Category Archives: Allied Use WWII

#65 Sherman Tanks of the US Army Official History books: This one Covered the MTO

Sherman Tanks of the US Army Official History books: This post will cover the Sherman related images in “The War Against Germany And Italy, Mediterranean and adjacent areas”.

As we talked about in the last post on The Army has a series of History books they published shortly after the war nicknamed the Green books. You can find them all on the US Army Official History site the “Green Books” in PDF format. Most of these books have minimal photos, but they put out a pair three picture books and this post will cover the one on Italy, Southern France and North Africa.

This book, like the one on the northern European Campaign was not the highest quality scan, so the picture quality is not great. It is good though, and you can make out a good amount of detail in them.   There are also fewer Sherman photos, because the Sherman was not as usable in Italy, because of the terrain, but it was still a very common item on the battlefield in  the MTO. The book starts off with some images from the Torch landings and covers the fighting in Tunisia.

This is an interesting image, and the caption doesn’t say it, but that’s the R975 that powered many Sherman models they are looking over. I would love to get my hands on a high resolution version of this photo.
Lee tanks being readied by UK Troops.
I just thought this was to interesting of a photo to not include just because no Sherman, was in it.
US Radar aimed spotlights.
A M3 Lee Crew having some chow. I do not agree with the caption, the Lee was not obsolete yet, and was still capable of knocking out all German Armor. The US Army got a bloody nose at Kasserine Pass because of bad leadership, and tactics, along with green troops.
An M4A1 towing a Halftrack. The location, Sidi Bou Zid, was the location of a big battle where most of a battalion got knocked out.
In the top photo is an M6 37mm GMC, a rare and short lived Tank Destroyer. They were phased out during the fighting and replaced with 75mm M3 GMC, a 75mm gun mounted on an halftrack. This was replaced by the M10 in time for the Sicily invasion. The M10 would be the first TD to be successful and they were popular with their crews.
An M4A1 hauling ass about 60 kilometers from Tunis.
An M4A1 being used to test deep wading gear. This doesn’t look like factory produced wading gear to me, but its hard to tell with the shot quality. Most people assume the trunks were the only parts needed for it to work. It took hours of labor to prepare the whole tank for deep wading. The Shermans hull was not designed to be watertight, so all the joints had to be filled with a special tar, and it had to be applied in a ton of places requiring the removal of interior racks to get to the nooks and crannies during the process. Without the waterproofing, as soon as the tops of the suspension and the bottom of the hull got submerged water would begin coming in. The Shermans slip ring for the turrets electric power was mounted under the on the hull floor. As soon as this touched water, it shorted the tanks eletrical system out.
I didn’t know we had given the French any P-38s, but we did, enough for one squadron or so. The Sherman has to be an M4, M4A4 or M4A2. I lean towards the M4A4 since the wheels are spaced so far apart, though, the suspension is at full droop, I don’t think they would get that much closer together. The way they have it rigged is interesting, they are not using the hull lift rings, and seem to have tied into the suspension bogies, with the worn wire ropes.
I thought this was interesting, how many people know we shipped supplies and tanks through Iran into Russia and the middle eas? I wonder what kind of security these trains had? I would love to get a high res version of the train photo, the tanks are Shermans, but there is no telling the vintage.
This is another photo that made it in because it’s cool. This LST could be full of tanks, they would jus tbe inside the LST on the main deck. These vehicles are all light enough for the roof. The LST was designed for these kinds of loads, and had a ramp that could be raised and lowered to get the vehicles up there. The LST was a really interesting ship design. Check out this post for more info.
This is a Lima built M4A1. There is a larger version of this photo on the Sherman Minutia site, in there how to identify Lima Locomotive Shermans!
No tanks in this image, but the subject is interesting, and not often covered. The mosquito was an enemy to both sides, spreading several diseases, the most troubling Malaria. The US Military used pesticides to combat it, I had never heard of Paris Green before, but it’s a oldschool, fairly toxic pesticide, and they sprayed it all over the med to prevent mosquitoes. This was important, the losses through malaria can get out of hand fast if you don’t have the meds to counter it, and spraying for them is a great way to keep the risk down. In the Pacific, they sprayed a lot of DDT.  
Another LST image, this one showing the floating pontoon sections used to get vehicles ashore when the slope of the beach was not ideal for getting the LST in close enough to drive right out its built in ramp. Beaches of that type were fairly rare.
This post reminded me we have a holiday coming. Christmas overseas at war was a tough burden on US Troops. The US Military does is hardest to get these men a turkey dinner like these doughs are enjoying.  Merry Christmas everyone!
An M4 Sherman getting a new set of tracks installed. The caption mentions armor had not seen a lot of use, and that partially true. Many tank battalions would be used as artillery and would be on call when needed. That’s not really seeing action, but it’s still combat, counter battery fire wouldn’t be unheard of. You can see an M10 GMC in the background, this looks like a repair depot. See the image caption for location info.
This is a great image, I really wish I had a high res version of it. Here we have a practically invisible M10 tank destroyer. From a distance this TD would be very hard to spot.
This looks like another LLW M4A1, it has a siren that looks like the Mars brand type they used. The Inflatable Shermans are interesting. Up close they are clearly fake, but from 50 yards or from a low flying plane it would be very hard to tell a real Sherman from an inflatable.
A pair of photos of M31 ARVs doing ARV things. If a tank really gets stuck, falls into a ditch, collapses a bridge, since in deep mud, it might take two or even three ARVs or Tanks or a combo of both with a lot of towing cable to free the tank. Getting a tank stuck like that would make the driver notorious, and not in good way.
An M5 light and M4 medium in the town of Coreno Ausonio Italy, from an unknown unit, supporting the French Army.
An M31 moving a German portable Pillbox. They seem like ready made coffins. They were an interesting design, and you can make out the hole where an axle was inserted, and two wheels could be fitted along with a trailer tongue, and the thing was flipped onto its wheels and towed away by a horse or small vehicle. For more info see this post on the Lone Sentry
A vaunted Tiger, burning, on the streets of Rome. City fighting would be hard on a tank like the tiger, with bad visibility, with known blind spots, and slow turret traverse means a few determined infantrymen could sneak up on it and kill it, unless it was heavily supported by infantry.
A pair of M10s with the 5th Army entering Rome.
A huge marshaling yard at the port of Naples full of vehicles waiting for the invasion of southern France. This is just a small sample of what would be used in the invasion.
A US DD Sherman used in the Southern France landings. The DD used in this landing had much better results.
Another burned out Tiger, the Nazi version of the Gold Plated Toilet, with a useless anti magnetic mine paste applied that only added weight to an already overweight vehicle. As far as I can tell, the neither USSR, or US or British Armies had a commonly issued magnetic mine. So yeah, the Germans wasted time and treasure on some crappy paste that did not good.
These two vehicles were the true staples of the effective German armor force. The Stug III was based on the excellent panzer III, and was a way to get a nice 75mm gun onto its hull. the Stug was well liked by their crews, reliable by German standards and well suited to mobile warfare. The Panzer IV was not a great tank either, but it was the best tank Germany had, and it’s the one they should have continued to produce. Sure it had a lot of flaws, crappy suspension with no growth potential, a hull with thin armor with way to many individual plates, welds, and rivets, making it very labor intensive to build. It was also reliable by German standards, but was no Sherman. The turret was also a complicated mess of time wasting multi angle plates. Even with all these flaws, it was still a better tank than all the later German Armor because it was reliable enough to actually show up to the fight. It’s gun was good enough to deal with most of the threats it faced. It also didn’t waste huge amounts of gas because it wasn’t underpowered.
Action shot of an M7 crew firing their 105mm howitzer.
A pair of M4A1 75 tanks fording the Arno river near the gothic line. Note the line marker in the river, it probably gets much deeper to the tanks right side.
I wanted to include some photos of the terrain. Hills and mountains are tough on tanks. All that armor generally means they are not hotrods in the first place, throw in climbing steep grades, and any automotive issues with the tank are going to come out very fast. Lucky for the US and other Allies, the Sherman was an automotive masterpiece, and was reliable enough to be used in these places and still continue to work. This type of terrain really cuts the life of a tank down, in particular if the tank is already unreliable, if you have a part know to wear out in 1500 kilometers,  hilly terrain could cut that in half, or worse if the driver was bad.  
I thought this was an interesting shot along with a good illustration of the terrain. Those 6X6 trucks were pretty capable off road, but not as good as a tank in most cases. The caption doesn’t give us any info on how the truck got there. One thing I know from taking a Jeep out on trails like this, is pictures never show how steep a place is, like being there in person. I’ve taken pictures of places that gave me some serious pucker factor going up or down, and when you look the pictures over, they never convey the steepness like being at the top and looking down. Driving a tank on narrow dirt roads like this was probably not enjoyable at all. 
This is the final terrain shot, this one is long enough to give you a good idea of some of the distances involved and how tall the hills and mountains were.
The most reliable version of the Panther, the Panther Casemate! Take a panther turret, slap it on a steel bunker frame that you’re put in a hole in the ground and poor in concrete! No 150 kilometer final drives, no 1500 kilometer tanny, or 1500 kilometer maybach motor. Plus you get a bunk! 
An US tank salvage yard.
The caption of this photo said there was a M4A1 76 in it, but there are no 76mm armed Shermans in this photo. I assume the caption is accurate otherwise. Note the hilly area the tanks are in, the M4 and M4A1 would be the most difficult of the shermans to drive in this type of terrain. 
M10 TDs given to the South Africans as Lend Lease. They may have come directly from the US, or it may have been the Brits giving them M10s they had not converted to Achilles TDs with the 17 pounder.
Another LLW M4A1 and a pair of M18s with an M4A1 76w and a regular M4A1 75 in the background. The trail they are on is much steeper than it looks. This is the type of terrain the granny gear in the Shermans transmission would come in very handy on.
A pair of M32s driving through the hills of Italy in the fog.
I don’t think this is a regular Callipe.
I didn’t know ACME was involved in making bridging gear, and this does not seem like a very good idea. Is that a roadrunner in the corner of the top pic??!
A very cool shot of an M7 SPGs battery firing at night. The caption says this was prep fire.
An M10 GMC hauling ass down Highway 65.
An M10 in the background of some German POWs being marched to a containment area. They would then be shipped off to camps in England or the US. The US treated POWs very well in most cases and delivered Red Cross packages without delay.
A South African Tank unit with M4A1 76w tanks. The Brits were sent a fair number of these tanks through lend lease, but didn’t want them, so they gave them to the other members of the UK.
Ok, so I threw in one more terrain shot, because I thought this one was interesting, this is really the last one though.
This is another mis-captioned photo, at least where the Sherman is concerned. The caption says the tank is an M4A3 with 17 pounder. I can’t say there was never a M4A3 with a 17 pounder gun, because the US did have some 75mm Shermans converted, even though they were never issued, one at least was probably an M4A3. The British did not receive any M4A3 tanks for their own use. The image looks like an M4 composite hull Firefly, a very common version of the firefly based on the M4 composite hull tank. I assume the rest of the caption info is correct though.
An M18 getting a ride on a makeshift ferry.
An M10 TD waiting for some action near Lake Garda.

This concludes the photos I found relevant from CMH 12-2. The book is packed with a lot of other photos of things not Sherman related, and since you can download them for free, if you are interested in WWII history, download them and have a look. I found many of these images I had not seen before.

 

 

#64 Sherman Tanks of the US Army Official History books: The “Green Books”, had three picture editions!

Sherman Tanks of the US Army Official History books: The “Green Books”, had three picture editions! Part 1

The United States Army isn’t all about fighting and defending the country, they also try and document their own history. That’s where the US Army Center of Military History comes in.  It is an actual place, located at Fort McNair in washington DC, with a library and Archive. If you would like to visit, check out the website first, because they have a ton of info online and you might not have to make the trip to find what you are looking for.  One of the things one the website is an online library that contains the whole set US Army Official History books, known as the “Green Books” in PDF format.

The Website has a lot of depth, and I still have not found everything of interest. Just poking around on it today I found an index of all the History PDFs they have up.  If you are interested in US history, give the Army’s history website a serious look.  In some cases this just links to a page listing info about a book they have, but no PDF.  Or in other cases links to a store where the book is on sale and or a combo of these.  Look carefully, most seem to be available for free even if there is a pay version.

Of interest to this site are the books in the Pictorial Record section, on the Green Jacket books. It contains three books, The War against Japan, The war against Germany and Italy: Mediterranean and adjacent areas, and The War Against Germany: Europe and Adjacent Areas.  These books are picture books spanning the whole war, in the area the book’s title mentions.

In part one, we are going to look at The War Against Germany: EUrope and Adjacent Areas, because I figured this one would have the most Sherman photos, and I was right, there are a lot. Not as many as I though were already up on the site, and in most cases I left those out since I have better version up.  These images are not great quality, but also not horrible, and it varies a little up and down, but they are interesting.

The book’s cover, if you had a paper copy.

 

I thought this image was interesting, there are so many men on it, they all have the same hat. I’ve always like the Lee.

 

One aspect of tanks people rarely think about is moving them. As reliable as a Sherman or Lee was, driving them long distances would be a waste of resources, cause to much wear and tear, and be slow. So when moving tanks like these, probably on the way to a shipyard, for transport to Africa, over very long distances, trains, trucks, or boats are all faster.
This is a nice shot of an early M7 Priest 105mm self propelled artillery.

 

This is an early bug not super early production M4A1 75 tank. Note the cast tranny housing, but the M34 gun mount with shorty mantlet on the turret.

 

A nice photo of an M4 tank with the quick fix add ons, being fitted with wading trunks. These trunks, along with sealing all the other small openings in the hull and installing a special seal for the turret ring, these tanks could leave an LST, LCT or LCM in water almost up to the gun. These were not universally issued, and the Marines had to come up with their own versions.
Look at that, an M4 Sherman in water almost up to its gun. I wonder if the driver could see anything through his periscope? Fish maybe? These wading trunks had a quick release mechanism.

 

The final use of many M3 Lee tanks, conversion into the M31 ARV. How cool is an ARV with a fake 75mm gun, that’s mounted on door leading into the vehicle?

 

This is a nice shot of an M4A1 76w tank, the type issued for operation Cobra. It has a hedgerow cutter installed, and probably lacks a ventilator on the back of the turret. These would be the first 76mm tanks to go into combat in US hands.

 

Two shots in one, a pile of tank ammo, and a crew cleaning their MGs and reloading ammo cans.

 

This is another early M4A1 76w tank. It’s already lost a fender on one side. The caption info with the picture is from the book. Rarely does it have detailed info about the tanks.
This page shows an M7, and the tank that was designed to replace it The M4 105, partially. In that the 105mm armed Sherman was designed to replace the M7 in the HQ sections of Armor battalions and companies. I do not think they planned on replacing the M7s in Armored Artillery battalions in Armored Divisions.

 

Another dual shot showing an M10 moving down a street with supporting doughs.

 

Another early M4A1 76w tank, note the loaders split hatch, and how the doors only open to the straight up position, a problem only found on early versions of this tank.
An M10 supporting the first Army with some hitchhikers. Note, it once had a deep wading kit, and how well worn those tracks are.
An Invisible M4A1 75 Sherman!

 

Pretty sure this is a duplicate, but if not, here is a shot of an M4 with doughs hitching a ride passing through the Siegfried Line

 

M4s waiting for the call to action near Luneville.

 

M36 GMC 90mm Tank destroyer.

 

M4 getting duckbills

 

An M4 with the 6th AD, 68th Battalion, Company C, with duckbills, driving in mud.

 

Shermans acting as artillery, and an SPG based on the Sherman/Lee. The M12 155mm GMC.

 

M10s in the Huertgen Forest, late model versions based on the lead tanks turret.

 

An M4 pushing an T1E3 mine exploder.

 

An M4A1 with the 7th Army fording the Moselle river.

 

M36 GMC being whitewashed for the 1944/45 winter
A M4 105, well dog in and camouflaged. It could be an M4A3 105, hard to tell.
Another double shot, this one shows Doughs string barbed wire, and a M10 crew eating some chow.

 

A decent photo of an M4A3 crewman working on an old sewing machine.

 

An M10 firing at night.

 

An M4A3 76W tank leading some doughs and an M4 75 in the snow.

 

M4A3 dozer tank. This image was taken near Colmar.

 

Shermans on floating pontoon bridges.

 

The US using German Halftracks and some Shermans, a 75 and 76 job.

 

An M4 tank being ferried across the Moselle river on a very makeshift ferryboat.

 

A heavily sandbagged, probably 14th AD M4A3 76w Easy 8 tank.

 

An M36 on a makeshift ferry.

 

Several types of Sherman crossing a very long pontoon bridge across the Rhine.

 

An up armored E8 passing a huge column of German POWs.

 

An M36 crossing the Rhine on another long pontoon bridge.
The DD Sherman, the craziest way to get ashore in a tank.

 

M4 Sherman, plus large rocket rack, equals awesome.

 

An M4 crew watches doughs sleep on a stone road.

 

The Sherman is an M4A3 76w with a split loaders hatch.

 

M10 TDs move through the ruins of Magdeburg.

 

A row of M4A3 76w HVSS tanks late in the war near Nuernberg.

 

An M4A3 76w HVSS tank

 

An Easy 8 acting as a ferry for some doughs.

 

M4A3 76w HVSS tank

That’s all folks, these images were all taken by the Army during the war and the books sold by the government originally and now are all up for free and used images that would all be public domain anyway, these images all should be public domain.

Coming soon, Part II, the Pacific. 

#45 Gallery IV: You Guessed It, More High Res Photos!

Gallery IV: More photos, high resolution, with comments

More images, with captions, most high res, some sherman chassis based things as well.

Under_Sherman

A very early M4A1 Sherman, note the pair of M1919s mounted in the middle front of the hull, these were removed fairly quickly from production tanks. It seems to be hanging off a rather high drop off, and this gives us a great view of its belly. 
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A British M4A4 in Athens, during the Battle of Athens, in December of 1944, the tank is supporting the Scottish Parachute Battalion. It’s a later production tank with an M34A1 gun mount. 
12th_Armored_Division_76mm_Armed_M4_Sherman_Husseren_France_1945 (1)
M4A3 76w Sherman with the 12th AD, in Husseren France. The tank is heavily loaded, and even the M2 is stored and covered. With all the mud around, you would think extended end connectors would be installed. 
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An M10 TD somewhere at the beginning of Operation Cobra,  the TD is somewhere in Normandy. Note the branches for camo. Look  at the communication wire running across the street. 
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French 2nd Armored Division M10 near Halloville France November 13th 1944. This looks like a mid production M10. That is some thick mud!
Classy-Peg-passing-destroyed-Japanese-Shinhoto-Chiha-tank-on-Luzon-in-the-Phillipines-17-Jan-1945 (1)
M4A3 75w named Classy Peg passing a destroyed Japanese tank in Luzon, Philippines, January 17 1945.  These tanks were a terrible threat to the Japanese. 
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Clod hopper, an M4A3 or M4A2, on Iwo jima with the Marines, it was from C Company, 4th Marine Tank Battalion, and was taken out by a Japanese 47mm gun.  I wonder if the road wheels ended up on another tank. 
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A pair of composite hull M4 composite hulls burning. These tanks are US Army Shermans, and they are in the Guam, and I think they were taken out by a 47mm AT gun. The gun was probably behind were the picture was taken from. (Thanks to Russ Amott for help with the caption)
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An M4A1 76w passes through some kind of wall made of tree trunks. This tank has a split loaders hatch. Note the tree branch camo and how the gun is in the travel lock. 
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A Sherman V of the Canadian 29th Reconnaissance regiment(The South Alberta Regiment). The Tank was commanded by Major David Currie(VC), and the tank was named ‘Clanky’. This photo was taken in Normandy around Arromanches in July of 1944. A big Thank you to R.Wagner for the caption info.
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M4 105 serving with the French, tank names La Moskowa, the crew is hamming it up with a girl! 
M4A3 105
Riflemen of the 29th Marine Regiment ride a M4A3 Sherman 105mm of Company A, 6th Tank Battalion during the 6th Marine Division’s drive on Chuda along the west coast of Okinawa. It looks like the west coast of California!
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An M4A3 76w being given a ride across the Rhine River in a LCM, this seems like a precarious way to get a tank across, but maybe it wasn’t all the way loaded. 
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This one is a Marine M4A2 on Betio, Tarawa Atoll, and was named “Commando”(thanks to Russ Amott for the information on the photo caption) , for more information on this battle, see the new book Tanks in Hell by Gilbert and Cansiere.
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USMC PVC N.E. Carling in front of an M4A2 tank named Killer. It has a Type 94 TE KE tank on its back deck. Photo taken Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, 2 Feb 1944. Killer seems to have wooden planks added to the sides. 
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Later production small hatch M4 Sherman, probably somewhere in the MTO or ETO. This one seems to be captured and in use by the Nazis.
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This is an M4A3 76w tank, with the 784th Tank Battalion (colored) near the Rhine in early 45. 
771st_Tank_Battalion_M4_Shermans_Supports_17th_Airborne_Division_Muenster_II
M4A3 76w Shermans from the 771st Tank Battalion supporting the 17th Airborne Division.  These tanks are sandbagged up, but not as extensively as some other units would go. 
M4A3_Sherman_Panzerschreck_1945
An M4A3 76w from an unknown unit passes by the corpses of Nazi troops. You can soo a wooden AT stick box and one of the deceased Germans seems to by laying on one.
Äâå ÁÐÝÌ ARV M31 (èç 3rd AD) âîçëå ïîäáèòîãî "Øåðìàíà". Saint-Fromond, Íîðìàíäèÿ, 14.07.1944ã.*
A M4 being recovered by a pair of  M31 Armored Recovery Vehicles near Saint Fromond France 1944. They are dragging it, since it looks like it has a lot of suspension damage. 
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An M4A3 76w HVSS from the 749th Tank battalion has collapsed a wooden Bridge, in Glossbliederstroff on the Saar, Germany

#41 Gallery I, Mixed High Res Sherman Photos, With Comments.

Gallery I, Mixed High Res Sherman Photos: Some With Comments.

 

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A nice color photo of an M4 stuck in Italy. It’s hard to tell if it is knocked out or just stuck, for the purposes of the fight it was in, there is no difference though.
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A burned out M4A3 76w in Neumarkt, Germany April of 1945.
Arnoldsweiler-Germany-45_104th_ID
A knocked out M4A3 75W with concrete amor, in front of a M4A3 76w with similar armor, in the back also knocked out. This is arnoldsweiler Germany, tank unit unknown, the is from the 415 regiment of 104 Division.
761st_Tank_Battalion_M4_Sherman_Supporting_the_103rd_ID_Nieffern_France_1945
M4A3 75 from the 761st Tank Battalion supporting the 103rd ID near Nieffer France, this could be a small hatch M4A3 from the first batch Ford made, but its hard to tell from this angle.
747 Tank Battalion, Schleiden, 1945
A pair of up armored, with layers of steel track and sandbags, M4A3 76w Shermans, with the 747th Tank Battalion, Schleiden, 1945. All the added stuff would be be shedded just about as soon as the war ended.
14th_Armored_Division_M4_Sherman_Column_in_Hochfeld_France_1945
14th AD M4A3 76w column Hochfeld France 45
13
A huge pile of rocks, with an M4A3 76W HVSS tank with add on Armor parked off to the side. The Easy 8 looks like its from the 4th AD, 37th Battalion. it looks like the rocks may be from fortifications German troops made.
12th_Armored_Division_M4A3_Sherman_in_Schneeburg_Germany_19451
M4A3 with the 12th AD in Schneeberg Germany 1945, this tank has a threaded and capped M1A1C and a split loaders hatch.
9th Armored Division, Westhousen, Germany, 10 April 1945
M4A3 75w shermans with the 9th Armored Division, Westhousen, Germany, 10 April 1945, this picture is interesting, there’s a lot of garbage around the tanks, I wonder how many days they were there?
3AD_Schevenhutte_44
A pair of 3rd AD M4A1 76w tanks in Schevenhutte 1944, parked in front of St Josef church on September 22, 1944, the wires hanging down are probably communication wires.
3rd Armored Division, Stolberg, 1944
M4 tank 3rd Armored Division, Stolberg, 14 october, 1944. The men on the tank are from the 36th infantry. This is when sandbagging started, as more and more encounters with german infantry with panzerfausts and panzerschreck began happening
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A pair of burnt out Canadian M4A2 Shermans of the 10th Armored Regiment (The Fort Garry Horse) at the foot of the church at Rots – June 1944 (Huge Image)

 

3rd_Armored_Division_M4_Sherman_and_T2_Grant_Recovery_Vehicle_Stolberg_Germany_1945
3rd AD M4 in Stolberg 1945, if you look close there is a M3 Lee based M31 in the background.
2AD_Toeven_45
A nice photo of an Easy 8s, or M4A3 76w HVSS tank, and what looks like an M4A1 76w in the background.
2nd_Armored_Division_M4_Sherman_Debarks_LST_Normandy_June_44
A nice photo of an 2nd Armored Division M4 coming off an LST on Utah Beach Normandy June 8th.
1st_Armored_Division_M4_Sherman_with_Shaken_Crew_Gothic_Line_Italy_1944
A Badly damaged M4A3 76w tank that looks like it had a dozer blade. It’s from the 1st Armored Division in Italy 1944.
1st_Armored_Division_M4_Sherman_Ponsacco_Italy_Gothic_Line_1944
An M4A1 in Italy on the Gothic line, town of Ponsacco, 1944, I wonder what this street looks like today.
1st_armored_division_M4_sherman_in_piazza_del_duoma_Milan_Italy_1945
An M4 in Milan Italy in front of the Piazza Del Duomo
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An M4 showing its off road prowess
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An M4 doing it thang in some ruined town in Europe.I think the tank is with B Company 37th Tank Battalion, 4th AD. 
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A well camouflaged M4 is the subject of this beautiful high res photo.
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A nice high res photo of an M4 Composite driving down a street in Avranches, on August 4th, during operation Cobra.  The town is in ruins, but was an important because it was the gateway from into Brittany from Normandy, this tank is most likely with the 6th AD, (thinks to Russ Amott for more info on the photo)
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A small hatch M4 somewhere in Europe
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A nice high res photo of an M4A4 probably about to be shipped to England, or just arrived there. Notice the ‘Comb’ device on the front differential cover, it has a wire going from it to through the bow gun mount to the tanks brake levers, so the brakes could be released without breaking the extensive weatherproof packing they have done. Look at all that duct tape!!
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A nice high res photo of a M4A1 with a strange rocket launcher setup.
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A nice color shot of an M4A1
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A nice high res photo of an M4A2 76 wet, a pretty late production one, much like the one fished out of the ocean in the sunken Shermans post.
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I high res pic of what looks like a couple of platoons of small hatch M4 and M4A1s parked on a street somewhere in Europe.
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A very nice high res pic of an M4 being used as an artillery piece, near Vicht Germany 17 November. Unit unknown. The M4 was named ‘Ink spot’
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Marine M4A2 on Peleliu, I think.
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Shermans at rest in a pretty flower field in Italy.

#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

#28 Sherman Use Around The World

Sherman Use Around The World!

This section was done with info written by Priory_of_Sion

Australia:

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

China:

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

Cuba:

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

Source: 1

Egypt:

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

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

India:

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

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

Iran/Iraq:

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

Japan:

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

Nicaragua:

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

Paraguay:

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

Pakistan:

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

Peru:

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

South Africa:

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

Syria:

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

Turkey:

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

Uganda:

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

Yugoslavia:

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

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

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

 

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

Sherman Data:  The Devil In The Details

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

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

Summary:

Basic Breakdown of Causes of Tank Losses:

Average Range of Gunfire/Panzerfausts:

Placement of Gunfire Hits:

Caliber of Enemy Gunfire:

Mine/Tank Exchange Rate:

Crew Casualties by Position:

Sampling of Tank Losses:

Causes of Vehicles Destroyed V Vehicles Disabled:

Distribution of Gunfire Hits (aspect):

M4 Production figuresM4 production list

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

post-7344472-0-08824400-1405881061

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

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

71stn9LkePL

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

SonofSherman

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

Well, now it’s 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.

M4atwargreen

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

AA44 AA45

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.  

USMCTankbattlespacific

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

 

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

Infantrysarmor Steel

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

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

 

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

anotherriveranothertown

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

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

tanksonthebeaches

This book was really interesting, and an entertaining enough book to keep your interest. If you want a look 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

OM35

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

OM40

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.

#23 The Firefly: The Teapot With Teeth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I find it amusing the most mechanically complicated Sherman was turned into the best pure AT Sherman by the Brits, and was still more reliable than any Nazi tank.  It may be a tad overrated, but it did exactly what it was designed to do, without compromising the reliability of its base platform. That makes it a smashing success and it gave the Brits a capability their American cousins lacked until much later in the war. It did so well, the Brits offered to convert some, and there was an abortive program that petered out because army ordinance thought the M1 gun would be good enough.  During bulge hoopla, the program was revived.

 

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

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

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

The British took the Lee and Sherman into combat for the first time and they offered a lot of input into both tanks design. They even had a specific version of the Lee never used by US troops the M3A5 Grant.  The Sherman and Lee tanks saved their bacon at El Alamein. As we saw in an earlier section of this document, the US produced a lot of Sherman tanks, and the British received more than 17,000 Shermans. It would become the backbone of their tank force and remain so until the end of the war. The British had a unique way4 of using tanks, and preferred to send them into battle without direct infantry support. This coupled with their tendency to stuff every nook and cranny of the tank with ammo resulting in much higher Sherman losses than the US Army did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sherman MK I or IIIs

. . .

 

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

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

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

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Sherman V

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Sherman by Hunnicutt

 

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

Did American Tank Design Stand up?   It Did Just Fine.

The Sherman compared well to the other tanks in its weight class. It even fared well against vehicles much larger when you take in the whole . The US spent a lot of money lavishly equipping these tanks, even the lend lease tanks shipped with sub machine guns for the crew and vinyl covered, sprung, padded seats, a full tool set, basically all the same things a Sherman issued to the US Army would come with, without the US radios.  lend lease Shermans got the British No. 19 set. Though sometimes the tanks lost things while in the shipping network.  The Sherman was not designed to be comfortable for its crew, ergonomics wasn’t a thing back then, but due to way it was designed and built, it was fairly comfortable as tanks of the time go.

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The Sherman in this photo is a M4A1 75 supporting the 30th Infantry Division near St. Lo, July 1944, during Cobra. The knocked out tanks are German Mark IV tanks

They were not cheaply built, and had finely fitted hulls, with beveled armor and a lot of attention to detail that was not dropped in favor of production speed in many cases until very late in the production run, but function was never compromised on. The Sherman tanks also had multiple generators, including one that had its own motor, so the tanks electrical system and turret could be run and not drain the battery, they had a stabilizer system for the main gun, and all tanks had high quality FM radios. Quality control at all Sherman factories and sub-contractors was tightly monitored, and superb. Parts were not modified to fit if they did not match the specifications and didn’t fit, they were discarded, if to many parts had to be discarded, the contractor was dropped. Sub-assemblies as big as turrets and hulls or whole tanks needing overhaul were shipped between factories and no parts had problems interchanging between factory models. One factory could rebuild another factories tank using its own parts with no problems at all. These were all very advanced features in in tank designed in the early 40s and the Germans the most advanced of the Axis nations, really couldn’t come close, instead they produced over armored, over gunned, un reliable tanks that could not be used in fast paced offensive actions.  The Nazi Germans could really only dream of having a tank arsenal like CDA or FTA.

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

 

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

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

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

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

The three biggest problems with the PIII design were the small turret ring, the suspension limit on taking more weight, and the automotive systems power, and ability to be upgraded and take more weight and the complicated design. As we know, the Shermans automotive components were able to take on a lot more weight with no real issues, it’s turret ring was HUGE, allowing it to be up gunned much more readily, and all its motor choices could handle extra weights without causing much drama or concern.  German tank designer and the industry that made them was just to primitive to produce vehicles with that much growth potential, hell, they were struggling to get motors and automotive systems to meet the base specs of their designs and be even remotely reliable, and largely failing at it, and the few good vehicles like the PIII are overshadowed by the really bad ones that had great post war PR  campaigns (Tiger, Panther, Tiger II I’m looking at you!).

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Tank V knocked out, or broken down, hard to tell, also not the poorly secured side skirts to protect against Russian AT rifles. 

Here is a list, off the top of my head, of the Panthers problems: It liked to catch fire due to a fuel system that leaked in more than one way. The hull didn’t let the fuel drain, making the fire problem worse, so it could cross deep rivers. The motor had a tendency to backfire or blow up and cause fires as well. The cooling system was very complicated, a damaged fan or clogged duct could cause a fire. Tilting the hull to much could cause a fire because gas that had leaked out of the leaky fuel system was in pools in the bottom of the sealed hull, and would hit exhaust pipes,  the early tanks had a waterproof liner, to give them a “deep fording” ability. The feature  was a sham, just to line Nazi industrialists pockets, all later removed from production. It was found the radiators were vulnerable to damage, so plates were added above the armored grates on the engine deck. All these add-ons just pile more weight on an already overstressed, and unreliable, automotive system.

A Panther G, the best version of the Panther, that still had 150 kilometer final drives. It also still had a blind gunner. This version suffered from the worst build and armor quality. This version still had a very weak and slow turret drive. This version had a derated engine to keep it from breaking down so fast. I could go on.

Let’s move away from the fire problems and move onto the turret problems. To rotate the turret, you had to rev the engine up. The engines were fragile. You want full traverse speed; you needed to be redlining the engine. This is because they used a Power Take Off system and tied the turret drive to the engine. This was a really bad way to design a turret drive. If you want a good laugh, go find a diagram of the Tiger or Panthers turret drive system and marvel that it worked at all. It didn’t work if the tank was on even a mild slope. The drive was so weak in these cases it couldn’t even hold the gun in place on said slope.  I’m sure if you took a electric driven hydraulic or just strait electric system it would weigh a lot less than all the parts they had to use to make the PTO system work, and not even well. This system only ‘worked’ when the Panther was running. The Sherman had a backup generator that could operate the tanks electrical system, including the turret traverse system. German tankers could only dream of such luxuries, well the ones that didn’t get to crew captured Shermans.

While we’re covering the Panthers turret, let’s talk about the gun, gunner, and commander. One of the commander’s jobs is to find targets for the gunner and get him onto them. The commander has pretty good all-around views from the turret with his nice cupola. The gunner is stuck with just his telescopic sight. He would need up to several minutes in some cases to find the target the commander was trying to get him on due to him not having a wider view scope and the commander having no turret override. The gun was a good AT gun, but not a great HE thrower, since the HE charge was smaller to accommodate thicker shell walls to keep the shell from breaking up at the higher velocities. It’s HE was far from useless though. The turret was very cramped for these men as well. And the turret sides and rear had very thin armor. The Shermans 75 would punch right through it at very long ranges with AP and even HE rounds could knock the panther out by cracking the plates and spalling the crew to death.

Some more tidbits on the Panther, its automotive systems were terrible. They were designed for a 30 ton tank, and even for that, they were not that robust. The motor and tranny would get at best, 1500 kilometers before needing to be replaced. The tracks, 1000, the suspension would start to break down around 800 or less with lots of off road use. The front dual torsion bars breaking first, and then the extra stress from the extra frontal armor kept killing them. The true Achilles heel of the automotive parts was the final drives, and their housings. The housings were weak and flexed under load, allowing the already weak gear train to bind and then destroy itself. The best they ever got these final drives to last, on the G models of the tank, was 150 kilometers on average! Replacing them was a major chore that would keep the tank down at least a day. This was confirmed in a report on post war use by the French, using captured and new production tanks. You can find it here.  Even if you tripled this life, it wouldn’t be very good, the life of these parts on the Sherman are essentially unlimited, if maintained and undamaged.

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

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

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

In all the ways you need a tank to be good, the Sherman tank was better than the Panther.

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

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

StuG III:  Short, Stubby and Underrated

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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Tiger II knocked out.

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

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

This is the tank they should have built

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

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

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

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

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T-34-76 1943

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

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

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

. . .

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

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

 

#5 Combat Performance: How Well it Killed Stuff.

Combat Performance: It Killed Stuff Pretty damn well.

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A line of Sherman II tanks

When Sherman went into combat in British hands in the North African desert in October of 1942, it was bar none, the best tank in the world. It had a better gun and more armor, along with good or better mobility than all the axis tanks it faced. It wouldn’t have a German peer until the Panzer IV was up-gunned and even then, the best version of the Panzer IV was barely a match for a 75mm armed Sherman and totally outclassed by the later 76mm armed tanks. The Sherman tank was designed, and the design improved to maximize it how easy it was to produce, while also improving the reliability, crew fighting efficiency, safety, and comfort. This was fairly unique to U.S. Tank design, and can be attributed in many ways to the automotive production experts who came out of Detroit and the US Auto industry.

The basic small hatch Sherman was found to be fine for the job all the way through the invasion of Italy and Normandy. The introduction of the Tiger and Panther did not seem like the same thing US Army, battalion sized special units, who had more value as propaganda tool, than weapons of war, so they didn’t really plan for fighting them on a regular bases. In the Tigers case they were right; it was rare and more or less useless waste of German resources. The Panther would become much more common after the break out from Normandy, but if you really look at its performance, it was not that great of a threat. In most cases in when they met in Europe, the Sherman won. The 75mm M3 Armed Sherman was very well equipped to deal with infantry and AT guns, the main threat they would face, and this was part of why the US Army didn’t want to jump to the, available at the time of Normandy, 76mm armed Shermans.

The US Army tried the M1 gun out on the Sherman just about when the Sherman 75 hit production. The Sherman Minutia Site has images and covers the history, as do various books,  the M1 gun fit, but was a tad long, so the just chopped off more than a foot. It worked well enough they ordered 1000 Shermans armed with the gun, but then the order was canceled because the turret was found turret was to cramped. Later, they would adapt the T23s turret to the Sherman hull for a much better solution to the problem of up gunning the tank.  Oddly, after the war, the many 75mm Shermans were up gunned with the M1A2 gun, and then given to allies as military aid. A fun way to see a few of these tanks in action is watch the 70s movie, Kelly’s Heroes, the Shermans in that are all up gunned 75mm turreted M4A3 tanks.

The Sherman, even the version armed with the 75mm gun, could still deal with the heavier Nazi German tanks, as long as it had room to move around, and knew where it was. Much noise has been made about how it was a death trap after the D-Day landings and the Panther and Tiger tore it up in the bocage. This is a myth. There is pretty good evidence the US Army only faced maybe two or three Tiger I tanks, in Europe, ever. The Panther was more common, but also got roughly handled in just about every battle it faced Shermans in.

The German’s rarely used the Panther in the bocage country because its long gun made it hard to use in the tight quarters and reliability problems were ever present with this tank. The tank the Sherman faced in US hands was the Panzer IV and various Stug assault guns, neither of which outclassed the Sherman in any real way. But they did have the advantage of being on the defense. Post war studies by the US Army showed the Sherman was more effective than German armor at this point; the claims of the Sherman being a death trap were false. Even early Sherman tanks were no more likely to burn than any other tank and the later war wet ammo rack tanks were the safest tanks of the war. German tanks used gasoline and gas was not found to be a major cause of fires in destroyed Shermans, ammo fires were. See the links in the data section for info on this. Most Sherman losses were due to anti-tank guns, infantry AT weapons and mines, and not so much tank on tank action.

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When Operation Cobra was kicked off, the first use of large hatch hull, wet ammo rack, 76mm armed Shermans took place. The M4A1 76 being the model used first followed by A3 76 tanks within weeks. These tanks were not well received across the board, with some units preferring the 75mm armed tanks because facing armor was rare even then and the 75mm gun was better at taking out anti-tank guns and infantry, and could still deal with any German armor they encountered. Some units welcomed the better anti-tank capability even if it wouldn’t kill a Panther from the front unless at very short range.

By the battle of the bulge, the M4A3E8 and M4A3E2 Jumbo were showing up for combat use. The Jumbo had much thicker armor and were loved by their crews. By the close of the Bulge, German armor would become very rare, but even so more and more 76mm armed Shermans would be issued. By the end of the war the ratio would be near 50%. The Army also wanted to stop production on the 75mm gunned M4s in 1945, but the USMC and the British still had requirements for the 75mm gun tanks so it stayed in limited production.

There was a bit of a scandal about the Sherman being no good in the press back in the States about the time of the Bulge, but in reality, the Sherman was really having its shining moment during that battle and performed very well against German armor that was supposedly better. Bad movies aside, the Sherman more than held its own in the Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Offensive. This is covered in Steven Zaloga’s Armored Thunderbolt, in much more detail.

By the time the next generation replacement showed up, the M26, the war was all but over, and only a handful would see combat. In many ways the M26 was inferior to the M4. Due to its slightly shortened development and testing time, it had a few reliability problems. It was still so reliable that it would have put any German tank to shame though. The motor, though stressed more in the M26, the GAA, was solid and reliable. The very early tanks had some transmission issues, that were resolved, and some minor things like bracing the final drive housings and changing the drive sprocket configuration were the only major changes. It was never as reliable as the Sherman, but it was close enough to be adopted, for use by the Army and Marines.

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M4A1 tanks coming off a floating doc from an LST. the LST does not get enough credit for being a technological marvel of it’s time and something Nazi Germany had no ability to produce.♦
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M4A2 76W lend lease tank in Soviet use, note the ever present log on the Soviet Sherman, the infantryman is kneeling on it. I built a dragon M4A2 76w like this once in 1/35 scale. The Soviet crews were sad to see their tanks destroyed per the lend lease agreement at the end of the war. When watching the US and Brit freighter crews dumping the tanks in the ocean instead of taking them home, they stopped giving them back . They turned them into tractors by removing the guns and turret.♦

This M4A1 seems to be under fire, and has a lot of junk on the back. Notice the soldier looking at the camera.
M4 composite hull under fire in the Philippines, and just look at all the stuff they have packed onto the back of the tank, and note how it’s all tied down. ♦
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An M4A1 76w and an M4 of the 3rd AD Shermans in action in Belgium, 1944. It looks like the M4A1 76 has an air recognition panel on the rear deck. 
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A M4 with the 3rd Armored Division, near Stolberg Germany, 1944. The tank appears to have all the “quick fix” upgrades.♦
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looking for a sniper, M4A3 76w and an M4A3E8.♦
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A late production small hatch M4A1 75 passing knocked out Nazi PIV tanks. ♦
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Another small hatch M4A1 75 passing a knocked out Nazi PIV, this M4A1 has what looks like an extra steel plate attached to the front of the hull. ♦

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Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Yeide’s TD and two separate tank battalion books, Sherman by Hunnicutt, Combat Lessons, The Rank and file, what they do and how they are doing it 1-7, and 9.  Archive Awareness, Oscar Gilbert’s, Marine Tank Battles in the Pacific, WWII Armor, Ballistics and Gunnery by Bird and Livingston,  M4 Sherman tank at war by Green, the Lone Sentry, the data in the data section

#2 Basic Sherman History: The Previous Tanks That Led To the Best Tank Of The War

Basic Sherman History: The combat RV, AKA the M3 Lee 

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Brit Crew of an M3 Grant, camping out in the Combat RV in Egypt. No, I don’t know why several are naked.

To really know why the Sherman was designed the way it was, you have to know about the M3 Lee. The M3 was the predecessor of the M4. It was based on M2 medium, the US Army’s only foray into modern medium tank design at the time, and modifying it was the fastest way a tank could be designed with a 75 mm M3 canon fitted. The US lacked the jigs to make a turret ring big enough for a turret to house a gun that large; the Lee went into production while the turret ring problem was being solved, by mounting the gun in a sponson mount, and beefing up the rest of the tank a bit, and removing a machine gun or two. It had become clear to the US Army that the 75mm canon would be needed based on feedback from the British, and observations of how the war was developing in Europe.

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M3 Lee airborne on the test course at Aberdeen

One of the reasons for the reliability of the M4 design was the use of parts that started their design evolution in the M2 medium and were improved through the M3 production run. Over the life of M3 Lee and M4 Sherman the designs were continually improved as well, so a final production, M3, or M4A1, bared little resemblance to an initial production M3 or M4A1, yet many parts would still interchange. This is one of the reasons the Israelis had so much success updating the Sherman to the M50 and M51, these tanks used early small hatch hulls, that never had HVSS suspension installed, but the hulls took the updated suspension with few problems.

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A rare surviving, if rusting away outside, is surviving, M2 Medium tank, I think this tank is now being restored by the Army!
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M3 Lee prototype being tested at Aberdeen Proving ground

When the Lee went into production, though it was far from an ideal design, it still outclassed the German and Italian armor it would face, and its dual purpose 75mm gun would allow it to engage AT guns with much more success than most of the British tanks it replaced. It was reliable, and well-liked by its users, and produced in pretty large numbers. When the British got enough Shermans, the Lees and Grants were sent to the Far East and saw use until the end of the war fighting the Japanese. The Lee excelled at infantry support, since it had a 37mm canon that could fire canister rounds, along with the 75mm gun and a lot of machine guns. Many of these Lee tanks ended up in Australia after the war.

Another universal complaint about the Lee was once all the guns were firing, there was not enough ventilation, and the crew if forced to stay inside for long periods operating the weapons had even been reported to pass out on occasion. The Sherman would all more armored ventilators, but still not enough, until the later versions for the best in crew comfort.

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Lee in the desert, maybe California, maybe North Africa

Lee variants:  The Combat RV

M3 Lee being used in training pre WWII.

M3 Lee: The First Combat Ready American Medium

This was the first version of the tank and used a riveted hull with the R975 radial engine powering it, the suspension and tracks were very similar to the M2 medium.  Early production tanks had an M2 75mm instead of the improved M3 gun. These tanks had a counter weight mounted on the shorter barrel. All Lees had a turret with 37mm M5 gun. The early production version had two hull mounted, fixed .30 caliber machine guns, another mounted coaxially with the 37mm gun, and another in a small turret, mounted on top of the 37mm turret for the commander.

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Lee bow machine guns

They built nearly 5000 of these tanks. The M3 was improved on the production line with things like removal off hull machine guns, and hull side doors. The mini turret mounted M1919A4 was not a popular feature, and was hard to use, but it remained on all Lees, and were only deleted from the Grant version produced exclusively for the British.

M3 Lee ammo chart
Lee ammo chart

If this version had a major flaw, it would be the riveted armor plates could shed rivets on the inside of the tank and these rivets bounced around like a bullet. This was bad for the crew, but, rarely resulted in a knocked out tank. A field fix for this was welding the rivets in place on the interior of the tank.  Most of the M3 Lees produced went to the British. 4924 produced.

I’ve read other sources that said the Lee and Grant tanks did not shed rivets and this was a myth.

 

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Cast M3A1 Lee, note the curved cast upper hull

M3A1 Lee: A Lee, But with a Cast Hull

This version of the Lee had a cast hull, and R975 radial power. It was really the same as the base Lee in most respects including improvements. 300 built. These cast hull tanks have a very odd and distinctive look. They look almost like a M3 Lee was melted. This hull casting was huge and more complicated than the M4A1 casting. Most of these tanks were used in the United States for training. 300 produced.

 

M3A2 Lee with a welded hull.

M3A2 Lee:  A Lee, Only Welded

This Lee had a welded hull and the R975 powering it. 12 built. This version was more of a ‘proof of concept’ on welding a hull than anything.

 

M3A3 Lee: A Lee With The 6046

Another welded hull but this one powered by the GM 6046 Twin Diesel. 322 built, like the base Lee, with the same improvements. This is the first vehicle the 6046 was used in, and most of the bugs were worked out on this model. 322 built. Some of the problems with the motor were air cleaners that needed cleaning to often, and a complicated oiling system.  Crews preferred it, when running right, to the R975.

 

M3A4 Lee: A Lee With The Fantastic A-57 Motor

This version had a riveted hull and was powered by the A-57 multibank motor. This motor was so large the hull had to be stretched for it to fit; it also required a bulge in the top and bottom of the hull to fit the cooling fan. They also had to beef up the suspension, and the suspension units designed for this would become standard units on the Sherman. This would be the only version of the Lee with the improved bolt on offset return roller VVSS, otherwise this tank was very much like the base M3. 109 built. This motor’s bugs were worked out on this tank and would go on to power a large chunk of Sherman production.

 

 

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Monty’s M3A5

M3A5 Grant: A Diesel Lee, Made For the Brits, with a New Name and Turret

Another welded hull, powered by the GM 6046 Twin diesel with a new bigger turret to house British radios. 591 built. This new turret deleted the small machine gun turret on the roof of the 37mm turret. This version was used only by the British. The famous General Montgomery’s personal M3A5 is on display in England, at the Imperial War Museum in London. 591 produced.

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M3 Grant moving past a burning Nazi tank

. . .

 

The majority of Lee and all Grants saw service with the British, and many Lees went to the Soviet Union. They were generally well liked by both nations and more reliable than most of its British and German contemporaries.  These tanks were better than the enemy tanks they faced until the Germans up gunned the Panzer IV series. When they were replaced with M4s of various types the M3 were shipped to the Far East for use in Burma and New Guinea, where they would be used until the end of the war. The Japanese had no tank that could take on a Lee, let alone a Sherman. Using soldiers as suicide bombers, and mines still worked though, there was also a pesky 47mm AT gun, but it was rare. The 37mm gun firing canister rounds was a nice to have in thick vegetation.

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They saw limited use in the US Army’s hands some seeing combat in North Africa, because US combat units lost their Shermans to replace British losses, and a few were used in the PTO. The Sherman owes it success to the lessons learned producing the Lee and from its use in combat.  The 75mm gun and automotive systems, even the more complicated ones, would be perfected in the Lee and re-used in M4, and the Sherman only had one motor not tested in the Lee first.  Many of the Lee variants were produced at the same time and the numbering system was more to distinguish between hull and engine types, not to model progression like in aircraft, and other tanks.  This practice was carried over to the M4 series as were all the engines used in the Lee.

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Many people familiar with the way the United States designated aircraft during the war figure it was carried over to tanks and think an M3A1 was an improved M3, and an M3A2 was an improved A1. This is not the case, as many of these versions were produced at the same time, and they all received the same sets of improvements, though some factories took longer to implement things than others though.

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This M3 Lee is on maneuvers in the States, is probably with the 741st Tank battalion. The Photo is a staged publicity shot.

The M4A1 went into production as soon as the jigs for the turret ring were produced and ready to be used. Production actually started on the cast hull M4A1 first, with the welded M4A2 following right behind it. Like the Lee, there were many version of the Sherman in production at the same time. There are many photos of Lee’s coming off the production line, with Shermans in the line right behind the last Lee, so there was no real gap in production between the two tanks at most of the factories.

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The crew of an M3 Lee looks over their new 75mm ammo, the projectiles were German, put onto American or French cases, since there was a shortage of AP in North Africa
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Soviet Lees, note the track grousers

Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Sherman by Hunnicutt,  TM9-750