The North Africa Campaign saw the first deployment of a weapon that became an icon of World War II, the M4 Sherman tank. Named by the British after Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, it was the primary tank used by U.S and British forces during the war. Evolved from previous medium and light tanks, it was the first American tank with a fully traversing turret for the main gun.
Production exceeded 50,000 units and its chassis served as the basis for numerous other armored vehicles. Only the Soviet T-3 was produced in larger numbers.
Most Sherman tanks ran on gasoline, using V8 and 6 cylinder engines from Chrysler, Ford and GM. Some ran Caterpillar diesels.
The original Shermans were powerful enough to defeat the German tanks they faced in North Africa, but later, when Shermans were pitted directly against Nazi Tiger and Panther tanks with heavier armor and more powerful guns, U.S. tank forces had to rely on greater numbers and mobility, and suffered heavy casualties.
America’s most advanced tank of the war, the M26 Pershing, was developed too late to play a significant role in our victory. Post-war tank development built upon the M26, but the Sherman continued to be used in training and combat into the late 20th century.