M4 Sherman Tank Facts
The U.S. M4 Sherman Tank, formally known as the Medium Tank M4, was the primary tank the U.S. and some of its allies used during the Second World War. Despite being inferior to the heavier German tanks, it was a reliable and capable tank and would play a part in winning the war. Other than by the U.S. forces, the M4 was also used by British Commonwealth countries and the Soviet Union through the lend-lease agreement. The U.S. M4 Sherman Tank was the second tank by production volume to be used in WWII, the most produced being the Soviet T-34.
Sherman Tank Development
During development, the M4 wasn’t a brand-new design but an evolutionary design with roots in the Grand and Lee medium tanks. The M4 inherited a lot of the mechanical design from them, but a vital addition had been made – a 75mm main gun. The M4 was the first tank with a gun on a fully traversing turret and equipped with a gyro to act as a stabilizer. Thanks to these additions, the M4s main gun could be fired fairly accurately while the tank moved. Another critical design feature of the U.S. M4 Sherman Tank was that it was designed with reliability and ease of production and maintenance in mind. The U.S. army wanted a tank that would perform as a workhorse in the field so that it could endure. Thanks to these features, the M4 was superior to the German tanks of early WWII, at least in some regard. The M4 performed very well in the field and, by 1942, would be one of the essential weapons in the offensives of the U.S. and its Allies.
The M4 Sherman tank went through numerous upgrades throughout the war. The mainstay of the American tank battalions from 1944 onward, the M4A3 featured a Ford V-8 engine that provided excellent reliability and fuel economy considering the type. Most of the A3s featured wet storage ammo bins, where the walls of the ammo bins were lined with water jackets to retard ammunition fires if the vehicle was hit. These fires were the primary causes of many Sherman tank losses throughout the war.
The M4A3 was the preferred US medium tank in Europe. It was a more compact power plant than the earlier model Shermans powered by radial aircraft engines. Since most of the vehicles in the army inventory were powered by gasoline, it simplified supply over the diesel-engined A2s, most of which were provided lend-lease to our allies. The A3 model was the basis for the standard up-gunned variant with wider tracks and an improved suspension, the M4A3E8(76).
M4 Sherman Tank Specifications
- Weight: 66,800 pounds (30.3 tons; 29.8 long tons; 33.4 short tons)
- Length: 19 ft 2 in (5.84 m)
- Width: 8 ft 7 in (2.62 m)
- Height: 9 ft (2.74 m)
- Crew: 5 (Commander, gunner, loader, driver, co-driver)
Armor: 76 mm maximum
- Main Tank Armament:
75 mm M3 L/40 gun (90 rounds)
or 76 mm gun M1 (55 rounds)
- Secondary Tank Armament:
.50 cal Browning M2HB machine gun (300 rounds),
2 × .30-06 Browning M1919A4 machine guns (4,750 rounds)
- M4 Sherman Tank Engine:
Continental R975 C1, air-cooled, radial, gasoline
400 hp (298 kW) at 2,400 rpm
M4A4 Model – Chrysler A57 Multibank 30-cylinder 21-litre engine. 470 hp at 2,700 rpm.
- Tank Power/Weight:
13.5 hp/ton (early production, Chrysler A57)
15.7 hp/ton (late production, RD-1820)
- Transmission: Spicer manual, synchromesh, four forward (plus one overdrive), and one reverse gear
- Suspension: Vertical Volute Spring Suspension (VVSS)
- Operational Range:
120 miles (193 km) at 175 U.S. gal (660 L); 80 octane
- Tank Speed: 25 to 30 mph (40 to 48 km/hr)
M4 Sherman Tank in North Africa
The M4 arrived in the North African theater in 1942, and it almost immediately, it was apparent that it was superior to the German Panzer III and the Panzer IV. Because the U.S. M4 Sherman Tank could go toe to toe with the Panzer IV, the U.S. Army decided not to work on further tank development as they were sure the war could be won with the M4. Another reason for not developing a stronger and more capable tank was that such a tank would automatically get heavier and more prominent. This was often a problem because of narrow roads and bridges.
M4 Sherman tank Variants
A few years into WWII, other vehicles using the M4 as a base were developed, such as the tank destroyer – M36 “Jackson”. They used the M4 as a base but were equipped with open-topped turrets and stronger high-velocity guns. However, during the last years of the war, the M4s and the tank destroyers based on it were far outmatched by the new German tanks. The Panther, a 45-ton tank, was much more powerful than the M4 and the tank destroyers. Each subsequent German tank was even more powerful and advanced than the M4, so it wasn’t even a match for the Tiger I and Tiger II tanks, 56 and 70 tons, respectively. Many M4s were destroyed by the Tigers, mainly because the heavy armor of the Tigers could withstand the M4 gunfire, and the powerful gun of the Tiger could quickly destroy the M4s.
Sherman Tanks against the German Tiger Tank
The Tigers came too late to save the Germans. Their tank was better and more powerful than the M4, but in the end, the M4 won in the numbers game. The Western Allies had many more M4s than the Germans had Tigers, and the Allies also made use of their improving fighter bombers and artillery to improve the M4’s odds on the battlefield.
Sherman Tank Advantages During WW2
The main advantage of the M4 remained that it could be easily made and repaired. The Allies also tried to recover and repair the M4s instead of abandoning them. Thanks to the repair efforts, a lot of the M4s that were recovered returned to the battlefields. Thanks to these factors, the U.S. forces usually had more tanks in the battles, they had so many tanks that many infantry divisions also had a U.S. M4 Sherman Tank battalion or a tank destroyer battalion, and sometimes they even had both. During the last year of the war, German panzer divisions were often crippled, most not at full strength.
M4 Sherman Tank Video
M4 Sherman Tank Alternatives
There were alternatives to the M4. There was the M26, but because the Ground Forces commander favored the M4, the M26 entered the war too late and didn’t contribute much to the war effort. The M4 was mainly used against Japanese infantry and strongholds in the Pacific battlefields. The much lighter and less powerful Japanese tanks were no match for the M4, so much so that the M4’s superiority against the Japanese tanks was overwhelming. Almost 5,000 of the U.S. M4 Sherman Tanks were produced, and it was also the base for other vehicles, such as tank destroyers and tank retrievers.
M4 Sherman Tank References
- M4 Sherman Tank, WWIIVehicles.com
- Sherman Tank, Israeli-Weapons.com
- WW2 Tanks, OnWar.com