|Manufacturer||Detroit Tank Arsenal and Fisher Tank Arsenal|
|Primary Role||Heavy Tank|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
In mid-1943, United States Army generals argued amongst themselves over the need for heavy tanks. Those who supported the effort introduced the T25 and T26 prototype tanks which were equipped with 90-millimeter guns and heavy armor plating. Production of these heavy tanks was delayed and did not start until Nov 1944 for a number of reasons, some of which political; for example, General Lesley McNair believed the best way to handle enemy tanks was to build a powerful force of lightly armored and mobile self-propelled guns, ie. tank destroyers, which were cheaper to build than tanks. They were first deployed to the front in Jan 1945, with US 3rd and 9th Armored Divisions receiving the first examples; the US 3rd Armored Division would be the first to put them in combat. In Mar 1945, these heavy tanks were redesignated M26 Pershing. By the end of the European War, 310 M26 Pershing tanks operated in Europe, but only 20 of them saw combat.
On 31 May 1945, a cargo ship transported 12 M26 Pershing heavy tanks from the United States to Okinawa, Japan, but by the time they arrived, there was already little need for their service. When they were completely unloaded at 4 Aug, fighting on Okinawa had already ended.
In May 1946, they were reclassified as M26 Pershing medium tank. 2,212 M26 Pershing tanks were built in 1944 and 1945.
In 1948, 800 M26 Pershing tanks received engine and transmission upgrades; these tanks were redesignated M26E2. In Jul 1948, these upgraded models were redesignated M26E2 Patton. In Nov 1949, the M26E2 Patton tanks were redesignated once again, this time simply M46. Before the end of the 1940s, an additional 360 M26 Pershing medium tanks would be converted to the M46A1 standard.
In Asia, both M26 Pershing and M46 medium tanks saw combat in the Korean War. In Europe, the US occupation forces in Germany continued to be equipped with M26 Pershing and M46 medium tanks until 1953. In 1952, several hundred M26 Pershing and M46 medium tanks were leased to Belgium, France, and Italy at no cost; some of those tanks would not become retired until 1969.
M26 Pershing/M46 Timeline
|22 Dec 1944||M26 Pershing heavy tanks were ordered to be deployed to forward US Army units.|
|25 Feb 1945||US 3rd Armored Division used M26 Pershing heavy tanks in combat for the first time near the Roer River in the Belgian-German border region.|
|31 May 1945||12 M26 Pershing heavy tanks departed the United States board a cargo ship for Okinawa, Japan. They would arrive too late to see combat.|
|21 Jul 1945||12 M26 Pershing heavy tanks arrived at Okinawa, Japan.|
|30 Jul 1948||The upgraded M26 Pershing medium tanks were redesignated M26E2 Patton (later again redesignated M46).|
|Machinery||One Ford GAF 8-cyl gasoline engine rated at 450hp|
|Armament||1x90mm M3 gun (70 rounds), 2x7.62mm Browning M1919 machine guns, 1x12.7mm Browning M2 machine gun|
|Speed||8 km/h off-road; 40 km/h on-road|
|Machinery||One Continental AVDS-1790-5A 12-cyl air-cooled twin-turbo gasoline engine rated at 810hp|
|Armament||1x90mm M3A1 gun (70 rounds), 2x7.62mm Browning M1919A4 machine guns, 1x12.7mm Browning M2 machine gun|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945