M10 was a combination of the Sherman tank’s chassis with the 3-Inch M7 gun, in theory it could penetrate Tiger’s front armor at a distance of 1 km.
M4 Sherman, the tank that formed the American backbone armor and allies in the Second World War, swept across the battlefields, from the hot desert of Africa to the fields in Europe and throughout the Pacific Ocean. The success of Sherman tanks has been the premise for developing combat vehicles based on its chassis, the M10 destroyer was such an example.
In the 1940s, the wild legions of German armor in Poland and France overwhelmed all local anti-tank weapons and defensive forces, causing great damage to allies. The US military concluded that they needed to develop a special weapon against the tanks of the German Wehrmacht. The towed anti-tank guns took too much time to deploy when moving and it was difficult to predict where the enemy would focus to attack.
Designed based on the theory of using high mobility self-propelled anti-tank to scatter the German tank forces, self-propelled anti-tank battalions would wait behind friendly lines. When the German armor inevitably broke through the infantry, the battalions would deploy massively to ambush the advancing tank columns.
Or more precisely, to use speed to deploy ahead of the attacking enemy, take up camouflaged and protected firing positions on their flanks if possible, and then open fire. If unable to destroy the enemy force or to force them to retreat, then speed and agility would be used to avoid enemy fire until this vehicles could withdraw. M10 was created to fulfill this mission, it was also called tank-destroyers.
The birth of M10
M10 was a combination of the Sherman tank’s chassis with the 3-Inch M7 gun, in theory it could penetrate Tiger’s front armor at a distance of 1 km. Formally called the “3-inch Gun Motor Carriage M10”, it was the most important US tank destroyer of the second world war and it combined a reasonable adequate anti-tank weapon with a turreted platform.
Even tough more-powerful tank destroyers were introduced to replace it, it remained in service until the end of the war. The chassis was later reused with a new turret to create the M36 Jackson, which used a 90mm gun instead of the 76.2mm gun.
The British christened it the Wolverine, but unlike other vehicles such as the M4 Sherman, M5 Stuart, or M7 Priest, the M10 was never assigned a nickname or referred to with one when used by American soldiers. They simply called it a “TD” beyond its formal designation.
M10s were manufactured by Fisher Body division of General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Fisher. The total number of units built reached 6,706 in December 1943.
The M10’s design was based on the M4 standardized chassis. Every component of the drivetrain, complete with bogies with VVSS, roadwheels, idlers and drive sprockets, return rollers and tracks, and the internal arrangement were kept the same.
The M10 had a crew of five and a top speed of about 48.2 km/h. It was powered by a water cooled, 375 horsepower, GMC 6046 twin diesel engine with a 620-liter carrying capacity for fuel. The transmission was a 5 speed forward and 1 speed backward type while operational range was limited to around 322 kilometers on roadways. Being based on the M4 Sherman, spare parts were generally easy to acquire and repair was straightforward. The M10 was around six meters long and weighed 30t.
American tank destroyer doctrine emphasized speed and gun power over armor. As a result, the M10’s armor was thin, which made it vulnerable to most German anti-tank weapons. The thickness of the M10’s armor ranged from 20 to 25 millimeters in the front and sides of the hull. The gun mantlet meanwhile had up to 50 millimeters of armor, though this was hardly enough to protect against much. In general, the M10’s armor was designed to protect against small arms fire and possibly larger caliber fire if the situation required it.
The Wolverine mounted a long-barrel high-velocity 76-millimeter gun thought to have good armor-piercing performance. However, it had less effective high-explosive shells for use against enemy infantry - at least, compared to the 75-millimeter shells fired by Sherman tanks.
While Sherman tanks had three machine guns, the M10 had just mounted one 12.7 mm machine gun that could only be fired if the commander exposed himself over the turret. The M10’s biggest deficit lay in armor protection. The Wolverine had an open-top turret, meaning the crew was exposed to shrapnel and small-arms fire from above. Its armor was also thinner overall than the Sherman’s was.
However, the M10’s open top gave the crew a better chance of spotting the enemy tanks first - usually the factor determining the winner of armor engagements. It would rarely be a weakness when only fighting tanks. Of course, it would be a problem when engaging enemy infantry and artillery, but that was meant to be the Sherman’s job. In general, the open-top turret was not seen as a problem since US Army doctrine of use in close support included infantry walking alongside the vehicles to counter enemy infantry tactics.
The M10 after all was not intended to be an infantry support vehicle, but instead a vehicle that would support larger armored forces by quickly defeating enemy armor and removing itself from combat. However, in practice, the M10 ended up fulfilling both roles.
In US service, the first engagements came in early 1943, in Tunisia. It did respectively well, earning its place among the American tank destroyers and replacing the earlier M3 Half-Track conversion. From North Africa, the M10 and its variants served throughout Europe and even to a far lesser degree in the Pacific Theater on Kwajalein, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima.
However, by mid-1944, their speed was not sufficient anymore, nor the firepower. The 90 mm armed M36 Jackson began to supplement tank hunter units, as well as the M18 Hellcat, which was designed on a lightweight chassis with brand new suspensions and drivetrain.
Another flaw noted in close quarter combat was the slow turning rate of the turret, which was hand-cranked. It needed a staggering two minutes to rotate a full 360 degrees.
In an effort to up-gun the M10, the last 300 examples produced were fitted with the 76mm M1 gun, the same used on 76mm Shermans and the M18 Hellcat. Armor penetration was improved marginally, though there were relatively few German tanks left to actually fight. In efforts to protect themselves, turret crews also sometimes improvised makeshift turret coverings or roofs out of scrap metal salvaged from other armored vehicles.
During World War II, the primary user of the M10 tank destroyer was the United States, but many were Lend-Leased to the United Kingdom and Free French forces. Several dozen were also sent to the Soviet Union. Post-war, the M10 was given as military surplus to several countries, such as Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands, through the Mutual Defense Assistance Act or acquired through other means by countries like Israel and the Republic of China.
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