M4 Sherman

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The M4 Sherman, formally Medium Tank, M4, was the primary tank used by the United States during World War II. Thousands were also distributed to the Allies, including the British Commonwealth and Soviet armies, via lend-lease. In the United Kingdom, the M4 was named after Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, following the British practice of naming their American-built tanks after famous American Civil War generals. Subsequently the British name found its way into common use in the U.S.

The Sherman evolved from the Grant and Lee medium tanks, which had an unusual side-sponson mounted 75 mm gun. It retained much of the previous mechanical design, but added the first American main 75 mm gun mounted on a fully traversing turret, with a gyrostabilizer enabling the crew to fire with reasonable accuracy while the tank was on the move.[4] The designers stressed mechanical reliability, ease of production and maintenance, durability, standardization of parts and ammunition in a limited number of variants, and moderate size and weight. These factors made the Sherman superior in some regards, to the German light and medium tanks that had swept across Europe in the blitzkrieg campaigns of 1939-41, and which still made up the majority of German panzer --albeit usually in up-gunned and up-armored variants-- forces in the later stages of the war. The Sherman ended up being produced in large numbers and formed the backbone of most Allied offensives, starting in late 1942.

The original Shermans were intended for infantry support, as per the US doctrine of the time (leaving the tank destroyers such as the M10 Tank Destroyer to engage enemy armor), yet they were powerful enough to defeat the relatively small German tanks such as the Panzer II and III they faced when first deployed in North Africa. Later, they found themselves seriously outmatched against newer up-gunned and up- armored Pz.Kpfw. IV and Panther medium tanks and wholly inadequate against the armor and range of the Tiger I and later Tiger II heavy tanks, suffering high casualties against their heavier armor and more powerful 88 mm and 75 mm cannons. Mobility, mechanical reliability and sheer numbers, supported by growing superiority in supporting fighter-bombers and artillery, offset these disadvantages to an extent; and later versions of the Sherman introduced 76 mm guns, giving them better armor penetration than the original 75 mm gun, however still insufficient at range against most late war German tanks. Producing more Shermans was favored over rushing adoption of the heavier M26 Pershing, which was developed too late to play a significant role in the war. In the Pacific Theater, the Sherman was used chiefly against the Japanese infantry and fortifications; in their rare encounters with the lighter Japanese tanks, with weaker armor and guns, the Sherman's superiority was overwhelming.

Production of the M4 exceeded 50,000 units, and its chassis served as the basis for numerous other armored vehicles such as tank destroyers, tank retrievers, and self-propelled artillery. Only Mikhail Koshkin's design of the Soviet T-34 tank was ultimately produced in larger numbers during World War II. Many German generals and many historians considered the T-34 the best tank of the war,[5] but even so the Russians recognized the Sherman's particular advantages when they used them in certain niche situations.[6]

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