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"US Halftracks in the Western Desert" Topic

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Nick Stern Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2023 8:03 a.m. PST

I bought the Bolt Action Western Desert Campaign book. I was hoping to use some of my US halftracks for the 8th Army but I couldn't find them listed in the book. Were US tanks the only AFVS being sent to North Africa before operation Torch?

BillyNM14 Mar 2023 9:07 a.m. PST

There were plenty of US half-tacks, although many were taken and used by the Axis forces.
"On 10 December a column of American tanks and other vehicles became mired while retreating along the muddy road. This miring, caused in part by the poor flotation of the tanks' narrow tracks, resulted in the loss of 18 tanks, 41 guns, and 132 half-tracks and other vehicles to the advancing Germans."
A thesis presented to the Faculty of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College…

microgeorge Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2023 9:30 a.m. PST

The western desert is not Tunisia.

Personal logo optional field Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2023 9:54 a.m. PST

It looks like they weren't in service. Here's what I found link

Andrew LA14 Mar 2023 9:56 a.m. PST

As far as I know the 8th Army did not have US M3 Halftracks in the Western Desert. This might well have changed after Torch when the Allies linked up in the fight for Tunisia but then that would be Tunisia and not Western Desert. They did have lots of Shermans, Grants and Honey tanks of course. Plus M7 Priests too

3rd5ODeuce Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2023 11:21 a.m. PST

The Universal Carrier (BREN Gun Carrier) was the British equivalent of the M3 in the Western Desert.

Heedless Horseman Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2023 12:49 p.m. PST

Might be wrong, but don't think Brits had M3 H/T until later. White scouts, yes. Mainly, Brens and trucks.

42flanker14 Mar 2023 4:41 p.m. PST

Well, in "Ice Cold in Alex"…

AndreasB14 Mar 2023 9:03 p.m. PST

Not aware of the British forces operating US half-tracks in the western desert, you see the odd captured German prime mover though. White Scout Cars, jeeps, lorries and trucks I think.

All the best


Bill N14 Mar 2023 10:06 p.m. PST

"The western desert is not Tunisia." I don't think it is Cyrenaica either.

Martin Rapier15 Mar 2023 1:27 a.m. PST

As above, the 8th Army didn't use US halftracks in the western desert or Tunisia or Sicily, and only later on in Italy. I don't think British 1st Army in Tunisia used them either.

The M3s in "Ice Cold in Alex" and "Sea of Sand" are stand ins for the non existant DAK Sdkfz 251. iirc DAK had about 20 armoured halftracks in total, ten in each of the MG battalions. More turned up in Tunisia of course.

42flanker15 Mar 2023 6:49 a.m. PST

"The M3s in "Ice Cold in Alex" and "Sea of Sand"…"

- not forgetting "Play Dirty."

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2023 7:43 a.m. PST

Were not most Lend/Lease H/Ts M5s and M9s? Int Harvester with different mudguards, curved rear corners and the sliding viewing hatch cover on the inside of the front doors. As always…I think, as, in truth, I haven't a clue beyond 2eme DB

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2023 2:34 p.m. PST

Were not most Lend/Lease H/Ts M5s and M9s?

Yes, mate. An obvious difference is that the passenger compartment plate was one formed piece of steel, so the rear corners were rounded. The M3 used separate plates bolted together, so the rear corners are right angles.
M5- link

M3- link

AndreasB16 Mar 2023 8:38 a.m. PST

""The western desert is not Tunisia." I don't think it is Cyrenaica either." It's a bit pedantical maybe? It's generally accepted to lump Libya and Egypt together as the Western Desert. IWM, USHMM, wartime propaganda British Pathé all do so.

If we want to get really pedantical though, then I have to insist that we stop with just calling all of Eastern and Central Libya 'Cyrenaica', as the UK Official history does, since it was actually Cyrenaica and Marmarica.


All the best


4th Cuirassier17 Mar 2023 4:30 a.m. PST

Good work AndreasB.

"Why do people always think that one is quibbling when one tries to be precise?" – Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

AndreasB17 Mar 2023 7:13 a.m. PST

Evelyn Waugh obviously discussed something with my partner.

All the best


Bill N17 Mar 2023 11:04 a.m. PST

If you want to be precise 4C you also have to be correct.

Most maps show the Western Desert as located in Egypt in an area that did not see much of the fighting from 1940-1942. I suppose when you are British and start out with the Western Desert Force and the Western Desert Air Force it makes sense to call the campaign they fought in the Western Desert Campaign. Geographically it does not. The Egypt-Libya Campaign name that the U.S. military used to describe their own participation in that phase of the fighting makes more sense. So what do the Italians call it? What do the Germans call it? Do they distinguish between the fighting in Egypt and Libya and the rest of the combat in the North Africa Campaign?

The 1925 boundary treaty between Egypt and Italy refers to the territories of Egypt and Italian Cyrenaica. IIRC Italian Cyrenaica was divided shortly before the war into two provinces, but weren't they named after their capitals, Benghazi and Derna?

AndreasB17 Mar 2023 8:31 p.m. PST

You're welcome to outline where I am incorrect.

The Germans call it 'Der Wüstenkrieg', and the Italians call it 'La Guerra in Africa Settentrionale', and in both cases that's for the totality. Obviously neither of them would call it the war in the Western Desert, because it wasn't in the western but mostly eastern desert for them. Italians and Germans distinguish clearly between fighting in Cyrenaica, Egypt, Marmarica and Tunisia. Not many references to Tripolitania and the Fezzan, as there wasn't much fighting there.

As for 'more sense' naming of the campaign, the Americans weren't even there as major participants, so I wouldn't worry too much about how they named it. They certainly don't have naming authority. As noted, 'Western Desert' is a widely accepted reference, similar to 'The 100 Years War', which didn't actually lasted for 116 years.

Not sure what the point about the 1925 boundary treaty is supposed to get at. Do you argue that Marmarica did not exist as a province? I suggest reading up on it if so, and no, neither Cyrenaica nor Marmarica were named after their capitals. They are referred to as Cyrenaica and Marmarica in Italian and German documents.

All the best


Griefbringer18 Mar 2023 2:05 a.m. PST

When it comes to military history and associated wargaming, there seems to be a number of terms that are apparently understood by British enthusiasts to refer to certain specific times and places, while leaving us Johnny Foreigners rather confused on Internet forums with international readership.

Besides "Western Desert", also such terms as "North-Western Frontier", "Civil War" and "Anarchy" come immediately to my mind as terms that might not be obviously clear to Johnny Foreigners if no additional context is provided.

The original poster does not seem to have revisited this thread, but if I interpret his original post correctly then he is effectively asking "Did the British forces in North Africa field North American halftracks prior to November 1942?" Unfortunately he fails to explicitely mention Britain, UK or Commonwealth everywhere in the post, while mentioning US three times, which might lead to some confusion as evidenced in the first response…

AndreasB18 Mar 2023 4:08 a.m. PST

The only participants who got the naming correct in my view are the Italians. You cannot fault "Operations in North Africa" on either correctness or relevance.

The Germans with their "Wüstenkrieg" and the French with "Guerre du Désert" get it wrong as Tunisia isn't a desert, and the British with the "Western Desert" are just a bit insular.

The pedant in me would also like to point out that 'The Commonwealth' wasn't a thing during the war.

As for the other three terms, I am guessing you are American? Because that would explain the confusion due to the same terms meaning vastly different things in your history. It's not as bad for other foreigners I think. But props for picking up 'The Anarchy', that's truly niche.

All the best


Griefbringer18 Mar 2023 5:08 a.m. PST

The only participants who got the naming correct in my view are the Italians.

It is not too often that Italians are given credit for having managed to get something correctly in the 1940-42 timeframe…

As for the other three terms, I am guessing you are American?

Luckily not, good sir! I may be a Johnny Foreigner, but at least I know how to spell "armour colour" correctly.

Though now that you mention it, persons from US are also perfectly capable of using term "Civil War" without any additional context to clarify whether they are referring to Russian, Spanish, Austrian, Roman or perhaps some other more eccentric civil war.

As for terms used by British, I also forgot to mention "Sub-continent", which can also be somewhat vague when no additional context is provided.


That said, it may be somewhat miffling (and justly so!) for many Britons to witness the incorrect terminology that is sometimes used by Johnny Foreigners when referring to WWII British army, such as:

- referring to a machine carbine as a submachinegun
- not being able to tell the difference between a Guards Brigade and the Brigade of Guards
- thinking that a squadron corporal major is a non-commissioned officer
- confusing armoured and tank brigades with each other
- referring to "6 pdr A tk" gun as "6 lbr ATG"
- assuming that light reconnaissance cars are scout cars, or vice versa
- referring to recce units as recon units

WWII British military has rather precise though personal (or sometimes perhaps even peculiar) terminology, and there should be no excuse for getting it incorrectly, even for Johnny Foreigners!

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