Pershing M26 Tank

Pershing M26 Tank

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The Sherman Tank was the main tank used by the United States Army during the Second World War . It replacement, the Pershing M26 was delivered until January, 1945. The tank arrived too late to make much contribution to the war in Europe but it was used in Okinawa in the summer of 1945.

M26 Pershing

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/28/2019 | Content © | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The M26 "Pershing" made its official appearance towards the end of World War 2 and was appropriately named after World War 1 General John J. Pershing (known as "Black Jack") of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France. The M26 Pershing had a slow and arduous beginning during a time when the need for such a "heavy tank" was not part of US Army priority. Instead, efforts were primarily focused on production of M3 Lee/Grant and M4 Sherman medium tanks, the latter which went on to form a large part of British and American armored forces by war's end. It was not until the debut of the German "Panther" and "Tiger" heavy tank series on the battlefields of Europe that the need for a heavily armed - and armored - tank combat system came to the forefront. Heavy tanks would prove the norm by the end of the war with Germany, Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union all showcasing heavy tank designs of varying success. One of the more notable and successful developments became the Soviet "Josef Stalin" IS series mounting the powerful 122mm main guns and stubbornly thick armor. Some armored developments were even deemed "super heavy" tanks that exceeded all previous norms of tank designs in both dimensions and firepower - with most of these outrageous and optimistic designs attributed to the Germans (the Super Heavy Tank Panzer VIII "Maus" being a prime example, only two of which were built the Landkreuzer P.1000 "Ratte" was another).

By the time of the scheduled Allied invasion of the French coastline on D-Day, the Panther enjoyed strength in numbers and easily outmatched it closest Allied counterpart - the M4 Sherman. It was only after the Allies received first-hand experience against these German Panthers in post-D-Day invasion reports did the need for an improved American tank take hold in the minds of warplanners. The Panthers supplied a healthy combination of armor protection and armor penetration, the latter with a formidable and proven German main gun. This enabled German tanks to fire at Allied armor even before Allied armor was in range to fire back. Additionally, the heavier German tank types often required skillful hits along the more vulnerable sides or rear and combinations of actions from multiple Shermans. Conversely, the Shermans comparably lacked in point defense armor protection and made due with their original 75mm main guns - this eventually upgraded to 76mm models and better armor in the form of the Sherman "Jumbo".

Design work began on a new American heavy tank and considerable effort was then made to develop a gun system capable of competing with the new German tanks. This resulted in several prototypes that were trialed for effectiveness and one prototype (pilot) vehicle, designated as the "T26E3", was formally selected for serial production as the "Heavy Tank M26" with the nickname of "Pershing". The resulting Pershing design was armed with a potent 90mm M3 main gun (this weapon deemed nearly on par with the fabled German 88mm dual-use FlaK / anti-tank gun system). Armor-wise, the M26 Pershing did not disappoint and was thick-skinned compared to the Sherman for maximum protection, particularly along her front facing. The vehicle was crewed by five personnel to include a driver (seated front left hull), a bow-gunner/radio operator (seated front right hull) and a gunner, loader and commander - all seated in the traversing turret. The bow gunner manned a 7.62mm Browning machine gun fitted in a ball mounting with limited arc in the front right of the hull. The gunner managed a coaxially-mounted 7.62mm Browning machine gun fitted alongside the 90mm main gun. This machine gun could be used against targets where the 90mm gun proved too excessive. A single 12.7mm Browning heavy machine gun was fitted atop the turret for use against soft-armored vehicles and low-flying aircraft. 70 rounds of 90mm ammunition could be carried aboard and this was supplemented by 5,000 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition and a further 550 rounds of 12.7mm ammunition. Power-wise, the Pershing was fitted with a Ford GAF 8-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine of 400 to 450 horsepower output allowing top speeds of 25 miles per hour with a 100 mile operational range. Off road performance was considerably less at 5.25 miles per hour. In all, the M26 Pershing weighed in at some 46 tons.

In all, the M26 was the closest tank system that the Allies would field that was similar in scope, function and power to the German Panther. The Panther itself was later labeled as the best "all-around" combat tank of the German Army though the late-war "King Tiger" series was undoubtedly the most potent - lacking only numerical superiority and valuable fuel when attempting to reach its full potential late in the war.

The first M26 Pershings to reach combat theaters arrived in Europe in early 1945. By this time, Germany was fully embroiled in a defensive war along multiple fronts and quickly losing ground by the week - the Soviets were raising hell in the east and the combined Allied contingent was to the west, north and south. In April, Berlin was falling to the Red Army and Hitler committed suicide in his underground bunker. The war in Germany was over in May with the surrender of its military forces conducted by top ranking commanders. The arriving M26 Pershings were delivered simply too late to the theater for any valuable tactical use to be brought about though at least 200 were reportedly on European soil, these with the 3rd and 9th American Armored Divisions and a further 100 examples were being kept in reserve to further bolster strength in the region should they have been needed. Only about twenty M26s would go on to see any sort of combat-related action in all of World War 2 and some M26s attached to the 3rd Armored Division netted themselves a pair of Tiger tanks and a Panther at ranges out to 1,000 yards - a luxury previously afforded only to the latest German tanks. A King Tiger and another Panther were destroyed by "Super Pershings" mounting the developmental T15E1 high-velocity 90mm gun and extra armor near Dessau in early April. Only a few Super Pershings made it to Europe and this was only very late into the war. The Pershing would also form a portion of the Allied armored column crossing the bridge at Remagen over the Rhine River - these arriving under the proud banner of the American 9th Armored Division on March 7th, 1945.

Despite the capitulation of Germany, the Empire of Japan fought on in the Pacific for a few months longer, necessitating the ultimate use of Atomic weapons to end the war. Before that, M26 Pershings arrived in the Pacific Theater and were intended for actions in the invasion of Okinawa against the determined Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). However, as in Europe, these Pershings simply arrived too arrived late to be of any effective use in the grand scheme of the war - a dozen M26s never finishing being offloaded from their amphibious transports at Okinawa before the fighting came to an end. Moreso, the IJA had never fielded competent tanks of medium or even heavy classes and the M4 Sherman seemingly held her ground against such an army - the IJA made much use of outdated light tank classes for the duration of the war.

In the post-war world, M26 Pershing ended up as museum pieces or in storage while a collection served to bolster the NATO defense of Europe from a perceived Soviet invasion during the early phases of the Cold War. Only the United States, Belgium and Italy would ever use the M26 in any true operational form. Variants apart from the T26E3 prototype and M26 initial production models (noted for their use of the M3 gun and a double-baffled muzzle brake) included the M26A1 featuring the M3A1 gun, single-baffled muzzle brake and bore evacuator along the barrel. The M26A1E2 was fitted with the developmental T15E1 main gun (as the "Super Pershing") utilizing single-piece projectiles. The T26E4 was a prototype with the T15E2 main gun and two-piece projectiles. The M26E1 was given the long-barreled T54 gun making use of single-piece projectiles. The M26E2 was completed with a new powerpack and running gear as well as the M3A1 main gun (this evolved to become the M46 "Patton" tank series). The T26E2 was another prototype development armed with the 105mm field howitzer as a self-propelled gun, ultimately becoming the "Heavy Tank M45". The T26E5 was still another developmental form attempting to provide better armor protection with sections as thick as 279mm. For the main production form of the M26 Pershing, the suspension system of choice became a basic torsion type system with Ford engines.

This did not prove the end of the line for the M26, however, for it would go on to see extensive combat actions in the upcoming Korean War (1950-1953). Communist forces from the North - with the blessing of the Soviet Union and China - invaded the South to begin the three-year long conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Initially, progress by the North proved excellent against an ill-prepared UN/US/South Korean contingent. It was not until the allied force got their bearings that a counter attack drove the North Koreas passed the 38th paralellel and into the North. China soon joined the North and drove the allied forces back to the original line before fighting subsided. In the war, the M26 was able to contend well against the fabled Soviet-built T-34/85 - an 85mm armed version of the classic T-34 medium tank that was used to route the German Army from Soviet lands in World War 2. In fact, the M26 acquitted herself quite well in the Korean War, credited with destroying up to half of all T34s engaged. The terrain and accompanying weather was unforgiving and the bravery of M26 crews shown through in the results. It were only highly-modified 76mm-armed M4 Shermans that accounted for the other half of destroyed T34 tanks. Both China and North Korea fielded the Soviet T34 which was made available through a massive Soviet production campaign during World War 2 numbering in the tens of thousands of completed examples. The need for allied tanks proved so great in the Korean War that M26 Pershings were brought back out of storage or uprooted as museum/outdoor displays and prepped for combat.

With the evolution of the battle tank and the arrival of the Main Battle Tank, the M26 Pershing was reclassified as a "Medium Tank". She would, however, prove invaluable to the new generation of American tank designs leaving the drawing boards and influence the multi-generational "Patton" series beginning with the M46 Patton. The M46 was merely a base M26 Pershing design with a new engine, transmission and main gun. This was followed by the M47 (unofficially the "Patton II"), the M48 Patton and culminating in the M60 Patton Main Battle Tank. These tanks spanned the 1950s and 1960s before the arrival of the M1 Abrams in the late 1970s, early 1980s.

The definitive production mark of the Pershing was the simply-titled "M26" mark to which over 2,000 of the type were produced. In all, and including all prototypes and experimental models, it is believed that over 4,550 Pershings were produced.

Taking No-Name Ridge: Four M-26 Tanks vs. Four Russian T-34s

NKPA pressure on the Pusan Perimeter weakened as American strength increased. By mid-August they were ready to throw the North Koreans back. The 5th Marines were assigned to take Obong-Ni ridge, known to the Marines as “No-Name Ridge.” Supporting them were four M-26 tanks of the 1st Platoon, Company A of the 1st Marine Tank Battalion. The platoon was led by Lieutenant Granville Sweet. The NKPA 4th Infantry Division opposed the Marines with a battalion of the 109th Tank Regiment assisting them in turn.

The day’s fighting ended, and the Americans set up defenses for the night. The tanks pulled back to refuel, but at 8 PM, they received the message code “Flash Purple,” indicating an impending tank attack. Lt. Sweet ordered his tanks forward as each finished topping off. He selected a narrow spot in the road and placed three of his tanks side by side, so if the enemy destroyed his vehicles, their wrecks would block the defile and stop the enemy advance. His tank had a problem with its elevation mechanism, so it stayed back. The defile was near a curve in the road, and the advancing enemy armor would be well within range before they spotted the Pershings.

T22 and T23 prototypes

Problems with the Torqmatic dictated a return to the M4 transmission, leading to the T22. Variants of this medium tank also tested an autoloader, thus reducing the turret crew to just two.
In 1943, the need to replace the M4 was not apparent, and the U.S. Army Ordnance decided to test several electrical systems on the next T23 Medium Tank, mainly the transmission. These entered service but, because of maintenance and supply problems, only operated on U.S. soil for the duration of the war, mainly for training purposes.

Europe [ edit | edit source ]

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.

After the end of World War II, U.S. 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 U.S. occupation zone. ⏌] 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. ⏍] The 1948 tables of organization and equipment for an infantry division included 123 M26 Pershing tanks and 12 M45 howitzer tanks. ⏎] 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. ⏏] While M26 Pershings disappeared from Korea during 1951, tank units deploying to West Germany were equipped with them, ⏐] ⏑] until replaced with M47 Pattons during 1952–53. ⏒] ⏓] The 1952–53 tables of organization and equipment for an infantry division included 135 M47 Patton tanks replacing M26s and M45s. ⏔]

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 U.S. 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.

Usage in battles

The M26 can perform in many different roles in battle. It can be used for supporting heavy tanks with long reload time as IS-2 or T32 or it can take part in flanking manoeuvres: your speed and agility are not brilliant but sufficient for that role. It can also be successful in sniping and ambushing situations. Use the lower profile of Pershing compared to the Sherman's to navigate through. Your depression angle allows you to shoot from upper positions without exposing too much yourself. That´s an advantage compared to most Russian vehicles which have close to no gun depression angle.

The 90 mm M3 gun owns a wide selection of ammunition to be used. The M82 APCBC with an explosive filler is extremely deadly. Usually, successful penetration with this shell can lead to a single-shot knock-out on a vehicle. It lacks a bit of penetration for the rank this vehicle sits at, but it's great for flanking shots. The M304 APCR shot gives the vehicle the ability to penetrate thick armour (provided it is a flat surface). This means you need to target crew positions or modules and aim at (almost) vertical armour. Against a Tiger II (H), this means aiming for the turret right side if he is looking directly at you on the gunner side. At that position, you can penetrate up to a distance of 1,800 m.

Although you are moderately armoured for your class, most enemies can easily destroy you at this rank if you expose your tank too much. To reduce direct impacts in frontal engagements angle the Pershing, the V-shape frontal armour can deflect some shots. Your lower glacis is a weak spot, keep it hidden from the enemy.

One downside to the Pershing is the engine: the power-to-weight ratio is poor and does not allow for very quick manoeuvring. It uses the same Ford GAF that can be found in the late series M4 Medium tanks, with nearly 8 tons more weight. Being slightly underpowered, the M26 has a hard time climbing hills. You will need to know the maps and areas you are operating in and use them wisely.

Urban maps (Poland, Eastern Europe, Hürtgen Forest, Cologne) are perfect for ambushing, use your moderate speed to catch off-guard heavier enemy tanks. Drop arty in front of suspected enemy positions if you need to cross a street and relocate, the smoke screen will cover you.

If you've been able to flank an enemy, your first shot is decisive. Always shoot to disable the gun first (gunner or breech). The best ammo to do this is M304 APCR round, or M82 APCBC shell. M304 will guarantee a 100% successful shot, M82 can also work very good and might deal heavy damage inside the turret. But some Germans have tracks on the hull´s sides and if the enemy is in the process of turning the turret, the M82 could bounce. Make sure you not to miss. The large sides of German heavy tanks are tempting targets but its very easy to punch through without dealing damage with the wrong ammo like the T33 or M304 rounds. If you flanked a turretless tank destroyer like a Jagdpanther or a Ferdinand, just aim at the engine and you will have virtually destroyed it.

In arcade battles, it is much harder to flank and ambush enemy tanks because of the tag system (player name). However, the tank is still very playable and you can do different tactics depending on the situation. For urban environments, it's best to move with the team and only poke your head out when you have a good shot and the enemy tank isn't aimed at you. In open terrain, you will still be able to use the hills to your advantage and side-shot / pot-shot enemy tanks. The main rule here is don't show your sides and stay low.

In realistic and simulator battles, The M26 shouldn't be in the toughest part of the match facing very heavily armoured enemies. It's better to stay behind front lines supporting or try a flanking manoeuvre, you can´t be spotted in the mini-map. The high battle rating means you can be up-tiered and fight Cold War era tanks in simulator mode. The compression and matchmaking can put you into situations where enemies are especially hard to penetrate, even from the sides.

Pros and cons

  • The M82 shot has a high chance of destroying most tanks in one shot if it penetrates
  • The M82 shot can even instantly incapacitate all crew from a turret shot
  • Side armour is adequate enough for angling tactics
  • Low profile, excels at a hull down position
  • An excellent brawler
  • Nice handling at 5 th gear
  • .50 calibre machine gun on top helps for anti-aircraft defences
  • Fast reverse speed
  • There is a turret plate behind the gun mantlet that will sometimes absorb shots
  • An underrated tank, you should use this to your advantage
  • Very fast turret rotation
  • Very good hull traverse at speeds
  • Good top armour, can resist aircraft guns
  • APCR round can penetrate a lot of stuff that can't be penetrated by the stock shell or the M82
  • The M26 provides a good learning curve for the M46
  • Turret ring can be easily damaged
  • Armour is a bit inadequate for a 6.3 tank
  • Very rarely able to reach a top speed
  • Slow acceleration
  • Has no gun stabilizer unlike the T25, but is still pretty accurate when moving due to stable suspension
  • Heavy handling at low speed
  • 90 mm gun penetration is low compared to the German Kwk 8.8 L/71, the British 84mm QF 20-pounder and Soviet 122 mm D-25T
  • Lower glacis and hull machine gun are a weak spot
  • Low reactive mobility
  • Frequently struggles to engage enemy tanks from the front

Pershing M26 Tank - History

on April 21, 1945
A Spearhead One-on-One Tank Victory
by Vic Damon, Staff

Only three days before the 3rd Armored Division's final combat action of WWII, a Super Pershing of the 33rd Armored Regiment met and defeated the most powerful and most heavily armored German tank of the war - the legendary 77-ton King Tiger, also known as the Tiger II or Tiger Royal. It would be the first and only meeting between a King Tiger and the Super Pershing, a modified standard M26 Pershing weighing 7 tons heavier at 53 tons - an almost "secret" tank that, to this day, remains largely an enigma to military historians.

Only two Super Pershings were ever built, and the 3AD had the only one in the European Theater - an experimental version with its remarkably long barrel. Arriving very late in the war (March, 1945), it was field tested and modified inside Germany and subsequently saw about ten days of actual combat action, beginning several days after the Battle of Paderborn and ending with the Battle of Dessau near the Elbe River.

The Super Pershing (aka T26E4-1) was equipped with a new long-barreled T15E1 90mm gun that was designed to out-perform the German high-velocity 88mm on the King Tiger. In testing, this new U.S. gun had successfully penetrated 8.5 inches of armor at 1,000 yards at 30 degrees. Even more remarkable, it had penetrated 13 inches of armor at 100 yards. The special 90mm ammunition had produced a muzzle velocity of 3,850 feet per second, or some 600 feet per second faster than the 88mm of the King Tiger. The new 90mm round also proved to have superior range and accuracy over the previous version.

Army ordnance technicians (in the U.S. and Europe) had been anxious about getting the new tank into combat, hoping to match it against a King Tiger. But by April, 1945, German armor west of Berlin had dramatically thinned out, not to mention an extreme shortage of fuel, and the odds of spotting the monster German tank were slim. But in Dessau on April 21, "luck" would befall the Super Pershing crew commanded by SSgt Joe Maduri, a veteran 3AD tanker in his tenth straight month of combat.

The 3AD had begun a four-pronged attack on the city, which was heavily defended. Division armor were finally able to enter the city slowly after numerous concrete tank barriers were destroyed. With 3AD tanks fanning out, and 36th Infantry riflemen following, the Super Pershing reached an intersection and began to round a corner to its right. Unknown to its crew, a King Tiger had apparently been waiting in ambush at a distance of two blocks or roughly 600 yards away, and in the same direction that the Americans were turning into.

At this distance, easily within its capability, the Tiger fired at the Super Pershing. But its infamous high-velocity 88mm shell, of the type that had destroyed so many American tanks and vehicles during the war, went high and was not even close. Gunner Cpl John "Jack" Irwin, only 18 years old, responded almost instantly with a round that struck the Tiger's huge angled glasis, or front plate. But the shot, a non-armor-piercing high explosive (HE) shell, had no effect. Ricocheting off the armor, it shot skyward and exploded harmlessly. The Super Pershing had been loaded with an HE only because Irwin had been expecting urban targets, such as buildings, personnel, and light anti-tank guns. "AP!", he shouted to his loader "Pete," which meant an armor-piercing shell would be next.

Maduri and crew then felt a concussion or thud on the turret. It was never known if this shot came from the Tiger, or from some other anti-tank weapon. In any case, no serious damage was done - probably a lucky glancing impact. In the next instant, Irwin aimed and fired a second time, just as the royal monster was moving forward and raising up over a pile of rubble. The 90mm AP round penetrated the Tiger's underbelly, apparently striking the ammo well and resulting in a tremendous explosion that blew its turret loose. With near certainty, the entire crew was killed.

But there was no time to examine their "trophy." A battle was raging, and the Super Pershing continued down the street, passing the lifeless and burning King Tiger. Tough fighting still lay ahead, as German bazooka, Panzerfaust , and machine-gun fire came from windows and doorways.

The encounter with the King Tiger had been "short and sweet," lasting less than twenty seconds. It may not have been the titanic "slug fest" that could have occurred on an open field, but it was an overwhelming victory for the quick-reacting Super Pershing crew. The battle for Dessau would end completely on the following day, but not without the Super Pershing destroying another German heavy tank (believed to be a 50-ton Panther Mark V) with two shots. The first disabling its drive sprocket, and the second round completely penetrating the tank's side armor. That apparently set off an internal blast, again probably from stored ammo. And, still in Dessau, that was followed by Maduri and crew forcing the commander of a German medium tank to surrender without firing a shot. For the German crew, out of ammo for their main gun, the intimidating "look" of that long-barrel 90mm gun that must have destroyed any remaining will to fight or flee.

[Note: Sources include the book Spearhead in the West (1946 edition) the book Death Traps by Belton Cooper and the book Another River, Another Town and personal writings by John P. Irwin.]
More background on the "Super Pershing" (T26E4-1)
by Vic Damon, Staff

In mid-March, 1945, fresh from gunnery trials in the United States, a single Pershing T26E4-1 arrived at the Maintenance Battalion of the 3rd Armored Division inside Germany. In his book Death Traps (see feature story in ths same website section) Belton Cooper writes, "Having already lost several of the new [Pershing] M26's [aka T26] to high-velocity German anti-tank guns, we knew that its armor was still inferior to that of the Mark VI Tiger."

Cooper writes, "Anyone standing behind an M4 Sherman could see the projectile go out and curve down slightly as it sped toward the target. This new high-velocity gun was entirely different. When we fired the first round, we could barely see the projectile. It appeared to rise slightly as it struck the target. This was an optical illusion, but the effect was awesome. When it hit the target (a knocked out German tank-destroyer/assault gun), sparks shot about sixty feet into the air, as though a giant grinding wheel had hit a piece of metal."

Cooper described how, despite the 3AD maintenance crew painstakingly and very creatively adding seven tons of weight in additional armor to the Super Pershing, its highest speed had only been dropped by about five miles an hour. Its 550-horsepower engine had proven itself. Cooper felt that the tank's maneuverability and firepower had it marked for great success in combat. "We realized that we had a weapon," Cooper writes, "that could blast the hell out of even the most powerful German Mark VI Tiger."

But, finally, on April 4, 1945, between the Weser River and Northheim, the Super Pershing was to fire its gun in anger. Cooper writes, "Some of the German units that had fallen back from the bridgehead set up a few isolated strong points along our route. One such position on a wooded hill . opened fire as the column passed. The Super M26, in the forward part of the column, immediately swung its turret to the right and fired an armor-piercing shot toward an object on the forward slope of a wooded hill about fifteen hundred yards away [over three-quarters of a mile]. A blinding flash of sparks accompanied a tremendous explosion as debris shot fifty feet into the air . The unknown object was a tank or self-propelled gun had it been a half-track or other vehicle, the flash would not have been as large . The rest of the column let go with a deluge of tank and automatic weapons fire, and the Germans soon broke off the action . we didn't know what the Super M26 hit . no one was anxious to go over and check it out."

The King Tiger vs. the M26 Pershing

If there is anything the Germans do well, and there is a lot, they definantly know how to build a great tank. And we are comparing the king of them all, the Tiger II heavy main battle tank. The challenger, though, is coming from the United States of America, the M26 Pershing main battle tank. It looks like we’re going into Rocky IV for this one, though Rocky faced a Russian, not a German.

Here we have the ki n g of the beasts, the Tiger II, or as the Germans called it, the Konigstiger. This tank was one of the heaviest, most thickly armored, and powerfully armed tanks of the enitre World War, and that’s saying something with the tanks that were present during the conflict. The King Tiger was so strong that only one Allied tank (one!) in the entire Allied arsenal could even remotely stand a chance to face the King head on the Sherman Firefly.That is, until the Pershing came along. Plus, the Firefly could only have a chance if it fired a specific type of ammunition. But we’re not talking about the Firefly, we’re talking about the King Tiger, so let’s get down to stats.

The King Tiger comes in weighing at 76.9 tons, so like its predecessor the Tiger I, it could only travel and fight on certain terrains. And just like the Tiger, the King Tiger used the 88mm KwK 43 L/71 anti-aircraft gun. Unlike the Tiger, the King Tiger had a lot thicker armor. The front facing armor of the tank was 185mm. This made it virtually inprenetrable. The King’s only downside was that it suffered from repeated mechanical failures due to its extreme weight. Let’s see how the U.S. fares in this contest.

And here is the Pershing getting blown up…no I’m kidding! The M26 Pershing is the tank that is firing its main gun. Getting serious here, the M26 Pershing was designed during World War II to specifically deal with the heavy German tanks, like the King Tiger. Unlike the King Tiger, the Pershing was only deployed late in the game, and those that did see combat, were limited in numbers. So even though it was used in World War II, the Pershing saw more action in the Korean War. On to the numbers!

The Pershing has a weigh in of 46.1 tons, making it light for a heavy battle tank, which gives it some menuverability on all terrains. The big gun that is being used in the picture is the M3 90mm anti-tank gun on a M67 gun mount. According to Cowper and Pannell’s Tank Spotter Guide, this was done to allow the crew to reload the gun without lowering it or losing sight of the target. Plus, the gun was bigger than the King Tiger’s, which allowed the Pershing to penetrate the King’s armor. But, like the KV-1 in the previous article, the King was using an anti-aircraft gun, so the King still had a pretty big gun too. The Pershing also had 115mm thick armor on its front, not thick by the King’s standards, but thick enough to handle any other tank’s gun. All in all, the M26 Pershing was a good tank, and it was the basis for future tanks until the 1980s.

So, we have two of the biggest tanks to enter World War II go toe to toe with each other. I’d like to chalk this one up to the Pershing, only because it was to be used as a basis for future tanks, giving it some sort of longevity. The King Tiger, though, is still King of the Tanks during World War II, but I’ll let you decide and hit me up with a comment on which one you think wins!

Making a Heavy Heavier, the T26E4

The M26 Pershing was a much-needed boost to the fighting capabilities of the American armored units. The nemesis’ of the “good old” M4 Sherman, the Panthers and Tigers, were no longer untouchable foes. The M26’s powerful 90 mm (3.54 in) gun was a nasty surprise to these dreaded Axis vehicles.

This T26E4 prototype was based on a T26E1 vehicle. The old designation can still be seen on the turret. Here seen at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds – Credits: Photographer unknown
The M26 would, however, still come to struggle against the newer threat of the Tiger II or “King Tigers” dug into the heartlands of Germany. As such, it was decided to up-gun the M26 by installing a more powerful 90 mm cannon, the T15E1. This vehicle was based on the first T26E1 vehicle. After trials at Aberdeen proving grounds, it was approved and redesignated as the T26E4 Pilot Prototype No.1. A single tank was then shipped to Europe and was attached to the 3rd Armored Division.
Another prototype was produced, testing the T15E2 gun, using a T26E3 vehicle as a basis. These two prototypes had two recuperators on top of the gun, in order to help manage the stronger recoil of the gun. The second prototype, with the T15E2 two-piece ammunition gun, was the basis for the T26E4 production vehicles.
In March 1945, a limited procurement of 1000 T26E4s was authorized, replacing the same number of M26 Pershings ordered. However, with the end of the war in Europe, the number of T26E4s ordered was reduced to 25. These were manufactured at the Fisher Tank Arsenal. Tests at Aberdeen Proving Ground ran through January 1947. The project was later canceled, with some vehicles going on to be used as target practice. The M26 would, of course, go onto to be upgraded numerous times up to its replacement by the M48 Patton.

The standard T26E4, as it was produced – Credits: Photographer unknown

History of the Pershing: T20 to M26

The electric transmission was deemed too heavy during the design process, and replaced with a Torqmatic in the two heavier designs, resulting in the T25E1 and T26E1 tanks.

Efforts to correct the defects were made from May 22nd to September 10th, by which point the first vehicle accumulated 4025 miles and the second 1805 miles. A new Ford V-8 engine operated satisfactorily for 1500 miles. Among many modifications made to the vehicle was a mount for a crane capable of carrying the tank's power train.

On June 29th, 1944, the designation of the vehicle changed again, this time from "Medium Tank, T26E1" to "Heavy Tank, T26E1". The tank is described as "It has a weight of 43 tons, a maximum of 4" of armor giving 6.9" basis for frontal plates, and 24" tracks. Except for weight, thickness, and track width, it resembles the medium tank, T25E1".

2750 T26E1 heavy tanks were ordered, and 3188 T26E1 tanks armed with a 105 mm howitzer (later designated T26E2), despite the fighting compartment of the latter not having been designed yet. At this point, 122 T23 tanks have been made (including a prototype made in November of 1943), with the remaining 128 tanks due by October of 1944, 40 T25E1 tanks have already been manufactured, and 6053 T26 tanks are required for 1944 and 1945. 10 T26E1 tanks with 90 mm guns have been produced up to this point, with 105 more to come before the end of the year. The remainder of required T26E1 tanks armed with 90 mm guns and all T26E1 tanks armed with 105 mm howitzers will be produced in 1945.

The Heavy Tank, T26E3, nicknamed "General Pershing", was standardized as the Heavy Tank, M26 on March 29th, 1945.