The M4 Sherman was the main medium combat tank manufactured by USA for its own use and that of the Allies during WW2. Total tank production exceeded 50,000 units and their chassis was the basis for other models such as tank destroyers, recovery vehicles and self-propelled artillery.
The Army Artillery Department designed the M4 to replace M3Lee. M4 design was done by the very Department of Artillery oo the August 31, 1940, but the development of the prototype was delayed till the completion of M3Lee and could enter production.
On April 31, 1941, the model design was approved by the departments of the Mechanized Force and the Department of Artillery. The aim was to produce a medium fast and reliable tank for combat, able to defeat any Axis armored vehicle. The M4 Sherman entered production in February 1942.
During its production seven major versions of the Sherman were manufactured. The M4, M4A1, M4A2, M4A3, M4A4, M4A5 and M4A6, though the nomenclatures do not indicate a linear improvement, which did not mean that the A4 was better than the A3. Instead, designations indicated variants of standard production introduced and if they were manufactured in different places. As you can see in the table below the main change of such nomenclatures are given due to engine used in each version and because of the types of motors mounted in each version these were the longest chassis, improved suspensions, etc. During its history the improvements in form, strength and performance were made without altering the basic name of the car and multiple variants were created.
|M4 Sherman: Selectión of versions|
|M4 (105)||105 mm gun||Soldered||Continental R975 (gasoline)|
|M4 (Composite)||75 mm||Foundry front, Soldered sides||Continental R975 (gasoline)|
|M4A1(/6)W||75 mm||Foundry||Continental R975 (gasolin)|
|M4A2||75 mm||Soldered||GM 6046 2XG
GAA V8 (Gasoline)
GAA V8 (Gasolina)
|M4A3E8(76)W “Easy Eight”||76 mm||Soldered||FORD
GAA V8 (Gasolina)
|M4A4||75 mm||Elongated Soldered||Chrysler A57 5xL6 (gasolina)|
|M4A6||75 mm||Foundry front, Elongated Soldered sides||Caterpillar D200A (diesel)|
The first Sherman mounted 75 mm cannon. The Ordnance Department began to work on the T20 as a substitute for Sherman, but the Army decided to reduce interruptions in manufacturing Sherman and incorporate design elements from other tanks in its production. The M4A2 after the M4A1 models, and M4A3 incorporated a T23 turret of greater dimension with a tube of high speed of 76 mm, although it reduced its function with high explosive ammunition, but improved their antitank function. It was offered by the UK the cannon QF 17 pounder (76.2 mm) that had greater armor penetration, but it was rejected because they were working on a new 90mm cannon. Later models were manufactured with 105 mm cannon. The first production standard 76mm Sherman was an M4A1 accepted in January 1944 and for 105 mm was a M4 in February 1944.
a production of 254 cars Jumbo M4A3E2 more armor and a 75mm gun on a T23 turret for attacks on fortifications were approved between June and July 1944. Ultimately this is the biggest armored variants has had since making their initial model.
M4 – Continental radial engine cylinders 9 R-975; soldier helmet; in versions of 75 or 105 mm cannon.
M4 (105) – Barrel M4 105mm updated.
M4 (105) HVSS – M4 (105) suspension HVSS (Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension).
M4A1 – Continental Motor; hull cast in one piece; in versions 75 and 76 mm.
M4A1E4 / M4A1 (76) W – Updated barreled 76mm M1.
M4A1E8 / M4A1 (76) W HVSS – Updated with HVSS (Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension) suspension, equipped with 76 mm cannon M1.
M4A1E9 – Minor Update, keeps the old M3 75mm gun M3.
M4A2 – Diesel engine; soldier helmet; in versions 75 and 76 mm. This version was not used in combat by the United States Army.
M4A2E8 / M4A2 (76) W HVSS – Updated suspension HVSS (Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension) equipped with 76 mm cannon M1.
M4A3 – Ford GAA V8 engine; soldier helmet; versions of guns 75, 76 and 105 mm. The M4A3 was preferred by the United States Army.
M4A3 (75) – M4A3 with 75mm cannon M3.
M4A3 (105) – barreled M4 M4A3 105mm.
M4A3E2 Assault Tank – nicknamed after the war as “Jumbo” or “King Cobra” – additional armor (including 4 inches in the front), vertical turret side, around 5-7 km / h (3-4 mph) slower. Made with 75 mm cannon but often rearmed with 76 mm cannons. Equipped with caterpillars grip.
M4A3E4 / M4A3 (76) W – M4A3 with M1 76mm cannon.
M4A3E8 / M4A3 (76) W HVSS – Updated with HVSS suspension, equipped with 76 mm cannon M1. The new suspension allowed to incorporate more armor.
M4A3E9 / M4A3 (105) HVSS – Updated with HVSS suspension, equipped with 105 mm M4 cannon.
M4A4 – Chrysler Motor A57; soldier helmet elongated; only made with 75 mm cannon. Many were rearmed by the British with his cannon QF 17 pounder (76.2 mm) as Sherman Firefly.
M4A5 – version produced in Canada known as Ram.
M4A6 – Diesel engine; composite hull welded / fused elongated similarly to M4A4; produced with 75 mm cannon. In this version they were produced only a few tens of copies and were never used in combat.
M51 Super Sherman – Version repowered, made in Israel, equipped with guns of French origin 105mm and vision systems and improved marksmanship. Once discharged were transformed into different types of vehicles including self-propelled howitzers have a 155 mm cannon and 33 caliber cane. They were widely used in frontline units until the introduction of the Centurion cars.
M4 based vehicles
Built vehicles based on the chassis of the M4:
105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage M7B1 – 105mm self-propelled gun based on the chassis of the M4A3 Sherman.
155mm Gun Motor Carriage M12 – Self-propelled 155 mm cannon.
Cargo Carrier M30 – Transport of ammunition (M12 without cannon, with space for your crew and ammunition).
155mm Gun Motor Carriage M40 – Self-propelled 155 mm cannon (cannon M1A1 or M2) based on the chassis of the M4A3 (HVSS).
8in Howitzer Motor Carriage M43 – 8-inch self-propelled howitzer.
3in Gun Motor Carriage M10 – tank destroyers based on the chassis of the M4A2 Sherman.
3in Gun Motor Carriage M10A1 – Same as M10 but based on the chassis of the M4A3 Sherman.
90mm Gun Motor Carriage M36 – tank destroyers based on the hull of the M10A1 (the M4A3 chassis).
M32 Tank Recovery Vehicle – recovery vehicle based on the chassis of the M4, turret replaced by a fixed superstructure, with 60,000 lb winch and a pivoting arm shaped A 18 feet long. He was also added a 81mm mortar inside the hull, primarily to carry fire screens.
Tank Recovery Vehicle M32B1 – M32 with M4A1 chassis.
Tank Recovery Vehicle M32A1B1 – M32B1 HVSS suspension; then the 81mm mortar was removed and incorporated improvements in the crane.
Tank Recovery Vehicle M32B2 – M32 with M4A2 chassis.
Tank Recovery Vehicle M32B3 – M32 with M4A3 chassis.
Tank Recovery Vehicle M32A1B3 – M32B3 modified to M32A1B1 standard.
Tank Recovery Vehicle M32B4 – M32 with M4A4 chassis.
M74 Tank Recovery Vehicle – Updated M32 to provide the same capacity with the heaviest tanks postwar converted from M4A3 tanks HVSS. Apparently the M74 is very similar to M32, equipped with a crane as A, main towing winch, auxiliary winch and other utility manual winch. The M74 also had a front loader that could be used as a stand or as sheet bulldozer.
M74B1 – Same as the M74, but converted from M32B3.
M34 Prime Mover – TRV M32B1 become artillery tractor. They were converted 24 vehicles Tank Chester Depoten 1944.
Sherman M4 tank rocket launchers, flamethrowers, minesweepers, amphibians, engineers, etc .; the most experimental (designated with a T instead of M).
Sherman DD (Duplex Drive) – M4 amphibian.
M4 Mobile Assault Bridge – vehicle launched bridges.
Dozer M4 – M4 dozer blade equipped with M1 (side arms) or M2 (hydraulic strut).
T15 / E1 / E2 – A series of mine resistant Shermans based on the T14 kit. Canceled at the end of the war.
Mine Exploder T1E1 Roller (Earthworm) – Discs made of armored plates.
Mine Exploder T1E2 Roller – Two front units only with 7 discs. Experimental.
Mine Exploder T1E3 / M1 Roller (Aunt Jemima) – Two front units with 5 discs 10 feet. The most widely used T1 variant, adopted as M1.
Mine Exploder T1E4 Roller – 16 discs.
Mine Exploder T1E5 Roller – T1E3 / M1 with smaller wheels. Experimental.
Mine Exploder T1E6 Roller – T1E3 / M1 discs serrated edge. Experimental
Mine Exploder T2 Flail – British Minesweeper Sherman Crab I.
Mine Exploder T3 Flail – Based on the British minesweepers Scorpion. His progress was halted in 1943.
Mine Exploder T3E1 Flail – T3 with longer arms and rotor sand filling. Canceled.
Mine Exploder T3E2 Flail – E1 variant, rotor replaced with a steel drum of larger diameter. Its development ended at the end of the war.
Mine Exploder T4 – British Minesweeper Crab II.
Mine Exploder T7 – ??frame with two small rollers with two disks each. abandoned project.
Mine Exploder T8 (Johnny Walker) – Plungers a pivoting steel structure designed to hit the ground. It was affected the direction of the vehicle.
Mine Exploder T9 – Roller 6 feet. Difficult to maneuver.
Mine Exploder T9E1 – lightened version, but ineffective because it was not able to exploit all mines.
Mine Exploder T10 – Remote control unit designed to be controlled by the next tank. Canceled.
Mine Exploder T11 – 6 frontal shot mortars to explode mines. Experimental.Mine Exploder T12 – 23 mortars frontal shot. Apparently effective, but canceled.
Mine Exploder T14 – Direct modification of Sherman, improved shielding the improved and reinforced bottom tracks. Canceled.
Mine Excavator T4 – Device based on a plow. It developed during 1942, but abandoned.
Mine Excavator T5 / E1 / E2 – T4 variant with plow-shaped V. E1 / E2 were subsequent improvements.
Mine Excavator T5E3 – T5E1 / E2 connected to the hydraulic lifting mechanism M1 dozer kit to control depth.
Mine Excavator T6 – Based on the T5, unable to control depth.
Mine Excavator T2 / E1 / E2 – Based on the T4 / T5, but driven by hydraulic lifting mechanism M1 dozer kit to control depth.
Rocket launchers T34 (Calliope) – Armed with tubes 60 rockets 4 to 6 inches on a bracket mounted on the turret 36 arranged in a row at the top and two 12 on the bottom. He entered a limited combat 1944-1945.
T34E1 rocket launchers – T34 with 14 tubes in the bottom two rows.
T34E2 rocket launchers – T34 rockets modified to 7.2 inches.
Rocket Launcher T39 – With 20 rockets mounted 7.2-inch box with doors closed.
Rocket Launcher T40 / M17 WhizBang – armed with 20 rockets of 7.2 inches. He entered limited combat in 1944-45.
Rocket Launcher T72 – T34 variant with short tubes. Version never used.
Rocket Launcher T73 – Similar to the T40, but only with 10 tubes. Version never used.
Rocket Launcher T76 – M4A1 with rocket launcher 7.2 inches instead of the main gun. Version never used.
Rocket launchers T105 – M4A1 rocket instead of the main gun. Version never used.
Multiple rocket launcher T99 – Two boxes with 22 4.5-inch rockets mounted on the turret. Version never used.
M4A3R3 flamethrower – flamethrower tank, also known as “Zippo tank”
The shield was evenly distributed and thicker on the sides than ht of Panzer IV. Its frontal armor was designed to withstand impacts of guns of 50 mm. However, it was only effective at the beginning of the war, with the arrival of the Panzer V with its KwK42 75 mm gun and Tiger I with its 88mm gun turned ineffective. Nor it was invulnerable against KwK40 75mm cannon Panzer III Ausf. G and J and several tank destroyers like the Stug III, but as the Sherman acted in greater numbers and with a cannon capable of dealing with them, this gave it an advantage over most German cars. Whatsoever you could not compare them with the Panther and Panzer, and superior in armor and weight, but with many mechanical problems, the slender line of Sherman, in spite of thinner shielding, lowered their weight and made them earn reliability. But it had a serious design problem, the layout of the fuel tank and ammunition made an impact, even with light ammunition received from any angle, set the vehicle in fire suddenly. To prevent this, crews used to use sandbags covering ammunition and outside trunks trees, pieces of caterpillar, etc, etc.
Cross section of M4
1 – Ring for lifting, 2 – Fan 3 – turret hatch, 4 – Periscope 5 – Hinge turret hatch, 6 – seat turret. Can handle 12.7 mm machine gun thereof, 7 – seat gunner, 8 – commander seat (seat next to the charger), 9 – Torreta, 10 – Air filter, 11 – Radiator Cap, 12 – distributor air filter 13 – Engine 14 – exhaust 15 – Wheel clamping, 16 – water pump, 17 – radiator, 18 – electric generator, 19 – axle rear drive, 20 – passenger compartment of the turret, 21 – Pivot rotation, 22 – front driveshaft 23 – Bogie suspension, 24 – Gearbox, 25 – Pinion main traction, 26 – driver seat, 27 – Seat server machine gun, 28 – Canyon 75 mm, 29 – hatch driver, 30 – Machine gun M1919A4
The Sherman had good speed on the road and in the field, but it varied according to the type of terrain. In the deserts its rubber tracks worked perfectly, in the hills of Italy reached land to which the German tanks could not come even remotely. In softer grounds such as in the snow or mud however, it had big problems because its narrow tracks made them sank. Viewing the experience of the Soviet T-34s that did not sink in these elements, the Americans chose to put a wider tracks and fix the problem.
When the M4 Sherman went into action in 1942 its 75mm gun could pierce the armor of German tanks it met with in Africa at normal distances. After the invasion of Normandy it was found that the initial 75 mm gun was completely ineffective against the Panther and Tiger I at normal distances. That is said barrel became obsolete and operations in Europe. The Sherman with 76 mm cannon was required. The 76 mm barrel had a superior firepower than most German tanks, especially the Panzer IV and III Sturmgeschütz. However the usual anti-armor ammunition could only knock out a Panther in its sides or at short distances. At long distances and frontally they didn’t even think to attack a Panther with their 75 mm cannon as the Sherman shield was penetrated extremely easyly. This problem was compounded by the arrival of Tiger I and 88mm. Suffice it to say that due to this ineffectiveness of the 75 mm gun Sherman the US command calculated that 4 or 5 Shermans were needed to defeat a single Tiger I and only one Sherman would survive since the German tank could only be attacked by the sides or rear. This led to large losses of Shermans in Europe and only they managed to prevail only thanks to an overwhelming numerical superiority of units.
In the next article we’ll talk about the Tiger II
AUTHOR: Escipionelafricanus, (Pere)
TRANSLATION BY: WoTBlitz_WGEU (Juan).