How the Super Pershing got that “Super” to its Name

Author: Andrey Upanov, pictures provided by Pyotr Bityukov

Hello everyone,

Russian server had this nice article about the Super Pershing tank and its development by a Russian historian Andrey Upanov. Thought it might be a good idea to actually translate it. By the way, the article is partially based on Belton Cooper’s Death Traps, an infamous book, responsible for several of the nastiest American tank myths (“Shermans burned all the time”, “You needed 5 Shermans to kill one Panther”, “Sherman was a really bad tank” and others), so… I hope the author took this into account.


In December 1942, the Americans, who fought the Afrika Korps in Tunisia, first encountered the new German armored “beast” by the name of Tiger. After examining the holes that the 88mm gun of the German tank left in the Shermans and Stuarts and finding out about the practical effectiveness of such a gun, the Americans requested their command to give them a vehicle with similiar characteristics.


More armor, better gun

Ever since 1942, the American tank designers worked on a line of prospective medium tanks T20, T22 and T23 with a 76mm gun. When they learned about the new German Tigers and Panthers, the designers increased the caliber of the gun and in the beginning of 1944, they released the new tank T26 with a 90mm gun and 102mm thick frontal armor for testing.

Even as the T26 development continued, people in the American command structure argued, whether the US Army actually needs such a tank. Some generals, including the outstanding George Patton considered it pointlessly powerful. Their opinion was that tanks do not fight other tanks, that is the task of anti-tank guns and self-propelled guns and in order to fight the lightly armored targets and infantry, the 75mm gun of the Sherman medium tank is sufficient. On the other hand, other high ranking officers, such as general Jacob Devers, believed that the creation of a tank with a powerful gun and thick armor is an important and urgent matter.

The arguing about the T26 continued until the 6.6.1944 European D-Day invasion. And here it turned out that the “good old Sherman” is insufficient against the Tigers, Panthers and German AT guns. The work on the T26 tank had to be accelerated. In February 1945, the tank was accepted in service, it was named M26 Pershing and in the same month, first pieces of this vehicle were shipped to Europe.

However, the M26, even though it surprassed the Sherman in most characteristics, still did not reach the power of the German tanks. It was needed to create a heavy tank and even in the USA with their vast industrial potential it was not possible to do that quickly. As a compromise, it was decided to upgun the M26 by installing a more powerful 90mm cannon. After the trials at Aberdeen proving grounds, this tank was shipped to Europe and attached to the 3rd Armored Division.

Belton Cooper’s “Super Pershing”

In the beginning of 1945, major Harrington, the chief of the tank repair service of the 3rd Armored Division, summoned one of his subordinates – lieutenant Belton Cooper, telling him that he is the only person for such a project and to show him what he can do.

(SS: there was a direct quote of Belton Cooper from Death Traps, translated into Russian – it would be stupid to translate it back to English and I don’t have the book, so I will transfer the direct speech into indirect by keeping the meaning).

Harrington definitely did not want to lose the new M26 in first battles. He ordered Lt.Cooper to somehow improve the armor of the tank. The favourite American solution to hang whatever they could get their hands on on the frontal armor and when meeting a Panther and Tiger, to pretend that it’s just a bunch of sandbags didn’t work in this case: the gun was simply too telling. And so Lt. Cooper had to do something else.

He recounts that in the well-stocked German repair shops, they found several huge plates of 38mm thick boiler steel and they decided to make the frontal hull armor as multi-layered. They did cut the two boiler plates into the V-shape, resembling the shape of the frontal armor. That’s how the tank was protected not by the basic 102mm cast armor, but also by two 38mm boiler plates with a gap between them. The Americans believed that despite the relative mildness of the boiler steel, the fact the armor is now multilayered and the angle of armor will force the German shells to ricochet.

The improved armor added cca 5 tons to the weight of the tank, which wasn’t predicted by the original design. The rugged American torsion bars and roadwheels groaned and squeaked, but they held.

Protective “helmet” for the tank

But that wasn’t all! In America, they love the sport clashes with a prolonged ball, which they call “football” for some reason. One of the rules of the game is to protect your head by wearing a helmet. However, there were no helmets available to put on a tank turret. On the other hand, the Americans found a damaged Panther along with the aforementioned workshop. Cooper in his book described the modernization of the M26 turret – they did cut out a piece of the 88mm thick frontal armor from the damaged German Panther and they did cut it to the size of 150 x 60 cm. In the center, they made a hole for the gun barrel and two smaller holes next to it for the aiming device and the coaxial machinegun. This plate was then attached to the gun barrel and welded close to the frontal turret armor.

Now, the M26 was well protected from the German shells in the frontal arc. It’s true that another problem arose: the mechanism, that was supposed to elevate and depress the gun barrel was not designed to move additional 650 kg of armor. As a result, only a memory remained of the elevation angle after installing this ad hoc spaced armor. The tank could drive and shoot, but only the ground in front of it.

Belton Cooper remembers how they fixed this issue as well by balancing the gun by cutting a pair of counterweights from the 38mm boiler plate. This was not sufficient, additional counterweight was needed, so they did cut more 30 x 60 cm plates from the boiler steel and kept attaching them to the rear of the counterweight with clamps. By using trial and error method, they thus managed to balance the gun.

As a result of these “fixes”, the weight of the vehicle was increased by 7 tons and the return wheels sunk 5 centimeters in comparison to the regular vehicle. It was obvious that the new vehicle wouldn’t have good dynamics. But at least the American tankers were happy that they finally recieved a tank with a powerful gun (even though it had a slow two-piece reloading process) and with good frontal protection.

In the 3rd Armored Division, they called the improved tank the “Super Pershing”. According to Belton Cooper, this tank fought twice. For the first time, it was in the beginning of 1945 in Germany between Weser and Nordheim. The tank destroyed an unidentified armored target with its gun. In the second battle, the Super Pershing allegedly destroyed a King Tiger by hitting its bottom and causing an ammo rack explosion.

Did you know that…

- M26 was developed by the Americans as a vehicle equal to the German King Tiger
- there was a plan to produce 1000 Super Pershings, but in the end only 25 were produced
- the vehicle recieved its official designation T26E4 in March 1945
- the thickness of the frontal armor without the additional spaced armor was 102mm, which was twice as much than the one of the Sherman, the most numerous tank of the Allies
- the 90mm T15E1 gun was so powerful that during the testing, its shell penetrated the German Jagdpanzer IV tank destroyer from the front, went right through it, penetrated the rear and exited the vehicle, ending in the ground










52 thoughts on “How the Super Pershing got that “Super” to its Name

  1. - the 90mm T15E1 gun was so powerful that during the testing, its shell penetrated the German Jagdpanzer IV tank destroyer from the front, went right through it, penetrated the rear and exited the vehicle, ending in the ground

    I want to see that coming to WoT :)

    nice article and translation SS

      • His point was that he want more advanced penetrating system where shell could go trough the tank and hit something behind it and not “disappear” inside of the tank. Also SP doesn’t need APCR to pen JgpzIV frontally.

        • I remember a video from when I was in Basic Training (as an M1 Tanker) where an M1 (the 105mm version) shot a sabot round through three M60A3 hulls (lined up front-to back, with all equipment & engines) and kept going. It was a night shot so the tracer could be seen continuing downrange.

    • It is stated that at 1000 yards(994m) the 90mm T15E1 APHV (APCR) could penetrate 221mm of armor.
      someone made a estimation of ~331mm of penetration at 100m with APHV,

  2. A really nice read. Rather enjoyed that. The pictures look impressive and it’s good to see a tank actually exist in photos, not on blueprints/sketches.

    The shells penetrating the whole tank should be introduced into the game. After all, it is possible.

  3. I remember Jingles mentioning this upgrade process of the Pershing to the Super Pershing.

    The main idea was that this thing had a very powerful cannon(the 90mm) that required those extra springs to counterbalance it(before the aplique armor was attached). Afterwards, it’s pretty much as you described.

    As for the Flatpanzer test, I remember Jingles mentioning something along the lines of firing on it from about 1 mile away, the shell entered through the front, penetrated the final drive, went through the fighting compartment, the firewall, engine, some other part of the transmission, out the back and buried itself in the ground behind the tank so far, they gave up on trying to find it later. But that’s because the gun was designed to fire APCR from the getgo and boy was it a good shell :).

    • In other words in the game it should have APCR as standard ammo instead of this tier VI AP junk.
      Working as intended. /facepalm

        • I would surely cry my eyes out that finally SP would have a good point. Not.
          Did anyone complain that Lowe is op with 234 penetration?

          Armour used to be reasonable(ISU 152 AP hit was able to pen it easily even before the nerf) even if weakspots were prominent and easily hit(not prominent enough for idiots so they nerfed it).
          Currently it has no positive attribute…. just a fat turd of a tank.

      • Well…yes, in game it should have a cannon that can penetrate mostly anything contemporary as it was(mostly) imagined as a counter to the german big cats.

        But as this needs to be a game and it must be firstly balanced against it’s opponents and afterwards historical…you can imagine why you can’t simply have a gun that can point-and-shoot a damn Tiger 2 square in the frontal plate, can’t you? :)

        • “you can imagine why you can’t simply have a gun that can point-and-shoot a damn Tiger 2 square in the frontal plate, can’t you? :)”
          Yet Lowe and T34 have exactly that and none complain. I wonder why?

    • Well that’s because Jingles was citing Death Traps as well for that video

      • He was, indeed, however he did say that while Belton Cooper wouldn’t be the best source for knowledge as most of what he writes is hear-say, he did work on the Super Pershing personally so he can say how it is from hands-on experience.

  4. The logistics must be horrible though.

    Just imagine driving this thing through very fine wet mud (loess) like in Afghanistan. Every space is filled with it and when it gets dry, it is hard as concrete. After just one day, this tank would be some tons heavier.

    The idea is really good but the implementation is rather bad (from a German engineering point of view :D)

    • Obviously it would get stuck in the mud, then again it was upgraded to be Super in Western Europe where you don’t have that much mud.

    • Thats why they don’t use them there. At least not that I saw. The French army uses multi wheeled light tanks. Other than that It is all wheeled IFVs and MRAPs.

    • —–
      The idea is really good but the implementation is rather bad (from a German engineering point of view :D)
      Bad ideas were part of many projects, even German ones. Take a look at the WoT Wiki, Maus page and historical gallery at the bottom. There’s a picture of Maus prototype stuck in the mud. It took two days to get it out. And they used the infamous wooden logs (there are more pictures in the book “Kampfpanzer Maus” by Michael Fröhlich, published by Motorbuch Verlag).

      • It got stuck in mud because the driver short-cutted and all the other tank drivers at the testing ground avoided that spot because they knew it was soft.

    • Now imagine ALL of he German Bigcats were made just this way, all were over weight by 10 Tons, all sank where they shouldnt have and ALL had horrible parts issues because of it.

  5. Regarding SPers mission: Im wondering why WG wants so badly to hand over more of those. I mean they keep putting multiply exp missions in weekends so everybody gets their points needed. After completing 4 nations which I had tanks for (US, SU, FR and GER) about week or so ago Ive started rest (Tier 4-6 only) and x2 last weekend I nearly finished it: just 10k or so in JAP to go.

  6. “its shell penetrated the German Jagdpanzer IV tank destroyer from the front, went right through it, penetrated the rear and exited the vehicle, ending in the ground”

    Dayammn! Why can’t I do that in the game? Fully pen a JPIV and then track the heavy hiding behind it? :P

  7. Love how WG justified themselves nerfing the tank because it “didn’t” have spaced armor… happens that they found 1 picture, but didn’t actually do 100%^ research before making a decisions.. go figure, its all smoke and mirrors when it comes to WG

    • Yep and its funny they use the Pershing real stats until the Penetration.

      I nreality it should be either A. Faster ina straightline and slow to turn. B Huge ROF like Tiger spitting out 5.5 sec rounds or C More armored.

      Now in game its a sitting duck.

  8. Can anyone tell me what the two forward facing cylinders at the top of the turret are good for? I mean, they are an excellent weakspot to shoot at, but this can’t be their only purpose … ;)

    • The tubes are not the weakspot, they are not part of the sollision model, it’s the commanders cupola right behind them. They just help you aiming.

    • Yeah they help hold the gun up as it was SOOOO heavy with the added Panther Mantlet…..Imagine it had a Panthers Front Turret Plate and a Pershings :) all weighted on the barrel and imagine going over bumps etc how that 15 foot gun would break those hydraulics on its own bouncing.

      Lol try holding a broom stick, easy right? Now hold that broomstick straight out arms completely extended and bounce up and down :)

      • It actually had the coils for the gun alone, such as seen on the T26E3 conversion model that remained at Aberdeen, the extra armor just made it a bit more difficult

    • Yeah, really can’t place any KT and Pershing in same city at same time. And since all the work done to make a Super Pershing, it would be quite bizarre that no photo of a killed KT would be taken.

      • I don’t doubt it wasn’t a KT. However, this wasn’t the age where 90% of the population carried a camera. Even given the propaganda of the new tank- a picture is still a relative rarity of the time and location.

        A major portion of that WOT forum OP was accounting for locations of every KT. I find it hard to believe that anyone really knew that. Yes, the units that were equipped with the KT weren’t nearby, but a single unit enroute or left in a maint company and put to use might not be on the record.

  9. we got the historical armor. lets see the historical gun wargaming. none of this shitty 170 pen

    • HVAP(aka APCR) is the round that they used not standard AP which is underrepresented but not by a whole bunch(+10 mm of pen would do it justice).

      • Yeah It isnt hugely underrepresented except Guns as a whole in WOT are over Penning.

        If we took most Guns i nWOT they are 15% high. So IMO the 90mm is under by 30-40mm.

        • Going by demarre calculations, the 90mm T15 in theory should be penning in league with the Tiger II.

          In reality however, poor shell construction made it’s standard AP significantly worse that what would have been expected

          Not like it mattered through, the Panzerwaffe was pretty much broken by the time the Pershings were breaking into western Germany

  10. Here are some more facts to add to the M26/T26E4 legacy. The basis of the M26 was blocked by Gen. Lesley McNair who was the “General of Anti-US Heavies”. He was the one blocking the Pershing development. You have to thank Gen. Jacob Devers for getting the M26 Pershing developed and deployed.

    Tactical doctrine controversies
    McNair also espoused controversial theories on armored support of infantry forces, theories which were later found to be inadequate. He particularly came in for criticism over the tank destroyer doctrine. As an artillery officer, McNair favored towed anti-tank artillery over self-propelled tank destroyers, even after it had become apparent that German forces were converting their anti-tank forces into self-propelled guns as soon as such vehicles could be produced. Due to inherent delays in deploying such towed guns, combined with greatly increased crew exposure to German small arms and mortar fire, American towed anti-tank artillery was never really effective during the war in Europe; instead, some units were tasked as substitute howitzers firing conventional artillery missions. When used in their original role as towed anti-tank guns against German tanks and defensive emplacements, the towed battalions suffered disproportionate casualties compared to the self-propelled tank destroyer battalions.

    As a result of his belief in the tank destroyer doctrine, McNair was instrumental in obstructing the production of the M26 Pershing. McNair saw no need for a heavy tank and believed that tank versus tank duels were “unsound and unnecessary”. McNair would agree only to the production of the 76mm M4 Sherman which he believed were capable of handling the Tiger I tank that had appeared in late 1942. Gen. Jacob Devers, the main proponent for the M26, had to go over McNair’s head to Gen. Marshall to begin production of the M26

  11. Very nice and interesting article! Thanks for the translation SS, i hope that WG EU, in future, will be more mindful about this kind of information :)

  12. M26 was fine as it was. Tiger 1 was 100mm of flat Armor and was considered a beast. M26 was 102mm@45 degrees making it 130ish @ LOS

    Add to this the 90mm was much more powerful than the Tiger 1`s short 88mm and the Pershing was very fast and kept up with the Shermans.

    In many ways the M26 was the first MBT. Fast as a med, protected like a Heavy of the time and had a heavies gun.

    The SPershing was really needed because of AT guns and emplacements, but as a TD the Pershing was unstoppable.

  13. I think in Game they killed the Spershings agility and Speed to much.

    It really is semi useless in game. For how slow it is it needs like a TIgers 5.5 ROF or it needs more STraight speed.

    7 Tons Extra weight is not that much TBH, well it is for transmissions and wheels but not for a Engine with a huge TQ curve.

  14. The T15E1 could penetrated 121/2 inches(320mm) of armour at 100 metres and 8 inches (205 mm) at 1000 metres.
    It won’t be in WOT any time soon.

    • I think you are a bit off on this. Even with HVAP vs. armor normalized to 237 BHN at 300mm @ 100m. But 250mm @ 1000m.