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World War II foreign variants and use: Lend-Lease Sherman tanks. Post-World War II foreign variants and use: Postwar Sherman tanks

The M4 Sherman, formally Medium Tank, M4, was the primary tank used by the United Statesmarker during World War II. It was also distributed to the Allies via lend lease. Evolved from previous medium and light tanks, it was the first American medium tank with a fully traversing turret for the main gun. The first Shermans were more than adequate to defeat the armor of the German tanks they faced in North Africa.

Production of the M4 medium tank exceeded 50,000 units and its chassis served as the basis for numerous other armored vehicles such as tank destroyers, tank retrievers, and self-propelled artillery. In the United Kingdommarker the M4 was given the name Sherman after Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, following the British practice of naming their American-built tanks after famous American Civil War generals. Subsequently the British name found its way into common use in the US.

Tactics employing the Sherman would have to rely on numbers and mobility when it was often pitted directly against Tiger I and Panther tanks with heavier armor and more powerful guns. Only the Soviet T-34 was produced in larger numbers. America's most advanced tank of the war was the M26 Pershing, but it was developed too late to play a significant role in WWII as the US emphasized production of more Shermans. Post-war tank development would build upon the M26, but the Sherman and its variants continued to be used in training and combat roles in the Korean War and Six-Day War into the late 20th century.

U.S. design prototype

A cutaway showing the internal arrangement of an M4A4 Sherman.

The US Army Ordnance Department designed the Medium Tank M4 as a replacement for the M3 Lee. The Lee was an up-gunned development of the M2 Medium Tank of 1939, which was itself derived from the M2 Light Tank of 1935. Developed as a stopgap measure until a new turret mounting a 75 mm gun could be devised, the M3 suffered from a number of design faults, namely a large silhouette and an inflexible side sponson mounting for the main gun which could not be aimed across the side on which it was mounted.

Detailed design characteristics for the M4 were submitted by the Ordnance Department on 31 August 1940, but development of a prototype had to be delayed so final production designs for the M3 could be finished, and the tank put into full-scale production.

On 18 April 1941 The U.S. Armored Force Board chose the simplest of five designs. Known as the T6, the design combined a modern turret with the Lee's main gun with a modified M3 hull and chassis.The Sherman's reliability would benefit from utilizing many design features first developed in U.S. light tanks during the 1930s, including a vertical volute spring suspension, rubber-bushed tracks, and rear-mounted radial engine with drive sprockets in front. The stated goals were to produce a fast, dependable medium tank that was capable of meeting infantry support needs, providing breakthrough striking capacities and lastly, defeating any other tank currently in use by the Axis nations.

The pilot model of the M4 was completed on 2 September 1941. Unlike later M3s, the hull was cast. It had a side hatch which was eliminated from production models. The T6 became standardized as the M4, and production began in October 1941.

U.S. production history

Cutaway Sherman showing transmission and driver seat

During the production period, the US Army's seven main sub-designations, M4, M4A1, M4A2, M4A3, M4A4, M4A5, and M4A6, did not necessarily indicate linear improvement: for example, A4 is not meant to indicate 'better than' A3. These sub-types indicated standardized production variations, which were in fact often manufactured concurrently at different locations. The sub-types differed mainly in engines, although the M4A1 differed from the M4 by its fully-cast upper hull rather than by engine; M4A4 had a longer engine system that required a longer hull, a longer suspension system, and more track blocks; M4A5 was an administrative placeholder for Canadian production; and the M4A6 had an elongated chassis, but fewer than 100 of these were produced. Only the M4A2 and M4A6 were diesel-engined: most Shermans ran on gasoline. "M4" might refer specifically to the initial sub-type with its Continental radial engine, or generically, to the entire family of seven Sherman sub-types, depending on context. Many details of production, shape, strength, and performance improved throughout production without a change to the tank's basic model number; more durable suspension units, safer "wet" (W) ammunition stowage, and stronger armor arrangements, such as the M4 Composite, which had a cast front hull section mated to a welded rear hull. British nomenclature differed from that employed by the U.S.

M4 Sherman: selected models
Designation Main Armament Hull Engine
M4(105) 120 É mm howitzer welded gasoline Continental R975 radial
M4 Composite 75 mm cast front welded sides gasoline Continental R975 radial
M4A1(76)W cast gasoline Continental R975 radial
M4A2 75 mm welded diesel GM 6046 2x6
M4A3W 75 mm welded gasoline Ford GAA V8
M4A3E2 "Jumbo" 75 mm (some 76 mm) welded gasoline Ford GAA V8
M4A3E8(76)W "Easy Eight" 76 mm welded gasoline Ford GAA V8
M4A4 75 mm welded lengthened gasoline Chrysler A57 5xL6
M4A6 75 mm cast front welded sides lengthened diesel Caterpillar D200A radial

Early Shermans mounted a 75 mm medium-velocity general-purpose gun. Although Ordnance began work on the Medium Tank T20 as a Sherman replacement, ultimately the Army decided to minimize production disruption by incorporating elements of other tank designs into Sherman production. Later M4A1, M4A2, and M4A3 models received the larger T23 turret, with a high-velocity 76 mm gun M1, which reduced the number of HE and smoke rounds carried for an increase in the number of anti-tank rounds. The British offered their Ordnance QF 17-pounder gun (76.2 mm) anti-tank gun, with its significantly better armor penetration, to the Americans, but the U.S. Ordnance Department was working on a 90 mm tank gun and declined. As a stopgap in their own tank development, the British developed their own up-gunned "Firefly" variant, with the 17-pounder. Later, the M4 and M4A3 were factory-produced with a 105 mm howitzer and a new distinctive mantlet in the original turret. The first standard-production 76 mm-gun Sherman was an M4A1, accepted in January 1944, and the first standard-production 105 mm-howitzer Sherman was an M4 accepted in February 1944.

M4 with 105 mm howitzer and a dozer blade, note the square-edged, welded, upper-hull plates found on most Shermans.

The U.S. accepted in June-July 1944 a limited run of 254 M4A3E2 Jumbo Shermans, which had very thick armor, and the 75 mm gun in a new, heavier T23-style turret in order to assault fortifications. The M4A3 was the first to be factory-produced with the HVSS (horizontal volute spring suspension) suspension with wider tracks to distribute weight, and the smooth ride of the HVSS with its experimental E8 designation led to the nickname Easy Eight for Shermans so equipped. Both the Americans and the British developed a wide array of special attachments for the Sherman; few saw combat, and most remained experimental, but those which saw action included the bulldozer blade for Sherman dozer tanks, Duplex Drive for "swimming" Sherman tanks, R3 flame thrower for Zippo flame tanks, and the T34 60-tube 4.5 inch Calliope rocket launcher for the Sherman turret. The British variants were part of "Hobart's Funnies," named after their commander, Percy Hobart.

The M4 Sherman's basic chassis further undertook all the sundry roles of a modern, mechanized force, totaling roughly 50,000 Sherman tanks, plus thousands more derivative vehicles under different model numbers, including M32 and M74 "tow truck"-style recovery tanks with winches, booms, and even an 81 mm mortar for smoke screens, M34 (from M32B1) and M35 (from M10A1) artillery prime movers, M7B1, M12, M40, and M43 self-propelled artillery, and up-gunned M10 and M36 tank destroyers.

As part of the deception plan of Operation Fortitude that drew German attention to the Pas de Calais rather than Normandy, inflatable rubber Shermans were manufactured and deployed across fields in Kentmarker alongside plywood artillery pieces; another version of dummy Sherman was made from painted canvas over a steel frame and could be built over a Jeep and driven to simulate a moving tank.

Service history

The M4 Sherman served with the US Army and US Marine Corps during World War II. The US also exported large numbers to the allied forces of the United Kingdom (including Commonwealth), Soviet Unionmarker, Free French government-in-exile, Polish government-in-exile, Chinese NRA and the Brazilian Expeditionary Force.

The US Marine Corps used the diesel M4A2 and gasoline-powered M4A3 in the Pacific. The Chief of the (Army) Armored Force, Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers ordered that no diesel-engined Sherman tanks be used outside the Zone of Interior (ZI). The US Army used all types for either training or testing within the United States, but intended the M4A2 and M4A4 to be the primary Lend-Lease exports. British needs also claimed a large share of the M4 and M4A1.

The M4A1 Sherman first saw combat at the Second Battle of El Alameinmarker in October 1942 with the British 8th Army. The first US Shermans to fight were M4A1s used for Operation Torchmarker the following month. Additional M4 and M4A1s replaced M3 Lees in US tank battalions over the course of the North African campaigns. The M4 and M4A1 were the main types in US units until late 1944, when the preferred M4A3 with its more powerful engine began replacing them, though M4s and M4A1s continued in US service for the rest of the war.

The first 76 mm gun Sherman to enter combat (in July 1944) was the M4A1, closely followed by the M4A3. By the end of the war, half the US Army Shermans in Europe had the 76 mm gun. The first HVSS Sherman to see combat was the M4A3E8(76)W in December 1944.

M4A3E8 participating in a World War II victory parade

After World War II, the US kept the M4A3E8 "Easy Eight" in service with either 76 mm gun or 105 mm howitzer. The Sherman remained a common US tank in the 1950-1953 Korean War, but the Army replaced the Shermans with Patton tanks over the 1950s. The US continued to transfer Shermans to allies, which contributed to wide foreign use worldwide.


When the Sherman first saw combat in 1942, its short barreled, L32 medium velocity 75 mm M3 gun could defeat the armor of the German Pzkw III and Pzkw IV tanks it faced in North Africa at normal combat ranges.

U.S. Army Intelligence discounted the arrival of the Tiger I in late 1942 and the Panther tanks in 1943, thinking that both would be produced only in small numbers. The U.S. Army thus completely failed to anticipate that the Germans would make the Panther tank the backbone of their panzer divisions by mid-late 1944.

As a result, the U.S. Army Bureau of Ordnance, which had developed new 90mm and 76mm anti-tank guns in 1943, lacked the foresight and informed guidance needed to provide sufficient firepower for U.S. armored forces to battle the new German Tiger and Panther tanks. By 1943, most German AFVs (later models of the Panzer IVs, StuG IIIs, Marders) had been upgraded to carry the 7.5 cm KwK 40, and the disparity in firepower between these standard issue German AFVs of 1943 and the 75mm M4 gun provided the impetus to begin production in April 1944 of 76mm M4 Shermans. The U.S. 76mm did prove to be comparable in firepower to the German 7.5 cm KwK 40, and this was still the most common German anti-tank gun encountered during the fighting in France.

The Tank Destroyer Doctrine

Gen. Lesley McNair, as head of Army Ground Forces, approved the 76 mm upgrade to the M4 Sherman as well as production of the 90 mm M36 tank destroyer, but had staunchly opposed development of the T26 and other proposed heavy tanks during the crucial period of 1943 because of his perception of a lack of "battle need"; this delayed the introduction of the M26 Pershing tank into combat until the latter stages of WWII, when a very small number finally entered combat on February 25, 1945.

McNair, an artilleryman, had promulgated the tank destroyer doctrine within the U.S. Armored Forces, in which tanks were to mainly support the infantry and exploit breakthroughs and avoid tank-to-tank battles; enemy tanks were to be engaged by the tank destroyer force, composed of a mix of towed and self-propelled tank destroyers. The self-propelled tank destroyers were lightly armored motorized gun carriages with open topped turrets. Towed "tank destroyers" were simply towed antitank guns. In theory, the tank destroyers were supposed to be faster and carry more powerful anti-tank guns than tanks; armor was sacrificed for speed in the tank destroyers. The tank destroyer doctrine played a large role in the lack of urgency in improving the firepower of the M4 Sherman, as the emphasis was always on its role as infantry support.

Development of 76 mm M1A1 and other M4 gun projects

This M4A2(76) HVSS shows the T23 turret with later 76 mm gun's muzzle brake.
This one also has fenders, usually omitted on US vehicles to ease maintenance.

When the 76 mm gun was first installed in the M4 turret, it was found to unbalance the turret and the gun barrel was also thought to protrude too far forward, making it more difficult to transport and liable to hit the ground on undulating terrain. Ordnance reduced the barrel length by 15 inches ; from 57 calibers long to 52 with the effect of decreasing performance by 10 percent. Mounting this gun in the original M4 turret proved to be problematic, and so the turret for the abortive T23 tank project was used instead for the definitive production version 76 mm M4 Shermans.

Although tests against armor plate suggested that the new M1A1 76 mm gun would be adequate, testing against Panther tanks was never done. This would have shown that the gun could not penetrate the glacis plate of the Panther at any distance, and could only penetrate the center of the mantlet at 100 m.

The 90 mm gun developed by U.S. Ordnance could not be installed easily on the M4, but was installed on the open turreted M36 tank destroyer, and was the main gun for the T26 tank project (which eventually became the M26 Pershing). An attempt to upgrade the M4 Sherman by installing the 90 mm T26 turret on a M4A3 hull in April 1944 was halted after it was realized that such a project would not proceed any faster into production than the T26 tank and would likely detract from T26 development.

In testing prior to the invasion of Normandy, the new 76mm gun on the M4 Sherman was found to have a huge muzzle blast that kicked up dust from the ground and obscured vision for further firing. The addition of a muzzle brake directed blast sideways to solve this problem. It also had a much weaker high explosive shell than the existing 75 mm gun. Standard Army doctrine at the time emphasized the importance of the infantry support role of the tank, and the high explosive round was considered more important. Hence the 76 mm M4 was not initially accepted by various U.S. Armored Division commanders, even though a number had already been produced and were available for combat. As a result, all of the U.S. Army M4s deployed initially in Normandy in June 1944 had the 75 mm gun.

The British were more astute in their anticipation of the future development of German armor and in 1943 began efforts to mount the excellent 17 pounder anti-tank gun in a standard 75 mm M4 Sherman turret as well as their own dedicated tank design. These conversions became the Sherman Firefly. The 17 pounder still could not penetrate the glacis plate of the Panther but it could easily penetrate the Panther's gun mantlet at combat range; moreover it could punch through the front and side armor of the Tiger I at nearly the same distances as the Tiger I could penetrate the Sherman Firefly.

In late 1943, the British offered the 17 pounder to the U.S. Army for use in their M4 tanks. Gen. Jacob Devers, head of the U. S. Armored Force, insisted on comparison tests between the 17 pounder and the U.S. 90 mm gun (even though the 17 pounder could be easily mounted in a standard M4 turret while the 90 mm gun needed a new turret). Tests were finally done on March 25, 1944, and May 23, 1944 which seemed to show that the 90 mm gun was equal to or better than the 17 pounder. By then, production of the 76 mm M4 and the 90 mm M36 tank destroyer were both underway and U.S. Army interest in the 17 pounder waned.

Fighting against Panther tanks in Normandy quickly demonstrated the need for better anti-tank firepower, and the 76 mm M4s were deployed to First Army units in July 1944. Patton's Third Army started with 75 mm M4s and accepted 76 mm M4 Shermans only after the Battle of Arracourtmarker against Panther tanks in late September 1944.

Hypervelocity Armor Piercing ammunition, standardized as M93, first became available in August 1944 for the 76 mm gun. The projectile contained a tungsten core penetrator surrounded by a lightweight aluminum body, which gave it a higher velocity and more penetrating power. However, this new projectile was still unable to penetrate the glacis plate of the Panther tank although it could penetrate the turret mantlet of the Panther at longer ranges than standard ammunition; it brought the U.S. 76 mm gun closer in performance to the British 17 pounder using standard APC ammunition. Because of tungsten shortages, the HVAP round was always in short supply; its distribution was prioritized to US Tank Destroyer units; most Shermans carried only a few rounds and some units never received any.

After the heavy tank losses of the Battle of the Bulge, in January 1945, General Eisenhower cabled Washington and asked that no more 75 mm M4s be sent to Europe, that only 76 mm M4s were wanted.

In addition, interest in mounting the British 17 pounder in U.S. Shermans flared anew. In February 1945, the U.S. Army began sending 75 mm M4s to England for conversion to the 17 pounder gun. Approximately 100 tanks were completed by the beginning of May. However, the end of the war in Europe was clearly in sight, and the U.S. Army decided that the logistics of adding a new caliber ammunition to the supply train was not warranted. None of the converted 17-pounder M4s were deployed by the U.S., and it is unclear what happened to them, although some were definitely given to the British as part of Lend-Lease.

The higher-velocity 76 mm M1 gun gave Shermans anti-tank firepower at least equal to most of the German vehicles they encountered, particularly the Panzer IV, and StuG. However, with a regular AP (Armor Piercing shot) ammunition (M79) or APCBC (M62) shells, the 76 mm could only have a chance to knock out a Panther at close range with a shot to its mantlet, or with a shot to its flank. At long range, the Sherman was badly outmatched by the Panther's 75 mm gun, which could easily penetrate the Sherman's armor from all angles. This contributed to the high losses of Sherman tanks experienced by the U.S. Army in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO).

The M4 was criticized by its crews for lack of ability to pivot turn (turn in place), limiting its usefulness in MOUT combat against pivot turning Panther tanks. This deficiency was partially compensated by the faster traverse of its turret.


In the relatively few tank battles of the Pacific War, even the 75 mm gun Shermans outclassed the Japanesemarker in every engagement. The use of HE (High Explosive) ammunition was preferred because anti-tank rounds punched cleanly through the thin armor of the Japanese tanks (Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks and Type 97 Chi-Ha medium tanks of 1930s era design) without necessarily stopping them. Although the high-velocity guns of the tank destroyers were useful for penetrating fortifications, Shermans armed with flame throwers also destroyed Japanese fortifications. There was a variety of types of flame throwers, differing primarily in the type and location of projector.

The Sherman was one of the first widely produced tanks to feature a gyroscopic stabilized gun and sights. The stabilization was only in the vertical plane, as the mechanism could not slew the turret. The utility of the stabilization is debatable, with some saying it was useful for its intended purpose, others only for using the sights for stabilized viewing on the move.

A variant of the M4 Sherman was armed with the 105 mm M4 howitzers, which provided even more powerful high-explosive armament; however, they were of limited use in fighting enemy tanks due to the poor anti-armor performance of the howitzer, which was not intended to fight other tanks.

The 75mm gun had a white phosphorus shell originally intended for use as an artillery marker to help with targeting. M4 tank crews discovered that the shell could also be used against German Tiger and Panther tanks - when the burning white phosphorus splattered against the German tank, the acrid smoke would get sucked inside the tank, and together with the fear of the fire spreading inside the tank, cause the crew to abandon the tank. There were several recorded instances when white phosphorus shells "knocked out" German tanks in this fashion.

An M4 Sherman tank is displayed in Patton Park, South Hamiltonmarker, MA, along with donated memorials from the French Government of Charles DeGaulle as thanks for Patton's role in the Liberation of France in 1944.


This early 75 mm gun turret shows the single hatch - note the additional rectangular external (welded on) applique armor patch reinforcing the ammunition bin protection on the hull side.

The frontal turret armour of the M4 ranged from 64 mm to 76 mm at a 30 degree angle; the M4’s gun mantlet was also protected by 76 mm thick armour. The side turret was 50 mm at a 5 degree angle while the rear was 64 mm at a 90 degree angle and the turret roof was 25 mm thick. The frontal hull of the tank sported 51 mm thick armour; the upper hull being at a 56 degree angle while the lower half of the hull was curved. Historian Stephen Hart states the armour plates of the front hull were slopped between 45 and 90 degrees. The side of the hull was 38 mm at a 90 degree angle to 45 mm thick. The rear of the hull was protected by 38 mm thick armour at a slope of between 85-90 degrees while the hull roof was 25 mm thick.The armour of the M4 was effective against most early-mid war anti-tank weapons but was vulnerable to penetration from 75 mm/L48 tank guns up to a range of 1,370 – 1,500 meters; regardless of this vulnerability historian John Buckley has stated the M4 was "moderately superior to the that of the Panzer IV" and that "The vast majority of German tanks encountered in Normandy were either inferior, or at least, merely equal to the Sherman" Regardless the Sherman, like most Allied vehicles, remained vulnerable to infantry anti-tank weapons such as the Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust.

Progressively thicker armour was added to hull front and turret mantlet in various improved models, while field improvisations included placing sandbags, spare track links, concrete, wire mesh, or even wood for increased protection against shaped-charge rounds, even though it had little effect. Mounting sandbags around a tank most likely had little effect against high-velocity anti-tank gunfire, but was thought to provide standoff protection against HEAT weapons, primarily the German Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck. By 1945, it was rare to see a Sherman without any field improvisations. In the only study known to have been done to test the use of sandbags, on March 9, 1945, officers of the 1st Armored Group tested standard Panzerfaust 60s against sandbagged M4s; shots against the side blew away the sandbags and still penetrated the side armour, whereas shots fired at an angle against the front plate blew away some of the sandbags but failed to penetrate the armour. Earlier, in the summer of 1944, Lieutenant-General George S. Patton, informed by his ordnance officers that sandbags were useless and that the machines' chassis suffered from the extra weight, had forbidden the use of sandbags. Following the clamour for better armour and firepower after the losses of the Battle of the Bulge, Patton ordered tanks under his command to have the front hull welded with extra armour plates salvaged from knocked-out American and German tanks. Approximately 36 of these up-armoured M4s were supplied to each of the armored divisions of the Third Army in the spring of 1945.

M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo: Some units replaced the original 75 mm gun with a 76 mm gun.

The M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo variant had even thicker frontal armor than the Tiger I. Intended for the assault to break out of the Normandy beachhead, it entered combat in August 1944.

The M4 had an escape hatch on the hull bottom to help the crew survive and, in the Pacific, Marines used this Sherman feature in reverse to recover wounded infantry under fire. Combat experience indicated the single hatch in the 3-man turret to be inadequate for timely evacuation so Ordnance added a loader's hatch beside the commander's. Later M4s also received redesigned hull hatches for better egress.

Early Sherman models were prone to burning when struck by high velocity rounds. The Sherman gained grim nicknames like "Tommycooker" (by the Germans who referred to British soldiers as "Tommies"; a tommy cooker was a World War I era trench stove). With gallows humor, the British called them "Ronsons", after the cigarette lighter with the slogan "Lights up the first time, every time!", while Polish tankers referred to them as "The Burning Grave". This vulnerability increased crew casualties and meant that damaged vehicles were less likely to be repairable. Research conducted by the British No. 2 Operational Research Section, following the Normandy campaign, concluded that he Sherman would be set alight 82% of the time following an average of 1.89 penetrations of the tank’s armour; in comparison they also concluded that the Panzer IV would catch fire 80% of the time following an average of 1.5 penetrations, the Panther would alight 63% of the time following 3.24 penetrations, and the Tiger would catch fire 80% of the time following 3.25 penetrations. John Buckley, using a case study of the 8th and 29th Armoured Brigades found that of the 166 Shermans knocked out in combat during the Normandy campaign, only 94 were burnt out; 56.6%. Buckley also notes that an American survey carried out concluded that 65% of tanks burnt out after being penetrated. United States Army research proved that the major reason for this was the stowage of main gun ammunition in the sponsons above the tracks. At first a partial remedy to ammunition fires in the M4 was found by welding one-inch thick appliqué armour plates to the sponson sides over the ammunition stowage bins. Later models moved ammunition stowage to the hull floor, with additional water jackets surrounding the main gun ammunition stowage. This decreased the likelihood of the tank catching fire. A U.S. Army study in 1945 concluded that only 10-15 percent of wet-stowage Shermans burned when penetrated, compared to 60-80 percent of the older dry-stowage Shermans The belief that the fuel tank was a culprit is unsupported; most tanks during the World War used petrol engines, and although fires did occasionally occur in tanks because of fuel ignition, such fires were far less common and less deadly than when a tank was penetrated and one of its ammunition magazines ignited. This assessment is supported by Buckley who notes that in many cases the fuel tank of the M4 had been found intact following the tank being burnt out due to the ammunition cooking off. Tank crew testimony also supports this position; eye witness reports describe “fierce, blinding jets of flame”, which is inconsistent with petrol-related fires but is believed to be cordite flash.


The US Army required the Sherman not to exceed certain widths and weights to permit it to use a wide variety of bridge, road and rail travel for predicted strategic, industrial, logistical and tactical flexibility. In mid-1943, Lt. General Jacob L. Devers, commanding the ETOUSA, demanded 250 examples of the T26, later to be designated the M26 Pershing, heavy tanks from Lt. General Lesley J. McNair for use in the invasion of France. McNair refused, and Devers appealed to General George Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff. Marshall summarily ordered the tanks to be provided to the ETO as soon as they could be brought into production. Shortly after the invasion of Normandy, General Eisenhower urgently requested the T26 tanks, but production had been delayed due to Lt. General McNair's continued opposition to the project. General Marshall intervened, and the tanks were eventually brought into production. Unfortunately, they did not arrive in the European Theater of Operations until early 1945, too late to have any effect on the battlefield. The size and weight of the new tank created no serious problems in transportation to the theater or in its tactical employment. Thus, the theoretical advantages of the M4 Sherman in this respect proved to be illusory. However, the M26 could not be landed across a beach and required a fully equipped port with cranes.

This M32 Tank Recovery Vehicle shows the E8 HVSS track suspension that distributed weight more widely.

The Sherman had good speed both on- and off-road. Off-road performance varied. In the desert, the Sherman's rubber tracks performed well. In the confined, hilly terrain of Italy, the Sherman could often cross terrain German tanks could not. However, US crews found that on soft ground such as mud or snow, the narrow tracks gave poor ground pressure compared to wide-tracked second-generation German tanks such as the Panther. Soviet experiences were similar and tracks were modified to give better grip in the snow. The US Army issued extended end connectors or "duckbills" to add width to the standard tracks as a stopgap solution. Duckbills were original factory equipment for the heavy M4A3E2 Jumbo to compensate for the extra armor weight. The M4A3E8 "Easy Eight" Shermans and other late models with wider-tracked HVSS suspension corrected these problems, but formed only a small proportion of the tanks in service even in 1945.


The Sherman tank was comparatively fast and maneuverable, mechanically reliable, easy to manufacture and service, and produced in many special-purpose variants, whose capabilities differed greatly. It was effective in the infantry support role.

The Sherman performed well against World War II Japanese tanks, Italian tanks, the German Panzer III and early Panzer IV tanks, which were pre-war designs. However, the typical Sherman was significantly inferior in both armor and armament to the later German Panzer IV, Panther "medium" (heavy by US standards), and the heavy Tiger I and Tiger II, as well as being out gunned by some German tank destroyers.

The majority of losses of Shermans were not from tanks, but from mines, anti-tank guns, and infantry anti-tank weapons. Although American tanks were less powerful than the heavy German tanks, US armored forces won because of numerical superiority and superior combined arms tactics, with Allied air superiority being the biggest danger to the lines of supply for German tank units.

The anecdotes from Allied tank crewmen about the inferiority of the Shermans to late model German tanks has to be balanced against other considerations. Firstly, the Germans were invariably fighting defensively, usually from prepared positions—which tended to made tank casualties disproportionate. On rare occasions when German armored forces had to move against Allied prepared defenses, the Germans had similar complaints. Secondly, there is only so much capability that can be built into a tank of a particular weight; the Pzkw V and the Tiger were larger and heavier (at 42 tons and 56 tons) than the 32 ton Sherman. Finally, the Sherman could be built, deployed, maintained and repaired in large numbers balancing out the tactical advantages of the better German tanks.

According to Belton Cooper's memoir of his 3rd Armored Division service, the Shermans were "death traps"; the overall combat losses of the division were extremely high. The division was nominally assigned 232 Sherman medium tanks; 648 Sherman tanks were totally destroyed in combat, and a further 1,100 needed repair, of which nearly 700 were as a result of combat. According to Cooper, the 3rd Armored therefore lost 1,348 medium tanks in combat, a loss rate of over 580%, in the space of about ten months. Cooper was the junior officer placed in charge of retrieving damaged and destroyed tanks. As such, he had an intimate knowledge of the actual numbers of tanks damaged and destroyed, the types of damage they sustained, and the kinds of repairs that were made. His figures are comparable to those given in the Operational History of 12th U.S. Army Group: Ordnance Section Annex. Some World War II Army officers made similar arguments during the war. Other officers disagreed with the negative assessment and Gen. George S. Patton argued that the Sherman tank was overall a superior tool of war. One of Cooper's other major points in his book, that Gen. Patton was primarily responsible for blocking development of the M-26 Pershing tank, is unsupported by historical facts; Patton did not have the authority to make such decisions - it was Gen. Lesley McNair who opposed the M26.

The only other Second World War tank produced in comparable numbers to the Sherman was the Soviet T-34 series. The Soviets used some Shermans to supplement their own T-34s while Shermans would be pitted against T-34s in Korea. The later 76 mm versions had superior anti-tank power capabilities to the Soviet 85 mm. The T-34's advantages were its low profile, wide tracks which made crossing muddy terrain easier, speed and superior mobility to the Sherman. Both tanks excelled in reliability. Though the Sherman was the final evolution of its design family, while the T-34 would form the basis for postwar Soviet tanks, each was a medium design that served as the primary battlefield tank of its respective country in World War II, was upgraded, served into the Cold War, and outfitted allies.

US variants

The M4A1, A2 and A3 compared.

  • Vehicles that used the Medium Tank M4 chassis or hull, discussed in greater detail or greater context and in other articles:

Foreign variants and use

The Sherman was extensively supplied through Lend-Lease to allies countries, as for example тхе Republic of Chinamarker, Brazilmarker and specially the British Commonwealth, with the exception of Canada which produced its own. The British took nearly 80% of Lend-Lease production some of which was passed on to other allies including those forces of governments in exile.

The British were planning a 17 pounder gun version of their Cromwell tank but delays led to the expedient of mounting a 17 pdr in a Sherman giving the Sherman Firefly. By the end of the war, the British had developed both the Comet and the Centurion tank and these replaced the Sherman post war.

The Israeli up-gunned 75mm M-50 and 105mm armed M-51 Super Shermans are remarkable examples of how a long obsolete design can be upgraded in front-line use.. They saw combat not only in the Six-Day War fighting Sovietmarker World War II-era armor like the T34/85 but also 1973 Yom Kippur War, proving effective even against newer, heavier Soviet tanks like the T-54/55.

See also


  1. Hunnicutt 1978
  2. AFV database
  3. Opening Salvo: M4A1 Sherman Tank by Michael J. Canavan
  4. Zaloga 2008, p. 94-97
  5. Zaloga p.115-116
  6. – Intelligence – Text Database of Penetratin Data
  7. Zaloga 2008. p. 93
  8. Zaloga 2008, pp. 120–125, 287
  9. Zaloga 2008, "McNair's Folly" p. 72–77
  10. Zaloga pp. 106–108, 115–116
  11. Zaloga 2008 pp. 124–125
  12. Zaloga 2008, pp. 126–130
  13. Zaloga 129-131
  14. Zaloga 2008, p. 132-135
  15. Jentz 1997 p. 13-14 German Army Wa Pruef 1 report dated Oct. 5, 1944, and British Department of Tank Design Experimental Report A.T.No.252 Part II, trials conducted March 16–22, 1945
  16. Zaloga 2008, pp. 166, 193
  17. Zaloga 2008, pp. 194–195
  18. Zaloga 2008, pp. 268–269
  19. Zaloga 2008, pp. 276–277
  20. "12th Army Group, Report of Operations (Final After Action Report)" Vol. XI, Wiesbaden, Germany, 1945, pp. 66-67.
  21. Green 2005, p. 88.
  22. "M4 Sherman at War" by Michael Green, James D. Brown, Zenith Press; 1st edition (February 15, 2007), pp. 87-88.
  23. Zaloga 2008 p. 182
  24. Schneider 2004, p. 303
  25. Zaloga (1993), p.14
  26. Reid, p. 215
  27. Hart, p. 27
  28. Buckley, p. 110
  29. Reid, p. 374
  30. Buckley, p. 126
  31. Buckley, p. 117
  32. Zaloga (2008), p. 279-284
  33. Copp, pp. 399-406
  34. Buckley, p. 127
  35. Zaloga (2008), p. 116-118
  36. Zaloga (2008), p. 116-118
  37. Gelbart 1996:45


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