Glossary of the Sherman Tank
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII

Gary Binder has provided this nucleous of definitions of significant Sherman features. Readers are invited to send in additional definitions to expand the knowledge base for modelers—especially for those just starting their addictions to modeling the Sherman tank.

75mm gun
The M3 tank gun, 41 calibers in length, ballistically similar to the old French M1897. Preferred by U.S. planners for its HE capability.

76mm gun
M1 series, longer, better muzzle velocity for AP use, roughly equivalent to German L48 75mm gun used in some Pz IV. Early version had plain muzzle, M1A1 was threaded for a muzzle brake but the threads were covered with a cap. M1A1C and M1A2 guns had a double-baffle muzzle brake (seen on later M4A1 and M4A3 tanks with 76mm guns and on some M18 tank destroyers).

105mm howitzer – M4 gun
Used for HE capability. Intended for close support functions. 105mm HEAT could penetrate Panther tank at 500 yds. But these tanks were not often used for anti-armor combat. The M4, 105H and M4A3, 105H were used as close support vehicles, three issued to each tank battalion HQ’s Assault Gun platoon, later additional issue of one per medium tank company.

17-pounder gun
The British-designed 17 pounder anti-tank gun was adapted for use in the 75mm turret of the M4 series tanks. The resultant conversions were referred to a "Fireflies" and the British designation had a "C" added, i.e. Sherman VC (read as Sherman Five Cee). The radio was moved to an armored box on the rear of the turret. The bow gunner position was used for ammo storage and the machine gun port plated over.

Ammunition designations
AP: armor-piercing
HE: high explosive

HEAT: High explosive, anti-tank

Radio antennas were made up of sections, each one approximately 3' long with an additional 1" on each end for the threaded connectors. The assembled antennas for command tanks had five of these sections, and regular tanks had three sections. Each section had a numbered designation, and the connections are color coded from base (white) to tip (black), with the connections of the same color being joined together:
BLUE - MS-52 - RED

Appliqué armor (hull)
These were standardized 1" armor slabs added to later production "dry" stowage tanks and to remanufactured vehicles. There were apparently some added at depot level overseas, but this was not a true "field" modification. In 1945, the experience with the M4A3E2 showed the desirability of heavier armor and a number of M4A3 76W and M4A3E8 were modified by depots by adding armor cut from damaged M4A3s. Referred to in modelers' information as "expedient Jumbos." Appliqué armor is NOT seen on the M4A1, 76mm or the M4A3’s with "wet stowage" because the ammunition racks were relocated within the hull.

Appliqué armor (turret)
Changes in the power traverse system in the turret required thinning the front face of the turret so an external reinforcement was added. This is a plate that is seen in front of the gunner's station in the turret and wraps around the right side, tapering down. The turret protection was fixed by thickening the right "cheek" of the turret, so the external reinforcement was no longer needed.

Direct vision slots
Small slots provided in the armor in front of driver and assistant driver allowing direct vision ahead, could be closed with small armored flap. This feature came from pre-war designs and was soon deleted from production.

"High bustle" turret
The 75mm turret rear profile was changed to improve clearance for the larger drivers' hatches of the later hull designs. This clearance change resulted in the "high bustle"turret with older turrets termed as "low bustle." These are modelers' terms only, the Army would have referred to the turrets by drawing number.

Return Rollers
All return rollers for the VVS suspension were steel. Return rollers for HVVS had rubber coverings, as did idlers.

The Sherman used two different types of suspension systems:

  • Vertical Volute Spring Suspension (VVSS)
    Standard spring system used on most U.S. tanks of WWII, not only on the Sherman and its chassis-related vehicles (M7 "Priest" and M10 and M36 tank destroyers, for example) but in the earlier M3 medium; a lighter-duty version was used in all the Stuart family of light tanks. Initial version used on the M3 medium Lee and Grant tanks and early versions of the M4 and M4A1 Shermans and M7 HMC Priest had the return roller positioned over the center of the bogey, which housed the volute springs. The next version installed a skid over the bogey unit and moved the return roller to horizontal arm that extended to the rear of the tank. This arm was later angled upward and is referred to as "raised" or "upswept."
  • Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension (HVSS)
    A revised suspension that not only provided a better ride, but used a 23-inch wide track that improved flotation. Test vehicle was the M4A3E8, so the suspension is often referred to as the "E8"or "Easy Eight." This nickname sometimes refers to the M4A3E8 or "Medium Tank M4A3, 76mm, Wet Stowage with HVSS."

Towing Cable
The length of the Sherman towing cable was 20', and it was 1 1/8" in diameter.

Wet stowage
Due to vulnerability of ammo stowed in the sponsons of original production M4 versions, the main gun ammunition was redesigned to be under the turret floor in bins that were surrounded by a water/antifreeze mixture that was supposed to smother fires before they could become lethal. This coincided with production changes to the upper hull assembly on the M4, 105, the M4A1, 76, the M4A2 and all M4A3s. The drivers' hatches were enlarged; the glacis plate was simplified and moved to a 47-degree angle, giving the hull a distinct exterior change. Earlier tanks are unofficially referred to as "dry" stowage to refer to the earlier pattern hull.



Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © Timothy S. Streeter