M26 Pershing

M26 Pershing

Infobox Weapon
name=M26 Pershing

caption=US Army photo
origin=United States
type=Heavy tank
service= 1945–early 1950s
wars= World War II, Korean War
length=convert|20|ft|9.5|in|m|abbr=on (turret facing aft)
convert|28|ft|4.5|in|m|abbr=on (turret facing forward)
suspension=torsion bar
speed=convert|25|mph|km/h|0|abbr=on (road)
primary_armament= 90 mm gun M3
70 rounds
secondary_armament= 2 × Browning .30-06
5,000 rounds
1 × Browning .50 cal.
550 rounds
engine=Ford GAF; 8-cylinder, gasoline
crew=5 (Commander, Gunner, loader, driver, co-driver)
pw_ratio= 11.9/10.6 hp/tonne

The Heavy Tank M26 Pershing was an American heavy tank used during World War II and the Korean War. It was named after General John Pershing, who led the American Expeditionary Force in World War I.


Much like other armies at the time, the U.S. Army envisioned two main roles for tanks: infantry support and breakthrough exploitation. From 1942 until the end of World War II, both roles were covered in the main by the M4 Sherman, which was better suited for the latter, "cavalry" role. The infantry would have preferred a better protected and better armed vehicle, even at a price of less mobility. In late 1942, U.S. Army Ordnance started to work on an "infantry-oriented" design which was supposed to be more versatile than the British infantry tanks.

During the next two years, various prototypes were built under the designations T20, T22, T23, T25 and T26. These covered a variety of combinations of weapons, transmissions, and suspensions. However, the initial success of the M4 led the Army Ground Forces command to believe that there was no urgent need for a new tank. Even with the appearance of the heavy Tiger and medium Panther tanks, the AGF did not alter its position, believing both tanks would be fielded in relatively small numbers. AGF was correct about the Tiger, a specialized heavy tank that was never encountered in large numbers. The Panther, first encountered in small numbers at Anzio, however, was built in very large numbers and formed half the German tank strength in Normandy. Also, according to the Army doctrine of the time, tanks were not supposed to engage other tanks; this was the remit of tank destroyers, more mobile armored vehicles with powerful guns, such as the M10 Wolverine. As a result, the development of the new tank was slow. When the Allies invaded western Europe during Operation Overlord in June 1944, the M4 still formed the bulk of American tank units. It quickly became clear that the tank destroyer doctrine failed in the field and that the upgunned Sherman was unable to engage the Panther on equal terms. Efforts were made to speed up development but the tank, by now called the T26 and dubbed Pershing, reached the battlefield only in February 1945 and saw very little action in WWII.

In May 1946, due to changing conceptions of the US Army's tank needs, the M26 was reclassified as a medium tank. Designed as a heavy tank, the Pershing was a significant upgrade from the M4 Sherman in terms of firepower and protection. On the other hand, its mobility was unsatisfactory for a medium tank (it used the same engine that powered the M4A3, which was some ten tons lighter) and its transmission was somewhat unreliable. In 1948, the M26E2 version was developed with a new powerpack. Eventually the new version was redesignated the M46 General Patton and 1,160 M26s were rebuilt to this new standard. Thus the M26 became a base of the Patton tank series, which replaced it in early 1950s. The M47 Patton was an M46 Patton with a new turret, while the later M48 Patton and M60 Patton were completely new tank designs.

Combat history

World War II

The M26 was a long time in development and only just reached combat status during WW2. A small number were brought across to Europe under the Zebra Technical Mission which included tanks, spares and military and civilian observers. They were assigned to General Omar Bradley's 12th Army Group and split between the 3rd and 9th Armored Division. They first saw combat in February 1945. The first Pershing loss was to a Tiger on 28 February but the Pershing was recovered and put back into operation. Ten Pershing tanks were assigned to the 9th Armored Division, which was among the first to reach the Rhine river as American forces surged toward Germany. With American armor fast approaching, Nazi war planners sought to thwart - or at least delay - the advance by dynamiting major bridges spanning the river. When word reached the 9th Armored Division that the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen was still passable, they knew they would need to act quickly and decisively. On March 7, 1945, the 9th Armored arrived at the bridge, securing it as a strategic foothold across the Rhine. Of the ten Pershing tanks attached to the 9th Armored, only three made it to the bridge; of these three tanks, only one survives and is on permanent exhibition at the [http://wrightmuseum.org Wright Museum of WWII History] in Wolfeboro, N.H.

Belton Y. Cooper, an ordnance officer at the Combat Command (brigade) level in the 3rd Armored Division during World War II, wrote a memoir about his experience. According to Cooper, ten Pershings were sent to the 3rd Armored Division beginning in February 1945. He claims they would have been sent sooner, had General George S. Patton not intervened. Patton favored the Sherman tank, because it required less gasoline and was more mobile. Patton's reasoning stemmed from his unwavering adherence to the offensive-obsessed Armored Force Doctrine, which held that tanks should bypass enemy armor in order to deepen their penetration into enemy territory, while follow-on tank destroyer (TD) forces would deal with enemy tanks. The accusation has been disputed by Charles Baily who says, [1] :

Two M26A1E2 tanks were built during the Second World War. One of these made it to the ETO, assigned to the 3rd Armored Division. This experimental version of the Pershing, sometimes referred to as "Super Pershing" (as are other upgunned Pershing variants), had the 90 mm/70 caliber T15E1 high-velocity gun that threw a projectile at convert|3850|ft/s|m/s|abbr=on. This gun could penetrate convert|8.5|in|mm|abbr=on of rolled homogeneous armor (RHA) at a range of convert|1000|yd|m|0|abbr=on against armor angled at 30 degrees [http://www.3ad.com/history/news/super.pershing.1.htm] . At a range of convert|100|yd|m|0|abbr=on, it could penetrate convert|13|in|mm|0|abbr=on of RHA angled sloped at 30 degrees [http://www.3ad.com/history/news/super.pershing.1.htm] . *On April 4, 1945 near Dessau, the "Super Pershing" destroyed one King Tiger by striking its underbelly; it also and knocked out another tank (probably a Panther) with a shot to its flank [http://www.3ad.com/history/news/super.pershing.1.htm] . This was its only known combat engagement, so the full capabilities of the T15E1 90 mm main gun were never demonstrated.

The 3AD Super Pershing was actually the T26E1 pilot tank. This tank, while assigned to Task Force Wellborn, destroyed at least 3 tanks, including the King Tiger at Dessau. This is according to John Irwin, gunner of the Super Pershing in his book, "Another River, Another Town".


The M26 also saw service in the Korean War, although few armored units were sent because the initial response from battlefield commanders was "Korea isn't good tank country." The official US Army history states a number of M26s were pulled from pedestals at Fort Knox, where they had been WWII memorials. The Pershing and its derivative M46 were credited with almost half of the North Korean T-34s destroyed by the US Armored Corps. The M4A3E8, whose anti-tank performance was improved thanks to availability of the HVAP shells, is responsible for most of the remainder.

Belgian use

In 1952 the Belgian army received 423 M26 and M26A1 Pershings, leased for free as part of a Mutual Defense Assistance Program (MDAP), then the official designation of US military aid to its allies. The tanks were mostly used to equip mobilizable reserve units of battalion strength: 2nd, 3rd and 4th "Régiment de Guides"/"Regiment Gidsen" (Belgian units have official names in both French and Dutch); 7th, 9th and 10th "Régiments de Lanciers"/"Regiment Lansiers" and finally the 2nd, 3rd and 5th "Bataillon de Tanks Lourds"/"Bataljon Zware Tanks". However, in the spring of 1953, M26s for three months equipped the 1st Heavy Tank Battalion of the 1st Infantry Division, an active unit, before they were phased out by M47s.

In 1961 the number of reserve units was reduced and the reserve system reorganized; the M26s now equipped the 1st and 3rd "Escadron de Tanks"/"Tank Escadron" as a general reserve of the Infantry Arm. In 1969 all M26s were phased out.


*M26 (T26E3). M3 gun with double-baffle muzzle brake. Main production model.
*M26A1. M3A1 gun with bore evacuator and single-baffle muzzle brake.
*M26A1E2. Experimental version armed with a longer T15E1/E2 gun.
*M26E1, T26E4. Longer gun, single-part ammunition.
*M26E2. New engine and transmission and M3A1 gun. Ended up as the M46 Patton.
*T26E2, eventually standardized for use as the Heavy Tank M45 — a close support vehicle with a 105 mm howitzer (74 rounds).
*T26E5. Prototype with thicker armor — a maximum of 279 mm.

Former Operators


ee also

*240 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage T92
*Centurion, the equivalent British tank of the same period.
*List of "M" series military vehicles


*Belton Y. Cooper - "Death Traps", Presidio Press, 1998, Novato, California, ISBN 0-89141-670-6.
*Steven J Zaloga, Tony Bryan, Jim Laurier - "M26–M46 Pershing Tank 1943–1953", 2000 Osprey Publishing (New Vanguard 35), ISBN 1-84176-202-4.
*A D Coox - Staff Memorandum "US armor in the antitank role, Korea, 1950"' ORO-S-45.
*R. P. Hunnicutt - "Pershing, A History of the Medium Tank T20 Series", Feist Publications 1996, ISBN 1-112-95450-3.

External links

* [http://afvdb.50megs.com/usa/m26pershing.html AFV Database]
* [http://ipmslondon.tripod.com/armourreferencearticles/id14.html Armour Reference Articles]
* [http://www.onwar.com/tanks/usa/fm26.htm OnWar specifications]
* [http://www.wwiivehicles.com/usa/tanks-heavy/m26.asp WWII Vehicles]
*M26 Pershing [http://ww2photo.mimerswell.com/tanks/usa/med/test/test.htm prototypes] and [http://ww2photo.mimerswell.com/tanks/usa/heav/m26/m26.htm variants] at ww2photo.mimerswell.com
* [http://wrightmuseum.org]
*WWII combat history of the Super Pershing [http://www.3ad.com/history/news/super.pershing.1.htm 1] [http://www.militarymodelling.com/news/article/mps/uan/792 2] [http://gallery.depili.fi/v/pienoismallit/model_expo_08/IMG_6708.jpg.html?g2_imageViewsIndex=1 3]

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