In the waning hours of World War II, the United States Army introduced the M26 Pershing tank to the battlefield. The Pershing was the US Army’s effort to provide a heavy tank for its armored and mechanized forces fighting overseas. The M4 Sherman had been the workhorse for the US during the war, but it lacked the heavy hitting punch to square off against the heavy tanks of the German military. Like the German Tiger tank, which sported the fearsome 88mm main gun, the Pershing was equipped with the 90mm main gun, derived from the M3 anti-aircraft gun. While the Pershing would see little action in World War II, it would see service with the US Army in the Korean War.
In Korea, the Pershing outmatched the North Korean T-34/85. Despite its prowess in battle, the Pershing was limited by the terrain of the Korean Peninsula. This led to its replacement by the M46 Patton, a derivative medium-tank version of the Pershing. The Patton saw action in the Korean War, but like its predecessor the Pershing, it was soon replaced in the US Army’s arsenal with the M47 Patton. The M47 did not see any combat action with the United States, but it was widely sold to US allies around the world and would see action in Cold War conflicts throughout the globe.
The M47 Patton was replaced in 1961 with the M60 Patton. This updated version of the Patton tank would see a transition from the 90mm main gun to a 105mm main gun. The M-60 tank would be the most produced tank in US inventory since the production of the M4 Sherman. Over 15,000 M60 Patton’s were produced from 1960-1987. The M60 saw service in both the US Army and the US Marine Corps, with the Marines still using the M60 during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Because of the large production number and sale to numerous nations around the world, thousands of M60 Patton remain in service.
Look for more information regarding the history of the M26 Pershing during World War II in the future World at War issue #45 with the article “Late to the Party: The US M26 Pershing Tank in World War II” and join the conversation on Facebook!