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M4 (76mm) Sherman Medium Tank 1943-65 (New Vanguard) Paperback – 20 Apr 2003
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About the Author
Steven J Zaloga was born in 1952, received his BA in history from Union College, and his MA from Columbia University. He has published numerous books and articles dealing with modern military technology, especially armoured vehicle development. His main area of interest is military affairs in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the Second World War, and he has also written extensively on American armoured forces. Jim Laurier is a native of New Hampshire. He graduated with honours from the Paiers School of Art, Connecticut, in 1978 and has worked as a freelance illustrator ever since, completing assignments in a wide variety of fields. Jim has a keen interest in military subjects, both aviation and armour, and is a Fellow member of the American Society of Aviation Artists, the New York Society of Illustrators and the American Fighter Aces Association.
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These sorts of books are not technical manuals. Use any technical concepts expressed in them with a big dose of caution! The 3-inch Gun M7 was never a “76mm” gun and was always the 3-inch Gun M7. The 52 calibers long 76mm was standardized as the 76mm M1; the 57 calibers long T1 pilot was never standardized. Two balance issues occurred - one involving mounting in the M34 mount of the 75mm gun and the second effecting the turret traverse. Before and after ballistics concerning the barrel length change have never been released by any researcher so whether or not any significant muzzle velocity and hence armor penetrating was lost is an iffy subject.
If the Armored Forces had made an earlier requirement to fix the issues noted in Gillem's memo the Ordnance Department would have had time to fix those that were in fact actual issues like muzzle blast. The 3-inch guns of the Tank Destroyers would have also benefited. The Armored Forces failed to see the need for the 17 pounder when the British first offered 200 plus ammunition per month and let it slip past. Another source based on Ordnance Department records indicates that Devers denied a request by the Ordnance Department to design a version of the T23 tank armed with the 90mm gun in 1942 delaying development until the M26 was on hand in 1945 not 1944. Without a keyed reference in Zalogas's book there is no way to compare references. Mounting the 90mm gun carrying M36 turret on the M4 hull would have required approval by the Armored Forces and probably only resulted in small numbers being received in August-September 1944 like the M36 itself and then only if the project was implemented with haste.
Zaloga mentions Eisenhower's famous comment about being told by “Ordnance” that the 76mm would handle everything only to find it could not; and in other books there are claims that “Ordnance” told “them” that the 76mm could knock out the Panther and Tiger at 2,000 yards/meters or so. No one has provided a reference for such quotes, which go against the Ordnance Department's goals at the time and do not coincide with any tests performed nor data provided in manuals for 1944.
The 17 pounder and 76mm projectiles did not weigh “about the same”, the 17 pounder projectile was 10% heavier. To compare cannon power, calculate the foot tons/kilojoules of energy generated by the weight and velocity of primary projectiles using the same types. German caliber lengths were not based on bore length as were U.S. and British cannon; they were based on either overall length in the case of most early cannon or the average of overall length and bore length in the case of most (but not all) cannon after 1938. Chamber pressure is not useful for direct comparisons; the 37mm Gun had a chamber pressure of 50,000 psi.
On page 10 Zaloga states that the 75mm M3 had only a pound/0.45 kilograms of propellant; the armor penetrating rounds used around 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) (quotes vary). Recently he has stopped calling the M64 White phosphorous round the M89 (which was a plain smoke round; Michael Green has done the same). In “Armored Thunderbolt” he labeled of the 75mm M3 as an “L/32” caliber cannon. It had a bore length of 37.5 calibers and overall length of 40.1.
The situation is simple: US Army commanders in charge of armored vehicle development arrogantly proclaimed that the M4 was the best tank in the world despite the admonitions from their ally, the British, that German tank guns/armor were always being upgraded based on the desperate fighting on the Eastern Front. US forces landed in Normandy and found out that the Sherman was vulnerable at any realistic combat range while it could not do the same in return.
This book is about the M4(76mm) tanks that would, it was hoped, be able to better deal with effective German weapons. The book does a good job of chronicling the development of the 76mm gun and the upgraded M4 Shermans that carried them as well as the other options such as adopting the British 17 pounder (a very effective anti-tank gun) as well as talk of putting a 90mm gun into the M4. There are comparisons of the 76mm gun in terms of armor penetration against the British 17 pounder and German L70 75mm gun on the Panther. Even though it was better than the standard 75mm gun, it was woefully inferior to the other weapons on the battlefield.
This book does a good job of detailing the development of the 76mm gun, the need for better tank guns once the better German tanks were encountered, the production of the upgraded Sherman and the distribution of them in the American army's armored divisions. The author does talk about the lend-lease shipments of thousands of these tanks to allies such as the Soviet Union, post-war use of these tanks in Korea and in the hands of allies as well as other countries such as Israel who acquired them from allies. The Israelis would continue to use the Sherman in upgraded form for decades, only retiring them completely in the 1990s.
There's a lot of good here, although I would have liked to have seen some comparison as to how well these tanks performed versus the standard Sherman, the British Sherman "Firefly", etc. In conclusion, it's a solid 4 star book on the subject.
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