|The M48 Patton MBT was utilized to good effect in Vietnam, though it was far from the perfect jungle tank.|
The M48 Patton Main Battle Tank was effectively the first tank engineering design in post-war America. The M46 and M47 Patton versions were merely developments of the World War Two M26 Pershing, which in itself, was a development of the M4 Sherman chassis.
The M48 Pattons underwent a modernization program in the 1970's and became known as the M48A5 featuring the more powerful 105mm main gun. The weapon system saw limited action in the Korean War and extensive action in the Vietnam War. The M48 Patton was the first tank to arrive in Vietnam with the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry in 1965.
The M48 is named after famed World War Two US General George S. Patton, Jr., and is in the family of the Patton series of tanks that include the aforementioned M46 Patton and M47 Patton along with the M60 Patton Main Battle Tank.
The M48 is no longer in a frontline service role for the US Army.
Nearly 12,000 M48s were built from 1952 to 1959. The early designs, up to the M48A2C's, were powered by a gasoline 12-cylinder engine which was coupled with an auxiliary 8-cylinder engine (called the "Little Joe"). The gasoline engine gave the tank a short operating range and were prone to catching fire when hit. This version was considered unreliable but numerous examples saw combat use in various Arab-Israeli conflicts. They also were prone to fire when the turret was penetrated and the hydraulic lines ruptured spewing hydraulic fluid (nicknamed "cherry juice" because of its red color) at high pressure into the crew compartment resulting in a fireball. The flashpoint was too low, less than 300 °F (150 °C), causing many burns and deaths to crew members. Beginning in 1959, most American M48s were upgraded to the M48A3 model which featured a diesel power plant. M48s with gasoline engines, however, were still in use in the US Army through 1968 and through 1975 by many West German Army units including the 124th Panzer Battalion.