Monthly Archives: November 2015

#32 Sunken Shermans: Shermans That The Nazis Sent To The Bottom Of The Sea

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Sunken Shermans: Shermans Now Home to Fish, or That Were Home To Fish

Several cargo ships loaded with Sherman tanks were sunk during the war. A couple of these wrecks have been discovered. The first we’re going to talk about is the SS Empire Heritage, originally named Tafelberg. She was a steam tanker built in 1930. She was 508 feet long and just under 14,000 gross tons. She was built by Armstrong W.G. & Whitworth Co. Ltd. Her captain’s name was James Campbell Jamieson, and she had a 76 man crew and she had 160 people on board. She was reroute from New Your to Liverpool with 16,000 tons of fuel oil and 1900 tons of cargo, including Sherman tanks.

On September 8th 1944 just 15 miles north of Donegal Northern Ireland, she was torpedoed by Nazi Submarine U-482 with the loss of 113 lives. From what I can tell, the wreck was discovered in 2014 and is 220 feet below the sea, just within reach of very technical divers. They took some very interesting pictures.

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M4A1 76w tanks that went down with the SS Empire Heritage
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More shots of the M4A1 76W tanks

 

 

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The next wreck were going to talk about is the SS Thomas Donaldson. She was a 7200 ton Liberty Ship built in 1944 by Bethlehem Fairfield Shipbuilding Corp. Ltd. in Fairfield California, under the command of Robert Headden. She left Loch Ewe, Scotland, as part of Artic Convoy JW-65, on March 11, 1945. The convoy she was a part of had 26 ships and the SS Thomas Donaldson was the only one that didn’t make it to the Russian Port in the Kola Inlet. Late on the afternoon of the 20th, the Nazi U-boat U-968 attacked the convoy. They were just twenty miles south of their destination when the Nazis struck.

The Ship was hit by a single torpedo that took out the ships engine. It also killed three of her crew. The Captain ordered the ship abandoned due to her dangerous cargo, but a small crew including the Captain stayed aboard and tried to save the ship. She was taken under tow, and almost made it in, but sunk short of the port. Only one more crewman died of his injuries and the whole repair crew made it off.

In July of 2014 a Sherman was recovered from the wreck, and they say there are two more down there that can be recovered as well.

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An M4A2 76 W tank recovered from the wreck of SS Thomas Donaldson, sunk on March 20, 1944.

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#31 Links: Places On The Internets About The Sherman

M4_Sherman
A restored M4A1 76w Tank, it seems to be being driven on a public beach, by a kid. RAD!

Links: Cool Sherman, Armor Related, Or WWII  Web Sites

Sherman minutia site:  You can spend days on this site learning interesting things about the Sherman. If you read through much of this site you will know how much I like the Sherman Minutia site because I mention it so much. It’s always open, and I can almost always find something new to read or something I forgot about on this site.  Probably the best Sherman specific web site on the internet. If you want to know how to detect the differences between models, right down to specific factories unique fittings, this is the website to do it on,  click the link and go, they are the best around for that! They are so good at it, I have no interest in ever trying to cover those details here!

Pierre-Olivier’s Photo Album from his Trip to America: You might be wondering why this is right below the Sherman minutia site link, oh well, maybe not, but if you were wondering, Pierre Olivier is the man responsible for the Sherman Minutia site. This is his photo album for his trip to the good old US of A.  He checked out just about every armor museum in the US, and a lot of tanks in parks.  I’d love to talk to him, I know he posts at Com-central.net, but for some reason I can’t get the registration to work there! I’ll figure it out, like tanknet, some legends of the Sherman world post there.

Tanks on Tarawa:  I just picked up Tanks in Hell,  A Marine Corps Tanks Company on Tarawa, by Oscar Gilbert and Romain Cansiere, and they mentioned this site in the acknowledgments section. I’ve only looked it over a little as of right now, (that will change, I’m sure the rest of my evening will be spent their), and right off the bat, I know the tank show in the water in my post on Tarawa has the wrong name in my post.

The Sherman Register, By Hanno Spoelstra: This site is an oldy but goody, and I can’t believe I forgot about it until Mr Spoelstra contacted me! Now I’ll be signing up to the mailing list!

The Sherman Tank Restoration page: A page that documents the restoration of a M4A3 76W HVSS tank that was surplused in the late 50s and purchased by Abdo S. Alan Co. a demolition company out of Oakland California. They used it to knock down buildings in Oakland for years. At some point the tank broke down, after being gutted for a new motor, and sat until the Littlefield collection purchased it, then traded it to someone who the current owner purchased it from. None of the previous owners had made any attempts to restore it. The current and last owner did an amazing job restoring the tank. Some surprises during the resto were, the tranny and final drives were in such good shape they required only cosmetic restoration. The suspension and tracks were also in very good shape.  I spent more than three evenings going through this pages photo album of the restoration. This tank is a functioning work of art now.

The Sherman Firefly Vc restoration page: This web page just went up and is about the restoration of the M4A4, which is the oldest known surviving A4 model. The tank served most of the war as a training tank in the US, until it was refurbished by Chrysler and shipped to the UK to be converted into a Sherman Vc firefly.  They are just starting the restoration, and are collecting parts and researching the tank. I wish I could be of some kind of help, but I don’t know what I could do. But maybe if you stumble on this site, and happen to have Sherman stuff for sale, please contact them at this web page. The already have some fascinating information on how the tank was changed when converted to a Firefly, and how the interior was laid out. There is also some very interesting information on how the loaders job would have to be done. I plane to watch this page closely as they restore the old tank.

RamTank.CA:  This website is to the RAM Tank, what the Sherman Tank Website is to the Sherman! Once you’ve read my article on the tank, and looked at the pretty pictures, check out their site to dig into the details!

Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale: I just discovered this site, and it is a very nice site if you want to know about building Sherman tanks in the 1/72 scale. I have dabbled in this scale, but never came close to producing anything as nice at the author over there. The scale itself has come a long way and it’s really amazing what level of detail you can get in this scale, if you’re good with tweezers and your hands are steady!

General WWII or Tank Related Links: 

The U.S. / American Automobile Industry in World War Two: This website. as its title suggests covers a lot of stuff along with the Shermans that were built by auto makers.  There is more to building a tank than a single factory in many cases, and even a factory like CDA, that could do everything in house, farmed much of the subassemblies out to its normal sub contracts. This site gives info on many of them, and there is so much here, you could spend hours reading.  I know I have!  NEW LINK!

Tank and AFV news: A news website that covers Shermans when they hit the news.  A generally interesting site if you are into tanks, and who isn’t! This is one of my read everyday sites.

The Lone Sentry:  This website’s tag line is Photographs, documents, research on World War II, and that’s just what they do.  This site is a staple of WWII history, and provides tons of good content.  I was sad, this website went down for almost a month, but its back and stronger than ever.

Armor for the Ages: This is the website for the General George Patton Museum of Leadership, and the new National Armor and Cavalry Museum at Fort Benning.  There are some very interest article and photo albums here, including one that documents the cosmetic restoration of the first Jumbo in Bastogne, Cobra King.

The AFV Database:  This website has a huge listing of American Tank specifications, and he has a lot of very cool pictures to go with them. If you need some vehicle stats or images, this is  your site! Some of the photos on this site were acquired there and the site owner was very nice about me using the images. Check his great site out. When I want data on an American tank,  or AFV, his is my first stop.

Archive Awareness: A history site dedicated to translating Russian archive documents to english. He has done some very interesting posts on lend lease tanks, including the Lee and Sherman. This is a really great site, stuffed with great information.

Here is a specific link to a post on the Tiger versus the Shermans 75mm gun.

Toadman’s Tank pictures: Toadman’s tank pictures is one of those staples of the internet, I can’t believe I forgot to add him in the links. If you need close up shots of a tank, this is the place to go, if you want high res versions, he has CDs you can buy! Check out his site, there are a ton of Sherman photos up there.

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The 8th Armored Division: The Thundering Herd, Association Website. While I was searching around on the internet for information on US Armored Divisions, this page came up, and was by far the most informative page on the subject. This Association has really done the 8th AD a service with this website, very informative.

The Internet Archive: This site is awesome, I’ve found so much interesting stuff there, everything from Technical Manuals to Unit Histories. I’ve literally downloaded hundreds of Sherman related documents from this site. Some of the hardest ones to find, I found here.  If your going to donate to an internet site like Wikipedia, don’t and donate to this guys instead!

RadioNerds: This website was a huge help when I needed to find info about Sherman tank radios. They cover all US Army Radios, and also have an archive of PS Magazines, its a very cool site.

Panzerserra Bunker: A nice blog on modeling with some interesting Sherman stuff and very interesting plastic modeling techniques.

The Surviving Panzers site: This interesting site has PDFs for many of the major nations of WWIIs surviving tanks.  For our purposes he has most of the Sherman models broken down into sub types and has a picture and short description of each tank. They are not complete, but they are close.

The Historical AFV Registry Home Page: This has registers of armored vehicles in several nations. The are in downloadable PDF and include a location for each vehicle.

M1919tech.com This new site is a very interesting look at the history of the M1919 machine gun. This is the machine gun used on the Sherman, and by the US Army and Marines during WWII. I learned a hell of a lot about the history of this machine gun than I knew before I found this site, it’s a great read with lots of rare photos.

AFV Photos: L&P Hannah’s great photo collection of Armor in the US. There are a lot of photos of tanks all over the US  here. Paul Hannah must love tanks, he has traveled all over the United States taking pictures of them.  I had no idea how many Sherman tanks there were in the east and mid west in parks and in front of VFW halls.  This is another place you could spend hours browsing!

I remember interview: Of Dmitriy Loza, a Russian Tanker who used most lend Lease armor but the Sherman the most, he used both 75mm and 76mm version of the M4A2. This is a very interesting read, and shows how well the Russians liked the Shermans.

The Ford GAA engine Web Page:  This Web site has some really fascinating information about the Ford GAA engine. Not much about its use in a tank, more about how it was just an amazing engine and could be used to make a lot of horsepower. The GAA motor was capable of a lot more than 500 horsepower, and was amazingly overbuilt, this page talks about why. If you’re a Hot-rodder, you will want to check it out.

Chieftain’s Hatch: His Sherman related hatches. 

Wargaming’s The Chieftainhas what some might call a dream job,  but when you hear how hard Wargaming works the poor guy, if you’re sane, you might feel different.  For more details on the man, check out the WOT forums. For our purposes, and arguably the most important part of his job is Archive Crawling and then producing interesting article for far Wargaming to use to promote the game. As a fan of the game and history, I think this is great.  The Chieftain has produced some very interesting articles on the Sherman tank or they are mentioned in others, so I will link to the ones important to the Sherman here.

Testing the British Cruisers: This Hatch is about testing the Centaur and Cromwell against a M4A3 Sherman. The Brits sent the two tanks over without much prep, and they were pretty new designs. As one could guess, the test went poorly for the British tanks. This caused some distress for the Brits, as did the Chieftains post on the forums. The post below answers some of the concerns of the angry posters.

Exercise Dracula: This was an extensive 2000 plus mile long test the British did testing the automotive reliability of the Cromwell, Centaur, and an M4A4 and M4A2 Sherman.  Though not directly about the Sherman, it is very flattering to the Sherman, and in particular the M4A4 with is A57 multibank motor is considered very reliable!

Sherman PR, 1942: This Hatch contains a lot of glowing praise from the Brits about the Sherman and Lee tanks. This report is cherry picked for PR purposes of the time, but I bet they didn’t have to look around much for Brit tankers to praise the Sherman.

US Gyrostabiliser Issues: This Hatch is about the US Gyrostabiliser use or lack of it.

The US Army Tests Firefly: The hatch is about the US Army testing the British Firefly gun post war. Well not really since it was a Firefly turret installed on an M4A3 VVSS hull.

The Desert Sherman: This very interesting Hatch deals with the infrared night driving system and the odograph.

US Guns, German Armor, PT 1: This Hatch covers test of US guns on German Armor

US Guns, German Armor, PT2:  Part two of the hatch above.

French Panthers: Or why a tank that can only go 150 kilometers sucks.

Nato Survey 1943: No, not that Nato, North African Theatre of operations. The Sherman gets mentioned but is not the focus.

Nato Survey 1943 Pt2:  The rest of the above links story.

US Army Tanks in the Jungle Part, 1: This pair of Hatch’s are by guest writer, Harry Yeide, the author we know from the books section.

US Army Tanks in the Jungle Part, 2: This is part II by Harry Yeide.

The End of the M4(75): This Hatch is about the role the Sherman filled and how it was always designed to take out tanks. It’s also about the Army’s plan had always been to replace the 75mm gun with the 76mm gun, and this predates the D-Day landings.

US Army Tanks in Cities PT 1: This is another guest hatch by Harry Yeide, this series covering Shermans or or US Army tanks in Cities and Towns.

US Army Tanks in Cities PT 2: This is part two by the intrepid Harry Yeide!

The M4A2E4, the torsion bar Sherman: This hatch covers the M4A2E4 we covered in the Shermans of the Future section. 

The Chieftains Hatch on the battle of El Alamein: The Chiefs take on this famous battle.

The Chieftains Hatch on the Battle of Peleliu: The Chiefs take on this famous battle.

The Chieftains Hatch  on the battles for the Marianas: Saipan, the Japanese used tanks here, and the Chief covers it. 

The Chieftains very interesting and detailed hatch on the battle of Tarawa: This is a tad less focused then how it was covered here, and overall probably a better account.

 

#30 Sherman Model Specifications: Data, and Lots of It.

Sherman Model Specification Sheets: Detailed Data Sheets For Each Model.

These were a pain in the rear to make, the ones in the back of my copy of Hunnicutt are very bad, so I have reproduced some in Word, and then print them out as PDFs, then take a screen shot of the PDF for this post. I have now hosted all the PDF files, if you want something with copy and pasteable text. I’ve got a system not for these and it’s semi easy to do, so I will keep adding them. I also added at least one, and up to five images with each spec sheet, of the Sherman the spec sheet is for. You can click to enlarge all these images, the sizes very.

M3 Lee spec Sheet

M3 Lee spec sheet in PDF


M3A2 Spec Sheet

M3A2 Lee Spec Sheet in PDF


Early Production M4 75

M4 Early spec sheet

Mid Production M4 75

M4 Mid Production


Early M4A1 75

M4A1 Early Spec Sheet


Mid Production M4A1 75

M4A1 75 mid war spec sheet


Mid production M4A2 75

M4A2 75 mid production spec sheet


Mid production M4A3 75

M4A3 75d mid spec sheet

 

M4A3 75 wet large hatch VVSS

M4A3 75w spec sheet


Early M4A4 75 


 

 


M4A1 76 wet VVSS

M4A1 76w specsheet


M4A2 76 wet VVSS

 M4A2 76w spec sheet

M4A2 76 wet HVSS

 

M4A2 76w HVSS Easy 8 Spec Sheet


M4A3 76 wet HVSS, or Sherman Easy 8

M4A3E8 76 Spec Sheet


The M4A3E2 Jumbo 75

M4A3e2 Jumbo spec sheet


Sherman Firefly VC

 

 

Firefly Vc Spec Sheet


M10 GMC

M10 GMC 3inch spec sheet


M36 GMC

M36B1 90mm GMC

 

90mm GMC M36B1 Spec Sheet PDF

 

M36 GMC spec sheet

# 29 Shermans On The Silver Screen: That’s Movies just in case you didn’t know!

Sherman and Lee Movies: How Has Hollywood Done With The Sherman? Ok actually.

Boggy himself on an M3 Lee
Boggy himself on an M3 Lee

Sahara:  The one from 1943

Stars Humphrey Bogart but the real star is practically isM3 Lee. The movie was made during the war and is a great little war movie. I highly recommend it. The Lee in the movie is an early production M3. An early P-51 with an Alison V1710 motor is used to portray a BF-109. This movie made the Lee into my favorite tank when I saw it as a kid.  It led to my first tank model kit.

The M3 Lee in 1941
The M3 Lee in 1941

1941: Not the best movie, but amusing. 

One of Steven Spielberg’s first movies, trying to catch the comedic value of the panic on the west coast at the start of WWII. Dan Aykroyd and friends drive a Lee around the movie. The Lee in this movie is an early production model with side doors, and is missing its machine gun cupola. The Movie also has an early B17, and a P-40 in it. Update!!! That’s LEE is an IMPOSTER! They couldn’t find a real one so they built one on An M7 GMC hull with plywood.

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Tank: A Movie A Movie Used In A Prison Break!

James Garner uses his personal Sherman tank to spring his son from Jail after a corrupt southern Sheriff put him there. Great little movie, featuring several, two I think, M4A3s, these are small hatch tanks with all the updates. It’s campy, but fairly family friendly, though, one of the tanks ‘Crew’ was a girl forced into prostitution by the Sheriff.

Some Trivia about this Movie, the Collings Foundation, the charity that flies the B-24 around, owns the M4A3 Sherman used in this movie.

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Fury: Probably the best tank movie to date

Brat Pitt takes on a Tiger in a M4A3E8 and then kills lots of Nazis! What’s not to love? It was a pretty good modern war movie, even if not the most likely scenario. They used real Shermans and the only working Tiger tank in the world, curtesy of the Bovington Armor museum.  There are lots of Nazis who get shot up by the crew, so really a fun night! This movie is like Pearl Harbor, even if you hate the plot, it’s worth it just to see the WWII vehicles in action.

Kelly's_Heroes_(soundtrack) action

Kelly’s Heroes:  Corny, and a little to 60s hippy influenced, but still a fun movie

Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas, and Don Rickles rip off a bank in France while WWII goes on around them. Donald Sutherland plays Oddball, maybe his most famous role, at least with tank oriented people. Basically a 60s hippy transplanted into Sherman tanks for a war movie filmed in the late 60s. The music almost ruins the movie, but it has lots of footage of post war M4A3E4s with 75mm turrets and M1A1 guns replacing the 75mm gun. Filmed in Yugoslavia, using tanks they received from the US Government as military aid. This model will be covered at some point.

The Movie is fun, but in no way should be taken for good history, look at it like the War comedy/Parody it is.

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A Bridge to Far: Lots Of Famous Actors, And Lots Of Sherman Tanks, and A Lot Of Time

The last of the big screen epic war movies with mega casts. Most thought it was too long. Regardless of how you feel about the movie, if you like seeing Sherman tanks driving around, this movie is good one to watch a second time. It also has a star studded cast. The Shermans range from plain Jane early production models to Fireflies.

Coming soon, reviews of: The Tanks Are Coming and Cast A Giant Shadow   

#28 Sherman Use Around The World

Sherman Use Around The World!

This section was done with info written by Priory_of_Sion

Australia:

Despite contributing many men to the Allied War effort and having more than 750 M3 Medium tanks, Australia only received a grand total of 3 M4 Shermans. The first M4 was an M4A2(75) received via the British in mid-1943. The vehicle was trialed north of Melbourne until the middle of 1944. Two more M4s, this time 2nd generation M4A1(75)s also from the British in order to compare the M4 with the Churchill in New Guinea. One of these vehicles had a composite hull. The Australians also brought their M4A2 to the trials as well. The M4A2 was fitted with steel tracks which were worn down quickly and the M4A2 was removed from the trials. The M4A1s were deemed superior to the Churchill in reliability and visibility but the Churchill’s greater slow speed maneuverability, armor, and terrain clearing properties had the Australians wanting over 500 Churchills which was later reduced to 51 by the end of the war. After the war one M4A1 was used as a target but the M4A2 and the composite hulled M4 were saved and are on display in Australia.  Source: 1

China:

Chinese forces aligned with the KMT received 34 M4s along with other AFVs during WWII. These saw against the Japanese in China and Burma. M4s were used by the Chinese nationalists during the Chinese Civil War against Communist forces. The PRC is not known to have operated the M4. Taiwan/RoC still operates the M36 on islands close to the mainland.

Cuba:

Cuban forces received 7 M4A3 (76)Ws in 1957 and saw action during the Battle of Santa Clara against rebels led by Che Guevara. The rebels captured the vehicles and rode victoriously into Havana on the Shermans including one vehicle being the ride of Fidel Castro. Under Castro’s Govt. the M4s were quickly phased out of service in favor of Soviet tanks such as the T-34/85 and the T-54/55. It is believed an M4 was used by the Cuban Army against the invasion at the Bay of Pigs before being completely replaced.

Source: 1

Egypt:

Egypt possessed a number of M4s from Great Britain after WWII and used at least 3 of these in the 1948 war against Israel. Egypt received more M4A4s and M4A2s from Britain after the war, but soon supplemented its armored forces with Soviet armor.

In the 1956 Suez Crisis, Israeli forces knocked out or captured 40 M4 mk. 3 tanks in Operation Kadesh. Just before the Suez Crisis, Egypt then a number of M4A4s converted in France adding the AMX-13’s FL-10 turret to the vehicle as well the M4A2’s GM 6-71 twin diesel engine. The gun on the FL-10 turret, the SA50, was basically the same weapon as the 75 mm gun on the Israeli M-50 “Super Shermans” At least one of these vehicles saw fighting in 1956. These M4s along with older model M4s saw fighting in the 1967 War. Around 50 of these vehicles were lost in the conflict to Israeli forces. By the 1973 War, the M4s had been entirely replaced by Soviet Armor.    Sources: 1 2

India:

Indian units during WWII were equipped with Sherman Vs from Lend Lease to fight in Burma. After WWII, these Sherman Vs were kept in service with the Indian Army after independence and were in use well into the 1960s. India also bought 200 M4A1E4(76)s and M4A3E4(76)s from the US in the 1950s. A number of M4s were modified with the French 75 mm CN 75-50 cannon and the Soviet 76 mm D-85 cannon. These modifications were likely done in India and acquired the guns from their own AMX-13 and PT-76 tanks.

Indian Shermans found their use in the 1965 War with Pakistan who also had M4s along with M48 Pattons. 332 Indian M4s were present in the conflict and helped provide support to the Centurions in the Battle of Assal Uttar which dozens of Pakistani vehicles were destroyed. M4s remained in service with the Indian Army until 1971. India also possessed a number of Sexton SPGs which were in service until the 1980s.  Sources: 1

Iran/Iraq:

Iran received an unknown number of M4A3(105) and M36s from the United States after WWII and were at least still in use in 1980 as Iraq had captured a number of M4s and M36s during the Iraq-Iran War. These Iranian M4s seem to be the last M4s to see combat. Iraq also captured at least a single Israeli M-50 Sherman as well during its involvement in the Israeli-Arab Wars. These do not seem to be used in either Gulf War by Iraq.  Sources: 1 2

Japan:

In its campaigns against enemies armed with the M4, the Japanese never seemed to have captured an intact Sherman. It wasn’t until 1954 when Japan received 254 M4A3E8s from the US in order to build up the JSDF. These M4s were replaced by the indigenous Type 61 tank during the 1960s.

Nicaragua:

Nicaragua received 4 M4A1E4(105) Shermans from the United States. These were in service during the Nicaraguan Civil War in which M4s were used in Urban Warfare against the FSLN until 1979.

Paraguay:

Paraguay received 3 M4 VC Fireflies from Argentina in the 1970s and these were later replaced by 3 Argentinian Sherman Repotenciados armed with the French 105 mm gun along with other Argentine upgrades. It is still believed that these M4s are still in service.

Pakistan:

Pakistan was on the receiving end of the largest single postwar M4 purchase in which 547 M4A1E4(76)s were given to Pakistan by the United States during the 1950s. Around 300 M4s saw their fair share of combat in the Indo-Pakistan wars in both 1965 and 1971. After 1971 war the Pakistani Army retired the M4 from service.

Peru:

Peru received a total of 51 M4A3 Shermans from deals from the US after the Rio Pact was signed in the late 1940s. They were replaced by T-54/55s by 1978.

South Africa:

South African units during WWII used M4(75) as the mainstay of 6th Armored Division in the Italian Campaign. South Africa’s 6th Armored also had a number of Sherman “Fireflies” and M10 in service in Italy. These vehicles were left in Europe, but in 1946 the South African Army purchased 67 M4 1As(armed with 76 mm guns), 15 M4 1B(armed with the 105 mm), and 15 M4 1C(armed with the 17 pdr).These were eventually replaced by Comets and later Centurions as South Africa’s main battle tank. The M4 1Bs saw their service life extend into the 1970s, but the 1A and 1C were retired after being training vehicles in the late 1960s.     Source: 1

Syria:

Syria is to have believed to possess 51 to 52 M4 Shermans in the early 1950s. It is not believed they saw any significant combat with the Syrian Army in its wars against Israel. A picture of a turretless Syrian M4 exists and is believed to be converted from a vehicle left by the Allies after WWII, but its true designation and purpose is obscure.    Source: 1

Turkey:

Turkey, despite being neutral until 1945, requested for nearly 500 M4s to create 2 armored divisions in 1943. Turkey did receive 34 M4s that were no longer fit for service, but 25 of which were integrated into two armored  brigades after supposed maintenance in 1943.     Source: 1

Uganda:

In 1969 Uganda purchased 12 M4A1(76)W tanks from Israel with slight modifications such as smoke dischargers and a new radio, soon before Idi Amin took over the Ugandan govt. These were the first armor to see service ever in Uganda and were used as a propaganda tool of Amin’s regime. It is believed some of these M4s saw combat in Uganda’s invasion of Tanzania which M4A1s and T-34/85s led the Ugandan Army, but were beaten by the Tanzanians which had Type 59s.. In the conflict the M4s went months without maintenance and nearly half of the original 12 vehicles were likely lost in combat. After the war, and the overthrow of Amin, an M4A1 was used in General Tito Okello’s coup of Uganda, and a reported 3 were in possession of the Army in 1999.    Source: 1 2

Yugoslavia:

During WWII, the Balkans saw intense combat between the Yugoslav Partisans and the Axis powers and their puppets. As Tito gained enough power and prestige to be recognized as the true leader of Yugoslav resistance. After the war the defiant Tito withdrew from the USSR’s influence and acquired American vehicles, including the M4A3E4 which were originally fitted with the M3 75 mm gun but were retrofitted with the M1A1 76 mm gun. This gave the Yugoslavian M4s an appearance of being “fireflies” which they were not. (Edit from Jeep_Guns_Tanks) These tanks should be easy to discern from a Firefly by the lack of armored box on the rear of the turret,  they would also lack the armored plug firefly tanks had, not to mention, only the extremely rare, and un issued to troops, American Firefly tanks.

Yugoslavia also attempted to use the M4 to develop a line of vehicles. The first attempt was the M-634 which mated the M4 with the T-34’s V-2 diesel engine. This project, codenamed “Violin” was initiated in 1956 and saw a limited production of 5 vehicles . Many minor issues plagued the project which lumbered on and spawned side projects such as an upgunned M4, a bridge-layer, and an armored dozer. The M-634’s V-2 was marginally better than the original Ford GAA, but the project was cancelled in 1966 as the effort seemed to be a drain on time and energy. The proposed upgunned M-634 was given the designation SO-122 as it was armed with the Soviet A-19 122 mm cannon, which was used on the IS series of tanks as the D-25T. The SO-122 was completed in 1961 and tested the following year. It was originally developed as a tank destroyer, but as tests revealed the A-19 lacked the penetration of the D-10 100 mm gun, the SO-122 was regarded as a infantry supporting SPG. It only had 2 degrees of gun depression and 10 degrees of elevation which limited its utility such as lacking the ability to fire indirectly. It was able to reach speeds of 42 to 50 km/h with the V-2R engine. The SO-122’s turret was highly modified to fit the A-19 with up to 30 round of 122 mm ammo and a gunsight taken from the Su-100. The bow machine gun was removed from the SO-122 to make room for more ammo. The total weight of the vehicle was 33.5 tons. 96 SO-122s were planned but the project was cancelled alongside the M-634 and scrapped. Another SO-122 project existed which sought to place the M-38 122 mm howitzer onto a turretless M4, this never made it past the prototype stage.

Yugoslavia used other variants of the M4 such as the M36, the M36B1, and M32B1. An interesting project the Yugoslavs did with the M36 was they attempted to mate the M36 with the T-54’s V-55 engine, much in the same way the M-634 was created. This saw limited production. The M36s continued to see service with Yugoslav forces until its dissolution. Many factions used M36s during the 1990s conflict in former Yugoslavia.   Source: 1 2

 

#27 Sherman Data: The Post For Charts, Tables, And Reports

Sherman Data:  The Devil In The Details

This section will contain a lot of images of documents that provide useful information on the Sherman tank.

Info from Survey of allied Tank Casualties in WWII (Courtesy of Priory_of_Sion)

Summary:

Basic Breakdown of Causes of Tank Losses:

Average Range of Gunfire/Panzerfausts:

Placement of Gunfire Hits:

Caliber of Enemy Gunfire:

Mine/Tank Exchange Rate:

Crew Casualties by Position:

Sampling of Tank Losses:

Causes of Vehicles Destroyed V Vehicles Disabled:

Distribution of Gunfire Hits (aspect):

M4 Production figuresM4 production list

page012-013

Extract from report to HQ Second Army from Col A.G.Cole. DDof A

post-7344472-0-08824400-1405881061

#26 Sherman Books: The Place I Got Some Of My Sherman Info.

Sherman Books: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. 

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There have been a lot of books published on the Sherman, or WWII American Armor over the years. I have read an awful lot of these books, and I am still working to acquire more. I have all the books listed below and have read them at least once so this section can be considered part of the sources too. Anyway, from writing this section, it becomes very clear there is one very prolific writer who has spread truth about the Sherman, and done it in a hell of a lot of books.  That man is Steven Zaloga, who has to be one of the most prolific writers on the Sherman tank and American Armor, if not the most, in publishing history, and he is good.  It’s odd; one of the best writers seems to be overshadowed by the worst, Belton Cooper, the true villain in the slander of the Sherman.

It seems odd to me, most often when I have a conversation with a normal person about the Sherman tank(my wife says I’m weird for doing it), if they have heard of the Sherman, and read a book on it, they’ve read Death traps, and have never heard of Steven Zaloga, R.P. Hunnicutt, or Harry Yeide.  Maybe it’s marketing, every Barnes&Noble, Borders, or other chain bookstore always had Death Traps, and any number of books on German tanks, but nothing by Zaloga and I completely missed the window Hunnicutt’s books were available, and never saw them in book stores, but I did get my copy of Deathtraps at a B&A. It wouldn’t be until his beautiful, book by Stackpole publishing, Armored Thunderbolt came out, that I saw Zaloga in a book store.  Of course, now I haven’t been in a real bookstore in two years, and order most of my books online, and Steven Zaloga is all over the internet.

 

Let’s talk about books! While the Internet gods were frowning on me, I did a ton of reading.

 

Sherman, A History of the American Medium Tank by R.P. Hunnicutt: The Bible!

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This book is the bible of Sherman history. It has now been reprinted and is available for 69.99 for a softbound copy, and 79.99 for a hardback. Spend the extra ten bucks, and buy it now, before it goes out of print again. Now that this book can be had for under 200$, it really is a must buy if you have any interest in the Sherman tank or US medium tank design up to the Sherman.

This is a massive book, about twice the size of Armored Thunderbolt, but well worth the money. The books complement each other since Sherman really focuses on the Sherman, and it gets really down into the details of each Lee and Sherman sub model. There are spec sheets in the back for each tank, the guns, and production number charts and tables showing who got what tanks via lend-lease, very exciting stuff!

This book, along with Armored Thunderbolt, and Son of a Sherman, are the three must-have Sherman books. The book comes in at 576 pages and covers the design history of each model of Lee, and Sherman, and most of the vehicles that used the M3/M4 chassis. It is filled with illustrations, and this is where I wish I had spent a little more money for the hardcover. Assuming the paper quality would be better on the hardcover books, and I’ll confirm that before I buy Firepower.

 

Tanks In Hell, A Marine Corps Tanks Company On Tarawa, By Oscar E. Gilbert and Romain Cansiere: A fantastic new look at the Marine tank use on Betio

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This book turned out to be a great read. It covers in detail the battle for the island from the perspective of C Company First Corps Medium Tank Battalion, the only medium tank company there.  Not only does it go into great detail on the Company’s actions, but it gives a solid history of the unit before and after the fight. It documents far better than anything else I’ve read, the use of Shermans by the Marines on Tarawa and is very much worth the price. It has detailed information on what happened to each and every Sherman tank the Company along with maps showing exactly were each tank went.

 

Armored Thunderbolt, The U.S. Army Sherman in World War II, by Steven Zaloga: Great book, and the best bang for the buck if you want to learn about the Sherman and the politics behind it!

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I would say this is the best book on the market for the history of the Sherman, and an objective view of its performance. It does not get bogged down in the little details that can dominate a book on the Sherman but covers the history of why and how it was developed very well. It is also filled with tons of very high quality black and white photos of the Sherman from all points in the war, including the Pacific. If there is one book you can buy about the Sherman, this is a very good choice.

It also looks at the M4 Shermans performance, and after presenting a thorough case for why, concludes the Sherman tank was actually a better tank than the heavier German tanks it faced. A conclusion I agree with, and that is backed by data in the book.

 

Son of Sherman Volume 1, the Sherman Design and Development, by Stansell and Laughlin: Get This Book Before It Goes Out Of Print, It’s That Awesome. Too late it’s out of print, but still not insanely overpriced

SonofSherman

If you want to know about the huge number of detail changes between and within model models of the Sherman, with illustrations to show you exactly how all the details differ, or you are a tank modeler and care less about the history, and more about the details of the changes in the design, this book is for you. Or you are a fan of the tank in general and buy any book on the tank you can get your hands on. Either way, buy this book. Do it now while it is still in print and a reasonable price, once it’s out of print, I bet the price gets crazy.

Well, now it’s too late to buy it while it’s in print.  Still, you can find new and used copies for 50 to 60 bucks, so it’s still not overpriced yet, but if you love the Sherman, and or build models of it, or just want to understand all the minute details, you should buy this book ASAP. I liked this book so much when one copy got slightly damaged by a cat, I bought another, and it’s still wrapped in plastic, unopened.  It’s a very large book with a huge number of detail pictures taken of surviving Shermans, with a lot of very useful detail drawings, showing all the minor changes made to each model of Sherman as they were produced.

 

M4 Sherman at War, by Green and Brown:  An Ok Book with Some Good Info, and Some Not So Good Info.

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If this book can be had cheap or is the only book you can afford, it’s ok, otherwise, this books is really not great though. It still pushes the silly Ronson myth. It also fails to really cover the Panthers true flaws that make it an inferior tank to the Sherman. It does have some nice photos and a really great Marine radio transcript. It has a lot of good color photos and is a high-quality paperback book.

 

Armored Attack 44&45 by Steven Zaloga: These Books Are Packed with Photos of the Sherman tank

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This is two books, with the same title; one covers 1944 the other 1945. These books show off Zaloga’s huge picture collection and there are so many photos of Shermans in US Army use you can really exercise your Sherman spotting skills with these books. Also, a must have for a detail focused modeler, these books are hardbound with high-quality paper and very clear photos.

I’ve personally spent hours looking through these books looking for caption info, since many of the pics in it are somewhat common NARA photos, and I have them up on the site. These books are also filled with less common photos as well and are worth the money.

 

Marine Corps Tank Battles in the Pacific, by Oscar Gilbert: A Must Read For Sherman Tank And Marine Tank Enthusiast.  

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This book covers the Marines tank battles through the whole of World war II. These books go into great detail about where, when, and how the Marines used tanks in the war. This books are a must read if you want to understand why the way Marines used tanks differently from the way the Army in Europe used them.  He also published books on the Marines use of Armor in Korea and Vietnam.

 

The Infantry’s Armor, and Steel Victory by Harry Yeide: If You Want to know about the Independent Tank Battalions, These Are the Books

Infantrysarmor Steel

These two books cover the separate tank battalions tasked with only supporting infantry and not assigned to tank divisions.  The Tank battalions saw service in the ETO, PTO, and MTO and in most cases used the M4 series while doing it. They worked in a different way than the armor divisions tankers, getting down and dirty with the doughs, often supporting the same regiment for months.

These books are very good reads, and a must-have for anyone who really wants to get into what a Sherman tank was used for. Some of the separate tank battalions really had interesting stories. Some accomplished amazing things; others suffered terrible ordeals and others both.

 

Another River, Another Town, a Teenage Tank Gunners Comes of Age in Combat – 1945, by John P. Irwin

anotherriveranothertown

I read this book a long time ago, and what stood out was the author and his tank crew ended up crewing the one and only super Pershing. The book is 176 pages, so a pretty quick read.  John Irwin was a teenager when he went through this, so the book is also about a kid who had a lot to learn about everything. Since I’m doing so much reading because the internet is down, I think I’ll read through this one again.

Tanks on the Beaches, by Robert M. Neiman and Kenneth W. Estes: A more intimate look at a Marine Tankers life.

tanksonthebeaches

This book was really interesting, and an entertaining enough book to keep your interest. If you want a look at what it was like to be an Officer and tanker in the US Marine Corps during WWII, this is a great book for you. This is more of a personal view of the war, and Neiman had a very interesting career in the Corps.

Commanding the Red Army’s Sherman Tanks, the WWII Memoirs of Hero of the Soviet Union, Dmitriy Loza, edited and translated by James F. Gebhardt

redarmyshermans

This 173 page book is a little dry, and I suspect it’s because it was translated from Russian, but it a very interesting look at the Sherman use with the Soviet Union, and the career of Dmitry Loza, Hero of the Soviet Union.  This is a great look into both the life of Soviet tankers, and their use of the M4A2 Sherman.

Cutthroats, the Adventures of a Sherman Tank Driver in the Pacific, by Robert C. Dick

cutthroats

This book is 247 pages and follows the author’s service in a Sherman in the pacific. Robert C. Dick had a much different experience than his Army comrades in Europe, and surprisingly from his Marine cousins in the pacific! This is a personal account of war, and is not packed with technical info on the tanks, but it is a very interesting window into the life of an Army tanker in the PTO.  A great weekend read, I highly recommend it.

Warrior Series 78, US Army Tank Crewman 1941-45, European Theater of Operations 1944-45, By Steven Zaloga

osprey us tanker eto

This book is less a detailed look at Sherman tankers, and more the story of one very famous tanker, Creighton Abrams, who commanded the 37th Tank Battalion of the 4th Armored Division, and is the namesake of the M1 Abrams MBT. It does have little sections on crew equipment, and other items to help flesh the book out a little. Still a very interesting read, and Abrams up armored Sherman was even the subject of a whole Dragon model kit, extra armor and all, the tank was named Thunderbolt VII.

Warrior Series 92, US Marine Corps Tank Crewmen 1941-45 by Kenneth W Estes:

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Another book in the Osprey Series, this one ‘Warrior series, volume 92’, and I think really aimed at modelers. These books are all fairly short and are meant to give a brief look into what gear and vehicles Marine tankers used during WWII. It does this well, and Mr. Estes knows his Marine history. The Marines used a lot of Shermans, and this covers their use and is a decent overview.

Battle Orders 10, US Tank and Tank Destroyer Battalions in the ETO 1944-45: Tank info for Tank Geeks

BO10

This series focuses more on unit structure than the tanks themselves. That said, you can’t really know what a Sherman tank was used for if you don’t know about the units it was deployed in.  This one covers the TO&Es of Tank, tracked TD and towed TD battalions and their tactics and was really a huge help with the Battalion section of this site.

This book is filled with very interesting charts and tables to and a fair number of pictures. Well worth the price if you want to get into the details of tank and TD units.

Battle Orders 21, US Armored Units in North African and Italian Campaigns 1942-45: More Tank info for Geeks

BO21

Much like Battle Orders 10, this one gets down into how the armored units used in North Africa and Italian Campaigns. This one looks over a longer time period and has detailed tables for the earlier Lee based tank battalions and halftrack based TD units.  This book has lots of charts and tables so you can really dig into what an armored unit was composed of, other than just tanks.

Panther VS Sherman, Battle of the Bulge 1944, By Steven Zaloga

PantherVSherman

This book disappointed me a little.  I’ll read through it and take notes next time. From memory, when he talks about replacing the final drives in the panther, he says the transmission had to be pulled when it would be the sprockets, final drive housing and several road wheels.  He doesn’t point out exactly why he thinks the Panther was more technologically advanced than the Sherman, but it’s clear he thinks so.  The Panther had a powerful AT gun, and good frontal armor, everything else was just poorly designed garbage waiting to break.

The Sherman had several features so advanced the Germans could not copy them, the stabilizer, the turret drive, the reliable motors, transmissions and final drives. The transmission and final drives were good enough to work unchanged in design all the way through the M50 and M51. Even the large turret and hull castings were beyond the Germans.

Ultimately he concludes the Sherman was the better tank, so I guess it all works out in the end. Not a bad book for the price and it’s really only in deep technical areas he goes wrong, so overall worth the time and money.

Panzer IV VS Sherman France 1944, By Steven Zaloga

PIVVSherman

This is another book in the VS series, this one a little better than the Panther V Sherman book. Same format, lots of decent pics, and a better conclusion.  Worth it if you can get it for a good price.

The Panzer IV and Sherman are much close tanks in capability and weight, so they make for a more interesting matchup. The Panzer IV was a better tank than the later Panther and Tiger tanks, if only because it was reliable enough to be around when needed.

 

Armor at War Series 7001, the M4 Sherman at War, The European Theatre 1942-1945, by Steven Zaloga

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This is one of those pictorial paperbacks from the mid-90s, I picked up a ton at a garage sale, and though not the best for technical details, it does a good job for what it was designed to do.  These books are aimed armor modelers, who want close in detail shots with unit info so they can copy the subjects.  The book is 72 pages with a color drawing section, was published back in 1995.

This book is long out of print, so I wouldn’t go out of my way to find it, but if you stumble on it used and cheap, it’s a nice book to have if you like Sherman pictures. Many of these pictures can be found in other books, online, and even on this site, and in much higher resolution, but they have proved useful in improving my image captions.

Armor at War Series 7002, D-Day, Tank Warfare, Armored Combat in the Normandy Campaign, June-August 1944 by Steven J. Zaloga and George Balin

AAwSdday

This AaWS book covers the Normandy Campaign.  It is not nation-specific, so you get tanks from everyone, but there are an awful lot of Shermans in here. British Shermans, Polish Shermans, French Shermans, American Shermans and a whole lot of knocked out German tanks.  Since this one is not focused on the Sherman, there is less here for the Sherman enthusiast, but it is still an interesting book, I just wouldn’t go out my way to find it if you just want Sherman photos.

Armor at War Series 7003, Tank Warfare In Korea 1950-53 by Steven Zaloga and George Balin: Shermans and other Tanks in Korea

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Another book out of Concord Publication Company of Hong Kong, this one covering Korea, and published in 1994, and very typical of the series.  The Sherman tank was used a lot in Korea, but only the M4A3 version, and for the most part HVSS tanks, with some rare exceptions.

These books have a short history section and then are filled with well caption pics. In this book’s case, if it had Armor, and was in Korea, it’s in the book.

Armor at War Series 7004, Tank Battles of the Pacific War, 1941-1945 by Steven J. Zaloga

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This AaWS book is an early one, published in 1995, but it is 72 pages of awesome. This book, as the title suggests, covers tank battles in the Pacific, which means Shermans and Lees, and some light tanks here and there. There are several good books covering Armor used in the Pacific, and this book is a great companion to any of them, you will likely find higher resolution versions of photos the others books only had bad low-resolution versions in them.  There is also a good number of photos of the modifications the Marines did to the Shermans for Iwo Jima.  Long out of print, this can still be found used for around $20, and new for $40 or so and for a Shermanaholic, this is a very nice book. For a bonus, this one even covers Chinese use of the Sherman M4A4 at the end of the war, and Lee uses in Burma.

Armor at War Series 7005, U.S. Tank Destroyers in Combat 1941-1945, by Steven Zaloga: TDs and most are based on the Sherman

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This is another ‘Armor at War’ book, this one covering US Tank Destroyers for the whole war. Lots of very nice, well captioned, pictures. This one is not totally Sherman oriented like the others practically are, but as we know, the M10 and M36 are based on the Sherman.  Long out of print, if you can find it cheap it’s worth it. This one is 75 pages and came out in 1996.

Armor at War Series 7008, Tank Battles of the M id-East (1) the Wars of 1948-1973 by Steven Zaloga

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This AaWS book covers the battles that took place in the Middle East, mostly the wars with Israel, and its war of independence. The Israeli’s were big Sherman users, though early on, the Shermans they had were a pretty rag tag group, thrown together from hulks from all over the med. This led to at least one large hatch hull tank with an early stubby mantlet 75mm turret.

Armor at War Series 7009, Tank Battles of the Mid-East (2), the wars of 1973 to present, by Steven Zaloga

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This one is typical AaWS, with 73 pages and the color drawing plates with a small history section. There are still a few Sherman based vehicles that show up in this book, and that’s why it got mentioned here. Ok so maybe there is only one Sherman pic in this one, which still counts.

Armor at War Series 7032, US Amtracs and Amphibians at War, 1941-45 by Steven Zaloga and George Balin: Shermans can Swim!

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This one seems like an odd choice for a section about Sherman books, but as we know, they had amphibious Shermans, and they are covered in this book. This is a typical AaWs book with 73 pages, a small history section, a color plate section, and lots of pictures, with detailed captions.

Armor at War Series 7036, The M4 Sherman at War (2), The US Army in the European Theater 1943-45, by Steven Zaloga: More Shermans, more War

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This book is a follow-on to 7001, reviewed above and is pretty much the same thing with different photos, and came out in 2001.  All the things said about the first one apply. There are some nice pictures of up-armored Shermans I have not seen in many other places in here so it is worth the look if you love looking at old photos.

Armor at War Series 7038, US light Tanks at War, 1941-45 by Steven Zaloga: Light Tanks are not Shermans, but they did work together

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Lots and lots of pictures of light tanks with a few pages of history on them, a nice source of pictures for any modeler and an interesting afternoon read. It focuses on the M3 and M5 lights, but other models like the M24 show up too.  It has a nice color panel with drawings of various famous lights.

Armor at War Series 7042, Panzers of the Ardennes Offensive 1944-45 by Tom Cockle: The Bulge from the German perspective

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This book comes in at 73 pages and was published in 2003, and gives the German perspective on the Battle of the Bulge. There is a few pages of text on the battle, and then a lot of pictures of the German tanks and other units involved, and my impression from looking through it was, almost all of it was knocked out, broken down or abandoned.  There are a surprisingly large number of Sherman pics, both functional and knocked out.

Armor at War Series 7045, The Battle of the Bulge, by Steven Zaloga

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AaWS 7042 covered the Bulge from the German side, this one is more American and allied centric. Typical of the series, it has tons of black on white photos with informative captions and a small section of color drawings and a small history section. This one has some interesting photos of Creighton Abrams’s Thunderbolt tanks since he upgraded through a lot of Shermans while in command of the 37th tank Battalion.  

Armor At War Series 7046, US Tank Battles in Germany 1944-45 by Steven Zaloga: More US Armor pictures!

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Another Concord Publication with a short history section, and lots of pictures. This one has some late war tanks like the M24 Chaffee, and M26 Pershing. It also has a fair number of German tanks pictured as well.

Armor at War Series 7050, US Tank Battles in France 1944-45, by Steven Zaloga

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This AaWS book is pretty typical of the series, this one covering the battles in France, from D-Day in Normandy until operation Nordwind and the approach of the Westwall. Lots of Shermans, lots of other American Armor, and lots of knocked out and broken down German Armor.  This one also has the color drawing section and a history section in the beginning and is 74 pages.  One interesting thing mentioned in this one, in the color drawing section, is a French Jumbo Sherman used by the 2e Escadron, 2e Regiment de Chasseurs d’Afrique, 6th Army Group, Alsace, 1945. I’ve never read anything about that before.

Armor at War Series 7051, US Tank Battles in North Africa and Italy, 1943-45 by Steven Zaloga

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This is another one in the AaWs books, this one on US tanks in the MTO. This one has a lot of images of the M3 Lee in US use.  This is another one I found extra interesting since most coverage of WWII really focuses on Western Europe. A mix of Sherman and Lee is desert and mountain terrain can be found in this one, along with just about all the armored vehicles used by the US Army.  There are also a fair number of photos of knocked out Tiger tanks, some abandoned ones too, and a few broken down. One of these Tigers was knocked out in a close range duel with an M4A1 75 Sherman, commanded by Lieutenant Edwin Cox of the 752 tank battalion. He was awarded the Silver Star for the action, this is detailed out on page 61.

Armor at War Series 7052, US Armored Funnies, Us Specialized Armored Vehicles in the ETO in WWII, by Steven Zaloga

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This Concord Publication is on US Funny tanks, things like Recovery vehicles, Prime movers, Combat Engineer Vehicles, Mine Clearing tanks, Bridging Tanks, Amphibious Tanks,  CDL tanks, Flame tanks and Rocket tanks. It has the same 73-page format with lots of pictures and a few color drawings.  If you want to produce a funny in plastic, or just want to know what they looked like, or see them in action, this is a great little book.

Armor at War Series 7055, Panzers in the Gunsights, German AFVs in the ETO 1944-45 in US Army Photos, by Steven Zaloga

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In one way this is your typical Concord Publication, 74 pages, a few color drawings, a little history section and a lot of pictures with detailed captions.  What sets this one apart is the pictures of German tanks, knocked out or captured by the US Army. Several of these captured tanks survive today in museums or holding lots waiting for one.  One aspect that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who actually knows about German armor, but might be to those with more superficial knowledge on the subject, is how many were abandoned due to lack of fuel or just breaking down, and there is a lot of photographic evidence of it in this book.

Armor at War Series 7062, British Sherman Tanks by Dennis Oliver:  A very nice pictorial overview

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This book is a lot like the previous two ‘Armor at War books’ on the Sherman, but this one covers British use. This book had a lot of Sherman photos I have not seen before in it. It came out in 2006, and is 73 pages and well worth it if you want an exclusive look at UK Shermans.  If your building a Sherman used by the UK from plastic, you’ll want this book.

Armor at War Series 7068, British Armor in Sicily and Italy, by Dennis Oliver

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Like AaAs 7062m this one covers British Armor, just not the Sherman exclusively and in Italy and Sicily. Many of these images I had not seen before, and that is the real value of these books. This book, even though it is not specifically about the Sherman, is packed with pictures of the Sherman and things based on its chassis.

New Vanguard 3, Sherman Medium Tank 1942-45, by Steven Zaloga and Peter Sarson: This book covers both the 75 and 76 tanks, but not overly well

NV3

This book is an early New Vanguard book and shares a lot with NV 73, that focusses just on 76mm Shermans. I would say this is the least useful New Vanguard or Vanguard book on the Sherman at this point. The subject material and pictures can be found in later works.

New Vanguard 57, M10 and M36 Tank Destroyers 1942-53, By Steven J. Zaloga

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This NV book covers the M10 and M36 in its typical format, 50 or so pages some color drawings and a cutaway. It covers the history of US tank destroyers up to the M10, including the ones that never made it into production, and all the models of the M36.  This also covers the Achilles or M10C, and post-war use of both TDs.

New Vanguard 73, M4 (76mm) Sherman Medium Tanks 1943-65 by Steven J. Zaloga: Typical NV book on the 76 Sherman

NV73

This book is part of Osprey’s New Vanguard series, volume 73 in fact. This book is pretty short but gets a decent amount of the 76mm Sherman story into it.  These books are really aimed at modelers, and people into less detailed history. It does have some great charts in it.  I bought this book years ago as a young teen while building models.  Well worth the price if you can get it for less than 15 bucks.

New Vanguard 123, Swimming Shermans, Sherman DD amphibious tanks of World War II by David Fletcher: Nice info on how to make a tank float

NV123

Fifty-one pages on this history of the Sherman DD, but not just the Sherman, but pretty much all DD tanks, since they led up to the Sherman. Very British centric, but they really did all the work on the DD Shermans, so it makes sense. Even though they used different versions of the Sherman for DDs than the US, the US versions are covered.  Typical of the new vanguard series, best if bought cheap considering the size, but they do pack a decent amount of info in, in spite of the size limits.

New Vanguard 141, Sherman Firefly by David Fletcher: Info on the Firefly

NV141

This 52-page book covers the history of the Firefly in surprising detail. It’s also very fair to the design compromises that had to be made for the tank to work. Well worth the money if you want a more detailed look at the history of the Firefly than this site gives.

Vanguard 15, the Sherman Tank in British Service1942-45, by John Sanders: A very informative little book

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I found this book really informative since most of my Sherman history reading has been very American centric. This book is 52 pages and was first published in 1982, and gives a surprisingly fair view of the Sherman considering the time period it was written.

This book like all Vanguard books ‘regular’ and ‘new’, have a format, and that includes a color drawing section. The cover art on this one is notable for how horrible it is. I mean it is one of the worst drawings of a Sherman Firefly I have ever seen, but luckily the content is much better than the cover art. It has a very interesting section on British crew opinions and some very interesting drawings made by crews during the war.   If you can find this book for a reasonable price, it’s a good one.

Vanguard 26, The Sherman Tank in Allied Service by Steven Zaloga: About as much info as you can pack info 51 pages on the Sherman

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This book comes in at 51 pages, and was published in 1982, with that in mind, his later works have both updated information, and more of it, but this book was pretty darn good for when it came out. Typical of the Vanguard books, it has a color drawing section and covers the Shermans use into Korea.  Long out of print, a nice find, if found cheap.

Osprey Modelling 35, Modelling the US Army M4 (75mm) Sherman Medium Tank, by Steven Zaloga

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This book, along with the recommended kits and paints etc., would be all you need to create a work of art in plastic. Mr. Zaloga is a very talented modeler, and this book is his attempt to show us, regular folks, how to produce a good looking Sherman kit.  I only wish I had known about these when I got back into building kits again.

These books are great if you want to really improve your plastic modeling skills and see how to fix flaws in some older Sherman kits. They come in at 86 pages, review the quality of many different 75mm Sherman kits and give an overview of the 1/35 scale 75mm Sherman plastic scene, though it is a tad out of date now since it’s over a decade old, and there have been many improvements to the available Sherman kits out there.

Osprey Modelling 40, Modelling the US Army (76mm) Sherman Medium Tank by Steven Zaloga

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This book is the follow up to his book on modeling the 75mm Sherman. This one was published in 2007 and includes a little info on Tasca suspensions, but predates their full kits or their change to the Asuka brand name. This covers improving the better kits on the market, a small history on the tanks, and some very advanced techniques for improving or even scratch building things for your Sherman kits.  Steven Zaloga is an extremely talented modeler, and he shares step by step some of his best methods for producing these amazing kits.

Tanks Illustrated No. 11, Patton’s Tanks, by Steven Zaloga: A picture book on Patton’s tanks

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This book has a short intro, and then focuses on photos of the various units Paton commanded and some personal pictures of the man. It was published in 1984 and is 66 pages. It follows Patton and his various commands through the whole war, and has many interesting pictures I have not seen before. If you can find it cheap it is not a bad book for what it is.

Warmachines N4, Military Photo File 555, Israeli M4 Sherman and Derivatives, by Francois Verlinden and Willy Peters

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A very interesting book on Israeli Shermans and all the things they used the hulls for. This book will be very useful when I expand the Israeli Sherman section.  One thing to keep in mind about this book is, it uses Israeli designations for their tanks and does not take into account, just like Israel in most cases, what the tank was to start within US designation.  An example of this is all M1A1 Armed Shermans are called Sherman M1s whether it’s an M4A1 or M4A3.  This book would be very useful for anyone trying to build an Israeli Sherman but is only 37 pages, and I’ve never heard of the publisher or seen other books by them.

Squadron/Signal Publications 6038, Armor in Korea, a Pictorial History by Jim Mesko

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This book is 80 pages and was published in 1984. It covers armor used in Korea by all the participants. It has a small color plate section. These books are aimed at modelers and were found mostly in hobby shops. They are filled with photos with detailed captions.  The Sherman was still in heavy use in Korea, and there are many pictures and captions of it being used in this book.  It covers their use with Tiger faces painted on them and why it was done. Well worth it if you can find it cheap.

Squadron/Signal Publications 6090, U.S. Armor Camouflage and Markings World War II, by Jim Mesko

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Anyone who has spent any time in a Hobby Shop with a plastic model section has probably seen books by Squadron/Signal. They have had an ‘At War’ Series of books for years covering just about everything military. They were not particularly long books, but they were cheap and had lots of detail shots aimed at the plastic modeler.  This book is a larger format soft cover, with more info, covering US Armor markings, MTO, ETO and the PTO for the war. This book comes in at 67 pages and has a color drawing section highlighting specific common vehicles.

Squadron/Signal Publications 2016, Sherman in action, Armor NO. 16 by Bruce Culver

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This is your classic Squadron Signal paperbound book on the Sherman, lots of black and white photos covering each model of the tank.  These books were all around 49 pages and had a color drawing centerfold. Back in the day the ran 5 or 6 bucks and were the perfect cheap book to go with that new model kit. Most including this one is still in print.  These books have very basic info, but it’s generally accurate.

Squadron/Signal Publications 2033, M3 Lee/Grant in action, Armor NO. 33 by Jim Mesko

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This is the Armor book on the M3 Lee, like its Sherman counterpart reviewed above; it’s filled with black and white photos, most showing good detail. These books are aimed at being a cheap way for a modeler to get some good photos and basic info on their subject. The small amount of technical info is generally accurate as are the captions.  I bet sales on these books have dropped off since the internet really took off, you can find all the info and just about all the photos online and in higher resolution. These books will always have a soft spot for me since I still have all the ones I bought for Christmas and birthday money as a kid in the 80s!

Squadron/Signal Publications 2036, U.S. Tank Destroyers in Action, Armor Number 36 by Jim Mesko

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This 51-page book on US TDs is pretty good for what it is. It covers the M3 75mm GMC, the M6 37mm GMC, the M10, Achilles IIC, the M36 and M18 Hellcat.  This book cleared up what an M6 was, I ran into a reference to it in another book but had never heard of it. It saw very short use in North Africa, but slightly longer use in the PTO apparently. This book has a two-page color drawing insert and for its size is packed with good info.

Squadron /Signal Publications 2038, U.S. Self-Propelled Guns in Action, Armor NO. 38 by Jim Mesko

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This 52-page book covers the M7, M12, M40, and M43, plus the Sexton. It has the 2-page color insert standard for this series and a lot of black and white photos with good captions. It also has line drawings of specific components to help modelers with fine details.  All these SPG are based on the Sherman, so that’s why this one is here. It does also cover the Chaffee based M37/M41 SPG as well.

Squadron /Signal Publications 5701, Walk Around M4 Sherman, armor walk around number 1, by Jim Mesko

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These books are the same format as the in-action books, but with more pages, and close up pictures so you can really see the details of the tank’s components. This one came in at 79 pages it still falls short of really covering all the details on the Sherman. It’s not really the fault of the book, the subject just has such a huge scope, you really need a book the size of Son of a Sherman to cover it.  If you can’t find or afford Son of a Sherman, this is a good alternative.

Squadron /Signal Publications 6096, Tank Warfare on Iwo Jima, by David Harper

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This 98-page book covers the tanks used on Iwo Jima and I have to say, it is a pretty awesome book. Not only does David Harper cover the tanks, but how the tank crews lived, and how they worked in the rear on the tanks. I had never heard of the ‘bachelor pad,’ basically, a bunker made under the tank, when they were not on the line, where the slept, they would carefully back out of these spots in the morning, so they wouldn’t have as much set up when the days fighting was done.

The tank use on Iwo Jima was extensive, and more than one Marine Tank Battalion saw action there. The fact the Sherman played a key role in the Marine Island assaults is usually not covered very well, but this book does a great job. The Japanese knew just how important the Sherman was and went to great lengths to destroy disabled Shermans, how they did is covered in here as well as all the modifications the Marines made to their tanks to safeguard them, and has a lot of photos of these modifications. This book is really a must have

Images Of War SPECIAL, M4 Sherman, by Pat Ware

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This book is a real mixed bag. I’ve never bought any of the books in the series, since picture books generally are pretty fluff filled if you want hard info, and I already have a lot of Sherman pictures.  I got an Amazon gift card from my mom for my Birthday, and decided to have a look and bought a used copy through them. It has a lot of images with captions, that are mostly correct, and I don’t recall any huge errors in the technical stuff, but I read it awhile back and will have to re-review to make sure. The section on the Sherman in combat is just bad. It’s full of all the old, bad, junk history spawned by the late 60s and 70 board games and junk books like Death Traps.

The truth about WWII tank warfare has been made a lot more clear in the past few years, and books like this that continue to push the old inaccurate information should be revised.  With that in mind, I would not recommend spending the 25$ price for this book. If you see it cheap used and want a decent picture book, then maybe, but it should be very cheap if you go this route. The book comes in at 137 pages.

The Sherman, an Illustrated History of the M4 Medium Tank, by Peter Chamberlain and Chris Ellis.

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This book was first published in 1967 or 68, and maybe the first book dedicated to a specific type of tank and was put out by Arco publishing. It is a nice little book on the M4 with a surprising amount of info packed into a small packed. I picked up my copy for a few bucks used, and wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to buy it if I saw it cheap again.

 

Death Traps, by Belton Cooper: This book is Crap.

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Here is a great review on the subject by R. Forczyk: Death Traps, a poorly written memoir by Belton Y. Cooper promises much but delivers little. Cooper served as an ordnance lieutenant in the 3rd Armor Division (3AD), acting as a liaison officer between the Combat Commands and the Division Maintenance Battalion. One of the first rules of memoir writing is to focus on events of which the author has direct experience; instead, Cooper is constantly discussing high-level or distant events of which he was not a witness. Consequently, the book is riddled with mistakes and falsehoods. Furthermore, the author puts his main effort into an over-simplified indictment of the American Sherman tank as a “death trap” that delayed eventual victory in the Second World War. For the full review, click here.

Here is the Chieftains take.: The important part: Death Traps is not a reliable source. Don’t cite it. Or the History Channel show based on it.

My opinion on the book is that it is both a bad book from a historical perspective and writing perspective since it’s a hard book to read. Most of the book is just boring. Belton Cooper had a tough job, but it was also not very entertaining, and he didn’t focus on the aspects of his job that could have been. He focuses on a lot of personal speculation presented as fact, and the truly interesting things like his experiences with the M26 Pershing, and the Super Pershing are not covered in great detail. This book isn’t worth it unless it’s one of those penny plus shipping deals, and even then read it was a large grain of salt.

#25 The Conclusions: Was The Sherman Good Enough? Hell Yes It Was

Conclusion: It Was. The Sherman Tank Was The Tank The US Army Needed, and It Handled The Task Well, In All Regions And All Terrain.

 

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Shermans in the Jungle.

My conclusion on the Sherman is that the reputation it has received in recent years is unfair, and the Sherman, in fact, was the best tank of the war. I base this on the tanks widespread use, ease of production, reliability, and combat record. It was not a perfect tank and did have a series of minor flaws. Yet there was nothing that kept the M4 from being combat worthy, useful tools, to the units it was issued to. When the allies needed a medium tank, the Sherman filled the role, and did it well, in the desert, forest, cities, jungles, and plains, hell even from the sea a few times. Even the Russians, who knew a thing or two about designing a tank, liked it. It was not particularly prone to fire or deadly to its crews, even the version with gas motors.

For reasons covered in this interesting book: The Myth of the Eastern Front by Smelser and Davies. The German Army’s capabilities and motivations have been misrepresented over the years by authors with a bias, and a desire to make Germany look better, whitewashing much of the German Army’s role in war crimes and the Holocaust. Why is this important when discussing the Sherman? Because the Sherman has been one of the victims of the ‘losers’ writing the history, and in the case of ‘Death Traps’ by Belton Cooper, smeared by an author whose book contains false information than the truth. A plethora of bad television shows on the History, Discovery, and Military channel that was based on his book have not helped either.

For these reasons the German armor used during WWII has really received a stellar reputation when it was not warranted in most cases.  Some German armor was excellent, the PIII comes to mind, or the Stug based on that chassis. But the tanks named after cats were all failures. They are popular because they are pretty and on paper seem like great tanks. It does not take much real digging to find out there are a lot of flaws the stat sheet doesn’t tell you about. The Tiger was produced in such small numbers, even if its exploits were not almost completely propaganda, it would have had zero effect on the war. Yet it sucked up resources that could have been used to field far more PIV tanks. The Tiger II has all these flaws, but add horrible reliability problems on top of being even rarer. The Panther can only reasonably be considered a colossal failure in everything but looks. When the Germans began employing these tanks, they no longer had a force capable of exploiting breakthroughs or being used in maneuver warfare.

The M4 Sherman was a very good tank for exploiting a breakthrough, engaging armor and supporting infantry. As the war progressed, the tank improved, in both major and minor ways, and at the Shermans entrance to the war, and at the end, it was arguably the best tank of the war. The M4A3e8 with 76mm gun was everything you want in a tank with only a few flaws.  The final version of the Soviet T-34, the T-34-85 was also an excellent tank, and they would go on to face each other in Korea, on very close to equal terms. The PIV, and Panther, for the most part, ceased being used at the end of the war and both were developmental dead ends. And the PIV actually got worse with its final version, since it was stripped down, losing things like its powered turret traverse.

The two tanks that should be admired most should be the M4 Sherman, and the T-34. Yet these tanks are most often castigated as cheap junk, mass-produced, to swarm the noble tiger, or panther to death, in its noble defense of the kingdom of Nazi Germany from the evils of turning into a dirty, red, communist prison state.

Fortunately, with authors like Steven Zaloga, Harry Yeide, and David Glantz, and blogs like Archival Awareness and the Chieftains Hatch, the fairytales that passed for unit histories for German tank units are being debunked. In this bold, post-Nazi fan fiction flavored world, the Sherman should shine out as the automotive hero it really was. I know if I needed a tank to take on Nazi scum with, it would be a Sherman, preferably with wet racks.

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#24 Silly Myths and Fun Facts About the Sherman and Lee: The Same Old Falsehoods can be Combated by Facts

Silly Myths: Things You Don’t Want to Say, At a Cocktail Party, or Clam Bake.

♠The Sherman was gas powered and a fire trap, German tanks had diesels, and they called it a Ronson.♠

As we know from this web page, or just about any current book on the Sherman, not all Shermans were gas powered. We also know the Sherman was no more prone to fire than any other tank, including German tanks and the Panzer IV and Panther both had reputations for burning as well. We know that the Sherman when it did burn, the fire was most often caused by an ammunition fire, and not fuel fires.

This was partially solved by adding armor to the ammo racks and removing the ready rounds stored around the side wall of the turret,(see image to the right and below) and adding an armored ready rack to the turret floor.It was solved by moving all the ammo to the hull floor,  and adding water jackets to the ammo racks making the Sherman the least prone to burn tank of the war. We should also know that all German tanks were gas powered as well, and very prone to ammo rack fires, and in many cases, gas fires caused by poor designs, and horrid quality control, and slave labor factory workers. Early Panthers were so prone to fire, they tended to catch on fire just getting off train cars, or going over terrain that tilted the hull.

After several searches by different people,  no one has been able to find an add from the Ronson company that uses the Lights the First Time, Every Time phrase, see this thread, and this thread the original that spawned it. You can find some info here too. They have many links to period and newer advertisements, but no Ronson ads even came close. So far, no one has been able to produce wartime documentation of that saying actually being used. Some flamethrower equipped Shermans were called “Zippos”, but because of the flamethrower, not for a tendency to ignite. There was also a British Flamethrower named a Ronson, so that may have added to the post-war, poorly documented history that started it.

As far as I can tell, this nickname really seems to stem from a one pop history book, and a bad docudrama on the history channel that stars the man most responsible for the Sherman’s PR problem, Belton Cooper.  He, along with the tabletop Wargame makers of the 60, 70 and 80s really cemented this misinformation into popular culture. This coupled with several Hollywood films like Patton, Kelly’s Heroes, and The Battle of the Bulge, the Sherman had taken a serious hit on its war-winning reputation. Even some big name historians included the slogan in their works, even while trying to repair the tanks soiled reputation. It is possible it was called a Ronson or Zippo during the war in a widespread way, but so far, no one, even when challenged has been able to find any solid proof. The people who really get stuck on this one have a hard time giving it up because it accounts for a big chunk of what they call evidence for the Sherman being a bad tank.

It’s well-known soldiers bitch, and often suffer from grass is greener syndrome, but I’ve read more accounts of the men who used the Sherman loving them,  it may be conditional, or not without complaint, but it’s really hard to find an actual tanker that hated the Sherman. When your Sherman happens to bounce a few rounds off a Panthers frontal armor before another Sherman took it through its thin side or turret side armor, it’s going to be disconcerting, what the Chieftain of the WOT forums calls a significant emotional event, and these things can shake your confidence in your tank, in particular, if your new to the job, and or don’t know all the problems the Germans crews had to deal with to keep their tracks fighting.

If crews complaining about their gear, actually makes it bad in all cases, then there are very few items of military gear considered good. I know there are several videos out there of WWII vets talking about the Sherman having thin armor and being a death trap, but in many cases, these guys were not even tankers.  I’ve read many accounts of Sherman crews loving their tanks. They knew that tank was a hell of a lot safer in most conditions than having to be outside it fighting on foot. Many of these men have a deep affection for the Sherman, and there are pictures of these men crying when they see one again.

The Sherman tank had its share of flaws, and the Army and the guys who designed it worked very hard to improve the design throughout the war, and they did well, the late war Shermans were great tanks. In retrospect, a better gun was the only big design flaw you can pin down as a serious problem. Even so, the war would not have changed much if the Army had forgone development of a new gun for the Sherman the whole war, and it would probably have only cost a few more lives.  Especially in the final days of the war in Europe, the 75mm gunned Sherman was an effective weapon against infantry and soft targets. More so than the 76mm armed Shermans, and was only exceeded by the 105 tanks, since German armor was so rare, and the main threat to tanks was panzerfaust, Panzerschreck, and AT guns, the 75mm armed Sherman may have been more effective and shortened the war. That said, a 90mm armed Sherman would have been RAD!

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oh look a burning Panther…

The Only Shermans to come with HVSS suspension had 76mm M1A1 guns.

As has been mentioned in this very document, HVSS suspension was pretty common on M4A3 75 W tanks produced in 1944. Several hundred if not thousand got HVSS suspension. We also know the M4 105 was produced with HVSS, as was the M4A3 105.  This can all be confirmed by the wonderful Sherman Minutia site.

But lets prove it wrong with a pic. 

The Sherman was made to be basic, cheap and easy to produce, and not to last. They were not high-quality vehicles and had to depend on numbers to win. 

This simply is not true. The Sherman was an advanced tank for its time. It incorporated a gyro-stabilized gun, a full set of advanced FM radios(the most advanced tank radios in the world, and a generation ahead of the German junk), and an auxiliary motor for charging the batteries, and sloped armor. The design could use either a cast or welded upper hull, without changing the other parts, and that’s pretty amazing considering the tank was designed with slide rulers. Every part of the Sherman was well produced, finished, and reliable in its dimensions.  The design with minor modification could accept 5 different motors. The design had five reliable motors to choose from, and even the worst was more reliable than German motors.

The design tolerances were so close, parts manufactured at any factory, would work on any Sherman. That may not sound like a big deal, but at the time it was. The Germans could not produce tanks in the same way, and this was a huge advantage for the allied tank forces. Many of their tanks required hand fitting of parts. The early Shermans were all finely fitted, with beveled edges on the armor plate and all castings finely machined. The interiors included cushions for crew comfort and each crewman had at least one periscope.  The huge castings used to make the upper hull of the M4A1 were a technological feat as well and not reproducible by any of the Axis nations. This was not the only part of the M4 they could not reproduce, the all-aluminum GAA V8 was a technological powerhouse, they could not have copied and not only because they didn’t have the aluminum. It was all the precise gears found throughout the motor, and don’t think they could copy the 6046 or A-57 either!   But wait, that’s not all, let’s not forget the stabilized gun, something the Germans were not able to copy during the war.  You can also make the argument the reliable and powerful hydroelectric turret drive system was beyond them, as was the all-electric alternate system that could be found in some production runs.

The Sherman was certainly not built to be easily worn-out and replaced. One of the reasons the basic 75mm M3 was chosen was because it had a 1000 round or more barrel life. All the motors were good for more than 5000 miles.  The transmissions and final drives more than that, and that’s miles, not kilometers, like with the Panthers 150 kilometer final drives or 1500 kilometer transmission or 2500(lol maybe, I’m being nice) kilometers on the motor.  You could get up to 2500 miles on most of the track models the Sherman used. The road wheels were easily replaced and rebuilt, and the springs in Shermans are holding up fine to this day on most of the ones still sitting around.  The Brits put 2500 miles on M4A4 in a single test if I recall right, 10,000 miles on most of the motors in the A57 wouldn’t be impossible if no one was blowing the tanks up.  `

For such a reliable tank, it was designed with ease of maintenance in mind and it was relatively easy to swap out the motor or transmission/final drive. The suspension units bolted on, so replacing one damaged beyond repair was very easy, or easy by tanker standards. Everything had grease fittings, and most were easy to reach. All the bearings were of the rebuildable or replaceable type. High-quality ball or roller bearings were used throughout the drivetrain and motors.  There were often two generators powered off the drive train and or motor, and the auxiliary generator with its own motor.

These tanks also took upgrades well, being up-gunned with guns up to 122mm, and re-engine with more modern motors. The French and Israelis did most of the work in this area and these tanks will be covered in their own section. The point is, no other basic tank chassis lived as long as the Sherman did, with some South American nations keeping theirs in use well into the 80s or later since a few have recently been reactivated for training use. This same tank design was easily adapted into civilian uses as well, something I don’t think many other designs can claim with Shermans being used in construction, logging and drilling and a few other industries.

Cheap tanks rust away, they don’t run for decades, often on the same drivetrain parts. Complicated poorly engineered tanks like the panther or tiger are still around, most locked away in a museum in non-running condition. A few of those museums bring out the German monsters every once in a while, and drive them a few hundred meters, maybe more for the more reliable Tiger I design, and then store them away, praying they get enough in donations to keep the German steel monster running after the damage done that year by running and driving the damn thing. The Shermans at those museums start right up, run, get used in movies, and then get put back on display without the drama and worry that it won’t start up the next time or if it doesn’t it won’t be impossibly expensive to fix.  There are a few rich men who own a running Panther, or some other German Tank, but they are rare, and the tanks are in many ways better than new, and still probably won’t make it past 150 kilometers before they have to overhaul the final drives.  There are a hell of a lot more well-off men that own Shermans and can afford to drive them around whenever they feel like it.

A privately owned tank you can drive, for a load of cash and shoot its gun for even more!.

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US tank production wasn’t optimized, and their supply system was overburdened by the number of different subtypes of tanks they used. With the Sherman, in particular, using four different power packs.

This myth is absurd. The main reason the United States produced Shermans with four different power packs, was they thought the bottleneck in producing the tank in great numbers would be outstripping of the supply of R975 radial engines. That never really happened, in part because the Army had three other viable engines, and produced them all. They were able to keep this from complicating the supply situation too much by limiting who got what models, with the US Army using a version with the R975, the Brits using the diesel and A57 multibank, and the Russians getting only M4A2s variants. They had enough surplus production in R975 production; they built a factory for the M7, another tank that would have used the motor, and one for the M18 that also used it. The M7 was canceled but a lot of M18s got produced.

This diverse Sherman production never hurt tank production speed in any way, and since the continental US was damage free, shipping parts between factories was easy enough. The US had a massive rail system and was still producing locomotives. When the Army started to move to the M4A3 as its primary tank they released more M4 and M4A1 tanks to their allies. The US actually had a tank production surplus for a short time and was able to close down all but the best three tank producers. Hell, they even built a factory to produce the M7 medium tank and then never built it. These are the types of errors you can make when your country is an untouched industrial powerhouse.

The only reason you can say tank production wasn’t optimized is because it was never maximized after the first panicky year of the war. This wasn’t because it couldn’t have been increased, or any production problems, it was from the US war production board looking at tank needs and deciding we had more capacity than needed and cutting it back.  The US produced tanks for just about everyone and could have produced more if there had been more nations that needed them.

The US by the end of the war had three things the Germans never had, tank arsenals, factories produced from scratch, for the sole purpose of producing tanks from start to finish, with a production capacity the Germans could only dream of. In fact, CDA had contracts reduced before it ever got to full production capacity, and they were producing a lot of tanks. Three of them, letting them shut down tank production at all other factories so they could switch to other things

The 76mm armed Shermans were good, but they were like super rare, and not common until well into 45. Plus the extra weight of the 76mm turret made them slower, and like the gun blinded the crew when it was fired.

The levels of 76 armed tanks steadily increased after their introduction during Cobra. They went from a low of 6.7% in August of 44 to 30.1% in December, to 41% by April of 45. The extra weight did have a minor impact on off-road mobility, but duckbill end connectors helped and the increasingly common HVSS tanks after December of 44 solved this issue.

M4A1 76w Shermans were sitting in depots in England, on D-Day, because no one wanted to introduce a new vehicle at the last minute because there was no time to train on them, and no one saw an urgent need for them. Most of these tanks had the early M1A1 gun without a muzzle brake. There was a little truth to these tanks blinding themselves when the gun fired, in the dusty summer conditions it was introduced in, but once it started raining and snowing this issue faded, and also tanks with muzzle brakes started showing up.

Tanks like this were showing up by operation Cobra, by the battle of the Bulge they were nearing 30% of the US medium tanks in Europe. By the end of the war, the 76 armed Shermans were approaching 50%.

You know if you had to fight in a tank in WWII, you would want to be in a Tiger or Panther!

This is a very common argument  or myth that comes from German Armor “fanboys” also known as the infamous ‘Wehraboo’, and they will sometimes be shocked if you say no, as if they thought the info about the Sherman being a better tank was all lies, and when faced with the ‘truth’ of combat you would have to choose their favorite German tank. This is a really silly argument, but a very common one, so I’ll cover it.

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So first off, let’s go over the German side, one, no matter what tank choice I was given, I would not fight in or for Nazi Germany. Moral problems with German tanks set aside there still isn’t a Nazi tank I would want. The PIII is too limited and inferior to the Sherman in all ways, the PIV is inferior to Sherman 75 in all ways let alone the 76 armed Shermans. The Panther was unreliable junk, maybe if I really wanted to avoid combat, it might be a good choice, but it stands a good chance of killing you in a fire caused by its poorly designed fuel system or carburetors.

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No, if I had any tank to pick from it would be the M26 Pershing. This tank made it to the war pretty late, so many German army “fans” will object cause it so little combat, but there were more M26s produced before the war’s end than Tiger IIs. They will also try and say it was an unreliable vehicle. The unreliable part gets played up too much on the M26, it’s real problem was it was underpowered.

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The M26 Pershing would not have seen production if it had not met a basic level of automotive reliability the Army could find acceptable, the Army would not have started building it if it had not met basic reliability requirements in testing. It was not as reliable as the M4A3 because the design was not as old, and the engine was overburdened a design problem…

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This M26 Pershing is the only known Zebra Mission survivor that also took part in the capture of the Remagen Bridge. It is was with the 9th AD and fully restored to running condition.

I’ve also read the Zebra mission tanks that made it over before the end of the war were lavishly supported and amazingly reliable.  It had some issues in Korea, some caused by poor replacement parts or lack of them, and others from lack of skill on the driver’s part and lack of experience in the crews. At the beginning of the Korean War, when the Marines got issued M26 tanks for the first time they got less than two weeks to train on them. Like the panther, the Pershing had to be driven well, a jerky driver could cause fan belts to break or slip off the cooling fans overheating the motor.  The Panthers problem was much worse, if the driver wasn’t smooth, he could destroy the final drives in the panther very quickly, if he used features of the vehicle he could destroy the transmission. Neither of these problems is as simple as putting the fan belts back on and adjusting them.

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This M26 Pershing.

The M26 usually won’t be allowed by the ‘fan’, so my next choice would be an M4A3E8 76W tank. Because these were the best Shermans produced. They had a great motor for a tank in its weight range, and it had a decent gun, and ok armor. Its armor could be upgraded in several ways as well, as we’ve shown with sandbags, concrete or armor plate from other tanks. Because of the large hatches, the escape hatch, and the wet ammo racks, the late production Sherman was about the safest tank of the war to be in while it was being shot at. While in  Pershing or E8, it would not be the poorly crewed, unreliable Panthers, or the mythical lottery tank, the Tiger, no, I would fear the German 75mm AT guns and really big mines, and crazy hardliner Nazi holdouts with AT sticks. Not the Cats.

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Fun Facts: Stuff to make German Armor Fans Cry.

The M4A1 Sherman Was So Advanced In Design; The Germans Could Not Have Produced A Copy. (The M3A1 Lee as well)

Even if they had been given the blueprints. They simply lacked the technology to make a large casting like the whole upper hull of a tank. This type of casting was leading edge technology in the 1940s and the US was a world leader, the Germans, were not. They probably couldn’t even cast the standard 75mm turret.

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A tank like this M4A1 would have been impossible for Nazi Germany to copy. They were just to far behind in tank manufacturing technology.

The Germans also had nothing like the gun Stabilization system the Sherman had, and the Lee also had for its 37mm gun. The Germans also had a lot of trouble producing tank engines in the 400 to 500 hp range that was reliable enough for tank use. The US had four to choose from.

The Germans liked the Sherman and T-34 so much they rebuilt any they captured and used them in combat.

It was not uncommon for the Germans to have whole tank units filled with captured and slightly reworked T-34s and M4A2 tanks. The Sherman would be a refreshing surprise on the reliability front, and probably as easy to keep running as their native PIII and PIV tanks.  They had whole company size units made up from these captured tanks.

They also liked to convert these captured tanks into ARVs, since their native armor was such an automotive disaster and couldn’t take the added stress of recovering tanks.  In the west, they also used captured allied tanks, and there are pictures of just about every model and submodel of Sherman with Nazi markings.

Nazi Germany never developed and deployed ‘Funny’ Tanks, no dozer blade kits, no mine clearing tanks, no floating tanks not even a good ARV.

There are several reasons for this. For dozer blade systems, their tank automotive systems were just not reliable enough to take the extra weight. The Shermans M1 Dozer kit added more than 7000 pounds to the tanks weight. This would have immediate failures on Panthers or PIV drivetrain if they tried to install similar kits.  The Panzer III might have been able to take the extra weight, but the PIII had really gotten long in the tooth by 44.

For mine clearing, it was common practice for the Nazis to march Russian prisoner or civilians through minefields to clear them, so maybe a mine clearing vehicle wasn’t the top priority.  I don’t think marching civilians or POWs across fields would set of AT mines, but maybe they did the same thing with civilians in cars or trucks? In any case, any mine clearing conversions would have to be very stripped down to take the added weight of any of the mine-clearing contraptions that have been tried over the years.

They did modify tanks for use as ARV, but used captured tanks, and never developed a good ARV on their own. The same automotive reliability problems that prevented the Germans from producing a tank dozer or any kind of a mine-clearing tank probably prevented them from using their own designs as ARVs as well. The Germans main tank recovery vehicles were large 18-ton half-tracks equipped with a bunch of special towing and recovery gear, and tank transporter trucks.  With a good winch, some strong anchor points and pulleys, you can pull a lot of weight. They also used any captured ARVs, and would often modify a T-34 or Sherman for use as an ARV because these tanks were both reliable, and had automotive systems that could handle the extra wear and tear ARVs go through.

There is an exception, the Bergepather, a dedicated ARV based on the Panther chassis, which worked ok by Nazi standards. It did have many of the same problems the Panther had since it used the same drivetrain.  Now, because it had the turret removed, it was much lighter, but it also had a big heavy PTO winch installed where the turret normally resided. It used the turret drive to power it, meaning the Panthers motor, for maximum pulling power, you’re running the Maybach at max RPM, and we all know how that goes. It was also designed for a wonky form of recovery, were it backs up the knocked out tank, hooks up its cable, then drives out the full length of the cable, lowers the spade, and slowly while straining the motor, drags the dead tank right back up to the rear of the Bergepanther and then this is repeated until it was out of the danger zone and could be loaded on a truck.  It could also just hook up and tow a tank out if the terrain wasn’t too bad.  It used a large wooden block as a pusher bar, instead of having the spade in the front, so it would be useful for more than just as a towing anchor, anyway, it used the same goofy overlapping wheels, with all the problems that came with them, for no advantage at all on an ARV. They did give it more fuel tanks, so it had a better range, and since it weighed slightly less, the automotive components had a chance of lasting a bit longer, but still not a great ARV.

For floating tanks, well, they tried deep fording tanks, and possibly even underwater ones, but never floating ones. In my opinion, without complete air superiority, and the quick capture of a large port, the Germans couldn’t take England. They are very close to mainland Europe, making the need for a huge number of ships slightly smaller, but really not much. Then you have to look at the German Navy, and ocean-going cargo capacity. They would lack all the specialized ships the Allies came up with the make amphibious landings viable.  They had no huge transport fleet. No specialized LSD, no LSTs, no LCT, LCM, LCI, and not battleships or other capital ships worth a damn. For amphibious warfare, you need a real fleet, not a pair of overrated battleships and fat useless cruisers.

 

Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Yeide’s The Tank Killers, The Infantry’s Armor, and Steel Victory, Sherman by Hunnicutt, Combat Lessons, The Rank and file, what they do and how they are doing it 1-7, and 9. Archive Awareness, Oscar Gilberts, Marine Tank Battles in the Pacific, WWII Armor, Ballistics and Gunnery by Bird and Livingston, Tigers in the Mud, by Carius, D.W. to Tiger I, and Tiger I & II combat tactics by Jentz, Panther Tank by Jentz, Panther and its Variants by Speilberger, Panzer III and its Variants and Panzer IV and its variants by Speilberger, The Sherman Minutia Site, Son of a Sherman by Stansell and Laughlin, M4 Sherman tank at war by Green, Tanks are a Might Fine Thing by Stout, the Lone Sentry,  DOA Army Battle Casualties and Non Battle Deaths in WWII, FKSM 17-3-2 Armor in Battle, FM17-12 Tank Gunnery, FM17-15 Combat Practice firing, FM17-30 The Tank Platoon 42, FM17-32 The Tank Company medium and light, FM17-33 The Armored Battalion, FM17-67 Crew Drill and Service of the Piece M4 Series, Another River, another town by Irwin, Tanks on the Beaches by Estes and Neiman, Cutthroats by Dick, The Myth of the Eastern Front by Smelser and Davies, Tank Tactics by Jarymowycz, Panzer Aces by Kurowski, Commanding the Red Army’s Shermans by Loza, The French Panther user report, Wargaming’s Operation Think Tank Videos .  

 

#23 The US Firefly: No really!

The US Firefly: Yeah I said US Firefly, They Made Some But None Saw Combat, And They Were Unique And Not Like The Brit Ones.

The only known shot of the US Firefly tanks, also in shot, M22 locust airborne tanks
The only known shot of the US Firefly tanks, also in shot, M22 locust airborne tanks

Before the Normandy landings, the British had offered the US up 200 guns a month, if they were interested in the 17 pounder gun. Their rearmament program was well underway and would have enough Firefly tanks ready to go by D-Day. The US was not interested for a variety of reasons. The 76mm M1A1 and M3 90mm gun programs were well underway. Vehicles that used the guns were in the pipeline, even if there wasn’t much demand from the field yet. They did not want to complicate the supply situation with another tank ammo type.

Another reason was the 17 pounder did not really impress the US officers who witnessed test of it. It had both a large muzzle-flash and breach flashback, that hinted to them of a poor design. The efforts to convince the Americans of the errors of their ways went dormant along with the program. It wasn’t until the Ardennes offensive, when the US faced some heavier German armor, and in larger numbers than thought to be possible, that the program came back to life.

Conversions of 75mm armed US Sherman took place starting in March of 45. The US conversions were different in a few ways. The armored box on the rear of the turret was a little bigger to fit US radios, and the M2 machine gun brackets were welded to the end of the radio box. The tanks chosen for the conversions were all M4s and M4A3. It’s possible some large hatch final production Shermans with all the improvements were a part of the 160 to 200 that were converted before the program was suspended.

No one has come up with what happened to the tanks, and it seems like none survived. None were ever issued to US units, it’s one of those little mysteries lost to the archives and or time.

Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga

#23 The Firefly: The Teapot With Teeth.

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The Firefly:  The Best AT Gun Installed On The Sherman, But Maybe Not The Best Overall Version Of The M4 Series.

The Sherman Firefly is often touted as the best version of the Sherman. This is a very shallow view of the tank; a tank is not just about AT performance alone. Let’s talk about the name, the Firefly was just a nickname, some say given by American testers because there was so much flash at the breach of the gun on firing, some claim it was just based on muzzle flash. Much like the Sherman naming mystery, it doesn’t really matter, it’s the commonly used name now, and if you just called them the Sherman IC, Sherman IC Hybrid, and Sherman Vc, no one but a total Sherman geek would know what the hell you were talking about. But everyone with a little Sherman history or WWII history under their belt should have heard of them called a Firefly so that’s what we will do here while explaining the nomenclature and how to identify the various models.

The Firefly came about because the British wanted to get a 17 pounder into a tank, and the homegrown ones planned to have it, were having issues.  The 17 pounder, a 76mm anti-tank gun, had to be extensively redesigned to work in the Sherman 75mm turret, the AT gun versions recoil system was too long to work in a 75mm gun turret. They redesigned it, putting the recoil mechanism on both sides of the gun instead of the top. The gun was also rotated so it could be loaded from the left.  The firefly version of the 17 pounder gun was specific to the Sherman gun mount and could not be used on an AT gun or vice versa.

They also had to cut a hole into the back of the turret, to mount the radios, in a new armored box, because the gun still had to recoil into the radio bustle at the back of the turret. The armored box also worked as a counterweight for the longer barrel. They also eliminated the co-drivers position and put a cast armored plug over the gun port. The co-drivers space was filled with ammo since the 17 pounder ammo was longer than the 75mm ammo it took more space.  They also had to eliminate the gun stabilizer to fit the gun.

The 17 pounder gun had excellent armor penetration, in particular with APDS rounds, standing for armor piercing discarding sabot, but these rounds had very inconsistent accuracy. The problem that caused it was not worked out until after the war. At the combat ranges in the ETO and MTO, the APDS, worked ok, but the closer the better. The gun also lacked a decent HE round until after WWII ended when they came up with a system that used a smaller propellant charge for the HE rounds and a new set of marks on the tank’s sight for the lower velocity rounds.

The Firefly in a generic sense is easy to identify, you look for a 75mm gun turret, with a much longer gun with a ball-shaped muzzle brake. The turret will also have a loaders hatch and an armored box on the rear. From there, you have to look at the details, but it’s easy enough.

Sherman Ic Firefly:  The Rarest Firefly
IC Firefly Normandy
This is a nice shot of an IC Firefly, note wheel spacing, and the air cleaner on the rear deck, the location is the village of Putanges, 20th August 1944. The tank is probably with the 11th Armored Division, but the wartime censors destroyed the badge so it’s not known for sure.  

This is the Firefly based on the Sherman I or the M4. The lower case C after the Roman numeral designates the tank is armed with a 17 pounder. An M4 is a welded hull tank powered by an R975, so you look for the grate free engine deck, with the big armored flap covering an air intake. Or, if the tank is welded, and does not have large spaces between the bogie assemblies, then it’s an Ic Firefly.

Sherman IC composite hull firefly: The Second Rarest And Most Comfortable
IC Composite hull, cast front hull, welded rear, but otherwise the same as the IC
IC Composite hull, cast front hull, welded rear, but otherwise the same as the IC. The unit is unknown, and the photo was taken near Aunay-sur-Odon, Normandy, late July to early August 1944

This version is based on the M4 composite hull; the version had a cast front hull, and a welded rear hull. It looks almost like an M4A1, but the rear and sides of the tank are all flat surfaces, just like a regular M4, the other difference is these tanks had the improved large hatch hull.  They would be the most comfortable version of the Firefly for the driver. These tanks were probably the last firefly’s built as well since the composite hull tanks were some of the last 75mm Shermans produced. The British were not given any of the 75mm M4A3 tanks so none were converted.  One final advantage to this version from an ease of conversion point of view is the composite hull tanks came with a loaders hatch already built in, so it saved time because they didn’t have to cut and fit one. Some of these tanks also had all around vision cupolas, so it’s possible a few made it onto fireflies.

Sherman Vc Firefly: The Version Powered By The A57 Motor, and Also the Most Common Firefly, But The Motor Makes It The Coolest. 
Another shot of the restored VC, note how far apart the pair bogies are.
Another shot of the restored VC, note how far apart the bogies are.
a very nicely restored, running, M4A4 5C firefly. Note the armored bulge on the rear deck behind the turret
a very nicely restored, running, M4A4 5C firefly. Note the armored bulge on the rear deck behind the turret
Same VC on the move
Same VC on the move

This version was based on the M4A4. These tanks are the “long hull” Shermans with the wide gaps between the bogie assemblies, and it has the distinctive bulges to the engine deck and lower hull. These hull features, with a firefly turret and gun, is more than enough to identify it as Vc.  This Firefly type was powered by the mighty A57 multibank.  The Wiki on the Firefly is trash; don’t go crawling around trying to see if the lower hull has rivets when most of the M4A4 production run had welded lower hulls. This may have only been a dubious way to identify an M3A4, you know if you missed it being almost a foot longer with huge gaps between the wheelsets and the bulges on the top and bottom.

This was the most common version of the Firefly since it was the Brits most numerous lend-lease Sherman.  They got refurbished training A4s from the US and took as many of these them as they could because the production of 75mm Shermans had been drastically cut back and production of the M4A4 had been suspended.

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Demand for the Firefly dropped off late in the war. They had produced enough that just about all the commonwealth nations the British supported received them. The Brits were able to put two Fireflies into most of their tank platoons, just as German armor became so scarce they didn’t really need them. By the end months of the war, the Firefly may have been more of a liability, than useful.

If you compare the Firefly to the upgraded M4A1 76w, you will see it really isn’t the best Sherman by any measure but raw gun penetration. We’ll use the composite hull Ic in the comparison since the same motor powered these tanks, and the composite hull had a very large casting for its front hull, making this as close to a second gen Sherman as the Firefly could get. Yet the composite hull tanks were produced early enough, they did not get wet ammo racks. They did get the armored ammo racks, but they really only offered protection against fragments lighting the ammo off.

This fix did not work nearly as well as the wet ammo racks on the M4A1 76, and other fully second gen Sherman tanks got. The main advantage was having the ammo lower in the tank, below the bottom of the sponsors, and encasing it in water jackets. It was found the most benefit came from the change in location, and the liquid part was discontinued post-war.  The wet ammo rack second gen Shermans were amongst the safest WWII tanks to be a crewman on.

Now on to the turrets, the M4A1 76 tank has the improved T23 turret. These turrets came with the all-around vision cupola, a loaders hatch, and the 76 M1A1 gun, with a 30cal co-ax. The turret was designed around the gun, and was nice and roomy, offering relative comfort and ease of movement to the crew, allowing the gun to maintain the 20 round a minute rate of fire the 75mm gun had.  It had better armor than the 75mm turret.  The fireflies all used a modified 75mm gun turret, and even after redesigning the gun, the 17 pounder took up a lot of space and recoiled into the bustle, where the radio used to be. This made for a cramped turret, and a slower reload time.  The T23 turret is better, and it’s a shame the Brits would have had to redesign the 17 pounder gun again to fit one into it.

At first glance, most people when they compare the M1A1 gun and the 17 pounder conclude the 17 pounder is ‘better’ based on its armor pen.  This doesn’t take into account the other factors that make a good tank gun. In WWII, tanks faced other threats far more often than tanks. For the forces facing the United States in particular, tanks were never overly common and got rarer as the war went on. What Shermans faced most often, and what killed them most often was AT guns and infantry with AT sticks.  The 17 pounders lack of HE round during the war, along with its lack of a bow machine gun, really hindered the Firefly in the infantry support role.  The M1A1 didn’t have the best HE performance, but it was still adequate. It had enough AT performance to handle the PIV, Stugs and various TDs it would face. Including the cats, the M1A1 did not have the best balance of AT/HE performance, but it would get the job done, and as the war came to a close HVAP ammo, that really helped the guns AT performance, become increasingly available. The M1A1 also had a very big performance lead in rate of fire; double that of the 17 pounder.

When you take all these factors, it is clear the 76mm T23 turreted second gen M4A1, A2 and 3s were all better tanks than the Firefly, of any model. The reasons for this are the second gen Shermans all had wet ammo racks, and along with all the other minor improvements that came with the second gen Shermans. The 17 pounder gun would eventually get a good HE round, but not during the war,  so the dual purpose us M1A1 gun is clearly a better choice for a general use medium tank.

I won’t go so far as to say the British should not have produced them. Since the Brits faced the majority of the German heavy armor in Normandy, a pure AT tank was more useful for them, and that’s why they built them. I’ve read in more than one place that the Germans always tried to kill off the fireflies first, and the firefly units used a cool paint scheme on the gun barrel to make it seem shorter to help hide the fireflies, but I’ve never seen it confirmed from the German side.  These tanks were potent enough, killing the famous Nazi tank “Ace” Michael, the Nazi punk, Whitman, when he foolishly trundled by himself into their guns.

I find it amusing the most mechanically complicated Sherman was turned into the best pure AT Sherman by the Brits and was still more reliable than any Nazi tank.  It may be a tad overrated, but it did exactly what it was designed to do, without compromising the reliability of its base platform. That makes it a smashing success and it gave the Brits a capability their American cousins lacked until much later in the war. It did so well, the Brits offered to convert some, and there was an abortive program that petered out because army ordinance thought the M1 gun would be good enough.  During bulge hoopla, the program was revived, but this was short-lived, and none of the American Firefly tanks were issued to troops.

 

Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Sherman by Hunnicutt, various Chieftains Hatch posts,  The Sherman Minutia Site, M4 Sherman tank at War by Green, WWII Armor, Ballistics and Gunnery by Bird and Livingston

#22 British Shermans: Is It A Tank Or A Teapot?

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Shermans Of the United Kingdom: Or, Let’s Confuse People Even More With An Odd Designation Systems!

The British took the Lee and Sherman into combat for the first time and they offered a lot of input into both tanks design. They even had a specific version of the Lee never used by US troops the M3A5 Grant.  The Sherman and Lee tanks saved their bacon at El Alamein. As we saw in an earlier section of this document, the US produced a lot of Sherman tanks, and the British received more than 17,000 Shermans. It would become the backbone of their tank force and remain so until the end of the war. The British had a unique way of using tanks and preferred to send them into battle without direct infantry support. This coupled with their tendency to stuff every nook and cranny of the tank with ammo resulting in much higher Sherman losses than the US Army did.

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Sherman MK III with the 4th County Of London Yeomanry. It is crossing an AT ditch near Gabes in North Africa

They came up with their own naming system for the tank:

The M4 was named the Sherman I in Commonwealth use, if it had 105mm gun it was an Ib if it also had HVSS it was an Iby. The British received 2096 75mm Sherman Is, and an additional 593 105 armed Ib tanks, or M4 105 tanks. These numbers are not broken down further into submodels, so all the Ic Firefly tanks produced came from 2096 they received, and this number would include the composite hulls too. This version was the preferred US Army version, and many of the ones the Brits received came as replacements stripped from US Tank Divisions before the battle of El Alamein. They became much rarer because the US sent M4A2 and M4A4s as replacements.

The M4A1 was named the Sherman II and in most cases just that. It wasn’t until late in the war the Brits took some M4A1s with 76mm guns, and those they gave to the poles or other commonwealth allies. An M4A1 76 would be called a Sherman IIa, or an IIay for an M4A1 76 HVSS tank. These M4A1 76 HVSS tanks made it to depots in Europe during or just after the war ended, but none saw combat. The M4A1 was also the US Army’s preferred version because it was basically the same tank as the M4, and the Brits only received 942 75mm M4A1 Shermans. Something I found a bit of a surprise, the British received more M4A1 76 w tanks thank 75mm tanks, 1330 total.

M4A2 was named the Sherman III and this was their second most common Sherman type. They received 5041 M4A2 75mm Sherman IIIs, far more than the Soviets got. They also received 5, M4A2 76 W or Sherman IIIa tanks as well, yes, that’s not a typo, five tanks. I wonder if the M4A2 76 HVSS or Sherman IIIaytank used in Fury was one of them?

M4A3 was named the Sherman IV in British use, but they only received 7 seventy five millimeter tanks and no 76mm tanks of this type. This became the US Army’s preferred model, and once they got it in numbers, they probably started sending more M4 and M4A1s to the Brits after this tank became common.

M4A4 was named the Sherman V in British use, and was by far the most common British Sherman; they received 7167 M4A4s, or Sherman Vs, almost the whole production run. Chrysler really went to bat for this version of the tank and sent tech reps to Europe with the tanks to help manage the complicated, but less trouble than anyone could have expected, motors. There were no subtypes of the Sherman IV other than the Firefly since it was never produced with a 76mm gun or HVSS suspension. The Sherman Vc was the most common version of the 17 pounder Shermans, and a wide variety was probably converted to fireflies, and many of the A4s they got later in the war had been through a remanufacturing process, that made sure the tanks had turrets updated with all the late improvements, and all the hull upgrades like armored ammo racks and raised arm rollers and improved skids, along with a travel lock, on the front plate, for the gun.

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Sherman MK I or IIIs

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The British had their own set of modifications for the Sherman that they received through LL.  They added sand skirts, racks for jerry cans and an armored box on the back of the turret in some cases. They installed their own radios as well, the British wireless set no 19, and this went into the armored box in the back of the turret on Firefly’s, or just replaced the US radios in their normal location in regular models. Legend has it they installed some sort of stove to cook tea.  The only Sherman Mk I and Mk IIs they got was because Churchill practically begged Roosevelt for more Shermans just before El Alamein.

As the war progressed, the US Army put a priority on the M4 and M4A1; the British had to settle for M4A2 and the M4A4. Then when the Russians refused to take any Shermans but M4A2s, the Brits really had to rely on M4A4s. From what I’ve read they didn’t want the nightmare that everyone feared the A57 Multibank motor to be, in service it proved to be reliable enough, and more so than its British counterparts. The M4A4 was by far the most common Sherman type, and the Brits like them enough they took a batch of refurbished M4A4 and would have taken more if production hadn’t been stopped.

This presented a problem for the British, they did not like the M1A1 gun, and the T23 would not take the 17 pounder without major modifications to the gun or turret. The US did end production of 75mm tanks and when stocks of 75mm gun tanks ran low, they were forced to take M4A1 76 tanks these tanks would be designated Sherman IIB. The British sent most of the IIBs to their forces in the MTO or gave them to the Poles.

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Sherman V

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Sherman by Hunnicutt, The Sherman Tank in British Service 1942-45 by John Sanders

 

#21 Tanks Were Knocked Out Far More Often By Mines And AT Guns. The Sherman Was No Different Here.

Let’s Talk About The Other Things That Killed Shermans, Mines and AT guns, The True Hidden Menace.

Mines, What can we say about mines, no one likes, them, but they still do a job that has to be done. We only going to cover anti-tank mines.

Changing_wheel
UK crew fixing mine damage.
The Riegel mine 43/44.

This mine was steel cased, anti-tank mine that looked like a long rectangular box. It had 17.8 pounds of TNT explosive in it. That’s enough BOOM to really mess up a tanks suspension. A really unlucky Sherman might have this go off right under the tanks rear belly, where the armor was thinnest, and blow into the engine compartment and really knock the tank out. In most cases, this mine would do enough damage the tank would need battalion level repair if that tank wasn’t written off for a total rebuild.

Production on these things started in 43, and by the end of the war, they had produced over 3 million of them. Apparently, there is no safe way to disable this mine, and the recommended way of removing it is to just blow it up. There is no telling how many of these took out Shermans, but it was probably a large percentage of the Mine losses.

The Topfmine A, B, and C.

These mines went into service in 1944. They were made from wood pulp and cardboard, with tar for waterproofing. They had a bigger charge but the metal cased mines till probably worked better. These mines went into production for two reasons, they were harder for harder for mine detectors to detect, and the case was cheap and easy to produce and used no steel.  The 13-pound charge would do a lot of suspension damage.

The Tellermine 29:

This mine was developed in the early 30s and was mostly used in training but saw limited use in Normandy. 13-pound charge meant it would be effective, but its age made it primitive.

The Tellermine 35:

This mine was used for the entire war and could even be used underwater. Steel cased like the older model, this one went into production in 35.  This mine had a slightly smaller 12-pound charge. Most of the time this mine would just blow a track off, and damage the suspension, but it could get lucky and do more damage.

The Tellermine 42:

This mine was an improvement on the 35 and used the same charge. It had improved anti-handling devices. This would be a very common mine through the end of the war. It went into production in 42 and was quickly superseded by the 43 model.

The Tellermine 43:

Image courtesy of the LoneSentry

A further improvement on the 42 model, cheaper to produce, with the same charge, this mine went into production, you guessed it, in 1943.

H-S mine 4672:

This shaped charge mine went into production in late 44 and was used to the end of the war. It basically was a panzerfaust head used as a mine. The mine shot the head out of the ground hoping for a belly hit. This mine would be bad news for wet ammo rack Shermans.  Only 59,000 were made, making it rare. This mine was very effective even with its small 3-pound charge. The Germans felt the heads were better-used don Panzerfausts, explaining the limited production.

Panzer Stab 43:

This mine was very much like the 4672 mine but didn’t launch the projectile. This mine was even rarer and was discontinued, probably because it worked, by the Germans the same year it went into production. Around 25k got made before they killed it.

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That’s a lot of mines and that’s just the mines the Germans made, I’m sure they used any stocks of captured mines they got their thieving paws on. So I’ll add Russian, British, and US AT mines here soon too.  Mines always accounted for 10 to 30% of tank losses depending on the year, month and theater you look at the losses in. There are a few pictures of Sherman tank catastrophically blown up, with the whole upper hull ripped away. They are labeled as mine damaged, and in a few cases, the labeling mentions two mines being put into the same hole, I think the ones labeled ‘mine damage’ probably lost the part about two mines in the hole to time. I suspect those photos of blown up Shermans are cases of two or more mines in one hole or an even bigger explosive like a dud Arty shell, or aircraft bomb could be put in the hole too.

Tankers probably really hated mines, in many cases minefields would be covered by well-hidden AT gun positions or even tanks, and in this role, the Panther was a pretty good tank, since it didn’t need to move much. Hitting a mine in an ambush like that could be very deadly for the crew when they bailed out to look at the damage or retreat to the rear. The random leftover mine, or stumbling into a minefield not covered by AT guns would be a big inconvenience but rarely resulted in a fully destroyed tank or lost crew members.

 

AT guns, cheap and easy to produce, these guns were a big threat to tanks but had little value to a mobile force.

AT guns were just what they sound like, large, Anti-Tank guns, on towable mounts. Most were as small and low slung as possible. Unless it was a US 3 inch AT gun, then they are huge. Even guns normally not a huge threat to a Sherman like the PAK 38 50mm AT gun could punch through the Shermans side if it was hidden well enough for the Shermans to give them the shot.  All the larger PAK guns had no trouble punching right through most Shermans.  Guns set up in ambush would have pre-range cards, giving them an advantage shooting and getting hits.  They are much easier to hide than a tank and can even have bunkers built around them. Those are all reasons why these things made Sherman tankers lives harder.

Towed AT guns have a lot of negatives. For one, they are towed, by trucks, or halftracks, they have to be limbered and unlimbered, or set up or packed up to go.  This is very hard to do in a useful way if you’re attacking with a mechanized force. By the time the guns are set up, if done at safe distances, the battle has moved on. At guns only have a small lightly armored shield, the crews would have to rely on personal foxholes or larger trench works if they had time.  The more time it had to get in place and camouflaged the position the better things would be for the gun and crew. But unless they had fortifications with overhead cover for the gun and crew, making it effectively a fixed gun, any kind of indirect fire weapon is going to make their lives hard. If the artillery fire wasn’t killing the crew, it would at least be keeping it from firing.

About half of the US tank destroyer battalions used only towed anti-tank guns. The battalions were not very successful, even during German offensives like the Battle of the Bulge. Both tracked TD battalions and towed were quickly disbanded after WWII, and towed anti-tank guns would not be a big part of most western nations militaries after the war either. AT guns would prove very useful the Germans from mid-war on after they were losing. They had a lot of these guns, and they accounted for a lot of tank kills. It was hard to determine in many cases what type of gun killed a tank, but tanks were much rarer than AT guns.

The Sherman 75mm tanks were actually better at dealing with AT guns than the later model tanks that had the 76mm gun since it had a smaller explosive charge. It was far from useless though.  A tank’s best way of dealing with an AT gun was to shoot the hell out of it with all guns available once it was spotted, and sometimes if the crew was suppressed, they’d even get a dose of the tracks.

Pak 38 50mm AT Gun:

This little gun was the main German AT gun from 1941 until superseded by the Pak 40. It was still used until the end of the war though. The Germans were so desperate they couldn’t afford to retire any weapons. Crewed by five men, it could be moved around pretty handily by the crew but required a light truck or some kind of tow vehicle to go any real distance.  I won’t go into great detail about the gun but it needed to be very close to a Sherman to knock it out from the front, not so much from the sides. Nearly 10,000 produced.

Pak 40 75mm AT Gun:

This gun was larger; almost double the weight of the Pak 38.  This gun could also take the Sherman out at the combat ranges they normally faced each other. The Germans made nearly 20,000 of these guns, so they are probably responsible for a lot of knocked out Shermans. In some cases, the same type of gun may have knocked the same Sherman out multiple times.  This gun required a bigger truck or halftrack to haul, but overall, it was a great gun.

Pak 43 88mm AT Gun:

This ‘fearsome’ gun had the same PR people as the big cats, but at least, in this case, the gun performed well, though not to the mythical levels some would have you believe. No it can’t take out an M1 ‘Abrahams’, it could take out any allied tank it faced, but it was nearly as rare as the Tiger I&II. They only produced around 2000 of these guns, so they only outnumber the combined Tigers production number of 1839, by a small margin. Overkill for most of the combat it saw, it would have been more useful if the Allies had made the same mistake of wasting resources on heavy tanks, but since they didn’t, this gun was almost entirely a waste of time.  The gun weighed almost 10,000 pounds, and it was an awkward, gun mount, even worse than the US 76 AT gun mount.  It needed a very large tow vehicle and its size and weight limited where it could be employed.

Flak 18/36/37 88mm dual purpose AA/AT Guns.
Flak 36

Another ‘mythical’ German weapon, this one started life as a mediocre AA gun that was pressed into use as a direct fire weapon when needed. As a direct fire weapon, it was pretty good, these larger and much more powerful guns were better at penning armor than anything being mounted on a tank before or at the beginning of the war.  Capable of destroying all the French and British tanks the Germans faced, this gun could even handle the T-34 and KV-1/2 tanks, and it was the only thing the Germans had in any real numbers that could. This led to it being mounted in the Tiger I. The Pak 43 was more powerful, but this gun was more numerous with over 20,000 being produced. If any allied troops were right when they thought an 88 was shooting at them it would be one of these.

flack 43

There was a Flak 41 88mm, but it was a failed attempt to improve upon the 18/36/37 failings as an AA gun.  The reason the basic 88 Flak gun failed as an AA gun was that it had optical range finding, and couldn’t lob a shell high enough to hit US heavy bombers, even the older models like the B-17. They also lacked radar ranging or laying, unlike the superior US M1/2/3 90mm AA gun system. Had these guns not found their nitch in the direct fire role they would have gone down in history as the mediocre AA guns they were.

Next up, Panzerfausts, or AT-sticks as I now call them.

Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Yeide’s The Tank Killers, The Infantries Armor, and Steel Victory, Sherman by Hunnicutt, Combat Lessons, The Rank and file, what they do and how they are doing it 1-7, and 9  WWII Armor, Ballistics and Gunnery by Bird and Livingston, TM4 Sherman tank at war by Green, Tanks are a Might Fine Thing by Stout, the Lone Sentry,  TM9-1940 Land mines, TME9-369A German 88MM AA Gun, TME30-451 Handbook on German Armed Forces 1945,  DOA Army Battle Casualties and Non Battle Deaths in WWII, FKSM 17-3-2 Armor in Battle, Another River, another town by Irwin, Wargaming’s Operation Think Tank Videos .  

#20 How The Sherman Compared To Its Contemporaries:  Well, it did very well!

Did American Tank Design Stand Up?   It Did Just Fine. Updated 7/8/18

The Sherman compared well to the other tanks in its weight class. It even fared well against vehicles much larger when you take in the whole picture. The US spent a lot of money lavishly equipping these tanks, even the lend-lease tanks shipped with submachine guns for the crew and vinyl covered, sprung, padded seats, a full toolset, basically, all the same things a Sherman issued to the US Army would come with, without the US radios.  lend-lease Shermans got the British No. 19 set. Though sometimes the tanks lost things while in the shipping network for the most part they arrived and were delivered to the combat arms, ready to use.

The Sherman was not designed to be comfortable for its crew, ergonomics wasn’t a thing back then, but due to the way it was designed and built, it was fairly comfortable as tanks of the time go. Ease of use was taken into account as the design was improved. They improved the suspension several times, the steering and braking system was improved, the controls, in general, were improved, the fuel system was improved, and the fire control system was also improved. Many of these changes were to make the tank easier for the crew to fight or maintain.

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The Sherman in this photo is an M4A1 75 supporting the 30th Infantry Division near St. Lo, July 1944, during Cobra. The knocked out tanks are German Mark IV tanks. These tanks were roughly equal, the German MkIV had a better gun, the Sherman had better, everything else, and its gun could kill the MKIV from any practical combat range. 

The Sherman tanks were not cheaply built, and had finely fitted hulls, with beveled armor and a lot of attention to detail that was not dropped in favor of production speed in many cases until very late in the production run, but function was never compromised on.

The Sherman tanks also had multiple generators, including one that had its own motor, so the tanks electrical system and turret could be run and not drain the battery. They had a stabilizer system for the main gun, and all tanks had high-quality, high tech, FM radios. The radios were some of the best in the world at the time, if not the best. The Sherman tank was equipped with an extra set of gun firing instruments, that allowed the Sherman tank to be used as an artillery piece if needed this was something no one but the US military did.

Quality control at all Sherman factories and sub-contractors was tightly monitored, and superb. Parts were not modified to fit if they did not match the specifications, they were discarded, if too many parts had to be discarded, the contractor was dropped. Sub-assemblies as big as turrets and hulls or whole tanks needing overhaul were shipped between factories and no parts had problems interchanging between factory models. One factory could rebuild another factories tank using its own parts with no problems at all. These were all very advanced features in a tank designed in the early 40s and the Germans the most advanced of the Axis nations, really couldn’t come close, instead, they produced over armored, over gunned, unreliable tanks that could not be used in fast-paced offensive actions.  The Nazi Germans could really only dream of having a tank arsenal like CDA or FTA.

Having all the parts produced at all the different Sherman factories being interchange, really helped keep Shermans working. As tanks were knocked out of action, the severely damaged ones, in many cases could be repaired and were taken back to the 4th and 5th echelon repair yards. basically, the Division and Army level repair shops, that could “factory refurbish” tanks and other vehicles.  Because hundreds of Shermans were exactly alike, no matter who produced them, and even updated models, or parts would bolt to the older models, you could easily swap major and minor parts an assemblies. Tank A has a dead beyond repair turret, but the hull is good, but Tank B has a good turret but destroyed hull, making one tank from two was very easy.  With a robust echelon repair system like the detailed in the image below, you can keep the flow of replacement vehicles up by providing refurbished hulls from knocked out tanks in the Combat Zone.

It is also easy to discount the Sherman tanks combat value if you look at the production numbers versus the tanks it fought, but the numbers do not give a good idea about combat numbers, because all those Shermans went all over the place. Sure, the United States produced a huge number of Sherman tanks, but they supplied them to an awful lot of countries through lend-lease. The British, Canadians, French, Russians, Chinese, Poland, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few nations all used it. You also have to keep in mind,  thousands of Shermans were used in the United States for training, and some never saw combat or left the US, the ones that did were remanufactured later in the war and then sent to Europe for the final campaigns in NWE. The Sherman was built in great numbers, but not in such numbers that the Germans would see anything like 10 to 1 odds in most battles. In a few key battles, the Germans managed to muster more tanks than the allies.  The Sherman was also used in large numbers against Japan.

 I do not see a better choice of a tank for the Allies, given their choices, and the wide-ranging requirements the Sherman faced. Considering it was a rushed design, a stopgap, to hold the line while the M7 and T20 series were developed, it proved to be a very capable tank. It was also capable of taking a series of upgrades that kept it relevant far after the war, something no other western tank can claim. German tank design was so bad, that only the French even toyed with them, and quickly found the Panther to be terrible, and un-fixable.  Just about all of the design features that set the German tanks apart, proved to be failures, only referenced as bad ideas that actually made it into production, (I’m looking at you German cat suspension).

One aspect of Tank combat that is not well understood is the importance of being able to spot, shoot at, and hit an enemy tank. The tank that gets the first hit in, even if it does not knock the tank out, statistically wins the fight. The Sherman tank, even the very early models with only the periscope sight, had a big advantage over German tanks in this area.

Sherman Fire Control Advantages:
  • The Sherman commander, had a rotating periscope, a vane sight for the main gun.
  • The Commander had a power traverse override. Meaning he could control the turret from his seat.
  • The power traverse was very fast and precise. This allowed the gunner to use the power traverse to fine aim the gun. No German tanks power traverse system was good enough to do this.
  • The Gun was stabilized, when used, it allowed, at the least, a very fast shot once the vehicle was stopped.  No German tank of the war had a stabilizer. The technology was well past what Germany could produce during the war. 
  • The gunner had a periscope sight, that had a 1.x wide-angle view, and a telescope built into the same sight. He could switch from one to the other with ease. This made finding an enemy target, the commander had just put the turret on was much easier, since the gunner was not forced to use only a telescopic sight alone to find the target.  These combined periscope/telescope sights were improved through the war.
  • The gunner had a telescope on mid war on to go with the Periscope sight. These telescopic sights improved throughout the war.
  • The power traverse system was completely independent of the automotive system. As long as the Aux Gen and the batteries were intact, the power traverse system for the turret could be used, and the system was very easy to use and relatively comfortable for an average sized man of the time.
German Tank Fire Control System Advantages: The list is small.
  • The German 75mm and 88mm guns were better than American guns. (At least until the 90mm M3)
  • German optics, in their telescopic sights, were better. This is not as big of an advantage as it’s made out to be. It simply means they had come up with a method to coat the lenses in their optics, make them slightly more clear, making them brighter. This really did not make any differences at the combat ranges in western Europe. It may have made a marginal difference on the eastern front. It did nothing to negate the difficulty of actually finding a target to shoot at, at long range when your only view of the world was that scope.

Now, I know this list seems short, and to be fair, if I’ve missed something, let me know and I’ll add it.  If it’s not some wehraboo fantasy.  You add on top of this, these complicated and hard to use tanks, were crewed by very poorly trained crews by 1944.

The Tank crews were extremely well trained by June 6th, and they got better as the war went on, just like the Sherman did.

German Tank three or PIII: The Best Tank The Nazis Ever Produced.

PIIIF, a mid-production model of the tank with a short 50mm gun. This was the main tank in use during the North African campaign and had a lot of trouble with the Shermans armor.

This tank fought from the first days of the war and really was a great little tank. To bad the Sherman, all models, outclassed it in just about every important way. The Sherman had better armor, firepower, and similar mobility. Even with its most potent gun, a long 50mm, the PIII had trouble with the Grant and Lee, let alone an M4. In the mythical, but often argued about on the internet, one on one tank battle, the Sherman stomps the Panzer III every time. This chassis was at the end of its life as a tank with the 50mm.  Larger guns or more armor could not be fitted to it.

It was a good tank, but nowhere near as good as a Sherman, but to be fair, it was at the end of its development life and the M4 was just beginning its long, long life with many countries around the globe, that would span decades, with a few nations still keeping some Sherman based vehicles in inventory. The PIII was designed before anyone really knew how to build a good tank, and with that in mind, it was a good vehicle.

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I knocked out III at El Alamein, the side hatches in the hull and turret side were weak points…

The biggest problems with the PIII design were the small turret ring, the suspension weight limit, and the automotive system’s power, and ability to be upgraded and take more weight, and the complicated to assemble and maintain design. look at all the plates on this tank welded and riveted together, and how many angles it has on the hull and turret, all that takes extra time to produce.

As we know, the Shermans automotive components were able to take on a lot more weight with no real issues, it’s turret ring was HUGE, allowing it to be up-gunned much more readily, and all its motor choices could handle extra weights without causing much drama or concern.  German tank designer and the industry that made their tanks were just too primitive to produce vehicles with that much growth potential. Hell, they were struggling to get motors and automotive systems to meet the base specs of their designs and be even remotely reliable, and largely failing at it, to worry about streamlining the design for ease of manufacture. Sadly, instead of learning much from this design, and building a larger slightly simpler design, they went with even worse vehicles.  The few good vehicles like the PIII are overshadowed by the really bad ones that had great post-war PR  campaigns (Tiger, Panther, Tiger II I’m looking at you!), but were largely failures if you look at their combat records with an objective eye.

J morel of the Tank III, with a more powerful 50mm gun, this was the peak of this tanks usefulness. As good as this tank was, it was still overly complicated and required more hours to build than better designs. 

In many ways, this was the best tank Germany produced during the war. This was one of the tanks used the short time the Germans really did things offensively during the war; this is the tank that took them to the outskirts of Moscow. And it was a great little tank; its turret ring was just too small to fit a real gun. They solved this with the StuG, but I’ll cover that later. They produced 5774 of them. It did have teething troubles because it was a tad complicated, but unlike many later Nazi designs, the bugs were worked out and the design became one of their most reliable armored fighting vehicles. Not Sherman reliable, but about as close as a German vehicle would get.

This tank continued to be used throughout the war and was up-gunned to a short 75mm howitzer for infantry support once its use as a tank became limited. The ones not converted to use the short 75 were probably used for parts, and or converted to Stug IIIs. You have to give it credit for being a good looking little tank too, that kind of thing is important to model making companies!

 

German Tank Four or PIV: Boxy and primitive, but it got the job done.

Tank 4 G, this version of the P4 had a better gun, but still had many problems, granted most of these couldn’t be solved without a major overhaul of the design.

The PIV was a closer match to the Sherman in size and capability, but still inferior in most important ways, and it was a complicated design that wasted a lot of man-hours on welding together the overly complicated hull and turret designs. It had weaker, un-sloped armor, in a complicated hard to produce configuration. Its suspension used leaf springs and was inferior to the Shermans VVSS suspension. It had weak enough side armor, without the use of skirts, the tank could be penetrated by Russian anti-tank rifles, and the Russians had a lot of AT rifles. It started off with a low power 75mm gun that had no chance of hurting a Lee or Sherman, and was later up-gunned with a 75mm similar to the one mounted on the Sherman, but slightly better.

At this point, the PIV became a serious threat to the Sherman, the main Nazi tank threat for the whole war. The Sherman still held all the cards with better overall armor, mobility, reliability, spotting,  gun handling(getting that first shot off) and crew comfort. The Sherman design had room to grow and would take a whole new turret and a whole slew of larger guns. The PIV was at the limits of what the hull could handle, and its turret ring was too small to accept more powerful guns, though the gun it received in the improved models was a good gun. The final version of this tank, the J was a simplified version that lacked a power turret drive or skirts, it was not to improve the combat ability, and it was done to speed up production because the Germans were desperate for more armor. Nazi Germany produced 8569 of these tanks, from 1937 to 1945.

One of the weaknesses the PIV suffered from was the suspension. It was fragile and prone to breaking in rough terrain. The leaf spring setup also offered limited travel and really was the most limiting feature of the tank.  The Sherman was reputed to be much better in rough and mountainous terrain. If you just look at a good picture of the PIV, and count the welds, and look at how complicated the thing looks, and then consider all the man-hours needed to build the thing, you see just how much time would have to be wasted making the complicated hull, in particular for a nation like Germany that had to depend on welders, and not welding machines to put the hulls together, this was a bad idea.

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A knocked out and burning PIV, this is the typical condition the tank was found in after it ran into Shermans. 

This tank allowed the Germans to use maneuver warfare, and it wasn’t tied to the rail system because it was much more reliable than the Panther or Tiger. One argument ‘wehraboo’, (for those not in the know, a wehraboo is a German WWII Army, Armor, Airplane or Ship fanatic, who believes anything and everything German was the best in WWII. You can find these people trying to push the often mythical abilities of Nazi war machines while ignoring any evidence to the contrary, these chaps often have deep-seated pro-Nazi feelings, and in some cases of the worst offenders, are out and out neo-Nazis. They can often be found on game forums for any WWII game talking about how the 262 was the best fighter of the war and the King Tiger could penetrate an M1 Abrams, often misspelling the names like this Aberhams.or making other ridiculous claims like the Nazi Navy was good or the Holocaust is overblown) like to make is, Nazi Germany couldn’t really have produced more Panzer IVs and StuGs because they didn’t have the manpower to crew them.

The counter to point to that argument is if the Germans had not produced the two ridiculous heavy tanks. Tiger 1&2, the huge maintenance tail these vehicles required could be broken up; a tiger company had the same number of mechanics and maintenance personnel and their transport, as a full Battalion of PIV or III tanks.  You could take all these men, and put them into units that didn’t bleed resources when Nazi Germany had few to spare.

They also could have manned these new units with all the men they put in the many captured tanks they used. They used large numbers of T-34 and M4A2 Shermans captured from the USSR. They should have stuck with the tanks they considered producing that was closer to these, the VK3001 (d) was almost a direct copy, Germanized to make it much harder to build and work on of course, of the T-34.  This tank looked a lot like the T-34 that inspired it, but apparently, fears of friendly fire losses because it looked too much like a T-34 and a lack of aluminum to make the copy of the diesel the T-34 used, were probably the real reasons this tank didn’t get produced and not corruption in the Nazi Armor development pipeline…

It turns out; the Daimler Benz proposal died for several reasons, the main being that several Nazi industrialists under Spear convinced Hitler getting a tank into production fast was more important than the tank being the best tank able to be put into production. This coupled with a propaganda campaign run by those same Nazi lackeys,  against the Daimler Benz proposal, spelled its doom.  Hitler, convinced by their arbitrary date of production argument, decided on the MAN proposal with its frontal armor increased. It would be the “Panther” tanks, we all know and love. I guess it’s really a good thing the Nazi industrialists were a bunch of clowns, greedy opportunists, and straight up lackeys to even worse men, or the Germans might have had a decent tank.

At any rate, they didn’t produce the right tank; they produced a pair of heavy tanks, and a medium as heavy as a heavy that wasted far more resources than ever could be justified by these tanks propaganda inflated war records. They probably best served in a propaganda role since they had truly fearsome reputations, but once they were met in combat a few times that wore off and the American and British tankers found ways to beat them, like just making them drive around a bit until they broke down or ran out of fuel.

 

German Tank VI Tiger: The Premier Fascist Box Tank, Great For Plastic Model Companies, But Not So Great As A Tank.

This tank had a big weight ‘advantage’ over the Sherman, it is a heavy tank and all, but for the most part, was so rare it had almost no impact on the war. In fact, most of the SS units that used this tank lied so much about its prowess there are some doubts it got even 1/3 of its actual kills its Nazi crews claimed. It also had to be moved by train giving it limited useable tactical mobility, and these tanks sucked up the maintenance, supply and rail resources of a much larger unit. They also required a lot of resources to build, and it’s hard to make a credible argument they were worth the trouble since they had such a limited impact on the war.

The US Army faced very few of these tanks. When they did face them, they didn’t prove to be much of a problem. From North Africa to Italy and Normandy and beyond, the Tiger was a non-factor when facing US Shermans. Of the 31 sent to North Africa, one was captured after it was knocked out, or the crew got scared, and the British still have it!  The claims of it being a big factor in the Sid Bau Zid battles were false,  and they didn’t achieve much of note in Sicily and Italy. In Normandy, they only saw action against the British, and Commonwealth forces, where the true value Tiger is clouded by German propaganda and the German military’s tendency to overclaim across the board, but especially bad in SS units.

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A  tiger knocked out, it’s sad these Nazi propaganda machines are so popular today, and the prowess is so overblown. 

The Sherman had a fire control advantage allowing it to spot the huge Tiger first in most cases, it could outmaneuver the bigger tank, and its guns could take it out from the sides and back, or if it got lucky, even the front. The Sherman did face this tank in British hands, but we will cover that later. It’s safe to say the way the Brits used the Sherman was different, and riskier and resulted in much higher tank loses. They were far less concerned about tank losses than men in general, and the Sherman was a fairly safe tank to be in when it got hit.

The Tiger ultimately did the Allies a favor by making it into production. It just wasted men and resources that could have been turned into more PIVs and STUGs. It was more of a propaganda tool, used to prop up the home front by lying about the prowess of the tank and their Aryan crews, like Michael Whitman, who was not nearly as good as the Nazi histories would have you believe.  In fact, he got himself and his crew killed by trundling off all alone, probably looking for more imaginary Nazi glory.

Living, well, recently living, tank aces like Otto Carius have admitted many of their “kills” were added for pure propaganda reasons. SS unit kill claims were often discounted by half by the regular German Army and even that was probably being generous since there was no effort to confirm the kills. Most authors who write books about German tanks take these kill claims at face value. When someone bothers to compare the kill claims to the units they faced with the Soviet, American or UK records, more often than not, they were not even facing the claimed unit, and often it was not even in the same area. When they did get the unit right, the losses rarely come close to matching up. Even a nation trying to be honest often gets kill claims wrong, but Nazi Germany liked to use inflated numbers to help soothe a restless population that was starting to see the error of supporting Hitler’s foolish war.

If you’re feeling the urge to angrily post a comment about how I’m a Sherman fanboy and unfair to your favorite Nazi box tank, take a breath, and keep reading, cause you’re only going to get angrier. (Boy has this part proven true, and I’ve gotten much flak for my evaluation of the Tiger) As always, the Wehraboo makes claims, but never backs them up with any sources or actual facts, just check the comments here.

Now let’s cover some of its many flaws. It was really big and heavy, limiting what bridges it could use. This size and weight problem affected a lot of things, automotive reliability, how easy it was to spot, how it was shipped, the amount of fuel it needed.  The gun was decent, but for a tank of its size the 88mm seems pretty weak, and it wasn’t even the good one, the 88mm L71.  Can we say ‘bad at designing cooling systems’? Just look at the rear deck and then a cutaway of a tiger and marvel at how much space the radiators and cooling ducts take. Now let’s talk about its suspension. There is nothing wrong with torsion bar suspension; it’s still popular today on tanks and other AFVs, where the Germans went wrong is the road wheels. The interleaved and overlapped road wheels were incredibly stupid, making maintenance or damage repair on the suspension a nightmare. Another huge problem for a vehicle that depended on rail transport, to be transported on German train cars, the normal tracks had to be removed, and a narrower set installed, then the combat tracks put back on at the destination. This was a huge hassle and time waster for the crew at the very least.

The turret drive was a laughable contrivance using PTO from the engine and transfer case, meaning the tank had to be running, and at high RPM to rotate the turret at full speed. The system was not very refined, and only got the gun into the general area of the target, then it had to be finely aimed with the manual traverse wheels.  Max turret rotation speed meant the tank had to be stopped, and the motor running at max RPM. The Tigers motor did not like running at max RPM, and for the most part, the crews just used the nonpower controls.

Another thing to note is these tanks were essentially hand built.  Some people assume that means painstakingly handcrafted, and it’s sort of true. The Germans wasted a lot of time on finish items to make the tanks look nicer. I’m not sure if this was some need for the Germans to have nearly ‘perfect’ weapons, at least appearance-wise, or if it was a way for the German tank industry to charge more for the tanks and make more money off the Nazi regime, but it doesn’t matter, the result was the same, a lot of wasted man-hours on stuff that didn’t improve the tank’s combat effectiveness.

On a Sherman tank,  just like your car, when they needed a spare part, they put in an order and quartermaster corps sent one to them through the supply system if one wasn’t in stock at the local spares depot they would order the part from the next level up. When the part came, in most cases it would fit, and only if damaged caused a problem would hand fitting be needed.

This was not the case for the Tiger, or any other German tank, for several reasons, the main being the Germans liked to fiddle with the tanks on the line making it rare for any to be truly the same. For the Germans, most parts would need adapting to the individual tank, making field repairs a difficult job, part of this was because they had so many different sub-variants between major variants, and parts for early variants may not work on a later one or would need adapting to work. On the Tiger, there are so many things they changed, big and small through the short production run that parts for earlier tanks would practically have to be custom fit.  It is clear the testing period was not long enough and as they fixed problems found in the field they incorporated it in the ‘line’ instead of holding off until all the changes could be lumped in at once not slowing production, or improving the parts in a way that didn’t require a line change or were backwards compatible.  On top of that, the Germans just didn’t produce many spare parts. And what they did produce was cut way back later in the war as they ‘optimized’ production by cutting spare parts production.  The lack of spare parts meant many parts came from cannibalization, but even then the parts would have to be adapted since the tanks changed so much.

Only 1347 of these tanks were even built. Numbers were not needed to kill these wasteful and stupid tanks, but they were nice to have anyway when one did actually make it to a fight.  This tank had zero positive effect on the war for the Germans, they helped win no battles, and it just wasted resources, both material and industrial, and helped the Nazi’s lose the war that much faster. It would be nice if that’s why so many people admired these tanks, for their monumental stupidity and thus indirectly helping the good guys win, but no, it’s because it was “cool looking, or had the best armor ever, or was a technological marvel only defeated by hordes of subhuman scum”, or other completely untrue, Nazi propaganda myths about these terrible tanks.

For another view on the Tiger, check out: Germany’s White Elephant.

Another link here about the Tiger, and another, and another view about how the Sherman compares

German Tank V Panther: Bigger, Less Boxy and Less Reliable, Nazi Germany’s Fail Tank.

 

This was the first version of the Panther, the version so bad it would light on fire if the hull got tilted too much, no joke because the fuel system leaked into the rubber lined engine compartment and when the hull tilted, fuel would hit the exhaust manifolds. That was just ONE of the problems with this junk heap.

Much has been said about this tank, and most of the positive stuff is just, well, there’s no way to say it other than this, it’s straight up bull shit. The panther was a ‘medium’ tank as big and heavy as any heavy tank of the time. What kept it from being heavy was its pathetic lack of armor for a tank of its size. The side armor was so weak Russian anti-tank rifles could and did score kills on these tanks through it. This is why later models had side skirts covering the thin side armor above the road wheels, left uncovered it was vulnerable to these AT rifles, and the area wasn’t small either. Seems like a pretty bad design right there, it was not a new weapon, the Soviet Anti Tank Rifle.

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Tank V knocked out or broken down, hard to tell, also not the poorly secured side skirts to protect against Russian AT rifles. 
Here is a list, off the top of my head, of the Panthers problems:
  • It liked to catch fire due to a fuel system that leaked in more than one way.
  • The hull didn’t let the fuel drain, making the fire problem worse. Tilting the hull to much could cause a fire because the gas that had leaked out of the leaky fuel system was in pools in the bottom of the sealed hull, and would hit exhaust pipes. This was because the early tanks waterproof liner in the engine compartment, to give them a “deep fording” ability, caused the drainage problem. The feature was a sham, just to line Nazi industrialists pockets, all later removed from production tanks, but the other problems with the fuel system always made it prone to fire.
  • The motor had a tendency to backfire or fail catastrophically and cause fires as well. The fuel system was leaky, so there was always fuel vapor in the engine compartment.
  • The cooling system was very complicated, a damaged fan or clogged duct could cause a fire.  It was found the radiators were vulnerable to damage, so plates were added above the armored grates on the engine deck. All these add-ons just piled more weight on an already overstressed, and unreliable, automotive system.
A Panther G, the best version of the Panther, that still had 150-kilometer final drives. It also still had a blind gunner. This version suffered from the worst build and armor quality. This version still had a very weak and slow turret drive. This version had a derated engine to keep it from breaking down so fast. I could go on.
Let’s move away from the fire problems and move onto the turret problems.
  • To rotate the turret, you had to rev the engine up. The engines were fragile. You want full traverse speed; you needed to be redlining the engine. This is because they used a Power Take Off system and tied the turret drive to the engine. This was a really bad way to design a turret drive. If you want a good laugh, go find a diagram of the Tiger or Panthers turret drive system and marvel that it worked at all. It didn’t work if the tank was on even a mild slope. The drive was so weak in these cases it couldn’t even hold the gun in place on the said slope.  I’m sure if you took an electric driven hydraulic or just straight electric system it would weigh a lot less than all the parts they had to use to make the PTO system work, and not even well. This system only ‘worked’ when the Panther was running. The Sherman had a backup generator that could operate the tanks electrical system, including the turret traverse system. German tankers could only dream of such luxuries, well the ones that didn’t get to crew captured Shermans.
  • let’s talk about the gun, gunner, and commander. One of the commander’s jobs is to find targets for the gunner and get him onto them. The commander has pretty good all-around views from the turret with his nice cupola. The gunner is stuck with just his telescopic sight. He would need up to several minutes in some cases to find the target the commander was trying to get him on due to him not having a wider view scope and the commander having no turret override.
  • The gun was a good AT gun, but not a great HE thrower, since the HE charge was smaller to accommodate thicker shell walls to keep the shell from breaking up at the higher velocities. It’s HE was far from useless though. The turret was very cramped for these men as well. And the turret sides and rear had very thin armor. The Shermans 75 would punch right through it at very long ranges with AP and even HE rounds could knock the panther out by cracking the plates and spalling the crew to death.
Some more tidbits on the Panther, its automotive systems were terrible.
  • The automotive systems were designed for a 30-ton tank, and even for that, they were not that robust.
  • The true Achilles heel of the automotive parts was the final drives and their housings. The housings were weak and flexed under load, allowing the already weak gear train to bind and then destroy itself. The best they ever got these final drives to last, on the G models of the tank, was 150 kilometers on average! Replacing them was a major chore that would keep the tank down at least a day. This was confirmed in a report on post-war use by the French, using captured and new production tanks. You can find it here.  Even if you tripled this life, it wouldn’t be very good, the life of these parts on the Sherman is essentially unlimited, if maintained and undamaged. Even if you tripled this life, it wouldn’t be very good, the life of these parts on the Sherman is essentially unlimited if maintained properly and they are undamaged.
  • The motor and tranny would get at best, 1500 kilometers before needing to be replaced.
  • The tracks would get around 1000 kilometers. This isn’t that bad, but they were not easy to swap either and spares were not all the common.
  • The suspension would start to break down around 800 or less with lots of off-road use. The front dual torsion bars breaking first, and then the extra stress from the extra frontal armor kept killing them.

We haven’t even talked about the ridiculous road wheel system that only insane people would put on a combat vehicle.  A late war British report on a captured early model Panther said at higher speeds the suspension was terrible and essentially became solid, making for an awful off-road ride. You can find the report here. The report is very interesting, if not very flattering to the Panther. Another report by the Brits on the Panther can be found here, and this one is equally damning.

It is a total myth that you needed five or more Shermans to take out one Panther or Tiger. If a Panther makes it to the fight, it’s a formidable tank, and in particularly when set up as a long-range anti-tank pillbox they could be deadly if they had pre-ranged the area they expected the attack from even more so. When called upon to be part of a mobile tank force, they failed, and they failed hard. In many cases, they would lose three or more Panthers to one Sherman.

By the time the Sherman crews of the US Army started to see Panthers in bigger numbers, they were the elite tankers and the Germans the amateurs, with the vast majority of the German crews only receiving basic training on the Panther. It showed in just about every battle. The Sherman handled these supposedly better tanks just fine. While the poorly trained, green, Nazi crews struggled with their tanks, a bad driver could cause a mechanical failure almost instantly, thanks, MAN. It makes you wonder how many Panther crews did just that to avoid fighting.

In all the ways you need a tank to be good, the Sherman tank was better than the Panther. When the US needed tanks, the Sherman could be counted on to be available. When they needed tanks that could drive across North Africa or Europe, the Sherman was there and got the job done. When they needed a tank to help crush the Nazi, the Sherman was always there.

For another view on why the Panther was just not a good tank for anything other than looking at, this post. Some of this is based on my readings of Germany’s Panther Tank by Jentz. If you get past looking at all the pretty pictures, it has a pretty damning combat recorded in that book as well.

The Germans managed to build around 6000 of these mechanical nightmares. The final production version of this tank, the G version only solved the final drive housing issues, the weak gears were never solved, and this is why the post-war French report was so damning. They were not even operating them under combat conditions.  The United States produced more M4A4 tanks at CDA, and that was just the M4A4, that single factory also produced composite hull Shermans, M4 105s,(all of them) M4A3 105(all of them), M4A3 76 tanks and M4A3 76 HVSS tanks in large numbers as well. The Nazis could only dream of having a tank as reliable as the M4A4, or a single factory that could crank out so many great tanks like CDA or FTA

StuG III:  Short, Stubby and Underrated

This armored fighting vehicle more than just about any other was a real threat to the Sherman. The Germans built a lot of these vehicles. Since it was just about the most common AFV, the Sherman ran into it much more often than tanks like the Tiger and Panther.

British_troops_examine_a_knocked-out_German_StuG_III_assault_gun_near_Cassino,_Italy,_18_May_1944._NA15178

The StuG was not as good of a vehicle as the PIV from a combat perspective since it lacked a turret, but it was very good for what it was used for and a much cheaper vehicle to make. It was very popular, and when it was time to cease production, German generals threw a fit and kept it in production. They didn’t say a word when the Tiger I production was stopped.  Speilberger has a good book on this tank, it covers the PIII tank and its variants including the StuG. The book is titled, Panzer III and its variants.

The StuG was up-gunned with the same gun as the Panzer IV and was good at AT work and infantry support. Its low profile helped it stay hidden and it was mobile enough to be able re-locate and get to trouble spots. It had ok armor and was well-liked by its crews. Cheaper, easier to build, and very effective for the price, it’s no wonder it doesn’t get the attention it deserves, and German industry tried to kill it! When the PIII chassis stopped production, they made a version on the PIV chassis, but it was a little bigger and not as good.

 

Tiger II: Boxy, Fat, Stupid, Unreliable, Overly Complicated and Overrated

The Tiger II was not a very good tank. Only 492 were built, and its impact on the war was less than marginal. Everything said about the Tiger I applies to this tank, just more so. It weighed more at 68 tons but used the same engine. So it was a huge, underpowered, waste of resources. The US Air Force bombing campaign actually had an effect on this tanks production. The factory was heavily damaged and about half the total production was lost in the bombing raid.

This tank was a non-factor in the war, and the first ones lost on the eastern front were knocked out by a handful of T-34-85s, they never even spotted. The US Army ran into a few as well and dispatched them without much trouble. They were so slow, ungainly and problem prone, during the battle of the bulge, they were left at the rear of all the column’s, and barely made it into any of the fights.

Tiger_II_punctured_in_front_turret
Tiger II knocked out.

The early turrets had a big shot trap and were filled with ready racks, easy to ignite. The production turret got rid of the shot trap but did nothing for how cramped it was, but they did forbid the use of the turret ammo racks. The gun was extremely hard to load when not level.   It was an accurate and deadly gun though. The trouble, like with all the cats, was getting it to the fight.

German armor fans like to talk about how influential the Panther and Tiger designs were, but as far as I can tell, they really had zero real impact on future tank design. In fact, the Panther and Tiger series were technological dead ends that no one copied and only the French spent any time playing with the engine tech and guns. The thing that stands out for me about German tank design is they never figured, out like all the other tank making countries, that putting the motor and final drives in the back of the tank, was better than putting the tranny and final drives in the front, and having the motor in the back, and a driveshaft running through the fighting compartment was a bad design feature. This was a drawback the Sherman shared, but all future medium tank designs dropped this and went to the whole power pack in the rear setup. From the T20 series on, though the T20 tanks never went into production because they were a small improvement over the Sherman, they all had rear motor/tranny/final drives. This tank layout still dominates current tank design. The Nazi design teams seemed unable to come up with a design using this layout, other than their aborted copy of the T-34, the VK3001/3002DB tanks.

This is the tank they should have built

Let’s Talk About A Few Russian Tanks: The Soviet Union Knew A Thing Or Two About Building Tanks.

The Sherman may have face the T-34 in limited numbers during WWII since the German captured a lot of them on the eastern front, so it’s possible it faced the T-34, and maybe even the T-34-85. This wouldn’t be the best matchup because the Germans using second-hand equipment would be at a disadvantage. A few years later in Korea, the Sherman would face the much-improved T-34-85 and it would be a closer match.

T-34: The Soviets Tank Of Choice For the Early to Mid Part Part of WWII

Let’s take a look at the T-34, the early model with a four-man crew and 76mm gun. This tank was designed before the M4 and has some advantages and disadvantages over the M4. The T-34 had better soft ground mobility and a better motor once the bugs were worked out. But it lacked a dedicated gunner, and that really increases the workload on the tank. The guns were about equal. Any version of the Sherman would have a reliability edge from the start, but the T-34 would catch up.

T-34-76_RB8
T-34-76 1943

The Soviet Union received a fair number first gen Shermans, all M4A2 models and liked them. They considered it a fine substitute for the T-34, and the crews felt it was more comfortable than their T-34. I would give the M4 the overall edge in tank quality looking at the first gen tanks.

A rather beat up T-34-85
A rather beat up T-34-85
T-34-85: The Improved T-34 That Would See Use For Decades

This later version of the T-34 had an enlarged three-man turret with an 85mm gun. This model of the T-34 was a better tank than the 75mm first gen Shermans, but about equal the later models with the 76mm gun. The M4A3 76 HVSS tanks would prove to be more than a match for the T-34-85s they met in Korea, and would really come down to crew quality.

. . .

The T-34 chassis would be used in many varied armored vehicles, a lot like the Sherman, but not as extensively. The Christie suspension would be a limiting factor. The internal springs of the design would take up to much space for the advantages they offered and torsion bar, or bolt on suspension like used on the centurion would outlive the Christie suspension.
The T-34 tank and the many vehicles that sprang from its basic chassis is a fascinating subject, far too complicated to cover in a few paragraphs on another tanks web page. It really deserves its own page like this dedicated to its design. I don’t know enough about the T-34 to do it, but I hope someone gives it a try.

Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Yeide’s TD and two separate tank battalion books, Sherman by Hunnicutt, Combat Lessons, The Rank and file, what they do and how they are doing it 1-7, and 9. Archive Awareness, Oscar Gilbert’s, Marine Tank Battles in the Pacific, WWII Armor, Ballistics and Gunnery by Bird and Livingston, Tigers in the Mud, by Carius, D.W. to Tiger I, and Tiger I & II combat tactics by Jentz, Panther Tank by Jentz, Panther and its Variants by Speilberger, Panzer III and its Variants and Panzer IV and its variants by Speilberger, The Sherman Minutia Site, Son of a Sherman by Stansell and Laughlin, M4 Sherman tank at war by Green, Tanks are a Might Fine Thing by Stout, the Lone Sentry, TM9-731B M4A2, TM9-731G M10A1, TM9-745 GMC M36B2, TM9-748 GMC M36B1, TM9-750M3, TM9-752 M4A3, TM9-754 M4A4, TM9-759 M4A3, Land mines, TME9-369A German 88MM AA Gun, TME30-451 Handbook on German Armed Forces 1945, TM9-374 90mm Gun M3, FM5-20 Camouflage, FM5-20B Camouflage of Vehicles, DOA Army Battle Casualties and Non Battle Deaths in WWII, FKSM 17-3-2 Armor in Battle, FM17-12 Tank Gunnery, FM17-15 Combat Practice firing, FM17-30 The Tank Platoon 42, FM17-32 The Tank Company medium and light, FM17-33 The Armored Battalion, FM17-67 Crew Drill and Service of the Piece M4 Series, Another River, another town by Irwin, Tanks on the Beaches by Estes and Neiman, Cutthroats by Dick, The Myth of the Eastern Front by Smelser and Davies, Tank Tactics by Jarymowycz, Panzer Aces by Kurowski, Commanding the Red Army’s Shermans by Loza, The Radionerds website, The French Panther user report, Wargaming’s Operation Think Tank Videos, all the info in the data and links sections.  Historical Study, German Tank Maintenance in WWII 

 

#19 Tarawa: The USMC’s First Use Of M4 Medium Tanks

Tarawa: The Marines Learn To Use Medium Tanks In A Meat Grinder.

USMC-C-Tarawa-1

UPDATE! I don’t mind if you read and comment on my post, but keep in mind it may have info in it based on old information. This website, www.TanksonTarawa.com has the most accurate info on the Sherman tanks used on Tarawa,  their sole purpose it to document their use! So please check their awesome website out. 

November 20-23rd 1943:

The first Marine use of the Sherman was on Tarawa. The tanks were M4A2 small hatch tanks, these tanks were issued with no training, and the crews of the I Marine Amphibious Corps Tanks Battalion had sixty days in the states to learn how to use their tanks. Then the island they ended up pre landing had no place for them to drive the tanks to train on them. So they went into combat with no real training with the Marines they were going to fight with. The tanks had no waterproofing, and no deep wading trunks, and could only drive through 40 inches of water. They also had the same problem the Army had in Europe, the tanks radios were not on the same frequency as the infantry units below the battalion level. They could talk to aircraft though. They decided they would only need one com0pany of medium tanks, the rest of the battalion would be made up of M3A1 lights. This single mixed battalion would be the only Tanks to support the assault.

C Company of the 2nd Marine tank Battalion had 14 medium tanks.   All the tanks had names starting in the letter C.  The HQ for the tank battalion was almost entirely killed off and their radios lost during the initial landings so each platoon of M4 tanks fought its own war, as would the light companies until the later stages of the battle.

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This outstanding model was done by none other than the famous and very talented Steven Zaloga, click the picture for more info.

1st platoon reinforced with two HQ tanks were let out of the LCM on the reef and had to drive into shore, they lost three of six tanks to shell craters and swamping while doing so. There were scouts sent ahead to mark a safe path along the reef, but the markers they placed in many cases floated away, and most of the scouts were killed by enemy fire.  The three surviving Shermans from 1st platoon were named Cecilia, China Gal and Chicago. Cecilia, a command tank, linked up with China Gal, and they tried to find a way inland. They had trouble getting inland. The seawall was a hellish nightmare, filled with dead and dying marines, wrecked LVTs and other obstacles and this prevented the tanks from moving. While trying to find a way inland Chicago took on water and shorted out.

China Gal and Cecelia managed to find a way inland, and found nothing but Japanese troops, and when a Japanese tank, a Type 95 Ha-Go, wheeled into view, it got off the first hit, and got very lucky, its 37mm round hit Cecelia in the main gun and wrecked it. The rifling was damaged, and the breach was open so fragments bounced around the turret and scared the hell out of the crew, but no one was hurt. China Gal blasted the Japanese tank. Cecelia raced back to the beach to check out the damage, and then later hooked back up with China Gal, the company commander jumped from the tank with the disabled gun into China Gal.  They spent the rest of the day working with the gyrenes, blasting Japanese pill boxes, Cecelia using just her machine guns. They worked between Red-1 and Red-2 the rest of the day.

2nd Platoons first tank off LCM sank up to turret killing the tank. The next two LCMs tried another spot, and first LCM took damage and sunk on a reef, blocking the second and it managed to back a little way out before taking fire and sinking as well. The tank in this LCM managed to get out, and onto to the reef, only to drown in hidden shell hole moments later.

The rest of the 2nd platoon made it ashore on beach Red-3 and moved across Red-2 to hook up with their infantry. These tanks were ordered to support an infantry assault across the islands airfield, and ended up out in front of the marine grunts. One took a bunch of fire and tried to back up and fell into a shell crater and rolled over.  The other was damaged by a Japanese soldier with a magnetic mine, and then shot up by a hidden AT gun.  They were in the fight for 20 minutes or less. I suspect since the tanks names didn’t make it into the book I’m using as a reference that no one from either crew lived to tell the tale.

3rd Platoon re-enforced with one HQ tank managed to get all four tanks ashore, and had less trouble doing so than the other two platoons. Their good fortune ended their though. Cannonball, a command tank with the platoon leader aboard, Condor, Charlie and Commando and Colorado were the names of the five M4A2s that made it ashore. The commander on Red-3 ordered the tanks to move out ahead of the infantry, with no men in close support, and for the tanks to kill anything they found.

In under an hour, Condor was knocked out, how it was knocked varies in various reports, some claim a US Navy dive bomber took it out, but photos of the wrecked tank make it look like an AT gun or infantry close assault took it out. Cannonball took some damage from and AT gun, and in trying to get out of its line of fire managed to fall into a ditch filled with Japanese fuel drums. Apparently fire from a Navy fighter ignited the fuel, but the crew got out.  The survivors from both crews were trapped behind enemy lines for a while. Charlie got taken out at close range by an AT gun. The Jap AT gun put multiple rounds through the tanks side. Commando lived up to its name, ranging far ahead of the Marine lines and racking up two AT guns, and five pillboxes before enemy fire knocked it out.  Colorado had a gasoline bomb thrown on it, but the driver raced back to the beach and drove into the surf, putting out the fire.

USMC-C-Tarawa-p22

By nightfall, only Colorado, China Gal and Cecelia were operational, and China Gal and Cecelia tied into the Marine lines on Red-1 and Red-2, and Colorado did the same on Red-3. Things were all messed up, lots of ships had just dumped whatever cargo was easiest into the LVTs and other boats moving things into shore and there was a lot of trouble getting the things the tankers were going to need. The most important being main gun rounds for the tanks M3 75mm guns. Late that night heavy Japanese machine gun fire rained down on the base of the pier that they were using to bring in supplies. Colorado was sent to help, and shut the Japanese machine guns down soon after.

Things had gone poorly for the Marine tankers, but not just them, the attack was so disorganized due to much higher than expected casualties, the Marines only had a small toehold on the island, and a Japanese counter attack during the night would very likely have rolled the Marines right back into the water. Luck was on the Marines side, the Japs were even more screwed up and couldn’t manage one.

Day 2:

USMC-C-Tarawa-4

The Marines started trying to bring in more troops at dawn. These troops were met by a hail of machine gun fire from the Red-1/Red-2 junction. Cecelia, still without a working main gun was dispatched to engage the Japanese machine gun positions at the junction. The tank was only in action for a short time before it slid into a shell crater and its electrical system shorted out. The tank was at a steep enough angle the turret could not be rotated with the manual traverse, and had to be abandoned. I’m not sure if it was shock from the impact when it slid into the shell crater, or if there was water in the hole was deep enough to flood the tank.

The M4 hero of the day was China Gal, around 1100, she hooked up with a bunch of gyrene grunts and they attacked south from Red-1 towards the Green beaches. They never actually moved along the beach though, they stayed inland, behind the Japanese positions facing the beach, basically attacking from the Japanese defensive lines rear and flank. Two hours later, they had rolled up the whole western shore, opening the way for more troops to come in, and not under murderous fire. In many cases China Gal had to drive right up to the well-hidden concrete bunkers and blast them through the front slit, or rear door at point blank range to kill them. That night China Gal pulled almost all the way back to Red-1 and holed up with a few infantry around. They slept under the tank and would be back in action in the morning.

On day two, Colorado spent the day on Red-3 trying to kill Japanese positions at the base of the Burns-Philp Pier. Several of these positions had been wiped out the day before and re occupied by the Japanese over the night. Colorado worked closely with a bulldozer, the tank would move in close and blast the machine gun position and then the dozer would cover it over with sand, whether the Japanese inside were dead or not.

They worked out a system with the marine scouts who had led them in on the reef. The few that survived were used to scout targets for the tanks. The tankers made at least one of these scouts ride in the tank and show them were the action was from the inside at least once. The tank crews wanted to give the scouts an idea of how blind they really were, so he could appreciate and take it into consideration while they scouted.

The scouts worked out a system where they would get the tanks attention by beating on the hull with a spent 75mm shell,  because they rang like a bell, and could be heard inside the tank, and then using his rifle to indicate a target. He did this by aiming at the target, and then they would hold up fingers for how many yards away the Japanese soldiers were.  This worked well enough, but ringing the shell/bell on the hull put the ringer in danger of enemy fire.  Of course, once he got the tanks attention, if was the Japs shooting at the scout who had to be worried. These men would also drag dead and wounded marines from the path of the tank.

When the progress on the Green beaches was noticed, it was decided to send in 1st Battalion 6th Marines and B Company 2nd Tank Battalion ashore there, B Company was made up of light tanks.  One of the first LVT’s in hit a mine on the reef and blew up, once again losing a lot of important communication gear. Due to the heavy presence of mines on the reef and beach, 1/6 diverted north, delaying the landings, but ultimately coming ashore as an intact fighting unit, the first of the invasion.

The 1/6 landings went relatively well, but the light tanks of B Company had a lot of trouble. They came in on the wrong tide, and only one platoon would make it onto the reef, only to be 700 yards from shore, and high tide coming. The rest of B Company was diverted Red-2, landing before 1st Platoon got onto the reef.

All five M3A1 light tanks from the 1st Platoon got onto the reef, but only two would make it to land, the rest drowned in hole in the reef. The rest of the company got ashore only to lose another tank in a shell crater, leaving only two running.  The light tanks laagered in an abandoned Japanese airplane revetment and their crews dug foxholes under the tanks for the night. Crews that lost their tanks, dug in with other crews, under their tanks. At night, anything that moved got shot at, so everyone made sure they had a hole by nightfall. A few more lights from B Company would arrive before nightfall, but the rest still remained offshore.

As night fell on the second day, it was clear the Marines were winning, but it was also clear a whole hell of a lot of Marines had been killed. One of the infantry commanders still alive, Lieutenant Colonel David Shoup, issued a report that did not mention anything about a group of Marines being cut off holding a particular section of the island in it and concluded it with “Casualties: many. Percentage dead: unknown. Combat efficiency: we are winning. Lt, Col Shoup.”

USMC-C-Tarawa-7

Day 3:

At 0200 more B Company light tanks arrived off Red-2 and started to land and immediately started having problems. Of the first two lights ashore, one shorted out its electric system and was towed ashore by the other, only to be lost to enemy mortar fire. All through the night more B Company lights tried to get to shore. One platoon lost three out of five light tanks to drown out electrical system or other water related problems. By Morning they had five M3A1 tanks from two platoons ashore.

Later that morning 1st Battalion, 8th Marines attacked the Japanese positions at the base of the pier at the junction of Red-1/Red-2. They five light tanks supported the attack, and much like their larger cousins in C Company, the tankers found it hard to find anything to shoot at, so infantry scouts would often climb into the cramped tanks and lead them to the targets. When the targets turned out to be a pill box or bunker, it was found even firing point blank into the embrasures bunkers with little success. They found using 37mm canister rounds at point blank range, fired through an opening worked well enough. They lost a M3A1 to a Japanese soldier who dashed out and threw some kind of explosive onto the engine deck, blowing the engine up and setting the tank on fire. They lost another light to a mortar attack as well.

The light tanks would be pulled out and replaced by SPM, the SPM was an lightly armored LVT with a 75mm howitzer in a small turret. These vehicles fared little better than the light tanks.

China Gal would be called upon to help an attack reach the group of trapped marines. Elements of two companies from 1st Battalion 2nd Marines had managed to push to the center of the airfield on D-day. The Japanese figured out these marines had pushed far ahead, and attacked behind them, cutting them off. These Marines attacked to the south the next day, trying to break out while the other marines tried to fight to them. The attack to save them faltered, leaving them the nearly 200 Marines of 1/2 still trapped, now in a 200 by 50 yard area of thick bushes and underbrush, and they were low on ammo.

A little after 0800 China Gal, and the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines started an attack to relieve the trapped Marines. They also had seven more light tanks from B Company, who had made it to shore, helping. Major Jones, the commander of 1/6 kept tight control on the tanks, not letting any get further than 50 yards in front of the advancing gyrenes. Jones improvised a way to keep in communication with the tanks and kept one light tank back at his HQ to use its radios to control the other tanks. They attacked along a very narrow front, only about 100 yards wide. Even with the improved communications with the infantry through the use of the light tanks radios, right up at the front edge were the tanks were actually fighting, the commander of China Girl still found it necessary to open his hatch to talk to the Marines outside. To make it safer, the commander of the Sherman would rotate the turret, so his hatch was to the rear, then pop the hatch and rotate the cupola, the early split hatch commanders cupola rotated, to use one of the upright hatches to shield them from fire.

The tank infantry team advanced steadily, losing no more tanks, and crossing 800 yards, they releaved the cut off Marines by 1100. By this point the Marines supply lines had stabilized and a good flow of supplies was making it ashore, but one thing was not. Ammo for the M3 75mm gun was not in the cargo being sent from the ships offshore. This forced the tankers to scavenge what they could from the knocked out and drowned tanks.  The two operating M4 tanks would be reduced to firing 75mm pack howitzer ammo, it didn’t seat right, and they didn’t know how it was fused, but it kept the main guns in action.

Back at the junction of Red-1 and Red-2, where a large Japanese bunker complex, which included the Japanese Commanders command bunker, was still holding the Marines off. At 0930 a lucky mortar round took out one of the bunkers, causing a huge secondary explosion, this allowed Colorado to move in and knock out the other bunker guarding the main one. While the fight went on, the two B Company light tanks left in the area were used as ambulances, hauling wounded Marines back to an aid station.

As night fell, the Jap strong point with the huge bunker still stood. The M4 was used to haul supplies up to prepare for the next mornings renewed attack. Late that night at 0400 almost 400 Japanese troops rushed the Marine lines, attacking B company 1st Battalion 6th Marines, and the Marines won the fight, but it had come down to hand to hand combat.

Day 4: 

At 0700 on the morning of the 4th day of the battle, Navy aircraft bombed the hell out of the last of the japs holding out on the south east part of the island, a long narrow section, ending in the sea. The air attack was followed by marine artillery and naval gunfire support. One of the Pearl Harbor survivor battleships was off shore to deliver the fire. The USS Tennessee would remain offshore until December support the Marines through the mop up operation.

Freshly landed, 3rd Battalion 6th Marines passed through marine lines, heading for the Japanese strong point points on the east side of the Island. Colorado, China Gal and seven light tanks led the attack. They moved in a tight formation of tanks and infantry and rolled up the Japanese troops. The fight had left the Japanese, and many committed suicide. By 1310 the Marines of 3/6 had reached the eastern end of the island. The two M4A2 tanks proved to be decisive weapons at this stage, tearing through the last of the Japanese resistance in the area.

The last area the Japanese were still holding out in, at the junction of Red-1/2, with the big bunker, the area responsible for the majority of the Marine casualties. With only the support of a pair of SPMs the Marines finally crushed these last Japanese holdouts by 1305 when the Island was reported secure.

The cost had been one third of the landing force becoming casualties, 1696 killed and 2101 wounded. The Marines salvaged all the M4A2’s they could and took them back to the LSD Ashland, and they were rebuilt in Hawaii and used in later battles. One M4A2 remains on Tarawa, Cecelia, no matter how hard they tried she wasn’t going to come out of the shell hole, and as of 1992 she was still there, a steel monument to the Marines, Sailors and Soldiers who died taking the Betio, Tarawa Atoll.

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Cecelia now

The Marines learned a lot of hard lessons about using tanks at Tarawa; the biggest problem was communication with the supporting infantry units. Another big problem was the vulnerability of the tanks to water damage. It was also clear, the infantry units needed to train with the tanks they would be supported by in combat. The Marines of C Company had been thrown into combat with little training on the tanks, but still proved to be key players in the conquest of the island. The Marines would begin applying the lessons they learned, but not before their next use of the M4, this time M4A1s at Cape Gloucester, a swampy, jungle island in the Solomons, and not the best place for any tanks, but the M4 would prove it worth there as well.

Cape Gloucester: Who would be nuts enough to try using tanks in a swamp? The USMC that’s who. (coming soon)