At long last, I will be discussing the stranger, more specialized variants of the Sherman tank. It is difficult to decide where to begin. They did so much crazy shit with it.
I’ll start with the full combat Shermans that were modified to have a specific increased function.
Multiple amphibious overhauls were designed throughout the war. For the D-Day landings, many Shermans were outfitted with the Duplex-Drive kit. This consisted of a “floatation screen” which created an air pocket that would afford the Sherman some additional buoyancy, and a propeller that could be engaged by the engine, which gave the modification its name.
In the pacific, several Shermans were outfitted with a series of floatation pontoons that helped them navigate shallow near-beach waters.
And lastly, some Shermans were outfitted with “Deep wading gear”, which consisted of a pair of ducts to circulate air, and could sustain a Sherman that was completely submerged up to three meters.
Other crazy combat-ready modifications included the Calliope, which was a standard Sherman with a 60-tube rocket launcher mounted to the top of the turret using a special frame that let it be aimed with the turret’s rotation and elevation. Functionally, it was a medium tank crossed with light rocket artillery.
Another rocket launcher platform was the whizzbang, which fired massive high explosive rockets for demolition. Sometimes, the Nazis or the Imperials built a wall that pissed Eisenhower the fuck off, and the whizzbang helped solve such situations.
And finally, there was the Sherman Tulip. Yes, they called it Tulip. I’m going to go ahead and let that sink in…
The tulip was a Sherman Firefly with racks for mounting british RP-3 type HEAT rockets. Finally, in the Tulip, the British had managed to design a tank capable of engaging god in armored confrontation.
From here, we move on to the flamethrowers. The Crocodile and the Zippo. The function was the same. The flamethrower tanks used a special jellied petroleum compound to fill small spaces of buildings with fire. It was fantastic, except for the horrific fatalities it caused.
On to the non-combat variants. Though someday I may return to talk about the tank destroyer variants. This is a very picture intensive article, and I don’t want to bloat it.
Some Shermans were converted to be armored recovery vehicles (ARVs). These had the armaments removed and replaced with tools for towing damaged vehicles and tanks. Along the same lines was the Sherman BARV (Beach ARV), designed for recovery of vehicles lost in water near the shore.
During the Second World War, the best known method for clearing minefields was devised in the form of the mine flail. A mine flail is a series of chains attached to a rotating shaft that is attached to the tank, and lowered to let the chains reach the ground during operation. When the flail is engaged, the chains are pushed out by centripetal motion, and beat the ever loving fuck out of the ground, which triggers or destroys mines in its path without risking the vehicle it is mounted on. I am not joking when I say this is still the best method for clearing minefields.
Some Shermans were refitted for airfield and obstruction clearing, and had a bulldozer shovel mounted on the front. These were typically used to clear out the area of a temporary airfield. To a similar end, some crews disassembled “hedgehogs” (Those three part blocking devices you see all over the beach in Saving Private Ryan, for those who don’t know), and cut them into pointed hedge cutters which were then mounted to the front of tanks. These cutters were adequate for the task of clearing thick hedges and smoking out camouflaged enemy tanks.
Finally, for extreme situations, such as massive holes in the ground, major rivers, etc, there were the bridgelayer Shermans. There were many different variants of this, but they all served the same purpose, to create a bridge or ramp that allowed other vehicles to safely navigate an obstacle.
Though my coverage of the more unusual Sherman variants is extensive, there are still a lot of variants that I have missed. Again, the Sherman was hardly the “best” tank of the war, but it sure made itself useful.