Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tank Overhaul: The Sherman

The American M4 Sherman is the best known, most widely used tank of the Second World War. It is also the most controversial. Was it the all-American tank that won the war or a completely under-designed death trap?

We go to the Isle of Wight Military History Museum, where Dave Arnold and his crew are about to try something no one else has ever done before. They are going to chop two destroyed Shermans in half to piece together one good one.

We’ll see all the heavy equipment in action but once the tank goes into the massive rotating welding jig, with 20 tones of steel suspended in the air, the job becomes scarier than either Dave or his crew had ever imagined.

If they can pull it off it will be a testament to the most revolutionary aspect of the Sherman’s design – American-style production engineering allowed for production on a massive scale. It will show just why the Sherman, despite its flaws, remains one of the most important tanks ever made; and one of the many reasons why the Allies won the War.

Our history takes us to the D-Day landing at Normandy to show how in the face of the powerful German defenses, shear numbers of Sherman tanks helped to win the day. And we’ll see how technical innovations introduced with the Sherman are still used today. However, D-Day would prove to be a brutal test of fire against newer heavy German tanks. The Sherman was no match and its bad reputation was sealed.

In the end, we’ll pay tribute to the success of the open design of the Sherman with the massively up-graded Super Sherman that continued to be a match for modern arms until the end of the 1960’s; making the Sherman the most widely used and longest serving tank in the world.


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