The M4 General Sherman, named after Civil War General William T. Sherman, was the main battle tank for use during World War II and one of the most famous tanks in history. Popularly known as the Sherman Tank, its historic status was gained more from the numbers that were produced rather than the tank’s qualities. Built by the United States, but used by the Free French, British, and Canadian forces, close to 50,000 Sherman Tanks were produced in 11 plants between 1942 and 1946. Only the Soviet Union’s T-34 tank surpassed the M4’s production numbers.
The Germans had defeated the French through the use of armored vehicles which were supported by air power. The United States realized that the U.S. Army needed a new battle tank that would be equal to that of the Germans. The M3 General Grant was the first battle tank used for combat in WWII; however, its gun mount was carried on the right front of the tank and it could only traverse 15 degrees, which was not advantageous for tank battles. The M4 prototype was accepted in October 1941 and rushed to production.
The first factory to produce the M4 was the Lima Locomotive Works, located in Lima, Ohio. The first tanks were sent to the British Army through Lend-Lease and fought in Africa. The tanks proved instrumental in turning the tide of war in favor of the Allies. Other factories which produced the Sherman Tank included the Pressed Steel Cars Co., Pacific Car & Foundry, Baldwin Locomotive Works, American Locomotive Co., Pullman Car, Chrysler’s Detroit Tank Arsenal, Pullman Standard Car Manufacturing Co., Federal Welder, Fisher and Grand Blanc in Michigan, the last being specially built for the purpose during the war.
The new Sherman Tank emphasized speed and mobility, limited the thickness of the armour and the size of the main gun. The Sherman Tank had a high, bulky nose that could plow through thick vegetation and was powerful enough to go through walls. It was also more mobile than the German Panzer; it could climb steeper slopes and its narrow width allowed it to cross narrow streets and bridges, and made transport by rail possible and easy.
The tank’s main armament was a short-barreled, low-velocity 75-mm gun mounted on a fully-traversing turret. The armour had a maximum thickness of 75mm and a minimum of 12 mm, the max speed for the Sherman Tank was 24-29 mph, weighted approximately 33 tons and carried a crew of five – commander, gunner, loader, driver, and co-driver/hull gunner.
A detailed explanation of the many versions of the M4/Sherman Tank, can be found at: