The M4 Sherman was a famous American medium tank in World War II, first appearing in the Western Desert campaign of 1942

Introduce

Whether winning or losing, the parties to World War II brought to mankind amazing military technology wonders, most notably tanks. With the most balanced and comfortable criteria, the US-designed Sherman were the top tanks.

Entering the Second World War with the posture of a new player, the United States quickly joined in the creation of Sherman tanks and aid it throughout its Allied forces, including Soviet Union. With an American design mindset, the M4 Sherman tank has furniture with leather upholstery, a good damping system, a spacious cockpit, etc., providing the most comfort for all crews inside. The Soviet tank driver also claimed, driving an M4 Sherman was like riding on a luxury car, instead of feeling like sitting on a tractor when they were driving a T-34.

Historians argue that the power of the Sherman tank lies in quantity. Although not the best tank, but thanks to the efficient production method, the Sherman became the second most produced tank after the Soviet legend T-34.

Despite many weaknesses, Sherman tanks were still a major American tank for a long time. In battles over empty terrain, Sherman tanks often play a vanguard for American soldiers to hide behind them, shielding them before the MG-42 machine gun fire from German soldiers. The 75mm cannon fired continuously, aiming at the fortifications, the hidden position of the German infantry.

M4 Sherman
M4 Sherman

The M4 Sherman was a famous American medium tank in World War II, first appearing in the Western Desert campaign of 1942. They were present in every battlefield like North Africa, Pacific and Europe. Possessing quite good firepower, high speed and high reliability, M4 Sherman can be on par with the German Panzer IV tank.

Design

The Sherman was renown for its mechanical reliability, owing to its standardized parts and quality construction on the assembly line. It was roomy, easily repaired, easy to drive. It should have been the ideal tank. The tank was named by the British for the American Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman.

When World War II began in 1939, the United States lagged far behind the major European states in the development of tank technology and armoured warfare doctrine. The fall of France in May 1940 awoke and alarmed the United States. The German army had defeated France in a matter of weeks through the use of a new operational doctrine based on fast-moving, massed armoured formations supported by air power. America’s leaders became convinced that the U.S. Army needed a new tank at least equal to that employed by the Germans and that it had to adopt German operational doctrine. To that end, in July 1940 the War Department authorized the development of a new medium tank, and it also authorized the organization of the first armoured divisions. By the time the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States had five armoured divisions organizing and training for war in Europe.

The first American tank employed in combat in World War II was the M3 General Grant, named for the American Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant. However, the M3 was only an interim measure. Production ceased in late 1942, when the M4 went into full production.

The M4 Sherman evolved from the M3 Medium Tank, debuted in 1941 and was accepted for production that October. The M4 retained much of the previous mechanical design, but put the main 75 mm gun in a fully traversing turret. One feature, a one-axis gyrostabilizer, was not precise enough to allow firing when moving but did help keep the reticle on target, so that when the tank did stop to fire, the gun would be aimed in roughly the right direction.

Its designers consciously emphasized speed and mobility, limiting the thickness of the armour and the size of the main gun, thereby compromising on firepower and survivability.

Just like the M3 Lee, the Sherman’s suspension was of the VVSS type. The running gear comprised three sets of bogies, each with two paired large rubber-covered roadwheels, a rear adjustable track idler wheel and front drive sprocket connected to the gearbox, and three return rollers.

Powerplant

The Continental R975 engine was an air-cooled, gasoline radial engine delivering 400 horsepower. The tank had a maximum speed of 38 to 46 km per hour and a range of 160 to 240 km, depending on the series. The vehicle weighed about 33 tons, depending on the series.

The M4 carried a crew of five including commander, gunner, loader, driver, and co-driver. The driver sat on the left of the front of the hull, while the driver assistant sat on the right, firing a ball mounted 7.62 mm machine-gun. The main turret was roomy, enough for the three other crew members. The loader sat on the left of the main gun and the gunner on the right, while the commander was at the rear, just behind the gunner. The crew had two portable fire extinguishers, a 2-way radio and the use of an interphone.

The lower hull was made of large welded parts, although the bogies were bolted to the hull for easier replacement or repair, and the rounded front was made of three bolted steel plates. The upper hull, at first cast, was later welded, with a well-sloped glacis, flat sides and slightly sloped engine compartment roof, making a characteristic tumblehome culminating just below the main turret.

Armament

The M4’s main armament was a short-barreled, low-velocity 75mm gun, and its armour thickness was a maximum of 75mm and a minimum of 12mm.

Operations

The relative ease of production allowed large numbers of the M4 to be manufactured, being the most produced tank in American history. Total of some 49,234 produced examples. The significant investment in tank recovery and repair units allowed disabled vehicles to be repaired and returned to service quickly. These factors combined to give the Allies numerical superiority in most battles, and many infantry divisions were provided with M4s and tank destroyers.

But the Sherman was also a death trap. Most tanks at the time ran on diesel, a safer and less flammable fuel than gasoline. The Sherman’s powerplant was a gas engine that, combined with the ammo on board, could transform the tank into a Hellish inferno after taking a hit. One round could punch through the Sherman’s comparatively thin armor. If they were lucky, the tank’s five crew might have seconds to escape before they burned alive. German tanks have an 88mm gun and it could blow Sherman tanks into pieces until nothing but smoke and fire exists. During the European Campaign, there were some 648 Sherman tanks completely destroyed in combat and had another 700 knocked out, repaired and put back into operation.

Yet, the Sherman’s strength was in its numbers. It was one more example of the United States’ industrial prowess during World War II. Only the Soviet Union outdid the U.S. in tank production at that time through manufacturing the legendary T-34. In comparison, the Tiger—clearly the superior tank when compared to the Sherman—was made of costly materials, laboriously assembled and expensive to operate. The Germans manufactured slightly more than 1,300 Tigers. The Tiger outmatched the Sherman, but the United States always had another Sherman to put in the field. Although its 75mm gun was less potent than German tank guns were, it still could fire high-explosive rounds that would level buildings sheltering German troops.

Additional weapons included two M1919 Browning 7.62mm machine guns and a Browning 12.7mm M2 on a coaxial turret mount. Both guns could mow down German infantry or destroy machine gun nests.

Despite its many weaknesses, the Sherman tank became a mainstay for both the U.S. military and armed forces around the world.

After World War II, the Sherman, particularly the many improved and upgraded versions, continued to see combat service in many conflicts around the world, including the UN forces in the Korean War, with Israel in the Arab–Israeli wars, briefly with South Vietnam in the Vietnam War, and on both sides of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.

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