The "Carrier, Personnel Half-Track M3" was the principle people-mover for the Allies during World War 2 (1939-1945) on so many levels that it proved as equally important as any one tank, aircraft or battleship. A rather traditional design for the period, its prolific career was made possible by the tens of thousands of examples produced during the war and, to this total, were the myriad of derivatives added based on sheer battlefield need. One of the offshoots of the M3 family line became the" M16 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage" (MGMC) of 1944.
The M16 arose out of a need for a new, more efficient self-propelled anti-aircraft vehicle able to keep pace with the armored columns stretching from the various beachheads and streaming towards Paris, Rome and Berlin. The earlier M13 was a sound-enough vehicle but it held its inherent limitations. The M13 had origins in 1943 and 1,103 were produced, these armed with a 2 x 0.50 caliber gun arrangement (the M33 "Maxson" mount). The M13 was, itself, built atop the chassis of the M3 half-track.
Naturally, the ubiquitous M3 seemed the perfect start again for the next evolution of SPAA vehicle and thus the M16 was born. The M33 Maxson mount was revised to accept four machine guns and the hinged armored side panels were cut-out to accept the ammunition drums when the turret would rotated. Additionally, the gun mounting was elevated a full six inches from the cabin floor - allowing ground level, line-of-sight firing against vehicles and enemy troops.
The M16's chassis remained largely faithful to the original M3 offering and was further based on the developmental "T1E2". As a "half-track" the rear drive component of the M16 was "tank-like" with the linked tread arrangement offering excellent grip during cross-country travel. The forward drive component remained that of a basic commercial truck - two large, steerable road wheels being fitted. The engine remained at the front of the vehicle with the driving compartment directly aft. The remaining space over the rear of the chassis was an open-air compartment featuring a box-like armored tub surrounding the quad-mount gun system. The gun system comprised 4 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) - the system known collectively as the M45 "Quadmount" - and this was to provide a concentrated stream of heavy-caliber gunfire towards incoming attacking aircraft. Furthermore it could easily be trained on ground troops and lightly-armored vehicles making for one impressive multi-purpose machine. Armor protection reached only 12mm along the front and side facings and the typical crew complement was three including the driver.
Power was from a White 160AX gasoline-fueled engine developing 128 horsepower. The suspension system amounted to a Vertical Volute Spring (VVS) system for the rear track components and leaf springs for the forward wheeled axle. Road speeds could reach 42 miles per hour with operational ranges out to 175 miles.
The M16 began its U.S. Army service in 1944 and quickly replaced the stock of M13 half-track vehicles in the same battlefield role. Production of the M16 from he White Motor Company ran from 1942 to 1944 to which new-builds numbered 2,877 examples. A further 677 emerged from M13 and T10 half-tracks (568 and 109 respectively) converted to the M16 standard for a grand total of 3,554 M16 vehicles.
In practice the M16 gave an excellent account of itself under all manner of battlefield conditions. Its combined firepower provided the needed defense against low-flying threats and enemy pilots soon became aware of its battlefield presence when attempting to attack seemingly unprotected convoys and concentrations of "soft" vehicles. Its success was such that its gunnery teams nicknamed the machine "The Meat Grinder" for anything caught within its crosshairs was sure to become shredded metal.
From its introduction in early 1944 until the end of hostilities in 1945, the M16 was fielded with American, British and Commonwealth forces. Additional numbers went to the Soviets via Lend-Lease - these being the similar M17 based on the M5 half-track chassis. Because of its widespread use in the war, some M16s fell to the German Army and were promptly placed into service with the Wehrmacht until their usefulness had run out. In the post-war period, the U.S. Army provided its M16 vehicles to the newly-established "Japanese Self-Defense Force" (JSDF).
The M16 story did not end with the death of Adolph Hitler and the collapse of the Japanese Empire for the Korean War (1950-1953) kept many World War 2-era weapons in play - the M16 being one of them. The vehicle was lent to the government of South Korea in its battle against the North and still remained in the American Army inventory for a while longer. With the use of jet-powered fighter types growing in the conflict -particularly the arrival of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 - the surface-to-air prowess of the M16 was diminished due to its manual tracking scheme and limited-use caliber. Even so, the quad-gun arrangement of the M16 proved an impressive anti-infantry measure and they were accordingly employed as such during the conflict - often with disastrous results against an unprotected enemy. By 1951, the U.S. Army began moving away from the M16 and its kind - reducing its numbers in a number of ways. Despite this initiative, the vehicles fought on to the last days of the war which ended with an uneasy armistice in 1953.
Throughout its career, the M16 was represented through a limited batch of variants. The M16 designation marked original World War 2-era vehicles based on the T1E2 chassis and fitted with the M45D gun mount. The M16A1 followed as direct conversions from the production M3A1 half-track and now fitting the M45F gun mount. The M16A2 was the final form of the series and represented original M16 vehicles upgraded to the M16A1 standard and its M45F gun mount. The aforementioned M17 was nothing more than the M5 half-track with M45F gun mount - most of these delivered to the Soviets under Lend-Lease.