The US Army began development of a light tank in the early 1930s. After a number of models which progressively increased armor and fire power, the M3 series was initiated in July 1940. Provided to British forces as part of the Lend-Lease Act, the M3 first saw combat with British forces in North Africa in November 1941. The British found the M3 to be under-gunned, but were so pleased with its mechanical performance that they nicknamed it “Honey.”
The M3 saw service with American forces in the Philippines when the Japanese invaded in December 1941. Feedback from these actions led to improvements incorporated in the M3A1, which began production in May 1942, including the addition of a gyro stabilizer for the 37mm main gun and a power traverse for the turret. The addition of the power traverse required the turret to be fitted with a basket or floor which rotated with the turret. This was the first American tank to include such features.
M3A1 Stuart Tank
The M3A1 also saw service with American forces during the North African Campaign. The 37mm main gun, which had proved inadequate for British forces a year before, was now even more ineffective since German armor had continued to upgrade. One veteran noted, “Popcorn balls thrown by Little Bo Peep would have been just as effective” in reference to the 37mm against German armor. Following the 1st Battalion, 13th Armored Regiment’s participation in the Battle of Kasserine Pass, the Stuart tank was relegated to the role of reconnaissance and flank security. The M3 and its successor, the M5, continued to be utilized in Europe through the end of the war.
Although poorly suited to tank warfare in Europe, the Stuart tank proved effective in the Pacific. In New Guinea and the Solomons, the Stuart served in an infantry support role. Although the 37mm gun was not ideal, the small Stuart was much more practical for jungle warfare than the much larger and heavier Sherman that replaced it in late 1943.
Type: Light Tank
Date Introduced: 1942
Manufacturer: American Car & Foundry Company
Number Produced: 4,600+
Crew: 4 (Commander, Gunner, Driver, Assistant Driver)
Maximum Speed: 36 miles per hour
Engine: Continental W670-9A
Weight: 28,500 pounds
Armament: 37mm main gun, three .30 caliber machine guns
Produced from 1942 to 1944, the Dodge WC-54 was the standard US ambulance. Roof-mounted slings and folding-bench seating provided room for four stretchers or six seated patients.
The Sherman tank was the most commonly used American tank in World War II. More than 50,000 Shermans were produced between 1942 and 1945. They were used in all combat theaters—not only by the United States, but also by Great Britain, the Free French, China, and even the Soviet Union.
As modern armies became mechanized, they needed to find ways to transport material across uneven terrain. One solution, developed by several countries during World War II, was a truck with wheels in the front and tracks in the back to help drive it over rough country—the “half-track.”
Trucks such as this 2.5-ton vehicle played vital logistical roles—mostly famous in the Red Ball Express, when over 5,000 vehicles maintained supply lines to the front-line forces after the D-Day landing. Most drivers in the convoy were African American, reflecting a segregated military in which black troops were often relegated to non-combat, but essential, roles.
This tracked vehicle was designed to rescue people in flooded areas after hurricanes, using its cup-like metal tracks to “swim” through the water and “crawl” over obstacles, such as coral reefs.