The M48 Patton was the main battle tank used by the US Army and US Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Developed from the M47, it was manufactured by Chrysler and Ford Motor Company between 1952 and 1959. More than 11,000 M48 tanks were produced in several variants. The front of the tank hull and turret were protected by 120mm-thick hardened-steel armor. The first five versions of the M48 Patton were armed with a 90mm rifled cannon and two machine guns. However, the M48A5 variant was upgraded with a 105 mm M68 rifled gun. It was powered by a 810 hp, Continental AVDS-1790-5B V12, air-cooled twin-turbo, gasoline engine in the first models, and by a 750 hp, Continental AVDS-1790-2 V12, air cooled, twin-turbo, diesel engine in the last versions.
The M48 tank saw extensive action during the Vietnam War, with over 600 Pattons being deployed with US Forces during the 8 years of armed conflict. The M48 performed satisfactorily in Vietnam in the infantry-support role. Nevertheless, there were also few actual tank versus tank battles. One was between the US 1-69th Armor and PT-76 light amphibious tanks of the North Vietnamese Army 202nd Armored Regiment near Ben Het in 1969. During this battle, the Pattons easily destroyed nearly half of these communist light tanks. The M48 tanks also provided adequate protection for its crew from small arms, mines, and rocket-propelled grenades. South Vietnamese M-48s and M-41s fought against the so called Ho Chi Minh Offensive in 1975. In several incidents, the South Vietnamese Army successfully defeated Soviet-made North Vietnamese T-34 and T-55 tanks and even slowed the North’s offensive. In 1972, only one M48A3 Patton tank and one M113 Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle (ACAV) were destroyed during an attack launched by a North Vietnamese infantry unit armed with the new Soviet-made Sagger wire guided anti-tank missile.
Specifications for the M48 Patton
Type: main battle tank
Weight: 50 tons
Width: 11ft 11in (3.65 m)
Length: 21ft (7.2m) without gun
Height: 10ft 1in (3.1 m)
Crew: 4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader)
Weapons: one 105mm/51 cal M68 rifled gun with 54 rounds (M48A5); one .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine gun; one 30 in (7.62 mm) M73 Machine gun
Armor: 120mm-thick armor on the hull and turret front; 76mm on the hull and turret sides
Engine: one Continental AVDS-1790-2 V12, air cooled, twin-turbo, diesel engine, delivering 750 hp
Maximum speed: 30 mph (48 km/h)(M48A5)
Range: 290 miles (463km)
M48 Patton in Vietnam (Video)