Soviet M4 Shermans

Soviet M4A2 Shermans during the Battle of Berlin.

Contrary to a British tank documentary that I had posted earlier on this blog, we now know that the many Red Army tank divisions preferred to use diesel-powered M4A2 Lend-Lease Shermans over other tank designs, including their own T-34.

Sherman tanks served in perhaps every theatre of World War II and in Soviet service they fought everywhere the Red Army fought, from Berlin, Vienna, and Manchukuo. Generally, the Soviets praised the Sherman for its reliability, comfortable interiors, and its advanced technology. On the other hand, the Soviets noted that compared to the T-34 and the Panther, the Sherman’s armour design was weak and its mobility over mud and snow was poor. Nevertheless, Red Army commanders reserved most of their 2,000 Shermans for the exclusive use of three elite Guards tank corps in battles across Eurasia.

The disadvantages of the Sherman over the T-34, as recorded by Soviet tankers such as Dmitriy Loza and Dmitriy Fedorovich, included:

  • outdated armour design,
  • high profile design,
  • high centre of gravity (including the inability of the Sherman to turn while moving above 10 KPH without tipping over),
  • big turning radius,
  • it’s narrow tracks gave it poor ground pressure over mud and snow,
  • it was too heavy for some bridge crossings,
  • the rubber coated tracks would cook and burn over 30° C (as was the case in Romania),
  • limited numbers as only 2,073 Shermans that were leased to the Soviets actually made it.

And the advantages:

  • the firepower of the long-barrel 76 mm,
  • better optics,
  • radios,
  • higher quality US ammunition,
  • greater interior room,
  • more comfortable seating,
  • greater reliability (esp. the GM diesel engine),
  • great mobility in hilly, mountainous terrain (as in Italy and Austria),
  • the Browning M2,
  • the Sherman had an auxiliary gas engine to charge the batteries,
  • it was quieter than the T-34 when driving over paved roads.

The following prominent Soviet units used the Sherman:

  • the 1st Guards Mechanized Corps (winner of the Ordersof Lenin and the Order of Kutuzov) exclusively operated Sherman tanks from January 1945, through the Battles of Budapest and of Vienna,
  • the 3rd Guards Mechanized Corps first received Shermans in 1944 and in time for Operation Bagration,
  • the 9th Guards Motor Rifle Division that fought in Shermans at Budapest, Vienna and then in Manchuria against the Japanese.