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Adrian Barrell

Identifying Shermans

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As suggested, I thought I would post up a short guide to identifying various Shermans. I've put a bit of thought into this and it's quite a daunting subject! With 47,000 gun tanks built in 19 distinctly different types by 11 different manufacturers, I decided against a great list of differences and thought of what will hopefully be a simpler way.

 

Using pictures already posted here, with a few new ones thrown in for clarity, I'll point out the features that help to provide an id.

 

First thing to look for is the hull. Is it cast or welded? If cast, it is an M4A1. It must be fully cast, front and rear but if so, the id is not in doubt.

 

This one being an M4A1 (76). It has the larger turret with the longer 76mm gun but still on narrow tracks with early suspension.

Ardennenvakantie2006393Medium.jpg

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Canadian built Grizzly, normally fitted with the CDP track that needs the small toothed sprockets. Grizzlies all used a General Steel hull with the G in a shield and though this is not confined to Grizzly it is a useful clue.

IMG_3313.jpg

IMG_3314.jpg

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The M4A1(76) was one of the the 'ultimate series' of tanks which incorporated various improvements such as wet stowage for the ammunition and a steeper hull front with larger hatches. Later production was fitted with HVSS and wider tracks. All M4A1s were fitted with the R975 nine cylinder radial engine.

IMG_3148.jpg

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If your subject vehicle has a welded hull, the id becomes harder! All other models were built on a welded hull with the exception of the late Chrysler built M4 which had a cast front section mated to a welded rear.

Very early production had small hatches but that is fairly rare and it's more normal to find them with large hatches.

 

The join between the cast front and plate rear is a diagonal weld which is quite distinctive.

tank%2520011.jpg

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So, what's this one? Well, it's a welded hull and that undercut to the rear plate is a dead giveaway as it only features in radial engined hulls. It's not an M4A1 so must be an M4. The other clue is the engine decks. Just behind the turret is a cast air intake cover with a frame surround that runs the full width of the decks, another radial engine feature.

port_en_bessin2.jpg

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How about this one. Well, the undercut says M4 and the large hatches confirm a composite hull, in this case a Firefly or Sherman IC. It is just possible to see the curve to the cast front hull.

sherman3.jpg

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This one is less easy as you cannot see the rear. However, it has a 105mm gun which was only fitted to M4 and M4A3. It is just possible to make out the previously described air intake behind the turret making it an M4(105).

IMG_3751.jpg

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What about this one. From the front, the most distinctive thing is the drivers hatch hoods and the antenna mount. They are a very angular fabricated design that was a feature of some M4A2s though not all.

foret_dEcouves1.jpg

foret_dEcouves2.jpg

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As with most Shermans, a view from the rear gives the best clue. M4A2 had the twin GM diesels with a distinctive exhaust outlet in the lower rear plate. The upper rear plate also has a lower bottom edge than other models. If you can see the engine decks, then the narrow grill doors are specific to this model, they do not span the full width of the decks and the upstand behind the turret has a series of rebates for the mounting bolts that are often visible.

Picture110-2.jpg

ecouche1.jpg

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Here's a view from the turret showing the decks. This has a feature that serves to confuse. The domed cover near the tail light on the right is a grouser box cover, the one on the other side is missing. M4A2 should have a flat plate covering the hole as being diesel, it was not necessary to vent the fuel tank compartment. All other models with the exception of late M4A3 had the domed covers and the lack of them can be used as a guide to identifying an M4A2.

Sherman%20M4A2%20Arromanches%208.jpg

Edited by Adrian Barrell

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Less likely to be found in Europe but common in the US is the M4A3. Similar to M4A2 but with wider deck grills and a different lower hull. The grill doors also often have support blocks welded on to the hull and these can often be seen from the side. The rh block is visible here between the shovel and mattock.

m4a3d_14.jpg

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The presence of the block in this view confirms the tank as an M4A3. This one is a wet stowage hull so no applique armour, having the steeper, one piece glacis plate using larger hatches without the hatch hoods but still a 75mm.

ArdennenVakntie2008159Small.jpg

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The last of the more common models is the M4A4. The most distinctive id point is of course the wider bogie spacing needed because of the longer hull. The rear plate is similar to the M4A2 but with a shorter overhang and two rear doors similar to M4 and M4A1 and the decks are distinctive having the cast cover over the radiator.

 

All M4A4s were supplied with the 3 piece differential housing though this can have been changed in 60+ years!

Sherman%20bij%20Airborne%20museum5.jpg

Sherman%20bij%20Airborne%20museum6.jpg

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There are a host of differences to the norm, some as a result of post war mods. Here is a good example. At first sight, an M4A4. With that bogie spacing, there is no doubt but a close look at the engine decks shows no radiator cover of the multibank but an intake frame of a radial. This is an M4A4(T). A French rebuild of an M4A4 fitted with a radial engine, the (T) standing for transformee.

omaha1.jpg

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Occasionally, you find complete abberations such as this. An ex-BARV hull, the V shaped weld on the glacis showing where the superstructure has been cut off, with a 76mm turret and gun fitted and a 17 pr muzzle brake stuck on the end!

 

BARVs were built on M4A2 hulls and this shows that not all M4A2s had the simple fabricated glacis features.

sherman.jpg

Edited by Adrian Barrell

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Wow.....and i thought they were all the same!!!!

by the way adrian in a earlier post i can remember you saying that tanks were

stored in trimley on the run up to D day...which trimley was it as there are two?

and do you know where abouts they were stored

 

Dave

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Dave, I suspect that given the number of changes in production , there was never a sustained period of building identical tanks!

 

As to Trimley, I'll have to check as to whether it was St Martin or St Mary, probably both as a regiment of tanks is quite a line! They weren't stored as such, merely preparing to load on the LSTs at Felixstowe.

 

Mainly Cromwells with Sherman Fireflies and Stuarts.

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No I didn't know the detail of the M4A3 identification using the engine cover support posts, all intresting stuff.

 

Question:

When did the M4A4s finally 'dry up' as far as new supply under lend-lease from the US? There must be government records detailing what arrived and when, has anyone looked through the records office? I get the impression from researching Fireflies that by mid 1944 we had run out and had all but switched to converting run out model M4s and possibly later still older M4s (as Adrian hinted at some time ago).

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The last Fireflies were probably on rebuilt vehicles from the USA. They would have had applique armour, often all round, gun crutches on the glacis, though removed for the C conversion and would have T numbers in the 2xxxxx range, vehicles delivered when new and converted first being in the 14xxxx and 15xxxx ranges. These would mainly have been early M4A4s.

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I just located this photo from the Detroit Arsenal (Chrysler) - who built the M4A4 - it shows the first M4 built in the factory once M4A4 production had come to an end. I'd not seen it before.

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That picture's in Hunnicutt. Note the small hatches, just like Kens recent import into the UK, most DTA M4 production was on large hatches.

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Is there still a M4A6 surviving somewhere ?

 

A couple did survive WW2 to serve as gate guardians in the 1950s. But as fas as I know, none survive today.

 

- Hanno

 

P.S.: ID notes for the other readers: the Chrysler-built M4A6 had a composite hull like the M4 composite/Hybrid, but with a lengthened hull as on M4A4 (note distance between bogies).

M4A6_75_Dry_10ADalbum.jpg

Edited by mcspool

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