The M-4 Sherman replaced the Grant, solving its gun mount problem by placing the 75 mm gun in a turret. An impressive weapon when first introduced during the North Africa campaign, it soon became outdated. Army bureaucracy failed to understand that another tank was needed to deal with newer German tanks like the Tiger, which was first encountered in Tunisia. The Sherman was up-gunned to a higher velocity 76 mm gun while the British upgraded their Shermans to the Firefly variety. The British 17 pounder was better than the American 76 mm gun, but it too was inadequate. To compound the problem, the under-gunned Shermans had an unfortunate tendency to catch on fire when hit. Although a new turret with a 90 mm gun could have been designed and produced, it was not, and models with increased armor were built in only limited numbers.
Produced beginning in February 1942, this is the Canadian version of the M-4A1, built in limited numbers until it was recognized that American production was adequate for the war effort. The Grizzlies never entered combat and were used for training in Canada.
All the M-4A1s mounted a 75mm gun along with three machine guns. They weighed 33 tons and could reach 24 mph. A major deficiency in combat specific to the A1 model was the lack of a hatch for the loader, leaving only the commander's hatch for the escape of three of the five crewmen. Considering the Sherman's tendency to catch on fire when hit, with the resulting nicknames "The Ronson" and "Tommy Cooker", this deficiency could be fatal. The model's cast hull gave somewhat better protection but at greater cost, so other construction techniques were used on later models.
While later American Shermans mounted a higher velocity 76 mm gun, the British upgunned around 600 of their Shermans to the Firefly variety like the one shown here. The 17 pounder it mounted was better than the American 76 mm gun but was also inadequate to deal with the Panther and Tiger.
Nicknamed the "Easy Eight", over 4,500 M-4A3E8s were produced beginning in March 1944. The HVSS or horizontal volute spring suspension gave more shock absorption and allowed wider tracks and more mobility. The tank mounted the 76mm gun and had more steeply sloped frontal armor. The turret and gun mantlet were both larger. Earlier versions of the M-4A3 retained vision slots for the driver and co-driver, but later models like those shown here used periscopes. The M-4A3 used an 8 cylinder 500 horsepower radial aircraft engine.
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