M4 SHERMAN MEDIUM TANK
'LITTLE BRAVEHEART'

M4A3

In January 1942 the Ordnance Committee gave permission to use the 500 hp. 8 cylinder V-Ford GAA engine to be used in the M4. The first M4A3 was born. The first prototypes were built at the Ford Motor Company in May 1942. Tested at the General Motors Proving Grounds some adjustments were made and the M4A3 was recommended for production.

The first M4A3 during testing in May 1942

The first production M4A3’s, built by Ford, looked identical to the M4 and the M4A2 with the welded hull. For the big difference look at the engine cover on the reardeck. The one on the M4A3 is much larger. Fort seized production of the M4A3 in September 1943 after 1690 were built. Other manufactures took the production over.

Below is the difference obvious between the M4A3 and the M4A2
when you look at the enginecover

M4A2 with the General Motors 6046 diesel engine/FONT>

M4A3 with the 8 cilinder V-Ford GAA engine

Early 1943 there were such many changes made to the M4A3 that almost a complete new tank was produced. Especially the 47 degrees front plate and ‘Wet Stowage’ for the ammo saw the birth of the ultimate M4A3.

An M4A3 as a monument in Bastogne, Belgium

The M4A3 was the first tank to receive a turret with better protection for the 75mm shells. Had the previous models a ‘dry’ storage, the M4A3 with the 75mm saw the introduction of the ‘Wet Stowage’. Because of the danger of explosions when the tank was hit, the shells were placed in tubes filled with water and glycerin.

An M4A3 76(W) as a monument in Beffe, Belgium

With the production of the new turret and hull with the 'Wet Stowage' system for the 76mm gun, the M4A3 with the 75mm cannon was also adapted. After the production for the M4A3's, the new turret stayed in production for the previous production M4's. Because of the 'Wet Stowage' the extra armour protection on the side of the Sherman was deleted.

The rear with the exhaust and engine compartment door

The frontplate of the welled hull was placed steeper, 47 degrees. The production was a lot simpler and the driver and co-driver their hatch became larger. At the front of the hull a gun lock was placed to support the cannon when the tank was transported. Together with the M4 and the M4A1, the M4A3 became the most widely used tank in the American arsenal.

An M4A3 near Phalsbourg (note the 47 degree frontplate)

The M4A3 was not delivered in great numbers to other countries. The British army gave the M4A3 the name Sherman IV. With the 76mm cannon there was an extra ‘A’ added (Sherman IVA). Some M4A3's with the 105mm howitzer were delivered to the British, these became known as the Sherman IVB. The total production of the M4A3 was 13.274. Of these, 4542 were delivered with the 76mm cannon and 3039 with 105mm howitzer. The other 5093 were equipped with the standard 75mm cannon.

Total built M4A3 medium tanks: 12.596
1690 with 75mm (Sherman IV), built from June 1942 - September 1943
3071 with 75mm(W) (Sherman IV), built from January 1944 - March 1945
4542 with 76mm(W) (Sherman IVA), built from March 1944 - April 1945
3039 with 105mm (Sherman IVB), built from May 1944 - June 1945
254 M4A3E2 (Jumbo), built from June 1944 - July 1944

The last version of the M4A3 105mm
with the improved mufflers and the HVSS suspension


M4A3E2 ‘JUMBO’

Of the 5015 M4A3's (with the 75mm cannon) that were built, 254 of these tanks were known as the M4A3E2. These tanks were especially developed to give support to the infantry in Normandy. They had extra armor at the front what brought the thickness to 4 inches (10 cm).

An M4A3E2 'JUMBO'

It also had a new turret with a thickness at the front of 6 inches (15 cm). With the extra armor plating the weight got from 33 tons to 42 tons. Some of these M4A3E2's were in the field refitted with the 76mm cannon.

A preserved M4A3E2 'JUMBO'
(note the heavy armor plating)


M4A4

A M4A4 preserved in Normandië

This M4 had a Chrysler A57 multibank 30-cylinder gasoline engine. It consisted of five ´flathead‘ blocks with 6 cylinders in each one. The five engins were connected in a sort of pentagram configuration. These engines made 2850 r/pm and produced around 425hp.

The Chrysler A57 multibank 30-cylinder gasoline engine

Because of the size of the engine the rear of the M4A4 was streched. At first sight, the M4A4 looks identical to the M4, but the streched lenght and the engine cover of the M4A4 gives it away.

Below the evidence is clear that this is an M4A4

M4A4 with the Chrysler A57 multibank 30-cylinder engine

M4 with Continental R975 engine
(with a protective armoured plate atop the engine cover)

The maintenance was complicated on these engines and this version was the first who was faced-out of production in September 1943. A total of 7499 were built, all with the 75mm cannon. A great portion, 7167, found it's way to the British army were it was known as the Sherman V. Two were sent to the Soviet Union and 274 to other users.

Total built M4A4 medium tanks:
7499, all with 75mm (Sherman V) built from July 1942 - September 1943

A British Sherman Mk V (M4A4) in Normandië

Below is a fascinating picture of an M4A4 which was put out of action in Villers-Bocage, Normandy. The tank belongs to the 5th Royal Horse Artillery, 7th Armoured Division and was brought ashore on LCT 3517. Another feature is the number '33'. This was the weight of the tank which was important for crossing bridges (would it hold or not?). Painted by hand in white was the number '16030', which was the mobilization number.

These are the first things you may notice. But when you look closer, you notice the barrel of the gun is blown out of the turret. The barrel, together with the mask, is in front of the tank,… When you look closer, you see that the barrel is made out of wood. This is a Observation Post (OP) from K Battery under command by Major Dennis Wells. The real gun was removed to create more space in the turret. The tank was put out of action on June 13, 1944 by a shot from the Tiger of the famous German ace SS-Obersturmbahnführer Michael Wittmann. A first shot landed just in front of the Sherman, but the second was a hit. The entry hole of the armoured piercing shell can be seen on the left side of the turret. The only man on board at the moment was the driver Charles 'Jock' Rae. He managed to escape through the hatch in the floor of the Sherman, but was then hit by shrapnel just below the knee. But Rae managed to return to his own troops, where he was treated for his wounds.

A late model M4A4 can be found at the Airborne Museum in Oosterbeek, Holland

A good preserved example of an M4A4 can be found at the former Hartenstein Hotel in Oosterbeek (near Arnhem) in Holland. This is now the great Airborne Museum that has on show some great artefacts from Operation Market-Garden. The tank was placed te commemorate the struggle of the 1st British Airborne who fought here a desperate fight for survival. They were waiting for the tanks of the XXX Corps, but they never came.

The rear of the M4A4 at the Airborne Museum in Oosterbeek, Holland


M4A5 'RAM'

A 'RAM I'

This type was developed and built in Canada. It was a mix of American and British idea's. The RAM had a large hatch at the front for the driver and a little turret with a machinegun was installed on the port side, next to the driver. Of the RAM I 50 were produced. It had a 2 pounder gun. The RAM II had a 6 pounder gun and was known in the USA Army inventory first as the Medium Tank M3 (Cannadian) but became the M4A5 (even M4A6 was considered). Later models of the RAM II had the pistolports deleted. Of the RAM II 1899 were built at the Montreal Lcocmotive Works before the production was stopped in the summer of 1943. But it was not a success and never saw action. Instead, it became a great training vehicle.

An M4A5 'RAM II'

But the basis of the RAM was not thrown away. The chassis became useful for two new vehicles. One was for the 'Sexton', the British/Canadian version of the American selfpropelled howitzer M7. The British called the M7 the 'Priest' after the pulpit for the machine gunner on the starboard side. The Sexton had a 25 pounder howitzer.

The RAM was also the basis for the armored personal carrier 'Kangaroo'. It had the main turret and the sideway doors removed, but retained the original shape of the hull, with the small machinegun turret.

A RAM 'Kangaroo' personal carrier


M4E1 & M4A6

To replace the troublesome Chrysler engine, a model with the Caterpillar D200A Diesel engine was introduced. The D200A was an adaptation of the air cooled radial Wright G200 engine with fuel injection that was also capable of using other propellant like gasoline. Because of the size of the engine the hull of an M4A4, built at Chrysler at the Detroit Tank Arsenal, was used. The engine was that big that a bulge had to be made in the floor and the top of the deck of the tank. There were a lot of problems, but they were all overcome.

A test vehicle of an M4A6

On 28 January 1943 an order was given to produce a 1000 D200A engines. An other department of the Ordnance Committee re-named the D200A the Ordnance Engine RD1820 and 775 were to be built into the M4A4 for further testing. These production tanks were to be designated as the M4A6. But the production seized when only 75 were built (all with the 75mm gun). A change of re-thinking by the army and to concentrate production to the gasoline engine driven M4A3 halted the production.

Topview of the M4A6 (notice the bulge on the rear deck)

Ten production models of the M4A6 tanks were tested by the Armored Force at Fort Knox from March 1944. It was superior to all other M4 models. The fuel consumption was a lot better than with the other M4’s. When the production was finished, the M4A6 was placed with training units and the 777th Tank Battalion at Fort Knox. Not a single M4A6 went over sea (despite that, the model was called by the British the Sherman VII).

An M4A6 of the 777th Tank Battalion at Fort Knox

SHERMAN FIREFLY

A Sherman Mk Ic Firefly (M4, late model) in Holland

Approximately 2000 British Shermans were rebuilt to house the high velocity 17pdr (pounder) cannon. 600 of these were ready for action in June 1944. Called the Firefly it was the only Sherman that could attack a German Panther or Tiger tank. All types of M4's were used to house the 17pdr, but mostly it was a Sherman V. When the 17pdr was fitted it was designated with an extra 'C'. During the development of the Firefly there was a double machinegun installed in the front plate. But the use of the gun was restricted and the gun was dropped altogether and the hole welded over. To speed up the production the slits for the driver and the co-driver were also removed.

An M4A4 Firefly Mk Vc as monument at Tielt, Belgium
(Notice te covered hole for the frontale machinegun)
(Picture; Cyrian Ramon)

A Sherman Vc Firefly from 3 Troop, A Squadron, Northamptonshire Yeomanry (Sherman 12) was credited with the Tiger I of Michael Wittmann, when it was put out of action on 8 August 1944. The same Firefly destroyed two other Tigers during the fighting around St. Aignan de Cramesnil in Normandy. (Other sources claim the Tiger of Wittmann by a Typhoon , see for more info 'HERE').

A Sherman Firefly Mk Vc in German hands is being tested

There is some confusing on the numbers of produced Fireflies. But a reader of these pages, Bram Risseeuw, sent me the correct numbers (source: Sherman Firefly by Mark Hayward). Winston Churchill received the monthly numbers of produced Fireflies on a list. The list mentioned that from January 1944 until March 1945 a total of 2002 were produced. In the months after that a couple more were built. The June 1945 report of ‘RAC six-monthly Progress Report’ gives a final total of 2139. After the second World War there were just a few Firefly users. The biggest user was Argentina who had 206 in it’s arsenal. Belgium has some 200+ and Holland used 57 Fireflies. Paraguay received in 1971 three ex-Argentine Fireflies, the so called ‘repotenciado's’. In 1978 120 Argentina Sherman (Firefly)tanks were modernized when the tension between Chili and Argentina was building. The Shermans were given an FRT 105mm L44/57 gun and a Poyaud 520 8 cylinder V diesel engine of 450 hp. It had a speed of 48 km/h.

The Sherman tank is a populair tank with the modelmaker,
such as this Sherman Firefly Mk Vc from Matchbox


For the next chapter on the M4 Sherman tank

CLICK ON THE FIREFLY Mk Vc BELOW