The M4 Sherman is a medium- size tank that was produced by the United States for use during World War II. This was the primary tank for allied forces during the war. The Sherman tanks saw combat in European and Pacific fronts, notably in Normandy. The Sherman tanks met with victory and defeat on the battlefield.
On April 18, 1941, the United States Armed Forces Board chose the design for the M4 Sherman tank. The first model of the M4 Sherman was finished on September 2, 1941. The original model included a side hatch that was later removed from the mass-produced version.
More than 50,000 Shermans were produced. There were around nine versions of the tank. Each version had different features that would make it better suited for different types of combat. For example, the M4A1, M4A2 and the M4A3 were all outfitted with a larger turret that gave it more capacity for antitank maneuvers. The M4(105) was outfitted with the first standard production 105mm. Howitzer. There were also differences in chassis size, engine size and hull material and thickness.
The U.S. lent a number of M4A1s to allied troops in Britain. The first Shermans to be used in the war were M4A1s, commanded by the British in the Second Battle of El Alamein in October of 1942. The U.S. first used the tanks during Operation Torch.
It was noticed by the American troops in the European Theater of War that the original 75mm. M3 guns were proving useless against the German Panther and Tiger tanks. They requested that Sherman’s with 76 mm. M1 guns be delivered to them. Despite this obvious flaw, the 75 mm. Sherman continued to be used, as well as the other models, until the end of the war.
The M4 (105) shells could easily destroy targets that Shermans equipped with the 75mm. couldn’t. The problem with the M4 (105) was that it was much slower and harder to maneuver. It was also much harder to hit small targets with the massive 105 mm. guns. The Shermans also encountered problems with the Panthers at long range. This was especially a problem on the beaches of Normandy. The Panther’s 75 mm. gun could easily penetrate the armor of the M4A1 at long range.
While the Sherman tanks did suffer many casualties in the European Theater of War, they were very successful on the Pacific front. They easily out-gunned and outmaneuvered Japanese tanks of that time.
Mechanically the Sherman tanks were sound. They were easy to repair and, due to their numbers, very easy to deploy. Thanks to allied troops superior air-force, the out-gunned Shermans were able to call in air-support to defeat enemy tanks that would have otherwise annihilated them.
Today the usefulness of these tanks in World War II is disputed. It is obvious that sheer numbers led them to play a huge role in the success of Allied forces. Unfortunately there were also a huge number of losses. Many allied veterans of World War II now refer to the Sherman tanks as “deathtraps”. It is safe to say that we can take their word for it.
Wikipedia, M4 Sherman, retreived 5/14/09, www.en.wikipedia.org/M4_Sherman