Tank Talk: The History of the Sherman Tank

Tank Talk: The History of the Sherman Tank

Named after the famous Civil War general, the Sherman tank was one of the big hitters of World War II. Producing over 50,000 units for the war effort, the American military was hopeful that this machine would be the answer to Allies' prayers, giving them the edge they needed over the mighty German Army’s heavy-hitting tactical units.

While there is no doubt that the Sherman tank was a significant player in WWII, it was not without its issues. However, regardless of its flaws, the Sherman remains an integral part of not just Americans’ military history, but, regardless of which side they found themselves on, it has also earned a place in the military history of every country involved in WWII.

Uncle Sam Says, “I Want You!”

In 1941, the M4 Sherman tank came into existence due to Brittan’s need for American military equipment to aid the European Allies' war effort. Even though the US was not involved in the War at this time, they did not ignore the call, and the military quickly went to work to develop a medium-size tank that could sufficiently take on their German counterparts.

The existing tanks battling it out for the Allies just did not have the firepower necessary to stand up to the heat the Germans were packing.

Roll Out!

In 1942, the M4 rolled out and was prepared for duty. A nine-cylinder, 400 hp engine powered the first version of this 30-ton Titan. Soon after, changes were made to the engine set up, and the M4 packed more power with a Ford GAA-V8 4-cycle 8-cylinder engine that came in at an impressive 500 hp.

The Sherman could reach speeds upwards of 30 mph and travel up to 120 miles without the need for refueling. Obviously created at a time before fuel efficiency became “a thing,” the M4 averages just over 1 mpg.

Bringing on the Boom…Kinda?

When it comes to the area of firepower, the Sherman tank’s delivery was thought to be mediocre at best. The M4 was equipped with a 76 mm M1A1 tank gun, 50-cal anti-aircraft gun, .30-caliber machine gun, and a bow-mounted .30-caliber machine gun.

While that might sound like an impressive amount of firepower, the Sherman didn’t provide as much bang for the buck as the Allies hoped. Eventually, the British and American military modified the artillery for the Sherman to give it more destructive power. Still, it did little more than make the tank sufficient for its mission. It was nothing special.

The Sherman’s Saving Grace

While the Sherman tank might have been deficient in firepower, the armor that surrounded the tank is what made it a viable opponent to its German counterparts. The M4’s armored defense included a 60 mm armored plating that served to protect the tank from enemy fire in a combat situation.

From the time the M4 entered the combat scene in North Africa in October of 1942, it was in every significant Allied campaign through the end of the war. It was used by many different countries, including China and Australia.

Let’s Talk Numbers

America produced close to 50,000 of these tanks in less than three years. Amazingly, this number surpassed the amount of tanks that the Germans made in a decade.

During the time these tanks were manufactured, the cost to produce one was around $33,000, which is the equivalent of approximately $550,000 per tank by today’s standard.

The Squad

The military members assigned to tank duty found themselves in quarters that were almost beyond confined. Usually manned by five crewmen, these men had to find a way to coexist in a way that would allow them to function as both essential members of the military and as human beings. This was often not an easy task because they were in this tight space together, even tighter than a submarine, for weeks on end when their missions required such.

As life was often dangerous, taxing, and stressful for the crewmen, they were often known to do things like name their individual tanks, thus making it more personable for them to be able to find common ground and help them to function as a unit who shared experiences together no one else would ever be able to fully understand.

The M4 Tank: The Sherman Vs. the Germans

The Sherman tank proved to be the little tank that could. It eventually allowed the Allies to not only take control of the Germans but win the war, ultimately saving countless lives, possibly even the world as we know it.

The Sherman tank remains an integral part of military history almost 70 years since it initially rolled onto the battlefield.

Though lighter on firepower than some tanks at the time, the Sherman provided enough power, speed, and protection to do a fine job and get the Allies where they ultimately needed to be.

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