Category Archives: Advanced tech

Sherman Tank Site News Post 13: Lots of small things!

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.

Unit Histories

Paths of Armor: The history of 5th Armored Division. 396 high quality pages of history on the 5th AD. 

The Combat history of the Super Sixth:  182 pages, ok scan with a lot of very good info.

 You can read their unit history here: Impact, the battle history of the Tenth Armored Division

A history of the 12th Armored Division: Hellcats   98 pages, good scan.

the 13th Armored division: A history of the Black Cats from Texas to France, Germany and Austria and back to California  

The 68th Tank Battalion in combatUnit history 68th Tank Battalion, 57 good quality pages.

717th Tank Battalion recordA short history of the 717, 78 ok pages.

The combat story of the 743rd Tank Battalion: Move out Verify. This unit was in it from D-day to the surrender of the Germans. 194 pages and good quality scan.

752nd Tank BnThis history is for the 752 who spent their whole war in Italy. It makes for an interesting contrast. 85 ok quality pages.

Battle history of A battery 391st Armored Field Artillery BattThis one is just one A battery, and is 120 ok pages

Our battalion: 89th tank destroyer battalion history  This one is 97 pages, ok scan quality.

782nd Tank Battalion: Treat’em Rough A short history of this Tank unit, 37 pages, ok scan.

782nd Tank Battalion: Treat’em Rough A short history of this Tank unit, 37 pages, ok scan.

New pages: 

Sherman Tank Turrets and Turret components.

Sherman Tank Fuel Systems: Fuel tanks, Lines, and Valves, plus Carbs and Injectors

And now for the images. 

 

 

 

 

 

Sherman Tank Site News, POST 11: New post, and new Manuals to download.

Sherman Tank Site News, POST 11: New post, and new Manuals to download, more updates to come.

Spring and summer are always my busy season at the day job, so the amount of time I’ve had to really spend on the site has been a little limited.  I have been collecting data for further Sherman posts, and part of that is technical and field manuals.  I’ve collected a bunch of new ones and they are all available on the downloads page

I also just put up new post on the A-65 V12, Chrysler’s unadopted monster Tank motor. 

As the summer comes to a close, I should have more time to dedicate to the site again,  so watch for more posts, more often in the coming months. I am also considering setting up some form of donation page, things are a little tight right now, and It would be nice to offset some of the costs, and or have a little money to pic up a couple of pricey manuals.

Check out this cool video of Nicholas Moran AKA the Chieftan, talk about why the Sherman was the best COMBAT TANK of WWII.

Thanks for checking out the site, and any feedback given!

Watch David Fletcher talk about the Vc Firefly

#68 The Chrysler Engine that could have been: The A-65 V12, Chrysler’s home designed tank motor.

The Chrysler Engine that could have been: The A-65 V12, if the war had gone on, there could have been some hotrod Shermans.

Chrysler Corporation had a big impact on the war, and US Tank production. They produced the first, and the model for the others, Tank Arsenal CDA.  They also came up with the A-57 multibank tank motor, that powered a significant number of Sherman tanks. They produced this fantastically complicated, but also reliable motor in a very quickly, and even though the US Army and Marine Corps thumbed their noses at it,  it was well liked by the British.

Chrysler on their own dime came up with a water cooled, V12, tank motor, and offered it to the Army.  It took them about a year to come up with three trial motors.  These 1568 cubic motors started out at 650 horsepower at 2600 RPM and 1485 pounds of torque at 1600 RPM on the test stand.  They came in around 3840 pounds, but there was a proposed all aluminum version that have dropped nearly 1000 pounds.  Designing and producing the prototypes, cost a grand total of 358,000 bucks, that’s over 5 million in today’s dollars. During the dyno testing period, they had a few problems with the fan drives, but these were solved with improved oiling and rolling bearings, and these seemed to have solved the problems.

They used an M4A4 as a test vehicle, and had to stretch it another 9 and 1/2 inches to fit the new motor. Installed and ready to roll the thing came in at 69,170 ponds, and a stock M4A4 came in at 69,640 pounds!  Installed, the early versions had 549 horsepower, but they upped the compression ratio and got it to 580, and it was improved even more with some carburetion changes. They made the compression change by swapping and a cam change during the in vehicle testing phase. Further testing led to the intake and carb changes.  All the while the motor was being swapped in and out, and driving tests done.

The automotive tests were very successful, and that was using the stock powertrain of the Sherman, though with so much power, they decided a gear change would help. By swapping the original 3:53:1 gears for 3:05:1 gears, they A65 was still able to beat an M4A43 in a drag race!  The engine was so promising, it’s an interesting mystery why the Army never developed it further.  Much like the GAA, there was much more performance potential in this motor, and the Army never took it any further.

I suspect what ultimately killed this motor, was the same thing that killed the GAA, the Army was looking at air cooled motors for the future, because you can save a lot of weight, if there is not liquid cooling system needed.

Special thanks goes out to Chris R, one of our readers and a source contributor, sent me a nice little history on the motor.  Thanks again Chris, sorry it took so long!!

Sources:  Sherman, by Hunnicutt, and 1943 A-65 Tank Engine History

#39 The LST or Landing Ship Tank, a Ship That Could Land Tanks

The LST or Landing Ship Tank a ship Only The Allies Had:  The Ship That Could Deliver A Tank Right To The Beach!

an LST delivering an M4A1 Sherman to Cape Gloucester
an LST delivering an M4A1 Sherman to Cape Gloucester

When most people think about a tank being used in a beach assault, they think the Duplex Drive Sherman, or tanks getting delivered by LCM or LCT.    There were many other specialized landing craft, and they all had similar flaws. The main being they were small, and not really capable of long ocean voyages. They also couldn’t haul a useful amount of cargo for use in an efficient shipping system.  The LST or Landing Ship Tank was the solution.

The LST a large ocean going vessel, and though they reputed to have a horrible ride, were capable of crossing the Pacific or Atlantic oceans with their own fuel stores.  There were several classes of LST but the differences between them were fairly minor, unless you want to get into the British made LSTs, but we’ll do that later.  For our purposes we are going to use LST-808 as our example, she participated in Iwo Jima and Okinawa. She was lost to a Kamikaze towards the end of the war.

LST-808

Class: LST-542

Displacement:

1,625 tons

4,080 tons (sea-going draft w/1675 ton load)

2,366 tons (beaching displacement)

Length: 328 feet      Beam: 50 feet

Draft:

Light:  2′ 4″ front, 7′ 6″ aft

Sea-going:  8′ 3″ front, 14′ 1″ aft

Landing: 3′ 11″ front, 9’ 10″ aft (landing w/500 ton load)

Limiting: 11′ 2″

Maximum navigation: 14′ 1″

Speed: 11.6 kts. (trial)  Endurance:  24,000 miles at 9kts, while displacing 3960 tons

Complement:

13 officers, 104 enlisted

Troop Accommodations:

16 officers, 147 enlisted

Boats:  2 LCVP

Cargo Capacity:  (varied with mission – payloads between 1600 and 1900 tons)

Typical loads:

One Landing Craft Tank (LCT), tanks, wheeled and tracked vehicles, artillery, construction equipment and military supplies. A ramp or elevator forward allowed vehicles access to tank deck from main deck

Additional capacity included sectional pontoons carried on each side of vessel amidships, to either build Rhino Barges or use as causeways. Married to the bow ramp, the causeways would enable payloads to be delivered ashore from deeper water or where a beachhead would not allow the vessel to be grounded forward after ballasting

Armament:   2 – Twin 40mm gun mounts w/Mk. 51 directors,  4 – Single 40mm gun mounts, 12- Single 20mm gun mounts

Fuel Capacity:  Diesel 4,300 Bbls (approximately 180600 gallons of fuel.)

Propulsion: Two General Motors 12-567A, 900hp Diesel engines, Single Falk Main Reduction Gears

Two propellers, 1700shp,    Twin rudders

Three Diesel-drive 100Kw 230V D.C. Ship’s Service Generators

808 sinking may 20th 1945
LST-808 grounding and burning may 18th 1945
808 sinking may 20th 1945
LST-808 sinking May 20th

As you can see from the specifications, these ships, were pretty big and over a football field long. The tank deck had a massive capacity; it could take up to 20 Sherman tanks, 39 M3/M5 light tanks or 70 trucks or anything else that would fit up to 1900 tons. Not only did they have the ability to carry the vehicles, there were accommodations aboard for the crews and troops that would be riding the ship.

The LSTs were long ships, and their front hull had a much shallower draft than the rear. The front of the hull was made up from a pair of huge doors that opened out, and behind them was a ramp that was dropped. If shore conditions were right, the ramp could be dropped in the shallow surf and vehicles driven right off and onto the beach.  If beach conditions were not right, like a sand bar or reef stood in the way, they could use floating pontoon docks to make a causeway that tanks or anything else could drive to shore on. These causeways would be held in place by LCMs.  The LST could carry large numbers of the pontoons as deck cargo. They would know ahead of time what the beach conditions were going to be and what they would need to bring. This ingenious system was something only the allies, and specifically the US and the UK, came up with. Nazi were not good at logistics.

The LST used a system of pumps to fill or pump out large numbers of compartments all around the hull to raise or lower the ship in the water. When they were about to beach the front of the ship, the would need to be as high in the water as they could, but at sea, they would want many of the void spaces flooded to keep the flat bottomed LST from rolling around so much in even mild weather. Even loaded up and with the ballast spaces as full as was safe, the LST’s still had a less than ideal ride. Very few were lost to weather though.  I don’t have a good breakdown on the numbers but the US had 933 LST(2) and 26 were lost to enemy action. They lost another 13 to fires, collisions, explosions, storms and groundings.

 

 

LST Iwo
LSTs delivering stuf to Iwo Jima
LSTs Iwo Jima
Another shot of LSTs on Iwo, what’s that mountain!?

Being an LST captain was not something a career naval officer would have wanted, and most officers were reservists. Some joined their ship while it was being built, and would stay with it until wars end, or it was sunk. The LSTs were not the worst ships to serve on, they had a nicely appointed galley, and served with the same men the whole war, including the enlisted crew. The LST proved to be pretty safe and durable because of how they were built, with a lot of reserve buoyancy. They also had the capacity to produce a lot of fresh water.

The tank deck had to be ventilated so the tanks could be run, early LSTs had hoses that were hooked up the tanks or other vehicles exhaust. That setup did not work well, so twelve, eight foot tall ventilation stacks, with a fan in each were installed. These could clear the tank deck of vehicle exhaust even with the bow doors closed. There was an elevator on early LSTs, but it was slow and not all that reliable, so it was replaced with a simple hinged ramp.

LST delivery an M4A1 to the beach, probably a 1st Armored Division tank to North Africa
LST delivery an M4A1 to the beach, probably a 1st Armored Division tank to North Africa

The ships were also well appointed with shops including a machine shop with a full complement of metal working too, and there was probably an electrical and hydraulic shop as well. The Captain would be a full Lieutenant of the Navy, and the XO a JG. As mentioned before in many cases these men joined the ship while it was being finished, right after they finished they Navy Officer or Boot Camp, and a few cases specialty schools. They would work with the builder to get their LST working and get it commissioned and then take it out, often right to a combat area but they might stay stateside for more training.

The Army Armor base at Fort Knox built a replica off a tank deck on the base so tank crews could practice loading and offloading. The US Navy built 1051 LSTs were built in the US. Most of them served with the US, but some went to the UK, and the Greeks even operated some.  After the war, the surplus LSTs were bought up by commercial interests right away. They are very useful for delivering heavy cargo to areas with no heavy port facilities. A few survive to this day.

 

Now for my obligatory section on why this ship was something the Germans had nothing like. The Germans also lacked the ability to build all the different landing craft the allies used in their multiple successful amphibious landings. Germany was short of resources, and even if they had been given the plans for the LST and all the various other landing craft you need to land on an enemy shore, they didn’t have the naval construction capacity or  natural resources to produce the. Maybe if they had not built their silly battleships, but that gets to the other problem, they never achieved air superiority, nor naval supremacy in time frame they would have needed to pull of operation sea lion.  Nazi Germany was bad at boats and planes, but great at propaganda, some people still buy into even today.

A very nice cutaway of an LST
A very nice cutaway of an LST, showing the ship with the ramp and elevator

Omaha Beach-1

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LST high and dry at Normandy

#33 The Sherman Of The Future: Advanced Sherman UpGrades That Almost Made It Into Production.

The Sherman Of The Future:  So Many Very Interesting Technological Marvels Almost Made It Into The Sherman

This is a long one guys, but well worth the read if you like geeky old technology stuff

The US Army was always looking for ways to improve the basic Sherman tank. Some of these didn’t pan out because they just were not that much better than the basic M4, or the US Army had no interest, or the war ended production of the Sherman before an improvement could be fully developed, or in some cases, just added to the production lines.  These ranged from whole new tanks based on the M4, like the T14, or in some ways like with the T1/M6, to improved guns, engines/transmissions to aiming devices.

Let’s start with Armor:  Add on kits, they got developed, but were never used.

Wooden mockup CDA
Wooden mockup CDA

 

Bolt on armor kits: CDA was asked to develop a set of bolt on armor for the Sherman, there are pictures of wooden mockups, but this program was canceled before the second gen large hatch hulls started production. At this point the best source for info on this program is R.P. Hunnicutt’s Sherman. He does not note why it was cancelled. It seems like with the success of the M4A3E2 Jumbo, and it’s only marginal effect on the reliability of the automotive components of the Sherman, this would have been a hit with the troops.

Up armored differential covers: There was another program to improve the armor of the early differential covers. Both the early three part bolt together designs, and the early one piece cast designs, were found to have areas more vulnerable to penetration than the rest of the differential cover. They came up with add on armor for each type. After testing these kits were found to be good enough to make the differentials the best protected front area of the tank after installation. The Army approved them, but no evidence of any being used has been found. The final production cast differential cover was improved and would not have needed these kits. That may have been the reason the kits didn’t get used, since they could just use the ultimate production casting when doing rebuilds.

plasticsherman armor shermanspikes

Plastic armor and spikes: When the threat of AT sticks like the panzerfaust become more prominent, an add-on armor kit made from called the HCR2 plastic armor kit was developed. It was made from a mixture of quartz gravel and a mastic compound made from wood flour and asphalt. It was held on by cables, and could be jettisoned with ease. The armor from this kit protected the Shermans turret well, but sponson penetrations could still happen. It also offered a little extra ballistic protection. It also did not cover the front of the hull or turret.

Another attempt to defeat shaped charged weapons involved installing spikes in lengths varying from 7 to 8 inches all over the armor. The idea behind this was to break up a heat warhead before it could detonate properly.  Testing on this continued after the war.

Now let’s talk about improving the tanks less passive defenses:  Improved Machine Guns and Flame Projectors!

The vulnerability of the Sherman, like any other tank, to close infantry assault was a problem the U.S. Army was always looking to solve.  This is why the Sherman prototype retained the .30 caliber mini turret on the commander’s hatch. This was a hard to use and unpopular cupola, that did not make it onto any production Shermans, but that wasn’t for lack of trying on the US Army’s part.

Improved ball mount with sight: The first thing we will cover is the improved ball mount for the co-driver/BOG. What they did was come up with linkage at connected the bow mounted .30 caliber machine gun to the gunners periscope. The co driver’s periscope would have a telescopic sight much like in the gunners periscope. The linkage and sight allowed much more accurate use of the bow mounted machine gun. Only the cessation of production on the Sherman stopped this one. It would have been useful if we had to invade Japan.

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Line drawing of the sight for the bow machine gun. This image came in from our reader Whelm, thanks again Whelm!

M3 grease gun adapter: Another interesting defensive device they came up with was a special adapter for the M3 grease gun that allowed the gun to be hooked up to a curved barrel extension fitted to a standard rotating periscope mount. Then a special periscope with sight could be installed and the M3 fired and aimed from inside the tank. It was found to be accurate enough to engage targets within 33 yards of the tank. I suspect this one didn’t make it into production because it seems like more trouble tank it would be worth, but it is still an interesting idea.

Co-ax M2 and M1919: A more conventional way was the installation of a M2 .50 caliber Machine gun, alongside the .30 caliber M1919 machine gun, mounted coaxially with the main gun. This would have worked out better if one of the advanced guns mounts using a concentric recoil system had made it into production. I’ll cover these mounts later in this post.

The T121 twin machine gun mount: This mount replaced the all-around vision cupola on the commander’s station with this rather large twin machine gun mount. The mount could take the M2 or M1919. This was a remote power turret and could be operated without being exposed. This mount missed the war, and development continued on it post war.  It was very tall, almost as tall as the Sherman turret by itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fragmentation grenade mounts, mines and pipe bombs: The Army decided to try mounting these to tanks and test how they would work to combat close in enemy infantry as a kind of last resort weapon. This did not work very well and only the grenades were found to have an effective fragmentation effect. They all risked damage to the tank so they were dropped. Shielding to protect the tank made them even less effective.  None of these worked as well as having close infantry support, and the idea was dropped.

aaaaav5y6EJ0phosprojectpr phosprojector

The Scorpion/Skink anti-personnel flame projectors: This might have seen use if the war had gone on. This is just the type of thing to use on Japanese suicide troops if they have scared or killed off all your close infantry support. This system had four self-contained, phosphor based, flame projectors mounted at each corner of the tank. Each one could let off 20 to 30 bursts of the flaming phosphorus in a fan from each device, giving great coverage all around the tank. They could be fired off individually or all at once from inside the tank.

Now let’s talk about to vehicles that almost made it to production: The M4 Improved and T14.

M4 Improved M4 Improved2 M1 improved and M7

The M4 Improved or the idea behind an improved M4 started just about as the time the first production Shermans were rolling off the line. The proposed new tank design that came along was very interesting but not deemed enough of an improvement to change up the production lines.

Since the tank didn’t make it into production, you would think it would be hard to have an idea what one would have looked like. Normally that would be the case, but the game World of Tanks has added the M4 Improved as a premium tank, and they did a beautiful HD model for it.

The proposed M4 I would have used the same M3 75mm gun, with a welded turret, and an improved hull with thicker, sloped armor. It also used a modified version of the M6 heavy tanks suspension, a complicated precursor to the HVSS suspension installed on late production Shermans. It would have used the 625 horse power Wright G200 motor. Considering the US Army would have just been getting their hands on their first Soviet T-34, I think you can see the influence the T-34 had on the M4 Improved. The wide tracks and extra slope in the side armor being the most prominent.

Even though the improved Sherman had some big flaws, like putting the gas tanks under the turret floor, many of the improvements would be refined and make their way into the later improved Shermans. The suspension is clearly the father of the HVSS suspension, and the tracks probably showed the advantages of center guided tracks over end guided, at least on suspension that wide.

The T14 Heavy tank: They even made a few of these things.

033-1024x685 14485009400_649955abf0_b

On March 30th 1942 representatives from Chief or Ordnance, Aberdeen Proving Ground and the British Tank mission had a conference to discuss tank stuff.  The need for an assault tank was established at this conference, pushed for by the British. The US Army had no interest in an assault tank at that time. It was decided the US and British would each produce a pair of pilot tanks, and then the better of the two would be put into limited production.  The Brits would go on to produce their assault tank on the Cruiser VIII, and the US would use the M4 as the basis for theirs.

By Juned they had finished the requirements, design, and wooden mock up, and American Locomotive Company was contracted to build two real tanks. Pilot 1 was finished in July of 43, and the second one was done a month later.  The pilot tanks used nearly the same suspension that was proposed for the M4 improved the horizontal volute spring suspension out of the M6, and the same M3 75mm gun the standard M4 carried.  It also carried an M2 .50 caliber machine gun in the bow, and a 1919 coax with 75mm gun. It would have also had either a M1919 or M2 for AA use mounted on the commander’s hatch.

The Tank used a Ford GAZ V8, an slightly uprated GAA. Other than the motor, and a final drive gear ratio change, the automotive components were standard Sherman fare.  The tank came in at 47 tons, and had a pretty good armor. The Armor was much better than the standard Sherman, but not as good as the later Jumbo, and there was really nothing the US Army found interesting about the tank. The design was supposed to have the provision to take bigger guns, and it had the same 69 in turret ring as the Sherman, but it also had problems.

It was a dog, the GAZ had trouble moving the 47 tons around. The track system was not very good at this point. Tracks were easily thrown in testing, the tanks armored skirts made getting the tracks back on a pain. Even with the wide tracks it wasn’t very mobile. It did have a scope for the BOG to aim his gun with, so it had that handy feature going for it.

Pilot one was shipped off to Fort Knox for further testing, and pilot 2 was sent to England. It is still there, and it seems to be in ok condition. It’s at the Royal Armored Corps Tank Museum at Bovington Camp in Dorset. None ever saw any kind of combat, and the program was canceled in 1944 after no one showed any interest in the tank.

Practically space age improvements that almost made it: Sherman advanced gear, multi axis stabilizers, better gun recoil systems, better trannys and motors.

Concentric recoil systems: The Army had seen how good a concentric recoil system was from the one used on the M24 Chaffee.  Late in the war they had Rock Island Arsenal working on a similar mount for the 76mm M1A2 gun. A normal tank gun recoil system has a pair of cylinders on both sides of the gun to absorb the recoil energy of the gun. These systems are pretty bulky.  A concentric system uses one larger hollow cylinder and the gun is mounted inside it, this works better and saves space, it was named the combination mount T103.  There wasn’t much of an advantage in combat, but it would have allowed more room in the turret for other gear and ammo. It also would have left room for the M2. 50 Caliber machine gun being mounted along with the regular co-ax  gun.   This system was being tested and was doing well, when the war ended, ending any chance of seeing the mount on new production Sherman tanks.

The rigid gun mount: Yeah, just what it sounds like, the tank is the recoil system.

The rigid gun mount: A rigid system has a lot of advantages; it takes up way less room in the turret. The gun doesn’t retract into the crew space on firing making it safer, and you don’t need any kind of recoil guard. A rigid system is probably lighter too, but the mount has to be pretty beefy to handle the loads.  They designed the gun mount to take both the M3 75, and M1A2 76 guns, and it was tested with both.

The gun was mounted in a lightweight turret, and then onto an M10 hull. Test firing showed the stabilizer and turret race bearing took no damage, but the turret hold down bolts had stretched, and some threads were stripped.  Larger stronger bolts would solve that problem, and when installed in the heavier Sherman turret, would absorb the recoil better than the light weight turret it was tested on.

Can we all guess what killed this one off? Yep, the end of the war, boy, if the Japanese had held out, they would have been real sorry.

The two axis stabilizer: Two axis stabilizers almost made it in.

The Army had seen through battle experience crews trained in the use of the Shermans stabilizer had a advantage over the ones who didn’t. Unfortunately during WWII it was all to common to find units who were not in the systems use. So a very advanced system, something the Germans could not match during WWII, often went unused because of poor training.

The late production stabilizer in Shermans was simplified and easier to use. Experiments at Fort Knox found there was some backlash in the system, and they solved it at first with weights, and then later with a minor modification on how the stabilizer worked.

Once the elevation stabilizer was improved, the Army started to look into and azimuth stabilizer.  International Business machine had a design and it was tested at Aberdeen in late 43. At first the design did not work well, but after a series of modifications, they got the system working well enough to test. At the same time Ordnance came up with their own design, using off the shelf components, and it was ready for testing around the same time.

During the testing they used M4A3 75 tanks, a standard tank, and then one with each IBM and ordnance systems. The crews would be rotated through all three tanks to eliminate crew experience in one tank changing the results. The IBM system worked better than the ordnance system, but the ordnance system was much easier to adapt to the Sherman already in the field.

If you sensed a theme here, then you know what’s coming, the war ended before any of these two axis systems could see combat use. The Ordnance system was fitted to a 76mm Sherman and testing of the system continued after the war, comparing it to the Vickers system the Brits came up with. The Ordnance system needed to be beefed up and made more resistant to vibration, and what was learned here was probably passed on to later designs like the M26.

Better Motors: Motors that never had a chance or almost made it

V65

Chrysler’s A65:

This was a huge V12 that Chrysler designed on their own dime. It was 1568 cubic inches, was gas powered and made 650 gross horsepower, and 580 net HP, and was water cooled. A test installation was done to an M4A4, and they had to lengthen the hull another 9 an ½ inches to fit the mammoth motor. The tank only weighed around 500 pounds more with the motor in. The tank was a real hot rod, and climbed hills better and out accelerated the standard M4A4. Even after dropping the final drive gear ratio from 3:53:1 to 3:05:1, and it still out climbed and accelerated the standard M4A4 and even the M4A3.

After 400 miles of testing, the engine was pulled and examined and found to be in perfect running order.  The project closed with the Army recommending further study on engines in this power range.

Vb184gmdesiel

General Motors Corporation V8-184 diesel engine:

GM developed this as tank motor, it was based on a large marine diesel cut in half, and was still very large. This V8 diesel motor came in 1470 cubic inches and 3750 pounds. It made 600 gross horsepower at 1800 rpm and 1910 foot pounds of torque at 1000 rpm. The motor ran at a 16.8:1 compression ratio.

One test versions of this motor were installed in M4A3 hull, and tested. It was called the M4Y at first, then when ordnance started testing it, it was re-designated and M4A2E1. The tank had to be stretched 11 inches, and lost a little ground clearance to a bulge in the belly needed to fit the engine. They put 2914 miles on this test vehicle and it was another hot rod. It had much more power than any other Sherman but the A65 powered one. Some minor mechanical failures happened during the test, but nothing major or out of the ordinary that couldn’t be fixed. Nothing needed any kind of major redesign to support the motors power.

Much like with the A65, diesels in this power range were going to be studied due to the success of the M4A2E1.

Caterpillar D200A air Cooled Radial: The motor that made it into 75 Shermans

rd1820rear rd1820front

This motor used a large number of Wright G200 components, and modified it with a bunch of Caterpillar parts. At some point I may go into detail on how they did this, but for the moment, if you really want to know, the section in Hunnicutt’s Sherman book starts on page 167.

This motor made 450 horsepower at 2000 rpm and 1470 foot pounds of torque at 1200 rpm.  Good, but not great.  It did perform well enough to get into production, but after only 75 M4A6 tanks production was cancelled and the tank was regulated to stateside training use.  This motor was no hotrod power plant like the other two, but I had to fit it in somewhere.

. . .

A few other diesel designs were tried, but none worked as well as the V8-184, and they were all dropped early in their design period.  There is also one motor we have not covered, the motor that powered the M4A6, the Caterpillar G200A air cooled radial.

One thing to note about all the high horse power Sherman tanks, none of their other drive train components saw major modification, because they did not fail.  So a transmission and final drive designed for a 400 horsepower 30 ton tank, had no trouble taking 650 horsepower from the monster motors above, or any trouble handling the 42 tons of the M4A3E2 Jumbo.  To me that says, well designed, in that it was very overbuilt, and lasted a very long time. The Transmissions and final drives just kept on working, and all the post war Sherman modifications used the same old tranny and final drive.  That’s the kind of engineering that people should consider to be great. Not some German, garbage tank, named after a cat, which broke down every 150 kilometers.

Now let’s talk about transmissions, final drives and other automotive tidbits: The stuff that makes the tank go.

 

Like with the motors, many different transmissions and final drives were experimented with. Nothing was so ground breaking it made it into production, but much of it helped develop transmissions and final drives in later tanks. There were other automotive odds and ends we’ll cover too.  Starting with …

The high speed revers transmission: This transmission modification came out of the desire to speed up the Shermans reverse speed. The reverse gear ratio was 5.65:1. This was almost as high as the ‘Granny’ gear used in first gear. This meant the Shermans speed in revers was rev limited to a 2 to 3 miles per hour max in reverse. The tank was geared this was so it could climb a hill in reverse if it had to. There are cases on tight roads or trails in forests or cities you can’t get the tank turned around.

The first thing they tried to solve this was raising the gear ratio, and this did speed up reverse, but it made it extremely hard to climb any hill or incline.

The way they solved this problem was by adding a secondary planetary gear box to the back of the transmissions. This allowed the whole transmission to be reversed, allowing all five speeds to be used backing the tank up. This new add on gear box including a new low level oiling system that reduced the oil capacity from 43 to 20 gallons. This modification lowered the operating temp of the tranny and transmitted 25 more horsepower to the sprockets.

The drive shaft mounted generator had to be moved and the drive shaft had to be shortened, but that was the extent of the modifications needed. The shorter drive shaft also worked better, deflecting less, so the universal joints lasted longer. After testing the transmissions for nearly a year they were enthusiastically endorsed as far superior to the stock unit.  Can  you guess why these wonderful transmissions didn’t make it into the Sherman? You guessed it, the war ended and Sherman development and production stopped.

Next up, automatic, or semi-automatic transmissions, because driving a stick is hard:

The Spicer 95, General Motors 3030B Torqumatic, and the Model 900T, were all considered for use in the Sherman. The Spicer unit was in testing as the war ended. The 3030B was discontinued by GM before it could be tested.  This was the transmission used in the T20 and T20E3. The 3030Bs replacement was the 900T, but it was in high demand from the M18 Hellcat program. They went back and used Spicer 95s to test the concept. By mid-1944 GM was able to more than handle demand from the M18 program and was able to furnish test transmissions.  Two M4A3 tanks were modified and re-designated M4A3E3. They were then sent to Aberdeen Proving Ground for testing against the Spicer 95 equipped M4A1E3 and M4A3E1 from the early tests. The tests were promising, but the end of the war, and the cross drive transmission in the works really killed this one off.

The Cross Drive Tranny/Differential: Work on this new type of transmission/final drives started in early 43. What would be developed from it would be the standard transmission for post war US tanks. It was designed for not just use in the Sherman but later model tanks as well.

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Model EX100 Cross Drive Tranny: This was the first cross drive tested the US and it went into a M4A3 Sherman. The installation on the Sherman required a large whole to be cut in the upper part of the Transmission cover, and a large bulged armored cover was placed over it, to fit the new transmission. This cover was called the “manhole cover”, by engineers and the tank maintainers.  The was an automatic transmission using a torque converter, with electric steering and braking, and all in a much more compact unit than the Shermans current transmission/final drive setup. There were of course problems, and since work on this started late, when they solved the problems, it was no longer for use in the Sherman.

Suspensions: The ones that didn’t make it, I might throw a bit in about wider tracks here too.

Seemly like every other part of the tank there were extensive tests of various types of suspension on the Sherman. When we talked about it before we only covered the suspension that made it into production.

Early HVSS: This was an attempt to increase spring life but used the same width track. This was also the suspension used on the T20, T22, and T22E1. These units had shocks in the front and rear bogie units, and they made the ride more smooth and had a favorable effect on gunnery and overall ride. It did not however offer enough improvement for any slowdown in the production lines so it was never mass produced.

Christie Style: A heavily modified version of a Christie type suspension was tried on one tank. The springs were installed on armored boxes under the sponsons but outside the hull. It showed it was feasible, but no one was really interested. Christie suspension may be the most overrated suspension for a tank ever.

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Torsion Bar: In March of 1943, Ordnance recommended a design and construction of a Sherman tank with wide tracks and torsion bar suspension. This type of suspension had been seen on German tanks like the PIII and Stug, Russian tanks like the KV series. Two M4A2E4 tanks were produced for testing. These tanks borrowed a lot from the T20E3, since it was getting a torsion bar suspension a too and it would use the same 24 inch wide track. The suspension offered few advantages over the HVSS system that reached production and the test vehicles had a lot problems with things breaking. It did provide valuable information about the torsion bar suspension that would go on to be used in later tanks, and it had a very low 10 psi ground pressure.

World of Tanks gave the in game version of this tank away to the North American Beta testers when the game went live,  and it’s always been one of my favorite in game tanks.

Leaf Spring: Yeah, just like what it sounds, paired leaf springs, six per side and it didn’t work well. It didn’t go far either

T16 Halftrack truck “Centipede”: This suspension was overloaded and didn’t work well, and looked really odd.

Heavy Tractor T22:  Looked a little like a combo of the early VVSS suspension and late HVSS, but overloaded and it did not go anywhere.

Odds and ends: Weird stuff I couldn’t fit anywhere else.

This section is going to cover the numerous odds and ends that don’t fit elsewhere, anything from the proposed crew compartment cooling system, to the auto mapping system etc.

Let’s start with…

The Odograph: This was a early auto-mapping/navigation system that used a magnetic compass and data from the speedometer drive to keep track of the vehicles movement on a chart. This worked well enough in a jeep, but all the steel of the tank messed with the magnetic compass. Once we were no longer fighting in the desert where navigation could be troublesome support for this program fell off. They installed this in the M4A1E2 and had it working, showing just what 40s tech could do.  This project led to further development of magnetic compasses for the Sherman and tank use in general, so the program was not a waste of time.

The crew compartment cooling system: There was a project to put a crew compartment cooling system on the Sherman. This was very early in the tanks production, and an M4A1 was selected as the test vehicle and re designated to M4A1E2. The lined the interior with insulation, and put an evaporative cooling system in. The system did not work all that well, and demand for it dropped off when the fighting moved out of the desert. The project languished and was eventually canceled.

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The infrared night driving system: The infrared night driving system was tested in in 1942; the system consisted of a set of infrared head lights, which could not be seen by the naked eye, and an infrared detecting viewing device that replaced his periscope for the driver. The system worked, but not well enough to see any kind of service use. It would be another decade or so before anyone produced a reliable system.  The US and Russians tried them out first and very late in the war, the Germans came up with a system like it, that they quickly dropped after tests.

The US actually had a man portable version of this that could be mounted on a rifle size weapon. Both systems were still considered experimental when the war ended.

 

Sorry this section ended up being so long, and I didn’t include everything, I had to stop somewhere after all. 4757 words.

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

Sherman Books: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Massive update!!!

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panzer IV VS Sherman France 1944, By Steven Zaloga

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Squadron/Signal Publications 6038, Armor in Korea, a pictorial History by Jim mesko

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images Of War SPECIAL, M4 Sherman, by Pat Ware

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

#24 Silly Myths And Fun Facts About The Sherman and Lee: The Same Old Falsehoods Can Be Combated By Facts

Silly Myths: Things You Don’t Want To Say, At A Cocktail Party, Or Clam Bake.

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

As we know from this document, not all Shermans were gas powered. We also know the Sherman was no more prone to fire than any other tank, including German tanks. We know that the Sherman, when it did burn, the fire was most often caused by an ammunition fire, and not fuel fires. This was solved with wet ammunition racks making the Sherman the least prone to burn tank of the war. We should also know that all German tanks were gas powered as well, and very prone to ammo rack fires, and in many case gas fires caused by poor designs, and horrid quality control, and slave labor factory workers. Early Panthers were so prone to fire, they tended to catch on fire just getting off train cars, or going over terrain that tilted the hull .

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

No this name really seems to stem from a one pop history book, and a bad docudrama on the history channel that stars the man most responsible for the Sherman’s PR problem, Belton Cooper.  He, along with the table top Wargaming makers of the 60, 70 and 80s. This coupled with several Hollywood films like Patton, and The Battle of the Bulge, the Sherman had taken a serious hit on its war winning reputation. Even some big name historians included the slogan in their works, even while trying to repair the tanks soiled reputation. It is possible it was called a Ronson or Zippo during the war in a widespread way, but so far, no one, even when challenged has been able to find any proof.

It’s well known soldiers bitch, and often suffer from grass is greener syndrome. When your Sherman happens to bounce a few rounds off a Panthers frontal before another Sherman took it through its thin side or turret side armor, it’s going to be disconcerting, what the Chieftain of the WOT forums calls a significant emotional event, and these things can shake your confidence in your tank, in particular, if your new to the job, and or don’t know all the problems the Germans crews had to deal with to keep the tracks fighting. If crews complaining about their gear, actually makes it bad in all cases, then there is very few items of military gear considered good. I know there are several videos out there of WWII vets talking about the Sherman having thin armor and being a death trap, but in many cases, these guys were not even tankers.  I’ve read many accounts of Sherman crews loving their tanks. They knew that tank was a hell of a lot safer in most conditions than having to be outside it fighting on foot. Many of these man have a deep affection for the Sherman, and there are pictures of these men crying when they see one again.

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

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

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

But lets prove it wrong with a pic. 

The Sherman was made to be basic, cheap and easy to produce, and not last, they were not high quality vehicles. 

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

The design tolerances were so close, parts manufactured at any factory, would work on any Sherman. That may not sound like a big deal, but at the time it was, and the Germans could not produce tanks in the same way, and this was a huge advantage for the allied tank forces. Many of their tanks required hand fitting of parts. The early Shermans were all finely fitted, with beveled edges on the armor plate and all castings finely machined. The interiors included cushions for crew comfort and each crewman had at least one periscope.  The huge castings used to make the upper hull of the M4A1 were a technological feat as well and not reproducible by any of the Axis nations.

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

For such a reliable tank, it was designed with ease of maintenance in mind and it was relatively easy to swap out the motor or transmission/final drive. The suspension units bolted on, so replacing one damaged beyond repair was very easy, or easy by tanker standards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The levels of 76 armed tanks steadily increased after their introduction during Cobra. They went from a low of 6.7% in august of 44 to 30.1% in December, to 41% by April of 45. The extra weight did have a minor impact on off road mobility, by duckbill end connectors and the increasingly common HVSS tanks after December of 44, this is a minor issue. M4A1 76w Shermans were sitting in depots in England, on D-Day, because no one wanted to introduce a new vehicle at the last minute because there was no time to train on them, and no one saw an urgent need for them.

Tanks like this were showing up by operation Cobra, by the battle of the Bulge they were nearing 30% of the US medium tanks in europe.

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

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

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

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

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

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This M26 Pershing is the only known Zebra Mission survivor that also took part in the capture of the Remagen Bridge. It is was with the 9th AD and is not fully restored tro running condition.

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

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This M26 Pershing.

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

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Fun Facts: Stuff to make German Armor Fans Cry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

#4 Sherman Builders: Just How Many Tank Factories Did the US Have Anyway?

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CDA pumping out M4A4 tanks in 1942

Sherman Builders: They Had 10 and 1 in Canada. 

Most of the information in this section will be a summation of the section in Son of a Sherman. Other stuff I had to dig around on the internet for. Anyone who has more info on the tank makers, please feel free to contact me.  Parts from all these tank makers would interchange. Many used the same subcontractors. I don’t think anyone has tried or if it’s even possible to track down all the sub-contractors who contributed parts to the Sherman at this point. Some of the manufactures were more successful than others, some only producing a fraction of the total Sherman production, others producing large percentages. By the end of production, all the US and her allies needs for Shermans were being handled by just three of these factories.

American Locomotive (ALCO)

Sherman m4a2 being built at Alco

ALCO also produced M3 and M3A1 Lees, and made Shermans up to 1943. They were a fairly successful pre-war locomotive manufacturer founded in 1901 in Schenectady, New York. They also owned Montreal Locomotive works. ALCO made several version of the Sherman, and stayed in the tank game until the late 50s, helping with M47 and M48 production. The company went under in 1969.

Baldwin Locomotive Works (BLM)

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Baldwin was another early producer, building three versions of the Lee, The M3A2, M3A3, and M3A5. They mostly built small hatch M4s, with just a handful of M4A2(12). They were out of the Sherman game by 1944 and out of business by 72. They were founded in Philly in 1825, and produced 70,000 steam locomotives before it died.

Chrysler Defense Arsenal (CDA)

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M4A4 Tanks being built as the last Lee goes off the line

Chrysler Defense Arsenal is kind of special. It was a purpose built tank factory, funded by the US Government, and managed and built by Chrysler.  Construction on the factory started in September of 1940. Completed M3 Lee tanks were rolling of the line by April of 1941. This was before the factory was even finished being built. It was built to stand up to aerial bombing. They produced M4A4, and M4 tanks as well and M4 105s, M4A3(105)s, and M4A3 76 tank and nearly 18,000 of them. Chrysler was the sole producer of M4A3E8 76 w Shermans, or the tank commonly known and the Easy 8. They produced 2617 units, but post war many A3 76 tanks were converted over to HVSS suspension. A very big chunk of the overall Sherman production came from this factory and it went on to produce M26 Pershing tanks.

Chrysler built this factory in a suburb of Detroit, Warren Township Michigan. Chrysler used it’s many other facilities in the Detroit area as sub manufacturers, and many of their sub-contractors got involved too. CDA not only produced the tanks, it had the capacity to pump out huge numbers of spare parts.  CDA lived into 90s before Chrysler defense systems got sold off to General Dynamics. It took part in making the M26, M46, M47, M48, M60, and M1 tanks.

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The M3 Production line at CDA
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Another shot of the CDA Lee production line
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One final shot of the Lee production line at CDA, this on earlier in the build process

Federal Machine & Welder (FMW)

I couldn’t find much out about FMW, Son of a Sherman says they were founded in Warren Ohio in 1917. They produced less than a thousand M4A2 small hatch tanks.  They were slow to produce them, making about 50 a month. They were not contracted to make any more Shermans after their first 540 total, 1942 contract.  They did build some M7, and M32 tank retrievers. They were out of business by the mid-fifties.

Fisher Tank Arsenal (FTA)

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Fisher Tanks Arsenal (FTA) has a lot of common with Chrysler Defense Arsenal, except this time Uncle Sam went to Fisher Body, a division of General Motors. Fisher decided to build the tank plant in Grand Blanc, south of Flint Michigan. The factory broke ground in November of 1941 and the first M4A2 Sherman rolled off the line in January of 1942, before the factory was fully built.

The M4A2 was something of this factory specialty, in particular early on, with them producing a large number of the small hatch M4A2 sent off to Russia, and a few of the rarer large hatch 75mm gun tanks, around 986 small hatch tanks, and about 286 large hatch tanks.

M4A2 FISHER AD

They also produced nearly 1600 large hatch, 76mm gun tanks, or the M4A2 (76)w. These tanks went exclusively to Russia as part of Lend Lease. These tanks were ordered over four different contracts and the final ones off the production line were all HVSS tanks. The HVSS suspension may have seen combat with the Russians before the US Army used it. Oddly, this factory also produced M4A3 76w tanks, but never with the HVSS suspension. Fisher produced a significant number M4A3 and Large hatch 75mm tanks at their factory, but nowhere near their M4A2 production.

Ford Motor Company (FMC)

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Ford was a surprisingly small player in the Sherman tale. They are very important in that they developed the Ford GAA V8 covered earlier, and a lot of spare parts. But they only produced 1690 small hatch Shermans between June of 42 and Oct 43. They built a few M10s as well. All these tanks and tank destroyers were produced at their Highland Park facility.  After 1943, they stopped building tanks, and wouldn’t get back into until the 50s, and even then it was just for a large production run over a short time, of M48s.

Lima Locomotive Works (LLW)

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Lima was one of the first producers of the cast hull M4A1. It did not produce any Lee tanks. Its production capacity had been taken by locomotives to the point just before Sherman production started. They produced the first production M4A1, that was shipped to England, named ‘Michael’, and it’s still on display at the Bovington Museum. They produced Shermans from February of 42, to September of 1943, producing M4A1s exclusively, and they built 1655 tanks.  The war was a boon for Lima, they’d been in business since 1870, and the contracts from the military for locomotives really helped them out. Post war, they failed to successfully convert to diesel electric locomotives and merged with another firm. 

Montreal Locomotive Works (MCW)

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MLW was owned by American Locomotive. They produced some wacky Canadian tank based off the Lee chassis, called the Ram, and Ram II, these floppy creations were only armed with a 2 pounder in the Rams case, and a 6 pounder, in the Ram IIs case, and they produced almost 2000 of the wacky things, what’s that all aboot? They eventually got around to producing a proper Sherman tank, the M4A1 “Grizzly”, producing only about 188 tanks. A very few had an all metal track system that required a different sprocket. Other than that, there was no difference between a grizzly and an M4A1 manufactured by any other Sherman builder. Don’t believe the Canadian propaganda about it having thicker armor!

Pacific Car & Foundry (PCF)

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PCF was founded in 1905 in Bellevue, Washington.  After they bought out there only real competitor in the early 20s, they were the only heavy machinery company and foundry in the Pacific Northwest. They were the go to foundry for steel used in the building of many Seattle landmarks. In 1924 the founder, William Pigott sold a controlling interest in the company to American Car and Foundry Company. In most stories about a company, it would end right there, but in an twist of fate, the Son of William Pigott, Paul Pigott, bought back a controlling share of the company in 1934.m4a1pcf_1

At first the company seemed to do ok during the great depression, but it was really on the ropes until just before WWII, when the increase in military spending helped them out. Their steel and aluminum was used in the B17, numerous Naval vessels, and tanks.  They were also one of the Sherman tank producers that could produce its own gun mounts, and produced enough other Sherman factories used them.

The only west coast tank maker, PCF produced 926 M4A1s from May of 1942, to November of 1943. The foundry had the facilities to produce all the big casting, the M4A1 Sherman used, in house. As soon as production stopped they started production on the M26 tractor, the truck portion of the M26 tank transporter, also known as the Dragon Wagon. They never got back into tank production again, but they did produce one very special tank destroyer. The almost mythical T28 super heavy tank and the army managed to lose one.

The Shermans they produced were used by units training up and down the west coast, and many were sent to the pacific. Company A, of the 1st Marine tank battalion received a 24 of PCF’s M4A1 Shermans, the only ones the Marines would use. These PCF Shermans have a few things that make them easier to identify, the easiest to see is the dust cover mount around the hull machine gun, PCF’s is distinct and made from a strip of steel instead of a rod. Many of these Shermans were produced with the T49 steel tracks. These tanks would see combat in the swamps and jungles of Cape Gloucester. A battle I will cover in detail later.

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PCF M4A1 on Cape Gloucester with the Marines
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T28_Super_Heavy_Tank

The T28, also known as the T95 105mm gun motor carriage, two of these massive vehicles were made, and PCF made both. They came in at 100 just under 100 tons, and were designed to get a very powerful 105mm gun close enough to knock out heavy fortifications, like the type along the Siegfried line. It was also considered for use in the Invasion of Japan had that been necessary, and man, think of the weird porn the Japanese would come up with if we had invaded with a bunch of these bad boys, instead of nuking them. It had a set of double wide HVSS suspension on each side, with four bogie groups, and armor up to a foot thick. It had a four man crew and used the same 500 horsepower Ford GAA V8 to move it. Yes, 100 tons, 500HP, a real hotrod that thing was. Development ceased after the war, and any kind of testing on the two prototypes stopped by 47. One prototype burned out, and was scrapped; the other just disappeared for several decades, and was found in a remote spot on Fort Belvoir in Virginia. It is now stored in an army parking lot, not open to the public, rusting away.

Pacific Car & Foundry still exist today as PACCAR Inc., one of the largest truck makers in the world. They own both Kenworth and Peterbuilt. They also produced much of the steel structure on the Twin towers of the World Trade Center. They built the PACCAR tower in Bellevue in in the late 60s and it’s still their HQ today. They are worth 18,8 billion as of 2013.

Pressed Steel Car (PST)

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PSC was one of the big boys of Sherman production, and they also produced the final M4s made, a group of 30 M4A1 76 HVSS tanks. PSC was founded in Pittsburg in 1899, but their tank factory was in Joliet, Illinois. They were the second manufacturer to make the tank and across all the versions they made, they produced 8147 Sherman tanks.

They started tank production with the M3 Lee in June of 41, and stopped production on that in August of 1942. They then produced the M4A1 from March of 42, to December of 43, and the standard M4 from October of 42 to August of 43.

They were one of the final three tank makers to stay in the tank making business after 1943, along with CDA and FTA. PSC would produce large hatch M4A1 76 tanks, including HVSS models late in the run, totaling more than 3400 M4A1 tanks. They produced 21, M4A2 76 HVSS tanks, towards the end of 45.

They were out of business by 56, with no tank production after those final 30 M4A1 76 HVSS tanks.

Pullman Standard (PSCC)

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Pullman Standard was a pretty famous luxury train passenger car maker, and another company that made rolling stock combined into one company. Pullman Palace Car Co was founded in 1867, or there about. I’m sure some train geek will be dying to fill me in on the company’s history but I’m not really going to look deeply into it. It does make for one of the more interesting stories about a Sherman tank producer. Their main tank factory was in Butler, Pennsylvania. And they helped produce some Grant tanks before they started Sherman production.

They produced the M4A2 from April of 42 to September of 43, and produced 2737 tanks. They also produced 689 standard M4 Sherman tanks from May of 43, to September of 43.  Soon after these contracts were finished the US Government broke the company up due to some anti-trust complaint.

The thing to remember about all the Sherman makers is each one had a small imprint on the tanks they produced. So, yes, an M4A1 small hatch tank was the same no matter who made it and all parts would interchange with no modification needed, but the tanks from different makers still had small, cosmetic differences. They may have been something like nonstandard hinges on the rear engine doors to the use of built up antenna mounts instead of cast. Or wide drivers hoods or narrow, to where the lift rings on the hull were and how they were made or even Chrysler’s unique drive sprocket they put on all their post A4 tanks.  None of this meant the parts couldn’t be salvaged and used on another Sherman from another factory without much trouble. Some factories may have produced tanks faster than others, but they all produced them within the contracts specification or they were not accepted.

Hanno Spoelstra of the Sherman Tank Register found this very cool old poster.

M4 production list

Sources:  Sherman by Hunnicutt,  Son of a Sherman by Stansell and Laughlin,  Tanks are a Might Fine Thing by Stout, various company websites