A half-track is a vehicle that utilizes both tracks and wheels as running
gear. The half-track was conceived by the Russians around 1914
but successfully developed by the Citroen Company in France.
The U.S. Army purchased a license to develop half-tracks
and experimented with half-track adapters. These were track units
that could be retrofitted to existing vehicles. The mobility
of the vehicle improved markedly when using these adapters.
The scout car M3 was retrofitted with tracks culminating in the classical
design as shown above. Half-tracks were built by White Motor
Company, Diamond-T Motor Company, Autocar Company and International
The basis of the half-track was a truck chassis and drive train. An armored
box was placed in the back to provide protection for personnel and
armament. This vehicle was
equipped with a ditch roll which helped in traversing obstacles.
Some vehicles were equipped with a winch in place of the ditch roll.
Radiator louvers were used during battles to protect the radiator from small arms
The 4 speed
transmission, combined with a 2 speed transfer case yielded 8 speeds
forward with two in reverse. The levers to the right of the shift lever
select high and low range and front wheel drive. The center seat
is the jump seat, usually for the gunner.
The track is constructed of two steel cables with rubber track molded around
them. The rubber gives flexibility to the track while the cables are
for reinforcement. The rear idler is used to adjust track tension.
The power plant is a White 160 AX, 6 cylinder engine.
USAGE IN WORLD WAR II
The U.S. half-track was first used in the Philippines where several
initial design problems arose. The suspension was modified for increased
reliability, but one of the main criticisms, the lack of overhead armor,
was never changed throughout the life of the vehicle since the
added weight decreased mobility. After the surrender of Bataan, several
half-tracks were utilized in the Japanese army. In North Africa the
half-track was improved with heavier road wheel springs and heavier
springs for the rear idler. During the battle of the Kasserine
Pass, several half-tracks were captured and used by the Germans.
At the time of the invasion of Sicily, the half-track had settled
into its role as an armored infantry transport vehicle that was able to
deliver infantry closer to the battle since they were less vulnerable
to rifle fire. The vehicle would hold supplies and infantry field
equipment, leaving the infantry unencumbered by heavy field packs.
The half-track was highly mobile and could follow tanks quite easily,
unlike trucks which were more at home on the road. The half-track
was often criticized as too lightly armored, but this could partially
be attributed to abuse of the vehicle. Some units used the half-track
as an armored assault vehicle which was not its role by design.
The M2 and M3 half-tracks, the machine gun/armored personnel carrier
versions of the vehicle, were widely used in the European theater.
The German SdKfz 251 half-track was similar to the American half-track.
The 251 had better armor protection, but the U.S. half-track had superior
mobility with more horsepower, a driven front axle and a ditch roll.
Half-tracks were also used as gun motor carriers or gun carriages,
the most common being the gun motor carriage (tank destroyer),
the Howitzer motor carriage, the mortar motor carriage and the
multiple gun anti-aircraft motor carriage. The tank destroyer version
of the half-track was marginally successful and eventually was replaced by
the Sherman chassis based tank destroyers such as the M10.
The M16 quadmount version of the half-track proved very successful and became
the standard light anti-aircraft armored vehicle. Over 30,000 vehicles
were produced during the war.
ADDITIONAL TECHNICAL DATA
Length............21 ft. 4 in.
Width..............7 ft. 3 in.
Height.............7 ft. 8.5 in.
Top road speed.....35 MPH
Copyright 1995 Charles C. Roberts, Jr