How to determine that a M4A2(75) with small hatches was manufactured by Fisher
Most of the information on this page is courtesy of Joe DeMarco. Note: some of the information on this page was compiled using a technique informally referred to as "counting heads". It is based on the ongoing study of period documents and photographs, as well as surviving Shermans. Due to the limited nature of available reference sources, some of the information presented here must be considered as "educated guesswork."

First of all, you have to identify the tank as being an M4A2(75) with small hatches. Please visit this page to do so.

Fisher Body produced 4614 M4A2(75) with "Dry Stowage" from April, 1942 through May, 1944. The vast majority of them were of the so called "small hatch" type discussed here. So far, the authors have found no official records that provide exact production figures. It is thought that the transition to the large hatch version with 47° glacis (not presented here) took place in November, 1943. Our best guess of the production figures would be 3614 small hatch and 1000 large hatch.
 
Nearly all M4A2(75)s were provided as Lend Lease to the Commonwealth, the USSR & France. The US Marine Corps was also supplied with several hundred units.
 
Production Order T-3049 : 350 tanks manufactured (April - August 1942)
Production Order T-3195 : 2000 tanks manufactured (August 1942 - March 1943)
Production Order T-3318 : 275 tanks manufactured (March - May 1943)
Production Order T-3608 : about 986 "small hatch" tanks and 714 "large hatch" tanks manufactured (April 1943 - February 1944)
Production Order T-4340 : 286 "large hatch" tanks manufactured (February - May 1944)



M4A2 Fisher DV

This photo shows the very first M4A2 - the pilot tank as produced by Fisher Body (Serial Number 2305, accepted in April 1942). It is believed that the 50 first units produced by Fisher were similar to this one. This variant was based on the design concepts of the M4 welded hull pilot constructed at Rock Island Arsenal in October, 1941. The pilot used the M3 Medium Tank lower hull, power train, engine & running gear. The upper hull of the RIA pilot utilized various cast components plugged into the basic assembly of welded together armor plates. These castings included the drivers' hoods, antenna bracket, bow & fixed machine gun "plate," hull ventilators, and a bullet splash guard around the turret, to name a few. The M4A2 Pilot closely followed the RIA design, although, of course, it substituted the GM Twin Diesel Power Plant for the original Wright Radial engine.


M4A2 Fisher DV    M4A2 Fisher DV

The two photos above show several items that are specific to very early Fisher built, small hatch M4A2s. On the left-side photo circled in red, from left to right, the cast antenna bracket and the crude "bent rod" lifting ring, the cast bow & fixed machine gun "plate," the cast drivers' hoods with direct vision slots, the other "bent rod" lifting ring, and the siren affixed to the mudguard. The right-side photo shows the construction of the front glacis with the red lines indicating the weld joints. Note that the "plate" that includes the bow mg and twin fixed machine guns was actually a casting, whereas the other sections of the glacis were armor plates. The twin fixed machine guns were eliminated from the design in March, 1942, even before the first M4A2s rolled off the assembly lines. However, Fisher already had a number of units "in the pipeline," and only they manufactured a few M4A2s with the fixed machine guns actually installed. Subsequent units had the mg apertures welded up, until the original bow casting was modified to eliminate them.


M4A2 Fisher DV    M4A2 Fisher DV

The left side photo above shows a rear view of the Fisher Pilot. Due to a critical shortage of casting capacity at US foundries, Fisher Body pioneered the use of fabricated substitute components ("fabricated" means building a component from smaller parts shaped and welded together). Note that the Pilot's rear turret splash is fabricated, no doubt the first such component they made. This part has only been seen on 1942 production Fisher M4A2s. The other builders and later Fishers, used a cast part.
The right side photo shows the fourth Fisher built M4A2, S/N 2308. Buick, another division of General Motors, began making power trains in early 1942. From the outset, the factory constructed their units with the recently designed one-piece (E4186) differential cover, a great improvement over the three-piece differential of the M3 Medium. S/N 2308 was used to test one of the first Buick power trains The M3 type bogie units as seen on 2308 were seriously overtaxed by the Sherman, and sufficient supplies of both the M4 bogies and power trains with one-piece diffs became available so that Fisher was able to complete the transition to them by August, 1942. An odd feature of 2308 is the white painted hatch interiors. No doubt they would have been repainted in Olive Drab, if the tank had ever been sent overseas.



M4A2 Fisher SN 2420    M4A2 Fisher SN 2420

Starting in June 1942, Fisher began to substitute fabricated components for parts that had previously been cast. Early units continued to employ the cast drivers' hoods with direct vision. Weld joints were a ballistic weak spot, & the glacis pattern was simplified somewhat by the use of a single piece of armor plate across the lower front. A fabricated bow machine gun socket was welded into this plate. Other fabricated parts introduced included the antenna bracket, the headlamp sockets, and the various sections of the turret bullet splash guards.
Close up examples of these components are shown below...



Fisher hull antenna bracket

The fabricated antenna bracket that replaced the casting used on the first fifty or so Fisher M4A2s. Note the sharpness and the distinctive "D" shape.


M4A2 Fisher bow MG    M4A2 Fisher bow MG

Two views of the fabricated bow MG socket. These and the fabricated antenna brackets were also used for a short time on some M4A2s made by Pullman Standard, as well as on nearly the entire production of Shermans manufactured by Baldwin Locomotive Works.


M4A2 Fisher head lamp socket

M4A2 Fisher head lamp socket    M4A2 Fisher bow MG

A comparison of the "fabricated" head lamp sockets versus the cast sockets used by most other manufacturers. The fabricated sockets were also standard on 47 degree hull Shermans.


M4A2 Fisher turret splash guard    M4A2 Fisher turret splash guard

The turret bullet splash guard sections were fabricated from armor cut and bent to shape where needed. These appear to have been exclusive to Fisher built M4A2s. As far as has been observed, all the other builders used cast turret splash sections, which often have a nomenclature part number cast in them (circled in red).


M4A2 Fisher turret splash guard    M4A2 Fisher turret splash guard    M4A2 Fisher turret splash guard

M4A2 Fisher turret splash guard    M4A2 Fisher turret splash guard    M4A2 Fisher turret splash guard

The rear section of the turret splash guard has been fabricated into two variants, the 1st one ("straight" version) being the earliest, soon replaced with the more usual "bent" rear splash guard.


M4A2 Fisher rear turret splash guard    M4A2 Fisher rear turret splash guard

The rear turret splash, in front of the engine deck doors, was fabricated on the earliest M4A2s, including the Pilot. It is thought that in early 1943, Fisher switched over to the cast piece that was used from the start by the other M4A2 manufacturers.


M4A2 Fisher rear hull plate    M4A2 Fisher rear hull plate

Note also that by September 1942, in the interest of simplifying, Fisher had lowered the number of bolts securing the rearmost engine deck plate from 11 to 6.



M4A2 Fisher lifting ring    M4A2 Fisher lifting ring

Another new part introduced at this time is informally referred to as the "padded" hull lifting ring. These were castings with rectangular bases. They were also used by most of the other manufacturers, although they transitioned to the most common type of cast lifting rings (without the rectangular pad) in early 1943, while Fisher continued to use the "padded" ones until the beginning of 1944.


M4A2 Fisher DV    M4A2 Fisher

The direct vision slots were considered ballistic weak spots, and in late 1942, Fisher Body dispensed with them when they transitioned to fabricated drivers' hoods with an additional periscope in front of the drivers' hatches. Note the very sharp, angular appearance of the welded together drivers' hoods (right side photo). Fabricated drivers' hoods were exclusive to Fisher-made M4A2s. The other builders used castings.


M4A2 Fisher hoods

Here is shown the little bullet splash protecting the drivers hoods hinge knuckles (circled in red on the photo). This part has been seen on some Fisher & ALCO Shermans. It was an official part that seems to have been introduced in mid 1943. The reason this part was not added to other manufacturers' Shermans is unknown.


M4A2 Fisher hoods    M4A2 Fisher hoods

Fisher M4A2 fabricated hoods as seen on SN 26830. The hoods used the same cast hatches as all other small hatch Shermans. The periscope guards (circled in red on the left-side photo) were introduced at Fisher in Sept 1943, & Tank Depots were directed to install them in the succeeding months as supplies became available to them.

Positive hatch lock mechanisms with equilibrator springs (circled in red on the right side photo) were also added to Fisher Shermans in mid 1943. These made the hatches easier to manipulate, and insured that they were locked in the open position, thereby avoiding injury to the crew. Aside from factory installation, modification kits were provided for retrofit by Tank Depots or "in the field."


Drawing

Unless the Government mandated a change "without obsolescence," there were generally transition periods where the older parts were used up, even as the new parts were introduced into production to eventually replace the older parts. Thus, one might see a Sherman with direct vision that was made AFTER one with fabricated drivers' hoods. The chart above shows the evolution of the M4A2, including the transition from the multi-part to a simpler & more ballistically sound single plate glacis.


M4A2    M4A2

The authors don't know of any surviving M4A2s with transitional pattern 2 yet, but it can be seen above on this USMC Sherman. An M4A2 with the transitional pattern 3 has been discovered in Chieti, Italy. It has Serial Number 8514 and was built in December, 1942.


Narrow hood construction    Wide hood construction

Fisher and most of the other manufacturers used what are informally referred to as "narrow" drivers' hoods on their small hatch Shermans. Only Ford & Chrysler used "wide" drivers' hood castings on their M4A3 and M4A4s. The lines in red in the pictures above show the welds on the front glacis. Left-side picture courtesy of Paul Hannah.

M4A2 Fisher

The US Marine Corps chose to use the M4A2(75) as its Main Battle Tank since there was a ready availability of diesel fuel in the Navy. Furthermore, we suspect that requisitions may have stipulated Fisher built M4A2(75)s exclusively, as we have yet to see a photo of a USMC M4A2 produced by another manufacturer. They are stated to have received a total of 493 M4A2(75)s. Since no official distinction was made between the small and large hatch models, it has not been possible to determine the exact number of small hatch M4A2(75)s they received. At present, our guess is around 300. This photo shows "Condor" USA 3035025 of the 3rd Platoon, Company C, 1st Tank Battalion which landed and fought on Tarawa on 20 November 1943. It was put out of action the same day


M4A2 Fisher

This photo shows a late Fisher M4A2 Sherman (Serial Number 26875, built in July 1943), as displayed at Carrefour de la Croix de Médavy, France. This tank has fabricated drivers' hoods and the sharp nosed differential cover (part number E8543); instead of the earlier, more rounded one piece differential cover (part number E4186). It is thought that July 1943 was indeed the transition point for the introduction of the E8543 differential cover at Fisher.
Originally, these diff. covers had cast in steps (by the towing lugs), but they interfered with the newly introduced quick release towing shackles, & the cast steps were soon replaced with metal strips, such as are on the Médavy (for more information, have a look to 
this page).


M4A2 Fisher serial number    M4A2 Fisher serial number

M4A2 Fisher serial number

Fisher built Shermans have the Tank's Ordnance Serial Number stamped into the rear towing lugs, it can also be found inside the dataplate frame, beside the driver's position.


M4A2 Fisher build number    M4A2 Fisher build number

From the beginning of the M4A2 production at Fisher, the Ordnance Serial Number was stamped on both tow lugs of the differential housing. Starting around July 1943 and the introduction of the E8543 "sharp nose" differential cover, Fisher Body stamped the serial number, preceded by an "S," on both edges of the part.


M4A2 Fisher build number

Fisher built Shermans have also been seen to have a loose build sequence number stamped on the left front (driver's side)
The authors would gladly receive such production data information from any readers who encounter a surviving Fisher built Sherman.


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