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"Tell me about the Sherman Easy 8" Topic


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Personal logo Grelber Supporting Member of TMP18 Sep 2019 3:39 p.m. PST

Several members of my group have been gaming WWII for several years now. While I haven't gotten the bug to the degree that I feel compelled to purchase and paint armies of Germans, British, Russians, and Americans, I did reach the point where I thought I should make a contribution, so I asked around to see what things were lacking in other collections, and found none of us have a Sherman M4A3E8. So I ordered one.
Now that it's on its way, I have questions.
Would these be painted differently from a normal 75mm gun Sherman?
How were they deployed? Only certain divisions got them? Only armored divisions got them? Only Americans got them, or we shared them with American equipped contingents, like the Free French? Wee they deployed individually--one Easy 8 with four regular Shermans in a platoon, or did they form entire platoons, companies, or battalions? Were they singled out for some specific tasks, like attacking bunkers or fighting enemy armor (normally a tank destroyer function)?

Many thanks for any information!

Grelber
Off to assemble and paint!

Garde de Paris19 Sep 2019 6:14 a.m. PST

I am focused on 7YW and Napoleonics, but like to read about WWII.

Start of some information on the Easy 8 and its value:

link

This Wikipedia article states that the M4A3(76's) first saw combat in December, 1944 – obviously at some part of the "Bulge."

One might conjecture that armored divisions would have been the first to receive them, so PATTON round Metz might have gotten them in time to move north and relieve Bastogne.

link

GdeP

donlowry19 Sep 2019 12:48 p.m. PST

I'd say that first link is a bit misleading, and, with a quick once-over, the second link doesn't even mention the E8.

Not all M4A3(76)s were E8s. The distinguishing characteristic of the E8 is the horizontal volute suspension, which supposedly gave a better ride.

I'm pretty sure they received the same basic olive drab paint as all the other versions. By the time they were issued there was a tendency to use fewer and/or smaller white stars, or even none, but that was true of other models as well.

They seem to have been mixed in with other M4A3s, as they were received.

Mark 119 Sep 2019 2:22 p.m. PST

The theory:

> Would these be painted differently from a normal 75mm gun Sherman?

No.

> How were they deployed?

As replacement vehicles for Shermans that came out of the line, whether for combat damage or mechanical failure. By the time they were becoming available in numbers, new units were no longer being formed. On prior sub-models (like the M4A3 with 75mm gun vs. the older M4 or M4A1 with 75mm gun) whole units were equipped with one dominant sub-model based on when the unit was formed. Sherman 105mm tank sub-variants were mostly provided based on which 75mm tank the unit operated, but Sherman 76mm seem to have mostly distributed on more of an ad hoc basis.

> Only Americans got them, or we shared them with American equipped contingents…

The M4A3, in all forms, was mostly for US forces. Lend Lease clients mostly got M4A1, M4A2 and M4A4. The M4A1E8 went into production at about the same time as the M4A3E8. It went mostly to Lend Lease clients like France and UK.

> Wee they deployed individually--one Easy 8 with four regular Shermans in a platoon, or did they form entire platoons, companies, or battalions?

Mostly issued by vehicle as individual replacements. Whether the unit deployed them individually as replacements within platoons varied. Some companies or battalions gathered them together, others distributed them around.

The earlier 76mm Shermans were usually distributed around. Having one tank in the platoon with better AT performance is useful. The M4A3E8s brought no gunpower advantage over prior 76mm Shermans. But it brought a better level of mobility, particularly on soft ground. It was hard to take any benefit of that if in a mixed platoon (having one of the vehicles in a platoon not bog down when the others do, is not much better than having all of them bog down -- in both cases you can't do much with the platoon).

By the spring of 1945 some units were not just receiving E8s as replacements on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis, but were fully re-equipping with E8s. After the war ended (in ETO) many of the units which remained in service and in theater re-equipped entirely with M4A3 76mm tanks. Whether these were all (or mostly) E8s I don't know.

> Were they singled out for some specific tasks, like attacking bunkers or fighting enemy armor (normally a tank destroyer function)?

Doctrine was to fight as a section within the platoon, and a platoon within the company, and a company within the battalion (or battle group). Other than command functions, or artillery/air observation functions for the HQ tank(s), there was no doctrinal role for a single tank.


In practice:
Anything that could happen, probably did happen. You can probably find a historical example to justify any way you want to use it.

Hope that helps. Welcome corrections if other SLS members what to correct me.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Legion 419 Sep 2019 2:32 p.m. PST

+1 Mark !

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP20 Sep 2019 5:03 a.m. PST

Just to add to Mark's post.

First understand that "E8" was the designation for all Shermans fitted with the new Horizontal Volute Suspension System or HVSS. This replaced the older Vertical Volute Suspension System. Cross country maneuverability was markedly improved.

As to the M4A3, with the exception of 7 vehicles sent to the British for evaluation, all types and marks of the M4A3 went to US forces only.

As to production the first tanks with the HVSS to be produced were the M4A3 versions which began production in the third quarter of 1944. The other variants began production in the fourth quarter. The HVSS equipped tanks first saw action around the Christmas time period of 1944.

The following are the production figures for all HVSS equipped tanks:

M4 (105) 841
M4A1 (76)* 1,465
M4A2 (76) 1,531
M4A3 (75) 538
M4A3 (76) 3,084
M4A3 (105) 2,539

*Note the M4A1 HVSS had little in common with the early war M4A1 to include a new hull in the later versions.

Legion 420 Sep 2019 6:35 a.m. PST

+1 Marc !

Texas Jack20 Sep 2019 7:00 a.m. PST

Really excellent stuff here gentlemen, thanks very much!

Fred Cartwright20 Sep 2019 8:27 a.m. PST

Note the M4A1 HVSS had little in common with the early war M4A1 to include a new hull in the later versions.

That would be the big hatch hull, right?

Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP20 Sep 2019 9:39 a.m. PST

I think it might also be useful to add that the VVSS system could be replaced easily with the HVSS. Basically you unbolted the one and stuck the other on. I know this was done to some that were supplied to other countries after the war. Does anyone with a deeper armour library than I have know if this was commonly done in US units during the war?

Mark 120 Sep 2019 10:22 a.m. PST

Note the M4A1 HVSS had little in common with the early war M4A1 to include a new hull in the later versions.

That would be the big hatch hull, right?


There were larger hull hatches, so that is one identifier. There are other differences as well.

The front hull slope was different. The casting did not have such pronounced bulges for the hull hatches. But these factors were largely just late-war improved ballistic hull shaping, and would be found on tanks that didn't have a new suspension as well.

Most relevant to the E8 with the HVSS suspension, was the total hull width and the sponson overhang.

The HVSS suspension of the E8 models* was substantially wider. The older VVS system used a 16 inch wide track. The HVSS used a 23 inch wide track. The wheel system needs to run down the center of the track width, so everything related to the suspension needed to be farther from the hull, and then the tracks and suspsension would be wider than the hull if the hull sponsons (the part of the hull that overhangs the tracks) were not widened to project farther from the sides of the tank. This was both a safety factor (you tend to damage a track that extends beyond the hull) and an internal efficiency issue (so long as your sponsons don't go beyond your tracks, you get more internal stowage for no additional tank width). So you kind of want your sponsons to be out to the full width of your tracks.

I think it might also be useful to add that the VVSS system could be replaced easily with the HVSS. Basically you unbolted the one and stuck the other on.

Not quite that easy, but that's a good starting point. Most after-production upgrades can be easily identified by the spacer/extensions to the sprocket and idler wheels, and by a horizontal track cover that extends beyond the sides of the hull to cover the run of the wider tracks.


*Note: BTW "E8" was only a developmental designation -- the 8th major developmental experiment -- and was not an official designation of the tanks in production. The proper name for the tank in question is M4A3(w)76mmHVSS (M4A3 = Sherman with Ford GAA engine, (w) = wet ammo stoage, 76mm = you can guess that one, HVSS = new Horizontal Volute Suspension System). But none-the-less the label "E8" or "Easy-8" was widely used by the troops, and by historians, so I guess we might as well keep using it.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP20 Sep 2019 10:26 a.m. PST

Fred, it was the wet stowage version of the M4A1 large hatch so some differences from the large hatch dry stowage but essentially you have it right.

Mserafin my understanding was a kit was developed to upgrade tanks with the VVSS system. This was not widely done until after the war. It wasnt quite as simple as just undoing one suspension and adding the other but it wasnt all that hard either. I do know that on some models the hub was changed to allow the proper standoff from the hull for the wider tracks.

And, of interest, is the 538 M4A3E8 with 75mm guns. There is no evidence any of these tanks saw combat service in WW II. By the time they were produced US Army forces in the ETO preferred the 76. There is a picture in Hunnicutt's book (page 330), which shows a bunch of these stockpiled at the Manila Ordnance Depot where they were apparently awaiting use in the invasion of Japan. The 75mm gun was preferred in the Pacific where HE performance was more important.

Seems Mark and I were posting at the same time.

Mark 120 Sep 2019 10:32 a.m. PST

Seems Mark and I were posting at the same time.

That's why I'm "Mark 1", and you are "MarcNNNNN", where N > 1.

;)

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP20 Sep 2019 10:59 a.m. PST

And at least our facts were in agreement!

There will always be only one Mark 1

Personal logo Grelber Supporting Member of TMP20 Sep 2019 4:58 p.m. PST

Many thanks for all the great information!
Grelber

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