While the Lee was a somewhat antiquated design when it went into production in August of 1941, it acquitted itself in combat rather well, with its powerful 75mm main gun and heavy armor coming as a surprise to Rommel’s panzers at the Battle of Gazala.
The M4 Sherman made its first combat appearance during WW2 at the Second Battle of El Alamein in October 1942, successfully engaging the German Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks.
The M4 would go on to become one of the most legendary tanks of all time, with nearly 50,000 units produced — and introducing the phrase “built like a Sherman tank” to the American lexicon. – AJW
Tank crew standing in front of an M4 tank, Ft. Knox
Crewman of an M3 tank, Ft. Knox, Ky
Light tank training: Going through water obstacle
Light tanks, seen at Fort Knox
WW2 tanks from Westinghouse (1943)
Here’s one Nazi broadcast that’s the gospel truth! “US Tank is best, say Nazi experts”
When the German readio paid glowing tribute to the General Sherman tank — for once it was telling the truth.
You see, tank battles used to be stop-and-go affairs, because a tank’s heavy cannon could be aimed accurately only when the tank was at a complete standstill. That was bad — because every stop naturally made the tank a juicy target for the enemy.
Then the Army Ordnance Department called on American industry for the solution to this problem. So the men of Westinghouse went into a huddle. And out of it came what has been called one of the greatest military developments of this War — a tank gun stabilizer that permits incredibly accurate fire while the tank is charging ahead… full speed over rough ground!
And then, to button up the job, Westinghouse went into production on these gun stabilizers so fast and so thoroughly that almost before you could say “El Alamein,” they were being produced in sufficient quantity to equip every American tank!
No wonder the Germans thought well of the General Sherman. And no wonder they considered its gun stabilizer its outstanding feature. For this one device has revolutionized the whole combat technique of tank fighting!
For us, tank battles are no longer stop-and-go affairs, with every stop offering the enemy a “sitting pigeon.” American tanks are now more than 500c. deadlier than ever before.
And the Westinghouse Research Laboratories, which developed the device — the Westinghouse engineers, who perfected it — and the men and women of Westinghouse who make it in great numbers — are proud as Punch.
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Light tank going through water obstacle, Ft. Knox, Ky.
M3 and M4 tank company at bivouac, Ft Knox, Kentucky
A huge M3 tank in action
M3 tank and crew using small arms
How to jockey a General Sherman tank – WW2 (Chrysler ad from 1943)
Larger versions of the step-by-step info is just below the main vintage ad
First assignment in the USA to build medium tanks in quantity was entrusted to Chrysler Corporation on August 15, 1940.
It became necessary to plan, build, equip and man a huge tank arsenal which Chrysler Corporation would operate for the US Army Ordnance Department.
Engineering talent and skills developed through years of volume production of Plymouth, Dodge, De Soto and Chrysler cars and Dodge Job-Rated Trucks, were drawn upon.
In April 1941 — within eight months — the first General Grant was delivered to the Army.
In August 1942, production was changed over to General Sherman tanks. They came off the same assembly lines without a halt in production!
To date, more than 10 times as many General Grant and General Sherman tanks have been built and delivered by Chrysler Corporation as were originally contracted for when the Detroit (Chrysler) Tank Arsenal was projected.
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Test driver at Detroit (Chrysler) tank arsenal tells how tanks operate… and how they fight!
“Down the hatch! You slither across the steel hide of the General Sherman and squeeze through an incredibly small opening. You adjust a delicate microphone to your throat. A tug at the chin strap of your crash helmet and the earphones snug your head. You punch the starter button. You’re open for business!”
“You’ve got horses aplenty! You give the motor a quick warm-up. Gauges check okeh. So you grip the two drive levers set in the floor between your knees — and wait. The clock hand nears H hour. Your earphones buzz. ‘Boston Z 1 to Charlie X 5. Boston Z 1 to Charlie X 5. Move out. Move out.’ ”
“Cruising at better than 25 per, you ride with your head outside. 5 speeds forward on this baby. You give her the gun. Plenty of jounce now. You’re glad the edges of the hatch are padded. The tank commander up in the turret is taking punishment, too . . . eating dust, scraping fore and aft.”
“All buttoned up is the way you go into action—a 30-ton avalanche of steel! You drive by periscope now. Inside the tank is painted white, to make the most of the feeble light. To your right, a machine gunner fondles his .30 calibre. Behind, in the turret ‘basket’, another gunner and his loader ready the 75.”
“On target!” The big 75 mm gun swings on its 360-degree traverse and begins to speak . . . only a few inches from your ear. The tank shudders, then plunges ahead. You’re in a first-class inferno now. Orders come to close in. The 75 bangs away as fast as the loader can feed it. Machine guns join in.”
“‘The best tank in the desert!’ England’s Prime Minister once called the General Sherman. Now you know why. Shells spatter like hailstones over your surface. But they don’t get in! This is the type of tank that scored for the British and American armies in Africa and Sicily. It will see you through!”
Up-close M3 tank from WW2
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M3 tanks and crews from WW2 training
WWII M3 tanks in action, Ft. Knox (1942)
World War 2 tanks in production
From LIFE magazine – September 6, 1943
In all of World War I, the US produced exactly 80 tanks. By the end of the first year of World War II, the U. S. had produced a total of 20,000 tanks.
The current rate of tank production is not being revealed by the War Department, but it is well above 1942. The U. S. not only makes tanks faster than any other country in the world but its tanks are made from better materials and are more versatile in action.
US experts have pioneered in developing special tank-type artillery weapons like the famed M-7 tank-buster (a 105-mm Howitzer mounted on a medium tank chassis) which decisively defeated Marshal Rommel’s panzer at El Alamein. Bigger and better tank destroyers (the M-12 mounts a 155-mm. gun) are now in mass production.
Flat cars loaded with M-1 (General Sherman) tanks stand outside the tank-wielding shed at Hammond, Indiana Arsenal. Freight cars were formerly made here.
A World War II Tank driver
WW2 M4 Sherman tank, Ft. Knox (1942)
A long line of M4 and M3 tanks from WWII
Parade of M4 (General Sherman) and M3 (General Grant) tanks in training maneuvers, Ft. Knox, Ky.
Note the lower design of the M4, the larger gun in the turret, and the two hatches in front of the turret.
WW2-era M4 tank crews of the United States
WWII tanks by Fisher – General Motors (1942)
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