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M1 Combat Car

In 1933, under the orders of Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur, the US Cavalry began development of armored vehicles. Since the National Defense Act of 1920 laid down that only infantry could have 'tanks', the cavalry vehicles were called "Combat Cars" - although they looked remarkably like tanks. MacArthur required a tank which would function in the traditional cavalry role of fast raiding into and behind enemy lines, along with rapid support for infantry. These missions demanded a light, fast tank in which speed and firepower was more important than armor protection.

Rock Island Arsenal produced a small tank for the calvary called the T5 Combat Car. It had vertical volute spring suspension instead of leaf spring suspension. T5E2 was the designation given to the single turret design of the T5 series for the cavalry. Modifications were made and soon it became the T5E2 which was eventually standardized as the M1 Combat Car. It entered service with the US Army in 1937 - 17 of these units were built.

In July 1940 the new Armored Force was created and it abolished the distinction between infantry and cavalry tanks. These Combat Cars were then renamed Light Tanks.The M1A2 tank was derived from the M1E2 project and had basically all the same qualities. The first 58 had a D shaped turret that had 2 MGs installed. Then they had octagonal turrets which sometimes had a MG installed for anti-aircraft protection.

The M1E3, was a test done in 1939 at Rock Island attempting to improve the track of the vehicle. Though not accepted for use on this tank, the track was used successfully on M series half tracked vehicles during WW2. The track was called a "rubber band" or endless track. It was made of cable and rubber pads.

The Infantry's M2A1 Light Tank can be differentiated from the Cavalry's M1 Combat Car by the vehicles' turrets: the light tank's was cylindrical in cross-section with an extention for the weapons, while the turret of the combat car was either D-shaped or octagonal.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:44:34 ZULU