Date of Award

Spring 1998

Document Type

Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Robert Swartout

Second Advisor

Fr. William Greytak

Third Advisor

Alan Quist

Abstract

Early in World War II, the Allies’ tank forces were drastically outmatched. American tanks were hastily designed, mass produced, and rushed to the European Theater to meet the German panzers. As the war progressed, the German panzers began to meet more formidable opponents. The Russian T-34 and American M4 Sherman proved to be superior to the early model panzers, causing a brief period of Allied tank superiority. Reacting to this turn of events, German engineers designed two new panzers: the Tiger and the Panther. These German monsters dominated their American counterparts, and an improved U.S. tank was needed. The process to design an improved U.S. tank, which was initiated early in World War II, did not produce a viable alternative to the Sherman until 1945. This tank was the M26 Pershing. But why had it taken the United States, easily one of the most technologically and industrially advanced nations of the world, so long to equip its soldiers with a tank capable of effectively combating enemy weapons? Many factors combined to delay the Pershing’s development, including U.S. Army tank warfare doctrine, reliance on the superiority of numbers achieved by the Sherman, and a controversy between development branches within the U.S. Army. To begin to understand how these factors affected U.S. design and development procedures, an examination into the strategies and weapons of the other participants of World War II is needed.

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