Categories
WW2 Dutch Tanks WW2 US Light Tanks

Marmon-Herrington CTMS-1TB1

USA/KNIL (1941) Light Tank – 194 Built

After years of neglect, the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (Koninklijk Nederlandsch-Indisch Leger, abbreviated to ‘KNIL’) tried to re-equip itself with new material starting in 1936. Four Vickers tanks, two light and two amphibious, were acquired and the KNIL was satisfied with the results of testing them, so 73 light tanks were ordered. Furthermore, 45 gun-armed Vickers command tanks were ordered in 1939 but, due to the outbreak of the war, Britain needed all its resources and production facilities to reinforce its own army and no more than twenty light tanks and no command tanks arrived in the Indies.
In desperate need of armor, the KNIL turned to the company Marmon-Herrington, the only non-European commercial tank building company at the beginning of World War 2. In total, 628 tanks were ordered: 234 CTLS-4TA, 194 CTMS-1TB1, and 200 MTLS-1G14 tanks. These tanks were all based on the same principle design, but features were added on Dutch request. The complete order of 194 CTMS was completed, but only 31 ended up with Dutch troops in its Caribbean colonies, among which were Suriname, Aruba, Curaçao and a few smaller islands, also referred to as the ‘West Indies’. Thirty others were sent to Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico respectively as part of the Lend-Lease program and were commonly known under the nickname ‘Dutch three men tank’.

The Design

The CTMS (Combat Tank Medium Series) was essentially just a bigger CTLS tank. The tracks were redesigned and wider, measuring 15 inches (38 cm). Some spare tracks were put at the front of the lower hull. Two small lights were placed on the front. The tank was propelled by a Hercules RLXDI inline-six petrol/gasoline engine. It produced 174 hp at 2600 rpm which resulted in a maximum speed of 25 mph (40 kph). The exhaust was located on the left side and covered by a grid. Three vents were located on the engine deck. The suspension was composed of vertical volute springs and four small wheels. Two return rollers guided the tracks and the sprocket was located at the front. The sliding gear transmission was manually operated with five-speed forwards and one in reverse.
The main armament was a 37mm 44 caliber automatic gun. The gun was designed by the American Armament Corporation. The standard US 37mm M5 or M6 gun did not fit in the turret. Coaxially, a .30 Cal (7.62mm) Colt machine gun was mounted. Up to three Colt machine guns could be fitted in the hull, but it appears that a maximum of two was used in any case. The gunner was provided with a telescope through which he could aim both the gun and the coaxial machine-gun. No radio was installed, although it is possible that some were mounted during local adjustments.
The vehicle weighed 13 US tons (11.340 kg), which resulted in a ground pressure of 9 psi (0,633 kg/cm2). The tank could take slopes of 50 percent. The armor consisted of bolted plates. Three vision slits were located in the front hull and one on each side. Some vision slits were located in the turret as well and were all protected by glass blocks.

In Dutch Service

As already mentioned, the KNIL ordered a total of 628 tanks. The Marmon-Herrington company, having no experience handling an order this big, suffered from huge production delays and the first planned delivery date of 165 CTLS and 140 CTMS tanks on January 1st 1942 could not be met. In fact, only a small number of the CTLS made it to the East Indies before Java was occupied by the Japanese and all transports were canceled. In the meantime, the contract was still being completed, but at this stage taken over by the US government.

A CTMS-1TB1 being inspected by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, 1943. Photo: network54.com Overvalwagen forum.
Now that the Indies had fallen, the only remaining free part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was the Antilles and Dutch Guiana (Suriname). In May 1942, the Bataljon Vechtwagens (Tanks Battalion) was formed of which some personnel was already trained in the USA. The battalion was part of the Mixed Motorized Brigade and its personnel consisted of a marines detachment, about eighty men, and a detachment from the Princess Irene Brigade, of 225 men.
Within a short time, among other equipment, 73-74 tanks were sent to Suriname, 28 CTLS, 26 CTMS and 19-20 MTLS tanks. However, the Dutch Army could not directly provide enough resources to maintain a full battalion, as it lacked personnel and accommodation, but a ‘half-battalion’ was formed during the summer of 1943. Unfortunately, the marines detachment moved to the USA in September 1943 for training and the group from the Princess Irene Brigade also returned to England in 1943, in preparation for the planned invasion of France. To make matters worse, volunteers left for Australia to join the Dutch troops stationed there. This huge lack of personnel meant that the battalion could only operate a small part of their tanks.

CTMS tanks on parade in Paramaribo during the war. Photo: Dutch National Archives
When even more men were allowed to go home after the war in 1946, the tank unit had to be disbanded and all tanks were put in storage, some even left out in the open. Some sources suggest that a few tanks were sent to the Indies in 1946 to fight in the Independence war, but this has never been strongly confirmed and is quite unlikely. What happened to the single CTMS sent to Aruba and the two sent to Curacao is unknown.
In 1947, it was decided that an active cavalry unit was desired to be deployed in Suriname but many tanks were in a bad state. Turrets were rusted to the hull and many lacked armament. In 1954, not more than 10 out of the original 74 tanks were still operational. One of these lacked a turret and was used as a recovery vehicle, although it is sometimes identified as a command tank as well. In 1956, only two were still in running order and a year later, in 1957, the tank unit was discontinued. All vehicles were scrapped.

Ecuador’s First Tank

The Ecuadorian Army also got their hands on the CTMS when they tried to buy weapons after the war with Peru in 1941. Twelve vehicles were purchased from the United States and landed in the city of Guayaquil between February and March 1942 or 1943. By rail, they were transferred to the city of Quito and transferred to the newly formed Tank School Squadron no.1 (Escuadrón Escuela de Tanques no. 1). This squadron was based in the camp of the ‘Yaguachi’ Cavalry Group (Grupo de Caballería), located in the city district of La Magdalena.
The Peruvian invasion of Ecuador in 1941 and the US involvement in the Second World War hindered US Army officials from instructing or advising the Ecuadorian Army and instructors would not arrive until 1946. However, justified by the need of training in American tanks, Ecuadorian personnel was sent to the US to become tank instructors for the Ecuadorian Army. Among them were Lieutenants Reinaldo Varea Donoso, Andres Arrata Macias, and Carlos Arregui Armas.
Unlike other armies, the Ecuadorian Army was quite pleased with the performance of the tanks and were kept in service until 1959. Five vehicles were preserved and put as monuments. One is located at the National Military Academy in Quito. In southern Quito, two pairs of CTMS tanks are located at the Epiclachima Mechanized and Motorized Equipment School. Each tank bears a different nickname, the first pair was named after Indian chiefs: Atahualpa and Epiclachima. The other two are named after war heroes from the Ecuadorian-Peruvian war: Captains Juan I Pareja and Hugo Coronel. All five vehicles appear to have either new or fake guns, as the barrels seem too long.

This picture shows eight of the twelve vehicles acquired by Ecuador. Photo: SOURCE

Accompany for the CTVL

Mexico acquired four tanks in 1942 via the Lend-Lease program. They accompanied the nine Marmon-Herrington CTVL tanks already in service in 1938 in the Compañía Reducida de Tanques Ligeros (Reduced Light Tanks Company), based in Mexico City. Later, they were added to the tank group of the Brigada Motomecanizada (Mechanized Brigade). In 1955, they were taken out of service and put in storage after which all four were scrapped.

Three Mexican CTMS tanks can be seen together with three Marmon-Herrington CTVL tanks. Nine of these were already in service with the Mexican army before the war. Photo: Sentinel Mexico Marmon Dossier 2

Marmon Herrington CTMS 1TB1
Illustration of the Marmon-Herrington CTMS-1TB1 by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

The CTMS-1TB1 in Cuba

Cuba was one of the first Latin American countries that declared war on the Axis powers after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. As Cuba was an important ally in the Caribbean, it received a reasonable amount of military aid through the Lend-Lease program. Part of this aid was the delivery of eight Marmon-Herrington tanks by the U.S. Ordnance Department, which became known in the Cuban army as the ‘3 Man Dutch’. They participated in the war against the guerrillas of Fidel Castro in 1958 and so are probably the only CTMS tanks that saw real fighting. In January 1959, five were still in service and in 1960, these were modified and fitted with short-range radios. The original 37mm cannon was also replaced by a Bofors QF 20mm gun. This was probably done due to a shortage of 37mm shells, whereas for the 20mm plenty were available. In 1962, the vehicles were finally taken out of service as no spares were delivered by the US and vital components, including the engine, started to really show their age.

A Cuban mid-1950’s crew is standing on top. Their uniforms indicate that this picture was taken during the mid 1950’s. Photo: SOURCE

Guatemalan Service

The last country to receive CTMS tanks was Guatemala. Little is known about the six acquired vehicles but they were unpopular among Guatemalan troops. The vehicles ended their service as gate guards. One vehicle still survives as a monument, located beside the road Avenida De La Barranquilla in Guatemala City. The Marmon-Herrington tank in possession of the Militia Museum of New Jersey is an ex-Guatemalan vehicle. Its one of the at least three vehicles that returned to the US and were for sale in 1994.

This picture was taken during the October Revolution in 1944. In the early morning of October 20th, rebels took the Matamoros Barracks in Guatemala City, which marked the beginning of sixteen hours of combat that resulted in the overthrow of the government in office. Source: IPMS/Guatemala

The Guatemalan tanks received a three-colored camouflage scheme. Its exact colors are unknown. Source: aviarmor.net

Three Guatemalan CTMS tanks that were sent to the US to be sold in 1994, along with a Stuart and four M8 Greyhounds. Source: Wheels & Tracks 50.

The CTMS in the US

Of the 194 produced tanks, only 61 tanks were sent abroad, leaving the US Army with 133 tanks. One was sent to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds where it was thoroughly tested from February 25th until May 3rd, 1943. It drove 454 miles during these tests, after which it was concluded that the CTMS would not serve any purpose in the US Army and the entire batch of 133 was scrapped. The CTMS, together with an MTLS tank, was still present at Aberdeen in 1946, but what happened to them after that is unknown.
Apart from the CTMS at the Militia Museum, three more tanks are known to be in the US. Two vehicles, originally part of the Littlefield collection, were transferred to the Collings Foundation. These are probably ex-Guatemalan vehicles as well. The other vehicle’s location is unknown, and on photographs it appears to be in a rusty but still presentable state.

The Marmon-Herrington tank at the New Jersey Militia Museum. Photo: forum.valka.cz

CTM-3TBD

The only other produced tank from the CTMS line was the CTM-3TBD. Its hull was completely identical to the 1TB1. It was designed after the US Marine Corps had set requirements, which required a turret and a diesel engine. As such, this was the first and only Marmon-Herrington tank equipped with a diesel engine, a 123hp Hercules DXRB. Three .30 cal machine-guns were mounted in the hull. Two 12.7mm (.50 cal) machine-guns were mounted in the turret. The armor was between ¼ and ½ inch (6-13mm) thick and it weighed 20,800lbs, although it was designed to be 18,500lbs. The vehicle had a top speed of 30mph (48 kph) and a range of 125 miles (200 km). The crew consisted out of three men, commander, driver, and gunner.
Five vehicles were built for a price of US$29,780 a piece. After trials had taken place, it was concluded that the vehicles did not have an outstanding performance and it was decided by the US Marine Corps to keep buying Army tanks. The five vehicles which had been built were sent to the 2nd Seperate Tank Company, based on Uvea Island to the west of Samoa where other Marmon-Herrington tanks were already stationed. In 1943, all five were taken out of service and scrapped.

The CTM-3TBD at the production facilities of Marmon-Herrington. A total of five would be built and put in service with the US Marines until retirement in 1943. Source: mcvthf.com

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.2 x 2.34 x 2.45 m
Total weight, battle ready 11 long tons
Crew 2
Propulsion Hercules RLXDI inline-six gasoline engine, 174 hp at 2600 rpm
Speed 40 km/h (25mph)
Range 130km (80 miles)
Armament American Armament Cooperation automatic 37mm L.44 cannon
Up to four .30 cal Colt or Browning machine guns
Armor 13mm (½ inch) all around

Resources & Links

Presidio Press, Stuart: A History of the American Light Tank, R.P. Hunnicutt.
World War 2 In Review: American Fighting Vehicles, Issue 2, Merriam Press.
Sentinel Dossier 2, Tanque Ligero Marmon-Herrington CTMS-1TB1 Del Ejército Mexicano.
Kenneth W. Estes, Robert M. Neiman, Tanks on the Beaches: A Marine Tanker in the Great Pacific War.
AVF News, Volume 24, no.3.
Wheels & Tracks, no.23 & no.50
El Ejército Ecuatoriano en la campaña internacional de 1941 y en la post guerra.
Jane’s World War II Tanks and Fighting Vehicles, The Complete Guide, Leland Ness.
wwiiafterwwii.wordpress.com
mapleleafup.nl/marmonherrington
www.ejercitoecuatoriano.mil.ec
the.shadock.free.fr/Surviving_Panzers
www.urrib2000.narod.ru

Categories
WW2 Dutch Tanks WW2 US Light Tanks

Marmon-Herrington CTLS-4TA

USA/KNIL (1939) Light Tank – 450 Built

The Marmon-Herrington Company was a manufacturer of commercial cars and trucks based in Indiana, and in the early 1930’s found itself gravitating towards the production of military trucks and chassis. In 1936, the US Marine Corps were looking for a light tank which would be small enough to be transported on its Navy Lighters (early Landing Craft). Marmon-Herrington had noticed interest in a tankette for similar purposes from several other parties in the last few years, and offered their latest design, the ‘CTL-3’ to the Marines in 1936. The Marines purchased 10 over the next year.
In 1938, Marmon-Herrington submitted a design for an armored car that could be built on commercial truck chassis to South Africa. This gave rise to the successful Marmon-Herrington Armoured Car in South African and British service, although they did not manufacture this in the US. Perhaps buoyed by their relative success, when the US rearmament program began to expand in 1939, Marmon-Herrington offered to improve the design of the CTL-3 and begin a much larger production run. However, the US Marines were not completely satisfied with the fragile machines. They had proven inferior on trials to the M2A4’s and M3 Stuart light tanks which were then being introduced in the US Army, even if they were cheaper and lighter. As a compromise, they ordered 20 of a slightly improved version, with a better engine and suspension, the CTL-6, in April 1940, but did not ask for any more, leaving Marmon without a customer for its tanks as the war in Europe escalated.

The Original CTL-3 in use by the Marines around 1939. Photo: SOURCE

A New Market

When the British went to war in 1939, they temporarily suspended most of their vehicle exports to other nations. When they found themselves with only a handful of tanks to defend the British Isles within June 1940, with many of their trade routes plundered by U-boats, their promises of further exports, both to Colonies and Allies, were abandoned almost immediately. Although the Netherlands were defeated in May, their colonial possessions in the Caribbean and Dutch East Indies remained out of the reach of Germany or Italy, but with limited resources and manpower, they were vulnerable to attack from another foreign power. All eyes in the East feared the possibility of a Japanese attack at some point in the future. The Royal Netherlands East Indies Army had received only 24 light tanks of a total 77 ordered before the war and were now weaker than ever. Marmon-Herrington was now one of the few companies out there with the resources to spare, or the inclination to help the Dutch. Desperate as they were, the Dutch representatives took up the offer to create a modified specification, as they were unhappy with the armament and protection of the CTL.

The CTLS-4TA

The new vehicle could not be a radical departure from the tankette produced for the Marines if they wanted to receive it quickly. It was based on the same hull and chassis with Marmon’s own bogie leaf suspension, but clearly an effort was made to turn the vehicle into a more effective light tank. The armor thickness was improved from 12 to 25mm, so the vehicle would be better protected against .50 caliber machine gun fire. The standard .30 cal was replaced with a .50 as the main armament. The more radical change was the housing for this gun, now in its own brand new turret, offset to one side of the vehicle, while another machine gun could be mounted in the hull on the driver’s side. Bizarrely, the new vehicle was designed to operate in pairs. The two different variants of the 4TA were the 4TAC (turret mounted on the right), and 4TAY (turret mounted on the left). This arrangement was made because the hand-operated turret was restricted to 270 degrees of traverse by the shape of the hull. Had the turret been mounted in the center, there would have been no space for the driver in this two-man tank. The tank was powered by a 6-cylinder Hercules engine producing about 120bhp, propelling the tank’s new weight of just under 8 tons at around 30 mph on the road.
Pleased with the new design and really, seriously desperate for production to get underway, the Royal Dutch East Indies Army placed an order for 200 vehicles before the end of the year and, anxious to avoid delays, appears to have paid up just as quickly. Marmon-Herrington had got their wish but had never produced tanks in such a quantity. While the Dutch hoped they would have their tanks by December of 1941, and even made additional orders for further modified larger light tanks, the ‘CTMS’ and ‘MTLS’, Marmon now found their production capacity unable to cope. The first shipment of 20 or 24 vehicles arrived in Java in early 1942, just weeks after the Japanese launched their war against Britain, the United States, and the Dutch East Indies.

The 4TA in service on Java in early 1942, likely not long before their baptism of fire. Photo: SOURCE

Destined for Foreign Shores

Over the next three months a further shipment was sunk on the way to Java, and so the tanks already present, 24 British Vickers Light Tanks and at least 7 of the Marmons and an assortment of armored cars formed the Tank Battalion on Java at Bandung. When the battle of Java began on the night of the 28th of February, the Battalion moved up to the strategically important town of Buitenzorg in west Java, along the route of retreat from the capital of Batavia. While organized Australian and Allied resistance held the Japanese up for several days, the mass of the forces on Java were Indonesians with little training, and the determined Japanese attack overwhelmed them quickly. On the 2nd of March, the Tank Battalion moved to counterattack at the town of Soebang, and the unsupported Japanese infantry at first fell back through the town. Unfortunately, mostly ignoring the Armoured Unit, the Japanese picked off their infantry support in a few hours, and despite few tanks lost, the Battalion was forced to retreat. Over the next two days, they would be hounded by the fast-moving Japanese forces and their 47mm anti-tank guns which could easily knock out the Light Tank. Soon the Battalion either abandoned their vehicles, was captured, or was destroyed. The remainder of the 24 Mormons were likely used in garrison positions and were captured by the Japanese without much of a fight, hence several were found intact by the Allies when they returned to the Island at the end of the war. Several vehicles were reportedly used by the Indonesians in the Indonesian National Revolution up until 1949.
The other 149 vehicles that had just rolled off the production line were already in transit in some form to the Pacific Theater. With the tanks already paid for, but with the East Indies lost, the tanks instead diverted to Australia, arriving throughout April and May 1942. The vehicles were assessed to be in good condition and of solid build quality, but their value as fighting vehicles was determined to be low, and they were dispersed to training units of the 1st Australian Armoured Division, mostly to teach new drivers. Over the next year, 11 were cannibalized for parts due to water damage on exercises, and the other 138 were declared obsolete in November 1943, and given to the Ford motor company for scrap.

Marmon-Herrington CTLS-4TA
The Marmon-Herrington CTLS-4TA illustrated by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

The Bountiful Reject

The vehicles that had yet to be shipped in early 1942 were immediately confiscated by the US Army, who, after subjecting them to brief trials, made a U-turn on their previous position and declared that Marmon did indeed know what they were doing. They promptly ordered Marmon to continue production of the 4TA, as a Lend-Lease vehicle to be used by Nationalist China against the Japanese and redesignating the vehicles T14 and T16 depending on turret placement. But supplying China with heavy equipment quickly proved a logistical nightmare, and having already been promised several hundred M2A4s and M3 Stuarts, China rejected the design. This left the US Army with 240 tanks it had paid for, but China didn’t even want the hassle of being supplied with.

Pressed into US service, the CTLS was used by garrisons and deployed to Alaska in the remote Aleutian islands campaign, freeing up M3 and M5 Stuarts for service on other fronts. Their cramped interior made them unpopular with US crews and in late 1943, they were declared obsolete in America too and were also scrapped shortly after.

A ‘Damaged’ 4TA being inspected by an Indonesian soldier in 1945. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Later Variants

The ‘CTMS’ was another project intended for the Dutch East Indies in 1941, it was a slightly enlarged version of the CTLS, which had a crew of 3, and a 37mm gun mounted on a central turret. Around 31 were built but not finished before the Dutch East Indies fell, and were given to Central American countries by the US for defense.
The ‘MTLS’ was a further enlargement of the principle design, with dual mounted 37mm guns, a four-man crew and increased protection up to 38mm. With around 19 built a few were moved to Dutch Suriname for defense and several trialed in the US at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The same basic components used on the CTL-3 were now supporting a 20-tonne vehicle, and predictably it was extremely sluggish and the brakes and suspension were wrecked after less than 200 miles test driving. By this point, the vastly superior M4 Sherman and other medium tanks were readily available to the US, and the series was pursued no further.
Marmon Herrington’s last contribution to the tank industry was the design of the M22 Locust Airborne tank which saw limited use over the Rhine in 1945. Marmon-Herrington continues to build truck chassis and vehicle parts as a part of the larger Marmon Group to this day.

The MTLS next to the M22 Locust. Photo: SOURCE

Specifications

Dimensions 3.51 x 2.10 x 2.10 m
Total weight, battle ready 8 long tons
Crew 2
Propulsion 6-cylinder Hercules 120bhp
Speed 30 mph (48 km/h)
Range 60 miles (96 km)
Armament .50 Cal Browning M2 Heavy MG
.30 Cal Browning M1919 Medium MG
Armor From 25 to 12mm

Links, Resources &Further Reading

Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #186: US Marine Corps Tanks of World War II
Presidio Press, Stuart – A History of the American Light Tank, R.P. Hunnicutt
Jane’s WW2 Tanks and Fighting Vehicles
Marmon Herrington Tanks in Australia
The Japanese Thrust, Australia in the war 1939-45
Imperial War Museum, IWM

Categories
Failed Tanks WW2 British Light Tanks WW2 US Light Tanks

Light Tank (Airborne) M22 Locust

Failed tank

 Great Britain/U.S.A. (1941)
Air-Mobile Light Tank – 830 Built

The M22 Locust came about in 1941 as a request from the British War Office for a bespoke air-deployable tank. Until this point, the British had been using the Light Tank Mk. VII Tetrarch for the role. The Tetrarch did not start out as an airborne tank however, so it was believed to be inferior to a vehicle dedicatedly designed for this role.
The United States Ordnance Department received the request and began work on finding a suitable designer and builder. The famous J. Walter Christie was first on their list, who in turn produced a prototype in 1941. This prototype did not meet the size requirements, however, so the Ordnance Department looked elsewhere. The Marmon-Herrington Company then came forward with their own design. The design was approved and the Company produced a wooden prototype in August of 1941 which was designated ‘Light Tank T9’.
Christie's unused design for the project - Photo: warspot.ru
Christie’s unused design for the project – Photo: warspot.ru

Development of the T9

Marmon-Herrington was already a trusted producer of light tanks for the United States Marine Corp (USMC), so were seen as the perfect candidate to produce the United States’ first air-mobile tank. The specifications were set for a tank light in weight and able to be transported either by the US’s Douglas C-54 Skymaster transport, the specially designed Fairchild C-82 Packet or the British General Aircraft Hamilcar glider. At the time, there was no thought given to parachuting the tank in, as large and strong enough parachutes did not exist at the time. The idea was to land the tank on the ground once the first wave of paratroopers or glider infantry had secured a suitable landing area.
In April 1942, a trial vehicle was produced and sent to Fort Benning, Georgia for testing. Between the conceptualization and pilot phases, however, the tank slipped over its 7.9-ton weight limit. This led to the deletion of some of the tank’s extra features such as the power-traverse for the turret, gun stabilizer, and fixed bow machine-guns bringing the weight back down to 7.4 tons. Two prototypes of this revised designed were produced in November 1942 and designated T9E1. One of the vehicles was dispatched to Great Britain for testing along with an accompanying team of engineers. The team reported that the tank was well received and that the British were more than happy to purchase the tank.
One of the test models of the T9
One of the test models of the T9.
The British placed an order for the tanks, with production set to begin in late 1942. However, technical issues kept dogging the production of the tank, delaying it until the April of 1943. The tank didn’t officially receive it’s M22 designation until late 1944, with the British eventually nicknaming it ‘Locust.’

The Locust’s Anatomy

The M22 was one of the smallest tanks the United States had ever built, yet it still carried a crew of 3. These consisted of the commander, who also served as the loader, who, along with the gunner, was positioned in the turret, with the driver positioned on the right side of the hull. The driver had a small armored hood over his head with vision ports embedded.
Like it’s invertebrate namesake, the M22 was fast. Propelled by the 165 hp Lycoming O-435T horizontally opposed 6-cylinder gasoline engine, the tank could reach, in theory, 40 mph (64 km/h). More than fast enough for it to save itself from a sticky situation. The running gear was based on the type found on the M3/M5 Stuart Light Tanks, being slightly lower than the original. It retained the forward drive sprocket and Vertical Volute Spring Suspension (VVSS) with large trailer idler wheel at the rear.
Early model of the T9E1 during trials
Early model of the T9E1 during trials.
The M22’s speed would also serve as it’s protection. The tank was not designed to fight it out against heavy enemy armor, merely supply its accompanying airborne infantry with light armored support. As such, armor on the vehicle was only 12.5 mm (0.49 in) at its thickest.
The main armament consisted of the 37 mm (1.46 in) Tank Gun M6. This was the same gun found on the M3/M5 Stuart Light Tanks, the M3 Lee/Grant, and the M8 armored car. It could fire a range of ammunition types, including APCBC (Armor-Piercing Capped Ballistic-Capped) and HE (High Explosive). The AP ammunition could penetrate roughly 25 mm (1 in) of armor at 1,000 yards (910 m). The secondary armament consisted of a single coaxial Browning M1919 .30 cal. (7.62 mm) machine gun mounted on the right of the 37 mm gun.

Faults, Faults, and more Faults…

Until this point, the Ordnance Department had been more than happy with the developments of the T9E1 vehicle. However, Fort Knox, who had run their own tests with the tank offered a drastically different opinion in a report to Ordnance:

“Light Tank T9 is not a satisfactory combat vehicle in its present state of development due to the lack of adequate reliability and durability…and cannot be used for landing operations with any degree of success.”

Following more scathing reports such as this, the initial order of approximately 1,900 T9s was terminated with 830 tanks produced. Not exactly the swarm the tank’s name would suggest.
A British service M22 Locust emerging from a Hamilcar glider during tests
A British service M22 Locust emerging from a Hamilcar glider during tests.
Further tests by both nation’s armored boards only highlighted more the faults appearing with the M22’s design. The first issues came with the very core of the tank’s reason for being, the airmobile capability. It was found that loading the M22 onto a Douglas C-54 took a crew roughly 24 minutes, with unloading taking around 10 minutes. This was because the vehicle had to be ‘decapitated’. The turret was hoisted off and placed inside the aircraft, while the hull was driven under the belly of the C-54. It would then be suspended from the aircraft via the lifting eyes on the right and left flanks, above the suspension bogies. This method was not ideal in combat conditions. It was also apparent that deployment from a fully laden C-54 would require the capture of a suitable airfield.
In 1944, it was eventually concluded that the design of the tank was actually quite obsolete, with its armor (discussed in the above anatomy section) able to be penetrated by .50 caliber rounds.
Along the same lines, a number of complaints flowed in about the M22’s 37 mm main armament, ranging from its lack of anti-armor capabilities to the weakness of its High-Explosive rounds. The subsequent burst from the shells was too weak, making them inadequate for observation uses. Also, with the removal of the power traverse unit, the turret had to be hand cranked, meaning rotation was extremely slow.
An unreliable transmission also resulted in numerous breakdowns, meaning the tank would take up a lot of “shop time”.
Production model M22 with protective cover over the barrel - Photo: Osprey Publishing
Production model M22 with protective cover over the barrel – Photo: Osprey Publishing

Standard issue American M22, with side skirts
Standard issue American M22, with side skirts.

American M22 named Bonnie from the 28th Airborne Tank Battalion, one of the only American units to be equipped with the tank.
American M22 named “Bonnie” from the 28th Airborne Tank Battalion, one of the only American units to be equipped with the tank.

An example of the M22 Locust in British service.
An example of the M22 Locust in British service. Note the Littlejohn adaptor at the end of the Barrel and 2in Smoke-Bomb launchers on the turret.

Illustrations are by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

Service

USA
Two specially organized combat units were formed to undergo training for deployment with the M22. These were the 151st Airborne Tank Battalion activated on August 15, 1943, and the 28th Airborne Tank Battalion activated on December 6, 1943. The formation of the 151st came too late for them to see action as part of the Airborne forces involved with the commencement of D-Day in June of 1944. In the July of that year, they were relocated from their original base at Fort Knox to Camp Mackall in North Carolina. The 28th were redesignated as a standard Tank Battalion following a loss of interest by Airborne Command in October 1944.
Crew of an M22 sat aboard their tank named
Crew of an M22 sat aboard their tank named “Bonnie” from the 28th Airborne Tank Battalion – Photo: Osprey Publishing
A mere total of 25 M22s were deployed to the European theater by US forces. These were sent to the Sixth Army Group in Alsace for potential use by the venerable 1st Airborne Divison. What happened after this, however, is somewhat of a mystery as records are not currently known to exist.
Great Britain
Despite the Locust’s highlighted faults, the British War Office still wanted the tanks, believing they were more than adequate for their intended role. As such, 230 M22s were shipped to the United Kingdom under the Lend-Lease Act. The first 17 to arrive were handed to the 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment (AARR) to supplement their existing arsenal of Tetrarchs.
A British Locust with the Little John adapter - Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A British Locust with the Little John adapter – Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The British made a few minor modifications to the tanks, including the addition of smoke-bomb launchers on the side of the turret, and the incorporation of the Little John adapter at the end of the muzzle. This adapter, in conjunction with special ammunition, operates under the squeeze-bore principal. The adapter is has a partially narrower aperture than the rest of the barrel, meaning the shell is under higher pressure causing it to fly faster and punch harder.
Operation Varsity
The tanks saw action with the British during Operation: Varsity, the March 1945 landings around the Rhine. Two Locust equipped units of the 6th AARR were assigned to the Operation. This operational deployment would be the Locust’s only chance to ravage the hypothetical crops of the Reich, and it bore mixed results. As designed, the tanks were brought in by Hamilcar gliders. 8 of the gliders took part in the assault. One glider was lost when the M22 it was carrying broke loose of its bindings and crashed through the tail section of the aircraft, sending both vehicles plummeting to the Rhineland. The remaining gliders touched down as planned, apart from one which hit a ditch at high speed spitting the tank causing it to tumble a number of meters with it eventually coming to rest upside down.

After this debacle of a landing, only 6 tanks remained operational. One went to support paratroopers of the US 17th Airborne Division but was knocked out by an unknown German tank destroyer. The Locust’s incessant mechanical problems once more reared their ugly heads when one tried towing a Jeep out of a downed glider. It remained in action, though, and supported elements of the 12th Parachute Battalion. Remaining Locust would continue to provide support in various infantry actions during the operation with mixed success due to the weakness of its 37 mm HE ammunition.

T18, the only Variant

The only variant built on the chassis of the Locust was the T18 Cargo Carrier (Airborne). This was a turretless M22 hull designed to operate in the same way as the M22 base vehicle. It was intended to tow supplies or air-mobile guns, such as the M2 or M3 105 mm (4.13 in) howitzer, from gliders and supply aircraft. The vehicle was not accepted for production.
The T18 tractor in testing - Photo: Osprey Publishing
The T18 tractor in testing – Photo: Osprey Publishing

Fate

The M22 was ultimately a failure and was very much a victim of its time. The technology needed to fully exploit the capabilities of an air-mobile tank was not available in time for the war. Though designed during the war especially for the M22, the Fairchild C-82 Packet was not ready until the conflict had ended. Surprisingly, long after its dismissal by both US and British Forces, the M22 saw combat again in service with the Egyptian army in the 1948 Arab-Isreali War.
Despite its many failures, however, the M22 succeeded in paving the way for future American air-mobile tank projects. These included the M56 Scorpion and M551 Sheridan.

The M22 Locust on display at The Tank Museum, Bovington – Photo: Author’s Photo
Quite a few M22 Locusts do survive to this day, in locations such as the Tank Museum in Bovington, the Rock Island Arsenal Museum in Ilinois of USA, and the Royal Dutch Army Museum at Delft in Netherlands. Others can be found the hands of private collectors world wide.

An article by Mark Nash

M22 Locust Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 12’11” x 7’1” x 6’1”
3.94 x 2.16 x 1.85 m
Total weight 7.4 tons
Crew 3 (driver, gunner, commander/loader)
Propulsion Lycoming O-435T horizontally opposed 6-cylinder gasoline engine, 165 hp
Speed (road) 40 mph (64 km/h)
Armament 37 mm (1.46 in) Tank Gun M6
30 cal. (7.62 mm) machine gun
Armor 9.5 mm (0.37 in) to 12.5 mm (0.49 in)
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Presidio Press, Stuart, A History of the American Light Tank, Volume 1, R.P. Hunicutt
Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #153: M551 Sheridan, US Airmobile Tanks 1941-2001
M22 on The Tank Museum’s website.
www.tank-hunter.com
The M22 on Warspot.ru. (Russian)
English translation of the above article on Tank Archives

Categories
WW2 US Light Tanks

Light Tank M24 Chaffee

USA (1944) Light Tank – 4731 built

Introduction

The M24 Chaffee, the replacement for the M3/M5 Stuarts, was a leap forward in light tank design, improving the concept in all directions. It had modern torsion bar suspensions, completely revised welded steel armor, improved protection and, more importantly, a much more potent lightweight 75 mm (2.95 in) main gun. Although late in the game (just in time for the Battle of the Bulge, winter 1944), the Chaffee was so successful, being efficient, simple, reliable and rugged, that that it was largely exported after the war and stayed in service with many armies until the 1980s and beyond, encompassing most of the Cold War.

What came before the M24 Chaffee?

The M3 and M5 Stuart series of US built light tanks were neither properly armed or armored for survival on the post-1941 battlefield. There was a need for an up-gunned fast light tank with increased protection to meet the needs of an armored reconnaissance unit.
These tanks needed to go ahead of the main armored thrust to scout out the location of enemy units, report their location, call down an artillery barrage or air attack and leave without engaging heavily armed enemy tanks if at all possible. They were not meant to take part in tank on tank combat. They had to rely on their speed and maneuverability to get them out of trouble.
The idea of having a more powerful light tank to replace the M2A4 and M3 designs had been considered as early as autumn 1940. A few months later, in January 1941, this need was translated into a definite requirement which stated that the tank should be a 14-tonner, with a low silhouette, armor of 38 mm (1.5 in) maximum thickness and mounting a 37 mm (1.46 in) gun.
Two pilot models were designed at the Rock Island Arsenal. The first, designated the T7, was to have a welded hull, a cast turret and modified vertical volute suspension. The second pilot, the T7El, would be of riveted construction, with a cast/ welded turret and horizontal volute suspension.
M24 Chaffee of D company, 27th Tank Battalion, 20th Armored Division driving down the streets of Munich on 30th April 1945.
M24 Chaffee of D company, 27th Tank Battalion, 20th Armored Division driving down the streets of Munich on 30th April 1945.
In fact the T7El was never completed because riveted armor went out of favor, but the chassis was still used for transmission and suspension trials, powered by the Continental engine.
Following on from the building of a wooden mock-up of the T7, Rock Island Arsenal were asked to construct three more prototypes, designated the T7E2, T7E3 and T7E4, to test different armor, engine and transmission configurations. Of these, the T7E2 showed the most potential — it had a cast hull, top and turret and a Wright R-975 engine. The design was approved in December 1941, but while the pilot model was being built it was decided to up-gun it to 57 mm (2.24 in).
This gun, an adaptation of the British 6-pdr, was to be fitted to the Canadian-built Ram tank, so a Ram turret ring was incorporated and the tank completed in June 1942. The Armored Forces later asked if it could be modified to take a 75 mm (2.95 in) gun and this was also agreed, although it meant that the turret had to be redesigned. The other major change during development was an increase in the armor thickness to 63 mm (2.52 in) which put up the tank weight to 25 tons, thus effectively taking it out of the light tank class!
It was therefore reclassified as the Medium Tank M7 in August 1942 and standardized. An order for 3000 vehicles was placed with the International Harvester Co., production to begin in December 1942. Meanwhile, the pilot model had been further tested at the Armored Force HQ at Fort Knox, who found that it was grossly underpowered. Its combat weight with crew and full battle stowage was now 29 tons, so work on a re-engined model, the M7E1 begun.
While this saga was taking place, the Sherman M4 medium tank had gone into full production as the standard medium and the Ordnance Board rightly queried with the Armored Forces if they needed the M7 as well. The Armored Forces saw the wisdom of this and production was halted after only a handful of M7s had been produced.
The work on the M7E1 was also stopped and the T7/M7 series declared obsolete. The M7 was thus never used by the US Army.
M24 light tanks of the 38th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Group.
M24 light tanks of the 38th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Group taking part in the victory parade in Prague, Czechoslovakia, July 1945. The Allied stars on the front were only painted on after the war for the parade.

Production and Development

Despite this fiasco, the need for a better-armored light tank with a more powerful gun was still apparent, so the Ordnance Department began work in conjunction with Cadillac, the makers of the M5 series, to design a completely new light tank which would incorporate the best features of all the previous designs, including everything that had been learnt from the T7/M7 program. Cadillac went ahead with a pilot model, designated the T24.
This used twin Cadillac liquid-cooled engines and hydramatic suspension of the M5. It mounted a lightweight M5 75 mm (2.95 in) gun which had been developed for use in the B-25 Mitchell Bomber.
It had a concentric recoil which thus saved space in the turret and was not as heavy as the normal M3 75 mm (2.95 in) gun. A weight limit of 18 tons was set as the ideal target for this tank, which meant that the maximum thickness of armor would only be 25 mm (0.98 in).
The first pilot model, the T24, was completed in October 1943 and was so successful that Ordnance immediately authorized a production order for 1000 AFVs, which they later raised to 5000. Production started in March 1944 at the Cadillac and Massey-Harris plants, M5 production ceasing at these plants simultaneously. In all, they produced 4731 M24s, including variants. The first deliveries were made to the US Army in late 1944 and the first M24s, or Chaffees as they were called after the great General Adna Chaffee, ‘Father of the Armored Force’, saw action in winter 1944 in Europe. Interestingly, it was the British, with their love of nicknames, who first called the M24 the Chaffee, the name then being adopted by the US Army.

The M24 Chaffee

The Light Tank M24 carried a crew of four; commander, gunner, driver and assistant driver, the latter moving up into the turret and serving as loader when the tank was in action.
It was, of course, also possible to have a permanent five-man crew when manpower allowed. The layout was normal, with a driving compartment in the front, fighting compartment in the center and engine compartment in the rear. Dual controls were provided, one for the driver and one for the assistant driver to be used in an emergency.
The tank was driven by two eight-cylinder, 90 degrees V-type liquid-cooled Cadillac engines, through two hydramatic transmissions, a transfer unit with mechanically selected speed ranges — two forward and one reverse controlled differential for steering and braking which was located in the front of the hull, two final drives, and connecting propeller shafts.
Wide steel block tracks, 16 inches wide, provided the means of traction. Torsion arm suspension was used for the dual track wheels, and included a compensating wheel at the rear of each side to keep track tension constant regardless of obstacles.
The hull was a completely welded structure, except for portions of the front, top and floor, which were removable for servicing. The hull was divided into two compartments: the fighting and driving compartment at the front and the engine compartment at the rear. These compartments were separated by a bulkhead extending from side to side and from the roof down to the bulkhead extensions, which in turn extended forward far enough to cover the transfer unit. The front of the hull sloped downwards at the top and upwards at the bottom to form a ‘<‘.
To keep the weight of the tank down the armor was not very thick. The front glacis was 1 inch (25 mm) thick. The top of the hull was only 2/5 inch (10 mm) thick. The sides of the hull sloped inwards at the bottom. The thickness of the armor on the hull side of the M24 Chaffee was not uniform: the front 2/3 of the armour was 1 inch (25 mm) thick but the last 1/3 length of the side armor that covered the engine compartment was only 3/4 inch (19 mm) thick. The rear hull armor was 3/4 inch (19 mm) thick. The turret armour was 1 inch (25 mm) thick with the addition of a 1 1/2 inch (38 mm) thick gun mantel.
The fighting compartment comprised a turret of approximately 60 inches inside diameter, mounted on a continuous ball bearing mounting, with 360 degrees traverse by means of either a handwheel or a hydraulic mechanism. The 75 mm (2.95 in) gun and the coaxial .30 cal (7.62 mm) Browning machinegun were mounted in the turret, with elevation from -10 to +15 degrees.
A second .30 cal (7.62 mm) was mounted in the hull on the assistant driver’s side and a .50 cal (12.7 mm) anti-aircraft machine-gun was pintle mounted on top of the turret. The tank could be fitted with a dozer blade as necessary.
M24 Chaffee Light Tank of the 20th Armoured Division.
M24 Chaffee Light Tank of the 20th Armored Division, 7th Army, near Salzburg in Austria, 4th May 1945 just a few days before the end of the war.

US M24 Chaffee Tanks

The M24 entered service with the US Army in winter 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge. One of the first units to get them was 740th Tank Battalion, which took over two M24s quite by chance during the ensuing ‘flap’. More vehicles were deployed to the battle as they became available. They continued to replace older Stuart light tanks until the end of the war.
The 23rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 16th Armored Division were issued with M24 Chaffee light tanks and used them as part of their advance towards Pizen in Czechoslovakia at the end of the war, in May 1945. They added black paint over the olive green base color of the factory issued tanks to improve the vehicle’s camouflage.
Patton’s Third Army allocated M24 Chaffees to F troop, 2nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron for their advance towards Bavaria, Southern Germany, in April 1945. A blue disk with a white trim and the letter A was painted on their turrets.
M24 tanks did not see operational service in the Philippines before the end of WW2. None arrived in Okinawa, Japan until after the fighting had ended but they were displayed alongside M26 Pershing tanks for troop ID training in August 1945.
F troop, 81st Reconnaissance Squadron, 1st Armored Division used M24 Chaffee light tanks in Salvara in Italy, April 1945.

M24 Chaffee tanks in Japan

After VJ day, Victory in Japan day, at the end of World War II, American forces landed on mainland Japan. The M24 Chaffee light tank was chosen for occupation duty in Japan, rather than the heavier and larger Sherman and Pershing tanks. Japanese roads and bridges were not designed to accommodate vehicles of such weight and size.
The four US Army divisions with the Eighth Army in Japan (7th, 24th, 25th Infantry and 1st Cavalry) each had an attached tank battalion: the 77th, 78th, 79th and 71st Tank Battalions respectively. In reality, each battalion had only a single company of M24 light tanks in Japan.

British M24 Chaffees

There were a few Chaffees in British service, supplied by the United States in 1945 and they remained in service for a short while after the war ended. The M24 Chaffee light tank was not extensively exported under the Lend Lease program because production only started in 1944. The only significant recipient of this tank was the British Army. They had ordered 842 vehicles but received between 203 to 302 in 1944 and a further 99 in 1945.
They were deployed in small numbers in April 1945 replacing the American built Stuart light tanks in the last few weeks of World War Two. Units known to have them include the reconnaissance squadrons of the 7th Armoured Division (The Desert Rats).
At least two of these tanks were lost in combat prior to the war finishing. By June 1945, the 7th Armoured Division had an operational strength of 28 M24 Chaffee light tanks. By the summer of 1945, small numbers of M24 tanks were sent to Italy and India for training. The Soviet Union was also supplied with two tanks for evaluation in 1945. Most British M24s were given to the Dutch Army. There are a few survivors in the Barracks Museum in Amersfoort, The Netherlands.
The Muckleburgh Military Collection in Norfolk, England has a restored working British M24 Chaffee, B Squadron, 1st Royal Tank Regiment, 22nd Armoured Brigade which was part of the 7th Armoured Division (the Desert Rats). The number ’52’ painted on the front of the tank indicates the intermediate regiment in the Brigade, which by 1945 when they received a few M24s, was the 1st Royal Tank Regiment. The Red Stags head on a white background above the number 52 is the badge of 22nd Armoured Brigade.
It is highly probable that the Museum has made a slight mistake. Strictly speaking, the B squadron Red Square marking should be yellow. Red was for the senior regiment, the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards, who would have had the tactical number 51. The junior regiment, the 5th Royal Tank Regiment, would have had the tactical number 53 and its squadron markings would be painted in blue. The large number 5 in the square indicates that the tank belonged to the 5th troop.

Canadian M24 Chaffee Tanks

With the US-Canadian post-war agreement to buy surplus M4A2 76mm (W) HVSS Shermans, the deal added 90 M5A1 Stuart light tanks and 32 M24 Chaffee light tanks as well. These were all from US war stocks. In May 1945, the Canadian 4th Armoured Division received its first M24 Chaffee the trials. The Canadian Army’s verdict was that it was “impossible to speak too highly of its design and performance.”
The main part of the M24 Chaffee order started to arrive around December 1949. Royal Canadian Armoured Corps (RCAC) records show five M24 tanks arrived in the first batch on that date, the rest started to arrive at the Long Point depot in Montreal. In October 1952, there were two held in ordnance stocks, 17 at the RCAC School, one at the RCEME School and one assigned to Lord Strathcona’s Horse for a total of 21. For January 1954, there were 18 at ordnance depots, one at the RCAC School and two assigned to Active Force units. The M24 was declared obsolete by the Canadian Army in April 1958.
We would like to thank Anthony Sewards for this information.

Australian Army M24 tank trials

During the Australian Army tank trials of the M24 in Bougainville, in the Pacific, in November 1945, it was found that a trench of 7-foot wide could be negotiated by the Chaffee but that it was stopped by an 8-foot wide trench.
The Australian War Office concluded that ‘these tanks under trial proved that, although their mechanical ability was outstanding and their armament ideal for such a role, their light armor and inability to maintain constant slow speed consistent with infantry pace rendered them unsuitable for service under tropical conditions.’
It is not very often that a tank gets criticized for being too fast. The M24 was a recce tank and a hydramatic transmission could not work at low speed as the transmission would always be hunting for a gear.

The Korean War

The M24 really proved itself during the opening phases of the Korean war in 1950, when they were the only armor available to the hard-pressed US and South Korean forces. The Chaffee was finally replaced in the US Army by the M41.
French Army example of the M24 Chaffee Light Tank can be found at the the French Tank Museum in Saumur in the Loire Valley
French Army M24 Chaffee Light Tank at the French Tank Museum in Saumur, France. It was delivered to the French Army after the WW2 1945 victory. It took part in the French Indochina (Vietnam) campaign and also in Algeria.

French M24 Chaffees

The French Army M24 Chaffee Light Tanks were delivered after the WW2 1945 victory. They took part in the French Indochina (Vietnam) campaign and also in Algeria. With the exception of small arms, a great deal of the equipment used by the French in Indochina was American. Several Chaffee tanks, such as this one, were parachuted into Dien Bien Phu in pieces and then assembled. The French soldiers nicknamed them ‘Bisons’.
They employed ten M24s in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. In December 1953, ten disassembled Chaffees were transported by air, in British front opening Bristol Freighters leased to the French Government, to provide fire support to the garrison. The French unit that used the M24 at Dien Bien Phu was the 3rd Company of the 1st Light cavalry Regiment (3/1 RCC). They had one command tank (named Conti) and 3 divisions with 3 tanks per division. Morale was considerably raised by the arrival of the M24s by air and, once assembled, they made a huge difference to the defence of DBP.
The French tank divisions were denoted by colours and each tank was given a name. Bleu Division : Bazeille, Douaumont, Mulhouse. Rouge Division : Ettlingen, Posen, Smolensk. Vert Division : Auerstaedt, Ratisbonne, Neumach. Bleu and Rouge divisions were stationed at the central area. Vert was stationed at the south area – Isabelle. French troopers assembled the M24s at Muong Thanh Airport in 1954. Most of them were destroyed by Viet Minh artillery or captured by Viet Minh troops. One captured M24 was used to carry the image of President Ho Chi Minh on North Vietnam Victory Day 7/5/1954.
Later, the ones used by the ARVN (South Vietnam) became notorious as “Voting Machines” as Commander of the Air Force Marshal Ky used them to prevent the overthrow by Army elements of the “constitutional” Government after 1965. ARVN M24 Chaffee light tanks had figured strategically in the overthrow of the Diem Minh Khanh and Su’u regimes.
French Army M24 Chaffee Light Tanks
French Army 3rd Company of the 1st Light cavalry Regiment (3/1 RCC) M24 Chaffee Light Tanks in Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam.

Dutch M24 Chaffee Tanks

A total of 50 vehicles were delivered to the Dutch Army. They served with the 102nd and 103rd Reconnaissance Battalions at the Prins Bernhard barracks in Amersfoort from 1952 till 1961. A Dutch tank squadron comprised of 22 Sherman tanks. A Self-propelled Artillery Squadron would be issued with six 105mm Sherman tanks. An Infantry Squadron would be made up of three platoons. Each platoon had four jeeps, two M24 Chaffee light tanks and two M21 81mm Mortar halftracks. The remainder of the armored fighting vehicles not in use with the operational Dutch Army Battalions were at the Willem III barracks in Amersfoort (school). The museum at the barracks currently has two surviving Chaffee tanks: one has been restored to a working condition.

Greek M24 Chaffee Tanks

The US Government sent 206 M24 Chaffee light tanks to Greece between 1950-51. They formed the 392nd and 393rd Tank Regiments in Macedonia as well as Independent Armored Companies, notably the 2nd, 6th, and 10th Companies integrated respectively with the II, VI and X Infantry Divisions. After 1962, they were gradually transferred to the Aegean islands and by 1975 this transfer was complete. They formed part of the Independent Recon Companies that were integrated into Tank Battalions. They served until 1992. Some were turned into coastal defense bunkers.
Greek Army M24 Chaffee Light Tank
Greek Army M24 Chaffee Light Tank

Variants

At the same time as the M24 was being developed, there was a stated requirement for a family of AFVs, known as the ‘Light Combat Team’. This would comprise a series of gun tanks, self-propelled guns, and special purpose tanks, all of which would use the same basic chassis. The advantages of standardization of components for manufacture, and, just as importantly, the simplification of maintenance, spares holdings and repairs, from such a system can be well imagined. This led to a number of variants being made like the M24 Chaffee Dozer.
M24 Chaffee Light Tank fitted with a dozer blade.
M24 Chaffee Light Tank fitted with a dozer blade.
T77EI Multiple Gun Motor Carriage AA GMC
T77E1 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage AA GMC on an M24 Chaffee chassis
There were a few unsuccessful variant prototypes. These included the T38 Mortar Motor Carriage and the T77E1 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage. There was also a swimming device designated the M20, which allowed the standard M24 to swim ashore from a landing craft, and comprised fore and aft pontoons, plus grousers added to the tracks to give better propulsion through the water. The following two variants were more widely used.

M19 MGMC

Some 285 of these had been completed at the end of the war, but this AA tank, which mounted twin 40 mm (1.57 in) guns in an AA mount, became standard US Army equipment for many years after the war. It had a crew of six, weighed 38,500 lbs and carried 336 40 mm rounds.
M19 General Motor Carriage GMC
The M19 General Motor Carriage GMC was armed with 40mm guns in an anti-aircraft mount

M41 HMC

Known unofficially as the ‘Gorilla’, it mounted a 155 mm (6.1 in) M1 howitzer and, although only sixty were completed before the end of war, it became a standard US Army post-war equipment, like the M19 MGMC. It had a crew of twelve, eight of whom had to be carried in an accompanying ammunition carrier. It weighed 42,500 lbs and 22 rounds of 155 mm ammunition were carried in the vehicle.
Battery A 92nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 8th Army near Kumhwa, Korea 8th June 1952
Battery A, 92nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 8th Army near Kumhwa, Korea 8th June 1952

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 16’4″(without gun)x 9’4″ x 5’3″
5.45 x 2.84 x 2.61 m
Total weight, battle ready 18.37 tons (40,500 lbs)
Crew 5 (driver, commander, gunner, loader, co-driver/radio operator)
Propulsion Twin Cadillac 44T24 8 cylinder petrol engine (110 bhp)
Max Road Speed 34 mph (55 km/h)
Off Road Speed 25 mph (40 km/h)
Range 107 miles (173 km)
Armament 75 mm (2.95 in) M6 L/40 gun, 48 rounds
2x Cal.30-06 (7.62 mm) Browning M1919A4 machine guns
.50 cal (12.7 mm) Browning M2HB machine gun
Front Armor 25 mm (1 in)
Front Side 2/3 Armor 25 mm (1 in)
Rear side 1/3 Armor 19 mm (3/4 in)
Rear Armor 19 mm (3/4 in)
Turret Armor 25 mm (1 in)
Gun Mantel Armor 38 mm (1 1/2 in)
Production 4,371 built

M24 of the US 18th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 740th Tank Battalion, Battle of the Bulge, winter 1944-45
M24 of the US 18th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 740th Tank Battalion, Battle of the Bulge, winter 1944-45Chaffee of the US Army 1st Armored Division in Bologna, Italy, late April 1945
Chaffee of the US Army 1st Armored Division in Bologna, Italy, late April 1945
US Army M24 Light Tank in Germany, 1945
US Army M24 Light Tank in Germany, 1945
M24 Chaffee fitted with the long armed Dozer Blade
M24 Chaffee fitted with the long armed Dozer Blade
M24 of the US Army in the Netherlands, winter 1944-45
M24 of the US Army in the Netherlands, winter 1944-45
Chaffee of the 752nd Tank battalion, February 1946
Chaffee of the 752nd Tank battalion, February 1946
M24 of F Troop, 2nd Cavary Reconnaissance Squadron, Bavaria, Germany, 1945
M24 of F Troop, 2nd Cavary Reconnaissance Squadron, Bavaria, Germany, 1945
Chaffee from the 23rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron Pizen, Czech Republic, 1945
Chaffee from the 23rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron Pizen, Czech Republic, 1945
British M24 Chaffee Light Tank C Squadron, Reconnaissance Regiment, 5th Infantry Division, Germany 1946
British M24 Chaffee, Light Tank C Squadron, Reconnaissance Regiment, 5th Infantry Division, Germany 1946
Chaffee of the British 1st Royal Tank Regiment, HQ Squadron, 22nd Armoured Brigade, 7th Armoured Division, Germany 1945
Chaffee of the British 1st Royal Tank Regiment, HQ Squadron, 22nd Armoured Brigade, 7th Armoured Division, Germany 1945
Variants
M19 MGMC
M19 MGMC
M41 HMC 155 mm M1 howitzer 'Gorrilla'
M41 HMC 155 mm M1 howitzer ‘Gorrilla’
M37 HMC 105 mm GMC
M37 HMC 105 mm GMC
Cold War
Chaffee in the Korean War, 1951.
Chaffee in the Korean War, 1951.
French M24, 1st Regiment of Chasseurs à Cheval, Dien Bien Phu, 1954
French M24, 1st Regiment of Chasseurs à Cheval, Dien Bien Phu, 1954
French M24 in Indochina, now preserved.
French M24 in Indochina, now preserved.
M24 Chaffee, Regimiento Caballeria Pavian 4, Spanish Army, 1958
M24 Chaffee, Regimiento Caballeria Pavian 4, Spanish Army, 1958
M24 of the Taiwanese Army Force, 1960s
M24 of the Taiwanese Army Force, 1960s
M24 of the 29st Cavalry Regiment Pakistani Army, Boyra, Bangladesh 1971
M24 of the 29st Cavalry Regiment Pakistani Army, Boyra, Bangladesh 1971.
Chaffee of the ARVN, 1971.
Chaffee of the ARVN, 1971.

Gallery

M24 Chaffee light tanks were first used in the Battle of the Bulge in the snowy Ardennes forests in December 1944
M24 Chaffee light tanks were first used in the Battle of the Bulge in the snowy Ardennes forests in December 1944. This tank belongs to the 18th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, February 1945.
M24 Chaffee light tank of the US Army 1st Armored Division in Bologna, Italy, late Apr 1945
M24 Chaffee light tank of the US Army 1st Armored Division in Bologna, Italy, late April 1945
British M24 Chaffee, Light Tank C Squadron, Reconnaissance Regiment, 5th Infantry Division, Germany 1946
British M24 Chaffee, Light Tank C Squadron, Reconnaissance Regiment, 5th Infantry Division, Germany 1946
M24 Chaffee light tanks were used in the Korean War by the US Army
M24 Chaffee light tanks were used in the Korean War by the US Army
M24 Chaffee Light Tank advances towards Scharfenberg, Germany, April 1945
M24 Chaffee Light Tank of the 1st Infantry Division advances towards Scharfenberg, Germany, 2nd April 1945
M24 sits at a cross road in Augsberg
M24 sits at a cross road in Augsberg while supporting the US 3rd Infantry Division. The city surrendered 27th April 1945.

Surviving Tanks

Ontario Regiment RCAC Museum M24 Chaffee Light Tank
Ontario Regiment RCAC Museum M24 Chaffee Light Tank
This preserved M24 Chaffee Light Tank can be found at the Tank Museum, Bovington, Dorset in Southern England
Preserved M24 Chaffee Light Tank at the Tank Museum, Bovington, Dorset in Southern England
Surviving fully restored M24 Chaffee Light Tank is in private ownership and can be seen at military vehicle events like the War and Peace Show throughout Britain
Surviving fully restored M24 Chaffee Light Tank in private ownership in England.

British Army Service M24 Chaffee in Norfolk

M24 in retrospect

Although no light tank can seriously hope to win the tank versus tank battle against a heavier opponent, the Chaffee was undoubtedly a highly successful design, simple, reliable rugged and with satisfactory hitting power for a tank of its size and weight. The way in which it has gone on in service all over the world (nineteen countries still have it in their armies even today) is a glowing tribute to its designers.

Sources

US 740th Tank Battalion history by Lt-Col. George K Rubel
United States Tanks of World War II by George Forty
US Light Tanks in Action by Steve Zaloga
US Tank Battles Germany 1944-45 – Concord Armor at War
Henk Sto on warandtactics.com
M24 Chaffee on Wikipedia
M24 Chaffee on Tank-Hunter.com

Categories
WW2 US Light Tanks

Light Tank M5 Stuart

USA (1942) Light tank- about 8,884 built

Origins: The M3 Stuart

The US Army needed a more convincing light tank than the small M2, especially after the 1940 campaign, following a new tactical thinking about armored forces in the USA. A light, fast tank, equipped with one of the most common guns for its category, a 37 mm (1.46 in), was designed, bearing, initially, an impressive batch of five cal.30 (7.62 mm) M1919 Browning machine guns, which were lately reduced to three (one of the turret roof, one coaxial in the turret, and one in the hull).
The initial production run of the M3 was of 5811 vehicles, most of them being used by the British and redesignated Stuart Mk.I and Mk.II. Then, the M3A1, or Stuart Mk.III and Mk.IV (diesel) in British service, appeared and were massively used in Africa (Operation Torch), then Tunisia and Sicily. In 1942 came the M3A3, which was influenced by the M5 design. In all, 13,859 M3 were built and fought in almost all theaters of war. In Europe, they faced much better German tanks, and their feeble armament and armor, their radial gasoline engine, were seen as handicaps. This was not the case in the Pacific, where they were still a match for the smaller Japanese tanks.

Genesis & development of the M5

The core reason behind the development of the M5 was probably the rapidly growing demand for radial engines, which were in short supply. Therefore, other sources were approached in order to have the tank production still running in early 1941. In June, OCM 16837 authorized the installation of two Cadillac engines mated on a single crankshaft and hydramatic transmission and auxiliary transmission M3 (transfer case). Cadillac had been, indeed, rarely involved with wartime production until then. The combination of systems gave 6 speeds forward and one reverse, and a very smooth steering. The M3E2 prototype was therefore tested with this arrangement on a 2000 miles (3200 km) crash course at the GM proving grounds. The results being excellent, testing resumed at Aberdeen, aiming to gain the General Staff’s approval. Although this modification made the M3 2,500 lbs heavier (1133 kg), performance was overall preserved. The vehicle required a lower temperature starter, was quieter and more compact, freeing space inside because of the lower drive shaft. It also benefited from both simplified maintenance and training.
By November 13, 1941, the new tank, designated M4, was tested with this engine and transmission, while the M3A1E1 prototype tested a new hull construction, largely welded. A decision had both projects combined to give the M3E2, then the M3E3. Among other modifications, the sloped front glacis was moved forward to free more space inside, and the two rotatable hatches with periscopes were fitted on the flat section following the glacis, for the driver and the bow gunner. All the tooling exterior stowage was relocated on the flat and sloped rear section of the back plate. There were a crowbar, handbar, shovel, hammer, pickaxe, axe, pincer, and two double links that were fitted on the two corners of the back plate. The most obvious difference between the M3A3 and the M5 was the shape of the rear hull, much roomier. In the end, to avoid confusion with the M4 Sherman, the name was changed to “M5” in February, when the production was approved and started at the Cadillac division of the GMC plant in Detroit, on 30 April 1942. The run ended in December the same year (1470 built), when an improved model succeeded it, the M5A1. Others were built, starting in August, at the Southgate California plant (354 tanks) and Massey Harris Company (250). These were mostly exported. The grand total was 2075 tanks.

Design specifics of the M5

The turret, main hull, tracks, suspension system, almost everything including equipment, were derived from the M3A3, so the production lines needed only a few changes. The new engine and transmission arrangement saw the rear part reshaped and steel RHA was used, along with welding, throughout construction. A .30 cal (7.62 mm) machine-gun was placed on the right side of the glacis and was operated by the assistant driver, who sat on the right. Both his and the driver’s seats could be elevated in order to be able to ride with their heads out of the hatch. The assistant driver and driver were given dual steering brake controls, and floor mounted accelerator pedals.
The M3A1 turret was adopted for the M5, the “short” model characterized by the roof machine gun placed at the rear. The gunner needed to stand behind, exposed to enemy fire. This was corrected with the M5A1. The turret had a Westinghouse gyrostabilizer and oil-gear power traverse. Thanks to the new powerplant and lower drive shaft, the turret traverse systems could be mounted under the turret floor, freeing space in the process. The turret was equipped with an M23 gun mount and roof mounted M4 periscopic sight for the gunner, under an armored cover. It was originally meant to have a telescope left of the gun. The port for it was welded shut.
Despite criticism about its lack of firepower, the 37 mm (1.46 in) was kept. Its high-velocity performances made it able to pierce the armor of similar light tanks. As a scout tank, it was mostly confronted with infantry, and the three Browning machine-guns were also an argument.
In all, 2075 M5s were produced (including the British versions) and the first M5s to see combat action were part of the November assault in North Africa (operation Torch). Until then, all the M5 produced were intensively used for training in relevant locations, like the Indio desert training camp in California.
Regarding reliability and maintenance issues, the dual Cadillac engine and hydramatic transmission were questioned by the Ordnance bureau, especially when looking at standardization issues. The arrangement looked complicated and perhaps not sturdy enough to be suited for intensive use in combat conditions. The other problem was related to this second type of tank (the M3A3 was still produced alongside), which complicated maintenance and driver training. But all these doubts were lifted when intensive trials (including a 3370 miles/5400 km run without incident) done by the Armored Forces Board reported that this tank attained an unprecedented level or reliability and was superior in performance and efficiency to any previous US tank type in service. More so, when the M5 entered service, American drivers were unexpectedly happy to drive a “Cadillac” in wartime. Last but not least, the automobile-grade, lower octane gasoline made the M5 much safer in operations when hit. The British too were quite happy with the new light tanks (also dubbed “Honey”), as they were even easier to drive and quieter.

The M5A1

This was the second production version of the M5, which can be distinguished by the extended M3A3 turret model. The turret itself helps to distinguish between the early and later models, as on the early models, there were still pistol ports in the side walls. The extra bustle provided room for the more powerful SCR 508 radio and antenna mounted at the extreme rear. To avoid interference with it, the cal.30 (7.62 mm) pintle mount had to be shifted from the back plate to the right hand side turret wall. Because of this, it could only be fired by one of the crew -often the commander- from inside the turret, a considerable advantage for protection. But the cal.30 (7.62 mm) had been woefully criticized in action as being totally inefficient against the fast-flying aircraft of 1942-43.

On the M24 Chaffee, only a cal.50 (12.7 mm) was retained. However, this mount received some shielding on later production version. There was a removable plate on the rear wall of the bustle, for easy extraction of the M6 37 mm (1.46 in) rounds. The side pistol ports were first redesigned, then eliminated, and earlier models had theirs removed and the opening welded shut. Also, particular to the M5A1 was the escape hatch added under the assistant driver’s seat. The hull and turret in general received better watertight sealing.

Another characteristic feature was the addition of large protective sand skirts over the upper tracks, which were used by some early models in their integral form (two mudguards, upper side skirt, lower side skirt fastened to the bogie legs hooks). In practice, the latter was dropped most of the time, and many M5A1s were seen lacking the rear mudguard, more rarely the front one, or often the whole kit was dismounted as it clogged and could be torn out. Other points were the massive stowage basket at the rear, roof spotlight, improved cal.30 (7.62 mm) mount and shield around the mount. Turret rails were welded for strapping spare track links, in two groups of four up and down. On the late series, the “rails” were continuous, allowing to strap a full side wall length of spare track links. Also, the original spoked roadwheels were replaced by a simpler cast, filled ones and the cal.30 (7.62 mm) mount was modified.

Production and late modifications

On 24 September 1942, the new tank, standardized as the M5A1, was designated to replace the M5 at the Cadillac plant in Detroit. Production only started in November (1196 tanks), December for the Southgate plant (Calif.), and Massey Harris (3530). In the meantime, the American Cars & Foundry was brought into the program in October 1943, producing 1000 more. In all, 6810 M5A1s were delivered, the last by Massey Harris in June 1944. Three time more M5A1s were built compared to the M5. However, American Cars & Foundry remanufactured early M5A1s to incorporate the late version features, like the rear stowage basket, between November 1944 and June 1945.

Due to the weight increase of the M5A1, which rose to 17 tons, the standard issue 11 1/8 in tracks were no longer capable of easing ground pressure on muddy and snowy terrains in a satisfactory way, and, in order to improve this, three prototypes, the M5A1E1, were ordered by the Ordnance committee in March 1943. Modifications at the Cadillac Plant included 3 1/2 inches spacers welded to each side of the hull, on which the standard suspensions brackets were installed. Thanks to these operations, a 16 1/2 in wide single pin track (T65) was developed by Burgess-Norton, which basically had the same system fitted as on the late HVSS Shermans “Duckbill” track extensions. Trials failed and two other 18 inches tracks (T75) with double pins or simply widened links were tried at Aberdeen, without much success. The whole experiment was canceled in 1944. There were also attempts to replace the M44 mount and the T73 model was tried with the M6 gun, without much success, and terminated in July 1944.

M5A1 variants

M8 Scott SPH

The most famous derivative was the HMC M8 Scott, HMC standing for Howitzer Motor Carriage. It was basically an M5 with a new turret equipped with a regular ordinance 75 mm (2.95 in) M2 howitzer, and a heavy cal.50 (12.7 mm) machine gun for immediate defense. 1778 of them were built, including the M8A1 variant based on the M5A1 chassis.

Other SPGs: T18, T82

Other self-propelled artillery variants included the T18 of 1943 (with a 75 mm/2.95 in M1A1 in a boxy superstructure) and the T82 equipped with an 105 mm (4.13 in) howitzer in 1945.

Mortar Carriers T27/29 & T81

The T27/T27E1 were prototypes developed on a turretless M5A1 chassis. The T29 was a paper project, whereas the T81 was a chemical mortar carrier, carrying a 107 mm (4.22 in) heavy mortar. It was tested but never produced.

AA Carriages T65 & T85

The T65 was modified for anti-aircraft defense, equipped with a twin 40 mm (1.57 in) Bofors mounted on an M5A1 chassis. The general design was later adapted for the M24 chassis and became the well-produced M19 GMC. The T85 had a 20 mm (0.79 in) Oerlikon in a quad mount. It was tested but abandoned after trials.

Command version M5 COM

The only other large-scale variant was the command version, without a turret, but a small superstructure instead, equipped with a single cal.50 (12.7 mm) machine-gun and powerful radio equipment.
turret-less Stuart command tank
Field Marshal Montgomery in a turret-less Stuart command tank displaying the badge of the 7th Armored Division (Dessert Rats), on the right side.

Recce version T8

On 21 December 1943, the Army Ground Forces requested an armored recce tracked vehicle. On 17 February 1944, the Ordnance department ordered two M5A1s to be modified to test an open fighting compartment version. The T8 was a turretless version, fitted with a 12.7 mm (0.5 in) Browning M1920A4 heavy MG on a ring mount, protected by a bathtub like shield. The T8 had its machine gun fitted on the right-rear of the fighting compartment, whereas the T8E1 saw its cal.50 nearer the turret ring. The latter also used new 16 in (40 cm) metal tracks. In addition, both vehicles could carry ten antitank mines on the outside of the right sponson. Both were tested at Fort Knox, the T8E1 being judged superior and retained for production. However, the Armored Force Board wanted to use the M24 light tank chassis instead for the intended role, and only a limited numbers of T8s were accepted as “limited standard” service vehicle, used in Europe in 1944-45.

Flame-thrower version Zippo

There were three variants that only differed by a few specs: The E5R1, E7-7 and ER9-9 based on the M5A1 chassis. Of all three prototypes, the main gun was replaced by the flame gun, and a flammable liquid reservoir was installed inside the hull. These vehicles were intended for the Pacific campaign.

Other modifications

Some M5A1s were equipped with an E5R1-M3 or E7-7 mounted in the hull, replacing the forward cal.30 (7.62 mm), and others had a dozer blade (M5 Dozer), having the turret removed, working as engineering vehicles in the Pacific theater of war. The T39 MRL was a proposed conversion project intended for infantry support in the Pacific, a regular M5 version rearmed with a T39 20 rocket launching kit.

Foreign users and postwar career

Many Chinese, French, Portuguese versions, which were in service during the fifties and sixties, incorporated a few custom modifications. No less than 33 countries had M3/M5 Stuarts in their arsenals (mostly in South America), some until the beginning of the nineties. The French M5A1s participated in the Indo-Chinese campaign until 1954, and the Portuguese ones (only three) served in Angola in 1967.

The M5 & M5A1 in action

M5A1
Both light tanks quickly replaced the earlier M3s still in service and rapidly gained a reputation for themselves. The M5 was reclassified as limited standard when the M5A1 became available, and the latter was reclassified substitute standard when the M24 Chaffee became available, but served until the end of the war. Many surplus tanks found a long postwar career under other flags. Aside from the 1131 British Stuart Mark VIs, only five reached the Soviet Union (fate unknown). 223 were given to the poorly equipped French Army in North Africa, which later were integrated into the 1st Free French Army and served in Italy, France and Southwestern Germany. The American M5/M5A1s were battle-tested in Tunisia, Sicily, Italy, France (Normandy and Provence campaigns in the summer of 1944), and Germany, but also the Pacific, in growing numbers after they were discarded in Europe by the arrival of the Chaffee. Many were modified for special duties, like the “Zippo” flame-thrower variant, among others.

The Stuart Mk.VI (British service)

There were no name differences between the M5 and M5A1 in British service, as they were both called Stuart Mk.VI. No modifications were applied to the base model. Under Lend-Lease, 1131 M5A1s total were allocated to Great Britain. The British Stuart VI saw extensive service in the last stages of the desert campaign (fall 1942, 2nd El Alamein battle, Tunisian campaign). They joined the invasion force during Operation Husky (Sicily) and Italy thereafter. Some M5 Stuart Recce armored transports and command Stuart Kangaroos were also seen in action under the British flag. Long before the American forces, the British ceased to use them otherwise than in flanking units. The First Division of the US army painfully learned this at Kasserine pass. These tanks remained on the first line until the very end of the war in the Pacific.

Succession: The M24 Chaffee

Despite the fact the M7 was originally scheduled to replace the M5/M3 in 1943-44, a brand new light-medium model was ordered to replace it, the M24 Chaffee. The M7 was too mediocre to be a true medium tank, and too heavy to be suitable as a proper replacement for the previous M3/M5. The Ordinance Bureau quickly planned a new model from scratch, only retaining the M5 powertrain, with the objective of weighing under 20 tons in battle order. It was attained with a relatively thin but well sloped armor, and a new lightweight 75 mm (2.95 in) gun, which was borrowed from the B25 Mitchell “gunship” variants, in a three man turret. This answered, at last, to the oldest critic about the previous series, the weakness of their main armament. After successful trials in October 1943, production began in early 1944, and, when it stopped in August 1945, 4731 M24s had been built. They were very successful light tanks, fast and well-armed, largely exported and involved in many postwar conflicts.

Gallery

Blueprint of the M3A3T8/T8E1 light recce tanks.Republic of China M5A1 Bear of Kimmen.M5A1 profile at Base Borden CFB

Links & resources the M5 Stuart

The M3/M5 history on Wikipedia
Stuart: A History of the American Light Tank, vol.I, by R. Hunnicut

M5A1 Stuart specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.62 x 2.39 x 2.33 m
(15’2″ x 7’10” x 7’8″)
Total weight, battle ready 16.5 tons (33,070 lbs)
Crew 4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Twin Cadillac V8, 296 hp (220 kW), air cooled gasoline
Suspension Vertical Volute Spring
Speed 36 mph (58 km/h) on-road
18 mph (29 km/h) off-road
Range 160 km (99 mi) at medium speed
Armament 37 mm (1.46 in) M6 AT gun
3xcal.30 (7.62 mm) M1919 machine-guns
Armor From 13 to 51 mm (0.51-2 in)
Production (M5/M5A1 combined) 8,884

M5 Stuart, Tunisia, February 1943.
M5 Stuart, Tunisia, February 1943. Following operation “Torch” in November 1942, the first M5 arrived in North Africa.Stuart Mark VI Kangaroo, Operation Torch, North Africa, November 1943.
Stuart Mark VI Kangaroo, Operation Torch, North Africa, November 1943.
Early Stuart M5 of the 81st Reconnaissance Batallion, 1st Armoured Division, Maontaione, Italy, July 1944.
Early Stuart M5 of the 81st Reconnaissance Batallion, 1st Armoured Division, Maontaione, Italy, July 1944.
M5A1 with one of Culin's improvized
M5A1 with one of Culin’s improvized “hedgerow cutter” in France, Operation Cobra, Normandy, summer 1944.
Another M5A1, late production version in France, operation Cobra, June 1944.
Another M5A1, late production version in France, operation Cobra, June 1944.
M5A1 Annie B., Normandy, summer 1944. This tank proudly shows the emblem of the 66th Armoured Regiment
M5A1 Annie B., Normandy, summer 1944. This tank proudly shows the emblem of the 66th Armoured Regiment, the oldest armoured unit in the history of the United States, founded by then Col. Patton of the US cavalry, which later commanded the 304th Tank Brigade during the late part of the campaign in Normandy and France.
Stuart M5A1 of the 757st Tank Batallion, Mount Porchia Italy, January 1944.
Stuart M5A1 of the 757st Tank Batallion, Mount Porchia Italy, January 1944.
M5A1 Pacific, Saipan, Mariana Islands offensive, June 1944.
M5A1 Pacific, Saipan, Mariana Islands offensive, June 1944. Notice the simplified “jungle” pattern camouflage.
M5A1 with partial skirts and extra rear basket, 1944.
M5A1 with partial skirts and extra rear basket, 1944.
M5A1 Lil' Red Hen, France, fall 1944.
M5A1 “Lil’ Red Hen”, France, fall 1944.
M5A1 Stuart of the organic recce unit of the 501st Tank Destroyer Batallion, Volturno river, October 1943.
M5A1 Stuart of the organic recce unit of the 501st Tank Destroyer Batallion, Volturno river, October 1943.
M5A1 Stuart
M5A1 Stuart “Dingbat” of the 6th Armoured Division, 15th Tank Batallion, D Company, Western Germany, February 1945.
M5A1 Buddies, 3th Armoured Division, Western Germany, early 1945.
M5A1 “Buddies”, 3th Armoured Division, Western Germany, early 1945.
Sloppy Joe, late M5A1 from the 97th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Germany, January 1945.
“Sloppy Joe”, late M5A1 from the 97th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Germany, January 1945.
British Stuart Mk.VI seen from the left, to show the turret cal.30 mount shield, which was customary on most late M5A1s
British Stuart Mk.VI seen from the left, to show the turret cal.30 mount shield, which was customary on most late M5A1s. Now exposed at the Bovington tanks museum.
M5A1 early production, 4th Marine Tank Batallion of the US Marine Corps on Roi-Namur, Kwajalein Atoll, February 1944.
M5A1 early production, 4th Marine Tank Batallion of the US Marine Corps on Roi-Namur, Kwajalein Atoll, February 1944.
British Stuart Mk.VI in the Netherlands, Operation Market Garden, fall 1944.
British Stuart Mk.VI in the Netherlands, Operation Market Garden, fall 1944.
Taiwanese M5A1 in 1949.
Taiwanese M5A1 in 1949.
Portuguese M5A1 in Angola, 1967.
Portuguese M5A1 in Angola, 1967.
Thanks to the determination and enthusiasm of Cavalry Captain Paulo Mendes, three rusty, obsolete M5A1 tanks were the protagonists of a unique adventure on the African soil, the only ones to have fought in the history of the Portuguese Army. These veterans successively served with the British, French (with Leclerc’s 2nd DB which liberated Paris) and the Canadian Army postwar, until 1956. The next year they were completely revised, refurbished and re-engineered, tested and approved for service at the Beirolas material tank depot. Named Gina, the Milocas and Licas, the 3 tanks embarked for Angola in 1967, and soldiered there until 1972, distinguishing themselves in many escort and reconnaissance missions, and being dubbed by the guerrillas of the FNLA “dumdum Elephants”. In 1967, 90 M5A1s were in still service with the Portuguese Army, the 6th Cavalry Regiment, the Military Academy, the National Guard (25 combined) and the General Depot of Beirolas. Captain Paul Mendes, accompanied by a driver and a mechanic, went in Beirolas for a week and selected six M5s which passed through an initial review, and only three were selected and taken to the General Workshops Engineering Material (OGME) in Bethlehem for a complete revision, equipped with new radios, ammunition supplies and prepared for shipping in September 26, 1967. The Milocas operated in Grafanil, the Gina in Luanda and the Licas in Zala. Only 13 are preserved today in Portugal.
M24 Chaffee, which replaced the Stuart, 1944
M24 Chaffee, which replaced the Stuart, 1944. (off scale)

Categories
WW2 US Light Tanks

Light Tank M3 Stuart

USA (1940)
Light tank – about 13,860 built

Origins: from the “Combat Car” to the M2

In September 1939, the US Army was ill-prepared as far as armored vehicles, training and tactics went. Soon, it became clear that a new model, which could be favorably compared to the European models, had to be studied for mass production. The very early M1 Combat Car was nothing more than a very small tank with two machine guns. Its main purpose was scouting and, as such, ordered for “cavalry” units. This was in 1937, and became the forerunner of all light tanks to come. None of the 147 M1s built saw action, but were used as training machines.

The last M1A1 version was equipped with a 37 mm (1.45 in) gun, a new engine and turret.
In 1935, a new model, the M2 Light Tank, was designed. At first, it was an immediate upgrade of the M1, but with the heavier .50 (12.7 mm) caliber machine gun, immediately followed by the M2A2 with twin turrets equipped with .30 (7.62 mm) caliber M1919 machine guns. The “Mae West” gave way in 1938 to a small series of M2A3 37 mm (1.45 in) single turret tanks, and then to the final M2A4 in 1940, with improved armor, motorization and equipment. These fought at Guadalcanal with the US Marine Corps, and with the British Army through Lend-Lease, performing well in Burma and India against the Japanese, despite being obsolete.

Design of the M3 light tank

The M3 was built under the light of recent events in France. The quick fall of France, due to inadequate tactics, quickly led the US Army Corps to think about a new doctrine, which led to an independent US armored force. From the material point of view, the latest M2A4 and the M3 were both designed to be more effective than only infantry support units. Officially, the cavalry corp was integrated in this new armored force and the official “cavalry tank” designation replaced by “light tank”. Their main duty was scouting and screening.

The M3 was, at first, a simple upgrade of the last M2, with a more powerful Continental petrol engine, a new vertical volute spring suspension system and up to four machine guns in addition to a main, quick-firing M5 (and later M6) 37 mm (1.45 in) anti-tank gun, with a new gun recoil system. In fact, the latter gun had a relatively low-velocity and had no armor-piercing ammunition. It was also used on the M2 medium tank, but was clearly insufficient compared to other European medium tanks. For a light scouting tank this was a good asset, especially when compared to German Panzer I and II for example, although the M3 was quite heavier and better protected.
The secondary machine-gun armament was impressive, with five manned by the four crew members (driver, co-driver, gunner and commander). One of these was co-axial, another in a ball mount in the right bow, two others were mounted sideways in fixed sponsons and, later, one on an anti-air M20 turret mount. But, in practice, in order to save weight and free space on board, the two sponson machine guns were often removed.

The Rolled face-hardened steel side armor was 1 inch (22 mm) thick. The rear was 1 inch (25 mm) thick. The upper front of the hull was 1 1/2 inch (38 mm) thick. The armour behind the drivers and machine gunners hatches was 1 inch (25 mm) thick but the two front hatches were 40 mm thick. The lower front angled glacis plate was 1 3/4 inch (44 mm) thick. The sides and rear of the turret were 1 inch (22 mm) thick. The front was 1 1/2 inch (38 mm) thick and the gun shield added and additional 1 1/2 inches (38 mm) or armor.

The M3 (Stuart Mk.I and II)

The M3 was the first production model. Most of these were provided to the British and Commonwealth forces through Lend-Lease. Some were immediately thrown into action in Northern Africa, where they immediately became popular for their speed, sturdiness and reliability. Although the official British designation was “Stuart”, paying homage to Civil War Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart, they found themselves affectuously dubbed “Honey”, because of their smooth ride. But this nickname never stuck with the US Military. Despite of this, all following tanks provided to the British received a Secession War general name and the tradition stuck up to 1945, finally being adopted by the US army itself.

After many trials, the first production M3 was delivered in March 1941. 5811 M3s (Stuart Mk.I in British service) were produced, including 1285 equipped with Guiberson diesel engines, more efficient in the long run for desert operation, on a British specification, and called Stuart Mk.II. A turret basket was added, however this does not refer to an external feature, but to the internal parts that rotated along with the turret. The gunner and commander sat in it. All M3 Stuarts were produced by the American Car & Foundry Co.

The M3A1 (Stuart Mk.III and IV)

The M3A1 was introduced in May 1942 and had an improved turret design, including the “turret basket” and a higher M20 M1919 AA mount. From that point, the sponson machine guns were removed, as the three remaining machine guns were judged sufficient for the task. 4621 M3A1s were produced, the last delivered in February 1943. They were largely distributed to the British under the Stuart Mk.III designation, while the diesel variant was named Stuart Mk.IV. They also had an improved gun vertical stabilizer.

US Forces used many of them in their first major operation in the west, the North African invasion in November 1942 (Operation Torch). They had some success against Italian tanks, but were butchered by German 88 mm (3.46 in) artillery and the up-gunned Panzer IIIs and IVs. It was clear that the high profile, flat squared hull was too vulnerable. As a temporary measure, before replacement by a newer model, the M3A3 was introduced. The M3A2 was only a paper project with an entirely welded hull.
British Stuart II - North African campaign

The M3A3 (Stuart Mk.V)

The M3A3 benefited from the improvement in hull design which was introduced with the M5 light tank. Its main feature was a 20° sloped and thickened welded hull, which greatly improved their survivability. It was just slightly heavier, but easier to produce than the original one. They also had a turret rear overhang to house a radio. The M3A3 hull was also roomier, and this space was used to add more fuel and ammunition storage. Regular storage amounted to 174 rounds for the M6 gun with M44 mount and 7500 rounds for the three M1919A4 machine guns. The turret originally had a basket, but crew practice was to remove to free space. 3427 were produced, the last one leaving the factory in October 1943, and in British service it was called Stuart Mk. V. Through the year 1943, all regular units operated only as scouts and were gradually replaced by improved M5 tanks.

Variants

There were many variants. These included the British turretless Stuart MK. I to IV, also called Stuart Recce, personal armored carriers called Stuart Kangaroo, mostly used by Anzacs, and a command turretless version (“Stuart Command”) with extra radio equipment. Many British Stuarts operating in the desert had additional spare parts, ammunition, fuel tanks or extra tracks as protection.
On the US side, there were several attempts to produced howitzer equipped versions and several Gun Motor Carriage prototypes, all of which were dropped. One prototype, the M3 Maxson turret version, had a quad .50 cal (12.7 mm) machine gun AA mount, but remained experimental. However, 24 units were produced of the Satan, a flamethrower conversion of the M3A1 for the US Marine Corps. These tanks were used in the Pacific, as well as the A5R2-M2 model, with the flame-thrower replacing the hull machine gun. There were also an US turretless command tank conversion and a bulldozer version to clear barb wires. Many more versions were derived from the M5.

The M3 in action

The first series M3 was a cavalry tank and, as such, not meant to deal with other tanks, but only occasional infantry and other scouting forces. But, with no less than five .30 caliber (7.62 mm) machine guns of the highly reliable M1919 type, in addition to a rapid-fire M5/M6 37 mm (1.45 in) gun, the M3 was a deadly package in itself, despite lacking heavy firepower. The standard livery was khaki-olive, with 1943 US identification markings. The white or yellow turret band was a common feature, with special markings for some units. Extra fuel and extra tracks were mounted for long range missions and, to save weight, the hull side machine guns were often dismounted and the hatches closed.
Disabled British Stuart I - Credits: Bundesarchiv

The M3A2 was not produced. The M3A1 was an improved version, heavily produced until the end of 1942, when the M3A3, designed alongside the M5, was introduced. This one served during Operation Torch of November 1942 in Northern Africa. They had the standard olive drab livery with large American markings, as there were some French resentments against the British, but not the Americans, so large markings were made apparent. A special anti-air M20 mount, modified turret (without the turret basket) and additional fuel tank and spare tracks were also often seen.
Large amounts of M3 Stuarts were delivered through Lend-Lease to the British and Commonwealth. British Stuarts were packed with extra equipment and had the standard straight lines pale blue-sand livery, with grayish green upper surfaces. Once their limitations were well-understood, they performed reasonably well against the German-Italian forces of Rommel thanks to their speed, reliability and endurance.

The highly upgraded M3A3 was the last version of this light tank before being completely replaced by the M5. The two tanks shared similar sloped hull armor and turret, but the M5 was more powerful, quieter and more comfortable. The sloped armor and new turret were both thoroughly tested improvements, which greatly compensated for the lack of armor. Critics, however, still argued that their main gun was no match for any German tank of the time and their still high profile made them easy targets, despite their improved speed. These reasons, among others, explain why these tanks were most of the time relocated to the Far East, India and the Pacific, where they could deal more easily with Japanese tanks. In the European theater, these tanks were used in conjunction with the more powerful M4 Sherman medium tanks, as screening and scouting armored wings.

M3A1 from the USMC with an officer signalling - Credits: Wikipedia

The 13,800 M3s built saw action extensively throughout all Allied operational theaters, from North Africa in 1942 to the Pacific in 1945. Against most German AT guns and upgunned Panzers, the British and Australian Stuarts were converted for other uses, put in screening forces or transferred to the Asian theater, in India and Burma, where they were still a match for Japanese light tanks.
The US Army too found them vulnerable in Northern Africa and limited their operational assignments to rearguard, flanking or reconnaissance formations around the main M4 units. Crews were well-aware of their weaknesses and avoided combat against other tanks, as well as heavily fortified positions. The M3s found themselves largely employed in the Pacific (while being replaced by the M24 Chaffee in Europe), mostly due to the conditions found there.

Their light weight was more suitable for the bad tracks of the jungle and their opponents even more lightly armored, lacking efficient anti-tank weapons. The only one which could cause trouble was the 45 mm (1.77 in) gun of the Shinhoto Chi-Ha and the SPGs based on its chassis. The earliest tank to tank battles occurred in the Philippines in December 1941, where M3s put up a fierce resistance with the 192nd and 194th Light Tank Battalions, mostly against Ha-Go tanks.

Soviet M3s

Along with The M3 Lee and M3 Half-track, the M3 Stuart was sent via lend-lease to the Soviets, with just under 1000 units of the light tank being recieved. The M3s recieved were from various production series, identified from their turrets. Early shipments featured tanks with the D38976 welded turret, following this they would have the D58101 turret, with later delveries featuring the D58133. The Soviets designated the tank as M3L (L = Legkhiy: Light).

Soviet M3Ls in action. Photo: Osprey Publishing
It was not especially liked by the Soviets, so much so that they turned down later American proposals for M5, and sent them to the Manchurian front. Criticism included weak armor and weaponry, narrow tracks not suited to the Russian winter or muddy autumn, and flammable high-octane, non-standard aviation fuel.

Successor: The M5 light tank

Resembling a wide-angled hull, scaled-down Sherman, the M5 was a clear improvement over the early M3. Despite retaining many features from the M3, including the turret, tracks, suspension and most importantly the weak 37 mm (1.45 in) gun, the M5 was largely improved, with a brand new powerpack – two Cadillac V8 automobile engines, more reliable and less subject to catching fire than the previous Continental aviation engines. Transmission with hydramatic (automatic) system was also smoother and easier to deal with.
It had a new sloped, welded hull, which was comparatively roomier, also making the interior quieter and cooler. The sloped glacis, with almost no significant increase in protection thickness, was the main asset of this new version. It was first introduced in 1942 and production lasted until 1944, with an estimated 8,885 units, of which many saw service under foreign colors. Besides the British and Commonwealth Stuart VI, there were also the M5A1 and A2 in Chinese, Free French and Free Italian service. Most South American countries received Stuarts after the war, including Brazil, which improved them greatly under the seventies X1A major upgrades. M5s still in active service were documented as far as 1996.

British Stuart Mk.I Bellman, 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars, 4th Armored Brigade, 7th Armored Division, Operation Crusader, North Africa, November 1941.
British Stuart Mk.I “Bellman”, 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars, 4th Armored Brigade, 7th Armored Division, Operation Crusader, North Africa, November 1941.

British Stuart Mk.II (M3 with diesel engine), VIIIth Army, Gazala, May 1942.
British Stuart Mk.II (M3 with diesel engine), VIIIth Army, Gazala, May 1942.

M3 Helen from Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion, Philippines, December 1941
M3 “Helen” from Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion, Philippines, December 1941. Helen was the tank of Sgt. Willard von Bergen. He was originally an Illinois National Guardsman and died as a Japanese POW. The tank was named for his wife. None of the tanks in this unit had stars on them. Courtesy of Jim Opolony.

Late M3 light tank operating in southern Italy, early 1944, with a D58101 turret featuring all the original five machine guns.
Late M3 light tank operating in southern Italy, early 1944, with a D58101 turret featuring all the original five machine guns.
Late M3 Painintheass, 3rd USMC Tank Battalion, Bougainville, Pacific, November 1943
Late M3 “Painintheass”, 3rd USMC Tank Battalion, Bougainville, Pacific, November 1943. The very same tanks were also engaged at Guadalcanal.
Standard 1942 M3A1 during Operation Torch (invasion of Vichy France's Northern African colonies) with large invasion US flag painted on its hull.
Standard 1942 M3A1 during “Operation Torch” (invasion of Vichy France’s Northern African colonies) with large invasion US flag painted on its hull.
Russian Lend-Lease M3 Stuart in 1942.
A Soviet Lend-Lease M3L (L = Legkhiy: Light) in 1942.
Soviet Lend-Leased early production M3A1.
Soviet Lend-Leased early production M3A1.
Soviet Lend-Leased late production M3A1 in winter livery, Leningrad sector, early 1943.
Soviet Lend-Leased late production M3A1 in winter livery, Leningrad sector, early 1943.
Australian Stuart Mk.III Honey, first battle of El Alamein, June 1942.
Australian Stuart Mk.III “Honey”, first battle of El Alamein, June 1942.
British Stuart V Elusive, 22nd Armored Brigade, 7th Armored Division, Normandy, June 1944.
British Stuart V “Elusive”, 22nd Armored Brigade, 7th Armored Division, Normandy, June 1944.
A Free French M3A3 from the 1ere Armée (General De Lattre de Tassigny), Provence, August 1944.
A Free French M3A3 from the 1ere Armée (General De Lattre de Tassigny), Provence, August 1944. The Free French received many M3s and even more M5s, just like other Allied forces during WW2.
Canadian Stuart V from the Sherbrooke Fusiliers, 27th Armoured Regiment, 2nd Canadian Armored Brigade, Normandy, summer 1944
Canadian Stuart V from the Sherbrooke Fusiliers, 27th Armoured Regiment, 2nd Canadian Armored Brigade, Normandy, summer 1944.
Chinese Nationalist M3A3, south-eastern China, fall 1944.
Chinese PLA M3A3, south-eastern China, fall 1944.

Gallery

An M3A3 preserved in the Belgrade Military Museum. Large provisions of Soviet M3s were also used by the Yugoslavian partisans and liberation army. The M3A3 was based on the M5 version, with a new sloped armor hull.A late M3 model, with the turret basket, training at Fort Knox, early 1942 - Credits: WikipediaChinese M3A3Brazilian M3A1 at the Bovington Tank MuseumM3 in early trials at Fort Knox - rear view

M3 Stuart specifications

Dimensions 4.33 m x 2.23 m x 2.35 m
14ft 2in x 7ft 4in x 7ft 9in
Total weight, battle ready 14.7 tons
Crew 4
Propulsion Continental 7 cylinder petrol
250 hp – air cooled
Speed 58 km/h (36 mph) road
29 km/h (18 mph) off-road
Range 120 km at medium speed (74.5 mi)
Armament 37 mm (1.45 in) M5 or M6
3 to 5 cal.30 (7.62 mm) M1919 machine guns
Armor From 13 to 51 mm (0.52-2 in)

The Honey Tank name debate

The story that British troops nicknamed the M3 Stuart the ‘Honey’ because it was a ‘sweet’ ride compared to the other tanks they had to drive is often debated. Ed Webster has found a number of WW2 period British Newspapers where the tank is clearly called the Honey tank.
The Scotsman newspaper Wednesday 26 August 1942, page 5, Article title “Mr Churchill’s Travels Teheran, El Alainein and Cairo”. Text, “…Leaving the desert track he swept over the desert in a Honey tank, with brigade pennant flying …”
The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer newspaper Wednesday 26 August 1942, page 3, Article title “Over desert in tank”. Text, “…Leaving the desert track he swept over the desert in a Honey tank, with brigade pennant flying …”
The Belfast News-Letter newspaper Wednesday 26 August 1942, page 5, Article title “Second visit to Cairo”. Text, “…rode in tank Mr Churchill swept over the desert in a Honey tank with brigade pennant flying …”
The Daily Herald newspaper 7 September 1942, page 1, Article title “Black Start”. Text, “…Here is a United States built Honey tank speeding at the foot of this insignificant-looking but converted hill…”
The Perthshire Advertiser newspaper Wednesday 28 April 1943, page 11, Article title “Tank soldiers can take it…”. Text, “…I was just wondering what to do with this party when one of our gunner observation posts came up in a Honey tank…”

Links, Resources & Further Reading

The M3/M5 history on Wikipedia
Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #33: M3 & M5 Stuart Light Tank 1940–45
Presidio Publishing, Sheridan: A History of the American Light Tank, R.P. Hunicutt

Categories
WW2 US Light Tanks

Light Tank M2

USA (1935) Light tank – about 696 built

The T2E1 prototype

The first modern US light tank design was the T2, built by Rock Island Arsenal, the main US federal heavy arsenal, in charge of the specifications. By that time, the Cavalry already had its M1 Combat Car. The T2 appeared in 1934 and bore some resemblances with the British Vickers 6-ton Mark E, notably the suspension, made of two quadruple bogies. After that, the T2E1 received a new VVSS suspension and a revised, taller hull. By 1935, this prototype formed the basis for the M2 light tank.

Design of the M2

The first M2 had a one-man turret equipped with a cal.50 (12.7 mm) and a coaxial 7.62 mm (0.3 in) Browning M1919, with another placed in the hull, on a ball mount operated by the co-driver. The hull general design, turret, tracks, VVSS suspension design with a front drive sprocket and rear idler, at well as the two bogies with vertical coil springs and two return roller in between, were identical to the M1 suspension, in order to save time and be cost-effective. The engine also was the same, a compact but tall aviation radial Continental W-670, which gave a top speed of 58 km/h (36 mph). However, the internal arrangement made it possible to increase the amount of fuel carried. The original crew comprised three men, the commander also being the gunner and loader, operating the cal.50 (12.7 mm).

M2A1 to M2A3

The M2A1 was the series production vehicle, equipped with a single turret, of which only ten units were built in 1936. However, it quickly appeared that the Army wanted a twin-turret configuration, favored at the time by other armies. The design was changed and new turrets were devised, which led to the mass-produced M2A2. One of these turrets housed the main .50 cal (12.7 mm). machine gun, while the other had the .30 cal (7.62 mm) caliber M1919. 239 units were produced, quickly becoming the staple of US infantry tank troops until 1937. Although displaying an obsolete configuration, these tanks were popularly known as the “Mae West”, after the famous busty actress.
By 1937, a new set of modifications was in line. The suspensions were revised, the hull slightly lengthened and the bogies placed farther apart, while the front armor was increased to 25 mm (0.98 in). Only 72 units of this M2A3 version were produced due to a rapid change of specifications.

The M2A4: Forerunner for the M3 Stuart

While many Americans served on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War, observers came to the conclusion that a tank needed guns, and not only machine-guns. The only available option was the standard infantry 37 mm (1.46 in) M5 AT gun then in service, and there was no way it could fit inside a small turret -thus eliminating the twin-turret configuration. To save time, the late evolution of the M1A1 Combat Car served as a model, and the same turret was used. According to the November 1938 OCM #14844 specification, a single M2A3 was removed from the assembly line and modified accordingly, thus establishing the M2A4 standard.
This version proved to be the most numerous of all, with 375 delivered, the last ten as far as March 1942. A new Continental 7-cylinder engine was chosen, fuel capacity increased (the top range was now 200 miles/322 km), the armor was thickened everywhere to 25 mm (0.98 in) except on the roof and bottom. The secondary armament comprised no less than 5 machine-guns for a crew of 4, having one coaxial, one AA (turret pintle mount), two in sponsons and one in the nose hull. In late 1941, the M2A4 was succeeded by the M3 Stuart. They could be distinguished by the rear idler wheel size and configuration, which eased ground pressure for the second.

Combat records

The M2A1, A2 and A3, being obsolete by December 1941, were all kept for training only on American soil. This was also the case for most of the M2A4s, although 50 saw action in Guadalcanal with the US Marine Corps 1st tank battalion. 36 of the 100 British M2A4s originally ordered in early 1941 were shipped to North Africa. The order was later canceled in favor of the M3 Light Tank. The vehicles were then given to the British Army’s 7th Hussars and 2nd Royal Tank Regiment to be sent to India and fight during the Burma campaign. During the most contested fighting, they dealt with the IJA’s 14th Tank Regiment.

Links

The M2 Light Tank on Wikipedia
The M2 on WWIIVehicles

M2A4 Light Tank specifications

Dimensions 4.43 x 2.47 x 2.65 m
14ft5in x 8ft1in x 8ft8in
Total weight, battle ready 11.6 tons (12.8 short tons)
Crew 4 (commander/loader, driver, co-driver, gunner)
Propulsion Continental W-670 9A 7-cyl. air-cooled gasoline, 245 hp (160 kW)
Maximum speed 58 km/h (36 mph) on road
Suspension Vertical volute springs (VVSS)
Range 320 km (200 mi)
Armament 37 mm (1.46 in) gun M5,103 rounds
5 x cal.30 (7.62 mm) Browning M1919A4, 8470 rounds
Armor 6-25 mm (0.24-0.98 in)

M2A1 in 1937.
M2A1 in 1937.
M2A2 Mae West from the 21st Armored Division - Fort Belvoir, Virginia, November 1940.
M2A2 “Mae West” from the 21st Armored Division – Fort Belvoir, Virginia, November 1940.
M2A2 of the 192nd Tank Battalion, 3rd Army maneuvers, early 1941.
M2A2 of the 192nd Tank Battalion, 3rd Army maneuvers, early 1941.
M2A4 of the USMC 1st Tank Battalion, Company A, Guadalcanal, September 1942.
M2A4 of the USMC 1st Tank Battalion, Company A, Guadalcanal, September 1942.
The M3 prototype in mid-1941, with a .50 (12.7 mm) caliber main armament.
The M3 prototype in mid-1941, with a .50 (12.7 mm) caliber main armament. This future main US Army light tank was based on the M2A4, but with increased protection and a revised idler wheel.

Categories
WW2 US Light Tanks

Light Tank/Combat Car M1

USA (1937) Light tank- about 113 built

Background – US tank development 1920-1930

The first U.S. tank, the M1917, was mass-produced on the basis of the French Renault FT. A near-postwar design, the US-British Tank Mark VIII Liberty was the first heavy tank in US service. Over 100 were built. Then, following a 1920 specification for a US army tank, Ford and several other companies proposed prototypes but, without any urgency, all these projects never reached the production line. The T1 Light Tank designed by Cunningham was not satisfactory either.
One engineer, William Christie, designed a revolutionary cavalry tank, soon called “the Race tank”. The M1928 was only produced in limited numbers for trials and never reached large-scale production. By 1933, Douglas MacArthur, then the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, ordered the development of new armored vehicles. The term “combat car” was derived from a federal act of 1920 forbidding the cavalry from having “tanks”. His specifications asked for a fast, maneuverable machine with firepower to fulfill traditional cavalry missions, such as reconnaissance and raids behind enemy lines, as well as rapid fire support for the infantry.

The T5 prototypes

Developed as a Cavalry Tank, by Rock Island Arsenal, the T5 drew inspiration, at first, from the Vickers Armstrong 6 ton tank. The need for a new all-terrain, better protected vehicle led to the development of a well armed fast tank. As an interim measure, its main armament was a heavy machine-gun, a cal.50 Browning (12.7 mm), deemed sufficient against armored cars. The British, with the development of their Mk.VI light tank, followed the same path, with a Besa heavy machine-gun, as well as the Germans, with the Panzer II and a 20 mm (0.79 in) autocannon, as well as many other light tank designs. Rock Island Arsenal, however, replaced the traditional leaf spring by a new vertical volute spring suspension. Instead of a raised idler it had a trailing idler wheel. The vertical volute spring was easier for maintenance than other suspensions systems, like the Christie torsion bar or the traditional leaf springs. The wheeltrain comprised 2 double wheel bogies, with steel and rubber pads and dry pin tracks. The two other prototypes, T5E1 and T5E2, were built and tested between 1934 and 1935.

Design of the M1 Combat Car

Other modifications, including a fully traversing turret, led to the T5E2, the blueprint for the standardized M1 Combat Car, of which over 89 were built from 1937 to 1939, entering service with US Army in 1937. The M1 was a short, wide and tall tank, with a cylindrical cross-section turret with an extention for the weapons, equipped with the Browning cal.50 (12.7 mm) and a coaxial cal.30 (7.62 mm), and a “D” shaped turret. The top was fitted with two large hatches. The hull was made from flat plates, mostly welded with some elements bolted, and could accommodate, at both forward corners, two other cal.30 (7.62 mm) machine-guns in sponsons, which could be dismounted easily. Another AA mount was fixed on a rotating device at the rear of the turret for the last batch of vehicles.
The M1A1 was produced as a longer variant (the hull reached 4.44 m – 17 ft 7 in) in 1937 (17 units), with a new octagonal turret and more space between the two bogies. This led to the M1A1E1 (7 units), which had a Guiberson diesel engine, and then to the M2 (34 units), with a new Guiberson diesel and a trailing idler. The latter was again modified to create the M2A1 light tank. By July 1940, the distinction between cavalry and army vehicles was abolished, and the M1 were officially called “light tanks”. Most of the M1 features served as a basis for all subsequent US tank development during the war.

M1 Combat Car specifications

Dimensions (L-w-H) 4.14 x 2.40 x 2.26 m
13ft6in x 7ft1in x 7ft5in
Total weight, battle ready 8.53 tons (18,800 lbs)
Crew 4 (commander, driver, 2 gunners)
Propulsion Continental W-670 7-cyl. air-cooled gasoline engine, 250 hp (190 kW)
Maximum speed 45 mph (72 km/h) on road
Suspensions Vertical volute springs
Range 161 km (100 mi)
Armament cal.50 Browning M1920 (12.7 mm) M1 heavy machine-guns
1-4 cal.30 (7.62 mm) Browning M1919 machine-guns
Armor 16 mm (0.63 in) maximum

M1 Combat Car, 1st Armoured Division, Fort Benning, Georgia, 1938.
M1 Combat Car, 1st Armoured Division, Fort Benning, Georgia, 1938. The M1 entered service in 1937. Notice the exercise unit colors, painted on the turret. The two extra sponson machine-guns were rarely mounted.

M1 Combat Car at Fort Raily, Kansas, 1940.
M1 Combat Car at Fort Raily, Kansas, 1940. The M1 and its derivatives never left the American soil. They were kept for training and drilling exercises.

M1A1 light tank of an unidentified training unit, 1941.
M1A1 light tank of an unidentified training unit, 1941. This variant (17 built in 1937) received a new octagonal turret. The hull was 40 cm longer (to 4.44 m – 17 ft 7 in) and the two bogies were farther apart. The next M1A1E1 (7 produced) received a new Guiberson diesel engine. They led to the development of the M2 light tank.

Gallery

M1 Combat Car - Credits: Wikipedia
Cut-away view of an M1 Combat CarTechnical profile drawing of the M1 Combat Car

Links on the M1 Combat Car

The M1 and M1A1 Combat Cars on Wikipedia
The M1 and M1A1 Combat Cars on WWIIVehicles
The M1 Combat Car on globalsecurity.org
Other interesting facts and details about the M1