Recently I’ve run across a small little debate about what exactly was the M26 Pershing? Was it a heavy tank or a medium tank?
This is a tricky question as it was technically both. That answer, even though correct, can be made more define. From what I’ve read, the M26 was a medium tank more than it was a heavy. On June 29th, 1944 the US Ordnance, who wanted a heavy tank to boost morale, redesignated the T26(M26)s as a heavy tank. Before this the T26 was a de facto medium tank that was developed from the T20 series of medium tanks. From June 29th, ’44 to the end of WWII the M26 kept its title as a heavy. After WWII the M26 was once again designated as a medium tank.
During WWII the M26 could do pretty much anything the IS-2 or Tiger could do. It is directly comparable to both heavies. This argument falls short when you throw in the Centurion, Panther, and T-44 into the discussion as they are also directly comparable to the M26. The M26 was developed to be able to do heavy tank things, but it was also built to do the job of a medium tank. During its service with the US Army it was primarily used in the medium tank role, doing medium tank things. It was very much a medium tank in practice even if it was called a heavy during the war. An exception to this is the USMC Heavy Tank Battalions which shoehorned in the M26 until they received M103s.
So the M26 was built as a medium tank(that could still do heavy tank things), was used as a medium tank, and was called a medium tank before and after its stint as a heavy. Later variants of the M26, such as the M46 & M47 are labeled as medium tanks. So I am confident calling the M26 a medium tank and not a heavy tank.
Another M26 “myth” is that Gen. Patton was the reason the M26 wasn’t fielded earlier(according to some they mean M26s by D-Day). To put it shortly, Gen. Patton had no real influence on tank development or tank deployment. Lt. Gen McNair and other higher ups in the US Army Ground Forces higher ups were the ones who opposed and delayed the T26 project. The reason behind them doing so is that the M4 was doing its jobs adequately and building a new tank design and all the other logistics is just not worth it. Gen. Devers and others, who favored the T26, eventually got their way with the T26 project. Even if there was no objection to the T26, it is very unlikely you would have large amounts of ready M26s by June 1944. The T26 just didn’t advance far enough in development in late 1943 to be ready by mid ’44 in any numbers.
I might as well point out that in WoT the M26 Pershing is missing its 500 hp Ford GAF(which is weaker than the stock engine). The 90 mm T15E2M2 gun is also unhistorical as it didn’t exist. The T15E2M2 could easily be replaced with the 90 mm T54 gun which should have the same ballistic performance, if not slightly better. Another hypothetical is to combine the M26 and M46 into one tier 8 tank, might save that for later though.
Hunnicutt’s Pershing, Zaloga’s M26/M46 Pershing Tank & The_Chieftain’s posts about the M26 being used as a medium except in the USMC.