Today in WW II: 7 Jun 1942 Japanese forces invade the Aleutian Islands, the first invasion of American soil since the War of 1812, 128 years earlier.  

M-6 Heavy Tank

During 1940 and 1941 the U.S. Army developed four prototype heavy tanks (designated T1E1 to T1E4) weighing approximately 50 tons, with welded or cast armor hull and newly designed horizontal volute spring suspension. After trails of pilot units during December 1941, two variants with torque converter transmission were selected and were standardized as the Heavy Tank M6 and M6A1 on 26 May 1942.

This tank was never put into full production. Early in World War II the Army was focused on light, mobile forces. The idea of a heavy tank did not fit the strategic concepts of Army ground and armored commanders so heavy tank development and production were delayed, despite enthusiasm for the idea in the Ordnance Department. While the M6 was a very good tank by all reports, there were always drawbacks to justify further delay. By the time there was recognition that a heavy tank was needed to oppose German Panzers in Europe after D-Day (6 June 1944), it was too late for the M6. Eventually, a more advanced heavy tank design became the M-26 Pershing Heavy Tank.

Only forty M-6 Heavy Tanks were built, twelve by Fisher Body Co. in Detroit, MI and 28 by Baldwin Locomotive Co. in Philadelphia, PA. None left the U.S. and almost all were scrapped -- only one specimen is known to survive, at the United States Army Ordnance Museum, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD.

Specifications of the M6 Heavy Tank

Crew 6
Weight 126,500 lbs.
Height 9 ft, 10 in.
Width 10 ft, 2 in.
Length 24 ft, 9 in.
Engine Wright Whirlwind G-200 air-cooled 9 cyl. radial gasoline
Transmission Torque converter
Horsepower 800 bhp
Road Speed 22 mph
Range 100 mi.

The M-6 Heavy Tank was armed with the M7 3-inch gun, a coaxial M6 37mm gun, and four machine guns, two .50 cal. and two .30 cal.

M6 Heavy Tank trials, 8 December 1941
M6 Heavy Tank trials, 8 December 1941.

M6 Heavy Tank trials, 8 December 1941
M6 Heavy Tank trials, 8 December 1941.

M6 Heavy Tank trials, 8 December 1941
M6 Heavy Tank trials, 8 December 1941.

M6 Heavy Tank at a demonstration event, WW II
M6 Heavy Tank at a demonstration event, WW II.

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