Category Archives: Axis Tanks

#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.

 

 

News Post Number 1: Sherman Tank site News!

News Post Number 1: Sherman Tank site News!

This is a new post type I’m going to try out.

Happy 4th for all my fellow Americans!

In the new posts, I will update you on what’s been going on a bit behind the scenes for the week.

This week has been interesting, it’s 4th of July night, and I’m just wrapping things up for the evening before hitting the sack. It sounds like a firing range outside as people celebrate with fireworks and firearms. The Dogs gone deaf, and doesn’t notice, but the cats are scare, and I havn’t seen them in hours.

Anyway, this weekend I spent  time on sorting through all the stuff I’ve downloaded over the past few months. I’ve literally downloaded thousands of pictures and hundreds of PDFs on various topics. The Sherman related ones will be going up on the site soon.

I should have some posts on Sherman tank plastic models and French Shermans up soon, and I’ll be doing a post on Dutch Shermans, and Sherman based SPGs soon.

In other news,  Drive tanks.com a outfut out of Texas noticed my site and has contacted me! I’m going to be doing a post on them soon with info on their fully operational Sherman tank, and that includes all it’s guns people, and what you can do with it with American Dollars! I hope to be able to take a trip out and see what the whole thing is all about! This place looks like it may be the most magical place on earth, not Disneyland!

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Drive Tanks.coms Amazing Easy 8
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No this isn’t a painting, just a DriveTanks.com awesome Sherman

In future news, I will be signing up for Facebook and Twitter for the site.

I also updated the several posts extensively.

The updated posts: Updated on 7/4/16!!
#20 How The Sherman Compared To Its Contemporaries:  Well, it did very well!

This post was updated extensively with new info I cam across on the German tanks I cover in it.

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

This one was updated with some new myths and the answers on old ones updated and some new fun facts were added as well.

#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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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14th AD M4A3 76w column Hochfeld France 45
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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.
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M4A3 with the 12th AD in Schneeberg Germany 1945, this tank has a threaded and capped M1A1C and a split loaders hatch.
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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?
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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.
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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)

 

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3rd AD M4 in Stolberg 1945, if you look close there is a M3 Lee based M31 in the background.
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A nice photo of an Easy 8s, or M4A3 76w HVSS tank, and what looks like an M4A1 76w in the background.
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A nice photo of an 2nd Armored Division M4 coming off an LST on Utah Beach Normandy June 8th.
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A Badly damaged M4A3 76w tank that looks like it had a dozer blade. It’s from the 1st Armored Division in Italy 1944.
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An M4A1 in Italy on the Gothic line, town of Ponsacco, 1944, I wonder what this street looks like today.
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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.

#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.

British_troops_examine_a_knocked-out_German_StuG_III_assault_gun_near_Cassino,_Italy,_18_May_1944._NA15178

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

The StuG, was up gunned with the same gun as the Panzer IV and was good at AT work and infantry support. Its low profile helped it stay hidden and it was mobile enough to be able re-locate and get to trouble spots. It had ok armor and was well-liked by its crews. Cheaper, easier to build, and very effective for the price, it’s no wonder it doesn’t get 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. 
3rd Armored Division, Stolberg, 1944
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