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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > World War II > Armor in World War II > W. Allied Armor

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W. Allied Armor Discuss all non-Axis and non-Russian armor here. [seeking companion website on Allied Armor for this forum]

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  #31  
Old 28 Dec 17, 20:08
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What's the Difference?

First off, hat's off to Cowboy31a for a great thread. Almost no one cites references in their posts.

Now to my question: What's the difference between an M2 and M3 half-track, and what's a quick way to determine which is which in a photo?

Likewise, the same thing about the M3 and M5 light tank. They look identical to me. What's the difference between them and how can one identify one from the other?

Sorry for the bone-ness of the questions, but vehicles aren't my strong suit.

Cheers,
Dan.
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  #32  
Old 28 Dec 17, 20:24
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The big difference is the M2 was set up to be a gun tow or for use with other crew served weapons.



The quick identification of an M2 is best done by noting the large door or hatch behind the driver's and co-driver's door. You can see that clearly in the photo. The mine rack on both sides (just above the tracks) is shortened to accommodate this door too. That door is the access for an ammunition rack inside the vehicle. The rack is specifically fitted to hold the type of round the gun being towed would use, like 3" antitank gun rounds, or 75mm artillery rounds, etc.
This reduces the interior space to allow for only 6 seated passengers in the back.

With the M4 81mm mortar halftrack, the ammo boxes were redesigned to be accessed from above inside the vehicle.

This photo of a model shows the doors to good affect.

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  #33  
Old 28 Dec 17, 20:25
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The M-2 was designed to tow Artillery. The M-3 was slightly bigger. You may not be able to tell the difference from a distance.

Off the top of my head, the M-3 Stuart had riveted armor and Machine Gun Sponsoons beside the hull. The M-5 was welded and had angled armor. There may be more.

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  #34  
Old 28 Dec 17, 22:13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
The big difference is the M2 was set up to be a gun tow or for use with other crew served weapons.



The quick identification of an M2 is best done by noting the large door or hatch behind the driver's and co-driver's door. You can see that clearly in the photo. The mine rack on both sides (just above the tracks) is shortened to accommodate this door too. That door is the access for an ammunition rack inside the vehicle. The rack is specifically fitted to hold the type of round the gun being towed would use, like 3" antitank gun rounds, or 75mm artillery rounds, etc.
This reduces the interior space to allow for only 6 seated passengers in the back.

With the M4 81mm mortar halftrack, the ammo boxes were redesigned to be accessed from above inside the vehicle.

This photo of a model shows the doors to good affect.

The storage boxes in the M2 could be accessed from the top or the side.

If you have access to Hunnicutt's book on semi-tracked vehicles, there are great information and photos.

Hunnicutt, R. P. (2001). Half-Track: A History of American Semi-Tracked Vehicles. Novato, CA: Presidio Press.

The biggest difference in the M5 and the M3 was in power train. The M3 used a single redial type tank engine, while the M5 series was a major redesign of the hull and used a twin Cadillac engine arrangement. The hull of the M5 was better designed and it was better built using wielding instead of rivets.

Again if you have access to Hunnicutt's books...

Hunnicutt, R. P. (1992). Stuart: A History of the American Light Tank; Volume 1. Novato, CA: Presidio Press.
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  #35  
Old 28 Dec 17, 23:16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan M View Post
Now to my question: What's the difference between an M2 and M3 half-track, and what's a quick way to determine which is which in a photo?

Likewise, the same thing about the M3 and M5 light tank. They look identical to me. What's the difference between them and how can one identify one from the other?

Sorry for the bone-ness of the questions, but vehicles aren't my strong suit.
Besides the good points that have already been mentioned, the half-track personnel carrier M3 had an armored body that was 10" longer than the half-track car M2's. The M2's rear plate ends short of the rear bumpers, while the longer M3's rear plate lacks the "step" found on the back of the M2.

Likewise, the light tank M5 had a sloped front hull with vertical hull sides, which immediately differentiates it from the light tanks M3 and M3A1 with their stepped front hulls. The light tank M3A3 had a sloping front hull similar to the M5's, but its hull sides also sloped inward towards the top. Another point differentiation between the M3A3 and M5 is the rear deck: on the M3A3 it is flat, while the M5 has a raised rear deck to accommodate its twin Cadillac engines.
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  #36  
Old 29 Dec 17, 11:35
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Great answers, everyone. I'm glad I asked the questions.

After reading all of your replies I went back to the earlier posts and checked the photographs.

The M2 half-track has hatches immediately behind the driver and passenger doors and the body doesn't cover the rear bumper. The M3 half-track doesn't have the hatches and its body covers the bumper.

The M3 light tank has stepped frontal armour and a flat rear deck. The M5 light tank has sloped front armour and a slightly elevated rear. The M3A3 has the sloped front but the flat rear.

Don't know why I didn't notice this on my own. Thanks again.

Cheers,
Dan.
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Last edited by Dan M; 29 Dec 17 at 21:01..
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  #37  
Old 29 Dec 17, 11:40
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Here is a great reference for color photos of the vehicles we are talking about....most of them anyway. I wasn't to impressed with the text of the book, not enough technical detail for me, but in general, it was a fair right up i guess...but man i do love most of the pictures in this book...if you don't have, get it, It has a great price on Amazon.com

Berndt, T. (1994). American Tanks of World War II. Osceola, WI: MBI Publishing.
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  #38  
Old 29 Dec 17, 12:12
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I've never read it any where but it would seem the M3 half-track would be better for armored infantry because you could get a full squad in it.

Was the M2 used more as tow vehicles and the M3 with the armored infantry?
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  #39  
Old 29 Dec 17, 12:28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 17thfabn View Post
I've never read it any where but it would seem the M3 half-track would be better for armored infantry because you could get a full squad in it.

Where the M2 used more as tow vehicles and the M3 with the armored infantry?
Yes, you are correct. the armored infantry were carried in the M3 and M3A1, while the M2 and M2A1 were used to tow weapons like AT guns and light artillery. The M2 was used for the basis of the M4 81 mm Mortar Motor Carriage as well. The M3 was used for the basis of the M3 75mm GMC, the T73 75mm GMC, the T19 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage. the T30 75mm HMC, plus all the various AAA multiple Gun Motor Carriages of the SP Auto Weapons AA battalions.

In the end it was decided that a universal half-track would be provided...This would have been the M3A2, and would have been able to be outfitted for both personal carrier and gun tractor by changing the internal layout...but before many came off the line, it was decided the Army had enough half-tracks and production ended in mid 44. Though that said, the 110 M21 81mm Mortar Motor Carriages produced used the M3A2 as the basic vehicle.

Again if you have Hunnicutt's book on half-tracks consult it...

While we are talking about half-tracks i should point out the International Harvester types. The M5 and M5A1 were the personal carriers made for lend lease use and for substitute standard for US use. The M9A1 was the gun tractor, while the universal half-track in this series was the M5A2, but like the M3A2, this was made in limited numbers..

There were several major differences in the White/Autocar M3 and M2 compared to the IH M5 and M9. Cosmetic were body styles, the main difference was in engines and thickness of steel. The IH had thicker steel, but it wasn't as hard as the steel used on the M3/M2 from White...all in all, these vehicles were pretty much the same in operational capabilities.

Last edited by Cowboy31a; 29 Dec 17 at 12:36..
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  #40  
Old 29 Dec 17, 13:05
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Sometimes i know that the US Army equipment classification system can be confusing sometimes...so i thought i would post this to help new members and those others who can get confused by it..it all blew my mind when i started to study the US equipment of the war all those years back...


I scanned it from here....

Schreier Jr., K. F. (1994). Standard Guite to US World War II Tanks & Artillery. Iola, WI: Krause Publications.

Last edited by CarpeDiem; 30 Dec 17 at 08:49.. Reason: spolier tags on large image
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Old 29 Dec 17, 15:57
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cowboy31a View Post
, , it was decided the Army had enough half-tracks and production ended in mid 44. .

.
I read some where that so many Half--Tracks had been produced there was an excessive number in the inventory. So they started issuing them to units that wouldn't normally have them.

For instance U.S. infantry anti-tank platoons were supposed to have trucks to pull their 57 mm guns. Some were issued half-tracks instead.
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  #42  
Old 29 Dec 17, 16:15
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"Jeep": military slang based on military nomenclature for Vehicle, Utility, General Purpose.

GP = Geep in militarese.


Bantam lost the contract because they could not make enough of then fast enough, so the contracts went to outfits like Ford.

When considering recon units, remember the White Scout Car, as well, which looked like a minaiture halftrack.

https://tse1.mm.bing.net/th?id=OIP.n...bAEsDH&pid=Api
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  #43  
Old 29 Dec 17, 17:48
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here is a more detailed explanation of the above for vehicle models.



this scan is from the following:

Chamberlain, P., & Ellis, C. (1984). British and American Tanks of World War Two: The Complete Illustrated History of British, American and Commonwealth Tanks 1939-1945. New York City: Arco Publishing.

(I asked my daughter to get this book from my bookshelves and she surprised me. I forgot i had this same book from two different publishers...they were published about 15 years apart...lol, the scan came from the copy above....)

Last edited by CarpeDiem; 30 Dec 17 at 08:48.. Reason: spoiler tags on large image
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  #44  
Old 29 Dec 17, 19:48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan M View Post
The M3 light tank has stepped frontal armour and a flat rear deck. The M5 light tank has sloped front armour and a slightly elevated rear. The M3A1 has the sloped front but the flat rear.
Close. The M3A1 is externally almost identical to the M3, except that most noticeably it lacks a turret cupola (although there were some late-model M3s that also lacked the cupola). The M3A3 is the one with sloped armor that is visually similar to the M5.
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Old 29 Dec 17, 21:04
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DogDodger View Post
Close. The M3A1 is externally almost identical to the M3, except that most noticeably it lacks a turret cupola (although there were some late-model M3s that also lacked the cupola). The M3A3 is the one with sloped armor that is visually similar to the M5.
Mea culpa, Chris. Necessary changes made in my post.

Cheers,
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