Paul Weir : What types of M4 Shermans did US forces use in Europe?

One of the rockstars in the GameSquad ASL forums is the resident armor super-genius human Chapter H, Mr. Paul M. Weir. Mr. Weir has gratefully allowed the publication of his posts here.

M4M4A1M4: The original design with radial petrol engine, M4A1 had the same engine but a cast hull, so I will deal with them together. Initially the preferred engine, both M4 and M4A1 (75) saw service from Torch to war’s end. They would have been the sole combat models until late ’43, early ’44 and between the two would still just have been the largest percentage of M4’s by VE day. Both later got better front hull armour (thicker at 47° vs older 56° from vertical). From early ’44 the M4A1 got the 76mm while some of the M4 were 105mm armed. From memory of photos the 105mm M4 always had the later 47° hull whilst many of those late 75mm M4 had a cast front (aka composite hull). A composite hull M4 would be a M4A1 in ASL terms. The 76mm M4A1 first saw service in Operation Cobra. Not sure when the 105mm M4 saw combat, but I suspect late French campaign. The British fitted 17lbr to M4 but not to M4A1. What looks like a 17lbr M4A1 is actually a 17lbr M4 (composite hull).

M4A2M4A2: Diesel twin engines. Starting with 75mm and 56° hull, they progressively went to 47° hull and finally 76mm. Used by the US for training, saw US combat service only with the USMC. Most LL to the USSR, Britain and France, in order of priority, indeed one of the USMC batches was “stolen” from a USSR allocation. Only the USSR used the 76mm versions.

M4A3M4A3: Ford petrol twin engine. Had all the variations of the M4A2, but also had a 105mm version. Indeed it is quite difficult to tell the 2 apart, only the different horizontal engine decks are a good guide. Though some may have been used mid-Italy campaign, it was really D-Day onwards when they would have seen much service. 75mm, 47° hulls, I suspect Cobra+ and the 76mm and 105mm versions only becoming common by the end of the French campaign. The USMC eventually switched to the M4A3 from the M4A2. The US switched from considering the M4/M4A1 engine as the preferred one to the M4A3’s Ford.

M4A3E2M4A3E2: Doled out in handfuls to (mainly) M4A3 battalions. I think they were preferentially given to separate tank battalions allocated to infantry divisions, though some saw use in armoured divisions. NW Europe only.

shervaM4A4: 5 car engines fused together!!! US training only, LL to Britain and possibly France. Only 56° and 75mm, though the British fitted their 17lbr.

M4A5: Not a Sherman, but a type designation for the Canadian Ram tank.

M4A6: Diesel radial engine. Training/development only.

Italy: M4 & M4A1 throughout the campaign. M4A3 starting to appear mid-’44, likely as new battalions fed in.

Northwest Europe: Initially mainly M4 & M4A1 with some M4A3. In the immediate post invasion many separate and armoured division battalions were shipped straight from the US. These seem to be mainly M4A3 variants.

Mixing: M4 and M4A1 were practically interchangeable, so while many units would have started as pure M4 or M4A1, replacements could have been either. Naturally the USA preferred that M4/M4A1 were not mixed with M4A3 but there were times like very late ’44 when the USA was running short due to losses. The British either offered or gave the USA some of their Shermans at that time. So you would see awkward mixes, especially when allocating 76mm and 105mm variants. The US could readily support logistically such less than optimal mixes.

Gun Mixes: From Cobra+ expect to see no more than 20% 76mm, the rest 75mm. By Bulge 40% 76mm and by VE 60%+ 76mm. The problem was that was not uniform. From memory, one of the post D-Day, direct from the US shipped armoured divisions came entirely equipped with M4A3(76) whilst most active M4A3 battalions could only dream of them.

105mm: Initially issued as a 3 tank platoon per tank battalion, later 1 was additionally added to each 17 tank M4-whatever company. So for 54 M4-? (75mm/76mm) tank battalion you could have 3 or 6 105mm M4/M4A3 in addition. They did not replace 75mm/76mm gun tanks. Production of M4A3(105) was roughly twice that of M4(105).

56° vs 47°: The early M4-? had 2″ at 56°, later upgraded (except M4A4) to 2.5″ at 47°. While almost the same effective horizontal line of sight thickness the 47° hull was a single plate without the driver/assistant driver hatch excrescences of the earlier 56° hull multi plate front, thus stronger. The 47° hulls also had bigger hatches allowing easier bail out.

As an addition to the above information I might as well complete the US battalion organisation by mentioning the light tanks and other lesser creatures.

A typical US battalion

The original OoB had a tank regiment with 1×3 company light tank battalion and 2×3 company medium battalions, each with 17 tanks/company and 3 in battalion HQ. The Battalion HQ had a 3 vehicle assault gun platoon and often a 3 vehicular 81mm halftrack MTR platoon. The assault gun platoon started with the likes of the T30 HMC (USVN 35), then the M8 HMC Scott (USVN 43) and finally by mid-late ’44 the M4(105) or M4A3(105) (USVN 17). The MTR platoon used the M4, M4A1 and M21 halftracks. That organisation was in effect until mid-late ’43 and indeed the 2nd, 3rd Armoured continued to use that “heavy” organisation until war’s end. In practice light and medium companies were often swapped to give 3 equal battalions with 1 light and 2 medium companies. A US “heavy” Armoured Division had 6 light and 12 medium companies total in 2 regiments. During ’43 the heavy organisation was replaced by the light version. That abolished the tank regiment and instead had 3 tank battalions. Each battalion had a similar HQ and 1 light and 3 medium tank companies, like before with 17 or 18 tanks for a divisional total of 3 light and 9 medium companies. The upside was the infantry component got beefed up at battalion level.

The light tanks started with M3 and M3A1 but by Sicily they started to or had been replaced by M5 and M5A1. By Wacht am Rhein tiny numbers of M24 had appeared but took some time to displace the M5A1s.

Now be aware that all the above is just an overall broad sweep picture. For designing scenarios always use AARs, TO&E unit details where you can lay your hands on them. You will undoubtedly find exceptions but the above should not lead you too far astray.

Paul M. Weir

(Note: I added the counter art, any error’s all mine.)

PS For more on Shermans, Witchbottles recommends the article “Wheels of Democracy” by Jeff Petraska from Avalon Hill Game Magazine vol 25 issue 3

A Tank Destroyer Christmas

Want a cool M36 Tank Destroyer t-shirt for Christmas?  I put one together for myself and left the design up in case you want one too, for yourself or your opponent.

This classic “Banzai” t-shirt is of course, still available.

 

Old, Fat & Lonely in Bangkok

I worked in Bangkok for more than 6 years.  Thai people are unfailingly nice but even for all of you who are young and slim, there are times when you can’t help but feel a little lonely.

There are times when you would wonder, as exotic as this city is, perhaps you’ll find a wargame store?

I found one : Battlefield Bangkok

I am going to tell you how to get there.  I am nice like that.

Bangkok has an elevated rail system [ElRR B32.1] called the “BTS Skytrain”.  Everything’s in Thai & English so it’s not hard to navigate.  Get to a station called “E11 Punnawithi”.

punnawithi

Once you get off the train, head towards the south exit, marked “Exit 6”.  You will find yourself walking along an elevated walkway under the elevated train tracks.  This keeps you away from the busy streets.

Tourney

When you see this, you should be ready to get off the elevated walkway and to make a left turn down the street.

You will see local food stalls and lines of motorcycle “taxis” as you walk eastwards.

Tourney

Don’t you feel at least a slight twang of excitement finding yourself walking towards the “Golden Pearl Hotel”, named like a bad 70s Hollywood movie?  Oh, if street food is not your thing, you will be happy see a courtyard of restaurants on your left.

Tourney

This is the Golden Pearl Hotel.  Go up those stairs.

Tourney

This is Battlefield Bangkok.

Once you push through the door, remember one thing [ALERT! ALERT!]: take your shoes off and put them on the rack.

TourneyIMG_7150

It’s a nice and airy place, with plenty of tables for people to game.  There seems to be another room behind doors where folks were playing.  I could only hear them.  Either that or they were unsuspecting victims of some sort.  I am rather happy about it either way because I was scouting this place out as an Advanced Squad Leader tournament venue!

Tourney

This guy here seems to be the owner.  I asked him for permission before I started taking photos and then I was too busy looking at the racks.  They have board wargames but it’s mostly miniatures.

Tourney

So here you go.  Please let me know if you have any questions or if you have made it here as well!

 

Advanced Squad Leader scenario 3 The Czerniakow Bridgehead (AAR)

It’s September 22nd 1944, Warsaw.  The 1st Polish Army, fighting under Russian command and the Polish Home Army (the famous “Kampinos Battle Group“) defended the Czerniakow Bridgehead withdrawal against Kaminiski’s White Russians, fighting under German colors across the Vistula.

The “Germans” need to take more CVPs than the “Russians” and have enough on Board 8 to exert 20 unmodified FP at the end of 10 turns.

Thoughts

  • This is a good German management team, 7 leaders totaling -5 Leader mods.
  • The Poles have numerical superiority : 27 squads vs German’s 15 (balanced off by half the team having bad ELR). We have a force that will happily swap bodies in CC.
  • The 1st Polish Army need to recover quickly post “bombardment” and re-situate to interdict where the Germans decide to cross in force.
  • The Poles don’t have the firepower to engage the Germans inside buildings and have to seek shooting opportunities in Open Ground.

ASL AAR After Action Report

The Poles had been able to delay the Germans at the crossing enough to for the Kampinos battlegroup to resituate.  Once the Germans bring their machine guns into the buildings acrossing the river it will be much tougher for the Poles with their lower firepower and shorter range.  I would have to figure out how to take maximum advantage of our stealthiness, MOLs and sewer movement (ie, fight up close).

Advanced Squad Leader scenario 3 The Czerniakow Bridgehead

The Germans made an approach to the bridge on the left as well.  As a result I need to retain forces to the left of the board.  I have a squad, an LMG plus a -1 leader HIP’d at the G/F of the building where you see Defensive Fire going to the DM’d German stack (red dotted line).  Unfortunately they will never get to leash hell on the bulk of the German forces since we decided to end the game here.

Advanced Squad Leader scenario FT225 Blue Hell at P.A. Abries (AAR)

The date is June 21 1940.  A unit of the Italian mountain infantry, the “Fenestrelle” battalion of the 3rd Alpini Regiment launched an attack on the French Chasseur Alpins (“Alpine Hunters”) at Abries.  The Chasseur Alpins are informally known as “Les diables bleus”or “The Blue Devils”.  This scenario’s designed by Mr Alexandre Rousse-Lacordaire “in memory of [his] great-grandfather Capitaine Télèphe Rousse-Lacordaire (111th BCA) KIA on August 27th 1914.”

This is an Advanced Squad Leader scenario from LFT14 Italians : FT225 Blue Hell at P.A. Abries.   The Italians are to score more CVPs than the French (and to grab 3 buildings/pillbox) in 7 turns.  The Italians have three attack groups that can setup from four different areas.  That makes for a rather large area that the French has to worry about.  Whichever side has higher CVPs win but the Italians can also gain CVPs by claiming buildings on the top left quadrant of the map (top half of the map and left of the white dotted line).

The Italians opened quite nicely from the valley.  I focused on shortening my lines and bringing the French forces together and traded space for time.  The issue is that I could have takened better advantage of the Italians having to cross open ground with 6 morale.  My OBA went silent quickly after a couple of Access.  The Italian artillery was still going strong on Turn 6, wrecking havoc all along the French retreat. The Italians avoided open ground and got stuck up the hills on the top right.  The French defenders on the top right were able to scramble back and really had to do so when the Italians started threatening the hills to their immediate right.  The Italians didn’t go for the bottom left either but went up via the middle where they get better cover (but slower progress).  So far we have been able to fall back just ahead of the Italians and avoided Close Combat.  Unfortunately we had to move out of the woods when the Italian artillery started coming in.

IMG 4166By Italian Turn 6, the French were behind by 4 points, but that’s not counting the buildings ceded and the buildings the Italians will move into in the remaining turn.  We failed to put ourselves in a position to surround and kill their brokies.  Hard to rally as the Italians might be, they do rally.  Their OBA continues to wreck havoc on our positions, aside from hindering our ability to relocated.  One more Italian red chit and it would be gone, but there’s no chance of that now.  A French counterattack in the cards (down in the middle of the board)?  

Advanced Squad Leader AAR FT225 Blue Hell at P.A. Abries

I should have read the Victory Conditions more carefully and shouldn’t have retreated out of the hill in the middle of the map.  Apart from killing more French than they lost, the Italians have to get at least 3 buildings from the top quartrant of the map.  Moving the defensive line to the north hold things together but left the Italians with 7 buildings.  That is of course not a huge issue if we had OBA, but we drew 2 “Reds” early in the game!

Holding the hill in the middle of the map longer will leave the defensive line on the top of the map and around the buildings near the church thinner.  A more spread out set of defenders will also make it harder to keep the Italians from winning in CVPs.  Ah well, perhaps that’s the way it would have to be!

Recently updated Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) AARs, July 23 2019

Ongoing

Started playing

  • 145 Shanghai in Flames
  • 3 Czerniakow Bridgehead

Currently setting up for

  • FT225 Blue Hell at P.A. Abries
  • 14 Silence that Gun
  • FrF3 The Swedish Voluntary Corps
Note : I keep about 10 to 12 scenarios & CGs running at the same time.  While I play 3 of them in weekly live VASL sessions, the rest of them are PBeM.  About half of my games are CGs (some playtest CGs) and the rest scenarios.  I update my AARs as the games roll along and so this is a notice to my readers of AAR updates and completions.