You guys get hung up on armor and guns. There was more to these two tanks that that. Sherman has a very fast turret and a faster rate of fire. In close (city or restricted visability) this was a bigger advantage. Sherman had more dependable radios. Sherman was not as good off road but track life was 3-4 times better than T34, so it was better in Western Europe where tanks used the road net more. Sherman engine was better with about twice the operational time before needing overhaul. Most shermans had electric turrets that could be traversed with the engine off. All in all, I would call it a toss up between the two. Sherman was much more suited for Western Europe and the T34 better suited for the steppes.
If life expectation of tank in field is 2 weeks, engine which needs overhaul after 2 months is complete waste of resources. If 80% of combat is going to happen at less than 500 meters, then outfitting tank with optics which allows hits at 2000 meters is another waste of resources as it is in case you have raw recruits manning that optics who can't use it at more than 500 meters anyway. (those are arbitrary values, set up just as an examples, not real ones)
If your industry is working with plenty of resources and manpower at the safe distance from battlefield and at no risk of attack, you might give your tankers comfort of leather covered seats. On the other hand if half your country was just overrun by enemy and you just erected your tank plant in the middle of taiga after hastily evacuating it in front of advancing enemy miles away, then crew comfort is not going to be your first priority.
If I would want my tank to drive me in to office and back each day, then Sherman is the choice. If I want to stop Wermacht on the other hand...
In general those two machines are probably not too different from each other in combat efficiency (both are medium tanks with similar armament, agility, weight, fuel consumption), so other factors would probably prevail. Like crew training, leadership, doctrine... and so on. I would say, t-34 was better tank as it was t-34, not Sherman which influenced tank design around globe in years to come. Just look at post war US tanks and tell if they were influenced more by one or second (if by second at all).
There is actually interesting book:
Panther vs T-34 Ukraine 1943 by Osprey
I don't like books like this normally as these kind of comparisons are totally useless from historical point of view. But this book is quit good, full of interesting info. For example unit combat readiness statistics shows that Panther units readiness was quit low. Means Panther was very good tank ...at times when it was actually running and not broken. Which it was all the time. As many Panthers were lost to their own mechanical failures as to enemy fire, if not more.
German war production was big failure of course. That's not because Germans can not produce things effectively. At the outbreak of war, Germans believed in short, quick war. Generally design, development and research projects which would take more than year or two to finish were postponed for after war period. Many aircraft designs were stooped for example. For first few years of war, Germans were producing at prewar levels! Fully mobilizing their industry only at the end of war, when it was too late. From industry capacity point of view, Germans were in better position than Soviets. Especially after fall of France when most of continental Europe was under German control. If I remember right, they were producing more steel than Soviets for example. Yet Soviets outproduced Germans in most of the military equipment at last 2:1 and more. Also manpower difference was not that great, many big battle statistics shows 1:2 ratio or similar.
Kursk for example: 435,000/1,087,500 men, 3,155/3,275 tanks, 9,966/25,013 guns (Wikipedia).
If you take in mind that half of European USSR (best developed and most densely populated part of USSR) was overrun by Wermacht in few months, you can safely say that German industry failed miserably and that Soviets pulled miracle.
< Message edited by arras -- 2/27/2010 7:41:37 AM >