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War Tank America (Steam Tank)

Experimental Combat Vehicle

United States | 1918

"The War Tank America was an experimental flame-projecting tank developed by the Americans during World War 1 - it arrived too late to be of use."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 09/28/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
United States wartime industry spiked with the American entry into World War 1 (1914-1918) in 1917. Various local projects were undertaken to provide the fighting men with viable war-winning vehicles but few managed to make any headlines. In the meantime, the United States Army service made do with what was available and this became mainly combat vehicles of British and French origin.

One of the projects to come out of this period of American ingenuity was the "War Tank America" - the largest armored fighting vehicle project undertaken by the nation during the whole of the war. Its design involved the United States Army Corps of Engineers as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The end-product became a massive vehicle to be armed with a new flame-projecting weapon (devised by the Corps of Engineers). The intent was to have the War Tank America crew, under protection of their armored vehicle, reach and blast fortified German positions with flammable fuel oil - a terrible bodily (and psychological) weapon to be sure.

Because of the proposed steam-based propulsion scheme, the tank was also known by the name of "Steam Tank". Also the United States Army could do little to fund the War Tank America project so the vehicle was essentially supported by way of donations from Boston financial players.

Outwardly, the 45-ton vehicle was no doubt influenced by American exposure to the large British tanks (originally known as "Landships" for they were essentially battleships fighting on land). As such, the vehicle took on a lozenge shape and held its tracks in an over-under arrangement along hull-length outboard sections. To these sections were added side-sponsons for which to mount limited-traverse machine gun armament (0.30 cal Brownings). The fighting crew was positioned within the central structure of the tank and protected against most small arms fire and artillery spray though the true enemy of tanks of the war was field artillery and land mines. Ahead of the track sections at front were noticeable "spikes", perhaps used for obstacle-clearing or to help the tracks stay clear of any oncoming battlefield debris. The fuel-oil sprayer weapon, formally designated as "Flame Projector, Tractor Type, Mark I", reportedly held a range out to 90 yards and was to be mounted at the extreme front-end of the tank.

Drive power was pulled from a pairing of Doble steam engines providing 500 horsepower but, like other tanks of the war, this arrangement was never entirely reliable nor wholly suitable for what was needed.

Nevertheless, at least one vehicle was constructed and fully-drivable, even showcased in various parades to drum up support for the American cause in the war. It was completed in early 1918 and eventually shipped to Europe (France) for evaluation - ultimately showcased to American General John J. Pershing himself. However, before any final say could be had on the tank, the war ended in November 1918 with the German surrender. With the end of the war ended the hopes of the War Tank America as the complex, untested product was no longer needed. Post-war American tank needs were met by surplus foreign types while local designs slowly began to take shape into the 1920s and 1930s.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one land system design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the War Tank America Experimental Combat Vehicle.
2 x Doble steam engines developing 500 horsepower.
Installed Power
4 mph
6 kph
Road Speed
37 miles
60 km
The physical qualities of the War Tank America Experimental Combat Vehicle.
34.8 ft
10.6 meters
O/A Length
12.5 ft
3.8 meters
O/A Width
10.5 ft
3.2 meters
O/A Height
90,004 lb
40,825 kg | 45.0 tons
Armament & Ammunition
Available supported armament, ammunition, and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the War Tank America (Steam Tank) Experimental Combat Vehicle.
1 x Flame projector.
1 x 0.30 caliber Browning machine gun in left sponson.
1 x 0.30 caliber Browning machine gun in right sponson.
Not Available.
Nightvision - NONE.
Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Protection (CBRN) - NONE.
Notable series variants as part of the War Tank America (Steam Tank) family line.
War Tank America - Base Series Name; single prototype completed.
Steam Tank - Alternative Name.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the War Tank America (Steam Tank). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national land systems listing.

Total Production: 1 Units

Contractor(s): Army Corps of Engineers / Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - USA
National flag of the United States

[ United States (cancelled) ]
1 / 1
Image of the War Tank America (Steam Tank)
Image from the Public Domain.

Design Qualities
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to battlefield requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The War Tank America (Steam Tank) Experimental Combat Vehicle appears in the following collections:
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