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M-26 General Pershing Heavy Tank

The M-26 Pershing Heavy Tank (with an M-46 Patton to the left) carried a crew of five. See more tank pictures.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The M-26 Pershing Heavy Tank was the logical result of a program to upgrade the M-4 Sherman Medium Tank. In May 1942 the Ordnance Department received orders to begin development of a new medium tank that would eliminate some of the shortcomings of the M-4.

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Specifications were established for a new series of experimental tanks designated T-20, T-22, T-23, T-25, and T-26. In general, the specifications called for a tank that would weigh no more than 32 tons, mount an automatic 75mm gun, have frontal armor of at least 4 inches, and be capable of speeds up to 25 miles per hour.

During the next 18 months, the program moved along several lines. Various transmissions, including an electric system designed by General Electric, were tried. The electric system proved too heavy, and a General Motors hydromatic transmission with a torque converter was selected. An auto-loading mechanism was designed and tested, but it proved to be unreliable and was dropped.

A new Ford gasoline engine designed specifically for tank use was chosen. The powerful new engine gave the final design a road speed of 30 miles per hour. Torsion bar suspension was selected.

The final design was similar to the track system used on the M-24 Chaffee, except that it was driven through a rear sprocket. It had six road wheels and five return wheels.

The design work culminated in the T-26E1 in 1943. However, by this time it was no longer a medium tank. The T-26E1 mounted a 90mm gun, 3.93 inches of armor, and weighed 43.25 tons in its prototype model, 8.5 tons more than the M-4.

The T-26E1, redesignated the M-26 General Pershing Heavy Tank in January 1945, was thought to be a match for anything that Germany could throw against it, including the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I.

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