M41 Walker Bulldog Light Tank (LT)
The M41 Walker Bulldog began production in 1950 and ended to the tune of some 3,728 examples produced.
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The M41 was designed and developed as the direct successor to the World War 2-era M24 Chaffee light tank. The M24 served a valuable purpose in the war but its main gun armament was soon found to be rather ineffective against the stouter late-war German tank designs and, thusly, its tactical reach became inherently limited. After the war, a main US Army adversary would become the fabled T34 medium tank of the Soviets, by which time the type had now been upgunned with an 85mm main gun. As such, design work on a new air-transportable light tank featuring better armament began in 1949 and resulted in the "T37" pilot vehicle of conventional layout and arrangement. Like the M24 before it, the T37 was designed to be as light as possible for its particular tank classification, resulting in the reduction of critical armor protection for the crew and systems alike. Experience with the proven American 76mm main gun saw this armament as the focus of the T37 prototype. Interestingly, the T37 showcased a new-fangled rangefinder for the main gun but this proved too complicated for the design and was simplified to create the "T41" pilot vehicle. After completing the requisite evaluations, the T41 was formally accepted into service as the "M41 Little Bulldog" with production ramping up at the Cadillac Cleveland Tank Plant in 1951. It was only after the death of US 8th Army General Walton W. Walker, lost to a jeep accident during the Korean War on December 23rd, 1950, that the "Little Bulldog" was renamed in his honor to "Walker Bulldog". By 1953, the M41 Walker Bulldog was available in enough numbers to officially replace the outgoing M24 series in the US Army inventory. The M41 was fielded (as the T41) on a limited basis in the Korea War.
Outwardly, the M41 was consistent with US Army design doctrine of the time. The tank was given a stout hull atop a tracked chassis with the driver in front, the turret at center and the engine in the rear. There were five double-tired road wheels to a track side with the drive sprocket at the rear and the track idler fitted to the front. Three track return rollers supported the upper region of the track system. The suspension system was of the torsion variety, allowing for adequate cross-country travel. The driver sat in a forward-left position in the forward hull under an armored hatch sporting three vision blocks, the compartment fitted under a well-sloped glacis plate. The turret was also well sloped with thick sides tapering towards the turret roof. The M41 was crewed by four personnel made up of the driver, tank commander, gunlayer (gunner) and dedicated loader. By this time in history, US tanks had dropped the designated bow gunner/radio operator from its designs. Armor protection for the crew was up to 1.5 inches (38mm) in thickness.
Power was supplied by the fitting of a single Continental AOS 895-3 series 6-cylinder, gasoline-fueled engine delivering 500 horsepower. This provided the tank with a top road speed of 45 miles per hour on ideal ground and up to 100 miles of operational range. The end result produced a nimble vehicle with adequate firepower for the threats of the modern battlefield though the Continental powerplant was thirsty which limited ranges and also noted for its high decibel levels during operation - a deficiency when the element of surprise was in play. Additionally, the average American tanker found the internal conditions rather cramped. In whole, the vehicle weighed in at just under 24 tons, maintained a length of 19 feet meters and a height just under 9 feet and proved reliable, robust and easy-to-handle.