Category Archives: History

News Post #10: Sherman Tank Site News!

Sherman Tank Site News, April of 2017 edition: Data Part II, Data Strikes again. 

The Sherman data sheets have been a very popular addition to the site, so I decided to gun and engine data sheets as well.  One motor Data Sheet is done, and the others are in the works. There are all kinds of new images and info in the various pages on the Shermans guns.

We also have a new layout to the website, instead of a lot of hard to find posts with an Index that was hard to find things in, we now have set pages,  of the main menu.

As you can see from this handy image, we have a page for the Shermans suspension and Track systems.  We have a Sherman Gun Data page. We also have a motor data page, but right now we only have the Ford GAA in it.  Now we also have pages for each tank model and a main page to find them.  There have also been minor image additions to many posts, and a few pages have received minor updates.

The Crew and their Stations post got a massive update as well. 

We also recently reviewed an inside the Hatch of the M4A1 tank.

Coming soon will be the Sherman Transmission, differential and final drive data sheet. I will also be filling out the individual Sherman model pages over the next few days. There is only so much I can do in a day!

Thanks for being interested in the site for all the guys who have commented and sent me interesting info. More great information on the Sherman tank is on the way.

 

Sherman Tank Site, News Post 9: DATA, DATA everywhere!

News Post 9: New Years News

I decided I needed more hard numbers, the kind of data that makes non tank nerds eyes roll up in their heads, stuff like how many spare periscopes were issued with an early war M4A1! One of the best way to do this is through tank Data sheets, as found in the back of many books on tanks. I used Hunnicutt’s Sherman book for some, but others I’ve made using the Hunnicutt ones as a template and then using data from the Technical Manual for the tank.

We had four, now have spec sheets for 15 different models of Sherman, and 3 Lees! You can find them all on this page. Shermom Model specification sheets. 

90mm GMC M36B1 Spec Sheet PDF

That’s not all though, I decided the gun Data sheets in Hunnicut were really interesting, so I started replicating those, but with an improved format, and slightly more data.  These gun Data Sheets can be found here, Main Guns: THings that go  BOOM!  All the guns the Sherman tank used are covered, and more are coming.

m1-M1A1-M1A2 guns 76.2 Sherman tanks

In the works are Data Sheets for each Sherman tank motor, and several experimental models. These Data sheets will have much more detailed info on the motor, and will include interesting images from the manuals for the motors.

Also in the works as dedicated pages for these data sheets, the beta test of the gun version is up and can be found here.  Next up will be ones for each tank model and then motor.

Also note the latest post on the Ram tank, The Ram: The Shermans awkward Canadian Cousin. This post covers the Canadian and British attempt to come up with a better Sherman before the Sherman design and prototype was done. I’ve been sent some very interesting documents, some are included in the post.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more Sherman information!

 

#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. 

Post 62: DRIVETANKS.COM, The most Magical Place on Earth, if you like Sherman tanks!

Drivetanks.com: the most Magical place on Earth if you like Tanks, Guns, Machine Guns, or even Artillery Pieces!

jupiter-logo

Drivetanks.com is an operation out of Uvalde Texas.  Uvalde is about 120 miles west of San Antonio.  The Drivetanks.com facility is on the famous Ox Hunting Ranch, a 18,000 acre hunting ranch,  with its guest cabins, a huge lodge, and its own 5800 foot runway. If you could see warbirds at this ranch it would literally be heaven on earth!

Sherman HDR 3_resize

Drivetanks.com doesn’t have just a Sherman tank, but from our perspective, their Sherman is the coolest tank of the lot!

M4A2E8 Sherman: Just like Fury

The Sherman is the star of the show for us ! It is fully functional, with working power travers and a working main gun. All the machine guns work, and you get to shoot them as part of one of their packages.  You also get to drive the tank around and fire it’s main gun if you go with the big package.

The M4A2E8 saw action with the Russians at the end of the war, and its M4A3E8 counter part saw all kinds of action in Norther Europe and Italy.  These tanks had the improved HVSS suspension with a wider track, giving them very good off road mobility and the improved turret and gun gave the tank the edge over earlier German tanks like the Panzer III and IV, while giving it a better chance against the rarer tiger and Panther tanks.

I have to say, Drivetanks.com is an amazing place for letting people drive operate the armament of this working piece of history. Nothing beats seeing an actual historic vehicle drive or fly by, a static display in a museum where you can’t touch, or in some cases even take photos is just not the same.

sherman_main_pic
Drivetank.coms awesome M4A2
sherman-tank-firing
Another shot of Drivetank.com’s M4A2E8 Sherman, this time just after it fired it’s main gun! Texas Rocks!

So, even by my standards this place wouldn’t be the most magical place on earth just because it had a working Sherman. This place has several other working tanks, SPGs, and APCS, along with towed guns, mortars and a very large variety of firearms to shoot.  Lets list the other tanks:

T-34-85: This Soviet tank was the Late War Shermans Russian counterpart!

Drivetanks.com has a fully functional T-34-85 tankand it was produced just in time to see action on the eastern front. It has a working main gun and there are similar, slightly to the Sherman but slightly cheaper packages for this tank.

That’s the last of the WWII tanks but they have two more modern ones.

800x500_russian
Leopard 1A4 MBT: An updated version of Germany’s first Post War Tank!

This tank is bigger and faster than either the T-34 or Sherman, and its gun doesn’t work, and the prices on it’s packages reflect this.  This tank is probably easier, and more fun to drive than either WWII tank, but just not as cool.  This tank is still in use by armies around the world.

800x500_leopoldx

Chieftain Mk. 6, MBT: Big and British, and their Car Crusher. 

Another tank with no working gun, this bad boy is big and tough, and therefore they use it when someone wants to crush something.  This tank went into action in the mid 60s and was still going strong into the early 80s when the Challenger replaced it.

 800x500_cheiftan

They have a few other tracked vehicles you can drive and get to know:

German SD. KFZ. 251 Armored Half-track:  The Angular German Halftrack you see in Movies!

If you want to drive something with tracks on a budged, this is a good place to start.

800x500_halftrack_x

Kettenkrad SDFZ Tracked Motorcycle: Yeah that wonky motorcycle half track you see towing planes in WWII Pics.

Just look at this pic! Who wouldn’t want to try out this crazy German contraption!

800x500_kettenkrad-1

. . .

They also have some other tank like tracked vehicles that are not tanks.

Abbot FV433: This SPG is made up to look like the US M109 155mm SPG still in service.

This is a self propelled artillery piece, a British one, and has a propane gun that makes lots of noise but doesn’t shoot a projectile. Another option if you don’t want to go with one of the deluxe packages.  The M109 the Abbot was modified to look like started it’s life in the 60s and saw use in Vietnam, and modern versions are still in use by the US Army.

700-abbot-tank
BMP 1: The first IFV

This APC with attitude was meant to do more than just deliver troops like a regular boring APC like the M113. No, the BMP delivered fewer, in less comfort, but it brought some heavy firepower normal infantry didn’t have.

With this badboy, you can pack a bunch of friends into the back for a very hot uncomfortable ride while you drive! I wonder if Drivetanks.com has a award if you can make all the passengers puke!

700-bmp1

But that’s not all! They have Towed Guns, Mortars and Machine guns!
Germann 75mm PAK 40 AT Gun: This puppy works too!

This fully functional German AT gun is available to shoot.  not cheap, but less than shooting a tanks gun.  This gun accounted for an awful lot of Sherman tanks during the war, but the Sherman in turn killed a bunch of them.  I’m pretty sure this gun has been on several TV shows, but I’m not 100% sure.

pak-40-firing
German 25mm PAK 113:  Small bang, small bucks, but it’s still a BIG gun!

A little AT gun for a cheaper alternative to the bigger stuff.  not much to be said, if your coming to Drivetanks.com your coming for the big boom boom, right?!

U.S. M2A1 105mm light Howitzer:  The 105 towed gun of the US Army for most of the WWII

This gun saw lots of action, and was a great gun for it’s size.  For a modest price, you can pop a round off from this gun too!  If you want to know what it was like to serve in a light artillery battery, or just want to pop a few rounds off for nostalgia, you can do it here, and that’s damn cool! The Hippies in California would freak out if we tried shooting off something this cool here!!

105-mm-howitzer-group
US M1 81mm Mortar:  The main WWII US Mortar!

I do not know of another place you can fire off a mortar, and that make this option awesome all on its own. The 81mm M1 Mortar was used everywhere the US fought during the war and who would pass up the change to log a hunk of history from it?

U.S. M2 60mm Mortar: In US Infantries Mortar during WWII

This is like it’s bigger brother, just with less explosive charge, less range, and less weight. Oh, and it’s cheaper to shoot off.

The British ML 2inch 50mm Mortar: A small Brit Mortar

The cheapest mortar option. Small, but still a mortar!

Now lets talk about Machine Guns and other firearms. Machine guns are pretty damn cool. Having been around a long time, there are lots of different kinds of Machine guns, and Drivetanks.com has a plethra of them!

The prize of the Machine collection has to be the M134 GE Minigun.  I do not recall ever reading why they called this beast a minigun, because it’s a monster of a weapon, bigger and heaver than an M2 Machine gun.   These guns are technological Marvels, and contrary to Hollywood use, not man portable in any way.  These guns have a selectable rate of fire of 3000 or 6000 rounds a minute. Your average GPMG has a 650 RPM rate of fire.  These guns use an electric motor to spin the barrels and drive the feed mechanism, in theory making them more reliable at higher RPM they run, the six barrels allowed the barrels a chance to cool, but sustained fire would melt them down.  These weapons have seen a lot of combat over the years, usually mounted on a helicopter of some type, but also on other vehicles that can haul the required ammo and have a compatible electrical system.

Next up on the Bad boys of the Machine list they have would be the M2HB Browning .50 caliber Machine gun.  This heavy machine gun has been in service with the US Military since 1933, and is covered in more detail in this post.  You get to shoot this gun as a part of the Sherman tank packages.

They have a lot of other more mundane machine guns, but come on, a machine gun is damn cool no mater the size or type.  So lets list them!

  • The GE M134
  • The Browning M2 HB .50 Browning.
  • The M1919 .30 Caliber Machine gun (WWII light/Medium/heavy mg of US Army)
  • The M60E4 7.62 Nato Machine gun (updated Vietnam Era MG still in use)
  • M249 SAW 5.56 NATO light machine gun
  • M3 Grease Gun .45 ACP SMG (used by US Army from 43 into the 90s)
  • MG-42 German WWII machine gun 1200 to 1500 rounds per minute of fun!
  • MG-34 German WWII Machine gun (this one is a semi auto version)
  • H&K MP7 (modern 9mm SMG)
  • MP-40 German WWII 9mm SMG
  • PPsh-41 Russian WWII SMG
  • PKM Soviet Medium Machine gun
  • DT Machine gun (Early war soviet light MG

They also have a selection of Rifles, sniper rifles and assault rifles and a flamethrower.

  • US M1 Carbine .30 caliber WWII Carbine
  • US M1 Garand 30 caliber (30-06), rifle (WWII standard infantry rifle)
  • M4 Carbine (Modern 5.56 Nato, US Infantry weapon)
  • K98 German WWII bolt action rifle
  • Mosin Nagant Russian Bolt action rifle
  • AK-47 Russian assualt rifle.
  •  Barrett M82 .50 caliber sniper rifle
  • US M9 Flamethrower, (vietnam era, and last flame thrower used by US troops)

Yeah, a flamethrower! How cool is that?!

m9-flame-thrower

So tanks, APCs, SPGs, Artillery pieces, AT guns, Mortars, and Machine Guns! Ifyou’rer not some kind of wimp, this place really is the most wonderful place on earth. I would rather go here, at any cost versus a trip to any Disney park, Cruise, or show.   This place offers a chance to touch, use, and shoot history, hard real history.  Honestly though, if this place had no historic value at all, it would still be  damn good time, and something really you can only get in good old US of A, specifically in the great state of Texas!

This is all run an own by private US Citizens, and some people might think civilians running around owning tanks with working guns and tons of machine guns, and letting anyone willing to pay a chance to use them is a bad idea, well, you’re wrong, and this is exactly the type of thing that makes the United States so great!

There is a process you have to go through to be allowed to own these items, but it’s not all that hard as long as you’re not a criminal and are willing to fork over the cash to the US Government, and your state and county are ok with it.  All shooting and vehicle use is only done after people are thoroughly instructed on everythings use, (the class time is all part of the fun!), and while the guest is using the tank or Machine gun, a instructor is standing right there making sure everything is safe.

I can think of no place I would rather go for a vacation, if I could dig up the cash, and get the wifes aproval, than Drivetanks.com and the amazing Ox Ranch!

If your are interested in booking a trip to drive their tanks, shoot their machine guns, or hunt big game on the greater ranch, you can contact them with the information below.

Drivetanks.com
1946 Road 2485
Uvalde, Texas, 78801
Email: info@drivetanks.com
Phone: (830) 351-8265 (tank)
Fax: (281) 476-7802

 

#57 Civilian Sherman Use: Hollywood, Loggers, Farmers and Frat Boys

 

Another shot of the restored VC, note how far apart the pair bogies are.
A restored VC, note how far apart the pair bogies are, this one with a museum in Europe.

Civilian Sherman Use: Hollywood, Loggers, Farmers, Museums and Frat Boys

Since the Sherman tank was produced in huge numbers, and the Army didn’t need that many, and even after taking the best for themselves, mothballing the best of the ones they didn’t for use as military aid to struggling allies, they still had a bunch of small hatch M4 tank of various types sitting around.  The US Government decided there might be a civilian market for the tanks and put them up for sale as surplus.

The M3 Lee in 1941
The M3 Lee in 1941

It was not just Sherman tanks that would go on sale after the war, actually before the war ended in the case of aircraft.  When the war ended the US Government was saddled with so much, now essentially useless, war material, in many cases they just left it to rot where it was sitting. They bulldozed the stuff into ditches or off cliffs, or dumped it into the ocean. That was the fate of most of the war material in the pacific theater.  There are heartbreaking photos of P-38 Lighting fighters bulldozed off a cliff in the Philippines.

wwii-p38-dump-area
This was the only photo I could find of the P-38 dump in the Philippines.

The war material, tanks, planes, trucks, tools, bulldozers, tug boats, etc. back in the United States would mostly be melted down for scrap,  thousands of B-17 and B-24 bombers, P-40s, P-38s, P-47s, you name it, if it flew, it was surplused after the war. Many airlines snapped up the transport planes and cargo planes, but just about all the fighters and bombers got scrapped. For about the price of a nice new car you could have owned any of the fighters, brand new, with full tanks of gas. Many fighters were bought up for use as air racers, or use as surveying aircraft, but at that point in time no one cared enough about them to consider preserving them, with exceptions for particularly historically significant aircraft.

ontario-california-military-boneyard-aerial-1946

You could buy Shermans in running condition, with the gun DE milled, for about the price of a nice used car.  I do not think the Sherman was a hot seller, though a few civilians here and there bought them for the novelty. They did sell to some construction company’s here and there, other companies bought them up in droves, and all the other vehicles that used the Sherman powertrain, and began converting the hulls into specialized equipment used in construction, mining, and forestry. They also one in at least one case sold a Sherman to a college fraternity.

Traxxon-Tank-Drill

133580828_B2oSVjA9_1aMadill171TimBrown4HEF

Several companies, Finning, Traxxon, and Morpac made rocking drilling machines based on Sherman hulls, the whole upper hull being replaced by the drill and superstructure. Madill seems to have specialized in converting Sherman hulls into mobile ‘yarders’,  a central tower with winches, used to pull freshly cut trees up to an area to be further processed and loaded on trucks. These companies were mostly Canadian, and Morpac is still making heavy duty off road load carriers based on Sherman suspension components.

Sherman-dozer by vickers

Vickers used Sherman hulls and suspension to make heavy duty tractors for peanut farming in Africa.  These heavy tractors were to be used to clear land for the farms. They only used the suspension, final drives, differentials and tracks, the transmission was different and they used a large inline six for power.

IMG_1105

Some power companies used drilling machines based on the Sherman tank as well, but I am not sure if they are the same as the drills made by Finning and Traxxon.  In at least one other case a company named Abdo S Allen Co. used a Sherman tank they bought surplus in the 60s as a heavy duty building destroyer. They used the M4A3E8 Sherman, with no dozer blade or anything to knock down large swaths of houses in North West Oakland California in the late 60s.  They could be the only destruction company to figure out they could use a tank for demolishing light buildings.

DSZ_7721
This is Agnes II, the Plane of Fame Museum at Chino California’s working M4A1. This tank looks like it’s in very good condition, and is an early small hatch tank.

In the 70s things began to change. Interest in World War II started to pick up, and that meant interest in the equipment, so museums for WWII equipment started becoming more popular.  The United States has always been interesting in aviation as a people. So WWII aviation was the first thing to really take off. It really started with surplus machines being used as air racers, and then many of the old racers, sitting around rotting, got bought up by men who wanted to own a WWII aircraft.  Some of these men founded things like the Confederate Air Force, or the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino.  These groups and many more keep aviation history alive by keeping the fantastic old flying machines in the air. It’s amazing that today, there is a larger variety of well restored and rare WWII aircraft flying than when I was a kid in the 70s.

49-e-1280
I can’t resist a chance to past Corsair porn. This is the Planes of Fame’s F4U-1A Corsair. They’ve had it for years and you can see the amazing Steve Hinton at the controls. This image is from www.warbirdsdepot.com

Hollywood made a few movies using somewhat correct airplanes, but most movies until 90s didn’t bother with accuracy in armor, and many of the big screen epics like, The Longest Day, the Battle of the bulge, and Patton, using more modern stand in tanks.  A Bridge To Far, broke the mold, and got a lot of running Shermans together, though many not exactly period correct.  Kelly’s Heroes was another oddball in that it used real Shermans as well, but their tiger was fake.

600px-BridgeTooFar_2015
A bunch of Sherman tanks gathered for the Movie, A Bridge To Far
tank-1984-james-garner
Jame Garner, on top of the M4A3 small hatch tank he is about to use to knock down a building, in the Movie ‘Tank’
action
Train yard raid in Kelly’s Heroes

As interest in WWII continued to grow, all forms of equipment became popular, and there had already been a few tank guys out there that had a tank or two, or whole collections. Tank museums, most in the US anyway, are owned by the government, and the displays are largely gutted, welded closed near hulks, rusting away in an outdoor display area. It’s not uncommon in Europe for a tank museum to have several runners they bring out for events various times a year for crowd pleasing displays.  There are a few museums in the US not owned by the government that are doing this now too.  One, at least in the past, I don’t know if it still runs, was the Planes of Fame museum in Chino California, they had a running Sherman they show off at their airshow. The Flying Heritage Collection in Everett, Washington, has a running M4A1 75 and a T-34-85 and do an event where they drive them around on May 30th! This weekend! Battlefield Vegas a huge shooting range in Las Vegas, has a large verity of Machine guns you can shoot and is resto modding a Sherman that they got off a target range.  The owner is planning on adding some more modern updates to it, for safety, reliability, and habitability in the Vegas heat. Since the tank was just about at the scrapping point, and I’m for A/C in everything, I see no problems with this at all.

ShermanTank05
This is the later production M4A1 75 Sherman the Flying Heritage Collection operates, it’s newer model but still a small hatch tank. Note the extra armor on the turret cheek and over the hull ammo rack

There is also a large group of people, who like to reenact WWII battles, and they collect the vehicles as well, but tanks in this scene are rare. There are small private tank museums that use their tanks in local events like veteran days parades or local airshows. Tanks are a lot easier operate and cheaper to maintain than a WWII airplane, and that may be adding to their popularity and value with collectors as well.  Aircraft require all kinds of inspections and certifications, and you have to store them in hangers, and if you don’t fly them regularly they will rot away. Since they fly, not being on top of all the required maintenance might get you killed.

M4_Sherman
privately owned and beautifully restored M4A1 76w

If your tank restoration project breaks down when your testing out the rebuilt Ford GAA,  you just fix it there, or have it towed back to your work area. It’s not going to fall out of the sky and possible kill you and other people. In both cases, to really work on it, you need some heavy equipment. You’re not pulling a turret, or motor (tank or plane), without a heavy duty hoist of some type, 10,000 pounds plus minimum, and that might not be enough to get a turret off.  Most tank motors the Sherman and other American WWII tanks used are pretty simple as internal combustion engines go, though the R975 radial would be pretty daunting to most car people, even it isn’t that complicated. In both cases they are thoroughly documented, but true experts on the motors who can overhaul them are few and far between, for both tank and aircraft motors.

M4105W
Privately owned M4 105

In the United States, it’s not all that hard, if you’re willing to pay the taxes and go through the government checks, to own a tank with a working canon.   Since the tanks were never sold by the government to civilians with working guns, the guns are often pieced together, with parts that don’t match, and this really takes the danger level of owning a tank to a new level.  Part of the added danger is the rounds can’t just be purchased, you have to find suitable used brass, not an easy task, and then hand load it with surplus or custom made projectiles and surplus powder. As dangerous as this can be, I’m all for allowing people to do what they want with the things they own, and having a working main gun on your Sherman is pretty damn cool.

Sherman M1 from the x littlefield collection2
An Isreali Sherman M1, that belonged to the largest private collection of Armor on the west coast. Until the owner died.

Now, these last few paragraphs have had a touch of tongue and cheek in them, owning a tank is a very expensive thing to do, and the bigger the tank the more money it will suck up each year, just less than an airplane.  A tank can’t fall out of the sky, but it is by no means safe, and doing any kind of work on it, or even climbing on and off of it, can cost you a finger or broken bones.  Putting an arm or hand in the wrong place while a turret is being rotated can get them messily removed. Falling off a tank while it’s moving is a bad way to die, but it happens.  It’s hard for people who have never worked with heavy equipment of any kind to realize just how dangerous 30 tons of steel is just sitting still.  That said, the people out there restoring WWII history, and keeping it running are awesome. Nothing beats seeing a Sherman tank moving around to really give you an idea of what the thing was all about. The Sherman people who go to the trouble to get the A57 in their M4A4 working are my automotive heroes!

the-tank
James Garner hauling ass in a M4A3 Sherman in the movie ‘Tank’

At some point in the 80s some producer or special effects place got their hands on a Sherman and it made appearances in shows like the A-team, Knight Rider and Airwolf. I suspect it was the same M4A3 used in the Movie ‘Tank’ with James Garner, and that is now owned by the Collings Foundation.  In more recent years, privately owned tanks, and some working museum vehicles were used in the making of the miniseries Band of Brothers on HBO. They don’t appear in many of the episodes, but they are in at least two. More recently the movie Fury was filmed using the tanks of the Bovington tank Museum in the UK. They also purchased an M4A4 hulk, and did a quickie ‘resto’ on it and made up a fiberglass turret that could be blown off, for the movies to often used ammo rack explosion.

fury

US_Sherman_(3666208242) (1)
M4A2 used in Fury, before it was kitted out for the movie

 

Another thing tanks get used for in civilian life is in ‘Drive a tank’ places like, Ox Ranch in Texas, and driving a tank isn’t the only thing you can do there! Machine guns, Off roading, hunting, tanks, this is like heaven!

sherman-tank-1024x768
OX Ranch’s M4A2 76w HVSS in action
tank-driving-sherman-1024x768
OX Ranch’s M4A2 76w HVSS in action

There are several other places in the US, and around the world like Drive a Tank in Minnesota and Battlefield Vegas, (Sherman in the works). You can pay for a package that often includes driving several kinds of vehicles leading up to the tank of your choice. They often offer add-ons like shooting machine guns or running over a car you supply, for various fees. The places that have a Sherman usually don’t use it in the car crushing displays; it’s usually a bigger tank like a British chieftain.

M4DV
M4 tank in front of a VFW

The final civilian Sherman type I want to mention is the kind you find in front of VFW halls, or town or state parks. The tanks in these cases are not actually civilian tanks. The Army still owns them more or less, so if the place they are in happens to close down or change, the town or VFW can’t sell the tank. The Army will come and get it, and they are supposedly responsible for keeping them up, but in reality, they are usually pretty rusty on the inside, and often have the floors starting to rust through.

 

Sources
  1. Warhistoryonline.com Civilian Shermans: After war they went to work 
  2. The Rusty Grapple: Logging History Online
  3. Yesterdays Tractor Co.
  4. Battlefield Vegas
  5. The Ox Ranch
  6.  Drive a tank

#49 The Tank Divisions: US Armored Divisions

The Armored Divisions: The US Armored Divisions, What They Were and A Brief History Of Each One.

There were two types of US Armored Division during WWII.  The Light type and the Heavy type, I will detail out the differences between the two below. Armored Divisions were not meant to be assault troops, that was left to the Regular Infantry Divisions, the Armored Divisions were meant to rush through an breakthrough and romp and stomp as far into the enemy’s guts as they could, hopefully taking key objectives and cutting off large amounts of enemy troops.

A light US Armored Division was made up of three Tank Battalions, three Armored Infantry Battalions, and three Armored Field Artillery Battalions. These were broken up into three Combat Commands, A, B, and R. Each of these had a Tank Battalion, an Armored Infantry Battalion, and an Armored Field Artillery Battalion and each one was commanded by a Colonel.  Commands A and B were the primary combat force of the Division and R was the reserve. The Battalions could be swapped around between A, B, and R(sometimes called C) depending on strength and fatigue levels.

The Light Armored Division would also have a large number of service battalions and smaller units attached to make the Division as self-sustaining as possible:

One Armored Engineer Battalion

One Armored Medical Battalion

One Armored Reconnaissance Battalion

One Armored Ordnance battalion

One Armored Signal Company

A CIC Detachment

A Division Supply Train (made up of trucks)

A Division Artillery Battalion

A MP Platoon

A Tank Destroyer Battalion Could be assigned

An Armored AA Battalion Could be assigned

 

These units could be broken down into smaller, usually company sized sub units and assigned to the Combat Commands depending on the needs of the missions. The Armored Division was intended to be a self-contained unit with all the assets needed to support and move itself around a theater.  A light Armored Division had an authorized strength of just about 11,000 men, the Heavy Division had 14,500.

The main difference with a Heavy Armored Division was they had eight Medium Tank Battalions, instead of just three. They also had more light tanks, with two full light tank battalions, instead of three companies.  Only a two Armored Divisions retained the heavy designation and organization through the whole war, the 2nd and 3rd.  I have not been able to find a TO&E for a Heavy Armored Division that included an Authorized strength, but it would have to be several thousand men more than a normal AD.  I’m not 100% sure on this, but I’m pretty sure the Heavy Armored Division was done away with in a 1942 revision of what an Armored Division was, but a pair retained the Heavy TO&E for reasons I’m not sure of yet, but I will find out.

. . .

The Armored Divisions were meant to exploit a major breakthrough won by the regular Infantry Divisions.  In many cases they were not used this way, and often got thrown into the lines as the enemy was faltering, using a single Combat Command to help secure the breakthrough while the rest of the Division rushed through the breach.  No Armored Divisions saw use in the Pacific, but the Sherman sure did.  The Sherman was really the heart of the US Armored Division, and its mobility and reliability really served it well there, it allowed US Armored Divisions to make very long runs once broken through, and it would limits on fuel supplies, not the tanks mechanical reliability that slowed it down.

 

1st_US_Armored_Division_SSI.svg1st Armored Division: Old Ironsides

 Active 1940-1946, Reactivated 1951-Present

The oldest US Armor Division. It saw a lot of action in WWII, born on July 15 1940 at Fort Knox.

The 1st AD spent its early years figuring out what an Armored Division was going to be, and when they figured that out, they trained in the US until mid-summer of 1942 before shipped off to Northern Ireland, after a short stay they were off to England.  They were not there long, before they were shipped off to northern Africa for participation in Operation Torch.  The 1st AD would be the first US Armored Division to see combat.

They would participate in the capture or Oran, and the infamous Kassirine Pass, and then would fight to the end of the war in Italy.  The primary tank early on would have been the M3 Lee and M3 light. By the Italian campaign it was the M4 and M4A1, small hatch 75 tanks, with M5 lights. Late in the Italian campaign they would have gotten second gen 76mm Shermans.

1st AD Subunits:  1st Tank Battalion,  4th Tank Battalion,  13th Tank Battalion,  6th Armored Infantry Battalion,  11th Armored Infantry Battalion,  14th Armored Infantry Battalion, 27th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 68th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 91st Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 81st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 16th Armored Engineer Battalion, 47th Armored Medical Battalion, 141st Armored Signal Company, 501st CIC Detachment.

Campaigns: Tunisia, Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, North Apennines, Po Valley.  

The 1st AD had 1194 men KIA, 5168 WIA, and 234 DOW.  They captured 41 villages or urban centers. 108,740 Germans gave up to the 1st AD.  The 1st AD earned 1 Distinguished Service Cross,  1 Distinguished Service Medal, 794 Silver Stars, 2 Legion of Merit, 35 Soldiers Medals, 1602 Bronze Stars, and 3 Air Medals.  They were moved to Germany Shortly after the war to serve as part of the occupation forces and were disbanded in 1946. They were reactivated in 1951 and are still an active duty division to this day.

 

150px-2nd_US_Armored_Division_SSI.svg 2nd Armored Division: Hell on Wheels 

Active 1940-1995

The second US Armored Division put together and it saw just about as much as the first. This was one of only two Heavy Armored Divisions; all others were converted to the later ‘light’ TO&E. Formed at Fort Benning on 15 July 1940, on the same day as the 1st.

They shipped out for use in Torch, but were kept in reserve until the invasion of Sicily. They saw a fair amount of action on Sicily, and after were shipped back to England to be used in the Normandy landings.  The 2nd AD was landed on Omaha Beach on June 9th and fought in northern Germany until the end of the war, including the Rhineland, Ardennes and Central European Campaigns.

2nd  AD Subunits:   41st Armored Infantry Regiment, 66th Armored Regiment, 67th Armored Regiment, 17th Armored Engineer Battalion,  82nd Armored Recon Battalion,  and the 142cnd Signal Company. 

There was also the 14th Armored Field Artillery Battalion,  78th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 92nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Ordnance Maintenance Battalion, and the 48th Armored Medical Battalion.  

Campaigns: Sicily, Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe.

The 2nd AD Combat statistics: had 1102 KIA, 5331 WIA, 253 captured, 7116 non battle casualties, for a total of 13,867 casualties.  They were in combat for a total of 223 days and earned 21 DCS, 13 Legions of Merit, 1954 Silver Stars, 131 Soldiers Medals, 5331 Bronze stars and 342 Air Medals. They took a grand total of 76,963 POWs.

150px-3rd_US_Armored_Division_SSI.svg 3rd Armored Division: Spearhead

Active 1941-1945, reactivated 1947-92

Also maybe known as the Third Herd, but may be post WWII.  The 3rd saw combat from Normandy to the end of the war in Europe.  They were formed on 15 April 1941 at Camp Beauregard in Louisiana.  They trained in California at Camp Young, until January of 1943, when they moved to Indiantown Gap Military Reservation in Pennsylvania. They would train on there while waiting to deploy overseas.

The 3rd AD arrived in Europe on September 15th 1943, they debarked in the Liverpool an Bristol area and trained there and on the Salisbury Plain preparing for the invasion.

They would first see combat almost a month after the June 6th landings in Normandy.  They would fight in the hedgerows, including at Saint Lô. Later in the same campaign they would help close the Falaise Gap.  They participated in both the Battle for the Hurtgen Forrest and the Battle of the Bulge. They would continue to fight into Germany, helping with the taking of Cologne, and Paderborn, and with reducing the Ruhr Pocket.  They liberated the Nazi Death Camp at Dara-Mittelbau, and finished with the battle of Dessau. They went into reserve to the end of the war.  It did a short stint as an occupation force before being deactivated in November of 1945.  It was later reactivated in 1947.

3rd AD Subunits: 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, 32nd Armored Regiment, 33rd Armored Regiment, 23rd Armored Engineer Battalion, 83rd Armored Recon Battalion, 143rd Armored Signal Company, 391st Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 67th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 54th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 3rd Ordnance Maintenance Battalion, and the 45th Armored Medical Battalion.

WWII Campaigns:  Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe. 

The 3rd AD WWII Combat Data: spent a total of 231 days in combat, with 2540 KIA, 7331 WIA, 95 MIA, and 139 captured. They had a total number of Battle Casualties of 10,105, Non-Combat Casualties 6017, and a combined total of 16,122.  They took 76,720 POWs. They earned 17 Distinguished Service Cross, 23 Legion of Merit, 885 Silver Stars, 32 Soldiers Medals, 3884 Bronze Star, 138 Air Medals, and 3 Distinguished Flying Cross.

 

150px-4th_US_Armored_Division_SSI.svg4th Armored Division: The no name AD! 

Active 1941-1972

One of the few Armored Division that never adopted a name, it also developed a reputation. The 4th was often used as the spearhead for Paton’s Third Army and it was a tough outfit.  Their motto was ‘They Shall Be Known By Their Deeds Alone’. Activated on April 15th 1941 at Camp Pine (Later named Fort Drum), New York.  It would train at Camp Forrest in Tennessee, and then was shipped to California for further training at the Desert Training Center. They would be housed at Camp Ibis, near Needles California during this period.  By June of 1943 they would be at Camp Bowie, Texas, for more training in the Piute Valley. They were then off to Camp Myles Standish in Massachusetts for winter training.  Finally, in December of 1943, they were on their way to Europe, England specifically to prepare for the June of 44 invasion of Normandy.

The 4th AD debarked in Normandy on July 11th 1944, at Utah beach and was in combat by the 17th.  They saw action in  Operation Cobra,  and rampaging across France, they would see action in the Battle of the Bulge, spearheading Patton’s 3rd Army’s attack north to hit the Germans attacking Bastogne.  They would see action in all the major fights in the ETO to the end of the war. They did a tour as occupation forces before being shipped back to the ZI to be deactivated.

The 4th AD spent 230 days in combat and lost 1238 KIA, 4246 WIA, 503 MIA, and 1 man captured.  This totaled out to 5988 Battle Casualties, they also had 4508 Non Battle Casualties, and total of 10496. The 4th took 90,364 POWs.

 

 150px-5th_US_Armored_Division_SSI.svg5th Armored Division: Victory

Active 1941-1945, reactivated 1950-1956

Another Divisions that saw combat from Normandy to the end of the war in Europe.  The 5th AD was activated at Fort Knox, in Kentucky.  Like many units after forming and some initial training, the shipped out for Camp Cooke California.  They spent a lot of time on Alert for Japanese attacks in their early training there. Next up was training in California’s Mojave desert.  They were on their way to Tennessee by March 24th for more maneuvers.  They would be there until July, and then they moved to Pine Camp N.Y. for some winter training. The 5th last stop before deploying to England was Indiantown Gap, PA, where they left their vehicles and were trucked to Camp Kilmer NJ, to wait for their ship.

The 5th were in England by February 24, 1944, and they were stay there until they deployed to Normandy on July 26. They were assigned to Patton’s Third Army, as “General Patton’s Ghost Troops”,  and would fight in Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe Campaigns.

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

The 5th AD was in combat 161 days, and had 547 KIA, 2768 WIA, 177 MIA, and 62 captured for a total of 3554 battle related casualties. The 5th also had 3592 non-battle casualties, for a total of 7146.

150px-6th_US_Armored_Division_SSI.svg6th Armored Division: Super Sixths

Active 1942-1945, reactivated 1950-1956

The 6th was activated at Fort Knox on February 15th 1942.  The 6th spent time at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas training then went on Maneuvers in Louisiana and then they were off to sunny California for training at the Desert Training Center in Mohave CA, and then off to Camp Cooke also in Ca. They were shipped by train to the east coast and loaded onto ships for transport to England, arriving in February of 44.

The 6th was landed on Utah beach on July 18th as part of Paton’s 3rd Army. They participated in the Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Rhineland and Central Europe Campaigns.

The 6th spent a total of 226 days in combat. They had 1169 KIA, 4198 WIA, 152 MIA, and 7 captured for a total of 5526 battle casualties, they also had 7290 non battle casualties.

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

 

150px-7th_US_Armored_Division_SSI.svg7th Armored Division: Lucky Seventh Active 1942-1945, reactivated 1950-1953

This AD started combat in northern France and ended it in Germany.  They were a part of Paton’s third Army

boxscr3m

150px-8th_US_Armored_Division_SSI.svg8th Armored Division: The Thundering Herd Active 1942-1945

The 8th AD has a very nice website linked above.  I spend a lot of time on the Thundering Herds website, and it’s good stuff.

150px-9th_US_Armored_Division_SSI.svg9th Armored Division: The Phantom Division Active 1942-1945

This AD came in toward the end and only fought in three major campaigns. They did help secure some key bridges over the Rhine River though.

150px-10th_US_Armored_Division_SSI.svg10th Armored Division: The Tiger Division Active 1942-1945

They saw combat for a short time, three campaigns, but had a pretty cool nickname.

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

150px-11th_US_Armored_Division_SSI.svg11th Armored Division: Thunderbolt Active 1942-1945

Another late comer they saw enough action to see how disgusting the Nazi Germans were when they liberated Mauthausen Concentration Camp

150px-12th_US_Armored_Division_SSI.svg12th Armored Division: The Hellcat Division Active 1942-1945

This AD came in late in the war but saw a good amount of action.

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

150px-13th_US_Armored_Division_SSI.svg13th Armored Division: The Black Cats Active 1942-1945

These guys were in combat for 16 days, and fought in two major campaigns.

They put out a nice history book, the 13th Armored division: A history of the Black Cats from Texas to France, Germany and Austria and back to California  NEW BOOK!

 

150px-14th_US_Armored_Division_SSI.svg 14th Armored Division: The Liberators Active 1942-1945

15th Armored Division:  This AD was a Phantom Division, not a real AD

200px-16th_US_Armored_Division_SSI.svg16th Armored Division: Armadillo Active 1943-1945

#48 Jungle Tanking: The Sherman Saw Combat In Almost All Terrain, Including The Steaming Jungles Of The Pacific.

Jungle Tanking: The Sherman Did Just Fine As A Jungle Killing Machine

Sad_Sack_1st_caption
Army M4A1 tanks with the 603rd Tank Battalion, Biak Island, in the Pacific, (thanks to Russ Amott for the info on the photo!)

Conventional wisdom often states, Jungles are no place for tanks, but that wisdom is wrong. It is very difficult to operate a tank in the jungle, that is true, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. In many cases it requires the close work of heavy engineers and their bulldozers.  In at least one case engineers had to put in a corduroy log road to get the tanks up to the fight when the Marines used them on Cape Gloucester. When a tank can be brought up though, when used correctly, it was a very useful tool in destroying enemy bunkers and strong points that could not be flanked.

m4a1pcf_51
Another Marine M4A1 on Cape Gloucester, this one made by (Pacific Car & Foundry) West Coast Best Coast Baby!

Tanks have to be used in a different way than they would in just about any other terrain when fighting in the jungle, and more so than any other terrain, are dependent on their infantry support to protect them and be their eyes. They also cannot be employed in large numbers, fighting in the jungle is a very up close and personal affair, and from two to six tanks are all that are needed or can really be employed.  In most cases it will only be two or three, because most jungle fighting is limited to certain paths due to terrain restrictions.  If the area was wide enough, a tank was only behind a bulldozer in off road ability, but large trees and rocks will stop any tank.

an LST delivering an M4A1 Sherman to Cape Gloucester
An LST delivering a Marine M4A1 Sherman to Cape Gloucester

The Tank could be useful for clearing some of the jungle terrain, through the use of its machine guns, cannon with canister rounds or HE, and even its tracks.  It would take a fairly large tree to stop a tank, the bigger the tank, the larger the tree would have to be, and the tracks are very good at tearing up underbrush.  In some cases tanks were used to pull loaded trucks up roads normally impassible due to mud.  They could be used to haul in supplies to troops and in some special cases used to retrieve wounded troops pinned down by enemy fire, by driving over them and pulling the wounding in through the bottom escape hatch.

383
Were calling this M4 Composite Hull on Okinawa, named “Aida” with the 763rd TB (thanks to Russ Amott for the info on this photo)

To successfully employ tanks a thorough recon of the area the tanks are going to operate in was needed.  A specific set of objectives, preferably, ones that could be seen from the jumping off point were needed to effectively use tanks, or they just got in the way.  With established objectives, specific infantry squads would be assigned to work directly with individual tank, to baby sit it and keep enemy infantry away.  The platoon leader would be encouraged to either ride on the tank his men were protecting, or stay very close to it so he could talk to the tank commander. The tanks would hold back with their protecting infantry, until the leading grunts made contact, then as needed they would move slowly forward and engage targets pointed out by the grunts.  Moving slow and staying with the men protecting the tank was very important, if they fell behind or got run off by flanking fire, the tank became very vulnerable to close infantry attack.  This is why the platoon leader staying close to the tank was important, so it could be told to start backing up the fire was too heavy.  If an attack failed, the tanks were advised to never attack over the same path, especially if the Japanese had time to bring up AT guns or mines.

8009931518
Marines supporting an M4A2, in almost jungle, or jungle after lots of shore bombardment.

The pace of these attacks was purposely slow, they needed to make sure they were not bypassing an AT gun or tank killer team hiding in the brush.  Various methods were used, from hand signals to tracers and smoke to designate targets to the tank.  Smoke worked ok, but someone on the phone on the back of the tank telling the TC exactly where to look worked the best.  Once the bullets were flying the tank crews buttoned up and would not open up until asked by the supporting Doughs, or the intense part of the fighting was over.  Sometimes the tanks would need to be given a break in very hot weather, operating at low speed could cause overheating and vapor lock, and was hell on the crews too.  In the tropical heat, the interior of an M4 was not a pleasant place to be.

M4_Guam_01_44
A pair of M4’s being supported by infantry, on Guam

Once the objectives were achieved for the day or the attacks were stopped, the tanks pulled back far enough behind the lines to refuel, repair and, rearm the tanks. They would also take out as many wounded men as they could carry on their way to the rear. In the morning they may haul extra ammo and other supplies forward to the units who held the line.  Tanks, unless under the most dire circumstances were not used in the line at night, or used in night attacks.  Tanks, blind enough during the day, are so blind at night they are a threat to everyone around them, friend or enemy in the jungle.

USA1 (1)
These M4 Composite Hulls were  lost on Guam, near Yigo, after they got to far ahead of the Infantry. (Another photo caption save by Russ Amott!)

The Army and Marine learned a lot of lessons about employing tanks in Jungle terrain, they recorded and disseminated these lessons in the very interesting: Combat Lessons, The Rank And File, What They Are Doing and How They Are Doing it. This was a series of nine, 50 to 90 page pamphlets, put out by the  DOD and sent out to all the troops I have 8 of the 9 hosted in the downloads section, and they are all interesting reads,  they do not cover Armor exclusively, or even in every issue, but they are still a very interesting look at how the US Army and Marines worked during WWII.  When the Sherman was employed using the lesson the Army and Marines learned on the job, they proved to be a crushing and very hard to deal with part of the Allied Arsenal in use against them. The Japanese really had few options in dealing with a Sherman once it was in the fight, the rare 47mm AT gun, hard to employ in heavy jungle, magnetic mines and suicide squads, and the occasional oddball tank trap were the only tools in their arsenal that could deal with the Sherman and none of these was as good as the basic Panzerfaust or German Pak 40 75mm AT gun. The Japanese tanks were so bad they are not worth mentioning in this section.

Check these links out for further reading.

US Army Tanks in the Jungle Part, 1: This pair of Hatch’s are by guest writer, Harry Yeide, the author we know from the books section.

US Army Tanks in the Jungle Part, 2: This is part II by Harry Yeide.

370989
M4 Shermans in the jungle or swamp, I’m going to guess Bougainville HAH! I got this location right! Thanks to Russ Amott, we also know that this tank is with the 754th TB.

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

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

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

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

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

Wooden mockup CDA
Wooden mockup CDA

 

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

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

plasticsherman armor shermanspikes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

aaaaav5y6EJ0phosprojectpr phosprojector

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

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

M4 Improved M4 Improved2 M1 improved and M7

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

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

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

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

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

033-1024x685 14485009400_649955abf0_b

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

V65

Chrysler’s A65:

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

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

Vb184gmdesiel

General Motors Corporation V8-184 diesel engine:

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

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

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

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

rd1820rear rd1820front

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

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

. . .

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shermancrosdrive

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

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

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

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

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

M4A2e4
M4A2e4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s start with…

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

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

viewerext SHERMAN NIGHT LIGHT

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

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

 

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

#31 Links: Places On The Internets About The Sherman

M4_Sherman
A restored M4A1 76w Tank, it seems to be being driven on a public beach, by a kid. RAD!

Links: Cool Sherman, Armor Related, Or WWII  Web Sites

Sherman minutia site:  You can spend days on this site learning interesting things about the Sherman. If you read through much of this site you will know how much I like the Sherman Minutia site because I mention it so much. It’s always open, and I can almost always find something new to read or something I forgot about on this site.  Probably the best Sherman specific web site on the internet. If you want to know how to detect the differences between models, right down to specific factories unique fittings, this is the website to do it on,  click the link and go, they are the best around for that! They are so good at it, I have no interest in ever trying to cover those details here!

Pierre-Olivier’s Photo Album from his Trip to America: You might be wondering why this is right below the Sherman minutia site link, oh well, maybe not, but if you were wondering, Pierre Olivier is the man responsible for the Sherman Minutia site. This is his photo album for his trip to the good old US of A.  He checked out just about every armor museum in the US, and a lot of tanks in parks.  I’d love to talk to him, I know he posts at Com-central.net, but for some reason I can’t get the registration to work there! I’ll figure it out, like tanknet, some legends of the Sherman world post there.

Tanks on Tarawa:  I just picked up Tanks in Hell,  A Marine Corps Tanks Company on Tarawa, by Oscar Gilbert and Romain Cansiere, and they mentioned this site in the acknowledgments section. I’ve only looked it over a little as of right now, (that will change, I’m sure the rest of my evening will be spent their), and right off the bat, I know the tank show in the water in my post on Tarawa has the wrong name in my post.

The Sherman Register, By Hanno Spoelstra: This site is an oldy but goody, and I can’t believe I forgot about it until Mr Spoelstra contacted me! Now I’ll be signing up to the mailing list!

The Sherman Tank Restoration page: A page that documents the restoration of a M4A3 76W HVSS tank that was surplused in the late 50s and purchased by Abdo S. Alan Co. a demolition company out of Oakland California. They used it to knock down buildings in Oakland for years. At some point the tank broke down, after being gutted for a new motor, and sat until the Littlefield collection purchased it, then traded it to someone who the current owner purchased it from. None of the previous owners had made any attempts to restore it. The current and last owner did an amazing job restoring the tank. Some surprises during the resto were, the tranny and final drives were in such good shape they required only cosmetic restoration. The suspension and tracks were also in very good shape.  I spent more than three evenings going through this pages photo album of the restoration. This tank is a functioning work of art now.

The Sherman Firefly Vc restoration page: This web page just went up and is about the restoration of the M4A4, which is the oldest known surviving A4 model. The tank served most of the war as a training tank in the US, until it was refurbished by Chrysler and shipped to the UK to be converted into a Sherman Vc firefly.  They are just starting the restoration, and are collecting parts and researching the tank. I wish I could be of some kind of help, but I don’t know what I could do. But maybe if you stumble on this site, and happen to have Sherman stuff for sale, please contact them at this web page. The already have some fascinating information on how the tank was changed when converted to a Firefly, and how the interior was laid out. There is also some very interesting information on how the loaders job would have to be done. I plane to watch this page closely as they restore the old tank.

RamTank.CA:  This website is to the RAM Tank, what the Sherman Tank Website is to the Sherman! Once you’ve read my article on the tank, and looked at the pretty pictures, check out their site to dig into the details!

Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale: I just discovered this site, and it is a very nice site if you want to know about building Sherman tanks in the 1/72 scale. I have dabbled in this scale, but never came close to producing anything as nice at the author over there. The scale itself has come a long way and it’s really amazing what level of detail you can get in this scale, if you’re good with tweezers and your hands are steady!

General WWII or Tank Related Links: 

The U.S. / American Automobile Industry in World War Two: This website. as its title suggests covers a lot of stuff along with the Shermans that were built by auto makers.  There is more to building a tank than a single factory in many cases, and even a factory like CDA, that could do everything in house, farmed much of the subassemblies out to its normal sub contracts. This site gives info on many of them, and there is so much here, you could spend hours reading.  I know I have!  NEW LINK!

Tank and AFV news: A news website that covers Shermans when they hit the news.  A generally interesting site if you are into tanks, and who isn’t! This is one of my read everyday sites.

The Lone Sentry:  This website’s tag line is Photographs, documents, research on World War II, and that’s just what they do.  This site is a staple of WWII history, and provides tons of good content.  I was sad, this website went down for almost a month, but its back and stronger than ever.

Armor for the Ages: This is the website for the General George Patton Museum of Leadership, and the new National Armor and Cavalry Museum at Fort Benning.  There are some very interest article and photo albums here, including one that documents the cosmetic restoration of the first Jumbo in Bastogne, Cobra King.

The AFV Database:  This website has a huge listing of American Tank specifications, and he has a lot of very cool pictures to go with them. If you need some vehicle stats or images, this is  your site! Some of the photos on this site were acquired there and the site owner was very nice about me using the images. Check his great site out. When I want data on an American tank,  or AFV, his is my first stop.

Archive Awareness: A history site dedicated to translating Russian archive documents to english. He has done some very interesting posts on lend lease tanks, including the Lee and Sherman. This is a really great site, stuffed with great information.

Here is a specific link to a post on the Tiger versus the Shermans 75mm gun.

Toadman’s Tank pictures: Toadman’s tank pictures is one of those staples of the internet, I can’t believe I forgot to add him in the links. If you need close up shots of a tank, this is the place to go, if you want high res versions, he has CDs you can buy! Check out his site, there are a ton of Sherman photos up there.

8ad1

The 8th Armored Division: The Thundering Herd, Association Website. While I was searching around on the internet for information on US Armored Divisions, this page came up, and was by far the most informative page on the subject. This Association has really done the 8th AD a service with this website, very informative.

The Internet Archive: This site is awesome, I’ve found so much interesting stuff there, everything from Technical Manuals to Unit Histories. I’ve literally downloaded hundreds of Sherman related documents from this site. Some of the hardest ones to find, I found here.  If your going to donate to an internet site like Wikipedia, don’t and donate to this guys instead!

RadioNerds: This website was a huge help when I needed to find info about Sherman tank radios. They cover all US Army Radios, and also have an archive of PS Magazines, its a very cool site.

Panzerserra Bunker: A nice blog on modeling with some interesting Sherman stuff and very interesting plastic modeling techniques.

The Surviving Panzers site: This interesting site has PDFs for many of the major nations of WWIIs surviving tanks.  For our purposes he has most of the Sherman models broken down into sub types and has a picture and short description of each tank. They are not complete, but they are close.

The Historical AFV Registry Home Page: This has registers of armored vehicles in several nations. The are in downloadable PDF and include a location for each vehicle.

M1919tech.com This new site is a very interesting look at the history of the M1919 machine gun. This is the machine gun used on the Sherman, and by the US Army and Marines during WWII. I learned a hell of a lot about the history of this machine gun than I knew before I found this site, it’s a great read with lots of rare photos.

AFV Photos: L&P Hannah’s great photo collection of Armor in the US. There are a lot of photos of tanks all over the US  here. Paul Hannah must love tanks, he has traveled all over the United States taking pictures of them.  I had no idea how many Sherman tanks there were in the east and mid west in parks and in front of VFW halls.  This is another place you could spend hours browsing!

I remember interview: Of Dmitriy Loza, a Russian Tanker who used most lend Lease armor but the Sherman the most, he used both 75mm and 76mm version of the M4A2. This is a very interesting read, and shows how well the Russians liked the Shermans.

The Ford GAA engine Web Page:  This Web site has some really fascinating information about the Ford GAA engine. Not much about its use in a tank, more about how it was just an amazing engine and could be used to make a lot of horsepower. The GAA motor was capable of a lot more than 500 horsepower, and was amazingly overbuilt, this page talks about why. If you’re a Hot-rodder, you will want to check it out.

Chieftain’s Hatch: His Sherman related hatches. 

Wargaming’s The Chieftainhas what some might call a dream job,  but when you hear how hard Wargaming works the poor guy, if you’re sane, you might feel different.  For more details on the man, check out the WOT forums. For our purposes, and arguably the most important part of his job is Archive Crawling and then producing interesting article for far Wargaming to use to promote the game. As a fan of the game and history, I think this is great.  The Chieftain has produced some very interesting articles on the Sherman tank or they are mentioned in others, so I will link to the ones important to the Sherman here.

Testing the British Cruisers: This Hatch is about testing the Centaur and Cromwell against a M4A3 Sherman. The Brits sent the two tanks over without much prep, and they were pretty new designs. As one could guess, the test went poorly for the British tanks. This caused some distress for the Brits, as did the Chieftains post on the forums. The post below answers some of the concerns of the angry posters.

Exercise Dracula: This was an extensive 2000 plus mile long test the British did testing the automotive reliability of the Cromwell, Centaur, and an M4A4 and M4A2 Sherman.  Though not directly about the Sherman, it is very flattering to the Sherman, and in particular the M4A4 with is A57 multibank motor is considered very reliable!

Sherman PR, 1942: This Hatch contains a lot of glowing praise from the Brits about the Sherman and Lee tanks. This report is cherry picked for PR purposes of the time, but I bet they didn’t have to look around much for Brit tankers to praise the Sherman.

US Gyrostabiliser Issues: This Hatch is about the US Gyrostabiliser use or lack of it.

The US Army Tests Firefly: The hatch is about the US Army testing the British Firefly gun post war. Well not really since it was a Firefly turret installed on an M4A3 VVSS hull.

The Desert Sherman: This very interesting Hatch deals with the infrared night driving system and the odograph.

US Guns, German Armor, PT 1: This Hatch covers test of US guns on German Armor

US Guns, German Armor, PT2:  Part two of the hatch above.

French Panthers: Or why a tank that can only go 150 kilometers sucks.

Nato Survey 1943: No, not that Nato, North African Theatre of operations. The Sherman gets mentioned but is not the focus.

Nato Survey 1943 Pt2:  The rest of the above links story.

US Army Tanks in the Jungle Part, 1: This pair of Hatch’s are by guest writer, Harry Yeide, the author we know from the books section.

US Army Tanks in the Jungle Part, 2: This is part II by Harry Yeide.

The End of the M4(75): This Hatch is about the role the Sherman filled and how it was always designed to take out tanks. It’s also about the Army’s plan had always been to replace the 75mm gun with the 76mm gun, and this predates the D-Day landings.

US Army Tanks in Cities PT 1: This is another guest hatch by Harry Yeide, this series covering Shermans or or US Army tanks in Cities and Towns.

US Army Tanks in Cities PT 2: This is part two by the intrepid Harry Yeide!

The M4A2E4, the torsion bar Sherman: This hatch covers the M4A2E4 we covered in the Shermans of the Future section. 

The Chieftains Hatch on the battle of El Alamein: The Chiefs take on this famous battle.

The Chieftains Hatch on the Battle of Peleliu: The Chiefs take on this famous battle.

The Chieftains Hatch  on the battles for the Marianas: Saipan, the Japanese used tanks here, and the Chief covers it. 

The Chieftains very interesting and detailed hatch on the battle of Tarawa: This is a tad less focused then how it was covered here, and overall probably a better account.

 

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

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

20151026_170308

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

51DHD8Yql4L

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!

61jVL5dywdL

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

redarmyshermans

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

cutthroats

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

osprey us tanker eto

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:

USMCtankcrewwwii

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

BO10

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

BO21

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

PantherVSherman

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

PIVVSherman

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

AAWS7001

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

AAwSdday

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

AAWS7003

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

AAWS7004

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

AAWS7005

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

AAWS7008

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

AAWS7009

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!

AAWS7032

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

7036-cover

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

concord-7038-u.s.-light-tanks-at-war-1941-45

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

AAWS7042

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

AAWS7045

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!

AAWS7046

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

aaws7050

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

aaws7051

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

AAWS7052

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

AAWS7055

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

7062-cover

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

aaws7068

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

NV3

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

nv57

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

NV73

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

NV123

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

NV141

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

V15

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

V26

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

Pattonstanks

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

WM4

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

SS6038

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

ss6090

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

ss2016

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

ss2033

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

USTDaction

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

2038

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

ss5701

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

Tanksonwocover

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

iawsm4sherman

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.

51gkAOzkgsL

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.

71dcMCIUziL

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.

#21 Tanks Were Knocked Out Far More Often By Mines And AT Guns. The Sherman Was No Different Here.

Let’s Talk About The Other Things That Killed Shermans, Mines and AT guns, The True Hidden Menace.

Mines, What can we say about mines, no one likes, them, but they still do a job that has to be done. We only going to cover anti tank mines.

Changing_wheel
UK crew fixing mine damage.
The Riegel mine 43/44.

This mine was steel cased, anti-tank mine that looked like a long rectangular box. It had 17.8 pounds of TNT explosive in it. That’s enough BOOM to really mess up a tanks suspension. A really unlucky Sherman might have this go off right under the tanks rear belly, where the armor was thinnest, and blow into the engine compartment and really knock the tank out. In most cases this mine would do enough damage the tank would need battalion level repair, if that tank wasn’t written off for total rebuild.

Production on these things started in 43, and by the end of the war they had produced over 3 million of them. Apparently there is no safe way to disable this mine, and the recommended way of removing it is to just blow it up. There is no telling how many of these took out Shermans, but it was probably a large percentage of the Mine losses.

The Topfmine A, B and C.

These mines went into service in 1944. They were made from wood pulp and cardboard, with tar for waterproofing. They had a bigger charge but the metal cased mines till probably worked better. These mines went into  production for two reasons, they were harder for harder for mine detectors to detect, and the case was cheap and easy to produce and used no steel.  The 13 pound charge would do a lot of suspension damage.

The Tellermine 29:

This mine was developed in the early 30s and was mostly used in training but saw limited use in Normandy. 13 pound charge meant it would be effective, but its age made it primitive.

The Tellermine 35:

This mine was used for the whole war and could even be used underwater. Steel cased like the older model, this one went into production in 35.  This mine had a slight smaller 12 pound charge. Most of the time this mine would just blow a track off, and damage the suspension, but it could get lucky and do more damage.

The Tellermine 42:

This mine was an improvement on the 35 and used the same charge. It had improved anti handling devices. This would be a very common mine through the end of the war. It went into production in 42 and was quickly superseded by the 43 model.

The Tellermine 43:

image courtesy of the LoneSentry

A further improvement on the 42 model, cheaper to produce, with the same charge, this mine went into production, you guessed it, in 1943.

H-S mine 4672:

This shaped charge mine went into production in late 44 and was used to the end of the war. It basically was a panzerfaust head used as a mine. The mine shot the head out of the ground hoping for a belly hit. This mine would be bad news for wet ammo rack Shermans.  Only 59,000 were made, making it rare. This mine was very effective even with its small 3 pound charge. The Germans felt the heads were better use don Panzerfausts, explaining the limited production.

Panzer Stab 43:

This mine was very much like the 4672 mine, but didn’t launch the projectile. This mine was even rarer and was discontinued, probably because it worked, by the Germans the same year it went into production. Around 25k got made before they killed it.

. . .

That’s a lot of mines and that’s just the mines the Germans made, I’m sure they used any stocks of captured mines they got their thieving paws on. So I’ll add Russian, British and US AT mines here soon too.  Mines always accounted for 10 to 30% of tank losses depending on the year, month and theater you look at the losses in. There are a few pictures of Sherman tank catastrophically blown up, with the whole upper hull ripped away. They are labeled as mine damaged, and in a few cases, the labeling mentions two mines being put into the same hole, I think the ones labeled ‘mine damage’ probably lost the part about two mines in the hole to time. I suspect those photos of blown up Shermans are cases of two or more mines in one hole or an even bigger explosive like a dud Arty shell, or aircraft bomb could be put in the hole too.

Tankers probably really hated mines, in many cases mine fields would be covered by well-hidden AT gun positions, or even tanks, and in this role, the Panther was a pretty good tank, since it didn’t need to move much. Hitting a mine in an ambush like that could be very deadly for the crew when they bailed out to look at the damage or retreat to the rear. The random left over mine, or stumbling into a minefield not covered by AT guns would be a big inconvenience, but rarely resulted in a fully destroyed tank or lost crew members.

 

AT guns, cheap and easy to produce, these guns were a big threat to tanks, but had little value to a mobile force.

AT guns were just what they sound like, large, Anti-Tank guns, on towable mounts. Most were as small and low slung as possible. Unless it was a US 3 inch AT gun, then they are huge. Even guns normally not a huge threat to a Sherman like the PAK 38 50mm AT gun could punch through the Shermans side if it was hidden well enough for the Shermans to give them the shot.  All the larger PAK guns had no trouble punching right through most Shermans.  Guns setup in ambush would have pre range cards, giving them an advantage shooting and getting hits.  They are much easier to hide than a tank and can even have bunkers built around them. Those are all reasons why these things made Sherman tankers lives harder.

Towed AT guns have a lot of negatives. For one, they are towed, by trucks, or halftracks, they have to be limbered and unlimbered, or set up, or packed up to go.  This is very hard to do in a useful way if you’re attacking with a mechanized force. By the time the guns are set up, if done at safe distances, the battle has moved on. At guns only have a small lightly armored shield, the crews would have to rely on personal foxholes or larger trench works if they had time.  The more time it had to get in place and camouflaged the position the better things would be for the gun and crew. But unless they had fortifications with overhead cover for the gun and crew, making it effectively a fixed gun, any kind of indirect fire weapon is going to make their lives hard. If the artillery fire wasn’t killing the crew, it would at least be keeping it from firing.

About half of the US tank destroyer battalions used only towed anti-tank guns. The battalions were not very successful, even during German offensives like the Battle of the Bulge. Both tracked TD battalions and towed were quickly disbanded after WWII, and towed anti-tank guns would not be a big part of most western nations militaries after the war either. AT guns would prove very useful the Germans from mid war on, after they were losing. They had a lot of these guns, and they accounted for a lot of tank kills. It was hard to determine in many cases what type of gun killed a tank, but tanks were much rarer than AT guns.

The Sherman 75mm tanks were actually better at dealing with AT guns than the later model tanks that had the 76mm gun, since it had a smaller explosive charge. It was far from useless though.  A tank’s best way of dealing with an AT gun was shoot the hell out of it with all guns available once it was spotted, and sometimes if the crew was suppressed, they’d even get a dose of the tracks.

Pak 38 50mm AT Gun:

This little gun was the main German AT gun from 1941 until superseded by the Pak 40. It was still used until the end of the war though. The Germans were so desperate they couldn’t afford to retire any weapons. Crewed by five men, it could be moved around pretty handily by the crew, but required a light truck or some kind of tow vehicle to go any real distance.  I won’t go into great detail about the gun but it needed to be very close to a Sherman to knock it out from the front, not so much from the sides. Nearly 10,000 produced.

Pak 40 75mm AT Gun:

This gun was larger; almost double the weight of the Pak 38.  This gun could also take the Sherman out at the combat ranges they normally faced each other. They Germans made nearly 20,000 of these guns, so they are probably responsible for a lot of knocked out Shermans. In some cases the same type of gun may have knocked the same Sherman out multiple times.  This gun required a bigger truck or halftrack to haul, but overall, it was a great gun.

Pak 43 88mm AT Gun:

This ‘fearsome’ gun had the same PR people as the big cats, but at least in this case the gun performed well, though not to the mythical levels some would have you believe. No it can’t take out an M1 ‘Abrahams’, it could take out any allied tank it faced, but it was nearly as rare as the Tiger I&II. They only produced around 2000 of these guns, so they only outnumber the combined Tigers production number of 1839, by a small margin. Overkill for most of the combat it saw, it would have been more useful if the Allies had made the same mistake of wasting resources on heavy tanks, but since they didn’t, this gun was almost entirely a waste of time.  The gun weighed almost 10,000 pounds, and it was a heavy, awkward, gun mount, even worse than the US 76 AT gun mount.  It needed a very large tow vehicle and its size and weight limited where it could be employed.

Flak 18/36/37 88mm dual purpose AA/AT Guns.
Flak 36

Another ‘mythical’ German weapon, this one started life as a mediocre AA gun that was pressed into use as a direct fire weapon when needed. As a direct fire weapon it was pretty good, these larger and much more powerful guns were better at penning armor than anything being mounted on a tank before or at the beginning of the war.  Capable of destroying all the French and British tanks the Germans faced, this gun could even handle the T-34 and KV-1/2 tanks, and it was the only thing the Germans had in any real numbers that could. This led to it being mounted in the Tiger I. The Pak 43 was more powerful, but this gun was more numerous with over 20,000 being produced. If any allied troops were right when an they thought an 88 was shooting at them it would be one of these.

flack 43

There was a Flak 41 88mm, but it was a failed attempt to improve upon the 18/36/37 failings as an AA gun.  The reason the basic 88 Flak gun failed as an AA gun was that it had optical range finding, and couldn’t lob a shell high enough to hit US heavy bombers, even the older models like the B-17. They also lacked radar ranging or laying unlike the superior US M1/2/3 90mm AA gun system. Had these guns not found their nitch in the direct fire role they would have gone down in history as the mediocre AA guns they were.

Next up, Panzerfausts, or AT-sticks as I now call them.

Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Yeide’s The Tank Killers, The Infantries Armor, and Steel Victory, Sherman by Hunnicutt, Combat Lessons, The Rank and file, what they do and how they are doing it 1-7, and 9  WWII Armor, Ballistics and Gunnery by Bird and Livingston, TM4 Sherman tank at war by Green, Tanks are a Might Fine Thing by Stout, the Lone Sentry,  TM9-1940 Land mines, TME9-369A German 88MM AA Gun, TME30-451 Handbook on German Armed Forces 1945,  DOA Army Battle Casualties and Non Battle Deaths in WWII, FKSM 17-3-2 Armor in Battle, Another River, another town by Irwin, Wargaming’s Operation Think Tank Videos .  

#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.

4018613099
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.

Knocked_out_Panzer_III_at_El_Alamein_1942
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.

tumblr_mb2s16jLEi1rhjg28o1_1280
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.

vil37
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.

39961
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.

Tiger_II_punctured_in_front_turret
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.

T-34-76_RB8
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 

 

#19 Tarawa: The USMC’s First Use Of M4 Medium Tanks

Tarawa: The Marines Learn To Use Medium Tanks In A Meat Grinder.

USMC-C-Tarawa-1

UPDATE! I don’t mind if you read and comment on my post, but keep in mind it may have info in it based on old information. This website, www.TanksonTarawa.com has the most accurate info on the Sherman tanks used on Tarawa,  their sole purpose it to document their use! So please check their awesome website out. 

November 20-23rd 1943:

The first Marine use of the Sherman was on Tarawa. The tanks were M4A2 small hatch tanks, these tanks were issued with no training, and the crews of the I Marine Amphibious Corps Tanks Battalion had sixty days in the states to learn how to use their tanks. Then the island they ended up pre landing had no place for them to drive the tanks to train on them. So they went into combat with no real training with the Marines they were going to fight with. The tanks had no waterproofing, and no deep wading trunks, and could only drive through 40 inches of water. They also had the same problem the Army had in Europe, the tanks radios were not on the same frequency as the infantry units below the battalion level. They could talk to aircraft though. They decided they would only need one com0pany of medium tanks, the rest of the battalion would be made up of M3A1 lights. This single mixed battalion would be the only Tanks to support the assault.

C Company of the 2nd Marine tank Battalion had 14 medium tanks.   All the tanks had names starting in the letter C.  The HQ for the tank battalion was almost entirely killed off and their radios lost during the initial landings so each platoon of M4 tanks fought its own war, as would the light companies until the later stages of the battle.

ChinaGal_zps1cfe9196 (1)
This outstanding model was done by none other than the famous and very talented Steven Zaloga, click the picture for more info.

1st platoon reinforced with two HQ tanks were let out of the LCM on the reef and had to drive into shore, they lost three of six tanks to shell craters and swamping while doing so. There were scouts sent ahead to mark a safe path along the reef, but the markers they placed in many cases floated away, and most of the scouts were killed by enemy fire.  The three surviving Shermans from 1st platoon were named Cecilia, China Gal and Chicago. Cecilia, a command tank, linked up with China Gal, and they tried to find a way inland. They had trouble getting inland. The seawall was a hellish nightmare, filled with dead and dying marines, wrecked LVTs and other obstacles and this prevented the tanks from moving. While trying to find a way inland Chicago took on water and shorted out.

China Gal and Cecelia managed to find a way inland, and found nothing but Japanese troops, and when a Japanese tank, a Type 95 Ha-Go, wheeled into view, it got off the first hit, and got very lucky, its 37mm round hit Cecelia in the main gun and wrecked it. The rifling was damaged, and the breach was open so fragments bounced around the turret and scared the hell out of the crew, but no one was hurt. China Gal blasted the Japanese tank. Cecelia raced back to the beach to check out the damage, and then later hooked back up with China Gal, the company commander jumped from the tank with the disabled gun into China Gal.  They spent the rest of the day working with the gyrenes, blasting Japanese pill boxes, Cecelia using just her machine guns. They worked between Red-1 and Red-2 the rest of the day.

2nd Platoons first tank off LCM sank up to turret killing the tank. The next two LCMs tried another spot, and first LCM took damage and sunk on a reef, blocking the second and it managed to back a little way out before taking fire and sinking as well. The tank in this LCM managed to get out, and onto to the reef, only to drown in hidden shell hole moments later.

The rest of the 2nd platoon made it ashore on beach Red-3 and moved across Red-2 to hook up with their infantry. These tanks were ordered to support an infantry assault across the islands airfield, and ended up out in front of the marine grunts. One took a bunch of fire and tried to back up and fell into a shell crater and rolled over.  The other was damaged by a Japanese soldier with a magnetic mine, and then shot up by a hidden AT gun.  They were in the fight for 20 minutes or less. I suspect since the tanks names didn’t make it into the book I’m using as a reference that no one from either crew lived to tell the tale.

3rd Platoon re-enforced with one HQ tank managed to get all four tanks ashore, and had less trouble doing so than the other two platoons. Their good fortune ended their though. Cannonball, a command tank with the platoon leader aboard, Condor, Charlie and Commando and Colorado were the names of the five M4A2s that made it ashore. The commander on Red-3 ordered the tanks to move out ahead of the infantry, with no men in close support, and for the tanks to kill anything they found.

In under an hour, Condor was knocked out, how it was knocked varies in various reports, some claim a US Navy dive bomber took it out, but photos of the wrecked tank make it look like an AT gun or infantry close assault took it out. Cannonball took some damage from and AT gun, and in trying to get out of its line of fire managed to fall into a ditch filled with Japanese fuel drums. Apparently fire from a Navy fighter ignited the fuel, but the crew got out.  The survivors from both crews were trapped behind enemy lines for a while. Charlie got taken out at close range by an AT gun. The Jap AT gun put multiple rounds through the tanks side. Commando lived up to its name, ranging far ahead of the Marine lines and racking up two AT guns, and five pillboxes before enemy fire knocked it out.  Colorado had a gasoline bomb thrown on it, but the driver raced back to the beach and drove into the surf, putting out the fire.

USMC-C-Tarawa-p22

By nightfall, only Colorado, China Gal and Cecelia were operational, and China Gal and Cecelia tied into the Marine lines on Red-1 and Red-2, and Colorado did the same on Red-3. Things were all messed up, lots of ships had just dumped whatever cargo was easiest into the LVTs and other boats moving things into shore and there was a lot of trouble getting the things the tankers were going to need. The most important being main gun rounds for the tanks M3 75mm guns. Late that night heavy Japanese machine gun fire rained down on the base of the pier that they were using to bring in supplies. Colorado was sent to help, and shut the Japanese machine guns down soon after.

Things had gone poorly for the Marine tankers, but not just them, the attack was so disorganized due to much higher than expected casualties, the Marines only had a small toehold on the island, and a Japanese counter attack during the night would very likely have rolled the Marines right back into the water. Luck was on the Marines side, the Japs were even more screwed up and couldn’t manage one.

Day 2:

USMC-C-Tarawa-4

The Marines started trying to bring in more troops at dawn. These troops were met by a hail of machine gun fire from the Red-1/Red-2 junction. Cecelia, still without a working main gun was dispatched to engage the Japanese machine gun positions at the junction. The tank was only in action for a short time before it slid into a shell crater and its electrical system shorted out. The tank was at a steep enough angle the turret could not be rotated with the manual traverse, and had to be abandoned. I’m not sure if it was shock from the impact when it slid into the shell crater, or if there was water in the hole was deep enough to flood the tank.

The M4 hero of the day was China Gal, around 1100, she hooked up with a bunch of gyrene grunts and they attacked south from Red-1 towards the Green beaches. They never actually moved along the beach though, they stayed inland, behind the Japanese positions facing the beach, basically attacking from the Japanese defensive lines rear and flank. Two hours later, they had rolled up the whole western shore, opening the way for more troops to come in, and not under murderous fire. In many cases China Gal had to drive right up to the well-hidden concrete bunkers and blast them through the front slit, or rear door at point blank range to kill them. That night China Gal pulled almost all the way back to Red-1 and holed up with a few infantry around. They slept under the tank and would be back in action in the morning.

On day two, Colorado spent the day on Red-3 trying to kill Japanese positions at the base of the Burns-Philp Pier. Several of these positions had been wiped out the day before and re occupied by the Japanese over the night. Colorado worked closely with a bulldozer, the tank would move in close and blast the machine gun position and then the dozer would cover it over with sand, whether the Japanese inside were dead or not.

They worked out a system with the marine scouts who had led them in on the reef. The few that survived were used to scout targets for the tanks. The tankers made at least one of these scouts ride in the tank and show them were the action was from the inside at least once. The tank crews wanted to give the scouts an idea of how blind they really were, so he could appreciate and take it into consideration while they scouted.

The scouts worked out a system where they would get the tanks attention by beating on the hull with a spent 75mm shell,  because they rang like a bell, and could be heard inside the tank, and then using his rifle to indicate a target. He did this by aiming at the target, and then they would hold up fingers for how many yards away the Japanese soldiers were.  This worked well enough, but ringing the shell/bell on the hull put the ringer in danger of enemy fire.  Of course, once he got the tanks attention, if was the Japs shooting at the scout who had to be worried. These men would also drag dead and wounded marines from the path of the tank.

When the progress on the Green beaches was noticed, it was decided to send in 1st Battalion 6th Marines and B Company 2nd Tank Battalion ashore there, B Company was made up of light tanks.  One of the first LVT’s in hit a mine on the reef and blew up, once again losing a lot of important communication gear. Due to the heavy presence of mines on the reef and beach, 1/6 diverted north, delaying the landings, but ultimately coming ashore as an intact fighting unit, the first of the invasion.

The 1/6 landings went relatively well, but the light tanks of B Company had a lot of trouble. They came in on the wrong tide, and only one platoon would make it onto the reef, only to be 700 yards from shore, and high tide coming. The rest of B Company was diverted Red-2, landing before 1st Platoon got onto the reef.

All five M3A1 light tanks from the 1st Platoon got onto the reef, but only two would make it to land, the rest drowned in hole in the reef. The rest of the company got ashore only to lose another tank in a shell crater, leaving only two running.  The light tanks laagered in an abandoned Japanese airplane revetment and their crews dug foxholes under the tanks for the night. Crews that lost their tanks, dug in with other crews, under their tanks. At night, anything that moved got shot at, so everyone made sure they had a hole by nightfall. A few more lights from B Company would arrive before nightfall, but the rest still remained offshore.

As night fell on the second day, it was clear the Marines were winning, but it was also clear a whole hell of a lot of Marines had been killed. One of the infantry commanders still alive, Lieutenant Colonel David Shoup, issued a report that did not mention anything about a group of Marines being cut off holding a particular section of the island in it and concluded it with “Casualties: many. Percentage dead: unknown. Combat efficiency: we are winning. Lt, Col Shoup.”

USMC-C-Tarawa-7

Day 3:

At 0200 more B Company light tanks arrived off Red-2 and started to land and immediately started having problems. Of the first two lights ashore, one shorted out its electric system and was towed ashore by the other, only to be lost to enemy mortar fire. All through the night more B Company lights tried to get to shore. One platoon lost three out of five light tanks to drown out electrical system or other water related problems. By Morning they had five M3A1 tanks from two platoons ashore.

Later that morning 1st Battalion, 8th Marines attacked the Japanese positions at the base of the pier at the junction of Red-1/Red-2. They five light tanks supported the attack, and much like their larger cousins in C Company, the tankers found it hard to find anything to shoot at, so infantry scouts would often climb into the cramped tanks and lead them to the targets. When the targets turned out to be a pill box or bunker, it was found even firing point blank into the embrasures bunkers with little success. They found using 37mm canister rounds at point blank range, fired through an opening worked well enough. They lost a M3A1 to a Japanese soldier who dashed out and threw some kind of explosive onto the engine deck, blowing the engine up and setting the tank on fire. They lost another light to a mortar attack as well.

The light tanks would be pulled out and replaced by SPM, the SPM was an lightly armored LVT with a 75mm howitzer in a small turret. These vehicles fared little better than the light tanks.

China Gal would be called upon to help an attack reach the group of trapped marines. Elements of two companies from 1st Battalion 2nd Marines had managed to push to the center of the airfield on D-day. The Japanese figured out these marines had pushed far ahead, and attacked behind them, cutting them off. These Marines attacked to the south the next day, trying to break out while the other marines tried to fight to them. The attack to save them faltered, leaving them the nearly 200 Marines of 1/2 still trapped, now in a 200 by 50 yard area of thick bushes and underbrush, and they were low on ammo.

A little after 0800 China Gal, and the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines started an attack to relieve the trapped Marines. They also had seven more light tanks from B Company, who had made it to shore, helping. Major Jones, the commander of 1/6 kept tight control on the tanks, not letting any get further than 50 yards in front of the advancing gyrenes. Jones improvised a way to keep in communication with the tanks and kept one light tank back at his HQ to use its radios to control the other tanks. They attacked along a very narrow front, only about 100 yards wide. Even with the improved communications with the infantry through the use of the light tanks radios, right up at the front edge were the tanks were actually fighting, the commander of China Girl still found it necessary to open his hatch to talk to the Marines outside. To make it safer, the commander of the Sherman would rotate the turret, so his hatch was to the rear, then pop the hatch and rotate the cupola, the early split hatch commanders cupola rotated, to use one of the upright hatches to shield them from fire.

The tank infantry team advanced steadily, losing no more tanks, and crossing 800 yards, they releaved the cut off Marines by 1100. By this point the Marines supply lines had stabilized and a good flow of supplies was making it ashore, but one thing was not. Ammo for the M3 75mm gun was not in the cargo being sent from the ships offshore. This forced the tankers to scavenge what they could from the knocked out and drowned tanks.  The two operating M4 tanks would be reduced to firing 75mm pack howitzer ammo, it didn’t seat right, and they didn’t know how it was fused, but it kept the main guns in action.

Back at the junction of Red-1 and Red-2, where a large Japanese bunker complex, which included the Japanese Commanders command bunker, was still holding the Marines off. At 0930 a lucky mortar round took out one of the bunkers, causing a huge secondary explosion, this allowed Colorado to move in and knock out the other bunker guarding the main one. While the fight went on, the two B Company light tanks left in the area were used as ambulances, hauling wounded Marines back to an aid station.

As night fell, the Jap strong point with the huge bunker still stood. The M4 was used to haul supplies up to prepare for the next mornings renewed attack. Late that night at 0400 almost 400 Japanese troops rushed the Marine lines, attacking B company 1st Battalion 6th Marines, and the Marines won the fight, but it had come down to hand to hand combat.

Day 4: 

At 0700 on the morning of the 4th day of the battle, Navy aircraft bombed the hell out of the last of the japs holding out on the south east part of the island, a long narrow section, ending in the sea. The air attack was followed by marine artillery and naval gunfire support. One of the Pearl Harbor survivor battleships was off shore to deliver the fire. The USS Tennessee would remain offshore until December support the Marines through the mop up operation.

Freshly landed, 3rd Battalion 6th Marines passed through marine lines, heading for the Japanese strong point points on the east side of the Island. Colorado, China Gal and seven light tanks led the attack. They moved in a tight formation of tanks and infantry and rolled up the Japanese troops. The fight had left the Japanese, and many committed suicide. By 1310 the Marines of 3/6 had reached the eastern end of the island. The two M4A2 tanks proved to be decisive weapons at this stage, tearing through the last of the Japanese resistance in the area.

The last area the Japanese were still holding out in, at the junction of Red-1/2, with the big bunker, the area responsible for the majority of the Marine casualties. With only the support of a pair of SPMs the Marines finally crushed these last Japanese holdouts by 1305 when the Island was reported secure.

The cost had been one third of the landing force becoming casualties, 1696 killed and 2101 wounded. The Marines salvaged all the M4A2’s they could and took them back to the LSD Ashland, and they were rebuilt in Hawaii and used in later battles. One M4A2 remains on Tarawa, Cecelia, no matter how hard they tried she wasn’t going to come out of the shell hole, and as of 1992 she was still there, a steel monument to the Marines, Sailors and Soldiers who died taking the Betio, Tarawa Atoll.

Battle_Tarawa_Tank (1)

Cecelia now

The Marines learned a lot of hard lessons about using tanks at Tarawa; the biggest problem was communication with the supporting infantry units. Another big problem was the vulnerability of the tanks to water damage. It was also clear, the infantry units needed to train with the tanks they would be supported by in combat. The Marines of C Company had been thrown into combat with little training on the tanks, but still proved to be key players in the conquest of the island. The Marines would begin applying the lessons they learned, but not before their next use of the M4, this time M4A1s at Cape Gloucester, a swampy, jungle island in the Solomons, and not the best place for any tanks, but the M4 would prove it worth there as well.

Cape Gloucester: Who would be nuts enough to try using tanks in a swamp? The USMC that’s who. (coming soon)

#18 USMC Sherman Use: The Sherman Became A Key Part In Victory In The Pacific.

432px-USMC_logo.svg

Sherman use by the United States Marines:  “The enemy’s power lies in his tanks.” Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima, Okinawa.

 

Most people have the idea the Marines used the M4A2, and only the M4A2, and list things like ‘it was a diesel, like Navy landing craft used, so like common fuel bro’ as the reason the marines chose the tank.  The real reason they got A2, was that’s what was available when they asked, there wasn’t much choice involved, and they should feel lucky the army didn’t dump M3 Lee’s on them. At various times the Marines also used M4A1s, and M4A3, all with the 75mm gun.

By the end of the war the Marines would be experts in employing the tank, Infantry, team. The Marines, like their European Army counterparts used, Yankee ingenuity to modify their Shermans to help them survive combat their designers had no idea they would see. These modifications included improvised water proofing, and deep wading kits. They also included improvised add on armor made of wood and concrete, and the use of spikes and screens over the hatches to help prevent the Japanese from using explosives directly on the periscope ports and hatches.

The Marines had toyed around with tanks in the 20 and 30s but never had the budget to buy many. The ones they did buy were all light tanks that wouldn’t see combat use. The first tank they would use in combat in WWII was the M3 light, using it on in all major campaigns until 1943 when the Sherman entered the scene. The first combat for the Sherman would be Tarawa, were they used a battalion of tank that was mixed, two companies of lights and one of mediums. After Tarawa, the use of lights would not be fully suspended, but the Sherman would be the tank of choice for the rest of the war and lights would be phased out.

The marines ultimately ended up with six tank battalions and a training school at Camp Eliot California. The first two battalions formed were the 1st and 2nd and deployed without training at the tank school, and a lot of rejects from other units. After the first two battalions formed, most of the Marines tankers went through the school, and the school trained almost all the new NCOs and officers.  When the war ended, all but the 1st and 2nd were disbanded, and the 1st and 2nd have remained active since the beginning, and are still in operation today.

When the fighting was over on Okinawa, Major-General Lemuel Shepard, the Marine ground commander had this to say: “If any one supporting arm can be singled out as having contributed more than any others during the progress of the campaign, the tank would certainly be selected.”

The Sherman would go on serving the Marines in Korea, though by then it was just the M4A3 105 tanks and Sherman based recovery vehicles.

1235235 M4_Sherman_and_6th_Division_Marines_Entering_Naha_Okinawa_1945 M4_sherman_Iwo_Jima_1945

#3 The Sherman Variants: The Design Matures

The Sherman Variants: So Many Shermans, so Confusing! Updated 4/13

us armor in ww2
M4A4’s in desert training center in California.

First off, Americans referred to the Sherman as the M4, or M4 Medium, or Medium, the Sherman name was not commonly used until post WWII. The British came up with the name for the M4 and referred to it with their own designation system that is covered in more detail later. They also named the Lee, and Stuart, and at some point the US Army just stuck with the naming scheme. The full story behind this is still a minor mystery, with US war time documents confirming the ‘general’ names were at least used on paper by the US Army during the war.

Now let’s cover the factory production versions of the Sherman. Also keep in mind; it is very hard to define just how a Sherman may be configured without really knowing where and when it was produced. In some rare cases, large hatch hull, 75mm armed Shermans got produced with normal ammo racks, when the norm for large hatch hull tanks was wet ammo racks.

Then you have post war rebuilds, where the Army swapped 76 turrets onto 75mm M4A3 HVSS hulls during depot level rebuilds.  It would not be impossible for a field repair depot to swap a turret from one knocked out tank, onto the hull of another, making an oddball. You also have to take into account post war monuments are sometimes Frankenstein tanks, in one case with a T23 on a small hatch hull.  You can also run into a Frankenstein tank in museums, or post war civilian restorations. In many cases museum tanks are old range relics that need restoration, in some cases the tank was in decent shape and a cosmetic restoration can easily be done. For the civilian tanker, who wants a running Sherman, also has to get them from a gunnery range, then, the long process of rebuilding the tank can start. I link to a few places that cover a restoration, and these guys do amazing work, taking tanks that you could never imaging running or looking like a tank again, and bringing them back to life.

The nice thing about a tank, as far as a WWII collectable vehicle goes, say compared to an Airplane, like a P-51 or even SNJ, is tanks won’t breakdown, and kill you by falling out of the sky. If you make a big error in a tank, at worst, you’re going to take out a building, flop it on its side, or sink it in deep mud or something, all not really life threatening.  Once you have the tank, running it is going to be a lot cheaper than a vintage aircraft as well.  The other nice thing is if you’re handy, you can work on it yourself, without having to get a certified aircraft mechanic to sign off on all your work.  You do need a hell of a lot of heavy equipment to really work on a tank though, but you don’t have annuals, and hanger rental costs! This may be why the hobby of owning a tank is becoming more popular in the United States!

M4DV
M4 DV early Sherman tank. Because the M4 started production after the M4A1 and M4A2, and M4A4 it started production with cast differential cover, and heavy duty suspension, but still had DV ports.

M4 Sherman: First in Name, 4th Into Production. 

These tanks used the same R975 motor as the M3, and M3A1. The vast majority of the bugs in this automotive system were worked out before the M4 even started production. This really helped give the Sherman its reputation for reliability and ease of repair. The M4 had a welded hull with a cast turret mounting the M3, 75mm gun. Early variants had three hull machine guns, and two, turret mounted machine guns. The hull guns were all M1919A4 .30 caliber machine guns, two fixed, and one mounted in a ball mount for the co-drivers use. The fixed guns were deleted from production very rapidly. The turret armament remained unchanged for the whole production run: Using the M3 75mm gun with the M1919A4 coaxial machine gun and M2 .50 caliber mounted on the roof. The turret would be the same turret used on all early Shermans and would be interchangeable on all production Shermans. This version was not produced with the later improved T23 turret but did get some large hatch hulls in special variants.

M4105W
M4 105, this tank does not have the factory installed front sprockets

There were two variants of the M4 to be built with the large hatch hull. The first, the M4 (105) was a large hatch hull mated to the 105mm howitzer, on the M52 mount, in the standard 75mm turret. These hulls did not have wet ammo racks or gyro stabilizers, and the 105mm turrets had an extra armored ventilator, the only turrets to have them. The M4 (105) gun tanks had a special mantlet, with four large screws in the face, unique to 105 tanks. Production started in February of 44, and continued well into 45, with late production M4 (105) tanks getting HVSS suspension. These tanks were used as replacements for the M7 Priest in tank units, and spent most of their time being used as indirect fire support, like the M7 they replaced. These tank also had exhaust deflecting vents installed in the back to help reduce dust from being stirred up.

 

 

M4Composite
M4 composite hull, small hatch hull, late 75mm turret with loaders hatch

One other variant of the M4 to get the large hatch hull(100 or so small hatch casting were made as well) was the M4 ‘hybrid’, this hull was welded, but used a large casting very similar to the front of the M4A1 on the front of the hull. It was found that most of the welding hours building the welded hull tanks were spent on the glacis plate. They figured out by using one large casting, incorporating the hatches and bow gun would save on welding time and labor costs.

These M4 hybrids were used by the British to make Ic Fireflies. They liked the 75mm turret these tanks came with since many already had a loaders hatch, this saved them time on the conversion since they didn’t have to cut one. Most of the M4 composite tanks were shipped to Europe or the Pacific, making survivors rare.

The M4 along with the M4A1 were the preferred US Army version of the Sherman until the introduction of the M4A3. This tank was made in five factories from July of 42 to March of 45, 7584 produced. As far as the US Army was concerned, the M4, and M4A1 were interchangeable.

M4A1 Sherman: First Into Production, And When It Did Go, It Was The Most Advanced Tank In The World.

m4a1_lima38
Early M4A1 Sherman from the 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers,  gathered up just before the start of Operation Lightfoot, the second battle of El Alamein. The photo was taken in late October 1942  and at this time the Sherman M4A1 was a cutting edge tank
M4_Sherman
M4A1 76 w, much like the type that would be used in Operation Cobra, beautifully restored.

This was virtually the same tank as the M4, with the same motor and automotive systems and armament. The key difference was the cast upper hull. This huge upper hull casting was one piece. This was a very hard thing to do with casting technology at the time, and something the Germans could not have reproduced, they lacked the advanced technology, and facilities needed to do so. Everything from hatches to wheels, and turrets, and guns were interchangeable with the M4 and other Sherman models. This version saw production longer than any other hull type. It also saw all the upgrades like the improved large hatch hull with wet ammo racks, the T23 turret with 76mm gun, and HVSS suspension system. It was 30 of these M4A1 76 HVSS tanks that were the last Shermans ever produced. The M4A1 was also the first to see combat use with the improved M1 gun and T23 turret during operation Cobra. These tanks would also be the basis for the Israeli M51 Sherman. Three factories produced 9527 M4A1s with all turret types from Feb 42 to July of 45.

The US Marines used one battalion of these tanks on the Cape Gloucester campaign, all small hatch M4A1 75 tanks. This was the only use of this type by the U.S. Marines.

M4A2 Sherman: The Second Sherman Into Production!

M4A2_75
Mid-production small hatch M4A2, courtesy of the Sherman Minutia site.
SC205635
A late production M4A2 76w, probably produced by Fisher, in Soviet use.

article-0-1FF75A4400000578-318_964x672

This version of the Sherman used a welded hull nearly identical to the M4, but with a pair of vented armored grates on the rear hull deck. The M4A2 tanks used the GM 6046 twin diesel. This version was produced with all the improvements the other types got, like the large hatch hull with wet ammo racks, the T23 turret with improved M1 gun, and HVSS suspension. This version would see very limited combat in US hands, most being shipped to Russia with a few early hulls going to the Brits and USMC. This was the preferred version for Soviet lend lease deliveries, since the USSR was using all diesel tanks. It was produced in six factories with 10,968 of all turret types produced from April of 42 to July 45.

M4A2, M10, M36B2 clutch lockout unit

A little trivia about this version, the Sherman used in the movie Fury, was actually a late production M4A2 76 HVSS tank. The only way you can tell a late A2 from a late A3 is by the size of the armored grills on the back deck. They did a great job of hiding this area in the movie.

The Marines operated a lot of small hatch and a fairly large number of large hatch M4A2 tanks, until the supply of 75mm armed versions dried up in late 1944. Then they switched over to large hatch M4A3 75w tanks, but there were some A2 holdouts amongst the six battalions.

m4a2 early side M4A2 early early bogies small gun shield M4A2 early production, early bogies

 

M4A3 Sherman: The Best Version Of The Sherman, Both in 75mm and 76mm

m4a375mm
Large hatch M4A3 75w
m4a376w_60
M4A3 76w HVSS tank, near Bastogne during the battle of the bulge. The Tank is with the 35th Tank Battalion, 4th AD. The photo was taken January 8th 1945

This would be the base for what would be the final Sherman in US Army use, seeing action all the way out to the Korean War in US Army hands. This tank had a welded hull just like the M4, A2, and A4, but used a new motor. The Ford GAA V8, this motor took some time for its bugs to be worked out, so unlike say, the Nazi Germans, the US Army didn’t use it until it was ready for serious production. When it was, it became the preferred US Army version of the tank in both the 75mm and 76mm armed tanks. It would see all the improvements, and be the first hull type to take the HVSS suspension system into combat for the US Army. The M4A3E8 or M4A3 tank with T23 turret and HVSS suspension bolted on would be the final and ultimate US Army Sherman. It would be produced in three factories with all turret types, 12,596 built in total between June 42 and June of 45.

M4A3 instrament panel, late
M4A3 76w Instrament Panel

After WWII when the Army wanted to standardize on one Sherman type, any M4A3 large hatch hull they could find would have a T23 turret and HVSS suspension installed on it. The Army was so thorough in these conversions no M4A3 large hatch 75mm gun tanks are known to have survived with the original turrets installed.  Any M4A1 HVSS 76 and M4A2 HVSS 76 tanks in Army inventory would have been robbed of their suspensions and turrets so they could be installed on M4A3 large hatch hulls.

M4AE2-SHERMAN-JUMBO
M4A3E2 Jumbo

M4A3E2_36

M4A3E2 Jumbo

The M4A3E2 Jumbo: Fishers Fat and Special Baby!

FTA was the sole producer of one very special variant of the Sherman, the M4A3E2 Jumbo. This version of the Sherman was the assault Sherman, though not expressly designed for it, was manufactured to be able to lead a column up a road and take a few hits from German AT guns or tanks so they could be spotted without having to sacrifice the tank. It had a lot of extra armor, and could take a lot of hits before being knocked out, but was still not impervious to German AT gun fire. Only 254 of these tanks were produced, and all but four were shipped to Europe for use by the US Army. They were all armed with the M3 75mm gun. There was a surplus of M1A1 76mm guns in Europe due to an aborted program re arm 75mm Sherman tanks with the guns. Many of the Jumbo’s ended up with these guns, but none were ever factory installed.

3083084a

The tank was no different in automotive components from the M4A3 tanks, with the sole difference being the slightly lower final drive gear ratio, going from a 2.84:1 ratio in the base Shermans, to 3.36:1 on the Jumbos. This reduced the top speed slightly but helped the tank get all the extra armor moving. The Jumbos were well liked by their crews and in great demand; no more were built though, the only batch being produced from May to July of 1944.   Had the invasion of Japan been needed, a special Jumbo with larger turret that included a flame thrower was considered, but we all know how that story ended.

. . .

The M4A3 (75)w and later 105 was issued to the Marines when the M4A2 75mm tanks went out of production. These would all have been large hatch M4A3 75w tanks, and they may have gotten some with HVSS.

M4A3-Sherman-105mm-Dozer-latrun-1

M4A4 Sherman: The Sherman No One Wanted At First, But In The End Was A Very Important Model,  At Least To The British

m4a4_29
M4A4 being used by the French

m4a4_33

M4A4OTHERSIDE M4A4 SIDE M4A4 rear M4A4 DV M4A4 OFSET m4a4 FRONT SIDE

This tank is the oddball of Sherman tanks. It had a welded hull and used the A-57 multibank motor. A tank motor made from combining five car motors on one crank case. As complicated as this sounds, it was produced in large numbers and was reliable enough to see combat use, though not in American hands in most cases. In US use they tried to limit it to stateside training duty. The Brits found it more reliable than their native power plants and liked it just fine. The A4 version never got the improved large hatch hull or T23 turret with M1 gun. Most were shipped to the Brits via lend lease and many were turned into Vc Fireflies, making it the most common Firefly type. The US Marines operating these tanks in the states as training tanks, 22 of them for two months before they were replaced by M4A2s. This tank had a longer hull, like its Lee cousin to accommodate the big A-57 motor. It was the first Sherman version to go out of production. It was produced in one factory (CDA) from July of 42, to November of 43 with 7499 built.

chrysler-a57-multibank-installation
The massive A57 motor being installed at CDA

The A4 has the honor of being the heaviest and largest standard Sherman. The larger hull to accommodate the A57 motor, and the motor itself added weight. The British used these tanks extensively in combat. These tanks show up in British test reports as well, often pitted against tanks like the Cromwell, in reliability or other tests, and usually coming out ahead. Anyone who has ever changed the spark plugs on their car should really be able to appreciate how hard a motor made by tying five six cylinder automobile engines together, on one crank would be. It is easy to identify an A4 from the side, there’s a bulge on the engine deck just behind the turret, and a bulge in the belly in the same place, both to house a huge cooling fan. The bogie assemblies are spaced further apart, this is very obvious compared to the rest of the Sherman models, and also required a longer set of tracks. These longer tracks spread the added weight out, so it had no effect on flotation.

M4A4 small hatch storage
M4A4 early ammo layout. This would be the same ammo layout on all early tanks before the armor was added to the hull sponson ammo racks and the ready ammo around the turret basket base was removed

It turns out this version of the Sherman served with more nations than any other version! These include Britain, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Czechoslovakia, India, China and the USA, all used this tank in combat at some point. I find it very interesting the most complicated Sherman saw such widespread use, and still earned a reputation for reliability second to none. The majority of the British Shermans on D-Day were this model as well.

For a tank the US Army didn’t want, it had an excellent combat record, with the nations that got stuck with it.  The M4A4 is one of the rarest Shermans to find running with its original motor. The A57 would be very troublesome to keep running for a civilian hobbyist, and I have my doubts about how easy it is to get Chrysler inline six parts in Europe. Few M4A4’s remained in the United States, since the ones used in training were refurbished by Chrysler and then shipped off to the UK for conversion to Fireflies.

. . .

All Sherman variants share a lot of details and most spare parts interchange. Only the motors really call for different parts. All early Sherman tanks had 51mm of armor at 56 degrees on the front hull, and 76mm on the front of the turret. The 56 degree hulls are called small hatch hulls because the driver and co-driver had small hatches that forced them to twist sideways to get in and out. They also started out with direct vision ports along with periscopes for crew vision. Even the cast tanks matched these specs and the hatches from a cast tank could be used on a welded tank.  These early hulls had some of the ammo racks in the sponsons above the tracks. Not a great place for ammo, but not an uncommon one for it either. As they improved the hull, they added plates over the direct vision ports and eventually removed them from the castings. Large plates were eventually welded over the ammo racks on the sides, and this extra armor was eventually just added into the casting on the cast hulls. It’s safe to say no small hatch tanks were factory produced with a 76mm gun or improved T23 turret.

The major hull change came when they upgraded the drivers and co drives hatches making them bigger. They also thickened the front armor to 64mm but reduced the slope to 47 degrees to fit the new driver’s hatches.  The M4 (hybrid and 105 only), M4A1, A2, and A3 were produced with these improved large hatch hulls. Many of these improved large hull tanks had the original 75mm gun and turret. Even the M4A3 with HVSS suspension was produced with the 75mm gun and turret. Most of the large hatch production was with the new and improved T23 turret.  These larger hatch hulls would still accept the majority of the spares the older hulls used and the lower hull remained largely unchanged and would accept all the suspension types. Any large hatch M4A3 hull was likely converted to an M4A3 76 HVSS post WWII.

Through the whole production run minor details were changed. The suspension saw many different version before the final HVSS type was produced. The track types also changed and there were many variants made from rubber and steel, or steel. There were even at least six different types of road wheel! There are so many minor detail changes, the scope is to big to cover in this post, needless to say, the only other tank I know of with so many minor changes over the production run was the Tiger, and in the Tigers case it’s just sad, with so few produced, it means almost no two tigers were the same. This was not the case for the Shermans and the changes did not slow production down at all and in many cases were just different because a particular part, like an antenna mount, or driver’s hood, could have been sourced from a different sub-contractor, and the parts may look different, but would function exactly the same. Tiger parts are not good at interchanging without modification, and a crew a craftsmen to custom fit them. The changes made to the Sherman were either to incorporate better parts, or to use a locally made substitute part for one in short supply, so making their own version allowed them to continue production without a slowdown.

To really get a handle on these differences there are two really great sources.

This is the easy, way: Sherman Minutia site  a great site that really covers the minor detail changes on the Sherman tank very well.  You can spend hours reading it and looking over the pictures. It explains little of the combat history of the Sherman but covers the minor changes on the vehicles themselves very well. You can spend hours on this site learning about minor Sherman details. It is also a primary source for this post.

Another great way is to get a copy of: Son of a Sherman volume one, The Sherman design and Development by Patrick Stansell and Kurt Laughlin. This book is a must have for the Sherman plastic modeler or true enthusiast. It is filled with the tiny detail changes that took place on the Sherman production lines from start to finish. They cover everything from lifting eyes to ventilators, casting numbers, to most minor change to the turrets. Get it now before it goes out of print and the price skyrockets. I liked it so much I bought two!

The turret saw continual change as well, but remained basically the same. The 75mm gun never changed but its mount and sighting system did. The turret lost the pistol port, and then gained it back. It gained a rotor shield over time and an extra hatch. All these detail changes are covered on the site above and in the Son of a Sherman book. The important thing to note was the tank saw continual improvement to an already reliable, and easy to produce design. The Sherman was easy to produce for an industrial nation like the USA, but beyond Nazi Germany’s technical capabilities for several reasons, like large casting and the gun stabilization system, or even multiple reliable motors to power the tens of thousands of tanks made.

In the basics section I’m only going to cover one more thing. The Sherman tank was not as blind as the tanks it faced. The M4 series, from the first production tank, to the final Sherman that rolled off any of the production lines, were covered in periscopes or view ports for the crew. The gunner had a wide angle periscope that had incorporated the site for the main gun, and they very quickly added a telescopic site to go with it. The commander had a large rotating periscope in his rotating copula. The loader had a rotating periscope and the driver and co-driver had two, one in their hatch, and another mounted in the hull right in front of them once the DV ports were deleted (non-rotating). Later version added a direct vision cupola and a periscope for the loader in his new hatch. All these periscopes could be lowered and the port closed, and if damage easily and quickly replaced from inside the tank. All this gave the Sherman an advantage in spotting things outside the tank; they were still blind, just not as blind as most of the tanks they would face. Finding an AT gun in a bush could be very challenging for any tank, and infantry if not scared off by the presence of a tank in the first place can sneak up on one pretty easy.

This was a big advantage when it saw combat and throughout the tanks career it was always one of the best if not the best tank of the war. It was reliable, the crew had a good chance of spotting enemies before other tank crews, the gun was stabilized, fast firing, and accurate. It was as good or better than most of the tanks it faced, even the larger German tanks. These tanks were largely failures, with only long debunked Nazi propaganda propping up their war record. The Sherman has the opposite problem.

Smiling_British_Soldiers_in_M4_Sherman_Tank_1943

Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Sherman by Hunnicutt, Combat Lessons, Son of a Sherman by Stansell and Laughlin,  M4 Sherman tank at war by Green, Tanks are a Might Fine Thing by Stout, TM9-752, TM9-754, TM9-759, TM9-731B