IV] has to watch out for the TC [tank commander] who, though not uncomfortable, is a little
constricted by the recoil guard between his legs.” Additionally, both tanks had a 5 men crew
and 3-man turret, so no major differences here. The only major difference was that the Sherman
Tank Commander was also responsible for the radio. This of course meant an additional workload
for the commander, which could be detrimental. Yet, it could also have benefits, as pointed
by a German instructions for Sturmgeschütze: “The commander must in any case be able to
operate the radio himself. It is good, if he can pass on important messages
himself and receive important commands himself. He can thus talk to his platoon commander
or battery commander, thus avoiding mistakes and saving valuable time.” Yet, when it comes to visibility, there is
a clear difference. The Germans used their commanders’ cupolas,
which are well-known for their providing a good all-around vision, well, at least for
a World War 2 tank. This was in stark contrast to the early and
mid Shermans: “In the initial versions of the Sherman
tank, his primary means of observation was through a rotating periscope located in the
hatch of the cupola over his head. In practice, this did not offer a very good
view, and tank commanders were encouraged to fight ‘unbuttoned’ – that is, with
their heads outside the tank. In late 1944, an all-vision cupola was introduced
with multiple view ports around the cupola to provide much better vision.” As such in terms of ergonomics and visibility
the Panzer IV is the minor winner due better visibility. So, we move to the final element of our analysis,
communications. First off, the hard data. The Panzer IV G had the FuG 5 – the radio
set 5, which had a range of about 4 to 6 km under good conditions, yet usually noted 2-3
km of range with voice while driving. Additionally, the Panzer IV also had an intercom
system – Bordsprechanlage 20, which connected the commander, gunner, radio man and driver. Note that earlier in the war the gunner was
not connected. Early Shermans had a SCR 508, 528 or 538 according
to Hunnicutt. Now the SCR 508 had a voice range of about
16-24 km (10-15 miles). Sadly, I don’t know if this range was during
movement or stationary, in any way it is clearly farther than the German radio set. The German radio was an AM radio, whereas
the US was an FM radio, which according to Zaloga was less vulnerable to static noise. Now, the SCR 508 came also with the BC-606
intercom box, which had 5 stations, hence the whole crew could be connected to each
other. So, from the mere data, it seems that the
Sherman is the winner here. On the qualitative side Zaloga notes that
the Panzer IV radio had some serious issues: “It suffered from the inherent shortcoming
of AM radios in tanks, namely the susceptibility to static noise which made the set useless
during travel. It was also less powerful than US tank radios,
with only 10 watts of forward power versus 30 watts.” The problem is that I couldn’t find any
other source that noted that German radios were that prone to static noises during movement. Anyway, for communications the winner is the
Sherman, although, I am not sure if it is minor or major win, since I am lacking further
data on the influence and quality of the intercom system and the extended range on the tactical
level. Additionally, I am not sure about the static
noise issue. To conclude, generally the Panzer IV G and
the M4A1 Sherman in Summer/Fall 1942 come up rather close to each other. I personally have a hard time to determine
clear winner here, which is rather similar to the results of a post-war analysis done
by the British although for 1944 to 1945. Now, of course, I still need to explain, why
I did not include reliability as a factor here. One reason is that the high operational rates
of Sherman tanks might be mainly a reflection of the excellent logistics and industrial
power of the US in World War 2 and not necessarily the reliability of the Sherman itself. Something that was mentioned by Thomas Jentz
in a discussion with Nicholas Moran. And from all I know so far, the Germans produced
a very limited number of spare parts, whereas the US Department of Ordnance, which was responsible
for spare parts, fought a battle of its own to provide a sufficient amount of them. As such the operational rates of US tanks
and German Panzers might have to do more with industrial capacity, production priorities
and logistics than the tank design itself. And these factors are strategic not technical-tactical. Of course, the maintainability rating could
be taken into account, since that is on the technical level, but this is something I need
to find more data on first. And speaking of the technical-tactical level,
this brings to the sponsor of this Episode the Free-to-Play Game World of Tanks, which
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this episode, be sure to check out the link in the description. Big thank you here to Joshua from WW2 Armor
and Chieftain for answering my various questions, providing valuable insights and sources during
the writing of this video. Note that any errors are my own. Special thanks to Roman for his information
on German radios and the guys from WW2 Armor for a great time at Conneaut Ohio. As always, sources are linked in the description,
thank you for watching and see you next time!


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