Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole's TreadHead Tuesday - M4 Sherman Medium Tank - Feb 24th, 2004
Posted on 02/24/2004 12:03:03 AM PST by SAMWolf
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The U.S. Army M4 medium tank was specifically designed to favor speed and mobility over firepower. This was in accordance with U.S. Army doctrine that the tank would function as an infantry support weapon, and thus would have to be capable of keeping up with rapidly moving ground troops. To some extent, the M4 was not designed to fight other tanks.
Because of these design factors, the M4 was thinly armored and carried a small main gun. Compared to German armor, the M4 was clearly outmatched. The crews of M4 tanks were vulnerable to the superior penetrating fire of German tank guns, and were themselves hardly able to scratch the heavier armor of their German counterparts. What the M4s lacked in armor, firepower and survivability, they made up for in sheer numbers, a higher rate of fire, increased mobility, and much simpler maintenance. In late 1944 the M4 was outfitted with a 76mm gun, and its suspension system upgraded in early 1945.
The mid-production M4 medium tank. Notice the extra armor welded over the sponson ammunition racks and the front drivers' hoods
The Sherman name was a British designation, and while it was not part of the official name of the M4 tank, was commonly used and known among U.S. troops. The M4 was used by the U.S. Army, U.S. Marines, Britain, Canada and the Free French.
The M4 tank hull was used for a variety of vehicles, including the M32 tank recovery vehicle, M7B1 self-propelled howitzer, M10 Wolverine, and numerous British designs including the Firefly. For D-Day, one of the most significant variations was the amphibious DD Tank.
Sherman Firefly (M4A4 w/17 Pounder Gun)
Both the standard M4 and its DD version were inadequate for the close-support role that they were intended to fill on D-Day. One of the M4's few strengths, mobility, was restricted on the confined beaches of Normandy, and the weaknesses of its light armor and firepower were clearly evident. German defenders quickly attacked any tank that made it to shore, and many were destroyed before they could leave the beach or provide any support fire. The shingle at Omaha Beach was impassable by armor, and it was not until engineers could open up paths and the beach exits were secured that the M4 could make its way off the beach and make use of its maneuverability.
Sherman DD (Duplex-Drive) with screens down.
Ironically, the hedgehog obstacles that littered the beaches would later be used to help Allied tanks break through the numerous hedgerows that cross-crossed the Normandy countryside. Cut up and welded to the front of tanks, these chunks of metal allowed armor to rapidly slice through the hedgerows and quicken the Allied attack inland.
Sherman DD (Duplex-Drive) with screens up.
Between 1942 and 1945 11 production facilities manufactured almost 50,000 M4 Sherman tanks. Production orginally started at 1,000 tanks a month and was eventually upped to 2,000 tanks a month. Among the companies that produced the M4 Sherman were the Pressed Steel Car Co., Baldwin Locomotive Works, American Locomotive Co., Pullman Standard Car Co. and the Detroit Tank Arsenal. The production output of the M4 design was more than all of the tanks produced by both the British and the Germans during the war.
The medium tank M4 was based on the medium tank M3, and the Sherman shared many components with the Lee. The M4 utilized the M3's suspension, lower hull, and power train.
The M4A1's cast upper hull gave it distinctive rounded edges. This makes it the easiest of Sherman tanks to identify. Other identifying features of M4A1, which it shares with M4, are the rear of the tank and engine access panels. There are twin engine access doors in the rear hull and air cleaners at the top corners of these doors. M4A1 had twin square muffler tailpipes at the top of the rear hull above the air cleaners, a steel-covered air intake behind the turret, and solid engine access doors in the rear deck behind the turret.
Early Shermans--cast and welded hull--were built with twin fixed .30cal M1919A4 machine guns in the hull which were operated by the driver. These could be locked at any elevation between +8° and -6°. The driver's machine guns were eliminated on March 6, 1942. Also seen on early tanks were spoked idler and road wheels, three-piece differential and final drive housing, two fuel shutoff valves on the rear deck, removable headlights, vision slots for the drivers in the glacis plate, and the siren was placed on the left front fender or under a bracket just offset to the left of the glacis centerline.
On tanks with dry ammunition stowage, one-inch thick applique armor was welded over the sponson ammunition racks and to the turret on the right of the gun mount where interior armor had been ground away to make room for the gunner's controls. Heavy-duty suspension bogies, with the return roller on the rear of the bogie instead of on top like earlier bogies, were introduced by summer 1942. The new bogies had 8" (20cm) diameter springs, 1" (2.5cm) larger than the springs of the earlier type. Originally, there was only one turret hatch (the commander's) in the 75mm gun turret, but a small oval hatch was introduced for the loader in December 1943. Retrofit kits were developed for tanks built before the loader's hatch was designed. A cupola for the tank commander later replaced his circular split hatch. The main gun in the first M4A1s built was the 75mm M2, which was shorter than the M3 and needed double counterweights on the end of the barrel to be compatible with the tank's gyrostabilizer.
The M4A2, the first welded-hull Sherman to enter service. The M4A2 used the same engine as the medium tanks M3A3 and M3A5.
The designation of medium tank M4A5 was given to Canada's cruiser tank Ram II.
The 76mm guns themselves differ in the following ways: the outside recoil surface of the M1A1 was lengthened by one foot over the M1, thereby allowing the trunnions to be moved forward and providing better gun balance; the M1A1C had the end of the barrel threaded for a muzzle brake; the rifling of the M1A2 was one turn in 32 calibers versus one turn in forty for the other weapons. All M1A2s were equipped with muzzle brakes.
The M4A3(75)W was also known as simply M4A3W, the "75" in the designation being redundant. The ammunition stowage in M4A3(75)W was as follows: one hundred 75mm rounds were held in 10 boxes on the hull floor jacketed in 37.1gal (140L) of water. The ready rack on the turret floor was protected by another gallon (3.8L).
In modern military scholarship, the Sherman tank is notorious for being both undergunned and too lightly armored to face its German antagonists. The early models had a maximum of 75 millimeters of armor, later raised to 100, and a 75-millimeter gun; the German Panzer Mk IVs, however, had a maximum of 80 millimeters of armor, and the first Tigers had 100 (the Tiger II, 150) and mounted the famously excellent 88-millimeter gun.
M4A3E8 with the 761st Tank Battalion outside of Nancy, France, on November 8, 1944
As one German POW put it, Shermans were Ronsons . our gunners could see your tanks coming and they say to one another, Here comes another Ronson. Why do Americans do this for us? Bang! And it burns like twenty hay stacks . Those funny tanks with the little guns, and so high and straight we can see them a long way in our gunsights. Those square sides, and thin, the armor. We know if we hit one, it goes up. Why does the county of Detroit send their men out to die in these things? By one (American) calculation, killing a Panzer was worth losing four Shermans; a Tiger II, eight. The most overrated American tank? Read much of the current literature, and you will conclude that it is surely the Sherman.
The most underrated American tank of the Second World War? The Sherman. Since accounts of its deficiencies have become so familiar, its strengths have slipped from view, along with an understanding of the choices made by its designers.
Soviet M4A2(76)W "General Sherman". Vienna. April 1945
When conceived, the tank offered a good compromise between mobility and reliability, protection and hitting power. It had been scrupulously designed to duplicate the feats of what were then the best tanks in the world: the Panzer Mk III and Mk IVs, which had just executed devastating blitzkriegs. The Shermans equaled or outmatched those tanks when they met in North Africa but they were not up to the task of fighting duels with the subsequent Panzers and Tigers, especially when the latter were employed in defense, as mobile pillboxes. U.S. doctrine called for fighting tanks with tank destroyershigh-velocity anti-tank guns mounted on swift, lightly armored vehicleswhile our tanks did what tanks do best: claw through an enemys line and get into his rear. The decision to rely so heavily on tank destroyers for antitank warfare is often seen as a mistake; nowadays the best antitank weapon is widely assumed to be a tank. But American tank destroyers got better, and American skill at combined-arms operations steadily increased, so that our artillery, fighter-bombers, and tank destroyers shattered German armor in the Ardennes. And while the Shermans did badly in one-on-one tank duels against the German tanks, Shermans did not generally fight one-on-one. They often fought five-on-one, and they won.
761st Tank Battalion, Charlie Company
It is crucial to remember that the Shermans had to be transported across oceans. This put a premium on their reliabilitymore tanks had to be operating more of the timeand they were supremely reliable. This same concern also meant that they had to fit on existing naval tank transports, one reason they were smaller and lighter than German late-war armor.
Yom Kippur war of 1973: M4A3E8 Shermans modified by the Israelis, major changes include a 105mm gun and large counterweight at the turret rear.
A basic question rarely considered by the Shermans critics is the economic concept of opportunity cost: What did Germany give up to achieve the Tigers strengths? A Tiger I took 300,000 man-hours to build, and in the tanks first two years, Germany made only about 1,340 of them. In 1943 alone, Germany built 5,966 tanks of all types, while the U.S.S.R. produced an estimated 20,000 and the British 7,500. That year the United States built 30,000 tanks, most of them Shermans.
To all our military men and women, past and present,
THANK YOU for serving the USA!
I hope everyone is doing well this morning. I'm ignoring dr.'s orders for a moment to stop in to say "hello". Looks like I'll be laid up for a short while. It didn't help that I tried to do a little house cleaning Saturday. duuuh.
Now is when a laptop would come in handy. LOL!! But since we don't have one, I'll stop in when I feel I can sit for a few minutes.
Have a fantastic day, everyone! *HUGZ* all 'round.
Aeronca C-2 (Fat airplane for "Fat Tuesday")
I noticed the troublemakers have not given up on interloping on our territory. My freepmail showed something some troll. I deleted it.
Today's classic warship, USS Iowa (BB-61)
Iowa class battleship
displacement. 45,000 t.
speed. 33 k.
armament. 9 16", 20 5"
The USS Iowa (BB-61) was laid down at New York Navy Yard, 27 June 1940; launched 27 August 1942; sponsored by Mrs. Henry A. Wallace, wife of Vice President Wallace, and commissioned 22 February 1943, Capt. John L. McCrea in command.
On 24 February, Iowa put to sea for shakedown in Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic coast. She got underway, 27 August for Argentia, Newfoundland to neutralize the threat of German Battleship Tirpitz which was reportedly operating In Norwegian waters.
In the fall, Iowa carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Casablanca, French Morocco on the first leg of the journey to the Teheran Conference in November. After the conference she returned the President to the United States.
As Flagship of Battleship Division 7, Iowa departed the United States 2 January 1944 for the Pacific Theatre and her combat debut In the campaign for the Marshalls. From 29 January to 3 February, she supported carrier air strikes made by Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman's task group against Kwajalein and Eniwetok Atolls in the Marshall Islands. Her next assignment was to support air strikes against the Japanese Naval base at Truk, Caroline Islands. Iowa, in company with other ships was detached from the support group 16 February, 1944 to conduct an anti-shipping sweep around Truk to destroy enemy naval vessels escaping to the north. On 21 February, she was underway with Fast Carrier Task Force 58 while it conducted the first strikes against Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Guam in the Marianas.
On 18 March, Iowa, flying the flag of Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee, Commander Battleships, Pacific, joined in the bombardment of Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Although struck by two Japanese 4.7" projectiles during the action, Iowa suffered negligible damage. She then rejoined Task Force 58, 30 March, and supported air strikes against the Palau Islands and Woleai of the Carolines which continued for several days.
From 22 to 28 April 1944, Iowa supported air raids on Hollandia, Aitape, and Wakde Islands to support Army forces on Aitape, Tanahmerah Bay, and Humbolt Bay in New Guinea. She then joined the Task Force's second strike on Truk, 29-30 April, and bombarded Japanese facilities on Ponape in the Carolines, 1 May.
In the opening phases of the Marianas campaign, Iowa protected the flattops during air strikes on the islands of Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Rota, and Pagan, 12 June. Iowa was then detached to bombard enemy installations on Saipan and Tinian, 13-14 June. On 19 June, in an engagement known as the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Iowa, as part of the battle line of Fast Carrier Task Force 58, helped repel four massive air raids launched by the Japanese Middle Fleet. This resulted in the almost complete destruction of Japanese carrier-based aircraft. Iowa then joined In the pursuit of the fleeing enemy Fleet, shooting down one torpedo plane and assisting in splashing another.
Throughout July, Iowa remained off the Marianas supporting air strikes on the Palaus and landings on Guam. After a month's rest, Iowa sortied from Eniwetok as part of the 3d Fleet, and helped support the landings on Peleliu, 17 September. She then protected the carriers during air strikes against the Central Philippines to neutralize enemy air power for the long awaited invasion of the Philippines. On 10 October, Iowa arrived off Okinawa for a series of air strikes on the Ryukyus and Formosa. She then supported air strikes against Luzon, 18 October and continued this vital duty during General MacArthur's landing on Leyte 20 October.
In a last ditch attempt to halt the United States campaign to recapture the Philippines, the Japanese Navy struck back with a three-pronged attack aimed at the destruction of American amphibious forces in Leyte Gulf. Iowa accompanied TF-38 during attacks against the Japanese Central Force as it steamed through the Sibuyan Sea toward San Bernardino Strait. The reported results of these attacks and the apparent retreat of the Japanese Central Force led Admiral Halsey to believe that this force had been ruined as an effective fighting group. Iowa, with Task Force 38, steamed after the Japanese Northern Force off Cape Engano, Luzon. On 25 October 1944, when the ships of the Northern Force were almost within range of Iowa's guns, word arrived that the Japanese Central Force was attacking a group of American escort carriers off Samar. This threat to the American beachheads forced her to reverse course and steam to support the vulnerable "baby carriers." However, the valiant fight put up by the escort carriers and their screen had already caused the Japanese to retire and Iowa was denied a surface action. Following the Battle for Leyte Gulf, Iowa remained in the waters off the Philippines screening carriers during strikes against Luzon and Formosa. She sailed for the West Coast late in December 1944.
Iowa arrived San Francisco, 15 January 1945, for overhaul. She sailed 19 March 1945 for Okinawa, arriving 15 April 1945. Commencing 24 April 1945, Iowa supported carrier operations which assured American troops vital air superiority during their struggle for that bitterly contested Island. She then supported air strikes off southern Kyushu from 25 May to 13 June 1945. Iowa participated in strikes on the Japanese homeland 14-15 July and bombarded Muroian, Hokkaido, destroying steel mills and other targets. The city of Hitachi on Honshu was given the same treatment on the night of 17-18 July 1945. Iowa continued to support fast carrier strikes until the cessation of hostilities, 15 August 1945.
Iowa entered Tokyo Bay with the occupation forces, 29 August 1945. After serving as Admiral William F. Halsey's flagship for the surrender ceremony, 2 September 1945, Iowa departed Tokyo Bay 20 September 1945 for the United States.
Arriving Seattle, Wash., 15 October 1945, Iowa returned to Japanese waters in January 1946 and became flagship of the 5th Fleet. She continued this role until she sailed or the United States 25 March 1946. From that time on, until September 1948, Iowa operated from West Coast ports, on Naval Reserve and at sea training and drills and maneuvers with the Fleet. Iowa decommissioned 24 March 1949.
After Communist aggression in Korea necessitated an expansion of the active fleet, Iowa recommissioned 25 August 1951, Captain William R. Smedberg III in command. She operated off the West Coast until March 1952, when she sailed for the Far East. On 1 April 1952, Iowa became the flagship of Vice Admiral Robert T. Briscoe, Commander, 7th Fleet, and departed Yokosuka, Japan to support United Nations Forces in Korea. From 8 April to 16 October 1952, Iowa was involved in combat operations off the East Coast of Korea. Her primary mission was to aid ground troops, by bombarding enemy targets at Songjin, Hungnam, and Kojo, North Korea. During this time, Admiral Briscoe was relieved as Commander, 7th Fleet. Vice Admiral J. J. Clark, the new commander, continued to use Iowa as his flagship until 17 October 1952. Iowa departed Yokosuka, Japan 19 October 1952 for overhaul at Norfolk and training operations in the Caribbean Sea.
Iowa embarked midshipmen for at sea training to Northern Europe, July 1953, and immediately after took part in Operation "Mariner," a major NATO exercise, serving as flagship of Vice Admiral E. T. Woolfidge, commanding the 2d Fleet. Upon completion of this exercise, until the fall of 1954, Iowa operated in the Virginia Capes area. In September 1954, she became the flagship of Rear Admiral R. E. Libby, Commander, Battleship Cruiser Force, U. S. Atlantic Fleet.
From January to April 1955, Iowa made an extended cruise to the Mediterranean as the first battleship regularly assigned to Commander, 6th Fleet. Iowa departed on a midshipman training cruise 1 June 1955 and upon her return, she entered Norfolk for a 4-mouth overhaul. Following refit, Iowa continued intermittent training cruises and operational exercises, until 4 January 1957 when she departed Norfolk for duty with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. Upon completion of this deployment, Iowa embarked midshipmen for a South American training cruise and joined in the International Naval Review off Hampton Roads, Va., 13 June 1957.
On 3 September 1957, Iowa sailed for Scotland for NATO Operation "Strikeback." She returned to Norfolk, 28 September 1957 and departed Hampton Roads for the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, 22 October 1957. She decommissioned 24 February 1958 and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Philadelphia, where she remained in reserve for 26 years.
Modernized at Avondale and Litton/Ingalls, Iowa was recommissioned 28 April 1984 under a Reagan Administration initiative to bring all four Iowa class battleships back into active service. Her "B" turret was badly damaged by a powder explosion in the center gun on 19 April 1989. The resulting blast overpressures, secondary explosions and fires killed 47 crewmen within the turret structure. The robustness of the turret assembly, which extended from the main deck to the keel, fortunately withstood the blast and prevented more widespread damage throughout the ship.
After her ammunition was unloaded, the Iowa underwent a limited ship repair. B Turret was trained in and its guns lowered using its own motors and gearing, which had not been destroyed by the explosion. The damaged internal structure of the turret, the rangefinders, and equipment of Turret B were removed to be reconditioned or replaced. The Naval Ordnance Station, Louisville, refurbished some of this equipment. Included in the reconditioned equipment were the rammer assembly, gunfire-control computer, control panel, switches, periscopes, and rangefinder. These were later stowed in Turret II or at the Naval Ordnance Station, Louisville, where they can be accessed for future use. The turret was sealed.
On 7 June 1989 the Iowa departed from Norfolk for her scheduled six-month deployment to Northem Europe and the Mediterranean. She became the flagship of the Sixth Fleet, as flag facilities had been completed during one of her shipyard availabilities in 1988-89, and continued in this capacity until relieved by the Belknap (CG-26). She returned to Norfolk in December 1989 to commence final repairs to Turret B. Although these repairs were authorized and funded, they were never completed. All damaged equipment in Turret B was reconditioned and scheduled to be returned to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for reinstallation on the Iowa. This included the optical rangefinder in the turret and the radar equipment.
Iowa was decommissioned on 26 October 1990, stricken 12 January 1995, and retained at Philadelphia Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility. She was moved to Newport RI on 18 September 1998 and used as a parts source and placed on donation hold for eventual preservation. On 4 Jan 1999 Congress ordered USS Iowa reinstated on the Naval Register for possible use in future conflicts (gunnery support). On 8 March 2001, Iowa was towed out of Narragansett Bay to Suisan Bay CA.
Iowa earned nine battle stars for World War II service and two for Korean service.
Big guns in action!