The M26 General Pershing was a heavy tank used by the United States during World War II. It was the first heavy tank to enter service with the US Army, and the only heavy tank to see combat service..


The Pershing had an 8-cylinder, gasoline powered, Ford GAF engine which was capable of propelling the Pershing at speeds of up to around 48 km/h. It also had a 3 speed forward, 1 speed reverse transmission and a crew of five men.[1]

The Pershing had an armament of one 90 mm M3 main gun, one 12.7 mm Browning M2HB, and two 7.62 mm Browning M1919s, one mounted coaxally and one mounted in the hull. Around 70 rounds of ammunition were carried for the main gun, about 600 of 12.7 mm ammunition, and about 5,000 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition. The weight of the Pershing was about 41,900 kilograms. and the length was about 8.5 meters. The armor protection on the front of the tank was a little over 115 mm while the sides were about 50 mm. The rear was about the same as the sides in terms of armor. Furthermore, the Pershing utilized a torsion bar suspension system.

Being armed with such a fearsome main gun and being protected to the same extent, the Pershing was certainly a heavy tank that could deal with its German counterparts, the Tiger and Panzer V Panther. However, with so few examples being produced during the war, the German heavies could continue to maintain superiority on the battlefield, fighting mainly against late war M4 Shermans and various other British tanks like the Cromwell.


The M26 Pershing had only one variant that were used in World War II. That variant was the T26E1-1, or "Super Pershing" (contrary to popular belief, the Super Pershing that was sent to Europe wasn't a T26E4. Versions built from T26E3s were designated T26E4s, and the first Super Pershing was built from a T26E1, hence the designation.), which featured a much higher velocity 90 mm anti-tank gun. After the war, other variants and prototypes were built. The M26E2 was a testbed for a new, more powerful engine, and was the first step in developing the M46 Patton Medium Tank. The M26A1 Pershing was fitted a new M3A1 main gun which itself included a bore evacuator, when there were a lack of new engines to bring the M26 tanks up to M46 standard.

Post-war, the M26E1 (not to be confused with the T26E1) variant was fitted with a 90 mm T54 gun, performance-wise identical to the 90 mm T15 gun. The T54 removed the need for stabilizer springs on the turret, but required a counterweight on the back of the turret due to the weight of the gun.


M26 Pershing at rest, Germany 1945

An M26 Pershing in Germany, 1945.

The M26 Pershing prototype rose out of the need for a replacement of the venerable M4 Sherman medium tank because of the many tank advancements made by Germany.[2] The M26 was a continuation of the experimental T20 series of medium tank prototypes, and was designed in parallel with the similar T25 (which was later dropped due to it's inferior armor protection). The first prototype was designated T26 (not to be confused with the Soviet T-26 light tank), then T26E1, then T26E2, and so on until the T26E5 which was the last prototype until the M26 design was finished. The T26E3 (which was to be standardized later as the M26) was given the classification of a heavy tank due to Army Ground Forces' lack of a proper heavy tank and for morale boosting purposes.

The Pershing first saw combat in early 1945 in the European Theater during the battle for Remagen Bridge across the Lower Rhine on March 7, 1945, and even saw service on Okinawa in May.[3] However, they only saw limited service, with very few if any actually fighting with Axis armored vehicles. Typically, M26s were used to mop up remaining German troops and secure territory into Germany itself, and only 310 reached their units before the war ended.  In total, about 2,000 Pershings were made and it inspired several new tank designs including the Patton series. After World War II the M26 was redesignated as a medium tank and was used mainly in the Korean War, fighting now North Korean T-34/85s and other former Soviet designs.


  3. The World's Greatest Tanks - Roger Ford