Chrysler Blue from World War II
September 6, 2011 8:44 AM   Subscribe

"Tanks Are Mighty Fine Things!" And Other Tales Of Truthiness... At the end of World War II, Chrysler sent small hardbound books to shareholders chronicling ways the company had contributed to the war effort. Two have now been placed online at the Chrysler Imperial Club's website: "Tanks are Mighty Fine Things" and "A War Job 'Thought Impossible' (The story of the Chrysler-Sperry Gyro-Compass)" (Via)

Additional Chrysler publications from the same time period:

* Radar: The Great Detective
* Great Engines and Great Planes
* Secret: Chrysler's Contribution to the Atomic Bomb
* Engineering: Mobilized
* Bullets by the Billion

For more, Imperial has an extensive literature archive that includes a section for ads, brochures and Chrysler Imperial owners' manuals, broken down by year.
posted by zarq (12 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The literature archive link (and especially the by year breakdown) has enough reading material to get lost in for days. Fascinating stuff for history and car buffs.
posted by zarq at 8:49 AM on September 6, 2011

My family has a set of these books in a little green slipcase. My Dad's father (who owned a steel company in Detroit) was given a set when they came out. We hung on to them for some reason, my brother has them currently. I hadn't though about those things for years, I had fun looking at the pictures when I was a little tyke.
posted by marxchivist at 9:01 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Unrelated but, my eyes can't scan the first paragraph (especially when scrolling the main page) without seeing the words "They Might Be Giants;" I was wondering if that happened to anyone else.
posted by rahnefan at 9:38 AM on September 6, 2011

That book about the tanks spends most of its time lauding the M3. Which is weird: the M3 was a really shitty design.

The main gun wasn't in a turret. It was mounted on the side of the tank chassis and it only traversed up and down. To aim side to side you had to turn the entire tank, and accuracy was a serious problem. It was considered a failure as a tank design.

When most of us think about WWII American tanks, we think of the M4 Sherman -- and that one doesn't appear in that book at all, because Chrysler didn't make them.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:00 AM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

When most of us think about WWII American tanks, we think of the M4 Sherman -- and that one doesn't appear in that book at all, because Chrysler didn't make them.

No, the book does mention them, and Chrysler did make them. But they started with the M3, which is why that's covered in detail.

And it's not like the M4 was so fantastic itself, you know.
posted by me & my monkey at 10:32 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

As a high school science teacher who was far more interested in WWII MicroArmor wargaming than in teaching science explained it to me, the M4 Sherman wasn't remotely a match for German tanks, but we could make so many more of them for each Panther that rolled off the German lines that it didn't matter.
posted by Naberius at 10:44 AM on September 6, 2011

The Germans used to call American tanks, specifically the M-4 Sherman, "Ronsons", after the Ronson lighter. The gasoline powered American tanks had a propensity to burst into flame upon being hit.
posted by Xoebe at 11:13 AM on September 6, 2011

That book about the tanks spends most of its time lauding the M3. Which is weird: the M3 was a really shitty design.

But it was the tank that beat Rommel -- that is the Medium Tank M3, which the Brits named the Lee, not the Light Tank M3, which they named the Stuart. The UK received both tanks at about the same time, and didn't like that they were both referred to as M3s*. These tanks were a big part of the UK Forces in North Africa, because they could find the Panzer IIs and Panzer IIIs on equal terms and was able to fight the few Panzer IVs available. The only useful British tank in this role was the Matilda, which while often limited by the gun (the QF 2 Pounder, a 40mm weapon) was basically invulnerable to the Panzer III and IV guns. Aside -- this was what led Germany, in desperation, to try the 88mm high altitude antiaircaft guns as anti-tank weapons, and thus led to the fielding of possible the best anti-tank gun in the war.

The Lee and Grant (a Medium M3 with a new top turret that held a radio) were able to hit and kill the Panzers, they were generally very reliable and had good armor. They were problematic -- problems that were identified almost immediately. Early makes ad armor hat was rivited, so a hit on a rivet shot the rivet into the crew compartment. They were way too tall, and were thus very unprotected when hull-down with the main gun.

Finally, just time got them -- just as it obsoleted the Panzer II and III, and the Matilda, and even the base T34 (possibly the best tank in the war.) The M4 Sherman was, in some ways, worse than the M3 Lee -- very limited anti-tank ability. The 75mm/40 was made for infantry support, and fired low velocity rounds -- the 37mm/53 gun in the turret of the M3 had much better armor penetration.

This was due to US doctrine. The M4 Sherman was to assist infantry units, not fight armored units. That role was the province of the Tank Destroy force, using a combination of towed and tracked tank destroyers. This doctrine was so prevalant that the M20 and M24 medium tanks died on the vine, and the Heavy Tank, M26 (Pershing) was delayed long enough to become a non factor in the war. The Pershing had better armor, was only slightly slower than the Sherman, and had the remarkably effective 90mm/L53 Gun M3 -- developed from the Gun, Anti-Aircraft 90mm M1. Yes, we found the same thing that the Germans did -- that high altitude AA guns need very high velocity rounds, which made them very effective as anti-tank weapons.

The 90mm/L53 gun was quite useful on the "90 mm Gun Motor Carriage, M36", better known as the M36 Tank Destroyers. TDs were supposed to be faster and have much larger guns, but the tradeoff was armor -- most US TDs had open turrets. The plan was clear -- Tanks fought Infantry, Tank Destroyers fought tanks, and if your group of Shermans suddenly ran into a small passel of Tigers, well, sucked to be you.

Even as evidence mounted, the US still generally followed this plan -- though later models of the Sherman had the 76mm/57 gun that was much more effective on tanks, but it was the British, again, who wedged (as in "turn the gun sideways and cram it in" wedged) the superb Ordinance QF 17 Pounder into the Sherman, and called it the Sherman Firefly, which could penetrate anything the Germans had at over 1000 yards.

The M4 Sherman had real problems -- many of them were gas powered, which made fire a very real risk, it wasn't very well armored, and it was still pretty tall. But it was useful, and more importantly, the Detroit Tank Arsenal was able to make a ton of them.

The apocryphal quote from Hans Guderian goes like this. "Two Panthers, or one Tiger, could defeat twelve Shermans. The problem was that the US would send thirteen...."

The Heavy Tank, M26 eventually lead to the end of the various sizes of tanks, and led to the Medium Tank, M48, Combat Tank, M60, and then, well, I don't know why they renumbered, but the Main Battle Tank, M1. We also decided that all of the Model Numbers could get confusing, and started offically naming tanks and such as well as numbering them, so while the Medium Tank, M4 was never offically the Sherman in the US, the Combat Tank, M60 was the Patton, and the Main Battle Tank, M1 is the Abrams.

And since this digression has, itself, digressed, I'll just mention that I went to college with the granddaughter of Gen. Creighton W. Abrams, whom the M1 Tank is named after, and if you see this, Anne, drop me a line.

* The US Army designation system was basically "Item, Revision" The M stood for "Model" So, for example, we have the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, M1, better known as the Garand Rifle, and not to be confused with the United States Carbine, Caliber .30, M1, the M1 Carbine, which is a very different weapon, and doesn't fire the same ammo -- the rifle fires .30-06 Springfield, or 7.62x51mm, the carbine fires .30 Carbine, or 7.62x33mm. Let's not forget the United States Submachine Gun, Caliber .45, M1 -- the Thompson SMG.

All of them would be called M1s in casual company, as would the Helmet, General Issue, M1.

The Medium Tank, M4 (which the Brits named the Sherman) and Howitzer, 8" M115. Since the Brits never bought that, they didn't name it, and it was called the M115 through the war.

There was also the "alteration" suffix, so we see the Medium Tank M4A2, which had welded armor, and a diesel engine, and the Medium Tank M4A3E8, with the high velocity 76mm gun, welded armor, and the Ford GAA V8 gas engine. I've not found a reliable source for what the E stands for.

It does make for a confusing system, at time, and the best way to be clear is to be clear by making sure to use more than the mark number. See the current weaponry of the US Army, where the standard infantry rifle is the US Rifle, 5.56 NATO, M16A4, and the standard carbine is the US Carbine, 5.56 NATO, M4 -- and, even better, an M4 Carbine is a modified M16A2 rifle, with about 80% parts commonality, the big differences being the shorter barrel, the collapsing stock, and the Picatinny rail, which is new compared to the M16A2 and shorter compared to the M16A4.
posted by eriko at 11:50 AM on September 6, 2011 [12 favorites]

That book about the tanks spends most of its time lauding the M3. Which is weird: the M3 was a really shitty design.

That's not weird at all. Any time any advertising material spends a lot of time telling you something, you can be pretty sure that the opposite is true. Otherwise why all the energy to convince you of something? Consider all the "customer satisfaction is our top priority!" type ads.
posted by DU at 11:54 AM on September 6, 2011

but how would they fare against roman soldiers?

This is how to look cool shooting a .45 automatic pistol.
posted by jabberjaw at 6:35 PM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Are there any easy pdf versions of these things around?
posted by Chekhovian at 10:08 PM on September 6, 2011

The main gun wasn't in a turret.

Doesn't that by definition make it a self propelled gun and not a tank?
posted by Meatbomb at 9:07 AM on September 11, 2011

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