Just as every soldier has a story, so does every piece of equipment that goes to war. The 'Tale of a Sherman Tank' is the topic of this week's edition of "Rock Island Arsenal: Inside the Gates".
Sherman Tanks were made in America, but first used by the British. It was a way for the U.S. to help Britain battle the Germans in World War Two. Ultimately, America joined the war, and 'the Sherman' became the Allies primary tank.
It's fighting days are done ...a battle worn Sherman, with nerves of steel, sits quietly at Memorial Field. "During World War 2, Rock Island Arsenal was a repair facility. We did small arms, and tanks, and Howitzers," says Bill Johnson, Curator of Collections for the Rock Island Arsenal Museum. It arrived at the Arsenal in 1948, but instead of repair, it was put on display. "The medium tanks that the Germans had couldn't stand up to this but the larger tanks would just annihilate them," Johnson says.
The Sherman had a 500 horsepower V-8 gasoline engine. Johnson tells us, "It was more maneuverable, it was quick, and it could pretty much outmaneuver the bigger tanks." This is a heavy duty piece of machinery. The Sherman weighed 33 tons but that does not mean they were invincible. "Shermans were notoriously known for not having the correct armor for their application," says Johnson.
On this one, soldiers added extra protection: a 3 inch armored plate smack dab in front. But even that couldn't save it. "Battle of the Bulge was the last major offensive by the Germans, that was their last hurrah so to speak," he tells us. And this Sherman was there, staring the opponent in the eye, defending freedom. But not without wounds. "These are where the anti-tank rounds bounced off, see that," Johnson says as he shows me large gouges in the steel plate. "Oh my gosh!", I said. "Unfortunately one of those rounds bounced off and went through the barrel of the gun and basically incapacitated the vehicle. When you lose your main gun you're kind of sunk," he says.
But the Allies had won the battle, and this tank had done its part. "Battle of the Bulge keeps us from speaking German, yeah," says Johnson. And this Sherman speaks-loud and clear, about the bravery of its crew, and their will to win.
In addition to the Sherman's issues with armor that was not thick enough, Johnson tells us the gasoline powered engines made them vulnerable to exploding.
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