.: Gary Zimmer's M26 Tank Recovery Vehicle

The Allied Liberation of Europe began on the June 6th, 1944, on the beaches of Normandy, and lasted until Germany's surrender on May 9th, 1945. The Sherman tanks of the U.S. Army began their steady advance into the European mainland, wrenching Europe piece-by-piece from the clutches of Germany.

However, the massive tanks of the Wehrmacht such as the Tiger and Panther would prove overpowering against the agile, yet considerably smaller Shermans. One of the major fac-tors that allowed the Allies' advance to continue despite this disparity in power was the quick recovery and repair of battle damaged tanks. That is where the M26 Armored Tank Recovery Vehicles and their brave crews came in.

The U.S. Army started developing large size towing vehicles in 1941, influenced by the British experiences in the North African Campaign. In that mechanized desert war, the recovery of damaged or inoperative tanks often made the difference between victory or defeat. Aware of that importance, the U.S. Army placed great weight on the development and deployment of a tank transport vehicle. The production request was sent out and several large vehicle manufacturers, including Fruehauf Trailer brought out prototypes.

But in the end, Knuckey Truck Company's 6x6 tractor for quarry/mine use would be selected as the base. However, because the small company could not meet the huge production demands of the U.S. Army, the Washington rail car maker, Pacific Car and Foundry, was given the task, and made several modifications to the design to facilitate mass production. The new vehicle was officially designated the M26 Armored Tank Recovery Vehicle in April 1943, and mass production began.

The M26 was used with Freuhalf's M15 semi-trailer as the 40-ton M25, also known as the "Dragon Wagon", but the M26 tractor was also extensively used on its own. The M26 was frequently loaded with welding equipment, vices, and other necessary tools for emergency tank repairs on the front lines of battle.

The powerplant of the M26 was a 240hp, 6-cylinder Hall-Scott 440 engine, which transferred power to the rear wheels via a chain drive. The armored cab could fit a crew of seven, and was armed with a ring-mounted M2 heavy machine gun. The M26 was also equipped with a 35,000 pound (about 15.9 ton) winch on the front, two 60,000 pound (about 27 ton) winches on the rear, and an adjustable support arm for recovery and towing operations called the "A-arm".

The M26 first saw action on the Italian Front of 1943, and was later extensively used in the inland advancement of the Allies following the Invasion at Normandy. In all kinds of weather, in the middle of the night, or under a barrage of enemy fire, the repair crews continually fulfilled their duty to recover and repair damaged tanks. Furthermore, since a high accident risk and fear of enemy ambush was involved in towing tanks back to the repair yards, the crews strove to do as many on-site repairs as possible.

After the production of the 735th M26 vehicle, due to the burden of the 19 ton chassis on the front wheels, the M26A1 Tractor Truck was developed. It was mechanically the same as the M26, but incorporated a lightweight canvas covered tubular framework and pressed steel cab instead of the armored cab. After the war, most of the M26 tractor trucks were left behind in Europe, some of which were put to use by the French Army.  

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