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The M46 Patton was an American medium tank designed to replace the M26 Pershing and M4 Sherman. It was one of the U.S Army's principal medium tanks of the early Cold War, with models in service from 1949 until the mid-1950s. It was not widely used by U.S. Cold War allies, being exported only to Belgium, and only in small numbers to train crews on the upcoming M47 Patton.

M46 Patton
An American M46 Patton tank of the United States Marine Corps, during the Korean War
TypeMedium tank[1]
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1949–1957[2]
WarsKorean War
Production history
ManufacturerDetroit Arsenal Tank Plant
No. built800 + 360 M46A1
Mass48.5 tons (44 metric tons)
Length27.82 ft (8.48 m)
Width11.52 ft (3.51 m)
Height10.43 ft (3.18 m)
Crew5 (commander, gunner, loader, driver, assistant driver)

Armor102 mm/4 inches maximum
90 mm gun M3A1
70 rounds
.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 machine gun
2 × .30 cal (7.62 mm) M1919A4 machine guns
EngineContinental AV-1790-5A V12, air-cooled Twin-turbo gasoline engine
810 hp (604 kW)
Power/weight18.4 hp (13.7 kW) / tonne
TransmissionGeneral Motors CD-850-3 or -4, 2 ranges forward, 1 reverse
SuspensionTorsion bar suspension
Ground clearance18.82 in (478 mm)
Fuel capacity878 liters 232 U.S. gallons
80 miles (130 km)
Speed30 mph (48 km/h)

The M46 was the first tank to be named after General George S. Patton Jr., commander of the U.S. Third Army[3] during World War II and one of the earliest American advocates for the use of tanks in battle.[4][5]


After World War II, most U.S. Army armored units were equipped with a mix of M4 Sherman and M26 Pershing tanks. Designed initially as a heavy tank, the M26 Pershing tank was reclassified as a medium tank after the war. The M26 was a significant improvement over the M4 Sherman in firepower and protection. Its mobility, however, was deemed unsatisfactory for a medium tank, as it used the same engine as the much lighter M4A3 and was plagued with an unreliable transmission.

Work began in January 1948 on replacing the original power plant with the Continental AV1790-3 engine and Allison CD-850-1 cross-drive transmission. This design was initially called the M26E2, but modifications continued to accumulate; eventually, the Bureau of Ordnance decided that the tank needed its own unique designation, the M46.[citation needed] The upgraded M26 received a new power plant and a main gun with a bore evacuator.

Upon completion of the first model off the Detroit Tank Arsenal production line in November 1948, the M46 was christened after the late General George S. Patton.[6] By December the Army had ordered several hundred.[7] In July 1950 Detroit Arsenal was producing Pershings and M46s at a rate of over a dozen a day.[8] In August 1950 President Harry S. Truman authorized funding for increased M46 production as part an expansion of heavy tank development program.[9]

In total, 1,160 M26s were rebuilt: 800 to the M46 standard, 360 to the M46A1.[citation needed]

Combat serviceEdit

The only American combat use of the M46 Patton was during the Korean War. On 8 August 1950, the first M46 Patton tanks, belonging to the 6th Tank Battalion, landed in South Korea. The M46 proved to be capable against North Korean T-34 medium tanks.[10] By the end of 1950, 200 M46 Pattons had been fielded, forming about 15% of US tank strength in Korea; the balance of 1,326 tanks shipped to Korea during 1950 were 679 M4A3 Shermans (including the M4A3E8 variant), 309 M26 Pershings, and 138 M24 Chaffee light tanks.[11] Subsequent shipments of M46 and M46A1 Pattons allowed all remaining M26 Pershings to be withdrawn during 1951, and most Sherman equipped units were also reequipped.[12]

M46 series operators include: 1st Tank Battalion and regimental Antitank Platoons of the 1st Marine Division by 1952, 72nd Tank Battalion of the 2nd Infantry Division by January 1952, 64th Tank Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division, 73rd Tank Battalion of the 7th Infantry Division by January 1951, 6th Tank Battalion of the 24th Infantry Division, 140th Tank Battalion (took over the tanks of the 6th Tank Battalion) and regimental tank companies of the 40th Infantry Division by October 1951,[13] and the 245th Tank Battalion of the 45th Infantry Division by 1952.[14] Several other regimental tank companies gained M46/M46A1s by the end of the war, including the 7th and 65th Infantry Regiments of the 3rd Infantry Division.[15]

A surviving example of the M46 Patton tank can be seen on display at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul.

In June 1952 an M46 platoon took part in the Desert Rock atomic exercise,[16] the first test of armor in a nuclear blast.[17]

In the 1950s, small numbers of M46s were leased for training purposes at no cost to some European countries, including Belgium, France and Italy, in preparation for the introduction of the M47. American instruction teams used the vehicles to train European tank crews and maintenance personnel.


  • M46 - Variant equipped with M3 dozer kit.[18]
  • M46A1 – Product improved variant with improved braking, cooling and fire suppression systems, as well as improved electrical equipment, AV-1790-5B engine and CD-850-4 transmission.
  • M46E1 – Pilot model, M46 hull with T42 turret, fitted with the M36 90 mm Gun, and was longer to incorporate a radio, ventilator, and featured a stereoscopic rangefinder; only one built[19]. Prototype of the M47 Patton.


Map of M46 operators with former operators in red

Former operatorsEdit


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Hunnicutt, p. 35
  2. ^ "M46 Patton (General Patton) Medium Tank"
  3. ^ Hunnicutt
  4. ^ although the Ordnance Committee Minutes/OCM #33476 ceased utilizing the heavy, medium, and light tank designations on 7 November 1950; going to the "...Gun Tank designation")
  5. ^ Hunnicutt, p. 14
  6. ^ "Newest Tank Christened". The New York Times. Associated Press. 11 November 1948.
  7. ^ Baldwin, Hanson W. (12 December 1949). "New Tools of War: Aberdeen Echoes to Thunder of Bombs as New Equipment Tested". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Cadillac Division to Produce Tanks; General Motors SaysWork For Army Will Not Halt Civilian Output of Automobiles". The New York Times. 21 July 1950. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  9. ^ "Fund to Build Big Tanks Like Russia's Approved". The New York Times. The United Press. 30 August 1950. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  10. ^ Abel, Elie (8 January 1952). "Defective Tanks Pile Up In Depots". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  11. ^ Steven J. Zaloga "M26/M46 Pershing Tank 1943-1953" ISBN 1-84176-202-4 pp.39-40
  12. ^ Donald W Boose Jr."US Army Forces in the Korean War 1950-53" ISBN 1-84176-621-6 pp.52,75-86
  13. ^ all Donald W Boose Jr. ibid
  14. ^ Simon Dunstan "Armour of the Korean War 1950-53" ISBN 0-85045-428-X pp.29-32
  15. ^ Troy D. Thiel "The M26 Pershing and Variants" ISBN 0-7643-1544-7 pp.64-84
  16. ^ "Atom 'Gun' Fired And G.I.'s 'Charge'" (PDF). The New York Times. UP. 1 June 1952. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  17. ^ "Tank-Aided Troops Set For Atom Test". The New York Times. UP. 30 May 1952. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  18. ^ "JED The Military Equipment Directory"
  19. ^ Mesko, pp. 41, 43


  • Steven J Zaloga, Tony Bryan, Jim Laurier - M26–M46 Pershing Tank 1943–1953, 2000 Osprey Publishing (New Vanguard 35), ISBN 1-84176-202-4
  • Abraham Rabinovich - The Battle for Jerusalem June 5–7, 1967, 2004 Sefer Ve Sefer Publishing, Jerusalem, ISBN 965-7287-07-3
  • Nolan, Keith W. "Into Lao's, Operation Lam Son 719 and Dewey Canyon II." 1986. Presidio Press. Account of the US Army's final offensive of the Vietnam War
  • Hunnicutt, R. P. "Patton: A History of the American Main Battle Tank." 1984. Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-230-1

External linksEdit