Share This Article

Power: 500-hp Ford GAA four-stroke V-8 water-cooled gasoline engine
Length: 24 feet 9 inches (with 76 mm gun)
Width: 8 feet 9 inches
Height: 11 feet 7/8 inches (to top of pintle stand)
Combat weight: 33 tons
Armament: 76 mm M1A1 rifled tank gun or 105 mm M4 howitzer, one turret-mounted .50-caliber anti-aircraft gun, one coaxial .30-caliber machine gun and one bow-mounted .30-caliber machine gun
   Road: 26 mph
   Cross country: 4–26 mph, depending on terrain
Maximum range: 100 miles
Crew: Five

Entering combat late in 1942, the M4 Sherman provided the U.S. Army with a solid, reliable medium tank. By 1943, however, it was clearly outgunned by the German Panther’s high-velocity 75 mm cannon and the Tiger’s fearsome 88 mm gun. The British modified some 2,000 of their Shermans to carry 17-pounders in what they called the Sherman Firefly, while the Americans likewise installed a 76 mm M1A1 high-velocity cannon in many of their M4s. The M4A3 featured a wider T23 turret with a partial platform for the gunner and commander.

Although the heavier, higher-velocity weapons improved the Sherman’s prospects against its German counterparts, they stressed its chassis to the limit. In an effort to provide a steadier and more mobile platform for them, the Americans in 1944 redesigned the chassis of the M4A3, replacing its original vertical volute spring suspension (VVSS) and 16.5-inch-wide track with horizontal volute spring suspension (HVSS) with a 23-inch wide track. Additionally, the cast hull was replaced by a roomier welded hull accommodating a wider T23 turret. In August 1944 the first of 2,617 M4A3E8s were built by the Detroit and Fisher’s Grand Blanc (Mich.) tank arsenals and entered combat just in time for the Battle of the Bulge that December.

Although not a definitive solution to enemy firepower, the improved “Easy Eight” Shermans, in coordination with their more numerous forebears, ample logistics and air support, overwhelmed German armor until the first M26 Pershing battle tanks arrived in Europe in January 1945. Moreover, “Easy Eight” Shermans proved efficient during the Korean War and in service for a dozen foreign armies. Israeli-modified versions made their last contribution to victory amid the Six-Day War in June 1967. MH