M26 Pershing Medium Tank (USA)

The M26 Pershing Heavy Tank entered service in 1945 and saw limited combat in Germany where it was able to contend with the German PzKpfw V and VI (Panther and Tiger) tanks on a more equal footing than the M4 Sherman. Its development stemmed back to 1942 when the Ordnance Department received confirmation to start the proposed development of the T20 medium tank. The tank was supposed to be an improvement on the M4 but the Ordnance Department hoped to use it as a test bed for different combinations of armament, transmissions and suspensions. This it did, and two designs of heavy tank followed, the T25 and T26. Both mounted the new T7 90mm gun and used the Ford GAN engine with electric transmissions. The T26 was given the higher priority and the T26E1 had the Ford GAN engine, a 'torquematic' transmission giving three forward ratios and one reverse, a torsion bar suspension and a 24 inch wide track. The turret was cast but the hull was made from a combination of castings and rolled plate. At this point the various concerns and opinions of the various interested parties made themselves felt. Armour Command felt the war would be won or lost with the M4 and objected to the use of heavy tanks as they would have difficulty with the Corps of Engineers' bridges. Army Ground Forces however wanted 1,000 of the T26 and 7,000 of the lighter T25 with the T26 to be armed with the 76mm gun and the T25 with the 75mm gun. Armour Command on the other hand didn't want either tank but did require the 90mm gun. The T26E2 mounted the 105mm howitzer in a mount that could also accept the 90mm gun, which was known as the T26E3. Combat development trials with the 3rd and 9th Armoured Divisions in Europe proved the design was battleworthy, and production began immediately after. The T26E3 with the 90mm gun was adopted as the Army's standard tank in January 1945 under the designation of M26 Heavy Tank with the name 'Pershing' after the founder of the US Tank Corps in World War 1, General John J Pershing. The T26E2 with the 105mm howitzer was given the designation of M45 for the close-support role. The tank was soon reclassified as a medium tank however, and while it didn't have time to make any real impact in the Second World War, it served with distinction in the Korean War alongside the M4A3E8 Sherman. Its development led to a line of specialist vehicles including the T84 8in howitzer motor carriage, T92 240mm howitzer carriage, T93 8in gun motor carriage, T31 cargo carrier and T12 recovery vehicle. The M26 was indirectly the first in the line of the famous 'Patton' tanks used by the US Army. The M46 Patton tank was in fact a rebuilt derivative of the M26 with a new engine (Ordnance-Continental AV-1790-3) and transmission (CD-850-2 Crossdrive), had a gun evacuator added and improvements made to the fire control system and suspension as well. Externally the two differed very little. In all, almost 2,500 M26 Pershing medium tanks were built with around 800 being converted into M46 Patton tanks.

Hull length: 8.65m. Hull width: 3.51m (with skirts). Height: 2.78m. Crew: 5. Ground Clearance: 0.47m. Weight: 42,000kg (combat). Ground pressure: 0.92kg/sq.cm. Max speed: 48km/h. Max range (internal fuel): up to 160km on road. Armament: 90mm rifled main gun, 1 x 0.3in MG coaxial, 1 x 0.3in MG in hull front, 1 x 0.5in MG on turret roof.

Modern American Armour , Zaloga, Stephen & Loop, James, Arms and Armour Press, London, 1982.
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How to cite this article: Antill, P. (8 March 2001), M26 Pershing Medium Tank (USA), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_m26pershing.html

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