The Sherman M4 Tank was the most commonly used American tank in WWII and the most widely used tank series among the Western Allies. Nearly 50,000 Shermans were produced between 1942 and 1945, and they served American, British, Free French, and Canadian forces. At the start of the war, it was quickly realized that Allied forces couldn’t compete with the German use of fast-moving armored formations. Following the fall of France, the US War Department authorized the development of a new tank and the States’ first armored divisions. By the bombing of Pearl Harbor a year later, the US already had five armored divisions organized and training. Preceding the M3 Grant/ Lee medium tank, named after Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant, the M4 was named after his subordinate William Tecumseh Sherman.
The Sherman was known to be a versatile and reliable tank that prioritized speed and mobility over gunpower and durability. With armor ranging in only 12mm-75mm thickness and sporting a 75mm gun, the tank was light but easily outgunned by German Tiger, Panther, and King Tiger tanks. While the Germans continued pushing to develop new tank technology, America maintained its strategy of mass production and utilized the Sherman’s strength in numbers. The tank excelled beyond the German tanks in its ability to be maintained and even repaired on the battlefield. Appliqué armor, or add-on armor of any material that could protect the vehicle from weapons capable of breaching the original armor, was widely used to make the tank more competitive. Modifications to the vehicles were also common like a system of rotors and chains for clearing paths through minefields and plows for breaking through hedgerows. The most famous modification was called the Duplex Drive, or DD, and was fitted with extendable skirts that gave it the buoyancy to launch from landing crafts and make its way to shore. In the later months of the war, Sherman acquired the nickname “Ronson” after a lighter with the slogan “lights every time” once the US Army started mounting flamethrowers on them.
A typical Sherman M4 weighed in around 33 tons and was capable of max speeds ranging from 24-29mph. Their main armament was a short-barreled, low-velocity 75-mm gun with a range of 100-150 miles. They were typically manned by a crew of five, consisting of a commander, gunner, loader, driver, and codriver/hull gunner, and ran on 425-horsepower gas engines.
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