The M4 Series Models


The production of the M4A1 started in February 1942 with a British contract. The first tanks were built at Lima Locomotive Works and a month later also at the Pressed Steel Car Company. The first models had many features from the original prototypes.

M4A1 prototype, built at the
Pacific Car and Foundry Company, in June 1942

During the production adjustments were made. The two fixed .30 machineguns were deleted and the pistolport on the righthand side of the turret was deleted. To protect the air intake a steel plate was placed 3 inches above the motor deck. A complete refurbished model was built by the Pacific Car and Foundry Company. This was tested in May 1942 at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

This M4A1 is preserved in Overloon, Holland

The engine of the M4A1 was the Continental R975 C1. The early models lacked the extra protective cover for the transmission. Later models had welded steel plates on the sides were the shells were stored. These were deleted when the 'Wet Storage' was introduced (see the M4A3). Later models were equipped with a gun traveling lock to secure the cannon during transit. The siren had an original place on the left mudguard, but was later moved to the middle of the front plate. When the gun traveling lock was introduced, the siren moved of center in front of the driver where it was protected by a clasp (see picture above). A total of 9707 M4A1's were built. 6281 had the 75mm cannon and 3426 the 76mm. The British named the M4A1 the Sherman II (with the 76mm the Sherman IIA).

Total built M4A1 medium tanks: 9707
6281 with 75mm (Sherman II), built form February 1942 - December 1943
3426 with 76mm(W) (Sherman IIA), built from January 1944 - July 1945

A later M4A1, Musée Memorial de la Bataille de Normandie, Bayeux

In August 1943 a production was started at the Montreal Locomotive Works in Canada under de designation Grizzly I Cruiser tank. In Januari 1944 the production was stopped after 188 built Grizzly’s. After the war some 55 were delivered to the Portugese Army. When these were retired in 1980, some of these Grizzly’s went to collectors. The Grizzly became in percentage of still running M4A1’s more then the US built version (6281).

A preserved Grizzly I (notice the tracks, these are Canadian Dry Pin tracks)
(Foto: Zala Photos, through http://silverhawkauthor.com/

The M4A1 proved to be good basis for adjustments. Even after the war this type was sold to many foreign army's. France bought the most M4A1 76mm's with a total 1254. When the Korean war broke out, America could not deliver enough 76mm export M4A1's and decided to use M4A1 and M4A3 with the 75mm guns to rebuild these to 76mm standard. Pakistan bought the most of these hybrid tanks, 547 M4's.

This ex-France M4A1(W)76 was restored in Holland

After the war in Europe a couple of hundred M4's stayed behind and found there way on the black arms market. Israel was one of the greater buyers from this source. With the help of the French these were rebuilt and became known as the M50 and the M51 Super Sherman. The M50 was given a upgraded French 75mm cannon based on the German Panther and the M51 was given the D1504 105mm cannon. These tanks served well into the nineties of the last century, before they were sold off to South-America and Africa (where they still may roam). A great achievement for a more than 60 year old design!

The final standard version of the M4A1E8 76mm
(at the tank museum in Saumur, France)


A middel production model of the M4
(with the return rollers on top of the bogie)

It was produced a little later than the M4A1, but because of the continuity it starts my listing as first. This is the original version with the welded hull and Continental R975 engine. The production started in July 1942 at the Pressed Steel Car Company. Because of the welded hull there was a little more room inside to store ammunition, 97 grenades against the 90 in the M4A1. The first models had original bogies from the M3, but in the summer of 1942 the heavier bogies with the return rollers were installed.

Total built M4 medium tanks: 8389
6748 with 75mm (Sherman I), built from July 1942 - January 1944
1641 with 105mm (Sherman IB), built from February 1944 - March 1945

M4 with the 105mm howitzer in Bastogne, Belgium

Because of the vulnerable front of the transmission, on later models of the M4 a cast protective cover was installed (see picture below).

A late model M4 as monument in Wiltz, Luxemburg

With the British the version was known as the Sherman I (with a 'B' attached, it was equipped with a 105mm howitzer). There was also a M4 with a cast hull that was produced in Detroit, and was known as the Sherman Hybrid I.

A restored M4 Sherman Hybrid I from the Detroit Tank Arsenal
(the front side has a cast hull, and the rear is welded)


This version with the welded hull used the General Motors 6046 diesel engines. Original designed for the M3A2 medium tank, it was also suitable for the M4. It consisted of two parallel placed GM truck engines. The engines were superior to the Continental, but were sensitive to dirt and dust and asked a lot of maintenance.

Prototype of the M4A2, still with the fixed machineguns in the front

A prototype of the M4A2 was finished in April 1942 and was shipped to Aberdeen for testing. At the same time, the production was also started at the Fisher Tank Arsenal and the Pullman Standard Car Company. It was the first production of welded hulls (slightly earlier then the M4).

An early production model of the M4A2

The first models had still the early suspension and the two fixed machineguns at the front. During testing adaptations were made to the M4A2. To speed up the production some features were welded to the front plate, such as the protruding pieces for the driver and co-driver. Also the antenna socket was welded onto the front plate. It’s a good point to recognize the M4A2 from the other M4's.

Detail of the welded armor on the M4A2

Original the M4 had two pistolports on the turret, but during production this was brought back to just the one on the left. In February 1943 it was decided to eliminate the pistolports all together. But reports from the field suggested that the pistolport was dearly missed. In July 143 instructions were given to re-install the pistolport. Early 1944 the pistolport re-appeared on the production tanks. An example of a M4A2 without the pistolports is featured below, in the story of the M4A2 'Massaouah' at Ecouché, France.

The M4A2 'Massaouah' in Ecouché

The French army also made good use of the M4A2 during their campaign in France in 1944. Of the many monuments that feature a tank, their history is often not retraceable. From one of these monument their origins is known. On August 13, 1944 the 1st Company of the 501st Régiment de Chars de Combat (RCC) of the 2nd DB, rolled into the town of Ecouché, a town some 5 miles west of Argentan. One of the tanks in this outfit is the M4A2 ’Massaouah’. The tank takes a position in the west of town to lay in ambush for the retreating German army. Sometime later a German PZ.Kpfw. IV of the 116th Panzer is spotted by the crew of ‘Massaouah’. The Pz.Kpfw.IV is busy manoeuvring itself in a firing position, but it is immediately put out of action by ‘Massaouah‘ from a distance of 800 meters before it could fire a shot.

The 'Massaouah' with four hits

On August 15, the ‘Massaouah’ was still in the outskirts of Ecouché. The men of the company where taken a rest after the heavy fighting of the last days. The ’Massaouah’ and the M4A2 ’Bir Hakeim’ were standing guard, while the other tanks were receiving maintenance. Suddenly some German guns, concealed in the woods, opened up on them from the other side of the river Orne in the northeast. The first shot missed their target, but the second smashed into ’Bir Hakeim’. A third grenade penetrated the ’Massaouah’ near the place where the ammo was stored and the tank is burning. Other tanks try to counter attack, but for the ‘Massaouah’ it’s to late, she’s lost. Sergeant-major Mahaeo was thrown clear from the turret, but is not wounded, just as the driver Ancel. The gunner is wounded in the chest, while radio operator and second driver, Léonard, breaks a leg. Sergeant-major Mahaeo will later be killed while operating from ’Massaouh II’.

The size of the hit from a German shell

The ’Massaouah’, her name comes from a victory by the Foreign Legion in Eritrea, was saved after the war by the mayor before the scrap dealers could chop her up. She was moved just a few meters from where she came to grieve and stands proud as a memory to the men who freed Ecouché. On the portside of the M4A2 you can see four hits from German guns. She looks remarkably well, only the rubber of the tracks is almost rotted away.

The last version of the M4A2 with the 47 degrees front plate

The last major adaptation for the M4A2 was the introduction of a steeper front plate made out of a single piece of steel. The original plate was placed under 56 degrees, the new one under 47 degrees. The protruding hoods for the driver and co-driver became obsolete. They were given instead bigger hatches on top of the tank. From M4A2 number 3793 an extra hatch was installed on top of the turret for the loader of the gun.

Old and new cavalry, M4A2 tanks in the Soviet Red Army

In March 1942 was decided that American troops should not use tanks with diesel engines, only gasoline. So, the M4A2 was only used by Amercans during training in the US. There was one exeption, the US. Marine Corps used the M4A2 at Okinawa later on in the war.

Through the Land-Lease these versions were shipped to Soviet Union and Great Britain.

The last version of the M4A2, was the M4A2E8(76) with the HVSS track system. This type also saw no service in the US Army, but was just used as training vehicle in the States. Some of the M4A2E8(76) were sent over to the British, the Soviets and the Canadian army (Canada had in 1946 249 of this type). On the outside is similar to the M4A3E8(76). Biggest difference is to be found on the engine deck. The M4A2E8 has a smaller engine hatch than that of the M4A3. This was because the M4A2 had the V-Ford GAA engine installed.

Total built M4A2 medium tanks: 10.968
8053 with 75mm (Sherman III), built from April 1942 - May 1944
2915 with 76mm(W) (Sherman IIIA), built from May 1944 - May 1945

For the next chapter on the M4 Sherman tank,