The Ultra-Versatile M29 Weasel in Photos

 
 
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Initially introduced to serve as part of a secret commando operation in Norway in 1942, the M29 Weasel was designed to overcome difficult surface conditions, the first and foremost being snow.

Proposed by the inventor Geoffrey Pyke in 1941, and developed by Canada in the following year, the Weasel was to serve as transport for small commando detachments. It was originally meant to take part in an attempt to neutralize Nazi Germany’s early efforts to develop nuclear weapons, by providing the commandos with the means of transport, and more importantly, escape.

The M29 Weasel eventually produced

Designed to withstand a parachute drop, the M29 was to carry arms, explosives and minimal resupply stocks across the snow-covered regions of Norway. It was the perfect choice for the hit-and-run tactics of the 1st Special Service Force, made up of American and Canadian commandos, who were to spearhead the raid.

M29 Weasel in Belgium, winter 1944.

However, the plan was canceled, and the 1st Special Service Force, together with their M29 Weasels, were redirected to participate in the invasion of Sicily.

From this point on the real operational history of the Weasel begins.

M29 Weasel with various slogans written on the front.

As it was intended to move across snow, it utilized tracks ranging from 15 inches (380 mm) to 20 inches (510 mm), proving more than useful in overcoming muddy ground and the lack of paved roads.

Another advantage of this vehicle, due to its light weight and wide tracks, was that it could cross minefields without triggering anti-tank mines.

M29 Weasel in the woods, between Recogne and Cobru.Photo: Archangel12 CC BY 2.0

Needless to say, both of these traits were quickly exploited by the Allies. It soon found its purpose as a frontline supply vehicle, while also taking on the roles of mobile command center, ambulance vehicle, and signal line layer.

Due to its ability to adapt to difficult terrain, it was used extensively both in Italy and on the Western Front, especially during the breakthrough at St. Lo, the Battle of the Bulge, and around the muddy regions of Roer and the Rhine.

M29 Weasel of First Marine Division communication section in Korean war.

Even though the vehicle was amphibious to some extent, the later version–called the Water Weasel–improved on its amphibious capacity, and was useful during the British-Canadian attack on the Belgian port city of Antwerp.

On the other side of the world, in the Pacific Theater, the M29’s ability to cross sandy beaches without getting stuck proved irreplaceable during the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Two U.S. Navy M29 Weasel tracked vehicles on the ice in the Antarctic during Operation Highjump.

In later years, the vehicle was used in the early stages of the Korean War, and was also used by French troops operating in Indochina. The French would continue to use the M29 as part of the mountain troops and Gendarmerie arsenals until the 1970s.

Also after WWII, the Canadians finally got the chance to use the vehicle for its original purpose―operating in the snowy Arctic.

A U.S. Navy supply convoy in Antarctica led by a M29 Weasel.

 

Electrician Ken ‘Junior’ Waldron was one of 18 men who spent the 1957 winter at South Pole.

 

Royal Marine Commandos going down the ramp of a landing craft tank in an Alligator amphibious personnel carrier, whilst some more men in a Weasel amphibious carrier are about to follow.

 

A U.S. Navy photographer’s mate taking a motion picture from a M29 Weasel in Antarctica during Operation Highjump.

 

M29 Studebaker Weasel G-179

 

Loading a M-29 Weasel on the landing craft “Goldie”, Oliktok Point, Beaufort Sea coast, Alaska North Slope, Summer 1950 during construction of the DEW line.

 

Weasels were still used after snow started melting on the tundra. Tent used as wind break to reduce vibration of observing instrument. Alaska, Colville Delta.

 

“Digging out a weasel – not a fun job when it’s 40 degrees below zero. Alaska, Barter Island, North Slope. Spring, 1949..” NOAA Photo Library CC BY 2.0

 

Weasel checking sea ice landing strip at Oliktok Point – If weasel didn’t break ice, ski planes could land. If weasels broke ice, they would float as they were amphibious. Alaska, Brownlow Point, Spring 1950, during construction of the DEW line.

 

Auster aircraft fitted with skis, weasels and sledges on the fast ice near the Mawson Station in Antarctica

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