M44 Armoured Personnel Carrier

The M44 Armoured Personnel Carrier was the designation given to a modified version of the M39 Armoured Utility Vehicle, itself a development of the M18 Hellcat.

In October 1944 production of the M18 ended and work switched to the M39 Armoured Utility Vehicle (then known as the T41). This had the turret removed and a slightly raised superstructure added with extra hatches in the top. A total of 700 M39s were built between October 1944 and March 1945.

In November 1944 the US Ordnance began work on the T13, an armoured personnel carrier based on the M24 Light Tank (Chaffee). This would have carried 18 or 22 men, and would have been developed alongside the T33 cargo carrier. Early work suggested that the M24 engine wouldn't be powerful enough for these vehicles, and so the project was cancelled on 22 March 1945. At the same time an alternative design, based on the M18 Hellcat was suggested, and work on this, as the T16 armoured utility vehicle, was approved on 5 April 1945.

The M44 Armoured Personnel Carrier was a modified version of the M39. The interior layout of the vehicle was altered. It had a crew of three - driver, bow gunner and commander and could carry 24 soldiers in a single large passenger compartment. The passengers sat on four benches that ran lengthways down the vehicle - one on each side facing inwards and two back-to-back in the centre. There were two large doors in the back of the vehicle to allow access to the passenger compartment as well as escape doors on the side. It had a new boxy superstructure which resembled the design of post-war armoured personnel carriers.

On 12 April 1945 the T16 was accepted for limited procurement and placed into production at Cadillac. The first six vehicles were to be delivered in June 1945. They were given the designation M44 Armoured Utility Vehicle and was evaluated for use in the peacetime army. Its large size now counted against it - the army wanted a vehicle that could carry a single squad of 10-12 men and the M44 was thus twice the required size.

On 31 October 1946 the army gave permission for one of the M44s to be modified to take into account the lessons of the earlier trials. This vehicle, the M44E1, was given a more powerful engine, 21in tracks and was 10 inches taller. Some of the roof sections could be opened, so the side escape doors were removed. This version was also not accepted for production.

The M44E2 was similar, but with the hull raised 10 inches. This version later became the T17 Command Post Vehicle and was used by the USAF.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 June 2014), M44 Armoured Personnel Carrier , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_M44_armoured_personnel_carrier.html

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