The M4 Sherman is, by a comfortable margin, the most recognisable of the Allied tanks of World War II (at least to a Western audience). Thousands were built and supplied to all the major Allied powers, and their combat performance was, if not spectacular, thoroughly satisfactory, with the sheer number of available vehicles being a significant contributor to the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany. Of the many, many Sherman variants that would be developed, one of the most famous (and effective) was the M4A3E8 – more formally the M4A3(76)W HVSS, known for the sake of convenience and sanity as the ‘Easy Eight’ (from the E8 suffix and comfortable ride). We’ll be releasing this legendary beast in the form of a brand-new Bolt Action plastic boxed set very soon, making now the perfect time to take an in-depth look at one of the most effective Allied tanks of the war.
The Easy Eight was arguably the most well-rounded of the Second World War Sherman variants, combining welded hull construction and wet ammunition storage for survivability with the mobility of the smooth-riding Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension (HVSS) system and attendant wider tracks, and the anti-tank punch of the excellent 76mm Gun M1. Specifically designed to counter the increasingly heavy German armour encountered as US forces pushed towards Germany, the Easy Eight was capable of engaging and destroying all marques of Panzer IVs at combat ranges, and the 76mm gun could usually threaten the heavier German tanks from the sides and rear. Against the lighter opposition encountered on other fronts, they proved absolutely devastating, although most were deployed to Western Europe. With around 2,500 made, there were never enough to go around, the type never completely replaced the 75mm-armed types in service during the Second World War (although the excellent high explosive rounds available to the 75mm meant that having a mix of the two types in the same unit was often considered beneficial), but the Easy Eight was at its core still a Sherman, with all the reliability and consistency that name entailed. Well-liked by its crews, it was considered a potent and viable weapon, although it did not completely address the demand for more firepower in armoured units, this need increasingly being filled by the Tank Destroyer branch. A good number were also deployed during the war by Canadian units.
As an excellent, reliable medium tank, the Easy Eight unsurprisingly remained in service post-war, and would be deployed in significant numbers and see combat with a number of operators in the Korean War, maintaining its reputation as a rugged, reliable machine despite being rendered technically obsolescent by tanks such as the Centurion and Pershing. Not fully retired from US service until 1957, the Easy Eight would also enjoy a surprisingly long life in other militaries across the world. As surplus World War II US military hardware flooded the export market in the late 1940s and into the 1950s, ‘Easy Eights’ would go on to serve with many countries, seeing particularly heavy service in Israeli colours, and continue to see limited action until well into the 1970s and beyond, albeit often modified far beyond their original configuration. Most recently, an Easy Eight was the star of the film Fury – while much of the historicity may be a little dubious, it does give us plenty of lovely shots of a real example of the tank in ‘action’ – astute modellers may notice a slight similarity between one of the commanders provided in the new plastic kit and a certain ‘War Daddy’!
On the Bolt Action tabletop, the Easy Eight fills the classic niche occupied by the T-34/85 and late-model Panzer IVs, as a Damage Value 9+ medium tank with a heavy anti-tank gun and a couple of medium machine guns for 235 points at Regular, with the option to add a pintle-mounted medium or heavy machine gun – it is an American tank, after all! They are seldom to be seen as Regulars, however, and with good reason – the Gyro-Stabiliser rule means that, if the vehicle is Veteran, it can ignore the to-hit penalty for moving when firing its main gun. This is enormously powerful, as it removes the need for players to decide whether the increased hit probability is worth the danger of staying still. Of course, this performance doesn’t come cheap! At 292 points for a Veteran, it’s a lot of eggs in one basket, particularly when the US have access to a lot of good choices in their tank slot, but I personally adore it – it’s a flat upgrade on one of my most-used vehicle profiles, and the ability to move and fire accurately fits nicely with an aggressive playstyle, which is just how I like to use Americans!
Mount up – start up! Get the Easy Eights rolling!
M4A3E8 Sherman ‘Easy Eight’ Platoon
The new plastic platoon boxed set gives you a trio of these awesome machines, perfect for games of Tank War, or for trying a few different paintjobs – with decals for US service included for World War II and Korea, as well as Canadian markings, there’s plenty of variety to be had. Whatever you choose to do with them, you can be sure that your Easy Eights will do you proud on the battlefield.
Other articles in the Forces of Fame Series:
Bolt Action – The Tiger I; Princess Elizabeth (Jubilee Special); Japanese Special Naval Landing Force; M18 Hellcat; Centurion Mk III; British Airborne;
Blood Red Skies – Messerschmitt Bf 110; Ki-43 II ‘Oscar’; Grumman F9F Panther;
Victory at Sea – The Bismarck; Fletcher-Class Destroyers; Kongō;
Pike & Shotte (& Pike & Shotte Epic Battles) – Cuirassiers; Polish Winged Hussars; Dragoons;
Black Powder (& Black Powder Epic Battles) – The Iron Brigade; 95th Rifles;
Black Seas – HMS Victory;
Hail Caesar / SPQR – Dacian Falxmen; Hoplites;
Will these be released in a single pack?
So, I take it the M4A3E8 stats won’t vary at all when compared to the normal 76mm M4A3?
Canada purchased 294 M4A3E8 after WW2 (in 1946). One M4A3E8 squadron was deployed with the 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade during the Korean War. Fantastic to see the Canadian decals provided with this kit!