So on most WW2 Tank discussion the supposed fact that it takes 5 M4s to kill 1 Panther(sometimes it is the Tiger, Tiger II, or every Panzer, but I will focus on the Panther) or a Panther is 5 times as effective as the M4 always seems to pop up. I believe I have tracked down the source of this claim which didn’t surprise me at all. In Belton Cooper’s Death Traps on page 175 he claims “The German tanks had a qualitative superiority of as much as five to one over our M4 Sherman.” This has been repeated everywhere from internet forums to the “History” Channel. Well I must say that even though Cooper’s war experience detailed in Death Traps is a good read, his claims go well beyond his understanding and have little, if any, supporting evidence.
One of my favorite quotes in Death Traps which shows Cooper’s ignorance is the following: “To make matters worse, the committee was apparently dominated by Yankees, who decided to name this tank(M3) the ‘Grant’ , after the Union general and later president. The Southerners were aggravated further by the later naming of the M4, known as the ‘Sherman’, after the Union general who burned a path through Georgia.” This tid-bit is disgustingly stupid and I can’t help feeling slightly angry at Cooper, by the way I am a Georgian. Also It was the British who named the M3 and M4, not “Yankees” for those who don’t know.
Now for some evidence provided by the US Army’s Ballistic Research Lab which studied WW2 ETO tank vs tank engagements(98 of them if you were wondering) and concluded the following: The most deciding factor of who wins a tank engagement is who engages first. Crew training and other factors also played a large role. The average distance at which a US tank kills a Panzer(late IV, V, & VI) was 893 yards(816 m). Comparatively the average distance Panzers killed US vehicles as 943 yards(862 m). During Panther v. M4 engagements the Panther had a 1.1:1 advantage while on the defensive, however the M4 had an 8.4:1 advantage while on the offensive. Overall the M4 was 3.6 times as effective in combat versus the Panther.
The data above is not complete but surely shatters the 5:1 nonsense. A British study concluded, during the Normandy campaign, that if the allies outnumbered the Germans 2.2 to 1 then victory was practically ensured. On the flip side, the Germans needed a 1.5 to 1 numerical superiority to ensure victory. In between these figures it came down to tactics. Again this data isn’t a complete representation but it debunks the 5:1 claim which has no evidence to support it.
To sum it up I will quote author and historian Robert Forzcyk: “Overall, US armor destroyed more German tanks than German tanks destroyed US tanks, by a factor of about 3:2.”
Steven Zaloga’s Panther vs Sherman, Battle of the Bulge 1944