M29 Weasel

Last updated
M29 Weasel
M29 Weasel 3.jpg
TypeTracked vehicle
Place of originUnited States
Specifications
Mass3,800 lb (1,700 kg) dry
Length10 ft 6 in (3.20 m)
Width5 ft (1.5 m)
later 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m)
Height4 ft 3 in (1.30 m)
5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) to top of windscreen
Crew4

Engine Studebaker Model 6-170 Champion 6-cylinder
70 hp (52 kW)
SuspensionTracked
Operational
range
165 mi (266 km)
Maximum speed 36 mph (58 km/h)

The M29 Weasel was a World War II tracked vehicle, built by Studebaker, designed for operation in snow. [1]

Contents

Design and development

The idea for the Weasel came from the work of British inventor Geoffrey Pyke in support of his proposals to attack Axis forces and industrial installations in Norway. Pyke's plan to hamper the German atomic weapons development became Project Plough for which he proposed a fast light mechanised device that would transport small groups of commando troops of the 1st Special Service Force across snow. In active service in Europe, Weasels were used to supply frontline troops over difficult ground when wheeled vehicles were immobilised.

The first 2,103 vehicles designated as T15 and later categorized as the M28 Cargo Carrier had 15 in (380 mm) Kégresse-style "rubber-band" style tracks, [2] the later version designated as M29 had 20 in (510 mm) tracks of the same format. The T15/M28 version had a completely different hull and a reverse drive line to the later M29 versions. Some of the most noticeable differences were that this early version [T15/M28] had a rear engine front wheel drive system; that used the earlier track as well as the bogie wheels were of a distinctly different arrangement. The hull itself was designed slightly different with only a two-passenger capacity. The M29 was a front engine, rear wheel drive system with the changed tracks and different bogie wheel arrangement. The hull was also changed to accommodate a larger passenger/load capacity. The M29 was somewhat amphibious, but with a very low freeboard; the M29C Water Weasel was the more amphibious version, with buoyancy cells in the bow and stern as well as twin rudders. The M29C could not operate in other than inland waterway conditions, so its use in surf or rough water was very limited but did see action in the Pacific theatre. An easy way to distinguish the difference from an M28 and M29 is to look at the side track arrangement of bogie wheels.

Operational use

U.S. Army

The Weasel idea was introduced in 1942, when the First Special Services Force needed transportation into Norway to knock out strategic power plants. The vehicle needed to move quickly and easily through the winter snows of Norway. It needed to be air transportable and be able to withstand the effects of being dropped by parachute and would also be able to carry arms, explosives and minimal resupply stocks. [3]

The Norwegian mission was cancelled and therefore the Weasel was never used for its original intention. However, as it was amphibious and could cross terrain too soft for most other vehicles, it was used widely in both Italy and on the Western Front. It went ashore on Normandy, it was with the U.S. Army during the breakthrough at St. Lo., the Battle of the Bulge and in the mud of the Roer and the Rhine. M29 was a Cargo Carrier but was also used as a command center, radio, ambulance and signal line layer. [4] US soldiers soon realized the Weasel could be used as an ambulance, as it could get to places not even Jeeps could. Another use was for crossing minefields, as its ground pressure was often too low to set off anti-tank mines.

The reliability of the vehicle when used in the European summer and during long road trips was the subject of consternation among Allied troops to whom they were assigned. The commander of the 87th Chemical Mortar Battalion left the note below during their advances towards La Ferte-Mace on D+69.

"All companies are having a great deal of trouble with the M-29 Cargo Carriers on long movements such as the ones Companies C and D have made in the past several days. The Cargo Carriers have been overheating and, in several cases, the water has completely boiled out of the radiators. These vehicles were made to operate in arctic temperatures. The motor becomes so hot that the oil in the transmission literally boils and boils out. Plates are coming off the tracks and the cables that hold the tracks together break on these long movements. All in all, the efficiency and mobility of this battalion is greatly reduced by our being required to operate with such a vehicle, not only because it is inefficient but because it was never intended to operate in this climate or on hard and paved roads." [5]

87th Chemical Mortar Battalion Unit History (14th August, 1944)

After the war, many surplus M29s were sold to allied countries (Norway, Sweden, France, etc.). Some M29C and M29 survived to serve in Korea, supplementing 1/4 ton 4x4 cargo vehicles in rough conditions. They served in Arctic and cold weather operations until retired in 1958. Large numbers of retired Weasels were sold off in the 1950s to civilians and municipal organizations. For example, 25 Weasels were loaned for the VIII Olympic Winter Games in 1960.

US Marine Corps

In November 1944, USMC distributed M29s to the 3d, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions. They proved invaluable with its first appearance in combat on Iwo Jima. It also saw use on Okinawa. [6]

The USMC used only the non-amphibious version, but it was capable of hauling a half-ton load through sand and mud. Besides this they pulled trailers and artillery pieces over the terrain that wheeled vehicles could not negotiate.

French Army

During the First Indochina War, the 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment was in charge of fighting Viet Minh guerrillas in the Mekong Delta area. Its units, 1st and 2nd Escadrons, received M29C Weasels from the 13th Demi-Brigade of Foreign Legion in 1947. Initially they were unsuccessful as they were crewed by inexperienced men, used wrong tactics and were deployed without infantry support. Their losses were heavy. [7] The 1er régiment de chasseurs à cheval  [ fr ] also deployed 1 Escadron of M29s from 1949 [8] to 1953. [9]

French soldiers learned fast after several months of fighting, but the real deployment of full forces was possible only when they received LVT-4s and LVT(A)-4s in 1950. Now they could move stronger infantry units around. In September 1951 1er Groupement Autonome was established, consisting of two escadrons of Weasels (33 each), three escadrons of LVT-4 (11 each) and one fire support platoon of 6 LVT(A)-4. [10] French Weasels, known as Crabes were heavily armed with Chaterrault M1924/29, Bren or Browning M1919 machine guns, 57mm M18A1 recoilless guns [8] and even 60mm mortars. [7]

One of the last weasels in use at Dumont d'Urville, 1993 One of the last weasels in use at DdU, 1993.jpg
One of the last weasels in use at Dumont d'Urville, 1993

French mountain troops and French Gendarmerie used M29s until 1970.[ citation needed ]

After the Indochina war, the remaining weasels were given to the French Polar Expeditions and used at the Antarctic station of Dumont d'Urville until 1993.[ citation needed ]

British Army

Amphibious M29 Weasels of 4th Special Service Brigade were used by British commando troops in the Walcheren operation, supplementing LVT Buffalos. The 79th Armoured Division used also non-amphibious variant of the Weasel, modified for clearing anti-personnel devices. The Lovat Scouts used the amphibious Weasel during their time in Jasper, Alberta, where they were being trained in advanced winter and mountain warfare tactics, having already carried out the basic winter and mountain combat training in the Scottish Highlands and North Wales. [11]

Non-amphibious Weasels were also used by British Infantry Divisions fighting in the Saar-Moselle Triangle, as they were often the only means of getting supplies forward.

After the war they were kept in service for a few years.

Canadian Army

The first use of the T15 Cargo Carrier, known to the Canadian Army as the "Snow-jeep", was in Operation Cottage in 1943 during the Aleutian Islands Campaign. [12] Fifty T-15 Cargo Carriers were received at Nanaimo, BC in June 1943 for use in the Aleutians by the 13th Canadian Infantry Brigade. The T15's were some of the earliest shipments of supplies from the United States to replace Canadian Motorised Transport to be used in the joint operations. The United States provided all military transport so to avoid having to set up a Canadian maintenance system and to provide commonality between the two armies.

M29 Weasel was used extensively by Canadian forces from the fall of 1944 during battles to clear the marshy Scheldt estuary, the flooded approaches to Antwerp. Later M29s supported Canadian advance through flooded areas in Netherlands and Germany.

After the war, they were kept in service for use in the Arctic.

Variants

Specification

M29 Weasel in parking lot of Holiday Inn in Omaha M29 Weasel 1.jpg
M29 Weasel in parking lot of Holiday Inn in Omaha
M29 Weasel M29 Weasel 2.jpg
M29 Weasel
M29C Water Weasel M-29C Water Weasel.jpg
M29C Water Weasel
SCR-508 Radio mounted in weasel SCR-508 Radio.jpg
SCR-508 Radio mounted in weasel
General

The engine was a Studebaker Model 6-170 Champion, a 6-cylinder 169.6 cu in (2,779 cc) cubic inch 4-stroke engine running on 72 octane gasoline delivering 70 bhp at 3,600 rpm. Fuel capacity was 35 US gal (130 L). Under average conditions (typically 5 miles per gallon), it could range 165 mi (266 km).

Performance
Maximum gradability:100%
Turning radius:12 ft (3.7 m)
Fording depth:Will Float (M29C)
Maximum width of ditch vehicle will cross:36 in (91 cm)
Maximum vertical obstacle vehicle will climb:24 in (61 cm)
Maximum allowable speed:36 mph (58 km/h)
Maximum allowable towed load:3,800 lb (1,700 kg)

See also

Notes

  1. "OSS Briefing Film – The Weasel". Real Military Flix. Archived from the original on February 9, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-09.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  2. Archived M29 Weasel info site with info on track design
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-09-03. Retrieved 2016-10-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. http://www.wrightwoodcalif.com/forum/index.php?topic=11387.0
  5. https://www.4point2.org/hist-87.htm#0845
  6. http://www.theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=250328
  7. 1 2 Dunstan 2019, p. 16.
  8. 1 2 Dunstan 2019, p. 24.
  9. Dunstan 2019, p. 33.
  10. Dunstan 2019, pp. 17-18.
  11. Identified as one of the Vehicles in "Ordeal By Ice", a Canadian Information film regarding winter and mountain warfare training during the Second World War. Link to video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LYwr_JiccU
  12. https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/themes/defence/caf/militaryhistory/dhh/reports/ahq-reports/ahq006-1.pdf
  13. "United States' M Number Designations – World War II Vehicles – World War II Vehicles, Tanks, and Airplanes". Wwiivehicles.com. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2010-06-29.

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References