History of Sherman Tank

History of the Sherman Tank

General purpose tank

Number Produced

More than 50,000

German Opponents

Panzer 4, Panthers, Tigers and Stug 3’s mostly.

January 1, 1920

M1 Combat Car

Post WW1 tank / Car

January 1, 1920
January 1, 1939

M2 Medium Tank

First produced 1939

January 1, 1939
January 1, 1940

M3 Lee

Designed and build 1940/ 1941

January 1, 1940
January 1, 1942

M4 Sherman Tank

Designed and Built 1941 – 1945

January 1, 1942

As war in Europe and the Pacific evolved, before America joined the war, it gradually became obvious that America needed a main battle tank. It is fair to say that even in 1940 America was without a main battle tank.

Prior to the M4 Sherman, came the M3 Lee tank. It is fair to say that the design of the M3 was a form of thinking out of the box. Unfortunately for the men who crewed the M3 Lee’s, the thinking outside the box mentality lead to tank that really was not good a any one thing and therefore fairly likely to get its crew killed. The M3 Lee was not well liked by the men who used it in battle.

It is not widely known that the British in the early days of the war came to the Americans urging them to build British tank designs and to incorporate this british tank design into the American Army. There were two reasons for this. First, the British had a very high need for tanks and other equipment, and hoped to get Amercia to build British tanks and supply them to the British Army. Second, England hoped American would join the war sooner vs later and felt that British tanks were solid, dependable and formidable. An American Army with British tanks would be a tremendous help to England. Ultimately, the British did not get what they wanted. America decided to design and build American tanks for the American army and to supply to England. In the early years this was real disappointment to England, but of course later with the M4, that view changed.

The M3 Lee was used in Action in Africa but was removed withdrawn as soon as the M4 Sherman was available. The M3 was a poor design with limited to no success on the battlefield. Most of the M3 Lee crews felt their tanks were vastly inferior to German tanks they faced and they were correct. An interesting side note to history is that while the M3 was completely replace in the American Army by the M4, and while England began using the M4 also, England continued to use some M3 Lee’s in the Pacific against the Japanese right up to the end of the war.

The M4 Sherman tank drew upon the lessons learned from the M3 Lee. It was a highly successful design and more thans 50,000 M4’s were build between 1942 and 1945. The M4 tank was used by a large number of Allied countries even the Soviet Union. Lend Lease saw tanks being built in America and shipped via convoy to England and even to the Soviet Union. Many an arctic convoy to Murmansk or Achangel carried M4 tanks.

While German tanks were generally superior to the M4, it was produced in such large numbers that sheer weight on the American side often lead to victory. The M4 was build as an infantry support tank. Over time it was gradually upgrade to be more of a brawler in line with what the Germans used. However, the Sherman was still inferior to most German tanks it enounter in 1944 and 1945. It was not as well armored as its opponents and its main gun inferior. Late war Panzer IV, the Panther and Tiger all outclassed the Sherman. While it was a fairly good tank and reasonably dependable, it had a reputation for exploding and catching on fire when under fire from the enemy. Troops nick named it the Ronson. A grim name as this was a popular light with the slogan of “lights every time”.

Late model Sherman tanks were formidable and a match for most German tanks but many units did not get these late models before the war ended. The Sherman M4A3E9 was a superb tank but saw limited action before the war ended.

The Sherman tank was a medium tank. While Germans built the best tanks the could, often tanks that were leaps and bounds ahead of anything either England or America had, the Sherman was designed to be dependable, easily shipped, easily repaired and build via assembly line in the tens of thousands. There are many examples of Sherman tanks attacking an enemy position and having one Sherman after another knocked out only to find that in the end the battle was a Allied victory. Obviously this is a difficult thing if you are the actual crew of a Sherman, but from an over all war effort this was brilliant and surely helped lead to Allied Victory.

Sherman tanks advancing across Europe eventually became the symbol for American might against the Nazis. To the tank crews, the Sherman was an inferior tank and one that would likely get them killed. To the Germans, the endless lines of advancing Shermans represented the end of the war. Many germans interviewed after a battle against Shermans indicated that it almost did not matter how many Shermans they knocked out, that ultimately they were more likely to run out of ammunition before the American ran out of Sherman tanks to throw at them.

In order for Sherman tanks to generally be effective against late war German tanks, their crews had to become smart and find ways to get flank or rear shots on German tanks. Even then this did not always mean a victory. Often Sherman tank crews felt it was criminal that their vehicle was such a death trap. German tanks often destroyed Shermans at 1 to 2 kilometers head on while Sherman tanks usually needed to get within 600 meters and it get a flanking shot to have a chance to destroying a late war German tank.

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