24 images of the highly successful M18 Hellcat tank destroyer

 
 
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Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Davis Bruce was looking for a suitable armored fighting vehicle to form the bulk of his Tank Destroyer Force. Once offered an insight into the M10 Tank Destroyer prototype, he was fairly disappointed.

The M10 was too heavy and too slow to meet Bruce’s requirements. What he needed wasn’t a moving fortress, but more of a cruiser with superior firepower.

Thus a new prototype was offered to him ― one that would soon evolve into the M18 Hellcat, the fastest American tank ever to hit the roads.

Of course, this was the direct consequence of keeping the armor at its bare minimum, while utilizing the same Wright R975 radial engine used on Sherman tanks. Bruce was pleased, and so were the United States Armed Forces, for this proved to be the right choice.

The tank destroyer was capable of achieving the incredible speed of 55 mph on the road while packing a 76 mm gun. It was lighter, smaller, faster and more comfortable than the Sherman, while twice as deadly.

Entering serial production in 1943, it served mainly in Europe, but had a noticeable role in the Pacific theater in the Philippines and Okinawa.

The Hellcat first saw combat in the bloody Battle of Anzio, from where it continued its highly successful career in the Italian campaign.

The M18 achieved fame during the Battle of the Bulge where it played a key role in tackling enemy armor. Actively using hit and run tactics against enemy Tigers and Panthers, Hellcat tank destroyers would usually flank them with ease due to their versatility and fire from a distance of up to 3,000 ft, penetrating their side armor.

However, the tank had a weak point. Apart from thin armor, the Hellcat came with an open top turret, which left the crew exposed to snipers and other small arms fire as well as hand grenades.

Despite its weakness, the Hellcat became legendary by having a higher kill-to-loss ratio than any tank or tank destroyer fielded by U.S. forces in World War II, which officially made it the most effective U.S. tank of the Second World War.

After WWII, the Hellcat saw limited action in Korea, mostly as a variant designated as the M39 Armored Utility Vehicle which acted as an armored personnel carrier, cargo vehicle and as a gun tractor.

 

R975 Continental Radial Engine, 973 cu. in. 9 Cylinder air-cooled & 4 speed Torqmatic Transmission

 

 

Jeep and Hellcat of the 8th Armored Division at Rheinberg 6 March 1945

 

2nd Armored Division M18 during Battle of the Bulge, January 1945

Destroyed M18 and halftrack

 

M18 of the 805th Tank Destroyer Battalion – engine maintenance

 

M18 of the 827th Tank Destroyer Battalion 1944

 

Jeep and Hellcat of the 8th Armored Division at Rheinberg 6 March 1945

 

M18 Hellcat in action in Firenzuola Italy 1945

 

Looks like an early model

 

M18 Gun Motor Carriage

 

76 mm Gun Motor Carriage M18 Hellcat in action

 

M1A1 Anti – Tank Mines

 

The M18 Hellcat was one of the most successful tank destroyers of World War 2

 

In April 1943 the General Motors company produced the first prototypes.

 

The Hellcat has negligible armor

 

Hellcat with walking GI in front of a burning town. This photo was identified by its driver Sgt. Harry E. Traynor of the 704th TD Bn. The soldier in the front is Cpt. Marion Taake, The TD was named “Blondie” and it was later destroyed on February 9, 1945 by two German Panther tanks in the Bannholz Woods area of Germany

 

The tank destroyer became the fastest armored vehicle, of this type, of World War

 

Hellcat in Luzon, April 1945

 

M18 Hellcat was a very effective tank desytroyer.

 

Hellcat in Italy, 1944

 

$55,230 production cost

 

The M18 “Hellcat” was the epitome of the American tank destroyer doctrine, it was very fast, very mobile, and has a powerful gun

 

The M18 Hellcat is a unique tank destroyer with its top speed of 55mph

 

A total of 2,507 vehicles were produced from July 1943 through October 1944.