M26 Pershing: Wikis

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M26 Pershing
M26 Pershing.jpg
US Army photo
Type Heavy tank
Place of origin  United States
Service history
In service 1945–early 1950s
Wars World War II, Korean War
Specifications
Weight 46 short tons (41.7 t)
Length 20 ft 9.5 in (6.337 m) (turret facing aft)
28 ft 4.5 in (8.649 m) (turret facing forward)
Width 11 ft 6 in (3.51 m)
Height 9 ft 1.5 in (2.78 m)
Crew 5 (Commander, Gunner, loader, driver, co-driver)

Armor 1–4.33 in (25–110 mm)
Primary
armament
90mm 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
450–500 hp (336–373 kW)
Power/weight 11.9/10.6 hp/tonne
Suspension torsion bar
Operational
range
100 mi (160 km)
Speed 25 mph (40 km/h) (road)
5.25 mph (8.4 km/h)(off-road)

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

Development of the M26 during World War II was prolonged by a number of factors, the most important being opposition to the tank from Army Ground Forces (AGF). As a result, only the initial 20 M26 (T26E3) tanks deployed to Europe in January 1945 saw combat in World War II.[1] The M26 and its improved derivative, the M46 Patton, both saw more combat in Korea. The M26 was underpowered and mechanically unreliable and so was withdrawn from Korea in 1951, in favor of the M46, which had a more powerful engine.[2] The lineage of the M26 continued with the M47 Patton, and was reflected in the new designs of the later M48 Patton and M60 Patton tanks.

Contents

History

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Development

The M26 was the culmination of a series of tank prototypes which began with the T20 in 1942, and represented a significant design departure from the previous line of U.S. Army tanks that had ended with the M4 Sherman. A number of design features were tested in the various prototypes, some of which were experimental dead-ends, but many of which would become permanent characteristics of subsequent modern U.S. Army tanks.[3] The prototype series began as a medium tank upgrade of the M4 Sherman and ended as the U.S. Army's first operational heavy tank.

The Army's first lineage of tanks had evolved from the M1 Combat Car and progressed to the M2 Light Tank, M2 Medium Tank, M3 Lee, and finally the M4 Sherman. These tanks all shared the common traits of using rear mounted Continental air cooled radial engines and a front sprocket drive. The rear engine-front sprocket drive layout required a driveshaft to cross underneath the turret, which increased the overall height of the tank, a characteristic shared with German tanks of World War II, which also used this layout.[4][5] In addition, the large diameter of the radial engines in the M4 line of tanks added further to the hull height. These mechanical features accounted for the high silhouette and large side sponsons that were characteristic of the M4 lineage.[6][7]

In the spring of 1942, as the M4 Sherman was entering production, U.S. Army Ordnance began work on a follow up tank. The T20 tank reached a mockup stage in May, 1942 and was intended as an improved medium tank to follow the M4.[8] An earlier heavy tank, the M6 had been standardized in February 1942, but proved to be a failure. The U.S. Army had no doctrinal use for a heavy tank at the time.[9][10]

The T-20 was designed to have a more compact hull compared to the M4. The Ford GAN V-8 had become available, and was a lower silhouette version of the GAA engine used in later variants of the M4. The engine had originally been an effort by Ford to produce a V-12 liquid cooled aircraft engine patterned after the Rolls Royce Merlin, but failed to earn any aircraft orders and so was adapted as a V-8 for use in tanks. Use of this lower profile engine together with the choice of a rear transmission and rear sprocket drive layout made it possible to lower the hull silhouette and eliminate the side sponsons.[11]

The T20 was fitted with the new 76mm M1A1 cannon, developed from the 3-inch anti-aircraft gun. The 3-inch front hull armor was 12 in (13 mm) thicker than the 63 mm (2.5 in) front armor of the M4. The glacis plate slope was similar at 46 degrees. The T20's overall weight was approximately the same as the M4.[12][13]

The T-20 used an early version of the horizontal volute suspension (HVSS), another improvement compared to the less robust vertical volute suspension of the early versions of the M4.[14] Later prototypes of the M26 tested a torsion bar suspension, which would become the standard for future tank suspension systems.

The T22 series reverted to the M4 transmission because of problems with the early torqmatic transmission used in the T20. The T22E1 tested an autoloader for the main gun, and eliminated the loader's position with a small two-man turret.

T23 with production cast turret mounting 76mm M1A1 gun. The T23 turret would be used for the 76mm M4 Sherman. Note the vertical volute spring suspension.

Through much of 1943, there was little perceived need within the U.S. Army for a better tank than the 75mm M4 Sherman, and so, lacking any insights from the rest of the Army as to what was needed, the Ordnance Dept. next took a developmental detour into electrical transmissions with the T23 series.

The electrical transmission was built by General Electric, and had the engine driving a generator which powered two traction motors. The concept was similar to the drive system of the German "Porsche Tiger" (later rebuilt as the Ferdinand/Elefant). It had performance advantages in rough or hilly terrain, where the system could better handle the rapid changes in torque requirements.[15]

The electrical transmission T23 was championed by the Ordnance Dept. during this phase of development. After the initial prototypes were built in early 1943, an additional 250 T23 tanks were produced from May 1943 until December 1943. These were the first tanks in the U.S. Army with the 76mm M1A1 gun to go into production.[16] However, the T23 would have required that the Army adopt an entirely separate line of training, repair, and maintenance, and so was rejected for combat operations.[17]

The primary legacy of the T23 would thus be its production cast turret, which was designed from the outset to be interchangeable with the turret ring of the M4 Sherman. The T23 turret was used on all production versions of the 76mm M4 Sherman as the original M4 75mm turret was found to be too small to easily mount the 76mm M1A1 gun. The first production 76mm M4 with the T23 turret, the M4E6, was built in the summer of 1943.[18]

The T25 and T26 lines of tanks came into being in the midst of a heated internal debate within the U.S. Army in the mid-1943 to early 1944 period over the need for tanks with greater firepower and armor. A 90mm gun mounted in a massive new turret was installed in both series. The T26 series were given additional frontal hull armor, with the glacis plate increased to 4 in (100 mm). This increased the weight of the T26 series to over 40 tons and decreased their mobility and durability as the engine and powertrain were not improved to compensate for the weight gain.

The T26E3 was the production version of the T26E1 with a number of minor modifications made as the result of field testing. Following its introduction into combat, it was renamed the M26 in March 1945.[19]

Post World War II, some 800 M26 tanks were upgraded with improved engines and transmissions and 90mm gun and were redesignated as the M46 Patton.

Prototypes, variants, and conversions[20]
Model Gun Front Glacis Plate (inches) Suspension Transmission Engine Tread Width (inches) Production Dates Number Produced Purpose/Additional Notes
T20 76mm M1A1 3 HVSS Torqmatic Model 30-30B GAN 16-9/16 May 1943 1 First test of new hydraulic torque converter transmission, which proved leaky and prone to overheating
T20E3 76mm M1A1 3 torsion bar Torqmatic Model 30-30B GAN 18 July 1943 1 Effort to improve the ride and ground pressure
T22 76mm M1A1 3 HVSS modified M4A3 Sherman transmission GAN 16-9/16 June 1943 2 Reversion to the known reliable transmission of the M4
T22E1 75mm M3 autoloader 3 HVSS modified M4A3 Sherman transmission GAN 16-9/16 Aug 1943 1 Test of autoloader for 76mm gun, new smaller two-man turret with only a gunner and commander, converted from a T22 tank
T23 76mm M1A1 3 VVSS Electrical transmission GAN 16-9/16 Jan–Dec 1943 250+[21] Used same vertical volute spring suspension (VVSS) of the M4 Sherman. New cast turret mounting the 76mm gun (used for the 76mm M4)
T23E3 76mm M1A1 3 torsion bar Electrical transmission GAN 19 Aug. 1944 1 Test of torsion bars, electrical transmission, and 19-in tracks together
T23E4 76mm M1A1 3 HVSS Electrical transmission GAN 23 late 1944 3 HVSS, electrical transmission, and 23in tracks
T25 90mm T7 3 HVSS Electrical transmission GAN 23 Jan 1944 2 Test of 90mm gun and electrical transmission on converted T23s. The 90mm T7 was later standardized as the 90mm M3[22]
T25E1 90mm M3 3 HVSS Torqmatic transmission GAF 19 Feb–May 1944 40 Improved version of Model 30-30B Torqmatic transmission. The Ford GAF engine was a minor modification of the GAN engine.
T26 90mm M3 4 torsion bar Electrical transmission GAN 24 Oct 1944 1 Weighed 95,100 lbs, with 90mm gun, 4" armor, electrical transmission
T26E1 90mm M3 4 torsion bar Torqmatic transmission GAF 24 Feb–May 1944 10 Prototype model selected for full production after testing
T26E2 105mm howitzer M4 4 torsion bar Torqmatic transmission GAF 24 Jul 1945 185 Standardized as M45 tank postwar
T26E3/M26 90mm M3 4 torsion bar Torqmatic transmission GAF 24/23 Nov. 1944 2000+ Standardized as M26 tank in March 1945, later production had 23in tracks
T26E4 90mm T15E1, T15E2 4 torsion bar Torqmatic transmission GAF 24 Nov. 1944 25 "Super Pershing", the first pilot was a converted T26E1 and the only one to see combat. Its T15E1 gun used one-piece ammunition. All other T26E4s had the T15E2 with two-piece ammunition
T26E5 90mm M3 6 torsion bar Torqmatic transmission GAF 23 June–July 1945 27 Same idea as the M4A3E2 "Jumbo" assault tank. Uparmored T26E3, weighed 102,300 lbs. Tracks could take 5" "duckbill" extenders
M26E1 90mm T54 4 torsion bar Torqmatic transmission GAF 23 after June 1945 2 Improved version of "Super Pershing" high velocity 90mm gun and ammunition with short, fat propellant casing instead of very long casing. Converted from M26 tanks
M26E2/M46 90mm M3A1 4 torsion bar Allison CD-850-1 cross-drive Continental AV-17903-3 23 1948–1949 1 (800) Upgrade of existing M26. New compact transmission and engine with increased power to 810 hp (604 kW). Improved 90mm M3 gun, with bore evacuator and other modifications. Additional conversions beyond the prototype were redesignated as the T40, then were standardized as the M46 Patton. A total of 800 M26 tanks were converted to the M46.[23]
M26A1 90mm M3A1 4 torsion bar Torqmatic transmission GAF 23 1948 1200? Lack of funds postwar prevented conversion of all of the M26 tanks to the M46. Most of the remaining M26s only received a gun upgrade with the M3A1 gun.[24]

Delayed production

The M26 was introduced late into World War II and saw only a limited amount of combat. Controversy continues to exist as to why the production of the M26 was so delayed.

In his 1998 book Death Traps, Belton Cooper, who was a lieutenant in the Third Armored Division during World War II, working as a liaison officer for the Division's armor repair units, made the claim that General George S. Patton was primarily responsible for delaying the development and production of the M26. Death Traps describes a specific incident where Patton allegedly reviewed military weapons with other U.S. field commanders in Tidworth Downs, England in January 1944, and was able to stop production of the M26 tank by urging sole production of the M4 tank.[25] Cooper's claim about Patton's role, and his other criticisms of the M4 Sherman, have since been widely repeated by readers of his book, and have even come to be cited as references. In 2000, the author appeared in the History Channel TV show "Suicide Missions: Tank Crews of World War II" to expound on his views. Belton Y. Cooper passed away on May 27, 2007 at age 89.[26]

A close examination of the historical record shows that Cooper's claim about Patton's role in delaying the M26 lacks support. US Army tank development and production during World War II was primarily the province of three departments: Ordnance did the design and development work, the Armored Force Board at Fort Knox was responsible for field testing, and Army Ground Forces (AGF) decided which weapons to accept, which was the final step leading to production.[27] Field commanders were asked for their opinions, but they otherwise had no direct control over these departments.

During the time period in which much of the delay of the M26 production occurred (mid-1943 to early 1944), Patton had been dropped into a professional limbo by the U.S. Army as a result of the "slapping incident" in Sicily, and was not in a position to influence any military decisions, having lost his combat command and much of his professional prestige. In addition, the story about Patton at Tidworth Downs in January 1944 does not match the historical record described in any of the major biographies of General George S. Patton.

After losing command of the Seventh Army, Patton was posted in various parts of the Mediterranean for the remainder of 1943, acting essentially as a decoy for German spies. He was summoned in early 1944 to England by Gen. Eisenhower without being told of the reason. Eisenhower recognized Patton's military brilliance and his potential for future combat operations, but was deeply concerned over his sometimes outrageous outbursts. Arriving in Scotland on January 26, 1944, Patton was told that he would be given command of the as yet unformed Third Army. At the same time, Patton was given "a severe bawling out" for his impulsive behavior by Eisenhower, and told to keep a low profile. The biographical record thus contradicts the story about Patton as stated in Death Traps.[28]

The only historical event that slightly resembled Cooper's story about Patton occurred on June 12, 1944. A firing demonstration of the 76mm Sherman was conducted in England for Patton, his tank commanders, and other senior Army commanders prior to the deployment of the Third Army to France, to encourage adoption of this tank into the armored units. However, the 76mm M4 Sherman was viewed with great skepticism by all the tank commanders because of its large, blinding muzzle blast (at the time, it lacked a muzzle brake to redirect the blast sideways) which would have severely limited the ability of tank crews to fire more than one round at a target. In addition the 76mm high explosive shell was weaker than that of the existing 75mm gun, and the infantry support role of the M4 Sherman was considered to be far more important than the anti-tank role for which the new 76mm gun was designed. The refusal of the 76mm M4 Shermans was universal among all of the U.S. armored divisions that landed in France, and thus the U.S. Army did not have any 76mm M4 Shermans in France until late July, 1944.[29] Patton's Third Army did not accept any 76mm M4 Shermans until after the Battle of Arracourt at the end of September 1944.[30]

Tank historians who have researched the original military documents such as Richard P. Hunnicutt, George Forty and Steven Zaloga have generally agreed that the main cause of the delay in production of the M26 was opposition to the tank from Army Ground Forces, headed by General Lesley McNair.[31][32] Zaloga in particular has identified several specific factors that led both to the delay of the M26 program and limited improvements in the firepower of the M4:

1. McNair, who was an artillery officer by trade, had promulgated the "tank destroyer doctrine" in the U.S. Army. In this doctrine, tanks were primarily for infantry support and exploitation of breakthroughs. Enemy tanks were supposed to be dealt with by the tank destroyer forces, which were composed of lightly armored but relatively fast vehicles carrying more powerful anti-tank guns, as well as towed versions of these anti-tank guns. Because of the tank destroyer doctrine, emphasis was placed only on improving the firepower of the tank destroyers, as there was a strong bias against developing a heavy tank to take on enemy tanks. For this same reason, improvement of the firepower of the M4 Sherman was limited only to the 76mm gun upgrade.[33]

2. McNair established a "battle need" criteria for acquisition of weapons in order to make best use of America's 3000 mile long supply line to Europe by preventing the introduction of weapons that would prove unnecessary, extravagant or unreliable on the battlefield. In his view, introduction of a new heavy tank had many problems in terms of transportation, supply, service, and reliability issues, and was not necessary in 1943 or early 1944. The problem of course was that tank development took time, and so the sudden appearance of a new tank threat could not be met quickly enough with such rigid criteria.[34]

3. A sense of complacency fell upon those in charge of developing tanks in the U. S. Army which came about because the M4 Sherman in 1942 was superior to the most common German tanks—the Panzer III and early models of the Panzer IV. Even through most of 1943, the 75mm M4 Sherman was adequate against the great majority of German armor, although the widespread appearance of the German 7.5 cm KwK 40 during this time had led to a growing awareness that the M4 was becoming outgunned. There was simply not enough forward thinking to understand that there was an ongoing tank arms race and that the U.S. armored forces needed to anticipate future German tank threats. The Tiger I and Panther tanks that appeared in 1943 were seen in only very limited numbers by U.S. forces and thus were not considered as major threats.[35] The end result was that in 1943, the Ordnance Dept., lacking any guidance from the rest of the Army, concentrated its tank development efforts mainly on its pet project, the electrical transmission T23.[36] In contrast, in the German–Soviet conflict on the Eastern Front in 1943, a full-blown tank arms race was underway, with the Soviets responding to the German Tiger I and Panther Tank by starting development work on the T34/85 and IS-2 tanks.

The most critical period was from mid-1943 through mid-1944, which was when the M26 could still have come to fruition in time for the Normandy invasion. During this time, development of the 90mm up-armored T26 prototype continued to proceed slowly due to disagreements within the U.S. Army about its future tank needs. The details of what exactly happened during this time vary by historian, but all agree that AGF was the main source of resistance that delayed production of the T26:

Zaloga version

In his 2008 book Armored Thunderbolt, Zaloga significantly revised an earlier version of this story which had appeared in his 2000 book M26/M46 Pershing Tank 1943–53. Unlike the earlier book, Armored Thunderbolt quotes from a much more extensive list of original documents from the Ordnance Dept., Army Ground Forces, Gen. McNair's correspondence, and other sources, which appears to be the reason for the change. Zaloga's current take on this episode is as follows:

In September and October 1943, a series of discussions occurred over the issue of beginning production of the T26E1, which was advocated by the head of the Armored Force, Gen. Jacob Devers. Ordnance favored its pet project, the 76mm gun, electrical transmission T23. Input from theater commanders generally favored a 76mm gun medium tank such as the T23, and were against a heavy 90mm gun tank. Testing by the Armored Force at Fort Knox of the T23 had demonstrated reliability problems in the electrical transmission however, of which most army commanders were unaware. The new 76mm M1A1 gun approved for installation on the M4 Sherman seemed to be the answer that addressed concerns about firepower against the German tanks. However, all participants in the debate were completely unaware of the inadequacy of the 76mm gun against the Panther tank's frontal armor. Ordnance, the Armored Force Board, and AGF had all failed to research the effectiveness of this gun against the new German tanks, which had already been encountered in combat.[37]

Single prototype of 90mm gun T26 turret mounted on an M4A3 chassis.

Gen. Lesley McNair had agreed to the production of the 76mm M4 Sherman, and he strongly opposed the additional production of the T26E1. In the fall of 1943, he wrote this letter to Devers, responding to the latter's advocacy of the T26E1:

The M4 tank, particularly the M4A3, has been widely hailed as the best tank on the battlefield today. There are indications that the enemy concurs in this view. Apparently, the M4 is an ideal combination of mobility, dependability, speed, protection, and firepower. Other than this particular request—which represents the British view—there has been no call from any theater for a 90mm tank gun. There appears to be no fear on the part of our forces of the German Mark VI (Tiger) tank... There can be no basis for the T26 tank other than the conception of a tank versus tank duel—which is believed unsound and unnecessary. Both British and American battle experience has demonstrated that the antitank gun in suitable number and disposed properly is the master of the tank. Any attempt to armor and gun tanks so as to outmatch antitank guns is foredoomed to failure... There is no indication that the 76mm antitank gun is inadequate against the German Mark VI (Tiger) tank.[38]

Gen. Devers pressed on with his advocacy for the T26, going over McNair's head to Gen. George Marshall, and on Dec. 16, 1943, Marshall overruled McNair and authorized the production of 250 T26E1 tanks. Then, in late December 1943, Devers was transferred to the Mediterranean, where he would eventually lead the invasion of Southern France with the Sixth Army Group. In his absence, further attempts were made to derail the T26 program, but continued support from Gen. Marshall and Eisenhower kept the production order alive. Testing and production of the T26E1 proceeded slowly, however, and the T26E1 did not begin full production until November 1944. These production models were designated as the T26E3.[39]

A single prototype of a T26 turret mounted on an M4A3 chassis was built by Chrysler in the summer of 1944, but did not progress into production.[40]

Hunnicutt version

Ordnance requested production of 500 each of the T23, T25E1, and T26E1 in October 1943. The AGF objected to the 90mm gun of the tanks, whereas the Armored Force wanted the 90mm gun mounted in a Sherman tank chassis (see above). Gen. Devers, by now in London, cabled in a request for production of the T26E1. In January 1944, 250 T26E1s were authorized. Gen. Barnes of Ordnance continued to press for production of 1000 tanks. Most of Hunnicutt's information was from Ordnance Dept. documents.[41]

Forty version

Ordnance recommended 1500 of the T26E1 be built. The Armored Force recommended only 500 be built. The AGF rejected the 90mm version of the tank, and wanted the 76mm gun to be mounted instead. Ordnance somehow managed to get production of the T26E1 started in November 1944. Forty primarily quoted from a postwar report from the Ordnance Dept.[42]

Production

Regardless of how it came about, production finally began in November 1944. Ten T26E3 tanks were produced that month at the Fisher Tank Arsenal, 30 in December, 70 in January 1945, and 132 in February. The Detroit Tank Arsenal also started production in March 1945, and the combined output was 194 tanks for that month. Production continued through the end of the war, and over 2000 were produced by the end of 1945.

Following its introduction into combat in Europe, the T26E3 tanks were redesignated as the M26 in March 1945.[43]

The Super Pershing

The so called "Super Pershing" before extra armor welded on. Note length of barrel, 73 calibres long, to compete with the 88 mm KwK 43 L/71 gun of the Tiger II.

The 90mm M3 gun of the Pershing was similar to the German 88mm KwK 36 used on the Tiger I. In an effort to match the firepower of the Tiger II's deadlier 88mm KwK43, the T15E1 90mm gun was developed and mounted in a T26E1 in January 1945. This tank was designated T26E1-1. The T15E1 gun was 73 calibers in length and had a much longer high capacity chamber. It had a muzzle velocity of 3750 ft/sec with the T30E16 APCR shot and could penetrate the Panther's frontal armor at up to 2600 yards. This model used a single piece 50 inch long ammunition and was the only Super Pershing sent to Europe.

A second pilot tank was converted from a T26E3 and used a modified T15E2 gun that used a two piece ammunition. A total of 25 of these tanks were built and designated as the T26E4. An improved mounting removed the need for stabilizer springs[44]

Post-war, two M26 tanks had the T54 gun installed, which had the same long gun barrel, but the ammunition cartridge was designed to be shorter and fatter, while still retaining the propellant force of the original round. The tanks were designated as the M26E1 tank, but lack of funds cut off further production.[45]

Post World War II

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. The later M48 Patton and M60 Patton, which saw service in later Vietnam and Mideast conflicts and still serve in active duty in many nations today, were evolutionary redesigns of the original layout set down by the Pershing.

Combat history

World War II

T26E3 nicknamed Fireball, knocked out by a Tiger I in an ambush. An 88mm round penetrated the gun mantlet (circled).

The heavy U.S. tank losses in the Battle of the Bulge against a concentrated German tank force composed of some 400 Panther tanks,[46] as well as Tiger tanks and other German AFVs, revealed the deficiencies in the M4 Shermans and tank destroyers on the U.S. side. On December 22, 1944, while the battle still raged, the brand new T26E3 tanks were ordered deployed to Europe. The unexpected German tank attack had settled the question once and for all as to whether the T26 was needed. (McNair had by this time been killed in a friendly fire incident as the result of inaccurate bombing during Operation Cobra, on July 25, 1944. He had traveled to the front lines to observe the operation). Twenty were sent in the first shipment and arrived in Antwerp in January 1945. They were given to the First Army, split between the Third and Ninth Armored Divisions.[47] There were further shipments of these tanks, and a total of 310 T26E3 tanks in all would be sent to Europe before VE Day. However, only the first 20 would see any combat action.[48]

In February 1945, General Gladeon Barnes, chief of the Research and Development section of Army Ordnance, personally led a special team to the European Theater, called the Zebra Mission. Its purpose was to support the T26E3 tanks, which still had teething problems, as well as to test other new weapons.[49]

After training the tank crews, the T26E3 tanks were first committed to combat on February 25, 1945 with the Third Armored Division, in the fighting for the Roer River. On February 26, 1945, a T26E3 was knocked out in an ambush at Elsdorf while overwatching a roadblock. The action was described as follows:

Fireball, for that was the tank's name, was in a bad position, silhouetted in the darkness by a nearby fire. A Tiger, concealed behind the corner of a building only about 100 yards away, fired three shots—the first 88 mm projectile entered the turret through the co-axial machine gun port [the M26's gun mantlet], killing both the gunner and the loader instantly. The second shot hit the muzzle brake and the end of the 90 mm barrel and the resulting shock waves set off the round that was in the chamber. Even though this round finally cleared the end of the tube, it still caused the barrel to swell about halfway down. The third and final shot glanced off the righthand side of the turret and in doing so took away the upper cupola hatch which had been left open. But that was the end of the Tiger's run of luck. Hastily backing, to avoid retaliatory fire, it reversed into a large pile of debris and became so entangled that the crew finally had to abandon it.[50]

This T26E3 was quickly repaired and returned to service on March 7, 1945.[51]

8th Armored Division M26 in streets of Pilsen, Czechoslovakia.

Shortly after this encounter, also at Elsdorf, another T26E3 knocked out a Tiger I and two Panzer IVs.[52] The Tiger was knocked out at 900 yards with the 90mm HVAP T30E16 ammunition.[53] Photographs of this knocked out Tiger I in Hunnicutt's book showed a penetration through the front gun mantlet.[54]

On March 6, 1945, in the city of Cologne, a T26E3 knocked out a Panther tank in front of the Cologne Cathedral after the Panther had knocked out at least one M4 Sherman.[55] Dramatic newsreel footage of this action was recorded by a Signal Corps cameraman, which is now on YouTube.[56][57]

On the same day, another T26E3 was knocked out near Cologne, in the town of Niehl, by an 88mm self propelled gun (Nashorn), at a range of under 300 yards.[58]

Hunnicutt briefly mentions two other tank engagements involving the T26E3, with one Tiger I knocked out during the fighting around Cologne, and one Panzer IV knocked out at Mannheim.[59]

These are the only known combat actions between the T26E3 and German AFVs during World War II.

The T26E3s with the Ninth Armored Division saw action in fighting around the Roer River with one Pershing disabled by two hits from a 150mm German field gun.

Four T26E3s were involved in the Ninth Armored Division's dramatic dash to take the Bridge at Remagen, providing fire support to the infantry in order to take the bridgehead before the Germans could blow it up. The T26E3s were too large and heavy to cross the damaged bridge and waited for five days before getting across the river by barge. Of note, some of the Division's other tanks were able to cross the bridge.[60] Europe's bridges were in general not designed to hold heavy tanks, which had been another one of the original objections to sending a heavy tank to Europe.

Okinawa

M26 "Super Pershing" after arriving in Europe and having extra frontal armor added.

In May 1945, as fierce fighting continued on the island of Okinawa, and M4 tank losses mounted, plans were made to ship the M26 Pershing tanks to that battle. A cargo ship carrying 12 Pershing tanks departed on May 31, but due to a variety of snafus, the tanks were not completely offloaded on the beach at Naha, Okinawa until August 4, 1945. By then, fighting on Okinawa had come to an end, and VJ Day was to follow on August 15, 1945.[61]

The Super Pershing in combat

A single Super Pershing was shipped to Europe and given additional frontal armor to the gun mantlet and hull by the maintenance unit before being assigned to one of the tank crews of the Third Armored Division. An account of the combat actions of this tank appeared in the war memoir Another River, Another Town, by John P. Irwin, who was the tank gunner. In Armored Thunderbolt, three actions were described. April 4, 1945 the Super Pershing engaged and destroyed a German tank, or something resembling a tank, at a range of 1,500 yards. On April 12, the Super Pershing claimed a German panzer of unknown type. April 21, the Super Pershing was involved in a short range tank duel with a German tank identified as a Tiger—the German tank bounced a shot off the Super Pershing's extra armor and then was knocked out by the Super Pershing with a shot to the belly (while Irwin described the tank as a Tiger, Zaloga expressed skepticism that it was a Tiger).[62][63] After the war, the single Super Pershing in Europe was last photographed in a vehicle dump in Kassel, Germany, and was most likely scrapped.[64]

Korea

Pershing and Sherman tanks of the 73rd Heavy Tank Battalion at the Pusan Docks, Korea.
Captured Pershing on display at a North Korean museum in Pyongyang.

The M26 saw service in the Korean War. When the war began in June 1950, the four American infantry divisions on occupation duty in Japan had no medium tanks at all, having only one active tank company (equipped with M24 Chaffee light tanks) each. When these divisions were sent to Korea at the end of June 1950, they soon found that the 75mm gun on the M24 could not penetrate the armor of North Korean T-34 tanks, which had no difficulty penetrating the M24's thin armor. In a Tokyo ordnance depot, three M26 Pershing tanks were found in poor condition; they were hastily rebuilt, but they had no fanbelts for their engines, so a substitute was used. These three M26s were formed into a provisional tank platoon commanded by Lieutenant Samuel Fowler and sent to Korea in mid-July; used to defend the town of Chinju, the tanks soon overheated when the substitute fan belts stretched and the cooling fans stopped working, and the only three American medium tanks in Korea were lost.[65]

More medium tanks began arriving in Korea at the end of July 1950. Although no armored divisions were sent because the initial response from battlefield commanders was "Korea isn't good tank country", six Army infantry divisions and one Marine division were deployed. Each Army infantry division should have had one divisional tank battalion of 69 tanks, and each Army infantry regiment should have had a company of 22 tanks;[66] the Marine division had a tank battalion of 70 gun tanks and nine combination flamethrower-howitzer tanks, and each Marine infantry regiment had an antitank platoon with five tanks each. While tables of organization and equipment mandated that all tank platoon vehicles should be M26 Pershings, with howitzer tanks in company headquarters and light tanks in reconnaissance units only, some units had a shortfall that had to be filled with other tanks. The 70th Tank Battalion at Fort Knox Kentucky had pulled World War II memorial M26s off of pedestals and reconditioned them for use, but had to fill out two companies with M4A3s; the 72nd Tank Battalion at Fort Lewis Washington and the 73rd Tank Battalion at Fort Benning Georgia were fully equipped with M26s; the 89th Medium Tank Battalion was constituted in Japan with three companies of reconditioned M4A3s and one of M26s from various bases in the Pacific; due to the shortage of M26s, most regimental tank companies had M4A3 Shermans instead. Two battalions detached from the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood Texas, the 6th Medium and 64th Heavy Tank Battalions, were fully equipped with M46 Patton tanks. The 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton California had all M4A3 howitzer tanks, which were replaced with M26s just days before boarding ships for Korea. A total of 309 M26 Pershings were rushed to Korea in 1950.[67] The Pershing and its derivative M46 Patton were credited with almost half of the North Korean T-34s destroyed by US tanks, M26s 32 percent and M46s ten percent.[68] The 76mm gun armed M4A3 Sherman, whose anti-tank performance was improved thanks to availability of the HVAP shells, was responsible for most of the remainder.

Being underpowered and unreliable in the mountainous Korean terrain, all M26s were withdrawn from Korea during 1951, and replaced with M4A3 Shermans and M46 Pattons.[69] The M45 howitzer tank variant was only used by the assault gun platoon of the 6th Medium Tank Battalion, and these six vehicles were withdrawn by January 1951.[70]

Europe

After the end of World War II, US Army units on occupation duty in Germany were converted into Constabulary units, a quasi-police force designed to control the flow of refugees and black marketing; combat units were converted to light motorized units and spread throughout the US occupation zone.[71] By the summer of 1947, the Army required a combat reserve to back up the thinly spread Constabulary; in the following year, the 1st Infantry Division was reconstituted and consolidated, containing three regimental tank companies and a divisional tank battalion.[72] The 1948 tables of organization and equipment for an infantry division included 123 M26 Pershing tanks and 12 M45 howitzer tanks.[73] In the summer of 1951, three more infantry divisions and the 2nd Armored Division were sent to West Germany as a part of the NATO Augmentation Program.[74] While M26 Pershings disappeared from Korea during 1951, tank units deploying to West Germany were equipped with them,[75][76] until replaced with M47 Pattons during 1952–53.[77][78] The 1952–53 tables of organization and equipment for an infantry division included 135 M47 Patton tanks replacing M26s and M45s.[79]

In 1952, the Belgian army received 423 M26 and M26A1 Pershings, leased for free as part of a Mutual Defense Assistance Program, 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 Régiments 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 replaced by M47s.

In 1961, the number of reserve units was reduced and the reserve system reorganized, with the M26s equipping the 1st and 3rd Escadron de Tanks/Tank Escadron as a general reserve of the infantry arm. In 1969, all M26s were phased out.

As the US Army units in West Germany reequipped with M47s during 1952-53, France and Italy also received M26 Pershings;[80] while France quickly replaced them with M47 Pattons, Italy continued to use them operationally through 1963.[81]

Variants

M26A1 at the Royal Army Museum of Brussels. Leased to Belgium, all M26s remained US property with the exception of this particular vehicle, which was donated to the museum in 1980.
  • M26 (T26E3). M3 gun with double-baffle muzzle brake. Main production model.
  • M26A1. M3A1 gun with bore evacuator and single-baffle muzzle brake.
  • T26E1-1 (T26E4-1 or M26A1E2). Version armed with a T15E1 large exterior stabilizer springs single piece ammo (used in combat).
  • T26E4. Experimental version armed with a long T15E2 gun two-part ammunition, improved mounting removed the need for springs.
  • M26E1. Longer gun, single-part ammunition T54 gun. (post war)
  • M26E2. New engine and transmission and M3A1 gun. Ended up as the M46 Patton. (post war)
  • 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.

Operators

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt p. 86–125, p. 287–294.
  2. ^ Zaloga 2000, p. 36–42.
  3. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p.49–121.
  4. ^ Foss 2002, pp. 232–246.
  5. ^ Jentz 1995, pp. 14–18. In the case of designs for the Panther tank, the rear engine and rear sprocket driven Daimler-Benz VK 30.01 proposal was about 8 inches lower overall than the rear engine/front sprocket MAN VK 30.02 proposal.
  6. ^ Foss 2002, pp. 24–32.
  7. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt pp. 16–42.
  8. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p.49–50.
  9. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt pp. 80–83, 130.
  10. ^ Foss 2002, pp.33–34.
  11. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 49–50.
  12. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, pp.50 & 104.
  13. ^ Zaloga 2008, Panther vs. Sherman p.22.
  14. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p.50.
  15. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 72.
  16. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 81.
  17. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 82.
  18. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt pp. 115–131.
  19. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 94–121.
  20. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, pp. 49–157.
  21. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 81.
  22. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 120.
  23. ^ Zaloga 2000, pp. 35–36.
  24. ^ Zaloga 2000, p. 36.
  25. ^ Cooper 1998, p. 22–28.
  26. ^ "Passing of Belton Cooper - 5.26.2007". 3ad.com. http://www.3ad.com/history/wwll/feature.pages/cooper.belton.htm. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  27. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt p. 43–45.
  28. ^ D'Este 1995, p. 533–582.
  29. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt p.129–130.
  30. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt p.189–193.
  31. ^ Forty 1983, p. 134–137.
  32. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt p. 46–48, 120–125.
  33. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt p. 72–77, 102–108.
  34. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt p. 46-48.
  35. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt p.78–85.
  36. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 81–82.
  37. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt p. 120–125.
  38. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt p. 123–124.
  39. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt p. 120–125.
  40. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt p. 128–129.
  41. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 194.
  42. ^ Forty 1983, p. 137–139.
  43. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 120.
  44. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 140–142.
  45. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 150.
  46. ^ Jentz 1995, p. 152.
  47. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt p. 287.
  48. ^ Forty 1983, p. 136.
  49. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt p. 287.
  50. ^ Forty 1983 p. 138.
  51. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 20.
  52. ^ Forty 1983, p. 138–139.
  53. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt p. 287.
  54. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p.21.
  55. ^ "Dierk's page Special — Cologne at war, tank duel at the cathedral (2)". Anicursor.com. http://www.anicursor.com/colpicwar2b.html. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  56. ^ M26 vs. Panther at Cologne—YouTube video of this newsreel film: [1].
  57. ^ 9 januari 2010 (1945-03-06). "Battle for Cologne — tank duel". YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBI9d0-IfEM&feature=related. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  58. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 22.
  59. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 25.
  60. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 9–12.
  61. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 41–46.
  62. ^ Zaloga 2008, Armored Thunderbolt p. 290.
  63. ^ Irwin 2002, p. 89–92, p. 106, p. 138.
  64. ^ Hunnicutt 1996, p. 30–31.
  65. ^ Jim Mesko "Pershing/Patton in action" ISBN 0-89747-442-2 p. 24.
  66. ^ Donald W. Boose, Jr. "US Army Forces in the Korean War 1950–53" ISBN 1-84176-621-6 p. 56.
  67. ^ Steven J. Zaloga "M26/M46 Pershing Tank 1943–1953" ISBN 1-84176-202-4 pp. 36-40.
  68. ^ Zaloga p. 40.
  69. ^ Boose Jr., pp. 75-81.
  70. ^ Boose Jr., pp. 68,82.
  71. ^ "USAREUR Units — US Constabulary". Usarmygermany.com. http://www.usarmygermany.com/Units/USConstabulary/USAREUR_USCON.htm. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  72. ^ "USAREUR Units - 1st Inf Div". Usarmygermany.com. http://www.usarmygermany.com/Units/1st%20Inf%20Div/USAREUR_1st%20Inf%20Div.htm. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  73. ^ Boose Jr., p. 56.
  74. ^ "USAREUR Units - 2nd Armd Div". Usarmygermany.com. http://www.usarmygermany.com/Units/2nd%20Armd%20Div/USAREUR_2nd%20Armd%20Div.htm. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  75. ^ "USAREUR Units - 28th Inf Div". Usarmygermany.com. http://www.usarmygermany.com/Units/28th%20Inf%20Div/USAREUR_28th%20Inf%20Div.htm. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  76. ^ Mesko, p. 29.
  77. ^ "USAREUR Units - 19th Armor Gp". Usarmygermany.com. http://www.usarmygermany.com/Units/ArmoredCav/USAREUR_19th%20Armor%20Gp.htm. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  78. ^ Mesko p. 47.
  79. ^ Boose Jr., p. 57.
  80. ^ Zaloga p. 43.
  81. ^ Zaloga p. 45.

References

  • Cooper, Belton Y. Death Traps, Presidio Press, 1998, Novato, California, ISBN 0-89141-670-6.
  • Coox, A. D. Staff Memorandum US armor in the antitank role, Korea, 1950 ORO-S-45.
  • D'Este, Carlo. Patton: A Genius for War, 1995, Harper Collins Publishers, ISBN 0060164557
  • Forty, George. United States Tanks of World War II, 1983, Blandford Press, ISBN 0713712147
  • Foss, Christopher F., editor. The Encyclopedia of Tanks and Armored Fighting Vehicles, 2002, Thunder Bay Press, ISBN 1571458069
  • Hunnicutt, R. P. Pershing, A History of the Medium Tank T20 Series, 1996, Feist Publications, ISBN 1-112-95450-3.
  • Irwin, John P. Another River, Another Town, 2002, J.K. Lambert, ISBN 0-375-50775-2
  • Jentz, Thomas. Germany's Panther Tank, 1995, Schiffer Publishing, ISBN 0887408125
  • Zaloga, Steven J, Bryan, Tony, Laurier, Jim M26/M46 Pershing Tank 1943–1953, 2000, Osprey Publishing (New Vanguard 35), ISBN 1-84176-202-4.
  • Zaloga, Steven J. Armored Thunderbolt, 2008, Stackpole Books, ISBN 0811704246
  • Zaloga, Steven J. Panther vs. Sherman, 2008, Osprey Publishing, ISBN 9781846032929

External links


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