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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
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 However the popularity of half-tracks in the British Army was short-lived and in a few years they had been replaced by six-wheel trucks.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
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
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
Tank Museum photo No. 2984/B/1 Half-track personnel carrier M5A1.


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