M4A3 Sherman 76mm

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Overview

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The M4A3E8 ("Easy Eight") Sherman 76mm is an upgraded US medium tank, with improved armor and firepower over the basic M4A2.

History

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Although US forces encountered the Tiger I in North Africa and in Italy alongside the newer Panther, they assumed these two types would be limited in production and that most of their opponents would be Panzer IV tanks roughly on par with the M4 Sherman. Therefore, a program to fit the turret of the cancelled T23 medium tank design and its 76mm gun to the Sherman was slowed down. To the shock of US commanders, half the tanks encountered in Normandy were Panthers, with the rest mostly composed of Pzkw. IVs upgraded with thicker armour and the high-velocity 75mm KwK 40. 76mm-gunned Shermans were introduced in July 1944 as a countermeasure, although the 76mm gun was still incapable of punching through the frontal armour of the Tiger I at ranges over 200 meters and could only penetrate the gun mantlet of the Panther at 100 meters or less. Due to the US doctrine of using tank destroyers to deal with enemy tanks and the lower high-explosive charge of the 76mm shell, US commanders resisted switching over to the 76 mm Sherman until after suffering heavy losses to Tigers and Panthers in the Battle of the Bulge. As it was, half the Shermans in Europe at war's end were still armed with the 75 mm. The A3E8 version with an upgraded suspension entered combat in December 1944 and saw service with the US into the Korean War of 1950-53.

Deployment of 76 mm-armed Shermans in US armor companies varied; generally by the end of 1944 one five-tank platoon in each company would be completely fitted with them while the other two platoons and the three-tank command section would each have one. Some companies however would be comprised entirely of 76 mm Shermans except for one close support tank in the command section (armed with the 75 mm or the 105 mm).

Combat Performance

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The M4A3E8(76) rectifies some of the Sherman's shortcomings; its 76mm gun is roughly on par in anti-armor performance to the German KwK 40 on the Panzer IV granting the upgraded Sherman a slight edge against the mainstay German medium tank. Although it has more anti-armor punch than the T-34-85 it has less armor and high-explosive capacity. The Easy Eight is still inadequate in a head-on fight with the Tiger, Panther, or IS-2 and it is reliant on the same tactics of numerical superiority and flanking maneuvers as the standard Sherman.

Detailed Unit Info