From: Cologne, Germany
British 6-pdr gun units used HE ammunition.
I've seen a documentary (BBC i think), where a British vet stated that US AT-crews tried to make British AT troopers trade their APDS ammunition whereever possible. The Brits didn't like to pass their APDS rounds, though, but they did it, especially since they could count on their 17-pdrs, and the Brits received praise as feedback from the US units, as this ammo turned the US 57mm M1 into an effective AT weapon. The brits got HE ammo in return. According to this vet, these trades were pretty common.
US ordnance issued HE rounds to US AT gun units, regularly.
"US anti-tank artillery, 1941-45" by Steven J. Zaloga, Brian Delf
page 36, paragraph "The Test: Anti-Tank Guns In The Battle Of The Bulge":
ORIGINAL: S. J. Zaloga
"Some idea of the use of the guns can be determined by their ammunition expenditure. In case of the 57mm gun, about 20 percent of the 57mm ammunition used by the First Army from August 1944 to February 1945 was high explosive, while the remainder was anti-tank ammunition.
In the late autumn of 1944, 57mm guns began receiving small quantities of APDS (armor-piercing discarding sabot) ammunition. This was 6-pdr ammunition obtained from British stockpiles, rather than US ammunition. The APDS used a sub-caliber projectile within a sleeve that peeled away after leaving the barrel. This increased the muzzle velocity by nearly 50 percent, and so could penetrate 160mm of armor at 500 meters compared to only 112mm for the normal armor-piercing round. This ammunition was much prized for dealing with German tanks."
So US units actually had HE, and had sufficient numbers to share.
But even more important, the quote above and the following part both illustrate that it's necessary to render the US M1 57mm and the British 6-pdr differently in the estabs:
While the British made several revisions, incl. the development of a light-weight version (6-pdr MK-III) for their airborne units, and, afaik, an improved barrel (IIRC a shorter barrel), the US AT units were still using the original version of the M1 (derived from the original 6-pdr gun).
Zaloga stresses that a US study concluded that self-propelled tank destroyers were "five to six times more effective than the towed guns, and that the towed 3in guns were successful in only two out of nine defensive actions".
Some of the reasons:
- high weight making relocation and quick setup difficult,
- trucks/halftracks towing the guns - and the crews operating them - were pretty vulnerable even to small arms fire when relocating the guns,
- the common type of AT round was the AP round, while APDS rounds were in short supply (i am not sure if the US produced 57mm APDS rounds at all), rendering the US guns less effective than the 6-pdrs (firing APDS) employed by the Brits,
- the US did not develop a light version for the airborne divisions (which would have been quite useful for regular inf units, too).
Zaloga illustrates the 2 roles of these guns (within the US forces) - AT-combat and infantry support - and the reduced effectiveness against German tanks by quoting a Regimental officer who (along with other survivors of the 2nd Infantry Division) got interviewed by the "War Department Observers Board" - in late January 1945:
"He also noted that the 57mm gun was used as often as not for targets other than tanks, and recommended that the basic ammunition load be 25 rounds of armor-piercing, 25 rounds of high explosive and ten rounds of the new sabot anti-tank ammunition. The other officers of the 2d Division interviewed by the observers unanimously agreed that the towed 57mm gun should be replaced by self-propelled guns"
This recommendation regarding the ammunition-"mix", of course, was just a proposal in front of the observers board, as the actual use of ammunition from 1944-45 (means the contingent of HE ammo used in the field - as pointed out by Zaloga in the first quote - using the First Army's expenditure ratio) was pretty different.
I should add, that - quite surprising - 57mm guns performed well and did the trick at La Gleize - it seems, in the late stage of that German offensive. I have no info about what type of AP round had been used there, though.
Other than that, the US 57mm guns had a really bad ratio, unlike the British guns.
According to wikipedia (yeah yeah, i know....), prior to the Normandy para-landings, the US obtained British 6-pdrs (for the 82nd and/or the 101st), where a division then employed 8 of these guns in divisional artillery, 24 in the AA battalion, and 18 in the glider infantry regiment. PIR units did not have AT guns.
There is a chance that this Wiki-entry is correct.... I can't be arsed to check several books now tho, but either Zaloga or Chamberlain might shed some light on the question whether the US airborne units were really using the lightweight 6-pdr (MKIII) or not, and if they were still in use in the Ardennes.
Whatsoever, the US M1 and the British 6-pdr should be seperate guns, estab-wise, as the ammunition-"mix" was different, as the 6-pdr had offered way better penetration values (with APDS) and as the Brit. 6-pdr was a bit different weapon (shorter barrel for the later versions = reduced weight, other improvements) in 1944/45.
In case that the 82nd and the 101st had really used the 6-pdr MK-IIIs, then the estabs would have to reflect the fact that these guns were relatively light: they could be pulled by jeeps (or troops), unlike the 57mm M1.
If i am not mistaken, elements of the Glider Inf Regiment were at Bastogne when the Germans surrounded Bastogne, so if some of its AT elements still had the 6-pdrs MK-III and if they were part of the defending force-mix, this should be researched and (if true) changed in a BFTB Bastogne scenario.
The MK-IIIs may have fired AP rounds mainly (and not APDS), but these guns were way more mobile than the US 57mm M1, so I think it would make a difference and it would be worth to include that detail (if historically correct) in the scenario's force list.
According to Zaloga, the typical deployment/engagement of 57mm guns had already changed during the German retreat from France, in autumn 1944, as the AT units did not encounter "sufficient" numbers of German tanks anymore.
This new type of usage culminated in heavy consumption of HE rounds at the Siegfried line, where Tank Destroyers and 57mm guns were used to suppress targets and cover the infantry's progress through the dense line of enemy defenses.
So, TMO is right regarding APDS (UK) versus AP (US), and I think he is right regarding the HE used by British units, it may just need some digging in Chamberlain's/Zaloga's work, to see to what extent HE was used by the Brits.
< Message edited by GoodGuy -- 6/17/2009 2:47:29 PM >
General Anthony McAuliffe
December 22nd, 1944
"I've always felt that the AA (Alied Assault engine) had the potential to be [....] big."
8th of August, 2006