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

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So in short, a lot of times soldiers don't know what's good for them. Shocking, when you take into account most of them are teenagers or in their early 20s.

 

There's a bit of a selection bias against the guys who realize that wet ammo racks are a good idea.

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Yeah, I don't know of any tanks just sitting around in Cali, this state sucks for that kinda thing. 

 

I did know that little fun fact, I can't remember if I noted it above in the M4A1 section.

We have KV-1S sitting just 100-200 meters away from Avtovo subway station, lol.

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Thanks to Walt being the awesome dude, My Sherman info post is now hosted on Tank and AFV News, Walts Awesome site. 

 

http://tankandafvnews.com/the-epic-m4-sherman-tank-information-thread/

 

I will still update this thread.

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This weekend, even though I had to work today, I'm going to try and add sections covering the armor, and the communication problems between tanks and Infantry that was solved, independently, but in the same way by the Marines and Army. 

It’s funny, it was a lesson the Marines never forgot, and even the Army kept around, I think even the M60 had the infantry phone box on the back, I know the M48 did.  They dropped in on the m1 but have now brought it back in one of the upgrades, because, well, sometimes even modern radios don’t cut it.

 I’ve also done a ton of tweaks on fine tuning on the whole thing. 

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So this is what I've done so far... 

 

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. This problem didn’t really come to top, until after D-Day when the Sherman was supporting infantry in the bocage country. 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 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.

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 GI 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.

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.  

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Man, the more you really dig into the version and read up on the Sherman, the more you find out you can't make blanket statements like all large hull tanks had wet ammo racks. 

 

Because, they didn't and not just the 105 tanks, but a few M4A2s ended up with the large hatch hull, but still had sponson racks and oblique armor welded over them.... 

 

I really want to get a copy of Hunnicut’s Sherman book, reading it on PDF sucks. 

 

My wife has put the kybosh on buying a 69.99 paperback though….  

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Man, the more you really dig into the version and read up on the Sherman, the more you find out you can't make blanket statements like all large hull tanks had wet ammo racks. 

 

 

Because, they didn't and not just the 105 tanks, but a few M4A2s ended up with the large hatch hull, but still had sponson racks and oblique armor welded over them.... 

 

 

I really want to get a copy of Hunnicut’s Sherman book, reading it on PDF sucks. 

 

 

My wife has put the kybosh on buying a 69.99 paperback though….

 

 

I've been reading up on the history of Colt's carbine models, and it's the same thing there. They shoved just about anything out of the factory, and then the end-user would modify it to defy all categorization.

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So this is what I have so far on the armor. 

 

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

 

M4 tanks had armor that was well balanced and in the same class as the other medium tanks of the war. We have gone over ‘welded’ and ‘cast’ hulls, and the different motors, that went into the different hull types, but even the ‘welded’ tanks used many cast parts welded to the plates. In either case it was it rolled homogenous plate steel, or cast homogenous steel. It was well balanced between hardness and ductility, and was resistant to spalling.  All versions cast or welded had well sloped armor.

A mid production M4 Sherman had 2 inches of armor at 56 degrees, and the sides were 1.5 inches at 0 degrees, the rear was also 1.5 inches at 0 to 10 degrees. The hull roof was ¾ of an inch thick and floor 1 inch under the driver, and a ½ inch everywhere else. This version of the Sherman being welded, the front plate was made many smaller plates welded together, with the cast fittings welded in places as well. This was a lot of welding, and one of the reasons why the cast version was well liked, it took a lot less man hours to produce, this also resulted in the high bred hulls, were the front section was cast, and the rest of the hill was welded. 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, instead of cast, fitting. This in large part is why there are so many little details differences each factory had, they each left a signature on the tank. These details are the thing of nightmares for a scale modeler who really needs to get the details right.

The same mid production M4 would have a cast, 75mm gun turret. These turrets had 3.5 inch thick gun shields, a 2 inch rotor shield, 3 inches at 30 degrees of front armor. The sides would be two inches, and the rear 1. The top was also an inch thick. This turret armor was the same throughout the 75mm turret run, though, many early castings had a weak spot on the front, this was covered with a large section of welded on armor the tanks with this week spot, and the casting was improved in later versions of this turret. 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 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 ½ an inch, 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.

This armor was pretty good against 37mm and 57mm anti-tank guns. It was ok on 75mm guns like the one mounted on later production PIV tanks. 75mm anti-tank guns and anything larger gave it trouble. This was no surprise to the army, and they had a whole plane worked out to use infantry, artillery and air support in conjunction with tanks to help them deal with anti-tank guns. The Shermans M3 75mm main gun was a very good gun for handling anti-tank 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 anti-tank guns 75mm and larger, being able to flank that AT gun or strong point is more important that being able to slug it out in the long run. Without AT guns, enemy infantry was going to have a very tough time with the Sherman, and even the Panzerfaust wasn’t all that effective in the long run, and if the Shermans had infantry working with them, and could hang back a big, they were much less effective.

In the pacific, these Shermans would really help defeat the Japanese. You don’t read about it much but the M4 saw a lot of action in the pacific. There are also a lot of wrecks still out there, some rotting away in the surf for tourist to play on like on Saipan. The Japanese saw them as the most serious threat, and used some desperate tactics to kill them. Basically they used man powered mines and shaped charges, and or the largest caliber guns that could be aimed at the tanks. They had a rare but effective 47mm at gun as well.

Later production tanks with the improved large hatch hulls, in some cases might still have 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 now 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 casting, just like the 75mm turrets.  

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New version of the Sherman doc at Walts site. 

 

http://tankandafvnews.com/the-epic-m4-sherman-tank-information-thread/

 

Also, just watched "A Bridge To Far" and man that's a great movie for Sherman spotting. They got a bunch of Shermans together for that movie, though many not correct versions, they got a lot right too. 

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On the "Sherman" nickname, according to a Sept 1942 War Dept. Intelligence Bulletin (vol. 1, # 1) they called the M4 the "General Lee".

 

The war in Africa has proved, however, that the

American M3, known to the British as the "General
Grant," has the best tank armor in the world. "General
Grants'' stay in the fight after as many as eight to
ten hits by 50-mm. and smaller antitank weapons. In
at least one case, a "General Grant" has continued to
perform well after 27 hits. The new American M4,
known as the "General Lee," is even more reliable. It
has greater speed and more power, and is excellent for
reconnaissance and pursuit. Among other improvements,
its 75-mm. gun has been placed in the turret
instead of on the side. This change gives it an all around
field of fire. 

 

It also seems to show that the Americans can now claim about how good their armor is, taking 27 hits and all. Take that Tiger!

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On the "Sherman" nickname, according to a Sept 1942 War Dept. Intelligence Bulletin (vol. 1, # 1) they called the M4 the "General Lee".

 

It also seems to show that the Americans can now claim about how good their armor is, taking 27 hits and all. Take that Tiger!

*Laughs maniacally!*

 

I'm glad the nickname went a different route. If I'm picking a Civil War general to go to war with in 1942, it'd be Sherman.

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*Laughs maniacally!*

 

I'm glad the nickname went a different route. If I'm picking a Civil War general to go to war with in 1942, it'd be Sherman.

I can only imagine the "General Lee" name was a gaffe by the War Dept., but some British units might have very well called the M4 the "Lee" in North Africa. 

 

Lee isn't even the best Confederate general either. Longstreet deserved a tank more than Lee did, Sherman was the right choice though and not a Yankee conspiracy. 

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Longstreet should've had a less awkward name if he wanted a tank. It's monosyllabic or bust till the Pershing, and look what three syllables got poor Sheridan.

The British named a tank the Caernarvon, I don't see how that is any less awkward than Longstreet. You also have Abrams which people think is Abraham half the time. 

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The British named a tank the Caernarvon, I don't see how that is any less awkward than Longstreet. You also have Abrams which people think is Abraham half the time. 

 

Abrams earned that tank, there's not an overabundance of actual armor generals with a distinguished record. And a name like Caernaervon is a very good reason to keep developing the tank till you can justify a better name.

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