The M4 Sherman tank was produced in several variants and it was also the basis for a number of related vehicles. In addition, Shermans have been modified by several nations from modernization upgrades to complete hull conversions for another task.
Sherman ARV MK I, Recovery vehicle, photographed around Caen in July–August, 1944
When the Sherman Tank was initially created, it was designed around US theory about how medium tanks, and full-track armored vehicles in general, should be utilized on the battlefield. In US doctrine, the medium tank's job was to assist infantry in the assault and provide a base of fire to fight from. Taking on enemy tanks were the job of purpose-built tank destroyers. The UK, which was a major user of the Sherman, differed in doctrine - tanks were expected to engage enemy tanks.
The wide array of special duties that a tank could be used for were just being explored by armies around the world in the early 1940s. Theories of what vehicles were supposed to be engaging enemy tanks changed as vehicles like the Shermans often found themselves up against enemy armor, and consequently some of the most important initial changes centered around upgunning the basic vehicle. Improving the vehicles mobility, protection, and creating specific variants for infantry support roles soon followed. Similar modification of the main armament would be done by the British who received a number of Shermans during the course of the war. Turning earlier variants of the Sherman into Armored Personnel Carriers or "Kangaroos" was also common, as was turning them into recovery vehicles.
More radical variants followed, first with experiments with flotation screens in preparation for the invasion of Europe by Allied forces in 1944, and later by the addition of rocket launching equipment mounted on the turret. Extensive work on creating mine clearance devices to be attached to Shermans or out of Shermans in some fashion was also conducted up until the end of the Second World War.
After the end of the Second World War, large numbers of surplus Shermans were supplied to other nations, but primarily to South America and the Middle East. Israel became the largest post-war user of Sherman tanks, conducting extensive modifications to keep them in front line service right up into the early 1970s as tanks, mobile artillery pieces, armored ambulances and more. Many saw action in the 1973 October War. Similar modifications and purchases of Israeli-modified Shermans were done in South America where they served on as the last fighting Shermans right up until 1989.
M4A1 (cast hull). Note the rounded edges of its fully cast upper hull. Variants from the M4 and M4A1 share the same 9-cylinder radial engine. profile.
A M4A3E2 Jumbo
with an extra inch of cast armour in the frontal hull.
M4A3E8 at the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor, 2003.
US M4 sub-types
Continental radial engine
; welded hull. 75mm barrel cannon. Users: US, Britain, Poland, France.
- M4(105) - Upgraded with 105mm M4 Howitzer, designed for infantry support and assault, sacrificing anti-armour capability.
- M4(105) HVSS - M4(105) w/ HVSS.
- Continental radial engine; one-piece cast hull; 75mm barrel cannon. Users: US, Britain, South Africa, Poland(M4A1(76)W), France (small numbers), China
- M4A1E4/M4A1(76)W - Upgraded with 76 mm M1 gun.
- M4A1E8/M4A1(76)W HVSS - Upgraded with widetrack Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension (HVSS), fitted with the 76 mm M1 gun.
- M4A1E9 - Late war remanufacturing, applique armor, new vision cupola and oval loader's hatch on the turret roof, spaced out VVSS suspension, extended end connectors on both sides of the tracks, but retaining the old 75 mm M3 gun. Users: Chile
- Diesel-powered with General Motors 6046 using powertrain from earlier M3A3/M3A5; first model manufactured with welded hull; 75mm cannon. Users: USSR, Britain, France, Poland, US. No US Army combat use except for DD conversions for the Omaha landings.
- M4A2E4 - Upgraded with Torsion Bar suspension; never put into production.
- M4A2E8/M4A2(76)W HVSS - Upgraded with widetrack Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension (HVSS), fitted with the 76mm M1 gun.
- Ford GAA V-8 engine; welded hull; both 75mm and 76mm cannons used. Users: US, France (small numbers), Nicaragua (small numbers). The M4A3 was the preferred US Army vehicle.
- M4A3(75) - M4A3 with 75mm M3 gun.
- M4A3(105) - M4A3 with 105mm howitzer used for infantry support rather than anti-armour.
- M4A3E2 Assault Tank - postwar nickname "Jumbo" - extra armour (including 1 inch on front), vertical sided turret, but about 3-4 mph slower. Built with 75mm gun but frequently re-armed by the using units with 76mm guns. Grousers fitted to the tracks. Users: US, France (one vehicle)
- M4A3E4/M4A3(76)W - M4A3 with 76mm M1 gun.
- M4A3E8/M4A3(76)W HVSS (Easy Eight) - Upgraded with widetrack Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension (HVSS), fitted with the 76mm High Velocity cannon.
- M4A3E9/M4A3(105) HVSS - Upgraded with widetrack Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension (HVSS)[citation needed