The Mighty Sherman

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Photography by Budd Davisson

The Sherman appears narrow, but that is deceiving. It is just that it sits so high, the result of originally being designed around air-cooled, radial aircraft engines that had to sit nearly vertical to function properly.

A little personal aside: when shooting Joeís Sherman we couldnít take it out on the roads to look for an ideal place to shoot it because its steel tracks would tear up public roads. So, we drove it out of his shop and down the ditch next to a major highway and all of the shots were done with me standing on the yellow line with cars whizzing around both sides. I never gave a thought to a motorist swerving when they saw a tank just off the road. Someone looks over idiotic photographers.

Sitting high, compared to German Panzers, the Sherman, regardless of the variant was an easy target.

The smooth lines of this M4A1 belonging to Joe Borshowa are the result of being one huge casting. In an effort to speed up production later tanks had the case glacis of the A1 flowing back to a welded, flat plate hull and even later versions did away with casting all together. The early three-piece differential cover is clearly seen as are the all-steel, combat treads with no rubber pads.

The Shermanís narrow tracks are in stark contrast to the clearly thought-out and very wide treads of later German tanks (Panther on) which allowed them to handle mud and soft Earth much better.

Bill Guiette, the owner, mans the Browning fifty. Seen in many movies, including Flags of our Fathers, his tank shows the wear on the treads, which is a constant problem for enthusiasts like Bill who want to keep a WWII tank running. The treads only had/have a life of 100-125 miles and you canít buy a new set at your local NAPA store.

A Shermanís ìsparetireî was the short section of track stowed across the front. In the event a track was blown off, the crew would scramble out, wait until things calmed down, then repair the ìflatî with pieces from the stowed section.

The cable seen trailing over the front and off to the tankersí left isnít there by accident: itís to be used in towing the tank, should it become disabled.

The front appliquÈ armor is clearly visible here.

The rectilinear form of the later Shermans, showing its hull is clearly made of welded flat armor plate. AppliquÈ armor on the side, by the ammo storage area and in front of the front top hatches is clearly visible.

A dry creek bed was just made for a Sherman, allowing it to sneak around the battlefield. At the same time, it depended on surrounding infantry to keep sappers from jumping out of trees and off the banks on to it.

The view of a hard working Shermanís turret from the floor. Behind the machinegun, the loaderís periscope can be seen in the roof. The canvas bag under Browning is the brass catcher. The breech is a working breech but Bill has modified the 75mmís recoil system to work with blanks. Normally there would be two long bars coming back from the two holes on the bottom of the gun in front of the breech. They looped around and formed a guard to keep the loader and the commander from behind the gun so they wouldnít get hit when it recoiled almost all the way to the back of the turret.

The driver sat on the left with the bow gunner on the right. The handles could only slow down a track, not stop it, giving the Sherman a fairly wide turning radius. The empty boxes in the middle held spare periscopes.

Updated: July 18, 2011 — 3:25 PM
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