Light, medium & heavy tanks, armored cars
- Armored Car M1
- Armored Car M8 Greyhound
- Disston Tractor Tank
- GMC M10 Wolverine
- GMC M18 Hellcat
- GMC M36 Jackson
- Half Track Car M2
- Half Track Car M3
- Heavy Tank M6
- HMC M7 Priest
- HMC M8 “Scott”
- Light Tank M2
- Light Tank M24 Chaffee
- Light Tank M3 Stuart
- Light Tank M5 Stuart
- Light Tank/Combat Car M1
- LVT-1 Alligator
- LVT-2 Water Buffalo
- LVT-3 Bushmaster
- LVT-4 Water Buffalo
- M2 Medium Tank
- M26 Pershing
- M3 Lee/Grant
- M3 Scout Car
- M4 Sherman
- M7 Medium
- Sutton Skunk
- T23 Medium Tank
- T26E4 “Super Pershing”
At the end of WW1, the US Expeditionary Force was given some 144 Renault FT French tanks, and a license for production in the US, as the M1917 tank. But production organization took time and only a few were shipped to France and were operational before the capitulation. Nevertheless, this new weapon proved its ground. Embryos of the Tank Force, the Tank Corps in France and the Tank Service in USA were set, the first by Samuel Rockenbach, assisted by Georges S. Patton, the second headed by Ira Clinton Welborn, assisted by Dwight D. Eisenhower. Patton had already gained some experience, directing a squadron of three armored cars during the punitive expedition sent against Pancho Villa’s insurrection. At the end of the war, one of these units, the 301st Heavy Tank Battalion, was equipped with British Tanks Mk.IV–V. This led to a cooperation on a new design, which ultimately became the Liberty (Mk.VIII) tank.
Along with the lighter M1917 tanks, they formed the core of the US Tank Force during the twenties. Georges S. Patton and Dwight Eisenhower played a great role in formulating tactical doctrines and organization.
US tank development in the interwar
The Tank Service retained the Mark VIII Liberty and M1917, with no intermediate medium model, until 1928, when a new directive was issued for a medium tank, and a new light model, usable by cavalry. At the same time, William B. Christie, an American car engineer, devised a new, revolutionary tank suspension system, with a dual purpose train, allowing the vehicle to also run without its tracks. However, his project, quickly dubbed the “flying tank”, was never produced in the US except as a prototype, because it never fulfilled all the requirements of the Army and US Marine Corps. The design was not lost and served as a basis for many successful models abroad, in Great Britain (the Cruiser tanks) and Soviet Union (BT series and the T-34).
An important place for the American armor projects was the design bureau of the Mississippi’s Rock Island Arsenal (between Iowa and Illinois), which designed, produced and tested tanks for the US Army. Not only did it produced the Liberty Mark VIII tanks in 1919-1920, but also artillery, gun mounts, recoil mechanisms, small arms, aircraft weapons sub-systems, grenade launchers and weapons simulators… that is outside tanks.
The M2s were the only operational US light tanks at the beginning of the war. The M2A4 was the sole among the four types which actually took part in combat, especially in the Pacific (like here, at Guadalcanal) with the USMC. It was removed from active duty in 1943. All the others, the pre-series M2A1, the M2A2 “duplex turret” or “Mae West”, and upgraded M2A3, were kept for training in the USA.
113 built. This early development, along with the M2, was the basis of the M3-M5 “Stuart” lineage, which formed the backbone of US light tanks. The M1A2 was upgraded with a 37 mm (1.46 in) gun in 1940.
700 built in four variants. Closely related to the M1A2. The most produced version was the M2A4, which saw service in the Pacific and Africa, before being replaced by the mass-produced M3.
13,860 built. The M3 was a replacement for the M2, and was mass-produced, forming the core of the US light tanks during WW2.
8885 built. Based on the M3A3 with a modified hull and new Cadillac engine and transmission. Armor was reinforced, but the armament did not evolve.
4731 built (and 720+ variants). Last WWII US light tank developed, it was better armored and armed, serving from 1944-45 until the late seventies.
112 built. With the M2A1 wartime production series, this was the earliest US medium tank in service, in 1939. They were retained in the homeland as training machines.
3258 built. This long awaited model entered service as fast as possible with British units fighting in North Africa, through Lend-Lease. It was phased out in 1942, but served until 1945 in Asia. It was mobile, well armed and protected, but the high silhouette and sponson main gun were serious flaws. It was a transition model.
49,234 built. This mythical machine replaced the Lee/Grant and remains the most prolific tank of the western world. But it was a compromise and has some flaws as well, especially when facing German late tanks of 1943-45.
Around 2000 built. Only 20 were deployed in Germany a few weeks before the end of the war. The development of this tanks started in 1942, but delays and modifications delayed the production until December 1944. It was well protected and fitted with a 90 mm (3.54 in). It was the base for Cold War US tank development, including the early T29 and T30.
As pragmatic planners, the US military never seriously envisioned heavyweight breakthrough machines, as tanks were traditionally attached to the cavalry. Speed and easy production were the main concerns at the start of WW2. After war experience in Europe started accumulating, the need for more penetrating power and increased protection came, advocating for all-better medium tanks, specialized tank-hunters and ultimately to the first wartime US heavy tank. The only U.S. Army super-heavy tank ever produced was the experimental T28.
40 built in 1941. Considered obsolete by 1944, they never left home, serving as training machines, for propaganda movies and war bond shows.
T28 super-heavy tank
Two built. Experimental machine fitted with a very long barrel 105 mm (4.13 in) gun, in order to deal with the most formidable German tanks in the western European theater. The first was ready when the war ended. The second was scrapped in 1947.
War experience quickly showed the limitations of the Sherman when facing German armor, as early as the Tunisian campaign. This was epitomized both in Italy (after Italy surrendered) and in France (after D-Day). The main limitation was the lack of range and penetrating power of the regular 75 mm (2.95 in) Sherman main gun. The obvious solution was to choose the British 17-pdr (76.2 mm/3 in) (which was added later to the Sherman Firefly), and to develop a new vehicle based around this gun and specially designed as a tank-hunter.
6706 built. Ordnance “3-inch Gun Motor Carriage, M10”. Based on a Sherman chassis and drivetrain, with an open top turret fitted with a high-velocity M7 76 mm (3 in)
1772 built, between 1943-45. Fitted with the 90 mm (3.54 in) M3 high-velocity gun, a very effective solution, one of the few fit to deal with German armor in 1944.
2507 built between 1943-45. Conceived from scratch, with its new suspension and powerful drivetrain, it was lightning fast and fitted with the effective 76 mm (3 in) M1A2 AT gun.
Howitzer Motor Carriages
This part does not include M3 half-track GMC versions; HMC tanks only.
1778 built. M5 based HMC fitted with a 75 mm (2.95 in) short barrel howitzer.
3490 built, between 1943-45. Fitted with the 105 mm (4.13 in) M1/M2 howitzer, its tall silhouette earned this model the nickname “Priest”.
Armored scouts & transports
12 built (1931) by Cunningham and Rock Island Arsenal. Largely test vehicles used by the Cavalry Corps.
20,918 built. Main US heavy scout car. Was armed with 30 cal. (7.62 mm) and 50 cal. (12.7 mm) machine-guns.
13,500 built (+3500 M9 Lend-Lease versions). Was used for towing the 105 mm (4.13 in) howitzer and its crew.
43,000 built. Standard armored troop transport of the US Army and USMC. Up to 28 sub-versions and adaptations.
8523 built. Standard issue 6WD armored scout car.
Christie T3E2 prototype during trials. It was one of the last of a whole lineage of cavalry (convertible) tanks.
Convertible Combat Car T7. An early attempt in 1937-38 to develop a convertible tank in the idea first approached by Walter Christie in 1928-29. Despite some interesting characteristics the US Army decided to develop its own slower, but more sturdy and better protected type. The Christies were just too extreme for the military thinking of the day.
The M1 Combat Car, the first modern tank in US service, came into production in 1937. By 1941, they were all serving as training machines.
After the M1 Combat Car, the M2 was the first model available in numbers when the war began in 1939. They existed in several variants.
Here, an M2A2 “Mae West” twin turret on display at the Fort Knox museum.
M2A3 light tank at the Army Day Parade in 1939.
M2A4 light tanks being prepared for delivery in Great Britain. The M2A4 saw action in the desert with British Forces and the Philippines and Guadalcanal.
Marmon Herriginton CTLS in Surabaya, in service with the KNIL (Dutch East Indies Army), 1942. Marmon-Herrington was one of the rare private companies developing tanks chiefly for export (although the USMC tested and bough some). The first customer was the KNIL.
Marmon-Herrington CTLS in Alaska, 1942, some of the rare actions ever performed by these tanks for the USMC.
M3 Stuart training at Fort Knox Kentucky. The M3 was the first truly mass-produced wartime American tank. With its 4-6 machine guns and 37 mm main gun it was still up to the job in 1941.
M3A3 Stuart passing by Coutances, Normandy, France, summer 1944. M3A1,A2,A3s were produced until replacement in 1942-43 by the M5.
Chinese M3A3 Stuart on the road of Ledo, 1944.
The M5 Stuarts built by Cadillac were the workhorses of the US military light tank force in 1943-44.
M22 Locust light tank at Bovington. Also produced by Marmon-Herrington, it was the only model mass-produced for the Army, tailored to fit inside a heavy duty glider for airborne operations. Unfortunately, too many compromises led inevitably to a tank which was desperately outmatched by everything the Germans had.
US M24 Chaffee light tank on display at Fort Lewis. This was a brand new design, improved in every direction and saw service until the 1960s and even 1980s in many countries worldwide.
The M2 medium tank was the first of its kind in the USA. Only 112 were produced by the Rock Island Arsenal, but they were seen as obsolete by 1941 and phased out as training tanks for the duration of the war. They never left the territory.
The M3 Lee (Grant in British/Commonwealth service) was the first medium tanks largely available to the Allies and USA during the first part of the war, from 1941 to 1943. The British used them extensively against Rommel’s forces in Africa, and they served well in several Asian and Pacific campaigns, until 1945. On the western theater they were replaced by the M4 Sherman by 1943.
M3 Medium tank front view
The M4 Sherman was the most prolific and best all-around tank the US industry could offer in 1942. The full force of the USA’s production capabilities became obvious in late 1943, when swarms of M4s were seen in action with the US Army, USMC, British and Commonwealth forces, fighting until the end of the war. A legend in itself, with many variants and countless derivatives, and a career which spans decades into the Cold War.
M4A3R3 Ronson flamethrower tank in Iwo Jima.