M-4 Sherman Medium Tank

These American M-4 Shermans of the 40th Tank Battalion, 7th Armored Division, wait for the German onslaught during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The M-4 Sherman Medium Tank was the mainstay of American armored forces during World War II and the Korean War. It saw service on every front: North Africa, northern Europe, the eastern front, and the Pacific campaigns.

Except for the Soviet T-34, the M-4 Sherman probably had a greater effect on the course of the war than any other tank, light, medium, or heavy.


One day after the M-3 Medium Tank -- always considered an interim model -- was ordered into production, design work started on a new medium tank to overcome the deficiencies of the M-3. The main differences lay in increased armor protection and a new turret of conventional design that allowed the main gun to traverse 360°.

Its design number was T-6, and it was accepted for production in September 1941 as the M-4 Medium Tank. When Germany invaded Russia in June 1941, President Roosevelt personally ordered tank production for 1942 doubled from 1,000 to 2,000 per month. As a result, 11 separate companies manufactured the M-4 in an amazing example of management and quality control skills.

The M-4 design used as much of the M-3's suspension, chassis, and power plant as possible. The new turret was a one piece, 3-inch-thick casting, rounded to maximize protection from enemy gunnery. The turret was also motor driven. The M-4's upper hull was cast in separate parts and welded together.

This cutaway of the M-4 Sherman shows the cramped and dangerous conditions in which tank crews operated during World War II.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The M2 75mm 31.5 caliber main gun was gyrostabilized and had a muzzle velocity of 1,850 feet per second, considered too low even then. The M3 main gun was approved in June 1941 but only reached the European theater in time to have a decisive effect during the Ardennes Offensive in December 1944. The M3 gun had a longer barrel than the M2 and produced a muzzle velocity of 2,030 feet per second.

Starting in August 1942, work on a new 76mm gun wavered until finally, in early 1943, the Armor Board approved its installation on new M-4s. In late 1942 tests were conducted on an M-4 armed with a 105mm howitzer. The tests proved so successful that more than 4,600 105mm armed M-4s were built.

The M-4's armor was the thickest that had ever been applied to an American tank until that time. It ranged from 3 inches on the turret front to a little less than 2 inches on the hull front to .25 inch on the top of the hull.

Armor was later supplemented by appliqué armor. Tank crews found dozens of ingenious ways to supplement the M-4's armor with chunks of timber, additional steel plates, and elaborate racks and fences holding sandbags.

See the next page to read about the M-4 Sherman Medium Tank service and modification.

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M-4 Sherman Medium Tank Service and Modification

At first, the M-4 Sherman was barely a match for the German Panzerkampfwagen V Panther. Its 75mm gun could penetrate the Panther's side and rear armor only.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

M-4 Sherman Medium Tank service and modification were needed to keep the tanks rolling.

As a result of relatively thin armor and the inferior design of ammunition storage, early M-4s tended to catch fire easily. To reduce the problem, ammunition storage racks were set lower in the hull and surrounded by jackets containing a water-glycerin mixture. The two-piece howitzer ammunition was enclosed by armor plating.


The M-4 entered service in late 1942, and its 75mm gun, which could punch through 2.5 inches of sloped armor, was a match for anything that Germany and Japan could field.

When the up-gunned M-4 with the 76mm gun appeared on the scene in 1944, it could penetrate a little more then 4 inches of armor sloped at 30° at a distance of 500 yards. The Panzerkampfwagen V Panther carried 3.14 inches maximum of armor.

The M-4 probably went through more modification and experimentation than any other American tank until that time. Suffice it to say that the M-4

Sherman -- named by the British -- was the most widely produced tank of the war, including the Russian T-34. A total of 49,230 Shermans were built.

A wide variety of main armament was mounted on the M-4, including flamethrowers, rockets, 155mm guns, and 204mm howitzers. A variety of tank destroyers were also built and armed with 76mm and 90mm main guns and heavier armor.

An M-4 Sherman with rocket launchers is shown here in 1944.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The M-4 was also used as a mine-clearance vehicle when equipped with flails and rollers. The most spectacular of these was the M-1 Aunt Jemima mine-clearance device that could be attached to the M-4.

The Aunt Jemima was a mechanical roller consisting of 10 ten-foot-diameter steel wheels divided into two pairs. They were chain driven by the M-4's front drive sprocket and rolled ahead of the tank.

The unit was very effective for clearing mined roads, but it was so heavy a second M-4 often had to push the first.

The M-4 saw service with a variety of United Nations forces during the Korean War, where it met the T-34 for the first time in battle. The M-4 was used by both sides in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 and by Egyptian and Israeli forces in 1948, 1956, and 1967.

The Israelis purchased many Shermans on the international arms market in the 1950s and received more from the United States in the form of military aid. Many were converted to Super Shermans and Ishermans with more powerful engines and heavier armor and main guns. Thousands of Shermans were distributed by the United States as military aid to friendly countries.

Find specifications for the M-4 Sherman Medium Tank on the next page.

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M-4 Sherman Medium Tank Specifications

The M-4E4 flamethrower tank -- the flamethrower was a retrofit kit that replaced the hull machine gun.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The M-4 Sherman Medium Tank was the workhorse of American tanks beginning in World War II and continuing through the Korean War and beyond as a vehicle for United Nations forces. Find specifications for the M-4 Sherman Medium Tank tank below.

Date of service: 1942


Country: United States of America

Type: Medium Tank

Dimensions: Length, 6.27 m (20.6 ft); width, 2.67 m (8 ft); height, 3.37 m (11 ft)

Combat weight: 31,554 kg (34.7 tons)

Engine: Ford GAA V-8 500 horsepower gasoline

Armament: One 75mm M3 or 76mm M4 main gun; two .30 caliber Browning machine guns; one .50 caliber Browning machine gun

Crew: 5

Speed: 42 km/h (26 mph)

Range: 160 km (99 mi)

Obstacle/grade performance: 0.6 m (2 ft)

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