Lt Cdr Edward 'Butch' O'Hare
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Butch O'Hare Chicago Chapter - IPMS-USA

Critical Analysis: American Armor - "The Patton Tank"

M-26A1 PershingLet’s talk about armor--American armor. All American armor is named after famous generals, such as Stuart, Lee, Sherman, Pershing, Chaffee, Sheridan, Abrams, and Walker. These generals’ names cover a single series of armor.

Then we have the Patton. What’s interesting about the Patton is that there are four series of armor named after George S. Patton: the M-46, M-47, M-48, and M-60. In the final development of each of these armor vehicles, none of them look alike, but they all started from the same mold--the M-26 Pershing. The M-26 came out close to the end of WWII as a counter to the German Tiger and Panther tanks. With the war ended, the M-26 Pershing was put on the sidelines.

M-46 PattonSoon after WWII the cold war started. The Russians were massing, and we needed a better tank. Modifications were made to a number of M-26s: Different power trains and fire control systems were added, along with a baffle to the 90mm gun. The new M-46 Patton tank was born. While this helped upgrade American armor, it still was not good enough. When the North Koreans invaded the South using Russian-built T-34s and T-85s, there was nothing to stop them. Shermans and Chaffees were sent in as a stop gap measure but were ineffective. They finally brought in theheavy armor, which put a stop to North Korea's Russian-built tanks.

M-47-PattonMost of the armor engagements during the war were busting up road blocks or destroying bunkers, but the next upgrades were being planned. They decided to mate a turret from the “experimental” medium T-42 tank and put it on a proven M-46 chassis, creating the M-47. As with any new design, problems occurred. For instance, the new range finder didn’t work. These kinds of problems were quickly fixed, and the M-47 came into service. The M-47 was never used bythe Americans in combat. It was sold to other NATO-aligned countries. France used them in the 1956 Suez invasion, Spain used them in the Spanish-Sahara war in 1974 and Iran used the M-47 against Iraq. Jordan, Ethiopia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan also had the M-47, just to name a few.

M-48A3 PattonAs always, the M-47 was not good enough, and the Russians were developing their own armor force. With any new design, you combine the old with the new. In developing the next series of armor they decided to use the proven engine and transmission of the M-46 and M-47, and add a new wider and roomier turret. This new tank had many teething problems, so a new one-piece casted, boat-shaped hull was designed. The result was the M-48 Patton.

The M-48 is the most well-known Patton tank for its service in Vietnam. The M-48 was not originally scheduled to go to Vietnam. The higher-ups thought, in their great wisdom, that the terrain was not suited for heavy armor. When the Marines were deployed, they brought everything with them including their M-48s. There wasn’t much enemy armor for the M-48 to go up against, so they were used mostly for convoy protection or busting up enemy fortifications.

There was one round of ammo that the M-48 used a lot, called the “Beehive round.” It wasn’t nice to the barrel but it did a job on the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong.M-60 Patton It was a round filled with little arrow-shaped pieces of metal. When shot, it would spray metal in every direction like a shotgun. This round would shred jungle and anything else in its way.

The M-48 also saw a lot of action with the Israeli Army in their wars with the Arab nations. Eventually, this tank was upgraded with a new 105mm gun. After a new hull was designed and mated with a new turret, the M-60 Patton was born. The M-60 has seen much action in its history with the U.S. Army and the Israeli Army. It has proven itself many times and has become the ultimate Patton tank.