Ford M1918 3-Ton Tank
When the US entered World War One in April 1917, her Army had no experience with tanks. US Observers in France had reported on the early Allied uses of Tanks at the Somme and American enthusiasm for the new machines was lacking in many of the Army’s upper echelons.
With the arrival of General Pershing and his staff in France, ahead of the American Expeditionary Force, attitudes changed. Pershing direct that a Tank Corps be raised and detailed a number of officers, including the enterprising young officer, Captain George S. Patton, to establish a training ground and report on how best to deploy tanks.
Lt. Col. Patton in front of one of his battalion’s French Renault FT light tanks, c. summer 1918 (source)
Patton was instrumental in shaping the US Army’s early tank doctrine writing a highly detailed report on how to deploy tanks to maximum effect.
a cavalry officer by training, admired the French Renault FT’s speed, mobility and manoeuvrability but felt the two doctrines of French light and British Heavy tanks could be combined. In December 1917,
Colonel Samuel Rockenbach was placed in command of the new and still tankless US
While Britain and France shared their tank designs with the US, in early 1918 the Ford automobile company began work on an American light tank. The result was a 3 ton tank with a maximum speed of 8 mph, powered by two Ford Model T engines. Like the French FT, the M1918 had a two man crew but was significantly lighter.
Below is some amazing contemporary footage of the M1918 in action:
The M1918 was to be armed with a single .30-06 machine gun, but unlike the FT the M1918′s was fitted in a mount with limited traverse rather than a turret. A large front hatch was positioned in front of the driver’s position with a large cupolaon top of the tank with vision slits. On the right of the tank was the gunner’s position and to the rear wear the two Model T engines, in total the M1918 was 14 feet in length.
US Army Ordnance was eager to get tanks into production and 15,000 M1918s were ordered with an initial batch of 15 for testing. One of these was sent to France and officers that evaluated the prototype tanks found them lacking. From the available photographs the M1918 appears to have an exposed front axel just in front of the hull, this would have been susceptible to damage from enemy fire. The tank’s tracks are also extremely narrow, while the tank was light, this could have conceivably lead to issues with getting bogged down in thick mud.
The war ended before large scale production of the M1918 could begin, and as a result the first mass produced American tank was the M1917, a modified version of the Renault FT.
The M1917, was delayed in production and did not reach US forces in France before the end of the war. In total
Some 950 M1917s were built by Van Dorn Iron Works, the Maxwell Motor Co., and the C.L. Best Co. by 1919.
The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Military Vehicles, I.V. Hogg & J. Weeks (1980)
The Complete Guide to Tanks & Armoured Fighting Vehicles, G. Forty & J. Livesey, (2012)