During WWII the M-3 Half track established itself as one of the finest, all around combat vehicles. It dates back to 1914 in the cold terrain of Imperial Russia. Alexander Kegresse, a chauffeur in the Imperial Czars household, fitted a car with tracks. In 1917, during the Communist Revolution, Kegresse fled Russia to France and joined French Citroen Automobile Company and developed several military models of the Half track.
In WWII the United States needed the capabilities of the Half track to fill several roles, such as personnel carrier, reconnaissance vehicle, command communications vehicle, along with anti-aircraft capabilities. Some were also used as field ambulances with Red Cross markings. After over 70 years, there are over 30 different variants of the M-3 Half track platform.
In 1940, White Motor Company began production of the M-3 Half-track. The United States Armed Forces was in need of a vehicle that would have no problem going through the difficult terrain, yet have the mobility of a car. The M-3 had a powerful engine, a white 160 AX, 6 cylinder, 4 cycle, inline gasoline. Its total combat weight was 10 tons. Its armor varied in thickness, from half an inch to an inch in thickness. Its maximum speed was 45 miles per hour, with a range of 200 miles on a full tank of gas. Its armament usually was one M-2.50 caliber machine gun , along with one M1919.30 caliber machine gun. Other forms of armament could be added. The M-3 was capable of carrying a total of 13 passengers, including the driver.
In combat, troops liked the half tracks. They provided reasonable protection from shell fragments and small arms fire. Mechanically it was simple to work, along with outstanding reliability. Its most feared variant to pilots was the M-3, M-16, multiple gun motor carriage Maxson Quad 50’s package. Used for air defense the M-16, M-45 Quad mount with four .50 caliber machine guns could fire 5,000 rounds per minute. When it was fired, many troops described it as “a wall of steel.”
A total of over 44,000 M-3 Half tracks were used during WWII, Korea, and a few National Guard units still had a few in inventory during the early stages of the Vietnam War. The vehicle was still being used in the 21st century by the Israeli defense force. The vehicle is very reliable in the harsh desert terrain of the Middle East. Several Israeli variants include the M-3 armed with 120mm Soltan mortar. Others have the Hispano-Suiza auto cannon that fires a 20mm round at a rate of 750 rounds per minute.