M4A3(76)W 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" .


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Chrysler manufactured most of the large hatch M4A3(76) Shermans. It produced 4017 M4A3(76)W from March 1944 to April 1945.
 
Production Order T-9872/1 : 238 M4A3(76)W with VVSS : Serial Number 43528 / USA 3099762 through S/N 43765 / USA 3099999
Production Order T-9872/2 : 462 M4A3(76)W with VVSS : Serial Number 43766 / USA 30100000 through S/N 44227 / USA 30100461
Production Order T-10151 : 671 M4A3(76)W with VVSS and 2  M4A3(76)W with HVSS : Serial Number 44808 / USA 30101042 through S/N 45480 / USA 30101714
Production Order T-10888/2 : 29 M4A3(76)W with VVSS and 824 M4A3(76)W with HVSS : Serial Number 59719 / USA 3031582 through S/N 60571 / USA 3032434
Production Order T-11168 : 1466 M4A3(76)W with HVSS : Serial Number 60572 / USA 30113594 through S/N 62037 / USA 30115059
Production Order T-14596/1 : 200 M4A3(76)W with HVSS : Serial Number 67501 / USA 30123237 through S/N 67770 / USA 30123436
Production Order T-14596/2 : 125 M4A3(76)W with HVSS : Serial Number 72767 / USA 30136599 through S/N 72891 / USA 30136723


Fisher also manufactured some M4A3(76)W from September to December 1944.

Production Order T-11315/2 : 525 M4A3(76)W with VVSS : Serial Number 62860 / USA 30115882 through S/N 63384 / USA 30116406


M4A3 practice

The evolution of the M4A3(76) started in early 1942 when the Ford Motor Company was contracted to manufacture Medium Tanks powered by an in house designed 500 HP V8 engine. Since the engine was new and untested, M4A3s initially served as training tanks in the US, giving the company the opportunity to "iron out the bugs." In comparison tests, the Ford GAA engine was found to be superior to the other tank power plants, and in June 1943, it was declared "suitable for overseas supply." It was further decided that production of M4A3s would be reserved for US troops, both at home and abroad. While Ford left the Sherman program in September 1943, it continued to supply engines to Chrysler and Fisher Body for the 1944/45 production of M4A3s and M26s. During WW II, Ford's Lincoln plant (above) produced 26,954 V8 tank engines.


M4A3 76 W    M4A3 76 W
Click on the picture for larger size

In August 1942, a few months after Shermans began rolling off the assembly lines, the Ordnance Department began testing the feasibility of mounting a 76 mm gun in the standard D50878 turret (above left). The intention was to produce 1000 76mm armed Medium Tanks by the end of the year. Ultimately, the project was cancelled because it was determined that the small turret was unsuitable. In the meantime, development work was initiated on new Medium Tank designs known collectively as the T20 series. The T23, which mounted a 76mm gun in a larger turret, was never standardized due to various technical problems (above right). However, since the 69 inch diameter turret ring was the same as the Sherman's, the T23's 76mm turret was easily adapted for use on the late 1943 revision of the M4 series.


M4A3 practice

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 photo above shows an October, 1942 production Ford built M4A3(75), and provides an idea of one of the early glacis configurations. Ballistic tests revealed the inherent weakness of the numerous weld joints and protrusions. In March 1943 the Armor Branch determined "that these weaknesses cannot be substantially eliminated by changes in the present designs."


M4A3 76 W    M4A3 76 W
Click on the picture 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 their tanks 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.


M4A3 76 W

Above is shown the M4A3(76) pilot model, USA 3054892, photographed at Chrysler in early 1944. The Registration Number indicates that this tank was built by Ford as a small hatch M4A3(75) in September, 1943. One can see that a large hatch front casting was retrofitted to this particular prototype, reflecting the very brief competition between the Chrysler and Fisher design concepts during development of the "second generation" series of welded hull Shermans. Of course, production M4A3(76)s would feature the "Fisher front end" as explained above. Note that the pilot's turret was fitted with the less complex, original version of the canvas mantlet cover. This suggests that it was intended to equip 76mm turrets with a mantlet cover from the start. However, we suspect that unresolved issues about the final design of the cover may have delayed its introduction for nearly a year.


M4A3 76 W

The official nomenclature for our subject, as seen on dataplates (inset), is "Tank, Medium, M4A3, 76MM Gun, Wet." "Wet" was shorthand for "wet stowage." Thirteen five round ammunition racks were located on the floor of the hull below the turret. Each five round rack had 3 sealed chambers that were filled with liquid. It was thought that if an ammo rack was penetrated, the liquid would be dispersed, and at least slow the progress of an ammunition fire in order to give the crew a few more seconds to escape. Above, several of the racks are shown in place. We've circled the filler plugs of the liquid chambers, including the one for the six round ready rack mounted on the turret basket floor. Some of the men involved in the wet stowage program were not convinced that the liquid chambers made any difference, and requested additional comparative trials. They noted that relocating the ammo bins to better protected positions on the floor of the hull (as the British had requested as early as June 1942) was the effective part of the wet stowage modification. They also mentioned that tankers wanted to carry as much ammo as possible, and the inclusion of the liquid containers came at the expense of an additional 10 to 12 rounds.


M4A3 76 W

In order to provide the loader with easier access to the ammunition, the turret basket of the 76mm Sherman was essentially cut in half. The view above was filmed at the 725th Ordnance Depot in Korea in May 1951. One can see that the turret basket floor was reduced to a little less than a half round shape. The six round ready rack (1) can be seen to overhang the turret basket floor by a few inches. It is to be noted that the M4A3(75)W retained a full turret basket floor that had ammunition access hatches. Howitzer Shermans were NOT "wet stowage," and some of the ammunition continued to be stowed "up high" on the sponsons, as on the original Sherman design. As an aside, we would point out that maintenance personnel were instructed NOT to use the gun mantlet's lifting rings to hoist the turret, such as shown in the scene above, because it could result in misalignment or other damage to the gun.


M4A3 76 W

Chrysler began manufacturing the M4A3(76) in March 1944. Most of the first 4 months' production was scheduled for automatic shipment to Europe. The tanks were processed at US Depots, and delivered to ports on the East Coast when completed. The first allotment of 48 M4A3(76)s, marked with the shipping code "GLUE," was "afloat" by the middle of June. "GLUE," which can be seen in some period photos and on a few surviving tanks, is described as Zone II for the receipt of cargo in the UK. It "included the southern portions of England and Wales, and the ports of the Bristol Channel and Plymouth, Southampton and London." In the early stages of the Normandy campaign, the tanks continued to be shipped to GLUE, where they were transferred to LSTs, and subsequently delivered over the beaches in Normandy. When port facilities, such as Cherbourg, became available on the Continent, the tanks were shipped direct. Above shows Serial Number 44220, a June 1944 production unit on display in Germany. Unlike most surviving Shermans, this tank is in close to "as built" configuration, although there is evidence that it was retrofitted with a bulldozer blade. We would guess 44220 served with the US Army during WW II, and may have been a battle casualty. "Paint archeology" has revealed what appears to be the original "GLUE" shipping code, as shown in the inset.

 
M4A3 in La Cambe
Click on the picture for larger size

The scene above was filmed in La Cambe on the Normandy coast on August 12, 1944. The 948th Ordnance Motor Vehicle Distribution Company appears to have completed the process of preparing these tanks for issue. The shipping sealant has been removed, although some remaining traces of it can be seen as dark spots. Chalked notes on the foremost Sherman indicate that the radio and "artillery" have been checked, and gasoline has been added. Chrysler shipped these tanks with the USA Number painted on the rear sides rather small in blue drab. In mid 1943, a directive was issued that the number was to be painted on larger and in white. Directives were not always heeded, but most of the US Shermans that took part in the Normandy Campaign can be seen with the larger, white Registration Numbers. We recorded the M4A3(76) in the foreground as USA 3099839, indicating April 1944 acceptance. The USA Number is the brightest thing on these tanks, so we would guess it was painted on by the 948th. Some items of interest are the extra lifting ring (1) and the absence of the machine gun fittings (2) on the turret, the "early" position of the forward cable clamp (3), and the siren (4).


M4A3 in Italy
Click on the picture for larger size

In Italy, Company A of the 13th Tank Battalion, 1st Armored Division was the one of the first units to receive the new tanks, and the scene above was filmed on a range near Pisa, August 19, 1944. The problem of smoke obscuration is evident, and it was thought that a muzzle brake would provide a remedy. However, tests had shown that, by itself the muzzle brake was insufficient, and "long primer" ammunition was developed at the same time. This combination helped to cut down the smoke and blast effects. Company A's guns can be seen to be the second version of the 76mm - the M1A1C. These were "threaded" to accept muzzle brakes when they became available in late 1944. In the meantime the threads were protected with a "collar." These tanks feature "extra lifting ring" turrets. Of note is that the commander's cupolas are not in their factory installed positions, but have been reoriented so that the hatches open further to the rear. In some correspondence from the Mediteranean Theater of Operations to the Ordnance Department, it was suggested that this should be the standard orientation of the cupola.


M4A3
Click on the picture for larger size

While Ford engined Shermans were reserved for US Army use, the combat debut of the M4A3(76) may have been with the French 2nd Armored Division. The Division was attached to the US Third Army, and received a few of the first M4A3(76)s as replacements in late August. "Champagne," Number 55, served with the 3rd Squadron of the 12th 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 general, the French painted out the US Army Registration Numbers of their Lend Lease vehicles, and applied their own "matricule" numbers. However, in the crew snapshot above, one can see that Champagne "still" had the USA Number painted on in the same manner as the tanks seen in the August 12th La Cambe photo. "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.). Photo courtesy of Musée de la libération-Jean Moulin-Ville de Paris.


M4A3 "Champagne"

The M4A3(76) on display as a monument in Ville-sur-Illon, France has the serial number 43594 stamped on the rear towing lugs. There is a mathematical correlation between the Ordnance Serial Number and the USA Number of Shermans, and 43594 is an exact match to USA 3099828, confirming that this is the "real" Champagne. She was knocked out on September 13, 1944, not far from where she now stands. The crew managed to escape as the tank caught fire. In the photo above, it can be seen that the intensity of the fire melted most of the rubber from the tracks and road wheels. Champagne was one of the few M4A3(76)s to come equipped with the "unthreaded" M1A1 gun. Pressed Steel Car began M4A1(76) production in January 1944, two months before Chrysler began manufacture of the M4A3(76). An Ordnance Department document states that "All Medium Tanks M4 series (76mm gun) since first 385 produced have been equipped with threaded gun tubes." Thus, the M1A1 is more commonly seen on early M4A1(76)s. Our counting heads method suggests that Chrysler was distributed less than 100 M1A1s, and completed the transition to the threaded M1A1C guns in April 1944, the same month that Champagne was built.


early T23 turret    early T23 turret

An anomaly seen on many of the early Chrysler M4A3(76)s is the presence of what is informally referred to as "the extra lifting ring" in front the loader's hatch. This is a vestige of Chrysler's abortive T23 program. The T23 featured a boom for lifting the power pack, and the extra lifting ring served to support part of the boom's rigging. While the extra lifting ring did no harm on the Sherman (crews like to hang stuff on it), it was eliminated from subsequent turret molds. As best as can be determined, about 500 "XLR" turrets were mixed in with the first four month's M4A3(76) production at Chrysler. Chrysler was supplied with turrets made by American Steel Foundries & Continental Steel, and their casting logos are the only ones that have been seen on surviving "XLR" turrets. At left, the extra lifting ring as seen on the turret of an actual T23 Medium Tank (photo courtesy of Neil Baumgardner), and the same thing at right on Champagne.


M4A3 "Champagne"

Unlike the early M4A1(76)s, the turrets installed on Chrysler M4A3(76)s were "up to spec" as regards the ventilator and the "standard" loader's split hatch. However, period photos, such as the one taken at La Cambe, show that some of the first Chryslers were "out of spec" as they were missing the L-shape MG barrel stowage brackets on the turret rear. Note that on Champagne, one can see "weld scars" on the ventilator where the machine gun stowage pintle was once installed, but there is no evidence that this tank ever had the L-shaped brackets.


Clervaux M4A3    T23 turret

The examination of surviving examples makes it obvious that, at some point fairly early on, it was decided not to machine out, and provide for the forward antenna socket on the turret. The above photos show what local researchers believe to be a combat casualty of B Company, 2nd Tank Battalion, 9th Armored Division, knocked out on or about December 17, 1944 in Clervaux, Luxemburg. This tank is now on display at the castle in Clervaux. We recorded the serial number from one of the rear tow lugs as 43911, indicating May, 1944 production. Note that "the extra lifting ring" has been eliminated from the turret mold, and that there is only the "ghost" of the former antenna socket, circled in red. The blanks over the smoke mortar hole and other openings were no doubt added for the display, but otherwise this tank, complete with shot gouges, appears to be a true battle relic. The US Army’s Ordnance Maintenance personnel had an excellent record of recovering or salvaging battlefield wrecks. Tanks that had burned were considered unrecoverable, and often left in place. 43911 does not appear to have burned, so we wonder why she was not recovered?


M4A3(76)    M4A3(76)    M4A3(76)

The 2 inch smoke mortar was standard at the beginning of M4A3(76)W production. At Chrysler, the mortar hole was level with the armor at first, but later production units can be seen with a protruding sleeve. A weatherproofing cap with retaining chain was finally added in late 1944. Fisher Body appears to have installed the weatherproofing cap on its entire run of 525 M4A3(76)s. In January, 1945 the Ordnance Department ordered the elimination of the smoke mortar. It is thought that the builders would have implemented this directive in the following months. Any remaining turrets with the smoke mortar hole would have had it covered over or filled in, and later turrets would have been “undrilled” for the smoke mortar. Most surviving Shermans can be seen with the mortar hole blanked off or filled in. This would have been done during the course of their post war service, or as part of an early 1950’s remanufacture. Thus, an intact mortar fitting on a surviving Sherman, such as Champagne, is a clue that “time stopped” for that tank during World War II.



M4A3(76)    M4A3(76)

Small changes were incorporated by Chrysler during the course of production. From the outset until around August 1944, Chrysler M4A3(76)s had what the authors think of as the "early" glacis pattern. This 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 76mm    M4A3 (76)

Chrysler transitioned to the "mid" glacis pattern around August. The bullet splashes were shortened, and the top edge of the glacis plate was no longer beveled, but simply square cut. The addition of rear view mirrors (circled in red) appears to have been nearly concurrent with this pattern. Pictures courtesy of Vladimir Yakubov at www.svsm.org


M4A3(75)W late

The "late" or "final" glacis pattern was introduced by Chrysler around November 1944. It was identical to the mid pattern except that the hull lifting rings were repositioned "outboard" to the edge of the glacis.


M4A3(76)    M4A3(76)

Based on user feedback, a sheet metal cover to protect the ventilator between the drivers' hatches was introduced around August, 1944. The authors have not found any evidence of modification kits for the covers during WW II, but have noted that many 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 Gary Binder.


M4A3(76)    M4A3(76)

The earliest M4A3(76)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, and/or cause a build up of dirt in the turret bearing race. It was thought that a single, large hole would alleviate these problems. This transition appears to have been made in July 1944. Some of Chrysler’s early 105 Shermans can be seen to have the gap (1) between the turret splash and the fuel cap bullet splash filled in by welding. We have not seen any evidence of the “closed gap” on any Fisher or Chrysler M4A3(76)s.


M4A3(76)    M4A3(76)

From the start of production through about June 1944, Chrysler M4A3(76)s featured one-piece rear most engine deck plates, as seen on Champagne in the photo on the left. Starting around July, the rear plate was divided into two pieces to make it easier for crew members 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 above right on the restored August 1944 production unit, formerly of the Littlefield Collection. Right side photo courtesy of Chris Hughes.


M4A3(76)    M4A3(76)

Another early production clue has to do with the location of the forward cable clamp (circled, above left). Starting around July 1944, Chrysler installed the clamp more towards the front of the tank (above right). We think of this as the “standard” position, since it is seen on the vast majority of large hatch, welded hull Shermans. Note that on all of its large hatch Shermans, except for a few of the first M4A2(75)s, Fisher appears to have mounted the cable clamp in the "standard" position from the start.


M4A3(76)    M4A3(76)

76mm and 105mm Shermans were equipped with the same gun travel lock. It was about 4 inches taller than the one used on 75mm tanks. Many surviving Shermans have been upgraded with a single piece locking arm, but the less stable WW II configuration consisted of a two "fingers" or "scissors jaw" configuration.


M4A3(76)

During the course of their M3 Lee program, Chrysler designed the pressed metal type of bogie (1) and idler wheels (3). They used them throughout production on their VVSS equipped Shermans. Their distinctive drive sprocket (2) was also employed throughout, including HVSS production. Both Chrysler and Fisher M4A3(76)VVSS Shermans were equipped with upswept return roller arms (4) from the start of production. Chrysler’s Kercheval plant in Detroit was tasked with assembling bogie units. Anything with a date is valuable to our research, and one of Chrysler’s prime suppliers of bogie bracket castings was the National Malleable and Steel Castings Company, whose logo was an “N in a circle” (inset, from another M4A3(76)). They included a production date on their bogie castings. In general, original component parts will predate the acceptance of the tank by several months. So, for instance, we know by the serial number that the M4A3(76) in Clervaux (shown above) was made in May of 1944, and it can be seen that most of its bogies are dated 2-44.


M4A3(76)
Click on the photo for larger size

It is thought that all of the 525 M4A3(76)s manufactured by Fisher Body from September to December 1944 would have featured Vertical Volute Spring Suspension and the late glacis pattern. We estimate that Fisher completed the transition to the D7054366 turret with oval loader's hatch, and the M1A2 gun with muzzle brake in October, 1944. The tank pictured above can be seen to be USA 30116364, indicating December, 1944 acceptance. A couple of clues as to its Fisher (as opposed to Chrysler) origin can be found in the "plain" drive sprocket (1), and the solid concave road wheels (2). By mid 1944, two types of road wheels were prevalent on Fisher VVSS Shermans - the solid, and the "welded spoke with small holes" (inset). The improved T-shaped towing shackles (3) were introduced in October. A close look at the USA Number (4) shows that it was also welded on. This was a practice of the 1st Armored Division in Italy, and indeed their records indicate that 30116364 was issued to the 13th Tank Battalion on April 1, 1945. The photo was taken at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey 3 years later on April 3, 1948. This tank is what we informally call a "bring back." Most likely it would have been retrofitted with HVSS during the remanufacture program of the early 1950s.


M4A3(76)

Ordnance documents state that the Muzzle Brake, M2 was standardized, and 300 had been produced by the end of August 1944. Production was scheduled at the rate of 100 per day "until requirements are met." Internal items were necessary, including a counterweighted breech guard, to balance the 87 pound muzzle brake. US Armored Forces in Europe began requesting muzzle brake modification kits and long primer ammunition in early September, 1944. In general, priority for new items was given to the tank manufacturers. Modification kits for Tank Depot and Field installation were produced only after manufacturers' requirements were met. When the Ordnance Department informed the ETO that Modification kits would not become available until early 1945, the response was that this was "not satisfactory. Urgent requirement exists." The ETO insisted on the immediate air shipment of 3 stand alone muzzle brakes, and a further 600 by fast water transport, with the note "counterweights can be added by Field Modification." As it was, these items were shipped in late December, just as the first M4A3(76)s with muzzle brakes and HVSS were distributed to troops in Europe. We've reproduced a few pages of the Modification Work Order above. It is dated July 25, 1945, not quite the "early 1945" availability that Ordnance had given to the ETO. No doubt other factors were involved, but it is likely that the diversion and shipment of the 603 muzzle brakes may have played a role in the delayed release of the MWO.


M4A3(76)    M4A3(76)
Click on the photos for larger size

In the Summer of 1943, the Chrysler Corporation began development of "horizontal volute spring suspension and 23” center guided tracks for Medium Tank, M4 series." The "E8" modification was an effort to improve the ride and increase the mobility of the Sherman series. The photos above show one of the pilots, a September 1943 Ford M4A3(75), at Chrysler's Tank Arsenal Proving Ground on December 6, 1943. HVSS was released for production in April, 1944, and Chrysler completed the transition to the manufacture of all HVSS Shermans in September. Fisher Body and Pressed Steel Car completed the changeover on January 1, 1945. Fisher produced 525 M4A3(76)s from September through December, 1944, and it is thought that all of them were made with VVSS. Thus Chrysler was solely responsible for series production of the M4A3(76) with HVSS.


M4A3(76)

The average shipping time of a new tank from factory to combat troops was 4 to 5 months. The first M4A3(76)s with HVSS appear to have been distributed at the end of December, 1944. For instance on December 30, the 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division reported that they had 5 "76mm - new suspension." The Signal Corps photo above is datelined Bastogne, Belgium, January 8, 1945. The caption simply reads, "Tanks of the 4th Armd Div ready for action in front lines." While not the most informative shot, we have included it because it shows what may be the earliest appearance of both HVSS and the muzzle brake in a combat theater. The .50 caliber Machine Gun appears to be positioned pretty far forward and to the left on the turret, suggesting that it may be the earlier D82081 turret, with the MG mounted on the pintel of the loader's split hatch. Chrysler began factory installation of the muzzle brake in October, and introduced the later 7054366 turret with oval loader's hatch in that same month. Due to the transitional nature of the introduction of changes, some examples of earlier turrets can be seen with guns with muzzles brakes, while some later turrets can be seen without them.


M4A3(76)

The Signal Corps shot a "walk around" of USA 3031867, an October 1944 production M4A3(76)HVSS. The design of the muzzle brake was "borrowed" from the Germans, and in order to avoid friendly fire incidents, an effort was made to alert Allied Troops to the presence of muzzle brakes on new production Shermans. 3031867 was photographed on January 17, 1945 as it was being processed for issue by the 98th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company (Tank) based near Charmes in the Lorraine area of France. The stencil on the front (1) reads "American Export Modification, November 6, 1944," indicating that this tank was still at a US Tank Depot on that date. The original stars and shipping code have been scrubbed out, but we suspect 3031867 came in through the port of Marseilles, whose destination code was "LEGS." The newly painted "stars in a circle" are much more commonly seen on tanks processed by Ordnance units in Italy and southern France. The automobile style horn (2) replaced the siren in production in the summer of 1944. The shipping brackets (3) on the front and rear bogies were directed to be removed upon final delivery. "Failure to remove this bracket when unloading the vehicle from the freight car often results in damage to the tracks when operated over rough terrain."


M4A3(76)

This photo of 3031867 provides a good view of the mid glacis. Note the "sharpness" (1) of the square cut upper edge, a characteristic of mid and late glacis plate patterns. The extended smoke mortar (2) is simply taped over. While Fisher Body began to install the smoke mortar cap with retaining chain to its Shermans in July 1944, Chrysler doesn't appear to have added it until December, at about the same time as the introduction of the fittings for the canvas mantlet cover. The T80 tracks (3) were considered greatly superior to Chrysler's original design T66 tracks. Internal correspondence mentions that Chrysler ran short of track, and shipped some of its HVSS Shermans to depots without them. Fisher Body and Pressed Steel Car were accumulating 23 inch tracks in anticipation of their change over to HVSS, and they diverted some of their supplies to the depots, so that the Chrysler tanks could be completed and shipped out.


M4A3(76)    M4A3(76)

Second generation Shermans started out with the quick release towing fixtures shown on the left. An Ordnance Dept. "Report of Modifications Entering Production at Facilities" states that the "Cross Bar Towing Hooks" were installed on M4A3(76)s at the Detroit Tank Arsenal starting on December 12, 1944 at Serial Number 60798. We interpret this to be a reference to the T shaped towing shackles shown in our right side photo. A tow cable could be hooked on to the new shackles without removing them. This saved crews a few seconds when attempting to retrieve a tank while under fire. It was no longer necessary to have two tow lugs per side with the new shackles, but the "extra" lugs on the differential were retained since they also provided attachment points for the steps. We suspect that only one rear tow lug was used at or shortly after the introduction of the new shackles. At present, all of the the surviving M4A3(76)HVSS Shermans that we have examined with Serial Numbers 60980 and above have single towing lugs in the rear. Restorers and modelers should note that the T-shaped shackles are not seen in WW II combat photos before 1945.


M4A3(76)

As mentioned previously, it averaged between 4 and 5 months to deliver a new tank into the hands of combat troops. For all intents and purposes, this rendered the entire US 1945 production of AFVs extraneous to the war effort. Chrysler finally began to install the actual canvas mantlet cover in early 1945. The photo above, dated March 31, 1945, is the earliest one we have found showing the mantlet cover in the ETO. This tank was being processed for issue by the 561st Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company (Tank) in München Gladbach, Germany. It is to be noted that only the "final" version of the mantlet cover is seen on Chrysler M4A3(76)s. The less complex, original version was installed on the 76 mm pilot turret, as well as on Fisher M4A2(76)s made in March and April, 1945 (inset). The final version was almost universally retrofitted to 76mm Shermans in the postwar years.


M4A3(76)
Click on the photos for larger size

The "Report of Modifications..." has it that the "Armor Plate Exhaust Deflector" was installed on Chrysler M4A3(76)s starting January 1, 1945 at Serial Number 61235. We cannot verify that through "counting heads," since this item was retrofitted to large numbers of Ford engined AFVs by a Modification Work Order Kit that became available in April 1945. The photo above shows M4A3(76)HVSS and M4A3(105)HVSS Shermans at the Detroit Tank Arsenal with the new deflectors mostly in the "up" position. Canvas mantlet covers have been installed as well. While most of these units can be seen to have the later T80 tracks, a few have the earlier T66, as evidenced by the protruding center guides on the spares (circled). The center guides were integral on the T66 type, whereas they were separate parts on the T80. Note that the Armored First Aid Boxes are not present on these tanks.


M4A3(76)

Occupation Zones had been agreed upon at the Yalta Conference, and most US/Commonwealth units were already in the Soviet Zone by late April, when they were ordered to halt and cease offensive operations. Elements of the US Third Army, including the 4th Armored Division, continued to advance during the final days of the war in Europe. Their objective was Prague, but they were ordered to halt in the vicinity of Lnare, Czechoslovakia on May 6, 1945, two days before VE-Day. There are a few period photos that show two different 4th AD M4A3(76)s with HVSS in Czechoslovakia. They may be the only WW II "combat shots" of Shermans with the improved deflector installed. The example shown above was photographed in Strakonice on May 6.


M4A3(76)

The armored first aid box can be seen in photos of both the M26 and M24 in Europe before VE-Day. Initial supplies were reserved for these new models. They appear to have become available for installation on both new and remanufactured Shermans starting around March, 1945. However, while Chrysler ended M4A3(76) production in April, we have not been able to find any evidence that any units were factory equipped with the First Aid Box. "Counting heads" is complicated by the fact that this item was retrofitted to many M4A3(76)s in the post war years. The photo above shows an M26 of the 14th Tank Battalion, 9th Armored Division near Vettweiss, Germany on March 1, 1945. The first aid box is circled, and can be seen more completely in the inset. The few M26s that saw WW II service would have been made by Fisher Body in late 1944, early 1945. Like early M4A3(76)s, they were characterized by an "extra lifting ring" (arrow), which was later eliminated. Chrysler didn't begin M26 production until March, 1945.


M4A3(76)

It was the intention of the Army to provide its fighting troops with the best possible armor technology as it became available during the relatively brief span of US involvement in World War II. To that end, an attempt was made to distribute improvements such as 76mm guns, muzzle brakes, better ammunition, Ford engined tanks and HVSS on an equal basis. By VE-Day about 2200, or approximately half of the surviving Shermans in the European Theater, were armed with the 76mm gun. About 1000 of those had HVSS. There were about 100 of the Sherman's replacement, the M26, on strength in May, 1945. The docks and depots on the Continent were teeming with thousands of additional AFVs. Many of these would have been reprocessed for direct shipment to the Pacific. The document above shows the March 3rd, 1945 allocation of tanks to the 12th Army Group, and remarks that, "Effort is being made to get the 76mm gun tank in the hands of troops, therefore no 75mm gun tanks are being allocated." In fact, the last allocation of 75mm Shermans was on February 9th.


M4A3(76)
Click on the photos for larger size

Shipments of M4A3(76)s to the US Fifth Army in Italy were more or less evenly distributed as replacements. By the time of the 1945 Spring Offensive, the US Tank Battalions there had a preponderance of the newer Shermans. Indeed, all but one of the Battalions had collected a company's worth (~17) of reserve M4A3(76)s for immediate replacement of losses. The 752nd Tank Battalion had completely replaced it's 39 M4 and M4A1(75)s with 54 M4A3(76)s by March 7th. However, in early April, the unit put a platoon of M4A3(76)s from each Company in reserve, and replaced them with older 75mm Shermans for use as expendable "point tanks" in the upcoming campaign. The well known Signal Corps photo above was taken in the Plaza Emanuel in Bologna, April 21, 1945. It shows elements of the 752nd with mostly 76mm Shermans, along with the M18s of the 805th Tank Destroyer Battalion. Loads of Fisher built M4A3(76)s arrived in Italy in early 1945, and we believe the units with the late glacis patterns and muzzle brakes would be some of them. Note the various non standard orientations of the commander's cupolas. Aside from new M4A3s armed with 76mm and 105mm guns, the 752nd had replaced its Company of M5 series Light Tanks with M24s by March 12th. However, in the photo, the Light Tanks can be seen to be M5A1s. Battalion records note that "On the 5th of April, the light tank company lost its new M24s to the First Armored." The wasted training, and the loss of the M24's 75mm firepower occasioned much griping.


M4A3(76)

The photo above is dated March 24, 1945 at the Peninsula Base Section Vehicle Park near Livorno, Italy. The M4A3(76)HVSS can be seen as USA 30114244, indicating that it was accepted in early January, 1945. 1945 production AFVs "in theater" are rare, and in fact, this is the highest M4A3(76) Registration Number we have recorded from an overseas WW II photo or unit roster. Oddly, considering that there would have been sufficient time to distribute this tank, we have no evidence that any units of the Fifth Army employed any M4A3(76)HVSS before the German surrender in Italy on May 2nd. The M4A3(76)VVSS Shermans in the photo can be identified as Fisher built by their "plain" drive sprockets, along with the concave and/or "small holes" type road wheels. One example is equipped with the T49 “interrupted parallel type grouser” steel tracks. At least 2 M4A3(105)s can be seen. As they became available, they replaced the M7 Priests in the US Tank Battalions of the Fifth Army. It might be noted that, due to the mountainous terrain of Italy, many crews preferred the open top of the M7 over the turreted M4A3(105).


M4A3(76)

While no 76mm Shermans, (or M26s for that matter) were used in combat in the Pacific Theater, plans for the Invasion of Japan envisioned the employment of 12 or more Tank Battalions, equipped with the most modern AFVs. It was intended to outfit each Army Battalion with M26s, M4A3(76)s and M4A3(105)s with HVSS, and M24 Light Tanks as shown in the proposed July 1945 TO&E reproduced above. The Marines continued to prefer the 75mm Sherman over the 76, and their plans included the use of M4A3(75)s and M4A3(105)s with HVSS in the 3 Battalions slated to take part. Documentation courtesy of Trent Telenko. For more information about the plans for the invasion of Japan, see his “Secrets of the Pacific Warfare Board -- Pershing Tanks for Operation Olympic.” http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/43946.html


M4A3(76)

M4A3(76) production was terminated in April 1945 after 4542 units had been built. Officially, 1925 were VVSS models and 2617 were HVSS. The planners had to assume that there would be an invasion of Japan, and that the campaign might drag on for many months or even years. To this end, Fisher Body and Chrysler were contracted to produce 7500 M26s to replace the Sherman as the Army's main battle tank. As it turned out, M26 production was terminated in October 1945, after only 2202 had been manufactured. With the onset of the Cold War, it was realized that this number would be insufficient to meet the Army's requirements, and thus the M4A3(76)HVSS was continued in service as an acceptable substitute for the M26. The photo above shows the M24, the M4A3(76)HVSS and the M26 - "the three primary tanks of the Army" at Camp Hood, Texas in October, 1947.


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