French Shermans during WW2


French Shermans

The Allies invaded Northwest Africa on November 8, 1942. It was hoped that Vichy French Forces in the colonies of Algeria and Morocco would not oppose the “Operation Torch” landings, and instead would join the Allies in the fight against the Axis. Unfortunately, this did not occur and British and US Forces had to fight their way ashore. The French capitulated on November 10, and following delicate and occasionally embarrassing political negotiations, agreed to join the Allies. French General Henri Giraud played an important role during and after the Casablanca Conference in January 1943. As a consequence, the US agreed to supply materiel to the so called “Free French in North Africa,” which helped to establish and train several Divisions, including three Armored Divisions. The "International Aid Statistics" Report indicates that the French received 656 "Tanks, Medium and Heavy" through Lend-Lease. In fact all of them were Sherman Medium Tanks, and France was the third largest recipient of the Sherman, after the British Empire and the USSR.


French Shermans

Deliveries of medium tanks under the official Lend Lease program occurred in 1943 and 1944. The 656 Shermans allocated to the Free French consisted of 274 new production M4A4s, 362 new production M4A2s and 20 remanufactured M4A2s. It is thought that all of these were shipped to Northwest Africa, except for the 20 M4A2s allocated in October 1944. Most likely, these came in through Marseille, France sometime in early 1945. (Legend : A = allocated; M = manufactured; S = shipped from the factory; F = floated)


French Shermans

The M4A4s and M4A2s were delivered to the ports of Algiers (Algeria) and Casablanca (Morocco) in 1943. The French formed three Armored Divisions, each equipped with 165 Shermans. The US required that homogeneous Armored Divisions be created. Thus, the 2ème Division Blindée was entirely outfitted with M4A2s. The 1ère Division Blindée was intended to be equipped only with M4A2s, and the 5ème Division Blindée exclusively with M4A4s. However, the original tank allocation of the 1ère and 5ème Divisions was not homogenous and they both started training duties with 110 M4A4s and 55 M4A2s. Despite multiple American requests for standardization, the French refused to retrain the troops on other engine types, or to exchange Regiments between Armored Divisions, as it was felt such transfers would affect unit cohesion and morale. In the end, M4A4s were allocated to the 2ème Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique and 2ème Régiment de Cuirassiers (1ère Division Blindée) and to the 1er Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique and 1er Régiment de Cuirassiers (5ème Division Blindée). The 110 M4A2s were evenly allocated to the 5ème Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique (1ère Division Blindée) and the 6ème Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique (5ère Division Blindée). The photo above shows French General Henri Giraud standing in front of an M4A4 delivered to the port of Algiers on 17 April, 1943. It has the little French flag shipping stencil on the side, and still carries its "On Vehicle Materiel" (OVM) box on the engine deck. Photo courtesy of ECPAD, TERRE 34-618.


Part 1: The 2ème Division Blindée


French Shermans    French Shermans

362 diesel engined M4A2(75)s were allocated to the “French in North Africa” between May and July, 1943. Photographic evidence suggests that most of those distributed to the 2ème Division Blindée were manufactured in 1943, but some 1942 production units are also seen in the mix. For instance, the photo above left shows "Perthus" of the 12ème Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique, with Direct Vision (1), and the M34 Gun Mount with the narrow rotor shield (2), features typical of 1942 Shermans. “Ile de France,” another M4A2 of the 12ème Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique is shown on the right. The sharp nosed “Mary Ann” differential housing (3) was introduced into production at Fisher Body in July 1943, and it is thought that “Ile de France” would have been one of the M4A2s allocated to the French during that same month. Note the wider rotor shield of the M34A1 gun mount (4). Both of these tanks appear to have received a few “in the field” modifications, including the turret appliqué armor patch (5). The visible gap in the patch on “Ile de France” suggests that it was a case of an unnecessary application (see below for further details). These tanks were photographed landing on Utah Beach on August 1st or August 2, 1944, and each can be seen with a “Somua” plate affixed to the front, a souvenir of the old Somua S-35 tanks the Regiment had in North Africa.


French Shermans    French Shermans

The French 2ème Division Blindée was chosen to take part in the Normandy Campaign, and shipped out of North Africa with its 165 M4A2s on April 11, 1944. It landed in the United Kingdom 11 days later, where it continued to train. The Division was the subject of a good deal of Press coverage when it landed in Normandy in early August, 1944, as it was the first major French unit to reenter France. The US Ordnance Department directed that US Army Shermans located in the UK receive a number of upgrade modifications prior to the D-Day Invasion of Europe. As the 2eme DB was attached to the US Third Army, its tanks were considered subject to the directive, and the Division was provided with quantities of the various modification kits. However, it would appear that French Maintenance units were overwhelmed by the number of modifications, and did not have the time or manpower to apply them “by the book.” For instance, period photos and a few surviving examples, show that the hull appliqué plates that were part of the "Quick Fix" modification kit were merely tack welded on, a technique that would been rejected by US Army inspectors. The image on the left is from newsreel footage shot in North Dalton, UK, in July, 1944 and shows French mechanics welding an appliqué plate on "Arcis sur Aube," an M4A2 of the 501ème Régiment de Chars de Combat. The right side photo shows the non continuous weld beads on "Massaoua," an M4A2 destroyed on August 15, 1944 in Ecouché, Normandy. A few of the surviving 2eme DB monument Shermans on display in France, like "Massaoua," are missing their applique plates, most likely due to the inadequacy of the original tack welding method.


French Shermans

One of the modifications mandated for installation on US Shermans in the UK was Blitz Item No. 57, "Increase thickness of Turret Armor in Region of Traversing Gear." There were a couple of scooped out "thin spots" on the right front side of the turret's interior wall that provided clearance for the crew to work the traversing mechanism. It was reported that the enemy aimed for these thin spots, so an exterior patch kit was produced to correct this defect. In the meantime, the D50878 turret mold was altered by providing a "cast in thickened cheek" which eliminated the need for the welded on turret patch modification. Ordnance engineers considered the pistol port to be a weak spot on the Sherman's turret, and made the unfortunate decision to eliminate it from the revised casting. The new turret castings entered the production pipeline in the Summer of 1943, and it is obvious from period photos and surviving examples that the French received a few M4A2s with "cast in thickened cheek/no pistol port" turrets. In any case, an interesting anomaly seen on a handful of 2eme DB Shermans is the unnecessary application of the welded on turret patch to the revised turrets (see the 75mm turret page for further details). "Valois," "Massaoua" and "Chemin des Dames" are historical examples featuring unnecessarily applied turret patches. The cast, two piece applique sections were not made to fit the revised turret, and Massaoua (pictured above) shows a particularly poor fit. Lack of direction from US Ordnance personnel, and/or simply a language barrier misunderstanding were the likely culprits in the case of the unneeded turret appliqué.


French Shermans

An informal modification seen on some but not all of the Shermans of the 2eme DB is the installation of a large stowage box on the upper rear hull plate (1). A few surviving examples can be seen with a round weld scar (2) denoting the original position of the track adjusting wrench. The wrench holder was removed so that the stowage box could lie flat. In some cases, the tool fittings on the upper rear hull plate were repositioned below the new stowage box (3) as seen in the left side photo. In other cases, it is thought that crews stored the tools inside the (locked) stowage box, as such implements were prime targets for theft. On some French Shermans, the crews fabricated holders for jerrycans. Often the fittings were simple metal bars bent and welded together. However, a few surviving examples have fittings that were obviously made from recycled parts of the original sand shields - cut, folded and screwed on to the upper rear plate ends (4).


French Shermans

The two barred Croix de Lorraine (Cross of Lorraine) was adopted as the symbol of the Free French Forces who chose to continue to resist the Nazis after the Fall of France in June, 1940. The unit symbol chosen by the 2ème Division Blindée consisted of a blue circle containing a map outline of the country of France over which was superimposed the Cross of Lorraine. This symbol (1) appears painted on nearly every vehicle of the 2eme DB. Another of the modifications mandated for installation on US Shermans in the UK before D-Day was the "2 inch Smoke Mortar." The mortar was to be installed inside at the left front of the turret through a hole drilled or burned into the armor. It would appear that some French units chose not to install the mortar "by the book," possibly because they lacked the time or the proper tools. A few M4A2s of the 501ème Régiment de Chars de Combat are seen with the smoke mortar affixed to the exterior of the turret on the right side as shown above (2) on "Friedland," photographed in Paris on August 25, 1944, the day the German Garrison surrendered the French Capital. "Friedland" can also be seen with a stowage box (3) on the rear of the turret which, along with the aforementioned installation of the large stowage box on the upper rear hull plate, was a common practice in the 2ème Division Blindée. Collection Benjamin Josset via Laurent Fournier.


French Shermans

The French were not issued any 105 Shermans as official Lend Lease, but since their units served under US Army command, additional equipment (including tanks) was provided from US Army stocks. The 2ème DB was an early recipient of the type, and received a few M4(105)s at the end of July 1944 while in the UK. The photo above is dated August 1, 1944 and symbolizes the long anticipated return to "la terre sacrée de France." “Moghrane” of the 2ème Escadron, 12ème RCA (Régiment de Chasseurs d’Afrique) is seen here coming ashore on Utah Beach. In general, French units painted out the USA Numbers, and replaced them with their own system of "matricule" numbers. (Our research suggests that these first M4(105)s were assigned matricule numbers in the 90 xxx range.) In any case, although a number of French tactical markings are visible on “Moghrane”, "USA 30103764" had not yet been over painted. The USA Number indicates that “Moghrane” was an April 1944 production M4(105), most likely one of the first 210 shipped to the UK in the months before D-Day. The most obvious feature of M4(105)s produced from the start of production in February through April 1944 is the commander's split hatch (arrow). It is thought that all 105 Shermans, both M4 and M4A3, had the commander's all round vision cupola factory installed starting in May, 1944.


French Shermans

While Ford-engined Shermans (M4A3s) were generally reserved for US Army use, the combat debut of the M4A3(76) in Northwest Europe may well have been with the 2ème Division Blindée. As mentioned above, the Division was attached to the US Third Army, and received about 20 of the first M4A3(76)s as replacements in late August to make up for M4A2 losses suffered in Normandy. Our research suggests that these units were assigned Matricule numbers in the 95 xxx - 96 xxx range. "Champagne," Number 55, served with the 3rd Squadron of the 12ème Régiment de Chasseurs d’Afrique. On August 25, 1944, during the battle for Paris, her crew was credited with firing the "kill shot" that knocked out a Panther in the Place de la Concorde. In the crew snapshot above, one can see that Champagne was another French Sherman that "still" had the USA Number painted on. "3099828 S" was the 67th M4A3(76) made by Chrysler, and would have been accepted in April, 1944. (The "S" often seen at the end of USA Numbers is frequently mistaken for a "5," but it signifies that the vehicle was equipped with a Radio Interference Suppression System.). "Champagne" was knocked out on September 13, 1944 in Ville-sur-Illon, near Dompaire and is on display there as a monument to this day. Other French units that used M4A3(76)s include the 501ème Régiment de Chars de Combat, 12ème Régiment de Cuirassiers and 1er Régiment de Marche de Spahis Marocains. Photo courtesy of Musée de la libération-Jean Moulin-Ville de Paris.


French Shermans

 The 2ème Division Blindée suffered heavy tank losses during its first days in combat, and, in late August 1944, received quite a few replacement Shermans from Third Army reserves. Included among them were about 20 M4A3(75)Ws. As with the M4A3(76)s, they appear to have been assigned Matricule numbers in the 95 xxx - 96 xxx range. "Bourg la Reine" served with the 2eme DB's 12ème Régiment de Cuirassiers, and its original Matricule number can just be seen in the period photo above as 96012 (circled). The tank was destroyed on the western outskirts of Phalsbourg, France on November 21, 1944. “Bourg La Reine” has been preserved as a monument in Phalsbourg, and we have recorded its Serial Number as 49709, indicating that it was manufactured by Fisher Body in May 1944. Other French units that were equipped with some M4A3(75)Ws include the 501ème Régiment de Chars de Combat, 12ème Régiment de Chasseurs d’Afrique and 1er Régiment de Marche de Spahis Marocains.


French Shermans

Along with the M4A3(76) and M4A3(75)W mentioned above, the 2ème Division Blindée received half a dozen M4(75)s in late August 1944. Three of them were assigned to artillery units. Above is "Cyrano de Bergerac," which was part of an observation group in one of the batteries of the 40ème Régiment d'Artillerie Nord Africain. This unit can be identified as an M4(75) (as opposed to M4A2(75)) by the cut out configuration of the upper rear hull plate (arrow). Radial engine Shermans (M4s and M4A1s) carried a pair of external air cleaners, and the right side unit (1) is just visible in the photo. The 2 M4(75)s identified as with the 40ème RANA are seen in period photos with a portion of the lower section of a wading trunk installed on the turret bustle as shown in the inset above. Thus it would seem that the trunks were recycled for use as stowage boxes. Other units identified with M4(75)s include the 64ème Régiment d'Artillerie de Division Blindée (1 vehicle), the 12ème Régiment de Cuirassiers (2 vehicles) and the 501ème Régiment de Chars de Combat (1 vehicle).


French Shermans

A few M4A3(105) Shermans appear to have been received as replacements in Fall 1944 to make up for M4(105) losses. All of the M4A3(105)s we have been able to identify served with the 12ème Régiment de Cuirassiers. One of them was "Pont de Kehl" above, which replaced the M4(105) "Cherbourg", destroyed in Strasbourg on November 23, 1944. The two other ones were "Oran" and "Saint Denis III". In photos, an M4A3(105) can be distinguished from an M4(105) by the engine deck door stops mounted on each side of the hull in the rear, as shown circled in red above. Photo from the book "La 2ème DB en France, combats et combattants", Editions Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 2ème Trimestre 1945.


French Shermans    French Shermans

M4A1(75)s also served with the 2ème Division Blindée. A study of period photos shows that, starting in late August 1944, a few of them, along with the M4(75)s mentioned above, were assigned to observation groups in artillery regiments. At least 3 have been identified, two with the 40ème RANA, and "Meknès" of the 64ème RADB. On November 27, 1944, the 2ème Division Blindée was transferred from the Third Army (Twelfth Army Group) to the Seventh Army (Sixth Army Group). As a result of a significant shortage of combat vehicles, a few more M4A1(75)s were delivered in late 1944. A US Army report indicates that 9 M4A1(75)s were on hand with the 2ème DB in Alsace as of January 10, 1945. Supplies of M4A1s to 2ème DB units continued into late winter and spring, 1945, as more replacement tanks were made available from Sixth Army Group reserves. The photo above left shows "Saint Chamond II" of the 12ème Régiment de Cuirassiers. This M4A1 displays early features such as the M34 Gun Mount with the narrow type of rotor shield (1) and the "aircraft type cowl fasteners," used to secure sand shields before the introduction of the standard design in mid 1943 (2). The Direct Vision ports of the drivers' hatches have been covered over by a field application of armor plates (3). "Verdun IV" (right) was another M4A1(75) of the 12ème Régiment de Cuirassiers. The M3 type suspension (4) suggests that this early production unit may have served with the US Army during its first campaign in Northwest Africa, and in the subsequent campaigns in Sicily and Italy. US Armored units assigned to the 7th Army for the Invasion of Southern France (Operation Dragoon, August, 1944) were detached from the US 5th Army in Italy, and came ashore with many such early Shermans. Some of these tanks had received a number of upgrades at workshops in Northwest Africa and Italy, as Modification Kits were shipped to the theater starting in the Fall of 1943. "Verdun IV" can be seen with the "Quick Fix" modification as represented by the appliqué plates (5) on the hull sides, as well as the "Increase Thickness in Area of Traversing Mechanism" (6) modification to the turret. It is thought that a number of these early M4A1s were transferred to the French when they were withdrawn from US service after 7th Army armored units were re-equipped with later model Shermans. Both photos courtesy of Musée de la libération-Jean Moulin-Ville de Paris.


French Shermans    French Shermans

In the final weeks of the War in Europe, French armored forces received additional supplies of M4A1(75)s, but unlike the ones described in the previous caption, these had been remanufactured in the US, before shipment overseas. The photo above left, taken around April 21st, 1945, is part of a series that shows rail cars transporting Sherman tanks to the 2ème Division Blindée just before it began its final push into southwest Germany. Most of the tanks seen in this series are remanufactured M4A1(75)s. Some are noted with the E9 suspension, a modification that only became available in early 1945. "Aunis III" (above, right) was photographed returning from Germany shortly after VE Day, May 8, 1945. The riveted lower hull (1) identifies this tank as a Pressed Steel Car M4A1 produced in May, 1943 or earlier. Starting in late 1944, remanufactured Shermans received extended fenders (2) to accommodate extended end connectors, along with the commander's all round vision cupola (3). If needed, they were installed with the "Quick Fix" modification as represented by the appliqué plates (4) on the hull sides, as well as the "Increase Thickness" (5) modification to the turret. A couple of other mods that were installed if not already present included positive hatch lock mechanisms (6) and periscope guards (7). Left side photo courtesy of Musée de la libération-Jean Moulin-Ville de Paris, right side photo courtesy of ECPAD.


French Shermans
Click on the photo for larger size

Only a handful M4A1(75)s with E9 suspension are seen in period photos, all of which show them in possession of the French Army. Oddly, none are seen with the extended end connectors (EECs) installed. At the end of the war in Europe, the US Army directed that EECs be removed and collected up so that they could be passed on to the "active theater" (the Pacific). The photo above shows an M4A1 of the 1er Escadron, 12ème Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique advancing towards Karlsruhe, Germany on April 29, 1945. Although the EECs are not installed, the noticeable distance between the tracks and the differential housing indicates that this unit is installed with the E9 spacers. Other hints of late remanufacture are the commander’s vision cupola, and the M34 gun mount with "wing piece" retrofitted to the rotor shield. At present, this may be the only known WW II “combat shot” of a Sherman with the E9 modification. With thanks to Claude Gillono. Photo courtesy of Musée de la libération-Jean Moulin-Ville de Paris.


French Shermans

The image above is part of the same April, 1945 "rail car" series as the one shown previously. In a some of the photos, a few M4(105)HVSS Shermans (1) can be seen mixed in with the remanufactured M4A1(75)s. The On Vehicle Materiel boxes (2) on the engine decks indicate that these tanks had not yet been processed and made “Ready for Issue.” The number of M4(105)HVSS Shermans supplied to the 2ème DB is not known, and at present we have not come across any “combat shots.” As for the other French Armored Divisions (1ère and 5ème Divisions Blindée), it is thought that they were not equipped with any 105 Shermans whatsoever until April, 1945. Documents from the French Archives in Vincennes report that 18 "M4A3 105mm" were listed as “authorized” to each Division starting in late January, 1945, but it is only from 29 April through 5 May, 1945 that they become listed as “on hand.” However, we would observe that period photos from the Summer of 1945 suggest that these tanks were in fact M4(105)HVSS. Photo courtesy of Musée de la libération-Jean Moulin-Ville de Paris.


French Shermans

Due to its attachment to the US Army throughout the campaign in Europe, the 2ème Division Blindée received replacements made up of just about every type of Sherman used overseas by US Armored Forces. All of the M4(75)s produced by the Chrysler Corporation, along with perhaps the last 300 ALCO M4s, were somewhat atypical in that their hulls were not of all welded construction. Instead the rear two/thirds of a welded hull was joined to a cast front end. The US Army did not make an official distinction between this construct and the all welded models – both were designated “M4.” The British did acknowledge the difference, and labeled them "Hybrids." In present Sherman circles, for the sake of clarity, they are often referred to as "M4 Composites." In any case, there are a few period photos showing M4 Composites in service with the 2ème Division Blindée. In the book “La 2ème DB" (Editions Heimdal), author Alain Eymard describes "Wissembourg" as having been assigned to the 12ème Régiment de Cuirassiers on November 30, 1944. The photo above is one of a series of crew snapshots taken in Torcheville, Lorraine in February, 1945. The arrows indicate where the cast front end was welded to the rest of the hull. "Wissembourg" can be seen with the extended fenders (we’ve circled a couple of the fender supports) typical of many remanufactured Shermans. The machine gun stowage fittings (1) on the turret bustle would have been another modification added during remanufacture. Unlike the M4A1s in the rail car series, this tank does not have the commander’s vision cupola, so perhaps it was rebuilt a little earlier, before the cupolas became available to the remanufacturer? There are several period photos of another M4 Composite named "Harstadt II.” On the Chars français website, it is noted that it was assigned at an unknown date to the 501ème Régiment de Chars de Combat. Photo courtesy of Caporal Gimenez via Alain Eymard.


French Shermans    French Shermans

Another uncommon type of Sherman was employed by the 2ème DB. Period photos show that at least two former Duplex Drive M4A1s, "Beauvaisis III" and "Anjou II", both served in the 12ème Régiment de Cuirassiers. As with many used DDs, these tanks were stripped of most of their fittings so that they could serve more efficiently as regular gun tanks. It seems likely that they were drawn by the 2ème DB from the replacement pool of the 7th Army. The photo on the left was taken on May 19, 1945, during a victory parade at Klosterlechfeld Airfield near Landsberg, Germany. The M4A1 on the left in the photo can be identified as a stripped down DD by the welds on the differential housing (circled in red) and the unusual shape of the front fenders. "Paint archeology" (inset) has determined that the tank in the right side photo is the original "Beauvaisis III" of the 2ème Peloton, 1er Escadron of the 12ème RCA. Note the "DD welds" on the differential housing (1), and the front fenders (2) with DD fittings. The head lights on DDs were extended up about 14 inches in order for the light beams to clear the floatation screen when it was in the lowered position. As a consequence, the head light guards (3) were extended up, and were much higher than the standard guards, as seen here. "Beauvaisis III" is preserved in the MM Park Collection near Strasbourg, but we would point out that it no longer has a turret with DD fittings. Right side photo courtesy of the Musée de la libération-Jean Moulin-Ville de Paris.


Part 2: The 1ère and 5ème Divisions Blindées


French Shermans

As Lend Lease supplies came in, the three French Armored Divisions established training camps in Northwest Africa. The photo above shows M4A4s of the 4ème Escadron, 1er Régiment de Cuirassiers of the 5ème Division Blindée lined up for inspection at Taylor Farm in Berkane, Morocco “sometime” in 1944. It is thought that the "drapeau consulaire" (1) or "drapeau 1804", of Napoleonic origins was adopted as the symbol of the French First Army, and was ordered painted on all of the vehicles of the 1ère and 5ème DBs. In the case of “Nemours,” Tank 74, the "drapeau consulaire" is oriented vertically with “FRANCE D’ABORD” (France First) lettered inside the white diamond. Some sources state that the color of the square of the tactical marking (2) was red for the 5ème DB, and blue for the 1ère DB. Counting heads suggests that all 274 French Lend Lease M4A4s were produced in January and February 1943. Thus, none of them would have had direct vision. Chrysler transitioned to the M34A1 gun mount in mid February, 1943, which suggests that a little less than half of the French M4A4s would have had the wide rotor shield as seen on the first two tanks in the photo. Quite a few of the other M4A4s down the line are equipped with the earlier M34 gun mounts with the narrow rotor shields.


French Shermans

The 2ème Régiment de Cuirassiers was the first unit of the 1ère Division Blindée to engage in combat. The Regiment landed on D+1, August 16, 1944, as part of the invasion of Southern France (Operation Dragoon). The French had a very limited reserve pool, and many of their losses were replaced with tanks from US stocks. Consequently, the 2ème Cuirs, which was originally equipped entirely with M4A4s, received various types of Shermans as replacement, including some M4A4s but also M4A2s, M4A1(75)s and M4A1(76)s. The port city of Marseille (Delta Base) was liberated by French troops on August 29, 1944, and proved to be a great logistical asset to the Allied effort in the European Theater. The 2ème Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique, which had its combat debut on September 25, 1944, was the other unit of the 1ère DB originally equipped solely with M4A4s. With combat losses and attrition, it received a mix of replacement Shermans similar to the 2ème Cuirs. The photo above shows "St. Quentin" of the 2ème Régiment de Cuirassiers on a street in Marseille, shortly after it was liberated. On "St. Quentin" the "drapeau consulaire" is seen painted horizontally and the white diamond contains no slogan or symbol, although some other tanks of this unit can be seen with the Cross of Lorraine painted in the white diamond. Quite a few photos show the unit's M4A4s with T49 "interrupted parallel bar" tracks (2). We suspect that the original rubber tracks had worn out during training, and were replaced before the unit shipped out from Algeria. The tanks slated for Operation Dragoon had been painted with the distinctive "Invasion Stars" (3) as well.


French Shermans

The 5ème Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique was the single regiment of the 1ère DB that was entirely equipped with M4A2(75)s (55). The unit came ashore with Operation Dragoon follow up forces, and first entered combat on August 21, 1944. During the course of the campaign, most of its losses were replaced with other M4A2s, but a few M4A1(76)s appear to have been received in late February, 1945, along with a few M4(105) HVSS in early May, 1945. As with the 2ème Division Blindée,  the regiment’s M4A2s consisted of a mix of early and late models from various manufacturers, including some with Direct Vision. The photo above shows "Lasalle", a Fisher-built M4A2 of the 5ème RCA, entering the German city of Baden-Baden on April 12, 1945. The M34 Gun Mount suggests that this tank was produced before April, 1943. Photo courtesy of ECPAD, TERRE-10278-L11.


French Shermans    French Shermans

In early November, 1944, the 6ème Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique became the first unit of the 5ème Division Blindée to enter into combat. Documents and period photos reveal that the majority of the Shermans that equipped the Regiment were M4A2(75)s. French tanks were generally named by their crews, but “counting heads” suggests that less than half of the Shermans in the 6ème RCA carried names. Most of them only show a “speed number,” such as "33" pictured above left. The 6eme RCA appears to have been issued a few M4A1(76)s which show up in photos during the final push into Germany. The tank shown on the right, has been identified as Number 34, photographed in Stuttgart, April, 1945. The presence of the welded spoke with "small holes" road wheels (1) combined with the M1A1C 76mm gun (2) with thread protector suggest that this M4A1(76) was produced by Pressed Steel Car in the Fall of 1944, but before the end of November when the transition to the M1A2 gun with muzzle brake was completed. Photos courtesy of ECPAD.


French Shermans

The 2 other regiments of the 5ème Division Blindée, the 1er Régiment de Cuirassiers and the 1er Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique, both entered into action in mid November, 1944. These units were originally equipped entirely with M4A4s, and the Shermans they were issued as replacements were mainly other M4A4s. It is thought that both regiments received a few M4A1(75)s and M4A1(76)s late in the campaign, probably in March and May, 1945. As best we can determine, neither unit was ever issued any M4A2 as replacements. The photo above shows "Gallifet", an M4A4 of the 1er RCA, undergoing track maintenance in the Le Bonhomme village area in December, 1944. Photo courtesy of ECPAD, TERRE-10013-L51.


French Shermans

While many of the M4A2s of the 2ème DB received modifications in the UK prior to D-Day, the original Lend Lease Shermans of the 1ère and 5ème DBs remained relatively unmodified throughout the war. The photo above shows Général Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, Commander of the French First Army, during ceremonies in Colmar shortly after the liberation of the city on February 3, 1945. The only modification evident on these M4A4s of the 1er Régiment de Cuirassiers, 5ème DB is the commander's vane sight (circled). By the final months of the war, the engines of many of the the Lend Lease Shermans had worn out, and replacements were requested. The only engine that was available from the US was the Continental Radial. At least one French M4A4 was test fitted with the radial during the war, but it is believed that most of the Transformé work was done in the months and years after.


French Shermans    French Shermans

As mentioned previously, the last 20 "official" Lend Lease M4A2s were allocated to the French in October, 1944. Taking into account shipping times, these tanks probably didn’t arrive in theater until the beginning of 1945. They would have been remanufactured in the US, so would have had the full suite of modifications, including appliqué armor plates in front of the drivers’ hatches (1) and on the hull sides (2), the gun travel lock (3), the blanket roll rack (4) and stowage for the machine gun on the rear turret bustle. Remanufactured M4A2s are seen in all units of the 1ère Division Blindée and in the 6ème RCA, 5ème DB. Three remanufactured M4A2s have been identified in the 2ème Division Blindée as well. The photo on the left shows “Davout” of the 2ème Régiment de Cuirassiers. This tank is a 1942 Fisher Body produced M4A2 with Direct Vision. On the right is an M4A2 said to be of the 5ème RCA, but otherwise unidentified due to the absence of any unit markings. The lack of any crew stowage on these tanks, suggests that they were photographed post war. Both photos courtesy of ECPAD.


French Shermans    French Shermans

It has been noted that both M4A1(75)s and M4A1(76)s were received as replacements by various units of the French First Army. They begin to appear in service in Alsace in February, 1945. The photos above show tanks of the 1er Régiment de Cuirassiers in Kalsruhe, Germany on April 4, 1945. "Nemours II" (above, right) and "Nomade II" (above, left), both served with the 4ème Escadron, 1er Cuirs. As with the 2ème Division Blindée, the replacement M4A1(75)s consisted of a mix of tanks withdrawn from service in US units, as well as a few remanufactured Shermans. Photos show that a few of the remanufactured M4A1(75)s were equipped with the E9 suspension modification. A document dated February 17, 1945 states that 5 M4A1(76)s that came in through "Delta Base" (Marseilles) "were later reloaded and shipped to the French First Army." The USA Registration Numbers given in the document indicate that all of these had been accepted in October, 1944. During WW II, it took on average 4 to 5 months to get a newly built tank from factory into the hands of combat troops. This appears to have been the case with these M4A1s, as most likely, it would have taken another week or two for these tanks to have been shipped, processed and delivered to French troopers. M4A1(76)s produced in October, 1944 would have been equipped with oval loader's hatches, and perhaps a few of them would have had muzzle brakes, as appears to be the case with "Nomade II". Both photos courtesy of ECPAD, TERRE-10256-L101 and unknown reference.


French Shermans

A few of the replacement M4A4s seen in French service in 1945 were former British/Commonwealth Sherman Vs. For example, "Nancy II" of the 2ème Régiment de Cuirassiers, can be identified as a remanufactured M4A4, by among other things, the armor plates in front of the drivers’ hatches and on the hull sides, along with the gun travel lock. The 274 French Lend Lease M4A4s were early 1943 production, whereas the M4A4 remanufacture program did not commence until December, 1943, and all 1610 were allocated to British Lend Lease. Commonwealth workshops typically added additional fittings to their Shermans before issue. These included the spare track holders on the glacis (1), the oval shaped combing around the smoke mortar hole (arrow), and the external fire extinguisher bottles (circled). It is thought that these former Commonwealth Shermans were part of the 351 transferred by the British to the US in January 1945 to make up for losses suffered during the Battle of the Bulge. For the most part, US units did not use the 120 M4A2s and 53 M4A4s sent, but held them as emergency reserves in the event that standard replacement types from the US were delayed. Once the crisis passed, many of these were transferred to the French whose armored units actually employed M4A2s and M4A4s.


French Shermans

French Shermans    French Shermans

The photos above show that at least two former British Sherman V DDs ended up in the French First Army. These tanks were stripped of most of their DD fittings, but several vestiges remain, including the welds on the differential housings and along the hull sides, the raised headlamps, and the power take offs from the DD idler wheels. In general, British War Department Numbers were painted on the hull sides, but in the case of DDs, they were painted on the turret, since the wading skirt would have obscured any hull markings. "France II” has been recorded as “T-147191DD.” Note the absence of hull applique armor. Counting heads suggests that M4A4s in the T-147XXX range were shipped from the US in the Summer of 1943, before the “Quick Fix” and drivers’ hood applique modifications had been issued. These two Sherman V DDs have been identified by Claude Gillono as with the 1er Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique, 5ème Division Blindée, near the German-Austrian border in late April, 1945. Photos courtesy of Claude Gillono - The French Shermans of the Libération 1944-1945.


French Shermans    French Shermans

It is thought that the French received a few of the 120 M4A2(75)s that were part of the emergency transfer by the British to the US in January 1945. The units shown above both served with the 6ème Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique of the 5ème DB. These tanks have features that indicate that they were among the 535 M4A2s remanufactured in the US in 1944. The drivers’ hoods with direct vision seen on Tank Number 53 would indicate that it was produced in 1942. Such a tank would have been built originally with an M34 Gun Mount. The M34A1 Gun Mount with its wider rotor shield would have been added along with the numerous other modifications during remanufacture. Both tanks show fittings, such as the spare track holders, typically added to Commonwealth Shermans before issue. Although these photos are undated, the crew stowage suggests that they are war time shots. A road sign for Göbrichen, Germany can be seen in another photo of Tank Number 53The 6ème RCA was in that area in mid April, 1945.


French Shermans

A small number of Shermans were employed as observation tanks in the artillery units of the French First Army. The 68ème Régiment d'Artillerie d'Afrique, which belonged to the 1ère Division Blindée, was equipped with early M4A1(75)s. All of the three known vehicles were fitted with M3 type bogies and two of them had Direct Vision. The 62ème Régiment d'Artillerie d'Afrique, attached to the 5ème Division Blindée, was equipped with M4A2(75)s and M4A1(75)s. The photo above shows "Bombarde", an M4A1(75) of the 62ème RAA, crossing the river Lauter along with vehicles of the 4ème Régiment de Tirailleurs Tunisiens, near Scheibenhardt in March, 1945. Photo courtesy of ECPAD, TERRE 10197-L48.


Known Surviving French WWII Combat Veteran Shermans
These are the original WW2 veteran tanks, not tanks named in honor of them.
Some other Shermans with French markings exist, but they are not the original vehicles.
2ème DB
M4A2(75) "Montereau" 501è RCC knocked out in the Ecouves forest on August 12, 1944 Preserved in Alençon Normandy
M4A2(75) "Valois" 12ème RCA knocked out at Croix de Médavy on August 13, 1944 Preserved in carrefour de la Croix de Médavy Normandy
M4A2(75) "Keren" 501è RCC knocked out in Saint-Christophe-du-J. on August 12, 1944 Preserved in Saint Christophe du Jajolet Normandy
M4A2(75) "Massaoua" 501è RCC knocked out in Ecouché on August 15, 1944 Preserved in Ecouché Normandy
M4A3(76) "Champagne" 12ème RCA knocked out in Ville-sur-Ilon on September 13, 1944 Preserved in Ville-sur-Illon Lorraine
M4A2(75) "Mort-Homme" 501è RCC knocked out in Badonviller on November 17, 1944 Preserved in Badonviller Lorraine
M4A3(75)W "Bourg la Reine" 12ème Cuirs knocked out in Phalsbourg on November 22, 1944 Preserved in Phalsbourg Lorraine
M4A2(75) "Chemin des Dames" 501è RCC knocked out in Grussenheim on January 26, 194 Preserved in Grussenheim Alsace
M4A2(75) "Corse" 12ème RCA thought to have served from Aug., 1944 thru VE Day, May 8, 1945 Preserved in Saumur Pays de la Loire
M4A3(75)W "Thérèse" RMSM thought to have served from Aug., 1944 thru VE Day, May 8, 1945 Preserved in a private collection Belgium
M4A1(75) "Bourg la Reine II" 12ème Cuirs thought to have served from Nov. 1944 thru VE Day, May 8, 1945 Preserved in Angers Pays de la Loire
M4A1(75) "Beauvaisis III" 12ème RCA thought to have served from spring 1945 thru VE Day, May 8, 1945 Preserved in MM Park, near Strasbourg Alsace
M4A1E9 "Benghazi II" 501è RCC thought to have served from spring 1945 thru VE Day, May 8, 1945 Preserved in a private collection France
1ère and 5ème DB
M4A4 "Jeanne d'Arc" 2ème Cuirs knocked out in Marseille on August 25, 1944 Preserved in Marseille Bouches-du-Rhône
M4A4 "Orléans II" 2ème Cuirs knocked out in Beaune on September 7, 1944 Preserved in Beaune Bourgogne
M4A4 "Duguay-Trouin" 2ème Cuirs knocked out in Tailly on September 6, 1944 Preserved in Dijon Bourgogne
M4A4 "Austerlitz" 2ème RCA knocked out in Mulhouse on November 23, 1944 Preserved in Mulhouse Alsace
M4A4 "Renard" 1er RCA knocked out in Kientzheim on December 18, 1944 Preserved in Kientzheim Alsace
M4A4 "Fort l'Empereur II" 1er RCA thought to have served from spring 1945 thru VE Day, May 8, 1945 Preserved in Rixheim Alsace


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