News post 13: Lots of small things, mostly cleaning up Sherman drawings.
The Sherman tank site has been up for 2 years, and is all paid up for the coming year. I have content coming out my ears, and the speed things go up is all based on my free time. Unfortunately, free time has been scarce, but that should be getting better. Thanks for all the comments and feedback!
I’m going to list of some new things here and then post a bunch of drawings from various manuals i’ve cleaned up and improved.
I uploaded a bunch of new unit histories as well, and there are several new pages.
Sherman Fire Control: How the Sherman aimed its Main Gun.
The Sherman tank went through a series of fire control changes each an improvement over the last. The first tanks lacked telescopic sight mounted on the gun mount. The only site was incorporated into the gunner’s periscope, and it wasn’t magnified. Since the periscopes were all interchangeable, updating the older tanks was easy at least were the periscope was concerned.
The final fire control setup the Sherman gunner had at his disposal was pretty impressive by the standards of the time. He was in a hydroelectrically driven turret that rotated fast; he had very nice periscope setup with 1x and 6x scopes hooked into the gun with strong linkage. He also had a telescopic sight to work with and the gun was stabilized. This was a vast improvement over the unmagnified reticle on the first production models.
The Lee used a unique setup; the 75mm gun was aimed with an M1 periscope, with an M21A1 periscope built into it. The 37mm was aimed with an M2 periscope with an M19A1 periscope built in. Both the 37 and 75 mounts were stabilized. The prototype M6 Sherman used its own unique sight built into the sight rotor on the top of the turret, this was only used on a small number of production Shermans tanks.
Let’s look at the various periscopes and telescopes the Sherman used through its long life. Let’s start with a look at the various versions of the periscope sights the production Sherman and the TDs based on the chassis below.
The M3 Periscope Sight
Since I just have a little info on this from TM 9-731B on the early M4A2, don’t have much to put here. Maybe this periscope is the one I’ve read about getting foggy on the inside in cold or humid locales. It was quickly replaced with the M4 detailed below. This was one of the non-magnified periscopes.
The M4 Periscope sight
The Periscope M4; it had an M38 telescope with ballistic reticle inside, but no magnification. The M4 was not well liked, and the mount it fit in was made from sheet metal and was a little flimsy. The linkage that attacked it to the gun wasn’t very robust and could be knocked out of alignment annoyingly easily. On early Shermans, this was a big complaint, since they did not have a direct telescope yet. You couldn’t really take advantage of the M3 75mm guns range with this sight setup either since it had no magnification. The later better periscopes like the M4, M4A1 and M8 series would all fit in the old mount though.
The M4A1 Periscope Sight
Next came an improved version of the M4, the M4A1, and they came with an M38A2 telescope, this one was magnified, but not much at 1.44x, and a 9-degree field of view. Later versions of this periscope had illuminated reticles. The mount was not improved though nor was the linkage. The M4A1 periscope was changed when the 105mm and 76mm armed Shermans came online when used with these guns, they had the M47A2 for the 76 tanks, and M77C for the 105 tanks. Hunnicutt doesn’t specify if these were also 1.44X. This periscope was found on M4A1, A2, and A3 76 tanks during WWII.
The M8/M8A1 Periscope Sight
The M4A1 periscopes were replaced by the M8 and M8A1 periscopes. They were a lager tougher improvement on the M4 series, and had the M39A2 telescopic reticle for use with the 76mm gun since it had the same reticle as the M47A2 used in the M4A1 periscope. The M39A2 had 1.8x magnification and a 6-degree FOV. Even though at this point this was no longer the primary sight, the Army kept improving it. But the mount and linkage still remained an issue.
The M10 Periscope Sight
The Army came up with another new periscope sight system called the M10. They started issuing it late in the war around the same time wet tanks start appearing. This was a much-improved periscope; it incorporated two telescopes with reticles, one 1.x, with a field of view of 42 degrees, ten minutes for engaging close targets. The second periscope had a 6x telescope with an 11 degree 20-minute field of view. This periscope could be used with the 76, 75, and 105mm guns when the right reticle was fitted. There was also an M16 periscope, pretty much the same as the m10, but with a reticle adjusting system.
M10C was specific to 75mm Shermans.
M10D was used on 76mm tanks and 105 tanks.
The Periscope mount
for these periscopes were improved greatly when the 76mm gun and 105 tanks arrived, and the mount was made from a beefy casting, and all the linkage was made much stronger will ball bearing in all the pivot points. These would have shown up on M4A1 75w, M4A3 75w, M4A3 105, M4 105, and M4A3 76w, M4A2 76w and M4A1 76w tanks.
This improved mount was also incorporated into most of the post-war rebuild and overhauls. It is very easy to spot, by the heavy cast iron hood over the periscope hole.
The Telescopic sights.
The Shermans fire control system was improved further by the incorporation of a direct telescope mount to the M38A1 gun mount. This prompted the creation of the full-length gun mantlet to protect the scope. When these were retrofitted into older tanks, sometimes they would weld on armor over the scope, leaving a half armored mantlet.
The later 76mm armed tanks had the M62 mount, and it had a telescopic sight mount from the start.
The direct scopes went through their own evolution, and this information is put together from the various TMs on the tanks and Hunnicutt’s Sherman and is not complete. I will update this section as I get more info on the topic.
The M55 Telescope: The first! For the 75mm and 105
This telescope had 3x magnifications with 12 degree 19-minute FOV. This sight was also used on the early production 105 tanks and most 75mm Shermans.
The M51: Also the First, but for the 76 M1A1
The same scope as above, with the same specs, but with the reticle for the 76mm guns, and that’s all. There were complaints about the optical quality on these scopes since the clarity wasn’t optimal.
M70 Telescopic Sight
The M50 sights were replaced with the M70 Series sights, the same size, and magnification. What set them apart was there superior optical quality. The Army went on to develop many different versions of this sight. It was a 3X scope with a 12 degree 19-minute FOV.
M70F Telescopic Sight
This was version used on M4A3 75W Shermans.
M70G Telescopic Sight
This sight was used on M10 GMC tank destroyers.
M70P Telescopic Sight
This sight was used on some M36 CMCs tank destroyers.
M71D Telescopic Sight
This was a 5x with a 13-degree FOV version of the scope. It had the reticle for the 76mm guns and was used on those tanks. This was the sight commonly found on M4A1 and M4A2 76 tanks.
M71G Telescopic Sight
This version of the M71 was issued with the Jumbo tanks.
M72D Telescopic Sight
This was used on the 105mm armed Shermans.
M76F/D Telescopic Sight
These telescopes were used on the M36 GMC tank destroyers.
M76G Telescopic Sight
This scope only had a 3x magnification, with a 21 degree, 30 minutes FOV, and was used in 105 tank applications later in the war.
M83 Veritable Power Telescopic Sight.
This scope had two settings, 4x 7 degrees, 40 minutes and 8x 4 degrees, 15 minutes, and M83D version of this sight worked with the 76mm guns when in an M62 mount. I have not seen this one mentioned anywhere but Hunnicutt’s Sherman book. That doesn’t mean it didn’t get issued as a replacement later in the war since I’m going off TM’s and spec sheets and those are a small snapshot into a tanks actual combat gear.
. . .
Indirect Fire Control Gear
You would think that would be it for fire control equipment, but it’s not because all Shermans came equipped with the equipment for their tanks to work as impromptu artillery batteries all Sherman based TDs had this gear as well. The US Army had this extra gear installed all the way up to the M60 tanks. During the war, some tank and TD battalions were very good at being artillery; other units didn’t train for it and were not good. This was a good way of keeping tanks useful in Italy, and they filled this role a lot there. I do not think this was something many other nations did with their tanks.
Azimuth Indicator M19
The Azimuth Indicator was mounted near the gunner, right behind the traverse control. This device was used to dial in what direction the gun needed to be pointed in to carry out the fire mission.
Gunners Quadrant M1
The Gunners quadrant is a portable precision instrument used for measuring the elevation or depression angles of guns and howitzers. It can also be used for checking the adjusting of elevation devices on sighting equipment furnished with a gun or howitzer. This was taken right from the Characteristics in tech manual 9-1527.
Elevation Quadrant M9
The Elevation Quadrant M9 was used to lay the tanks main gun in elevation for indirect fire. There are detailed instructions for setting it up in TM 9-748.
A Sherman unit trained in how to act as an artillery battery would probably be told they were on call when not in direct combat but close enough for the 75s to reach. They would have men manning radios in the tanks while other tasks were being done, like maintenance, personal things, and eating. When they got the call, the designated battery commander for each platoon would listen to the directions on the arty net or get in direct contact with the spotter. In many cases they would be connected to the net directly, so they wouldn’t need to worry about radio reception. They would relay the aiming information out the tanks on the radio or phone net and then they would start firing.
Once they started firing the whole crew would help feed the gun, and if they were doing it as a common thing they might even have large amounts of ammo unboxed outside the tank, where the driver and co-driver could feed them to the commander who then fed them to the loader. The M3 75mm gun worked well in this role since the barrel had a life in excess of 4000 rounds.
Bibliography and sources: So here are all my sources
So yes, I know the site would be better with a list of sources, and this is going to be that post for now. I will also, as I review and rewrite all the articles over time, add them to each post.
A bit about the site, and myself, I’m just a guy who really likes WWII history, and more specifically, WWII tank history. I am not an expert on the Sherman, but I do know a hell of a lot about it, and I have a lot of opinions about it as well, and much of this site is me sharing that opinion. The hard data is not my opinion, the specifications, and other details are not my opinion and come from many different sources. Most of these are listed in the book review and links section. There is even a data post with a whole lot of useful information in picture format of various documents.
First and foremost, most of the minutia details come from reading the Sherman Minutia Website a lot and looking through the Son of a Sherman book. Between these two sources, you can answer almost any question about a production detail on a Sherman you may have, and the nice thing about the SMW is it’s always being updated. I only cover these details in a very general way, I could never do it as well as the book or site.
My next big source of information is period literature and manuals. If you haven’t noticed, I have a very large selection of technical manuals and field manuals on my website, all available for download, for free. I’ve collected a huge number of the things over the years, most in PDF format, but a few in real paper, and I’ve read a hell of a lot of them. I am missing a few key Technical Manuals, like one on the M4/M4A1, I have the M4A2, A3 and A4 covered though, and several TDs and the Lee. I’m pretty confident I could start up and drive around and M4A2 or A3 or even A4 and adjust the clutch linkage and do a host of other maintenance tasks from reading through the manuals on how to do them. These old tanks are so similar to old cars is funny, and if you know a good bit about old cars the manuals should be very easy to follow, the big difference is the size of the tools and weights involved.
Along with the TM and FMs, I’ve hosted a lot of other documents I’ve found on the internet, from battalion and division histories, the very interesting Combat Lessons booklets the DOD put out during WWII, and I’ve taken information from all these sources.
Now for the books, so many books, most of these I own, and love, but a few I only have in PDF. I already mentioned Son of a Sherman Volume one. If you have any interest in the Sherman tank, you should by the book while it’s in print and reasonable in price, it’s fantastic. It also had some of the better info I used in the factories post. It’s to late to get this book at regular price now, and new and used copies are going for 300 to 700 bucks!
Sherman: A History of the American Medium Tank, by RP Hunnicutt is the holy grail of Sherman books. It is filled with so much information about the production history, use, design, modifications, and hard specifications, that much of the data on this site comes from this book. The gun chart data came from here, all the data sheets, and a lot of the future things that almost made it came from here as well. This book is currently in print again, for 60 buck paperback, 70 hardbacks. Buy it now, before it goes back into the hundreds after going out of print. Though slightly dated in is the short history of battle sections, it is still an amazing book, and really the only hard technical history of the Sherman that is really great. Also always keep your eye out for an original printing, the photos are much better.
Armored Thunderbolt: The US Army Sherman in WWII, by Steven Zaloga this book, when combined with Son of a Sherman and RP Hunnicutt’s Sherman book will give you a very good knowledge base on both the technical and historical histories of the tank, and if you throw in Son of a Sherman you have all the minute details covered. With these three books, you can really get a good idea how wrong the pop culture opinion of the Sherman and German armor in general really is. So a little more about this book, Zaloga covers both the design history, though not in minute detail, (You will not find detailed specification sheets or a breakdown of the exact details of the differences in all Sherman models) but he does cover much more of the politics and decision making that led to some of the key problems that popped up with the Sherman, US Tank design, and armor tactics. In this book and several Interesting interviews, he really covers why Belton Cooper of Deathtraps fame was so wrong. He also has a lot of the numbers in his book backing up the Sherman performing in battle better than the Panther. Zaloga is a prolific writer and has put a lot down on paper about the Sherman, and I’ve read almost all of it, aside from a few older Osprey New Vanguard books. This man, almost as much as R.P. Hunnicutt is responsible for bringing out the truth about the Sherman tank.
The Tank Killers, Steel Victory, and the Infantry’s Armor, by Harry Yeide, These books are another big source they are really great books covering the use of Tank Destroyers and the Separate Tank Battalions. Yeide is both knowledgeable and easy to read, and I will continue to buy every book he puts out.
Marine Tank battles of the Pacific by Oscar Gilbert, in comparison, to Sherman use elsewhere, until recently info on the Shermans use in the Pacific was pretty light. This book is specific to the Marines and covers more than just Shermans use, but it does a pretty good job of covering each battle, and most of the info, along with some histories from the Marine Corps was used for the old Tarawa post. His book on Marine tank use in Korea also has some Sherman use covered and is a good read as well.
Tanks in Hell by Oscar Gilbert and Romain Cansiere is a very recent and very detailed study of the use of Marine Shermans on Tarawa. It is the most detailed history available on the Shermans use in that battle and clears up some mysteries and misconceptions. It was a great read and I just finished it up.
There are so many books on the Sherman out there, I’ve tried to read any I could, but the ones listed are the best and most important. I do not read books just on the Sherman tank, and at one time was what one could consider a wehraboo, and I know the guy who invented the word too, so I have that going for me. Anyway, while a wehraboo, I collected some of the premium good source books on German tanks. Reading through Panther Tank by Thomas L Jentz started me down the path to salvation, the combat readiness reports found in that book; even on the late model G Panther are truly pathetic, though it is really a beautiful book, Jentz was only against listing source material. I also have Panther and its Variants by Walter Speilberger, another beautiful book, filled with beautiful illustrations on a tank so unreliable to be almost useless. I have Jentz’s two books on the Tiger, D.W to Tiger I and Tiger I&II Combat tactics. Also very nice books but based on old outdated historical information when it comes to the unit histories, but boy are the pictures great. I have Speilburger’s books on the Panzer III and IV, both great books, and the subject matter is more interesting since these were the real stars of the German tank design, in that at least they worked and offered real value to the German Army. I’ve read Tigers in the mud and even enjoyed it. There are of course more, but that covers the really big stuff/good stuff.
Other important sources are sites like Archive Awareness, who author takes Russian Soviet-era archive documents and translates them and offers opinions on them. He has some very interesting information on the Sherman tank on his site, and far more on Russian tanks and German lies. Some say he is biased, but if he is, it’s against the Nazi propaganda that still lives on to stink up the world, and I’m fine with that. Other good sites include Tank and AFV news, and the Lone Sentry.
The Chieftains Hatch of Wargaming fame, like him or not has produced some very interesting new information about various tanks, and his publication of the French post-war report on Panther use is a real eye-opener and was groundbreaking info. I have links to many of his very interesting posts in the links section. Like World of Tanks or not, they have dropped a lot of real cash on restoring real tanks, and paying real researchers to unearth interesting tank information, they deserve some real credit for furthering the modern understanding of Armor. Wargaming also got a lot of armor experts in one place as a panel for their Operation Think Tank series and let the crowd ask questions, it is on YouTube and filled with very interesting info.
If I have it listed on my links, information from their website has probably contributed to a post on this site.
Now a final bit about sources and this site, all the information in the various posts is true to the best of my knowledge and sources. Some information, mostly image captions are very generic and often wrong, and many helpful people have posted corrections, and I’m always grateful for it this help. If you think I’m wrong on something, and you can back it up with sourced info, by all means, contact me through the site email, or posting a comment so I can correct any mistakes. I try and keep the site from being about my ego in any way, and will listen to reasonable people with reasonable arguments and most importantly, data and source info to back it up. Don’t bother if your ‘source info’ originated with a German wartime SS source, their wartime numbers are not at all accurate, and even the German army discounted them.
On a final note, am I a fanboy of the Sherman, in a sense, I suppose, but a true fanboy does not understand the flaws of their subject of obsession, and in my case, that’s not true. I know theSherman had flaws, it like all things created by man, was an engineering tradeoff, and the ones they chose, were the right ones for the US Army in WWII, and even Shermans armed with only the 75mm could have carried the day in Europe. Or that’s my opinion anyway, but don’t let my opinions scare you away from all the hard data on the site.
After just over two years in operation, this site has grown past 350,000 words, with a huge number of Sherman photos and drawings, many of the drawings pretty rare. I have more information on the motors and powertrain of the Sherman series than any site on the net. This site has more technical manuals, and field manuals on the Sherman and US Armor use than any site I know of.
This site is largely a one-man operation, and with that much content there will be typos and grammar mistakes, and I apologize and fixe them when I find them. This site has been funded out of my own pocket, and if you count book purchases, the cost has gotten significant, but the content will always remain free, and ad-free.
Soviet Shermans: The USSR Was a Big Sherman User, and They Liked it
The Soviet Union received three American Medium tank types in large numbers. They received the Lee, and M4A2 75 and 76 tanks. Only the UK would use more M4A2 tanks, though they received only five armed with the 76mm gun, they got far more of the 75mm armed M4A2s. The Soviets also received a pair of M4A4 tanks for evaluation but rejected them because of the motor. My impression from the things I’ve read says, they liked the all of them, well not the A4, but liked the Shermans more than the Lee.
Now let’s cover each tank model.
M3 Lee: The Basic Lee
The Lee was not considered a very good design by the Soviet Union, you can read their evaluation here, on Archive Awareness, but it was not all negative. They liked the transmission, differential and final drives, and in particular the steering and brake mechanism. They felt the R975 air-cooled motor was not a great fit for tanks, for all the reasons they are not fit for tanks, mainly the size limitations they put on the tank, and as gasoline AC engines, they don’t have good low-end torque, make driving harder. They disliked the position of the 75mm gun, and lack of sites on the machine guns.
One thing I found very interesting, is in the summer, they could pack up to 10 SMG infantry into the Lee, along with the regular 7 man crew, making it into a makeshift APC. The thing would be packed full of people though. The report says all weapons could be fired on the tank while those 10 men were stuffed in, so I guess the US Army or Brits didn’t try this because they liked comfort or something.
The Lee did not fare well against the upgraded Panzer IV with long 75, and they lost a lot of them, but they never stopped using them, they just did what the British did and sent them off to secondary theaters, where tanks were still useful, and no enemy tanks were around. Against poorly equipped, in AT weapon, Infantry, the M3 Lee was a monster of a tank. The 75mm had a great HE round, it was packed with machine guns, and had a 37mm that could sling canister. The Soviets received 1386 M3 Lee tanks.
M4A2 75 dry: Early Small Hatch 75mm Shermans with Drivers Hoods
The Soviets received 1990 M3 75mm gun armed M4A2 Shermans. I don’t have a list of who made the early M4A2 tanks they got. They were competing with the Marine Corps and the French and Brits on priority for these tanks, and most went to the Brits. I’ve looked through a lot of pictures of Soviet M4 tanks, or “Emcha” as they seemed to call them, the small hatch 75 tanks seem rarer than the large hatch 75 and 76 tanks.
This Post on Archive Awareness indicates, they received several hundred very early M4A2 tanks. One of the big indicators of this is the section where they talk about the suspension having the Lee style top mounted return roller, which could be jammed with mud, but then they received later models, where this return roller was moved to bracket mounted to the side of the suspension unit.
Another interesting part of that document is the problems they had with injectors and lubrication problems with the pistons. The Army reported similar problems with early model M4A2s, with the Air cleaners, cooling system, and clutches, but nothing about the injectors. This post on AA also indicates injector issues but was overall positive on the M4A2. Maybe the Soviets used low-quality diesel and the injectors didn’t like it. At any rate, these issues would have been worked out by the time they started getting improved models.
M4A2 large hatch Dry: Late Model 75mm, 47-degree Large Hatch Hulls, but with Dry Ammo Racks
By late 1943 a new version of the M4A2 was going into production, and it had the improved 47-degree, single piece front armor plate, with large driver and co-drivers hatches. These would be the first tanks to get this improvement. By the time this model went into production, priority for diesel-powered Shermans was going to the Soviets, since that was the only model they wanted, and the Brits would take the M4A4.
These improved large hatch hulls still used the dry ammunition rack setup of the early small hatch hulls, but they had the applique armor applied at the factory, and the 75mm turrets had an improved casting thickening the area that had required welded on additional armor on the older turrets. The Turrets had a oval loaders hatch and a pistol port as well, though the commander still got the older split hatch cupola with the 50 caliber mount built into it.
These tanks seemed to have been photographed much more than the small hatch 75 tanks, but I do not have a lot of photos of either. By the time these tanks were being produced, all the major reliability issues would have been worked out.
M4A2 76W: The Soviets were the Second Biggest User of 76mm Shermans
Production of the 75mm armed Sherman was reduced, as Sherman production was streamlined down from the 10 factories that were producing it, to the three that would finish it off, Fisher, Chrysler, and Pressed Steel Car. The Soviet Union received 2073 M4A2 tanks with the 76mm M1A1 gun. This was just about Fishers whole production run on the 76mm armed M4A2.
These tanks would have started out with wet racks, all around vision cupolas, a split loaders hatch and an M1A1 76mm gun without a barrel threaded for a muzzle brake. A few may have even had T23 turrets without the ventilator on the rear. These would quickly be replaced with M1A1C guns with threaded barrels with a protective cap over the threads, and the split loaders hatch would be replaced with the smaller oval hatch. These tanks would eventually be produced in the “Ultimate” configuration, with the M1A2 gun, and HVSS suspension.
After being given a chance to drive the M4A4 on the proving grounds and being given lectures and demonstrations of its A57 gas motor, the Soviets decided that the M4A4 was better than the M3 Lee, but inferior to the M4A2 with GM Diesel they were already receiving through lend lease. They decided the factory was impressive, but really not producing a very good tank.
Even though the Soviets showed little interest in the M4A4 tanks, two were sent to them for evaluation anyway. You can read their impressions here, but as before when they tested it in the US, they felt the motor was to complicated to be reliable.
Dmitriy Fedorovich, on which American tanks did you fight?
On Shermans. We called them “Emchas”, from M4 [in Russian, em chetyrye]. Initially they had the short main gun, and later they began to arrive with the long gun and muzzle brake. On the front slope armor there was a travel lock for securing the barrel during road marches. The main gun was quite long. Overall, this was a good vehicle but, as with any tank, it had its pluses and minuses. When someone says to me that this was a bad tank, I respond, “Excuse me!” One cannot say that this was a bad tank. Bad as compared to what?
Dmitriy Fedorovich, did you have just American tanks in your unit?
Our 6th Guards Tank Army (yes, we had six of them) fought in Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Austria. We ended the war for us in Czechoslovakia. Then they rushed us to the Far East and we fought against Japan. I briefly remind you that the army consisted of two corps: 5th Guards Tank Stalingrad Corps on our own T-34s and 5th Mechanized Corps, in which I fought. For the first time this corps had British Matildas, Valentines, and Churchills.
They delivered the Churchill later.
Yes, a bit later. After 1943 we largely declined British tanks because they had significant deficiencies. In particular, they had 12-14 h.p. per ton of weight at a time when good tanks had 18-20 h.p. per ton. Of these three British tanks, the best was the Valentine produced in Canada. Its armor was streamlined but more importantly, it featured a long-barreled 57mm main gun. My unit switched over to American Shermans at the end of 1943. After the Kishinev Operation our corps became the 9th Guards Mechanized Corps. I missed to tell you that every corps consisted of four brigades. Our mechanized corps had three mechanized brigades and one tank brigade, in which I fought. A tank corps had three tank brigades and one mechanized brigade. Yes, we had Shermans in our brigade at the end of 1943.
But the British tanks were not withdrawn from service, so they fought until they were gone. Wasn’t there a period when your corps had a mixture of tanks, both American and British? Were there any problems associated with the presence of such a broad variety of vehicles from different countries? For example, with supply and maintenance?
Well, there were always problems. In general, the Matilda was an unbelievably worthless tank! I will tell you about one of the Matilda’s deficiencies that caused us a great deal of trouble. Some fool in the General Staff planned an operation and sent our corps to the area of Yelnya, Smolensk, and Roslavl. The terrain there was forested swamp. The Matilda had skirts along the sides. The tank was developed primarily for operations in the desert. These skirts worked well in the desert-the sand passed through the rectangular slots in them. But in the forested swamps of Russia the mud packed into the space between the tracks and these side skirts. The Matilda transmission had a servomechanism for ease of shifting. In our conditions this component was weak, constantly overheated, and then failed. This was fine for the British. By 1943 they had developed a replacement unit that could be installed simply by unscrewing four mounting bolts, pulling out the old unit, and installing the new unit. It did not always work this way for us. In my battalion we had Senior Sergeant (Starshina) Nesterov, a former kolkhoz tractor driver (Kolkhoz is sort of farm – Valeri), in the position of battalion mechanic. In general each of our tank companies had a mechanic and Nesterov was it for the battalion. At our corps level we had a representative (whose name I have forgotten) of the British firm that produced these tanks. At one time I had it written down, but when my tank was hit everything I had in it burned up -photographs, documents, and notebook. We were forbidden to keep notes at the front, but I did it on the sly. Anyway, this British representative constantly interfered with our efforts to repair separate components of the tank. He said, “This has a factory seal. You should not tinker with it!” We were supposed to take out a component and install a new one. Nesterov made a simple repair to all these transmissions. One time the British representative came up to Nesterov and asked him, “At which university did you study?” And Nesterov replied, “At the kolkhoz!”
The Sherman was light years better in this regard. Did you know that one of the designers of the Sherman was a Russian engineer named Timoshenko? He was some shirt tail relative of Marshal S. K. Timoshenko.
The Sherman had its weaknesses, the greatest of which was its high center of gravity. The tank frequently tipped over on its side, like a Matryoshka doll (a wooden stacking doll). But I am alive today thanks to this deficiency. We were fighting in Hungary in December 1944. I was leading the battalion and on a turn my driver-mechanic clipped a curb. My tank went over on its side. We were thrown around, of course, but we survived the experience. Meanwhile the other four of my tanks went ahead and drove into an ambush. They were all destroyed.
Dmitriy Fedorovich, the Sherman had a rubber-coated metal track. Some contemporary authors point to this as a deficiency, since in combat the rubber might be set on fire. With the track thus stripped bare, the tank is disabled. What can you say in this regard?
On the one hand this rubber-coated track was a big plus. In the first place, this track had a service life approximately twice that of steel track. I might be mistaken, but I believe that the service life of the T-34 track was 2500 kilometers. The service life of the Sherman track was in excess of 5000 kilometers. Secondly, The Sherman drove like a car on hard surfaces, and our T-34 made so much noise that only the devil knows how many kilometers away it could be heard. What was the bad side of the Sherman track? In my book, Commanding the Red Army’s Sherman Tanks, there is a chapter entitled “Barefooted”. There I wrote about an incident that occurred in August 1944 in Romania, during the Jassy-Kishinev Operation. The heat was fearsome, somewhere around 30° C. We had driven approximately 100 km along a highway in a single day. The rubber linings on our support rollers got so hot that the rubber separated and peeled off in long pieces. Our corps paused not far from Bucharest. The rubber was flying around, the rollers had begun to jam up, the noise was terrible, and in the end we had been stopped. This was immediately reported to Moscow. Was this some kind of joke, an entire corps had halted? To our surprise, they brought new support rollers to us quickly and we spent three days installing them. I still don’t know where they found so many support rollers in such a short time. There was yet another minus of rubber track. Even on a slightly icy surface the tank slid around like a fat cow. When this happened we had to tie barbed wire around the track or make grousers out of chains or bolts, anything to give us traction. But this was with the first shipment of tanks. Having seen this, the American representative reported to his company and the next shipment of tanks was accompanied by additional track blocks with grousers and spikes. If I recall, there were up to seven blocks for each track, for a total of fourteen per tank. We carried them in our parts bin. In general the American representative worked efficiently. Any deficiency that he observed and reported was quickly and effectively corrected.
One more shortcoming of the Sherman was the construction of the driver’s hatch. The hatch on the first shipment of Shermans was located in the roof of the hull and simply opened upward. Frequently the driver-mechanic opened it and raised his head in order to see better. There were several occasions when during the rotation of the turret the main gun struck this hatch and knocked it into the driver’s head. We had this happen once or twice in my own unit. Later the Americans corrected this deficiency. Now the hatch rose up and simply moved to the side, like on modern tanks.
Still one great plus of the Sherman was in the charging of its batteries. On our T-34 it was necessary to run the engine, all 500 horsepower of it, in order to charge batteries. In the crew compartment of the Sherman was an auxiliary gasoline engine, small like a motorcycle’s one. Start it up and it charged the batteries. This was a big deal to us!
For a long time after the war I sought an answer to one question. If a T-34 started burning, we tried to get as far away from it as possible, even though this was forbidden. The on-board ammunition exploded. For a brief period of time, perhaps six weeks, I fought on a T-34 around Smolensk. The commander of one of our companies was hit in his tank. The crew jumped out of the tank but were unable to run away from it because the Germans were pinning them down with machine gun fire. They lay there in the wheat field as the tank burned and blew up. By evening, when the battle had waned, we went to them. I found the company commander lying on the ground with a large piece of armor sticking out of his head. When a Sherman burned, the main gun ammunition did not explode. Why was this?
Such a case occurred once in Ukraine. Our tank was hit. We jumped out of it but the Germans were dropping mortar rounds around us. We lay under the tank as it burned. We laid there a long time with nowhere to go. The Germans were covering the empty field around the tank with machine gun and mortar fires. We lay there. The uniform on my back was beginning heating up from the burning tank. We thought we were finished! We would hear a big bang and it would all be over! A brother’s grave! We heard many loud thumps coming from the turret. This was the armor-piercing rounds being blown out of their cases. Next the fire would reach the high explosive rounds and all hell would break loose! But nothing happened. Why not? Because our high explosive rounds detonated and the American rounds did not? In the end it was because the American ammunition had more refined explosives. Ours was some kind of component that increased the force of the explosion one and one-half times, at the same time increasing the risk of detonation of the ammunition.
It is considered noteworthy that the Sherman was very well appointed on the inside. Was this true?
It was true. These are not just words! They were beautiful! For us then this was something. As they say now, “Euro-repair”! This was some kind of European picture! In the first place, it was painted beautifully. Secondly, the seats were comfortable, covered with some kind of remarkable special artificial leather. If a tank was knocked out or damaged, then if it was left unguarded literally for just several minutes the infantry would strip out all this upholstery. It made excellent boots! Simply beautiful!
In your book “Commanding the Red Army’s Sherman Tanks” you wrote that the 233rd Tank Brigade’s M4A2 Shermans were armed not with the short-barreled 75mm but the long-barreled 76mm main gun in January 1944. Wasn’t this a bit early? Didn’t these tanks appear later? Explain one more time which main guns were mounted on the Shermans of the 233rd Tank Brigade.
Hmm, I don’t know. We had very few Shermans with the short-barreled main gun. On the whole, ours had long-barrels. Not just our brigade fought on Shermans. Perhaps these were in other brigades. Somewhere in the corps I saw such tanks, but we had the tanks with the long barrels.
Dmitriy Fedorovich, there were personal weapons in each Sherman that arrived in the USSR, Thompson submachine guns (also known as the Tommy gun). I read that rear area personnel stole these weapons and that few tanks arrived in units still equipped with them. What kind of weapons did you have, American or Soviet?
Each Sherman came with two Thompson submachine guns, in caliber 11.43mm (.45 cal), a healthy cartridge indeed! But the submachine gun was worthless. We had several bad experiences with it. A few of our men who got into an argument were wearing padded jackets. It turned out that they fired at each other and the bullet buried itself in the padded jacket. So much for the worthless submachine gun. Take a German submachine gun with folding stock (MP-40 SMG by Erma -Valeri). We loved it for its compactness. The Thompson was big. You couldn’t turn around in the tank holding it.
The Sherman had an antiaircraft machine gun Browning M2 .50 caliber. Did you use it often?
I don’t know why, but one shipment of tanks arrived with machine guns, and another without them. We used this machine gun against both aircraft and ground targets. We used it less frequently against air targets because the Germans were not fools. They bombed either from altitude or from a steep dive. The machine gun was good to 400-600 meters in the vertical. The Germans would drop their bombs from say, 800 meters or higher. He dropped his bomb and departed quickly. Try to shoot the bastard down! So yes, we used it, but it was not very effective. We even used our main gun against aircraft. We placed the tank on the upslope of a hill and fired. But our general impression of the machine gun was good. These machine guns were of great use to us in the war with Japan, against kamikazes. We fired them so much that they got red hot and began to cook off. To this day I have a piece of shrapnel in my head from an antiaircraft machine gun.
Did German aircraft inflict significant losses on your equipment? In particular, what can you say about the Henschel Hs-129?
Not every time, but it did happen. I don’t remember the Henschel; perhaps there was such an airplane. Sometimes we were able to avoid bombs. You could see them coming at you, you know. We opened our hatches, stuck out our heads, and instructed our drivers over the intercom: “The bomb will fall in front of us”. But in general there were cases when tanks were hit and set on fire. Losses from these attacks did not exceed 3-5 tanks in the battalion. It was more common for a single tank to be damaged or destroyed. We faced much greater danger from panzerfaust gunners in built-up areas. In Hungary I recall that I was so tired that I told my deputy to lead the battalion while I slept. I went to sleep right there in the fighting compartment of my Sherman. Around Beltsy they had dropped ammunition to us by parachute. We took one parachute for ourselves. I used this parachute for my pillow. The parachute was made from silk and didn’t let the lice in. And I was sound asleep! Suddenly I woke up. Why? I awoke from the silence. Why the silence? It turns out that attacking aircraft had set two tanks on fire. During the march many things were piled up on the tanks: crates, tarpaulin. The battalion had halted, shut off engines, and it had become silent. And I woke up.
Did you lock your hatches during combat in built-up areas?
We absolutely locked our hatches from the inside. In my own experience, when we burst into Vienna, they were throwing grenades at us from the upper floors of buildings. I ordered all the tanks to be parked under the archways of buildings and bridges. From time to time I had to pull my tank out into the open to extend a whip antenna and send and receive communications from my higher commander. On one occasion, a radio operator and driver-mechanic were doing something inside their tank and left the hatch open. Someone dropped a grenade through the hatch from above. It struck the back of the radio operator and detonated. Both were killed. Thus we most certainly locked our hatches when we were in built-up areas.
The primary defeating mechanism of HEAT (hollow-charge) ammunition, of which the panzerfaust was one type, is the high pressure in the tank, which disables the crew. If the hatches were kept slightly open, would this not provide some degree of protection? A special order was issued before our forces entered Germany.
This is true, but just the same we kept our hatches locked. It might have been different in other units. The panzerfaust gunners most often fired at the engine compartment. If they were able to set the tank on fire, like it or not the crew had to get out. And then the Germans shot at the crew with a machine gun.
What were the chances of survival if your tank was hit?
My tank was hit on 19 April 1945 in Austria. A Tiger put a round straight through us. The projectile passed through the entire fighting compartment and then the engine compartment. There were three officers in the tank: I as the battalion commander, the company commander Sasha Ionov (whose own tank had already been hit), and the tank commander. Three officers, a driver-mechanic, and a radio operator. When the Tiger hit us, the driver-mechanic was killed outright. My entire left leg was wounded; to my right, Sasha Ionov suffered a traumatic amputation of his right leg. The tank commander was wounded, and below me sat the gunner, Lesha Romashkin. Both of his legs were blown off. A short time before this battle, we were sitting around at a meal and Lesha said to me, “If I lose my legs I will shoot myself. Who will need me?” He was an orphan and had no known relatives. In a strange twist of fate, this is what happened to him. We pulled Sasha out of the tank and then Lesha, and were beginning to assist in the evacuation of the others. At this moment Lesha shot himself.
In general, one or two men were always wounded or killed. It depended where the shell struck.
How did you co-operate with the infantry during combat?
By TOE the tank brigade had three tank battalions of 21 tanks each and a battalion of submachine gunners. A submachine gun battalion had three companies, one for each tank battalion. We had this three-battalion structure only in late 1943 and early 1944. All the rest of the time we had two tank battalions in the brigade. Our submachine gunners were like brothers to us. On the march they sat on our tanks. They kept warm there, dried their things, and slept. We drove along and then stopped somewhere. The tankers could sleep and our submachine gunners protected our tanks and us. Over the course of time many submachine gunners became members of our crews, initially as loaders and later as radio operators. We divided our trophies equally: they with us and we with them. Therefore they had an easier time of it than ordinary infantrymen.
During combat they sat on the tanks until the firing started. As soon as the Germans opened fire on our tanks, they jumped off and ran behind the tanks, frequently protected by its armor from enemy light machine gun fire.
If it happened that the tanks were limited in maneuver and speed, did you maneuver your infantry or halt them?
Nothing like that. We did not pay any attention to them. We maneuvered and they maneuvered themselves behind us. There were no problems. It would have been worse for them if we had been knocked out, so let them run behind us.
Was the tank’s speed limited in the attack? By what?
Of course! We must been fire!
How did you fire, from short halts or on the move?
Both ways. If we fired on the move, the speed of the tank did not exceed 12 km/h. But we rarely fired on the move, only in order to incite panic in the enemy ranks. Primarily we fired from short halts. We rushed into a position, stopped for a second, fired, and moved ahead.
What would you like to say about the German Tiger?
It was an extremely heavy vehicle. The Sherman could never defeat a Tiger with a frontal shot. We had to force the Tiger to expose its flank. If we were defending and the Germans were attacking, we had a special tactic. Two Shermans were designated for each Tiger. The first Sherman fired at the track and broke it. For a brief space of time the heavy vehicle still moved forward on one track, which caused it to turn. At this moment the second Sherman shot it in the side, trying to hit the fuel cell. This is how we did it. One German tank was defeated by two of ours, therefore the victory was credited to both crews. There is a story about this entitled “Hunting With Borzois” in my book.
The muzzle brake has one significant shortcoming: a cloud of dust is raised during firing from a weapon thus equipped, giving away one’s position. Some artillerymen attempted to counter this, for example, by wetting down the ground in front of their cannons. What countermeasures did you employ?
You’re correct! We might have packed the ground and covered it with our tarpaulins. I don’t recall any special problems.
Were your tank sights blinded by dust, dirt, or snow?
There were no special difficulties. Snow, of course, could blind us. But not dust. The sight on the Sherman did not protrude. On the contrary, it was recessed into the turret. Therefore it was well protected against the elements.
Dmitriy Fedorovich, our tankers who fought on the British Churchills pointed out the weak heater in the crew compartment as a deficiency. The standard electric heater was inadequate for the conditions of the Russian winter. How was the Sherman equipped in this regard?
The Sherman had two engines connected by a coupling joint. This was both good and bad. There were cases when one of these motors was disabled in battle. Then the coupling joint could be disengaged from the crew compartment and the tank could crawl away from the fight on one engine. On the other hand, there were powerful fans located above both engines. We used to say, “Open your mouth and the wind came out your ass!” How the hell could we get warm? There were such strong drafts of air! Perhaps there was heat coming from the engines, but I will not tell you that it was warm. When we halted, we immediately covered the engine compartment with our tarpaulin. Then it stayed warm in the tank for several hours; we slept in the tank. Not for nothing did the Americans give us fleece-lined coveralls.
Were there norms of ammunition consumption for the tank?
Yes there were. In the first place, we took one basic load (BK -boekomplekt -a full set of ammo. For example the IS-2’s BK = 28 shells. -Valeri) with us going into battle. We took an additional BK on the outside of our tanks during long raids. When I raced into Vienna, for example, my commander personally ordered us to take two BK: the normal load inside and the second on the armor. In addition, we carried up to two cases of trophy chocolate on each tank and found additional provisions for ourselves. We were “on our own”, so to speak. This meant that if we had to conduct a raid somewhere deep in the rear, we offloaded rations and in their place took ammunition. All of our wheeled supply vehicles were American 2 ?-ton Studebakers. They always brought the ammunition forward to the battalion.
There is one other thing I want to say. How did we preserve our (Soviet) ammunition? Several rounds covered by a thin layer of grease, in wooden crates. One had to sit for hours and clean this grease off the rounds. American ammunition was packed in cardboard tube containers, three rounds banded together. The rounds were shiny clean inside their protective tubes! We took them out and immediately stowed them in the tank.
What kind of rounds did you carry in the tank?
Armor-piercing and high explosive. There was nothing else. The ratio was approximately one-third HE and two-thirds AP.
Did the crew receive a concussion when a round hit the tank, even if it did not penetrate the armor?
Generally, no. It depended on where the round hit. Let’s say that I was sitting in the left side of the turret and a round struck near me. I heard this hit but it did not harm me. If it struck somewhere on the hull, I might not hear it at all. This happened several times. We would come out of an engagement and inspect the tank. In several places the armor would show an impact, like a hot knife that had cut through butter. But I did not hear the round impacts. Sometimes the driver would shout, “They’re shooting from the left!” But there was no overwhelming sound. Of course, if such a powerful gun as the JSU-152 hit you, you heard it! And it would take off your head along with the turret.
I want also to add that the Sherman’s armor was tough. There were cases on our T-34 when a round struck and did not penetrate. But the crew was wounded because pieces of armor flew off the inside wall and struck the crewmen in the hands and eyes. This never happened on the Sherman.
What did you consider the most dangerous opponent? A cannon? A tank? An airplane?
They were all dangerous until the first round was fired. But in general, the antitank cannons were the most dangerous. They were very difficult to distinguish and defeat. The artillerymen dug them in so that their barrels literally were laying on the ground. You could see only several centimeters of their gun shield. The cannon fired. It was a good thing if it had a muzzle brake and dust was kicked up! But if it was winter or raining, what then?
Were there cases when you did not see from your tank where the fire was coming from, but your SMG infantry did see? How did they guide you to the source of the fire?
Sometimes they pounded on the turret and shouted. Sometimes they began to fire in the direction with tracer bullets or fired a signal rocket in that direction. And then, you know, when we went into the attack, the commander often looked around from the turret. None of the periscopes, even in the commander’s cupola, gave us good visibility.
How did you maintain communications with your commander and other tanks?
By radio. The Sherman had two radio sets, HF and UHF [high frequency and ultra high frequency], of very good quality. We used the HF for communications with our higher commander, with brigade, and the UHF for communications within the company and battalion. For conversation inside the tank we used the tank intercom system. It worked great! But as soon as the tank was hit, the tankers first action was to throw off his helmet and throat microphone. If he forgot and began to jump out of the tank, he would get hung up.
For the full interview, click the link and check out the I remember site.
The Sherman had two turret types the 75mm turret and the later T23 turret with the M1 series of 76mm guns. The Jumbo had an up-armored version of the T23 turret.
One of the things that really set the Sherman apart from its peers, and gave it very good longevity, was the size of the turret ring. The Shermans were 69 inches, positively huge for when it was designed, the early T-34 had a 56-inch ring, and the later version with 85mm gun had a 63-inch turret ring. Nazi Germans are not very good in this area, PIII having a 60-inch ring, PIV having only 63 inches, and the Panther only having a 65-inch ring. Even the Tiger wasn’t huge, at only 70 inches! So what makes the size of the ring important? It is one of several factors that determine the maximum size gun you can mount on the tank. The other factors are the mechanical reliability of the vehicle and its load capacity, and how good the country building the tank was at making recoil absorption systems for the guns. The combination of automotive reliability, load capacity, turret ring diameter, and turret size allowed the Sherman to be up-gunned for decades. These factors were far more important than armor thickness when it came to the Shermans longevity. That the Sherman received more powerful guns than the Panther had, or could have had, is just one more reason why the Sherman was such a great tank, and better than the Panther.
Now let’s talk about turret drive motors. There were three types used on the 75mm Shermans.
Oilgear: All models of Sherman tank had both powered and manual turret traverse. They did try various brands and types though. The preferred on the early Shermans was the hydraulic mechanism made by Oilgear Company. The Oilgear unit was both more precise because it had veritable sensitivity and more robust since it was able to keep the turret spinning even with minor flaws in the race or ring gear, than the other choices. Oilgear could not keep up with all the factories producing Shermans, so they had to go to other companies.
The Oilgear unit was hydraulic but powered by its own electric motor that spun a hydraulic pump and turbine setup to rotate the turret. The whole assembly was small enough to be mounted to the side of the turret, with a fair amount of room for the gunner.
Logansport: This Turret drive was very similar to the Oilgear unit, just not as precise, nor as good at dealing with imperfections in the turret race or ring. This unit was so similar the electric motor powering the hydraulic pump and turbine used the same reduction gears as the Oilgear unit.
The Logansport unit used the same mounting bracket as the Oilgear unit as well. The sensitivity to problems with the tolerances on the turret ring would make this drive more likely to fail from minor damage that the Oilgear unit would shrug off.
Westinghouse: The Westinghouse unit was just a big electric motor hooked to reduction gears. Since the motor ran at a faster speed, it had to be adapted to the stabilizer system but was still able to fit the same space and use all the mounting brackets of the other systems.
The Westinghouse unit had the same problem with minor flaws in the race or sensitive to tightness in the ring gear.
Now, this would be a quality assurance problem at the factory in most cases. IE, when the tank got to the end of the line, and the QA inspector rotated the turret, and it screeched and slowed down over 10 degrees of rotation, it would be rejected, and sent to the factory’s QA shop to be fixed. Battle damage might have caused some problems as well, but if the tank took enough of a hit to damage the teeth on the ring, or gear, it was probably going to be knocked out, and in really bad shape. That speculation based on how well many turret rings held up after years on firing ranges when the wreck they were in was restored into a beautiful working tank.
On the later T23 turrets, the Oilgear system was used for traverse control and an improved Westinghouse stabilizer was used as well.
The Westinghouse stabilizer: All models of the Sherman but the 105 armed tanks had a stabilizer to control the main guns in elevation while on the move. It used a gyroscope and hydraulic power pulled from the turret drive system to keep the gun steady in the vertical while on the movie. The system is often disregarded as an advantage by detractors, for a few reasons, but none are valid in a technical sense. The stabilizer was a very advanced piece of kit, and something the Germans could not copy, and never installed a similar system on a wartime tank. That it was complicated and the crews lacked training in using it, doesn’t mean it didn’t work and offer advantages to crews who bothered with it.
The original stabilizer was a little complicated to set up properly since many armor units received their tanks and maybe some manuals for them, when they formed, they often did not have a single man in their company who really knew how to make the stabilizer really work. This lead to it being turned off by a lot of early war crews. The wrongheaded belief the equipment was useless followed that. The Army did a test on it and found the stabilizer, when set up, and used by a crew who knew how to use it, it helped a great deal in getting off a fast first shot when the tank came to stop to shoot. If the tank rocked, the gun stayed more or less on target. This was a big advantage to getting that all important first shot/hit in combat.
The Westinghouse stabilizer was improved and simplified in the second generation Shermans, the large hatch 75 and 76 tanks would have gotten it. It was easier to setup and maintain, and the Army worked on getting crews trained on it.
The M3 2 inch Smoke Mortar: The M3, 2-inch smoke mortar was installed in the turret, with the muzzle opening on the forward left of the turret, on both the 75mm and 76mm gun turrets. It was added to the tank at the request of the British and was loaded and fired by the loader. The mortar was loaded from inside, but protruded into the loaders space, and was not well liked. It could only be aimed by rotating the turret, and not all late model 75mm and 76mm turrets got them. Postwar, most were removed and the hole welded over.
The Hatches: The Sherman’s turret started off with a single large split commander’s hatch. This hatch incorporated the m2 .50 HMG mount and rotated. It also had a standard periscope mounted on one side of the split hatches. This hatch went through several changes through its long life. Initially, the split commander hatch just depended on the weight of the armored hatch cover halves to hold them in the 45-degree angle position that sat in when open. They could be knocked loose when the tank was moving over rough terrain, and really hurt the commander. They added a pair of hatch locks at the factory and fixed them in the field with kits. The final version of the split hatch had internal springs in the hinges to hold them open. There was also a version with a defect that passed factory inspection that showed up on some M4A1 76W tanks, where the split loaders hatch, essentially the same hatch that had been the commander’s hatch, was used for the loader, .50 M2 mount and all. This was fixed pretty quick though, and then the hatch was replaced by the oval loaders hatch.
When the second generation Shermans with the T23 turrets went into production, they all got much improved all-around vision cupolas. There must have been a shortage of contractors who could make it, because it was in short enough supply, the second gen large hatch, M4A2 75s, M4 Composite hulls, and M4 (105) tanks were all built with the original split commanders hatch. The all-around vision cupola production was reserved for tanks armed with the M1A1 gun. The cupola offered very good all around vision, with six armored glass viewing blocks, that were all replaceable, and a larger periscope mounted in a rotating center section of the hatch door. Towards the end of the war, the new cupola became more available and was fitted to some of the ultimate production M4A1 75, M4A3 75w tanks, and M4A3 (105) tanks.
The oval Loaders hatch: The version of this hatch on 75mm turrets looked the same but was slightly smaller than the one used on the T23 turrets. The hatch was a spring-loaded oval hatch, either just big enough to get through or, big enough to get through comfortably, in the T23 versions. On the T23 turrets, when the oval hatch was installed, a new fully rotating periscope foreword of the hatch replaced the one that was mounted in the old split hatch.
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Now for a final bit of information on the turrets and the stuff mounted on them. Over time the turrets picked up an external vane sight the commander could use to roughly put the gunner on a target, it looked like a whale fin in front of the commanders hatch on older 75mm Shermans. This was refined into a more useful, and less odd looking site that could be used from inside or out of the turret. The .50 caliber machine gun mount started on the commander’s hatch, eventually moved to the loaders hatch, and then to the middle between the two hatches. There was also a spotlight mount added, and it ended up being on late 75mm turrets, the T23 76mm turrets and even retrofitted to older 75mm Shermans. The mount had an armored plug, the spotlight plugged into, and could be controlled from inside the tank, much like the spotlights you see mounted to the side of police cars. The turrets also started out with no brackets for storing the heavy machine gun, but they started showing up on 75mm turrets and were on almost all T23 turrets. Even where the lifting eyes were moved around on the turrets.
From looking at period pictures, it was very common for the gunner or loader to ride standing in the commander’s hatch, while he was in it as well, the split hatch cupolas were that big. I thought I wouldn’t see the practice on tanks with the all-around vision cupola, but I found a few were the crews did it there too.
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The standard 75mm Turret: The Sherman’s First Turret, It Had Many Minor Changes
The standard 75mm turret started out with a stubby rotor shield that just covered the base of the 75mm gun. These early turrets didn’t have a direct telescopic sight for the gunner either. The gunner had to rely on the M4 periscope to aim the gun. The turret had one large hatch for the whole turret crew to get in and out from and a pistol port on the loader’s side that could be propped open and spent 75mm shells dumped out. The loader and commander had fully rotating periscopes to view the world through, the commander’s periscope was in his hatch, the loaders right above his station, and the middle of the turret roof had an armored ventilator. Many of these turrets had a weak spot in the armor due to an area machined to fit the turret drive. This area was covered with additional armor on once the problem was discovered.
The small rotor shield and lack of telescopic sight were some of the first production line changes, and older tanks were field modified with kits to update them, often only covering half the turret with added armor on the mantlet to protect the new telescopic site. The new factory full-size rotor shield covered the majority of the turret face with much thicker armor. The next big change was a weak spot in the right side of the casting where a thin spot was made while machining the turret for the gun mount was discovered, and armor was welded on the outside of the turret to thicken it back up. Tanks were retrofitted with this armor in the field, and later the casting was changed to include the thicker armor over the area, eliminating the need for the welded on cheek armor.
At some point, while all the above was going on someone decided the pistol port was a weak spot and it had to go. So they started welding them closed at the factory, and then the casting had them removed. Then the men in the field went ape poop, and they put it back in, around the time the ultimate 75mm turret went into production, with the thicker armor cast in, the pistol port back, a new all-around vision cupola for the commander and an oval hatch for the gunner. This would be the final configuration of the 75mm turret. The tolerances used by US tank factories were close enough turrets cast at one factory could be used at another with no modifications. Many older surplus turrets left over from the tank retriever conversion program were used in later production, with all the updates added, and a hatch cut in for the loader. Due to a shortage of all-around vision cupolas, many 75mm turrets with a loaders hatch ended up with the old split style commander’s hatch.
When hull production switched over to the 47-degree frontal armor configuration, and they went with the large driver and loaders hatches on the M4, M4A2 and M4A3 production, the 75mm turrets needed modification. The hinge for the larger drivers and co-drivers hatches stuck up higher than the older small hatch hulls, they could interfere with the turret’s rotation, since they barely cleared the bustle was the radio was mounted in the back of the turret. The first solution was to notch the bustle a little, but they also changed the turret casting, raising the whole bustle area and making the top of the turret flatter.
The turret drive motor was either an electric motor driven hydraulic system or a straight electric motor driven system. The hydraulic system was the preferred, but when that system was in short supply the electric system was substituted. The 75mm turret could rotate 360 degrees in 15 seconds with the power traverse. It had a manual traverse system as well, and elevation was handled through a manual wheel.
For the very best in minute detail on this subject, please check out the Sherman Minutia site. One minor bit of trivia about the original style turret, the D50878, and D78461 castings, the ones produced for the 105 armed tanks were unique, in that they had an extra armored ventilator whole drilled in so another one could be mounted. So the 105mm turrets really are 105mm only. I’m still not sure if there is a 1/35mm Sherman M4 105, or M4A3 105 with the correct turret.
The T23 Turret: Developed For the Failed T23 program, It Found a New Purpose on The Sherman
While the 75mm turret was still in production and being improved, the T23 turret, taken from the failed T23 medium tank project, went onto the Sherman with the M1A1 gun on the big hatch, wet ammo rack hulls. This turret was larger and could fit the 76mm gun with much more comfort than the basic 75mm turret. All T23 turrets had loaders hatches, though early production T23 turrets used the hatch that had been the commanders hatch on older Shermans for the loaders hatch and used the new all-around vision cupola for the commander. This didn’t last long; it was found the narrow area between the two large hatches on the roof was a weak spot. The big loader’s hatch went away and an oval hatch went in. These turrets had the same traverse speed as the 75mm turret and the same ROF.
The T23 turret came in around 4000 pounds heavier than the 75mm turret. The automotive systems of the Sherman tank were strong enough to support the extra weight without any real change in performance or longevity. The drivetrain didn’t receive any changes at all as far as I can tell, and only the Jumbo tanks got a different gear ratio in the differential. All the extra weight in sandbags, concrete and real armor did shorten the life of the automotive components but not by a significant amount.
All T23 turreted 76mm gun tanks, had wet ammunition storage, as did the Jumbo tanks, but not all large hatch hulls did. The M4 (105), M4 composites, and M4A2 large hatch 75mm tanks all had dry ammo racks. The T23 Turret would get the smoke mortar, and an extra periscope hole machined in when the split loaders hatch was replaced with the oval hatch.
Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Sherman by Hunnicutt, Ballistics and Gunnery by Bird and Livingston, 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, FM17-12 Tank Gunnery, FM17-15 Combat Practice firing, FM17-67 Crew Drill and Service of the Piece M4 Series
Main Guns: The Sherman Mounted Six Different Guns, But Not On All Versions, NOW WITH GUN DATA SHEETS!
The Sherman tank and its chassis was host to a variety of guns. Most had the M3 75mm gun, or the M1A1 76mm gun, but many were also equipped with the British 17 pounder, the M3 90mm, 3 inch AT gun and the M2/M4 105mm howitzer. I will cover each below.
The M3 75mm gun: When it first saw Combat, it was a Great Tank Gun
The M3 75mm gun was a great tank gun for the time the Sherman was first introduced to combat, and was based on a well-liked WWI French field gun. When it first saw combat it could punch through any German tank it faced, from just about any angle. It’s a myth the Sherman was designed to only support infantry, though it’s primary role was not anti-armor, it was still designed to face other tanks. The gun worked well in the infantry support role as well, with an effective HE and WP smoke round, and a canister round. This gun had a very high rate of fire in the Sherman (20rpm) and was mated with a basic stabilization system. This system did not allow shooting on the move accurately, but did allow the sights and gun to be put on the target faster when the tank came to a stop to shoot. No world war two tanks could shoot on the move with a real chance to hit even a stationary tank sized target. With a twenty round a minute rate of fire, the Sherman could pump out a lot of HE in support of the infantry, and it was not unheard of for the tanks to be used as artillery. The Sherman tank was equipped with all the gear to act as artillery if needed and was a regular occurrence in the MTO, less so in the ETO.
Sherman tanks with the 75mm gun carried between 104 and 97 rounds of main gun ammo. Only 10 to 15% of this ammo was AP, that’s how rare other armor was, HE would make up the majority of the rest of the load, with maybe another 10 to 15% being WP smoke, since this was also a somewhat destructive shell, because it caused fires and WP when it landed on a person was hard to put out. There was also a canister shell, but I think it was only used in the PTO. The rate of fire on the gun is a little misleading, since depending on the Sherman, you would have between 6 and 12 ready rounds, more on the very early Shermans with ready rounds around the base of the turret basket. Once the ready rounds were fired, and often, the ready rounds are kept in reserve anyway, to deal with unexpected threats. Wet Shermans had an armored 6 round ready box mounted in the turret, the rest of the ammo was in armored boxes under the floor. Most wet tanks had a half turret basket or none at all. This was a problem common on pretty much all tanks.
The M3 75mm gun was so well liked, the British essentially ended up converting many of the QF 6 pounders to fire the same round, fired with basically the same ballistics, with the advantage of not needing to modify the current tanks mount. The WF 6 pounder was a better AT gun, but, it’s HE round was not very good. The M48 HE round used by the m3 75mm had 1.5 pounds of TNT inside, and since the Sherman could fire them fast, and the shell was fairly handy, it’s easy to see why the gun was good at infantry support. It really only lacked the ability to pen the frontal armor of the German Tiger and Panther, but those tanks were rare enough, or easy enough to get side shots on, the 75 did the job, and did it the whole war, since the 76mm armed Shermans never totaled more than 53% of the Sherman force in Europe. The M3 75mm gets a lot of flak thrown at it by ignorant people who think it was a low velocity gun that could not penetrate armor. These people must be confusing it with the German KwK 37 L/24 75mm gun that armed the first versions of the Panzer IV.
The M1/M1A1/M1A2 76mm gun: Made by Oldsmobile, It was Not a Great Gun, but Did the Job
The M1 series of 76 mm guns went into production before the US Army had any idea of German heavy tanks, or the Panther. They were just looking ahead, to keep the Sherman as good a combat weapon as possible, and to stay ahead in the arms race. They had the 3 inch AT gun on hand, and had used it in the M6 and M10, but it was really to bulky to work in a medium tank turret. The Army decided to design a gun with the same ballistics, but in a much lighter, and less bulky package, in doing so the M1 gun was born. The gun overhung the front of the Sherman a lot so the Army decided to shorten it over a foot. It still seemed to match the ballistics of the 3 inch AT gun though; guns with the shorter barrel were designated M1A1 guns. The first three hundred of so guns produced by Oldsmobile lacked muzzle brakes or the threads to install them. Gun’s produced after that had the threads and a protective cap over them so a brake could be installed later. The final variant of the gun was the M1A2, installed in late production 76mm Shermans, this gun always had the muzzle brake, but had a slightly different barrel, with a minor change to the rifling twist.
Much of the later large hatch hull tanks were produced with a larger turret to accommodate the M1 family of 76mm guns. This turret came on M4A1s, M4A2s and M4A3 tanks. The M1A1 on the early tanks, like the M4A1 76 w tanks used in Operation Cobra, came without muzzle brakes. When firing during dusty -conditions the view of the target would be obscured by dust stirred up from the guns blast, the fix for this was for the commander or another crewman to stand away from the tank and talk to the crew over the intercom, via a long wire, and correct the shots onto target. Not a great fix…The final fix was muzzle brakes; it took a little while for supply to catch up with demand but they were showing up on Shermans in Europe by late 44, and by March they seemed to be in stock, and showing up on tanks that had the protective cap before.
Another problem was the gun was not a huge improvement over the M3 75mm as a tank killer, and was not as good as an HE thrower. As mentioned before, several tank divisions didn’t want the improved Shermans at first. The penetration problem would be partially solved with HVAP ammunition, but by the time it was common, German tanks to use it on were not. Post war, ammunition would be further improved and there would be no shortage of HVAP ammo in Korea, so the US Army would soldier on with the gun, in its final improved form, the M1A2.
The M1 series of guns were also stabilized when installed in the Sherman, but it was the same system used with the 75mm gun, offering limited advantages. The Nazi Germans never fielded a stabilization system of any kind on their tanks. Tanks with the M1, and M1A1 guns carried 71 main gun rounds in wet storage racks in the floor, with an armored 6 round ready rack on the turret floor.
The M3 90mm Gun: The Most Powerful AT Gun the US used During the War.
The US M3 90mm tank gun started out life as an AA gun, a very good AA gun, unlike the very overrated Flak 18/36/37. As the AA gun was developed, it’s mount gained the ability to be used against ground targets, with up to -10 degrees depression. The ballistic performance on the gun was good, but what really made the AA gun shine was the AA gun system that incorporated Radar, and proximity fuses, sci-fi tech to the Germans, but pretty typical American technology for the time, it was the best land based AA gun system of the war. Contrary to some claims, it was pretty rare for US 90mm AA guns to be used in the direct fire role. The US Army was rarely desperate enough to have to resort to such tactics.
When the US Army started looking into a bigger AT gun than the 3 inch, the M1/M2 90mm AA gun was a natural choice. The tank mounted weapon would be designated the M3, and with a barrel threaded for a muzzle brake, the M3A1. When tested against the British 17 pounder gun, the M3 had slightly inferior performance, but was more accurate. The US Army preferred the 90mm over the 17 pounder for various reasons, the biggest being it didn’t have scary flashback out of the breach on firing, making it seem like a somewhat shoddy design. The 90mm M3 would soldier on the in the M26/46 tanks, but would be replaced by improved 90mm guns on the M47 and M48.
As a dual purpose tank gun, the M3 90mm was good. It’s rounds were not to big for one man to handle. It had good AT performance, and a more potent HE round than the M3 75mm gun. When installed on the M36 Tank Destroyer, it was able to deal with the rare heavily armored German threat, if the regular Shermans hadn’t already killed it by the time the M36 got there. Since the gun was not overly hot, it didn’t wear barrels out fast, so it could still be used in artillery role.
The 3inch AT gun started out life as a AA gun. It was still being used as one for the first half of the war. It was a natural choice as an AT gun since it was being replaced by the M1/2/3 90mm AA gun system. The gun was large, heavy and bulky, and the M10 tank destroyers turret had to be rather large to fit it. They were also able to fit it in the T1/M6 Heavy tank, but it was clear it needed a redesign to fit in a smaller turret like the regular Sherman. This ultimately lead to the M1A1 gun discussed above.
There was also a towed AT gun version of this weapon, it was generally not well liked. It was too big to move around easily by hand, hard to hide, and didn’t have great pen to work well as a fixed gun. At one point in the war, nearly half the Tank Destroyer Battalions were towed, and equipped only with the towed guns and trucks to move them. These TD battalions had little luck, and some really got clobbered in the Battle of the bulge.
Ultimately this guns use was more about taking unused guns on hand and getting a decent AT weapon out the door fast, by using them for this new purpose. They were not perfect, and as towed weapons, even really good, but on a mobile platform like the M10 or even the M6 heavy tank they did the job well enough.
The M2/M4 105mm Howitzer: Artillery in a Sherman Package
The US 105mm M2/M4 howitzer was the biggest gun installed in the Sherman, the versions of the Sherman with this gun were developed to replace the M7 Priest, but never fully did so during WWII. They were used in the same role, or in limited direct support roles. These tanks did not have a stabilized gun or wet ammo racks, but did have the large hatch hull. All 105 Sherman tanks, either M4 (105)s or M4A3 (105)s were produced exclusively by Chrysler. 105 tanks carried 66 rounds of main gun ammo, in dry ammo racks.
Sherman tanks equipped with the 105 often found themselves pooled with the others from the three companies of a battalion, with the two from the battalion HQ, so the Tank Battalion could have their own mini 105 battery on call. When working with their assigned company, they were often held in the back, and supported the gun tank platoons with indirect or direct fire. Use in direct fire support would be the rarest use for them, but it did take place.
The 17 pounder gun: 76.2mm of British High Velocity Boom Boom
The 17 pounder was developed to replace the 6 pounder, it was clear the 57mm 6 pounder wasn’t going to be able to handle tanks with thicker armor, but it stayed surprisingly relevant late into the war. The 17 pounder started development in the final months of 1940 and was going into prototype testing in late 1941. The first few AT guns were made by slapping the gun onto the 25 pounder carriage called the 17/25 pounder, and some were shipped to North Africa, to counter the supposed Tiger threat. The full production QF 17 pounder AT gun was available by the Italian Campaign.
The main reason the gun was a better AT gun than the US M1A1 gun was the round had a lot more propellant behind the projectile and then the Brits came up with the super velocity discarding sabot round. This new round had very good penetration, but had some serious accuracy problems. The accuracy problems with the SVDS ammo were not fully solved until after the war. The gun was intended for tank use, but the British Tanks meant for it had to many developmental problems, and were not going to be ready by Normandy landings, so the Sherman Firefly was born. See its own section for more info on these Shermans.
M4A1 with 76 gun
What’s left of an M4A3 75w on Iwo Jima
M36 with M3 90
Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Sherman by Hunnicutt, Combat Lessons, Archive Awareness, WWII Armor, Ballistics and Gunnery by Bird and Livingston, TM9-374 90mm Gun M3