Reaching back in the sequence here a bit to grab what I consider to be the key concepts ...
All in all the Sherman BETTER be better. It is an about 5 years newer design.
I might suggest there are more perspectives on this issue than just the matter of time.All in all the Panzer 4 BETTER be better. It was designed by a country that had all the traditions of, and viewed itself as, a world-class land power.
The Sherman, on the other hand, was designed by a country that viewed a standing army as undesirable, which at the time of the tank's design had an army smaller than Finland, and was more closely comparable to Portugal. At the time that the Sherman design was begun, the US had built less than 5% as many tanks as Italy, and the US Army operated fewer tanks than Romania. How much superior to the Pz 4 were the tanks designed in those nations?
If you look at the US Navy in the 1935 - 1940 period, you will see a world-class military. This national emphasis is represented in the modern and powerful ship designs that were filling up the shipyards. As to the US Army ... well, the self-invisioned leadership is not so clear. Given that the US in 1938 supported an army that was less than 10% as large as Germany's, I am not surprised to find that the German army had more advanced weapons coming into service in that timeframe.
The US designers also had a look at P 3 and 4 characteristics when designing the Sherman, so I heard.
Indeed. The Sherman was designed to be better than the German Pz 3 and Pz 4 tanks of 1940. And it was. In 1942.
It was not designed to be better than any vision of anticipated improvements in German tanks by 1943.
But then neither the Pz 3 nor Pz 4 were designed to be better than expected future tanks. They just happened to be designed with sufficient room to accept upgrades when confronted by hard combat experience.
Which, by the way, was also true of the Sherman.
It is just that the Panzers went through their "Oh dear, we better up-gun those things" revelations earlier -- the Pz 3 in 1940, and the Pz 4 in 1941. So in 1942 the Pz 3 was a substantially more capable tank than it was in 1940, and in 1943 the Pz 4 was a substantially more capable tank than it was in 1941. The Sherman came into combat in late 1942, and was (correctly) seen as better than the Pz 3 and Pz 4. The US Army didn't go through its "we better up-gun" revelation until mid-1944, by which time the upgunned version was already in production, although it took some time to ramp-up to the levels needed to fill out the unit requirements in what was, by that time, a VERY large US Army.
I don´t accept the “ease of production” song and dance either without someone doing a whole lot of research, methodical counting of welds and components. Without a book or thesis by some student of mechanical engineering, count me sceptical.
Well, we might ask for specifics of numbers of welds or techniques used. Or we might look at the bigger issues. How many different manufacturing techniques could be used to assemble Pz 4s? How many different engines were fitted into Pz 4s?
The Sherman was not just a single tank that was somehow "easier" to produce. It was an entire tank program, with redundancies and back-ups to ensure an enormous production capacity could be built up from next to nothing in the shortest possible time.
How much research does it take to determine how many Pz 4s were built with cast hulls? Or how many were built with alternatives to the Maybach engine?
Gee, not much research needed. The answer is: effectively none.
Yet having multiple hull production techniques, and alternative engines, were critical to the Sherman production ramp.
If you want to know what would have happened to production numbers if the designs had been reversed -- if the US produced Pz 4s -- we might reach a quick approximation by looking at how many Shermans were produced with ONLY welded hulls and radial engines. That would be only the M4 models. Gee, not many more M4s were built than Pz 4s!
We could even take the lesser of the M4A1 (cast hulls with radial engines) and the M4A3 (welded hull but V8 engine) to approximate what would have been done with out the very deliberate
efforts of the US tank board to proliferate Sherman production to facilities of differing capabilities, and to ensure no shortage of power plants.
So we might come up with 2x more Shermans with welded hulls and radial engines, than Pz 4s. 2x, rather than the 5x that were actually built. I think it is pretty clear that even if it cost the same to build a given version of the Sherman, the Sherman program was far more highly developed for production flow than the Pz 4.
That can also be a design decision. If you have more factories able to produce smaller patches of armor plate, it might makes more sense to do more welding, compared to using larger plates. But in general I think that the older design (IV) was also optimized for older production capabilities in Germany.
I would agree that it was a decision, but not just
a design decision.
Let us try looking at it from an expanded perspective:
Seahawk suggests: If you have factories able to produce smaller patches of armor plate, it might make more sense to do more welding ….
Mark 1 observes: How many tank-building factories did the US have when the Sherman was designed? Answer: ONE. How many factories built Shermans? Answer: about half a dozen major producers, and a few more minor producers.
The US designed a tank that could be built in many factories. The US then designed factories to build many tanks. The Germans created tanks to fit into their limited factory capabilities. It is not hard to understand why the US built more tanks.
I still believe that the easier production of the Sherman was not only a result of the design but also of the industrial capacity of the US.
Germanies industrial base was not on the same level, especially not if you consider that the IV was an older design.
The German industrial base was not on the same level – this is true. Total industrial capacity of the US was greater than that of Germany.
But industrial demand was also greater. Germany didn’t produce dozens of aircraft carriers and battleships, hundreds of cruisers and destroyers, and thousands of auxiliary ships during the same timeframe. Nor thousands of four-engined bombers. Nor hundreds of thousands of trucks. All of those efforts competed with tanks for production capacity. How is it that Germany could not out-produce the US on even one major category of war production ... one that was so key to German military success in the early war years?
We are not speaking of some 3rd world economy here. Germany was the heavy-industry giant of Europe. The only land-power that could compete with Germany in industrial might, France, was by late 1940 producing for
the German war machine as well. Other major arms producing nations of Europe – Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Italy were all also available to support the German war effort.
Yet not only could the Germans (and the resources they could have rationalized) not out-produce the Americans, they couldn’t even out-produce the Soviets. The Soviet Union was an agricultural economy just emerging from feudalism when the pre-WW2 re-armament cycle began. Even after squandering a 150 year industrial head-start, from late 1941 through late 1943 the Germany war effort still benefited from a larger industrial base, and also a larger population base, than the Soviet Union.
Yet both the US and the Soviet Union out-produced Germany in tanks. By substantial margins, too – by multiples, rather than percentages. Why?
Too many folks just assume that Germany was bound to be out-produced in the tank race. I don’t think that is at all true. Germany was out-produced because the US, and the Soviets, made a series of very deliberate decisions that the Germans did not make.
And tanks like the Sherman (and the T-34) were necessary components of those decisions. That is the point that so many seem to miss. You can’t ramp-up from 100 tanks produced over 5 years, to 50,000 tanks produced in three years, if you are not willing to select one design and GO WITH IT! Stumble around with new designs all you want. But if you’re top priority isn’t driving production of what you have, as if your nation’s life depends on it, you’ll wind up with 5,000 tanks to face off against your opponent’s 50,000.
The reason the Sherman was such a war-winning design has little to do with its performance on a given battlefield on a given day. Give a German panzer unit a company of Shermans, and there is little reason to expect them to do any better than they would in Pz 4s. Maybe they'd be a bit more mobile on the battlefield. Maybe they'd have a slightly higher availability on a given day. Marginal stuff. Crew quality would far out-weigh any difference in equipment.
Give the German nation the kind of industrial decision-making that created the Sherman, and they would have been a far more dangerous opponent.