The Evolution of the half-track
Half-tracks are strange creatures, real hybrids, neither
fish nor fowl, but they have a long history.
Although he was not the only one the French engineer Adolphe
Kegresse is credited with designing the first successful
half-track. Soon after World War I he teamed up with the
industrialist Andre Citroen, who sponsored a series of expeditions,
and then launched their new product, with considerable success.
Tank Museum photo No. 1372/E/3
Military interest was almost immediate. In Britain Kegresse
tracks were fitted to Crossley (below) and Burford lorries
for military use and these were soon in competition with
a rival British system devised by Roadless Traction. However
the popularity of half-tracks in the British Army was short-lived
and in a few years they had been replaced by six-wheel trucks.
Tank Museum photo No. 4714/D/4
In the USA on the other hand development was constant and
productive. Commencing with the Kegresse system the Americans
came up with a much better suspension design, although they
retained the reinforced rubber tracks. The system was soon
being applied to a range of armoured and unarmoured types;
Half-Track Truck T1 is shown below.
Tank Museum photo No. 2977/D/2
As a result, by World War II the US Army had a range of
armoured half-track vehicles, all of more or less standard
design but adaptable to many different functions. Mass production
meant that they were available to equip all Allied armies
during the war and to last for many years after. The Israelis,
in particular, used American half-tracks in their Defence
Force up to quite recent times.
Tank Museum photo No. 2984/B/1
Half-track personnel carrier M5A1.