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The M4 Sherman tank was produced in several variants, a result of mass production spread across several manufacturers and several years. It was also the basis for a number of related vehicles, and Shermans have been modified by several nations, ranging from upgrades to complete hull conversions for another task. Originally designed in 1941, M4 variants were still used by Israel during the 1967 and 1973 wars.
Sherman ARV MK I, Recovery vehicle, photographed around Caen in July–August, 1944
The many special duties that a tank might be made to do were just being explored by armies around the world in the early 1940s. Theories of what vehicles were supposed to be engaging enemy tanks changed as vehicles like the Sherman often found themselves up against enemy armor, and consequently some of the most important initial changes centered around up-gunning the basic vehicle. Improving the vehicle's mobility, protection, and creating specific variants for infantry support roles soon followed. Similar modification of the main armament would be done by the British, who received a number of Shermans through Lend-Lease during the course of the war.
Many early variants of the Sherman were converted to armored personnel carriers ("Kangaroos"),or armoured recovery vehicles.
In preparation for the invasion of Europe by Allied forces in 1944, an amphibious "swimming" version of the Sherman was used. Extensive work on creating mine clearance devices to be attached to Shermans in some fashion was also conducted up until the end of the Second World War.
After the end of the Second World War, large numbers of surplus Shermans were supplied to other nations, but primarily to South America and the Middle East. Israel became the largest post-war user of Sherman tanks, conducting extensive modifications to keep them in front line service right up into the early 1970s as tanks, mobile artillery pieces, armored ambulances and more. Many saw action in the 1973 October War. Similar modifications and purchases of Israeli-modified Shermans were done in South America where they served on as the last fighting Shermans right up until 1989.