The M4 Shermanwas the primary tank used by the U.S. in World War II (WWII); the tank was also distributed to and used by allies of the U.S. such as the British and Soviet armies, and it was in the United Kingdom that the M4 was named after General William Sherman.
HISTORY OF THE M4 SHERMAN
The M4 was designed in 1940 and production began in 1941; by late 1942 it was the most popular army tank and formed the backbone of the offensive forces. The M4 was an upgraded version of the Grant and Lee medium tanks which had a side-sponson mounted 75 mm gun, which was a big disadvantage since the tank could only fire on one side.
The T6 which later became the M4 was completed in September, 1941 and had a cast hull and side hatch that were eliminated from the production models; the T6 was standardized in October of the same year, and production of the M4 began.
The purpose of the M4 was to operate as a fast, dependable tank to support infantry and to defeat other tanks; at first they did well against the smaller German tanks but they were soon outgunned by the newer German tanks. However the M4 had the advantage of numbers and later versions introduced bigger guns to counteract the German tanks.
DESIGN OF THE M4
The M4 maintained the basic design of the Grant and Lee tanks but relocated the 75mm gun to a fully traversing turret, with a gyrostabilizer system that improved accuracy even while the tank was moving. Since the M4 was based on the design of an already existing tank, it was easy to produce, maintain, repair, and boasted its reliability, durability and reasonable size and weight.
There were 7 main variations in the M4 series: the M4, M4A1, M4A2, M4A3, M4A4, M4A5, and M4A6; each of these brought some product variation but the A6 was not necessarily superior to the A4, it simply had some slight variations. For example, the original M4 had a radial engine, a welded hull and used 75mm or 105mm guns; the M4A1 used the same engine but had a one-piece cast hull and used either 75 or 76mm guns. Some of the A1 models also had a suspension upgrade.
The M4A2 used a diesel engine unlike the previously mentioned M4s, had a welded hull like the original M4 and also used 75 or 76mm guns; some versions also had a suspension upgrade like the A1s. The M4A3s were the most popular of all the M4 variants and it used a Ford GAA V-8 engine, had a welded hull also and used the 75, 76 and 105mm guns; some M4A3 models also had upgraded armor and spring suspension.
The M4A4 used a Chrysler A57 engine, had a welded and lengthened hull, and used a 75 mm gun; the M4A5 was actually never built in the U.S. but rather the number simply indicated that it was the Canadian version of the M4. The M4A6 like the A2 used a diesel engine; it had a welded, lengthened hull also and used only the 75mm gun.
Photo: Joost J. Bakker