The M4 Sherman, officially Medium Tank, M4, was the most widely used medium tank by the United States and Western Allies in World War II. The M4 Sherman proved to be reliable, relatively cheap to produce, and available in great numbers. Thousands were distributed through the Lend-Lease program to the British Commonwealth and Soviet Union. The tank was named by the British for the American Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman.
The M4 Sherman evolved from the M3 Medium Tank, which had its main armament in a side sponson mount. The M4 retained much of the previous mechanical design, but put the main 75 mm gun in a fully traversing turret. One feature, a one-axis gyrostabilizer, was not precise enough to allow firing when moving but did help keep the reticle on target, so that when the tank did stop to fire, the gun would be aimed in roughly the right direction. 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, combined with the Sherman’s then-superior armor and armament, outclassed German light and medium tanks fielded in 1939–42. The M4 went on to be produced in large numbers. It spearheaded many offensives by the Western Allies after 1942.
When the M4 tank went into combat in North Africa with the British Army at El Alamein in late 1942, it increased the advantage of Allied armor over Axis armor and was superior to the lighter German and Italian tank designs. For this reason, the US Army believed that the M4 would be adequate to win the war, and relatively little pressure was initially exerted for further tank development. Logistical and transport restrictions, such as limitations imposed by roads, ports, and bridges, also complicated the introduction of a more capable but heavier tank. Tank destroyer battalions using vehicles built on the M4 hull and chassis, but with open-topped turrets and more potent high-velocity guns, also entered widespread use in the Allied armies. Even by 1944, most M4 Shermans kept their dual purpose 75 mm gun. By then, the M4 was inferior in firepower and armor to increasing numbers of German heavy tanks, but was able to fight on with the help of numerical superiority and support from growing numbers of fighter-bombers and artillery pieces. Some Shermans were produced with a more capable gun, the 76 mm gun M1, or refitted with an Ordnance QF 17-pounder by the British (the Sherman Firefly).
The relative ease of production allowed large numbers of the M4 to be manufactured, and significant investment in tank recovery and repair units allowed disabled vehicles to be repaired and returned to service quickly. These factors combined to give the Allies numerical superiority in most battles, and many infantry divisions were provided with M4s and tank destroyers.
After World War II, the Sherman, particularly the many improved and upgraded versions, continued to see combat service in many conflicts around the world, including the UN forces in the Korean War, with Israel in the Arab-Israeli Wars, briefly with South Vietnam in the Vietnam War, and on both sides of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.
General play style
The M4 Sherman is an effective medium-range combat tank. Equipped with a fast-firing 75mm gun and with good handling characteristics, the M4 can be an extremely useful asset in most battles.
In battle the M4 performs well as an all-rounder; the thick turret front and 10 degrees of gun depression make the tank ideal for taking hull-down positions which protect the thinner hull armour from being penetrated by enemy fire. The sloped front upper glacis, when angled, also provides good protection against enemy fire. An unusual – and useful – difference is that the upper glacis is sloped at 56 degrees rather than the standard 45 degrees, making it more of a threat and more powerful due to improving the chances of a round ricochet. The only downfall may be the 2 crew member position in the front that protrudes out to form a flat surface, but both are covered with an additional 20 mm plate. The reasonable mobility of the Sherman makes flanking a viable tactic. The main weakness of the M4 is the side armour – not only is it vertical and thin, but behind it most of the ammunition is stowed. The tall silhouette of the tank also makes finding suitable cover difficult. Overall, the M4 Sherman can be considered as an armoured jack-of-all trades – it will serve a tanker well, however it will not excel in any particular role.
The iconic American medium tank has a very distinctive silhouette with its high front sloping armour, flat sides, and rounded turret shape. The olive-drab green M4 medium uses a welded construction for the hull, resulting in the sharp edged hull shape compared to the cast M4A1 medium. The turret, constructed the same way with cast in all 75 mm M4 medium variants, used a M34A1 gun mount for the 75 mm M3 gun; a change from the M34 gun mount in that the M34A1 used a combination of a M55 telescopic sight and a M4 periscope with a M38 telescopic sight in it.
The hull’s sloping glacis is at 56 degrees, as usual with the early model of M4 Shermans. The model is a “small hatch” variant as seen with the parallel hatch shape with the hull. This configuration also caused the hull to protrude with the hatch for the driver and assistant driver, resulting in the interruptions in the slope that compromises the sloped armour overall effectiveness. To mitigate this problem, armour plates are welded in front of the interruptions for additional protection. Aside from this note, some other features on the front glacis are the bundled desert-coloured jerry cans in the driver’s area and the road wheel right on the transmission cover. On the side hull, one distinctive feature of the M4 Sherman was the added appliqué over the sponson ammunition area. While this does provide minute protection, they also serve as highlights for the enemy to aim for an ammo rack destruction.
The 75 mm cast turret, designated D50878, was one produced in early 1943. The early M34A1 gun mount design added onto the tank as well as an appliqué “cheek” in front of the gunner, as the redesign of the turret and room for the power traverse caused the armour in front of the gunner to be thinner than the rest of the turret. The M34A1 gun mount is noted as early due to the presence of lifting rings on the top of the gun mount as well as mounting bolts on the sides, both that are eliminated in the later model. A curious note for keen eyes is the lack of a loader hatch on the turret top, a feature not introduced until productions in late 1943. Another note is the pistol port on the left rear side of the turret. On top of the commander’s cupola is the distinctive .50 cal M2 Browning machine gun that is commonly seen on American vehicles.
The M4 medium’s use of the Continental R975 radial engine results in a distinctive engine deck as well. It has a protruding hood over the air intake on top, followed by a relatively flat top all the way to the rear. Besides the hooded air intake on both sides within the shielded wall are filler ports for the radiators. Outside of the wall are two more filler ports for the fuel tanks on both sides. On the very rear, the large engine doors are visible, featuring early door hinges used as early as the M3 medium. On both sides of the door, engine filters are also present.
In battle, try to use terrain as cover. Hull-down positions are especially strong in the M4 Sherman, as it has a good 10 degrees of gun depression. The gun mantlet and turret is reasonably strong, but avoiding shots is still the best strategy. In this respect, a hull-down position hides the vulnerable hull. If this is not available, then angling the hull armour to present a greater slope is often a good idea, as this can bounce some low-powered cannon at any range and at longer ranges, render the hull impenetrable.
Another way to play the M4 Sherman is to tap into its traditional cavalry role, its mobility. The M4 Sherman is a great flanker as it is fast enough to get the jump on the enemy’s side. Defeat the enemy at their weak front lines or go around the entire enemy force. Once in position at their sides or rear, ambush them. Ideally, the enemy should be too busy focusing on allies attacking in the front to notice the M4 instantly. Take out the weaker light or medium tanks, the 75 mm gun is not very ideal against heavy tanks like the KV-1 so take out its friends to allow allies more room to outmaneuver the KV tank. An organized attack will increase the M4 chances on the battlefield and success.
The presence of a pivot-mounted .50 caliber machine gun gives the Sherman some flexibility. It can engage softer targets such as some tank destroyers and many SPAAGs at short ranges, when loading a HE shell would be inconvenient. While not ideal, they provide the Sherman tank some measure of protection against aircraft- sometimes enough to dissuade a pilot from making another pass. It can be an effective rang-finder for targets at longer ranges where the M1919 in the turret would be less effective. While it pales in comparison to the destructive effect of tank guns, it provides the Sherman some flexibility over other comparable vehicles, who are restricted to their rifle-caliber coaxial machine guns.
Specific enemies worth noting
A vehicle that the M4 Sherman will have trouble against is the KV-1. While the L-11 is underpowered, the ZiS-5 is potent enough to punch through the Sherman’s front, and the Sherman is unable to penetrate the KV-1’s thick frontal armour. If this heavy tanks is encountered, try to shoot it in its sides and rear, where its armour is thinner and unsloped, though it will still have to be at a close range to penetrate the armour. In addition, shots to the sides will most likely hit fuel tanks or ammunition storage, causing a fire or ammunition detonation and at best, time to reassess the situation.
Panzer IV F2/G/H/J
The historical nemesis of any Sherman, the Panzer IV is one of the Shermans biggest threats at this rank. The long barrel 75mm gun will easily penetrate the Sherman from the front. The F2 variant is admittedly easy to deal with. A single APCBC to its hull or turret should end it pretty quickly, even at long range. The other variants are slightly harder to deal with. They have thicker hull armour, at 80mm, which will be much harder to penetrate with the APCBC over 500m. Luckily the turret armour remains the same at 50mm. Either aim here with APCBC or sacrifice damage potential and use the AP round to penetrate the hull.
StuG III F/G
Another historical nemesis of the Sherman, and another big threat. The StuG III packs the same punch as the Panzer IV line with its long barrel 75mm gun, whilst losing the turret, which turns out to be both an advantage and a disadvantage. Lacking a turret means that it will have to traverse the whole vehicle to target an enemy, but it also means that it has a lower profile. The StuG’s armour profile is also more complex than the Panzer IV, with less flat areas. Certain areas are sloped and very bouncy. Luckily, there is a big weak spot. There are two flat plates on the front of the hull. The flat plate on the right is the drivers port. Shoot that and you are able to kill the driver, gunner and loader in one go. This is a very efficient way to destroy this vehicle. With the F variant you can use APCBC to instantly one shot this vehicle. With the G variant it is more reliable to use AP at ranges over 500m to ensure penetration.
The M4 Sherman is often ridiculed for its rather controversial combat history in World War II, but it is wrong to assume the M4 Sherman is not a threat on the War Thunder battlefield. The 75 mm M3 gun packs quite a punch against its contemporaries, the armour has the potential to bounce most shells, and its mobility is top notch on a large battlefield.
The best way to deal with the M4 Sherman is a high-velocity gun, like that of the long 75 mm guns on the later Panzer IV variants. These guns can penetrate the heavily sloping front armour like knife through butter.
In the case that a lower caliber weapon has to deal with the M4 Sherman from the front, aim for weak points like the protruding hatches in the front sloping armour, or even the crest of the transmission housing, where the slope is minimum in both areas. The turret has a very robust construction so if there is no faith in penetrating through the front hull easily, don’t bother trying to penetrate the turret from the front.
If a shot can be made to the M4 Sherman’s sides, send it towards the front half of the tank where it would either cripple the crew or ignite one of the ammunition racks strewn all over the internals.