Shermans Tanks In real Life: The Planes of Fame of fame Air Museum
Owning and flying WWII airplanes has been a thing much longer than restoring running tanks, and to this day, WWII aircraft tend to get more attention from Americans than armor or ships. That’s changed a lot over the years, and armor is more popular than ever with collectors, museums and the general public. There are several Tank museums or businesses around the country with running Shermans. The one we are going to talk about today is the Planes of Fame Air Museum, it is legendary in the Warbird world, because it has so many interesting and rare aircraft. It also has a long, history, and saved some amazing planes along the way, and one tank.
The Planes of Fame air museum has been around so long, it surely had a hand it kicking off the interest in Warbirds that has been popular in the United States since WWII. My Dad, a Baby Boomer, loved warbirds, and his love transferred right over to me, and I ran with it buying more books on airplanes, and tanks than he ever did, and I still have them al. When I was a kid, we went to the Reno Air Races, and I probably saw Steve Hinton, the President of Planes of Fame flying a racer. There is something about the roar of a warbird flying by that really gives you a sense of what seeing planes like that filling the sky in the mid-40s must have been like. They have a special sound, and hopefully this is a sound we will hear for decades to come.
Planes of fame got started in the 50s when Ed Maloney started collecting airplanes on a minuscule budget, his museums moved around, but really took root at Chino Airport, where Planes of Fame is to this day. Mr. Maloney had fallen in love with airplanes in high school, and just missed WWII. Shortly after the war he began collecting anything with wings on a shoestring budget for his future airplane museum. He was saddened and disgusted to see the warbirds that helped win WWII unceremoniously melted down for Scrap or for a lucky few to rot away on a remote part of an airport. I know the feeling, it makes me deeply sad to see the piles of P-38s bulldozed off a cliff in the Philippines, because flying them home was a waste of time and money…
By the 60s Ed Maloney had achieved his goal of building a museum and around the same time found a Sherman tank on range on Edwards Air Force base while he was scrounging for B-17 parts. He managed to buy the tank for $1! That’s not even the best part of the story! The Sherman, a very early production M4A1 75 tank, still ran! It had been sitting on Edwards for at least a decade untouched, and they got it running. The tanks interior was not gutted, though some things like the hull ammo boxes had been removed a lot of the important parts were still there. They collected more parts over the years, and serious restoration started in the 80s and continues even now.
Ed died in 2016, and it was a huge loss for the aviation community. Sometimes, when a man with a love for, and a collection of things like airplanes or tanks, when the man passes on, his labor of love dies with him, I know of a least two cases. The Littlefield collection only lasted a few years before his widow grew tired of it and donated it to a great museum on the east coast, but to build a place to keep it they sold most of it off, and now can’t build the new facility because of zoning problems. That wasn’t a worry of Ed Maloney, because PoF is a family affair. Steve Hinton, who took thinks over when Ed passed, has been around the place since he was a kid, and his best friend was Ed’s son. I’m also pretty sure Steve married Ed’s daughter! Planes of Fame lives on, stronger than ever, and with another generation working and flying the planes, I think they have a bright future.
Now you might be wondering how a bunch of airplane people can keep a tank working, but trust me, they have guys there who can keep an F4U-1 Corsair, with a magnificent Pratt and Whitney R-2800 running, they can figure out a simple Sherman. The nice thing about a Tank is it handles the weather a lot better than an Airplane, though being stored outside unprotected still isn’t good for them. The Sherman in particular has some very sturdy components, and more often than not, if the powertrain remained sealed up, even after decades on the firing range, if it didn’t get penetrated, they rarely needed much work to be operational again. The engines are a bit less robust, but in a nice warm dry environment, they could last a surprising amount of time as well.
Currently the Planes of Fame M4A1 is about 50% complete, and they restore a little more every year, as money and parts allow. I’m sure in some cases things have to be fabricated. It has a little Joe back auxiliary generator inside, has a working stock electric traverse system, but the stabilizer needs a little more work. The electric firing system works, and though the main gun is de-milled, it can still fire 75mm blanks. A blank firing co-ax M1919 machine gun can be fired with the foot switch, just like the main gun. The intercom is complete and works at all stations, as does all the interior lighting. A place like PoF probably has little trouble keeping the R-975 radial running either.
This summer the turret comes off, new ammo boxes go in and they will complete the interiors restoration. The M4A1 is already a part of their shows, but it is also available to rent, TV, Movies, Weddings, you name it, I could see an M4A1 being a cool addition! I hope to get down there sometimes in the next year or two and check the place out.
If you are in the area and have even the smallest interest in aviation, you owe yourself a trip to Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino California. The Sherman tank is of course going to see all on its own, but they also have a real Japanese Zero, with its correct engine and it flies! Even crazier? It was used in the Ben Aflack movie Pearl Harbor! Steve did all the flying, but they wouldn’t let him shoot Ben down for real!
Post # 68 The Chieftain’s Hatch does the M4A1, we review it: A great Hatch!
The video comes in two parts.
The subject of the video is Black Magic, a small hatch, late production M4A1 if the turret came on it, though the turret or gun mount could be from other tanks. When it comes to restored Sherman tanks, I think being concerned about matching numbers is not a thing that seems to be worried about, and since it was so well designed and built, parts readily interchange. This sherman started life as a canadian Grizzly, basically totally the same as an M4A1 with an extra small hatch in the hull floor.
This tank has almost all the quick fix upgrades, the extra armor over the hull ammo boxes but lacks the cheek armor on the turret, and the turret may, I can’t tell for sure, have the cast in cheek armor, meaning it almost for sure didn’t come on the hull. It also lacks the armor plates added in front of the driver and co drivers positions, that the Chieftain calls “sheet metal”. It also has some late Sherman stuff, either added by the restorers, or by a depot rebuild later in the tanks life. The spot light, and ‘gun crutch’, or travel lock as normal people use were not on most small hatch shermans. Also the all around vision cupola would not be found on these tanks during WWII.
The Tom Jentz tangent.
The Idea that the Sherman was no more reliable than any other tank, well, I don’t buy it. I like Mr Jentz’s work, and to some degree, his books helped inspire this site, since there was so little info on the web with really detailed info on the Sherman other than the Sherman Minutia site. I don’t think he really knows much about the Sherman if he thinks tanks like Panther and Tiger just needed more spare parts to be as reliable as the Sherman, it is a ridiculous idea. I do not think there was a single part on the Sherman that had a 500 kilometer life span, and that’s double the Panthers final drives.
First:The Chieftain himself has done Hatch posts on reports from the British, about how much more reliable, the M4A4 Sherman was than the Cromwell, even when both had full crews working to keep them running. both tanks were run thousands of miles, something late war German tanks could not do.
Second: Inone of his own Hatches talks about the French experience with the mighty panther showed they averaged 150 kilometers per final drive set! Much less if the crew was hard on them. There was no major automotive component including the oil, that had to be changed every 150 kilometers on any model of Sherman.
Third: This will focus on the Panther, since it was a major part of Germany’s late war armored force, and how terrible it was. This tank didn’t have just one flaw that should have disqualified it for production it had at least five. It was generally poorly reliable across all its automotive components, along with the final drive, 2500 kilometers for the motor and 1500 for the tranny were hugely optimistic and most of these tanks broke down and or were destroyed before they had to refuel. You had to take the whole drivers and co drivers compartment apart and the top of the hull off to change a transmission! Don’t get me started on the weak turret drive system that Rube Goldberg would have loved. The ‘wonderful’ dual torsion bar suspension and interleaved road wheels would cause any maintenance nazi to find the nearest US Line and surrender instead of working on it!
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Another thing to note, you can see the holes drilled vertically in the suspension bogies, these are the tops of the holes the bolts that hold the suspension caps on go into. They were covered up with body filler by the factory, but on most restored and old Shermans the filler is gone, and they don’t fill the holes.
Note: the odd groove in the center of the rear Hull casting, this wasn’t done on all M4A1 tanks, and may have been unique to General Steel castings.
On the problems with the R975, I have not heard of complaints about the engine being easy to blow, and would be very surprised if the throttle wasn’t governed to prevent it. On having to crank the engine before starting, I have it on good authority, that the crew could just start the tank and run it for a few minutes every 45 minutes to an hour to avoid having to hand crank the motor.
Many of units removed the sand shields in ETO to prevent problems with mud.
The Commanders vane site is an early version bolted to a late war vane site pad. The tank has the early style gunner’s periscope. The gunners periscope is missing the linkage going down to the gun. The radio looks like a 528. Note the Armored doors on all the ammo boxes and ready rack. The tank is missing a lot of interior storage, it may have been removed in preparation on shipping the tank out to it’s new owners.
I‘m no expert, but I think the Chieftain confused a .30 cal ammo bin for the 75mm ammo bin right next to his shoulder for the location of an SCR-506, I just can’t see a WWII radio fitting in the tiny box! You can see how sparsely filled the interior is, as issued the tank would be stuffed full of items to help fight it, live with it, or keep it running. The Chieftain shows just how easy even a small hatch Sherman was to get out of, the the Loader was still going to have some issues though. I wish he would have tried the belly hatch out, but maybe it’s welded shut or something.
He covers the small floor hatch on the Grizzly tanks, and you get a nice shot of the early escape hatch. They also show the generator mounted on the rear of the transmission in one of the shots, briefly. You can also see the full turret basket’s mesh screening that separated the turret crew from the hull crew. Part of the quick fix was to cut this all out. I suspect most of the inconsistencies in the tanks details are due to the restoration crew using the Sherman parts they could get their hands on. Very few people would even notice or know it had the wrong commanders hatch, or even whole turret.
A note on the tank, it belonged to a the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation, a fancy name for the collection of a man named Jacques Littlefield. He had a passion for armored vehicles of all types but really liked tanks. He restored many to full functionality, including working main guns and machine guns on some tanks. Owning a working tank cannon is easier than you would think, and far easier than getting the paperwork approved to own machine guns in California, and Jacques Littlefield did both. He employed a restoration crew with world class skills and did some amazing restorations, including a Panther A that was impossibly damaged, but still brought back to life. That Panther was his crowning achievement, and he was a real mover and shaker in the international military vehicle restoration scene, seeing that tank run was one of the last things he achieved, because cancer claimed him shortly after.
The MVTF was supposed to make sure the collection of vehicles, that were a labor of love his whole life, lived on when he passed. Unfortunately the location of the MVTF, Portola California, on a large chunk of very private property, with very limited parking really presented some problem. The collection was used often while it was there, by TV productions like Myth Busters, and was a staple for the Wargaming Staff for their productions, and occasionally opened up to groups of vets, or other interested people. There were other difficulties with the location, and ultimately the collection was donated to the Collings Foundation. They reportedly decided to keep 40 of the most significant vehicles and auction the rest off. The money from the auction was going to be used to build a facility in Stowe Massachusetts, but due to zoning issues, the permits were not provided, leaving the vehicles they did keep in limbo.
I‘m sure the Collings Foundation, a really amazing Charity, they keep many rare WWII aircraft, and cars, including race cars running, has a plan for the rest of the tanks. Their website only lists the Panther in their collection, I hope that doesn’t mean they sold the rest when the museum fell through. That’s not a criticism of the CF, they I’m sure know their business far better than I do, and they really are a top notch group of people. Just browse that site to see the airplanes they’ve gotten flying. The only real B-24 liberatorand a working F-4 Phantom are just two of the notable planes!! If you know anything about aviation, you know just how complicated and expensive keeping an aircraft like a Phantom flying is, especially if you don’t have the resources of the U.S. Navy or Air Force backing you.
I have to say, this is one of the best Chieftain’s hatches they have done. Granted, I’m a tad biased, since it was on the Sherman, well a Grizzly made into a later model small hatch Sherman anyway, and the Chieftain really has gotten pretty good with the Sherman and its sub variants, and even has a book on US WWII TDs on the way.
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.
Tank and AFV News posted a link to a fascinating YouTube video covering march security of mechanized units, the film is from early 43. This Army training film is almost a half an hour long, and it’s really interesting, and has some rare shots of men working inside a Sherman. The film takes place somewhere in the US, probably on a Hollywood backlot, the Desert Training Center was pretty close so getting the tanks to Hollywood wouldn’t be hard. At times the film is clearly using special effects, and that lends more credence to it being done in Hollywood. The film covers security on the march, and does it by covering a tank platoon, and what it should be doing. It covers night movement, camouflage when stopped and gives tips on being stealthier in your tank; it also covers how to use the columns firepower if attacked from the air.
The tanks used were all early M4A1s, but not super early since they are not DV tanks, but still have shorty gun mantlet and no telescopic sites, they do have heavy duty suspension as well. The tanks also have full turret baskets, with the 12 unprotected ready rounds, and no armor over the sponson ammo racks or the turret cheek add-on armor. Its possible training tanks did not have these features removed like tanks slated to see combat, or the film was made very early in the war.
It is an Official War Department Training film, number T.F. 21 2035, and I want to make sure and thank Jeff Quitney for putting it up on YouTube! I had never seen it before so it was a real treat. He has a lot of other good content up on YouTube as well so check it out.
Now let’s talk about the contents of the Training Film.
Right off the video starts off with a M4A1 driving by on a dirt road, it’s going at a good clip, and you can just make out another M4A1 trailing behind it at a few angles. The next shot shows a tank crew in front of their M4A1 going over a map with commander, and it just keeps getting better. I took well over 100 screen caps watching this film.
The training film makes it clear there are the five things that need to be kept in mind at all times to make a road march safe.
The enemy’s goal in an ambush would be to get to the main body of the column, and the film talks about how they should move, and covers things down to where each vehicle is to point its gun, to be prepared for an attack that might come either from the air, or ground. The film focuses on the actions of a single, five tank, platoon in the main body of the column, and then covers each of the five steps previously mentioned, and how that platoon would do them.
Advanced Preparation: Because good prep makes for smooth operations.
Be ready for gas, liquid vesicant detector paint, this pain, turns green to red when vesicant gas droplets touch it. A large square of this stuff was painted on the front of the tank. Then the decontaminator stored in the tank could be used to spray down the tank. The crew was also issued gas masks, and this was the time to make sure they were in working order.
Check the tanks readiness out. The Commander needs to check the tanks fuel level personally. The Crew, checks the engine out, checks the tracks, and checks out the ammo load. Do not leave with an empty ammo rack if ammo is available. Main gun rounds should be clean and undented.
Platoon leader review whole route on the map with all tank commanders. Cover all points of interest along the route, likely ambush spots, landmarks, areas of good cover for rest points etc.Each tank commanderwill then pass all this info along to all his crew members, ensuring they can all fill in for each other. If one tank has to fall out for any reason, its crew knows the whole route and plan.
Alertness: Because surprise is the enemy’s best weapon, always be on guard for attack, air or ground.
Every man in each tank turret is an air observer, the Tank Commander should always be looking around the tank, scanning the ground and air, and looking back. The Co-Driver should be watching the flanks, because the Driver is watching the road. The gunner and loader should be using their periscopes, all scanning for an attack.
The crewmember in the turret hatch needs to be alert, so when the commander is tired and needs to take a break, the gunner or loader will swap places with him. The Commanders position, no matter who is manning it has to be ready to receive signals from the platoon or company commander and pass them on, be they flag, or hand or radio. He also has to be able to see a messenger that needs his attention. The Loader should help the commander tend the radio, and the crew should listen to the radio to keep informed.
Concealment: Keeping a 32 ton tank as hidden as possible!
Dust is bad. You can’t hide tanks in a dust cloud, so don’t drive on soft dusty shoulders if you’re on a road. Even if that shoulder is shady, and will make the tank more pleasant inside, the dust can be seen for miles. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but try to do so as much as possible. Line formation is best for use in places dust cannot be avoided. Driving at a slower speed can help minimize dust as well.
Shielding Terrain is to be taken advantage of anytime it won’t produce large amounts of dust.
Shade is ok is it does not make extra dust, and can help hide you from air observation.
Your goggles can reflect light for miles; if you’re not wearing your goggles store them in the tank. If they are needed to protect your eyes, they should be covering them. This applies to any shiny object.
Do no silhouette your tank on a hill or high ground. Drive around the base of the hill. If you have to drive on a hill stay below the crest.
Dispersion: Bunching up is bad, if you are to close one artillery round, or bomb can damage multiple vehicles.
Bunching up like a bunch of cows with their tails in the breeze is bad. This makes you a big target.
Proper daylight spacing is at least 75 yards between tanks. If visibility and terrain allow, you can have more than 75 yards, but never less. In hilly terrain it is easy to bunch up, keep your eyes on the tank in front of you if it starts slowing down; you will have to as well.
Falling Out. If your vehicle has to fall out for some reason, engine troubles, or some other issue, make sure you pull far enough off the path to not cause a bottleneck on the path, and slow the rest of the column. Make sure and signal the column and platoon so they know what is going on. Don’t try and catch up, wait for a halt, then retake your position. Fall in with the rear guard until the halt.
Firepower: A Sherman tank packs a lot of punch, keep it ready, it’s your ace in the hole
The main gun should be trained out and ready, but not loaded. The lead tank and the next in line keep their main guns aimed straight ahead. The third tank in line keeps its gun trained out to the right. The fourth tank keeps its gun trained out to the left. The fifth tank will have its main gun traversed to the rear.
M2 .50 anti-aircraft guns should be kept half loaded, so they can be quickly brought to bear on any attacking aircraft. To keep the column covered, alternating tank commanders look forward and to the rear during air attack.
Do not halt, during an air attack. Your tank is much harder to hit when moving. Even if you have good concealment, do not stop. When a plane is sighted signal the rest of the column, close all hatches but the commanders, alternate the .50 AA guns and engage the aircraft.
Report the results of any air attack up the chain of command. TCs report to Platoon Leaders, Platoon Leaders to Company Commanders, etc.
Halt security: Units on the move have to stop, for human reasons or mechanical ones, and you can’t just do it willy-nilly, there’s a plan for that too.
There are two kinds of stops a unit on the march will make. The short ten minute halt, to check the tanks out, for the crews to stretch their legs, no major maintenance will be taken on these short halts. The second kind is the Long halt. On the long halt, the tanks can be repaired if anything major popped up and refueled, and the crews could get some chow.
Security rules and things to note on the short halt:
Check the ground where the tank will be parked, make sure the tank won’t get stuck, or sink in. Back into the spot so you will not have to back out if the tank needs to move out in a hurry.
First Echelon Tank Maintenance should be done on the short halt, check the tracks, tighten the end connectors, check the motor out, lube as needed.
Review the course, check out the route the column is taking on the map, and review it with your crew and the rest of the platoon.
Be Alert, post guards, at least two from each crew. One man must always be on the platoon leader’s radio. Do not let the enemy sneak up on your position.
Disperse on the halt, in the same pattern as on the move; each tank is still responsible for covering the area they were covering with their main gun. Use any cover available on the halt to conceal the tanks as best possible from air or ground observation. Spacing cannot be less than 75 yards.
Each tank will have the commanders .50 manned.
When pulling out, each tank will keeps its spacing, and will not stop on the road to form up.
Security Rules and things to note on the long halt:
All the rules for a short halt apply
You can pull further from the road on a longer halt. A guard has to be posted near the road to receive any signals though.
Dig Prone Shelters, you might not be able to get back into the tank in a surprise air raid or artillery attack.
Eat while you work, you never know how long the halt will be.
Take more time to conceal the tanks, cut or break off tree branches and use them to break up the tanks lines. Rake the tanks tracks leaving the road away.
Use shade and any local cover to hide the tank, move the tank as the shadows used to hide them move with the sun.
If no cover can be found, use the camo net.
Some camo is better than nothing.
Special Rules for night marches:
If under air attack, Stop, for both concealment, and to prevent bunching up.
If under air Attack, Do not fire, unless you are sure you are spotted.
If under air Attack, Turn off your marker lights, the video doesn’t say this, and they used models in the film, but I think it’s a safe assumption.
No light, not even a smoke, and smoking is bad anyway, mmmkay.
Now for some thoughts on the film, it is really very interesting for several reasons, and the quality is very good. The main reason it’s interesting is the look at prewar combat, or pre air superiority march doctrine. The attention paid to defense from air attack would not be pushed nearly as much even by the Italian campaign and would be almost an afterthought by Normandy. Later films probably pushed very carefully searching for well concealed AT guns and infantry that the lead and flank scouts may have missed.
It is also interesting how gas attacks and preparation for them is first thing they cover. I’m sure shortly after most unit got in combat they ended up losing or discarding most gas related gear, and I can’t ever recall seeing a man carrying a gas mask case or a square of the gas detecting paint on any vehicles in combat photos.
The night shot of tanks moving is clearly done with models. The machine guns used during the mock air raid also appear to be prop guns. If you watch carefully, most of the film, the .50 M2s have the normal short cooling sleeve with round holes, during the shooting scene, these have slotted sleeves, and the barrels do not seem to recoil at all. The explosions look like typical Hollywood fare as well. It should come as no surprise Hollywood was willing to help the war effort; this is just one example of many. All the big studies did propaganda movies and even Bugs bunny and Disney got into the act.
I have been looking the tanks over, they are all M4A1 75 tanks, they are all small hatch hulls, but none are DV, they all have heavy duty suspension bogies. Two have three piece cast differential housings, the rest have the first version of the cast one piece diff housing. The turrets all look the same for the most part, with the short mantlet, so M34 gun mounts with no telescopic sights. Some of the gun mounts have slanted lift rings, others don’t seem too. At least one turret has the port for the spotlight on the roof. One tank has the siren mounted in the front plate with the odd single brush guard, the rest seem to have them mounted on the fenders. Two or three of the tanks appear to have T54 steel chevron tracks, while two or three seem to have T47 steel bar cleat tracks. I’m bad at spotting the little clues that give away who made what, but I think two of the tanks were made at PCF in Washington; I think the two tanks with three piece diffs are from PSC in Illinois.
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 what 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 tool box 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 bullet proof, 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 a 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 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, lets 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 crews 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 tool box. 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 tool box 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 inside 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 Updated 10/2/16
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, since 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 many cases. In some cases the green crews who panic and bail out, just don’t bother even checking the tank over before running. 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.
Even though the Sherman was an automotive masterpiece the Germans could only dream of producing, they were still capable of keeping them running. 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 a Armored Recovery Vehicle, and the Shermans was 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.
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.
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.
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 way4 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 a 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 to sub models, so all the Ic Firefly tanks produced came from the 2096 they received, and this number would include the composite hulls too. This version was the preferred US Army version, and many of the one the Brits received came as replacements stripped from US Tank Divisions before the battle of El Alamein. They became much more rare, 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. A M4A1 76 would be called a Sherman IIa, or a IIay for a 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 IIIay, tank 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 sub types 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 were 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 were because Churchill practically begged Roosevelt for more Shermans just before El Alamien.
As the war progressed, the US Army put priority on the M4 and M4A1; the British had to settle for M4A2 and the M4A4. They 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
Sherman use by the United States Marines: “The enemy’s power lies in his tanks.” Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima, Okinawa.
Most people have the idea the Marines used the M4A2, and only the M4A2, and list things like ‘it was a diesel, like Navy landing craft used, so like common fuel bro’ as the reason the marines chose the tank. The real reason they got A2, was that’s what was available when they asked, there wasn’t much choice involved, and they should feel lucky the army didn’t dump M3 Lee’s on them. At various times the Marines also used M4A1s, and M4A3, all with the 75mm gun.
By the end of the war the Marines would be experts in employing the tank, Infantry, team. The Marines, like their European Army counterparts used, Yankee ingenuity to modify their Shermans to help them survive combat their designers had no idea they would see. These modifications included improvised water proofing, and deep wading kits. They also included improvised add on armor made of wood and concrete, and the use of spikes and screens over the hatches to help prevent the Japanese from using explosives directly on the periscope ports and hatches.
The Marines had toyed around with tanks in the 20 and 30s but never had the budget to buy many. The ones they did buy were all light tanks that wouldn’t see combat use. The first tank they would use in combat in WWII was the M3 light, using it on in all major campaigns until 1943 when the Sherman entered the scene. The first combat for the Sherman would be Tarawa, were they used a battalion of tank that was mixed, two companies of lights and one of mediums. After Tarawa, the use of lights would not be fully suspended, but the Sherman would be the tank of choice for the rest of the war and lights would be phased out.
The marines ultimately ended up with six tank battalions and a training school at Camp Eliot California. The first two battalions formed were the 1st and 2nd and deployed without training at the tank school, and a lot of rejects from other units. After the first two battalions formed, most of the Marines tankers went through the school, and the school trained almost all the new NCOs and officers. When the war ended, all but the 1st and 2nd were disbanded, and the 1st and 2nd have remained active since the beginning, and are still in operation today.
When the fighting was over on Okinawa, Major-General Lemuel Shepard, the Marine ground commander had this to say: “If any one supporting arm can be singled out as having contributed more than any others during the progress of the campaign, the tank would certainly be selected.”
The Sherman would go on serving the Marines in Korea, though by then it was just the M4A3 105 tanks and Sherman based recovery vehicles.
The Sherman Variants: So Many Shermans, so Confusing! Updated 4/13
First off, Americans referred to the Sherman as the M4, or M4 Medium, or Medium, the Sherman name was not commonly used until post WWII. The British came up with the name for the M4 and referred to it with their own designation system that is covered in more detail later. They also named the Lee, and Stuart, and at some point the US Army just stuck with the naming scheme. The full story behind this is still a minor mystery, with US war time documents confirming the ‘general’ names were at least used on paper by the US Army during the war.
Now let’s cover the factory production versions of the Sherman. Also keep in mind; it is very hard to define just how a Sherman may be configured without really knowing where and when it was produced. In some rare cases, large hatch hull, 75mm armed Shermans got produced with normal ammo racks, when the norm for large hatch hull tanks was wet ammo racks.
Then you have post war rebuilds, where the Army swapped 76 turrets onto 75mm M4A3 HVSS hulls during depot level rebuilds. It would not be impossible for a field repair depot to swap a turret from one knocked out tank, onto the hull of another, making an oddball. You also have to take into account post war monuments are sometimes Frankenstein tanks, in one case with a T23 on a small hatch hull. You can also run into a Frankenstein tank in museums, or post war civilian restorations. In many cases museum tanks are old range relics that need restoration, in some cases the tank was in decent shape and a cosmetic restoration can easily be done. For the civilian tanker, who wants a running Sherman, also has to get them from a gunnery range, then, the long process of rebuilding the tank can start. I link to a few places that cover a restoration, and these guys do amazing work, taking tanks that you could never imaging running or looking like a tank again, and bringing them back to life.
The nice thing about a tank, as far as a WWII collectable vehicle goes, say compared to an Airplane, like a P-51 or even SNJ, is tanks won’t breakdown, and kill you by falling out of the sky. If you make a big error in a tank, at worst, you’re going to take out a building, flop it on its side, or sink it in deep mud or something, all not really life threatening. Once you have the tank, running it is going to be a lot cheaper than a vintage aircraft as well. The other nice thing is if you’re handy, you can work on it yourself, without having to get a certified aircraft mechanic to sign off on all your work. You do need a hell of a lot of heavy equipment to really work on a tank though, but you don’t have annuals, and hanger rental costs! This may be why the hobby of owning a tank is becoming more popular in the United States!
M4 Sherman: First in Name, 4th Into Production.
These tanks used the same R975 motor as the M3, and M3A1. The vast majority of the bugs in this automotive system were worked out before the M4 even started production. This really helped give the Sherman its reputation for reliability and ease of repair. The M4 had a welded hull with a cast turret mounting the M3, 75mm gun. Early variants had three hull machine guns, and two, turret mounted machine guns. The hull guns were all M1919A4 .30 caliber machine guns, two fixed, and one mounted in a ball mount for the co-drivers use. The fixed guns were deleted from production very rapidly. The turret armament remained unchanged for the whole production run: Using the M3 75mm gun with the M1919A4 coaxial machine gun and M2 .50 caliber mounted on the roof. The turret would be the same turret used on all early Shermans and would be interchangeable on all production Shermans. This version was not produced with the later improved T23 turret but did get some large hatch hulls in special variants.
There were two variants of the M4 to be built with the large hatch hull. The first, the M4 (105) was a large hatch hull mated to the 105mm howitzer, on the M52 mount, in the standard 75mm turret. These hulls did not have wet ammo racks or gyro stabilizers, and the 105mm turrets had an extra armored ventilator, the only turrets to have them. The M4 (105) gun tanks had a special mantlet, with four large screws in the face, unique to 105 tanks. Production started in February of 44, and continued well into 45, with late production M4 (105) tanks getting HVSS suspension. These tanks were used as replacements for the M7 Priest in tank units, and spent most of their time being used as indirect fire support, like the M7 they replaced. These tank also had exhaust deflecting vents installed in the back to help reduce dust from being stirred up.
One other variant of the M4 to get the large hatch hull(100 or so small hatch casting were made as well) was the M4 ‘hybrid’, this hull was welded, but used a large casting very similar to the front of the M4A1 on the front of the hull. It was found that most of the welding hours building the welded hull tanks were spent on the glacis plate. They figured out by using one large casting, incorporating the hatches and bow gun would save on welding time and labor costs.
These M4 hybrids were used by the British to make Ic Fireflies. They liked the 75mm turret these tanks came with since many already had a loaders hatch, this saved them time on the conversion since they didn’t have to cut one. Most of the M4 composite tanks were shipped to Europe or the Pacific, making survivors rare.
The M4 along with the M4A1 were the preferred US Army version of the Sherman until the introduction of the M4A3. This tank was made in five factories from July of 42 to March of 45, 7584 produced. As far as the US Army was concerned, the M4, and M4A1 were interchangeable.
M4A1 Sherman: First Into Production, And When It Did Go, It Was The Most Advanced Tank In The World.
This was virtually the same tank as the M4, with the same motor and automotive systems and armament. The key difference was the cast upper hull. This huge upper hull casting was one piece. This was a very hard thing to do with casting technology at the time, and something the Germans could not have reproduced, they lacked the advanced technology, and facilities needed to do so. Everything from hatches to wheels, and turrets, and guns were interchangeable with the M4 and other Sherman models. This version saw production longer than any other hull type. It also saw all the upgrades like the improved large hatch hull with wet ammo racks, the T23 turret with 76mm gun, and HVSS suspension system. It was 30 of these M4A1 76 HVSS tanks that were the last Shermans ever produced. The M4A1 was also the first to see combat use with the improved M1 gun and T23 turret during operation Cobra. These tanks would also be the basis for the Israeli M51 Sherman. Three factories produced 9527 M4A1s with all turret types from Feb 42 to July of 45.
The US Marines used one battalion of these tanks on the Cape Gloucester campaign, all small hatch M4A1 75 tanks. This was the only use of this type by the U.S. Marines.
M4A2 Sherman: The Second Sherman Into Production!
This version of the Sherman used a welded hull nearly identical to the M4, but with a pair of vented armored grates on the rear hull deck. The M4A2 tanks used the GM 6046 twin diesel. This version was produced with all the improvements the other types got, like the large hatch hull with wet ammo racks, the T23 turret with improved M1 gun, and HVSS suspension. This version would see very limited combat in US hands, most being shipped to Russia with a few early hulls going to the Brits and USMC. This was the preferred version for Soviet lend lease deliveries, since the USSR was using all diesel tanks. It was produced in six factories with 10,968 of all turret types produced from April of 42 to July 45.
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.
M4A3 Sherman: The Best Version Of The Sherman, Both in 75mm and 76mm
This would be the base for what would be the final Sherman in US Army use, seeing action all the way out to the Korean War in US Army hands. This tank had a welded hull just like the M4, A2, and A4, but used a new motor. The Ford GAA V8, this motor took some time for its bugs to be worked out, so unlike say, the Nazi Germans, the US Army didn’t use it until it was ready for serious production. When it was, it became the preferred US Army version of the tank in both the 75mm and 76mm armed tanks. It would see all the improvements, and be the first hull type to take the HVSS suspension system into combat for the US Army. The M4A3E8 or M4A3 tank with T23 turret and HVSS suspension bolted on would be the final and ultimate US Army Sherman. It would be produced in three factories with all turret types, 12,596 built in total between June 42 and June of 45.
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 re arm 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 larger turret that included a flame thrower 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.
M4A4 Sherman: The Sherman No One Wanted At First, But In The End Was A Very Important Model, At Least To The British
This tank is the oddball of Sherman tanks. It had a welded hull and used the A-57 multibank motor. A tank motor made from combining five car motors on one crank case. As complicated as this sounds, it was produced in large numbers and was reliable enough to see combat use, though not in American hands in most cases. In US use they tried to limit it to stateside training duty. The Brits found it more reliable than their native power plants and liked it just fine. The A4 version never got the improved large hatch hull or T23 turret with M1 gun. Most were shipped to the Brits via lend lease and many were turned into Vc Fireflies, making it the most common Firefly type. The US Marines operating these tanks in the states as training tanks, 22 of them for two months before they were replaced by M4A2s. This tank had a longer hull, like its Lee cousin to accommodate the big A-57 motor. It was the first Sherman version to go out of production. It was produced in one factory (CDA) from July of 42, to November of 43 with 7499 built.
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 into the casting on the cast hulls. It’s safe to say no small hatch tanks were factory produced with a 76mm gun or improved T23 turret.
The major hull change came when they upgraded the drivers and co drives hatches making them bigger. They also thickened the front armor to 64mm but reduced the slope to 47 degrees to fit the new driver’s hatches. The M4 (hybrid and 105 only), M4A1, A2, and A3 were produced with these improved large hatch hulls. Many of these improved large hull tanks had the original 75mm gun and turret. Even the M4A3 with HVSS suspension was produced with the 75mm gun and turret. Most of the large hatch production was with the new and improved T23 turret. These larger hatch hulls would still accept the majority of the spares the older hulls used and the lower hull remained largely unchanged and would accept all the suspension types. Any large hatch M4A3 hull was likely converted to an M4A3 76 HVSS post WWII.
Through the whole production run minor details were changed. The suspension saw many different version before the final HVSS type was produced. The track types also changed and there were many variants made from rubber and steel, or steel. There were even at least six different types of road wheel! There are so many minor detail changes, the scope is to big to cover in this post, needless to say, the only other tank I know of with so many minor changes over the production run was the Tiger, and in the Tigers case it’s just sad, with so few produced, it means almost no two tigers were the same. This was not the case for the Shermans and the changes did not slow production down at all and in many cases were just different because a particular part, like an antenna mount, or driver’s hood, could have been sourced from a different sub-contractor, and the parts may look different, but would function exactly the same. Tiger parts are not good at interchanging without modification, and a crew a craftsmen to custom fit them. The changes made to the Sherman were either to incorporate better parts, or to use a locally made substitute part for one in short supply, so making their own version allowed them to continue production without a slowdown.
To really get a handle on these differences there are two really great sources.
This is the easy, way: Sherman Minutia site a great site that really covers the minor detail changes on the Sherman tank very well. You can spend hours reading it and looking over the pictures. It explains little of the combat history of the Sherman but covers the minor changes on the vehicles themselves very well. You can spend hours on this site learning about minor Sherman details. It is also a primary source for this post.
Another great way is to get a copy of: Son of 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 continual change as well, but remained basically the same. The 75mm gun never changed but its mount and sighting system did. The turret lost the pistol port, and then gained it back. It gained a rotor shield over time and an extra hatch. All these detail changes are covered on the site above and in the Son of a Sherman book. The important thing to note was the tank saw continual improvement to an already reliable, and easy to produce design. The Sherman was easy to produce for an industrial nation like the USA, but beyond Nazi Germany’s technical capabilities for several reasons, like large casting and the gun stabilization system, or even multiple reliable motors to power the tens of thousands of tanks made.
In the basics section I’m only going to cover one more thing. The Sherman tank was not as blind as the tanks it faced. The M4 series, from the first production tank, to the final Sherman that rolled off any of the production lines, were covered in periscopes or view ports for the crew. The gunner had a wide angle periscope that had incorporated the site for the main gun, and they very quickly added a telescopic site to go with it. The commander had a large rotating periscope in his rotating copula. The loader had a rotating periscope and the driver and co-driver had two, one in their hatch, and another mounted in the hull right in front of them once the DV ports were deleted (non-rotating). Later version added a direct vision cupola and a periscope for the loader in his new hatch. All these periscopes could be lowered and the port closed, and if damage easily and quickly replaced from inside the tank. All this gave the Sherman an advantage in spotting things outside the tank; they were still blind, just not as blind as most of the tanks they would face. Finding an AT gun in a bush could be very challenging for any tank, and infantry if not scared off by the presence of a tank in the first place can sneak up on one pretty easy.
This was a big advantage when it saw combat and throughout the tanks career it was always one of the best if not the best tank of the war. It was reliable, the crew had a good chance of spotting enemies before other tank crews, the gun was stabilized, fast firing, and accurate. It was as good or better than most of the tanks it faced, even the larger German tanks. These tanks were largely failures, with only long debunked Nazi propaganda propping up their war record. The Sherman has the opposite problem.
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