No image of the American military effort in World War 2 is complete without the appearance of the M3 Half-Track vehicle. The M3 appeared in large production numbers and was the Allied counter to the German SdKfz 251 series half-track of similar scope and function. The M3 served primarily a personnel carrier, shuttling infantry to and from the front, but could easily double in other battlefield required roles such as MEDical EVACuation (MEDEVAC), equipment carrier, weapons platform and general light reconnaissance. The M3 became the definite Allied half-track of note and was used throughout the war where its hybrid truck-tank design could traverse the most unforgiving of terrains. Its forward axle was of a twin wheeled design with its aft section supported through a track-and-wheel assembly. This particular half-track series was used by all major Allied forces (including the Soviet Union via Lend-Lease) and saw continued use in the post-war years with the growing nation of Israel and a rebuilding France.
The basic half-track concept was originally showcased by the British in World War 1. By then, however, the combination of tracks an automobile-style wheels seemed impractical when fully-tracked or six-wheeled vehicles with four-wheel drive was favored. The half-track saw a comeback of sorts in the interwar years, primarily during the 1930's, where development peaked on both sides of the ocean. The German Army made extensive use of such vehicles in their route of enemy forces via the "Blitzkrieg" and the Americans took particular note of a French-made design known as the Citroen Kegresse P17. Such was the American interest in the French system that several of the French forms were purchased for additional hands-on testing and evaluation.
The P17 was soon spawned into the "T14" army half-track prototype of 1931. The T14 - produced primarily by the Army Ordnance Depot among others - was nothing more than a White Scout Car M2 series chassis melded to the Kegresse half-track suspension system. The resulting design proved adequate enough to become the newly-minted "Half-Track Car M2". Production of the Half-Track Car M2 was already underway by 1941 with Europe already embroiled in what would become known as "World War 2" since September of 1939.
The Half-Track M3 soon appeared in 1941 and began to supplement the M2 types in frontline service. The M3 differed somewhat from the preceding design in that it showcased a lengthened hull. Original forms featured a pedestal-mounted 0.50 caliber machine gun at center for self-defense but this was later replaced by a more traditional "pulpit" style assembly on future production models. Beyond the M3 came the "M5" which differed little more than in the manufacturing process used. The "M9" was a related half-track armored car design.
The M3 was then spawned into a myriad of roles from the base personnel carrier. One of the most fearsome was the "Quad-50" anti-aircraft platform which saw a battery of 4 x 0.50 (12.7mm) caliber Browning heavy machine guns mounted atop a turning pedestal. This formidable array proved exceptional in the low-level air defense role and could be turned on unfortunate enemy infantry in a pinch as well. Other variants of the M3 series became specialized gun carriers mounting weaponry from 57mm to 105mm self-propelled guns. Mortar carriers, armored ambulances and engineering vehicles were also produced.
The M3 series was far from a perfect machine. Though robust, it was never deemed as highly reliable as other wheeled systems then available. The thin floor armor made the occupants extremely susceptible to land mines and the fabric covering overhead did little to protect from the elements, artillery spray or air attack. Despite these limitations, the M3 operated without much complaint, being exposed to the harshest of wartime elements and conditions to the point that the system would achieve legendary status by war's end. The American half-track was produced to the tune of some 41,000 examples by 1944 and saw continued use in the years following. The M3 also saw combat service with the burgeoning Israeli Army and, in some forms, still continues along supplementary roles around the world today (2013) - though to a lesser extent than in the decades previous.
The American involvement in the Korean War (1950-1953) following World War 2 ensured that M3 vehicles and all her kind would be called to action once more. After the conflict, however, doctrine involving use of half-track vehicles was given up worldwide as Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) and Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) - both wheeled and tracked - began to take center stage.
Australia; Argentina; Belgium; Brazil; Cambodia; Canada; Chile; Czechoslovakia; Cuba; Denmark; Dominican Republic; Israel; Italy; India; Japan; Laos; Lebanon; Mexico; Nazi Germany; Netherlands; New Zealand; Norway; Pakistan; Peru; Philippines; Portugal; Poland; South Korea; South Vietnam; Soviet Union; Spain; Thailand; United Kingdom; United States; Yugoslavia
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Anti-Aircraft / Airspace Denial
Base model or variant can be used to search, track, and neutralize airborne elements at range.
✓Fire Support / Assault / Breaching
Support allied forces through direct / in-direct fire, assault forward positions, and / or breach fortified areas of the battlefield.
Can conduct reconnaissance / scout missions to assess threat levels, enemy strength, et al - typically through lightweight design.
General utility-minded design to accomplish a variety of battlefield tasks, typically in a non-direct-combat fashion.
Special purpose design developed to accomplish an equally-special battlefield role or roles.
20.3 ft 6.18 m
7.3 ft 2.22 m
7.4 ft 2.26 m
20,501 lb 9,299 kg
10.3 tons LIGHT
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Half-Track Personnel Carrier M3 production variant. Length typically includes main gun in forward position if applicable to the design)
1 x White 160AX 6-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine developing 147 horsepower.
44.7 mph (72.0 kph)
175.2 mi (282.0 km)
(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the base Half-Track Personnel Carrier M3 production variant. Compare this entry against any other in our database)
1 x 0.50 caliber heavy machine gun OR 1 x 0.30 caliber M1919A4 medium machine gun. Also any personal passenger weapons could come into play.
Other mission specific variants included:
1 x 81mm mortar
1 x 57mm anti-tank gun
1 x 75mm field gun
1 x 105mm howitzer
2 or 4 x 0.50 caliber heavy machine guns (AA)
2 or 4 x 20mm Bofors cannons
2 or 4 x 40mm Bofors cannons
(Not all weapon types may be represented in the showcase above)
700 x 12.7mm ammunition OR 7,750 x 7.62mm ammunition
T14 - Prototype Army Designation appearing in 1931; White Scout Car M2 hull with Kegresse half-track suspension system.
Half-Track Car M2 - Base Production Model based on the T14 prototype; production beginning in 1941 and operational service by May of that year.
Half-Track Personnel Carrier M3 - Lengthened hull; dedicated personnel carrier variant developed from the M2; White 160AX engine.
Half-Track Personnel Carrier M3A1 - Circular pulpit gun mount introduced
Half-Track M3A2 - Designed as mortar carrier, APC or air defense system.
Half-Track M3 - Communications Variant
Half-Track M3 - Ambulance Variant
Half-Track M3 - Artillery Tow Vehicle
Half-Track M3 - Mortar Carrier
Gun Motor Carriage M3 - Self-Propelled Gun Platform; fitted with 75mm main gun (M1897A4).
M16 MGMC - Quad-50 Air Defense Variant; 4 x .50 caliber heavy machine guns.
Half-Track Personnel Carrier M5 - Alternative production methodology; Lend-Lease production model.
Half-Track Personnel Carrier M5A1 - M5 with M49 machine gun mount
Half-Track Personnel Carrier M5A2 - M5 and M5A1 combination production
Half-Track Car M9
T-12/M3 GMC - 75mm Gun Motor Carriage
T12 HMC - 75mm or 105mm Pack Howitzer
T48 GMC - 57mm Gun Motor Carriage
T30 HMC - M1A1 75mm Gun Motor Carriage
T38 HMC - T7 105mm Pack Howitzer
T19 HMC - M2A1 105mm Howitzer
M21 MMC - 81mm Motor Mortar Carriage
T21 - 4.2 inch mortar carrier (never produced)
M13 MGMC - 2 x 12.7mm machine gun AA variant.
M16 MGMC - Shielded 2 x 12,7mm gun AA variant.
M16A2 MGMC - Addition of rear door to hull.
M17 - Based on M5 chassis for Lend-Lease to Soviet Union.
T58 - Quad-Fifty mount with electrically powered turret (prototype)
M15 CGMC - 2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns fitted above 37mm autocannon with added crew protection.
M15A1 CGMC - 2 x 12.7mm machine guns fitted under 37mm autocannon.
M15 Special - Fitted with 40mm Bofors L/50 guns.
Various other minor prototype versions as well.
M3 Mk.A - Israeli Variant based on M5; RED-450 powerplants; various machine guns on M49 mount.
M3 Mk.B - Israeli Variant based on M5; used as command carriers.
M3 Mk.C - Israeli Variant based on M3; fitted with M1 81mm mortar.
M3 Mk.D - Israeli Variant based on M3 mortar carrier; fitted with 120mm Soltam mortar system; first appearing in 1960.
M3 TCM-20 - Israeli Variant based on M3 and M5 half-track series; fitted with Israeli-made TCM-20 turret mounting twin 20mm Hispano-Suiza HS404 cannons on Maxson turret systems.
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns / operations.
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