January 1943 views of the
third ALCO M4A2 Serial Number 1407. Of note is the very early type of
piece differential housing, & the "bent rod" hull lifting
The M4 type of bogie units certainly appear to have been installed on
Shermans from the start. ALCO began Sherman production relatively late,
these photos suggest that none of their turrets had lifting rings
the "high" position (see the 75mm turrets page for further information). An
interesting curiosity that is seen on both 1405 and 1407, and on a
small number of other Shermans, is the cast in "bump" next to the
bow machine gun.
and exterior views of the "bump" show that this particular glacis
casting was made to hold the twin fixed machine guns that were part of the
original M4 design. The fixed MGs had been eliminated months before ALCO began
producing Shermans, and one can see that the holes were simply sealed up by
welding. Also evident is the repair by welding of imperfections in the
differential housing and rotor shield castings.
(Photos courtesy of the APG Restoration Staff).
showing the "bump" on a pair of Commowealth M4A2s, and two US Army M4s.
Note that in the few period photos showing the "bump" on M4A2s, as well
as on the two known surviving examples, the tanks have direct vision.
On the other hand, the two M4s, which are presumed to be ALCO built, are
seen to have the later type of drivers' hoods. There are no known
surviving examples of M4s with the "bump."
A front view of the only other known surviving M4A2 with the "bump," as photographed by Jim Goetz. This tank, which was named "Sultan," served with the Polish Skorpion Regiment, and was assigned the British War Department Number T-145501. It was reported that on May 12, during the 4th Battle of Monte Cassino, T-145501
veered into a pile of anti-tank mines that had been hastily removed to
the side of the road. This set off an explosive chain reaction which
utterly destroyed the tank and killed the entire crew. These were the
first combat fatalities suffered by the Skorpion Regiment, and in the
action from the 12th to the 18th of May, the unit recorded the loss of 5
officers and 8 enlisted men KIA, 8 officers and 27 enlisted men WIA,
with 3 Shermans totally destroyed and 8 damaged. Shortly after the
battle, it was decided to leave T-145501 in place, and in May, 1946, the
tank became the basis for a monument to the 4th “Skorpion” Armoured
Regiment. In our view, it is one of the most unusual and poignant tank
monuments in the world. Both Jim and our own Pierre-Olivier have closely
examined this tank, and we can only conclude that its serial number has been lost to time. So
who made this tank? Note the "bump" (1) along with the filled in holes
for the fixed machine guns (2). As mentioned earlier, "the bump" has
been seen on a few early production Shermans made by Pullman, Fisher,
Ford and ALCO. An interesting anomaly seen on T-145501 is that the weld
seams (arrows) have been ground down, so that they would disappear under
a coat of paint. The only other surviving example we have seen with
ground down weld seams is the first ALCO Sherman, Serial Number 1405
featured earlier. This practice
would have been strictly cosmetic, completely unnecessary and wasteful
of labor, so we had assumed it would have been very limited. For
instance, photos of the third ALCO, SN 1407, also accepted in September,
show the bump, but the weld seams stand proud of the armor, as was
obviously the case with almost every Sherman made. So could T-145501
have been the second ALCO M4A2? Perhaps, but the machine gun dust cover
fitting (3) suggests that this tank was made in October, 1942 or later.
Also, although not apparent here, the little step between the drivers'
hoods can be seen in period photos of T-145501, and counting heads
suggests that the step was introduced in Sherman production in November.
In any case, our best guess is that this tank was produced by ALCO in
final M4A2 photo shows USA 3065575 about to roll off the assembly line
at the ALCO plant in Schenectady, NY. This tank would have been accepted
in December, 1942. Note the factory installation of the step bracket,
as well as the bow mg dust cover fitting. The glacis pattern that can be
seen is without bump, and appears to have been typical
of ALCO Shermans up to mid 1943. Current evidence suggests that most or
all of the 150 ALCO built M4A2s had direct vision. On the other hand,
the authors have yet to come across a period photo or surviving example
of a direct vision M4 that can be identified as ALCO.
The left-side photo shows the
construction of the front glacis on earlier ALCO built Shermans. The red lines
indicate the weld joints. Note that the "plate" that includes the bow
MG was actually a casting, whereas the other sections of the glacis were armor
plates. "With the bump" would be a variation of this early glacis
pattern. In the right-side photo, the front glacis is made of a single armor
plate, and the bow MG, hull antenna bracket and drivers' hoods are welded into
it. Left-side photo courtesy of http://wra-tanks.blogspot.fr/
built Shermans have been seen with two variations of the bow MG socket. On the
earlier configuration (left side photo), the bow MG is actually part of a cast
"plate," while on the later one (right side photo), the bow mg is a
small casting that is welded into the front hull armor plate.
The typical cast antenna
bracket seen on ALCO built Shermans. Note how the bracket is welded flush with
the glacis, a useful clue when trying to identify an ALCO Sherman.
The direct vision slots were
considered ballistic weak spots, and it is thought that ALCO dispensed with
them when they transitioned from M4A2s to M4s in early 1943. The modified
drivers' hood casting featured an additional periscope in front of the drivers'
hatches. Positive hatch lock mechanisms with equilibrator springs were factory
installed on ALCO Shermans starting around May, 1943. These made the hatches
easier to manipulate, and insured that they were locked in the open position,
thereby avoiding injury to the crew. Tank Depots also retrofitted this
modification to many Shermans.
Here is shown the little
bullet splash protecting the drivers' hood hinge knuckles (circled in red on
the photo). This part has been seen on some Fisher & ALCO Shermans. It was
an official part that seems to have been introduced in Spring 1943. The reason
this part was not added to other manufacturers' Shermans is unknown.