During World War 2, it was accepted practice to ferry troops to and from combat zones was through any vehicle then available. The primary mover of most armies during the conflict became the multi-faceted "halftrack" which incorporated the frontal drive components of a standard military truck with the rear drive section akin to that of a combat tank. The wheeled/tracked hybrid nature of the design ensured that the vehicle could traverse most operating environments including mud, snow and shallow water sources. However, all halftracks were very basic in their design with protection afforded to the passengers by way of simple armored walls with no standard heavy cover overhead. As such, infantrymen were exposed to the elements (unless a tarp was deployed) and - of course the greater detriment - to both artillery fire and small arms. Regardless, the halftrack remained in use throughout the conflict and was relatively inexpensive to produce while being available in substantial numbers.
For the United States Army, the days of the halftrack as an armored personnel carrier had come to a close following the end of World War 2. Work began on a fully-enclosed, tracked armored vehicle intended to ferry troops in relative safety. The M44 model, designed to carry 24 combat-ready infantry, was born of the T16 pilot vehicle which was based on the chassis of the famous M18 "Hellcat" tank destroyer. However, the vehicle proved much too massive for long term US Army needs and another, more compact, armored vehicle solution was sought.
International Harvester Corporation, an agricultural and automotive concern founded in 1902, was charged with construction of four pilot vehicles utilizing the chassis of the T43 cargo mover. This initiative produced the T18 pilot vehicle which incorporated two remote gun stations, each fitted a 12.7mm heavy machine gun and internal room for up to fourteen personnel. Power was through a Continental AO-895-2 series 6-cylinder air-cooled, gasoline-fueled engine outputting at 295 horsepower. The original T18 was slightly modified in the follow up T18E1 which did away with the remote turrets but added a cupola at the commander's station for improved viewing of the battlefield over the vehicle. T18E2 did away with the cupola altogether and added a machine gun mounting in its place, intended for suppression of enemy forces and cover fire for disembarking/embarking troops. On the whole, the T18 series prototypes was formed from the chassis of the M41 Walker Bulldog light tank which entered service in the early 1950s.
Of the available prototypes considered, authorities selected the T18E1 for formal adoption and serial production began in 1952 under the designation of "M75" (supply catalog designation of "G-620"). The Army commissioned or 1,730 vehicles to be split between production at International Harvester (1,000 units) and Food Machinery and Chemical Corporation (730). The M75 entered service in 1952.
The driver was positioned in the extreme front-left corner of the hull (marked by his raised cupola with vision blocks) with the powerpack immediately to his right, a grill and horizontally-set exhaust pipe marking its installation. Placement of the engine in its forward position allowed the required internal volume for the rear passenger cabin. The commander sat aft of the driver at center under a centrally located cupola, also with vision blocks. The passenger cabin to the commander's rear held seating for twelve across two benches facing inwards. Outwardly, the vehicle showcased a very utilitarian appearance that included vertical hull sides and a chamfered hull roof line. The rear hull facing of the vehicle fielded a pair of hinged, inward opening steel doors for access to the passenger cabin. External fuel tanks could be fitted to the outer sections of the rear hull face for increased operational ranges and pioneer tools could be affixed to various portions of the hull panels as required. Overall construction of theM75 was of welded steel providing protection against small arms fire and artillery spray. With a fording kit installed, the M75 could enter water sources 48 inches deep. It could also clear vertical obstacles 18 inches tall and trenches of 66 inch gap while running up 60 percent gradients.
Production-quality vehicles were furnished with the Continental AO-895-4 air-cooled, 6-cylinder, turbocharged gasoline-fueled engine of 295 horsepower. The vehicle sat atop a track-and-wheel arrangement which featured five double-tired road wheels to a track side with the drive sprocket at the front and the track idler at the rear. Three track return rollers were present. Suspension was via a torsion bar configuration which allowed for cross-country travel in some comfort. Maximum road speeds was 43 miles per hour with an operational range of 115 miles. The vehicle topped the scales at 42,000lbs.
Since the primary role of the M75 was to transport troops, the vehicle was modestly armed with a single 12.7mm Browning M2 heavy machine gun which allowed a counter to light-armored vehicles and low-flying aircraft. The weapon could also be used against infantry with lethal results. 1,800 rounds of 0.50 caliber ammunition were carried aboard. It proved standard practice for crews to carry an M20 Super Bazooka, as well along with 10 reloads, and personal small arms of their choosing, most often times the compact M1 Carbine. Additionally, the vehicle could be defensed by the small arms carried by the passengers.
The M75 held a short service live in service with the United States Army. While it was used in the Korean War (1950-1953), total production reached only 1,729 actual delivered units. The vehicle was only retained in the US Army inventory until the late 1950s to which it was then replaced by the more compact and inexpensive M59 series. The M59 saw combat service in the Vietnam War and its production totals reached some 6,300 units before it was itself replaced by the venerable M113 series. One of the major drawbacks of the M75 proved to be its hefty price tag per unit which restricted a large procurement order. After their time in US service was completed, ex-Army M75s were transferred overseas to Belgium via a military aid package. These vehicles managed considerably longer service lives than their American existence, not retired until the 1980s.
The M75 - and the follow up M59 - both heavily influenced the design and overall configuration of the M113 which went on to see extensive combat service in various major and minor conflicts while being used the world over by US allies, Since its adoption in 1960, over 80,000 examples have been produced making it a Cold War success story.
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