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Category: Armour/Allied WW2

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Sherman Tank, under gunned, under armoured but simple & effective
Named for the famous US Civil War General, William Tecumseh Sherman, 1820/91. It was Sherman's Army that laid waste to Georgia and burned Atlanta on his "march to the sea". Like Sherman the tank overcame early difficulties to shine through at the end.
The American main battle tank during World War Two was the Sherman. This was a medium tank weighing 35 tons and armed with a 75mm, 40 calibre cannon. This gun was capable of punching through 3.7 inches of armour at 500 yards. The Sherman had an effective armour thickness of 2.8 inches in the front, 1.6 inches in the sides, and 1.4 inches in the rear. It carried a crew of five and had three machine guns.

The Sherman was a poor match for any of the German tanks against which it fought. Even the Panzer IV, the weakest of its opponents, had a more powerful gun. Against the Panther and the Tiger, the Sherman was hopelessly outclassed. The Panther and the Tiger had frontal armour of 4.8 and 4.0 inches respectively; thus, the Sherman's gun could not kill either tank in a head-to-head encounter, even at close range. The German guns were more powerful than the Sherman's; they could easily penetrate the Sherman's frontal armour even at great ranges.

The only chance a Sherman had against a Panther or a Tiger was to shoot it in the side or rear, where the armour was thinner. This required that the Sherman lay in wait and shoot its victims from hiding.

But the Sherman possessed two less obvious advantages: reliability and simplicity. These may not be very exciting traits, but in the heat of combat a little thing like a sticky clutch can be disastrous. A minor breakdown during a retreat can result in the complete loss of the tank. Such problems were rare with the Sherman. And their simplicity made it possible to manufacture them in astounding numbers.

  Over 49,000 Sherman tanks were built during World War Two -- more than all the tank production of the Third Reich for the entire war.

In March 1941 the United States Army decided it needed a new tank to replace the Grant M2A1. After looking at five different proposals the Sherman M4 was chosen. Production began early in 1942. The original armament was a 75mm gun capable of firing high explosive shells. Its 500hp engine had a maximum speed of 26mph. This was replaced by a 76mm high-velocity gun in February 1944. The tank's suspension was redesigned and improved by the beginning of 1945.

Although inferior to the best German and Soviet tanks in armament and protection, it was superior in terms of reliability, serviceability and cost-effectiveness. The British Army used the Sherman Tank at El Alamein in 1942 and by 1943 was the mainstay of Allied operations in Africa and Europe.


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