America’s standard medium tank of World War II, the M4 Sherman, had deficiencies in both firepower and protection when compared to the best German tank designs. The Pershing was designed to take on big and powerful tanks like the Panther and Tiger encountered in Europe.
The M26 Pershing was equipped with a 90mm high velocity M3 cannon and was protected by a full 4.3 inches of armor on its turret and front. The sides of the hull were 2 inches thick.
Plagued with delays, the first Pershings arrived in Europe in early 1945 and served in the U.S. 1st Army. Though more than 300 were overseas by the end of the fighting, only the initial shipment of 20 tanks saw combat. A group of five Pershings assisted in the capture the Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine River in March of 1945. The big tanks, however, were too heavy to cross the damaged span and had to be barged to the other side days later.
History of the Artifact
In the early stages of the Korean War, many Pershings were deployed to combat, occasionally encountering Soviet-built T-34s. While the M26’s 90mm gun could penetrate the armor of a T-34 with ease, the Pershing’s size and weight made it a difficult machine to operate in Korea’s mountainous terrain. By the early 1950s, in both Europe and Asia, Pershings were being replaced with newer M46 Patton tanks.