Category Archives: Tank Company

#37 Dozers: The M1 and M1A1 Dozer Blade Kit.

This M4A3 105 tank has an M1 bulldozer blade installed.

  Dozers: Turn Your Tank Into A Bulldozer!

This dozer blade came in kit form and could be installed on any Sherman. They came two to a crate, an M1 and an M1A1 each per crate. The difference between a M1 and an M1A1 Dozer blade was pretty minor, and an M1A1 dozer blade was universal, but the M1 blade only worked on Shermans with VVSS. This is because the M1A1 blade was wider. Here is some data on the blades. The reason the wider blade worked on the narrower VVSS tanks was because the kit came with spacers to fill the gap left by the wider A1 blade when used on a VVSS tank.


Blade Data

Blade Height: —————————————————————————————-48 inches

Overall width M1:———————————————————————————124 inches

Overall width M1A1:——————————————————————————138 inches

Added weight to tank M1:————————————————————————-7100 lbs.

Added weight to tank M1A1:———————————————————————-7400 lbs.

Lift height of blade M1:———————————————————————18 to 30 inches

Lift height of blade M1A1:——————————————————————18 to 42 inches

Lift Load, M1:——————————————————————————————- 4000lbs

Lift Load M1A1:—————————————————————————————–5000lbs

The TM for the kit makes it sound like it was installed on tanks at the Depot Level and then the tank was issued to a unit with the blade kit installed and ready to go. After reading through the tech manual, it could be done by the tank crew without to much trouble, though a small crane would be nice for the installation of the hydraulic cylinder, but that seems like it would be a rare occurrence. If the kit had a drawback, it was that the blade blocked the bow Machine gun.

bulldozerpic from TM9-719 4 –bulldozerpic from TM9-719 5

The kit broke down into several major parts groups.

bulldozerpic from TM9-719 7

Hydraulic Group: Was made up from external and internal parts that were a part of the Hydraulic system including the pump, an oil reservoir, and all the brackets to install these parts. There were also hoses and fasteners of various types. It also included a special wide angle periscope for the driver. Once

bulldozerpic from TM9-719 2bulldozerpic from TM9-719 3bulldozerpic from TM9-719 10

To install these parts a few things had to be removed from the interior. As this pictures show, the pump and tank assembly was fairly large. Essentially the tray for the spare periscope head box and the box had to be removed. The several brackets and guards had to be removed, and then the generator itself and its mount had to be pulled. It also involves disconnecting the transmission side of the propeller shaft, and installing a new pulley on it to run the hydraulic pump from. Once everything was installed, it did not impede the crew any more than when it wasn’t there since nothing took up the space right above the transmission.

   A few parts from the hydraulic group did get installed outside the tank, the hydraulic hose, run through the left headlight mount. A guard for the hose and a cable running from a handle on the inside, used to jettison the blade in an emergency. All these parts are universal to all models of Sherman, though a few brackets could require a little modification for everything to fit right do to the way some hoses and belts were run.

The hydraulic jack and the framework attacking it to the tanks tow points on the front of the tank are also in the hydraulic group.  There were several bracket sets for use with the different kinds of differential housing the tanks could have.  There was a cover assembly/bracket to protect the mount, and hoses, and help position the jack

bulldozerpic from TM9-719 11 bulldozerpic from TM9-719 8bulldozerpic from TM9-719 10

Suspension Mounting Bracket Group: This group used already existing bolt holes in the suspension to make installation easier.  Each kit came with brackets to make it work with VVSS or HVSS. The VVSS bracket could be adapted to work with either the M1 or M1A1 blades, the HVSS Brackets could only be used with M1A1 blades, because the M1A1 blade was wider to accommodate the wider HVSS. This bracket and had the pivot points for the blade.

The VVSS mounts used a replacement suspension cap built onto the blade mounting bracket, and another replacement cap with bolt holes. Another part of the vertical suspension mounting bracket bolted to the unused return roller holes on the middle boggie assembly, the same one that used the built in replacement caps. The replacement cap with extra bolt holes replaced the cap in the front boggie assembly.

bulldozerpic from TM9-719 12

The HVSS mounts were simpler. You just removed four bolts in the first and second suspension arm supports and install the horizontal suspension mounting bracket with longer bolts and lock washers. This is a much easier install than the VVSS mounts, but neither seems overly hard.

bulldozerpic from TM9-719 13

Once you have the mounting brackets on, you get to move onto the…

bulldozerpic from TM9-719 bulldozerpic from TM9-719 14

Bulldozer Blade Group: This group is basically the blade and it arms that mount to the pivot points on the suspension brackets.  This part of the job is where you could really lose fingers or toes. You need a nice flat area, the area you stated in hopefully, and then you drive the tank up to the blade, careful to keep it centered. The tank stops to feet from contact with the blade, and the driver raises the jack piston to the same as the connecting pin on the Blade group.

This is a multi-person Job, since the co-driver has to hold the quick release cable, in the release position, while the tank is driven into the Jack arms pivot points, and then let the pin close on the eye on the Jack head. The co-driver, while doing this is also guiding the tank into place on the blade arms. At this point the latches on the pivot points can be locked down, a large hammer may be needed and the quick disconnect cable fed into place and loosely connected in the interior of the tank. When it’s pulled the whole assemble will come lose and can be backed out of.  You can see some of this in a video in the Shermans in motion section.

bulldozerpic from TM9-719 16

The final step would be installing the M14 periscope in the drivers position, filling the system with fluids and testing it out. The system was easy to use, and had dual controls, so the co-driver could operate the blade if the driver really needed both hands. The controls were a simple lever used to raise and lower the blade, raising it by hydraulic pressure, lowering it by cutting the hydro pressure and letting the weight of the blade bring it down. Removing the blade was as simple as pulling the quick release cable. If you planted the blade in the ground just right before release, so it wouldn’t move, you could drive the tank right back up to it, hammer the pivot point latches in place, put the pin in the jack and go.

I have to say this is a very impressive kit. It did make the tank a bit front heavy and probably shortened the life of the front springs, it was not a problem in any real way or the Army would have had modifications made to solve these problems. This kit saw prolific use with the US Army and Marines, and since it worked on any Sherman model, probably everyone else who used Shermans and could get their hands on it. This dozer kit was the most effective way of punching through hedgerows as well, working much better than the dedicated hedge row cutters. A tank company would get one dozer blade equipped tank into the HQ platoon, if there were enough kits to go around. There might be another one in the Battalion HQ platoon.

bulldozerpic from TM9-719 15

The Lone Sentry has published a report from Shortly after WWII called the Armored Special Equipment report.

This report covers all the armored funnies, or specialty vehicles from Hedgerow cutters, DD tanks, and Crab modifications. Our interest from this article is the feedback on the Dozer blade setup.

This was the feedback on its combat use:

The tank dozer was employed extensively for numerous purposes commencing immediately after D-Day. Some of the missions for which the tank dozer was employed in the European Theater are outlined below:

(1) Shortly after D-Day a platoon of four tank dozers of the 741st Tank Battalion operating on the beaches under intense fire, removed beach obstacles, opened roads and pushed off beached landing vehicles.4

(2) The tank dozer was used to break through hedgerows, broaden existing gaps and gaps blown with explosive charges; and thereby facilitated the use of other than normal entrances through hedgerows.5

(3) Tank and gun emplacements were prepared.

(4) Roadblocks were cleared; and in addition, rubble, wrecked vehicles, and snow were removed, and craters filled. It was found necessary in many instances to provide a tank dozer for these purposes to work in conjunction with the roller type mine exploders in sweeping roads and shoulders.

(5) In connection with the Roer and Rhine River operations, bridge approaches were built, launching sites for LCM’s and LCVP’s and crane sites were prepared, and cuts dozed in the river dikes.

The Tank Dozer has the following merits and deficiencies:

(1) Merits:

(a) The tank dozer provides armored units with a standard vehicle that can be readily employed to reduce obstacles and assist in the advance of units or to assist in the preparation of defensive positions.

(b) Armor protection is provided for the crew.

(c) The tank dozer can also be employed as a fighter tank.

(d) The tank dozer installation is simple, reliable, and its maintenance demands are negligible. 

(2) Deficiencies:

(a) The tank dozer installation overloads the front of the tank suspension system and increases bogie tire failures and suspension maintenance demands.

(b) The tank dozer installation materially limits the driver’s field of vision.

(c) There is insufficient clearance between the track and dozer blade arm to ensure safe operation with the addition of the standard 3-5/8 inch track extended end connectors.

(d) Sufficient dozer blade accessories were not available so that dozer blades salvaged from burned tanks could be readily reinstalled on other tanks.


I found this very interesting, please check out the Lone Sentry Web site, it’s a very informative place.

The source for this post was almost exclusively Tech Manual 9-719 Tank Mounting Bulldozer (M1 and M1A1). The TM can be found in our download section and the report on the lone Sentry.

Here’s a video from the army on how to install this dozer blade kit.

#17 The WWII Medium Tank Battalion: The Heart Of An Armored Division, Or The Heavy Gun Support To An Infantry Division

The US Army Tank Battalion:  How Sherman tanks were deployed

There were two types of  tank battalion, the type attached to infantry divisions, as ‘independent’ tank battalions,  and the type that were a part of an armored division. They were pretty much the same in organization, if not in how they were used. The life of a tanker could vary wildly from another’s depending on where he got assigned, and the tamest would probably be when they got sent to an armored division.

The Tank Battalion at the start of the war was composed of a much smaller number of vehicles and almost no specialized ones.  As the war progressed, the Tank Battalion filled out a lot. They even added a whole service company with a large number of trucks, wreckers, and ARVs. Early in the war, they seem to have relied on the M3half track to fill in for specialty vehicles they didn’t know they needed yet. Once they figured it out in 1943 though, the tank battalion doesn’t seem to have changed much

The Tank Platoon:  The Smallest Official Tank Unit

Let’s start with the smallest subunit of the Tank Battalion, The tank platoon.


A Lee tank platoon in North Africa or training in the US would have (1) Officer, (9) NCOs, and (25) enlisted men. Later this would be reduced by five enlisted as the radio operator was dropped. In the US the tanks could be several kinds of Lee, but the units that deployed with M3 Lee tanks for Torch were M3 Lee models with the R975 powering it.  The Lee was pretty short-lived in US Service, and the US only took them into combat because there was a shortage of Shermans because of British needs, but once supplies were up, the US removed them, even from training. Many got shipped to the Australians.

A Sherman platoon would be made up of five Sherman tanks, Early in the war, M4s and M4A1 75 tanks, by late 44, they might be a mix of M4 75s, M4A1 75s, M4A3 75w tanks, and M4A1 and M4A3 76 tanks, though some units kept all 75mm tanks. The likely mix would be some M4A3 75 tanks, and M4A3 76 tanks, with some M4A1 76s mixed in with some small hatch M4s and M4A3s. The optimal number of men for a tank platoon is 25, (1) Officer, (9) NCOs, and (15) regular GIs.

These men would be permanently assigned to one of the tanks. In most cases, the tanks were named, and the name reflected the platoons, company designation, for this example we’ll say the platoon belongs to B Company, so all five tanks will be named something starting in B. In the field, the tank would be home, and they would sleep under its tarp next to it, or in it if they were paranoid.  The men of a tank platoon would be very close, as they would spend a lot of time with each other.

No. 1 Brenda: M4A3 76w, Platoon leader, Commander by a Lieutenant, Gunner: Corporal, Loader, Driver, and Co-Driver: Jr enlisted.  The tank has commander’s radios.

No. 2 Bonnie: M4A3 75w, Commander by a Sargent Gunner: Corporal, Loader, Driver, and Co-Driver: Jr enlisted. Nice new large hatch tank

No. 3 Battlingbitch: M4A1 76w, Commander by a Sargent Gunner: Corporal, Loader, Driver, and Co-Driver: Jr enlisted. This tank has been around since Cobra.

No. 4 Bronco: M4A3 75, Commander by a Staff Sargent Gunner: Corporal, Loader, Driver, and Co-Driver: Jr enlisted.  Another small hatch survivor has all updates and C/O radio.

No. 5 BettyW: M4A1 75, Commander by a sergeant, Gunner: Corporal, Loader, Driver, and Co-Driver: Jr enlisted.  This tank is a small hatch survivor.

This was as small as the unit was broken down in an Armored Division, at least most of the time. In a separate tank battalion, things would be different. Often a battalion would be assigned to an infantry division for an extended period of time, a few of the divisions the entire war, and they used tanks differently. Sometimes assigning two tanks to a company of infantry, or three.  Two tanks were called a Light Section, three a Heavy Section, and that was as small as the tankers wanted to go, but sometimes even single tanks could be working with a couple of platoons of infantry more than their partner tank.

A Platoon of M4A3 76W HVSS tanks

In a separate tank battalion, once assigned to a division for a battle they were often broken down much further. The way they usually did it was each regiment of the division would get a company, and then each battalion of the regiment got a platoon. The HQ platoon would be held in reserve or used to beef up a special combat team.  One tank platoon could get to know a battalion of troops very well if they worked together often, and that made for a better team. The longer they stayed assigned together the closer that bond got. Some Army officers even encouraged the exchange of men in bivouac, so infantry and tankers could see how the others lived.

The Tank Company:  17 Shermans Tanks and one Assault Gun or 105 Tank, 5 Officers, 39 NCOs, 73 EM

The next unit up in the Battalion is the Medium Tank Company. An early war US Medium Tank Company was made up of 3 tank platoons containing 5 Lee tanks, and an HQ platoon with 2 more Lee tanks, and 1 jeep and 1, M2 halftrack. They also had an Admin and Mess platoon, with 2, 2 ½ ton trucks, 1, 2 ½ Kitchen truck, and 1 self-propelled 37mm GMC.  Last but not least, a Maintenance platoon, made up of 2 M3 Halftracks with winches, and 1 Jeep. To run this outfit, you needed 5 officers, and 144 enlisted men, including 40 NCOs, but it was pretty primitive compared to the later TO&E.

Lee Company, March 1942

HQ Section: (2) Lee Tanks (1) M2 Halftrack and (1) Jeep

Tank Platoons: X(3) Platoons with (5) Lee tanks in each

Admin, Mess, and Supply Section: (2) 2 ½ ton truck (1) 2 ½ Ton Kitchen Truck (1) SP-AT gun

Maintenance Section: (2) M3 Halftracks (1) Jeep

Personnel: (5) Officers, (144) EM

A later war Sherman Company is made up of three Platoons, just like the example we just talked about and a headquarters platoon with two gun tanks and an M4, or M4A3 105 tank or M7 Priest.

The unit has shrunk a little, B Company has 5 Officers, 39 NCOs, and 73 Jr. EMs The HQ Platoon had three tanks, a pair of M4 tanks of any 75/76 variety for the Company Commander and 1st Sargent. The third tank would be an M4A3 105 tank or an M7 priest if the 105 tank was in short supply. The HQ platoon would also have ARV assigned.

It would also have a maintenance section and admin, mess, and supply section attached. This part of the company HQ would have their own trucks and jeeps and would hang back with the ARV and the 105 tank while the fighting was going on. Sometimes the truck would run ammo out to a tank or the ARV would move out to get a tank unstuck or deal with another problem of that type.  It would not be uncommon for the men in the HQ platoon not assigned to the combat vehicles to not see the rest of the men in the company for weeks at a time when assigned to a separate tank battalion. When part of an armored division, the companies worked together, and the company commander would lead his company into battle. One of the main differences here are the 105 tanks or M7 Priests and the Tank ARV, that the early company lacked.  They had fewer trucks since they were moved into the battalion Service company.

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Sherman Company, Late 1943

HQ Section: (2) Sherman Tanks (1) Sherman 105 tank or M7 GMC (1) Jeep

Tank Platoons: X3 (5) Sherman tanks

Maintenance Section: (1) M32 ARV (1) M3 Half Track (1) Jeep

Admin, Mess, and Supply Section: (1) 2 ½ Truck with trailer

Personnel: (5) Officers (112) EM

The Light Tank Company: 17 M5A1 Light Tanks or Chaffee tanks late in the war, 5 Officers, 35 NCOs, and 54 EM

Now is as good a time as any to talk about the light tank company. Early in the war, when the Lee was the main tank, no light tanks were included in the tank battalion TO&E, but they were added by 1943. So from 1943 onward, the tank battalion had four combat companies, three medium tanks, and one of lights. There were also light tank battalions that had all light tank companies.

The light tank company was configured more or less the same way as the medium tank company, three platoons of five tanks, with two HQ platoon tanks. They were used was very different. Even early in the war in North Africa, the light tanks armed with 37mm guns were having trouble. When used in the recon role they had to rely on speed alone to get them out of trouble since the gun wasn’t very useful against anything but the lightest of armor.

An M4A1 and M5 Stuart

They were fast, and they had lots of machine guns, so they could be used, to a degree against soft targets, so they were used for rear security, messenger duty, and screen flanks and scouting. They would be useful against infantry without good AT weapons. Late in the war when the M24 Chaffee started showing up, these light tank companies really got some teeth, in a very nice little package. The M24 had a 75mm gun that was an improved version of the M3 75mm gun and had a concentric recoil system. Once they got the new light tank they probably took scouting duties back on to some degree, but even the Chaffee was a light tank, and all sorts of AT weapons knocked them out pretty easily.

an M24 Chaffee


Light Tank Company late 1943

HQ Section: (2) M5 Light tanks (1) Jeep

Light Tank Platoons: 3X (5) M5 Light Tanks

Maintenance Section: (1) Jeep (1) 1 ARV (1) M3 Halftrack

AM&S Section: (1) 2 ½ ton truck with trailer.

Personnel:  (5) Officers (89) EM

The Tank Battalion: 53 Medium tanks, 17 Light Tanks, 6 Assault guns or 105 Shermans, and 3 SP 81mm Mortars, 40 Officers, 220 NCOs, and 460 EM

When you look at the tank battalion and compare the early Lee tank battalion to a later Sherman one, there are some very big differences. This stemmed from the lessons learned fighting these units in North Africa. The size of the battalion grew overall but some units got a little smaller.

M3 Lee

A Tank Battalion in March of 42

Battalion HQ  

HQ section: (1) Motorcycle (3) Jeeps (1) M2 Halftrack

Recon Section: (2) Motorcycles (4) Jeeps (1) M2 Halftrack

Tank Section: (3) M3 Lee tanks

Headquarters Company

HQ Section: (2) Jeeps (3) 2 ½ ton trucks (2) M3 Halftracks

Assault Gun Platoon:  (3) T30 75mm HMC (3) M3 Halftracks with Trailers

Mortar Platoon: (1) M3 Halftrack (3) M4 81mm Mortar Halftracks

Tank Companies

Company A:  (2) Jeeps (17) Lee Tanks (1) SP AT Gun (3) 2 ½ ton Trucks (3) M3 Halftracks

Company B:  (2) Jeeps (17) Lee Tanks (1) SP AT Gun (3) 2 ½ ton Trucks (3) M3 Halftracks

Company C:  (2) Jeeps (17) Lee Tanks (1) SP AT Gun (3) 2 ½ ton Trucks (3) M3 Halftracks

Total Men: (27) Officers (572) Enlisted


This was not a small unit, but by 1943 it had grown a lot. The new TO&E has a whole new Light tank Company and Service company really fills the unit out.

tankbnwc (4)

A Tank Battalion in September of 1943

Battalion HQ Company

Battalion HQ Section: (4) Jeeps (2) M3 Halftracks

Company HQ: (1) M3 Halftrack (1) Jeep

Tank Section: (2) M4 Sherman Tanks

Maintenance Section: (1) M3 Halftrack (1) Jeep

AM&S Section: (1) 2 ½ Truck and Trailer

Recon Platoon: (1) M3 Halftrack (5) Jeeps

Mortar Platoon: (3) M4 81mm Mortar Halftracks (1) M3 Halftrack

Assault Gun Platoon: (2) M3 Halftracks (3) M4 105 Shermans (4) Ammo Trailers

Medical Detachment: (2) ¾ ton WC truck (2) M3 Halftracks (1) ¾ ton ambulance (1) Jeep (4) ¼ ton trailers

Total Men: (15) Officers (154) Enlisted Men

Service Company

HQ Section: (1) ¾ Ton Weapons Carrier Truck

HQ Maintenance Section: (1) Jeep (1) 2 ½ Truck (1) ¼ Ton Trailer

Battalion Maintenance Platoon: (1) Jeep (1) ¾ WC Truck (2) M32 ARV (2) 6 Ton M1 Wrecker (2) 2 ½ Ton Truck (2) ¼ Ton Trailers

Administration, Mess & Supply Section: (1) 2 ½ Ton Truck (1) ¼ Ton Trailer

Administration & Personnel Section: (1) 2 ½ Ton Truck (1) ¼ Ton Trailer

Battalion Supply and Transportation Platoon:  (1) Jeep (1) ¾ WC Truck (29) 2 ½ Trucks  (13) M10 Ammo Trailers

Total Men: (4) Officers (112) Enlisted

Tank Companies

Medium Tank Company A:  (2) Jeeps (17) M4 Shermans (1) M4 105 Sherman (1) M32 ARV (1) M3 Halftrack (1) 2 ½ ton truck (2) ½ trailers

Medium Tank Company B:  (2) Jeeps (17) M4 Shermans (1) M4 105 Sherman (1) M32 ARV (1) M3 Halftrack   (1) 2 ½ ton truck (2) ½ trailers

Medium Tank Company C:  (2) Jeeps (17) M4 Shermans (1) M4 105 Sherman (1) M32 ARV (1) M3 Halftrack   (1) 2 ½ ton truck (2) ½ trailers

Light Tank Company D: (2) Jeeps (1) M3 Halftrack (17) M5A1 Tanks (1) M32 ARV (1) 2 ½ Ton Truck (2) ½ Trailers

Battalion Personnel Total

Officers: 39

Enlisted Men: 709

This image is of the 752nd Tank Battalion in Bologna Italy. They are in the Plaza Emanuel and it still looks like that to this day. I found the info for the image on the Sherman Minutia site, along with a much larger version.

This was the whole kit and caboodle, three medium tank companies, one light, six assault guns, and a service company with three more ARVs. In an AD, all these units would work and train with each other for years. There weren’t that many revisions to the way ADs were configured, so the same units would stay in the same Armored Division for years or the whole war. There would also be a fair amount of competition, not only among the battalions but amongst the companies in the battalions.

They would also have a chance to work with the same Armored Infantry Battalions, and the tank infantry team tactics would become ingrained, and they would have far less trouble working together than many of the independent tank battalions. They also had no issues with supply, since they were part of the division’s supply system.

The independent battalions had a tougher life in many cases. Many got moved around from Infantry Division to Infantry Division, and how well the infantry knew to work with the tanks varied a lot. This could mean the infantry officers may not know the best way to employ armor and would often ask the tankers to things that a tanker knew were suicidal. This sometimes resulted in the tanks being forced into attacking infantry in towns, or even just dug in positions alone, and in the few cases they succeeded, if they were not relieved or supplemented by infantry, they would be pushed off the objective by being overwhelmed by sneaky infantry who can surround tanks without support. They also spent more time on the line than the AD battalions.

They also had to order the supplies, including spare parts through the ID they were attached to, and if the ID supply officers had no experience with this, shortages could take place. The experiences of the independent battalions really varied though. Some worked with the same ID the whole war, others got moved around so much no one got used to them or vice versa, and of course, there was a range of experience in between.  Often though, the independents rarely worked in more than platoon size groups, and the only time they would see each other on a regular basis is if they were supporting units in the same fights, or after the battles when the units went into the reserve to rebuild, but in many cases, this is where the tank battalion was detached and sent to another ID in combat.

9th Armored Division, Westhousen, Germany, 10 April 1945
9th Armored Division, Westhousen, Germany, 10 April 1945

One final thing to keep in mind about these TO&Es, is they are for an ideal, or full-strength unit. Once in combat, and sometimes even before, because of shortages of items, vehicles, or people, any given tank battalion might be missing several people or vehicles.  Once the unit was in combat, and usually, they wouldn’t be deployed unless they were pretty close to their authorized strength, combat losses would be replaced based on the replacements in depots on hand, as would vehicles. Plus, at any given time several tanks, halftracks or trucks, but if the items were not in depots, they went without until they were. The same with men, and once in combat, they would almost never have a full complement of officers and men.

Sources: The websites page on the 784st TD, Armored Thunderbolt, US Tank and Tank Destroyer Battalions in the ETO 1944-45 by Zaloga, Yeide’s TD and two separate tank battalion books, Sherman by Hunnicutt, Combat Lessons, The Rank and file, what they do and how they are doing it 1-7, and 9.  The Sherman Minutia Site, Son of a Sherman by Stansell and Laughlin, M4 Sherman tank at war by Green, Tanks are a Might Fine Thing by Stout, the Lone Sentry, TM9-731B M4A2,  TM9-750M3, TM9-752 M4A3, TM9-754 M4A4, TM9-759 M4A3, TFKSM 17-3-2 Armor in Battle, FM17-12 Tank Gunnery, FM17-15 Combat Practice firing, FM17-30 The Tank Platoon 42, FM17-32 The Tank Company medium and light, FM17-33 The Armored Battalion, FM17-67 Crew Drill and Service of the Piece M4 Series, Another River, another town by Irwin

# 7 More Things Built On The Sherman Chassis: ARVs

M30 and M74 series of Armored Recovery Vehicles: Tanks Get Stuck, ARVs get them unstuck

The M31, M32, and M74 armored recovery vehicles based on the M3 Lee and M4 tanks and almost all their sub-chassis types seem to have been used in the conversions as well.

ARVs Based On The Lee Hull: The Combat RV Gets A New Role

A nice colorized photo of an M31, you can see the fake gun/door into the tank. Note the side doors are welded closed.

M31: based on the Lee, and there were subtypes based on other Lee hull types. 509 Lees were converted. This version was powered by the R975.

M31B1: was based on the M3A3 and 296 were converted. This version was powered by the 6046.

M31B2: Was based on the M3A5. I am unsure how many of this version was made.  This version was also powered by the 6046.

There was other Lee based conversion, but ‘A history of the American Medium tank’ doesn’t have production numbers for them. On the Lee conversions, the 75mm gun mount was replaced with a door, that had a dummy 75mm gun, and the back of the 37mm turret had a fake 37mm gun, and the front had a boom for lifting things like motors, or turrets.  The idea was to make it look like an armed Lee. A crane was installed in place of the 37mm gun and mount, and it had a 10,000 capacity.  With boom jacks, it could carry 30,000 pounds. It was also equipped with a 60,000-pound winch. The M31s had a single .30 caliber machine gun, in a fixed hull mount!

The information I have here is very basic, but the Sherman Minutia Site has a very nice history, with very nice photos, of the M31 series. Joe Demarco is an unsung hero of Sherman research, and he put the page together, and it is far better than what I have here, right now, it just covers the ARVs based on the Lee, but I’m sure more will be added over time. You can find the page here, the first link is to the main page. If you have not taken the time to check out the Sherman Minutia site and you like this site, you should love them!

ARVs Based on the Sherman hull: They Ran Out Of Lee Hulls.

M32: Was a tank recovery vehicle based on the M4 Sherman hull, 163 converted.

M32B1:  Was a TRV made from an M4A1 hull. There were 1055 M4A1 tanks converted

A Very nice M32A1

M32A1B1: This version received an update, to A1 status, which meant improvements to the recovery capability and HVSS. There were only 37 of these converted.

M32B2:  TRV based on the M4A2 hull. There were 26 of these conversions.

M32B3:  TRV based on the M4A3 hull.  There were 318 of these tanks converted.

M32B4:   TRV based on the M4A4 hull. One pilot model made, not approved for production.

T14E1: was an M32B3 with HVSS made for the Marines in the last half of 45. They produced 80 of these.

The M32 series had a 60,000-pound winch, powered by powered take off, or PTO, from the drive shaft. The winch was mounted behind the driver and its drum mounted to the vehicle centerline outside. It had a crane mounted on the front of the hull, and the crane was moveable, folding back over the TRV for storage. It had an A-frame used for towing mounted on the rear hull.  It had stabilizers in the suspension that locked it in place when using the boom. If an M32 was equipped with HVSS suspension it was designated as with an A1.

The M32 was armed with an M2 .50 caliber machine gun, mounted on the top of the vehicle, on the main hatch. They also retained the bow-mounted thirty caliber machine gun. The early version was also equipped with an 81mm mortar to put out a smokescreen, it had 30 smoke rounds available. All these weapons were purely defensive, and the last thing an ARV crew wanted to do was get shot at.


The M74 ARV: In early 1954, Bowen McLaughlin-York Inc. began production on the M74, converting M4A3 tanks to this configuration. Rock Island Arsenal conversions around this time and continued into 1958 but no total number of the conversions is known.

These ARVs had a 90,000-pound winch and a hydraulically raised boom. It also had a spade on the front to help stabilize the vehicle when the boom was being used. The spade was hydraulic and could be used for light dozing work. These updates allowed the vehicles to retrieve heavier medium tanks like the M26 and M46 and were only replaced in service by the M88.

The M74 had an M2 .50 caliber machine gun mounted on its all-around vision cupola. It also retained the bow machine gun.

. . .


Tanks when in combat and when not in combat break down, get stuck in the mud, sand, or on a tree stump. A pair of trees too close together could hang a tank like a Sherman up. Mines blew off tracks and damaged the suspension. It was not unheard of for a tank to fall into a basement, or cause a bridge to collapse. Sometimes they tip over or lose a track or have a major mechanical problem and won’t run; it’s nice to have an ARV around and for some of the above cases like recovering a tank from a stream after a bridge collapsed, the boom and rigging on an ARV are essential.

ARV’s were assigned to tank battalions; usually, a pair of them would be assigned to the Battalion HQ Company with a dozer tank. I will need to dig up a tank battalion TO&E to confirm this. I’m sure the units that went out and salvaged knocked out tanks and repaired them would have these vehicles as well, though I’m pretty sure I read they used M26 Dragon Wagon trucks. If you need help with pulling a turret, final drive, and tranny housing, changing a motor, or repairing mine damage an ARV crew would be useful to have around.

These vehicles would be assigned one per Tank. I have not read any accounts of what an ARV crew charged in WWII or Korea, but, I read has to be pulled out of a rice paddy in Vietnam would cost the crew several cases of beer. I wonder how it worked in Korea and WWII.

One more interesting note on the ARV program, the turrets from all these conversions were stored. Later, when M4A3 and M4 Composite hull 75mm production was still going, they collected these turrets and shipped them to the factories still producing 75mm tanks and used them instead of casting more. The turrets that came from early runs that did not have the thickened cheek armor, had it added, and since most had no loaders hatches, they were added too. I think most of these modified old turrets went onto M4 composite hulls.

Tank Park, Jumbo in the front, but note the M32A1 to the right
Äâå ÁÐÝÌ ARV M31 (èç 3rd AD) âîçëå ïîäáèòîãî "Øåðìàíà". Saint-Fromond, Íîðìàíäèÿ, 14.07.1944ã.*
A pair of M31s tow away an M4 that has been knocked out