Nicholas “The Chieftain” Moran has posted part two of an article based on his archive digger regarding US armor in WW2. In particular, this article looks at Army Ground Forces and how they determined with vehicles and tanks should be developed and fielded during the war.
Situation in March 1942
When Army Ground Forces was established, many of the basic decisions for the tank program had already been made by other agencies of the War Department and the Ordnance Department. At this time, the Armored Force was a semi-autonomous command which played an important part in developing its equipment. Although it came nominally under the control of Army Ground Forces, it continued to exercise many of its powers by direct contact with the Tank Automotive Center in Detroit.
The M3 medium tank was in current use, the M4 medium tank was in production but had yet to see a battlefield. Development of the Medium Tank M7 was also well under way. This had been conceived in 1941 as a 16-ton vehicle, mounting a 37mm gun, and was classified as a light tank. Successive changes requested by the Armored Force had resulted in a tank of 25 tons, mounting a 75mm gun, which thus approached the weight class of the M4 (33 tons) and was reclassified as a medium tank. During 1942 Armored Force enthusiasm for the M7 tank was quite pronounced.
All of these tanks had been developed primarily for the purpose of exploiting break-throughs and conducting operations in the traditional cavalry manner. First of all, their sponsors wanted speed and mobility, with mechanical reliability a necessary corollary. Sufficient fire power was only needed to subdue enemy infantry and minor strong points, and armor was required only to withstand enemy small arms. These tanks had narrow, high-speed treads. Unit ground pressure was not a serious factor because it was contemplated that slashing tank tactics then advocated would not be possible through soft, marshy terrain. [Chieftain’s Note: As you will recall, Armored Force, not AGF, are the folks who created tank doctrine and tank manuals, we’ve gone over in the past the position of Devers and AF on the matter of what they expected medium tanks to do against tanks. That AGF had this interpretation need not be an accurate reflection of what AF thought]