Large hatch M4A2 Shermans
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 with large hatches. Please visit this page to do so.

So far, the authors have found no official records that provide exact production figures, but it is thought that Fisher Body produced approximately 1000 large hatch M4A2(75)s from November, 1943 through May, 1944. Considering that HVSS Shermans cost about $2000 more, we were surprised to find no breakdown of the figures in the Government records we examined. Our estimate is that Fisher produced about 1594 M4A2(76)VVSS and 1300 M4A2(76)HVSS from May 1944 through May 1945.

Pressed Steel Car manufactured 21 M4A2(76) HVSS tanks from April to May, 1945.

Fisher Body production orders :
Production Order T-3608 : about 986 "small hatch" M4A2(75) and 714 "large hatch" M4A2(75) manufactured : Serial Number 26305 / USA 3034835 through S/N 28004 / USA 3036534
Production Order T-4340 : 286 "large hatch" M4A2(75) manufactured : Serial Number 47555 / USA 3080152 through S/N 47843 /  USA 3080440
Production Order T-4340 : 771 M4A2(76) with VVSS manufactured
: Serial Number 47844 / USA 3080441 through S/N 48614 / USA 3081211
Production Order T-11316 : 395 M4A2(76) with VVSS manufactured : Serial Number 63385 / USA 30116407 through S/N 63779 / USA 30116801
Production Order T-11498 : 218 M4A2(76) with VVSS manufactured :
Serial Number 63780 / USA 30116802 through S/N 63997 / USA 30117019
Production Order T-13901 : approx. 211
M4A2(76) with VVSS and 1300 M4A2(76) with HVSS manufactured : Serial Number 64258 / USA 30122237 through S/N 65257 / USA 30123236 and Serial Number 69028 / USA 30129507 through S/N 69537 / USA 30130016

Pressed Steel Car production orders :
Production Order T-17870 : 21 M4A2(76) with HVSS : Serial Number 76074 / USA 30142759 through S/N 76094 / USA 30142779
 


Introduction
A new design for the welded hull Shermans


M4A2 75mm    M4A2 75mm

The original design of the welded hull Sherman featured a rather elaborate glacis made up of armor plate combined with various cast or "fabricated" components such as the drivers' hoods. The overhead view of the Fisher Body M4A2 pilot above left provides an idea of one of the early configurations. Ballistic tests like the one conducted on a later Fisher front section, and shown above right, revealed the inherent weakness of the numerous weld joints and protrusions. In March 1943 the Armor Branch determined that "that these weaknesses cannot be substantially eliminated by changes in the present designs."


M4A2 75mm    M4A2 75mm
Click on the pictures for larger size

In the meantime, in February 1943, the Army Medical Research Lab had concluded that the original drivers' hatches were too small, and were the cause of numerous injuries, particularly when crew members attempted to enter or exit the tank in a hurry. Larger hatch dimensions were submitted, but it was found that "increased size not possible of application to present hull design." Thus, development work was begun to reconfigure the front of the Sherman. 
Chrysler Corporation submitted a cast front design that addressed the deficiencies, and in June 1943, the Ordnance Department approved of making all subsequent welded hull Shermans in the so called "Composite" configuration as shown above left. However, in that same month, Fisher Body submitted an alternate large hatch design based on the M10 Tank Destroyer that they had developed in early 1942. It featured a single 2 1/2 inch glacis plate that was mounted at a 47 degree angle, so that the drivers' hatches could be repositioned in the roof of the hull. The "Fisher front end" was found to be superior to the Chrysler Composite concept, and became the basis for the "ultimate" or "second generation" series of welded hull Shermans.


M4A2 75mm

The US Army wanted to terminate production of 75mm Shermans at the end of 1943. M4A2(75) production continued into 1944 only in order to satisfy previous Lend Lease commitments made to the Soviets. Thus, the large hatch M4A2(75) was not actually part of the "ultimate Sherman" redesign, although it incorporated many of the features as "critical" modifications. Above is shown USA 3035448, the M4A2(76) pilot, photographed at Chrysler in February 1944. The Registration Number indicates that this tank was built by Fisher as a small hatch M4A2(75) in August 1943. Note the weld seam (1) where the new "Fisher front end" was added to this tank. The less complex, original version of the canvas mantlet cover can be seen here. The introduction of the 76mm mantlet cover did not occur until 1945. Fisher Body appears to have used the original version when it introduced the cover around March of 1945. It was superseded by the standard version soon thereafter. Chrysler 76mm Shermans used the standard configuration from the start in early 1945. It is to be noted that Chrysler was able to introduce mantlet covers on its 105mm Shermans in mid 1944. It seems possible that a conflict about the final design of the 76mm mantlet cover may have delayed its introduction.
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M4A2 75mm

M4A2 75mm

Our Archival research has not as yet uncovered any documentation that states exactly when the large hatch, welded hull Sherman entered production, but it is thought that the M4A2(75) shown above may have been one of the first. This tank was evaluated at General Motors Proving Ground and is stated to have been Serial Number 27283 / USA 3035813 indicating November 1943 acceptance. The large hatch M4A2(75) was slated for termination, and did NOT incorporate one of the features of the "ultimate Sherman" -  Wet Stowage. Consequently appliqué armor was factory installed on the sides of the hull to protect the ammo bins which remained mounted on the sponsons as on the original Sherman design. This tank features the standard D50878 low bustle, "no pistol port" turret. Note the absence of loader's hatch. It has the early, sheet metal type exhaust deflector (1), and the bogie return roller arms (2) are "still" in the straight as opposed to upturned configuration. The forward cable clamp (3) is in the "early" position. The hull lifting rings are "mixed," with the "standard after 1942" type in the front (4), and the older "padded" type (5) in the rear. For some reason, Fisher continued using the padded lifting rings long after the other builders had switched to the standard castings. NARA photos courtesy of David Doyle.


M4A2 75mm

This large hatch M4A2 was abandoned on the Eastern front by its Soviet crew. As with Serial Number 27283 above, this tank features a low bustle, no pistol port turret. Official documents state that Fisher was mandated to factory install the "loader's escape hatch" beginning on December 28 1943. Furthermore, author Richard Hunnicutt wrote that the loader's hatch was added by Fisher at M4A2(75) production unit 3793, which would have been about 200 units after Serial Number 27283.


M4A2 75mm
Click on the photo for larger size

The Soviet large hatch M4A2 shown above was photographed on joint maneuvers with a Polish unit in 1944. Based on a few similar period photos, it would appear that Fisher, like Pressed Steel Car, introduced the loader's hatch on the low bustle turret. Note that the pistol port was reinstated concurrent with the loader's hatch. Both Chrysler and Fisher produced large hatch Shermans with low bustle turrets. We have not as yet come across any "Product Correction Reports," but it was stated that the high bustle turret was designed because the low bustle could be fouled on the protrusions of the large hatch fittings. One wonders if the Soviets experienced and reported any low bustle problems? This photo and many others are featured in Claude Gillono's book "Comrade Emcha."


M4A2 75mm

Above is Serial Number 27841 / USA 3036371, one of the T6 Floatation Device pilots. This tank has later features, such as loader's hatch, armored periscope cover, upturned return roller arms & forward cable clamp in the "usual" position. It would have been accepted in February, 1944.


M4A2 75mm
Click on the photo for larger size

A top view of SN 47564, another M4A2(75) accepted in February 1944. This view clearly shows that the rear hull lifting rings are "still" the padded type. 47564 is equipped with the redesigned 75mm turret with high bustle, pistol port and loader's hatch. A close examination of the casting marks on the roof show the new turret part number to be D78461. The .50 caliber machine gun is mounted in the original travelling position on the commander's cupola. This was considered cumbersome and even dangerous, and new MG stowage fittings can be seen in the form of a pintel (1) on the turret rear and two barrel clamps (2) on the roof. The forward cable clamp (3) is in what we think of as the "standard position." Fisher appears to have completed the transition to the standard position before they began production of the M4A3(75)W in February 1944. On the other hand, Chrysler large hatch Shermans were built with the clamp in the first or early position as late as July, 1944.


M4A2 75mm
Click on the photo for larger size

The Third Russian Lend Lease Protocol ran from July 1943 through June 1944, and called for the delivery of 2000 M4A2(75)s. As mentioned earlier, Fisher's entire output of large hatch models was intended for the Soviets. However, the protocol was reduced by about 200, and these appear to have been diverted to the US Marines. This included a dozen units that were pulled off the line at Fisher and converted to M32B2 retrievers. There is no evidence that the British received any large hatch M4A2(75)s as Lend Lease. On the contrary, 535 older M4A2(75)s were remanufactured in 1944, and these were assigned to the British. The KO'd Soviet M4A2(75) shown above features the high bustle D78461 turret. The early glacis pattern with "inboard" lifting rings (1) and the "long" bullet splashes (2) would have been typical of all but perhaps some of the last few units accepted in May 1944.


M4A2 75mm
Click on the photo for larger size

Above shows another combat casualty filmed by the Germans sometime in 1944. They appear to have employed demolition charges in order to deny its recovery by the Soviets. A new addition that can be seen on this unit is the blanket roll rack (1). It may have been added at a Tank Depot, but we suspect it was factory installed, as the builders had priority when it came to the introduction of modifications. The commencement date for installation on the M4A2 is listed in an Ordnance Department document as 3/27/44. We cannot verify this, but if true, it would have been on perhaps the last 150 M4A2(75)s. The tools (2) are "still" mounted in their original position on the upper rear hull plate. Note the distinctive appearance of the underside of the M4A2 engine deck doors (3), and the "standard" hull lifting rings (4) in the rear.


M4A2 75mm
Click on the photo for larger size

Another large hatch M4A2(75) with high bustle turret KO'd on the Eastern front. The improved, Barber Colman louvered type of exhaust deflector (1) can be compared to the initial sheet metal type shown earlier. This was mandated to be factory installed starting January 1, 1944. Note that, on this example, the track wrench (2) and sledge hammer (3) have been relocated from their original positions on the upper rear hull plate to the rear of the engine deck. This would suggest a factory installation of the blanket roll rack, a standard second generation Sherman fixture. The repositioned tools would have permitted the installation of the the spare track holders, also second generation standard, but they are not installed. Both of these items were present from the start of Fisher's M4A3(75) Wet production in February 1944.


M4A2 75mm    M4A2 75mm

It has been difficult to "count heads" on the large hatch M4A2(75)s since most of them "disappeared" to Soviet Lend Lease. Very few were evaluated by the Government or used as test vehicles. We showed the T6 Floatation Device pilot earlier. Another was used as a platform for the Mine Exploder T10. Fisher Body handled the project, and the above shows the appearance of the vehicle as it arrived at Aberdeen Proving Ground in May 1944. The massive rollers can be seen just behind the tank. Unfortunately, this was one of the few APG Reports we encountered that did not list the serial number of the tank. As with our previous Soviet example, and unlike Serial Number 47564 shown earlier, this unit can be seen to have the blanket roll rack and repositioned tools.


M4A2 75mm    M4A2 75mm
Click on the photos for larger size

The T10 was tested at APG in June 1944. Captain Merritt D. Elliott reported "The vehicle, to date, has not been too successful due to the fact that only the front two rollers are powered, and the rolling resistance of the rear roller, which is unpowered, tends to cause the vehicle to get stuck." Perhaps with his tongue in cheek regarding the outlandish appearance of the tank, Elliott wrote, "From all indications, it seems the Ordnance Department is making any and every kind of device to remove mines." This was the only pilot, and the T10 project was abandoned shortly thereafter.


M4A2 Large Hatches

It is thought that the large hatch M4A2(75) made its combat debut with the Marine Corps in June, 1944 at Saipan. Photos show them serving there alongside small hatch M4A2s with both the 2nd and 4th Marine Tank Battalions. After Tarawa, the USMC "got religion" when it came to waterproofing their tanks. In some cases, the Marines fashioned their own wading trunk designs, but the unit shown above appears to have been equipped with the "official" version, made available in kit form in early 1944. Preparing a Sherman for deep water fording was a laborious undertaking. According to the Technical Manual, if the job was done properly, the tank would be able to operate in water up to 6 feet for all of 8 minutes. This 4th Tank Battalion Sherman appears to have fallen into a shell hole in the surf, which drowned out the engines. Marine large hatch M4A2s and M4A3s can be difficult to distinguish, but a bit of the side applique (circled in red) can be seen here. The M4A3s were not equipped with the applique plates, since they were "Wet Stowage" tanks in which the ammunition bins had been repositioned to the floor of the vehicle.


M4A2 Large Hatches

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 large hatch M4A2(75)s they received. At present, our guess is around 200. "Caesar" of the 2nd Marine Tank Battalion was photographed on Tinian on August 1, 1944. This unit appears to be nearly "as built." Fisher Body ended M4A2(75) production with the commander's split hatch as seen here. Priority for the limited supply of all-round vision cupolas was given to the 76mm Shermans which began to roll off the production lines in January 1944. The new cupolas did not become available for use on the M4A3(75)W until August 1944.


M4A2 75mm    M4A2 75mm

The left side photo shows a tank of Company A, 1st Tank Battalion progressing on Peleliu airfield on September 15, 1944. The glacis and turret sides have been "up armored" with spare tracks. The right side photo shows an M4A2(75) with M1 Dozer blade. The Marines considered themselves to be "last in line" when it came to the issuance of new equipment, but they did manage to procure supplies of this very effective addition to the Sherman.


M4A2 75mm

This M4A2 named "Joker" is said to have served with the 4th Tank Battalion on Saipan. When the battalion was reequipped with the M4A3(75)W, this spare unit was field converted to a mine flail. Photos of Britsh Crab tanks were used as reference, and the flail was created from truck parts and other odds and ends. It was brought to Iwo Jima, but, like the T10 featured earlier, was "not too successful," as it got bogged down in the soft, volcanic soil


M4A2 75mm
Click on the photo for larger size

The US Army wanted to terminate production of 75mm Shermans at the end of 1943. However, it was recorded that the British and the USMC did not desire the 76mm Sherman, and would require 75mm models into 1945. Thus, the Government decided to continue production of a single model -  the M4A3(75)W. One bit of intrigue in this matter, not for "foreign" consumption, was that Ford engined Shermans were to be reserved exclusively for use by US troops. Despite some objections, the policy more or less forced the USMC to accept gasoline powered Shermans after the middle of 1944. Thus, the new 6th Marine Tank Battalion was equipped with the M4A3(75)W for the Okinawa Campaign, while the veteran 1st Tank Battalion came ashore with 47 M4A2s, most or all of which appear to have been large hatch models. The unit shown above was photographed on April 4, 1945. By late 1944, modification kits became more readily available, and the Corps was able to obtain supplies of the commander's vision cupola (1) and the extended end connectors (inset) that can be seen on this tank.


M4A2 75mm
Click on the photo for larger size

Okinawa was "the last battle," and tank casualties were fearsome. The 1st Tank Battalion had to draw some M4A3s from the replacement pool when its reserves of M4A2s ran out. The unit shown above was reported to have been destroyed by a mine in mid June 1945. This tank can be identified as an M4A2 by the sections of the engine deck that can be seen. (The inset shows an M4A3 for comparison.) Of interest is the triangular shaped pull on the engine access door (1). Counting heads suggests that the sheet metal cover over the ventilator (2) was not introduced at Fisher until July 1944 a few months after M4A2(75) production had ended. A close examination of this and the preceeding photo show "padded" hull liftting rings in the rear (3). Fisher was building several Sherman models at the same time, but so far, we have not come across any examples of these on an M4A3(75)W, M4A3E2 or M4A2(76).


M4A2 75mm

In the Spring of 1944, Lima Locomotive Works converted 12 large hatch M4A2s to M32B2 Tank Recovery Vehicles for USMC use. In the 3rd Marine Division photo above, the absence of the ventilator beside the driver’s hatch confirms that this is a large hatch Sherman. Lima also converted 20 large hatch M4A3(75)Ws to M32B3s for the Marines. Since this retriever does not have the typical M4A2 appliqué plate, it would be a challenge to distinguish from an M32B3 it if it weren't for the "M32B2, Lima Locomotive Works" stenciling. A single "M4A2" ID clue is provided by the grouser compartment cover (1), which was not installed on M4A3s.  It is thought that a few of the large hatch M32B2s were used by the Marines in combat in 1945.

 

M4A2 75mm

We like to examine surviving Shermans as part of our research. A bit of one is on display at the National Military Museum in Bucharest, Romania. This tank is reported to have fallen into the Prut River near Petresti in August 1944. Shortly thereafter, Russian forces recovered the turret, presumably for refitting to another Sherman. A local who was granted permission to salvage the engine, appears to have salvaged a good deal more than that. What was left was recovered in 2000, and placed on displayed at the museum. While the serial number of this tank is not known at present, the forward cable clamp can be seen in the "first" position (1), and the return roller arms are straight (2) as opposed to upturned, which would lead us to think it is an early production example. Information and photo courtesy of Doug Kibbey.


M4A2 75mm    M4A2 75mm
Click on the photos for larger size

More intact, but with "de-milled" gun, is the large hatch M4A2(75) displayed at the People's Revolution Museum in Beijing. Perhaps this tank served Occupation Duty in China with the 1st Marine Tank Battalion, and was left behind as unserviceable when they pulled out in 1947? The fittings for the Barber Colman type exhaust deflector that can be seen on the rear hull plate, suggest that this unit was accepted in January, 1944 or later. Note the "padded" hull lifting ring on the rear. Various weld scars hint that this tank was outfitted with the T6 Floatation Device.
A few Marine units on Okinawa (including the 1st Tank Battalion) swam ashore with some T6 equipped Shermans (inset). Perhaps this M4A2 was one of them? Photos courtesy of Ley Reynolds.


M4A2 76mm    M4A2 76mm

Small changes were incorporated by Fisher during the course of production. These have been easier to study on M4A3s, but we think it is safe to assume the M4A2s followed a similar course. We would emphasize that these changes were transitional; that is, it could take a month or so before a new feature completely replaced an older one on the production line. The large hatch M4A2(75)s and some of the first M4A2(76)s manufactured in May 1944 had what the authors think of as the "early" glacis pattern. This pattern featured inboard hull lifting rings and "long" bullet splashes in front of the drivers' auxiliary periscopes (circled in red). The top edge of the glacis plate was neatly beveled.


M4A2 76mm    M4A2 76mm

Fisher transitioned to the "mid" glacis pattern in May, 1944. The bullet splashes were shortened, and perhaps as a labor saving measure, the top edge of the glacis plate was no longer beveled, but simply square cut. In August, 1944, the hull lifting rings were relocated to the edges of the glacis. We think of this as the late or final glacis pattern. Both photos courtesy of Jim Goetz.


M4A2 76mm    M4A2 76mm

The earliest large hatch M4A2s were made with two small weep holes in the rear of the turret splash. It was found that the small holes could become clogged with debris, causing water to back up and foul the gasoline supply of the auxiliary generator. It was thought that a single, large hole would alleviate the problem. This transition took place starting in July 1944. Some of the earliest Chrysler built large hatch M4s and M4A3s with 105mm guns had the gap between the turret splash and the fuel cap bullet splash filled in by welding. We have seen no evidence of this practice on Fisher large hatch Shermans.


M4A2 76mm    M4A2 76mm

Fisher seems to have used just about every type of road wheel on the Shermans it produced in 1944. In the early months, units were equipped with either the welded spoke (A) or pressed spoke wheels (B). The welded spoke with "small holes" (C) and the solid, concave wheels (D) were introduced in Summer 1944, and appear to have been prevalent by the Fall.


M4A2 76mm    M4A2 76mm
Click on the photos for larger size

M4A2(75)production ended and M4A2(76) production commenced at Fisher Body in May 1944. The thirteenth unit (Serial Number 47856, USA 3080453) was evaluated at the General Motors Proving Ground in June. The tank can be seen to have the "early glacis pattern" as explained above. Production started with the D82081 turret with the loader's split hatch. While the gun appears to be the "unthreaded" M1A1, we suspect it might actually be the threaded M1A1C without the protective collar. Government documents have it that only the first 385 "medium tanks M4 series (76mm gun)" were equipped with M1A1s, and we think the supply of these may have been exhausted before Fisher began production. The rear view shows fittings for the gun cleaning rod mounted on the blanket roll rack (1), as well as the spare track holders (2). These items are not seen in the few period photos of large hatch M4A2(75)s. Note that the crowbar fittings (3) are "back" in their original position with the other pioneer tools on the right rear. The crowbar is seen mounted by itself on the left sponson in the few period photos of large hatch M4A2(75)s.


M4A2 76mm

At first, M4A2(76) production was earmarked entirely for Soviet Lend Lease. The Fourth Russian Protocol ran from July 1944 through June 31, 1945 and called for the delivery of 3000 M4A2(76)s. To make up for the 200 unit shortfall of M4A2(75)s shipped, the US "frontloaded" the Protocol. In May 1944, the 30 M4A2(76)s produced in that month were allocated to the Soviets; and in June, 198 (sic) of the 195 produced in that month were allocated to them as well. Not much is known about when they first arrived. Soviet records indicate that units of the 9th Guards Mechanized Corps reported losses of M4A2(76)s starting December 5, 1944. The photo above is said to show an example "on a Soviet proving ground in 1944." Most of the other published photos are dated Spring or Summer, 1945. This tank appears to have the "mid glacis" with the square cut upper edge. Also seen is the sheet metal cover over the ventilator, introduced on Fisher M4A3s starting in July.


M4A2 76mm    M4A2 76mm

These photos show the same M4A2(76), Number 913 of the 46th Guards Tank Brigade. US Signal Corps photographers stationed near Leizen, Austria filmed the tank on two separate occasions in May and June 1945. The caption of the black and white photo is one of the few of the period that describes it as "a Sherman Tank."  The late glacis pattern with the outboard lifting rings, was introduced at Fisher around August 1944. Curiously, this tank does not have the rear view mirror fittings, seen on Fisher Shermans starting in May. It is "still" equipped with the older D82081 turret with the loader's split hatch. Fisher began the transition to the D7054366 turret with oval loader's hatch when it started production of the M4A3(76) in September. The concave type roadwheels seen on this tank were introduced by Fisher along with the welded, "small holes" type beginning in the Summer of 1944. Note the cap with retaining chain over the 2 inch smoke mortar sleeve. Extended end connectors are conspicuously absent in photos of Soviet Shermans. While the "British Empire" got nearly 600,000 as Lend Lease, the Soviets got none.


M4A2 76mm    M4A2 76mm
Click on the photo for larger size

Serial Number 63782, USA 30116804 was accepted in October 1944, and evaluated at the General Motors Proving Ground later that same month. We estimate that this would have been about the point where the transition to the D7054366 turret with oval loader's hatch, and the M1A2 gun with muzzle brake was completed. The road wheels are the welded, "small holes" type. The rear view mirrors are rarely seen installed on anything but test tanks. Earlier we pointed out the triangular shaped pull seen on the engine access door of a USMC large hatch M4A2(75). One can catch a glimpse of these in the rear photo. The "Lift Here" stencils were added because some stevedores didn't trust that the hull lifting rings could hold the tank's weight. Their alternate hoisting methods often resulted in serious damage, particularly to the suspension components.


M4A2 76mm
Click on the photo for larger size

This well known photo, dated May 3, 1945, was taken in Grabow, Germany by a Signal Corps photographer "embedded" with the 82nd Airborne Division. The caption writer must not have known his tanks, since he did not identify this as a Lend Lease, American built vehicle as one might expect. Fisher's custom was to paint on the USA Number real small in blue drab (1). Unfortunately, it was not possible to get a good read of it despite a magnifying glass examination of the original glossy print at the US Archives. However, bits of the shipping code (2) could be read, and this tank was part of the December 1944 Lend Lease allocation for 199 units - "SR [Sequence Requisition] 13601." The Soviets asked that the tanks be shipped filled with Lend Lease Diesel, and despite some stevedore and Merchant Marine objections, this was done, as can be seen in the stencil (3) "FUEL TANK 3/4 FULL." The dark glue spot (4) was for Tank Depot "Modification Records Here." Some of the shipping stencils can be seen to be in Cyrillic. These provide instructions regarding the engine coolant mixture, and battery handling under extremely cold conditions. With thanks to Alexander Gladchenkov.


M4A2 76mm

This tank is currently displayed in the Museum of Military Air Forces of the Northern Fleet in Safonovo, Murmansk Oblast. A correspondent reported that it is Serial Number 64465, which is a late December, 1944 production. We think that Fisher made the transition to HVSS at around SN 64469, so this tank would be one of the very last M4A2s produced with VVSS. This tank was salvaged in July, 2014 from the wreck of the USS Thomas Donaldson, a Liberty Ship sunk on March 20, 1945 by the U-boat U-968 in the Barents Sea. Another M4A2(76) was recovered from the same ship in 2016, and is currently displayed in Saint-Petersburg. With thanks to Dmitry Ukryukov.


M4A2 76mm

It is thought that Fisher Body completed the transition to HVSS on its M4A2(76)s on January 1, 1945. While official documentation has yet to be found, we calculate that Fisher produced at least 1299 units. The Soviets were the primary Lend Lease recipient of the M4A2(76) at 2073 units. (The British received 5 in the second half of 1945; that is, after VE Day.) We estimate that the Soviets got about 460 M4A2(76)HVSS. Most or all of these appear to have been delivered to ports in Asia before Lend Lease was terminated in the Summer of 1945. Author Dmitriy Loza stated that units of his 6th Guards Tank Army were equipped with some in Manchuria in August 1945. However, Loza went on to say they did NOT use them against the Japanese before the surrender. The photo above is said to be "Transbaikalian Front...6th Guards Tank Army, August 8, 1945." (the day before the beginning of the Soviet invasion of Manchuria.) The third M4A2 can be seen to be equipped with fittings for the canvas mantlet cover. If any readers have a copy of this photo without watermark,  please contact us at soldat_ryan[at]hotmail.com


M4A2 76mm

Even before the end of WW II, relations between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies had deteriorated. Dmitriy Loza was still serving in the Far East in 1946. He reported that he was ordered to prepare "the tanks Sherman" for return to the US. The demand for their return was a very literal interpretation of the terms of the Lend Lease Protocol, and appears to have applied only to the Soviets. Ultimately, the tanks were not shipped back. Some were demilitarized and transformed into turretless tractors. Some of them served with the Soviet National Railway Company, some as snowplows.


M4A2 76mm

This example is currently displayed at the Kubinka Tank Museum, near Moscow. A plate affixed to the differential housing has the USA Registration Number stamped on. It is said to have been added by the museum during a post-war inventory. Serial Number 64471 is stamped into the rear tow lugs, which is an exact mathematical match to the stamped Registration Number. It would appear that the Soviets used the USA Number for bookkeeping purposes during WW II. Researcher Gabor Horvath has examined Soviet records that list the USA Numbers of Lend Lease combat casualties. This M4A2(76) was accepted in January 1945, and was one of the first units to incorporate HVSS. Notice that the smoke mortar cap has a retaining chain. Photo courtesy of "armyjunk."


M4A2 76mm    M4A2 76mm

The M4A2(76)HVSS shown above is thought to have been demilitarized and converted to a turretless tractor shortly after WW II. It is on display at the Safonovo Museum, alongside the M4A2(76)VVSS recovered from the Thomas Donaldson. It has been reported as being Serial Number 64669, which would indicate February, 1945 acceptance. A hole was cut in the armor in front of the driver’s position, most likely as part of the demilitarization process. With the removal of the turret, a blank off plate with crude hatch was added to cover the opening. The exhaust system appears to have been modified somewhat. Note the hole cut in the upper rear hull plate, presumably to accommodate a new exhaust outlet. Photos courtesy of Dmitry Ukryukov.


M4A2 76mm

In September, 1945, it was reported that there were 704 M4A2(76)s on hand at Depots in the US. Presumably, these would have been almost entirely unassigned HVSS units from the last months of production. Another 133 had been set aside for "conversions and tests." The photo above shows Serial Number 65132 / USA 30123111 which would have been accepted in April, 1945. The complete canvas mantlet cover appears to have been introduced into production around March, 1945. However, note that this is the less complex, original version as seen installed on the 76 mm pilot turret. We believe Fisher quickly replaced this version with the standard or final mantlet cover configuration which can be seen on the May production M4A2(76) in the following caption. For future reference, notice that the smoke mortar cap (1) does NOT have a retaining chain, and that there is something different about the middle bogie unit (2).


M4A2 76mm    M4A2 76mm

 We suspect that most or all of the 133 M4A2(76)s listed in the US Inventory as "conversions and tests" were set aside as part of the 200 DD swimming tanks that the US agreed to convert for the British as part of their 1945 Lend Lease requirements. As it turned out, only the two pilot models were completed before the project was terminated. One of the pilots was ordered sent to the APG Ordnance Museum for "historic purposes." We recorded the serial number as 69278, indicating May 1945 acceptance, the final month of M4A2(76) production. Even at this late date, the gun travel lock is "still" in the original "two fingers" configuration (circled in red.) Early on, this was found to be unstable, but the one piece wrap-around replacement that can be seen on many surviving Shermans must have been introduced into production either very late or not at all. The Ordnance Department photo on the left is dated August 2, 1945.


M4A2 76mm    M4A2 76mm

Correspondence dated September 1945 indicated that the British wanted the other DD pilot (Sherman III AY DD III in British nomenclature), "providing there will be no cost to the British public."  It was not given away, and later the British mocked up a DD using T224877 (above left), one of the 5 M4A2(76)s they had received as Lend Lease. Earlier, we pointed out the triangular shaped pull on the engine access doors. We suspect that the APG DD pilot is the only surviving large hatch M4A2 that still has the original parts intact. Note how a pair of clamps were included to secure the pull during travel. Without more documentation, we can only venture a guess that these fittings were factory installed on some of the large hatch M4A2(75)s, and all of the M4A2(76)s.


M4A2 76mm    M4A2 76mm

In 1946, Canada purchased 300 M4A2(76)s with HVSS from the US at the very reasonable price of $1,460 each. These remained in Canada, where they were used as training tanks. (The US Army provided Canadian forces in Korea with M4A3(76)HVSS's.) These tanks were given DND (Department of National Defence) CFR (Canadian Forces Registration) Numbers 78-693 through 78-992. About 60 units have survived, and are on display as museum pieces and monuments throughout Canada. We have been able to record the serial numbers of most of them, and the data indicates that they were built from March through May 1945. The example shown above is Serial Number 69132 (April 1945 acceptance) and is on display in Kelowna, British Columbia. The armored first aid box (circled in red) appears on some but not all of the Canadian Shermans. Our "counting heads" method suggests that the last 400 or so M4A2(76)s had the first aid box factory installed. 69537 was the serial number of the last M4A2(76) made. 69132 and those we have recorded with higher serial numbers have the box (or telltale weld scars), but units recorded with lower SNs do not. Photos courtesy of Alf Adams.


M4A2 76mm    M4A2 76mm
Click on the photos for larger size

Reports from the battlefield noted that the radiators of M4A2 and M4A3 Shermans were vulnerable to shrapnel and other types of combat damage. In late 1944, the Ordnance Department designed armored exhaust deflectors. We featured M4A2(75) Serial Number 47564 earlier. In February 1945, it was used to "model" the new deflector for the M4A2. As an additional part of the protection, an armored shield replaced the earlier sheet metal piece over the exhaust outlet and resonators, as seen in the right side photo. All of the surviving Canadian M4A2(76)s have the armored deflectors (or the hinge fittings), which would lead us to conclude that Fisher completed the transition to these in March 1945. This would have been too late for very many of them to have been shipped overseas during WW II.


M4A2 76mm

Serial Number 47564 was used again as a demonstration model in the updated version (July 1945) of the Deep Water Fording Technical Manual. Note that the manual included provision for sealing in the cordage of the new RC-298 Interphone Extension Kit. This was produced too late for WW II, but can be seen on many surviving Shermans. The absence of the box (or weld scars), suggests that the phone was not installed on the 300 Canadian Shermans. 


M4A2 76mm

Another bit of minutia we have noticed concerns the 2 inch smoke mortar. At the request of the British, this was installed on Shermans starting in the Fall of 1943. It was even considered "Urgent" (although not "Essential") to have it installed on the 1397 M4 and M4A1 tanks in the US Pool in the UK before D-Day. However, it was not popular with the troops who considered the mortar gun to be "in the way" inside the cramped turret. They preferred to fire smoke from the main gun. In the Pacific campaigns, where Japanese infantry would often swarm over buttoned up Shermans, it was noted that they would try to drop grenades or other explosives down the smoke mortar barrel. The Marines reported that they fashioned wooden plugs to prevent this. In January 1945, the Ordnance Department "got the message," and eliminated the smoke mortar from the Sherman.


M4A2 76mm    M4A2 76mm    M4A2 76mm

We suspect that the "eliminate the smoke mortar" directive was implemented by Fisher in February or March 1945. An examination of the Canadian M4A2(76)s suggests a chronology. Those turrets already prepared with the protruding sleeve and cap installed, simply had the cap welded on, and thus there was no need for the cap's retaining chain. Those turrets made with the mortar hole already drilled out, had a square of armor welded over it. And finally, the APG DD pilot and many of the Canadian Shermans can be seen to have clean, undrilled turrets. Notice that the mantlet cover fittings seen on the two "plugged" turrets differ from the fitting seen on the "undrilled" example. Photos courtesy of Scott Taylor.


M4A2 76mm    M4A2 76mm

All of the surviving Canadian M4A2(76)s have mantlet cover fittings, but they are seen in two configurations. The first or early configuration is shown on Serial Number 65017 (above left) in Goderich, Ontario. "Counting heads" suggests that this was introduced in March 1945, and was installed on approximately 520 units, before being replaced with the second type around mid April. At present, Serial Number 69059 (above right) on display in Olds, Alberta Province, Canada is "patient zero" for the second type mantlet cover. That is, all of the surviving examples with lower serial numbers have been noted with the first type, while all with higher serial numbers have what we would consider the "standard" mantlet cover. Note the large number of fittings required for this much more elaborate installation. No doubt the extra effort and expense made for a more watertight cover. Our "head count" suggests that the standard type would have been installed on approximately the last 480 units accepted in April and May 1945. Only Fisher M4A2(76)HVSS units appear to have employed the first type. Chrysler and Pressed Steel Car are thought to have used only the standard type in production. Additionally, most surviving M4A1(76) and M4A3(76) Shermans are equipped with the standard type mantlet cover, which suggests that a large number of modification kits were provided for the various post war M4A1(76) and M4A3(76) remanufacturing programs. Photos courtesy Scott Taylor (left) and Alf Adams (right).


M4A2 76mm    M4A2 76mm

Foundry casting capacity was limited, and early on, Fisher Body was tasked with designing alternatives to the Sherman's many cast components. The welded together drivers' hoods introduced on Fisher M4A2(75)s in late 1942, are the most conspicuous examples of the use of alternate parts. We suspect that Fisher designed the alternate HVSS suspension arms spotted on many of the Canadian M4A2(76)s. The fabricated pieces have openings, as compared to the cast suspension arms (right), originally designed by Chrysler. We would guess that, starting around March 1945, Fisher mixed these in, one to a side, with the cast type. The fabricated units may have been mounted in the center, as seen in the APG photo of Serial Number 65132 shown earlier. These can be spotted on a few surviving M4A1(76)s as well. Photos courtesy of Scott Taylor.


M4A2 76mm
Click on the photo for larger size

At first, Fisher Body was contracted to produce all of the M4A2(76)s, but in October 1944, 150 units were subtracted from their Production Order. A "token" order was placed with Pressed Steel Car in order to keep the workers on the job in 1945 "to enable them to produce in quantity in a short time should conditions require volume production." The planners had to assume that the war with Japan might drag on for years, but as it turned out, further production was unnecessary, and PSC produced only 21 M4A2(76)s before their contract was terminated. The photo above shows one of the units made by Pressed Steel Car. This tank can be seen with casting numbers on the turret typical of Union Steel (1), the primary turret supplier to PSC, but not Fisher Body.  The M3 type of drive sprocket (2) seen here appears to have been reintroduced at PSC in 1945, but not at Fisher. The few photos of Soviet M4A2(76)HVSS show them with the earlier T66 type tracks. Here one can see the superior T80 track (3). Pressed Steel and Fisher are reported to have received deliveries of both T-66 and T-80 tracks in February 1945. In the following months, all deliveries were reported to be T-80. While there are about 70 surviving M4A2(76)HVSS's in North America, to date, none have been identified as PSC. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Nielsen - Pressed Steel !


M4A2 76 HVSS

After the Canadian sale, 529 M4A2(76)HVSS are reported to have been left in the US inventory. These were used as "parts junkers" in the late 1940s /early 1950s. That is, their turrets, suspensions and other useful components were removed, and used to convert many of the remaining M4A3(75)Wets in the inventory to M4A3(76)HVSS. The M4A2(76)HVSS shown above can be seen to be USA 30129692 S, indicating April 1945 acceptance. (The "S" often seen at the end of US Army Registration Numbers is frequently mistaken for a "5," but it signifies that the vehicle was equipped with a Radio Interference Suppression System.) This photo is from a souvenir history of the Letterkenny Ordnance Depot, and most likely depicts such a salvage operation.


M4A2(76)    Chrysler    M4A2(76)

The authors have noticed that all surviving Fisher built, large hatch Shermans we have examined have a series of weld beads mostly horizontal, but some vertical, that were applied to fill in the differential housing bolt strip overcut. We consider this a Fisher recognition feature, since all examples of Chryslers seen used a half round piece welded in to fill in the overcut. It is to be noted that the differential housing bolt strip overcut is "open" in the single photo of a known PSC M4A2(76).


M4A2 76mm    M4A2 76mm

Fisher built Shermans have the Tank's Ordnance Serial Number stamped into the rear towing lugs.

Pressed Steel Car does not appear to have stamped 
the Serial Number anywhere on the exterior of the AFVs they produced.


M4A2 76mm

The tank's Ordnance Serial Number is also stamped on both edges of the differential housing. The diff stamping is preceded by an "S" for "serial number", as can be seen above - S65191.


M4A2 76mm

Fisher built Shermans have been seen to have a loose build sequence number stamped on the left front (driver's side). These numbers have a letter prefix. The "W" on the tank above indicates it was built as an M4A2(76). Other letters noted are "E" for M4A3E2 (Jumbo), "M" for M4A3(76) and "A" for M4A3(75)W. This number can be useful in the event the tank's serial number can't be found.


M4A2 76mm

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