YouTube caption with links added:

The Army’s first motorized tank destroyer, featured here, was the “T12/M3 Gun Motor Carriage,” a modified M-3 half track with a 75mm M1897A4 gun mounted in the rear, an adaptation of the quick firing “French 75.” The idea of such a thinly armored vehicle facing armored tanks may seem insane today . . .

but the Army’s tank destroyer doctrine at the time was “shoot and scoot,” where fast moving anti-tank vehicles would harry the advance of enemy armor, shooting from covered positions, quickly retreating, and and then repeating the process, decimating the enemy.

When they tried to fight toe to toe with German tanks at Kasserine Pass in Tunisia, the results were disastrous, but used as intended, they could be effective against early war Axis tanks. (And let’s face it. This vehicle was clearly a stop gap measure rushed into production.)

M3s were soon replaced with the more effective M10 in Europe, but were used successfully against more lightly armored Japanese forces in the Far East & Pacific Theaters throughout the war, often as mobile artillery. Highlights of the film include field maintenance, firing and maneuvers in the field.

A total of 2,203 were produced, of which 1,361 were converted back into M3A1 half-tracks The film begins with rare footage of Gen. A.D. Bruce opening the brand new tank destroyer training facility at the just completed Camp (later Fort) Hood army base, near Killeen,TX..

Trivia: An M3 mounting a 75mm gun was featured in the classic World War 2 film “Kelly’s Heroes,” starring Clint Eastwood.

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26 Responses to T12/M3 Gun Motor Carriage Tank Destroyer: Just Thought I’d Leave This Here

  1. The ww2 US army doctrine was to fight tanks with tank destroyers and leave friendly tanks to support infantry. If you were an American tanker in ww2 you were much more likely to be killed by an anti tank gun than by a german tank. And 80% of the shells fired by Sherman tanks during the war were high explosive, not armor piercing. They were doing the infantry support job quite well.

    The problems really began with success. The allies drove the Germans from the offensive to the defensive. And fighting from positions of their choosing, well prepared in advance, gave the Germans real advantages against allied forces that had to advance in the open and in daylight hours.

    There was going to be no real easy way to drive the Germans out of occupied countries and then invade Germany itself.

    When the Germans reversed the roles and tried to attack again, the battle of the bulge, they suffered from the same disadvantages that the allies had on the attack. American 57mm anti tank guns and 75mm equipped Shermans took a heavy toll on German armor, including the tigers.

    • By 1944 the 57mm anti-tank gun was not very effective against most German tanks. It couldn’t penetrate the frontal armor of the MK IV, Panther, or (of course) either model Tiger whose famed 88mm main gun could engage any allied tank at ranges of up to 2000 yards. The US decision to equip Shermans with relatively low-velocity 75mm main guns also limited their usefulness and resulted in very high casualties. An improved 76mm gun was fitted to a percentage of Shermans but, it too, proved unable to penetrate the frontal of most German tanks except at desperately short ranges. The British developed an effective tank killer by adapting their 17 pounder to the Sherman turret, thereby creating the “Firefly” version. This produced a weapon that could penetrate the frontal armor of even Tigers at combat ranges. Until thje 90mm T28 appeared in the last months of hte war, the German tanks soundly outclassed the American and British tanks in almost every battle. The Russians, on the other hand, had wisely developed the T34 which, in T34 85 configuration, was a formidable threat to any tank in the world.

      • In Don Burgetts book “7 Roads to Hell” He describes two 10th Armored Shermans in support of the 101st Airborne breaking up an attack by German armored units against Bastogne. Equipped with the 75 they used buildings and rubble to shoot and scoot. They knocked out several German vehicles, including a Tiger.

        The Germans were advancing on open ground and the Shermans had cover. I’m not arguing the Sherman was a better tank. But a lot of the Germans success is owed to the simple fact that attacking, which the allies mostly did from 1942 on, is inherently more dangerous than defending.

        It’s a much more complicated issue than just who had the better tank. The Panther was a great tank with a “glass jaw”. It’s side and rear armor was very weak. The Tiger was made in so few numbers that it really didn’t have any effect on the outcome of the war.

        An M8 armored car, equipped with a 37mm “door knocker” got behind a Tiger at 25 yards an hit the Tiger with 3 rounds that started an engine fire that destroyed the Tiger.

        Most actions involving tanks came down to who saw who first. And in the war of sneaky first shots the well concealed AT gun or the man with the panzerfaust usually got the first, decisive shot in.

        • JWM-
          I remember reading of an incident during the Battle of the Bulge where a Sherman and a Tiger fought essentially nose-to-nose. The Sherman fired three rounds point-blank at the Tiger turret, all of which bounced off. The Tiger couldn’t take a shot because their 88 was too long to come to bear on the Sherman. Finally, while the Sherman was reloading the Tiger backed up, traversed their 88, and blew the Sherman to hell.

          The other thing about the Tigers at Bastogne – they were extremely heavy and had wide tracks and were fuel hogs. In the initial assault the Tigers tore up the muddy dirt roads so badly that following vehicles had a terrible time keeping from being bogged down in the mire. The when the attack did not go according to the timetable the Tigers ran out of fuel short of their objectives – the American fuel dumps, and had to be abandoned, the tankers dropping grenades down the 88 tubes so the Americans could not fuel the Tigers and turn them against the Germans.

        • One aspect of the Shermans that is often over looked, and proved a valuable asset during the war, was the ease with which forward support crews could repair even a heavily damaged tank.

          Many of the German tanks took a decent hit and they were either permanently out of action or it would take weeks to repair. On the other hand the Shermans that took a major hit could often be repaired and back in action within days.

          While the light armor was not good for crew health it kept the allied war machine moving forward despite being underpowered, lightly armored and almost completely outclassed by the Germans

    • I remember reading of an incident during the Battle of the Bulge where a Sherman and a Tiger fought essentially nose-to-nose. The Sherman fired three rounds point-blank at the Tiger turret, all of which bounced off. The Tiger couldn’t take a shot because their 88 was too long to come to bear on the Sherman. Finally, while the Sherman was reloading the Tiger backed up, traversed their 88, and blew the Sherman to hell.

      The other thing about the Tigers at Bastogne – they were extremely heavy and had wide tracks and were fuel hogs. In the initial assault the Tigers tore up the muddy dirt roads so badly that following vehicles had a terrible time keeping from being bogged down in the mire. The when the attack did not go according to the timetable the Tigers ran out of fuel short of their objectives – the American fuel dumps, and had to be abandoned, the tankers dropping grenades down the 88 tubes so the Americans could not fuel the Tigers and turn them against the Germans.

      • A head on fight in the open between a Tiger and any tank was going to end badly for the non Tiger. But the Germans made less than 2 thousand Tigers. Which translates into maybe 300 tanks in use on any given day. Split between the Russians, Brits and the US.

        The Tigers made no real difference in the course of the war.

        During the Bulge offensive the German units led with their Tigers. Small American units fought successful delaying actions, above and beyond the famous stand of the 101st and 10th armored at bastogne.

        Americans knocked down trees with tnt, the Germans were road bound in the Ardennes, and set up roadblocks with 57mm’s and bazookas. The tigers never made it to their objectives and the entire battle was a waste of resources that the Germans could not afford.

        • Another issue with German tanks were they built by Germans, a lot of hand fit parts, not “milspec” so replacement parts were almost impossible to install without fitting. I think 2 companies were making a heavy mounted gun, Porsche and another company, the parts would not interchange. And they have only gotten slightly better over the last 70 years in making things less complicated. I believe it was this: http://www.peachmountain.com/5star/tanks_Elefant.aspx

          Captured Panzer V were being used into the 50’s I believe. I think France used them for a while.

          Shoot and Scoot is still a valid tactic, camping is begging to be killed. Choke points are great for defenders like Kasserine Pass. Rommel was smart enough to use the 88mm AA in a direct fire mode. Well I am sure someone thought it up in a OHCRAP moment when they saw a tank rolling up them.

        • Shermans were designed to be field repaired. And the US units had an embarrassing surplus of parts and spares.

          As for the armor. Shermans matched or exceeded any German tank except for the Tiger and the Panther. And the Panthers side armor was no thicker than a Shermans.

          Where German tanks truly excelled was in optics. Their scopes and sights were far superior to anything the allies had and the German crews were experienced on a level far beyond that of the Americans. The Germans were exhausting their soldiers fighting on two fronts and had no reserves to make up the difference.

          But the cold hard fact is. If you were a tanker, regardless of nation, you were much more likely to die at the hands of an anti tank weapon. Not another tank.

  2. I’m going to have to poke around a bit, but I’mna thinking the gun motor carriage in KH was schlepping a 105 howitzer, not the longer barrelled 75mm, Didn’t sport a splinter shield, either.

    • My thoughts, too. That movie was filmed in Yugoslavia and there was a lot of ww2 era equipment available for the film companies use. I imagine a lot of that gear had seen years of duty with the local military forces before the movie crew got there.

  3. I never understood the thinking behind a half track. (Especially that Nazi one with a motorcycle front wheel!) Did the front wheels actually have ANY effect on steering that beast? Did the treads also “skid steer” like a regular tank with some Rube Goldbergian interconnection to the front wheels going on? If so… why the front wheels? If a regular tank can get by with “skid steer”…?

    • Wild guess – Could be that the transmission technology of the day would not safely or effectively skid-steer a truck at high speed.

  4. Gents – The M-10 and M-18 American TD’s were both armed with high-velocity 76 mm guns. The M-36 was upgunned to a 90 mm gun capable of dealing with any German armor it encountered on a reasonably even basis.

  5. These were disasters and resulted in significant losses at Kasserine Pass and in the ETO. The short barrel, low velocity 75mm which was the same mounted on the early Sherman’s was horrible in the anti-tank role. It would bounce off Panther and above. The Arny doctrine using TDs to engage tanks was stupid and cost many tank crews their lives. The M10 was ineffective. The M18s speed and increased muzzle velocity was an improvement. It wasn’t until the M36 was fielded that the US had an armored vehicle capable of engaging Tigers at realistic ranges. By then, the Easy 8’s with the HV 76mms were widely available, and tactical air was dominating the battlefield.

    • Cool story bro now try learning history from something besides movies. How many Panthers did the Afrika Corps deploy? Oh, ya 00. The M10 bigest thing the M10 was going to encounter was a Pz IV or maybe a StuG III, the 76mm it mounted was more than enough for that.

      • Tiger 131 at Bovington tank museum, used in the movie “Fury” was captured in North Africa after being disabled by a british 6 pounder gun. The same gun the Americans copied and fielded as the 57mm.

        Tigers were used, in small numbers, in North Africa. Rommel was gone at that point. He had gone back to Germany.

  6. Does someone want to play Devil’s Advocate and tell me the merits of the half track design? From every angle I see it as having the worst of both worlds.

    Tracked vehicles themselves have all kinds of maintenance and logistics issues – but they do have some pro’s for all their cons. We really need something closer to the wheeled configurations we have now that provide the benefits of current track vehicles. It seems that most of the militaries agree w/ me in that you don’t see many (if any) half track vehicles around.

    • “Does someone want to play Devil’s Advocate and tell me the merits of the half track design? ”
      Less maintenance than full track, but much more capable than wheeled in soft terrain.
      Heavier load carrying capacity in soft terrain.
      More flexibility in carrying loads of any type than a tracked hull.
      Yes, there are advantages. And yes, the front wheels do indeed steer.

  7. Half tracks were the first apc’s. Like the first of anything they had their shortcomings. The basic concept was to keep infantry alongside the tanks with a reasonable carrying capacity and some small measure of protection for the troops in them.

    At the time it was a half track or ride on the tanks, which is dangerous before the first shots are fired. Or ride in trucks. The half track had better cross country performance than a truck. And it had some armor. Not much, but better than a truck.

    The American m3 was not much more maintanence heavy than a truck. Tanks were meant to be carried on transport vehicles to near the battlefield. The m3 was designed to travel everywhere under its own power. Its tracks were rubber, not metal.

    The m3, not perfect and it gave way to vehicles like the m113, was durable. I saw them still in service with the Israeli’s during the 73 yom kippor war. Many served later than that and may still serve in poorer countries.

    This was meant for samuraiechatter.

    • In 1982 I was with the 45th Medical battalion outside Frankfurt. We had an M3 on our Kaserne, sans the 75mm (we were medical, after all), but it was just used for parades and ceremonies. It was fully operational, however.

      • Most of those TD versions of the m3, those that survived, were returned to standard transport configuration sans gun when the new TD’s were put into service. Some of the gun equipped units were sent to the pacific where they gave good service as mobile artillery.

  8. Don’t believe all of the negative “hype” you hear about the Sherman. Most of what we accept as “true” was dreamed up after the war by authors that weren’t there. Yes, over a wide open area the Panther and both Tigers had a significant advantage with their long range guns; guns that were designed for fighting on the open steps of Russia. But this long range gun was of little use during most of the Western front fighting.

    The Sherman had the LOWEST crew killed per tank knocked out ratio of any tank during the war. One reason was that even the small hatch Sherman’s were much easier to get out of than most contemporary tanks.
    Early on, the Sherman did burn if it’s ammo was hit, but this issue was solved using “wet” ammo storage.

    The Sherman’s 75 was NOT weak. Once good armor piercing ammo was developed and delivered to the troops the Sherman was more than a match for the German’s main tank, the Pzr Mk IV. The Panther had thin armor on the sides and both M-10’s and Sherman’s took advantage of this by ambushing them from the sides. They were also able to out maneuver the Tigers and get behind them for a kill shot.

    Truth be told, in most tank vs tank engagements, the first tank to shoot won the encounter something like 70 or 80% of the time. And this first shot was done from ambush on the Western front almost ALL of the time. The vision we have of hordes of tanks fighting against each other in open fields just didn’t happen very often in the West. Actually, the only time I can remember that it did was the British attack close to Caen, where Montgomery sacrificed his armor in a spoiling attack to save his infantry. The Brits attacked up hill in to the teeth of a German line. The results were brutal, but would have been brutal no matter WHAT tank the Brits might have had.

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