World War I: Land Weapons Systems Motorized Tracked Vehicles--United States

Figure 1.-- The United Sttes was the greatest industrial nation in the world at the time of World War. It did not have, however, either a large army or substantial arms industry. This mean that American industry wiuld not play an importnt role in the War. The U.S. Government after declaring War, began to mobilize industry, but this took some time. Part of this effort was to produce tanks. The U.S. Army ordered 4,400 tanks. This was more than Vritain or France had produced dufring the War and would have hugely increased the Allied tnk force. Here we see one of the American-produced M1917 mediu, tank without its main armament. The photogrph is undated, but looks to have been taken at the end of the War or shortly after (1918-19).

America at the time of World War I was the largest industrial power in the world. Thus America would determine the outcome of the War. Germany was the largest industrial power in Europe, but Britain and France conbined had a larger industrial base and access to the raw materials needed bcause of the Royal Navy's control of the sea. Even so, the Kaiser and the German General Staff calculated that because of their powerful army that they could win the War before the Allies' superior economic power began to turn the tide (1914). They almost did, but were stopped by he French Army on the Marne. The conflict tuned into a war of attrition that Germany was not likely to win. Again the Kaiser and General Staff made the incredably serious miscalculatiom of bring America into the War by resuming unrestricted submarine warfare. The Germans were having trouble dealing with the superior British and French industrial output. With America in the War, the Germans would have been saped by Americam industrial output of weaponry. The German calculztion was that the U-boats would prevent America from transporting men and arms to France. And they clculted with Russia faltering, they could redepply in mass to the Western Front and crack the Western Front wide open. It all proved a huge mistake. The U-boats did not sink a single American troop ship brining men to France. It would the American infantry, however, that would turn the tide on the Western Front. America not only did not have a substantial Army when it entered the War, it did not have aignificant arms industry. And it would take longer to gear up industry than to train the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) than to convert industry for war production. The only major industrial American contribution to the war was trucks. This was because the trucks were a civilian product already in production. Gearing up for the mass productiom of military weaponry was a different matter. As a result, he AEF fought the war mostly with British and French weapons. This included infantry weapons, aircraft, and tanks. American built weapons, however, did not reach the AEF in quantity before the Allies cracked the western Front open and the Germans asked for an armistice (November 1918). This was not what the Allies anticipated. America, Britain and France were gearing up for a 1919 campaign and American industrial might would become a factor. And one of the items coming out of Ameican factories was tanks, a weapon fvor which the Germans had no answer. The AEF was using a small number of French Renault FT tanks. Major Geothge Patton was put in charge of the tank unit. The United States began to build a virtual replica of the Renault FT. It was designated the M1917 and would be America's first mass-produced tank. It had 0.25" - 0.6" armor. The main armament was a 37mm M1916 gun or Marlin M1917 machine gun, the latter was replaced by the M1919 Browning machine gun. The M1917 went into mass production in America should before the Germans asked for an armistice. [Zaloga, p. 2.] It was a license-built virtual copy of the FT. It was to provide a massive tank force for the AEF. The U.S. Arny ordered 4,440. This one order exceeded the number of tanks wither the British or French built. And if the War continued would have been the first of multiple orders. In contrast, Germany did not have the indistrial capacity to build more than a handgul of tanks. As the Germans decided to end the War, ge United States only actually built 950 tanks before the order was cancelled. None wre shipped to France. The U.S. Army used them during the 1920s, but none were involved in combat. A rare use was Gen MacArthur deploying a few agaunst the Bonus Marchers (1932). They were phased out during the 1930s as the Army began developing more modern models.


Zaloga, Steven J. Armored Thunderbolt, The US Army Sherman in World War II (Stackpole Books: 2008).


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Created: 12:16 PM 7/20/2017
Last updated: 12:16 PM 7/20/2017