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The M4 Sherman Tank Epic Information Thread.. (work in progress)

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1280px-TankshermanM4.jpg

(M4A3E8, ultimate production Sherman)

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The Epic M4 Sherman Tank Information Post.

SHERMAN: M4: M4A1: M4A2: M4A3: M4A4: M4A6: M50: M51

 

   The Sherman tank over the last several decades has had its reputation severely soiled by several documentaries, TV shows, and books, all hailing it as a death trap, engineering disaster, or just a bad tank. The Sherman tank may be the most important, and arguably the best tank of the war.  The only other contender for the best tank award would be the Soviet T-34. These two tanks are very comparable and would fight each other in later wars, staying very comparable through their service lives.

 

   This post will cover why the Sherman was a better tank than anything Germany, Italy or Japan produced during the war, on both a tactical and strategic level. I will not be reproducing the work of others, and will link to the places that already cover some information. I will cover all the major changes made to the each Sherman model.

 

   I will try and cover the many post war variants as well, but that could take months, there are a lot of variants of this venerable tank, including ones that involve putting the engine from one hull type into another hull type and or tanks modified by other countries with no feedback from the American designers. I’ll try and get civilian use in here as well. Some variants have heavily modified turrets, or replaced it with a new one.

 

Basic Sherman History: The Big Stuff

 

   To really know why the Sherman was designed the way it was, you have to know about the M3 Lee. The M3 was the predecessor of the M4. It was based on M2 medium, the US Army’s only foray into modern medium tank design, and was the fastest way a tank could be designed with a 75 mm M3 canon fitted. The US lacked the jigs to make a turret ring big enough to house a gun that large in a turret; the Lee went into production while the turret ring problem was being solved, by mounting the gun in a sponson mount. It had become clear to the US Army that the 75mm canon would be needed based on feedback from the British, and observations of how the war was developing in Europe.  

One of the reasons for the reliability of the M4 design was the use of parts that started their design evolution in the M2 medium and were improved through the M3 production run. Over the life of M3 Lee and M4 Sherman the designs were continually improved as well, so a final production, M3, or M4A1, bared little resemblance to an initial production M3 or M4A1, yet many parts would still interchange. This is one of the reasons the Israelis had so much success updating the Sherman to the M50 and M51, these tanks used early small hatch hulls, that never had HVSS suspension installed, but the hulls took the updated suspension with few problems.

   

   When the Lee went into production, though it was far from an ideal design, it still outclassed the German and Italian armor it would face, and its dual purpose 75mm gun would allow it to engage AT guns with much more success than most British tanks it replaced. It was reliable, and well-liked by its users. When the British got enough Shermans, the Lees and Grants were sent to the Far East and saw use until the end of the war fighting the Japanese. The Lee excelled at infantry support, since it had a 37mm canon that could fire canister rounds, along with the 75mm gun and a lot of machine guns. Many of these Lee tanks ended up in Australia after the war.

 

 

Lee variants:  The Combat RV

 

na_m3_09.jpg

(early M3 Lee)

 

M3 Lee:

 

   This was the first version of the tank and used a riveted hull with the R975 radial engine powering it, the suspension and tracks were very similar to the M2 medium.  Early production tanks had an M2 75mm instead of the improved M3 gun. These tanks had a counter weight mounted on the shorter barrel. All Lees had a turret with 37mm M5 gun. The early production version had two hull mounted, fixed .30 caliber machine guns, another mounted coaxially with the 37mm gun, and another in a small turret, mounted on top of the 37mm turret for the commander.

 

   They built nearly 5000 of these tanks. The M3 was improved on the production line with things like removal off hull machine guns, and hull side doors. The mini turret mounted M1919A4 was not a popular feature, and was hard to use, but it remained on all Lees, and were only deleted from the Grant version produced exclusively for the British.

 

   If this version had a major flaw, it would be the riveted armor plates could shed rivets on the inside of the tank and these rivets bounced around like a bullet. This was bad for the crew, but, rarely resulted in a knocked out tank. A field fix for this was welding the rivets in place on the interior of the tank.  Most of the M3 Lees produced went to the British. 

 

b2.jpg

(cast hull M3A1)

 

M3A1 Lee:

   This version of the Lee had a cast hull, and R975 radial power. It was really the same as the base Lee in most respects including improvements. 300 built. These cast hull tanks have a very odd and distinctive look. They look almost like a M3 Lee was melted. This hull casting was huge and more complicated than the M4A1 casting. Most of these tanks were used in the United States for training.

 

M3A2 Lee:

   This Lee had a welded hull and the R975 powering it. 12 built. This version was more of a ‘proof of concept’ on welding a hull than anything.

 

M3A3 Lee:

   Another welded hull but this one powered by the GM 6046 Twin Diesel. 322 built, like the base Lee, with the same improvements. This is the first vehicle the 6046 was used in, and most of the bugs were worked out on this model.

 

M3A4 Lee:

   This version had a riveted hull and was powered by the A-57 multibank motor. This motor was so large the hull had to be stretched for it to fit; it also required a bulge in the top and bottom of the hull to fit the cooling fan. They also had to beef up the suspension, and the suspension units designed for this would become standard units on the Sherman. This would be the only version of the Lee with the improved bolt on offset return roller VVSS, otherwise this tank was very much like the base M3. 109 built. This motor’s bugs were worked out on this tank and would go on to power a large chunk of Sherman production. 

 

1280px-M3_Monty.JPG

(Monty's M3A5)

 

M3A5 Grant:

   Another welded hull, powered by the GM 6046 Twin diesel with a new bigger turret to house British radios. 591 built. This new turret deleted the small machine gun turret on the roof of the 37mm turret. This version was used only by the British. The famous General Montgomery’s personal M3A5 is on display in England, at the Imperial War Museum in London. 

 

. . .

 

   The majority of Lee and all Grants saw service with the British, and many Lees went to the Soviet Union. They were generally well liked by both nations and more reliable than most of its British and German contemporaries.  These tanks were better than the enemy tanks they faced until the Germans up gunned the Panzer IV series. When they were replaced with M4s of various types the M3 were shipped to the Far East for use in Burma and New Guinea. The Japanese had no tank that could take on a Lee, let alone a Sherman. Using soldiers as suicide bombers, and mines still worked though, there was also a pesky 47mm AT gun, but it was rare.

 

   They saw limited use in the US Army’s hands some seeing combat in North Africa, because US combat units lost their Shermans to replace British losses, and a few were used in the PTO. The Sherman owes it success to the lessons learned producing the Lee and from its use in combat.  The 75mm gun and automotive systems, even the more complicated ones, would be perfected in the Lee and re-used in M4, and the Sherman only had one motor not tested in the Lee first.  Many of the Lee variants were produced at the same time and the numbering system was more to distinguish between hull and engine types, not to model progression like in aircraft, and other tanks.  This practice was carried over to the M4 series as were all the engines used in the Lee.

 

   Many people familiar with the way the United States designated aircraft during the war figure it was carried over to tanks and think an M3A1 was an improved M3, and an M3A2 was an improved A1. This is not the case, as many of these versions were produced at the same time, and they all received the same sets of improvements, though some factories took longer to implement things than others.

 

   The M4 went into production as soon as the jigs for the turret ring were produced and ready to be used. Production actually started on the cast hull M4A1 first, with the welded M4 following right behind it. Like the Lee, there were many version of the Sherman in production at the same time. There are many photos of Lee’s coming off the production line, with Shermans in the line right behind the last Lee, so there was no real gap in production between the two tanks at most of the factories.

 

 

The Sherman variants: The Design Matures

 

 

   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 will be 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 hull, 75mm armed Shermans got produced with normal ammo racks, when the norm for large hatch hull tanks was wet ammo racks. 

 

 

. . .

 

bdcb0285-f2ac-4299-87ad-97bc99694475.JPG

(this is a very early production M4 with DV ports that are not welded closed and have not had armor added over them)

 

M4 Sherman:

    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.

   

    One other variant of the M4 to get the large hatch hull(100 or so small hatch casting were made as well), this 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 by using one large casting, incorporating the hatches and bow gun would save on welding time and labor costs.

 

M4Composite.JPG

(This is an M4 hybrid, large hatch tank. but with no wet ammo racks)

 

   These M4 hybrids were used by the British to make Ic Fireflies. They liked the 75mm turret these tanks came with since they already had a loaders hatch, this saved them time on the conversion since they didn’t have to cut one.

 

 

   These large hatch M4s did not get the improved T23 turret, but did have wet ammo racks and all the large hatch hull improvements. Most of these 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 tanks was made in five factories from July of 42 to March of 45, 7584 produced.

 

 

m4a1_lima4.JPG

(this image is a small hatch M4A1 with DV ports welded closed and add on armor over them, not the very early turret with small mantlet. The suspension on this tank was probably updated from the early built in roller type during a depot rebuilt. Image from the awesome sherman minutia site)

 

M4A1 Sherman:

   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. 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, small hatch M4A1 75 tanks. This was the only use of this tank by the Marines. 

 

M4A2_75.JPG

(M4A2 75 mid production with improved drivers hoods, from this angle you can not tell the difference between an M4 M4A2, M4A3, image courtesy of the sherman Miniutia site)

 

M4A2 Sherman:

   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 version 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. 

 

m4a375mm.jpg

(this is an M4A3 large hatch 75mm tank, it has wet ammo racks and a hatch for the loader.)

 

M4A3 Sherman:

 

   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.

 

M4AE2-SHERMAN-JUMBO.jpg(an M4A3E2 Jumbo with correct M3 75mm gun)

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.

 

   This version of the Sherman was issued to the Marines when the M4A2 75mm tanks went out of production. The version they would have been issued, would all have been large hatch M4A3 75w tanks,  and they may have gotten some with HVSS.    

Sherman_M4_(Airborne_Museum)_03.JPG

(this is an M4A4, the best way to tell is the extra space between the road wheels)

 

M4A4 Sherman:

 

   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. This 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 Free French also got at least 270 of these tanks in 1944. The Chinese also received these tanks through lend lease but not many. 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. 

 

. . .

 

   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 a Sherman volume one, The Sherman design and Development by 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.

 

Sherman Builders: Just How Many Tank Factories Did the US Have Anyway?   

They Had 10 and 1 in Canada.

 

   Most of the information in this section will be a summation of the section in Son of a Sherman. Other stuff I had to dig around on the internet for. Anyone who has more info on the tank makers, please feel free to contact me.  Parts from all these tank makers would interchange. Many used the same subcontractors. I don’t think anyone has tried or if it’s even possible to track down all the sub-contractors who contributed parts to the Sherman at this point. Some of the manufactures were more successful than others, some only producing a fraction of the total Sherman production, others producing large percentages. By the end of production, all the US and her allies needs for Shermans were being handled by just three of these factories.

 

American Locomotive (ALCO)

   ALCO also produced M3 and M3A1 Lees, and made Shermans up to 1943. They were a fairly successful pre-war locomotive manufacturer founded in 1901 in Schenectady, New York. They also owned Montreal Locomotive works. ALCO made several version of the Sherman, and stayed in the tank game until the late 50s, helping with M47 and M48 production. The company went under in 1969.

 

Baldwin Locomotive Works (BLM)

   Baldwin was another early producer, building three versions of the Lee, The M3A2, M3A3, and M3A5. They mostly built small hatch M4s, with just a handful of M4A2(12). They were out of the Sherman game by 1944 and out of business by 72. They were founded in Philly in 1825, and produced 70,000 steam locomotives before it died.

 

m4a4_26.JPG

(M4A4 and M3s being built side by side at CDA, photo courtesy of the Sherman Minutia site )

 

Chrysler Defense Arsenal (CDA)

     Chrysler Defense Arsenal is kind of special. It was a purpose built tank factory, funded by the US Government, and managed and built by Chrysler.  Construction on the factory started in September of 1940. Completed M3 Lee tanks were rolling of the line by April of 1941. This was before the factory was even finished being built. It was built to stand up to aerial bombing. They produced M4A4, and M4 tanks as well and M4 105s, M4A3(105)s, and M4A3 76 tank and nearly 18,000 of them. Chrysler was the sole producer of M4A3E8 76 w Shermans, or the tank commonly known and the Easy 8. They produced 2617 units, but post war many A3 76 tanks were converted over to HVSS suspension. A very big chunk of the overall Sherman production came from this factory and it went on to produce M26 Pershing tanks.

   

    Chrysler built this factory in a suburb of Detroit, Warren Township Michigan. Chrysler used it’s many other facilities in the Detroit area as sub manufacturers, and many of their sub-contractors got involved too. CDA not only produced the tanks, it had the capacity to pump out huge numbers of spare parts.  CDA lived into 90s before Chrysler defense systems got sold off to General Dynamics. It took part in making the M26, M46, M47, M48, M60 and M1 tanks.

 

Federal Machine & Welder (FMW)

   I couldn’t find much out about FMW, Son of a Sherman says they were founded in Warren Ohio in 1917. They produced less than a thousand M4A2 small hatch tanks.  They were slow to produce them, making about 50 a month. They were not contracted to make any more Shermans after their first 540 total, 1942 contract.  They did build some M7, and M32 tank retrievers. They were out of business by the mid-fifties.

 

Fisher Tank Arsenal (FTA)

    Fisher Tanks Arsenal (FTA) has a lot of common with Chrysler Defense Arsenal, except this time Uncle Sam went to Fisher Body, a division of General Motors. Fisher decided to build the tank plant in Grand Blanc, south of Flint Michigan. The factory broke ground in November of 1941 and the first M4A2 Sherman rolled off the line in January of 1942, before the factory was fully built.

 

   The M4A2 was something of this factory specialty, in particular early on, with them producing a large number of the small hatch M4A2 sent off to Russia, and a few of the rarer large hatch 75mm gun tanks, around 986 small hatch tanks, and about 286 large hatch tanks.

   

   They also produced nearly 1600 large hatch, 76mm gun tanks, or the M4A2 (76)w. These tanks went exclusively to Russia as part of Lend Lease. These tanks were ordered over four different contracts and the final ones off the production line were all HVSS tanks. The HVSS suspension may have seen combat with the Russians before the US Army used it. Oddly, this factory also produced M4A3 76w tanks, but never with the HVSS suspension. Fisher produced a significant number M4A3 and Large hatch 75mm tanks at their factory, but nowhere near their M4A2 production.

 

Ford Motor Company (FMC)

   Ford was a surprisingly small player in the Sherman tale. They are very important in that they developed the Ford GAA V8 covered earlier, and a lot of spare parts. But they only produced 1690 small hatch Shermans between June of 42 and Oct 43. They built a few M10s as well. All these tanks and tank destroyers were produced at their Highland Park facility.  After 1943, they stopped building tanks, and wouldn’t get back into until the 50s, and even then it was just for a large production run over a short time, of M48s.

 

Lima Locomotive Works (LLW)

   Lima was one of the first producers of the cast hull M4A1. It did not produce any Lee tanks. Its production capacity had been taken by locomotives to the point just before Sherman production started. They produced the first production M4A1, that was shipped to England, named ‘Michael’, and it’s still on display at the Bovington Museum. They produced Shermans from February of 42, to September of 1943, producing M4A1s exclusively, and they built 1655 tanks.  The war was a boon for Lima, they’d been in business since 1870, and the contracts from the military for locomotives really helped them out. Post war, they failed to successfully convert to diesel electric locomotives and merged with another firm.

 

Montreal Locomotive Works (MCW)

    MLW was owned by American Locomotive. They produced some wacky Canadian tank based off the Lee chassis, called the Ram, and Ram II, these floppy creations were only armed with a 2 pounder in the Rams case, and a 6 pounder, in the Ram IIs case, and they produced almost 2000 of the wacky things, what’s that all aboot? They eventually got around to producing a proper Sherman tank, the M4A1 “Grizzly”, producing only about 188 tanks. A very few had an all metal track system that required a different sprocket. Other than that, there was no difference between a grizzly and an M4A1 manufactured by any other Sherman builder. Don’t believe the Canadian propaganda about it having thicker armor!

 

Pacific Car & Foundry (PCF)

   PCF was founded in 1905 in Bellevue Washington. The only west coast tank maker, PCF produced 926 M4A1s from May of 1942, to November of 1943. As soon as production stopped they started production on the M26 tractor, the truck portion of the M26 tank transporter. They never got back into tank production, but still exist today as PACCAR Inc., one of the largest truck makers in the world. 

 

Pressed Steel Car (PST)

   PSC was one of the big boys of Sherman production, and they also produced the final M4s made, a group of 30 M4A1 76 HVSS tanks. PSC was founded in Pittsburg in 1899, but their tank factory was in Joliet, Illinois. They were the second manufacturer to make the tank and across all the versions they made, they produced 8147 Sherman tanks.  

 

  They started tank production with the M3 Lee in June of 41, and stopped production on that in August of 1942. They then produced the M4A1 from March of 42, to December of 43, and the standard M4 from October of 42 to August of 43.

   

   They were one of the final three tank makers to stay in the tank making business after 1943, along with CDA and FTA. PSC would produce large hatch M4A1 76 tanks, including HVSS models late in the run, totaling more than 3400 M4A1 tanks. They produced 21, M4A2 76 HVSS tanks, towards the end of 45.

   

   They were out of business by 56, with no tank production after those final 30 M4A1 76 HVSS tanks. 

 

Pullman Standard (PSCC)

     Pullman Standard was a pretty famous luxury train passenger car maker, and another company that made rolling stock combined into one company. Pullman Palace Car Co was founded in 1867, or there about. I’m sure some train geek will be dying to fill me in on the company’s history but I’m not really going to look deeply into it. It does make for one of the more interesting stories about a Sherman tank producer. Their main tank factory was in Butler, Pennsylvania. And they helped produce some Grant tanks before they started Sherman production.

   They produced the M4A2 from April of 42 to September of 43, and produced 2737 tanks. They also produced 689 standard M4 Sherman tanks from May of 43, to September of 43.  Soon after these contracts were finished the US Government broke the company up due to some anti-trust complaint.  

 

 

   The thing to remember about all the Sherman makers is each one had a small imprint on the tanks they produced. So, yes, an M4A1 small hatch tank was the same no matter who made it and all parts would interchange with no modification needed, but the tanks from different makers still had small, cosmetic differences. They may have been something like nonstandard hinges on the rear engine doors to the use of built up antenna mounts instead of cast. Or wide drivers hoods or narrow, to where the lift rings on the hull were and how they were made or even Chrysler's unique drive sprocket they put on all their post A4 tanks.  None of this meant the parts couldn't be salvaged and used on another Sherman from another factory without much trouble. Some factories may have produced tanks faster than others, but they all produced them within the contracts specification or they were not accepted.

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I would appreciate, for the time being, not crossposting from SH to the WoT forums. Copypastaing is fine, but for the time being I don't want too many links to here over there.

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Part II

 

 

Combat Performance: How Well it Killed Stuff.

 

   When Sherman went into combat in British hands in the North African desert in October of 1942, it was bar none, the best tank in the world. It had a better gun and more armor, along with good or better mobility than all the axis tanks it faced. It wouldn’t have a German peer until the Panzer IV was up-gunned and even then, the best version of the Panzer IV was barely a match for a 75mm armed Sherman and totally outclassed by the later 76mm armed tanks.

   

   The basic small hatch Sherman was found to be fine for the job all the way through the invasion of Italy. The introduction of the Tiger and Panther did not seem like a big deal to the US Army so they didn’t really plan for them. In the Tigers case they were right; it was rare and more or less useless waste of German resources. The Panther was to become much more common, but if you really look at its performance, not that great of a threat. In most cases in when they met in Europe, the Sherman won.

 

   The Sherman, even the version armed with the 75mm gun, could still deal with the heavier Nazi German tanks, as long as it had room to move around. Much noise has been made about how it was a death trap after the D-Day landings and the Panther and Tiger tore it up in the bocage. This is a myth. There is pretty good evidence the US Army only faced maybe two or three Tiger I tanks, in Europe, ever. The Panther was more common, but also got roughly handled in just about every battle it faced Shermans in.

 

   The German’s rarely used the Panther in the bocage country because it’s long gun made it hard to use in the tight quarters and reliability problems were ever present with this tank. The tank the Sherman faced in US hands was the Panzer IV and various StuG assault guns, neither of which outclassed the Sherman in any real way. But they did have the advantage of being on the defense. Post war studies by the US Army showed the Sherman was more effective than German armor at this point; the claims of the Sherman being a death trap were false. Even early Sherman tanks were no more likely to burn than any other tank and the later war wet ammo rack tanks were the safest tanks of the war. German tanks used gasoline and gas was not found to be a major cause of fires in destroyed Shermans, ammo fires were. See the links in the data section for info on this. Most Sherman losses were due to anti-tank guns, and mines, and not so much tank on tank action.

 

   When Operation Cobra was kicked off, the first use of large hatch hull, wet ammo rack, 76mm armed Shermans took place. The M4A1 76 being the model used first followed by A3 76 tanks within weeks. These tanks were not well received across the board, with some units preferring the 75mm armed tanks because facing armor was rare even then and the 75mm gun was better at taking out anti-tank guns and infantry, and could still deal with any German armor they encountered. Some units welcomed the better anti-tank capability even if it wouldn’t kill a panther from the front unless at very short range.

 

   By the battle of the bulge, the M4A3E8 and M4A3E2 Jumbo were showing up for combat use. The Jumbo had much thicker armor and were loved by their crews. By the close of the Bulge, German armor would become very rare, but even so more and more 76mm armed Shermans would be issued. By the end of the war the ratio would be near 50%. The Army also wanted to stop production on the 75mm gunned M4s in 1945, but the USMC and the British still had requirements for the 75mm gun tanks so it stayed in limited production.

 

   There was a bit of a scandal about the Sherman being no good in the in the press back in the States about the time of the Bulge, but in reality, the Sherman was really having its shining moment during that battle and performed very well against German armor that was supposedly better. Bad movies aside, the Sherman more than held its own in that battle. This is covered in Steven Zaloga’s Armored Thunderbolt.

 

   By the time the next generation replacement showed up, the M26, the war was all but over, and only a handful would see combat. In many ways the M26 was inferior to the M4. Due to its slightly shortened development and testing time, it had a few reliability problems. It was still so reliable that it would have put any German tank to shame though.

 

   I will cover specific battles in this section as well, but will add them later. With notes.

 

 

WWII Variants: Things Built Using the Great M4 Chassis

 

M10REAR.jpg

M10:

   The M10 was a tank destroyer mounting a 3 inch anti-tank gun. It used the M4A2 chassis and the GM 6046 to power it. These tanks only had a M2 .50 caliber machine gun other than their main gun. The turret lacked power traverse. It had a five man crew and was generally liked by its crew. The American TD force was deemed a failure, but not because the vehicles performed badly, it was the doctrine that failed to pan out. It was used until the end of the war, and many TD battalions preferred it over the faster M18. 

 

M36-GMC-Danbury.0004zx4t.jpg

M36:

   Another tank destroyer based on the Sherman chassis, basically an M10 with a new turret mounting a bigger gun. These tanks mounted the 90mm M3 gun. Often this tanks turret was fitted to otherwise stock M4A3 hulls due to a shortage of M10 hulls. These tanks had full power traverse. These TDs were well liked because the M3 worked well on both Armor and soft targets, since the M3 had a nice HE shell.

 

M32-ARV-batey-haosef-2.jpg

M32:

   Was a recovery vehicle based off the M4A3. These vehicles would be used to get other tanks unstuck, or recover knocked out tanks and then help with their repair. There were other tank recovery vehicles based on the Lee chassis that filled the same role.

 

Sherman Accessories:

 

Duplex Drives:

   Several types of Sherman tank had a kit added to them, it was a large skirt that surrounded the Shermans hull and made it float. Two propellers were added to the rear idler wheels. This system worked well as long as the water was calm. It was not very calm on D-Day, in Normandy and a lot sunk. Several were recovered and are on display in France. They tried to use these tanks to cross some of the bigger German rivers with limited success towards the end in Europe.

 

M4A3-Sherman-105mm-Dozer-latrun-1.jpg

Dozers:

   A dozer blade kit was available for all Sherman models and later adapted to fit on HVSS tanks. This dozer kit was the most effective way of punching through hedgerows. A tank company would get one dozer blade equipped tank into the HQ platoon, if there were enough kits to go around.

 

Hedge Row cutters:

   Hedge Row cutters were developed during the fighting in the hedgerows of Normandy, They were basically section of tank traps from the beach, cut into crude cutting blades and mounted to the front of a Sherman tank.  They allowed the Sherman to charge through a hedgerow, cutting a Sherman wide hole through it. They probably looked scary to the Germans too.

 

Calliope: A Sherman with Rockets!

 

The E9 kit:

 

 

The Crew and their Stations: The Human Part of the Tank

 

Commander:

   The commander sat in the back right side of the turret directly behind the gunner. His job was to command the tank. This meant he took the orders from the platoon leader or company commander, and made his tank perform the tasks he’d been given to accomplish the mission. He had the radio in the bustle of the turret to his rear to help him. To do this he could stand on his seat with his head and shoulders out of the tank, and direct the crew over the intercom. Only he could transmit on the radio, but the others could listen. They could all talk to each other on the intercom. On early M4s, when ‘buttoned up’ or when the tank was all closed up with its hatches closed, the commander only had his rotating copula periscope. Later version of the Sherman had an all-around vision cupola, discussed earlier, that provided a much better view around the tank for the commander. As some of the charts show in the data section, this was the most dangerous crew station. The commander spent a lot of time with his head stuck out, when the rest of the crew was buttoned up, it made him a prime target for basically anyone and anything being shot at the tank.

   His job in combat was to call out directions to the driver, and call out targets for the gunner. He had a site vane mounted on the roof of the turret to use outside, by using it and his turret override; he could put the gunner roughly on target by rotating the turret. If he was the platoon leader or company commander, he would be calling out directions to the other tanks and trying to sort, what everyone was doing out, and keep things under control as much control as he could over the tanks in his company.

   He was responsible for the tank up to a point, and had to make sure the crew kept up on all the required maintenance to keep the tank in proper running order. He was also responsible for the wellbeing of his crew. The commander was for obvious reasons, the most experienced man in the tank in most cases.

 

Gunner:

   The gunner was usually the next senior man in the tank. He sat right in front of the commander, and used the commander’s hatch to get in and out. He had his own set of turret controls, and only he could control the guns elevation. Along with the gun controls, he had all the controls for the stabilizer in front of him.  In early Shermans, he only had a periscope with a reticle, it had a fixed 6x power zoom, but also could be looked through with no zoom. Later gunner’s had the periscopes and a direct view scope. He was dependent on the commander to get him near a target, and then took five to six seconds for him to pick up the target. This took a much longer time on German tanks like the Panther, with gunner target acquisition times in the minutes, not seconds.

   The gunner controlled the main gun, and the coaxial mounted M1919A4 .30 caliber machine gun. Each was fired with a foot pedal on the gunner’s foot rest. You would think the gunner would have the best view out, but in tanks, most of the time, at least in the older models, their view was very limited, but for the era, the Sherman was better than most other tanks.

   

Loader:

   The loaders job was to service the 75mm M3 gun, and the co-ax .30 caliber machine gun. The commander or gunner would call out the ammo type for the main gun, and the loader would load the gun and yell “Up!” and the gunner would know the gun was ready to fire.”(A good gunner would hear the breach closing and know before the loader spoke)  He was supposed to watch the belt on the co-ax, and make sure the gun didn’t run dry. He was also supposed to be trained on how to clear a problem with the main gun or machine guns. Even canons can have duds, or shell problems, or even just break.

   The loaders station was on the left of the gun, opposite of the gunner. He had a lot of space to move around, and a fold up seat. He also had a fully rotating periscope on the roof above him for his viewing pleasure.  In early Shermans the loader had twelve ready rounds around the base of the turret, with another eight in a ready rack at his feet. This was the primary reason so many early Shermans burned, anything that penetrated the turret or the hull and hit those exposed rounds would set off a chain reaction explosion, destroying the tank, and often killing most of the crew. This problem was figured out pretty fast and the twelve exposed rounds were deleted and an armored four round ready rack replaced it the eight round one. Later armor was added to the inside and outside of the sponson ammo boxes.

   If a lot of firing was taking place, the loader was a very busy guy, on early Shermans the sponson racks, even without all the turret ready ammo, he had a fair number of easy to get to ammo racks for the main gun, but since the turret basket was screened, he could only get to them with the turret at certain bearings. With the switch to all ammo but the ready ammo in the floor of the hull, his job got much harder. On the wet ammo rack tanks, he would have to pull open doors in the bottom of the turret basket, then open an armored box and pull ammo from it. He had to know what was in all the ammo boxes, and was responsible for what got loaded into where.

   The loader on some models also had a 2 inch smoke mortar to load and fire at the commander’s desire. It was a short lived feature. It protruded into the loader space and was not well liked by that member of the crew.    

   After spending some time as a co-driver, a crewmember may be moved up to loader. A good loader was important, the 75mm and later 76mm guns were capable of very fast rates of fire, but only if the loader could keep up. When he wasn’t scrambling around the floor of the turret opening armored doors in the floor to find ammo to feed the gun, he was another set of eyes. On early tanks using his periscope, on later ones he could stick his head out of his own hatch. Many crews mounted extra machine guns to the roofs too, and if there was one on the loaders hatch it would be his to shoot. Some units would put the M2 .50 mount in front of the loader, and put a .30 Cal M1919A4 on a mount in front of the commander.

   Early to well into later production 75mm gun armed Shermans did not have a loaders hatch. This meant if the loader had to bail out, he had to get around the main gun to do it. The main gun had a folding recoil guard to help with this. It would be a very hard thing to do if the tank was burning or the loader was wounded and the tank filled with smoke.        

 

Driver:

   The driver and co-driver were separate from the turret crew; they sat in the forward part of the hull. They could only climb into the turret if the turret was rotated to line up the holes in the turret basket, with the drivers compartment. The transmission sat between the driver and co-driver and only the driver had a set of controls. Only the driver had any instruments as well. On early tanks the drivers and co drivers hatches were oval shaped and small, and required the man to twist to get through. On very early tanks he had a rotating periscope in his hatch, and a direct view port with an armored cover. The view ports were removed from production and extra armor was added over them. This was done very quickly when it was found bullet splash could get through even a closed port. They were also a big ballistic weak spot in the armor.

   The driver needed to be able to drive the tank, often without knowing what he was driving into, trusting the eyes of the other crew members and commander to keep him out of trouble. He needed to know what his tank could drive over and climb, and what it couldn’t. Getting your tank stuck in the mud was an embarrassing thing to do. If it was really stuck, it might require more than one tank to pull it out. The crew would get a lot of heat for that type of thing.

   Driving the tank was important, and the driver had to work well with the commander. A savvy co driver could be moved into this spot, or a good loader, would be given a shot. The position was roomy and fairly comfortable as tank positions go. He had a good view forward from a fixed periscope, and rotating one built into the drivers hatch. The seat could also be adjusted up, and the tank driven with drivers head stuck out. In the movie Tank with James Garner, you get a lot of shots of him driving the tank with his head stuck out.

 

Co-driver:

   The co-drivers position was the on the right front of the hull and has its own hatch. The position had no controls or instrument panel. This position had a .30 caliber M1919A4 machine gun, aimed by tracer through the periscopes. This gun had a very limited fire arc and wasn’t very effective, but the extra crew member was nice to have around to help keep the tank up and running.  

   This was the position most new tankers started in. As they learned how the tank worked they got moved around. Not all crew changes were due to loses. You could have a man transfer out or be sent to rear for a disciplinary situation, to leave, or some other reason. Crew members could be moved from tank to tank. If another Sherman lost its commander and no one in it was ready to replace the man, a really good gunner or driver might get pulled out of another tank to take it over. Crews were kept together for as long as practical though. The co-driver was the closest to the escape hatch built into the floor of the tank; it was right behind the seat, and would be the best way for the driver and co-driver to get out of the tank in some cases, or the only way if the turret was in the wrong place.

   These five men were responsible for keeping the tank running. This meant keeping up on a long list of daily chores from checking track tension and adjusting it, to tighten the bolts on the each end link on both sides of the track run, to checking the oil and radiator fluids, or the batteries. There were also numerous things that had to be hit with a grease gun, others that had to be adjusted. Depending on the motor type various engine maintenance tasks had to be done. Plus cleaning and maintaining the main gun, and all the machine guns, loading ammo and fuel. Getting food and eating, and other person chores all had to be done as well. Many tanks ended up piled with extra gear to help make the tankers lives easier. They only had to keep the tank up to a point, if it needed major work, like a new transmission or engine; a company or battalion level maintenance crew would come and help, ideally, or a replacement tank would be issued.  

 

Tank Infantry Communication: They couldn't at first.

 

   M4 tanks, and US Armor in general couldn’t talk to the infantry they were tasked to support. When I first read about the communication problems between tankers, and the ‘doughs’ they were fighting with I was surprised. It’s hard to believe in today’s world; talking to people inside a vehicle right next to you would be a problem, like send a text right bro? Well not back in the forties, they did have two way radios, but the technology used vacuum tubes, because transistors had not been invented, and they were not very reliable, and had a limited number of radio frequencies they could talk on. They also had the problem that tank radios, and infantry radios did not share frequencies.

   So Shermans would be sent to support Infantry, usually say a separate tank battalion would send a platoon over to regiment of infantry, often the battalion would be assigned to the same infantry division for a long period of time so they could get used to working with the same people. This helped, but in combat they still had real communication problems, no matter how long they had worked together in training. This problem didn’t really come to the top until after D-Day when the Sherman was supporting infantry in the bocage country, and close cooperation was needed. A platoon could be broken down further to support smaller units as well, and it wasn’t unheard of for a single tank to support a company, though they really tried to at least keep tanks paired up.

   Things would normally go well communication wise before the shooting started; at least the tank commander would be riding with his head stuck out; so he could talk to the infantry riding on his tank or walking around it. A savvy infantry officer may be up on the tank talking to the commander. Once the tank started taking enough fire for the crew to close those hatches, everything changed. No amount of yelling or even banging on the tank would get the crews attention. Since the tanks and infantry were not on the same radio nets, if they wanted to get orders to the tank through the radio, they had to radio up to battalion or regiment level, get someone to find the tank battalion commander, or someone who could talk to the tank on the radio, and then hope, they could get that actual tank on the net during the firefight. This did not work well. Often it took a man standing in front of the tank and waving his arms to get them to open up, this clearly was not an ideal solution either, and even when the commander did pop his head out, he had a very hard time hearing anything with his helmet on.

   If the tank unit and infantry units got to train together, and had been working together for a long time, this was less of a problem than a tank battalion assigned to a new infantry division with no combat time and little tank/infantry training. This lack of commination became a clear and prominent problem in the bocage fighting in Normandy, when infantry wouldn't be able to warn the tank they were working with of an imminent threat in a timely manner. The infantry would often be forced to fall back from the tanks leaving them alone, and easy targets for enemy infantry close assaults.

   Various solutions were improvised in the field; they tried using the infantry’s handy talky from inside the tank, but the tanks electrical system caused to much interference. They also tried giving company level infantry headquarters spare tank radios, mounted to a back board, but they were really to heavy to be practical, and not common enough to be all that useful. Some smart tanker figured out if you poked the handy talkie’s antennae out of the hatch, it worked, and that was the best solution for a little while. They also tried rigging up field telephones, with spools on the back of the tanks to let out the phone wire as they advanced, but the wire broke easily and restricted how the tank could move.

   The best solution was worked out by Operation Cobra, and many tanks went into combat sporting it. The fix was mounting an EE-8 field telephone in a .30 caliber ammo box on the back of the tank. This phone was wired into the tanks intercom so anyone could walk up and say, “Hey! You blind Sonsobitches!! Shoot the machine gun nest over to the right, that house you’re shooting up is empty, you stupid bastards!!” or something to that effect. This of course could get the infantry guy, who wanted to talk to the tank shot, since he had to stand up behind the tank, but they still haven’t come up with something better, and M1A2 Abrams tanks are getting infantry phones installed on them now.

   The Marines came up with this solution as well, but faster, since they used the M4 for much less time than the Army. They did come up with it around the same time as well, in July of 44. They found it essential for working in close with the fellow marines. The Japanese at this point were using man powered shaped charges on a pole, or magnetic mines, and the tanks really depended on the infantry around them to be their eyes. Marine tanks operated buttoned up once the shooting started, without the phone, they were much less effective.

 

The Radios: I don’t know much about tank radios, but I will when done with this section.

 

   The Sherman tank came with a SCR 508, 528 or 538 radio set. Command tanks had an additional SCR 506 mounted in the right front sponson. This let the tank listen on the net for the HQ he answered to while still talking to his own unit. The main radio set also had the tank intercom built into it. This intercom allowed the crew to talk to each other, but not transmit on the radio, only the commander could do that.

 

Here is a fascinating transcript of a marine tank company’s radio chatter, taken by a US destroyer off shore during the fighting on

Okinawa. You can find this on page 64 of Michael Greens M4 Sherman at War.

 

“This is Red Two, Red One; heartburn says that he is ready to start shooting at those pillboxes”

“Tell Heartburn I can’t receive him. You will have to relay. Tell him to give us a signal and well spot for him”

“Red Two wilco”

“Heartburn, raise your fire. You’re firing right into us”

“That’s not Heartburn, Red Two, That’s a high velocity gun from our left rear. I heard it whistle. Red One out.”

“Red Three, this is Red One. Can you see that gun that’s shooting into us?”

“Red One, I think that’s our own gunfire.”

“Goddamnit, it’s not, I tell you. It’s a high velocity gun and not a howitzer. Investigate or there on your left. But watch out for infantry; they’re right in there somewhere”

“Red Two, tell Heartburn down fifty, left fifty”

“Red Two wilco”

“Red Three, what are you doing? Go south west!”

“I’m heading south west Red One.”

“For Christ sake, get oriented. I can see you, Red Three. You are heading are heading northwest. Fox Love with hard left brake. Cross the road and go back up behind that house”

“But”

“I don’t know why I bother with you, Red Three. Yellow One, take charge of Red Three and get him squared away. And get that gun; it’s too close.”

“Red One from Red Two, Heartburn wants to know if we are the front lines”

“Christ yes we’re plenty front right now”

“This is Red Two, artillery on the way”

“Red one wilco”

“Red One from Yellow One. I can see some Japs setting up a machine gun about 100 yards to my right”

“Those are our troops Yellow One, don’t shoot in there”

“The man at my telephone -  I think he’s an Officer, - says we have no troops in there.”

“Yellow Two, go over there and investigate. Don’t shoot at them; that man at the telephone probably doesn’t know where the troops are. If they’re Japs, run them over.”

“Yellow One, wilco.”

“Go ahead, Yellow Two. What in God’s name are you waiting for?”

“I’m up as far as I can go and still depress my  machine guns.”

“The hell with your machine guns! I told you to run over them! Run over them, Goddamnit; obey your orders!”

“Yellow Two, wilco”

“Yellow One, what have you to report on that machine gun?”

“Red One, a Jap stood up and threw a grenade at us so I gave him a squirt.”

“Did you run over that gun like I told you?”

“No. Red One, we put an HE into it and wrecked it.”

“Christ, won’t you people ever learn to conserve your ammunition…”

“Red One from Green Two, I’m stuck between two trees.”

“Green Three stand by him. After the infantry has cleared up around there, get your assistant driver out and tow him clear.”

“Green Three, wilco”

“While you’re waiting, Green three, keep an eye out on that house on your right. I see troops coming out of there with bottles in their shirts.”

“Can I send my assistant driver over to investigate?”

“Stay in your tank”

“Yellow One, from Red Three, where are you going?”

“Red One from Green Four. I am moving out to take out a pillbox the infantry pointed out I will I will take care of it and let them catch up.”

“Where is it, Green Four?”

“In that clump of bushes to my right.”

“Can you see it? It is all right to fire? Wait Green four”

“Green Four wilco”

“Green Four, you better not fire. The 4th Marines are over there somewhere.”

“Run up on the box and turn around on it”

“It’s one of those coconut log things. It looks like it my be to strong to squash. Is it all right if I fire into the slit?”

“Affirmative, but be careful, wilco”

“Red One, this is Hairless. We’ve got some Japs bottled up in two caves in Target Area Four Baker. We’d like you to leave two tanks to watch them.”

“You know damn well that’s infantry work. We’re a mobile outfit, not watchdogs. Put your saki drinkers in there.”

“Ok Harry, Red One out.”

“All tanks start ‘em up. Move out now. Guide right and form a shallow right echelon. As soon as we hit the flat ground around the airfield, spread out to one hundred and fifty yard interval. Al right, move out, move out

                                                                                                                           

Armor: Not as bad as people like to say it was.

 

   The M4 had well balanced armor in the same class as the other medium tanks of the war. We have covered ‘welded’ and ‘cast’ hulls, but even the ‘welded’ tanks used many cast parts welded to the plates. In either case all M4 Shermans used rolled homogenous, or cast homogenous, steel armor. It was well balanced between hardness and ductility and was resistant to spalling and cracking, and was easy to repair and weld.  All versions cast or welded had sloped frontal armor, but the early welded Shermans had a lot of weak spots due to all the welding lines, and thinner armor used in the driver’s hoods. This was solved by adding external plates in front of the hoods. Over time the front plate was simplified to eliminate as many welds as possible, and the later large hatch hulls used a single plate.  Most early welded Shermans used cast armor plates welded together to form the front hull plates.

   A mid production M4 Sherman had 2 inches of armor at 56 degrees. The hull sides were 1.5 inches at 0 degrees, the rear was also 1.5 inches at 0 to 10 degrees. The hull roof was .75 of an inch thick and floor 1 inch under the driver, and a .5 inch everywhere else. This version of the Sherman was welded, the front plate was made from many smaller plates welded together, with the cast fittings welded in place as well. This was a lot of welding, and one of the reasons why the cast version was well liked from a manufacturing perspective because it took a lot less man hours to produce, the problem was, not all the factories could do the large castings.  The highbred hulls were a solution to the casting capacity problem, since more factories could handle the much smaller front casting the highbred used a casting on the front of the hull, and the rest of the hull was welded and very similar to the standard M4 hull.

   In some cases, when cast parts were called for, but there was a shortage, a particular tank maker might come up with their own built up part instead of cast fitting. This is one of the major reasons why there are so many little details differences between each factories version of the tank, they each left a signature in the fittings they used and how they installed them. These details are the thing of nightmares for a scale modeler who really needs to get the details right, the classic ‘Rivet Counter’ could be driven insane.

   The M4 would have a cast, 75mm gun turret. These turrets had 3.5 inch thick gun shields, a 2 inch rotor shield, and 3 inches of armor at 30 degrees on turret face. The sides were 2 inches, and the rear 1. The top was 1 inch thick. This turret armor was the same throughout the 75mm turret run, though many early castings had a weak spot on the frontal armor, near the gunner, this was covered with a large section of welded on armor, and the casting was improved in later versions of this turret, thickening the armor over the weak spot so the add on armor was not needed. This is much better armor than say the armor on the PIV, and very similar to the armor on the T-34. Most of this mid production tanks would not have a loaders hatch, unless it was retrofitted at a major tank factory.

   A mid production M4A1 would have the same turret, but the hull armor was cast and would be 2 inches at 37 to 56 degrees. The rest of the armor, with the exception of a few places in the hull roof as thin as .5 of an inch was the same, and there was a contour difference inside the hull. Many of the cast fittings welded onto the M4 would be cast directly into the hull of an M4A1. All spare parts would be interchangeable between these two tanks.

   The Sherman's armor was pretty good against 37mm and 57mm anti-tank guns. It was ok against 75mm guns like the one mounted on later production PIV tanks. Anti-tank guns larger than 57 mm could be hard on the Sherman and some guns could cut through them like butter. This was no surprise to the US Army, and they had a whole plan worked out to use infantry, artillery, and air support in conjunction with tanks to help them deal with anti-tank guns and other tanks. The Shermans M3 75mm main gun was a very good gun for handling AT guns, it was accurate, had a high rate of fire and an excellent HE round. Even a tank with armor as good as the M26 Pershings or Jumbo was still vulnerable to AT guns 75mm and larger, being able to flank that AT gun or strong point was more important that being able to slug it out in the long run. Without AT guns, enemy infantry had a very tough time with the Sherman, and even the Panzerfaust wasn’t all that effective unless used very close to the tank, and if the Shermans had infantry working with them and could hang back a bit, the Panzerfausts were much less effective.

   In the Pacific Shermans would really help defeat the Japanese, and then be forgotten about, barely mentioned in most books on the PTO. You may not hear much about the M4 in the Pacific, but it saw a lot of action. A few of these Shermans are still out there, some rotting away in the surf for tourist to play about on Saipan and I think Guam too. There’s still an M4A3 rotting away on Iwo Jima. The Japanese saw them as the most serious threat they would face, and used some desperate tactics to kill them. Basically the Japanese used man powered mines and shaped charges, and or the largest caliber guns that could be aimed at the tanks. They also had a rare but effective 47mm AT gun as well. In many cases, just getting the tanks ashore killed a large number of them off with things like holes or shell craters in reefs.

   Later production tanks with the improved large hatch hulls, in some cases would still had the 75mm gun turret, these tanks would all have final production turrets with loaders hatches and cast in improved cheek armor, or early turrets retrofitted with the armor and hatches.  Most of the large hatch hulls would have wet ammo racks, but a few large hull tanks, mostly M4A2 75mm tanks got the large hatches but standard ammo racks, with the add on armor.

   These large hatch welded hulls had a simplified one piece front plate. It was now 2.5 inches thick at 47 degrees. The improved final drive (lower hull) housing offered 4.25 to 2 inches of armor. The rest of the hull armor thickness stayed the same, but it was not only stronger from being thicker, but many of the ballistic weak spots and welding joints were gone. Even these later large hatch hulls, only produced at three factories, have many minor cosmetic differences. The M4A1 received and improved large hatch casting, and its frontal armor and slope changed as well. It was 2.5 inches at 37 to 55 degrees and the rest of the hull remained the same thickness.

   Many of these large hatch hulls had the larger and T23 turret. This turret had a 3.5 inch thick gun shield, a 2 inch rotor shield and front armor of 3 inches. The sides were 2 inches thick and the rear 1, the top was also 1 inch thick. All these turrets had loaders hatches. They were also made from castings, just like the 75mm turrets.

   Many tank divisions modified their tanks with add on armor. The most common was sand bags. They many units came up with very elaborate steel frames welded to the hull to hold the sand bags in place. Even though army tests showed that sandbags did not help much, this was still popular. Patton banned their use in his 3rd Army. Another thing they came up with was adding a several inch thick layer, usually three to four, of concrete, to the front and sometimes the sides of the tank.  This armor was little better than the sandbags.

   There was a field armor upgrade that did work well; it was employed extensively by Patton’s 3rd Army. By this point in the war, late 44, early 45, there was an abundance of large hatch 75, and 76mm tanks in use. They would take the armor from knocked out tanks, often large hatch Shermans, and cut off the whole front plate, and weld it onto the front of a M4A3, A3E8, or even A1 tanks. They would also add an armored plate extended over the differential housing, in many cases. They would also upgrade the turret armor by adding extra plates around on the turrets cheeks on 76mm turrets. One famous example of this upgrade package is General Creighton Abrams’s person tank, an M4A3E8 76 tank, named Thunderbolt VII. This armor package was found to be almost as effective as the Jumbos armor, and didn't put as much strain on the tanks automotive bits as the sandbags and concrete. Steven Zaloga’s Armored Thunderbolt and Armored Attack books have extensive pictures of all the armor modifications and their use in action.   

 thunderbolt-vii-399ace4.jpg

(Armored thunderbolt VII) 

sandbagged%20E8_zpsmjp5prjo.jpg

(sandbag armor)

megajumbo_zpsxgxibvma.jpg

(concrete armor)

         

Suspensions and Tracks: It Suspends, and gets laid

 

   M4 tanks came with three types of suspension the early VVSS, VVSS and HVSS. In the link above about Sherman details you can see all the changes the basic VVSS system went through. The VVSS suspension went from the basic two road wheel one return roller no support module as seen on the Lee, to the later production VVSS modules that had a bolt on return rollers, that could be bolted to either side of the suspension unit, and sheet steel track supports and much beefier structures that were still useable on either side of the hull. The suspension was one of the parts of the tank that went through so many minor changes, keeping track of them is out of the scope of what this document is meant to do. The Sherman Minutia site does a great job of covering these changes. These changes had little effect on the performance of the tank; think of them more of fine tuning of the basic design for strength, longevity, and ease of manufacture. 

   What would be the final VVSS, with the return roller that could be swapped to either side, was developed for the M3A4, with the A57 multibank motor. The combo of heavier hull and engine was putting the basic VVSS suspension with the built in return roller under to much stress and causing premature failures. The heavy duty unit was developed to solve this problem was later standardized as the M4 suspension type, though, the bolt on roller and skids would still receive improvements, a beefier skid, and a spacer to lift the return roller, and later a new assembly that raised the return roller higher, the core remained the same. The M3A4 would be the only version of the Lee to receive the heavy duty VVSS suspension units from the factory. 

   The VVSS was later replaced by the HVSS system that had double the track width but still remained a bolt on module. It was very well received and used on many late production Sherman models and a few of the variants. It solved the floatation problem with the narrow tracks with few drawbacks.  Thousands of 75mm Shermans received this suspension coupled to large hatch wet hulls. This would become the preferred suspension type for US Army Shermans, and many 75mm hulls either lost the suspension or had its 75mm turret removed and replaced with a T23 turret and 76mm M1A2 gun after the war

   This type of system, that could be unbolted, was much easier to work on or fix when damaged than an internal torsion bar suspension or Christie suspensions found on other tanks. Changing the one bogey setup, or even two and putting the track back together was a lot easier than trying to get the stub of a broken torsion bar out of the hull so a new one could go in. 

   An experimental Sherman with torsion bar suspension was produced and found to be little better than the basic VVSS tanks, and no better than the HVSS tanks and production was never considered.

 

Tracks:  They're a weapon too

   The Sherman VVSS had at least 14 different types of track, and there was another 4 types for the HVSS. I will cover them in more detail later. Most of the track types were ways to minimize the amount of rubber used in the tracks or to produce an all steel track, as good as the basic rubber and steel T41 track.

   The narrow VVSS tracks limited the Shermans mobility in soft mud, sand, boggy terrain. The Tiger and Panther tanks were better off road than the VVSS Shermans. It’s a good thing they were so rare, and there was a limit to how much mud they could deal with. The mud also accelerated the maintenance problems both these tanks faced and eventually mud got so deep in late 44 no take could go off road much until the ground froze.

    The Army came up with a field expedient solution called a “duck bill” end connector. The was an end connector with a sheet steel foot welded to it, when bolted in place on the track it added several inches to the tracks width in soft terrain. The only drawback was they broke off fairly easy, but were easy enough to replace.  This was a very popular and widespread modification, and many little local factories in France were contracted to produce them.

 

 

Guns: Things That Go Boom and Ratta-Tat-Tat

 

   The M3 75mm gun was a great tank gun for the time, and was based on a well-liked WWI French field gun. When introduced it could punch through any German tank it faced, from just about any angle. It’s a myth the Sherman was designed to only support infantry, though it’s primary role was not anti-armor, it was still designed to face other tanks.  The gun worked well in the infantry support role as well, with an effective HE and WP smoke round, and a canister round. This gun had a very high rate of fire in the Sherman (20rpm) and was mated with a basic stabilization system. This system did not allow shooting on the move accurately, but did allow the sights and gun to be put on the target faster when the tank came to a stop to shoot. No world war two tanks could shoot on the move with a real chance to hit even a stationary tank sized target. With a twenty round a minute rate of fire, the Sherman could pump out a lot of HE in support of the infantry, and it was not unheard of for the tanks to be used as artillery. The Sherman tank was equipped with all the gear to act as artillery if needed and was a regular occurrence in the MTO.

Tanks with the 75mm gun carried between 104 and 97 rounds of main gun ammo.

   Much of the later large hull tanks were produced with a larger turret to accommodate the M1 family of 76mm guns. This gun had some issues. The M1 and M1A1 often came without muzzle brakes. When firing during dusty conditions the view of the target would be obscured by dust stirred up from the guns blast, the fix for this was for the commander or another crewman to stand away from the tank and talk to the crew over the intercom, via a long wire, and correct the shots onto target. Not a great fix...The final fix was muzzle brakes; it took a little while for supply to catch up with demand but they were showing up on Shermans in Europe by late 44.

   Another problem was the gun was not a huge improvement over the M3 75mm as a tank killer, and was not as good as an HE thrower. As mentioned before, several tank divisions didn’t want the improved Shermans at first. The penetration problem would be partially solved with HVAP ammunition, but by the time it was common, German tanks to use it on were not.   Post war, ammunition would be further improved and there would be no shortage of HVAP ammo in Korea.

   The M1 series of guns were also stabilized, but it was the same system used with the 75mm gun, offering limited advantages. The Nazi Germans never fielded a stabilization system of any kind on their tanks. Tanks with the M1, and M1A1 guns carried 71 main gun rounds in wet storage racks in the floor, with an armored 6 round ready rack on the turret floor.

   One gun that I have not covered so far is the US 105mm M2/M4 howitzer, the versions of the Sherman with this gun were developed to replace the M7 Priest, but never fully did so during WWII.  They were used in the same role, or in limited direct support roles. These tanks did not have a stabilized gun or wet ammo racks, but did have the large hatch hull. All 105 Sherman tanks, either M4 (105)s or M4A3 (105)s were produced exclusively by Chrysler. 105 tanks carried 66 rounds of main gun ammo, in dry ammo racks.

 

Gun specs:

canon%20chart_zps0xdvgkip.jpg

 

   The vast majority of Sherman tanks came with two M1919A4 Browning .30 caliber machine guns.  Some very early versions came with four. This machine gun was a solid, proven, design and served well in the fixed coax mount or ball mounts on the Sherman. These guns were the same type issued to the infantry, and the tanks were even issued a whole tripod kit for use with the tanks machine guns. They carried almost 6500 rounds of .30 caliber ammunition. I won’t spend to much time on this gun, it did its job well, and large books on the subject are already out there. See Collectors Grade Publications book on the subject.

   The Shermans all came with an M2 .50 caliber machine gun mounted on the turret roof. On early tanks the mount was in an awkward place and hard for the commander to use from inside the tank. This was not improved until the T23 76mm turret and later production 75mm turrets went into production. Most of the time this machine gun was used by the infantry riding along with the tank to protect it. The gun was well liked, but the mount was not, and the tanks carried little ammo for this gun, only 600 rounds.  The M2 heavy machine gun was an excellent anti material and personnel weapon, but not much of an AA gun. Most crews under the rare air attack would rather take their chances buttoned up behind the armor than trying to shoot the plane down.  It was well liked for shooting up anything that might hide a German anti-tank gun as well, since it could be used at pretty long range.

   Some tankers would move the M2’s mount so the loader could fire it, and then mounted a smaller M1919A4 for the commander. This was a popular modification late war on tanks with the T23 turret.

   The tanks also had a dozen hand grenades, 16 rounds for the two inch smoke grenade launcher, and 900 rounds in magazines for their M3 SMGs. Each crew member was issued one. On early tanks it was a Thompson issued instead of the M3.     

 

Turrets: They Rotate, and have Guns.

M4A4-Sherman-latrun-6.jpg

T23turret.jpg

 

   The Sherman had two turret types the 75mm turret, and the later T23 turret with the M1 series of 76mm guns. The Jumbo had an up armored version of the T23 turret.

   The standard 75mm turret started out with a stubby rotor shield that just covered the base of the 75mm gun. These early turrets didn’t have a direct telescopic sight either. The gunner had to rely on the M4 periscope to site the gun. The turret had one large hatch for the whole turret crew to get in and out from and a pistol port on the loaders side that could be propped open and spent 75mm shells dumped out.  The loader and commander had fully rotating periscopes to view the world through, the commander’s periscope was in his hatch, the loaders right above his station, and the middle of the turret roof had an armored ventilator. 

   The small rotor shield and lack of telescopic sight were some of the first production line changes, and older tanks were field modified with kits to update them. The new full size rotor shield covered the majority of the turret face with much thicker armor. The next big change was a weak spot in the right side of the casting where a thin spot was made while machining the turret for the gun mount was discovered, and armor was welded on the outside of the turret to thicken it back up. Tanks were retrofitted with this armor in the field, and later the casting was changed to include the thicker armor over the area.

   At some point while all the above was going on someone decided the pistol port was a weak spot and it had to go. So they started welding them closed at the factory, and then the casting had them removed. Then the men in the field went ape poop, and they put it back in, around the time the ultimate 75mm turret went into production, with the thicker armor cast in, the pistol port back, a new all-around vision cupola for the commander and an oval hatch for the gunner.  This would be the final configuration of the 75mm turret. The tolerances used by US tank factories were close enough turrets cast at one factory could be used at another with no modifications. Many older surplus turrets left over from the tank retriever conversion program were used in later production, with all the updates added, and a hatch cut in for the loader.

   The turret drive motor was either an electric motor driven hydraulic system or a strait electric motor driven system. The hydraulic system was the preferred, but when that system was in short supply the electric system was substituted.  The 75mm turret could rotate 360 degrees in 15 seconds with the power traverse. It had a manual traverse system as well, and elevation was handled through a manual wheel.

   While the 75mm turret was still in production and being improved, the T23 turret, taken from the failed T23 medium tank project, went onto the Sherman with the M1 gun on the big hatch, wet ammo rack hulls. This turret was larger and could fit the 76mm gun with much more comfort than the basic 75mm turret. All T23 turrets had loaders hatches, though early production T23 turrets used the hatch that had been the commanders hatch on older Shermans for the loaders hatch and used the new all-around vision cupola for the commander. This didn’t last long; it was found the narrow area between the two large hatches on the roof was a weak spot. The big loaders hatch went away and an oval hatch went in.  These turrets had the same traverse speed as the 75mm turret and the same ROF.

   The T23 turret came in around 4000 pounds heavier than the 75mm turret. The automotive systems of the Sherman tank were strong enough to support the extra weight without any real change in performance or longevity. The drivetrain didn’t receive any changes at all as far as I can tell, and only the Jumbo tanks got a different gear ratio in the differential. All the extra weight in sandbags, concrete and real armor did shorten the life of the automotive components but not by a significant amount.  

   All T23 turrets, 76mm gun tanks, had wet ammunition storage, as did the Jumbo tanks.

 

The motors: Why so many, and why the weird ones?

   The Sherman had four different motors that made it into production tanks. The R975 radial, The GM 6046 ‘twin’ diesel, the A57 multibank, and the Ford GAA V8.  There was also a Caterpillar motor they were playing with I’ll cover at some point.

   There are several reasons the US went with the radial aircraft engine instead of a dedicated power plant, and this was mostly due to lack if money to develop tanks and there drive trains between wars. When the US got serious about tank motors, there was a limited number of choices and the R975 was the best one. Then they turned to the US auto industry for other motor ideas.

   GM came up with their twin bus motor 6046 and it was well liked right from the beginning. Then Chrysler came out with the nutty but fantastic A57. The US Army didn’t like either, and didn’t want to even use them for training. If the British hadn’t been willing take the A57 versions, the Army would have regulated them to training use only. It wouldn’t be until Ford figured out the bugs in the GAA v8 that the army would make the switch from the R975.

 

Continental_R975C1_3.JPG

(image courtesy of the Sherman Minutia site.)

The Continental R975 C1/C4:

Type: 9 cylinder, 4 cycle, radial

Cooling system: Air Ignition: Magneto

Displacement: 973 ci Bore and stroke: 5x5.5 inches Compression Ratio: 5.7:1

Net Horsepower:C1/C4 350/400 hp Gross Horsepower: C1/C4 400/460 hp

Net Torque: C1/C4 800/ft-lb/940/ft-lb Gross Torque: C1/C4 890ft-lb/1025ft-lb

Weight: 1212lbs dry Fuel: 80 Octane gasoline Engine Oil Capacity: 36 quarts

   This motor was a license built version of the Wright R-975 built by Continental for tank use. It had been around nearly ten years and used in civil aviation before the army started putting it in tanks, starting with the M2 medium in 1939 and would go on to produce more R-975s than Wright ever would, 53,000 motors. The military version put out more horsepower than the civil version as well.  This was a solid and reliable tank motor, but not ideal. It was a little underpowered, and had to be revved up a lot to get the tank moving. The Army considered this a superior choice over the 6046 diesel and A57 motors.  This motor would be swapped into M4A4 hulls by the French post war.

 

General_Motors_6046_4.JPG

(image courtesy of the Sherman Minutia site.)

The General Motors 6046:

Type: 12 cylinder, 2 cycle, twin in-line diesel

Cooling system: Liquid Ignition: compression

Displacement: 850 ci Bore and stroke: 4.25x5 inches Compression Ratio: 16:1

Net Horsepower: 375 Gross Horsepower: 410

Net Torque: 1000ft-lbs Gross Torque: 885-lb

Weight: 5110 lbs. dry Fuel: 40 cetane diesel oil Engine Oil Capacity: 28 quarts

   First used in the M3A3 and M3A5 and then in the M4A2. This motor tied two GM super charged truck diesels together on a common crank case. The motors could be run independently, so if one was damaged the other could be used to get the tank back to a repair depot, or to keep fighting. The engine weighed more than the R975, but had better torque characteristics, and the tanks with this motor handled low speed operation better because of the superior torque. 

This version was ruled out for use by the Army because they didn’t want to complicate the tank supply chain by adding another fuel to it. This motor was well liked by its users, and the only version of the Sherman the Soviet Union would take via lend lease were the ones powered by this motor.  The Army testing of this motor found it was as reliable as or more so than the R975.

 

Multibank_5.JPG

(image courtesy of the Sherman Minutia site.)

The Chrysler A57 multibank:

Type: 30 cylinder, 4 cycle, multibank

Cooling system: Liquid Ignition: Battery

Displacement: 1253 ci Bore and stroke: 4.37x4.5 inches Compression Ratio: 6.2:1

Net Horsepower: 370 Gross Horsepower: 425

Net Torque: 1020ft-lbs Gross Torque: 1060ft-lbs

Weight: 5400 lbs. dry Fuel: 80 octane gasoline Engine Oil Capacity: 32 quarts

   This motor was a bit of an orphan in US Service. It powered the M3A4 and M4A4. The Army used the motor for training, and tried to pawn a few off on the Marines. That lasted about two months at the Marine Tank School. The ever growing need for tanks by the British ultimately solved what to do with the tanks that ended up with this motor. They would end up taking over 8000 of them. Chrysler sent tech reps to England with these tanks and showed the maintenance crews how to keep them running.  This worked well and the engines served their purpose with little trouble. Often powering the best pure AT version of the Sherman, the Sherman VC firefly.  This motor saw a lot of use, during the war, and after with many countries being given Firefly Shermans to help out their recovery military. Some even ended up in South America, but I’m not sure what versions. This is my favorite Sherman motor, because it so absurdly complicated, it’s almost German, but actually worked, so not German at all.

 

Ford_GAA_2.JPG

(image courtesy of the Sherman Minutia site.)

The Ford GAA:

Type: 8 cylinders, 4 cycle, 60 degree V8

Cooling system: Liquid Ignition: Magneto

Displacement: 1100 ci Bore and stroke: 5.4 x 6 inches Compression Ratio: 7.5:1

Net Horsepower: 450 Gross Horsepower: 500

Net Torque: 950ft-lbs Gross Torque: 1040 ft-lbs

Weight: 1560 lbs. dry Fuel: 80 octane gasoline Engine Oil Capacity: 32 quarts

   The Ford GAA only made it into one Lee as a test bed, in one tank. But it powered a lot of Sherman's, both large and small hatch. It would go on to be the motor of choice for the US Army for the rest of the war, and in the next tank, the M26. Just look at the numbers above and compare them to the rest of the motors. The GAA is really a much better motor for a tank in the Shermans weight range. This tank was not lend leased to the other allies in large numbers if at all. The USSR may have gotten one to evaluate, the UK too, but the Army wanted to switch over to this and stop using R975 powered tanks. After the war, the only Sherman's they kept were M4A3 76 w tanks, and over time they converted as many of these to HVSS suspension as possible. They went as far as swapping T23 turrets from M4A1 76 W tanks onto M4A3 75 hulls. The army would produce several other gas powered tank engines, but none would really shine like this one did in the Sherman.

Edited by Jeeps_Guns_Tanks

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Part III

 

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 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 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.

    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.

    The marines ultimately ended up with six tank battalions and a training school at Camp Eliot California. The first two battalions formed, the 1st and 2cd formed and deployed without training at the tank school. Most of the Marines tankers went through the school from that point on and the school trained almost all the new NCOs and officers.  When the war ended, all but the 1st and 2cd were disbanded, and the they 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.”

 

ChinaGal_zps1cfe9196.jpg

Tarawa: The Marines learn to use Medium Tanks in a Meat Grinder.  

November 20-23rd 1943:

    The first Marine use of the Sherman was on Tarawa. The tanks were M4A2 small hatch tanks, these tanks were issued with no training, and the crews of the I Marine Amphibious Corps Tanks Battalion had sixty days in the states to learn how to use their tanks. Then the island they ended up pre landing had no place for them to drive the tanks to train on them. So they went into combat with no real training with the Marines they were going to fight with. The tanks had no waterproofing, and no deep wading trunks, and could only drive through 40 inches of water. They also had the same problem the Army had in Europe, the tanks radios were not on the same frequency as the infantry units below the battalion level. They could talk to aircraft though. They decided they would only need one com0pany of medium tanks, the rest of the battalion would be made up of M3A1 lights. This single mixed battalion would be the only Tanks to support the assault. 

     

   C Company of the 2nd Marine tank Battalion had 14 medium tanks.   All the tanks had names starting in the letter C.  The HQ for the tank battalion was almost entirely killed off and their radios lost during the initial landings so each platoon of M4 tanks fought its own war, as would the light companies until the later stages of the battle.

 

   1st platoon reinforced with two HQ tanks were let out of the LCM on the reef and had to drive into shore, they lost three of six tanks to shell craters and swamping while doing so. There were scouts sent ahead to mark a safe path along the reef, but the markers they placed in many cases floated away, and most of the scouts were killed by enemy fire.  The three surviving Shermans from 1st platoon were named Cecilia, China Gal and Chicago. Cecilia, a command tank, linked up with China Gal, and they tried to find a way inland. They had trouble getting inland. The seawall was a hellish nightmare, filled with dead and dying marines, wrecked LVTs and other obstacles and this prevented the tanks from moving. While trying to find a way inland Chicago took on water and shorted out.

 

   China Gal and Cecelia managed to find a way inland, and found nothing but Japanese troops, and when  a Japanese tank, a Type 95 Ha-Go, wheeled into view, it got of the first hit, and got very lucky, its 37mm round hit Cecelia in the main gun and wrecked it. The rifling was damaged, and the breach was open so fragments bounced around the turret and scared the hell out of the crew, but no one was hurt. China

Gal blasted the Japanese tank. Cecelia raced back to the beach to check out the damage, and then later hooked back up with China Gal, the company commander jumped from the tank with the disabled gun into China Gal.  They spent the rest of the day working with the gyrenes, blasting Japanese pill boxes, Cecelia using just her machine guns. They worked between Red-1 and Red-2 the rest of the day.

   

   2nd Platoons first tank off LCM sank up to turret killing the tank. The next two LCMs tried another spot, and first LCM took damage and sunk on a reef, blocking the, the second managed to back a little way out before taking fire and sinking as well. The tank in this LCM managed to get out, and onto to the reef, only to drown in hidden shell hole moments later.

 

   The rest of the 2nd platoon made it ashore on beach Red-3 and moved across Red-2 to hook up with their infantry. These tanks were ordered to support an infantry assault across the islands airfield, and ended up out in front of the marine grunts. One took a bunch of fire and tried to back up and fell into a shell crater and rolled over.  The other was damaged by a Japanese soldier with a magnetic mine, and then shot up by a hidden AT gun.  They were in the fight for 20 minutes or less. I suspect since the tanks names didn’t make it into the book I’m using as a reference that no one from either crew lived to tell the tale.

 

   3rd Platoon re-enforced with one HQ tank managed to get all four tanks ashore, and had less trouble doing so than the other two platoons. Their Good fortune ended their though. Cannonball, a command tank with the platoon leader aboard, Condor, Charlie and Commando and Colorado were the names of the five M4A2s that made it ashore. The commander on Red-3 ordered the tanks to move out ahead of the infantry, with no men in close support, and for the tanks to kill anything they found.

 

    In under an hour, Condor was knocked out, how it was knocked various in the reports, some claim a US Navy dive bomber took it out, but photos of the wrecked tank make it look like an AT gun or infantry close assault took it out. Cannonball took some damage from and AT gun, and in trying to get out of its line of fire managed to fall into a ditch filled with Japanese fuel drums. Apparently fire from a Navy fighter ignited the fuel, but the crew got out.  The survivors from both crews were trapped behind enemy lines for a while. Charlie got taken out at close range by an AT gun. The Jap AT gun put multiple rounds through the tanks side. Commando lived up to its name, ranging far ahead of the Marine lines and racking up two AT guns, and five pillboxes before enemy fire knocked it out.  Colorado had a gasoline bomb thrown on it, but the driver raced back to the beach and drove into the surf, putting out the fire.

 

    By nightfall, only Colorado, China Gal and Cecelia were operational, and China Gal and Cecelia tied into the Marine lings on Red-1 and Red-2, and Colorado did the same on Red-3. Things were all messed up, lots of ships had just dumped whatever cargo was easiest into the LVTs and other boats moving things into shore and there was a lot of trouble getting the things the tankers were going to need. The most important being main gun rounds for the tanks M3 75mm guns. Late that night heavy Japanese machine gun fire rained down on the base of the pier that they were using to bring in supplies. Colorado was sent to help, and shut the Japanese machine guns down soon after.

 

   Things had gone poorly for the Marine tankers, but not just them, the attack was so disorganized due to much higher than expected casualties, the Marines only had a small toehold on the island, and a Japanese counter attack during the night would very likely have rolled the Marines right back into the water. Luck was on the Marines side the Japs were even more screwed up and couldn’t manage one.

 

Day 2: 

 

   The Marines started trying to bring in more troops at dawn. These troops were met by a hail of machine gun fire from the Red-1/Red-2 junction. Cecelia, still without a working main gun was dispatched to engage the Japanese machine gun positions at the junction. The tank was only in action for a short time before it slid into a shell crater and its electrical system shorted out. The tank was at a steep enough angle the turret could not be rotated with the manual traverse, and had to be abandoned. I’m not sure if it was shock from the impact when it slid into the shell crater, or if there was water in the hole deep enough to flood the tank.

   

    The M4 hero of the day was China Gal, around 1100, she hooked up with a bunch of gyrene grunts and they attacked south from Red-1 towards the Green beaches. They never actually moved along the beach though, they stayed inland, behind the Japanese positions facing the beach, basically attacking from the Japanese defensive lines rear and flank. Two hours later, they had rolled up the whole western shore, opening the way for more troops to come in, and not under murderous fire. In many cases China Gal had to drive right up to the well-hidden concrete bunkers and blast them through the front slit, or rear door at point blank range to kill them. That night China Gal pulled almost all the way back to Red-1 and holed up with a few infantry around. They slept under the tank and would be back in action in the morning.

 

   On day two, Colorado spent the day on Red-3 trying to kill Japanese positions at the base of the Burns-Philp Pier. Several of these positions had been wiped out the day before and re occupied by the Japanese over the night. Colorado worked closely with a bulldozer, the tank would move in close and blast the machine gun position and then the dozer would cover it over with sand, whether the Japanese inside were dead or not.

 

   They worked out a system with the marine scouts who had led them in on the reef. The few that survived were used to scout targets for the tanks. The tankers made at least one of these scouts ride in the tank and show them were the action was from the inside at least once. The tank crews wanted to give the scouts an idea of how blind they really were, so he could appreciate and take it into consideration while they scouted.

 

    The scouts worked out a system where they would get the tanks attention by beating on the hull with a spent 75mm shell,  because they rang like a bell, and could be heard inside the tank, and then using his rifle to indicate a target. He did this by aiming at the target, and then they would hold up fingers for how many yards away the Japanese soldiers were.  This worked well enough, but ringing the shell/bell on the hull put the ringer in danger of enemy fire.  Of course, once he got the tanks attention, if was the Japs shooting at the scout who had to be worried. These men would also drag dead and wounded marines from the path of the tank.

 

    When the progress on the Green beaches was noticed, it was decided to send in 1st Battalion 6th Marines and B Company 2nd Tank Battalion ashore there, B Company was made up of light tanks.  One of the first LVT’s in hit a mine on the reef and blew up, once again losing a lot of important communication gear. Due to the heavy presence of mines on the reef and beach, 1/6 diverted north, delaying the landings, but ultimately coming ashore as an intact fighting unit, the first of the invasion.

 

    The 1/6 landings went relatively well, but the light tanks of B Company had a lot of trouble. They came in on the wrong tide, and only one platoon would make it onto the reef, only to be 700 yards from shore, and high tide coming. The rest of B Company was diverted Red-2, landing before 1st Platoon got onto the reef.

 

    All five M3A1 light tanks from the 1st Platoon got onto the reef, but only two would make it to land, the rest drowned in hole in the reef. The rest of the company got ashore only to lose another tank in a shell crater, leaving only two running.  The light tanks laagered in an abandoned Japanese airplane revetment and their crews dug foxholes under the tanks for the night. Crews that lost their tanks, dug in with other crews, under their tanks. At night, anything that moved got shot at, so everyone made sure they had a hole by nightfall. A few more lights from B company would arrive before nightfall, but the rest still remained offshore. 

 

    As night fell on the second day, it was clear the Marines were winning, but it was also clear a whole hell of a lot of Marines had been killed. One of the infantry commanders still alive, Lieutenant Colonel David Shoup, issued a report that did not mention anything about a group of Marines being cut off holding a particular section of the island in it and concluded it with “Casualties: many. Percentage dead: unknown. Combat efficiency: we are winning. Lt, Col Shoup.”

 

Day 3:

 

  At 0200 more B Company light tanks arrived off Red-2 and started to land and immediately started having problems. Of the first two lights ashore, one shorted out is electric system and was towed ashore by the other, only to be lost to enemy mortar fire. All through the night more B Company lights tried to get to shore. One platoon lost three out of five light tanks to drown out electrical system or other water related problems. By Morning they had five M3A1 tanks from two platoons ashore.

 

   Later that morning 1st Battalion, 8th Marines attacked the Japanese positions at the base of the pier at the junction of Red-1/Red-2. They five light tanks supported the attack, and much like their larger cousins in C Company, the tankers found it hard to find anything to shoot at, so infantry scouts would often climb into the cramped tanks and lead them to the targets. When the targets turned out to be a pill box or bunker, it was found even firing point blank into the embrasures bunkers with little success. They found using 37mm canister rounds at point blank range, fired through an opening worked well enough. They lost a M3A1 to a Japanese soldier who dashed out and threw some kind of explosive onto the engine deck, blowing the engine up and setting the tank on fire. They lost another light to a mortar attack as well.

 

   The light tanks would be pulled out and replaced by SPM, was an lightly armored LVT with a 75mm howitzer in a small turret. These vehicles fared little better than the light tanks.    

 

   China Gal would be called upon to help an attack reach the group of trapped marines. Elements of two companies from 1st Battalion 2nd Marines had managed to push to the center of the airfield on D-day. The Japanese figured out these marines had pushed far ahead, and attacked behind them, cutting them off. These Marines attacked to the south the next day, trying to break out while the other marines tried to fight to them. The attack to save them faltered, leaving them in the nearly 200 Marines of 1/2 still trapped, now in a 200 by 50 yard area of thick bushes and underbrush, and they were low on ammo.

 

   A little after 0800 China Gal, and the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines started an attack to relieve the trapped Marines. They also had seven more light tanks from B Company who had made it to shore helping. Major Jones, the commander of 1/6 kept tight control on the tanks, not letting any get further than 50 yards in front of the advancing gyrenes. Jones improvised a way to keep in communication with the tanks and kept one light tank back at his HQ to use its radios to control the other tanks. They attacked along a very narrow front, only about 100 yards wide. Even with the improved communications with the infantry through the use of the light tanks radios, right up at the front edge were the tanks were actually fighting, the commander of China Girl still found it necessary to open his hatch to talk to the Marines outside. To make it safer, the commander of the Sherman would rotate the turret, so his hatch was to the rear, then pop the hatch and rotate the cupola, the early split hatch commanders cupola rotated, to use one of the upright hatches to shield them from fire.

 

    The tank infantry team advanced steadily, losing no more tanks, and crossing 800 yards, they relived the cut off Marines by 1100. By this point the Marines supply lines had stabilized and a good flow of supplies was making it ashore, but one thing was not. Ammo for the M3 75mm gun was not in the cargo being sent from the ships offshore. This forced the tankers to scavenge what they could from the knocked out and drowned tanks.  The two operating M4 tanks would be reduced to firing 75mm pack howitzer ammo, it didn’t seat right, and they didn’t know how it was fused, but it kept the main guns in action.    

 

     Back at the junction of Red-1 and Red-2, where a large Japanese bunker complex, which included the Japanese Commanders command bunker, was still holding the Marines off. At 0930 a lucky mortar round took out one of the bunkers, causing a huge secondary explosion, this allowed Colorado to move in and knock out the other bunker guarding the main one. While the fight went on, the two B Company light tanks left in the area were used as ambulances, hauling wounded Marines back to an aid station.

 

    As night fell, the Jap strong point with the huge bunker still stood. The M4 was used to haul supplies up to prepare for the next mornings renewed attack. Late that night at 0400 almost 400 Japanese troops rushed the Marine lines, attacking B company 1st Battalion 6th Marines, and the Marines won the fight, but it had come down to hand to hand combat.

 

Day 4: 

 

   At 0700 on the morning of the 4th day of the battle, Navy aircraft bombed the hell out of the last of the japs holding out on the south east part of the island, a long narrow section, ending in the sea. The air attack was followed by marine artillery and naval gunfire support. One of the Pearl Harbor survivor battleships was off shore to deliver the fire. The USS Tennessee would remain offshore until December support the Marines through the mop up operation.

 

    Freshly landed, 3rd Battalion 6th Marines passed through marine lines, heading for the Japanese strong point points on the east side of the Island. Colorado, China Gal and seven light tanks led the attack. They moved in a tight formation of tanks and infantry and rolled up the Japanese troops. The fight had left the Japanese, and many committed suicide. By 1310 the Marines had 3/6 had reached the eastern end of the island. The two M4A2 tanks proved to be decisive weapons at this stage, tearing through the last of the Japanese resistance in the area.

 

    The last area the Japanese were still holding out in, at the junction of Red-1/2, with the big bunker, the area responsible for the majority of the Marine casualties. With only the support of a pair of SPMs the Marines finally crushed these last Japanese holdouts by 1305 when the Island was reported secure.

 

    The cost had been one third of the landing force becoming casualties, 1696 killed and 2101 wounded. The Marines salvaged all the M4A2’s they could and took them back to the LSD Ashland, and they were rebuilt in Hawaii and used in later battles. One M4A2 remains on Tarawa, Cecelia, no matter how hard they tried she wasn’t going to come out of the shell hole, and as of 1992 she was still there, a steel monument to the Marines, Sailors and Soldiers who died taking the Betio, Tarawa Atoll.

(Cecelia now)

 Battle_Tarawa_Tank.jpg  

   The Marines learned a lot of hard lessons about using tanks at Tarawa; the biggest problem was communication with the supporting infantry units. Another big problem was the vulnerability of the tanks to water damage. It was also clear, the infantry units needed to train with the tanks they would be supported by in combat. The Marines of C Company had been thrown into combat with little training on the tanks, but still proved to be key players in the conquest of the island. The Marines would begin applying the lessons they learned, but not before their next use of the M4, this time M4A1s at Cape Gloucester, a swampy, jungle island in the Solomons, and not the best place for any tanks, but the M4 would prove it worth there as well.       

        

 

Cape Gloucester: Who would be nuts enough to try using tanks in a swamp? The USMC that’s who.

 

 

 

 

British Shermans: Is it a Tank or a Teapot?

 

   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 design saved their bacon at El Alamien. 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.

They came up with their own naming system for the tank:

 

M4 = Sherman I

M4A1 = Sherman II

M4A2 = Sherman III

M4A3 = Sherman IV

M4A4 = Sherman V

   

   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 M4 and 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. I don’t think they got many M4A3 tanks at all. 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.   

 

The Firefly: Teapot with Teeth.

The US Firefly: Yeah I said US Firefly, they made some but none saw combat, and they were unique, not like the brit ones. (coming soon)

General Specifications: The Numbers; Man.

Silly Myths: Things You Don’t Want to Say.

 

   The Sherman was gas powered and a fire trap, German tanks had diesels, and they called it a Ronson.

   As we know from this document, not all Shermans were gas powered. We also know the Sherman was no more prone to fire than any other tank, including German tanks. We know that the Sherman, when it did burn, the fire was most often caused by an ammunition fire, and not fuel fires. This was solved with wet ammunition racks making the Sherman the least prone  to burn tank of the war. We should also know that all German tanks were gas powered as well, and very prone to ammo rack fires, and in many case gas fires caused by poor designs, and horrid quality control.

    

    The Only Shermans to come with HVSS suspension had 76mm M1A1 guns.

     As has been mentioned in this very document, HVSS suspension was pretty common on M4A3 75 W tanks produced in 1944. Several hundred if not thousand got HVSS suspension. We also know the M4 105 was produced with HVSS, as was the M4A3 105.  This can all be confirmed through the wonderful Sherman Minutia site.

 

    The Sherman was made to be basic, cheap and easy to produce, and not last.

    This is not true. The Sherman was an advanced tank for its time. It incorporated a gyro stabilized gun, a full set of radios, and a auxiliary motor for charging the batteries. The design could use either a cast or welded upper hull, without changing the other parts, and that’s pretty amazing considering the tank was designed with slide rulers. 

    The design tolerances were so close parts manufactured at any factory would work on any Sherman. That may not sound like a big deal, but at the time it was, and the Germans could not say the same thing. Many of their tanks required hand fitting of parts. The early Shermans were all finely fitted, with beveled edges on the armor plate and all casting finely machined. The interiors included cushions for crew comfort and each crewman had at least one periscope. The radios were cutting edge tech for the time.  The huge castings used to make the upper hull of the M4A1 were a technological feat as well and not reproducible by any of the Axis nations.

    The Sherman was certainly not built to be easily worn and replaced. One of the reasons the basic 75mm M3 was chosen, was because it had a 1000 round or more barrel life. All the motors were good for more than 5000 miles.  The transmissions and final drives more than that, and that miles, not kilometers, like the with Panthers 150 kilometer final drives or 1500 kilometer transmission or 2500(lol maybe, I’m being nice) kilometers on the motor.  You could get up to 2500 miles on most of the track models the Sherman used. The road wheels were easily replaced, and the springs in Shermans are holding up fine to this day on most.  The Brits put 2500 miles on M4A4 in a single test if I recall right, 10,000 miles on most of the motors, in the A57 wouldn’t be impossible if no one was blowing the tanks up.

    For suck a reliable tank, it was designed with ease of maintenance in mind and it was relatively easy to swap out the motor or transmission/final drive. The suspension units bolted on, so replacing one damaged beyond repair was very easy.

   These tanks also took upgrades well, being up gunned to guns up to 122mm, and re engine with more modern motors. The French and Israelis did most of the work in this area and these tanks will be covered in their own section. The point is, no other basic tank chassis lived as long as the Sherman did. 

 

US tank production wasn’t optimized, and their supply system was overburdened by the number of different sub types of tanks they used. With the Sherman in particular using four different power packs.

   This myth is absurd. The main reason the United States produced Shermans with four different power packs, was they thought the bottleneck in producing the tank in great numbers would be outstripping of the supply of R975 radial engines. That never really happened, in part because the Army had three other viable engines, and produced them all. They were able to keep this from complicating the supply situation to much by limiting who got what models, with the US Army using version with the R975, the Brits using the diesel and A57 multibank, and the Russians getting M4A2s.

   This never hurt tank production speed in any way, and since the continental US was damage free, shipping parts between factories was easy enough. The US had a massive rail system. When the Army started to move to the M4A3 as its primary tank they released more M4 and M4A1 tanks to their allies. The US actually had a tank production surplus, and was able to close down all but the best three tank producers. Hell, they even built a factory to produce the M7 medium tank and then never built it. These are the types of errors you can make when your country is an untouched industrial powerhouse.   

                                                    

Fun Facts: Stuff to make German Armor Fans Cry.

 

   The M4A1 Sherman was so advanced in design; the Germans could not have produced a copy, even if they had been given the blue    prints. They simply lacked the technology to make a large casting like the whole upper hull of a tank. This type of casting was leading edge technology in the 1940s and the US was a world leader, the Germans, were not. They probably couldn’t even cast the standard 75mm turret.

 

   The Germans liked the Sherman and T-34 so much the rebuilt any the captured and used them in combat.

   It was not uncommon for the Germans to have whole tank units filled with captured and slightly reworked T-34s and M4A2 tanks. The Sherman would be a refreshing surprise on the reliability front, and probably as easy to keep running as their native PIII and PIV tanks.   

 

Conclusions: The Sherman Tank was the Tank the US Army Needed, and it handled the task well, in all regions and all terrain.

 

   My conclusion on the Sherman is that the reputation it has received in recent years is unfair, and the Sherman in fact was the best tank of the war. I base this on the tanks wide spread use, ease of production, reliability, and combat record. It was not a perfect tank, and did have a series of minor flaws. Yet there was nothing that kept the M4 from being combat worthy, useful tools, to the units it was issued to. When the allies needed a medium tank, the Sherman filled the role, and did it well, in desert, forest, cities, jungles and plains, hell even from sea a few times. Even the Russians, who knew a thing or two about designing a tank, liked it. It was not particularly prone to fire or deadly to its crews, even the version with gas motors.

   For reasons covered in this interesting book: The Myth of the Eastern Front by Smelser and Davies. The German Army’s capabilities and motivations have been misrepresented over the years by authors with a bias, and a desire to make Germany look better, whitewashing much of the German Army’s role in war crimes and the Holocaust. Why is this important when discussing the Sherman? Because the Sherman has been one of the victims of the ‘losers’ writing the history, and in the case of ‘Death Traps’ by Belton Cooper, smeared by an author whose book contains more false information than the truth. A plethora of bad television shows on the History, Discovery, and Military channel that were based on his book have not helped either.

   For these reasons the German armor used during WWII has really received a stellar reputation when it was not warranted in most cases.  Some German armor was excellent, the PIII comes to mind, or the Stug based of that chassis. But the tanks named after cats were all failures. They are popular because they are pretty and on paper seem like great tanks. It does not take much real digging to find out there are a lot of flaws the stat sheet doesn’t tell you about. The Tiger was produced in such small numbers, even if its exploits were not almost completely propaganda, it would have had zero effect on the war. Yet it sucked up resources that could have been used to field far more PIV tanks. The Tiger II has all these flaws, but add horrible reliability problems on top of being even more rare. The Panther can only reasonably be considered a colossal failure in everything but looks. When the Germans began employing these tanks, they no longer had a force capable of exploiting breakthroughs, or being used in maneuver warfare.

    The M4 Sherman was a very good tank for exploiting a break through, engaging armor, and supporting infantry. As the war progressed, the tank improved, in both major and minor ways, and at the Shermans entrance to the war, and at the end, it was arguably the best tank of the war. The M4A3e8 with 76mm gun was everything you want in a tank with only a few flaws.  The final version of the Soviet T-34, the T-34-85 was also an excellent tank, and they would go on to face each other in Korea, on very close to equal terms. The PIV, and Panther for the most part ceased being used at the end of the war and both were developmental dead ends. And the PIV actually got worse with its final version, since it was stripped down, losing things like its powered turret traverse.

   The two tanks that should be admired most should be the M4 Sherman, and the T-34. Yet these tanks are most often castigated as cheap junk, mas produced, to swarm the noble tiger, or panther to death, in its noble defense of the kingdom of Nazi Germany from the evils of turning into a dirty, red, communist prison state.

   Fortunately with authors like Steven Zaloga, Harry Yeide, and David Glantz, and blogs like Archival Awareness and the Chieftains Hatch, the fairytales that passed for unit histories for German tank units are being debunked. In this bold, post Nazi fan fiction flavored world, the Sherman should shine out as the automotive hero it really was. I know if I needed a tank to take on Nazi scum with, it would be a Sherman, preferably with wet racks.

 

Links: Places on the Internets about the Sherman

 

Sherman minutia site: Almost as good as Son of Sherman

French Panthers: Or why a tank that can only go 150 kilometers sucks

AFV Photos: L&P Hannah’s great photo page of Armor in the US.

I remember interview: of Dmitriy Loza, a Russian Tanker who used most lend Lease armor but the Sherman the most, he used both 75mm and 76mm version of the M4A2.

 

Sherman Books: The Books, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

 

Death Traps, by Belton Cooper: This book is Crap.

Here is a great review on the subject by R. Forczyk

   Death Traps, a poorly written memoir by Belton Y. Cooper promises much, but delivers little. Cooper served as an ordnance lieutenant in the 3rd Armor Division (3AD), acting as a liaison officer between the Combat Commands and the Division Maintenance Battalion. One of the first rules of memoir writing is to focus on events of which the author has direct experience; instead, Cooper is constantly discussing high-level or distant events of which he was not a witness. Consequently, the book is riddled with mistakes and falsehoods. Furthermore, the author puts his main effort into an over-simplified indictment of the American Sherman tank as a "death trap" that delayed eventual victory in the Second World War. For the full review, click here.

Here is the Chieftains take. The important part: Death Traps is not a reliable source. Don't cite it. Or the History Channel show based on it.

 

   Armored Thunderbolt, The U.S. Army Sherman in World War II, by Steven Zaloga: Great book!

   I would say this is the best book on the market for the history, and an objective view on its performance on the market. It does not get bogged down in the little details that can dominate a book on the Sherman, but covers the history of why and how it was developed very well. It is also filled with tons of very high quality black and white photos of the Sherman from all points in the war, including the pacific. If there is one book you can buy about the Sherman, this is a very good choice.

 

   Son of Sherman Volume 1, The Sherman Design and Development, by Stansell and Laughlin:

   If you want to know about the huge number of detail changes between and within model models of the Sherman, with illustrations to show you exactly how all the details differ, or you are a tank modeler and care less about the history, and more about the details of the changes in the design, this book is for you. Or you are a fan of the tank in general and buy any book on the tank you can get your hands on. Either way, buy this book. Do it now while it is still in print and a reasonable price, once it’s out of print, I bet the price gets crazy.

 

   M4 Sherman At War, by Green and Brown: An ok book that still spreads tired myths.

   If this book can be had cheap, or is the only book you can afford, it’s ok, otherwise, not worth the effort. It still pushes the silly Ronson myth. It also fails to really cover the Panthers true flaws that make it an inferior tank to the Sherman.

 

   Armored Attack 44&45 by Steven Zaloga.

   This is two books, with the same title, one covers 1944 the other 1945. These books show of Zaloga’s huge picture collection and there are so many photos of Shermans in US Army use you can really exercise your Sherman spotting skills with these books. Also a must have for a detail originated modeler, these books are hardbound with high quality paper and very clear photos.

 

   Marine Corps Tank Battles in the Pacific, by Oscar Gilbert. 

   This book covers the Marines tank battles through the whole war. These books go into great detail about where, when, and how the Marines used tanks in the war. This books are a must read if you want to understand why the way Marines use tanks different from the way the Army in Europe used them.  He also published books on the Marines use of Armor in Korea and Vietnam.

 

   The Infantry’s Armor, and Steel Victory By Harry Yeide

   These two books cover the separate tank battalions tasked with only supporting infantry and not assigned to tank divisions.  The Tank battalions saw service in the ETO, PTO and MTO, and in most cases used the M4 series while doing it. They worked in a different way than the armor divisions tankers, getting down and dirty with the doughs, often supporting the same regiment for months. 

 

Sherman Data:

 

This section will contain a lot of images of documents that provide useful information on the Sherman tank.

 

Info from Survey of allied Tank Casualties in WWII (Courtesy of Priory_of_Sion)

 

Summary:

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Basic Breakdown of Causes of Tank Losses:

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Average Range of Gunfire/Panzerfausts:

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Placement of Gunfire Hits:

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Caliber of Enemy Gunfire:

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Mine/Tank Exchange Rate:

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Crew Casualties by Position:

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Sampling of Tank Losses:

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Causes of Vehicles Destroyed V Vehicles Disabled:

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Distribution of Gunfire Hits (aspect):

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Shermans in allied use: Poles, Danes, Frogs and Reds, and Pilipino and Chinese too. Plus post war Sherman use around the world!

 

This section was done with info written by Priory_of_Sion

 

Australia:

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

 

China:

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

 

Cuba

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

Source: 1

 

Egypt:

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

 

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

 

India:

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

 

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

 

Iran/Iraq:

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

 

Japan:

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

 

Nicaragua:

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

 

Paraguay:

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

 

Pakistan:

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

 

Peru:

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

 

South Africa:

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

 

Syria:

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

 

Turkey:

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

 

Uganda:

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

 

Yugoslavia:

   During WWII, the Balkans saw intense combat between the Yugoslav Partisans and the Axis powers and their puppets. As Tito gained enough power and prestige to be recognized as the true leader of Yugoslav resistance. After the war the defiant Tito withdrew from the USSR’s influence and acquired American vehicles, including the M4A3E4 which were originally fitted with the M3 75 mm gun but were retrofitted with the M1A1 76 mm gun. This gave the Yugoslavian M4s an appearance of being “fireflies” which they were not.

 

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

 

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

 

Sherman and Lee Movies:

 

Sahara: stars Humphry Bogart but the real star is practically isM3 Lee. The movie was made during the war and is a great little war movie. I highly recommend it. The Lee in the movie is an early production M3. An early P-51 with an Alison V1710 motor is used to portray a BF-109. This movie made the Lee into my favorite tank when I saw it as a kid.

 

1941: One of Steven Spielberg’s first movies, trying to catch the comedic value of the panic on the west coast at the start of WWII. Dan Aykroyd and friends drive a Lee around the movie. The Lee in this movie is an early production model with side doors, and is missing its machine gun cupola.

 

Tank: James Garner uses his personal Sherman tank to spring his son from Jail after a corrupt southern Sherriff put him there. Great little movie, featuring several, two I think, M4A3s, these are small hatch tanks with all the updates. It’s campy, but fairly family friendly, though, one of the tanks ‘Crew’ was a girl forced into prostitution by the Sherriff.

 

Fury: Brat Pitt takes on a Tiger in a M4A3E8 and then kills lots of Nazis! What’s not to love? It was a pretty good modern war movie, even if not the most likely scenario. They used real Shermans and the only working Tiger tank in the world, curtesy of the Bovington Armor museum.  There are lots of Nazis who get shot up by the crew, so really a fun night! This movie is like Pearl Harbor, even if you hate the plot, it’s worth it just to see the WWII vehicles in action.

 

Kelly’s Heroes: Clint Eastwood, Donald Southerland, Telly Savalas, and Don Rickles rip off a bank in France while WWII goes on around them. Donald Southerland plays Oddball, maybe his most famous role, at least with tank oriented people. Basically a 60s hippy transplanted into Sherman tanks for a war movie filmed in the late 60s. The music almost ruins the movie, but it has lots of footage of post war M4A3E4s with 75mm turrets and M1A1 guns replacing the 75mm gun. Filmed in Yugoslavia, using tanks they received from the US Government as military aid. This model will be covered at some point. 

 

A Bridge to Far: The last of the big screen epic war movies with mega casts. Most thought it was too long. Regardless of how you feel about the movie, if you like seeing Sherman tanks driving around, this movie is good one to watch a second time. It also has a star studded cast. The Shermans range from plain Jane early production models to Fireflies.    

 

Sherman model kits:

Bibliography:

Notes:

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To propellers were added to the rear idler wheels.

 

 

Another typo.

 

 

 

Post war, ammunition were be further improved.

 

This is now my typo identification post.

 

 

The tank also had a small axillary motor to power a second generator

 

 

 

 

Even with its most potent gum, a long 50mm[need comma here] the PIII had trouble with the Grant and Lee, let alone a M4. 

 

 

The tiger ultimately did the Allies a favor by making it into production. It just wasted men and resources that could have been far [need something here]more PIVs and STUGs fighting in the field. It was more of a propaganda tool to prop up the home from by lying about the prowess of the tank and their Aryan crews like Michael Whittman

 

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Part IV

 

How the Sherman Compared To Its Contemporaries: How Did American Tank Design Stand up?   It Did Just Fine.

 

    The Sherman compared well to the other tanks in its weight class. It even fared well against vehicles much larger. The US spent a lot of money lavishly equipping these tanks, even the lend lease tanks shipped with sub machine guns for the crew and vinyl covered, sprung, padded seats, a full tool set, basically all the same things a Sherman issued to the US Army would come with. The Sherman was not designed to be comfortable for its crew, but due to way it was designed and built, it was fairly comfortable as tanks of the time go. They were not cheaply built, and had finely fitted hulls, with beveled armor and a lot of attention to detail, that was not dropped in favor of production speed in many cases until very late in the production run. Quality control at all Sherman factories and sub-contractors was tightly controlled. Parts were not modified to fit if they did not match the specifications and didn’t fit, they were discarded, if to many parts had to be discarded, the contractor was dropped. Sub-assemblies as big as turrets a4nd hulls or whole tanks needing overhaul were shipped between factories and no parts had problems interchanging between factory models. One factory could rebuild another factories tank using its own parts with no problems at all. 

 

Knocked_out_Panzer_III_at_El_Alamein_194

German Tank three or PIII:

   This tank fought from the first days of the war, and the Sherman, all models, had a big advantage over it. The Sherman had better armor, firepower, and similar mobility. Even with its most potent gun, a long 50mm, the PIII had trouble with the Grant and Lee, let alone a M4. This chassis was at the end of its life and larger guns or more armor could not be fitted to this tank. It was a good tank, but nowhere near as good as a Sherman, but to be fair, it was at the end of its development life and the M4 was just beginning its long, long life with many countries around the globe.

   In many ways this was the best tank Germany produced during the war. This was one of the tanks used the short time the Germans really did things in the war, this is the tank that took them to the outskirts of Moscow. And it was a great little tank; its turret ring was just too small to fit a real gun. They solved this with the StuG, but I’ll cover that later. They produced 5774 of them.

   This tank continued to be used throughout the war, and was up gunned to a short 75mm howitzer for infantry support. This tank also suffered a long period of teething problems at the start of the war, but when they were worked out the vehicle was fairly reliable. 

tumblr_mb2s16jLEi1rhjg28o1_1280.jpg

 

German Tank four or PIV:

   The PIV was a closer match to the Sherman, but still inferior in most important ways. It had weaker, un-sloped armor. Its suspension used leaf springs and was inferior to the Shermans VVSS suspension. It had weak enough side armor, without the use of skirts, the tank could be penetrated by Russian anti-tank rifles. It started off with a low power 75mm gun that had no chance of hurting a Lee or Sherman, and was later up gunned with a 75mm similar to the one mounted on the Sherman, but slightly better. At this point the PIV became a threat to the Sherman, but the Sherman still held all the cards with better overall armor, mobility, reliability, spotting, getting off the first shot and crew comfort. The Sherman also had room to grow and would take a whole new turret and a whole slew of larger guns. The PIV was at the limits of what the hull could handle, and its turret ring was too small to accept more powerful guns. The final version of this tank, the J was a simplified version that lacked a power turret drive or skirts, it was not an improvement in combat ability, it was done to speed up production because the Germans were desperate. Nazi Germany produced 8569 of these tanks, from 1937 to 1945.

   This tank allowed the Germans to use maneuver warfare, and it wasn’t tied to the rail system, because it was much more reliable than the Panther or Tiger. One argument ‘wehraboos’, (for those not in the know, a wehraboos is a German WWII Armor fanatic, who believes anything and everything German was the best in WWII. You can find these people trying to push the often mythical abilities of Nazi war machines, while ignoring any evidence to the contrary these chaps often have deep seated pro-Nazi feelings, and in some cases of the worst offenders, are out and out neo Nazis. They can often be found on game forums for any WWII game, talking about how the 262 was the best  fighter of the war and the King Tiger could penetrate an M1 Abrams, often misspelling the names like this Aberhams.) like to make is, Nazi Germany couldn’t really have produced more Panzer IVs and StuGs because they didn’t have the manpower to crew them.

   The counter to point to that argument is, if the Germans had not produced the two ridiculous heavy tanks. Tiger 1&2, the huge maintenance tail these vehicles required could be broken up; a Tiger Company had the same number of mechanics and maintenance personal and their transport, as a full Battalion of PIV or III tanks.  You could take all these men, and put them into units that didn’t bleed resources, when Nazi Germany had few to spare. They could also fire and send to these units, all the fools who designed them, though they would probably make poor soldiers, they could probably turn wrenches without screwing that up much.

   They also could have manned these new units with all the men they put in the many captured tanks they used. They used large numbers of T-34 and M4A2 Shermans captured from the USSR. They should have stuck with the tanks they considered producing that were closer to these, the VK3001 (d) was almost a direct copy, Germanized to make it much harder to build and work on.  This tank looked a lot like the T-34 that inspired it, but apparently fears of friendly fire losses because it looked to much like a T-34 and a lack of aluminum to make the copy of the diesel the T-34 used, were probably the real reasons this tank didn’t get produced.

   At any rate, they didn’t do this; they produced a pair of heavy tanks that wasted far more resources than ever could be justified by the tanks propaganda inflated war records. They probably best served in a propaganda role since they had truly fearsome reputations, but once they were met in combat a few times that wore off and the American and British tankers found ways to beat them, like just making them drive around a bit until they broke down or ran out of fuel. 

 

vil37.jpg

German Tank VI Tiger:

  This tank had a big weight ‘advantage’ over the Sherman, it being a heavy tank and all, but for the most part, was so rare it had almost no impact on the war. In fact most of the SS units that used this tank lied so much about its prowess there are some doubts it got even 1/3 of its actual kills its Nazi crews claimed. It also had to be moved by train giving it limited useable mobility, and these tanks sucked up the maintenance resources of a much larger unit. The US Army faced very few of these tanks. When they did face them, they didn’t prove to be much of a problem.

   The Sherman had an advantage in being able to spot the huge Tiger first in most cases, it could out maneuver the bigger tank, and its guns could take it out from the sides and back, or if it got lucky, even the front. The Sherman did face this tank in British hands, but we will cover that later.

   The tiger ultimately did the Allies a favor by making it into production. It just wasted men and resources that could have been turned into more PIVs and STUGs. It was more of a propaganda tool, used to prop up the home front by lying about the prowess of the tank and their Aryan crews, like Michael Whitman, who was not nearly as good as the Nazi histories would have you believe, and in fact he got himself and his crew killed by trundling off by himself.

   Living, well, recently living, tank aces like Otto Carius have admitted many of their “kills” were added for pure propaganda reasons. SS unit kill claims were often discounted by half by the regular German Army and even that was probably being generous since there was no effort to confirm the kills. Most authors who write books about German tanks take these kill claims at face value. When someone bothers to compare the kill claims to the units they faced on the Soviet, American or UK records, more often than not, they were not even facing the claimed unit, and often it was not even in the same area. When they did get the unit right, the losses rarely come close to matching up.

Another thing to note is these tanks were essentially hand built.  Some people assume that means painstakingly hand crafted, and it’s sort of true. The Germans wasted a lot of time on finish items to make the tanks look nicer. I’m not sure if this was some need for the Germans to have nearly ‘perfect’ weapons, at least appearance wise, or if it was a way for the German tank industry to charge more for the tanks and make more money off the Nazi regime. On a Sherman, it’s just like your car, you need a spare part, you put in an order and quartermaster corps sends one to you through the supply system if one wasn’t in stock at a spares depot. When the part came, in most cases it would fit, and only if damaged caused a problem would hand fitting be needed. This was not the case for the Tiger, or any other German tank. For the Germans, most parts would need adapting to the individual tank, making field repairs a difficult job.   

   Only 1347 of these tanks were even built. Numbers were not needed to kill these silly tanks, but they were nice to have anyway.

   For another view on the Tiger, check out: Germany’s White Elephant

 

39961.jpg

German Tank V Panther:

    Much has been said about this tank, and most of the positive stuff is just, well, there’s no way to say it other than this, it’s BS. The panther was a medium tank as big and heavy as any heavy tank of the time. What kept it from being a heavy was its pathetic lack of armor for a tank of its size. The side armor was so weak Russian anti-tank rifles could and did score kills on these tanks through it. This is why later models had side skirts covering the thin side armor above the road wheels.

    Here is a list of the top of my head the Panthers problems: It liked to catch fire due to a fuel system that leaked in more than one way. The hull didn’t let the fuel drain, making the fire problem worse. The motor had a tendency to back fire or blow up and cause fires as well. The cooling system was very complicated, a damaged fan or clogged duct could cause a fire. Tilting the hull to much could cause a fire because pooled gas would hit exhaust pipes, since the fuel system was leaky. It was found the radiators were vulnerable to damage, so plates were added above them on the engine deck. All these add-ons just pile more weight on an overstress automotive system.   

    Let’s move away from the fire problems and move onto the turret problems. To rotate the turret, you had to rev the engine up. The engines were fragile. You want full traverse speed; you needed to be redlining the engine. This is because they used a power take off system and tied the turret drive to the engine. This was a really bad way to design a turret drive. If you want a good laugh, go find a diagram of the Tiger or Panthers turret drive system and marvel that it worked at all. It didn’t work if the tank was on even a mild slope. The drive was so weak in these cases it couldn’t even hold the gun in place.  I’m sure if you took a electric driven hydraulic or just strait electric system it would weigh a lot less than all the parts they had to use to make the PTO system work, and not well.

    While we’re covering the turret, let’s talk about the gun, gunner, and commander. One of the commander’s jobs is to find targets for the gunner and get him onto them. He has pretty good all-around views from the turret with his nice cupola. The gunner is stuck with just his telescopic sight. He would need up to several minutes in some cases to find the target the commander was trying to get him on due to him not having a wider view scope and the commander having no turret override. The gun was a good AT gun, but not a great HE thrower, since the HE charge was smaller to accommodate thicker shell walls to keep the shell from breaking up at the higher velocities. It’s HE was far from useless though. The turret was very cramped for these men as well. And the Turret sides and rear had very thin armor. The Shermans 75 would punch right through it at very long ranges.

   Some more tidbits on the Panther, its automotive systems were terrible. They were designed for a 30 ton tank, and even for that, they wer4e not that robust. The motor and tranny would get at best, 1500 kilometers before needing to be replaced. The tracks, 1000, the suspension would start to break down around 800 or less with lots of off road use. The front dual torsion bars breaking first, and then the extra stress kept killing them. The true Achilles heel of the automotive parts was the final drives, and their housings. The housings were weak and flexed under load, allowing the already weak gear train to bind and then destroy itself. The best they ever got these final drives to last, on the G models of the tank, was 150 kilometers on average. Replacing them was a major chore that would keep the tank down at least a day. This was confirmed in a report on post use by the French, using captured and new production tanks. You can find it here.

   We haven’t even talked about the ridiculous road wheel system that only insane people would put on a combat vehicle.  A late war British report on a captured early model Panther said at higher speeds the suspension was terrible and essentially became solid, making for a awful off road ride. You can find the report here. The report is very interesting, if not very flattering to the Panther.

   It is a total myth that you needed five or more Shermans to take out one Panther or Tiger. If a Panther makes it to the fight, it’s a formidable tank, and in particular when set up as a long range anti-tank pill box they could be deadly. When called upon to be part of a mobile tank force, they failed, and they failed hard. In many cases they would lose three or more Panthers to one Sherman.

   By the time the Sherman crews of the US Army started to see Panthers in bigger numbers, they were the elite tankers and the Germans the newb clowns. It showed in just about every battle. The Sherman handled these supposedly better tanks just fine. While the poorly trained, green, German crews struggled with their tanks, a tank a bad driver could cause to break down almost instantly. It makes you wonder how many Panther crews did just that to avoid fighting.  

    In all the ways you need a tank to be good, the Sherman tank was better than the Panther.

    For another view on why the Panther was just not a good tank for anything other than looking at, this post. Some of this is based on my readings of Germany’s Panther Tank by Jentz. If you get past looking at all the pretty pictures, it has a pretty damning combat recorded in that book.

   The Germans managed to build around 6000 of these mechanical nightmares. The final production version of this tank the G version only solved the final drive housing issues, the weak gears were never solved, and this is why the post war French report was so damning. They were not even operating them under combat conditions.

 

British_troops_examine_a_knocked-out_Ger

StuG III:  Short, Stubby and Underrated

   This armored fighting vehicle more than just about any other was a real threat to the Sherman. The Germans built a lot of these vehicles. Since it was just about the most common AFV, the Sherman ran into it much more often than tanks like the Tiger and Panther.

   The StuG was not as good of a vehicle as the PIV from a combat perspective, since it lacked a turret, but it was very good for what it was used for and a much cheaper vehicle to make. It was very popular, and when it was time to cease production, German generals threw a fit and kept it in production. They didn’t say a word when the Tiger I production was stopped.  Speilberger has a good book on this tank, it covers the PIII tank and its variants including the StuG. The book is titled, Panzer III and its variants.

   The StuG, was up gunned with the same gun as the Panzer IV and was good at AT work and infantry support. Its low profile helped it stay hidden and it was mobile enough to be able re-locate and get to trouble spots. It had ok armor and well-liked by its crews. Cheaper, easier to build, and very effective for the price, it’s no wonder it doesn’t get much attention.

 

Tiger_II_punctured_in_front_turret.jpg

Tiger II: Fat, Stupid, and Overrated

   The Tiger II, was not a very good tank. Only 492 were built, and its impact on the war was less than marginal. Everything said about the Tiger I applies to this tank, just more so. It weighed more at 68 tons but used the same engine. So it was a huge, under powered, waste of resources. The US Air Force bombing campaign actually had an effect on this tanks production. The factory was heavily damaged and about half the total production in tanks was lost as well, in a bombing raid.

   This tank was a non-factor in the war and the first ones lost on the eastern front were knocked out by a handful of T-34-85s they never even spotted. The US Army ran into a few as well, and dispatched them without much trouble. They were so slow, ungainly and problem prone, during the Battle of the bulge, they were left at the rear of all the column’s, and barely made it into any of the fights.

   The Porsche prototype turrets had a big shot trap and were filled with ready racks, easy to ignite. The production turret got rid of the shot trap but did nothing for how cramped it was. The gun was extremely hard to load when not level.   It was an accurate and deadly gun though. The trouble, like with all the cats, is getting it to the fight.

   German armor fans like to talk about influential the Panther and Tiger designs were, but as far as I can tell, they really had zero real impact on future tank design. In fact the Panther and Tiger series were technological dead ends that no one copied and only the French spent any time playing with the engine tech and guns. The thing that stands out for me about German tank design, is they never figured out, like all the other tank making countries, that putting the motor and final drives in the back of the tank, was better than putting the tranny and final drives in the front, and having the motor in the back, and a driveshaft running through the fighting compartment, was a bad design feature. This was a drawback the Sherman shared, but all future medium tank designs dropped this and went to the whole power pack in the rear setup. From the T20 series on, though the T20 tanks never went into production because they were a small improvement over the Sherman, they all had rear motor/tranny/final drives. This tank layout still dominates current tank design. The Nazi design teams seemed unable to come up with a design using this layout, other than their aborted copy of the T-34.  

 

 

Things other than Tanks that killed Shermans

PAK Guns: Things that Hide in Bushes and Ruin Your Day

Mines: Things that Hide Under Ground and Ruin Your Day

Rockets: Crunchy Fireworks, that Ruin Your Day!

Sherman model kits:

Bibliography:

Notes:

Edited by Jeeps_Guns_Tanks

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Yikes; a unified shermanology article is a pretty tall order, considering how many variants and sub-variants existed.

 

Best of luck with this considerable endeavor!

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Something on foreign M4s. I forgot the Argentinian M4s which were Fireflies which had the gun replaced by the 105 mm seen on the M-51 Super Sherman.

 

I'm fairly sure the Southern Cone nations of Chile, Argentina, & Uruguay retired the M4 either in 2002 or 2003. 

Jeeps_Guns_Tanks and LoooSeR like this

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Thanks for the help and links guys!

 

I was in a weird mood and all hopped up on sweet tea and wrote most of that from 11pm to 5 am Saturday. 

Belesarius likes this

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There's some lineage in that the US 75mm was built around the French gun's shell IIRC, but the gun itself is different. Mistake probably comes from that.

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Actually, he said M2A2 guns, which is the US designation for the french 75mm field piece, which makes his claim even weirder. 

 

Where is this taking place?

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Just updated the OP.  The thing is up to almost 10k words. Including new movies added in the movies section and a conclusion!

 

 

It's got new stuff added almost everywhere, including expanding a lot of the original text. 

 

 

Hunnicutt’s Sherman is a tad bit disappointing if you looking for any detailed information on this history and problems they had with the motors. Unless I missed it, I haven’t read it start to finish yet. 

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Would including the US BRL report help on defeating the 5v1 myth along with statements for Zaloga & forczyk?

 

The BRL report would be appreciated, so that I could beat people over the head with the actual document instead of just a reference to it.

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The BRL report would be appreciated, so that I could beat people over the head with the actual document instead of just a reference to it.

Zaloga took these graphs and crunched the numbers to get his figures.

bxwWdOS.png

eIk3lrf.png

ALSx0Hd.png

 

I would use this with conjunction with Zaloga's commentary. 

 

Forczyk's Commentary on Death Traps

Death Traps, a poorly written memoir by Belton Y. Cooper promises much, but delivers little. Cooper served as an ordnance lieutenant in the 3rd Armor Division (3AD), acting as a liaison officer between the Combat Commands and the Division Maintenance Battalion. One of the first rules of memoir writing is to focus on events of which the author has direct experience; instead, Cooper is constantly discussing high-level or distant events of which he was not a witness. Consequently, the book is riddled with mistakes and falsehoods. Furthermore, the author puts his main effort into an over-simplified indictment of the American Sherman tank as a "death trap" that delayed eventual victory in the Second World War.
 
Cooper's indictment of the Sherman tank's inferiority compared to the heavier German Panther and Tiger tanks ignores many important facts. First, the Sherman was designed for mass production and this allowed the Allies to enjoy a 4-1 superiority in numbers. Second, fewer than 50% of the German armor in France in 1944 were Tigers or Panthers. Third, if the German tanks were as deadly as Cooper claims, why did the Germans lose 1,500 tanks in Normandy against about 1,700 Allied tanks? Indeed, Cooper claims that the 3AD lost 648 Shermans in the war, but the division claimed to have destroyed 1,023 German tanks. Clearly, there was no great kill-ratio in the German favor, and the Allies could afford to trade tank-for-tank. Finally, if the Sherman was such a "death trap," why did the US Army use it later in Korea or the Israelis use it in the 1967 War?
 
There are a great number of mistakes in this book, beginning with Cooper's ridiculous claim that General Patton was responsible for delaying the M-26 heavy tank program. Cooper claims that Patton was at a tank demonstration at Tidworth Downs in January 1944 and that, "Patton...insisted that we should downgrade the M26 heavy tank and concentrate on the M4....This turned out to be one of the most disastrous decisions of World War II, and its effect upon the upcoming battle for Western Europe was catastrophic." Actually, Patton was in Algiers and Italy for most of January 1944, only arriving back in Scotland on 26 January. In fact, it was General McNair of Ground Forces Command, back in the US, who delayed the M-26 program. Cooper sees the M-26 as the panacea for all the US Army's shortcomings and even claims that the American offensive in November 1944, "would have succeeded if we had had the Pershing" and the resulting American breakthrough could have forestalled the Ardennes offensive and "the war could have ended five months earlier." This is just sheer nonsense and ignores the logistical and weather problems that doomed that offensive.
 
Cooper continually discusses events he did not witness and in fact, only about one-third of the book covers his own experiences. Instead of discussing maintenance operations in detail, Cooper opines about everything from U-Boats, to V-2 rockets, to strategic bombing, to the July 20th Plot. He falsely states that, "the British had secured a model of the German enigma decoding machine and were using it to decode German messages." Cooper writes, "not until July 25, the night before the Saint-Lo breakthrough, was Rommel able to secure the release of the panzer divisions in reserve in the Pas de Clais area." Actually, Rommel was wounded on 17 July and in a hospital on July 25th. In another chapter, Cooper writes that, "the British had bombed the city [Darmstadt] during a night raid in February," and "more than 40,000 died in this inferno." Actually, the RAF bombed Darmstadt on 11 September 1944, killing about 12,000. Dresden was bombed on 13 February 1945, killing about 40,000. Obviously, the author has confused cities and raids.
 
Even where Cooper is dealing with issues closer to his own experience, he tends to exaggerate or deliver incorrect information. He describes the VII Corps as an "armor corps," but it was not. Cooper's description of a counterattack by the German Panzer Lehr division is totally inaccurate; he states that, "July 11 became one of the most critical in the battle of Normandy. The Germans launched a massive counterattack along the Saint-Lo- Saint Jean de Daye highway..." In fact, one under strength German division attacked three US divisions. The Americans lost only 100 casualties, while the Germans suffered 25% armor losses. The Official history calls this attack "a dismal and costly failure." Cooper wrote that, "Combat Command A...put up a terrific defense in the vicinity of Saint Jean de Daye..." but actually it was CCB, since CCA in reserve. On another occasion, Cooper claims that his unit received the 60,000th Sherman produced, but official records indicate that only 49,234 of all models were built. Cooper claims that the 3rd Armored Division had 17,000 soldiers, but the authorized strength was about 14,500. Can't this guy remember anything correctly?
 
Cooper's description of the death of MGN Rose is virtually plagiarized from the official history and a number of articles in ARMOR magazine in the past decade reveal that Rose was an extreme risk-taker. Reading "Death Traps," the uninitiated may actually believe that the US Army was badly defeated in Europe. Cooper even claims that, as the 3rd Armored Division approached the Elbe River in the last days of the war that, "with our division spread out and opposed by three new divisions, our situation was critical." If anybody's situation was critical in April 1945, it was Germany's. Actually, the 3rd Armored Division had one key weakness not noted by Cooper, namely the shortage of infantry. The division had a poor ratio of 2:1 between tanks and infantry, and this deficiency often required the 3AD to borrow an infantry RCT from other units. While the much-maligned Sherman tank was far from perfect, it did the job it was designed for, a fact that is missed by this author.
 
Extra Comments

Check out the fighting at Arracourt in September 1944 where standard M4s from 4th AD destroyed two brigades worth of Panthers for only 14 Shermans, a kill ratio of better than 5-1. Yes, the German tankers at Arracourt were rookies and the US tankers had the advantage - just like Barkmann and Whittman had over Allied tankers in June 1944. That's war. At Arracourt, Shermans routinely destroyed Panthers. For more, check out my upcoming book Panther vs T-34 for more info on Panther's actual abilities. Certainly it would have been great if the Sherman had a better main gun in June 1944, but the "Sherman was a bad tank" school are only looking at one aspect. The Sherman's mechanical reliability was a far more important factor than a gun with better penetration. I keep looking for instances where German tanks "slaughtered" US tanks in 1944-45 (ie kill ratios of 2-1 or 3-1 or better) and can't find any major such instances (2-3 tanks lost 1 1 Tiger or Panther, yes, but not whole companies like on the Eastern Front.

 
 

Actually, comments such as "It took about 5 Shermans to kill 1 Panther, of which the Panther would kill 3" are not facts, they are unsubstantiated opinions. Any analysis of actual tank losses reveals that US tank losses were not three times German tank losses or even double. Far More US tanks were destroyed by AT guns and Panzerfausts than German tanks and the humble StuG III accounted for far more successes than Panthers. One look at the German tank "aces" reveals that aside from Barkmann(Me -> Barkmann's success is very questionable, Richard Anderson suggests Barkmann knocked out two Stuarts and come trucks at his corner), there were few Panther aces on the Western Front, but a fair number of successful Pz IV and StuG III commanders. US tank crew losses were not catastrophic as you are suggesting, heavy in some units, but far less than infantry units. On the other hand, the Panzerwaffe had far fewer veterans by December 1944 and had to fight a two-front war (three if you count Italy). The idea that the Sherman was only suitable for the Pacific is ipso facto absurd, since it was the Sherman that won the war in the ETO. If we had to wait for the Pershing, the war would either have dragged into 1946 or the Soviets would have been sitting on the Rhine.

 

I also have some information in this thread about the M4 and its casualty rates. There's some cool statistics there like 29% of frontal hits of Tigers and Panthers were penetrations. 

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Would including the US BRL report help on defeating the 5v1 myth along with statements for Zaloga & forczyk?

 

Oh I plan on using it, I just have to dig up a link to it. Or to the hatch that covered it, it was a hatch story?

 

 

Zaloga took these graphs and crunched the numbers to get his figures.

bxwWdOS.png

eIk3lrf.png

ALSx0Hd.png

 

I would use this with conjunction with Zaloga's commentary. 

 

Forczyk's Commentary on Death Traps

Death Traps, a poorly written memoir by Belton Y. Cooper promises much, but delivers little. Cooper served as an ordnance lieutenant in the 3rd Armor Division (3AD), acting as a liaison officer between the Combat Commands and the Division Maintenance Battalion. One of the first rules of memoir writing is to focus on events of which the author has direct experience; instead, Cooper is constantly discussing high-level or distant events of which he was not a witness. Consequently, the book is riddled with mistakes and falsehoods. Furthermore, the author puts his main effort into an over-simplified indictment of the American Sherman tank as a "death trap" that delayed eventual victory in the Second World War.
 
Cooper's indictment of the Sherman tank's inferiority compared to the heavier German Panther and Tiger tanks ignores many important facts. First, the Sherman was designed for mass production and this allowed the Allies to enjoy a 4-1 superiority in numbers. Second, fewer than 50% of the German armor in France in 1944 were Tigers or Panthers. Third, if the German tanks were as deadly as Cooper claims, why did the Germans lose 1,500 tanks in Normandy against about 1,700 Allied tanks? Indeed, Cooper claims that the 3AD lost 648 Shermans in the war, but the division claimed to have destroyed 1,023 German tanks. Clearly, there was no great kill-ratio in the German favor, and the Allies could afford to trade tank-for-tank. Finally, if the Sherman was such a "death trap," why did the US Army use it later in Korea or the Israelis use it in the 1967 War?
 
There are a great number of mistakes in this book, beginning with Cooper's ridiculous claim that General Patton was responsible for delaying the M-26 heavy tank program. Cooper claims that Patton was at a tank demonstration at Tidworth Downs in January 1944 and that, "Patton...insisted that we should downgrade the M26 heavy tank and concentrate on the M4....This turned out to be one of the most disastrous decisions of World War II, and its effect upon the upcoming battle for Western Europe was catastrophic." Actually, Patton was in Algiers and Italy for most of January 1944, only arriving back in Scotland on 26 January. In fact, it was General McNair of Ground Forces Command, back in the US, who delayed the M-26 program. Cooper sees the M-26 as the panacea for all the US Army's shortcomings and even claims that the American offensive in November 1944, "would have succeeded if we had had the Pershing" and the resulting American breakthrough could have forestalled the Ardennes offensive and "the war could have ended five months earlier." This is just sheer nonsense and ignores the logistical and weather problems that doomed that offensive.
 
Cooper continually discusses events he did not witness and in fact, only about one-third of the book covers his own experiences. Instead of discussing maintenance operations in detail, Cooper opines about everything from U-Boats, to V-2 rockets, to strategic bombing, to the July 20th Plot. He falsely states that, "the British had secured a model of the German enigma decoding machine and were using it to decode German messages." Cooper writes, "not until July 25, the night before the Saint-Lo breakthrough, was Rommel able to secure the release of the panzer divisions in reserve in the Pas de Clais area." Actually, Rommel was wounded on 17 July and in a hospital on July 25th. In another chapter, Cooper writes that, "the British had bombed the city [Darmstadt] during a night raid in February," and "more than 40,000 died in this inferno." Actually, the RAF bombed Darmstadt on 11 September 1944, killing about 12,000. Dresden was bombed on 13 February 1945, killing about 40,000. Obviously, the author has confused cities and raids.
 
Even where Cooper is dealing with issues closer to his own experience, he tends to exaggerate or deliver incorrect information. He describes the VII Corps as an "armor corps," but it was not. Cooper's description of a counterattack by the German Panzer Lehr division is totally inaccurate; he states that, "July 11 became one of the most critical in the battle of Normandy. The Germans launched a massive counterattack along the Saint-Lo- Saint Jean de Daye highway..." In fact, one under strength German division attacked three US divisions. The Americans lost only 100 casualties, while the Germans suffered 25% armor losses. The Official history calls this attack "a dismal and costly failure." Cooper wrote that, "Combat Command A...put up a terrific defense in the vicinity of Saint Jean de Daye..." but actually it was CCB, since CCA in reserve. On another occasion, Cooper claims that his unit received the 60,000th Sherman produced, but official records indicate that only 49,234 of all models were built. Cooper claims that the 3rd Armored Division had 17,000 soldiers, but the authorized strength was about 14,500. Can't this guy remember anything correctly?
 
Cooper's description of the death of MGN Rose is virtually plagiarized from the official history and a number of articles in ARMOR magazine in the past decade reveal that Rose was an extreme risk-taker. Reading "Death Traps," the uninitiated may actually believe that the US Army was badly defeated in Europe. Cooper even claims that, as the 3rd Armored Division approached the Elbe River in the last days of the war that, "with our division spread out and opposed by three new divisions, our situation was critical." If anybody's situation was critical in April 1945, it was Germany's. Actually, the 3rd Armored Division had one key weakness not noted by Cooper, namely the shortage of infantry. The division had a poor ratio of 2:1 between tanks and infantry, and this deficiency often required the 3AD to borrow an infantry RCT from other units. While the much-maligned Sherman tank was far from perfect, it did the job it was designed for, a fact that is missed by this author.
 
Extra Comments

Check out the fighting at Arracourt in September 1944 where standard M4s from 4th AD destroyed two brigades worth of Panthers for only 14 Shermans, a kill ratio of better than 5-1. Yes, the German tankers at Arracourt were rookies and the US tankers had the advantage - just like Barkmann and Whittman had over Allied tankers in June 1944. That's war. At Arracourt, Shermans routinely destroyed Panthers. For more, check out my upcoming book Panther vs T-34 for more info on Panther's actual abilities. Certainly it would have been great if the Sherman had a better main gun in June 1944, but the "Sherman was a bad tank" school are only looking at one aspect. The Sherman's mechanical reliability was a far more important factor than a gun with better penetration. I keep looking for instances where German tanks "slaughtered" US tanks in 1944-45 (ie kill ratios of 2-1 or 3-1 or better) and can't find any major such instances (2-3 tanks lost 1 1 Tiger or Panther, yes, but not whole companies like on the Eastern Front.

 
 

Actually, comments such as "It took about 5 Shermans to kill 1 Panther, of which the Panther would kill 3" are not facts, they are unsubstantiated opinions. Any analysis of actual tank losses reveals that US tank losses were not three times German tank losses or even double. Far More US tanks were destroyed by AT guns and Panzerfausts than German tanks and the humble StuG III accounted for far more successes than Panthers. One look at the German tank "aces" reveals that aside from Barkmann(Me -> Barkmann's success is very questionable, Richard Anderson suggests Barkmann knocked out two Stuarts and come trucks at his corner), there were few Panther aces on the Western Front, but a fair number of successful Pz IV and StuG III commanders. US tank crew losses were not catastrophic as you are suggesting, heavy in some units, but far less than infantry units. On the other hand, the Panzerwaffe had far fewer veterans by December 1944 and had to fight a two-front war (three if you count Italy). The idea that the Sherman was only suitable for the Pacific is ipso facto absurd, since it was the Sherman that won the war in the ETO. If we had to wait for the Pershing, the war would either have dragged into 1946 or the Soviets would have been sitting on the Rhine.

 

I also have some information in this thread about the M4 and its casualty rates. There's some cool statistics there like 29% of frontal hits of Tigers and Panthers were penetrations. 

 

 

 

Awesome, I'll review and get this stuff in ASAP. 

 

Thanks guys!

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Just updated the OP with a new version, I think its good, but then there's percocet. 

 

Anyway, I added Priory's stuff and polished some stuff and added some stuff like books. 

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