Casemate Publishers- Sherman: The M4 Tank in WWII
Author: Michel Estève
Dimensions : 10 X 8 inches, Hardcover, 240 pages with 360 photographs and 110 diagrams
In the year or two I started getting into building armor models, I kept hearing endless praises over how amazing the Hunnicutt book on the Sherman tank was. I know then when I looked into buying it because I was a fan of the Sherman that it was completely out of my price range. Even now with reprints, it's a hefty price for a book. I can't speak much about it as I have never laid eyes on it, but I trust those I look up to in modeling who say it is amazing. I can't compare this new Casemate book to that, but I do know when I look through Michel Estève's work that I see what looks to be an excellent resource for anyone interested in the M4 as a modeler or historian. The M4, or Sherman, was a vital piece of armor- reliable, and cheap and easy to produce and maintain. It proved itself with the Americans in North Africa and served the British Commonwealth and Soviet Union well through Lend Lease. It also had its weaknesses and flaws-- especially against the heavier German tanks. Through sheer numbers and the support of artillery and tactical aircraft, it was able to hold the tide and send the Germans reeling back to their homeland.
This book is quite thorough in its coverage of the development and production of this venerable tank in all its variations. It breaks down specific aspects of the tank and how one can use the hull, turret, and chassis to differentiate between the different variants. And it does so with excellent technical drawings from manuals as well as more modern charts and diagrams. Here is the breakdown of the chapters:
The photographs throughout are crisp and clear- and the color ones especially stand out quite vividly. They really look like they were taken with modern cameras.
The introductory chapter gives a brief synopsis of the tank's namesake, William Tecumseh Sherman. Also, a brief history of American armor up to the point where the Sherman made it's debut and a description of all that is to follow.
The Production chapter is one of the most valuable and interesting to me. The chapter starts with an excellent chart of the Production Characteristics of the M4 Tanks. From there, we get a cutaway diagram as well as some excellent drawings to compare the different models, including this one illustrating the rear sides:
The text then goes into great detail in how to recognize each variant, accompanied by close up walk around photos of current Sherman museum tank examples.
The Chassis chapter delves a bit into appliqué armor types before giving us a technical look at the various system including the electric installation and auxiliary electricity generation, fire-fighting equipment, filters and radiator, fuel tanks, accelerators and carburation, injection and feeder pumps, fuel filters, transmission, steering and braking, and....well you get the idea. The chapter is a mix of photos from the service manual, modern drawings (including crew compartment and stowage diagrams and rear deck comparisons), and more modern exhibit close up photos. The chapter concludes with an extensive breakdown of the various powerplants that drove the tanks.
I found this diagram of the various tracks to be very cool.
The following chapter on the turret is similarly arranged. More excellent drawings comparing the side and top profiles of the turrets of the different variants prove extremely useful. The chapter also goes into detail on turret armor, layout, and how stabilization worked.
Next up is the section on armament and ammunition. We get a look at not only the main gun and machine guns, but also the crew weapons that were typically stowed in the tank. There is a neat set of photos showing all the gear that typically came with the machine guns for those looking to super detail their tanks. Shell stowage and the different types of shells are also discussed. If you are the type of person where the devil is in the details, this book is for you.
The chapter that follows centers on the crew- we get a look at which crew members were in the turret and inside the hull. Following this is an overview of crew tasks, services, and maintenance. Crew viewpoints gives detailed photos of positions, including control panels, hatches, radios, and assorted gear. Crew tactics and explanations of combat conditions round out the chapter.
The Evolution of the Sherman chapter is an added treat-- with glimpses of each variant and the different iterations of them. The Easy Eight, Firefly, Grizzly, and Wolverine are just a few examples of what is in store here.
The Sherman Family spends a great deal covering all the special use versions of the Sherman, including:
- Breakdown and dozer versions- tank recovery vehicles (TRVs), ARVs
- The Bocage tank- including details on the evolution of hedgerow combat tactics and designs such as the Cullin Cutters
- Mine Clearers and Exploders (includes plows, rollers, Crab chain beater types)
- Flamethrower tanks
- Amphibious Shermans
- Rocket Launchers (like the Calliope)
- AA Shermans
- Fireflies, Priests, or other big guns
- Prime movers
- Tank Destroyers (M10s and M36s)
- Experimentals and British designs
Logistics, Supply, and Backup is a chapter dedicated to everything tank transporter-- including a rundown of positions of the M26 Tank Retriever winching frame, gear aboard the wreckers, and a nice section on the Red Ball Express and women in combat.
Numbering and Markings breaks down the different marking systems based on country. The American markings gives a great explanation on foundry markings as well as tactical and traditional markings, shipping markings, and vehicle and machine symbols. There is even a chronology of the American star used on tanks.
The chapter continues with British markings, specifically regimental markings. Canadian and Free French markings are next. There is then an extensive section on French markings from 1943- 63.The chapter concludes with brief descriptions of Polish, Soviet, and German markings.
Unit Composition and Organization goes into great depth to consider American units, Soviet units, British and Commonwealth, and French.
The Success of the Sherman is a short chapter giving a history of landing operations throughout the war and ends with some modern day examples used in reenactions.
The Sherman Since 1945 is the final chapter and gives a rundown of the various post-war uses of the Sherman- from IDF versions, including the Super Sherman, to many other countries including Egypt, the USSR, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, India, Greece, Turkey, Holland, Belgium, Canada, Cuba, Norway, Pakistan, Denmark, Portugal, Syria, and Yugoslavia.
There is a brief appendix (listing ETO military operations) and glossary to end the book.
So I probably won't drop the $70 or so on the Hunnicutt book anytime soon...maybe someday I will get lucky and happen across one in a used book store or garage sale. This book on the Sherman for me serves just as well. If you have the Sherman "Bible" and can attest to how it compares, I would love to hear from you. In the meantime, this book has become one of my favorites in the brief time I have had it-- the text is fascinating and the photos are top notch. I would sincerely like to see similar volumes of some of my other favorites from WWII like the Churchill and KV series. I heartily recommend picking this one up if you have an interest in the M4.
Highly Recommended for anyone interested in this vital American-made tank from WWII.
Thanks goes out to Casemate Publishers for this review sample.
Reviewed by Michael Reeves, AMPS Albany
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