The White Motor Company's contributions to the American war effort of World War 2 (1939-1945) became well-documented but its support went back much further than that - developing and producing a series of armored cars for the Army and Marines during World War 1 (1914-1918). Known simply as the "White Armored Car", the first vehicles were revealed in 1915 and issued to French Army forces desperate for any mechanized systems in their defense of Western Europe. White Motor Company production of its cars continued until the end of the war in November of 1918 and some forms managed a service life in the post-war years for colonial security efforts - actively used until about 1941.
The armored car of World War 1 was a far cry from the purpose-built vehicles encountered in the subsequent World War. These systems were typically generated by reconstituting an existing civilian car or lorry and applying an armor-plated superstructure over the chassis. Rear axles were usually double-tired as a result of the added weight. The internal arrangement, with its driver's seat and steering wheel, were completely retained as was the original front-mounted engine compartment. The mass of the superstructure weighed down the rear of the vehicle and to this was typically seated a traversing turret mounting a machine gun. While the concept on paper was sound, field practice usually showcased a vehicle too heavy and clumsy for tactical frontline service as the civilian-minded chassis was not built for the rigors of warfare. However, with few options available, most forces pressed these vehicles into service nonetheless.
The original "White No. 1" of 1915 was a 4x2 wheel drive offering and served with French forces for a time. In 1916 came the "White No. 2" which was issued to United States Army and United States Marine Corps (USMC) forces as available. Some were shipped to the El Paso region to support the Pancho Villa "Punitive Expedition" headed by General John Pershing - though the operation largely revolved around cavalry due to terrain. It was during this time that future American Army General, George S. Patton, would used a mechanized assault to take down Villa's bodyguard - Julio Cardenas - during a raid.
The Model 1917 - appearing the following year during America's entry into the war - was developed to a specific American Expeditionary Force (AEF) requirement which ultimately became the Model 1918. The Model 1918 (also known as the "White AEF") retained the same 4x2 wheeled capability and was also delivered to AEF units as well as the French Army. While given up in short order by the Americans, the Model 1918 stayed in the rebuilding French inventory until the early 1930s where they gave needed security service across French-managed colonies overseas.
The Model 1918 became a 3.4-ton vehicle with an operating crew of three. Its armor plating provided 3.8mm to 6.35mm of protection for the crew and the vehicle's vital internal components. This was effective against small arms fire but could not content with armor-piercing ammunition, artillery, and land mines. Power was through a 4-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine of 45 horsepower output. The chassis utilized a leaf spring suspension system to provide for some off-road support. Road speeds could reach 65 miles per hour on ideal surfaces. The primary weapon on these American cars was the Colt-Browning M1895 machine gun. All versions used the White 4x2 wheeled arrangement.