Making available mobile maintenance assets to armies operating in the field Is not a new development. Farriers long traveled with armies, fitting and applying shoes to horses, for example. As the U.S. Army became increasingly mechanized, field forces improvised various mobile shop equipment, until finally in October 1939 the Ordnance Field Service School began an effort to standardize this type of equipment. The school at that time designed and procured a set of three styles trucks for this purpose which were mounted on the 1 ½-3 ton, Cab-over-engine GMC AFKX-352 chassis. These included the tan Artillery Repair Truck, which consisted of a set of tools and equipment mounted in a standard cargo truck body. The second style was used on an Automotive Repair Truck, Machine Shop Truck and a Welding Truck. These used a low-silhouette body which roof could be raised by a hydraulic system, with canvas curtains enclosing the sides of the truck. The final style of truck procured was the type featured here, the small arms repair truck. For this vehicle, the tools and equipment are carried in a school bus type body.
All three types of this original group of trucks were designed with the intent that the personnel of the Ordnance Maintenance Companies receiving the trucks would mount the tools in equipment in the trucks upon receipt. That is, the trucks and the equipment would be shipped separately to the units. It was found that due to delays in delivery of both instructions and equipment this was not a satisfactory arrangement, thus it was decided that moving forward these mobile shop trucks would be furnished complete.
The Quartermaster Corps issued Contract W-398-qm-7413 to Yellow Truck and Coach (GMC) for 276 of these vehicles. Three pilot models were to be available for inspection on 4 December 1939. The was subsequently moved to late in the month. However, GM would later advise the Army that. “Due to our inability to secure certain materials to meet the delivery promise of December 21st or December 22nd for the subject pilot models, it has been necessary to revise delivery promise to Saturday, January 6th, 1940.”
The Quartermaster Corps tested the vehicles at Fort Holabird, after which the government requested 40 changes.
Incorporating these changes, production began in March at the rate of 20 per day, with 221 being completed in March and 52 in April. The chassis were then delivered to Heil, who built and installed the bodies, with the completed trucks accepted by the Army in April 1940. They were assigned registration numbers 00640 through 00915. The trucks would be powered by 248-cubic inch displacement 6-cylinder engines.
By late 1940 initial field testing had shown that while the bus-type body was the most practical, a different style of bus-type body would be preferred. The body design of Wayne Works of Richmond, Ind. was selected. Directives were issued to Raritan Arsenal, Metuchen, N.J. to develop layouts for various shop configurations in bus-style bodies, albeit bodies less streamlined than those of the initial trials. The types of shops Raritan was directed to develop were:
- Artillery Repair, M2 SNL-G-82
- Automotive Repair, M2 SNL-G-83
- Instrument Repair, M1 SNL-G-92
- Machine Shop Load “A”, M4 SNL-G-57
- Machine Shop Load “B”, M4 SNL-G-57
- Machine Shop Load “C”, M4 SNL-G-57
- Small Arms Repair, M1 SNL-G-72
- Small Arms Repair (Signal Corps), M1 SNL-G-72
- Spare Parts, M2 SNL-G-84
- Tank Maintenance, M1 SNL-G-91
- Tool and Bench, M2 SNL-G-58
- Welding, M3 SNL-G-59
Contract W-398-QM-8797 was issued in October 1940 for 976 of the trucks, which Yellow Truck and Coach referred to internally as “small arms jobs.” Two pilots of the reconfigured vehicles were delivered in January 1941. These were followed by 974 production vehicles with deliveries broken down as 112 in June, 384 in July, 356 August and 120 in September 1941. These trucks were assigned registration numbers as follows:
An additional contract, 398-QM-10858, was issued August 1941 for a further 478 of the vehicles. These trucks were to be delivered on wheels, and were assigned registration numbers 006318 through 006665
This order was followed by a further order the next month. The September order, DAW-398-QM-65, was as indicated by the contract number for Defense Aid. These vehicles, registration numbers 007519 through 007537; and 0022584 through 0022798, were to be boxed.
The Yellow Truck and Coach plant manager wrote on 3 October 1941 concerning these orders, “In addition we are also attaching a copy of weekly schedule on the 938 Small Arms Chassis which are now on order. The first lot of 478 trucks are not to be boxed, but the second lot of 460 will be boxed here after the bodies have been mounted at the body supplier’s plant and the vehicles returned here. The schedule shown is for the building and shipping of the chassis to the body builder. “
Production of these vehicles began in January 1942 with 144 examples, followed by 355 in February, 372 in March and the final 67 in April.
As promising as these trucks seemed, their use in the various maneuvers of 1941 showed that these trucks did not have what was needed to stand up to the rigors of mobile warfare. By the fall of that year, the decision had been made that future procurement of mobile shop trucks would consist of units mounted on the standard long-wheelbase CCKW 6x6 chassis.
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