War-Winner: A Re-Appraisal of the M4 "Sherman" Tank in World War II

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Date
2013-06-26
Authors
Smith, Kevin Daniel
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Publisher
Middle Tennessee State University
Abstract
The M4 tank was one of the principal armored vehicles used by the United States during World War II. The U.S. also supplied the M4 in large numbers to its allies; it became the most important Allied tank of the war. In spite of this widespread use, historians, veterans, and post-war commentators frequently denigrate the M4 as a weapon and claim that it was a mistake to employ it against the Axis powers. The critics' argument is that the M4 was cheaply designed for easy mass production as part of the American strategy to overwhelm the Axis powers through the quantity rather than the quality of its weapons. These critics point to the technical inferiority of the M4 to late-war German heavy tanks as proof of this claim and argue that by employing the M4 the Americans wasted thousands of lives and delayed the end of the war.
This argument is flawed and does not portray an accurate story of the M4 in World War II. Interior Army disputes over the role of tanks in battle and the resulting doctrine developed to defeat the German army were the primary determinants of the M4's design; ease of production was not the overriding factor. The record of the M4 in combat from 1942 to 1945 was exemplary when it was used as it was intended. Additionally, the 1944 modifications to the M4 demonstrated the soundness of its overall design. The M4 struggled (but still occasionally succeeded) in duels with the heavier German tanks, a task it was not designed for. Considering its overall war record, the M4 was an invaluable resource for the Allied powers and must be considered a successful tank.
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Keywords
Armor, M4 Sherman, Tanks, US Army, World War II
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