M4 Sherman. Right tank for the wrong war?

Was the Sherman a bad tank?

  • Yes it was terrible. Italian machines were better.

    Votes: 15 20.8%
  • No it was not. It was invincible and could not be killed. The USA rules all!!

    Votes: 57 79.2%

  • Total voters
    72
It worked well enough. Not overly fancy and sometimes looked down on by elites/fanboys, but a reliable workhorse anyhow. Also not brilliance on wheels.
 
It was brilliant but not because of it's combat performance but because of it's astonishing reliability and ease of production. It maintained an availability rate twice that of the Panther and 40% more than the Cromwell and that was on a trans Atlantic supply line. Working good enough tanks beat broken down super tanks everytime.
 
It was the middle tank of the war, not good for tank on tank. But for infantry support and logistics it was a godsend for its versatility. You could do anything to it and it would work. Was it brilliant? No.

But was it good? Yes.
 
The Sherman Tank was made to be reliable, repairable and efficient for a medium tank.
It would have serve well from 1939 to 1942 but needed to be up-gun to a longer 75mm barrel and extra armour plus a stronger engine to keep it possibly more survivable in the field against the Panzer IV, Panther Pz V and Tiger Pz VI in 1943-45...

maybe or perhaps. (Ninja'd)
 
Between the two extremes. Automotive part was very good & reliable, comfortable for crew to fight ("We swapped our T-34s for Shermans, like jumping from tractors to jump in taxies", per an ex-Yu tanker), armament useful to very good, armor protection left something to be desired unless crew is in the Jumbo model. Upgradable and adaptable hull.
Reminds me a lot to the Spitfire, as a weapon of war - both have had far more stretch in the basic design than it was taken advantage from.
 

Deleted member 1487

I have heard it both ways. But really how good was the Sherman tank?
It was a decent tank, not nearly as bad as pop culture likes to present, but it ran into trouble against German AFVs designed for the Eastern Front, which were not the majority of enemy AFVs encountered. The Soviets really changed the AFV design game and left the US and Brits behind and forced the Germans to rapidly conform to the reality of what a modern AFV design should be. The US and Brits didn't have that pressure until encountering the Panther and Tigers. So the Sherman was a great western style design, but found that in terms of quality it was just outclassed by the German heavies and didn't have a tank to really compete with the reality of the new 40 ton and up medium AFV standard set in the East. The Pershing was their attempt to redress that balance. The Brits had their Comet, which was better than the standard Sherman in terms of mobility and gun, but the 76mm Sherman was better all around than the Comet. Really though the Germans got a jump on them by rushing the Panther before it was combat ready, while the Americans held back the Pershing because it was not yet ready. So had the Germans actually done the logical thing and make a similar design, say a sloped armor VK3001H with a longer 75, the M4 Sherman would have been just fine with the 76mm variant and in the same class. Instead Hitler demanded a revolutionary design, which was the 45 ton Panther, and leapfrogged what should have been the ideal tank for WW2, the M4.

Frankly though I think had the proposed 90mm M4 Sherman been put into service it would have been as good if not better than the T-34/85 all things considered (worse mobility due to narrower tracks, but better crew space, frontal armor, gun, etc.). In the end it was a fine tank that was left to shoulder the burden when the Tank Destroyer Doctrine did not play out properly and the US didn't have the Pershing ready at the time it was needed in late 1944. Now the Brits were rather hopeless with their tank designs and the Sherman doesn't get the credit it deserves for setting the Wallied AFV standard. Plus the US got the Pershing into service before the Brits got the Centurion out there. I think the Pershing was somewhat better than the Centurion too, even after the 20 pounder upgrade and the Pershings flaws. It proved quite upgradeable into the M48.
 
It was a decent tank, not nearly as bad as pop culture likes to present, but it ran into trouble against German AFVs designed for the Eastern Front, which were not the majority of enemy AFVs encountered. The Soviets really changed the AFV design game and left the US and Brits behind and forced the Germans to rapidly conform to the reality of what a modern AFV design should be. The US and Brits didn't have that pressure until encountering the Panther and Tigers. So the Sherman was a great western style design, but found that in terms of quality it was just outclassed by the German heavies and didn't have a tank to really compete with the reality of the new 40 ton and up medium AFV standard set in the East. The Pershing was their attempt to redress that balance. The Brits had their Comet, which was better than the standard Sherman in terms of mobility and gun, but the 76mm Sherman was better all around than the Comet. Really though the Germans got a jump on them by rushing the Panther before it was combat ready, while the Americans held back the Pershing because it was not yet ready. So had the Germans actually done the logical thing and make a similar design, say a sloped armor VK3001H with a longer 75, the M4 Sherman would have been just fine with the 76mm variant and in the same class. Instead Hitler demanded a revolutionary design, which was the 45 ton Panther, and leapfrogged what should have been the ideal tank for WW2, the M4.

Frankly though I think had the proposed 90mm M4 Sherman been put into service it would have been as good if not better than the T-34/85 all things considered (worse mobility due to narrower tracks, but better crew space, frontal armor, gun, etc.). In the end it was a fine tank that was left to shoulder the burden when the Tank Destroyer Doctrine did not play out properly and the US didn't have the Pershing ready at the time it was needed in late 1944. Now the Brits were rather hopeless with their tank designs and the Sherman doesn't get the credit it deserves for setting the Wallied AFV standard. Plus the US got the Pershing into service before the Brits got the Centurion out there. I think the Pershing was somewhat better than the Centurion too, even after the 20 pounder upgrade and the Pershings flaws. It proved quite upgradeable into the M48.
Interestingly there are memories of Soviet tank commander who was commanding L-L Shermans. He preferred it over T-34. ;)
 

Deleted member 1487

Interestingly there are memories of Soviet tank commander who was commanding L-L Shermans. He preferred it over T-34. ;)
Yeah I think the T-34 is overrated, because most of what gets passed down is received German 'wisdom' on the issue, who only considered the gun, armor, mobility advantages of them and how they bounced so many German shells, while being able to kill in a single shot if they could get one off. Then the T-34/85 was quite the weapon by the end. I think the Sherman was much better than the T-34/76 though, despite the lower ground pressure, greater mobility, and better all around armor sloping, as the main gun was just as good, had the three man turret and much more room overall, had better frontal armor, and was more reliable. Plus the crew had better survival odds. The T-34/85 changed things somewhat, but the 76mm Sherman would give it a run for it's money, while the 90mm Sherman would be better IMHO. Also apparently the Soviets themselves ranked the 1943 Panzer IV as better than the 1943 T-34/76 all around, so they'd certainly consider the M4 Sherman better, which was a better all around tank than the Pz IV.
 
The Sherman did its job and did it well. It didn't have the thickest armor or the biggest gun in the ETO but it got to the battlefield more reliably than anything else and it outperformed its opposition more often than not. Looking at paper the Panther might seem like a better medium tank, but looking at statistics and detailed reports stripped of anecdotal story-telling the Sherman actually came out on top. Granted this probably has more to do with the Americans having better crews in '44/'45 but it was still a good machine.
 
The USA build around 50000 M4 Sherman

At Right time at right place: 1942 North Africa and Italy. Here they were Superior to Wehrmacht Panzer III and IV, for the Germans was M4 Sherman a unpleased Surprise
here the Pentagon made fatal mistake, not go for further tank development of Heavier Tank believing M4 is match them all.

But in !944 the M4 became inferior, the Germans came up with Heavier Tanks like Panzer V the Tiger and Königstiger.
Lucky for US troops the Germans could only build low numbers and they had almost no petrol to drive them, they mostly found a Königstiger as roadblock!
Also use the US Tank destroyer battalions mutual support from numerical superiority and with support from large numbers of fighter-bombers and the Bazooka

what Albert Speer had to say on M4
On the southwestern front (Italy) reports on the cross country mobility of the Sherman have been very favorable.
The Sherman climbs mountains our tank experts consider inaccessible to tanks. One great advantage is that the Sherman has a very powerful motor in proportion to its weight.
Its cross-country mobility on level ground is, as the 26th Panzer Division reports, definitely superior to that of our tanks (Panzer III and Panzer IV,)
 

Driftless

Donor
For it's many deficiencies, it was adaptable enough to be used as significant weapon in several wars from the '40's into the 70's. Considering the technological advancements of that time range - pretty good.
 

Deleted member 1487

The Sherman did its job and did it well. It didn't have the thickest armor or the biggest gun in the ETO but it got to the battlefield more reliably than anything else and it outperformed its opposition more often than not. Looking at paper the Panther might seem like a better medium tank, but looking at statistics and detailed reports stripped of anecdotal story-telling the Sherman actually came out on top. Granted this probably has more to do with the Americans having better crews in '44/'45 but it was still a good machine.
That and having a much smaller army with an avalanche of material and high quality, well trained manpower. Having a 100 division army with no more than 15 armored for a nation with double the population of Germany, which had over 300 divisions and several dozen armored divisions, enabled them to have excellent logistics and service support, especially when working in Western or Southern Europe where there was excellent infrastructure to supply them. Having excellent logistics and support services, plus a huge material reserve, is almost as important as having a technically sound AFV design; I bet if the gave the US military the Panther tank they could have had it running nearly as well as the M4 Sherman due to having their logistics, production, and service base behind it to keep it going.

here the Pentagon made fatal mistake, not go for further tank development of Heavier Tank believing M4 is match them all.
First of all a nit pick, the Pentagon didn't exist in WW2, it was the War Department long before they built the Pentagon office in the Cold War. Second the US army did develop many heavy tank designs, the problem is that none were ready until 1945 and even then the Pershing wasn't really technically sound yet, but was rushed into service for combat testing.
 
The US 90mm was not that good, the 17pdr and the 77mm were much better. The US never wanted a tank for anti-tank work, that was the job for Tank Destroyers! Another reason the Pershing was not deployed to Europe was the US army didn't want to complicate their logistics.

The main drawbacks of the Sherman was its high silhouette and petrol engine. One of the mods many countries carried out was fitting a diesel engine admittedly often for reasons of improved cross country performance and weight escalation.
 

Deleted member 1487

The US 90mm was not that good, the 17pdr and the 77mm were much better. The US never wanted a tank for anti-tank work, that was the job for Tank Destroyers! Another reason the Pershing was not deployed to Europe was the US army didn't want to complicate their logistics.

The main drawbacks of the Sherman was its high silhouette and petrol engine. One of the mods many countries carried out was fitting a diesel engine admittedly often for reasons of improved cross country performance and weight escalation.
Not that much better in what way, armor piercing? They did develop APDS rounds for them that fixed that deficiency. The problem with the 76-77mm were the same that the German 'long' sniper cannons had: they had really crappy high explosive rounds because they moved too fast. That is why the Soviets opted for the intermediate 85mm cannon that did both well, but did not have as good of an AP value as the KWK42 Panther gun, because it wasn't a one trick pony. A 90mm gun could do both jobs well and with the HVAP or APDS round it would have a better AP value than the 76 or 77. For that reason the Firefly variant of the Sherman was only ever 1/4th of a tank company or battalion, because the gun was specialized for armor sniping and sucked at all other jobs. The Germans had a serious problem during the Battle of the Bulge when Panthers were called on to fire HE against non-armored targets and found that their HE shells couldn't even deal with a stone building.

The Pershing not being deployed for logistics issues is a myth. It wasn't deployed because the army rejected it for mechanical reasons. It hadn't overcome it's mechanical issues, so was kept out of the fight. They did send them anyway in January 1945 and then they required significant field servicing to get them combat ready, but then were only able to use them in limited fashion. The army certainly wanted them, they just were not reliable enough to put into the field until 1945.

Also the Sherman was not much higher than the Panzer IV, about 2 inches. It was 10 inches shorter than the Panther. The petrol engine was just fine. In non-Soviet conditions diesel doesn't really have that much of an advantage. Yes fuel consumption was somewhat higher, but it wasn't a major draw back for the fuel rich Americans.
 
The US 90mm was not that good, the 17pdr and the 77mm were much better. The US never wanted a tank for anti-tank work, that was the job for Tank Destroyers! Another reason the Pershing was not deployed to Europe was the US army didn't want to complicate their logistics.

The main drawbacks of the Sherman was its high silhouette and petrol engine. One of the mods many countries carried out was fitting a diesel engine admittedly often for reasons of improved cross country performance and weight escalation.
The 90mm M3 not only had far superior penetration to the 17pdr, it also was good for HE, something that the 17pdr was notoriously awful at.

You're repeating some stale myths about the US tank doctrine and the Sherman. The idea that tanks were not supposed to fight tanks is explicitly contradicted in US Army operations manuals, written at the behest of General MacNair himself. Tanks are expected to fight tanks, and tank crews were trained to this effect. They also must support infantry, breakthrough and exploit, deal with anti-tank weapons, enemy infantry and fortifications.

The tank destroyer arm were meant to stop breakthroughs by enemy tanks, thus preserving tank forces for counterattack and exploit. To this end, they were designed to be cheap, mobile and specialized for anti-tank work, while tanks were generalists.

Petrol engines were not a design flaw. Given the supply situation, and the supply availability of gasoline, this made great logistical sense, and it allowed trucks and tanks to run on the same fuel. Without dieseling the entire inventory, there was no reason at the time to contemplate a diesel tank.
 
The US 90mm was not that good, the 17pdr and the 77mm were much better. The US never wanted a tank for anti-tank work, that was the job for Tank Destroyers! Another reason the Pershing was not deployed to Europe was the US army didn't want to complicate their logistics.

The main drawbacks of the Sherman was its high silhouette and petrol engine. One of the mods many countries carried out was fitting a diesel engine admittedly often for reasons of improved cross country performance and weight escalation.
The 17pdr is overrated even more than German guns. It had a lot of oomph and could open up any German tank from the front like a can of sardines, but the accuracy was poor, they had little to no HE capability, and the tanks that carried it had little room in the turret for the gun which made operating the thing a nightmare. The British only used it on some tanks and td's because they were desperate. The US rejected the gun as being unnecessary, the 76mm could do just about as good a job at punching through big cats with HVAP ammo, which admittedly wasn't as plentiful as a lot of tankers would've preferred.

That said, the idea that US tank doctrine was not about fighting tanks is another myth, American tanks were designed with both anti-infantry and anti-tank roles in mind, the TDs were supposed to be the main tank-killers but the other tanks were far from defenseless. Why else would they have had a gun that was good at taking out German tanks? Also I call bull on the high silhouette as well, it wasn't uniquely tall compared to any other tank from the 1940's. AFAIK it was shorter than the big cats, and only barely taller than the PzIV. Also, German tanks used gasoline as well, the Sherman's fuel wasn't a unique weakness. It acquired a reputation for burning because British crews early on tended to leave ammo all over the place, but after the Americans started using wet ammo storage it was one of the safest tanks to be in. I think on average there was one casualty each time a Sherman was knocked out.

EDIT: Damn, looks like I was double-ninja'd. Well at least we found a surefire way to get quick responses in a tank thread. ;)
 
Yeah I think the T-34 is overrated, because most of what gets passed down is received German 'wisdom' on the issue, who only considered the gun, armor, mobility advantages of them and how they bounced so many German shells, while being able to kill in a single shot if they could get one off. Then the T-34/85 was quite the weapon by the end.

The T-34 was right tool for Red Army
mass produce, Simple and easy Tank (80,000 units) high mobility special during the Russian mud season, were A Panzer III had difficulty to drive and Panzer IV sank into mud.
Off couse the Soviet had unpleased surprise of Panter and the Tiger and Königstiger. But they simply build a bigger gun into T-34 (T-34-85)
but it was T-34 production rate (max 1200/Month in 1944), what was the deciding factor winning the Great Patriotic War
production figures for all German Panther types reached only 6,557. and for all Tiger types 2,027. while the T-34-85 alone reached 22,559.
means Germans tanks had to faces a supremacy of T-34 on east front.
if the Wehrmacht had petrol to drive those gas guzzler tanks, while the T-34 drive on diesel...
 

Deleted member 1487

The 17pdr is overrated even more than German guns. It had a lot of oomph and could open up any German tank from the front like a can of sardines, but the accuracy was poor, they had little to no HE capability, and the tanks that carried it had little room in the turret for the gun which made operating the thing a nightmare. The British only used it on some tanks and td's because they were desperate. The US rejected the gun as being unnecessary, the 76mm could do just about as good a job at punching through big cats with HVAP ammo, which admittedly wasn't as plentiful as a lot of tankers would've preferred.

That said, the idea that US tank doctrine was not about fighting tanks is another myth, American tanks were designed with both anti-infantry and anti-tank roles in mind, the TDs were supposed to be the main tank-killers but the other tanks were far from defenseless. Why else would they have had a gun that was good at taking out German tanks? Also I call bull on the high silhouette as well, it wasn't uniquely tall compared to any other tank from the 1940's. AFAIK it was shorter than the big cats, and only barely taller than the PzIV. Also, German tanks used gasoline as well, the Sherman's fuel wasn't a unique weakness. It acquired a reputation for burning because British crews early on tended to leave ammo all over the place, but after the Americans started using wet ammo storage it was one of the safest tanks to be in. I think on average there was one casualty each time a Sherman was knocked out.

EDIT: Damn, looks like I was double-ninja'd. Well at least we found a surefire way to get quick responses in a tank thread. ;)
The 17 pounder was VERY accurate with regular rounds, so I'm not sure why you think it wasn't, other than the APDS rounds. Those were inaccurate because the Brits had yet to perfect sabot separation until post-war, but they were fine out to about 1000 meters; in Western Europe most AFV combat happened within 8-900 meters, so it wasn't a liability. Even without APDS the 17lber was able to kill pretty effectively with normal AP except at longer ranges against the Panther and Tiger I frontally and the Tiger II at normal combat ranges. That is where the APDS round came in. That said everything else you wrote was spot on. The US 76mm was basically a US 17 pounder.

The T-34 was right tool for Red Army
mass produce, Simple and easy Tank (80,000 units) high mobility special during the Russian mud season, were A Panzer III had difficulty to drive and Panzer IV sank into mud.
Off couse the Soviet had unpleased surprise of Panter and the Tiger and Königstiger. But they simply build a bigger gun into T-34 (T-34-85)
but it was T-34 production rate (max 1200/Month in 1944), what was the deciding factor winning the Great Patriotic War
production figures for all German Panther types reached only 6,557. and for all Tiger types 2,027. while the T-34-85 alone reached 22,559.
means Germans tanks had to faces a supremacy of T-34 on east front.
if the Wehrmacht had petrol to drive those gas guzzler tanks, while the T-34 drive on diesel...
Sure the T-34 was a Soviet ideal tank given their situation, much the same way the M4 was for the US. The T-34/85 still had a hard time against the German Cats, but that was because the 85mm was not a special AP weapon like the Panther gun or the Tiger II's was. The Germans built the Panther as a T-34 killer, the Soviets built the T-34/85 as an improved medium tank better able to keep up with the German mediums. I'd argue it wasn't even the rate of T-34 production that won the war, it was US strategic bombing keeping the Luftwaffe distracted and German production limited that enabled Soviet production (also a function of Lend-Lease resources, both machine tools and raw materials like steel and aluminum, the latter critical for the T-34 engine) to keep ahead of German ability to kill them. Remember in 1943 before strategic bombing really bit hard the Germans killed more Soviet tanks than the Soviets produced that entire year. As it was according to the Russian historian Krivosheev who worked on Soviet losses in WW2 the Soviets lost over 80,000 AFVs in WW2 as total write offs, not including damaged but repaired. Without US Lend-Lease and efforts to disrupt German production and distract the Luftwaffe the Soviets Soviet AFV production couldn't have kept ahead of the German ability to kill Soviet AFVs. Plus the invasion of France pulled in over 2000 German AFVs right before Operation Bagration, which meant the German strategic reserve of armor wasn't available for the 2nd half of 1944 through the end of WW2 to intervene in the East.
 
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