EDIT: This article was written pertaining to the 76mm cannon and “Stand and Deliver” play style of that rapid firing gun. I somehow missed the howitzer option in testing, and at some point plan to write a Redux detailing the completely different play style of the 105mm howitzer armed E2 wherein the tank is at least passable and possibly fun.
Classed as an assault tank, the M4A3E2 Sherman “Jumbo” was highly requested by U.S. units driving through Western Europe, due to its ability to withstand ambushes. These qualities translate poorly into WoT, putting the E2 in the same niche as the Churchill I. This Sherman variant had a narrow field of application whose real-life value does not, unfortunately, translate well into World of Tanks. Simply put, the M4A3E2 is not a well-beloved tier 6 tank.
What happened in the real world
The E2 variant of the venerable M4A3 Sherman, with its reinforced frontal armor, was intended to head armored columns, making it more difficult for German ambushes to disable the lead tank and thereby stop the entire column. These ambushes typically did not themselves contain tanks; they were infantry ambushes featuring Panzerfausts and 7.5 cm Pak 40 guns. The intent of these ambushes was to halt the column on roads surrounded by intraversible terrain, leaving the entire column unable to maneuver to safety.
While the frontal armor of the E2 was significantly stronger, the rest of the armor was no thicker than that found on conventional M4 variants. However, the E2 still had better survivability than other M4 variants, and there were never enough to satisfy the demand, leading to many “field expedient” upgrades of non-E2 M4s using salvaged armor slabs. The additional armor carried by the E2 did not stress the transmission and suspension as much as expected, and, if driven conservatively, the tank was mechanically sound. Most importantly, the E2 was capable of surviving numerous hits to the frontal armor that would gut a standard M4. Given its increased survivability, most commanders wanted as many Jumbos as possible.
What happens in game/I should have Driven an EASY EIGHT
The problem with the Jumbo in-game is simple: it pretends to be a heavy tank, but it is not. The E2 is far too poorly armed and armored to justify its pathetic agility. This deficiency means that the E2 cannot escape unfavorable situations, like other medium tanks, but also lacks the credentials to slug it out like heavy tanks. The frontal armor is the only reinforced facing; although it is substantial and well-angled, in practice the only tanks who fire at the Jumbo from the front are those who know they can penetrate. The E2 almost requires an incapable opponent to come out victorious. Everyone with any experience knows all the tricks to killing the Jumbo. Effectually, the E2 is a rolling coffin.
When compared to the M4A3E8 “Easy Eight”, the other Tier 6 Sherman variant, the E2’s frontal armor is considerably thicker than the E8’s, and its upper glacis plate has only one hole drilled in it creating a single, difficult-to-hit weak spot. This sounds like a significant advantage, but the forums easily agree that the Easy Eight is the better choice. All the E2’s extra armor on the M4 chassis costs far too much in terms of agility, and is still insufficient to the full spectrum of threats it faces. The E8 can carousel around opponents, while the E2 struggles to dodge even distant artillery fire. On that note, artillery will straight up murder an E2 from any angle, increased frontal armor or no.
Making Due With the E2
With the Jumbo, you can’t rely on fancy driving to save you. Just take position in a ditch that forces the enemy has to shoot you in the face, and return fire at weak spots or, if you can, tracks. This works better on an inexperienced opponent who will freeze and shoot back, but if their tank is tier 7 or 8 their experience isn’t going to matter. Their shells will bore through your “enhanced” frontal armor (or even turret), and you will die anyway. If you face your tank at an angle, in an attempt to better use your frontal armor, you will take side hits and that armor is both flat and laughable.
Your best bet is to add volume of fire, and try to make yourself a difficult target to hit. Charging an opponent only gives them a flatter angle on your frontal armor. If no convenient ditch is available, just embrace your inner mountain goat. Find a hill, climb it, and bite anyone that gets too close to your tin can. Sadly, even with this advice and the best luck, you’re going to be destroyed easily. On paper, the E2 looks good next to the T-150, but the T-150 has a balanced armor loadout, making angling easier and offering a broader engagement angle to the front. The cannon is also miles ahead.
The entire upper glacis plate is well angled and does make the 101 mm of plating more effective than it appears, but again, it was intended to bounce shells from the Pak 40 ( 108 mm average penetration in game ). In game, you’ll be facing much higher penetration weapons. The stock turret has 152 mm of armor all around, and most players stick with it for that reason, lower rate-of-fire be damned. The front of the tank has only two true weak spots and they are very small; the machine gun port which is the only hole in the upper glacis, and on the turret above the gun mantle. When applying plunging fire to opponents over an embankment the turret weak spot cannot be hit at all, and the machine gun port is even more difficult to angle fire into. The gun loses 2′ of depression from the tier 5 M4 Sherman. While still a respectable 10′, the gun depression feels inadequate, and it is difficult to apply good plunging fire without exposing yourself.
However, taking the high ground allows the E2 to fire on the angled upper glacis of opponents at a flatter angle, which is crucial given the low penetration of the 76mm cannon. When cresting a hill, remember not to expose your lower glacis plate, though finding a spot where you can fire upon the enemy without exposing the plate is troublesome. As long as you have a decent depression to occupy, and don’t have to move, you might do well. However, situations like this without the risk of flanking or bombardment are painfully rare. Unless you can locate the perfect spot on the perfect hill to deploy to every time, you won’t be at any real advantage.
The 76mm gun M1A1 is deficient in penetration at tier 6. The M1A1 cannon doesn’t enjoy the M1A2’s rate of fire, but I do not believe the thinner armored turret “upgrade” is worth the sacrifice for a mere four additional shots per minute. While the M1A1 lacks penetration and damage, it does have a reasonable rate of fire and is great at blasting scouts and flankers as they try to skirt the edges of your battle lines.
In battle, your turret will be hit often, and you will appreciate the thicker armor of the M4A2E2T110 turret. It’s not impervious by any means, but it is small and can bounce a good amount of fire. Set up hull-down wherever possible, and start slinging shells. You will take criticals to your optics, turret traverse, and gun, but few shots will hit and penetrate to deal actual HP damage. With such lackluster penetration for the main cannon, I would favor an HE option. Unfortunately, the E2 has no howitzer.
Like the other Shermans, the side and rear armor of the E2 is terrible. Part of the reason the E2 wasn’t deployed in greater numbers or earlier is that US Army studies revealed that most tank losses in WWII were from hits to the side and rear. Equipping additional frontal armor made more sense on a few spearhead tanks than it did for entire battalions given the extra cost and strain on the suspension and transmission. Additional side and rear armor would have completely overloaded the limited suspension.
The disadvantages of the E2 in real life, much like the disadvantages of the German Tiger, or the advantages of the Churchill, do not play out in game. In WoT, you’re free from worry about sinking in the mud, damaging your suspension or breaking the drive train through normal driving. You’re also at risk to opposing tanks that were in reality exceedingly rare. You can bounce Panzer IV shells off your front all day, but Tiger fire is going straight through.
The E2 makes a decent swarming tank when advancing with other mediums, but should not volunteer to lead a charge up the center of the enemy line, even if your teammates are afraid to advance. You will just die alone for no gain. Due to its lower speed and thin side armor, the E2 is vulnerable to other medium tanks in close range brawls. Keep the enemy at pistol range, but out of pistol whipping range, and invite them to attack you. Measured aggression is key, but is an extremely delicate balance in this tank. If you’re taking fire from an unknown source, you should take cover, as you are unlikely to survive a probing trip. Just hide and wait for your spotters to move up.
What Gear and crew skills?
Because the E2 operates in a hybrid area between medium and heavy playstyles, there are actually a surprising number of reasonable gear choices, and the fine detail depends on how you play. I’d stick with the small first aid kit, small repair kit, manual fire extinguisher for consumables. The added horsepower from 100 octane gasoline will not make enough of a difference to be worth the expense, and I wouldn’t waste the credits on premium consumables. Your armor will bounce an incredible amount of damage from light tanks and low-tier opponents if positioned properly; regardless, with that many shells hitting you, things are going to break and people are going to get hurt, so you’ll want the consumables to handle it.
With the E2’s armor, I do not recommend taking any spotting or stealth gear. The E2 has a high silhouette and isn’t terribly stealthy in the first place. Sitting back to snipe with this tank also further compounds your penetration issues and opens allies with thinner armor to enemy fire. The Jumbo is capable of mounting the Vertical Stabilizer, which will help immensely with shots on the move, and will keep your grouping tighter when making small hull angle adjustments in fire fights. The Improved Gun Laying Drive is probably unnecessary with the Vertical Stabilizer, but is a better option if you’re not moving often. Improved Ventilation is always high on my list of modules, and the third slot should be your preference of Gun Rammer, Spall Liner, or Repair Kit. This is all under the assumption that you have a few gold to de-mount them once you’ve gathered the XP needed to unlock better tanks.
When considering crew skills, you’ll want to make selections for the tank you want after the E2. If you do dedicate a crew to the E2 (God help you), I would start with Brothers in Arms. I’ve seen this skill turn the T-44 from a barely adequate victim into a versatile fighting machine. While I’m a fan of Safe Stowage, Armorer and Preventive Maintenance I’m not sure the benefits outweigh the advantages of Brothers in Arms and repair in this case. If you’re taking heavy fire it’s possible, as in my first example match, to lose several modules in a row which repair will help mitigate. As long as you’re good at denying the enemy flanking shots, you should be at little risk of ammunition rack detonation or engine fire anyway. You should not be wading directly into the enemy’s midst as in a proper heavy tank.
If you’re looking at the long game, take a look at the crew skill recommendations for your target medium or heavy tank later in the tree and start taking those if your crew earns enough XP. If you’re unlocking both trees with this tank, you’ll be here awhile.
In this replay, the Cromwell traded frontal shots with me and suffered terribly for it. I took massive damage and crits from later fire even at an angle, but, in all fairness, that was from a Tier 8 heavy. When low tier, you should probably play more conservatively than I did here. You can still contribute damage with precision aiming and cagey driving, but I attribute a lot in this match to luck.
Normally, I include two replays showing the tank performing well. I don’t have a second good match to show, since I started playing the E2. I don’t see a point in including a replay wherein I get blown to hell in exchange for nothing appreciable. Everyone already knows how to fail, that doesn’t take study. All I can recommend is ensuring that you have other tanks to cleanse your frustration between matches, and give yourself a break in grinding. Most other tanks are, fortunately, not this bad.
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Saiphas Cain.