M3 (half-track)

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Half-track vehicle M3
M3A1 APC (Armored Personnel Carrier)

M3A1 APC (Armored Personnel Carrier)

General properties
crew 3 + 10 men
length 6.18 m
width 2.22 m
height 2.26 m
Dimensions 9.3 tons
Armor and armament
Armor 6-12 mm
Main armament varies depending on the version, mostly MG, M1919A4 or Browning M2
Secondary armament varies by version
drive Six-cylinder white gasoline engine 160 AX
147 hp (110 kW)
Top speed 64.4 km / h
Power / weight approx. 16 hp / ton
Range 282 km

The half-track M3 (Engl. Personnel Carrier, Half-track M3 ) is an armored troop carrier, which by the armed forces of the United States during the Second World War was used in large numbers and in many variants.

In contrast to the shorter M2 half-track vehicle, which was primarily intended as a tractor for the artillery, the main purpose of the M3 was to transport personnel. Compared to the comparable German vehicles of the armored personnel carrier Sd.Kfz. 251 series, the M3 half-track was much simpler and cheaper to produce.

Development history of the M2 / M3 half-track

Captured M3 of the German Africa Corps, North Africa 1942. Behind it is an armored personnel carrier Sd.Kfz. 251
Civilian M3 half-track from Renosteel Construction Ltd. on the beach at Cromer, Norfolk (England), 1993

The US Army's interest in the military use of half-tracks began in 1925 when reports on French half-tracks were being evaluated. The Ordnance Department therefore bought two vehicles from Citroën -Kegresse, and another in 1931. The first US development was presented by the company Cunningham & Sons in Rochester, New York, in 1932. The vehicle was called T1 and already had the drive characteristics of the later M2 / M3 series. The development path led to the T9, a truck with a half-track drive, similar to the German SdKfz 3, which was mainly used as a tractor for 75 mm cannons. In 1938 they took a Scout Car M3 and simply exchanged the rear axle for the half-track drive of the T9. The terrain characteristics were satisfactory and the “hybrid” called T7 was further developed into the T14 half-track car . Whether German developments such as the Sd.Kfz. 251 from 1938 were the inspiration for the US development cannot be proven, but the time correlation is striking.

In September 1940 the T14 was standardized as an M2 half-track car and was intended as a tractor for various guns. In the interior there were seven seats and two ammunition boxes on the sides. Since the vehicle did not have rear doors, the crew had to get out through the driver and passenger door or jump over the drop side. The M2 was officially introduced in May 1941. The mechanized infantry was in formation and a modified version of the M3 was being planned. The fighting compartment was lengthened somewhat, the two ammunition containers were removed and eleven seats were installed. The new vehicle was called the M3 Half-track Carrier .

First use

The first unit to be equipped with M2 and M3 was the Provisional Tank Group , which fought against the Japanese invading army in the Philippines in 1941. The 46 M2 and M3 as well as 15 M3-75mm GMC half-track vehicles were all lost in the fight, but after many small problems were reported, these could be parked in the following lots. The Provisional Tank Group had a special feature: It used 70 British Bren carriers destined for Malaya and diverted to Manila. After the experiences with the Bren Carrier, the construction and use of the Carrier was refrained from.

The next deployment was in North Africa in 1942/1943. The 1st Armored Division (1st US Armored Division) had 733 half-tracks. The vehicles suffered heavy losses, especially in the battles around Kasserine and Sidi-bou-Zid in early 1943, after which the half-track vehicles were colloquially called "Purple Heart Box", after the American wounded badge. The 10th Panzer Division captured 95 M3 half-tracks during the fighting at the Kasserin Pass alone. However, one has to realize that the vehicles were often used as combat vehicles, which they were not intended for. They were an armored transport vehicle that was not originally intended to be used in a mounted battle.


The engine and cab area came directly from the M3 armored car (White Scout Car M3). The first vehicles used the White 160 AX petrol engine with the Timken F35-HX-1 driven front axle with 8: 25-20 tires. The chain drive sprocket used the Timken 56410-BX-67 and Spicer-3641 gears as the axle. Thus, commercial truck components were processed, which made the supply of spare parts and maintenance cheaper. When the White Motor Company could no longer meet the demand, the Autocar Company and Diamond T manufactured the M2 and M3 under license and used their components. The price of an M3 in 1943 was $ 10,310. It was about twice as expensive as a 2.5-ton truck.

The maximum speed is around 64 km / h and the maximum range is 282 km. The fording ability is 0.81 m and the climbing ability is 31 °.

In addition to the basic versions, the vehicle served as a self-propelled gun for cannons , howitzers and mortars as well as a flak tank . The flak tank version M16A1 was used in the early days of the Bundeswehr , see M16 (half-track vehicle) . In addition, the M3 was used as a medical vehicle, telecommunications vehicle or as an artillery tug.

Further developments were the M2A1 and the M3A1, in which a ring mount with light armor was attached.

Comparison of SdKfz 251 and M3

In 1943, the US Army compared the two types SdKfz 251 and M3, the information is analogous to SdKfz 250 and M2. Both vehicles are similar in size, engine power, weight and speed. The main advantage of the German SPW was the far better cross-country mobility and the better shape. The M3 had a vertical armor from 6 to 13 mm thick, which resulted in a bulletproof up to MG and splinter protection. The SPW was safer with a similar armor thickness (front 12 mm, sides and rear 8 mm) thanks to the armor inclined at 35 degrees. The German cooling was also rated as better, because on the US vehicle the lamellar armor in front of the radiator had to be closed in the event of fire, or the radiator was damaged, which led to the failure of the vehicle.

Advantages of the M3 were, among other things, the 20 percent larger interior, the powered front axle, the better road running, the lower noise when driving and the easier maintenance.

Lend lease versions

A large number of the halftracks were given to allied armies under the lend lease agreement. As the three manufacturers were soon unable to meet the demand, the International Harvester (IHC) company was commissioned in 1942 to produce a simplified version of the M2 and M3 for export. The vehicles used IHC components and could be recognized from the outside by the simple fenders and the rounded corners of the fighting area. Unlike the M3, the armor was not made of surface-hardened steel, but of simple armor steel. In order to achieve approximately the same protection, the armor had to be made thicker.

The M2 was called the IHC version M9 and the M3 was now called M5. No IHC vehicles were used by the US Army.

Exports in World War II

Half-track vehicles of all types were given to many allied countries by the USA. The following numbers are known:

Recipient country Type number
Free France M2 / M2A1 176
Free France M3 / M3A1 245
Free France M5 / M5A1 1196
Free France M9 / M9A1 603
USSR M2 342
USSR M5 401
USSR M9 413
1st Brazilian Infantry Division M2 / M2A1 8th
1st Brazilian Infantry Division M3 / M3A1 3
1st Brazilian Infantry Division M5 / M5A1 20th
National China M2 / M3 20th
Chile M5 10
Mexico M2 3
Mexico M5 2

The largest customer was Great Britain with Canada, which received several thousand M5 and M9 and from these stocks also equipped the Free Polish and Free Czechoslovak troops, while the Free French were supplied directly by the USA.

Versions and numbers

Designation type Manufacturing period Vehicle base Armament manufactured FZ
M2 half-track car 1941-1943 M2 .30 or .50 MG 11,415
M2A1 1943-1944 M2 .30 or .50 MG 1643
M3 half-track carrier 1941-1943 M3 .30 or .50 MG 12,499
M3A1 1943-1944 M3 .30 or .50 MG 2862
M5 1942-1943 M5 .30 or .50 MG 4625
M5A1 1943-1944 M5 .30 or .50 MG 2959
M9 1943 M9 .30 or .50 MG 2026
M9A1 1943 M9 .30 or .50 MG 1407
T48 57 mm GMC (SU-57) 1942-1943 M3 57mm M1 Gun 962
M3 75 mm GMC 1941-1943 M3 75mm M1897 Gun (Schneider) 2202
T30 75 mm HMC 1942 M3 75mm M1A1 howitzer 500
T19 105 mm HMC 1942 M3 105mm M2A1 howitzer 324
M13 MGMC 1943 M3 2x .50 M2 1103
M14 MGMC 1943-1944 M5 2x .50 M2 1605
M16 MGMC 1943-1944 M3 4x .50 M2 2877
M17 MGMC 1943-1944 M5 4x .50 M2 1000
T10 MGMC 1944 M3 2x 20 mm Oerlikon MG 110
T28E1 1942 M3 1x 37 mm M1A1 AA gun and 2x .50 water-cooled 80
M15 CGMC 1943 M3 1x 37 mm M1A1 AA gun and 2x .50 M2 680
M15A1 CGMC 1943-1944 M3 1x 37 mm M1A1 AA gun and 2x .50 M2 1652
M4 81 mm MMC 1942 M2 81mm mortar 572
M4A1 MMC 1943 M2 81 mm mortar 600
M21 81 mm MMC 1944 M3 81mm mortar 110
T21 / T21E1 4.2 inch MMC 1943 M3 4.2 inch mortar 25th


  • Jim Mesko: M3 Half-Track in Action . Squadron Signal Publ No. 34, 1996
  • Steve Zaloga : M3 Infantry Halftrack 1940–1973 , Osprey New Vanguard 11, 1994
  • Peter Chamberlain / Chris Ellis: British and American tanks of the Second World War , Lehmanns Verlag Munich, 1972

Web links

Commons : M3 (half-track)  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Alexander Lüdeke: Typenkompass - Beutepanzer der Wehrmacht, Motorbuch-Verlag, p. 113