The American M-4 Sherman tank has seen battle with the IDF in four major conflicts, from 1948 to 1973, more than any other tank. It had also been modified and more sub-variants of it were produced more than any other tank in IDF service - from a main battle tank to engineer vehicle, self propelled gun and anti-radar missle launcher.
After the end of the second world war, thousands of M-4 Sherman tanks were taken out of service by the Allied armies. That made those tanks almost the only ones available to the young state of Israel - with it's economic struggles and the embargo on weapon sells to it by most countries.
The first Sherman tanks were bought during the 1948 War of Independence, from an Italian junkyard where they were awaiting their selling for scrap. The IDF eventually bought 35 of these, but only 14 were operational by the end of the war. Since these tanks had sabotaged guns, some were regunned with the Krup 75mm field gun.
During the early '50s, more M-4 were purchased from various sources, and the Sherman became the standard tank in the Israeli armored units. In collaboration with France, the tanks were regunned with the M50 75mm gun ("Sherman M50") and, later, with a 105mm gun ("Sherman M51"). Some "Super Sherman" tanks, armed with a 76.2mm gun were also purchased.
The Sherman saw action in the 1956 "Kadesh" operation in Sinai, against the Egyptian army (who employed it's own version of the M-4, returreted with AMX-13 turret). In 1967, Sherman brigades were still the mainstay of the Israeli armored forces, though more modern MBT's were in service at the time. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Sherman tanks fought, as always, in the front lines. Fighting against Syrian and Egyptian T-55 and T-62 MBT's with a WW2 vintage weapon, the Sherman crewmen made true the motto of the IDF's armor corps: "Man is the steel".
No other vehicle in IDF use was modified and had so many variants based upon as the Sherman. Besides it's use as a tank, there were engineer variants, mine plowers, rescue vehicles, gun practice moving targets, self propelled guns, mortars and MLRs, ambulance and many more. The M-50/155 Howizter is another conversion of the M-4 Sherman. The M-50 is an Israeli indeginious self propelled gun - a French 155mm howitzer was fitted on a Sherman chassis.
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