The United States and the Second World War: New Perspectives on Diplomacy, War, and the Home Front

By G. Kurt Piehler; Sidney Pash | Go to book overview

chapter five
GENERAL GEORGE S. PATTON
AND THE WAR-WINNING
SHERMAN TANK MYTH

Nicholas D. Molnar

Thirty years after World War II, General Isaac D. White, the highly respected former commander of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Armored Division, was asked to write the introduction to Sherman: A History of the American Medium Tank, the seminal work on the most famous American tank of all time. Contrary to what would be expected from a reminiscing former general writing on what was one of the primary instruments of his military success, White pulled no punches and scathingly disparaged the tank. “To those of us who pitted our out-gunned Sherman against German armor,” he wrote in 1978, “the book does not entirely indicate the seeming insensitivity on the part of those responsible for the design and procuring of our fighting vehicle.” White added bitterly: “Some of us, even at the time, were aware of the bureaucratic and often ignorant wrangling and delays that occurred before our medium tanks were fitted with a tank gun that gave us a reasonable degree of equality against our enemy.”1

General White’s postwar complaints echoed those of many tankers who fought in the Sherman during the war. One tank crew sergeant, after several months in combat, was totally demoralized: “As we go now every man has resigned himself to dying sooner or later because we don’t have a chance against German tanks.” The disheartened tanker went on to say, “All of this stuff we read about German tanks knocked out by our tanks makes us sick, because we know what prices we have to pay in men and equipment to accomplish this… . Our tanks are no match for the Panther and Tiger tanks, and it is just suicide to tackle them.”2 The nickname that American tankers gave the Sherman was equally revealing of their contempt for it. While German panzers were nicknamed after ferocious jungle predators—the Panther and the Tiger—the Sherman’s alias was the

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