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 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.
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
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
|Dimensions||3.51 x 2.10 x 2.10 m|
|Total weight, battle ready||8 long tons|
|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 Americn Light Tank, R.P. Hunicutt
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