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- "Pershings Dead Ahead!"
- ―Sunflower Team
The M26 Pershing was a heavy tank of the United States Army. It was designated a heavy tank when it was first designed in World War II, however was reclassified into a medium tank in the post war period. The tank is named after General of the Armies John J. Pershing, who led the American Expeditionary Force in Europe in World War I. It was briefly used both in World War II and the Korean War. In the anime, it first appears in Girls und Panzer der Film in the hands of the All-Stars University Team.
The M26 has its roots as far back as in 1942 when development for a successor to the M4 Sherman started in the United States Ordnance Department. One of these developed into the T20 tank family, which were a group of designs that tested out different transmission and armaments to find the right fit for the US Armored Force needs. These projects culminated into the T23 tank design, which was distinguished from the M4 with a 76 mm gun, low silhouette, and an electric transmission. The project proved interesting enough that an order of 250 vehicles was submitted in May 1943. However, the Armored Board rejected the design due to exorbitant maintenance times, some design bugs, and its unsubstantial improvements over the M4 tank after its sterling services in the Mediterranean Theater. Though rejected once, the team continued to improve the design, and the original order for 250 was changed for 50 modified for a bigger gun.
The next step was an improvement in firepower and the 90 mm anti-aircraft gun was selected as the new tank armament. 40 of the T23 basis were armed with the 90 mm gun and redesignated the T25, the remaining 10 received the 90 mm and also additional armor to the structure, this version designated the T26. The two versions were developed and trialed between February-May 1944. As tests went underway with the two tanks, the situation in Europe changed with the D-Day invasion and it revealed that the M4 armor and gun was no longer sufficient enough against the new German tanks. Hearing the concerns, the T25 tank was discontinued in favor of perfecting the T26 design, which would offer not only a better gun, but better armor than the predecessors. Through trials and changes, the finalized version of the T26 was the T26E3 which featured a torqmatic transmission and torsion bar suspension. While weighing 45 tons, it was powered by a Ford GAA engine that was meant for the ~30 ton M4A3 Sherman tank, resulting in a rather sluggish mobility and underpowered power drive. The T26E3 would be designated the Heavy Tank M26 Pershing in 29 March 1945, and until then were referred as the T26E3 in documents.
Getting to Europe
During the development of the T26, many attempts had been made to try and get the T26 overseas by Ordnance Department. However, resistance from the Army Ground Forces often barred the T26 from a quick deployment overseas. The reasoning were logistical and doctrinal for the T26's slow entry. The T26, presented as a new tank, had to travel through a 3,000 mile supply line through the Atlantic Ocean to reach Europe and would create a supply problem to keep the new tanks running overseas. Results from the trials as late as November 1944 still show that the T26 suffered from reliability issues, which compared to the stellar M4 Sherman was unacceptable for a distant fighting zone. Doctrinal in that there was that the heavy firepower of the 90 mm was not needed in a tank due to the Tank Destroyer Doctrine and that since the role of the Armored divisions were exploitation, the slow mobility of the heavier T26 was detrimental to the service. Overall, the main problems were that there was no urgent "battle need" for the T26 to be overseas and it was not "battle worthy" enough to deploy in huge numbers.
However, by November 1944, Army Ground Forces gave the approval to begin a limited testing of the T26E3 in Europe. An initial batch of twenty tanks were sent overseas and due to the long transit, during which the Battle of the Bulge raged in December, the T26E3 did not arrive until early 1945, arriving at the Antwerp port.
World War II
The arrival of the new T26E3 tanks in Europe brought along General Barnes from Ordnance Department as the head of the Zebra Technical Mission to expedite familiarization of the T26E3 to the combat troops. With him were officers involved with the T26 deployment and civilian operators from the manufacturer of the T26E3 and the 90 mm gun to assist. Within a few weeks, the T26E3 and the newly trained crews were allocated to US First Army in the 3rd and 9th Armored Division. These tanks were then committed to combat in late February 1945.
Combat experience with the T26E3 were sporadic and well recorded due to the nature of the Zebra Mission. The first main event occurred at the town of Elsdorf. On February 25th, the first T26E3 was knocked out by a Tiger I at night where one round penetrated through the turret front and killing the gunner and loader. Two more shots destroyed the gun barrel and knocked off the commander cupola. The Tiger I, attempting to withdraw, backed up into a pile of rubble and was disabled itself. Meanwhile another T26E3 in the same town stalked and eliminated three tanks, one Tiger I and two Panzer IV.
Another T26E3 was damaged in March 1st when an artillery strike blasted the tank, killing the tank commander. On March 6th, a Nashorn self-propelled gun ambushed a T26E3 with its 88 mm PaK 43 gun and ignited its ammunition. While none of the T26E3 crew were killed, that specific T26E3 became the only one written off in combat, being unable to repair due to the interior fire.
The T26E3 most famous moment came from the city of Cologne. On March 6th, a tank duel took place that was captured in film by Signal Corps Sergeant Jim Bates. A Panther tank staked out in front of the Cologne Cathedral and had destroyed an incoming M4A1 (76) Sherman. The T26E3 was called upon and moved towards the right flank of the Panther. As the T26E3 past a corner, the gunner caught sight of the Panther turret also facing towards their direction. However, in what is surmised to be a second-thought in tank identification, the Panther did not fire and so the T26E3 fired off the first shot, with subsequent shots fired until the Panther suffered an ammunition fire.
The last notable action the T26E3 took part in was in the Battle of Remagen. In between March 7-8th, a rapid race began by the US forces as they rushed to secure a vital bridge over the Rhine river that the Germans had failed to demolish in time, with them are a platoon of five T26E3. The US troops were successful in securing the bridge and began to establish a bridgehead on the other side. Unfortunately, the T26E3 was too heavy to safely cross the damaged bridge, and must sit tight as the much lighter M4 Shermans and tank destroyers were capable of crossing over. It was not until March 12th when US engineers were able to ferry the 45 ton tanks across the river to continue the assault into Germany.
As the 20 T26E3 underwent their combat evaluation, more T26E3 tanks arrived to Europe. In March 25th, 40 more tanks arrived and were allocated to the 2nd and 5th Armored Division. By the end of the war in Europe, 310 M26 Pershings were present in the country, however only the first 20 ever sent saw combat service. Despite the technical evaluation of the M26 Pershing, the Zebra Mission established that "Unfortunately for this test, the German armor had been so crippled as to present a very poor opponent and the cessation of hostilities so soon after forming these companies precluded the gaining of any real experience."
However, a little known tale of the M26 Pershings in World War II was considerations in the Pacific Theater. The Battle of Okinawa brought out losses among the tank units and demands for a better tank urged Ordnance to conduct a similar mission at the area. Twelve M26 Pershings were shipped out to sea in 31 May 1945 to reach the area by June 30th, but after delays and detours, the tanks did not arrive until July 21st. With the hostilities in the area ceasing by June 22nd, it was determined that the Pershings be simply tested at the area. The 193rd and 771st tank battalion started familiarizing themselves with these new tanks by August 10th, but this process was halted with the announcement of Japanese surrender by August 15th.
Korean War and Beyond
By May 1946, the M26 Pershing was reclassified into the Medium Tank M26 Pershing due to changing specifications in the US Army. The M26 Pershing was slated to become the standardized tank for the US Army, though its underpowered nature makes its role as a medium tank rather unsatisfactory. Despite that, the M26 Pershing was needed when the Korean War broke out in 1950, when Soviet-supplied T-34-85 in North Korean hands attacked. Though the first responders were mainly M24 Chaffee light tanks, the first Pershings were sent in July 16th. Past that, even more US tanks such as the M4 Sherman, Pershings, and the new M46 Patton made it to the front. One noteworthy action the M26 Pershings went through was in a location nicknamed "The Bowling Alley", where M26 Pershings awaited for the incoming enemy tanks. Three T-34-85 presented themselves, with the first one receiving a 90 mm HVAP. The encounter proved the M26 Pershings were more than a match, as the 90 mm HVAP rounds could penetrate straight through the front and out the rear of the T-34-85, while the front armor of the Pershings proved proof against the 85 mm rounds. The M26 Pershings continued decimating the North Korean armored force until November 1950, when North Korean armor encounters dropped significantly. With the armor threat gone, the tanks returned to a role of infantry support. Over the terrain, the M26 Pershing proved sluggish with its power and was soon slowly phased out in favor of the M4A3 (76) W HVSS Sherman that was more mobile while maintaining enough armor and firepower to complete its job.
The M26 Pershing were gradually phased out or converted into M46 Pattons by 1951. M26 Pershings were supplied to American foreign allies in the wake of the Cold War, with Belgium, France, and Italy receiving multiple samples to use.
In Girls und Panzer der Film
The first encounter with the Pershings was when the Morning Glory Team was crossing the forest and with Dandelion Team in the river area. In the forest, Azumi's Team was trying to break through Morning Glory's defensive line to do an encirclement against Sunflower Team. Kay gave the order to hold up, but with the Pershings concentrating their fire Morning Glory could hardly do anything. The Chi-Ha-Tan students became upset and began to attack, but the charge failed and resulted in a Chi-Ha and a Shin-Ho-To destroyed. Kay ordered Alisa to lead a pursuit, but this also failed due to shells that began to rain down on Alisa's M4A1(76) damaging it's tracks, transmission, and turret.
Sunflower had taken the hill and prepared for the invading forces that broke through Morning Glory, but when they started to attack, Artillery started to bombard them and destroyed 2 Kuromorimine Panthers. Maho gave the order to move before the next attack, but they later realized that they had been surrounded from two directions and began to panic. Maho gave the order to retreat and regroup with Dandelion Team.
While retreating, Katyusha got into trouble with the pursuing Pershings. Klara, Nina, and Nonna sacrificed themselves in order to protect Katyusha and to allow her to escape. Nonna immobilized 2 Pershings before finally being defeated.
After Miho decided to take down the Artillery first, Acorn Platoon found a Karl-Gerät in a dry river bed area, protected by a platoon of 3 Pershings. Mika and the crew of the BT-42, serving as a distraction, started an attack and immobilized 1 Pershing. The 2 remaining Pershings started chasing the BT-42, and when the shot from Karl-Gerät missed and hit the bridge, 1 Pershing got hit by rubble and was immobilized. Finally, the remaining Pershing was also immobilized after a long fight, but not without also knocking out the BT-42.
As the fighting went on, the All-Stars University Team continued fighting Miho and her remaining teammates on a festival setting in the match area. After routing the team into a tight spot with their numbers and a T28 Super-Heavy Tank, the Oarai team was saved by Rabbit Team's intervention involving a Ferris wheel, providing an opportunity to regroup and engage the All-Stars Team once more. Groups of Oarai tanks and those of other schools worked together to slowly dwindle the Pershing numbers. Chi-Ha-Tan and Duck Team used sneak attacks and pin-point accuracy to target the M26 Pershing weak points to eliminate them. Katyusha, Erika, Anteater Team and Leopon Team fight in a Wild West setting and eliminate a couple of Pershings themselves. Mallard Team and Rosehip lure in Pershing tanks with Azumi into the firing zone of Hippo Team. Miho and Turtle Team fight a trio of Pershings with Rumi in a hedge maze and fight using ambushes through the hedges. As such, the All-Stars University Team numbers dwindled now with three M26 Pershings and some more.
As it came down to the last straws, Alice Shimada became involved with her Centurion Mk.I. During which, Azumi, Megumi, and Rumi enacted their "Bermuda Trio" strategy with their M26 Pershings, involving heavy coordination between the three tanks and a lot of drifting. Their actions caused the defeat of Saunders Group, Erika, Katyusha, Leopon Team, and Rukuriri, while only losing Rumi's tank, most notably after she underestimated Leopon's Tiger (P)'s overcharging of their electrical motors.
In the final encounter between the Nishizumi sisters in their Panzer IV and Tiger I, the All-Stars University Team had a Centurion and two M26 Pershings. In the firefight that follows, Azumi's M26 Pershing was lost after being trapped by Maho's Tiger I, with Miho's Panzer IV from above striking the engine deck. Megumi's Pershing was lost while attempting to pursue Maho, but was hit by a swinging boat ride as it came back, knocking her tank several meters away into a wall, where the Tiger I defeated her with one shot into the sides, thus ending the M26 Pershing's involvement in Der Film.
- During World War II in 29 March 1945, Pershing was designated as a Heavy Tank, but after the war in May 1946, it was reclassified as a Medium Tank. But as its mobility was deemed unsatisfactory for a medium tank, some were upgraded with improved engines, transmissions and 90mm gun and were redesignated M46 Patton.
- In the anime, the instances where a Pershing is taken out are usually due to a shot to the turret ring.
- The M26 Pershing's speed in Der Film had some online forums to mistakenly believe that the All-Stars University Team tanks have been illegally modified into the M26E2 with a new engine for the M46 Patton. However this is proven untrue even by the models itself, where the M26E2 has rather distinctive parts that would distinguish it as such.
- There is an uparmored and upgunned version of the Pershing also deployed during the war in January 1945 to match the Tiger II and it's 88 mm KwK 43 L/71. It's designation is T26E4, and its popularly known as the Super Pershing. It is uparmored by bolting plates of the destroyed Panther tank on it's front hull and turret mantlet and was upgunned with a longer barreled 90 mm T15E1 L/73. Only one was produced and deployed in Europe.
- Main article: M26 Pershing/Gallery
|Light Tanks and Tankettes||7TP • AMR-35 • BT-42 • Crusader • CV.33 • FT-17 • Harry Hopkins • M22 Locust • M24 Chaffee • Mark VI • Panzer II • Panzer 38(t) • R35 • T-60 • T-70 • Tetrarch • TK Tankette • Type 94 Tankette • Type 95 Ha-Go • Type 97 Te-Ke|
|Medium Tanks||Centurion • M3 Lee • M4 Sherman • M13/40 • Matilda II • P26/40 • Panzer III • Panzer IV • Panzer V "Panther" • SOMUA S35 • T-34 • T-44 • Type 89B • Type 3 Chi-Nu • Type 97 Chi-Ha|
|Heavy Tanks||ARL 44 • B1 Bis • Black Prince • Churchill • IS-2 • KV-2 • M26 Pershing • Mark IV • Panzer VI "Tiger" • Panzer VI Ausf. B "Tiger II" • Panzer VIII "Maus" • VK45.01 Porsche Tiger|
|Tank Destroyers||Elefant • Hetzer • ISU-152 • Jagdpanzer IV • Jagdpanther • Jagdtiger • Mareșal • Semovente da 75/18 • StuG III • T28 Super-Heavy Tank|
|Self-Propelled Artillery||Karl-Gerät 040|
|Main Battle Tank||Type 10|