The vehicles used to carry soldiers around and to conduct combat missions have been through many changes over the years. The soldier fighting in World War I 100 years ago could never have foreseen what the soldier of today would use to go to war.
The “Great War” saw the beginning of the tank corps. Although the American soldiers sent to Europe did not have their own tanks at the time, the soldiers were introduced to the French Renault light tanks. After a lot of modifications and upgrades, the “Doughboys” trained to use the Renault FT17, which was 16 feet, 5 inches long, 5 feet, 8 inches wide, and 7 feet, 6.5 inches tall, according to the Army Historical Foundation. It weighed 7.4 tons and was operated by a crew of two — its offensive capabilities were either a 37mm gun or 8mm machine gun.
When it comes to heavily-armored vehicles, the tankers of World Wars I and II would probably have been green with envy of today’s tankers. The M4 “Sherman” Medium Tank of World War II was small compared to today’s M1 Abrams. The Sherman’s 75 mm gun couldn’t pack quite the punch of the Abrams’ 120 mm main gun.
Getting to the battlefield in World War I was usually by train. Sometimes, however, the wounded were carried from the battlefield by horse-drawn wagons. The most common small personnel carrier of World War II was the Jeep. Today, the High Mobility Multi-Wheel Vehicle (HMMWV) — commonly pronounced as a “Humvee” — carries small units around. The biggest difference? Jeeps had no armor.
The larger personnel carriers, however, would still be recognizable to the soldier of 1942. The biggest difference between the World War II “Deuce and a Half” 2.5-ton truck and today’s 5-ton Light Medium Tactical Vehicle (LMTV) is the size.
As for the “King of Battle,” the Redlegs of World War I used a 155mm stationary Howitzer — often brought to the battlefield by horse — but the artilleryman in 1942 managed to ride around in a 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage M7, which was adopted in 1941 because more power was needed to defeat modern armor of the time. Today, artillerymen have the M109 Paladin, which carries a 155 mm Howitzer with an effective firing range of 11 miles.
While helicopters weren’t in full military use until the Korean War, the units of III Corps had no problem adopting them into their inventory. The Bell H-13 Sioux helicopter was acquired by the Army in 1946 and was used for various tasks from wire-laying to medical evacuations. Today, the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter does many of the same missions — only with a lot more room and a much greater flying distance.
When it comes to communications, the soldiers of World War II and beyond had it made with the advent of radio. The troops during World War I, however, received their communications and orders by a much more conventional method of the time: Messengers riding either horses or motorcycles across the battlefields.
Compiled by David A. Bryant