I decided I needed more hard numbers, the kind of data that makes non tank nerds eyes roll up in their heads, stuff like how many spare periscopes were issued with an early war M4A1! One of the best way to do this is through tank Data sheets, as found in the back of many books on tanks. I used Hunnicutt’s Sherman book for some, but others I’ve made using the Hunnicutt ones as a template and then using data from the Technical Manual for the tank.
That’s not all though, I decided the gun Data sheets in Hunnicut were really interesting, so I started replicating those, but with an improved format, and slightly more data. These gun Data Sheets can be found here, Main Guns: THings that go BOOM! All the guns the Sherman tank used are covered, and more are coming.
In the works are Data Sheets for each Sherman tank motor, and several experimental models. These Data sheets will have much more detailed info on the motor, and will include interesting images from the manuals for the motors.
Also in the works as dedicated pages for these data sheets, the beta test of the gun version is up and can be found here. Next up will be ones for each tank model and then motor.
Also note the latest post on the Ram tank, The Ram: The Shermans awkward Canadian Cousin. This post covers the Canadian and British attempt to come up with a better Sherman before the Sherman design and prototype was done. I’ve been sent some very interesting documents, some are included in the post.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more Sherman information!
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 replacent 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.
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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 wired into the 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 hole 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.
Drivetanks.com: the most Magical place on Earth if you like Tanks, Guns, Machine Guns, or even Artillery Pieces!
Drivetanks.com is an operation out of Uvalde Texas. Uvalde is about 120 miles west of San Antonio. The Drivetanks.com facility is on the famous Ox Hunting Ranch, a 18,000 acre hunting ranch, with its guest cabins, a huge lodge, and its own 5800 foot runway. If you could see warbirds at this ranch it would literally be heaven on earth!
Drivetanks.com doesn’t have just a Sherman tank, but from our perspective, their Sherman is the coolest tank of the lot!
M4A2E8 Sherman: Just like Fury
The Sherman is the star of the show for us ! It is fully functional, with working power travers and a working main gun. All the machine guns work, and you get to shoot them as part of one of their packages. You also get to drive the tank around and fire it’s main gun if you go with the big package.
The M4A2E8 saw action with the Russians at the end of the war, and its M4A3E8 counter part saw all kinds of action in Norther Europe and Italy. These tanks had the improved HVSS suspension with a wider track, giving them very good off road mobility and the improved turret and gun gave the tank the edge over earlier German tanks like the Panzer III and IV, while giving it a better chance against the rarer tiger and Panther tanks.
I have to say, Drivetanks.com is an amazing place for letting people drive operate the armament of this working piece of history. Nothing beats seeing an actual historic vehicle drive or fly by, a static display in a museum where you can’t touch, or in some cases even take photos is just not the same.
So, even by my standards this place wouldn’t be the most magical place on earth just because it had a working Sherman. This place has several other working tanks, SPGs, and APCS, along with towed guns, mortars and a very large variety of firearms to shoot. Lets list the other tanks:
T-34-85: This Soviet tank was the Late War Shermans Russian counterpart!
Drivetanks.com has a fully functional T-34-85 tankand it was produced just in time to see action on the eastern front. It has a working main gun and there are similar, slightly to the Sherman but slightly cheaper packages for this tank.
That’s the last of the WWII tanks but they have two more modern ones.
Leopard 1A4 MBT: An updated version of Germany’s first Post War Tank!
This tank is bigger and faster than either the T-34 or Sherman, and its gun doesn’t work, and the prices on it’s packages reflect this. This tank is probably easier, and more fun to drive than either WWII tank, but just not as cool. This tank is still in use by armies around the world.
Chieftain Mk. 6, MBT: Big and British, and their Car Crusher.
Another tank with no working gun, this bad boy is big and tough, and therefore they use it when someone wants to crush something. This tank went into action in the mid 60s and was still going strong into the early 80s when the Challenger replaced it.
They have a few other tracked vehicles you can drive and get to know:
German SD. KFZ. 251 Armored Half-track: The Angular German Halftrack you see in Movies!
If you want to drive something with tracks on a budged, this is a good place to start.
Kettenkrad SDFZ Tracked Motorcycle: Yeah that wonky motorcycle half track you see towing planes in WWII Pics.
Just look at this pic! Who wouldn’t want to try out this crazy German contraption!
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They also have some other tank like tracked vehicles that are not tanks.
Abbot FV433: This SPG is made up to look like the US M109 155mm SPG still in service.
This is a self propelled artillery piece, a British one, and has a propane gun that makes lots of noise but doesn’t shoot a projectile. Another option if you don’t want to go with one of the deluxe packages. The M109 the Abbot was modified to look like started it’s life in the 60s and saw use in Vietnam, and modern versions are still in use by the US Army.
BMP 1: The first IFV
This APC with attitude was meant to do more than just deliver troops like a regular boring APC like the M113. No, the BMP delivered fewer, in less comfort, but it brought some heavy firepower normal infantry didn’t have.
With this badboy, you can pack a bunch of friends into the back for a very hot uncomfortable ride while you drive! I wonder if Drivetanks.com has a award if you can make all the passengers puke!
But that’s not all! They have Towed Guns, Mortars and Machine guns!
Germann 75mm PAK 40 AT Gun: This puppy works too!
This fully functional German AT gun is available to shoot. not cheap, but less than shooting a tanks gun. This gun accounted for an awful lot of Sherman tanks during the war, but the Sherman in turn killed a bunch of them. I’m pretty sure this gun has been on several TV shows, but I’m not 100% sure.
German 25mm PAK 113: Small bang, small bucks, but it’s still a BIG gun!
A little AT gun for a cheaper alternative to the bigger stuff. not much to be said, if your coming to Drivetanks.com your coming for the big boom boom, right?!
U.S. M2A1 105mm light Howitzer: The 105 towed gun of the US Army for most of the WWII
This gun saw lots of action, and was a great gun for it’s size. For a modest price, you can pop a round off from this gun too! If you want to know what it was like to serve in a light artillery battery, or just want to pop a few rounds off for nostalgia, you can do it here, and that’s damn cool! The Hippies in California would freak out if we tried shooting off something this cool here!!
US M1 81mm Mortar: The main WWII US Mortar!
I do not know of another place you can fire off a mortar, and that make this option awesome all on its own. The 81mm M1 Mortar was used everywhere the US fought during the war and who would pass up the change to log a hunk of history from it?
U.S. M2 60mm Mortar: In US Infantries Mortar during WWII
This is like it’s bigger brother, just with less explosive charge, less range, and less weight. Oh, and it’s cheaper to shoot off.
The British ML 2inch 50mm Mortar: A small Brit Mortar
The cheapest mortar option. Small, but still a mortar!
Now lets talk about Machine Guns and other firearms. Machine guns are pretty damn cool. Having been around a long time, there are lots of different kinds of Machine guns, and Drivetanks.com has a plethra of them!
The prize of the Machine collection has to be the M134 GE Minigun. I do not recall ever reading why they called this beast a minigun, because it’s a monster of a weapon, bigger and heaver than an M2 Machine gun. These guns are technological Marvels, and contrary to Hollywood use, not man portable in any way. These guns have a selectable rate of fire of 3000 or 6000 rounds a minute. Your average GPMG has a 650 RPM rate of fire. These guns use an electric motor to spin the barrels and drive the feed mechanism, in theory making them more reliable at higher RPM they run, the six barrels allowed the barrels a chance to cool, but sustained fire would melt them down. These weapons have seen a lot of combat over the years, usually mounted on a helicopter of some type, but also on other vehicles that can haul the required ammo and have a compatible electrical system.
Next up on the Bad boys of the Machine list they have would be the M2HB Browning .50 caliber Machine gun. This heavy machine gun has been in service with the US Military since 1933, and is covered in more detail in this post. You get to shoot this gun as a part of the Sherman tank packages.
They have a lot of other more mundane machine guns, but come on, a machine gun is damn cool no mater the size or type. So lets list them!
The GE M134
The Browning M2 HB .50 Browning.
The M1919 .30 Caliber Machine gun (WWII light/Medium/heavy mg of US Army)
The M60E4 7.62 Nato Machine gun (updated Vietnam Era MG still in use)
M249 SAW 5.56 NATO light machine gun
M3 Grease Gun .45 ACP SMG (used by US Army from 43 into the 90s)
MG-42 German WWII machine gun 1200 to 1500 rounds per minute of fun!
MG-34 German WWII Machine gun (this one is a semi auto version)
H&K MP7 (modern 9mm SMG)
MP-40 German WWII 9mm SMG
PPsh-41 Russian WWII SMG
PKM Soviet Medium Machine gun
DT Machine gun (Early war soviet light MG
They also have a selection of Rifles, sniper rifles and assault rifles and a flamethrower.
US M1 Carbine .30 caliber WWII Carbine
US M1 Garand 30 caliber (30-06), rifle (WWII standard infantry rifle)
M4 Carbine (Modern 5.56 Nato, US Infantry weapon)
K98 German WWII bolt action rifle
Mosin Nagant Russian Bolt action rifle
AK-47 Russian assualt rifle.
Barrett M82 .50 caliber sniper rifle
US M9 Flamethrower, (vietnam era, and last flame thrower used by US troops)
Yeah, a flamethrower! How cool is that?!
So tanks, APCs, SPGs, Artillery pieces, AT guns, Mortars, and Machine Guns! Ifyou’rer not some kind of wimp, this place really is the most wonderful place on earth. I would rather go here, at any cost versus a trip to any Disney park, Cruise, or show. This place offers a chance to touch, use, and shoot history, hard real history. Honestly though, if this place had no historic value at all, it would still be damn good time, and something really you can only get in good old US of A, specifically in the great state of Texas!
This is all run an own by private US Citizens, and some people might think civilians running around owning tanks with working guns and tons of machine guns, and letting anyone willing to pay a chance to use them is a bad idea, well, you’re wrong, and this is exactly the type of thing that makes the United States so great!
There is a process you have to go through to be allowed to own these items, but it’s not all that hard as long as you’re not a criminal and are willing to fork over the cash to the US Government, and your state and county are ok with it. All shooting and vehicle use is only done after people are thoroughly instructed on everythings use, (the class time is all part of the fun!), and while the guest is using the tank or Machine gun, a instructor is standing right there making sure everything is safe.
I can think of no place I would rather go for a vacation, if I could dig up the cash, and get the wifes aproval, than Drivetanks.com and the amazing Ox Ranch!
If your are interested in booking a trip to drive their tanks, shoot their machine guns, or hunt big game on the greater ranch, you can contact them with the information below.
In the new posts, I will update you on what’s been going on a bit behind the scenes for the week.
This week has been interesting, it’s 4th of July night, and I’m just wrapping things up for the evening before hitting the sack. It sounds like a firing range outside as people celebrate with fireworks and firearms. The Dogs gone deaf, and doesn’t notice, but the cats are scare, and I havn’t seen them in hours.
Anyway, this weekend I spent time on sorting through all the stuff I’ve downloaded over the past few months. I’ve literally downloaded thousands of pictures and hundreds of PDFs on various topics. The Sherman related ones will be going up on the site soon.
I should have some posts on Sherman tank plastic models and French Shermans up soon, and I’ll be doing a post on Dutch Shermans, and Sherman based SPGs soon.
In other news, Drive tanks.coma outfut out of Texas noticed my site and has contacted me! I’m going to be doing a post on them soon with info on their fully operational Sherman tank, and that includes all it’s guns people, and what you can do with it with American Dollars! I hope to be able to take a trip out and see what the whole thing is all about! This place looks like it may be the most magical place on earth, not Disneyland!
In future news, I will be signing up for Facebook and Twitter for the site.
Special Gallery 2: Shermans at Fort Benning, the ones waiting to go the new National Armor & Cavalry Museum.
These images all came from the Fort Benning Photos Website, and these images were all taken by John D. Helms or Kristian Ogden, and you can find much larger version on the Benning site. These Sherman tanks, and other historic vehicles will be displayed in the new Museum once it’s done.
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 75mm guns position, 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, were tanks were 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.
Tanks in motion: Sherman Tanks on Film, Either Modern Restorations or Period Videos.
Here is an older video of an M4A1 that was restored and had new tracks installed. They really put this tank through the paces and it’s worth it even if the music is a bit dated.
Here’s a short video of an M4A4 driving around.
The M4 105 Dozer, a video dedicated to just it! bonus includes Sherman drifting! They look like they are having so much fun in this video! Well until they bust it! This video is a BLAST!!!!
Shermans and a M31 ARV gutted and made to look like a M3 Lee again.
This was a Normandy Memorial day in 2013 I think. In this video, we see an M4A1 75 start up and then drive off, almost stalling. Then later we get to see an M4A1 76w driving around. Interesting how close they let people get to moving tanks. Parked nextr to it is an M10 tank destroyer.
This is another Normandy D-Day Memorial, 2014. The Video starts off with an mid production small hatch M4A1 75, with a later production M10 behind it and then an M18. After that an small hatch M4a2, and then the Fury M4A2 76 HVSS tank.
Ontario Regiments Museum’s M4A2 76 W HVSS tank driving around!
A video of a restored M4A1 driving in circles firing off its main gun, I’m sure modified to fire on propane as a noise maker.
A very long video, POV from the co drivers spot, on a restored, small hatch M4A1.
Here is a video of a restored Firefly Vc, a Sherman M4A4, with the a working A57 multibank motor, getting new tracks. This may not look tricky, but these men are all risking losing fingers or toes, or worse, if someone messes up.
Video of a Very nice looking M4 105, with dozer blade being used to recover a M4A4 in very bad shape.
A start to finish ‘flower pot’ restoration on an M4A1.
A resto mod on a M4A1, with more footage of that nice M4 105 dozer.
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
WWII Variants, Other Than Tanks, Based on the Sherman: The Main being TDs like the M10 and M36
Tank Destroyers: Tank Hunters, Failed Role, Successful Killers
They did Great things but the whole idea was bad. The TD Battalions of the US Army had very good combat records, but the whole concept was flawed. The idea of holding back battalion size units to be rushed in to fight the tanks in a major attack, just didn’t work in practice, and since the US Army was on the attack most of the time, the TD units ended up being used a lot like the separate Tank Battalions, just not as good at it.
The Vehicles themselves proved useful and often found themselves attached to Tank Divisions, and used in ways never planned for.
M10: The First M4 Based TD to See Combat.
M10: The First Good American TD
The M10 was a tank destroyer mounting a 3 inch anti-tank gun. It used the M4A2 chassis with the GM 6046 to power it. These tanks only had a M2 .50 caliber machine gun other than their main gun. The turret lacked power traverse. It had a five man crew and was generally liked by its crew. The American TD force was deemed a failure, but not because the men or vehicles performed badly, it was the doctrine that failed to pan out, the battalions themselves performed well overall. It was used until the end of the war, and many TD battalions preferred it over the faster M18. The TDs lacked a co-ax machine gun, this and their open top made them more vulnerable to infantry than a tank. Even so, these units were often given tank missions. The open top did offer a big advantage in finding any enemy tanks to shoot.
One aspect of the design that shows how rushed it was, are the driver’s hatches. They were larger than the Shermans produced at the same time, but could not be opened or closed if the turret was forward. So the crew had to make a choice if the driver and co-driver were going to be able to see well, or be buttoned, before the battle or movement. The M10 lacked a turret basket, so the driver and co-driver had an easier time getting out of the roofless turret. Like all American designs, it went through a series of upgrades through its service life. The turret was upgrade and balanced better, and the crews liked to add their own roofs. A power turret drive was never added to the tanks in US service though.
The M10A1 version of this vehicle had a Ford GAA motor. There was no difference other than and minor improvements between an M10 and M10A1. Crews added on armored roofs to their turrets, often all hinged so they could open up to really see what was going on, in the field. It was not uncommon for TD units to be used as fixed artillery for several days.
The M10 Turret went through several changes, the first versions were badly out of balance, and they tried to solve this by mounting the grousers for the tracks on the back of the turret. This didn’t work well and wedge shaped counterweights were added. This helped, but eventually the final production M10 turrets were widened, and even bigger counterweights were added with a distinct duckbill look to them. They came up with a full roof armor kit for the final turret, and a half cover for the early turrets that could be field retrofitted.
The M10 and M10A1 had all the gear aboard to be used at artillery. A few TD battalions spent almost as much time as artillery as they did in their TD role. This capability was used often in Italy because the 3 inch gun on the M10 didn’t tear up the vital roads as much as the larger guns did. I would be surprised to find out the M36 didn’t have the same gear. They built 4993 M10s and 1713 M10A1s. At first, only M10 TDs were authorized for service overseas, and the M10A1, even though found to be automotively superior, was to be used in stateside training only. There was some doubt about the usefulness of the motorized TD before the Normandy landings, and production of the M10 was halted as many TD units were converted back to towed gun units or disbanded.
The M10 saw action in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and Northern Europe, and various pacific Campaigns, the most notable being the retaking of the Philippines. It wasn’t really until the action started after the Allies went into Normandy that it really saw a lot of anti-armor use. In the MTO they TD units spent an awful lot of time being used as artillery units, to the point they had to learn how to swap barrels on their 3 inch guns after wearing the tubes out. The M10 in northern Europe saw lots of action, but was also being replaced by the M18 and M36. The M36 was very popular, the M18 was mixed, some units love it, some units refused to give up their trusty M10s. The M10 was not popular in the Pacific, the thinner armor, lack of hull and co-ax machine guns and open top made for a much easier target destroy for Japanese troops.
M36: The M10 With A Much Better Gun
Another tank destroyer based on the Sherman chassis, basically an M10A1 with a new turret mounting a bigger gun. These tanks mounted the 90mm M3 gun. Often this tanks turret was fitted to otherwise stock M4A3 hulls due to a shortage of M10 hulls. These TDs had full power traverse. These TDs were well liked because the M3 worked well on both armor and soft targets, since the M3 had a nice HE shell.
This TD suffered all the same problems dealing with infantry the M10 did, except in the M36 B1, since it was built on an M4A3 hull, it had a bow machine gun. This was as close to a factory produced 90mm Sherman during the war. It was also upgraded in a lot of units with some form of roof armor. It solved the drivers and co drivers hatch problems and always had a power turret drive though.
There was a diesel powered version based on the base M10 chassis powered by the GM 6046. There were 1413 M36s, 187 M36B1s, and 724 M36B2s. They produced it on the M4A3 and M10 hulls because they ran out of M10A1 hulls, and no more were going to be produced. Demand for the vehicle was so great they used what they had available. As far as I can tell they saw use only in Europe with the US Army, but the French used them in Indo-China (Vietnam).
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Artillery: they have big guns, and their crews are usually deaf. (Coming soon)
105 Howitzer motor Carriage M7& M7B1: 4316 produced
155 Gun Motor Carriage M12: 100 produced
155 Gun Motor Carriage M40: 418 produced
8 Inch Howitzer Motor Carriage M43: 48 produced
Sources: Sherman by Hunnicutt, TM9-745, TM9-748, TM9-731b Yeide’s The Tank Killers, Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga