M26 Pershing | europe


M26A1 at the Royal Army Museum of Brussels. Leased to Belgium, all M26s remained US property. This vehicle was donated to the museum in 1980.

After the end of World War II, U.S. Army units on occupation duty in Germany were converted into constabulary units, a quasi-police force designed to control the flow of refugees and black marketing; combat units were converted to light motorized units and spread throughout the U.S. occupation zone.[66] By the summer of 1947, the army required a combat reserve to back up the thinly spread constabulary; in the following year, the 1st Infantry Division was reconstituted and consolidated, containing three regimental tank companies and a divisional tank battalion.[67] The 1948 tables of organization and equipment for an infantry division included 123 M26 Pershing tanks and 12 M45 howitzer tanks.[68] In the summer of 1951, three more infantry divisions and the 2nd Armored Division were sent to West Germany as a part of the NATO Augmentation Program.[69] While M26 Pershings disappeared from Korea during 1951, tank units deploying to West Germany were equipped with them,[70][71] until replaced with M47 Pattons during 1952–53.[72][73] The 1952–53 tables of organization and equipment for an infantry division included 135 M47 Patton tanks replacing M26s and M46s.[74]

In 1952, the Belgian Army received 423 M26 and M26A1 Pershings, leased free of charge as part of a Mutual Defense Assistance Program, then the official designation of U.S. military aid to its allies. The tanks were mostly used to equip mobilizable reserve units of battalion strength: 2nd, 3rd and 4th Régiments de Guides/Regiment Gidsen (Belgian units have official names in both French and Flemish); 7th, 9th and 10th Régiments de Lanciers/Regiment Lansiers and finally the 2nd, 3rd and 5th Bataillon de Tanks Lourds/Bataljon Zware Tanks. However, in the spring of 1953, M26s for three months equipped the 1st Heavy Tank Battalion of the 1st Infantry Division, an active unit, before they were replaced by M47s.

In 1961, the number of reserve units was reduced and the reserve system reorganized, with the M26s equipping the 1st and 3rd Escadron de Tanks/Tank Escadron as a general reserve of the infantry arm. In 1969, all M26s were phased out.

As the U.S. Army units in West Germany reequipped with M47s in 1952–1953, France and Italy also received M26 Pershings;[75] while France quickly replaced them with M47 Pattons, Italy continued to use them operationally through 1963.[76]

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