M26 Pershing


M26 Pershing

Although heavy tank development had been proceeding on a somewhat dilatory basis during the Second World War, there was no real sense of urgency evident. It was not until it became evident after the Normandy invasion that the M4 Sherman was completely outclassed by the later German tanks that any coherent impetus was delivered. Even then many of the powers that be considered the Sherman adequate and did not want to hold up supplies by using shipping capacity on a heavier vehicle.

After the M6 series of development vehicles, attention focused on the T20 (experimental) series, which eventually lead to the M26 that was shipped over just in time to take part in the in the closing months of the war. The M26 sported a 90mm gun and 103mm (4in) of armour. It had a satisfying low-slung appearance, the main disadvantage being that the same Ford 500hp engine from the later Shermans had to drag another 10 tons of weight around. Range was also predictably low 100 miles (160km). Although late on the scene, the Pershing made its mark in several clashes with both Tiger I and Panthers, noticeably one in a famous series of pictures outside Cologne Cathedral which was knocked out by an M26. A solitary special variant of the M26, the T26E4 with a super-velocity 90mm gun and twice the length of the standard version, was rushed into theatre. The recoil recuperation system of this tank was mounted on the roof of the turret instead of inside it. Surplus armour from a wrecked Panther was added to the glacis plate and several German tanks were knocked out (various identities suggested) by this Frankenstein creation.

After the Second World War things slid back to a more peaceful pace. The North Korean invasion caught everyone by surprise, and the only armour available were M24 Chaffee light tanks, which were predictably helpless against T34/85s. The arrival of M26 evened things up somewhat, helped by the development of M46, which put a newer more powerful engine transmission into the M26, together with a bore evacuator on the main gun. By the end of 1950 armoured conflict had petered out in Korea to the extent that U.S. tank personnel were happy to potter about in M4 A3E8 Shermans.

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