In Action…Half-Tracks

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The half-track was conceived to combine the best mobility features of conventional trucks as well as track-laying vehicles. Unfortunately, like most compromises, with the good also came the bad. This M3A1 has become hopelessly mired in the Aleutians, ultimately requiring an artillery tractor to extricate it from this bog.

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This M2 is serving as a command vehicle during desert maneuvers. The early wartime planning envisioned widespread use of half-track vehicles for a variety of purposes, but ultimately half-track production ceased even before the war ended, as it was found to be less than ideal in protection, capacity and maneuverability.

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The rubber band-type tracks used on American half-tracks were much quieter, and much smoother running, than the link-type tracks used on German half-tracks. This allowed the US half-tracks to operate at sustained road speeds comparable to wheeled vehicles without requiring an inordinate amount of maintenance.

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Half-tracks were widely used during the Italian campaign. At least six First Armored Division half-tracks are visible in this photo taken in Northern Italy. With very few exceptions, U.S. forces used half-tracks produced by White, Autocar and Diamond T, while those built by International Harvester were supplied to allied nations.

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With advent of the M2A1 and M3A1, the M49 ring mount replaced the skate rail as a mounting for the heavy machine gun. These soldiers, photographed in England, are making final checks in preparation of the Normandy invasion. A snorkel has been added to the air intake of their half-track.

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This M2 is being backed onto an LST in preparation of the invasion of Sicily. The LST shown at center, LST-158, would be sunk during the invasion operations. Notice the camouflage applied to the half-track.

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Some of the most successful uses of the half-track were as platforms for antiaircraft artillery. One of these is the M15 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage shown here, which was armed with a 37mm M1A2 gun and two .50 caliber machine guns. This example was photographed near Salerno.

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The M16 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage was arguably the best of the anti-aircraft half-tracks. Armed with four .50 caliber machine guns in a power-operated turret, the vehicle was so successful that similarly-armed versions were converted from M3A1 half-tracks for use during the Korean War.

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The M13 shown here, and the IH-built equivalent, the M14, were armed with two M2 .50 caliber machine guns in a power-operated turret. A gasoline-engine driven generator in the turret supplied the current.

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The M34 40mm gun motor carriage was among the most heavily armed versions of the half-track. The 104 examples of the M34 were created during the Korean War by rearming M15A1 multiple gun motor carriages with a 40mm Bofors cannon instead of the previously used 37mm cannon and twin .50 caliber machine guns. Incredibly, this was done because of a shortage of 37mm ammunition.

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The US Marine Corps made considerable use of the half-track, in the form of the M3 Gun Motor Carriage, in the Pacific. The 75mm M1897A4 cannon mounted on these vehicles were employed knocking out enemy pill boxes and machine gun nests, as in this photo.

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 Far removed from the Pacific beaches, this snow-covered M15A1 belonged to the  778TH AAA Battalion, 3rd Armored Division. The M15A1 differed from the M15 in part by having the 37mm cannon mounted above the .50 caliber machine guns, rather than vice-versa. The machine was photographed near Bastogne on January 19, 1945.

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Also captured on film in January of 1945, this M2A1 wearing winter camouflage was operating in Belgium. The armored shutters were closed–not only to protect the radiator from bullets–but to keep the engine in its normal operating temperature.

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This 41st Armored Infantry, 2nd Armored Division half-tracks has been considerably up-gunned. 37mm antitank guns and shields were removed from obsolete Dodge M6 Gun Motor Carriages and installed in M2 half-tracks. External rear stowage was added at the same time.

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The crew of this M2A1 stands watch as a flight of P47 Thunderbolts pass over their base. Three thirty-caliber weapons, covered, supplement the fifty-caliber weapon, the only one uncovered.

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 In a very different climate, most of this M2 crew rests in a shelter made from palm leaves as another crewman listens to the radio headset. The crew has also liberated a large drum magazine for “Ma Deuce.”

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