From the Vault: Report of the New Weapons Board Jan 17, 1944

report coverOn January 17, 1944, the US Secretary of War directed the formation of the New Weapons Board. The mission of the board was to: 1. Disseminate among the theaters information concerning successful solutions to problems encountered in the theaters; 2. Obtain advice concerning the performance and suitability of standard weapons and equipment now in use in the theaters and assist in on-the-spot corrections of defects; 3. Introduce and demonstrate in the theaters new standard weapons and equipment which are available but are not in the theaters and new items which may be available within the following eight months, and to determine the requirements for the various items and; 4. Assist in increasing the effective use of weapons and equipment now in theaters. The entire report can be downloaded in PDF form here.  

A good deal of the report deals with tanks and armored vehicles.  We have selected the parts of the report that focus on tanks and AFVs and have posted them below with comments.

We will start with the introduction page.  Of particular interest are the comments that “there should be a progressive increase in fire power, such as 90mm guns in the T20 series tanks…and 90mm and 105mm guns in self-propelled mounts.

conclusions

Several pages later the conclusions section comes around to the topic of “automotive” weapons systems.  It is interesting to note that the primary demand regarding the M4 is for the 76mm gun.  Also, it is noted that replacement of the M4 or M4A1 with the M4A3 is not considered worth the retraining involved for units already familiar with the radial engine version of the vehicle.  It is also noted that the M10 tank destroyer is popular with crews and that they do not want to replace it with the M18 (T-70) hellcat, but that they would be receptive to receiving the 90mm armed M36 (T-71)

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On page 13 of the report in the “special topics” chapter, there is a paragraph concerning tanks.  Once again, it is emphasized that the primary consideration US tankers have in regards to their equipment is that they want more firepower. They note that “the fact that the M4 is the outstanding tank of the war to date should not deter us from giving them [the troops] a better one, especially when a tremendous improvement in battle efficiency may be attained.” 

Special weapons

Next is a section on page 22 with more notes concerning “Automotive Equipment.”  Again, it is emphasized that the 76mm armed M4 (M4E6) was highly desired although “the exact number desired had not yet been determined and was awaiting General Eisenhower’s decision.”  It is also mentioned that there have been no requests to replace the M10 with the M18.

ordnance

Next we skip to page 40 in the report.  This is the “ground forces” chapter of the report and has three pages relating to tanks and armored vehicles.  The first paragraph points out that the major cause of tank casualties have been due to German 75mm PaK 40 guns.

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The next page of this section of the report lists a series of improvements desired for the M4 tank, including a 76mm gun, improved suspension and tracks, a more powerful diesel engine and better fire control equipment.  There is also a brief section on the British 17 pounder gun, noting that while it’s installation on the M10 appears to be entirely practical, its installation into the Sherman tank results in a very crowded turret and unfavorable radio storage.

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The final and longest section of the report relating to tanks and armored vehicles starts on page 49 of the “Ordnance” chapter.  It starts with a couple paragraphs on SPG artillery and the M10.

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The report goes back to the topic of tanks on page 56.  It is noted that the troops have found the tracks to be the most serious deficiency of the vehicle in the Italian campaign.  The suspension is reported as being satisfactory.  Engines are described as good although more power is desired.  The desire for a 76mm gun in the M4 is repeated, as are requests for improved fire control equipment.  Ammo storage is deemed unsatisfactory and the need for a turret basket is regarded as not as important as previously considered.  Better protection of the transmission and final drive housing is requested.  It is noted that more than 60% of disabling hits on the vehicle are in this area.

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One page 64 of this section is a more detailed evaluation of the British 17 pounder gun. In regards to the firefly, it is noted that “from the standpoint of crew comfort and efficiency, this gun cannot be considered a good installation: however, it is no more overcrowded than certain other British installations.”

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