Over the summer I added a significant number of Sherman tanks to my collection. So, I thought it would be a great idea to become more acquianted with the armored fight vehicle that helped the allies beat the Nazi menace during the Second World War. From what the information intercepted across the internet, it would appear that R.P. Hunnicutt’s book, Sherman : A History of the American Medium Tank, is the best out there. Unfortunately it comes with a price tag around $260 currently on Amazon.com. The Osprey series have quite a few books related to the Sherman tank covering modeling to the versus books where the Sherman is pitted against tanks such as the Panther and Chi Ha. However, I wanted a book that filled the gap between the osprey series and the cost prohibitive Sherman : A History of the American Medium Tank. Steve Zaloga’s Armored Thunderbolt fit the bill nicely.
I not by a long shot skilled in the art of book reviews, so I get down to what I see are important criteria for my fellow gamers.
The book covers US tank development from the pre-war M2 tankette up through the M26 Pershing. It discusses the M3 Lee, Stuart, M10, M18, and M36, and M4 variants in good detail. The M26 is discussed throughout the book, but in an elusive manner that doesnt go into too much detail.
I was surprised by the level of detail that the author went into about the US tank destroyer doctrine. The Hellcat is discussed as a pet project by the commander of the Tank Destroyer Command. One of the main attributes of the M18 was its speed. However, in practice the M18 didnt spend much time in high speed tank encounters. Mostly it was hiding, waiting for the first shot. The M36 was the preferred tank destroyer, but it was only available in limited quantities.
Steve Zaloga seems to strongly emphasize the Panther Tank as the main nemesis of the Allied armies and that US planners failed to make the proper design decisions due to the false perception of the Sherman being on equal ground to German Panzers during the campaigns in North Africa and Italy. US planners failed to utilized intelligence from the East Front on the ever increasing numbers of Panther tanks and the arms race to build the better tank.
One of the important disucssions in the book is on the main gun for the Sherman tank. Many tank commanders liked the 75mm and especially the 105mm during the summer of 1944 as they push through the bocage of Normandy. Like most tanks during WW2, the Sherman fought most of its battles against infantry and a couple tanks. Not massive tanks battles although there were a couple. With the push across the France during late summer the tankers didnt have too many encounters where they needed higher firepower against tanks. It is the battles in Lorraine and especially Bastogne that brought home the need for better anti tank weapons. The 75mm and the 76mm pretty much had little chance of penetrating the front armor of the Panther tank which was seen in increasing numbers at this time. The author mentions a number of instances where skill and American ingenuity overcome this issue using white phosphorus to trick crews into believing they were burning and then also hitting the low gun mantlet to ricochet the round down into the drive cabin of the Panther.
The book does not cover the use of the Sherman in much detail by the Commonwealth armies or the Soviets. The only expection is the discussion on the potential American use of the 17 pdr gun because it had a better AT performance. There is an after thought section on the Sherman in the Pacific Theater. Also once the author hits the Battle of the Bulge he seems in a rush to come to a conclusion.
Overall the book is a great resource for us wargamers as it details the US armor progression and delves into the tactics impolyed to a lesser extent.