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M35 / M44 2-1/2 ton cargo truck "deuce and a half"

During World War II, dependable motorized transport, the Jeep, the "deuce and a half" truck, and the armored personnel carrier -- fully tracked, half-tracked, or pneumatic tire vehicles -- increased infantry mobility twentyfold and enabled it to keep pace with the rapid armor advance. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower observed that "[The] equipment...among the most vital to our success in Africa and Europe were the bulldozer, the jeep, the 2 1/2 ton truck, and the C-47 airplane. Curiously enough, none of these is designed for combat."

After the breakout of Normandy in July 1944, an acute shortage of supplies on both fronts governed all operations. Some 28 divisions were advancing across France and Belgium, each ordinarily requiring 700-750 tons a day. Patton's 3rd Army was soon grinding to a halt from lack of fuel and ordnance. The key to pursuit was a continuous supply of fuel and ordnance, thus leading to the Red Ball Express. At the peak of its operation, it was running 5,938 vehicles carrying 12,342 tons of supplies to forward depots daily. The Army raided units that had trucks and formed provisional truck units for the Red Ball.

Soldiers whose duties were not critical to the war effort were asked - or tasked - to become drivers. The majority of these were young African-Americans. Without the Red Ball, the advance across France could not have been made. Maj. Gen H. Essame, a British infantry brigade commander, said "Few who saw them will ever forget the enthusiasm of the Negro drivers, hell-bent whatever the risk, to get Gen. Patton his supplies." When the Red Ball Express ended 16 November 1944, truckers had delivered 412,193 tons of gas, oil, lubricants, ammunition, food and other essentials. By then, 210,209 African Americans were serving in Europe and 93,292 of them were in the Quartermaster Corps. General George S. Patton concluded: "The 2 1/2-ton truck is our most valuable weapon."

Production of the GMC Truck, 2-1/2-ton, 6 x 6, Cargo, CCKW "Jimmy" or "Deuce and a half," began in 1941 by General Motors Corporation and ended in 1945, with 562,750 manufactured. This GMC truck was the most commonly used tactical vehicle in World War II. The GMCs were originally fitted with a sheet metal type cab. This was replaced after July 1943 by a tarpaulin or canvas cab, not only for the economic use of steel, but saving volume when transported by boat.

The rear area was fitted with wooden side racks which folded down for carrying personnel. The bed could also hold reservoirs for 750 gallons of water and fuel, provide shelter for radio communication or field medical procedures, transport elements of a Treadway bridge for engineers, or bombs for the Army Air Corps. This version of the GMC CCKW was withdrawn from service in the US Army in 1956.

The M35 series of trucks was one of the most long-lived systems deployed by the Army. They were first fielded in the 1950's and continued to serve with various modifications into the late '90s in two dozen configurations. This model is an M35A2 2-1/2 ton cargo truck which could carry 5000 pounds cross country or 10,000 over roads. It is all wheel drive and equipped with a 210 hp, Continental LD-465, in-line 6 cylinder, multifuel diesel. Multifuel meant that the engine could be set up to run on almost any type of diesel fuel, jet fuel or heating oil.

When American forces arrived in the Republic of Vietnam in 1965, the threat of ambush hung over every highway in the country. The response was to build gun trucks. Typical gun trucks consisted of a deuce and a half covered on the outside with a 1/4" armor plating. The floors were sandbagged. Each gun truck had a four-man crew consisting of an NCOIC, a driver, and two gunners. The weaponry was two M-60 machine guns. The NCOIC had an M-79 grenade launcher and a .45 and the crewmembers had M-16s, simple but effective. After a few months of operation, it became clear that the 2-ton truck lacked sufficient power to maneuver with the added weight of armor plate, weapons, and ammunition, so several of the more powerful 5-ton cargo trucks were converted into gun trucks.

Crew-served weapons are the ones where the gunner has an assistant gunner that feeds the weapon and changes the barrel, so the shooter can concentrate on hitting the target. The M2 50-caliber is in a ring mount on top of a deuce and a half ton M35A1M1 truck. The M2 is used on what is called "a gun truck" that is designed for convoy security. The ring mount allows the Soldier who is firing the weapon to move 360 degrees. Rather than just firing out of the front of the vehicle, he can turn and engage targets all the way around. In a regular combat situation a transportation unit would use generally one gun truck per 20 vehicles in a convoy.

After March 2003, when an Army maintenance unit was ambushed by Iraqi forces and many of its Soldiers were killed or taken prisoner in An Nasiriyah, the Army made a priority of training support units to defend themselves a priority. During that incident, 11 soldiers of the 507th Maintenance Company based out of Fort Bliss, Texas, were killed and five others, including Pfc. Jessica Lynch, were taken prisoner of war.

To help the Afghan National Army win the fight to secure its nation, in mid-2003 AMC's Combat Equipment Group-Europe sent them more than 500 trucks from locations in Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Though the trucks are no longer needed by the US Army, they have a lot of life left in them, so they are being sent to Afghanistan under the provisions of the Afghan Freedom Support Act. Some 400 of the trucks are those known to generations of GIs as the "Deuce and a Half," while 111 are five-ton cargo vehicles. These trucks were ideal for the harsh conditions found in Afghanistan. They all have standard transmissions, common in that part of the world, and are about as rugged and simple as a truck can be.

Container express (CONEX) containers may be loaded on the M35-series (2-ton) and the M923-series (5-ton) trucks. The CONEX container should be centered over the axle of the front wheel of the rear dual wheels and lashed to the lashing rings with at least 5,000-pound chain-and-load binder or 3/8-inch wire rope. These containers also may be loaded into the M988-series heavy expanded mobility tactical truck (HEMTT). The CONEX should be centered in the bed of the vehicle and lashed down. As with all cargo vehicles, crib-type dunnage of 4- by 4-inch dunnage should be placed on the cargo floor to block-in the bottom of the CONEX.

Common platform reuse provides an example of leveraging investment dollars in order to achieve economies of scale. The Army's aging truck fleet, often symbolized by the love-hate relationship found with the M35 truck ("deuce and a half "), required an investment decision. In the Army the "deuce-and-a-half" truck will be 50 years old in fiscal 2017. As the truck fleet grew older and repair parts harder to come by the Army had to find a replacement. The Army was going to make the investment but the question was how to invest wisely to gain maximum return. This situation posed a managerial leverage problem in that the Army really does not receive a benefit that could be evaluated with standard financial models.

The replacement answer was found with the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV). While there were some fleet modifications required during the initial fielding, the advantages of the FMTV became clear. The basic truck chassis is available in 14 variants with 85% parts commonality between vehicle platforms. This allowed both the parts managers at Army Materiel Command (AMC) and suppliers to employ economies of scale strategies when purchasing/supplying parts. Furthermore, because of the common chassis configuration Army mechanics do not require as much specialty training as they would if there were multiple types of chassis, engines, transmissions, etc. The result is that the Army lowered expenses in parts and training by leveraging the FMTV common chassis investment.

By 2005 the Army had funded the procurement of 5,907 Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTVs) to ?ll unit shortfalls through ?scal year 2011 and the divestiture of 25,000 M35 2 ton and M800 series 5 ton trucks. This procurement also supported the activation of new Transportation (Medium) Truck Companies. The Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) replaces aging M44 Series 2 1/2-ton trucks, M39, and M809 Series 5-ton trucks that are beyond their economic useful life of 20-22 years.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:46:18 ZULU