M4 Sherman – The Workhorse of D-Day
Articles Blog

M4 Sherman – The Workhorse of D-Day

March 5, 2020


This episode of Real Engineering is brought
to you by CuriosityStream, watch thousands of documentaries for free for 31 days at curiositystream.com/realengineering. At the outbreak of the Second World War, the
US was lagging behind many of the other nations in the industry of tank development and manufacture,
and their British Allies were not much better equipped in the field of armoured warfare.
Following the speedy fall of France in 1940 at the hands of the aggressive German advance.
They knew that they needed to upgrade and develop their weapons and armoured vehicles.
Making a new tank model to compete with the very capable German tanks would require it
to be agile, well armoured, with rock-solid reliability, have a powerful gun that could
take out enemies from all angles, and perhaps most importantly of all be quick and cheap
to manufacture. However, combining all these traits into one
tank is no easy task and in July of 1940, a new Medium Tank model, the M3, was proposed.
Intended to be a stop gap solution [1], the War Department confirmed and authorized its
development quickly, and just a year later the first models were rolling off the production
line and shipped to the front line. The US wanted a 75mm gun in a turret, however
their engineering capabilities were nowhere near advanced enough to realize this goal
in such a short turn over time. Fitting a large gun like this presents numerous
design challenges, chief among these was building a hull capable of supporting it. At this stage
the US did not have the equipment needed to build a large turret ring, and the technology
needed to cast a hull strong enough to bear a large turret.
And thus the M3 Lee was produced as an interim model, while the design of a larger fully
traversable turret fitted with a 75 mm gun was figured out, and the moulds for a cast
hull were developed. The M3 only ever managed to bear a sponson-mounted 75mm gun and the
turret was instead fitted with a weaker 37mm gun with a hull consisting of simple flat
panels riveted together. This gave the 75 mm gun the space it needed inside the hull,
which was not available in the small turret. These design trade-offs disadvantaged the
M3 greatly. If the crew wanted to fire the main gun over
a sand or earth bank, they would be forced to fully expose the hull of the tank. While
the entire tank would have to turn to aim the main gun. Making the main gun clumsy and
slow to control. The Americans were well aware of these design
issues, and were busy designing the M3s replacement even before the M3 entered production [2].
This replacement would eventually become known as the M4 Sherman. The most produced Allied
tank of World War 2, and the workhorse of the front line. While the M3 was never intended to be a long
term solution, it did influence many of the design decisions for the M4 Sherman. The M4 and M3 shared the same Vertical Volute
Suspension system [3], which used coiled sheet spring steel. This structure allows the coils
to slide past each other, opposed to typical helical springs which hit a limit in compression
when the coils contact each other. Allowing this sheet metal spring to tolerate
heavier loads in a more compact space, while being easy to maintain and replace. [3] The
lessons learnt from the past year of the war taught the Ordnance Department that the new
tank would have to be both fast and easy to produce. Taking lessons from the American
automotive mass manufacturing industry, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors all contributed to
its manufacture.[4]The engineers of the Sherman wanted all parts to be standardized so that
each unit could be simply and hastily assembled. These parts would also need to be simple to
remove, so that the M4 could be repaired in a combat situation with minimal delays. The bogies, which were sets of rubber road
wheels that transfer the weight of the tank to the track, were bolted to the hull, so
that they could be removed with ease for repair. [5] The M4 finally fulfilled the American’s
desire for a 360-degree fully traversable 75mm gun. The turret itself was made from
a single cast part, rounded to deflect income rounds, and bolted to the turret ring. They
fitted the turret with a single-axis gyro to stabilize the gun allowing it to fire with
greater accuracy while in motion.But, with the relatively low muzzle velocity of 610
metres per second [6], it diminished the effectiveness of the turret and would be the basis of most
problems the M4 faced in the latter years of the war. The main weapon was however complimented by
a 50 calibre machine gun mounted on top of the turret with a coaxial 30 calibre machine
gun and another 30 calibre gun operated by the bow gunner. Making it a formidable infantry
support tank. Production was simple and in full-swing by
1942. At the height of production one M4 Sherman rolled off the assembly line every 30 minutes.
[7] Just as American revolutionised mass manufacturing with the Ford Model T, which I have covered
in more detail in the past, America was now revolutionising the production of armoured
vehicles. And thanks to the Lend Lease Agreement, signed in early 1941, America was allowed
to export thousands of tanks to Britain and the Soviet Union. Most estimates of wartime production reach
over fifty thousand units [8], but the Sherman wasn’t produced in just one model. Each
new variant built upon those before it. Mostly focusing on improving the engine and the method
of construction for the hull. For example, Early hull M4 designs, like the M4A1, were
constructed from a cast hull. Where the entire hull was cast in a single block. This was
a difficult process and required a lot of specialised workers and equipment, and was
difficult to repair in the field. It was soon dropped in favour of a simpler welded design
where the hull was constructed from multiple flat and casted parts welded together. These
welds were a weak point in the hull, and these too were gradually minimized with additional
armour plating, and superior construction to reduce the number of welds needed. One of the largest problems that resulted
in a major redesign was the floatation problem. Where the weight of the tank was not being
spread over a wide enough area. This increases the pressure the tank will exert on the ground,
and thus make it sink further into the ground. Increasing both the power needed to move and
slowing it down, or worse still getting stuck completely. [10] To deal with this problem
some Shermans were fitted with track end connectors called grousers to increase the track width
and thus decrease the ground pressure. A more significant design changed was brought in
1944, with the introduction of a horizontal volute spring suspension. This, as the name suggests, moved the springs
from a vertical to horizontal position, which reduced their height and allowed for the addition
of a hydraulic shock absorber to smoothing the ride and reduce the stress on the springs,
which had a notoriously short life. The road wheels were now placed in parallel pairs,
which allowed the track to increase in width to 0.58 of a metre. A massive increase in
track width that drastically decreased the tanks ground pressure, and thus increased
it’s mobility Other changes were made to improve the survivability
of the M4, as a result of horrific lessons learned on the battlefield. The Sherman initially had 57 degree frontal
armour, forcing the designers to implement tiny driver and bow gunner hatches. These
hatches were far too small and made evacuation procedures difficult. Made even worse by the
fact a large amount of ammunition was stored in the vulnerable turret, which often cooked
off when the tank was hit resulting in horrific fires. In late 1943 changes were made to improve
the crews chances of surviving after a critical hit.
The armour angle was reduced 47 degrees, providing more space to incorporate larger hatches.
The majority of ammunition was also moved to the floor of the tank, where it was better
armoured and less likely to catch fire. They also implemented wet storage [12], where
each shell was separated by canisters filled with a gel like substance made of water, anti-freeze
and a rust inhibitor. If the ammo rack hit these containers would be pierced releasing
the gel, which would cool and quench the rounds. At this stage the Sherman was a formidable
foe for any Panzer tank. However, as the war progressed newer and stronger German Panther
and Tiger tanks entered the fray. To increase the M4s chances against these
advanced German tanks a final major redesign was introduced with the inclusion of a more
powerful 76 mm gun. Bringing us to perhaps the best M4 variant that fought in world war
2. The M4A3E8, or the Easy 8, which incorporated every improvement I have mentioned in this
video. Making it a formidable opponent for ANY german tank. This was just one of many Sherman variants
that entered the fray with specialised weapons. Some were fitted with rocket tubes which rotated
with the turret and fired in a barrage at soft targets, others were fitted with flamethrowers. While some took on roles as frontline work
horses, being fitted with bulldozer blades and hedgerow clearing tools to clear a path
for other vehicles and infantry. Others were modified with flails to clear
mine-fields, designated as the Sherman Crab. This was a tremendous sight during D-Day operations
with the chains swinging wildly around striking the ground with a sickening sound for any
onlookers. Occasionally the chains would break off after successfully detonating a mine,
forcing any nearby infantry to duck for cover. [7] [3] 290 Shermans were modified for the amphibious
assault of Normany, called the DD Sherman. These Sherman’s were fitted with rear-mounted
propellers, which diverted power from the tracks using a bevel gear. Which was the origin
of the DD suffix, standing for Duplex Drive. They were also fitted with a folding canvas
screen to increase the buoyancy of the tank and allow it to wade into shore. Despite showing itself to be an incredibly
capable machine, the Sherman has a bad reputation in some circles. The old myth that it took
5 Shermans to defeat one tiger, as perpetuated by the movie Fury. It shouldn’t be a surprise
that a medium tank like a Sherman would be at a disadvantage to a defending heavy tank,
but this statistic is simply untrue. The Allies were also at a huge disadvantage with getting
larger and heavier tanks into mainland Europe, where Germany could easily transport these
vehicles overland straight out of the factory. These World War 2 logistics are one of the
most fascinating subjects I have ever encountered, and so I have decided to create an entire
series dedicated to exploring the logistics and planning that went into d-day and other
battles of World War 2. Starting with the first episode exploring how and why the Allies
chose Normandy as a landing location. That series will be made with the support of CuriosityStream,
a subscription streaming service with thousands of documentaries and nonfiction titles, and
will debut next month on Nebula, a streaming video platform built by and for independent
creators like Tierzoo, Lindsay Ellis, MinutePhysics, Wendover Productions, and loads more. Where CuriosityStream is all about big-budget
non-fiction videos, we’re building Nebula because we want a place for education-y creators
to try out new content ideas that might not work on YouTube. Especially stuff that might
get demonetized, like a war-related series. CuriosityStream loves independent creators
and wants to help us grow our platform, so they’re offering Real Engineering viewers
free access to Nebula when you sign up at CuriosityStream.com/realengineering By signing up for CuriosityStream you’ll get
access to thousands of documentaries like this one called Plane Resurrection that details
the restoration of WW2 era planes AND you’ll get to watch the first episode of my new channel
“Real Science”. We already have some fantastic original series on the platform, like Grand
Test Auto, a car review show from my friends JT from Second Thought and Joseph from Real
Life Lore. By signing up to CuriosityStream you will
be helping not just me, but the entire educational community, as we work together to build a
place where we can create content like my Logistics of D-Day series that would just
be too risky to rely on YouTube. As always, thanks for watching and thank you
to all my Patreon supporters. If you would like to see more from me the links to my instagram,
twitter, subreddit and discord server are below.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Well to prove my point why I won't be uploading the D-Day series to YouTube any time soon. This video has been demonetized. Signing up to http://CuriosityStream.com/RealEngineering and getting that free access to watchnebula.com will allow me to make these videos. I just can't take the risk on YouTube anymore.

  2. The sherman whas just terrible if you look at the german tigers. tigers could destroy shermans in a single blow the sherman couldnt do that against the tigers. So indeed the last model the sherman w a firefly cannon could do that but the cannon whas terrible for the driver gunner etc. The cannon that whas put on it wha designed to be a field anti tank gun not a gun designed to put on a tank. The problems whese that there whas an imence nuzle flash recoil weight and sound. The situation whas so bad that 3/10 firefly operators came back either deaf. and soldiers that would be close to the tip of the gun outside the tank would be blinded by the gun at night.

  3. The Sherman yes in the late war wasn’t the best but it was easy to fix in the field and easy to repair so it could be knocked out and repaired

  4. problem is that starry eyed tank fans fail to see past the 'glamour of armour Generalmajor FW von Mellnthin in his Panzer Battles gives the report from Rommel and his own part in Panzer battles. 1939 – 1945. The Myth of the Panzer from 1941 against the British in 1941 he shows that the British had very good tanks which when the Afrika Korps used Captured Matildas were impressed – at the time the Panzer had a low penentration gun the British Believed that the Germans were knocking tanks out with panzer guns in fact as he points out the 35 88mm flak cannons did a lot of damage but the majority by our infantry high velocity mobile anti tank guns used in the Guderian principal of all arms c-operation, the British used anti tank guns in static positions we used them in the attack. von Melllenthin in 1944/45 was CoS to Balck he wrote that the Shreman was inferior to our armour. however, like us in 1941 the allied forces used the Sherman in vigorous attacks supported by infantry, using anti tank guns, mortars field and heavy artillery we had orders from Berlin to use the Panther in static defence positions – we tried to get these orders countermanded but old school officer of the Prussian tradition would rather die than disobey. we lost in one battle against a Sherman unit 54 Panthers in a day as the American used concentration of armour an firepower to destroy. post war both the British and Americans calculated that tank losses to panzer guns were aound 15% – von mEllenthin pointed out that Generalmajor von Hillebrand had suggested to Berlin to cease making panzers and concentrate on infantry anti tank guns as they ere more effeicient, quicker to replace and supply the battles of 1941 in the desert which Montgomery claimed were infantry battles, von Mellenthin of the Afrika Korps agrees he wrote Montgomery was undoubtedly a master Tactician using his infantry with artillery in a ruthless devasting fire and movement battle. We came up against this again in 1944/54 when he used fire missions that many of us had not experienced since WW1 The Myth of the Panzer Generalmajor FW von Mellenthin
    https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.209507/page/n7

  5. Very good informative video. Just to clarify one point, Shermans did fight the Tiger 1 but not Shermans crewed by Americans who actually never fought the Tiger 1. They mistook the Panzer 4 for Tigers as covered in camouflage it was visually similar. So outside of Hollywood, it was only the British and other allied forces who faced the Tiger in their Shermans. When D day landings took place there were only 6 Tigers in France. Later the Germans brought in 143 more but only the British and Canadian forces fought them. Sorry Brad!

  6. They were a miracle of vehicle engineering considering the logistical requirements they had to adhere to. No other tank was designed to be massively produced, super easy to operate, maintain, and repair in the field, able to travel extreme distances over rough terrain without breaking down, designed to fit on standard railcars and through standard existing rail tunnels, designed to be shipped around the world on existing vehicular cargo ships, all while being highly tactically competitive against any other medium tank in the world and actually one of the safest armored vehicles of the entire war despite the rep they got.

  7. Actual German infantryman in a bunker on Omaha Beach, watching this bizarre, dripping apparition crawl past the beach obstacles and collapse its canvas wrap: "Mein Gott! Its a fokking TANK!"

  8. The smallest tank unit the US Army used in WW2 was a platoon consisting of five tanks. So whenever Sherman tanks were used five was the minimum sent out. Whether five tanks were actually required, or not needed they all went. That was armored force doctrine.

  9. Uncle George called the M4A1 a rolling coffin. He was a Master Sgt in Normandy. He strongly urged against my going into armoured even though the M60 was a good machine for the era.

  10. The Sherman was a piece of shit, like the Crusader, but we had many, MANY thousands of them. The Germans had tanks and other AFV's that one on one no Allied tank had any hope of killing, yet it was these formidable titans that fell under the overwhelming onslaught of cheap mass produced garbage. As Stalin famously said "Quantity has a quality of its own."

  11. The t-34 was knocked out in far greater #'s than the M-4 Sherman and it did easily catch fire when hit. None the less, the ignorant will say the T-34 was a better tank than the Sherman when the facts say the exact opposite. The Sherman was developed into one of the best tanks of WW2 as it could be kept in battle and it had excellent crew survival qualities. It doesn't matter how thick the armor is on a tank or how lethal the gun is if the tank cannot be kept in battle or even make it to the fighting from the factory. The fact is that Tigers and Panthers were too complicated and consumed far more resources than the Germans could provide. Many, when they broke down, had to be abandoned as the Germans were in full retreat from 1943 on.

    The bottom line is that the Sherman was a war-winner. Panthers and Tigers were not.

  12. A few fun facts:

    1 – Statistically, when an M4 was hit, most of the time 4 of the 5 crewmen survived
    2 – M4s traveled in squads of 5, hence the 5 Shermans to take out a German tank myth
    3 – Complete burnouts were drastically reduced when wet stowage was introduced
    4 – The M4s automotive reliability contributed to spectacular feats such as Patton's 160km road march to relieve Bastogne on December 26th. Something a German armored division could only dream of.

  13. Kind of cheating showing Sturmgeschüts and tigers in the part of the video where you depict the race to Paris, since they were not part of that campaign and not introduced to the Wehrmacht at all. And regardless of how many Americans are watching this, the Sherman was a piece of crap – except the few ones, the American allowed to be fitted with the British 6 pound canon. No, I am NOT British!

  14. The US & Russia both were just a bunch a bumpkin farmers when WW2 cut loose. The scrabbling & scrambling to adapt was intense. It truly was adapt or die, an extinction event literally on the doorstep.

    No wonder nobody wants to forget this crap, the world was literally terrorized.

  15. but the EZ 8 was built to fight tiger 1s the had built the m26 Pershing to also deal with tigers but to withstand more abuse then a regular Sherman but they didn't stop there they also built a super Pershing fitted with a 90 mm gun that was to go up against anything and yes the Sherman was a good war winning tank that was mass produced it wasn't very good at keeping you safe as the Germans called the take a coffin for 5

  16. Even American soldiers would laugh at this version of history. Everyone knew that one round from an German Panzer tank resulted in a Sherman going up like a torch.

  17. Just as the Spitfire was a little newer technology than the 109, so also with tanks, destroyers, submarines, or anything else.
    At the start, be of the newest technology than your opponent, and be quick to improvise and improve when the enemy takes a march past you in technology.

  18. The hedgerow clearing Sherman wasn't a variant. It was an unauthorized field mod. Soldiers ran into hedgerows they couldn't get through, and tried things to solve the problem. Welding metal forks and blades on Shermans worked, so they did it a lot. No 2 mods are the same either.

  19. Real engineering telling us how good was the m4 Sherman but still it gets its ass kicked by tiger and panther panzers of Germany

  20. I wonder why they didn't just slap down factories in Britain or maybe even in north Africa in order to make it a little more possible to repair at a base, getting them a bit closer to the advantage the german's had

  21. The workhorse of dday? More like the work horse of the western front. During Dday the US sent 30+Shermans to the shores. 26 of them ended up sinking in rough waves, the rest of them only made it ashore on gold and Juno beaches (which were landed by british and canadian forces). No tanks made it to Omaha or Utah during the actual landings

  22. My Grandpa served in Sherman tanks in Europe and said they all hated them. They were too tall so easily seen and easily hit and the armour on the engine and fuel tank was paper thin. The germans knew this so always aimed for that weak point which always -Always resulted in an internal fire. The Germans in North Africa called them 'Tommy-boilers' because one hit would cook the British crews who used them there.

  23. Oh my god, you really don't know what you are saying….and believe's Amarican patrionism, the only thing where a Sherman was better in where the numbers Watch this interview with drivers from as wel from a Sherman as a Tiger, skip for my part to 23.40 and listen what both drivers would choose if they had the chance then, i think i rest my case here… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bj0AzL95Weg

  24. 8:40 Interestingly, tank crews did not like the 76 mm gun. It was better at killing tanks – but tanks are not normally fought with tanks. Unless the situation is hellishly messed up and 1-sided, Tanks draw Tanks into Anti-Tank guns.
    Meanwhile the 75 mm was better against AT guns, Infantery and Fortifications. Things you actually met.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZKxmlpbwqk
    The primary tactic was to draw enemy tanks into your AT guns. While the top killer was guns (with no data differentiating AT guns and Tank guns of the same calliber), it was followed by Infantery with AT weapons like the Bazooka/Panzerfaust, then mines, then technical defects. Note that the airfoce was not a tank killer. It is just some part of the "Miscelanous" group:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5DcY8TmOpA
    As for "5 Shermans to kill a Tiger", I know a variant of it: "It takes 5 Shermans to kill a Tiger. The allies had 6."

  25. The Sherman M4 was nowhere near as good as the tanks that the germans had. The only reason why we would win was because it would be five Sharmans going up against one Tiger tank, and the Tiger tank would get most of them. The Sherman tanks were taller, which gave the germans an easier profile to hit. They ran on gasoline engines. U.S. soldiers and tank crews called them the Ronson, because when they were hit, they would light up the first time, every time. They had a less powerful gun than the german tanks like the Tiger and Panzer. German tanks were lower to the ground, so they had less of a target profile. They ran on diesel, which made them less likely to explode when hit, and had a more powerful gun. I like the Sherman, I love the way it looks, but compared to the tanks the germans were fielding it was inferior. We (the U.S.) only won because we had significantly more of them.

  26. Very interesting video. I would love to know the story behind that short bit at 7:31 when a Sherman was shot in battle. I wonder who was filming and how much of the war he survived.

  27. 1). the Rock Island Arsenal produced a small tank for the cavalry which used vertical volute spring suspension instead of leaf spring suspension. Standardized as the M1 Combat Car, it entered service with the US Army in 1937. The design was used in the M2 light tank and subsequent Stuart tank series. Design features of the Stuart were scaled up for use in the first M2 medium tanks which would evolve into the more successful M3 Lee and M4 Sherman, all using the VVSS.
    2). The Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension system was first field with the US M-6 heavy tank prototype in December 1941 and was a successes. However the M-6 itself was plagued with many problems that lead to the projects cancellation. The HVSS suspension would reappear in the later war on Sherman tanks under the Easy-8 program.
    3). The high velocity 76mm cannon was first fielded in 1942 with the M-18 Hellcats, this cannon was more than capable of destroying a Tiger-I from any angle, even the front. Later with the development of the HVAP round (high velocity armor penetrators') even the Panther and King Tigers were meat on the table. The first appearance on Sherman was in 1942 as the proposed M4A1(76)W quick fix turret which was suspended because the original small Sherman turret and gun combination was found to be too cramped by Armor Board even though it did technically work. This did however kick off the Easy-6 program when the Chief of US Army Ordnance directed that the then Prototype turret (T-23) be placed onto the Sherman's hull which could easly take the 76mm. this resulting in the M4A2(76)W, the M4A3E2 "Jumbo" and finally the M4A3(76)W also know as the Easy-8 by it's crews only.
    4). As to the myth it took 5 Sherman's to kill a cat i.e. Tiger is total bunk. American armored units move and fight as a "Platoon". A platoon is the smallest tactical unit on a battlefield size fielded by doctrine and consists of, (drum-roll) 5-tanks. An American tank company consisted of about 16 tanks, The American's used 5-tanks in maneuver battles because damn-it that's what they brought. This stupid idea that tanks went about fighting other tanks one-on-one in Chivalric duels is simply romantic ignorance in the extreme.
    I would suggest you avail yourself of student of history and Amor Officer, one Nicholas Moran also know as the Chieftain at his web sight the Chieftain's Hatch.

  28. Great video but yet again you are confusing track grousers with duckbills. Grousers fit to the track face and dig into the ground to give more traction. The duckbill track end connectors provide more track flotation. Other than that great video. Also quite a few shots on Achilles tank destroyers. Also DD’s swim not wade.

  29. 10:19 a lot o those tanks with "folding canvas BS" were swamped by ocean waves in the D day landings and those crews died!

  30. here in my city we have a sherman with the mod where they spaced the VVSS outward and had extended end connectors on both sides of the tracks. hit me up if you want a pic of it, it is not far from me.

  31. yeah i know is untrue bout an M4 not able to defeat a tiger, if an M8 Greyhound with a 37mm destroyed a King Tiger, i am sure an M4 is more than capable.

  32. I just started this video but wasn't the design based around some major parts that they already had and needed them to be fit in rail cards for transport I remember seeing before.Tank nerds out there will know and help me out.These tanks were Zippos but we made a lot of them.

  33. At no point in the war did the Sherman match the Panther in performance. Not in main gun, not in armor, not in speed, not in optics, etc. Everything about the US 76mm version of the M4 Sherman brought it up to par with the Panzer IV's armor and 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/48 main gun. Not even the US's 90mm gun was up to the Panther's 7.5 cm Kwk 42 L/70.

  34. Fun fact: With vertical volute dual-bogie suspension setups like that, if you lose a road wheel on any of the assemblies, the crew could just tie it up and the suspension would still do its job. Sure, track stress would spike in that space where the damaged or missing road wheel would normally bear down on, especially when climbing barriers, crossing trenches or going over large ground debris, but with an intelligent driver, this isn't a huge issue. Obviously though, if the bracket/assembly itself is damaged, you're in for some hard times. You could lose one road wheel on each suspension assembly and still be able to limp home.

  35. Hard to imagine a world where the United States did not have the technical knowhow or manufacturing capability to make a tank part.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *