Subjugated Shermans: Sherman tanks captured and used by the Nazis
Sometimes a tank crew can get spooked and bail out of a functional tank. Or a tank can be left disabled on the battlefield and be repaired by the bad guys. The Germans were so desperate for tanks they happily used any Shermans they captured, and unlike the T-34 they didn’t feel the need to modify the tank in any way. The Germans managed to capture Shermans from the Russians, UK, and Americans. The Japanese never captured an intact Sherman. I don’t think the Italians managed to capture one either.
Depending on the crew quality, little things can cause them to abandon the tank, and it seems to be a universal problem since I’ve read of just about all of the warring nations having crews bail out from fright when the tank had sustained only minor or cosmetic damage. In other cases, the tank takes real damage, like a lost track, an engine problem or a hit that took out an internal fixture, but an experienced crew might stay in the tank. The crew has a duty to destroy the tank before leaving it behind. There is a whole procedure covering how to do it, and what to destroy if you only have a short amount of time, including many methods. The methods range from blowing the tank up with special grenades to just destroying the machine guns, main gun, and radios. This is covered in FM17-67 Crew Drill and Service of the Piece Medium Tank M4 Series.
There are many reasons why a crew might not be able to destroy their tank. If the crew is killed as they bailed out or after, or captured, if they are under fire while they get out, the tank falling into enemy hands isn’t going to be on a soldier’s mind in most cases. In some cases, the green crews could panic and bailout, and not bother even checking the tank over heading for the rear, but this was not a common thing for American tank crews once North Africa was done. I’ve read of many cases of German crews just leaving the tank, hatches all open, without booby traps and walking off when their Panther inevitably broke down or ran out of gas. I’ve read cases of them bailing out after the tank was hit a few times but still technically functional. Unlike for the American and Allied tankers in General, as the war went on, German tanks, like all their troops, declined in quality, and by late 44 Tank crews got very little training in their vehicles.
The Sherman was an automotive masterpiece the Germans could only dream of producing, they were still capable of keeping them running, it was that good. A German tank mechanic would find even the A57 a breath of fresh air in ease of troubleshooting and reliability. They also liked to use the captured Shermans as ARVs, often with the turrets removed. Having a very tough powertrain and a reliable and robust motor is a very nice thing in an Armored Recovery Vehicle, and the Shermans were just that. It must have been terribly frustrating for the Germans to get a Bergepather in place to try and tow a broken down Panther, only to have it break down too!
Now onto the photos, sorry, but the Germans seem to be as bad at photography, at least of captured Shermans, as they are at tank design, so many of the images are small and blurry. The captions have been updated in great extent to the efforts of Roy Chow, who sent in a very nice comment correcting my many mistakes. Thanks again, Roy!
Most of the images for this post came from WorldWarPhotos.com and many others came from Waralbum.ru. Both excellent sources for high-resolution images from the war.
13 thoughts on “#59 Subjugated Shermans: Shermans in Nazi hands”
15 looks to me like a definite Russian Lee. Note the hit on the right side top corner near the open visor. 24 & 45: A puzzle for me is how the hatch got open on the machine gunners side as the entry hole for the 90mm projectile was just above the machine gunners head and I don’t see how he could have lived whether he was jacked up or down in the seat and the barrel also blocks the opening of the hatch. Note the Germans were pointing the 76mm gun in the direction of their killer (often seen with knocked out tanks). This might have been by coincidence covering a point and the gun just happened to be blocking the machine gunners hatch when they got caught by surprise or maybe they just did not have time to get squared away when danger appeared. All in all, 99.9 percent of the time, war is total boredom but the .1 percent is sheer terror. WOW.
How do you know the “Nazis are marvelling over the optics”? Maybe they’re not Nazis, just Germans? A little less emotion would go a long way here. I agree with you that the Sherman wasn’t the Ronson/Tommie Cooker/ death trap that some have made it out to be, but the childish belittling of almost anything that isn’t a Sherman does you and your credibility no favours. I enjoy the your site and appreciate the work involved, but some objectivity would go a long way.
On caption #25, I think it’s radio, not radiator. Damn autocorrect.
The bulge is the radiator, as the radio is what the steel box welded to the back is for
Hi Jon: I never heard from you so here goes my knowledge of these pics. Feel free to use them or not. Don’t feel you need to post this comment. Use the info contained herein or not as you wish.
Picture 1: This is ex-American M4A1 “War Daddy II” (not ex British). Captured from 1st Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Tunisia 1943. Undergoing testing at Kummersdorf.
Pictures 3 & 4: same M3 Lee
Picture 5: M3 Lee undergoing testing at Kummersdorf. Same tank as “147” in later pictures 6-11 below it.
Picture 13: M3 Lee “147” and M4A1 “War Daddy II” at Kummersdorf (the German armor proving grounds)
Picture 16: Captured Firefly VC – this is the same tank as in pictures 18, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28, 29, 35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 48.
Pictures 22 & 23: same M4A1 as in picture 46.
Picture 24: KO’d M4A3 76W – same tank as in pictures 44 & 56.
Picture 25: ex Canadian Firefly VC (maybe 2nd Cdn Amd Bde), one of three captured by the Germans in Holland, repainted dark yellow. Re-captured by Commonwealth troops. One currently survives in the Dutch Cavalry museum in Amersfoort. Also see picture 49 & 50.
Picture 30: Caption: “Stupid Nazis” using horses. Really? This editorializing is off-putting.
Picture 33: Firefly VC captured in Normandy. Also in picture 41
Picture 38: postwar mock up, used in a movie. Not a wartime picture.
Picture 39 Caption: “The Germans sure seem to have a lot of captured Firefly tanks” Not really, just this one was photographed often.
Picture 41: Same as in picture 33. Firefly VC: You can see the spacing between the bogie wheels of M4A4. Compare with spacing of an M4 or M4A1.
Picture 43: Not M4A2s. The one on the left is M4A3 75W. 2nd from left, unknown. 3rd and 4th are M4A1s.
Picture 44: Same tank as in pic 24 & 56. but taken shortly after it was KOd. Ex-4AD tank, used by troops defending German city of Afschaffenberg. KOd by US M36 GMC.
Picture 46: same tank as 22 & 23.
Picture 49. Firefly VC. See picture 25.
Picture 50. See 25 and 49.
Pictures 51 & 52. M4A2, from a series of pics taken in Italy, not North Africa.
Picture 53: note Soviet troops have come captured this German captured American M4A3.
Picture 54: “nazi scum” editorializing diminishes the authenticity of your narrative, IMHO.
Picture 55: M4A3 not captured at Battle of the Bulge but from one of ten Shermans with Task Force Baum in late March ’45. 37 TB, 4th Armored Division. This picture is taken on April 3, 1945, the last day of the Battle of Afschaffenberg.
Thanks for the info. Sorry about not getting back to you. When things went a little sideways for me I got off track, and forgot about your email and kind offer. Thank you again for offering your feedback. I’ll update the post ASAP.
I see that I’m not a lone voice, complaining about the editorializing here!
All but the one with number 279 on side applique armor are Sherman Vc Fireflies. They are easily recognizable by the three-piece bolted differential cover, which is the feature of M4A4. Sherman Firefly Ic used only one-piece differential cover AFAIK.
Dear sir: Thanks for the many postings of the Sherman. I consider myself a Sherman aficionado myself. I’ve spotted some caption errors in your pages. Would you be interested in my comments?
It’s always nice to find another Sherman enthusiast out there, and many of the pictures came with no captions so I would love any feedback you have there or just in general.
Please contact me offsite via my email. TYVM
Seeing all those poor suffering M4s in the hands of nazies made me want to cry
I know right?! The poor M4 stolen and used by Nazis is just disgusting. Luckily, the Nazis seemed to have trouble keeping tanks, even one as reliable as a Sherman, running.