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.
The M2s were the first truly operational US light tanks. 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 USA.
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 light tank and its variants, and later the M5, were the workhorses of the US military light tank force during WW2.
The M3 Lee/Grant were 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.
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.
Comparison graphic of US tanks
WW2 US ARMORLight, medium & heavy tanks, armored cars
Up to 500,000+ armored military vehicles by September 1945
IntroductionAt the end of WW1, the US Expeditionary Force was given some 144 Renault FT French tanks, and a licence for production in the US, as the M1917 tank. But production organisation 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 led to the Liberty (Mk.VIII) tank. Along with lighter M1917 tanks, they formed the core of US Tank Force during the twenties. Georges S. Patton and Dwight Eisenhower played a great role in formulating tactical doctrines and organisation.
US tank development in the interwarThe 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, because it never fulfilled all the requirements of the Army and US Marine Corps. However, 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).
M2700 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.
M24 Chaffee4731 built (and 720+ variants) Last WWII US light tank developed, it was better armored and armed, serving from 1944-45 until the late seventies.
M3 Lee/Grant3258 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.
Heavy tanksAs 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, but after war experience in Europe 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.
M6 Heavy Tank40 built in 1941. Considered obsolete by 1944, they never left home, serving as training machines, for propaganda movies and war bond shows.
M26 PershingAround 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.
T28 super-heavy tankTwo 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.
Tank destroyersWar 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 especially designed as a tank-hunter.
M10 Wolverine6706 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).
M36 Jackson1772 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. .
M18 Hellcat2507 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.
Gun Motor CarriagesThis part does not includes M3 half-track GMC versions; HMC tanks only.
M7 Priest3490 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 & transportsThe White company produced three models in vast quantities, carrying troops, guns, and all kinds of derivatives, including tank destroyers, GMCs and AA support vehicles.
M8 Greyhound8523 built. Standard issue 6WD armored scout car.