Tag Archives: Lend Lease

#52 Soviet Shermans: The Soviet Union Used and Liked the Sherman

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Soviet Shermans: The USSR Was a Big Sherman User, and They Liked it

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Soviet crew posing in front of their large hatch hull, M4A2 75 dry, tank.

The Soviet Union received three American Medium tank types in large numbers. They received the Lee, and M4A2 75 and 76 tanks. Only the UK would use more M4A2 tanks, though they received only five armed with the 76mm gun, they got far more of the 75mm armed M4A2s.  The Soviets also received a pair of M4A4 tanks for evaluation, but rejected them because of the motor.  My impression from the things I’ve read says, they liked the all of them, well not the A4, but liked the Shermans more than the Lee.

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M4A2 76w, late production, with M1A2 gun.

Now let’s cover each tank model.

M3 Lee: The Basic Lee

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Knocked out Soviet M3 Lee tanks

The Lee was not considered a very good design by the Soviet Union, you can read their evaluation here, on Archive Awareness, but it was not all negative. They liked the transmission, differential and final drives, and in particular the steering and brake mechanism.  They felt the R975 air cooled motor was not a great fit for tanks, for all the reasons they are not fit for tanks, mainly the size limitations they put on the tank, and as gasoline AC engines, they don’t have good low end torque, make driving harder.  They disliked the 75mm guns position, and lack of sites on the machine guns.

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Soviet M3 Lee, If you look closely you can see grousers installed on the tracks

One thing I found very interesting, is in the summer, they could pack up to 10 SMG infantry into the Lee, along with the regular 7 man crew, making it into a makeshift APC. The thing would be packed full of people though.  The report says all weapons could be fired on the tank while those 10 men were stuffed in, so I guess the US Army or Brits didn’t try this because they liked comfort or something.

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Column of Soviet M3 Lee tanks.

The Lee did not fare well against the upgraded Panzer IV with long 75, and they lost a lot of them, but they never stopped using them, they just did what the British did and sent them off to secondary theaters, were tanks were useful, and no enemy tanks were around.  Against poorly equipped, in AT weapon, Infantry, the M3 Lee was a monster of a tank. The 75mm had a great HE round, it was packed with machine guns, and had a 37mm that could sling canister.  The Soviets received 1386 M3 Lee tanks.

M4A2 75 dry: Early Small Hatch 75mm Shermans with Drivers Hoods

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Early M4A4 with DV ports in Russian Museum. One of two sent to the USSR for testing.

The Soviets received 1990 M3 75mm gun armed M4A2 Shermans. I don’t have a list of who made the early M4A2 tanks they got. They were competing with the Marine Corps and the French and Brits on priority for these tanks, and most went to the Brits.  I’ve looked through a lot of pictures of Soviet M4 tanks, or “Emcha” as they seemed to call them, the small hatch 75 tanks seem rarer than the large hatch 75 and 76 tanks.

This Post on Archive Awareness indicates, they received several hundred very early M4A2 tanks. One of the big indicators of this is the section where they talk about the suspension having the Lee style top mounted return roller, which could be jammed with mud, but then they received later models, where this return roller was moved to bracket mounted to the side of the suspension unit.

Another interesting part of that document is the problems they had with injectors, and lubrication problems with the pistons.  The Army reported similar problems with early model M4A2s, with the Air cleaners, cooling system and clutches, but nothing about the injectors.  This post on AA also indicates injector issues, but was overall positive on the M4A2.  Maybe the Soviets used low quality diesel and the injectors didn’t like it. At any rate, these issues would have been worked out by the time they started getting improved models.

M4A2 large hatch Dry: Late Model 75mm, 47 degree Large Hatch Hulls, but with Dry Ammo Racks

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M4A2 75 dry large hatch tanks in action

By late 1943 a new version of the M4A2 was going into production, and it had the improved 47 degree, single piece front armor plate, with large driver and co drivers hatches. These would be the first tanks to get this improvement.  By the time this model went into production, priority for diesel powered Shermans was going to the Soviets, since that was the only model they wanted, and the Brits would take the M4A4.

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An final production M4A2 75 dry tank

These improved large hatch hulls still used the dry ammunition rack setup of the early small hatch hulls, but they had the applique armor applied at the factory, and the 75mm turrets had an improved casting thickening the area that had required welded on additional armor on the older turrets. The Turrets had a oval loaders hatch and a pistol port as well, though the commander still got the older split hatch cupola with the 50 caliber mount built into it.

These tanks seemed to have been photographed much more than the small hatch 75 tanks, but I do not have a lot of photos of either. By the time these tanks were being produced, all the major reliability issues would have been worked out.

M4A2 76W: The Soviets were the Second Biggest User of 76mm Shermans

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Soviet M4A2 76w with a split loaders hatch somewhere in Germany or Austria

Production of the 75mm armed Sherman was reduced, as Sherman production was streamlined down from the 10 factories that were producing it, to the three that would  finish it off, Fisher, Chrysler, and Pressed Steel Car.  The Soviet Union received 2073 M4A2 tanks with the 76mm M1A1 gun.  This was just about Fishers whole production run on the 76mm armed M4A2.

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Shot of a factory fresh M4A2 76w tank at the General Motors Proving Ground

These tanks would have started out with wet racks, all around vision cupolas, a split loaders hatch and an M1A1 76mm gun without a barrel threaded for a muzzle brake.  A few may have even had T23 turrets without the ventilator on the rear. These would quickly be replaced with M1A1C guns with threaded barrels with a protective cap over the threads, and the split loaders hatch would be replaced with the smaller oval hatch.  These tanks would eventually be produced in the “Ultimate” configuration, with the M1A2 gun, and HVSS suspension.

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M4A2 76w with Russian Infantry loaded aboard.

These thanks saw extensive combat use with the Soviet Union, use with Guards units. My understanding is the Russians liked the M4A2 76w tanks just fine, and used them in elite units, but this has no reflection on their feelings about the tank compared to their own T-34-85 tanks.  T-34s were used in Guards units as well, and some units had both, as we can see from this AA post.  By that point in the war the Sherman and T-34 were pretty close in abilities.

M4A4: They Received Two, and that was Enough to Convince them, They Wanted No More

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The Soviets sent a group of officials and engineers to check out the Chrysler Defense Arsenal,  to review the world famous tank factories abilities, and the tank they were currently making, the M4A4. This visit took place between December of 42 to February of 43, for more details, see this post on AA.

After being given a chance to drive the M4A4 on the proving grounds and being given lectures and demonstrations of its A57 gas motor, the Soviets decided that the M4A4 was better than the M3 Lee, but inferior to the M4A2 with GM Diesel they were already receiving through lend lease. They decided the factory was impressive, but really not producing a very good tank.

Even though the Soviets showed little interest in the M4A4 tanks, two were sent to them for evaluation anyway. You can read their impressions here, but as before when they tested it in the US, they felt the motor was to complicated to be reliable.

. . .

Here are some quotes from the ‘I remember’ interview of Dmitriy Loza, Hero of the Soviet Union, pertaining to the Emchas.

 

Dmitriy Fedorovich, on which American tanks did you fight?

On Shermans. We called them “Emchas”, from M4 [in Russian, em chetyrye]. Initially they had the short main gun, and later they began to arrive with the long gun and muzzle brake. On the front slope armor there was a travel lock for securing the barrel during road marches. The main gun was quite long. Overall, this was a good vehicle but, as with any tank, it had its pluses and minuses. When someone says to me that this was a bad tank, I respond, “Excuse me!” One cannot say that this was a bad tank. Bad as compared to what?

 

Dmitriy Fedorovich, did you have just American tanks in your unit?

Our 6th Guards Tank Army (yes, we had six of them) fought in Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Austria. We ended the war for us in Czechoslovakia. Then they rushed us to the Far East and we fought against Japan. I briefly remind you that the army consisted of two corps: 5th Guards Tank Stalingrad Corps on our own T-34s and 5th Mechanized Corps, in which I fought. For the first time this corps had British Matildas, Valentines, and Churchills.

 

They delivered the Churchill later.

Yes, a bit later. After 1943 we largely declined British tanks because they had significant deficiencies. In particular, they had 12-14 h.p. per ton of weight at a time when good tanks had 18-20 h.p. per ton. Of these three British tanks, the best was the Valentine produced in Canada. Its armor was streamlined but more importantly, it featured a long-barreled 57mm main gun. My unit switched over to American Shermans at the end of 1943. After the Kishinev Operation our corps became the 9th Guards Mechanized Corps. I missed to tell you that every corps consisted of four brigades. Our mechanized corps had three mechanized brigades and one tank brigade, in which I fought. A tank corps had three tank brigades and one mechanized brigade. Yes, we had Shermans in our brigade at the end of 1943.

 

But the British tanks were not withdrawn from service, so they fought until they were gone. Wasn’t there a period when your corps had a mixture of tanks, both American and British? Were there any problems associated with the presence of such a broad variety of vehicles from different countries? For example, with supply and maintenance?

Well, there were always problems. In general, the Matilda was an unbelievably worthless tank! I will tell you about one of the Matilda’s deficiencies that caused us a great deal of trouble. Some fool in the General Staff planned an operation and sent our corps to the area of Yelnya, Smolensk, and Roslavl. The terrain there was forested swamp. The Matilda had skirts along the sides. The tank was developed primarily for operations in the desert. These skirts worked well in the desert-the sand passed through the rectangular slots in them. But in the forested swamps of Russia the mud packed into the space between the tracks and these side skirts. The Matilda transmission had a servomechanism for ease of shifting. In our conditions this component was weak, constantly overheated, and then failed. This was fine for the British. By 1943 they had developed a replacement unit that could be installed simply by unscrewing four mounting bolts, pulling out the old unit, and installing the new unit. It did not always work this way for us. In my battalion we had Senior Sergeant (Starshina) Nesterov, a former kolkhoz tractor driver (Kolkhoz is sort of farm – Valeri), in the position of battalion mechanic. In general each of our tank companies had a mechanic and Nesterov was it for the battalion. At our corps level we had a representative (whose name I have forgotten) of the British firm that produced these tanks. At one time I had it written down, but when my tank was hit everything I had in it burned up -photographs, documents, and notebook. We were forbidden to keep notes at the front, but I did it on the sly. Anyway, this British representative constantly interfered with our efforts to repair separate components of the tank. He said, “This has a factory seal. You should not tinker with it!” We were supposed to take out a component and install a new one. Nesterov made a simple repair to all these transmissions. One time the British representative came up to Nesterov and asked him, “At which university did you study?” And Nesterov replied, “At the kolkhoz!”

The Sherman was light years better in this regard. Did you know that one of the designers of the Sherman was a Russian engineer named Timoshenko? He was some shirt tail relative of Marshal S. K. Timoshenko.

The Sherman had its weaknesses, the greatest of which was its high center of gravity. The tank frequently tipped over on its side, like a Matryoshka doll (a wooden stacking doll). But I am alive today thanks to this deficiency. We were fighting in Hungary in December 1944. I was leading the battalion and on a turn my driver-mechanic clipped a curb. My tank went over on its side. We were thrown around, of course, but we survived the experience. Meanwhile the other four of my tanks went ahead and drove into an ambush. They were all destroyed.

 

Dmitriy Fedorovich, the Sherman had a rubber-coated metal track. Some contemporary authors point to this as a deficiency, since in combat the rubber might be set on fire. With the track thus stripped bare, the tank is disabled. What can you say in this regard?

On the one hand this rubber-coated track was a big plus. In the first place, this track had a service life approximately twice that of steel track. I might be mistaken, but I believe that the service life of the T-34 track was 2500 kilometers. The service life of the Sherman track was in excess of 5000 kilometers. Secondly, The Sherman drove like a car on hard surfaces, and our T-34 made so much noise that only the devil knows how many kilometers away it could be heard. What was the bad side of the Sherman track? In my book, Commanding the Red Army’s Sherman Tanks, there is a chapter entitled “Barefooted”. There I wrote about an incident that occurred in August 1944 in Romania, during the Jassy-Kishinev Operation. The heat was fearsome, somewhere around 30° C. We had driven approximately 100 km along a highway in a single day. The rubber linings on our support rollers got so hot that the rubber separated and peeled off in long pieces. Our corps paused not far from Bucharest. The rubber was flying around, the rollers had begun to jam up, the noise was terrible, and in the end we had been stopped. This was immediately reported to Moscow. Was this some kind of joke, an entire corps had halted? To our surprise, they brought new support rollers to us quickly and we spent three days installing them. I still don’t know where they found so many support rollers in such a short time. There was yet another minus of rubber track. Even on a slightly icy surface the tank slid around like a fat cow. When this happened we had to tie barbed wire around the track or make grousers out of chains or bolts, anything to give us traction. But this was with the first shipment of tanks. Having seen this, the American representative reported to his company and the next shipment of tanks was accompanied by additional track blocks with grousers and spikes. If I recall, there were up to seven blocks for each track, for a total of fourteen per tank. We carried them in our parts bin. In general the American representative worked efficiently. Any deficiency that he observed and reported was quickly and effectively corrected.

One more shortcoming of the Sherman was the construction of the driver’s hatch. The hatch on the first shipment of Shermans was located in the roof of the hull and simply opened upward. Frequently the driver-mechanic opened it and raised his head in order to see better. There were several occasions when during the rotation of the turret the main gun struck this hatch and knocked it into the driver’s head. We had this happen once or twice in my own unit. Later the Americans corrected this deficiency. Now the hatch rose up and simply moved to the side, like on modern tanks.

Still one great plus of the Sherman was in the charging of its batteries. On our T-34 it was necessary to run the engine, all 500 horsepower of it, in order to charge batteries. In the crew compartment of the Sherman was an auxiliary gasoline engine, small like a motorcycle’s one. Start it up and it charged the batteries. This was a big deal to us!

For a long time after the war I sought an answer to one question. If a T-34 started burning, we tried to get as far away from it as possible, even though this was forbidden. The on-board ammunition exploded. For a brief period of time, perhaps six weeks, I fought on a T-34 around Smolensk. The commander of one of our companies was hit in his tank. The crew jumped out of the tank but were unable to run away from it because the Germans were pinning them down with machine gun fire. They lay there in the wheat field as the tank burned and blew up. By evening, when the battle had waned, we went to them. I found the company commander lying on the ground with a large piece of armor sticking out of his head. When a Sherman burned, the main gun ammunition did not explode. Why was this?

Such a case occurred once in Ukraine. Our tank was hit. We jumped out of it but the Germans were dropping mortar rounds around us. We lay under the tank as it burned. We laid there a long time with nowhere to go. The Germans were covering the empty field around the tank with machine gun and mortar fires. We lay there. The uniform on my back was beginning heating up from the burning tank. We thought we were finished! We would hear a big bang and it would all be over! A brother’s grave! We heard many loud thumps coming from the turret. This was the armor-piercing rounds being blown out of their cases. Next the fire would reach the high explosive rounds and all hell would break loose! But nothing happened. Why not? Because our high explosive rounds detonated and the American rounds did not? In the end it was because the American ammunition had more refined explosives. Ours was some kind of component that increased the force of the explosion one and one-half times, at the same time increasing the risk of detonation of the ammunition.

It is considered noteworthy that the Sherman was very well appointed on the inside. Was this true?

It was true. These are not just words! They were beautiful! For us then this was something. As they say now, “Euro-repair”! This was some kind of European picture! In the first place, it was painted beautifully. Secondly, the seats were comfortable, covered with some kind of remarkable special artificial leather. If a tank was knocked out or damaged, then if it was left unguarded literally for just several minutes the infantry would strip out all this upholstery. It made excellent boots! Simply beautiful!

 

In your book “Commanding the Red Army’s Sherman Tanks” you wrote that the 233rd Tank Brigade’s M4A2 Shermans were armed not with the short-barreled 75mm but the long-barreled 76mm main gun in January 1944. Wasn’t this a bit early? Didn’t these tanks appear later? Explain one more time which main guns were mounted on the Shermans of the 233rd Tank Brigade.

Hmm, I don’t know. We had very few Shermans with the short-barreled main gun. On the whole, ours had long-barrels. Not just our brigade fought on Shermans. Perhaps these were in other brigades. Somewhere in the corps I saw such tanks, but we had the tanks with the long barrels.

Dmitriy Fedorovich, there were personal weapons in each Sherman that arrived in the USSR, Thompson submachine guns (also known as the Tommy gun). I read that rear area personnel stole these weapons and that few tanks arrived in units still equipped with them. What kind of weapons did you have, American or Soviet?

Each Sherman came with two Thompson submachine guns, in caliber 11.43mm (.45 cal), a healthy cartridge indeed! But the submachine gun was worthless. We had several bad experiences with it. A few of our men who got into an argument were wearing padded jackets. It turned out that they fired at each other and the bullet buried itself in the padded jacket. So much for the worthless submachine gun. Take a German submachine gun with folding stock (MP-40 SMG by Erma -Valeri). We loved it for its compactness. The Thompson was big. You couldn’t turn around in the tank holding it.

The Sherman had an antiaircraft machine gun Browning M2 .50 caliber. Did you use it often?

 I don’t know why, but one shipment of tanks arrived with machine guns, and another without them. We used this machine gun against both aircraft and ground targets. We used it less frequently against air targets because the Germans were not fools. They bombed either from altitude or from a steep dive. The machine gun was good to 400-600 meters in the vertical. The Germans would drop their bombs from say, 800 meters or higher. He dropped his bomb and departed quickly. Try to shoot the bastard down! So yes, we used it, but it was not very effective. We even used our main gun against aircraft. We placed the tank on the upslope of a hill and fired. But our general impression of the machine gun was good. These machine guns were of great use to us in the war with Japan, against kamikazes. We fired them so much that they got red hot and began to cook off. To this day I have a piece of shrapnel in my head from an antiaircraft machine gun.

Did German aircraft inflict significant losses on your equipment? In particular, what can you say about the Henschel Hs-129?

Not every time, but it did happen. I don’t remember the Henschel; perhaps there was such an airplane. Sometimes we were able to avoid bombs. You could see them coming at you, you know. We opened our hatches, stuck out our heads, and instructed our drivers over the intercom: “The bomb will fall in front of us”. But in general there were cases when tanks were hit and set on fire. Losses from these attacks did not exceed 3-5 tanks in the battalion. It was more common for a single tank to be damaged or destroyed. We faced much greater danger from panzerfaust gunners in built-up areas. In Hungary I recall that I was so tired that I told my deputy to lead the battalion while I slept. I went to sleep right there in the fighting compartment of my Sherman. Around Beltsy they had dropped ammunition to us by parachute. We took one parachute for ourselves. I used this parachute for my pillow. The parachute was made from silk and didn’t let the lice in. And I was sound asleep! Suddenly I woke up. Why? I awoke from the silence. Why the silence? It turns out that attacking aircraft had set two tanks on fire. During the march many things were piled up on the tanks: crates, tarpaulin. The battalion had halted, shut off engines, and it had become silent. And I woke up.

Did you lock your hatches during combat in built-up areas?

We absolutely locked our hatches from the inside. In my own experience, when we burst into Vienna, they were throwing grenades at us from the upper floors of buildings. I ordered all the tanks to be parked under the archways of buildings and bridges. From time to time I had to pull my tank out into the open to extend a whip antenna and send and receive communications from my higher commander. On one occasion, a radio operator and driver-mechanic were doing something inside their tank and left the hatch open. Someone dropped a grenade through the hatch from above. It struck the back of the radio operator and detonated. Both were killed. Thus we most certainly locked our hatches when we were in built-up areas.

The primary defeating mechanism of HEAT (hollow-charge) ammunition, of which the panzerfaust was one type, is the high pressure in the tank, which disables the crew. If the hatches were kept slightly open, would this not provide some degree of protection? A special order was issued before our forces entered Germany.

This is true, but just the same we kept our hatches locked. It might have been different in other units. The panzerfaust gunners most often fired at the engine compartment. If they were able to set the tank on fire, like it or not the crew had to get out. And then the Germans shot at the crew with a machine gun.

What were the chances of survival if your tank was hit?

My tank was hit on 19 April 1945 in Austria. A Tiger put a round straight through us. The projectile passed through the entire fighting compartment and then the engine compartment. There were three officers in the tank: I as the battalion commander, the company commander Sasha Ionov (whose own tank had already been hit), and the tank commander. Three officers, a driver-mechanic, and a radio operator. When the Tiger hit us, the driver-mechanic was killed outright. My entire left leg was wounded; to my right, Sasha Ionov suffered a traumatic amputation of his right leg. The tank commander was wounded, and below me sat the gunner, Lesha Romashkin. Both of his legs were blown off. A short time before this battle, we were sitting around at a meal and Lesha said to me, “If I lose my legs I will shoot myself. Who will need me?” He was an orphan and had no known relatives. In a strange twist of fate, this is what happened to him. We pulled Sasha out of the tank and then Lesha, and were beginning to assist in the evacuation of the others. At this moment Lesha shot himself.

In general, one or two men were always wounded or killed. It depended where the shell struck.

How did you co-operate with the infantry during combat?

By TOE the tank brigade had three tank battalions of 21 tanks each and a battalion of submachine gunners. A submachine gun battalion had three companies, one for each tank battalion. We had this three-battalion structure only in late 1943 and early 1944. All the rest of the time we had two tank battalions in the brigade. Our submachine gunners were like brothers to us. On the march they sat on our tanks. They kept warm there, dried their things, and slept. We drove along and then stopped somewhere. The tankers could sleep and our submachine gunners protected our tanks and us. Over the course of time many submachine gunners became members of our crews, initially as loaders and later as radio operators. We divided our trophies equally: they with us and we with them. Therefore they had an easier time of it than ordinary infantrymen.

During combat they sat on the tanks until the firing started. As soon as the Germans opened fire on our tanks, they jumped off and ran behind the tanks, frequently protected by its armor from enemy light machine gun fire.

If it happened that the tanks were limited in maneuver and speed, did you maneuver your infantry or halt them?

Nothing like that. We did not pay any attention to them. We maneuvered and they maneuvered themselves behind us. There were no problems. It would have been worse for them if we had been knocked out, so let them run behind us.

Was the tank’s speed limited in the attack? By what?

Of course! We must been fire!

How did you fire, from short halts or on the move?

Both ways. If we fired on the move, the speed of the tank did not exceed 12 km/h. But we rarely fired on the move, only in order to incite panic in the enemy ranks. Primarily we fired from short halts. We rushed into a position, stopped for a second, fired, and moved ahead.

What would you like to say about the German Tiger?

It was an extremely heavy vehicle. The Sherman could never defeat a Tiger with a frontal shot. We had to force the Tiger to expose its flank. If we were defending and the Germans were attacking, we had a special tactic. Two Shermans were designated for each Tiger. The first Sherman fired at the track and broke it. For a brief space of time the heavy vehicle still moved forward on one track, which caused it to turn. At this moment the second Sherman shot it in the side, trying to hit the fuel cell. This is how we did it. One German tank was defeated by two of ours, therefore the victory was credited to both crews. There is a story about this entitled “Hunting With Borzois” in my book.

The muzzle brake has one significant shortcoming: a cloud of dust is raised during firing from a weapon thus equipped, giving away one’s position. Some artillerymen attempted to counter this, for example, by wetting down the ground in front of their cannons. What countermeasures did you employ?

You’re correct! We might have packed the ground and covered it with our tarpaulins. I don’t recall any special problems.

Were your tank sights blinded by dust, dirt, or snow?

There were no special difficulties. Snow, of course, could blind us. But not dust. The sight on the Sherman did not protrude. On the contrary, it was recessed into the turret. Therefore it was well protected against the elements.

Dmitriy Fedorovich, our tankers who fought on the British Churchills pointed out the weak heater in the crew compartment as a deficiency. The standard electric heater was inadequate for the conditions of the Russian winter. How was the Sherman equipped in this regard?

 The Sherman had two engines connected by a coupling joint. This was both good and bad. There were cases when one of these motors was disabled in battle. Then the coupling joint could be disengaged from the crew compartment and the tank could crawl away from the fight on one engine. On the other hand, there were powerful fans located above both engines. We used to say, “Open your mouth and the wind came out your ass!” How the hell could we get warm? There were such strong drafts of air! Perhaps there was heat coming from the engines, but I will not tell you that it was warm. When we halted, we immediately covered the engine compartment with our tarpaulin. Then it stayed warm in the tank for several hours; we slept in the tank. Not for nothing did the Americans give us fleece-lined coveralls.

Were there norms of ammunition consumption for the tank?

Yes there were. In the first place, we took one basic load (BK -boekomplekt -a full set of ammo. For example the IS-2’s BK = 28 shells. -Valeri) with us going into battle. We took an additional BK on the outside of our tanks during long raids. When I raced into Vienna, for example, my commander personally ordered us to take two BK: the normal load inside and the second on the armor. In addition, we carried up to two cases of trophy chocolate on each tank and found additional provisions for ourselves. We were “on our own”, so to speak. This meant that if we had to conduct a raid somewhere deep in the rear, we offloaded rations and in their place took ammunition. All of our wheeled supply vehicles were American 2 ?-ton Studebakers. They always brought the ammunition forward to the battalion.

There is one other thing I want to say. How did we preserve our (Soviet) ammunition? Several rounds covered by a thin layer of grease, in wooden crates. One had to sit for hours and clean this grease off the rounds. American ammunition was packed in cardboard tube containers, three rounds banded together. The rounds were shiny clean inside their protective tubes! We took them out and immediately stowed them in the tank.

What kind of rounds did you carry in the tank?

Armor-piercing and high explosive. There was nothing else. The ratio was approximately one-third HE and two-thirds AP.

Did the crew receive a concussion when a round hit the tank, even if it did not penetrate the armor?

Generally, no. It depended on where the round hit. Let’s say that I was sitting in the left side of the turret and a round struck near me. I heard this hit but it did not harm me. If it struck somewhere on the hull, I might not hear it at all. This happened several times. We would come out of an engagement and inspect the tank. In several places the armor would show an impact, like a hot knife that had cut through butter. But I did not hear the round impacts. Sometimes the driver would shout, “They’re shooting from the left!” But there was no overwhelming sound. Of course, if such a powerful gun as the JSU-152 hit you, you heard it! And it would take off your head along with the turret.

I want also to add that the Sherman’s armor was tough. There were cases on our T-34 when a round struck and did not penetrate. But the crew was wounded because pieces of armor flew off the inside wall and struck the crewmen in the hands and eyes. This never happened on the Sherman.

What did you consider the most dangerous opponent? A cannon? A tank? An airplane?

They were all dangerous until the first round was fired. But in general, the antitank cannons were the most dangerous. They were very difficult to distinguish and defeat. The artillerymen dug them in so that their barrels literally were laying on the ground. You could see only several centimeters of their gun shield. The cannon fired. It was a good thing if it had a muzzle brake and dust was kicked up! But if it was winter or raining, what then?

Were there cases when you did not see from your tank where the fire was coming from, but your SMG infantry did see? How did they guide you to the source of the fire?

Sometimes they pounded on the turret and shouted. Sometimes they began to fire in the direction with tracer bullets or fired a signal rocket in that direction. And then, you know, when we went into the attack, the commander often looked around from the turret. None of the periscopes, even in the commander’s cupola, gave us good visibility.

How did you maintain communications with your commander and other tanks?

By radio. The Sherman had two radio sets, HF and UHF [high frequency and ultra high frequency], of very good quality. We used the HF for communications with our higher commander, with brigade, and the UHF for communications within the company and battalion. For conversation inside the tank we used the tank intercom system. It worked great! But as soon as the tank was hit, the tankers first action was to throw off his helmet and throat microphone. If he forgot and began to jump out of the tank, he would get hung up.

 

 

For the full interview, click the link and check out the I remember site.

 

#32 Sunken Shermans: Shermans That The Nazis Sent To The Bottom Of The Sea

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Sunken Shermans: Shermans Now Home to Fish, or That Were Home To Fish

Several cargo ships loaded with Sherman tanks were sunk during the war. A couple of these wrecks have been discovered. The first we’re going to talk about is the SS Empire Heritage, originally named Tafelberg. She was a steam tanker built in 1930. She was 508 feet long and just under 14,000 gross tons. She was built by Armstrong W.G. & Whitworth Co. Ltd. Her captain’s name was James Campbell Jamieson, and she had a 76 man crew and she had 160 people on board. She was reroute from New Your to Liverpool with 16,000 tons of fuel oil and 1900 tons of cargo, including Sherman tanks.

On September 8th 1944 just 15 miles north of Donegal Northern Ireland, she was torpedoed by Nazi Submarine U-482 with the loss of 113 lives. From what I can tell, the wreck was discovered in 2014 and is 220 feet below the sea, just within reach of very technical divers. They took some very interesting pictures.

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M4A1 76w tanks that went down with the SS Empire Heritage
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More shots of the M4A1 76W tanks

 

 

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The next wreck were going to talk about is the SS Thomas Donaldson. She was a 7200 ton Liberty Ship built in 1944 by Bethlehem Fairfield Shipbuilding Corp. Ltd. in Fairfield California, under the command of Robert Headden. She left Loch Ewe, Scotland, as part of Artic Convoy JW-65, on March 11, 1945. The convoy she was a part of had 26 ships and the SS Thomas Donaldson was the only one that didn’t make it to the Russian Port in the Kola Inlet. Late on the afternoon of the 20th, the Nazi U-boat U-968 attacked the convoy. They were just twenty miles south of their destination when the Nazis struck.

The Ship was hit by a single torpedo that took out the ships engine. It also killed three of her crew. The Captain ordered the ship abandoned due to her dangerous cargo, but a small crew including the Captain stayed aboard and tried to save the ship. She was taken under tow, and almost made it in, but sunk short of the port. Only one more crewman died of his injuries and the whole repair crew made it off.

In July of 2014 a Sherman was recovered from the wreck, and they say there are two more down there that can be recovered as well.

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An M4A2 76 W tank recovered from the wreck of SS Thomas Donaldson, sunk on March 20, 1944.

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#28 Sherman Use Around The World

Sherman Use Around The World!

This section was done with info written by Priory_of_Sion

Australia:

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

China:

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

Cuba:

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

Source: 1

Egypt:

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

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

India:

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

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

Iran/Iraq:

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

Japan:

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

Nicaragua:

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

Paraguay:

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

Pakistan:

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

Peru:

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

South Africa:

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

Syria:

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

Turkey:

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

Uganda:

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

Yugoslavia:

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

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

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