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View Diary: A French Goddess (72 comments)

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  •  French Loves'em Some Pneumohydraulic Systems (5+ / 0-)

    Back in the 1930s the French included a complicated pneumohydraulic transmissions system in their principal heavy tank of the time, Char B1 bisthe .  This tank had a large (for the time) 75mm cannon mounted in a sponson in the hull of the tank rather than in a turret (although it also had a turret).  As one might imagine, aiming a cannon mounted in the hull of the tank posed some problems for the designers.  The French tied the sighting system into the pneumohydraulic transmission so that very fine adjustments could be made to aiming the hull cannon by having the tank shift on its treads.  It was a very elegant solution but a very complicated and expensive one.  The French found that this design could easily take out almost any German design (1939-1940) of the time (as exemplified by a fight at Stonne in 1940 when a SINGLE Char B1 bis knocked out over a dozen German tanks and survived) but that they possessed too few of them.

    The Citroen design always remined me of the Sud-Est SE.100 heavy fighter the French had been developing at the start of WW2.  The SE.100 seemed to offer much promise but its development got terminated by France's defeat in 1940.  I've always wondered if Citroen had ultimately based their vehicle design on what they considered to be the optimal aerodyamics for the vehicle in the light of the SE.100's similarity.  It would certainly have been a very Gallic thing to do.

    "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

    by PrahaPartizan on Sun Sep 08, 2013 at 08:58:44 AM PDT

    •  French Also Had An Excellent Rifle They Didnt Make (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      Just before WW2, it was functionally similar to an M-14. When the Germans invaded they concealed all the plans and equipment because it would have been the best rifle of WW2 for the Nazis.

      Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

      by bernardpliers on Mon Sep 09, 2013 at 10:47:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Tank design (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ColoTim, RiveroftheWest

      Those were similar to American M3, but we abandoned the hull mounted gun.  The Germans adopted this design for the "Stug"  series of tank destroyers, which were one of the most successful designs of WW2.  

      Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

      by bernardpliers on Mon Sep 09, 2013 at 01:44:07 PM PDT

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    •  They also didn't use their tanks very well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      Rather than grouping them together they used them for infantry support.

      I don't know if any Char B1's still exist. I do recall seeing the turret from one in a Paris museum.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Mon Sep 09, 2013 at 02:29:21 PM PDT

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      •  Yes and No (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest, Major Kong

        The French entered WW2 with a bifurcated view on the use of armor.  They had a cavalry arm, equipped mostly with the outstanding SOMUA 35, probably the best tank available in the 1939-1940 time frame.  Those units, which went under the name of Light Mechanized Divisions (DLM, Division Legere Mechanique), were quite comparable to the German Panzer divisions.  Unfortunately, the French had but three of them compared to the dozen or so panzer divisions the Germans had.  The DLM units were intended to fight against the German armor and acquitted itself well during the spring 1940 campaign.  The French also had four heavy armor divisions which had about 200 tanks per unit, but with almost no infantry.  Those units could engage the German panzer divisions, but needed a paired French infantry division to match up well against the combined-arms force of a panzer divisions.  Between the cavalry and heavy armor divisions, the French had about 1400 of the 4000 tanks they deployed in Flanders that spring.  The rest were parceled out in tank regiments to the various armies and corps depending on expected need.  The one thing which truly hindered the French armored force was that not every tank had a radio and all their tanks were equipped with one-man turrets.  French battlefield response was therefore sluggish, which did not bode well when engaging the very agile German panzer divisions.

        Incidentally, the Char B1 bis turret was identical to the turret mounted on the SOMUA 35.  It possessed the very capable 47mm cannon which the French fielded that spring.  In many respects it is unfortunate that Guderian had spent his WW1 in communications in the Western Front directing artillery fire, because that experience led him to insist on all the German panzers being equipped with a two-way radio.  More than anything, radio was the force multiplier in the German quiver in the spring 1940.

        "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

        by PrahaPartizan on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 12:07:12 AM PDT

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        •  Didn't the Russians have the same problem? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest

          At least early in the war, I seem to recall only about one out ten Soviet tanks being equipped with a radio.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 03:33:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes! Can You Read that Battle Flag, Commander? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RiveroftheWest

            The French and the Russians planned on using battle flags to try to direct their tanks in combat.  Only the British and the Germans designed their tanks to include radios from the gitgo.  The German radio designs were more advanced than the British during the 1930s, but that British doctrine at least sufficed.  Unfortunately, the British, French, Russian and early American armor doctrine all looked at armor combat from a single-arm point of view.  The German panzer divisions always had quite a bit of infantry to hold the ground the panzers seized, and the Germans increased the infantry-to-armor ratio as the war progressed.  So did the other sides, with the Americans having a decent balance in their armor divisions by war's end, although Soviet armor-combined arms doctrine was likely slightly better than the American even if their tank corps (division equivalent in their system) were slightly armor heavy.

            "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

            by PrahaPartizan on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 08:53:39 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  All Countries Had Light "Cavalry" Tanks & Heavies (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest

          Their light tanks they used for blitzkrieg were just little things, the classic "cavalry" tank.  The heavy tanks were seen as being support for infantry and bunker busters, hence quite slow.

          The Germans and Russians innovated as a result of their great tank battles on the Eastern Front. The Germans (actually Hitler personally) had a mania for bigger and bigger guns, and the Russians were no slouches at up-gunning either.

          America decided they did not need to put tank development on the fast track beyond the Sherman. The German heavy tanks looked wise when the Germans were playing defense after Nomandy.

          Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

          by bernardpliers on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 01:18:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Much Tank Development Started Before the War (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RiveroftheWest

            Without a doubt the Germans and the Russians engaged in a mutual escalation of the offense/defense values for their armor during the war.  However, the Russians premier main battle tank, the T-34, had been in development before the war, displaying a perfected Christie suspension system and sloped armor.  The Germans adapted their PsKW MkIV through successive models with more capable guns and various armor schemes, but even that tank served in the 1939 and 1940 campaigns.  The Germans freaked when they encountered the first effective Russian heavy tank, the KV-1, which laughed at the German anti-tank guns during even the first 1941 battles.  Boths sides were in a race to install larger guns to defeat the heavier armor their opponents were sporting while they up-armored to counter the larger guns.  It was like the naval battleship race seen during the first two decades of the 20th century.

            The Americans did develop heavy tanks.  The M-36 Pershing would have been available for the fall battles in northern Europe, but the Pentagon decided that shipping two Shermans for every Pershing counted more.  They changed their minds in 1945, especially since the Pershings were the first American tanks to cross the Remagen Bridge

            "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

            by PrahaPartizan on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 06:20:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Some Doubt About If Pershings Crossed the Bridge (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RiveroftheWest, PrahaPartizan
              They changed their minds in 1945, especially since the Pershings were the first American tanks to cross the Remagen Bridge
              They got there, but It's not clear that any of them actually crossed the bridge, which was structurally damaged and soon fell down by itself.  There were Pershings taken across on barges, but I'm not sure if any crossed that bridge. Wikipedia says that of the Pershing that made it to Europe, only 20 saw combat.  It would have been nice if 500 had arrived for Normandy.

              Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

              by bernardpliers on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 08:53:35 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

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