At the beginning of 1944 it became painfully clear that the American Sherman M4 medium tank was no match for the new heavy German tanks like the Panzer V “Panther” and the Panzer VI “Tiger II”. Both tanks could destroy a Sherman tank from a long distance away and their frontal armor was almost impenetrable for the Sherman’s short 75mm gun.
With the upcoming invasion of Europe the United States Army was seeking to develop a strong Assault tank that could support its troops and break through enemy positions, clearing the way by eliminating enemy armor.
A “Heavy” medium tank
For this reason the Americans developed the 38 ton M4A3E2 Medium Assault “Jumbo” Tank equipped with a very thick frontal glacis plate of 100mm, sloped under a steeper angle than it’s smaller M4 sister, and a T-23 style turret that even had 150mm armor at the front together with the reliable 75mm M3 gun in a M26 mount. The tank was powered by a 500hp Ford GAA V8.
At the front the Jumbo was virtually impregnable for Anti-Tank guns like the German PAK 36 or PAK 38 (Panzer Abwehr Kanone) and was said to be able to survive a direct hit from a German 88 gun. The only real threat to the tank was the 7.5cm KWK 42 L/70 Panther gun.
The first 128 M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo tanks arrived in France on 22nd September 1944. During the invasion of France it became more clear that the Sherman tanks needed more firepower against the better equipped German tanks. The alternative was the longer 76mm gun, but this bigger gun did not fit the small turret of the standard Sherman M4, except for the larger M4A3E2 Jumbo turret. While Patton‘s third Army was the first to refit its Jumbo’s with the 76mm in februari 1945, eventually a total of around a hundred M4A3E2s were converted to the heavier gun.
A total of 250 M4A3E2 Shermans were produced during World War Two between 1944 and 1945.
This Sherman M4A3E2 “Jumbo” tank is on display at the Bastogne Barracks tank museum in Belgium. It has been decorated like it is the famous Sherman M4A3E2 Jumbo “Cobra King” which was the first to break through the German lines at the Battle of Bastogne, but this is not the original tank. The real “Cobra King” was shipped back to the US for restoration and is on display at the National Armor and Cavalry Museum at Fort Benning, USA.