I’ve visited the Sherman tank here before. With nearly 50000 built it is the second most produced tank history behind only the Soviet T-34.
But previously we discussed the early production M4, this time we’ll look at the most fully evolved form of the design.
One complaint leveled against the Sherman is that its design was locked too early. That means, for the sake of mass production the design was committed to with only minor changes allowed to enable a rapid build up of the type. Although the design was actually quite modern in 1942, by 1944 the Germans were fielding an array of much bigger and deadlier armored fighting vehicles.
So much modern criticism of the Sherman comes from this fact. A basic M4 Sherman with its 75mm main gun could not face a Tiger, or even a Panther on equal terms.
The usual counter argument has to do with the Sherman’s vastly better reliability and ease of maintenance. Add to that a superior support and supply system and its not hard to see how the Sherman was a war winning weapon; even if it wasn’t quite as dangerous as newer and bigger tanks.
But the Sherman was improved over the course of the war. It was up-armored, both in terms of thickness and better slopes to reduce square hits and shot traps. Ammunition was put in armored ammo boxes that drastically reduced interior fires and explosions.
The main gun was replaced with a 76mm gun. This may sound like a small improvement over a 75 mm; but this was a better gun all around. The installation was somewhat pooched, the gun barrel was shortened from the prototype for weight and balance reasons which lessened the potential. But even so, the gun was an improvement. (The British put an even better gun on some of their Shermans, but I’ll save that story for another build).
These improvements came with a cost. What they called “flotation”, the more modern term would be ground pressure. Basically, the Sherman had fairly narrow tracks which always gave it less off-road capability than some German designs. There were some cheap fixes to widen the tracks, but better was needed. So an all new suspension was designed. Originally the Sherman used suspension identified by the elegant name of Vertical Volute Spring Suspension, usually written as VVSS. A new bogey unit was designed that was named Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension or HVSS. Just rolls off the tongue, right? Most importantly, this allowed for a much wider track and smoother ride over a wide range of terrain. The last 2600 Shermans built used this type of suspension. But it didn’t generate a new designation, it was just tagged “experimental device 8” or “E8” on the end of the tank’s designator. Crews loved this change and took to calling their mount the “Easy Eight”.
This version of the Sherman entered service in November of 1944.
Which leads to this tank. Patton’s Third Army first took delivery of Easy Eights when they were preparing for their December offensive south of the Ardennes. When the Germans launched their great offensive on December 16 Patton may have had his greatest moment by simply pivoting his offensive to the north into the German flank and relieving a siege at Bastogne. This was not only a testament to the qualities of American fighting men who could adapt on the fly; but said a great deal about the quality of American armor that could drive fairly long distances quickly and with very few maintenance related problems.
This tank was a part of Patton’s 4th Armored division and was in Bastogne in January of 1945.
This is the Tamiya kit.