Mine Clearing Vehicles Based on the M4 Sherman Tank
The M4 Sherman tank was the most widely used US tank of the Second World War. In addition to its primary role, it was adapted to special uses such as mine clearing.
The British experience with the Germans' deadly antitank Teller mines in Libya, during their North Africa campaign, led to an ambitious program in the United States for developing an effective mechanical mine exploder along the lines of the British Scorpion flail. That program consumed a lot of resources, both British and American, but contributed little toward solving the mine problem.
There were many models of mine exploding adapters for the M4 Sherman tank, only a few of which were used in combat. The British and American models included:
- Mine Exploder Roller:
- T1E1 Roller (Earthworm): Three sets of 6 discs made from armor plate
- T1E2 Roller: Two forward units with 7 discs only. Experimental
- T1E3/M1 Roller (Aunt Jemima): Two forward units with five eight-foot discs each. Most widely used T1 variant with about 200 built, adopted as the M1. Used for roads since soft soil would bog it down
- T1E4 Roller: 16 discs in front
- T1E5 Roller: T1E3/M1 w/ smaller wheels. Experimental
- T1E6 Roller: T1E3/M1 w/ serrated edged discs. Experimental
- T9: 6 foot Roller. Difficult to maneuver
- T9E1: Lightened version, but proved unsatisfactory because it failed to explode all mines
- Centipede: 12 concrete rollers intended to explode German S mines. Used in limited numbers
- Mine Exploder Flail:
- T2 Flail: British Crab I mine flail.
- T3 Flail: Based on British Scorpion flail. Development stopped in 1943.
- T3E1 Flail: T3 w/ longer arms and sand filled rotor. Cancelled.
- T3E2 Flail: E1 variant, rotor replaced with steel drum of larger diameter. Development terminated at war's end.
- T4: British Crab II mine flail.
- Mine Exploder Other:
- T7 Frame with small rollers with two discs each. Abandoned
- T8 (Johnny Walker): Steel plungers on a pivot frame designed to pound on the ground. Vehicle steering was adversely affected
- T10: Remote control unit designed to be controlled by the following tank. Cancelled
- T11: Six forward firing mortars to set off mines. Experimental
- T12: 23 forward firing mortars. Apparently effective, but cancelled
- T14: Direct modification to a Sherman tank, upgraded belly armor and reinforced tracks. Cancelled
- T15, T15E1, T15E2: Similar to T14 and cancelled at war end
- Mine Excavators:
- T4: Plough device. Developed during 1942, but abandoned
- T5/E1/E2: T4 variant w/ v-shaped plough. E1/E2 was a further improvement
- T5E3: T5E1/E2 rigged to the hydraulic lift mechanism from the M1 dozer kit to control depth
- T6: Based on the v-shape T5, unable to control depth
- T2/E1/E2: Based on the T4/T5's, but rigged to the hydraulic lift mechanism from the M1 dozer kit to control depth
Note: Table derived from Wikipedia.
The T1E3 mine roller was propelled by an M4 Sherman tank, a system consisting two sets of five discs, one set in front of each track. Each disc was eight feet in diameter, and the entire system weighed 29 tons. Unlike the earlier T-1 model rollers, the T1E3 would only clear an area 2.8 feet wide in front of each track. Another major difference was that each set of discs was driven by a mechanism attached to the final drive shaft of the M4 tank, an arrangement that greatly improved the mobility of the mineroller. Aberdeen Proving Ground personnel reported highly satisfactory test performance of the device and, in 1944, 100 of the minerollers were procured and sent to Europe.
By the fall of 1944 in the European Theater of Operations, mine exploder battalions were in operation. These units were equipped with M4 Sherman tanks with bulldozer blades, Crabs, Centipedes, and mine exploders T1E1 and T1E3. These machines, developed by American and British engineers, were useful when the Allies began to invade Germany where defensive belts of mines were common.
Sherman flail, type not identified.
Sherman Crab under test, 79th Armoured Division (United Kingdom), 27 April 1944. The turret is reversed to clear the flails.
U.S. Army 738th Tank Bn T1E3 Roller prepares to clear a road, near Beggendorf, Germany, 11 Dec 1944.
M4 Sherman tank with T1E3 Roller, circa 1944.
U.S. Army 739th Tank Bn T2 Flail (Crab I), Vicht, Germany, 21 Feb 1945. Photo: Tank Museum, Bovington.