WORLD WAR TWO. ARMOURED FIGHTING VEHICLES & SELF-PROPELLED ARTILLERY
The M10 Wolverine was based on the M3 medium tank (Lee/Grant) hull, with a 3-inch gun mounted in place of the existing 37mm turret and 75mm in the side sponson. The first model, known as the T24, proved to be both too tall and too complicated so it was cancelled in March 1942 and followed swiftly by the T40. This mounted a 3-inch AA gun in a low- angle mounting on the same chassis. The Tank Destroyers Command accepted this model, although it lacked speed and mobility. Standardised as the GMC M9, fifty were ordered. However, only twenty-nine of the required gun barrels could be found, so the project dragged on inconclusively and was finally cancelled in August 1942.
The M36B2 used the M10 hull and was fitted with an armored canopy over the open-topped turret. It mounted a 90mm AA gun adapted for anti-tank fighting. This was the US Army's best antitank gun of World War Two. (TM)
It was overtaken by the T35, which mounted a 3-inch gun on a Sherman M4A2 chassis, later replaced by an improved model the T35E1. This TD had a much lower silhouette, an angled hull, a five-sided open topped turret and thinner armor allowing increased speed and mobility. Standardised as the GMC M10 in June 1942, demand was such that the Sherman M4A3 chassis had also to be used - known as the M10A1. Rushed to North Africa in early 1943. The M10 quickly replaced the GMC M3 (75mm gun on a halftrack) as the main weapon of the tank destroyer battalions. It first saw action in mid-March 1943, near Maknassy in Tunisia. A total of 4,993 M10s and 1.713 M10A1s were built, of which 1,648 were supplied to the British Army and were used operationally in both Prance and Italy. From late 1944, the British started converting many of them by replacing the 3-inch gun with their own more powerful 17pounder. The resulting TD was known as the 17pounder Achilles, the Mk IC being from the M10 and the Mk IIC from the M10A1.
The M18 Hellcat, was designed as a tank destroyer from the outset rather than being an adaptation on a tank chassis. It owes its origin to the original US War Department requirement of December 1941 for a very fast, lightly armored, tracked vehicle, with a low silhouette and a powerful gun, Two pilots were built (using the already proven Christie-type fast tank suspension) mounting a 37mm anti-tank gun. The first was completed by mid-1942 and designated as the T49. After testing in July 1942, the TD Command asked for a more powerful gun to he fitted, namely the 75mm M3 as in the M4 Sherman. This however was fortunately substituted by the more powerful 76mm gun. Further development also brought the adoption of the nine-cylinder Wright R-975 air-cooled radial engine and torsion bar suspension in place of the Christie-type.
The result was the T70, which proved to be ideal and, after trials and a few small modifications, production began at the Buick factory in July 1943. The T70 was standardised as the M18 in February 1944 and a total of 2,507 were built up to October 1944 when production ceased. It was well liked by crews, who used it successfully in North West Europe and Italy, knot king out many enemy tanks, A crew member from one told the author 'the Hellcat overcame many of the problems of the M10. It was lighter and far more mobile. Speed was much better. The 76mm was a good gun although it did not carry the impact power at a distance as the 3inch did. hut we were able to sustain more rapid fire than we could with the M10'. Another simply described the Hellcat as being: 'a tanker's dream'.
M10's from a US Army tank destroyer unit, ford a stream on the German border, 12 September, 1944. (TM)
A LVT(A)1 motoring ashore, main armament was a 37mm gun fitted in a M3 light tank turret. (TM)
Last of the trio was the heavily armed M36, which owed its greater firepower to a decision made in October 1942, to discover if the 90mm AA gun could be adapted to the anti-tank role in order to deal with the heavier enemy armor which was then starting to appear on the battlefield. Early tests with the M10 showed that, whilst the gun could be fitted satisfactorily, its increased length and weight caused considerable problems. Test firings proved satisfactory, but it was clear that a new turret was needed. Two pilot models were built by Ford in March 1943 based on the M10A1 chassis. They were completed that September and proved very successful, being given the designation GMC T71, and an order placed for 500 vehicles.
Unfortunately only 300 hulls were available, so the numbers had to be made up by using M10A1s which had been sent back for maintenance from operational service.
Standardised in July 1944 as the GMC 36, they were first used in action in France, August 1944. Demand for the new TD increased after the Normandy battles had shown that the 90mm was undoubtedly the best US Army anti-tank weapon to use against the heavier Panthers and Tigers. Various expedients had to be employed to meet orders, such as using the standard hulls of Sherman M4A3s (known as the M36B1) and using M10 hulls (known as the M36B2). A total of 2,324 of all models were produced.
The design of these vehicles owes much to the prewar development work of Donald Roebling Jr., who in the mid-1930s had designed a light weight tracked amphibian, called the Alligator, for rescue work in the Florida Everglades. By 1940, Roebling had redesigned the vehicle to suit US Marine Corps specifications and by mid-1941 an order for the first 200 LVT1s was placed. By August 1941, US Marine Corps Tractor Battalions were forming to operate the first of what later became a massive 18,000 LVTs of all types built during World War two. Of these 3.118 were LVT(Armored).
There were four models built during the war, LVT(A)1 and LVT(A)2 were very similar, except that the latter did not mount a 37mm gun nor have any decking, so that it could be used as an armored cargo carrier. It could carry up to 7,6001bs of freight, but this was normally limited to 4,100lbs. A total of 300 LVT(A)ls and 450 LVT(A)2s were built by Roebling and ford.
The largest production run was of the next model, the LVT(A)4, nearly 1.900 being constructed. It mounted the turret of the HMC M8 which had a 75mm howitzer as its main weapon. The extra machine guns which had been present on the decking of the LVT(A) 1 and 2 were dispensed with to save weight. Highly successful, it lacked a powered gun traverse but this was rectified on the LVT(A)5, designed in 1945. This last model did not enter service in time to be used operationally. Other armaments fitted included rocket launchers, flamethrowers and the turret from the M24 Chaffee which mounted a 76mm gun.
The US Marine Corps grouped their LVT(A)s into armored amphibian battalions while the US Army, who did the same, designated the LVT(A) as amphibious tanks. These battalions did sterling work in such tasks as beach assaults, beach defence and waterborne flank assaults, as well as both direct and indirect fire missions in which they fired many thousands of rounds.
|Weight (tons)||14.64||12.32 plus cargo||17.62||as for LVT(A)4|
|Height||8ft 5ins||8ft 3ins||10ft 5ins||with powered|
|Armament||one 37mm gun three .30in MG (one coax) one .50in AA||one .50in & one .30in MGs||one 75mm howitzer one .50in AA||gun traverse|
|max land speed||25mph||20mph||20mph|
|max water speed||6.5mph||7.5mph||7.5mph|
|(NB: all were powered by a 250hp Continental W670-9A air-cooled petrol engine, and were 26ft tin long, by 10ft 10ins wide and only tuned in height as shown)|
The LVT(A)4 carried 100 ammunition rounds for the 75mm howitzer, exactly the same load as the M8 HMC. A total of 1,900 were built. (TM)
Besides unconventional scout vehicles like Aerosans, the Soviets also developed armoured cars during the war, though certainly not so vigorously as before the war.
Russia had shown an early interest in armoured cars even before World War One and this had continued during the Civil War. In the late 1920s to the early 1930s, once the car industry had been revitalised, the Red Army (RKKA - Rabochiy Krestyanskaya Krasnaya Armiya) began to show interest in new models. They classified armoured cars in two categories (like Germany); light - armed with machine guns, heavy armed with 37mm to 45mm guns. Armoured cars were given the initials BA (Bronieavtomobil armoured automobile), although sometimes the A was dropped Their interest was not sustained during the war and by 1943-44, the Soviets were making less and less use of armoured cars, so as demand fell so did production. At the start of the Great Patriotic (World War Two), the RKKA had some 4,800 armoured cars in service, many in distant parts of the Soviet Union, such as their Far East. These were then gradually brought into action against the Germans, rather than the Soviets actually building many new ones. Virtually the only armoured car to be built during the latter half of the Great Patriotic War, was the small BA 64, which had very limited capabilities. They did, however, also produce an interesting range of light over snow fighting vehicles, known as Aerosans. In addition, they made use of limited numbers of British Universal Carriers, American M3 halftracks and M3 scout cars. They also of course, made major use of self-propelled artillery and rocket carriers (both wheeled and tracked), limited use of AA vehicles, tracked transporters tor towing artillery guns and flamethrower tanks, together with other more specialised equipment such as armoured trains.
Early models, like the D-8 and D-12. produced in the 1920s were little more than GAZ-A automobiles (copies of imported Ford cars) fitted with some armour plate and two machine guns. The first purpose-built light armoured car was the FA-I of the 193th, which had its machine gun in a proper turret. It was followed by the BA-20, which was still in service at the start of World War Two. The BA-20 was followed by the all- welded BA-20M, which had an aerial on the left side of the hull, in place of the frame aerial of the BA-20V. Later, they were joined in the 1930s by various prototype vehicles, made by other manufacturers. These included the 6×4 GAZ-TK, LB-NATI and the LB-62, however, none of them entered quantity production. They also included the BA 21, which was an attempt to mount a heavier body on the GAZ-21 6×4 lorry chassis, but was soon dropped. BA -20s and 20Ms were still in service when the war began, including one model specially adapted for railway use, the BA-20Sh.d (Shelesnaya Doroga - railway).
|Length:||12ft 2½ins||14ft 1½ins||14ft 11½ins|
|Width:||5ft 6ins||5ft 9ins||5ft 10ins|
|Height||6ft 4ins||7ft 1in||7ft 1in|
|Armament||one 7.62mm DTMG|
|Engine:||50hp four-cylinder GAZ-M1 water-cooled|
The only new armoured car to be standardised by the Soviet Union was the BA-64 a small, two-man 2.36 ton scout car, powered by a 50hp four-cylinder GAZ-MM engine. Based on the GAZ-64 type jeep and designed mainly for liaison work, the two-man BA-64A car was also used for reconnaissance and other tasks. It was designed and produced by GAZ, but shows distinct German influences in its body shape and armour design. Dimensions were 12ft long, 5ft wide and 6ft 3ins high, the car had a top speed of 50mph and a range of 280 miles. When the GAZ-67B type jeep entered service, the BA-64B became the production model, the main difference being that the 7,62mm machine gun was now mounted in a small turret rather than being pintle mounted at the front of the open top. Variants included:
BA 64 with DShK 1938 MG - a model which mounted a 12.7mm heavy machine gun on top of the scout car's existing open-topped turret. It was built in small numbers during 1944.
BA 64 D - airborne/raiding version on which the turret was completely removed, so that it could carry up to six men - it never entered production.
There were also halftrack and rail versions of this well-liked diminutive vehicle which was affectionately known as Bobik by its crews. Total wartime production was about 3,500.
Soviet SU-76 self-propelled guns support Red Army infantry as they attack German positions at Koenigsberg, April 1945. (TM)
German soldiers inspect a captured BA-20Sh.d, which was the BA-20 four-wheeled armoured car, adapted for railway use. (TM)
Mass parade of BA-20VS. This was the commander's version of the BA-20 armoured car. Note the large frame aerial around the top of' the body. (TM)
The only new scout/armoured car built by the Russians in World War Two was the diminutive 2.36 ton BA-64. This one is at the Russian War Museum in Moscow. (TM)
Among the first armoured cars to be built after the start of the first Five-Year Plan in 1927, was the 4.5ton BA-27 which had rivetted armour, a crew of two and mounted a 37mm gun and a co-ax MG, It was followed in the 1930s by the BA-1, BA-3 and BA-6. The first of the three was based on an imported Ford-Timken lorry chassis, but it did not enter production because the new GAZ-AAA lorry chassis became available and tins formed the basis of the BA-3. It used the turret of the T-26 light tank, mounting a 45mm gun, but proved to be too heavy so production was halted. Instead, the BA-6 was designed, which had a lightened armoured body (nearly 2240lbs lighter), better suspension and transmission. As with the BA-20 a modernised version, designated BA-6M, was later produced also a rail version, the BA-6Sh.d. In 1936, the BA-6M was fully modernised, the new armoured car being known as the BA-10. It had the same hull and six-wheel suspension as the other earlier models, but mounted a 45mm semi-automatic gun in the T-30 experimental light tank turret, together with a coax MG, plus another machine gun in the hull next to the driver. The 5.2 ton BA-10 had armour up to 10mm thick, a four-man crew (two in the turret), a top speed of 53mph and a range of 185 miles.
In 1937, the BA-10M appeared which had a welded hull and was slightly heavier (5.3 tons). It measured 15ft 5ins long, and 6ft 10¾ins wide, by 7ft 11¼ins high. Its armour was 11-14mm thick and power came from an 85hp GAZ M1 engine, giving it a top speed of 54mph and a range of 200miles BA-6s and BA-10s both saw active service during the war, some being stripped out for use as armoured personnel carriers. Others were delivered to China for use in their war against the Japanese. In common with the other Soviet armoured cars, track bands were carried, which could he slipped over the rear wheels to improve cross-country performance.
The BAZ amphibian (Amfibyi) version of the BA-6 was produced in the 1930s, using the GAZ-AAA lorry chassis to carry a distinctive boat-shaped hull. The fully-traversing turret mounted a 37mm gun also there were two large sponson-type turrets - one beside the driver's position, which itself had a large cover eighteen inches tall, and one behind the main turret. Each sponson contained a machine gun. The four-man crew was made up of commander (who also loaded and tired the 37mm gun), two machine gunners (each in a separate sponson-type turret) and the driver. While the front sponson was fixed, the rear-mounted one was capable of rotating through 270 degrees. The 7ton BAZ, had two brass propellers for water propulsion (6.5mph in water) and a rudder for steering, as well as its six road wheels. Dimensions were: 21ft 3½ins long, 6ft 11ins wide and 7ft 2½ins high. The BAZ did suffer from the same problem of exiting (up slippery river banks) as all wheeled amphibians.
Amid the smoke of battle, a six-wheeled BA-10 heavy armoured car, with its turret traversed to the rear, drives in front of a massive KV 2 heavy tank. The spare wheel on the side of the BA-10 is almost grounded. (TM)