Category Archives: tracks

Post #70: Report on the New Weapons Board

Post #70: Report on the New Weapons Board

I downloaded this PDF, Report on The New Weapons Board 1944,  someplace, but since I don’t remember where I hosted it too.  The report documents the feedback the troops gave to the board on the various weapons they demonstrated.

The report was put together in early 44 to document feedback from the troops on current weapons, and proposed improvements, and replacements. There is a good amount of information on the M4 medium tank, and US Armor in general. Most of the combat feedback comes from the fighting in Italy, and North Africa.

The report also sheds an interesting light and gives evidence for the view that the US Army didn’t consider the improved early Sherman bad, and only wanted it replaced with something much better.  It also gives some interesting insight into the Shermans and what condition they were in when they got to the using units.

Feedback on current equipment and changes.

This is a typical M4 Sherman in Italy, the battalion is being used as an artillery battery, and this is an early production M4 with the M34 gun mount and it probably has a three-piece differential as well. It may even have DV ports. These tanks were common in the MTO even into 1944.

The first thing is this to note about the Sherman is the first mention of it is praise for the current models. This quote stands out, “No new type is desired unless the improvement in military characteristics is sufficient to warrant the changes and defects in the present standard tanks are avoided.” 

Another early model M4 in Italy, cheek armor, M34 gun mount, and an early 3 piece differential.

They did have a list of improvements they did want either done to the Sherman and to make sure the follow-on model, the T20 series incorporated them. 

  1. They wanted a 76mm gun like the 3-inch gun on the M10.  The news of the 76mm M1 series and the new Shermans mounting the gun interested the troops a lot. They brought an M4E6 76mm Sherman to show to the troops.
  2. Improved suspension and tracks. It turns out the rubber block tracks with no chevron were not well liked and wore out very quick in rocky, hilly terrain. The steel chevron blocks with rubber backs were well like and lasted much longer. This feedback is mostly from the MTO, the mountainous and rocky landscape was hard on tanks and even the Sherman had some issues. The complaints about the suspension had more to do with width than durability.
  3.   They wanted armored air cleaners on the M4 and M4A1 tanks.  It turns out the Air cleaners mounted under the overhang on the rear hull of the M4 and M4A1 tanks were prone to damage, and this damage was not expected and didn’t pick up until Italy so there was a shortage. All other models had the air cleaners inside the hull. Some units added improvised armor and some were added later in the production runs.
  4. Better ballistic angle around the front of the transmission housing.  The old three-part differential is what they are talking about. Most early Shermans had this type, and the armor was thinner than the later cast single piece units. There were two cast versions, an early thinner, but still no worse than the three-piece unit, and a later improved thicker one. There was a demand for add-on armor over this area, but it was never approved.
  5.  More power. Yet, when the M4A3 Ford GAA powered Shermans came online, they did not want to swap them in as replacements, and only wanted whole units who trained on them stateside first to be issued the improved tanks.  The M4A4 and M4A2 were not big enough improvements to switch to those motors. 
  6. Diesel engine. The US Army rejected the GM 6046, claiming it was not as reliable as the R975, but all the nations that did use this motor liked it.
  7.  They wanted better sights and fire control equipment. Many tanks in the MTO and NATO(North African Theater of Operation) had not gotten the M34A1 gun mounts with telescopic sights. The mount for the periscope sight had not seen major improvements, though there were field mods to make it work. The using arm was enthusiastic about the changes in the second gen Shermans fire control, but wanted even more advanced features, like rangefinders, and improved telescopes, since the current ones shot loose too!

There is also other tank related info.

  • The M3 75mm Gun –  Though well-liked for infantry support and deemed to be reliable and durable, the using arms almost universally felt the German 75mm PAK 40 guns were much better anti-tank weapons, and a high-velocity 76mm gun was in demand.
  • 75mm ammunition – these fixed rounds came unfixed, sometimes even in their travel packaging.  They wanted this fixed. They wanted the WP shells ballistics to match the ballistics of the common HE shell.
  • Large caliber cartridge cases – Steel cases for the 75mm rounds for the M3 gun were well received and proved more durable.  This was not the case for 105mm howitzer rounds.
  • 105mm howitzer armed tanks – This was not a popular notion because the M7 105mm GMC was inaccurate when used for direct fire to support infantry assaults.  The new weapons board did not agree, and plans for this vehicle were already in motion, and it would be well liked once issued.
  • Tank Officers – they wanted a tanker officer in the high-level headquarters to advise Division and higher level officers the best way to use tanks. AA and Tank destroyer officers were already an accepted part of these HQ staffs.
  • the 17-pdr gun – There was more interest in using this gun in M10s since the install was much simpler, the Sherman install was complicated and cramped and the Army was leary.
  • Tank Tracks – They show up again and the plain rubber block tracks could wear out in 250 miles in rocky terrain and lacked good off-road traction, and the using arm felt they were only good for training on roads.  The T54E1 steel chevron type was preferred and much more durable, but the T48 rubber chevron would work in the MTO but wore out faster than steel types. The T49 bar cleat was also not good on sidehill terrain. The using arm wanted a wider center guided track in the MTO because the side guided tracks on the Sherman were prone to throwing on irregular and rocky side slopes. Extended end connectors were well received by the using arms.
  • Tank Suspension – Sherman suspension was found to be durable, with few volute springs failing. The biggest problem was the bogie wheels since the rubber tires had an erratic failure rate, and unlike the spring failures, usually sidelined the tank.
  • Ammunition stowage – They using arms were not interested in changes that reduced the number of ready rounds. The turret ready racks were very popular and crews did not like their removal with the ‘quick fix’ mods. They were willing to risk the higher fire chance, for the faster rate of fire the early storage setup allowed. The crews did not get their way on this one, at least until the M26 went into production.
  • The Radios – They wanted a better radio in the M32 recovery vehicles and better, more comfortable headphones for the armor crews.
  • The M10 GMC – This TD was very popular, and received high praise all around. The using arm did not require a replacement, just improved M10s. ♠ One thing to note, most M10 GMCs in MTO lacked the Azimuth indicator and range quadrant. Since the M10s get used as artillery a lot in the MTO, they would like replacements to have them.

    M10 in Italy.
  • Replacement gun tubes – The using arms were very annoyed, that all type of gun barrels from machine gun and mortar, to tank and artillery, were dispensed at a very miserly rate.  The using arm argued replacement barrels should be bought at the rate that took into consideration how much ammunition for the same weapon was produced.
  • Improved fire control for all relevant vehicles –  They wanted built-in rangefinders, or portable ones supplied. Better periscope and telescope sights and all vehicles that could be used for indirect fire to receive the full suite of tools to perform the task.   I had never heard that some Shermans did not get these automatically. I’m not sure why some Shermans and TDs didn’t have the Azimuth indicator M19 and elevation quadrant M9. Maybe the crews dumped them to save space, maybe the tanks were rushed and built and approved without them I’ll try and find out. They mention 75% of the tanks in England had these items, but less 50% had them in the MTO.  Tank units were much more commonly used for indirect fire in the MTO than they would be in the ETO.
  • Engines –  The R975C-1 was getting around 200 hours before needing replacement. This was fine with the using arm, though they would like 60 to 100 more horsepower.  The R975 needed little maintenance to reach the expected 200 hours and many run much longer.  The lack of liquid cooling system has some advantages.
  • Powertrain –  There was a higher than expected rate of clutch failure in the desert campaigns. The clutch system was also improved on the production like with improved leverage to lower the clutch pedal pressure. Many MTO units did not receive the improved clutches or linkages.  The better clutches lead to better transmission life and better shifting, and even without the improved clutches, transmission life went up in Italy.  The powertrain offered excellent service and generally outlived the engines by several overhauls if not damaged.
  • Crew comfort – the Driver and Co-drivers seats in the Sherman were found to be ok, but higher seat backs were requested along with deeper seat cushions. The Gunners seat was found to be ok but could use the same improvements as the driver’s seats but the Command and Loaders seats were deemed all but useless. These would be improved in the later models of the Sherman and various TDs.  Crews do not use their seatbelts, fearing it complicating bailing out, and more padding inside was not wanted because the crews felt it was a fire hazard.  The M4 and M4A1 tanks were praised for good ventilation. There was also some discussion about the value of turret baskets, and if they were needed at all.
  • Ammo Storage – The early Sherman ready racks in the turret were well liked by the using arms, but they felt the sponson and hull ammo racks were no good and didn’t support the 75mm Shells enough. They would often separate and dump a bunch of gunpowder inside the tank making a deadly mess to clean.  The using arm tends to stuff the tank with extra rounds, adding to the shell durability problems. These problems would be addressed in the second gen improved hull tanks.
  • General storage – The current storage space on the Sherman was deemed ok, but better, easier to access bins were requested. They also wanted any storage in the floor to be resistant to getting filled with dirt or water.
  • Machine guns – The bow machine gun saw a lot of use, but its usefulness would be improved by a sighting system. One was in the works, but not at the point of this report.  The M1919 machine guns, both bow, and co-ax were reliable as long as the crew was careful with the ammo. Long road trips could vibrate rounds loose in the belts and cause problems, but under normal conditions, this was rarely a problem with well-trained crews.  The crews wanted a better adjustment method for matching the co-ax gun to the gunner’s site, the current one was not very good.  The .50 AA mount was not well liked or considered important. Requests were made for a better mount for ground targets.
  • Turret hatches – The current split hatch was deemed ok, but the crews like the looks of the new all around cupola and were also enthusiastic about a loader’s hatch on the new 76 armed tanks.
  • Armor – There does not seem to be a consensus on how much armor a tank should have by the using arms.  Armored Force troops felt the current level on the Sherman was fine, but wouldn’t mind more as long as it did not negatively affect flotation, maneuverability, and speed. ♠The British generally wanted heavier armor than the US Army.    ♠♠Combat in Italy showed the differential was taking more hits than anything, and another request was made for add-on armor for the area.
  • Sand Shields – The general consensus on these was they were useless in any theatre and needed to be redesigned. They needed to be easier to install, and designed to not trap mud.
  • Flotation – The using arms wanting tanks around 10 pounds per square inch. This was very optimistic since even the HVSS Shermans came in around 11 PSI, the basic 75 VVSS Sherman around 13.  It seems the Germans flooded fields in Sicily and Italy when they retreated, and Shermans got bogged down most of the time.  They offered the suggestion of just stretching the Sherman since more length would help, and the British M4A4 tanks, the longest production Shermans, had no maneuverability issues.
  • Maneuverability –   In the US Army there was a desire across the board for more maneuverability, in tanks. One thing to keep in mind though is the tanks in the MTO were older and most had single anchor steering brakes, the double anchor made the tanks easier to maneuver requiring less lever pressure. The ability to skid turn was not something US troops seemed interested in.
  • Accessories – The troops had a lot of feedback here. ♠ The instruments and gauges in medium tanks were not good quality, if they worked they didn’t work long. Oil pressure gauges fail, and no one worries about the motor until both oil pressure gauges die and a low oil pressure light comes on. This seems to be US feedback, I don’t recall hearing complaints from the Brits about Gauge quality. I wonder if the different tank plants sourced gauges from different companies. ♠♠ The compasses on US tanks would not stay calibrated. This would be a very annoying problem but eventually solved on second gen Shermans. ♠♠♠ Armor for the air cleaners on the M4 and M4A1 comes up again. ♠♠♠♠ The Auxiliary giving good service, and are well liked, but the using arms would like the area around the fuel tank filler for the Aux motor to be waterproofed better.  They also noted replacements were hard to come by.
  • Modifications –  ♠ The jist on this one was, in many cases modifications can be seen by inspecting a vehicle, but in others, access panels or more might have to be removed to check. The using arms proposed a record imprinted on a brass plate, attached to the vehicle, listing all the modifications that had been applied. ♠♠ They also wanted to emphasize that they did not want any modifications that would not ‘materially increase  the efficiency of the vehicles’
  • Development – The using arms were curious about the items in development, and finding out a large organization was working to improve almost everything was a morale booster. There was also interest in the T-20 series and if any test vehicles would be sent over for some for feedback like the M4A1 prototype has been.

 

Information and feedback on future equipment. 

  • The M4E6 or pre-production M4A1 76w –  ♠ This improved version was well liked by everyone who checked it out. The bigger turret was a big hit, though not much bigger, it seemed roomier. ♠♠ The improved fire control gear was very well liked and considered an ‘outstanding improvement’.  The 76mm gun was well liked, and everyone seemed to agree needed. ♠♠♠ The only real concern was the less effective HE round, but it was hoped they would make a better one.
  • The M18 76mm GMC –  The first and bad impression this vehicle lefts was it had no armor, and seemed very mechanically complicated.  The fire control gear was well liked. When the vehicle was demonstrated, the tracks and unthrowable tracks also got a lot of attention.  No one was sure if the speed would be useful, but the maneuverability was well liked. ♠ The same story with interest in deployment, not as a replacement vehicle, but fulling trained units from the ZI would be ok. ♠♠ This vehicle was not wanted by M10 units already deployed. Units equipped with it in the ZI then deployed were better received, the M10 was still more popular.  An M10 with a 90mm gun was the preferred replacement.
  • M4A3 75W – Even though the Ford GAA was a big improvement, it was not enough of an improvement to take them on as replacement vehicles. They were fine for them to be brought with units already fully trained on them.
  •  The M1 Dozer blade kit – This kit was an instant hit and would have many uses, including clearing rubble after heavy artillery reduced a strong point.  Currently, this has to be done by an unarmored bulldozer and casualties were high.  it was hoped they would work well enough to help tanks dig in or SPG prepare a position.  ♠ Through testing, they found this kit could be installed on any Sherman tank type.

This report goes into detail in the appendixes listing all the items demonstrated, and where they were demonstrated. They also include data on how many of the various items demonstrated were ordered by the various theatres.

I think it’s pretty clear the MTO was a backwater. The general shortage of spare parts in the MTO and a shortage of personnel to staff the proper echelons of repair and salvage system are also indicators of this. As they got ready for the June of 44 landings, the troops in England would be getting top priority and supplies and spares.

There is a lot of info on other weapons like artillery and small arms, not directly Sherman related and therefore, uncovered here. The report is definitely worth a download and re through.  I think it offers a good insight into the thinking involved on not swapping to 76mm armed Shermans before the Normandy landings.

 

#35 Shermans In Motion

Sherman Related Videos 

This is the Post I’m going to put interesting video content I find on the Internet.

The Motors: All The Sherman Production Motors Being Run

Video of all the major tank motors running. I’ll add more videos as I find them.

R975 running.

https://youtu.be/NIJPzCOQZKM

GM 6046 running.

A57 being run.

Ford GAA being run up.

 

Tanks in motion: Sherman Tanks on Film, Either Modern Restorations or Period Videos. 

Here is an older video of an M4A1 that was restored and had new tracks installed.  They really put this tank through the paces and it’s worth it even if the music is a bit dated.

 

Here’s a short video of an M4A4 driving around.

The M4 105 Dozer, a video dedicated to just it! bonus includes Sherman drifting! They look like they are having so much fun in this video! Well until they bust it! This video is a BLAST!!!!

Shermans and a M31 ARV gutted and made to look like a M3 Lee again.

This was a Normandy Memorial day in 2013 I think. In this video, we see an M4A1 75 start up and then drive off, almost stalling.  Then later we get to see an M4A1 76w driving around.  Interesting how close they let people get to moving tanks.  Parked nextr to it is an M10 tank destroyer.

This is another Normandy D-Day Memorial, 2014. The Video starts off with an mid production small hatch M4A1 75, with a later production M10 behind it and then an M18.  After that an small hatch M4a2, and then the Fury M4A2 76 HVSS tank.

Ontario Regiments Museum’s M4A2 76 W HVSS tank driving around!

A video of a restored M4A1 driving in circles firing off its main gun, I’m sure modified to fire on propane as a noise maker.

A very long video, POV from the co drivers spot, on a restored, small hatch M4A1.

Restoration Videos

Here is a video of a restored Firefly Vc, a Sherman M4A4, with the a working A57 multibank motor, getting new tracks.  This may not look tricky, but these men are all risking losing fingers or toes, or worse, if someone messes up.

Video of a Very nice looking M4 105, with dozer blade being used to recover a M4A4 in very bad shape.

A start to finish ‘flower pot’ restoration on an M4A1.

A resto mod on a M4A1, with more footage of that nice M4 105 dozer.

A restoration going on in Texas.

 

#13 The Suspensions And Tracks: A Smooth And Comfortable Ride Was The Goal, And It Was Achieved, Somewhat

Suspensions and Tracks: It Suspends, and gets laid! 

UPDATE! See the new Suspension and Track pages found here this post will no longer be updated, all the latest info I have will be put on these pages to make it easier to find. 

M4 tanks came with three types of suspension the early VVSS, VVSS and HVSS. The early VVSS suspension system used 16 inch wide tracks. In the link above about Sherman details you can see all the changes the basic VVSS system went through. The VVSS suspension went from the basic two road wheel one return roller with no support module as seen on the Lee, to the later production VVSS bogies that had a bolt on return rollers, that could be bolted to either side of the suspension unit, and sheet steel track supports and much beefier structures that were still usable on either side of the hull. The suspension was one of the parts of the tank that went through so many minor changes, keeping track of them is out of the scope of what this document is meant to do. The Sherman Minutia site does a great job of covering these changes. These changes had little effect on the performance of the tank; think of them more of fine tuning of the basic design for strength, longevity, and ease of manufacture.

What would be the final VVSS, with the return roller that could be swapped to either side, was developed for the M3A4, with the A57 multibank motor. The combo of heavier hull and engine was putting the basic VVSS suspension with the built in return roller under to much stress and causing premature failures. The heavy duty unit was developed to solve this problem was later standardized as the M4 suspension type, though, the bolt on roller and skids would still receive improvements, a beefier skid, and a spacer to lift the return roller, and later a new assembly that raised the return roller higher, the core remained the same. The M3A4 would be the only version of the Lee to receive the heavy duty VVSS suspension units from the factory.

Early VVSS: Using 16 Wide Tracks

vvss early dia

Mid VVSS: Still Using 16 inch Wide Tracks

suspension unit late

vvss suspension broken down
vvss brakedown key
HVSS: The Improved 23 inch wide Track and Suspension System

sherman_bogie_hvss2

 

late VVSS diagram
Late VVSS diagram the whole suspension

The VVSS was later replaced by the HVSS system that had twenty three inch wide tracks, but the suspension was still a bolt on module. It was very well received and used on many late production Sherman models and a few of the variants. It solved the floatation problem of the narrow tracks with few drawbacks.  Thousands of 75mm Shermans received this suspension coupled to large hatch wet hulls. This would become the preferred suspension type for US Army Shermans, and many 75mm hulls either lost the suspension or had its 75mm turret removed and replaced with a T23 turret and 76mm M1A2 gun after the war

Sherman Idler diagram
Sherman Idler wheel parts

This type of system, that could be unbolted, was much easier to work on or fix when damaged than an internal torsion bar suspension or Christie suspensions found on other tanks. Changing the one bogey setup, or even two and putting the track back together was a lot easier than trying to get the stub of a broken torsion bar out of the hull so a new one could go in.

An experimental Sherman with torsion bar suspension was produced and found to be little better than the basic VVSS tanks, and no better than the HVSS tanks and production was never considered. The HVSS suspension made it onto a lot of things built on the Sherman chassis.  HVSS was also retrofitted onto hulls used in Israel’s M51 Super Sherman program.

Tracks:  They are a weapon too you know

 

Click any of the track images for a much larger version.

The Sherman VVSS had at least 14 different types of track, and there was another 4 types for the HVSS. I will cover them in more detail later. Most of the track types were ways to minimize the amount of rubber used in the tracks or to produce an all steel track, as good as the basic rubber and steel T41 track.

endlinks2

The narrow VVSS tracks limited the Shermans mobility in soft mud, sand, boggy terrain. The Tiger and Panther tanks were better off road than the VVSS Shermans. It’s a good thing they were so rare, and there was a limit to how much mud they could deal with. The mud also accelerated the maintenance problems both these tanks faced and eventually mud got so deep in late 44 no take could go off road much until the ground froze.

 

end connector wear tracktool tracktooluseThe Army came up with a field expedient solution called a “duck bill” end connector. The was an end connector with a sheet steel foot welded to it, when bolted in place on the track it added several inches to the tracks width in soft terrain. The only drawback was they broke off fairly easy, but were easy enough to replace.  This was a very popular and widespread modification, and many little local factories in France were contracted to produce them. They were also factory produced and installed on production Shermans.

Factory Duckbills
Factory Duckbills (image from the Sherman Minutia site.)

 

Sources: TM9-1750K Tracks-Suspension-Turret and Hull Mods M4 series,TM9-731B M4A2, TM9-731G M10A1, TM9-745 GMC M36B2, TM9-748 GMC M36B1, TM9-750M3, TM9-752 M4A3, TM9-754 M4A4, Sherman by Hunnicutt, The Sherman Minutia Site, Son of a Sherman by Stansell and Laughlin