Friend of the site Bill A, has put together a very nice M4 composite hull Sherman, based on the Tank his father operated in WWII. Bill Dad served with the 44th Tank Battalion in the Philipines when we took them back late in WWII. This kit is Dragon #6441, and I think Dragon makes a very nice Sherman for the price.
Really nice build Bill! My only comment other than you did a great job with the kit, would be, its just to darn clean! In real life, they tended to get real weathered, your looks like it rolled off the showroom floor!
Here are a few more shots of the M4 Composite in action.
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.
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.
This week we got the post about Drivetanks.com out, and Subjegated Shermans also got a signifigant upate as well. I have several other posts in the works, unfortunately all are about 80% done! That’s what I get for jumping around I suppose.
Anyway, Hedgerow and Forest fighting are in the works, also in the works is a post on Mountain tanking with the Sherman. I’ll be doing a post on the various SPGs based on the venerable Sherman hull soon as well too. Also coming soon, stories from actual tankers, or one in this case.
In other news, the website he talked about in the links section, The Lone Sentry, seems to have gone down for good. It was a fantastic resource on the US Army in WWII, and had tons of information and hard to find technical and field manuals hosted there. If anyone has the Web Masters Contact info, or knows anything about the site going down, please contact me.
In the new posts, I will update you on what’s been going on a bit behind the scenes for the week.
This week has been interesting, it’s 4th of July night, and I’m just wrapping things up for the evening before hitting the sack. It sounds like a firing range outside as people celebrate with fireworks and firearms. The Dogs gone deaf, and doesn’t notice, but the cats are scare, and I havn’t seen them in hours.
Anyway, this weekend I spent time on sorting through all the stuff I’ve downloaded over the past few months. I’ve literally downloaded thousands of pictures and hundreds of PDFs on various topics. The Sherman related ones will be going up on the site soon.
I should have some posts on Sherman tank plastic models and French Shermans up soon, and I’ll be doing a post on Dutch Shermans, and Sherman based SPGs soon.
In other news, Drive tanks.coma outfut out of Texas noticed my site and has contacted me! I’m going to be doing a post on them soon with info on their fully operational Sherman tank, and that includes all it’s guns people, and what you can do with it with American Dollars! I hope to be able to take a trip out and see what the whole thing is all about! This place looks like it may be the most magical place on earth, not Disneyland!
In future news, I will be signing up for Facebook and Twitter for the site.
Storage Ammo and Everything Else: The Army packed a lot of Gear and Tools into the Sherman, along with the Ammo, Guns, and Men
When most people think about a tank, wait, well, most people don’t think about tanks, but when people who think about tanks think about them it’s the gun, the armor, the motor and it running around doing tank things that they think about. That’s not all that a tank is about; a tank is also about storing things, lots of things. Not just ammo, I mean sure, thousands of rounds of MG ammo and over 100 main gun rounds on late model Shermans, but even after the crew had packed all that stuff in, there was still a hell of a lot of other stuff they carried around. The tank had everything it needed to be maintained by the men it was issued to, including manuals, and a limited number of common spare parts for certain components and as much gear the tankers could accumulate to make their lives easier strapped on outside too.
There are at least 61 hand tools used for maintaining the tanks automotive components. Most of these tools were stored in a tool bag behind the driver. Some items like the non-magnetic screwdriver for adjusting the compass were stored in brackets on or near the device they were specifically for. The oiler was mounted on a bracket by the assistant driver. He probably used it a lot. The huge track adjusting wrench and all the pioneer tools were mounted on the hull on the outside of the Sherman with the 20-foot long tow cable. The tanks weapons, including the main gun, also has a bunch of tools specific to them, also stored in the tank. These included combination wrenches and other special tools to maintain the machine guns, and an eye bolt and breach removing tool for the main gun adding between 6 and 10 more tools. These tools were stored in a toolbox or a spare parts box. The grease gun, or gun lubricating, was mounted on the right rear lower hull, under the turret basket. It had an extension hose stored with it, and probably tubes of grease. This is what the crew would use to lubricate all the grease fitting that just about anything that moved had.
Now the crew had to pack in the communication gear. The tanks radio antenna broke down into 6 parts including the case and was stored on the blanket roll rack on the rear of the tank on late model Shermans. The early Sherman manuals do not list a location for them that I can find. There was also a flag set, M238, it had its own bracket on the right side of the turret. This flag kit came in a case, had 3 flags, red, orange, and green, and 3 flagstaffs. You also had the radio setup in the back of the turret that was technically removable. The radios also came with a spare parts kit, small tool kit, and spare tubes and a crystal box to change frequencies.
The tank was issued with 12 signal flares (they shoot up in the air), and they were mounted in their own box on the battery box. There were 3 white star parachute flares, 3 white star cluster flares, 3 amber parachute flares and 3 green parachute flares. Then there was the panel set. The set, I think was the big orange panels they put on the rear deck, so attacking fighter-bombers could tell US tanks from German ones, came with two panels, and two cases for them. They were also stored in the blanket roll on the foldup shelf on the rear of most late model Shermans.
The Sherman had two fixed 10 pound CO fire extinguishers that could be triggered from inside the tank, and outside if you knew where the pull handles were. They also provided the crew with 2, four pound CO fire extinguishers, on mounted on a bracket on the right side of the transmission, and the other mounted on the rear of the turret basket. They also supplied a small decontaminated apparatus, called the M2, essentially a 1 ½ quart fire extinguisher, filled with a decontaminating agent instead of fire retardant. These were issued all the way into the sixties as a way to clean something like mustard gas residue from the areas of the tank the crew needed to touch. It was stored in a box in the hull, and probably got thrown away a lot.
The crew’s needs were taken into account, and there was a specific storage location inside the tank for 2 days of rations for the five-man crew. Each crew member also had an M1910 canteen mounted near their position. There was a ration box in the right rear sponson, and it could hold either, 30 boxes of “K” rations, 60 cans of “C” rations or 2 or the much larger “D” rations. There was a small 1 burner Coleman stove stored with the rations. You see an awful lot of pictures of Sherman tanks and other AFV with a lot of ration boxes tied on the tank, so the crews appear to have liked to have more than two days food on hand. Of course, rations boxes are not bulletproof, and I bet it wasn’t all that uncommon to find shell splinters or bullets in the ration cans when stored outside.
We are not even close to done here, next up, sighting gear. The tanks were issued with an M13 binocular set; this consisted of the M13 binoculars and the M17 case. These were secured to the turret wall in its own bracket, near the commander’s position. On late model Shermans, there was a box next to the radio that held 2 spare vision blocks for the commanders all around vision cupola. In a box behind the driver, you could find 10 spare bulbs for either the elevation quadrant or azimuth indicator. There was also a case for the Gunners Quadrant M1with its own bracket above the 5-gallon water can installed in the right sponson.
The periscopes and telescopes deserve their own section so here it is. There was a holder for the periscope in the periscope box in the turret, along with 3 periscope heads, for the M6 periscope. There were two hull periscope boxes with the same contents. There were 6 more periscope heads on the bracket for the driver’s hood for a total of 15 spare heads. I’ve read several accounts where both the Germans and Japanese aimed at the periscopes and vision blocks to blind the tanks. In at least one case in the Pacific, the tanks ran out of spare heads during the battle and were blind without opening a hatch. I bet periscope heads were popular as an extra spare on the tank. Now, that was just heads, there were 12, M6 periscopes in each late model Sherman. Six mounted in in various places, one in the driver’s hatch that rotated, and a fixed one in front of him. The co-driver had the same layout, just on the other side, he used the hatch or fixed periscope to aim the bow machine gun. The loader had had a rotating periscope at their station, and the commander had one in his hatch. There were two complete M6 periscopes in brackets on the turret walls, one near the loader, and the other by the commander. The amazing piece of American tank engineering, the driver’s hood holder, stored four complete M6 periscopes, along with all those spare heads and the drivers hood!
The gunner had his own special set of periscopes. He had an M4A1 periscope with telescope M38A2. On late model Shermans this was the auxiliary sight but allowed the gunner to have a nice wide field of view to find the target, the commander was handing off, mounted in his fixed periscope. He had a complete spare M4A1 periscope in a box on the floor by his feet. They did not give him a spare telescopic sight, in late model Shermans, the M70F was used, and it was mounted on the gun mount. He also had a series of lamps to illuminate the reticles of the M70F and M4A1 sights. He also had lamps for the M1 quadrant, and another for the M9 quadrant.
Oh, we are not even close to done here people, so hang on, it gets even more exciting when we get to the ammo storage and storage changes in a few paragraphs. Anyway, let’s cover some more ‘general equipment’, before getting to ammo storage. Let’s see, the tank had 5 M1936 OD canvas bags to store much of the gear that’s been mentioned, and 1 tool bag for most of the tools listed, stored behind the driver. There were 3 flashlights TL-122 on brackets around the turret, one near the commander, one by the gunner and one by the loader. They carried 12 spare batteries in box C101039. This is the same box all the lamps for the gunner’s sights went. There were also 5 safety belts for the crew’s seats, it may not seem like a vehicle that doesn’t hit 35mph would need them, but off road, I bet they were handy. The tank came with an 18-quart canvas bucket that was stored in the right sponson. There was a special inspection lamp stored in the toolbox. The spare bulb was stored with the other spare bulbs in box C101039. The Home light auxiliary motor had its own accessory kit, it was also stored in the sponson toolbox in the right front sponson. This little kit had a spare spark plug, and the rope and wood pull handle to start the unit if the batteries were dead, plus a set of tools to maintain it.
The Army liked to make sure a tank crew had lots of stuff to read, so they dedicated a small compartment in the right rear sponson for manuals. The manuals ranged from the one for the Homelite generator TM9-1731k, the spare parts list for the tank model, SNL G-104 in the M4A3s case, to manuals for both machine gun types FM23-50, and FM23-65, the manual for whatever main gun the tank had, and the mount it used. There was a manual for the model of the Sherman, TM9-759 for the M4A3, TM9-731B for the M4A2 etc. If there was a system on the tank the crew was expected to maintain, there was a manual available to tell him how to do it. I’m sure in some cases what actually got to the troops with the tank when it was finally issued varied a lot though.
Ok, now for the guns and ammo, as we know, a Sherman could have the M3 75mm gun, the M1A1/A2 76mm gun or the M4 105mm Howitzer. They all also had 2 and in some early models 3, M1919A4 Machine guns and one M2 HB machine gun. On many models, there was a two-inch smoke mortar as well. Then there were the personal weapons of the crew, on late model Shermans, 5 M3 .45ACP submachine guns were supplied, on early Shermans, a single M1928A1. Each crewmember was issued an M1911A1 .45 ACP pistol as well. These weapons, biggest to smallest all had kits to keep them working, and for the machine guns, they carried a lot of spare parts for known parts that wear on Browning machine guns. These spare parts and tools were scattered around in various tool and parts boxes.
All these weapons needed ammo, and in the main guns case oil! This all had to be stored in the tank. The chart below breaks down the changes in ammo loadout for all the weapons on the Sherman, as the tank went through production changes. The earliest Sherman tanks had ammunition stored all over the vehicle in ammo racks with no additional protection. Ammo was placed in sponson ammo racks, with some around the base of the turret, and in a floor ready rack. More was stored under the floor. These early tanks had a fully floored, and screened in turret basket, with only two sections open to the hull. On these early Shermans, and we could be talking, an M4, M4A1, M4A2 or M4A4 most of the direct vision tanks would fit into this category. These tanks, once the ammo around the base of the turret, and ready rack were used, would have to rotate the turret so the openings I the basket matched up with the hull racks, and or co-driver so he could hand in ammo from the rack near him. The idea behind the full turret basket was to protect the crew from getting their limbs severed by the rotating turret if a crew member stuck it in the wrong place.
As soon as the Sherman saw extensive combat use, it was clear, they were prone to fire. This was nothing new, every tank was prone to fire, and the Sherman had a tendency to burn catastrophically often launching the turret in the air. When the Army did a study into why this was the case, they found the main gun ammo was the main cause of catastrophic fire losses. When you take a look at the ammo layout chart in the other image, you can see with the ammo stored, in unprotected internal bins all over the crew compartment, an ammo fire was going to be common problem.
The first try at a fix for the problem started pretty fast. The fix was to remove the unarmored ready rounds from around the base of the turret, and reduce the size of the floor ready rack and to make it armored. The hull ammo racks were all covered in armor, and extra armor was added to the outside of the sponson racks on both welded and cast hull Shermans. On late production cast hull tanks, the thicker armor over the sponson racks was just added to the casting. They managed to keep the number of main gun rounds pretty consistent even with these changes. Another aspect of the early fix was the removal of the turret screening around the turret basket. The ammo rack changes along with some other improvements were offered in kit form to US tank units already deployed, and it was eventually incorporated into the production lines, and tank overhaul facilities. Many Shermans in British use did not see these get these improvements.
The real big change in Sherman storage came when the hull changed from the small hatch to large hatch configuration, though all the late model M4A2 tanks with large hatch hulls and 75mm turrets still got the dry ammo storage setup with add-on sponson armor. The other exceptions are the M4 and M4A3 105 tanks, they had their on dry storage setup. The M4 Composite hull tanks with large hatch hulls also kept the dry storage layout. So, the M4A1 (76)W, M4A2 (76)W, the M4A3(75)W, The M4A3 (76)W tanks all had the improved wet ammo racks. This change included moving all main gun ammo into the floor of the hull under the turret. These ammo racks were also surrounded by water filled jackets. Early production wet tanks retained the turret basket, and had hatches that could be opened to access the hull ammo racks, later they only installed a half basket, and eventually removed the basket floor entirely.
On early Shermans a lot of stuff other than ammo was stored under the turret basket, in the floor, were the ammo was now going. This included the batteries, and a generator setup on some models. Also many of the items listed in the early part of this article were stored in the hull floor. These items including the batteries were moved up into the sponsons. The generator was moved to the rear of the transmission. While making all these changes, they managed to pack even more ammo into the 75mm wet Shermans!
So, when all is said and done, if you take into account each round of ammo, a Sherman has nearly 8600 items packed into or onto it, officially. Granted, 7500 of that number is ammo, that still leaves 1100 items stored in or on the tank the crew had to keep track of and I’m sure I didn’t take some things into account. You also have to think about all the personal gear the crew would have stuff in and on the tank. Anything they didn’t want shot or possible stolen had to be stored inside, even with all the official stuff in the tank, the crew would find places to stuff their most valuable personal things. Less valuable things, like their uniforms and anything they decided to keep that couldn’t fit, was all hung outside. If you look at late war pictures of Shermans, they are covered in stuff tied down on their rear decks. It’s no secret US troops were fond of taking souvenirs, and it got pretty rampant once they got into Germany.
Subjugated Shermans: Sherman tanks captured and used by the Nazis
Sometimes a tank crew can get spooked and bail out of a functional tank. Or a tank can be left disabled on the battlefield and be repaired by the bad guys. The Germans were so desperate for tanks they happily used any Shermans they captured, and unlike the T-34 they didn’t feel the need to modify the tank in any way. The Germans managed to capture Shermans from the Russians, UK, and Americans. The Japanese never captured an intact Sherman. I don’t think the Italians managed to capture one either.
Depending on the crew quality, little things can cause them to abandon the tank, and it seems to be a universal problem since I’ve read of just about all of the warring nations having crews bail out from fright when the tank had sustained only minor or cosmetic damage. In other cases, the tank takes real damage, like a lost track, an engine problem or a hit that took out an internal fixture, but an experienced crew might stay in the tank. The crew has a duty to destroy the tank before leaving it behind. There is a whole procedure covering how to do it, and what to destroy if you only have a short amount of time, including many methods. The methods range from blowing the tank up with special grenades to just destroying the machine guns, main gun, and radios. This is covered in FM17-67 Crew Drill and Service of the Piece Medium Tank M4 Series.
There are many reasons why a crew might not be able to destroy their tank. If the crew is killed as they bailed out or after, or captured, if they are under fire while they get out, the tank falling into enemy hands isn’t going to be on a soldier’s mind in most cases. In some cases, the green crews could panic and bailout, and not bother even checking the tank over heading for the rear, but this was not a common thing for American tank crews once North Africa was done. I’ve read of many cases of German crews just leaving the tank, hatches all open, without booby traps and walking off when their Panther inevitably broke down or ran out of gas. I’ve read cases of them bailing out after the tank was hit a few times but still technically functional. Unlike for the American and Allied tankers in General, as the war went on, German tanks, like all their troops, declined in quality, and by late 44 Tank crews got very little training in their vehicles.
The Sherman was an automotive masterpiece the Germans could only dream of producing, they were still capable of keeping them running, it was that good. A German tank mechanic would find even the A57 a breath of fresh air in ease of troubleshooting and reliability. They also liked to use the captured Shermans as ARVs, often with the turrets removed. Having a very tough powertrain and a reliable and robust motor is a very nice thing in an Armored Recovery Vehicle, and the Shermans were just that. It must have been terribly frustrating for the Germans to get a Bergepather in place to try and tow a broken down Panther, only to have it break down too!
Now onto the photos, sorry, but the Germans seem to be as bad at photography, at least of captured Shermans, as they are at tank design, so many of the images are small and blurry. The captions have been updated in great extent to the efforts of Roy Chow, who sent in a very nice comment correcting my many mistakes. Thanks again, Roy!
Most of the images for this post came from WorldWarPhotos.com and many others came from Waralbum.ru. Both excellent sources for high-resolution images from the war.
Special Gallery 1: The Shermans and Lees of the Fort Bennings Digital Archive.
Fort Benning, a very active US Army base in Georgia has put up many very interesting historic Photo Galleries. You can find the website here. The Gallery these Sherman photos came from is the Historic Photo Gallery. These are just the Sherman and or Armor related images in the gallery, there are many more from Vietnam and Desert Storm.
Sherman Model Specification Sheets: Detailed Data Sheets For Each Model.
These were a pain in the rear to make, the ones in the back of my copy of Hunnicutt are very bad, so I have reproduced some in Word, and then print them out as PDFs, then take a screen shot of the PDF for this post. I have now hosted all the PDF files, if you want something with copy and pasteable text. I’ve got a system not for these and it’s semi easy to do, so I will keep adding them. I also added at least one, and up to five images with each spec sheet, of the Sherman the spec sheet is for. You can click to enlarge all these images, the sizes very.
The Firefly: The Best AT Gun Installed On The Sherman, But Maybe Not The Best Overall Version Of The M4 Series.
The Sherman Firefly is often touted as the best version of the Sherman. This is a very shallow view of the tank; a tank is not just about AT performance alone. Let’s talk about the name, the Firefly was just a nickname, some say given by American testers because there was so much flash at the breach of the gun on firing, some claim it was just based on muzzle flash. Much like the Sherman naming mystery, it doesn’t really matter, it’s the commonly used name now, and if you just called them the Sherman IC, Sherman IC Hybrid, and Sherman Vc, no one but a total Sherman geek would know what the hell you were talking about. But everyone with a little Sherman history or WWII history under their belt should have heard of them called a Firefly so that’s what we will do here while explaining the nomenclature and how to identify the various models.
The Firefly came about because the British wanted to get a 17 pounder into a tank, and the homegrown ones planned to have it, were having issues. The 17 pounder, a 76mm anti-tank gun, had to be extensively redesigned to work in the Sherman 75mm turret, the AT gun versions recoil system was too long to work in a 75mm gun turret. They redesigned it, putting the recoil mechanism on both sides of the gun instead of the top. The gun was also rotated so it could be loaded from the left. The firefly version of the 17 pounder gun was specific to the Sherman gun mount and could not be used on an AT gun or vice versa.
They also had to cut a hole into the back of the turret, to mount the radios, in a new armored box, because the gun still had to recoil into the radio bustle at the back of the turret. The armored box also worked as a counterweight for the longer barrel. They also eliminated the co-drivers position and put a cast armored plug over the gun port. The co-drivers space was filled with ammo since the 17 pounder ammo was longer than the 75mm ammo it took more space. They also had to eliminate the gun stabilizer to fit the gun.
The 17 pounder gun had excellent armor penetration, in particular with APDS rounds, standing for armor piercing discarding sabot, but these rounds had very inconsistent accuracy. The problem that caused it was not worked out until after the war. At the combat ranges in the ETO and MTO, the APDS, worked ok, but the closer the better. The gun also lacked a decent HE round until after WWII ended when they came up with a system that used a smaller propellant charge for the HE rounds and a new set of marks on the tank’s sight for the lower velocity rounds.
The Firefly in a generic sense is easy to identify, you look for a 75mm gun turret, with a much longer gun with a ball-shaped muzzle brake. The turret will also have a loaders hatch and an armored box on the rear. From there, you have to look at the details, but it’s easy enough.
Sherman Ic Firefly: The Rarest Firefly
This is the Firefly based on the Sherman I or the M4. The lower case C after the Roman numeral designates the tank is armed with a 17 pounder. An M4 is a welded hull tank powered by an R975, so you look for the grate free engine deck, with the big armored flap covering an air intake. Or, if the tank is welded, and does not have large spaces between the bogie assemblies, then it’s an Ic Firefly.
Sherman IC composite hull firefly: The Second Rarest And Most Comfortable
This version is based on the M4 composite hull; the version had a cast front hull, and a welded rear hull. It looks almost like an M4A1, but the rear and sides of the tank are all flat surfaces, just like a regular M4, the other difference is these tanks had the improved large hatch hull. They would be the most comfortable version of the Firefly for the driver. These tanks were probably the last firefly’s built as well since the composite hull tanks were some of the last 75mm Shermans produced. The British were not given any of the 75mm M4A3 tanks so none were converted. One final advantage to this version from an ease of conversion point of view is the composite hull tanks came with a loaders hatch already built in, so it saved time because they didn’t have to cut and fit one. Some of these tanks also had all around vision cupolas, so it’s possible a few made it onto fireflies.
Sherman Vc Firefly: The Version Powered By The A57 Motor, and Also the Most Common Firefly, But The Motor Makes It The Coolest.
This version was based on the M4A4. These tanks are the “long hull” Shermans with the wide gaps between the bogie assemblies, and it has the distinctive bulges to the engine deck and lower hull. These hull features, with a firefly turret and gun, is more than enough to identify it as Vc. This Firefly type was powered by the mighty A57 multibank. The Wiki on the Firefly is trash; don’t go crawling around trying to see if the lower hull has rivets when most of the M4A4 production run had welded lower hulls. This may have only been a dubious way to identify an M3A4, you know if you missed it being almost a foot longer with huge gaps between the wheelsets and the bulges on the top and bottom.
This was the most common version of the Firefly since it was the Brits most numerous lend-lease Sherman. They got refurbished training A4s from the US and took as many of these them as they could because the production of 75mm Shermans had been drastically cut back and production of the M4A4 had been suspended.
Demand for the Firefly dropped off late in the war. They had produced enough that just about all the commonwealth nations the British supported received them. The Brits were able to put two Fireflies into most of their tank platoons, just as German armor became so scarce they didn’t really need them. By the end months of the war, the Firefly may have been more of a liability, than useful.
If you compare the Firefly to the upgraded M4A1 76w, you will see it really isn’t the best Sherman by any measure but raw gun penetration. We’ll use the composite hull Ic in the comparison since the same motor powered these tanks, and the composite hull had a very large casting for its front hull, making this as close to a second gen Sherman as the Firefly could get. Yet the composite hull tanks were produced early enough, they did not get wet ammo racks. They did get the armored ammo racks, but they really only offered protection against fragments lighting the ammo off.
This fix did not work nearly as well as the wet ammo racks on the M4A1 76, and other fully second gen Sherman tanks got. The main advantage was having the ammo lower in the tank, below the bottom of the sponsors, and encasing it in water jackets. It was found the most benefit came from the change in location, and the liquid part was discontinued post-war. The wet ammo rack second gen Shermans were amongst the safest WWII tanks to be a crewman on.
Now on to the turrets, the M4A1 76 tank has the improved T23 turret. These turrets came with the all-around vision cupola, a loaders hatch, and the 76 M1A1 gun, with a 30cal co-ax. The turret was designed around the gun, and was nice and roomy, offering relative comfort and ease of movement to the crew, allowing the gun to maintain the 20 round a minute rate of fire the 75mm gun had. It had better armor than the 75mm turret. The fireflies all used a modified 75mm gun turret, and even after redesigning the gun, the 17 pounder took up a lot of space and recoiled into the bustle, where the radio used to be. This made for a cramped turret, and a slower reload time. The T23 turret is better, and it’s a shame the Brits would have had to redesign the 17 pounder gun again to fit one into it.
At first glance, most people when they compare the M1A1 gun and the 17 pounder conclude the 17 pounder is ‘better’ based on its armor pen. This doesn’t take into account the other factors that make a good tank gun. In WWII, tanks faced other threats far more often than tanks. For the forces facing the United States in particular, tanks were never overly common and got rarer as the war went on. What Shermans faced most often, and what killed them most often was AT guns and infantry with AT sticks. The 17 pounders lack of HE round during the war, along with its lack of a bow machine gun, really hindered the Firefly in the infantry support role. The M1A1 didn’t have the best HE performance, but it was still adequate. It had enough AT performance to handle the PIV, Stugs and various TDs it would face. Including the cats, the M1A1 did not have the best balance of AT/HE performance, but it would get the job done, and as the war came to a close HVAP ammo, that really helped the guns AT performance, become increasingly available. The M1A1 also had a very big performance lead in rate of fire; double that of the 17 pounder.
When you take all these factors, it is clear the 76mm T23 turreted second gen M4A1, A2 and 3s were all better tanks than the Firefly, of any model. The reasons for this are the second gen Shermans all had wet ammo racks, and along with all the other minor improvements that came with the second gen Shermans. The 17 pounder gun would eventually get a good HE round, but not during the war, so the dual purpose us M1A1 gun is clearly a better choice for a general use medium tank.
I won’t go so far as to say the British should not have produced them. Since the Brits faced the majority of the German heavy armor in Normandy, a pure AT tank was more useful for them, and that’s why they built them. I’ve read in more than one place that the Germans always tried to kill off the fireflies first, and the firefly units used a cool paint scheme on the gun barrel to make it seem shorter to help hide the fireflies, but I’ve never seen it confirmed from the German side. These tanks were potent enough, killing the famous Nazi tank “Ace” Michael, the Nazi punk, Whitman, when he foolishly trundled by himself into their guns.
I find it amusing the most mechanically complicated Sherman was turned into the best pure AT Sherman by the Brits and was still more reliable than any Nazi tank. It may be a tad overrated, but it did exactly what it was designed to do, without compromising the reliability of its base platform. That makes it a smashing success and it gave the Brits a capability their American cousins lacked until much later in the war. It did so well, the Brits offered to convert some, and there was an abortive program that petered out because army ordinance thought the M1 gun would be good enough. During bulge hoopla, the program was revived, but this was short-lived, and none of the American Firefly tanks were issued to troops.
Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Sherman by Hunnicutt, various Chieftains Hatch posts, The Sherman Minutia Site, M4 Sherman tank at War by Green, WWII Armor, Ballistics and Gunnery by Bird and Livingston
Shermans Of the United Kingdom: Or, Let’s Confuse People Even More With An Odd Designation Systems!
The British took the Lee and Sherman into combat for the first time and they offered a lot of input into both tanks design. They even had a specific version of the Lee never used by US troops the M3A5 Grant. The Sherman and Lee tanks saved their bacon at El Alamein. As we saw in an earlier section of this document, the US produced a lot of Sherman tanks, and the British received more than 17,000 Shermans. It would become the backbone of their tank force and remain so until the end of the war. The British had a unique way of using tanks and preferred to send them into battle without direct infantry support. This coupled with their tendency to stuff every nook and cranny of the tank with ammo resulting in much higher Sherman losses than the US Army did.
They came up with their own naming system for the tank:
The M4 was named the Sherman I in Commonwealth use, if it had 105mm gun it was an Ib if it also had HVSS it was an Iby. The British received 2096 75mm Sherman Is, and an additional 593 105 armed Ib tanks, or M4 105 tanks. These numbers are not broken down further into submodels, so all the Ic Firefly tanks produced came from 2096 they received, and this number would include the composite hulls too. This version was the preferred US Army version, and many of the ones the Brits received came as replacements stripped from US Tank Divisions before the battle of El Alamein. They became much rarer because the US sent M4A2 and M4A4s as replacements.
The M4A1 was named the Sherman II and in most cases just that. It wasn’t until late in the war the Brits took some M4A1s with 76mm guns, and those they gave to the poles or other commonwealth allies. An M4A1 76 would be called a Sherman IIa, or an IIay for an M4A1 76 HVSS tank. These M4A1 76 HVSS tanks made it to depots in Europe during or just after the war ended, but none saw combat. The M4A1 was also the US Army’s preferred version because it was basically the same tank as the M4, and the Brits only received 942 75mm M4A1 Shermans. Something I found a bit of a surprise, the British received more M4A1 76 w tanks thank 75mm tanks, 1330 total.
M4A2 was named the Sherman III and this was their second most common Sherman type. They received 5041 M4A2 75mm Sherman IIIs, far more than the Soviets got. They also received 5, M4A2 76 W or Sherman IIIa tanks as well, yes, that’s not a typo, five tanks. I wonder if the M4A2 76 HVSS or Sherman IIIaytank used in Fury was one of them?
M4A3 was named the Sherman IV in British use, but they only received 7 seventy five millimeter tanks and no 76mm tanks of this type. This became the US Army’s preferred model, and once they got it in numbers, they probably started sending more M4 and M4A1s to the Brits after this tank became common.
M4A4 was named the Sherman V in British use, and was by far the most common British Sherman; they received 7167 M4A4s, or Sherman Vs, almost the whole production run. Chrysler really went to bat for this version of the tank and sent tech reps to Europe with the tanks to help manage the complicated, but less trouble than anyone could have expected, motors. There were no subtypes of the Sherman IV other than the Firefly since it was never produced with a 76mm gun or HVSS suspension. The Sherman Vc was the most common version of the 17 pounder Shermans, and a wide variety was probably converted to fireflies, and many of the A4s they got later in the war had been through a remanufacturing process, that made sure the tanks had turrets updated with all the late improvements, and all the hull upgrades like armored ammo racks and raised arm rollers and improved skids, along with a travel lock, on the front plate, for the gun.
The British had their own set of modifications for the Sherman that they received through LL. They added sand skirts, racks for jerry cans and an armored box on the back of the turret in some cases. They installed their own radios as well, the British wireless set no 19, and this went into the armored box in the back of the turret on Firefly’s, or just replaced the US radios in their normal location in regular models. Legend has it they installed some sort of stove to cook tea. The only Sherman Mk I and Mk IIs they got was because Churchill practically begged Roosevelt for more Shermans just before El Alamein.
As the war progressed, the US Army put a priority on the M4 and M4A1; the British had to settle for M4A2 and the M4A4. Then when the Russians refused to take any Shermans but M4A2s, the Brits really had to rely on M4A4s. From what I’ve read they didn’t want the nightmare that everyone feared the A57 Multibank motor to be, in service it proved to be reliable enough, and more so than its British counterparts. The M4A4 was by far the most common Sherman type, and the Brits like them enough they took a batch of refurbished M4A4 and would have taken more if production hadn’t been stopped.
This presented a problem for the British, they did not like the M1A1 gun, and the T23 would not take the 17 pounder without major modifications to the gun or turret. The US did end production of 75mm tanks and when stocks of 75mm gun tanks ran low, they were forced to take M4A1 76 tanks these tanks would be designated Sherman IIB. The British sent most of the IIBs to their forces in the MTO or gave them to the Poles.
Sources: Armored Thunderbolt by Zaloga, Sherman by Hunnicutt, The Sherman Tank in British Service 1942-45 by John Sanders
The Sherman Variants: So Many Shermans, so Confusing!Updated 01/18
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 wartime 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 imagine running or looking like a tank again, and bringing them back to life. We are talking about tanks used as range targets for decades, in some cases, the powertrain in these tanks survived, the powertrain is the transmission, differential, and final drives.
The nice thing about a tank, as far as a WWII collectible vehicles go, say compared to an Airplane, like a P-51 or even SNJ, is tanks won’t break down 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!
click the link above to go to the page dedicated to the M4.
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.
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 tanks also had exhaust deflecting vents installed in the back to help reduce dust from being stirred up.
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 was the preferred US Army version of the Sherman until the acceptance 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.
Click the link above for a dedicated page for on the M4A1
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.
Click the link above for a dedicated page to the M4A2
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 an 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.
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.
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 the 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.
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.
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 rearm 75mm Sherman tanks with the guns. Many of the Jumbo’s ended up with these guns, but none were ever factory installed.
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 a larger turret that included a flamethrower was considered, but we all know how that story ended.
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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.
Click the link above for a dedicated page on the M4A4.
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 crankcase. 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 the 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.
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.
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.
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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 to 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-drivers hatch 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 of 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 too 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 of 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 aSherman volume one, The Sherman design and Developmentby 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 the 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 viewports 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). The 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.
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, TM9-731A
The M4 Medium AKA the Sherman tank over the last few decades has had its reputation severely soiled by several documentaries, TV shows, books, and games, all hailing it as a death trap, engineering disaster, or just a bad tank. The Sherman tank may be the most important, the most versatile and arguably the best medium tank of the war, and this site should show you why along with documenting as much about the Sherman as I can along the way. The only other contender for the best tank of WWII award would be the Soviet T-34. These two tanks are very comparable and would fight each other in later wars, staying very even in capability through their service lives.
This site will cover why the Sherman was a better tank than anything Germany, Italy or Japan produced during the war, on both a tactical and strategic level. I will not be reproducing the work of others and will link to the places that already cover some information, like the wonderful Sherman Minutia site. I will cover all the major changes made to the each Sherman model though.
I will try and cover the many post-war variants as well, but that could take months, there are a lot of variants of this venerable tank, including ones that involve putting the engine from one hull type into another hull type and or tanks modified by other countries with no feedback from the American designers. Some variants have heavily modified turrets or replaced it with a new one altogether. So far only Israeli Shermans have been done.
I will also try and document the Shermans civilian use, in everything from construction demolition (Tanks used to knock down buildings), to logging use, or use as tractors, the Sherman had a varied an interesting life in civilian hands post-war. There were several companies that went into business modifying Sherman Chassis for use in the logging and line laying industries. At least one M32 recovery tank was used as a general purpose heavy wrecker, at a shipyard. Hollywood got its fair use out of the Sherman as well, and it went on to become a popular item with vehicle collectors. Some of these restored Shermans have working canons. Who knew getting the license for a canon is easier than a machine gun?
Because of the Sherman tanks general ruggedness and reliability, the ones that do run will go on running for years to come and many generations should be able to enjoy them. Unlike many of the Shermans in Army hands that are just rusting away, some not even open to the public, or even covered with a tarp. Maybe someday the Army will get around to preserving our armored history instead of letting it rot away in parking lots, but it seems doubtful at this point.
This year I plan on doing a Tankers Story section, a Data Sheet for the Transmission, differential, and final drives, a data booklet for the GM6046, R975, and A57. I will also be putting up a lot of restored photos from various manuals.