Fisher M4A3(75)W Shermans - production variants
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."

Fisher Body was the sole manufacturer of 75mm M4A3 Shermans with large hatches and wet stowage. It produced 3071 M4A3(75)W's from February 1944 to March 1945.
 
Production Order T-9724 : 1711 M4A3(75)W with VVSS manufactured: Serial Number 48615 / USA 3081212 through S/N 50325 / USA 3082922
Production Order T-11315/1 : approx. 709 M4A3(75)W with VVSS and 113 with HVSS manufactured: Serial Number 62038 / USA 30115060 through S/N 62859 / USA 30115881
Production Order T-11315/2 : 538 M4A3(75)W with HVSS manufactured: Serial Number 65714 / USA 30125036 through S/N 66251 / USA 30125573


Introduction
The decision to continue production of 75mm Sherman tanks in 1944 and 1945

While the Sherman's 75mm main gun may have been "state of the art" in 1941 and 1942, it was outmoded as an anti-tank weapon by 1943. Unfortunately, the military bureaucracy became mired in controversy over the proper role of tanks, and ultimately failed to develop an effective replacement when it designed the 76mm gun. In any case, the US Army wanted to discontinue production of 75mm Shermans at the end of 1943. However, the British & US Marines still had requirements for them in 1944 and on. They considered the 75mm's High Explosive round to be markedly superior to that of the 76mm gun. Moreover, the British requested more 75mm Shermans with M34A1 gun mounts and Oil Gear Traverse Mechanisms, which they needed for their ongoing Firefly conversion program. In the event, the 75mm Sherman, in the form of the M4A3(75)W continued in production until March, 1945.


 M4A3(75)W

Hulls used for 75mm Wet Stowage Shermans were of the "ultimate" design, i.e. welded, 47 degree, with large hatches. Not many M4A3(75)W's have survived. Above is Serial Number 49730, produced in May 1944 and on display in Vineland, New Jersey. Note the sharp nosed differential housing (part Number E8543), which became standard on US built Shermans after September 1943.
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M4A3(75)W

Fisher built M4A3(75)s were designated as having "Wet Stowage." Earlier Ford built M4A3s were retroactively labeled as "Dry Stowage." Dry Stowage Shermans had most of the ammunition racks mounted in more vulnerable positions up on the tank's interior sponson shelves. The Wet Stowage arrangement repositioned the racks to the floor in ten ten round, vertically oriented bins (above). Four "ready rounds" were also stored in the turret basket. Photo courtesy of Michael Green.


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W

The 10 round ammo rack had 3 sealed chambers that were filled with water, and later Ammudamp, a solution that included rust inhibitors and anti freeze. It was thought that if the rounds caught fire, the liquid would at least slow the progression of the fire in order to give the crew a few more seconds to escape. Above, the liquid containers on the left are shown removed from the ammo rack on the right. Photos courtesy of Michael Green.


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W

The turret basket of the M4A3(75)Wet is shown above. Note the four round ready rack. Hatches can be seen in the loader's half of the turret basket floor. These gave him access to the 100 main gun rounds stored directly below. In some cases, it was necessary to rotate the turret in order for the loader to retrieve the rounds. Left side photo courtesy of Chris Hughes and right side photo courtesy of Michael Green.


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W

M4A3(75)W's were equipped with D78461 turrets, an improvement over the D50878 turrets used at the outset of Sherman production. The most important safety feature of the new turret was the inclusion of a loader's hatch. The turret bustle was raised a few inches in order to clear the protuberances of the large hatches. Thus, the informal term "high bustle." See this page for more information about the evolution of Sherman 75mm turrets. Left side photo courtesy of Chris Hughes.


M4A3(75)W

The D78461 turrets of the M4A3(75)W's featured a protective housing for the gunner's periscope. Next to it can be seen the commander's vane sight, which replaced the "blade" sight used on earlier Shermans. Photo courtesy of Chris Hughes.


M4A3(75)W

The 2 inch smoke mortar was standard on the M4A3(75)W. The mortar hole in the turret was level with the armor at first, but later production units can be seen with a protruding sleeve and a weatherproofing cap.


M4A3(75)W
Click on the photo for larger size

The 8th Armored Division Dozer Sherman above was photographed in Germany in March 1945. The features of this tank, suggest it was produced in August 1944 or later. Note the cap and retaining chain over the smoke mortar sleeve.


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W
                                                                                                            Click on the photo for larger size

It was intended to equip the turrets with the commander's all round vision cupola, but priority for these cupolas was given to the new 76mm Shermans coming on line at the same time. Until the supply caught up with the demand, "turret hatch D69993 with equilabrator" was used. This was an improved version of the original split hatch commander's cupola, in that it had integral springs on the hinges, and other features that provided greater safety and ease for the crew. The new hatch "still" had a pintle for the .50 Cal. AA MG as on the earlier version. It had been noted from the start that this was an awkward and even dangerous position in which to stow the machine gun when travelling.


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W

A new travelling position for the AA MG was furnished by mounting a pintle (item 1) and clamp (item 2) on the turret bustle (above, left). When the machine gun was disassembled, barrel stowage was provided by two clamps (items 3 & 4) on the turret roof (above, right).


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W

With the transition to the commander's all round vision cupola in August, 1944, a hinged MG pintle (item 1) and barrel clamp (item 2) were added to the turret roof. For a short time, the initial MG stowage travelling configuration was retained, as evidenced by the barrel clamps (items 3 & 4) in the photo on the left. In September 1944, the barrel clamps on the roof were replaced by a pair of L shaped brackets affixed to the turret bustle (items 1, above right).


M4A3(75)W
Click on the photo for larger size

The above shows M4A3(75)W's of CCA 14th Armored Division in Cirey, France November 23, 1944. The commander's vision cupola begins to appear in overseas photos about this time. These tanks are in the "first" MG stowage configuration without the L shaped brackets on the turret bustle. The fully assembled machine gun can be seen stowed in its canvas cover.


M4A3(75)W
Click on the photo for larger size

An interesting production variation took place starting in October, 1944. In order to save foundry capacity, Fisher Body agreed to equip 300 of its M4A3(75)s with earlier D50878 turrets recycled from the retriever conversion program. Baldwin Locomotive Works was one of the donors, and above can be seen some of the turrets left over from their M32B1 conversions.


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W

The old turrets were updated to the standard of late 1944 D78461 turrets. Oval loader's hatches were retrofitted (left). The "thin spot" armor patch was added, if necessary. This particular D50878 turret was cast by Union Steel, and has their serial number 871, indicating 1942 production. Its original M34 gun mount was replaced with the late type of M34A1 mount, and the original commander's split hatch was replaced with an all round vision cupola.


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W

In order to clear the protuberances of the large hatches, some material was removed from the lower outside edges of the D50878 "low bustle" turret. It is subtle, but note the upturned line at the bottom of the bustle in the left side photo. Readers often ask about the difference, so we have included a photo of a high bustle D78461 turret (right) for comparison.


M4A3(75)W

The photo above is from the 13th Armored Division's History. "Always Available" can be seen to be USA 30115499, indicating October 1944 production, the month when the recycled turrets were introduced. Note how the low bustle nearly touches the tank's turret splash guard. Most or all of the recycled turrets appear to have been in the "late" configuration with the all round vision cupola (as evidenced by the MG pintle), the L shaped MG brackets and the extended smoke mortar sleeve with cap and chain.



M4A3(75)W

Contrary to Chrysler, Fisher appears to have mounted the cable clamp in the forward or "standard" position from the start of the production of M4A3 hulls.


M4A3(75)W early    M4A3(75)W early

M4A3(75)W early

Small changes were incorporated by Fisher during the course of production. M4A3(75)W's manufactured from startup on into 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.


M4A3(75)W

The rear view mirrors were introduced on Fisher M4A3(75)s in May 1944, just before the glacis pattern was altered. The fitting for the mirror is circled. Note that the late type of hull lifting ring casting seen here was standard on these tanks.


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W late

M4A3(75)W late

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.


M4A3(75)W late

The "late" or "final" glacis pattern was introduced around August 1944.  It was identical to the mid pattern except that the hull lifting rings were repositioned "outboard" to the edge of the glacis. Photo courtesy of Paul and Lorén Hannah.


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W

75mm Shermans were equipped with a shorter gun travel lock than the ones used on 105mm and 76mm units. Many surviving Shermans have been upgraded with a single piece locking arm, but the less stable WW II configuration consisted of two "fingers." Both photos courtesy of Paul and Lorén Hannah.


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W

Based on user feedback, a sheet metal cover to protect the ventilator between the drivers' hatches was introduced in August, 1944. The authors have not found any evidence of modification kits for the covers during WW II, but have noted that some surviving Shermans that obviously didn't have this item factory installed, had it added later during postwar upgrades. The U bolt that can be see on the uncovered example above held the padlocks for the drivers' hatches. Right side photo courtesy of http://www.toadmanstankpictures.com/


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W

Many of the earliest M4A3(75)s 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 appears to have been made in July or August 1944. Contrary to the earliest Chrysler-made M4s and M4A3s, there was no welding made to fill the gap between the turret splash and the fuel cap bullet splash. Right side photo courtesy of Paul and Lorén Hannah.


M4A3(75)W

The blanket roll rack (item 1) was standard on these tanks, although the fittings for the cleaning rods were not added until the end of 1944. M4A3(75)W's with VVSS were fitted with a pair of spare track holders (items 2). The sheet metal exhaust deflector (item 3) was replaced by an armored deflector in 1945, too late to see much if any service on the M4A3(75)W during WW II. The towing pintle (item 4) was another standard fitting. Sand shields (item 5) were factory installed, although most crews removed them in service. The rear view mirror (item 6) can be seen installed on this August 1944 production tank.


M4A3(75)W

Early production M4A3(75)W's had one-piece rear most engine deck plates (item 1). Differing from some other types of Shermans, the lift handles were welded onto the engine deck (item 2). Shermans had a total of four main fuel tanks.  Unlike Ford built M4A3s, Fishers had only a single filler point for the two fuel tanks located on either side of the hull (items 3). The filler in the middle of the forward engine deck plate was for the engine coolant expansion tank, and was protected by a bullet splash guard (item 4). A small exhaust pipe for the auxiliary generator (item 5) was extended to the rear of the tank in order to prevent asphyxiation of the crew. Photo courtesy of Christiaen Callens.


M4A3(75)W

Starting around April 1944, the rear
most engine deck plate was divided into two pieces to make it easier for crewmembers to lift. The large, grated engine deck doors were heavy, and door bumpers (item 1) were added to the "ultimate" M4A3 series. The standard tool stowage arrangement can be seen here. Only the track adjusting wrench is missing. Photo courtesy of Chris Hughes.


M4(105) Chrysler    M4(105) Chrysler

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.


M4A3(75)W

The above photo shows "Sad Sack" USA 3081752 testing detachable grousers at Aberdeen Proving Ground September 1944. The late type bogie units with "upswept" return roller arms (items 1) were standard on the M4A3(75)W VVSS. The "plain" drive sprockets (item 2) were standard as well.


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W

Idler wheels were primarily pressed spoked (left), but a few examples have been seen with "unspoked" idlers (right).


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W

Fisher seems to have used just about every type of road wheel on its M4A3(75)W's with VVSS. The earliest production 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 Fall 1944.



M4A3(75)W HVSS

Fisher Body did not provide figures for the number of HVSS Shermans it manufactured. However, Ordnance documents state that on January 1, 1945 all Sherman production incorporated HVSS. 651 M4A3(75)W's were produced in 1945, and thus, we might conclude that at all of them had HVSS. We don't know of any confirmed surviving examples, and period photos are extremely rare. Registration Numbers listings for the US Firefly Program indicate that at least 8 were converted in April and May, 1945 (inset). The M4A3(75)W HVSS seen above was photographed on the streets of Exeter in 1945. While there is no visible USA Number to cross reference, it seems highly likely that this tank was in the UK for Firefly conversion. As yet, no photos of M4A3(75)W HVSS based Fireflies have turned up. Photo supplied courtesy of Peter D Thomas, copyright Ken Jackson, www.exeterbooks.com


M4A3(75)W
Click on the photo for larger size

Due to their late date of manufacture, and average four to five month (factory acceptance to combat issue) shipping times, very few M4A3(75)W with HVSS were shipped overseas during WW II. In fact, 585 were listed in the US Inventory in August, 1948. The foremost tank in the photo above is equipped with HVSS as evidenced by the extended fender support (item 1). Curiously, it lacks the "usual" type of gunner's periscope housing as seen on the second tank (item 2). The third and a few others have what appear to be larger housings (item 3), possibly necessary to accommodate an improved gunner's periscope. These tanks were photographed at a staging area near Marseilles on June 19, 1945. They had been processed and sealed for direct shipment to the Pacific, in the event they were needed for the Invasion of Japan.
 

 M4A3(75)W
Click on the photo for larger size
 
Very much like the preceding photo, this one shows approximately forty M4A3(75)W HVSS at an Ordnance Depot in Manila, August 1, 1945. Again, larger than usual periscope housings can be seen on a number of these (item 1). Many of the high bustle turrets have a "bulge" in the casting to better accommodate the commander's vision cupola (item 2). Many can be seen to have the "thin spot" armor patch, indicating they are recycled, low bustle turrets, as explained on this page (items 3 & 3a). Note the late armored exhaust deflector halves laying on the front of a couple of the tanks (item 4). The 2 inch smoke mortar was ordered eliminated in January, 1945, and the foremost Shermans in this and the preceding photo appear to have had a "patch" welded over the mortar hole (item 5).


M4A3(75)W

The transitional nature of the introduction of changes suggests that a few Fisher M4A3(75)s made before January 1, 1945 were equipped with HVSS. At least one December 1944 example, USA 30115711, was photographed. "Hardboiled" is thought to have served with the 16th Armored Division which entered Pilsen, Czechoslovakia on May 6, 1945. It is another M4A3(75)W that was factory built with an earlier D50878 low bustle turret recycled from the retriever program. Photo courtesy of the Archival Collection, Patton Memorial Museum, Pilzen.


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W

Surviving Shermans are displayed as monuments throughout the world. One of the most poignant memorials is Serial Number 49709, USA 3082306. "Bourg la Reine" was part of the 3rd Squadron, 12th Cuirassiers Regiment, 2nd French Armored Division, and was destroyed on the western outskirts of Phalsbourg, France on November 21, 1944. The first hit killed the driver. A second shell hit the turret ring, putting the tank out of action. The tank was hit repeatedly as the crew bailed out. The crew was rescued by a medical Half-Track, which was also targeted, causing more casualties among its crew. Bourg la Reine "was saved according to General Leclerc's desire and erected into a monument by the town of Phalsbourg in the grateful homage to the liberators."


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W
Click on the photo for larger size

Bourg La Reine was photographed a few days after it was destroyed. Its original French Matricule (Registration) Number can be seen as 96012 (left). About a week later, the tank was photographed again, by which time it had been salvaged for useable parts by supporting maintenance units following in the wake of the combat troops. The French did not officially receive any M4A3(75)W's as Lend Lease. However, they were provided with many different types of Shermans from US reserves in order to make up for losses. This tank was manufactured in May 1944, and so has such early features as the commander's split hatch, first type of smoke mortar aperture and "open" ventilator between the drivers' hatches. It was probably one of the last units to be built with the early glacis pattern.


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W
                                                                            Click on the photo for larger size

Perhaps the most famous surviving Sherman in the world is Serial Number 48935, USA 3081532 on display in McAuliffe Square in Bastogne, Belgium. It was a battlefield recovery, enshrined on the Square in 1948. Not much was known of the tank's history, until the late 1990s, when some excellent research by local historians revealed that it served with B Company of the 41st Tank Battalion, 11th Armored Division and was nicknamed "Barracuda." It was destroyed on December 30, 1944 in a meadow near Renuamont. The left side photo was taken in June, 1954, while the right is recent, & reflects the growth of Bastogne as a WWII tourist destination.


M4A3(75)W    M4A3(75)W

Fisher built Shermans have the tank's Ordnance Serial Number stamped into the rear towing lugs (left), as well as on both edges of the differential housing. The diff stamping is preceded by an "S" for "serial number." Barracuda's can be seen above - S48935.


M4A3(75)W

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 "A" on Barracuda above indicates the tank was built as an M4A3(75)W. Other letters noted are "E" for M4A3E2 (Jumbo), M for M4A3(76) and W for M4A2(76). While the number stamped on Barracuda is 325, it would actually have been the 321st M4A3(75) made by Fisher (accepted in March, 1944). Thus, our characterization of the build sequence number as "loose." This number can be useful in the event the tank's serial number can't be found.


M4A3(75)W

In the postwar years, it was the intention of the US Army to equip its forces with M26s or M4A3(76)HVSS's. Since there were not enough of either type, a conversion program was initiated. The 585 M4A3(75)W HVSS Shermans in the US inventory were converted by taking 76mm turrets, ammo stowage bins, the "taller" gun travel locks, etc. from less desirable types like M4A1(76) or M4A2(76) Shermans. Several of these conversions are on display in the US. Above is Serial Number 65944 in Carlisle, Pa. This tank would have been accepted as an M4A3(75)W with HVSS in February 1945. Aside from the serial number, one tell tale sign of a 75mm to 76mm turret conversion is that the build number has an "A" prefix, as mentioned earlier.

The authors would gladly receive serial & sequence number reports from any readers who encounter a surviving Fisher built Sherman.


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