The M4A3, powered by the excellent Ford GAA V8 engine, was the US Army’s preferred Sherman variant. It began to replace other Sherman types in US Army service in 1944.
In late 1943, the M4A3 underwent a major overhaul as part of a program to improve the Sherman design and rationalise production. The main improvements were a revised hull with larger hatches, redesigned ammunition stowage to reduce the likelihood of the tank burning when penetrated, and a simplified glacis angled at 47 degrees. In addition to the standard 75mm gun-armed version, a version armed with a 76mm gun was also built. Designated M4A3(76mm)W (“W” = wet stowage), this utilised a larger turret originally intended for the aborted T23 medium tank. The M1A1 76mm gun was rushed into service in July 1944 because the 75mm gun was found to be inadequate against the latest German tanks, but its anti-tank performance proved to be mediocre (at least until an HVAP projectile became available in 1945).
The M4A3(76mm)W began to enter service in September 1944. 1,400 were built. Early production vehicles had a round loader’s hatch and (due to production delays) lacked a muzzle brake. Later vehicles had an oval loader’s hatch and a muzzle brake. The harsh weather conditions in late 1944 revealed the shortcomings of the Sherman’s narrow (16.5 inch) tracks, and as a stop-gap solution extended end-connectors (known as “duckbills”) were fitted to improve flotation in muddy terrain. In the meantime, a horizontal volute suspension system (HVSS) with wider (23 inch) tracks had been developed, with greatly enhanced cross-country performance. Usually known as the M4A3E8(although this was not its official designation), 3,142 of this final version of the Sherman were built. It first entered service during the Ardennes Offensive in December 1944.
While rugged and dependable, the M4A3E8 was too thinly armoured, and many crews attempted to improve its survivability by adding sandbags or scavenged armour plate. Despite its shortcomings, the M4A3E8 remained in US Army service through the Korean War, where it faced the Soviet-built T-34/85. Many soldiered on with other armies (notably Israel’s) until the 1960s.
This kit contains the parts to build either an early or late version of the M4A3(76mm)W, or an M4A3E8 with HVSS suspension. It also includes an optional set of tracks fitted with extended end connectors. The hull and cupola hatches are separate, and a commander figure and stowage items are included.