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US Firefly help


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While working on the Rye Field Firefly VC kit, I read about how the US had approximately 80 Fireflies built for them based on a few Sherman hull types. 

 

On page 17 of Peter Brown's book "Sherman Firefly", there a picture of some of them parked behind a pair of M22 Locust tanks. To me, it looks like the closest one  built on a composite/hybrid hull has the side fenders for an HVSS suspension. Does it then make sense that the suspension would be HVSS vs the expected VVSS bogies? I've just never heard of a hybrid hull with HVSS suspension, much less as a Firefly. 

 

Or am I reading too much into the photo?

 

Carl

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This photo has come up on Missing Lynx in the last couple of months.  However, there were no Composites with the E8 suspension and AFAIK none built new with the E9 either.  Now, some early M4 Composites were remanufactured and fitted with the E9 suspension: maybe not many but certainly some.  These had the same fender setup as the E8.  A survivor exists in this configuration, although it is a very early one with the original small-hatch front casting: there is also a photo of one of these in Europe. 

 

Yes that photo shows M4 Composite Fireflies, which the current wisdom says were exactly the same as British Sherman IC Hybrids except for the radio antennas - apart from the E9 possibility.  There were also a small number of M4A3 Fireflies built under that deal.  These were not E8/HVSS either.  Firefly conversions needed the 75mm turret and only a small number of M4A3E8(75)s were built, mostly apparently going to the Pacific with only a couple being photographed in Europe.  But an "as new" remanufactured M4 Composite arriving in early '45 would have been ideal Firefly conversion material.  New-ish 75mm tanks were very hard to find by then, the last having rolled off the line almost a year before.

 

So from the modelling perspective, and assuming 1/35 scale, you could potentially finish either Dragon or Asuka ICs as US tanks and/or cross-kit an M4A3 hull with a Firefly turret.  I'm not certain that the unit assigments are known as it seems that they reached the front too late to see action.  The small hatch cast front on the first 50 Composites is a configuration that no-one kits and would require extensive modification, sacrificing small-hatch M4 and M4A1 kits. I'm not aware of any full E9 conversions, although Shapeways have the bogie brackets.  The idlers had extended brackets too and the sprockets were spaced out with hollow centres.

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Apologies, I should perhaps have explained and not assumed.  E9 was VVSS spaced further out from the hull to allow the fitting of extended end connectors (AKA duckbills) on the inside edge of the track as well as the outside.  This was an expedient way of increasing track width and reducing ground pressure on existing tanks.  HVSS type extended fenders were fitted.

 

It is most commonly seen on M4A1s but there is photo evidence of it on M4 Composites.  AFAIK it was something only applied at remanufacture and was not fitted to any new production.  So tanks thus fitted would display other remanufacture traits.  Re-worked Composites would have been about the last 75mm Shermans to reach Europe.

 

So if you're convinced that photo shows a Composite with the extended fenders then it must be an M4E9.  But is it clear enough to discriminate large or small hatch glacis?  My recollection of it is that it is not.

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Not at all. With your info, I was able to find out about the E9 and how it worked. Having just done a set of track extenders on my VC, I don't think I'd be up to doing one on both side of the tracks. 

 

It's definitely a composite hull Sherman and you can make out that there are hull length fenders but that's it. I can't tell if it has small or large hatches. 

 

Here's the pic for discussion purposes. 

 

PXL_20210223_232808657-600x450.jpg

 

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That's definitely an E9.  The others there are all fabricated hulls.  The first 2 have British-pattern spare link holders on the noses which suggests they were British transfers.  I think the glacis shape indicates a small hatch, especially the dip between the hatch protrusions. That fits with the few other E9 Composites seen.

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I have the Osprey book by the historian Steve Zaloga entitled "Modelling the US Army M4 (76mm) Sherman Medium Tank". In one chapter he talks about info that he obtained from the US National Archives. He states that the program was to convert 160 M4s and M4A3s (75mm) tanks, preferably with the M34A1 gun mount, wet ammo stowage and high bustle turret with loader's hatch. He further states that the program was cancelled in March '45 as they were no longer needed, after 80 had been delivered to the US Army in the ETO. Another 20 tanks, already in the pipeline, were turned over to the British army.  He finishes by saying that it remains a mystery as to whether the US Fireflies were ever issued to tank battalions or if they ever saw combat.

As the book is mainly about modelling, he built a very nice model of a US Firefly based on Hobbyboss kits in 1/48th scale. He finishes it with HVVS and T66 track. Looks great.

 

John..

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I wouldn't be convinced by HVSS, with all respect to Mr Zaloga. M4A3E8(75)s were comparatively rare - about 650 IIRC, compared to about 2,400 VVSS and with probably fewer than 100 shipped overseas - and I believe that only 3 have been photograped in NWE.  A bunch were photographed in a PTO depot and 75mm tanks were prioritised for the PTO where the 76mm was not wanted and did not go.  Indeed the decision to continue building 75mm tanks into 1945 was largely based on the PTO need and the potential invasion of the Japanese home islands.  Zaloga's model is probably based on the supposition that an M4A3E8(75) with T66 track photographed on a tank transporter in Exeter was destined for Firefly conversion.  But Fireflies were mostly/all converted at Hayes, so what was it doing in Exeter?  No ports of entry for US goods in the South West.

 

The other visible suspensions in the photo are all VVSS.  A couple of the tanks including the 2nd one have vision cupolas, again suggesting remanufacture as these were never factory fit on small hatch 75mms.  There isn't really enough visible to definitively say M4 or M4A3.  But looking at the visible driver's hoods behind the applique plates they look more like the "wide" type with squarer corners used by Ford on small-hatch A3s than the more rounded "narrow" type used on M4s (the Tamiya M4 glacis goof).  So my bet would be remanufactured Ford small-hatch A3s.

 

One quirk I've just noticed is the MG stowage pintle and barrel clamp on the back of the radio box.

 

The serial number of the Composite, 30100871, identifies it as the 409th from the first production order for 580 and probably built Nov 43.

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In fairness to Steve Zaloga, he doesn't make any claim as to whether US Fireflies were built on HVSS, just that he decided to depict one that way.

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On 25/02/2021 at 01:02, Das Abteilung said:

I wouldn't be convinced by HVSS, with all respect to Mr Zaloga. M4A3E8(75)s were comparatively rare - about 650 IIRC, compared to about 2,400 VVSS and with probably fewer than 100 shipped overseas - and I believe that only 3 have been photograped in NWE.  A bunch were photographed in a PTO depot and 75mm tanks were prioritised for the PTO where the 76mm was not wanted and did not go.  Indeed the decision to continue building 75mm tanks into 1945 was largely based on the PTO need and the potential invasion of the Japanese home islands.  Zaloga's model is probably based on the supposition that an M4A3E8(75) with T66 track photographed on a tank transporter in Exeter was destined for Firefly conversion.  But Fireflies were mostly/all converted at Hayes, so what was it doing in Exeter?  No ports of entry for US goods in the South West.

 

The other visible suspensions in the photo are all VVSS.  A couple of the tanks including the 2nd one have vision cupolas, again suggesting remanufacture as these were never factory fit on small hatch 75mms.  There isn't really enough visible to definitively say M4 or M4A3.  But looking at the visible driver's hoods behind the applique plates they look more like the "wide" type with squarer corners used by Ford on small-hatch A3s than the more rounded "narrow" type used on M4s (the Tamiya M4 glacis goof).  So my bet would be remanufactured Ford small-hatch A3s.

 

One quirk I've just noticed is the MG stowage pintle and barrel clamp on the back of the radio box.

 

The serial number of the Composite, 30100871, identifies it as the 409th from the first production order for 580 and probably built Nov 43.

 

While it is correct to say that no 76mm gunned Shermans saw combat in the Pacific, more recent research has dug up plans to reorganise the US Army tank battalions for Operations Olympic & Coronet with a mix of M26, M4A3(76) HVSS, M4A3(105) HVSS, M4A3 flame tanks (M5-4) and M24. Shortages of the 76mm Sherman’s in the summer of 1945 saw the ranks being filled out with M4A3(75) and even M4A1.

https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/43946.html

 

USMC tank battalions were to standardise on a mix of M4A3(75) & (105) HVSS.

 

Suitable M4A3 were to be shipped direct from Europe to the Pacific to help make up the numbers.

Edited by EwenS
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