M4 Sherman (Medium Tank, M4) Medium Tank
The American M4 Sherman Medium Tank formed the backbone of the World War 2 Allied armored offensive and went on to see extended action in the following Korean War.
Authored By Dan Alex; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The M4 Sherman series of medium tanks proved an invaluable asset to Allied operations North Africa, Europe and the Pacific theaters of war in World War 2. The Sherman proved a relatively inexpensive, easy-to-maintain and - perhaps most importantly - an easy-to-produce combat system that more or less won the ground war for the Allies through sheer numbers. Similar to production efforts on the part of the Soviet Union with their T-34 tank system, the M4 Sherman was the same class of tank weapon under an American guise. Despite her reach, it was outclassed in the important combat-related categories when coming up against the later-stage German Panzer tanks. The M4 proved to be relatively weak in comparison to these German systems by its lack of a potent main gun and relatively inadequate armor protection for her crews and vital systems. If the Sherman had an advantage over her contemporaries, it was in her speed, battlefield reliability and simply her quantitative presence regarding in any given engagement of the day.
Europe Changes Everything
Events in Europe, following the German invasion of Poland on September 1st, 1939, necessitated a change to American tank design philosophy. To this point, America had put more emphasis on the development of light class tanks with only a smattering of resources going into medium tank development. The appearance of the German Panzerkampfwagen IV medium tanks running rampant across Polish defenses raised awareness on the part of the Americans, whose congress was still reluctant to release money to the military to upgrade their forces as Poland was, more or less, viewed as a less-than-capable military power of the time - the results were rather expected. However, that all changed once the French defenses suffered the same type of defeat. France was considered a major military power for the time and to see it dismantled by Germany's use of coordinated land and air power came as quite a shock across the world. Now with Paris under control of the Nazis, the US Congress had little reservations (or choice for that matter) in releasing millions of dollars in an effort to revamp the aged World War 1-era American armed forces.
The German Panzerkampfwagen IV (or simply Panzer IV) was originally intended as an infantry support tank. The presence of the mighty Soviet T-34 tank soon forced the Panzer IV to take on a "truer" tank-versus-tank battlefield role in which the Panzer could effectively engage the T-34's in head-to-head combat. The Panzer IV, therefore, was appropriately up-gunned and up-armored to meet this new Red challenge and went on to become the most produced tank in the German Panzer ranks. Such was the success of the Panzer IV that they were even fielded as late as the 1960's under the Syrian flag in the Six Day War - a true testament to the design's reach. The Panzer IV would go on to become the M4 Sherman's primary adversary across the North African and European fronts of World War 2.