Tank production and shipping; BLOT, NAIL, CACTUS, IRON, and the like [was CCB photos]

Kurt Laughlin <fleeta@...>

I would say that segregation would be more likely than not. Tanks coming from a factory would generally be of one type, except for the early war period when several types were produced at the same plant. Tanks coming from a depot to a POE would also likely be segregated because they would be shipped to equip either a unit going overseas (which would have one type of tank) or to supply foreign aid (which also generally went in blocks of a single type). The whole issue of Sherman production is rather complex and boring to most, but I've got a spreadsheet showing monthly medium tank (M3 and M4 series) if anyone is interested. If'n it were me, I'd stick with one type of tank per train, but remembering that the Army considered the M4 and M4A1 to be interchangeable/identical, despite them being probably the most visually distinct types of the lot!

BLOT was part of the shipping code used to direct shipments during the War. The first group was the destination, represented by a security code word like BLOT, IRON, CACTUS, NAIL, etc. Other groups in the code indicated the type of equipment, shipping date, and a sequence number. One or two of the captions on the site I linked to earlier include the full code, albeit with spaces and dashes in the wrong places. Of note historically are the "Task Force A" photos, which I believe are the tanks that landed in North Africa after transit directly from the USA. (As a sidebar, the captions in the HRPOE collection are interesting because they gave both the security code and the physical destination - something that was specifically forbidden in the shipping instructions!)

Anyhoo, tanks are my thing, so you'd best not get me started . . .


----- Original Message -----
From: Bruce Smith

Thanks! I would differ on this point. I think that saying an M4A1
and M4A3 loaded together would be unlikely might be too strong, and
the reason used to support the statement is not exactly correct. The
important thing to realize is that domestic shipping of M4 tanks was
NOT to units, but to depots. There was a huge backlog of tanks at
arsenals mid war, waiting for flats. Thus, for example, it is my
understanding that Detroit Tank Arsenal had something like 6
different M4 models on site at one time! In clearing that backlog,
a variety of tanks would have been loaded for depots around the
country. Depots as well would have had mixed M4 models. When tanks
were shipped from depots to embarkation depots and ports, it would
still be possible for dissimilar tanks to be co-shipped because
distribution to units occurred overseas, although it is certainly
more likely to see more segregation. Note that the Signal Corps
Archive photos appear to show segregation of types, but these tanks
are being loaded for the invasion of North Africa, and there would
not be an opportunity to further sort them upon arrival. By my 1944
date, these tanks are being sent to depots in England.

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