Tanks and Treads: Look Inside the National Museum of Military Vehicles – CNET


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We start our tour in the WWII hall. This is a DUKW, also known as a Duck. These amphibious vehicles were responsible for getting 3% of the D-Day material from the ships to the beaches. 


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In addition to tanks and other military vehicles, there are some non-vehicle gems as well, like this original copy of General Patton’s war diary.


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This odd-looking vehicle is an Italian TM-40, made by Fiat. It would have towed tractors and other heavy equipment.


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The M7 Priest is a motorized howitzer built first on the M3 medium tank chassis and later, like this B1 variant, on the M4 tank chassis.


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The Marshall World War II Gallery lets you walk around some tanks, surrounded by other tanks.


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The standard M4 Sherman was second most-produced tank in WWII.


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This is the E8 variant of the M4, which had an upgraded suspension and other improvements.


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This variant was powered by a Ford V8 that developed 450 horsepower.


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The main gun was larger than the standard variant, at 76mm.


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Half-tracks have steerable front wheels, and tank treads in the back for better traction.


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This is an M36 Gun Motor Carriage, aka a tank destroyer. It’s based on the M10 but had a larger turret and larger 90mm main gun. It entered service toward the end of the war.


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This is an M32 Recovery Vehicle, designed to repair tanks in the field. It’s based on the M4. Think of it as AAA roadside assistance for tanks.


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The M24 Chaffee is an example of a light tank, which trades firepower and armor for speed and maneuverability. It first saw service at the Battle of the Bulge and remained in use until early in the Korean War.


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The Red Ball Express exhibit has dozens of the vital cargo vehicles that helped keep the war machine moving.


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This is one example, an Autocar U-7144T all-wheel-drive tractor, in this case towing fuel.


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Throughout the museum there are dioramas like this one that show the vehicles in a more realistic setting. 


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The majority of the vehicles in the museum are American, but there are several from other militaries too, like this fast and mobile German tank destroyer, the Jagdpanzer “Hetzer.”


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The Battle of the Bulge exhibit features several of the tank types used there, including one that was literally there.


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This lightly armored, open-top M18 tank destroyer was at the Battle of the Bulge, commanded by Sergeant Don Breinholt.


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Though not as conducive to tank warfare, the Pacific front still used a variety of tanks. On the right is an M3A1 Satan, which had a flamethrower as its main weapon.


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A mini-tank of destruction. Or a motorcycle with tank treads. Maybe both. It’s called the Kleines Kettenkraftrad.


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Moving up in scale a bit, this big-tired vehicle is the British T17E1 Staghound armored car.


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The Canadians played a significant role in WWII, though they didn’t manufacturer too many of their own vehicles. This is one of the exceptions to that, the Otter Light Reconnaissance Car, designed and built by GM Canada.


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No fine Corinthian leather here, just the basics needed for its role. It held a crew of three and was used by Canada, the British RAF, and others. 


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Only a few years passed between WWII and the Korean War, so many of the vehicles used in the latter were left over from the former. For instance, on the left is another M24 Chaffee. On the right is one of the famous (infamous?) Russian T-34 tanks.


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I loved the colors and design in this diorama about the cold winters of the Korean War.


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The M422 Mighty Mite was a lightweight Jeep replacement for the Marines. It was innovative, but expensive. 


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The M56 Scorpion is an interesting tank destroyer. It features a huge 90mm main gun, but no armor so it’s relatively lightweight and air transportable. It was built by Cadillac. 

The recoil was said to be so bad that firing the gun would lift the front of the vehicle several feet in the air.


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Another military vehicle built by Cadillac, the V100 Commando was far more successful. Over 3,200 were built and used by militaries all over the world. The US used them extensively in Vietnam.


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The cozy interior typically had a crew of two and could carry up to 10 passengers.


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The M114 is a Vietnam-era armored fighting vehicle, designed for command and reconnaissance roles.


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It had a crew of three, but wasn’t particularly successful despite being fully amphibious and light enough to be dropped by parachute.


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The M548 is an armored transport vehicle based on the hugely successful M113 chassis. It might not look it from the photo, but it’s extremely tall. 


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This Vietnam diorama features a watchtower and an M109 howitzer with an absolutely massive 155mm gun. Variants of this vehicle are still in use today.


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The one shown here had a crew of six. Modern versions have a crew of four. 


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This is the M48 Patton, the US’ main battle tank for the first decade of the Cold War. Nearly 12,000 were built.


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The M41 Walker Bulldog replaced the M24 Chaffee in the light tank role. “Light” is relative here, considering the M41 weighed nearly 24 tons. It was phased out in the late ’60s for being too big for its role.


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This weird looking machine is the M50 Ontos. The six black tubes are manually loaded recoilless rifles. Fewer than 300 were built, and all were used by the US Marines.


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This is an M116 Husky, an amphibious transport powered by a Chevy V8. They were used in Vietnam.


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One of the few boats at the museum, this is a PBR, which stands for patrol boat, river (because of course it does). They appear in pretty much every movie about Vietnam.


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This stubby truck is a Morris C8 field tractor, used by Commonwealth countries in WWII for towing artillery pieces.


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The museum has a handful of aircraft too. This is a Heinkel He 162, one of the first operational jet aircraft. It’s made mostly of wood. This is a reproduction but it uses many original He 162 parts.


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This unfortunately-shaped aircraft is a Bachem Ba 349 Natter. It’s a rocket-powered interceptor designed to launch vertically. The only manned flight killed the pilot.


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The collection continues outside.


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Among the dozens of vehicles outside awaiting restoration, there’s this slightly out-of-place MiG-21.


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