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Now over to World of Tanks Military Specialist, Nicholas The Chieftain Moran:
Those of you who have been following my writings and activities either in the Hatch or on the forums should have figured out by now that I’m more cynical than most. I don’t normally subscribe to the common consensus just because it’s common consensus; I prefer to see a primary reference, or at least a direct connection to one. However, even I will break that rule on occasion. There are some things that, though I’ve never seen anything definitive, I will accept at face value just because it’s the way it’s always been known for generations and who am I to say different? One of these stipulations is the fact that American tank names like “Sherman” or “Hellcat” never received War Department or Army Ordnance approval. Well, I’ve just received another lesson on assumptions. Actually, it’s the same lesson I’ve had before. I just keep refusing to learn from it.
If you’re one of the folks who watched Operation Think Tank’s Episode 7, the first segment of the afternoon session, you’ll know that the question was asked “where did the names of tanks come from?” An entertaining 15 minutes or so was spent discussing this matter. David Fletcher got us off to a good start, he saw the original document which started the whole “General Lee, General Stuart, etc.” business. But there is a proviso: He is very specific that the word “General” was not to be used. Somewhere along the line, “General” got added, but nobody seems to know where. Ken Estes points out a post-war document in which the US Chief of Ordnance is asking why we don’t routinely name things in a similar manner to “Sherman” or “Pershing”. This is the document in question:
On the German side, “Hetzer” and “Brummbar” get a fairly definitive slating, and pretty much everyone is in agreement that there was no US recognition of names like Sherman, Jackson etc until Chaffee, with some hypothesis being given to the influence of modellers, or simply post-war recognition, even though there were occasional instances of official US use such as a reference in a US Intel bulletin in early 1944 to Panther being “similar to our own General Sherman”
Turns out there is, at least for the American side, a bit of a problem.
It is known that it is often impossible to prove a negative. Well, we can now at least somewhat disprove it with a positive. I mentioned in my article about the US National Archives how they’re a bit of a mess and you end up sort of diving into boxes at random. Sometimes you find something unexpected and interesting. I’ll just put the first document up.
There are a couple of things to note, here.
Firstly, of course, this is only a proposal document. Secondly, the only “British” name on the list is “Priest”. Thirdly, you can see the official sanction being proposed for the first “General” name, with “General Pershing”, with the naming of tanks after general officers as a policy being proposed.
Other points of interest: It is a proposal for future US naming only. It specifically points out that if the British already have a name for something and the US name is different, the different names should be retained. The impetus for this appears to be the aircraft industry which makes some sense: Britain and the US often had differing names for aircraft (e.g. Kittyhawk/Warhawk) , while the US didn’t give its ground equipment names to cause confusion with in the first place.