The T12 Gun Motor Carriage on Bataan

     After the success of the German Blitzkrieg against western Europe in 1940, the US armed forces increased efforts to prepare for war.  One weapon which was developed in response to Nazi armor capabilities was the tank destroyer.  Hasty efforts to develop a tank destroying capability from then-available resources yielded the T12 Gun Motor Carriage in 1941.  This was an M3 half-track vehicle on which was mounted an M1897A4 75-mm gun, an American version of the famous World War I “French 75.”  In 1941, 86 of these prototype T12 vehicles were produced, of which 50 were sent to the Philippines.   (Note:  The type was standardized in October, 1941 and produced as the 75mm GMC M3 after this.)

75mm Gun Motor Carriage M3, T12 prototyp[e similar (Source:  Wikipedia entry for M3 Gun Motor Carriage)

75mm Gun Motor Carriage M3, T12 prototype similar (Source: Wikipedia entry for M3 Gun Motor Carriage)

The T12 had the following characteristics (data on the very similar 75-mm Gun Motor Carriage M3):

Weight

20,000 lb (9.1 metric tons)

Length

20 ft 6 in (6.24 m)

Width

 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m)

Height

 8 ft 0 in) (2.44 m)

Crew

5 (Commander, (3x) gun crew, driver)

 

 

Armor

 ¼-⅝ in (6–16 mm)

Main
armament

75mm M1897A4 Gun, Traverse 40° (19° left and 21° right, manual); Elevation:  +29° to -10° (manual)
59 rounds carried on board

Secondary
armament

None

Engine

White 160AX
142.5 hp (106.3 kW)

Power/weight

15.71 hp/t

Suspension

Semi-Elliptic Volute Spring

Operational
range

 200 miles (320 km)

Speed

43 mph (70 km/h)

     The M1897A4 Gun had an indirect fire range of 9,200 yards (8,400 m).  This weapon fired the AP M72 (Armor Piercing) shell which could penetrate up to 3.2 in (8.1 cm) of armor at 500 yards (460 m), the APC M61 (Armor Piercing Capped) shell that could penetrate 2.8 in (7.1 cm) of armor at 500 yards, and the HE M48 (High Explosive) shell for use against infantry and other non-armored targets.  It isn’t clear to the writer on this blog what type(s) of ammunition were available in the Philippines at the time.

Five-man crew of a 75mm Gun Motor Carriage M3 stand by their vehicle. (Source:

Five-man crew of a 75mm Gun Motor Carriage M3 stand by their vehicle. (Source:  Lost)

 

     No organized unit came to operate this equipment; the War Department with all haste made great efforts to get materiel to the Philippines as war clouds threatened in the Far East.  The Self-Propelled Mounts (SPMs, as the T12s became known in the Philippines) arrived in the Philippines in September and October of 1941, and were in the ordnance depot in Manila for a while before being assigned to what was called the Provisional Field Artillery Brigade. Information indicates the SPM were not issued to the brigade at Fort Stotsenburg until four days before the war began.  At least one battery commander arrived to take command of his SPM battery just two days before the war began. (Reed)

 

     The vehicles were initially organized into three SPM artillery battalions with 4 batteries each. Each Battery was equipped with 4 T-12s for a total of 16 SPMs per battalion.  Men for the unit came from several different units and hardly had time to get acquainted before the war began.  American Army officers were the battalion and battery commanders; gun commanders were Philippine Army soldiers, half-track drivers were from the 14th Engineer Battalion (Philippine Scouts), and 96 trucks with American soldier drivers transferred to the brigade from the 200th Coastal Artillery (Anti-Aircraft).  There is even a report of volunteer Filipino civilians drivers serving in the unit.  The brigade was commanded by Colonel Louis R. Dougherty.  The battalions were commanded as follows according to one source:

1) 1st Battalion – Lt. Col. Joseph Ganahl

2) 2nd Battalion – Lt. Col. David S. Babcock

3) 3rd Battalion – Lt. Col. Lindsey

 

     Another source (Reed) indicates a slightly different battalion command lineup, presumably at the start of the war, as well as identification of the battery commanders:

First Battalion Commanding Officer:  Major D.S. Babcock

Battery Commanders

Captain John Curtis

Lieutenant Murray M. Day

Lieutenant Brunette

Lieutenant Corrigan

 

Second Battalion Commanding Officer:  Major Joseph Ganahl (who later became commander of the First Battalion on Bataan)

Battery Commanders

Lieutenant William Jones

Lieutenant Travis Perrenot

Lieutenant  Daniel W. Cranford

Lieutenant (Gordon H.) Peck

 

Third Battalion Commanding Officer:  Major J. R. Lindsay

Battery Commanders

Lieutenant Wayne Fisher

Lieutenant George A. Reed

Lieutenant Van de Lester

Lieutenant Svobodny

 

     George Reed also listed the officer roster of his SPM battery as follows:

Fourth Field Battery, 3rd Provisional Battalion, Field Artillery (SPM)

Commanding Officer:  First Lieutenant George A. Reed, USA

Executive Officer:  Second Lieutenant Amador Lim, PA

Supply Officer:  Third Lieutenant Amado Santiago, PA

Liaison Officer:  Third Lieutenant Romero, PA

 

     In the early days of the war, defensive actions and withdrawal into Bataan, two SPM battalions were assigned to the North Luzon Force and one battalion to the South Luzon Force.  The Second Battalion commanded by Major Ganahl and three batteries went north, minus the battery commanded by Lt. Perrenot which was attached to the 26th Cavalry (PS).  Major Babcock’s First Battalion went to South Luzon with four batteries.  The Third Battalion remained in the Clark Field area guarding against paratrooper attack, though later they aided the fighting withdrawal of forces into Bataan. 

     The SPM battery commanded by Capt. Gordon Peck (who survived the Death March but was lost aboard a Hell Ship in 24 October 1944 distinguished itself in support of the Provisional Tank Group. (Zaloga, p. 24)  His notable actions were noted in northern Luzon at San Manuel and in late December, 1941, and on the withdrawal to Bataan at Lubao in early January, 1942.  Combat losses of 17 SPMs, not all to enemy action, caused the inactivation of one battalion – these two battalions fought through the Bataan campaign. 

     In early January, 1942 as the defensive line in Bataan was being established, a battery of SPM was assigned to I Corps on the west side of the peninsula, and the bulk of remaining vehicles in a group of SPM in the II Corps sector on the east side, where the main enemy attack was anticipated.

     In late January after Japanese attacks on both sides of the peninsula outflanked the Fil-Am defenders, I Corps was successful in withdrawing from the breached Mauban Line to the new Bagac-Orion Line with its battery four SPMs.  In the east, SPMs and M3 tanks covered the withdrawal of forces from Abucay on the night of 24-25 January, and the next day.  The SPMs with M3 tanks were part of the last of the covering force to leave, and did so under enemy attack, though the SPMs under then-Maj. Ganahl were quite engaged against elements of the Japanese 141st Infantry and along with the tanks, successfully stopped the enemy infantry from advancing before they disengaged and made it to the new defensive line.

     Although details are lacking, By March, 1942, attrition led to the survival of only two of the SPM battalions.  A battery of SPMs helped to guard the II Corps beaches from Limay south to the corps boundary.  Army artillery supporting both I Corps and II Corps had 26 SPMs assigned.  In late March, as evidence of an imminent Japanese offensive was noted, the Luzon Force organized a mobile reserve which included a battery of 75-mm. guns (SPM) and a company of tanks.  It is unclear to this blog writer if this was the same battery of SPM formerly assigned beach defense duty.

     As the enemy forces went on the offensive in early April, the SPMs were called upon on April 8 in response the disintegration of II Corps.  But the SPMs, and tanks too, found it difficult to counterattack along narrow, crowded trails lined with jungle growth and the lack of infantry to help defend them.  Despite efforts to establish holding positions, they were forced back, heading for Cabcaben along with other broken units of II Corps.

A USMC M3 GMC in the jungle of New Britain, at left, gives some idea of the environment the T12 SPMs operated in on Bataan. (Source:  USMC)

A USMC M3 GMC in the jungle of New Britain in early 1944, at left, gives some idea of the environment the T12 SPMs operated in on Bataan. (Source: USMC)

     On the morning of April 9, 1942, two SPMs with some tanks and infantry were on the front line, on the east coast road as a surrender delegation left for the Japanese lines.  After the surrender, the vehicles were ordered to be destroyed, but there are reports the Japanese were able to salvage some vehicles which were later encountered by American forces returning to the Philippines in 1944.

     Despite the lack of experience in tactical employment of the SPM, the weapon was employed by the men of the Provisional Field Artillery Brigade to good effect, and appears to have performed a useful role in the Bataan Campaign.  It’s impossible to say how much more effective this unit could have been had the men had the time and resources to properly prepare for combat.  But they fought their best as they knew how at the time, and we can appreciate that.

 

References:

     “75mm Gun Motor Carriage M3,” detailed vehicle technical data in American Fighting Vehicle Database at: http://afvdb.50megs.com/usa/75mmgmcm3.html#M3A1

     Babcock, David S. USMA Memorial at:  http://apps.westpointaog.org/Memorials/Article/7183/

     M3 Gun Motor Carriage, Wikipedia, at:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M3_Gun_Motor_Carriage

     Morton, Louis, The Fall of the Philippines, Center of Military History, US Army, Washington D.C., 1993, at:  http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/005/5-2-1/CMH_Pub_5-2-1.pdf

     OPERATIONS OF THE PROVISIONAL TANK GROUP, UNITED STATES ARMY FORCES IN THE FAR EAST, 1941-1942, at:  http://www.memorialmuseum.org/WebPage/TankGrp.htm

     Peck, Gordon H., Memorial for, at:  http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=52190655

     Reed, George A., “The 3rd Field Artillery Battalion (Provisional) in the Philippines, 1941-42,” World War II Journal, Issue 5, pp 40-43, edited by Ray Merriam, 2003

     T12 halftrack self-propelled mounts for 75mm guns during the campaign on Luzon, Discussion threads at:  http://www.network54.com/Forum/594514/message/1300069119/Re-+T12+halftrack+self-propelled+mounts+for+75mm+guns+during+the+campaign+on+Luzon

And

http://corregidor.proboards.com/thread/912/self-propelled-75mm-luzon-campa

     Whitman, John,”Bataan: Our Last Ditch,” Hippocrene Books, 1990

     Williford, Glen, “Racing the Sunrise: The Reinforcement of America’s Pacific Outposts, 1941-1942,” Naval Institute Press, 2010

     Zaloga, Steven J., “US Half-Tracks of World War II,” Osprey Publishing, London, 1983

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s