Video Lecture: Design and History of the M4 Sherman Tank During World War II

World of Tanks researcher Nicholas Moran recently gave a lecture on the Design & History of the M4 Sherman Tank at the New York Military Affairs Symposium.  The entire presentation was recorded by C-Span.  The lecture is a little over an hour with a half hour Q&A at the end.  As can be expected from Nick Moran, its a quality lecture.  Some of the Q&A questions are a bit goofy (why is that guy bringing up Smedley Butler?), but that’s generally how these sorts of things go.

You can view the lecture at the C-Span website here or click on the image below.

Design andhistory of M4 Sherman


Inside the Chieftain’s Hatch: M4A1 Sherman Part 1

The latest episode of “Inside the Chieftain’s Hatch” takes a look at the M4A1 tank. In this first part, Nicholas “The Chieftain” Moran will talk about the exterior features of the famous Sherman tank and it’s Continental Motors radial engine.

From the Editor: Lights First Every Time?

(A year ago we had posted an earlier version of this post on our old blog.)

ronson-ad-1944-02Most people familiar with the history for of the M4 Sherman tank have heard the story that the British nick-named them “Ronsons” after the famous cigarette lighter due to the flammability of the Sherman tank.  The story goes that the troops co-opted the Ronson slogan of ” lights first every time” to describe their vehicles.  This story has been reported in many books and TV shows about the Sherman tank.

Certainly, the idea that the Sherman was uniquely susceptible to burning is a bit of a fable.  According to one common version of the myth, the Sherman burned easily due to the fact that it used “high octane” gasoline while its German opponents used diesel (the most famous example of this myth is in the Academy Award winning film “Patton”.)   In reality, the vast majority of German tanks and armored vehicles used gasoline engines and the Sherman ran on the same 80 octane fuel as every other US Army vehicle.  When a tank is penetrated by an armor piercing shell and brews up, ammunition is the most common culprit, not fuel.  The Sherman got a bad reputation in the early stages of the Normandy campaign for catching on fire in part due to improper stowage of ammunition.  Once the US introduced the “wet stowage” system of ammo storage into the M4 Sherman, the rate of tanks that burned when hit decreased significantly.

That troops may have called their tanks a derogatory nickname like Ronson seems pretty plausible.  The only problem with the Ronson nickname is the explanation that this was due to the slogan “lights first every time.”  The issue is that this slogan appears in almost no surviving print ads, and not in any ads from the period right before or during the war.  The most common slogan used in print ads for the Ronson is “The World’s Greatest Lighter.”  To a leaser extent, the slogan “Flip… It’s Lit… Release… It’s Out” or “Press… It’s Lit… Release… It’s Out” appears regularly.  Nowhere does the slogan “lights first every time” appear, except in a single ad from 1929 which states “Lights every time.”The lone

So what does this mean?  Not much really.  Perhaps the “lights every time” slogan was used in a radio jingle and not in print ads.  Or perhaps the troops mistakenly attributed the slogan to the Ronson brand.  However, based on the available print ads its probably fair to question the validity of the “lights every time” myth.

For those wanting to examine a large number of Ronson ads arraigned by date, please consult this page.

Below is a sample of Ronson ads

From the Vault: Patton defends the M4 Sherman

patton tank cartoonDuring the drive into Germany in early 1945, the American press broke the story that American tanks, in particular the M4 Sherman, were inferior to those of their German adversary, in particular the Panther and the Tiger.  News of the articles travelled to Europe where troops heard them.  At a press conference in March of 1945, General Patton was questioned about the quality of US tanks and publicly defended them.  Patton also wrote a letter to Lt. Gen, Thomas T. Handy, Deputy Chief of Staff, which was released by the War Department to the American press.  In the letter Patton points out that while the Sherman “would not last” in a straight forward slugging match with a German Tiger, “the great mobility of the M-4 usually enables it to circumvent the slow and unwieldy Tigers and not to engage in a slugging match but to attack them from the rear.[Read more…]

From the Editor: Debunking Deathtraps Part 1

(Editors note: this originally appeared in my old blog – – on 2/26/2015.)traps

When it comes to the history of armored warfare in the Second World War, the US M4 Sherman tank is always sure to draw controversy and a good bit of discussion.  Invariably, when this topic is raised in an online forum, someone will bring up the book “Death Traps” by Belton Cooper.  With a forward by popular historian Stephen Ambrose and the backing of a major publisher, Death Traps has become quite well known amongst WW2 history aficionados.  Mr. Cooper has been featured in TV documentary specials as well, including the history channel series “Engineering Disasters“, which has further increased awareness of his book.

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Interview with Steven Zaloga

armored champion w zaloga From the Editor: Last October I had agreed to do a phone interview of author Steven Zaloga for a piece that was going to run in  Unfortunately, Battlefield did not achieve their target readership numbers and the editor was forced to put it into hiatus before the Zaloga interview was posted.  Rather than see it get lost, I received permission from the editor of Battlefield to publish the interview on my blog.  I have since moved the interview from the blog to Tank and AFV I want to thank Battlefield for helping set up this interview and for Mr. Zaloga for giving his time.  I highly recommend any book by Mr. Zaloga.  Be sure to check out his upcoming book “Armored Champion” when it comes out this spring. 

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