The M4 Sherman Tank in Soviet Service

The M4 Sherman tank has a long history of service. It went through many changes throughout the years, which helped its longevity. It actually started its service with the  British during World War II. It was the British who gave it the nickname “Sherman.” Here is a brief history of the tank as used by the Soviets from M4 Sherman Tanks.

M4 Sherman tank in Soviet Service

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The United States supplied 4,102 M4 Sherman medium tanks to the Soviet Red Army through Lend-Lease during World War II. Virtually all of these were the diesel-powered M4A2 variant. Their numbers were divided evenly between those armed with the original short-barreled 75mm gun and the high-velocity 76mm gun version, which began to arrive in the Soviet Union in the early autumn of 1944.

By the end of the war, the Red Army had actually designated some units, including the 1st, 2nd, and 9th Guards Mechanized Corps, to be equipped exclusively with the M4A2, although the vaunted T-34 and upgunned T-34/85 medium tanks were in adequate supply in 1944 to 1945.

The Soviets referred to their Sherman tanks with the nickname “Emcha,” a reference to the Cyrillic letter “Cha,” which resembles the Arabic numeral “4” with an open top in the M4 designation. The diesel M4A2 was less prone to catching fire than gasoline-powered Soviet tanks, and the Sherman received mixed reviews with the Red Army. Colonel Dmitriy Fedorovich Loza commanded Sherman tanks during the Great Patriotic War, as the Soviets called World War II, and praised its performance, although he did advise that the M4A2 was better suited for “colonial” campaigns rather than all-out war.

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Loza fought across Eastern Europe from the Ukraine to Hungary and Austria. He also commanded Soviet T-34s and British Matilda tanks before his unit, the 1st Battalion, 233rd Tank Brigade, 5th Mechanized Corps, received its first Shermans in the autumn of 1943. In September 1944, the unit was redesignated the 46th Guards Tank Brigade, 9th Mechanized Corps. Loza was seriously wounded in combat with a German PzKpfw. VI Tiger tank but survived the war to retire from the Red Army in 1967. For valor during heavy combat in the vicinity of Vienna, Austria, he was designated a Hero of the Soviet Union.

One of Loza’s most memorable battles aboard the M4A2 Sherman occurred in the central Ukraine in January 1944, while he served as chief of armaments for the 1st Battalion, 233rd Tank Brigade. After Soviet forces had stopped a German attack, a tank company under the command of Lt. Georg Avakovich Chobanyan spent the winter night in the open.

“The night passed quietly,” Loza remembered. “The nervous company commander was at his post early in the morning. The sky was white, and snow continued to fall. The Shermans were white hillocks. . . . Chobanyan looked around at the southern slope of the hill on which his company stood. He blinked his eyes in disbelief. Below him some four hundred meters, blanketed in the same snow covering, stood seven or eight German Tiger tanks. . . . What now?

“Georg Avakovich climbed up to awake the crew of the closest Emcha. . . . Quickly explaining the situation to them, he showed them the enemy tanks that could be discerned on the terrain. . . . Chobanyan’s company began hurried preparation to commence firing. . . . The air was clear. The targets were not sharp, but they were visible just the same. It was time for a salvo. Fire!

“Two Tigers went up in flames. On the remainder, the turret hatches began to clank open. The enemy tankers, awakened in ignorance from their sleep, twisted their heads around searching for the firing enemy tanks. The second Sherman salvo gave them their final wake-up call. Three more Tigers were set afire. There were no answering shots. Taking advantage of the smoke screen from burning Tigers, undamaged vehicles were hurrying in the direction of Pavlovka. “The Emchisti celebrated. In such an unbelievable situation that had arisen out of pure chance, they had found themselves the victor.”

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Seventy-five years ago the most quintessentially American tank was built: the M4 Sherman, which featured heavily in the Allies’ World War II victory and later in films such as “Fury,” starring Brad Pitt.

Seventy-five years after it first rumbled into service, the M4 Sherman remains the most quintessentially American tank ever conceived. What the E-unit locomotive is to railroading, what the Corvette is to sports cars, the Sherman tank is to armored military vehicles—a classic example of American ingenuity and design answering a pressing need or desire.

M4 Sherman Tanks is the definitive illustrated history of the Sherman tank, covering the entire scope of its development, manufacture, service, armaments, turrets, tracks, drivetrains, and its many variants. The book begins with the M4’s evolution from the M3 and M2 tanks and continues through the rapid production of more than fifty-three thousand units in 1942 and 1943 and the tank’s further service among more than fifty nations after World War II.

Photos from the battlefield and the factory floor, exteriors and interiors of Shermans, and war-related ephemera fill the pages. Insightful text examines how the M4’s mechanical reliability and ease of maintenance made it a success, as well as how sheer numbers helped it outgun technologically superior German counterparts. The story doesn’t end there but continues to include the postwar conflicts in which M4s were employed, including the Korean War, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, and the Arab-Israeli Wars.