Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Sherman Firefly was one of the most important Sherman variant

Outwardly, the Sherman Firefly VC series of tank destroyers looked every bit like their M4 Sherman base counterparts. Closer examination however would reveal a system that was finally capable of dealing with the impressive German Tigers and Panthers at distance. The Sherman Firefly would go on to become one of the more important Sherman tank derivatives of World War 2.

The British and Americans were already looking into an upgunned version of the successful Sherman tank, seeing it that it was available in quantity with a progressive stream coming off the assembly lines at a record pace.

The Americans proposed mounting a 90mm main gun to the existing system but were later turned off to the idea of having to redesign an entirely new turret for the new system. Not to leave well enough alone, the British continued to believe that the upgunned Sherman variant was a viable cause an proceeded to mount their own 17-pounder gun into one of their many Shermans in stock. With a new turret design and a little modification to the base Sherman design, the Sherman Firefly was born - this Sherman mounting an impressive 76.2mm main gun along with a single Browning-type 7.62mm machine gun. The Allies finally found an answer to German battlefield dominance.

From the outset, Allied tank crews were at a disadvantage when tangling with the well-armored German tanks, needing numbers and ingenuity to usually overcome their counterparts. This resulted in Allied tank crews zeroing in for a near-point blank hit to the side or rear of the German units. The Firefly now gave the Allies some punch at distance, with the Firefly able to effectively engage targets some 1,000 yards away. As more impressive munitions became available in the latter months of the war, the destructive power of the Firefly became ever moreso something for Axis tank crews to contend with. So definitive was the arrival of the Sherman Firefly that German anti-tank crews and tanks received explicit orders to engage and eliminate Fireflys as the first priority in any given engagement.

The British converted some 600 of their basic M4A4 Sherman tanks into Fireflys with some 160 landing into the hands of American forces. It should be noted that these conversion models basically inherited the armor protection of their base M4A4 models meaning that no additional armor protection was given to the new Firefly design. As such, Firefly tank crews would still have been wary of their own safety when in the line of enemy fire. Fireflys would appear in the Normandy beach landings of 1944 and were later attached to standard tank battalions onwards, though it was initially seen that Fireflys would be fielded as their own squadrons.


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