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General George S. Patton and the War Winning Sherman Tank Myth.pdf


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the Jerry tanks.”14 Another tanker bluntly damned the Sherman and the bureaucratic branches that
created it: “German tanks have more firepower and more protective armor than any American tank ever
used in combat. … It is criminal for a nation to permit its supporting weapons to be inferior to those of the
enemy.”15 Baldwin even included an attack on how the Sherman was reported to the American public:
“You know, our morale would be a lot better if there weren't so many cock-and-bull stories in the papers
about how our tanks are world beaters. You see, when the layman reads that we've knocked out twice as
many Jerry tanks as they have of ours, he doesn't realize that it's not our tanks alone that did the job. It's
tanks plus artillery, plus planes—plus guts.”16
Baldwin's acidic criticisms created a ripple effect throughout the American media. Periodicals were no
longer afraid to voice anxieties about the Sherman. Major media outlets followed Baldwin's lead, attacking
with full force the tank's war-winning image. Time wrote of the Sherman: “Toe to toe, the Shermans never
could [engage Tiger tanks]. They had to count on getting around on the Tigers' flanks, where the Germans
are more vulnerable. In the kind of confined infighting the U.S. Army ran into four months ago [in the
Battle of the Bulge], end runs were seldom possible. The smaller Shermans were badly
battered.”17Life sarcastically dismissed the Sherman as the worst tank in the world: “[T]he Sherman is
simply not in the same company with the Russian and German heavy tanks, nor is it supposed to be … It is
a useful tank, the best in the world after the Russian and German.”18Newsweek wrote that German tanks
were “the Sherman's masters” and candidly asked its readers, “Must we defeat Germany with inferior
weapons?”19
Patton immediately rushed to the Sherman's defense, using his stellar reputation to defend the tank's
war-winning image. In March 1945, Patton wrote a letter on the virtues of the Sherman to one of his highranking Third Army officers, General Thomas T. Handy. Interestingly, much of this personal letter found
its way onto the pages of The New York Times and the Army and Navy Journal only a week after it was
written. The letter was quoted in dozens of influential newspapers and periodicals soon thereafter.
Patton accused those who attacked the Sherman as unpatriotic: “It has come to my knowledge that certain
misguided or perhaps deliberately mendacious individuals, returning from the theater of war, have
criticized(p.133) the equipment of the American soldier.”20 Patton then began a long tirade in defense of
the tank: “It has been stated at home that these tanks are not comparable with the German Panther and
Tiger type tanks. This statement is wholly incorrect for several reasons.”21 As evidence of the Sherman's
superiority, Patton compared German and American tank casualties: “Since … August 1944, when the
Third Army became operational, our total tank casualties have amounted to 1136 tanks. During the same
period we have accounted for 2287 German tanks, of which 808 were of the Tiger and Panther variety,
and 851 on our side were M4 [Sherman].”22
Patton continued his defense of the Sherman by praising the tank's reliability: “Had the 4th Armored
Division been equipped with Tiger and Panther tanks and been required to make the move from the
Saarguemines [France]… to Mainz [Germany] it would have been necessary to rearmor it twice; and
furthermore, it would have had serious if not insurmountable difficulty in crossing rivers.” 23 Patton cited
mobility as another asset of the tank: “We must remember that all our tanks have to be transported on
steamers and the difference between 40 tons and 70 tons is very marked. The 70-ton tank could never
have been brought ashore in landing boats as many of our medium tanks were. Nor could they have
marched from the Cotentin Peninsula [France] to the Rhine [River] as practically all of our tanks have
been required to do.”24 To cap off the Sherman defense, Patton praised the tank's technological
superiority: “In mechanical endurance and ease of maintenance, our tanks are infinitely superior to any