M26 tanks in US Armoured divisions

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M26 tanks in US Armoured divisions

Post by scarecrow » 21 Sep 2006 00:21

During WWII, which US Armoured divisions recieved M26 Pershing tanks, how many and when?
cédric :)

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Post by Andy H » 21 Sep 2006 04:14

The 3rd Armoured received them I think just over 300 reached the ETO before the wars end, and only one was lost in combat, and was in the 3rd Armoured.

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Post by scarecrow » 21 Sep 2006 11:46

Was the 3rd Armoured the only division to recieve M26?

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Post by sample » 21 Sep 2006 21:38

Also the 9th Armoured Divisions received some Pershings; these tanks supported the capturing of the Remagen bridge.

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How Many?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 22 Sep 2006 02:48

I have on my shelf here Zalogas book on the M26 & will give his answers to the question. Unfortunatly I dont have a copy of Hunnicutts book, which is the ultimate document on the Pershing. If you ever find a copy of Hunnictt at a sale pay whatever it takes. A truly incredible book.

Anyway:

December 1944. 40 T26E3 tanks complete & ready for use. After some heated disagreement 20 were sent to Europe and the others sent to Ft Knox for formal testing. Note that the various components had already been extensively tested in 1943 & 1944 on the T20, T22, T23 & T25 test vehicals,

January 1945. the 20 T26 tanks arrive in Antwerp accompanied by 'Zebra Mission' US Army officers and civlian technicians. The Zebra Mission was a effort organized at the end of 1944 to rush new untested antitank weapons to Europe for "Combat Evaluation". All 20 T26 tanks were sent to Gen Hodges 1st Army and divided ten each between the 3rd & 9th Armored divsions. Note: a year earlier at a Jan 1944 armor leaders confrence in Britian LtGen Patton had decalred any new tanks unneeded as the current M4 models were suffcient for all purposes. Crews were trained on the new tanks for several weeks.

25 Febuary 1945. First combat, five T26 with TF Lovelady in the Roer River battle. In the following weeks of Feb-March all 20 T26 tanks were in combat. Several were knocked out with casualties & repaired. Only one was permantley destroyed, when its ammunition burned. One knocked out a Tiger at a range of 900 meters and two MkIV tanks at 1200 meters in the same ten minutes. On 6 March a combat photographer caught a T26 in a duel with a Panther at close range on a street. The Panther took three shots as its turret rotated. 7 March five T26 are present as the Remagen Bridge is captured.

Mid March 1945. One additional T26 arrives. This is the rare T26E1 with the T15E1 extended length 90mm gun. Trials resulted in penetration of 220mm of armor plate sloped at 30 degrees, with a tungsten carbide HVAP round. This vehical had additional armor applied to the hull front glacias, and to the front of the turret giving it a oversize gun mantel. Legend has it this steel was salvaged from a captured Panther tank hull. It is credited with destroying a German tank, possibly a Panther, at 1500 meters in battle near the Weser River.

Late March 1945. A second batch of T26 arrive at Antwerp. 22 went to the 2d Armored & 18 to the 5th Armored Divsions of the 9th Army.

April 1945. Pattons Third Army recieves 30 T26 tanks, all assigned to the 11th Armored Div.

That totals 110 T26E3 & one T26E1 distributed to armored units before combat ended in May 1945.

Zaloga states a total of 310 were sent to Europe with the balance not entering combat.

The T26E1 with the 90mm super gun may not have been the only vehical with modified armor. I've seen accounts of tank crew, and mention by historians of others having extra armor added on. The descriptions of the crews suggest these tanks were usually placed in the lead of the tank columns. The primary criticism from the crews & commanders concerned poor fuel endurance, and lack of engine power. It was equipped with the same 500hp engine of the current M4 Sherman tank models. The Panthers engine was rated at 800 hp, tho the qualility of the Panther engines was such that most did not have the rated horse power.

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Post by Sewer King » 22 Sep 2006 03:04

A few M26 Pershings arrived for the battle of Okinawa in May 1945. But what Army unit used them there? Did they see action there, however little, late, or unnecessary compared to ETO?

I have seen the widely-available picture of the US flag-raising ceremony at Okinawa with the Pershings lined up nearby.

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Post by scarecrow » 22 Sep 2006 10:36

thanks everybody :D

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Post by Carl Schwamberger » 22 Sep 2006 12:12

Sorry I dont have a refrence on hand for the Pacific Theatre. They were most likely assigned to a independant tank battalion. I think there may have been two US Marine & three US Army tank bns there. Following the practice in Europe they may have been distributed amoung all the battalions.

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Post by Andy H » 05 Oct 2006 14:41

The 9th Army lists a total strength of 78 heavy tanks being on its books (units & depots) as of May 5th 1945.

I'm presuming that the Pershing was designated a heavy tank at this time. Yet there are no numbers given prior to this, all the way back to Nov 20th '44

Source: Conquer, The Story of the Ninth Army. Washington Infantry Journal Press 1947

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Post by Carl Schwamberger » 06 Oct 2006 05:05

"I'm presuming that the Pershing was designated a heavy tank at this time."

Yes. Technically it was the called the T26 when delivery for the Zebra mission started at the end of 1944. Zaloga is not clear when the official designation of M26 & Pershing started. The designation as a heavy tank may have reflected internal US Army politics. There had been a lot of opposition from the command of Army Ground Forces to fielding any new tank models, particularly medium tanks. The other experimental tanks from 1943, the T20, T22, T23, T25 were all considered 'medium' tanks by the Army Ordinance Department. Initially the T26 design seems to have been no different. Hunnicutt would probably identify exactly when the redesignation as a heavy tank was officially done. But it will take me weeks to get acess to that book.

"Yet there are no numbers given prior to this, all the way back to Nov 20th '44"

As I posted earlier Zaloga tells that: >Late March 1945. A second batch of T26 arrive at Antwerp. 22 went to the 2d Armored & 18 to the 5th Armored Divsions of the 9th Army.< That totals 40. The other 35 your source gives may have been turned over to 9th Army shortly before 5th May. Or, they may have still been in posession of the 9th Armys ordinance battalions & not yet distributed to combat units. Or Zaloga may be flat out wrong.

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Post by RichTO90 » 06 Oct 2006 15:12

Carl Schwamberger wrote:"I'm presuming that the Pershing was designated a heavy tank at this time."

Yes. Technically it was the called the T26 when delivery for the Zebra mission started at the end of 1944. Zaloga is not clear when the official designation of M26 & Pershing started. The designation as a heavy tank may have reflected internal US Army politics. There had been a lot of opposition from the command of Army Ground Forces to fielding any new tank models, particularly medium tanks. The other experimental tanks from 1943, the T20, T22, T23, T25 were all considered 'medium' tanks by the Army Ordinance Department. Initially the T26 design seems to have been no different. Hunnicutt would probably identify exactly when the redesignation as a heavy tank was officially done. But it will take me weeks to get acess to that book.
The designation story of the Pershing is a bit complicated. First, the only wartime reference to the tank as a "Pershing" appears in some of the correspondence about the ZEBRA Mission in January and February 1945. Second, it was originally given the nomenclature of T26 Medium Tank, although almost immediately after its authorization it began to be referred to as a "Medium-Heavy" tank. It wasn't until June 1944 after testing at Aberdeen PG that Ordnance officially redesignated it as a "Heavy" tank and it wasn't until May 1945 that the T26E3 was standardized as the M26 Heavy Tank.
"Yet there are no numbers given prior to this, all the way back to Nov 20th '44"

As I posted earlier Zaloga tells that: >Late March 1945. A second batch of T26 arrive at Antwerp. 22 went to the 2d Armored & 18 to the 5th Armored Divsions of the 9th Army.< That totals 40. The other 35 your source gives may have been turned over to 9th Army shortly before 5th May. Or, they may have still been in posession of the 9th Armys ordinance battalions & not yet distributed to combat units. Or Zaloga may be flat out wrong.
The ZEBRA Mission consisted of 20 tanks, ten production T26E3, nine rebuilt T26E1/E3 and a single T26E1-1. It was deployed for operational testing but was followed by shipments of production T26E3 in March, April and May of 1945. By 5 May 1945 the status of T26 in the ETO was:

First Army
- 3rd AD 26 operational, 2 in repair
Third Army
- 9th AD 15 operational, 2 in repair
- 11th AD 28 operational, 4 in repair
Ninth Army
- 2nd AD 20 operational, 1 in repair
- 5th AD 17 operational

Thus, a total of 115 were issued to units, plus one that had been written off due to combat damage. In addition, a further 200-odd (my file is at home, I'll update that figure later) had been received in theater and were with Ordnance depots being prepared for issue, by circa 1 June 1944 there would have been about 350-400 issued to units.

BTW, there was actually little "opposition" by AGF (or the Armored Force for that matter) to the fielding of new tank designs. The string of Medium and Light tank design studies that followed completion of the M4 Medium project in 1942 is ample evidence that development wasn't opposed and that it was recognized that new designs were required. But the problem was that US design capability and manufacturing technology was so immature that the designs that followed the M4 Medium and M5 Light (that were both based essentially upon prewar design precepts and technological developments) were essentially either failures or suffered from so many problematic flaws that they were unacceptable (a slightly different meaning than opposed) to AGF, the Armored Force, and often Ordnance as well.

Hope that helps, I'll try to add some more data tonight.

Rich

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Post by Carl Schwamberger » 07 Oct 2006 03:57

Rich...excellent. That matches Zaloga which I drew from in my earlier post.. Good to see his numbers bear out.

The opposition to a new model tank seems to have been there, within AGF HQ. I dont have any at hand here, but memos and statements from McNairs office have quoted to show his attitude. Both Zaloga & Hunnicutt mention HQ AGF as emphaticly telling the Ordinace Dept a replacement for the M4 medium series would not be authorized for production. There is also the infamous armor confrence in Britian in January 1944, where Patton made it known that the M4 medium was a superior tank and no replacement was needed.

The Ordinance Dept was independant of AGF & had the resources to pursue design work whatever McNair or Patton thought. Plus they could point to counter statements from the likes of Devers who argued for imeadiate production of a new & better tank and presented intellegence on the new German AT weapons and tank guns.

There certainly were failures. The M6 heavy was obsolete before it made prototype. And I'm not sure what could have been done with the T14, with its armor thicker than its gun caliber! Well, I suspose someone might have loved it.

The various models from the T20 to T26 had their flaws. But I'd pass lightly over them. These were prototypes & test batches and problems are inevitable with those. I think the opponents were siezing on the test results to argue the M4 replacement was not avalable. If I recall Hunnicutt correctly the examples built in 1944 had most of the problems corrected as opposed to those built in 1943 which had many features never tested. And of course there is always the resistance to radical new ideas. The electric drive transmission the Ordinance Dept was so proud of probably looked just to much like science fiction to the armor commanders.

Looking forward to more jucy details! :D

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Post by LWD » 09 Oct 2006 03:50

There were several arguments against a heavier tank. The bridge width problem and the problems with loading and unloading heavier tanks for instance. If there had been a clear demand and rational from the user for a better tank those could have been delt with. In their absence inertia and industrial rational suggested the historical course.

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Post by RichTO90 » 09 Oct 2006 17:05

Sorry to be late getting back to this, but other matters have had precedent the last few days.
Carl Schwamberger wrote:Rich...excellent. That matches Zaloga which I drew from in my earlier post.. Good to see his numbers bear out.
I am unsurprised that they do, since I believe Zaloga and I are drawing the numbers from the same primary sources. :D
The opposition to a new model tank seems to have been there, within AGF HQ. I dont have any at hand here, but memos and statements from McNairs office have quoted to show his attitude. Both Zaloga & Hunnicutt mention HQ AGF as emphaticly telling the Ordinace Dept a replacement for the M4 medium series would not be authorized for production. There is also the infamous armor confrence in Britian in January 1944, where Patton made it known that the M4 medium was a superior tank and no replacement was needed.
No, the opposition within AGF was not to new tank models, it was to introduction of non-standard items of equipment not provided for in the agreed TO&E's and not planned and trained for in the Army training programs. And there was considerable resistance to new items of equipment that required maintenance and parts replacement levels beyond what was planned for in the service support component of the field armies. So for instance, the primary objection to the T23 Medium Tank was not the "electric drive" per se, it was that the tank in testing was found to require about twice the number of standard maintenance hours as the M4 and that maintenance of the drive system required additional specialized service technicians (essentially specialized electricians) in the battalions and the supporting Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company (Tank). So deploying the tank, which had other serious technical difficiencies as well (braking and speed regulation were two fo many problems cited) would have required more personnel, additional parts inventory (and personnel to maintain that), and so on. The result was that when the 250-odd that were produced were offered to the ETO when it was requesting all available 76mm-armed tanks, the offer was turned down by the theater for just those reasons.

BTW, what armor conference in England in January 1944 was that? The one mentioned by Cooper in "Death Traps"? There is a problem with that, AFAIK it never occurred, at least not with Patton in attendance, he didn't arrive in England until 26 January 1944 and was immediately became involved in the organization of TUSA and the notional FUSAG. Nor in fact did Patton object to the M26 at any time, the objection he had, which was concurred in by all of the senior commanders in the ETO was subtly different from that usually assumed by most writers:

“b. ….The U.S. weapon with best punching [sic, penetration] characteristics available in 1945 is the 90mm gun. All armored authorities (American) consulted concurred in the selection of the above weapons (the other is the 105mm howitzer with HEAT) and in the tentative proportion of three (3) 105’s to one (1) 90. …. [This is the same recommendation as contained in Cable EX-28350, 18 May 1944 see above.]
12. No Armored Commander consulted could see the need for a special vehicle (SPM) for Tank Destroyer units [they are referring to the M-36 Tank Destroyer]. They were unanimous in their opinion that a tank carrying the 90mm gun should be the self-propelled mount of Tank Destroyer units.
13. The following Field Commanders were consulted:

Lt.Gen. G.S. Patton
Maj.Gen. Leroy H. Watson
Maj.Gen. T. Brooks
Maj.Gen. R.G. Grow
Maj.Gen. H.J. Gaffey
Brig.Gen. H.R. Gay

14. FUSAG submitted their views in writing. Their views coincided with those of Field Commanders.” (Ordnance and Equipment Section, SHAEF, Memorandum WJR/tm/Ext.1039, File 470.8, 3 May 1944. Much the same viewpoints are repeated in a concurrence by Patton, the commanding generals of 2nd and 3rd AD, the FUSAG Armored Section, G-3 ETOUSA, G-3 SHAEF and the Chief of the SHAEF AFV&W Section to a memorandum from SHAEF G-3 (Ops) regarding plans for 1945 Tank Requirements that reiterate all these points. SHAEF/21423/SD, 12 May 1944.)
The Ordinance Dept was independant of AGF & had the resources to pursue design work whatever McNair or Patton thought. Plus they could point to counter statements from the likes of Devers who argued for imeadiate production of a new & better tank and presented intellegence on the new German AT weapons and tank guns.
But Ordnance was not independent of Army Service Forces, which gave it its marching orders and controlled its purse strings. And both AGF and ASF were answerable to the Chief of Staff and his General Staff. Decisions on production were essentially by committee, which had all the problems associated with decision by committee that you can imagine. So Ordnance did not work in a vacumn and it was in no way "independant" and it in fact it had multiple dependancies.
There certainly were failures. The M6 heavy was obsolete before it made prototype. And I'm not sure what could have been done with the T14, with its armor thicker than its gun caliber! Well, I suspose someone might have loved it.
In effect the idea of a "heavy tank" was stillborn very early on in the expansion of the Army when it was decided that its proposed role in the separate tank battalions supporting the infantry could as easily be fulfilled by the medium tank. Further development of the T14 was actually to a British requirement for an alternative to the Churchill and likewise came to nought when the British rescinded their requirment.
The various models from the T20 to T26 had their flaws. But I'd pass lightly over them. These were prototypes & test batches and problems are inevitable with those. I think the opponents were siezing on the test results to argue the M4 replacement was not avalable. If I recall Hunnicutt correctly the examples built in 1944 had most of the problems corrected as opposed to those built in 1943 which had many features never tested. And of course there is always the resistance to radical new ideas. The electric drive transmission the Ordinance Dept was so proud of probably looked just to much like science fiction to the armor commanders.
Yes they all did have very real flaws, so bad in fact that until the T23, T25, and T26 projects were approved as design studies in May 1943, there was no impetus from anyone in the Army to adopt the T20 and T22, nor was there resistance to radical new ideas (heck they tried an automatic 75mm gun in the T20 and T22!). And those final three designs were not completed as prototypes until November 1943 (T23) and February 1944 (T25 and T26). There was simply no prospect of getting meaningful numbers of any of those into the combat theaters before fall 1944 - if everything had gone right from that point on - and it didn't. The T23 was rejected for very good reasons, the T25 was dropped in favor of the heavier armor of the T26, and the teething problems of the T26 then delayed its entry into the war by four months.

BTW, the electric drive was also trialed by the Germans and for the same reasons. As in ships it appeared to offer a simple an elegant solution to the problem of transmitting large amounts of power to a drive mechanism. Unfortunately its downsides meant that it was never an effective solution.

And for the US Army they also suffered from having had zero funding to develop purpose-designed, air-cooled, high-power, tank engines interwar (German tank engine development began in 1934, the equivalent US development began in 1942) and their preferred solution developed from aircraft radial engines had been taken from them by fiat and assigned to the Army Air Forces. The result was that all Army tank designs were essentially underpowered, which limited their effective maximum weight; a problem that ultimately doomed the T26 to mediocrity.
Looking forward to more jucy details! :D
Hope that is juicy enough for you. :D

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Post by RichTO90 » 10 Oct 2006 05:24

RichTO90 wrote:Thus, a total of 115 were issued to units, plus one that had been written off due to combat damage. In addition, a further 200-odd (my file is at home, I'll update that figure later) had been received in theater and were with Ordnance depots being prepared for issue, by circa 1 June 1944 there would have been about 350-400 issued to units.
I just remebered to pull the file. The delivery of T26E3 (and the lone T26E1-1) was as follows:

ZEBRA Mission (February 1945) - 20
March 1945 - 24
April 1945 - 208
1-20 May 1945 - 44 (an additional 99 were expected to arrive by the end of the month or were waiting to unload)
Total as of 1 June 1945 - 395 (minus 1 combat loss and 1 that never ran due to major electrical faults) = 393

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