Medium Tank M4A2/ Sherman III

The Medium Tank M4A2/ Sherman III was the third version of the M4 Sherman tank to be standardized, but the second to enter production. It used the welded hull of the M4 and a General Motors diesel engine, and was mainly used for Lend Lease, with most going to the UK and others to the Soviet Union.

The General Motors 6046 diesel engine had originally been developed for the Medium Tank M3A3, and was made up of two GM 6-71 six cylinder diesel truck engines mounted back-to-back.

Work on adapting the M4 to take the GM engine began late in 1941. In December 1941 the type was designated as the M4A2, and the pilot tank was ready for tests by April 1942. In the tests the M4A2 outperformed the M4 and M4A1.

Previous experience with the M3A3 and M3A5 meant that production of the M4A2 could get underway very quickly. Both the Fisher Tank Arsenal and the Pullman Standard Car Company began production in April 1942, the same month as the trials began.

Marine-manned M4A2 Sherman on Peleliu
Marine-manned
M4A2 Sherman
on Peleliu

Eventually the M4A2 was produced at five locations. The American Locomotive Company began production in September 1942, the Baldwin Locomotive Works in October 1942 and the Federal Machine and Welder Company in December 1942.

Production of the M4A2 ended at Baldwin in November 1942, after only one month of production. American Locomotive stopped in April 1943, Pullman in September 1943, Federal Machine and Welder in December 1943 and the Fisher Tank Arsenal of May 1944. A total of 8,053 M4A2s with 75mm guns were produced.

The M4A2 was visually very similar to the M4. The only differences were at the rear. There were grill doors over the engine compartment, rectangular in shape, and about the width of the turret bustle (much smaller than on the M4A3). At the back an armoured plate extended down to the top of the tracks (on the M4 this armour was level with the base of the sponsons along the side of the tank. A horizontal sheet of metal was placed below this armour to divert the exhaust gases away from the ground. Some of the Fisher Tank Arsenal machines can be identified by the use of angular welded driver's hoods in place of the normal cast version, developed to deal with a shortage of castings.

Early M4A2s were completed with two fixed hull machine guns and the first suspension system. The ball mounted machine gun and stronger suspension were both introduced fairly early in the production run. The three piece drive housing was replaced with the single piece version.

Late in the production run a new hull front was introduced, with the front slope reduced from 56 degrees to 47 degrees, bringing it a little closer to vertical. This increased the amount of space inside the driver's compartment, and meant that the bulging driver's hoods could be eliminated. It also allowed larger driver's hatches to be installed in the hull roof.

A second turret hatch was added after December 1943, mounted above the loader's position. This was a small oval hatch, carried to the left of the main hatch. The M4A2 also gained the armoured gun mount and extra armour next to the ammo storage introduced on the M4 and M4A1.

Between April and November 1944 535 early M4A2s were refurbished after use with training units, and given many of the features introduced using the production run. These tanks were then distributed under the lend-lease system.

Of the 8,053 M4A2s completed, 5,041 went to Britain as the Sherman III, 1,990 to the Soviet Union and 382 to other Lend Lease partners.

Twelve of the early machines were evaluated by the 5th Armored Division for further tests. The engine performed well if it was well maintained and in very good condition, but became less reliable with use. The Desert Warfare Board decided that the M4A2 wasn't suitable for combat operations in its original form, but recommended fresh tests once a number of problems had been fixed. Six modified machines were tested by the Desert Warfare Board early in 1943, and indicated that most of the problems had been fixed, although the engine was still vulnerable to dirt.

The War Department decided not to deploy diesel engine powered tanks overseas. Most of the M4A2s that remained in US hands were used by training units. The only US units to use the type in combat were the 1st Armored Division, which took over a number of then during the fighting in Tunisia, and the Marine Corps, which used some to the end of the war.

Stats (late production)
Production:
Hull Length: 233in
Hull Width: 103in
Height: 108in
Crew: 5
Weight: 70,200lb combat loaded
Engine: General Motors 6046 12 cylinder liquid cooled twin in-line
Hp: 375hp at 2,100rpm
Max Speed: 25mph sustained, 30mph max
Max Range: 150 miles cruising range, roads
Armament: 75mm Gun M3 and .30in coaxial MG in turret, .50in MG in AA mount on turret roof, 0.30in MG in hill front, 2in Mortar M3 (smoke) in turret

Armour

Armour

Front

Side

Rear

Top

Turret

3.0in

2.0in

2.0in

1.0in

Hull

2.5in upper

1.5in

1.5in

0.75in

Gun shield

3.5in

 

 

 

Rotor Shield

2.0in

 

 

 

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (16 September 2016), Medium Tank M4A2/ Sherman III , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_medium_tank_M4A2_sherman_III.html

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