From the Vault: Patton defends the M4 Sherman

patton tank cartoonDuring the drive into Germany in early 1945, the American press broke the story that American tanks, in particular the M4 Sherman, were inferior to those of their German adversary, in particular the Panther and the Tiger.  News of the articles travelled to Europe where troops heard them.  At a press conference in March of 1945, General Patton was questioned about the quality of US tanks and publicly defended them.  Patton also wrote a letter to Lt. Gen, Thomas T. Handy, Deputy Chief of Staff, which was released by the War Department to the American press.  In the letter Patton points out that while the Sherman “would not last” in a straight forward slugging match with a German Tiger, “the great mobility of the M-4 usually enables it to circumvent the slow and unwieldy Tigers and not to engage in a slugging match but to attack them from the rear.  Patton also cited figures showing that “since Aug. 1. 1944 when the 3rd army became operational, our total tank casualties have amounted to 1,136 tanks.  During the same period we have accounted for 2,287 German tanks, of which 808 were of the Tiger or Panther variety, and 852 on our side were M-4.

Patton stated that he wrote the letter because he felt criticism of American tanks was having a bad effect on morale at the front.  However, he had privately related concerns about US tanks.  Just after the battle of the Bulge, he had stated to a visiting Ordnance officer that ‘Ordnance takes too God Damn long seeking perfection at the expense of the fighting men, and you can tell that to anyone at Ordnance.”

Text from the letter in article from the March 27, 1945 Milwaukee Journal.

Patton defends sherman reformat

How cartoonist Berryman saw the tank controversy.
From the Wachington, D.C., Evening Star, March 25, 1945

patton tank cartoon

Cartoon image and information taken from “The Ordnance Department: On Beachhead and Battlefront” by Lida Mayo. chapter 17, pages 336-338

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