Tank Gunnery Range
Aberdeen Proving Ground
Fort Meade, Maryland, USA
Staff Sergeant Barry Swinton was initially wary of the monstrosity known to him as the XM4G heavy tank, being nothing more than an M4A3 Sherman medium tank, retrofitted with an Allison turbocharged diesel engine and the entire turret assembly of the M26 “Pershing” (the “Pushing”) heavy tank, including its powerful 90mm gun, as the M26 hulls would no longer be needing them. Production had started on the M50 Patton, but not enough of that model was being built yet to satisfy current needs, so a stop-gap measure was needed to fill divisional inventories until enough M50's can be built to fill them. But what to do?
As it turns out, there was a plan before the end of the last war to retrofit older M4A3's the very same way, with excess M26 turrets being built to implement this design. The war ended before it could be done and the plan was shelved. But with the colossal failure of the M26 on the battlefield and the slow build up to full wartime production, the plan was once again considered and now being tested, along with a new gyro-stabilizer, that was supposed to allow the gunner to fire the main gun, while the tank is in motion. Along with the gyro-stabilizer, this tank would also mount a night-vision scope, allowing the tank crew, especially the gunner, to see heat signatures at night. Somebody said that it was something that the Krauts had been working on when the war ended, and our boys had gotten a hold of the research and the prototypes, and a few of the fielded models. That the U.S. had classified the project as “Top Secret” meant that government researchers, perhaps with the help of some the original German engineers on the project, had made a breakthrough in the technology.
Sergeant Swinton knew that he'd had his background thoroughly scoured by the FBI before being cleared for this project, but he knew that he had absolutely nothing to fear, and had an exemplary combat record to boot.
After the war, he was discharged to a life of drudgery, selling women's shoes, until this new war started, and he re-enlisted right away, even getting promoted before his first 60 days back were up. This night test would see how this mid-sized beast (he'd heard someone call it '20 pounds of crap in a 10 pound sack') would do, whether it lived up to it's expectations, especially the gyro and night-sight.
Swinton thought to himself “Here we go” as he started up the tank and peeped up through the night-sight in his periscope, looking at all the blobs in shades of red in the infra-red spectrum, before switching to light-amplification mode, where all the shapes were clearer, but cast in an eerie greenish light. As his eyes quickly adjusted to the greenish hues of the night-sight, he was able to drive the tank as smoothly as if it were daylight. As they reach their first target area, he felt the tank moving through a 30° slope, and he heard the hydraulic-electric servomotor of the turret moving while they were on the move, then heard the deafening CRACK-BOOM of the main gun, and a splash of exploded earth, then another CRACK-BOOM, followed by a KA-BOOOOOM! of a direct hit. This was all accomplished while the tank was still moving. To Swinton, it was a resounding success. He had never heard of a tank, except when it was handled by no less than a veteran crew and gunner, able to drive nearly flawlessly in the dark, let alone be able to fire on and hit it's targets dead-on, all in the dark. It was nothing short of amazing.
The five XM4G tanks of the test platoon did this all night, switching their night-sights from light-amplification to infra-red, and back again, to find their targets, and each other. Their gunnery improved with practice and the ease with which they eliminated their targets became readily apparent as the sun rose at 0657. It had been a long arduous, but they now knew that they had a tank, with some minor adjustments, that could match, or defeat, any tank that the Soviets had in their inventories. Knowing now what this new tank could do, Swinton wanted Soviet blood, and would not be satisfied, until he got it.