Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Light Armored Car M8

The American Light Armored Car M8 was considered too light in armour by the British, but was otherwise widely used. The main gun was a 37-mm (1.46-in) gun with a 7.62-mm (0.30-in) machine-gun mounted coaxially. A common addition was a 12.7-mm (0.50-in) Browning mounted on the turret.

Armoured cars have long been a feature of the American armoured fighting vehicle scene, and in 1940 and 1941 the US Army was able to observe operational trends in Europe and so develop a new armoured car with a good performance, a 37-mm (1.45-in) gun, 6x6 drive, a low silhouette and light weight. In typical American fashion design submissions were requested from four manufacturers. One of the manufacturers, Ford, produced a design known as the T22, and this was later judged to be the best of all submissions and was ordered into production as the Light Armored Car M8.

The M8 subsequently became the most important of all the American armoured cars and by the time production was terminated in April 1945 no fewer than 11,667 had been produced. It was a superb fighting vehicle with an excellent cross-country performance, and an indication of its sound design can be seen in the fact that many were still in use with several armies until the mid-1970s. It was a low vehicle with a full 6x6 drive configuration, with the axles arranged as one forward and two to the rear. The wheels were normally well covered by mudguards, but these were sometimes removed in action. The crew of four had ample room inside the vehicle, and the main 37-mm (1.46-in) gun was mounted in a circular open turret. A 7.62-mm (0.3-in) Browning machinegun was mounted co-axially, and there was a pintle for a 12,7mm (0.5-in) Browning heavy machine-gun (for anti-aircraft use) on the turret rear.

A close cousin of the M8 was the Armored Utility Car M20, in which the turret was removed and the fighting compartment cut away to allow the interior to be used as a personnel or supplies carrier. A machine-gun could be mounted on a ring mount over the open area. In many ways the M20 became as important as the M8 for it proved to be an invaluable run-about for any number of purposes, ranging from an observation or command post to an ammunition carrier for tank units.

The US Army employed the M8 and M20 widely from the time the first production examples left the production lines in March 1943. By November of that year over 1,000 had been delivered, and during 1943 the type was issued to British and Commonwealth formations. The British knew the M8 as the Greyhound but it proved to be too thinly armoured to suit British thinking, the thin belly armour proving too vulnerable to anti-tank mines. Operationally this shortcoming was overcome by lining the interior floor areas with sandbags. But these drawbacks were more than overcome by the fact that the M8 was available in large numbers and that it was able to cross almost any terrain. The 37-mm (1.46-in) main gun was well able to tackle almost any enemy reconnaissance vehicle the M8 was likely to encounter, and the vehicle's crew could defend the M8 against infantry with the two machine-guns, The M8 could be kept going under all circumstances, but its main attribute was that it nearly always seemed to be available when it was wanted.

    T22 Light Armored Car - Prototype.
    T22E1 Light Armored Car - A 4x4 prototype.
    T22E2 Light Armored Car - Prototype eventually standardized as M8.
    M8 Light Armored Car - Production variant.
    M8E1 Light Armored Car - A variant with modified suspension. Two vehicles were produced in 1943.
    The M20 Armored Utility Car, also known as the M20 Scout Car, was a Greyhound with the turret removed. This was replaced with a low, armored open-topped superstructure and an anti-aircraft ring mount for a .50-in M2 heavy machine gun. A bazooka was provided for the crew to compensate for its lack of anti-armor weaponry. The M20 was primarily used as a command vehicle and for forward reconnaissance, but many vehicles also served as APCs and cargo carriers. It offered high speed and excellent mobility, along with a degree of protection against small arms fire and shrapnel. When employed in the command and control role, the M20 was fitted with additional radio equipment. Originally designated the M10 Armored Utility Car, it was redesignated M20 to avoid confusion with the M10 Wolverine tank destroyer. 3,680 M20s were built by Ford during its two years in production (1943–1944).
    T69 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage - In late 1943, an anti-aircraft variant of the M8 was tested. The vehicle was armed with four .50-in machine guns in a turret developed by Maxson Corp.. The Antiaircraft Board felt that the vehicle was inferior to the M16 MGMC and the project was closed.
    M8 TOW Tank Destroyer - M8 upgraded by the US company NAPCO. The main gun was replaced by an .50-in machine gun and a BGM-71 TOW launcher was installed above the turret. Upgraded vehicles were used by Colombia.
    M8/M20 with H-90 turret - A French upgrade, using the turret of the Panhard AML 90 armored car.
    CRR Brasileiro - A version developed in 1968 by the Brazilian Army Engineering Institute (IME). The middle axle was removed and a new engine (120 hp (89 kW) Mercedes-Benz OM-321) installed to create the VBB-1 of which one prototype was completed, the vehicle being found to be inferior. The Vbb-1 was in turn the basis for the CRR which reverted to a 6x6 configuration and eight vehicles were produced for evaluation. The EE-9 Cascavel was developed from the CRR.
    M8 (Diesel) Hellenic Army Armored Car - A number of M8 Armored Cars were upgraded with a Steyr diesel engine in place of the Hercules JXD gasoline engine, this required a rearwards extension of the engine compartment by 11.8 in (300 mm), as well as some heightening. Also fitted were a new radio, indicator and new hooded lights, rear view mirrors, while the M2HB anti-aircraft machinegun was moved to the right front of the turret, where a new pintle socket was bolted on the partial roof (the turret rear socket being retained) and the coaxial 0.30-in M1919A4 replaced by a 7.62x51 mm NATO MG3 machinegun. Used for coastal defense and retired from service in the late 1990s.
    Colombian AM8- This is a Colombian fusion of anti-air artillery of World War II in turret with a modern motor in M8. It is a counterinsurgency weapon against guerrilla ambush in mountains of Colombian since speedways.


Chevrolet's fortune with the T17E1 was much brighter. The first pilot vehicle also was delivered to Aberdeen Proving Ground in March 1942. After inspection, it was sent along with the second pilot to the General Motors Proving Ground for tests. Although many mechanical failures occurred, they appeared to be easily corrected. The changes involved the gear box, differential, universal joints, and splines. A wooden mock-up of the production model was completed on 16 June 1942 and the final stowage was approved. The production vehicle carried a crew of five, two men in the hull and three in the turret, with a gross weight of 32,000 pounds. The hull itself was a main structural element so no frame was required. The springs, steering gear, and transfer case were attached directly to the hull.

The turret was similar to that designed for the light tank T7, but the thickness was reduced to 1 1/4 inches at the front, sides, and rear and 3/4 inches at the top. The hull armor ranged from 7/8 inches at the front to 3/8 inches at the rear. The frontal armor of the hull and turret was angled at 45 degrees from the vertical. Turret armament consisted of a 37mm gun M6 and a .30 caliber machine gun in a coaxial mount. A .30 caliber machine gun was on the turret roof and another such weapon was mounted in the right front hull. The cruising range was extended by jettisonable fuel tanks installed on each side of the vehicle. Two 97 horsepower, six cylinder, GMC engines were mounted in the rear hull. The engines could be operated simultaneously or individually. A Hydramatic transmission for each engine transmitted its power to a single, two speed, transfer case. From there, drive shafts powered the front and rear axles. Named the Staghound I, the T17E1 was authorized for production to fill British requirements. A total of 2,844 T17E1s were built from October 1942 through December 1943. The T17E1 was never standardized, although standardization as the armored car M6 was proposed at one time and some of the name plates bear that designation in anticipation of standardization.

Although the Staghound was widely used by the British forces, it was not a popular vehicle. Designed for the desert, it was considered to be too large and heavy for operations in Italy and France. The following comments were taken from the history of the 11th Hussars entitled "The Eleventh at War" by Brigadier Dudley Clarke. 

"The Staghound was an American product intended to replace the Daimlers at the squadron and regimental headquarters. It was a huge vehicle, 8 feet broad and 13 tons in weight carrying a crew of five with a 37mm gun and a .3 Browning machine gun. The 11th Hussars found it unwieldy and it never earned their affection."

Belgium 1940 Armour

M39 Pantserwagen: When the Battle of the Netherlands started on 10 May 1940, of the twelve vehicles manufactured, four were in Eindhoven with DAF, eight at Delft; of the last, two were still lacking their main armament and none were fully completed, though some had been equipped with machine-guns. No crews were fully trained. The base at Delft, in between the Dutch seat of government The Hague and the port of Rotterdam, had been seen as a safe rear-area location at the very heart of the Dutch National Redoubt, the Fortress Holland. On the early morning of 10 May however, these two major cities were assaulted by German parachutists and airborne troops attempting to capture the Dutch government. The attack did not come as a total surprise; as it had been feared that a German invasion was imminent, Supreme Command had ordered several security measures on 8 May, among which the formation of a small cavalry security force from Delft depot units, the Depotdetachement Bewakingstroepen Cavalerie, to guard The Hague, to which a DAF M39 platoon was added. In the night of 9–10 May, these three M39s were parked at a base in The Hague. As another base in the city had already been bombed, the cars were on 10 May initially ordered to seek cover from aerial observation in the Haagse Bos, a park.

The German attempt to seize The Hague failed, partly because Landsverk armoured cars destroyed many Ju-52 transport planes and thereby blocked the runway of the main city airfield, Ypenburg. As a result the next waves of planes landed on meadows and roads, dispersing the airborne troops into many small groups which, unable to be reinforced, in the following days tried to break out towards Rotterdam, the southern part of which city was firmly in German hands. In the confused situation the platoon in the afternoon of 10 May was ordered to convoy a munition truck to Delft. At a Dutch roadblock the commander of one car was killed, both sides mistaking each other for Germans. Finally arriving in Delft, two of the armoured cars were in the late afternoon ordered to support an advance of some depot companies to the south, in the direction of Rotterdam, that soon was blocked by enemy fire. Lacking bulletproof tyres, the cars were held back, only supporting the troops by shelling enemy positions at a distance. Though this was forbidden, one of the cars fired shells in a nine o'clock or three o'clock position of the turret; the lateral recoil forces distorted the front wheel suspension so severely that the car could no longer be steered. Repair proving impossible, the vehicle was, somewhat prematurely, on 11 May destroyed by its own crew to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. Later that evening the second car also showed a defect, probably a main armament malfunction, causing it to be withdrawn the next day to the base. In the same evening of 10 May the third car, III-2203, that experimentally had been fitted with bulletproof Michelin tyres, positioned itself on the southern edge of Delft, without making enemy contact, but in vain trying to shoot down a low-flying German aircraft with the main gun.

On 11 May III-2203 was ordered to support an advance over the Delft-Rotterdam highway. At first this met little enemy resistance, the main problem being that the car was fired upon by a fighter aircraft that the vehicle commander recognised as a Dutch Fokker G.1. Then several Junkers Ju 52s were encountered, that had landed on the road and were now used by the German airborne troops as cover in the open polder landscape. Of one undamaged plane the DAF M39 shot off the engine; another, stuck in a ditch, was put on fire by some 37 mm HE-shells, fired at distance. The fire generated an enormous black smoke cloud, forcing the armoured car to break off the attack. The armour of the car during the action easily deflected enemy machine-gun rounds. By noon most of the Dutch infantry was withdrawn to rest and eat; during the afternoon the armoured car again made a probing attack against the cluster of Ju 52s. The commander decided to hold his fire and approached within forty metres of the enemy position, to provoke a reaction. Suddenly the vehicle was hit from all sides by a hail of bullets, some of these penetrated the thinner turret armour. Now responding with its main gun and hull machine-gun the M39 forced the Germans to take cover, but the gunner suddenly reported: "I am wounded" and sagged bleeding to the floor of the fighting compartment. The car drove back to the Dutch positions to seek medical assistance for the gunner, who was hospitalised. At a civil garage in Delft some brake malfunction was repaired. Most ammunition had been expended.

On 12 May the commander of III-2203 discovered that all trained crews had been moved to The Hague. Most of that day and the morning of 13 May were used to find a truck and fetch a replacement gunner and new munition from The Hague. In the afternoon the vehicle protected the headquarters of the 1st Infantry Division at Rijswijk. On 14 May the car supported an attempt to eliminate the largest remaining pocket of German airborne troops, that had gathered around Major-General Hans Graf von Sponeck at Overschie, together with a Landsverk M38 armoured car from 2e Eskadron Pantserwagens. During the advance the clutch of III-2203 malfunctioned and the car returned to Delft for repairs. Rejoining the fight in the afternoon, III-2003 first took a civilian, fled from the village, on-board to point out the exact German positions. Shortly afterwards the attacking Dutch troops witnessed the devastating bombardment of Rotterdam, just south of Overschie. Continuing to advance nevertheless, the two armoured cars were suddenly hit by antitank rifle fire and returned to the Dutch lines. It transpired that the M39 had been penetrated twice low in the side hull armour, without the projectiles doing any damage or even being noticed; a third round had been stopped by the thin strip of reinforcing steel around the turret base that doubled the normal armour thickness. Rotterdam capitulating as a result of the carpet bombing, III-2203 was withdrawn to The Hague.

In The Hague also the five DAF M39s were present, two of them without main armament that had not been used in the Depotdetachement Bewakingstroepen Cavalerie. In the morning of 10 May these vehicles had been readied and then moved to the headquarters of the Commander Fortress Holland. In the subsequent days they had remained in the city, sometimes patrolling the streets or responding to the many false alarms about presumed Fifth Column activities. In one incident, on 11 May, a M39 had set fire to some railway wagons where, probably groundlessly, German paratroopers were suspected to have hidden.

Fearing a further destruction of the Dutch cities, the Dutch supreme commander Henri Winkelman at 16:50 ordered his troops to destroy their equipment and then surrender themselves to the Germans. In the evening of 14 May it was accordingly attempted to disable some DAF M39s by driving them into the sea at Scheveningen. Two vehicles indeed reached the waves, a third got stuck on the boulevard stairway to the beach.

Besides the eight cars at Delft, on 10 May four M39s were present in the DAF factory at Eindhoven. In the morning Wim van Doorne, the brother of Hub, phoned the military authorities in The Hague to remind them of this fact, because the German invaders might soon overrun the area. He was advised to contact the military commander of the forces in North Brabant province. The latter asked DAF to drive the cars to Vught, where they were transferred to the 4e Compagnie Korps Motordienst, a motorisation unit of his main force, the Peeldivisie, that would remain in the province. As a result the vehicles were not evacuated to the Fortress Holland. A persistent story that the M39s had tried to reach the North but were blocked by the German paratroopers having captured the bridges at Moerdijk is thus likely apocryphal. Probably the armoured cars accompanied the Peeldivisie staff to Princenhage near Breda in the night of 10–11 May. Lacking full crews or munition they were apparently later abandoned in the west of the province when the remnants of the division withdrew to Zealand on 13 and 14 May.

Vickers-Armstrong Utility Tractor: These tractors were manufactured under license from Vickers-Armstrong by the Belgian company Familleheureux in two version, infantry and cavalry.

Renault FT: 1920-2 Two-man light tank Seventy-five vehicles acquired. Armed with either a 37mm gun or MG.

Carden-Lloyd M1934: 1935 Two-man light tank Forty-two vehicles acquired — High conical turret — Armed in Belgium with a 13.2mm Hotchkiss air-cooled MG Belgian designation: T15 France

AMC-35 (ACGI): 1937 Three-man medium tank Twelve vehicles acquired — Fitted with a Belgian-made turret housing a 47mm A/Tk gun and a 13.2mm MG. Belgian designation: Auto-mitrailleuse du Corps de Cavalerie