The Carrier, Personnel Half-track M3 was an armored vehicle used by the United States, the British Empire and the other Allies during World War II and the Cold War. Nearly 43,000 were produced, and supplied to the U.S. Army and Marines, as well as British Commonwealth and Soviet Red Army forces, serving on all fronts throughout the war.
Between the world wars, the US Army sought to improve the tactical
mobility of its forces. With the goal of finding a high-mobility
infantry vehicle, the Ordnance Department had evaluated the half-track design by testing French Citroën-Kégresse vehicles. The White Motor Company produced a prototype halftrack using their own chassis and the body of the M3 Scout Car.
The design, using as many commercial components as possible to
improve reliability and rate of production, was standardized in 1940 and
built by the Autocar Company, Diamond T Motor Company, and the White Company.
Offered with a choice of White 160AX or IHC RED DIAMOND 450 engines, the M3 was driven through a manual constant-mesh (non-synchromesh) transmission with four forward and one reverse gear, as well as a two-speed transfer case. Front suspension was leaf spring, tracks by vertical volute spring. Braking was vacuum-assisted hydraulic, steering manual, without power assist. The electrical system was 12-volt.
The M3 was the larger counterpart to the M2 Half Track Car.
The M2 was originally intended to function as an artillery tractor. The
M3 had a longer body than the M2 with a single access door in the rear
and seating for a 12-man rifle squad. Ten seats were arranged down either side of the vehicle, with three in
the cab. Racks under the seats were used for ammunition and rations;
additional racks behind the seat backs held the squad's rifles and other
stowage. A small rack for mines was added on the outside of the hull
just above the tracks. In combat, most units found it necessary to stow
additional food, rucksacks and other crew stowage on the outside of the
vehicle. Luggage racks were often added in the field, and very late
vehicles had rear-mounted racks for this crew stowage.
Early vehicles had a pintle mount just behind the front seats mounting a .50-caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine gun.
The later M3A1 adopted a raised, armored 'pulpit mount' for the
.50-caliber, and .30-caliber (7.62 mm) machine guns could be used from
mounts along the sides of the passenger compartment. Many M3s were later
modified to the M3A1 standard. The body was armored all around, with an
adjustable armored shutter for the engine's radiator and a bulletproof
The halftracks were initially extremely unpopular and dubbed "Purple Heart Boxes" (a grim reference to the US Army's decoration for combat wounds) by American troops.
Chief complaints centered around the complete lack of overhead
protection from airbursting artillery shells and that the armor was
inadequate against machine gun fire.
Total production of the M3 ran to nearly 41,000 vehicles. To supply the Allied nations International Harvester produced several thousand of a very similar vehicle, the M5 half track for Lend-Lease.
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