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  M114 - The Armored Jeep

I recall an illustration from either Popular Science or Popular Mechanics in the early 1960s that featured, spanning both pages, a vivid battle scene with Soviet tanks and infantry carriers attacking out of the morning mists in Germany. Done in comic book style, the battle raged in the center of the painting, cannon fire, explosions, flashes of bright red and yellow against dark purple and deep blue backgrounds. As expected, nuclear mushroom clouds dominated the distant horizon.

Then, to take the viewer to a more detailed view of the battle, lines radiated out from the central combat to a series of panels on the sides of the pages showing much more detailed views of the battle annotated with captions. The overall title of the article was along the lines of "New Technical Weapons Give US Soldiers Big Advantage if War Breaks Out" and the close up panels seemed active weapons development, feasibility projects and US Army meets Tom Swift dream book.

 

Early M114 prototype --Tencza

 

One panel featured robot loaders shown in a cut-away 155 mm howitzer turret. The caption in part  ... robotic loaders and drivers add to artillery power ...", in another panel, infantrymen with individual jet packs were firing as they leap-frogged over astounded Soviet troops. The next panel displayed a small tracked vehicle; turretless, it looked like an infantry carrier but reduced in size by 1/3, hiding in a wood line with the commander making a spot report on an unsuspecting Russian column. The caption, "... using the new M114 reconnaissance vehicle, scouts locate the enemy advance and ...", in the next lower panel ... the robots have a nuclear cannon shell enroute to the Soviet horde. Needless to say, I was impressed!

Interestingly, while the US Army of that era did have active prototype programs for jet packs and one man helicopters and even in today’s budget, programs still fund robotic driver and loader tests, one of the few concepts shown that made it off the artist’s easel and magazine page and into the active Army inventory was the M114 Command and Reconnaissance Vehicle.

It was the only scout specific vehicle developed, tested, funded and widely issued to the active Army in the sixteen year period between the end of World War II until the early 1960s. In many ways, it presaged the M551 Sheridan in both design and fate. The Airborne Command and Reconnaissance Vehicle was built to be fast, stealthy, swim capable and deployable by parachute. It was a blank sheet project integrating new materials and concepts that spanned the designer’s table, the manufacturing floor and Army hardstands in Germany. Prototype and manufacturing milestones were set, then met. The US Army monitored each step and umpired the final acceptance trials. An experienced major corporation managed the program from design to first production vehicle, to final copy off the assemble line. It was an interesting design and a marginal performer with trooper recollections running from "death trap" to "an acceptable performer" .

Thousands were built, about forty were sent to Vietnam where the problems mounted and they were parked and locked. In service in Germany some technical problems were solved but, by trying to retrofit the scout vehicle into a fighting vehicle, old chronic problems mounted. This interesting vehicle was a product of the Cleveland Tank Plant, it was with the 14th Cavalry at Daley Barracks for some ten years with apparently the last ones turned in during the early years of the Eaglehorse in Germany. It was the M114.

 

Scouts Out!! An early production model M114 ready to roll. The armored jeep was supposed to provide speed, maneuverability and protection to the Army scouts of the early 1960s. --Hunnicutt

 

To tell the story of the first scout vehicle of the modern Army era, we rely on R. P. Hunnicutt’s excellent, Bradley-A History of American Fighting and Support Vehicles, the historical files of the New York Times, the Cleveland Press, donated images from men of the 2/14 ACR and the memories of those troopers who, had war broken out in central Germany in the 1960s and early 1970s, would have deployed forward in M114s to locate, report and engage the lead echelon of the Soviet attack. BG (Ret) Mike O’Connell, LTC (Ret) Burnis Allardyce and MSG (Ret) Roy Lingle deserve great credit for assisting with this article.

Part 1: From the Minds of Engineers ...

Part 2: ... to the Hands of Troops ...

Part 3: ... then scattered to their fate.

 
Part 1: From the Minds of Engineers ...

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In the opening days of the Cold War, the US Army and American manufacturing industrial base were committed to the development and fielding of a tracked infantry carrier. While consideration was given to design concepts that would also make it a "fighting vehicle", these were shunted aside and the simple design of a steel enclosed, tracked box to carry a squad came to dominate doctrine and design for over thirty years. But what of the scouts?

Just how much saber and how much stealth was the appropriate mix for the scout units of both divisional cavalry squadrons and the regiments? Deciding this would lead to the appropriate evolution of doctrine, training and equipment. This is a question that has been under intense study and debate since the end of World War II and continues to this day as the Army reconfigures to face the tasks of combat operations in the new century. Interestingly, the major war experiences of the Army during this post WW II period, Korea and later Vietnam, often clouded the discussion rather than help provide a clear evolutionary path.

The US Army scouts of the reconnaissance battalions from WW II through the early 1960s primarily operated out of the utility wheeled vehicle. Other vehicles developed, the M3A1 Scout Car and the heavier M8 Scout also saw considerable service but the scouts who first buzzed through the Rhoen area of Germany in April 1945, were in jeeps. In the immediate post war period, the M3 was soon washed out of the inventory, the M8 saw considerable service with Constabulary units and remained in inventory well into the 1960s but was relegated to MP and then Reserve and National Guard roles.

In an interesting sidelight, the German military of WW II fielded a variety of very capable scout vehicles running from light tanks to high mobility-lightly armor four wheel variants to eight wheeled, fast tank killers. In the immediate post war period, all were evaluated for "lessons learned" and all were viewed as not appropriate for US needs. The Russians had a different point of view.

As LTC Spurrier sat on a ridge with his driver watching the 2-14 ACR road march from Schweinfurt to Bad Kissingen in 1951, the infantry squads were in tracks, the tanks were M24s and M26s and the scouts were in jeeps. Only ten years later, as SCO Judson F. Miller observed his battalion deploy for Winter Shield maneuvers from Daley Barracks, all of the major equipment had changed with the exception of the scouts. They were still in jeeps, but not for long.

The Armored Jeep

To create a comparatively simple vehicle, it took a fairly long time. In 1954, the Army notified manufactures of the requirement for a light, multi-use combat vehicle to fill a variety of roles to include "command and reconnaissance" missions, medical evacuation and platform for the BAT, Battalion Anti-Tank cannon. The initial guidance allowed for either wheels of tracks, it was to have a crew of four, weight class in the area of 8000 pounds and a top speed of 45 mph. The anticipated number of vehicles to be purchased numbered in the 3000 range, a fairly significant number, but the cost per unit was not to exceed a rather low boundary. The manufactures were to submit prototypes that combined both proven components and new materials as available.

 

 

During the Army umpired evaluation of the final prototype, a T114 during road tests. Note the turret and upper hull configuration, both were eliminated prior to production to control costs. --Cleveland Press Archives   Seen from above, the T114 with the M85 equipped machine gun turret.  --Hunnicutt
     

Both Chrysler at Detroit Arsenal and Cadillac Division of General Motors at the Cleveland Tank Plant expressed interest, the former proposed diagrams bases on wheeled platforms, the latter went with the "small-APC" format. Funding was initially granted to pursue the designs from Cleveland and further funds for six prototypes were allocated in 1957. The T114 program was well under way. The light track concept had won the first round of the post war, scout vehicle evolution.

The prototype scout vehicles delivered to the Army for testing certainly had a "high tech" look and one can easily visualize the concept drawings in Cleveland and Washington featuring teams of T114s and T92 tanks prowling the nuclear battlefield. The light tracked scout had a two man turret pushed to the rear of the hull for the commander and observer; it was armed with the M85 .50 caliber machine-gun. Other manufactures were contacted for possible turret variations and the Army specified that the final turret decision was separate from approval of the general design of the vehicle.

The automotive drive line of the T114 was pulled to the front, engine to the right, driver to the left. The top of the vehicle featured a rather complicated superstructure design raising from a shallow raked front slope, however the overall height of the vehicle remained low. The rear of the T114 had a large rectangular hatch, the interior space, cramped for three troopers, allowed for a jump seat and a possible fourth man. Many of the automotive components were off the shelf GM items to include the 283 CI V8 gas engine and the Hydramatic transmission. This helped control costs.

The tracks, developed by the Caterpillar Corporation, were of the "rubber band" type, providing the supposed advantages of lower costs, reduced weight and ease of maintenance in comparison with a link track system. Manufactured as a single strip with bolted in track pads and grousers, this development never lived up to expectations. In an unsupported configuration on narrow road wheels, the "rubber band" allowed for the small GM engine, this in turn saved overall space and weight for the entire vehicle. In the event of light damage from mines or direct fire, there was no plan for a crew to repair broken track strips. In 1960, the Army began an extensive series of tests at Aberdeen, Fort Knox and the Arctic Test Center to evaluate the prototypes.

Cost Containment and Production

At the test centers and the production floor at Cleveland Tank Plant, the T114 program was much anticipated as a "winner". GM began serious planning for the assembly lines and hiring began necessary to move the Cleveland plant towards full scale production. In 1961, when the Army announced the required design modifications resulting from the test phase, some significant changes occurred, almost all of them designed to lower the cost per individual vehicle. With so much time already invested in the program, the designers went back to the blueprints.

 
 
T114 seen from the view at rear. Note the rectangular rear hull hatch. This feature was also eliminated at the end of the test phase. --Hunnicutt   M114 early model as issued to the scouts, note pedestal mounted M2 and .30 caliber machine guns, round rear hatch and greatly simplified upper hull.  --Hunnicutt
     

The M85 armed two man turret was eliminated in favor of a much more simple TC observation hatch-cupola arrangement; this was moved forward of the previous location. The superstructure of the hull top was greatly simplified into basically a flat piece of aluminum, a small hatch was added to the rear of the TC hatch for the observer and the large rear hull hatch was changed to a less costly circular design. The armament was to consist of a pintle mounted M2 and a 30 caliber machine-gun for the TC and observer respectively. The Army continued to look at other turrets that could be retrofitted later and production funding was allocated to the budget when the new design, based on the Army’s changes was approved.

As the modified blue prints went to Washington, the first funds, 2.7 million dollars went to Cleveland to begin plant modifications at Cadillac to accommodate M114 production although the final contact had yet to be awarded. The plant had been operating at about 20 % capacity manufacturing self propelled howitzers and the Sheridan program was seen as still years away. Politicians and union halls hailed the new jobs. A Cleveland Press reported press release in July 1961 stated, " ... it (the M114) will utilize a considerable number of aluminum parts to conserve weight for airborne missions. It will carry infantry personnel and have special weapons capability the details of which remain classified.". In October of that year, the first large order was authorized with a value of 15 million dollars. One third of this covered the costs of the full scale assembly line, the balance paid for an initial run of 1215 vehicles.

 
 
M114A1 featuring the M2 machine-gun in lowered cradle with new cupola with sighting and internal traverse - elevation controls. --Hunnicutt   Same model, seen from above. --Hunnicutt
     

In August 1962, the assembly line was in full operation with a single shift of over 3600 employees involved. On hand as the first M114 was completed was Plant Manager Clifford D. Dernier, BG Wheeler G. Merriam, Development chief of the Army Material Command and several local politicians. Counting other contacts in force at the Cadillac Plant, the Army had committed $ 99, 000, 000 to GM’s defense efforts. One year later, the Army and GM officials visited the plant again to hail the 1000th unit built, 200 more were programmed for delivery that calendar year.

Production continued at full pace through the following year then, in 1965, began to decrease as the Army expressed no interest in further large scale orders. The lay offs began as Chrysler won the contract to operate the plant and M114 production line went to "slow mode" in anticipation of closing by the end of 1965. A total of 3710 copies were manufactured with an evolution of TC turrets before M114 production ceased. Fielding appears to have begun in 1962-1963 to the armored cavalry regiments and divisional reconnaissance battalions / squadrons.

The Turrets

The pattern later seen with the selection of the M551 gun system first can be traced to the turret and weapons associated with the M114. The Army decided to not buy the two man turret featuring the M85 machine-gun that had survived the design conferences and prototype models as an austerity measure. However, just as the Soviet PT 76, with it’s swim capability, had effectively ended the T 92 program, as the M114 went into production, active consideration and debate was under way as to how to arm the "armored jeep" with consideration to the family of light but well armed Soviet tanks and scout vehicles seen regularly on parade in Moscow.

The Soviet designers had fielded a wide variety of both tracked and wheeled scout vehicles, many with both troop carrying and fighting capabilities, that had virtually no NATO counterparts. The heavy wheeled BTR 60 series, robust BRDM and BMP all initially dated from this period. In the West, only the British seemed interested in scout specific vehicles; as West Germany began their own weapons production in the early 1960s, the first combat vehicles approved were "heavy scout" platforms.

As the M114s progressed down the assembly line, the first 600 or so featured the agreed upon pintle mounted M2 and 30 caliber machine-guns. A minor modification involved the observer’s weapon as the M60 machine-gun entered the Army inventory, the rear pintle mount changed on the M114. Then, at approximately vehicle number 601, the turret was changed to accommodate a new sight and manual traverse and elevation set of controls that would allow the scout commander to engage targets with the M2 with all hatches closed. This vehicle eventually was designated as the M114 A1 model.

Other turret and weapon configurations continued to receive developmental funding and to give the scouts a heavier weapon, a combination of the built under license- Italian designed Hispano Suiza 20mm cannon with a powered turret, was funded, approved for production and retro fitted to previously issued M114A1s. This 20mm cannon had a long and unhappy life in the US Army; seemingly every question at the Armor Board at Fort Knox could be answered in the 1960s by saying, "... well ... lets add the 20mm cannon and see what happens!". Both the M551 and the MBT 70 were evaluated with the H-S cannon bolted to the turret top. It was only with the M114, however, that the weapon actually reached the troops. Once configured with a new powered cupola and cannon, the vehicle was designated as the M114E2 if the original platform had been a low serial number M114 or, as the M114A1E1, if the platform had been first designated as an M114A1.

 

M114A1E1 featuring the H - S 20mm cannon and powered turret, the final design variant. The blank sheet scout vehicle was taking on a greater combat role. --Hunnicutt
 

Hunnicutt, with a wealth of wonderful facts and dates, does not discuss if any of the 20mm equipped M114s were actually produced at the Cadillac Tank Plant or if the work was done as either depot level rebuilds or by field modification teams. Nevertheless, by 1964-1965, the MTO&E for a scout platoon specified four M114s; operating in pairs, the 20mm cannon equipped vehicles provided over watch for the M2 equipped vehicles. The platoon leader was in a jeep or M114, he had an infantry squad and a 4.2 mortar in their respective tracks and three M60 tanks. Through the 1960s and well into the 1970s, cavalry, armor and infantry units saw different vehicle mixes and totals depending on the MTO&E in use.

 
Part 2: ... to the Hands of Troops

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Telling the M114 story for the troopers at Daley Barracks is a somewhat difficult task. We believe the first copies were issued in 1963 with final turn - in ten or eleven years later. Quite simply, not enough troopers from that period have stepped forward with their recollections to adequately flesh out the story. Many areas are unresolved, use of the vehicle on the border, gunnery experiences at WTA and GTA to name just a few. Our only photos of the M114 in service at Daley Barracks date from the mid 1960s. We hope that this article stimulates memories and the desire to share them among members of the 2 - 14 ACR.

As a substitute, MSG ( Ret ) Roy Lingle, LTC ( Ret ) Burnis Allardyce share their recollections of the M114 in the hands of troops. Roy served with a variety of armor and cavalry units in the 1960s and 1970s with several experiences with the M114. Burnis was at Fulda and Bad Hersfeld with the 14th ACR and first days after the re - flag to the Blackhorse. We are convinced that their recollections are comparable to what troopers in Bad Kissingen experienced.

For a wonderful selection of photos of the M114 in use at Bad Hersfeld, please click here.

Making Due ...

Once in wide issue, the M114 exhibited several flaws apparently unnoticed in the design and testing phases. While it was small, stealthy and quick on the roads and level trails, in cross country operations and particularly in difficult terrain, it was decidedly under powered. In later years, when weighed down with the heavier 20mm cannon and ammunition, the marginal performance decreased dramatically. The rubber band track required very careful monitoring, was prone to spinning off the drive if track tension was out of tolerance or simply break in standard operations. Either way, if any speed was involved when track failure occurred, the vehicle would wildly spin out of control. Likewise, the transmission was prone to accidentally switch to "swim - low range" mode from normal "drive" mode. If this happened at 25 mph, the vehicle would violently buck and spin as if driven into a wall.

 
 
I've fallen and I can't get up!! Nosed into a ditch and stuck, the protruding hull and under powered engine ends the day for this scout track. Unable to drive through or back out, all they can do is wait for the tow. --Hunnicutt   Scouts of the 2/14 ACR on maneuver in Germany. --2/14th ACR
     

A workable sleep schedule for a three man crew created problems during FTXs, this was made all the worse if, as was often the case in Germany during the Vietnam War, the crew was short personnel. The 20mm cannon and powered turret worked if maintained but proved to be maintenance headaches for all but the most skilled turret mechanics. The recoil made rapid precision firing very difficult. The nose of the M114 hull extended beyond the drive line of the tracks, this caused the carrier to often "stick" at the bottom ditch. As scouts began to acquire more equipment associated with their missions, the limited carrying space in the hull became apparent.

Some 40 M114s were sent to Vietnam to equip select ARVN units but the vehicle was deemed wholly unsuited to the mission and environment and the experiment ended. For the Army in Germany and the United States, gradually, fixes occurred to the track and transmission problems. The chronic under power problems persisted and of no use in Vietnam, funding for long term improvements was non existent. The program began to "starve" in the final years as without money or supporters, the M114 was tolerated until a interim replacement could be found. By the mid 1970s, the vehicle was being replaced by the reliable if uninspired M113 carrier as debate raged in Washington and Fort Knox over just how to equip future armored cavalry scouts. The M114 "blank sheet" scout specific vehicle had been, at best, a marginal performer.

LTC (Ret) Burnis Allardyce

"I was a platoon leader in I Troop, 3rd Sqdn, 14th ACR in Bad Hersfeld during the first half of 1971. We had 5 M114A1s in a cav platoon at that time. A year or so earlier the M114s had been armed with a M2 cal 50 mg. Sometime in the year before my arrival in the sqdn in July 1970, the M114s were upgunned with a 20mm H - S mounted in an electrical ring mount at the vehicle commanders position. It was quite a improvement in firepower and accuracy over what the sqdn previously had. People were still talking about it when I left 2d platoon, M Troop and moved into a cav platoon in I Troop."

 
 
German kids always fascinated by the American vehicles. --2/14th ACR   On parade in Bad Kissingen. --2/14th ACR
     

"Later, as I Troop XO, I was involved in the 3 x 5 exchange, which brought in the Sheridans. During this period we lost the M60A1s and the M114A1 because it was thought that the M551 could operate in both roles!"

"The M114A1 was a great little scout vehicle in that it had low profile and a good 20mm gun; and if memory serves me correctly, it was relatively quiet. The major problem with this vehicle was that it was under powered and would easily stall when loaded and climbing some of the steep inclines in the backwoods along the IGB. Unfortunately, the 20mm gun and the added weight of it's larger ammunition added to these problems and reduced the number of rounds that we carried. If memory serves me right, I believe that the gas engine for the M114 series vehicles was a General Motors (aka Chevy) 283! I think that if it could have/would have been fitted with a more powerful diesel engine, it could have made a good little scout vehicle. That is what happened a few years earlier with the M113 when it was upgraded from gas to a diesel engine. We still had some ‘gaser’ M113s in the 2nd Armored Division when I left Ft. Hood in December 1969."

"There was a lot of discussion in the Armor community during this time regarding the role of scouts and how they should be employed. There were a number of opinions, with the two most diametrically opposed positions being either;

a) Scouts were supposed to be stealthy, avoid contact with the enemy, but recon to determine the enemy's position and disposition and report . . . . . .

to the opposite extreme . . . . . .

b) Scouts were to fight, delay and determine the enemy's position and disposition without becoming decisively engaged and report.

In the end ( b) won out."

"As I previously mentioned, each cav platoon had 5 M114A-1s in its scout squad. The scout squad consisted of 2 scout sections, each with 2 of these vehicles. The 5th vehicle was TC'ed by the Scout Squad Leader. Dependent on the tactical situation, the platoon leader, who was normally in one of the M60A-1s in the armor section, might move into the scout squad leader's vehicle and lead from there."

 
 
Recovery operations after an M114 snaps its track and spins wildly into a ditch. The TC was killed. --2/14th ACR   "See ' ya guys!!" Down the trail and soon, out of inventory, an M114 from the 2/14 ACR sets off for the day. In a few years, the scouts would be in the reliable M113 and, not much later, the next blank sheet scout vehicle was issued, the new M3 Scout Vehicle. From the armored jeep to the tank killer, the evolution would be complete. --2/14th ACR
     

SFC (Ret) Roy Lingle

"I had a lot of experience with the M114 family of vehicles, both good and bad, in Germany and USA. Here is what I recall."

1st Bn (Light) / 63rd Armor at Ft. Riley, Kansas.

"Those M-114A1s were not bad. They ran good and we had great maintenance support. Moving cross country on the grass covered plains of a Kansas prairie during the dry season was easy. Since the battalion had M-551 Sheridans the battalion commander tried to conduct a water crossing exercise ever time we went out on a FTX. The M-114 was amphibious, but just barely. Due to the short length of the vehicle and the front of the hull sticking out past the sprockets most dry washes would stop us in our tracks. It was hard to get down into many of them and sometimes impossible to get back out without a tow from another vehicle."

"The Scout Platoon lost a TC one night to a dry wash. The vehicle went over the edge in the dark and flipped upside down. During the rainy season, the heavy Kansas mud would put a very heavy strain on the power pack and it seems like we lost a number of engines and transmissions during one late fall FTX due to that mud."

4th Bn (Light)(Airborne)/68th Armor, 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

"Same group of vehicles and people, name changed and relocation to Ft. Bragg. For the first few months the vehicles did OK on the sandy roads running through the pine forests of North Carolina. One time during driver training, I had a new driver that didn't understand my instructions to "half-track" the tank trail as we tried to climb a hill. Passed rains had made the ruts from other tracked vehicles a bit deep. The new guy tired to follow the old ruts and high centered the belly of the vehicle. We had fun digging the sand out from under the hull so the tracks could move us back down the hill."

"Sometime during late 1969 or 1970, one of the mechanics sent in a suggestion for an improvement to the sprocket system. He received a very nice 'thank you' but no thanks. Good idea but the Army was planning on replacing the M-114 as soon as possible and would not be funding any further upgrades to the vehicle. In time, those vehicles started breaking down and it would take forever to get something fixed. I had the feeling that the Army had stopped buying spare parts for the M-114."

1st Bn (Mech) /30th Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, FGR.

"In May 1974, I was assigned to Schweinfurt. That unit had M-114A2s with the M-139 20 mm Hispano-Suiza HS830 auto-cannon. That set of vehicles was in bad shape. At any one time, I guess we may have had five or six of the nine moving under their own power.  Main problem was with mechanics that were not trained on the engine, transmission or the steer gear and long delays for replacement parts. Most field problems turned into broken vehicle recovery training. We had major problems with the XM-27 hydraulic powered turrets due to a lack of turret mechanics in the battalion. If we could not fix a turret problem ourselves, it didn't get fixed. By the time we turned those poor vehicles in during 1976, none of the turrets had power."

"One of the best times I had was when a new hard - charging platoon leader got the bright idea to fire those 20 mm cannons. It was a lot of work to get clearance for a range in the Schweinfurt area to fire them and it didn't help that none of the troopers in the platoon at that time, had ever live fired the cannon! We had heard a number of rumors about problems and dangers and we were not very comfortable with the first few rounds. The more we worked, however, the more we liked it. For a Scout what was one amazing weapon to fire! I had been told the AP-I round might go through the side of a T-62 Soviet tank. I am very glad that I never had the chance to find out. We also learned that the danger of a hang fire was related to the type of warhead the round in the hot chamber had. If it was AP-I, no problem, give it some time and if it cooked off, no problem. If it was HE-I, big problem, it was possible for the warhead to cook off and blow the chamber apart. You had to get that round out fast before it had time to cook or clear the area and hope the vehicle didn't get damaged."

"One other very interesting time was when the battalion commander arranged for two vehicles to go with the division Vulcan batteries for their annual live fire at the Germany Army Todendort antiaircraft range on the Baltic Sea. We spent about ten days there firing at slow, medium, and fast aerial target sleeves. First day or so, we could not hit anything. We started with long bursts (note: I think it was 20 or 25 rounds), dropped back to five rounds short bursts and finally ending up using just single shots."

"The first problem was a bad case of 'rock and roll' ! The recoil from that cannon was too much for the little seven ton M-114 to support. Trying to use long and shorts bursts was a waste of ammo. The best we could do was get one hit on a target sleeve per pass. All the other rounds either passed below or over the target. We found a second problem when we tried the single shot setting. We found that no one could see the tracers through the Plexiglas sight with the speed rings for aerial targets. Between the gas cloud at the end of the muzzle and the Plexiglas sight the gunner could not see where he was firing. Then we tired using Kentucky windage and found we all could get some hits. The trick was to stand up behind the gun cradle and not try to look through the gun sights. That way we could see the tracers and using BOT ( burst on target adjustments ) move rounds onto the target sleeves. Using single shot, the vehicle would almost stop rocking by the time we fired again. A couple of the guys were getting three to five hits on the slow targets, two or three on the mediums and one of two on the fast targets by the time we were done."

"On the last day we found one more problem. Back when we first started trying to use the cannons, we learned that during training conditions it should be cleaned after ever 550 rounds. For the last day, they wanted us to have three or four hundred rounds left so one of the Assistance Division Commanders could see us do our thing. On the day before, my vehicle only fired about two hundred rounds before we reached the amount we had been told to hold for the last day. I figured that we could get away with not breaking the cannon down for cleaning that day. That was a MISTAKE!"

"By the next morning, that gun would not work at all. It was glued together and the bolt would barely move. Those cannons were gas operated and the gun powder residue built up inside the receiver was very heavy. That residue mixed with lots of LSA (oil for weapons) during the night turned into a glue. We had to strip that receiver and do a very fast clean up job. That glue didn't want to come off. Thinking about that event later, I wondered if a Scout crew would have the time to take that weapon apart and clean it so it wouldn't freeze up the next time it was needed if the Warsaw Pact ever came through the Meiningen Gap?!"

"The H - S 20mm cannon may have been a good weapon for a jet fighter plane, but I don't think it would have worked very well down in the dirt of and mud that a Scout worked in. It was hard to understand why the Army was still using the M-114 in the mid and late 1970s. That was the vehicle we were going to use to stop the Warsaw Pack and when asked what I would do if my vehicle broke down, I would respond with ‘ the Warsaw Pact has plenty of vehicles, I will just take one of theirs!’ I guess I was too young to know better at the time. During 1976 we were very happy to turn those poor vehicles in and pickup a set of new M113A1s. Now we could move and keep on moving."

3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Ft. Bliss, Texas

"In 1978, I was happy to go there thinking I would be working with a real Cav unit again and it would be different from scouting for a tank or infantry battalion. I was very surprised to learn that the 3rd Cav was still using M-114A2s! In all the 1st Squadron Cav platoons, the platoon leader and the two scout squad leader vehicles in each platoon still had M-114A2s. The GSR section also had two vehicles for a total of eleven per troop. As far as I know, the 2nd and 3rd Squadrons also had the same set up. Running around in the high desert of Ft. Bliss was a blast as long as the vehicles ran. It was easier to hide, could slip between sand dunes that other vehicles couldn't. The terrain, as long as it was dry, wasn't that much of a problem. The main problem was replacement parts and this was a nightmare. The Regiment had a sister National Guard unit and every time a training team would go visit them, a number of mechanics would tag along. That National Guard unit had just coveted over to M-113s and M-60 MBTs. They were putting M114s that were in better shape out on target ranges than the 3rd Cav was still trying to use. Those mechanics would come back with completed power packs, working steer gears, spare track sections, and endless other small parts. Liberating parts form National Guard ranges to keep active Army vehicles running!"

"During that time, the 3rd ACR was part of the III Corps. One night an III Corps inspection team hit the 3rd ACR with a no notice deployment exercise. B Troop of the 1st Squadron had the alert duty and started pulling everything together and getting ready to move out. We counted heads, inventoried everyone's duffel bags of all required items, moved everyone and all equipment and weapons to the motor pool, fired up all the vehicles and moved over to Biggs Army Airfield. That was new, the 3rd ACR had never moved over to the airfield before."

"Next thing we saw, six Air Force C-141s landing and pulling up near us. Surprise, Surprise! WE WERE GOING SOMEWHERE! That somewhere turned out to be Holloman Air Force base up in New Mexico which is about an hours drive by car from Ft. Bliss. After assembling most of the troop there, we started a road march through White Sands National Monument, White Sands Missile range down into the Donna Anna ranges at the North end of Ft. Bliss. Out of three Cav platoons with ten vehicle each, 29 made it to Holloman. My M-114 lost the engine about two miles into the road march. After I had reached the troop assembly area with two M-113s, each towing an M-114, the troop put all operational vehicles on line and started a zone recon mission."

"We crossed the LD with a total of ten vehicles on line for a troop size mission. Out of eleven M-114A2s, one GSR vehicle was still running. One vehicle was the 1st Sergeant's M-151. There was one M-551A1 Sheridan and the other seven were M-113s. When I left the 3rd ACE in the fall of 1979, the first train load of M-60A1s to replace our old Sheridans had arrived. Rumors were that new M-113A1s where on the way to replace the M-114s. The word at the time was the 3rd ACR was the last unit in the total US Army still using the M-114. The reason given was the 3rd ACR needed two of everything, one item to use at Ft. Bliss and one for the war reserve stocks in Germany."

"When the M-114 was working, I loved that vehicle and thought I could be a good scout. Now days, while thinking back, it was not a very good scout vehicle. It was too small ... try running fast enough to stay out in front of Sheridans or Infantry APCs and it would beat you to a pulp. At top speed it reminded me of the original mechanical bull ride. The tracks did not stick out in front of the hull and it was too easy to bury the front end into a small bank. One thing that I didn't notice during my time with the first two units was the placement of the fuel cell. It was next to the driver and over the first road wheel. After hitting a land mine in Vietnam with a M-113A1 ACAV I felt that hitting a land mine with the left front road wheel would most likely result in the driver and TC getting burned to death if the mine didn't kill them outright."

"Firepower, that 20 mm auto cannon was something else, but it was too much for the hull of the M-114. Look at the Vulcan AAA version of the M-113. That hull had a suspension lock out system to keep the hull for rocking while the M-61 Gatling gun is firing. There wasn't room in a M-114A2 hull for something like that. I think that cannon would have only been good for single shot sniping missions. Auto fire would have just been a waste of ammo, something else that the hull didn't have a lot of room for. I also think the tool kit needed to support that cannon was a possible weak point. I forget the number of tools in that kit, but I remember that when tearing down the receiver, you could get away with not using one tool, but when it came to putting it all back together, you needed each and ever tool. One lost or damaged tool and another scout vehicle had better be close by."

"I guess the M114 vehicle was Ok but I was amazed when the Army decided to stop supporting that vehicle sometime during the late 1960s, long before it was finally replaced in the active inventory in the end of the 1970s. It was very hard on my morale and very difficult to explain to young scouts why we had such a vehicle after hearing Commanders stand up in front of the unit and tell us, we were the best, we had the best equipment, and we were the point of the spear of the next war. I was glad I never had to go to combat with that vehicle."

 
M114: ... then scattered to their fate.

Return

 

As late as 1979, the US Army was still washing the M114 out of active inventory. The much anticipated Cavalry Fighting Vehicle was in an endless design and test phase, the M113 would serve as the interim scout vehicle. With so many M114s produced, where did they go?

         
 

  Not a few M114s found their way into vehicle museums and onto hard-stands in front of American Legion and VFW buildings.  The vehicle shown here has been fully restored and is currently on display at the Fort Jackson, SC museum.  Either click on the picture or click here to view the other shots of this vehicle.  [All shots taken by Randy Mitchell]  
         

Very little remained of the M114 heritage at Daley Barracks in 1978, except for one often found motor pool artifact. Seemingly every shop and tool truck had several 20mm ammunition boxes recycled into general storage. They were just the right size with convenient handles to live on as holders of "stuff". Elsewhere, beyond the stories of my NCOs, an M114 lived on at the small rec services ski slope at Wildflecken Post. It groomed the slopes and provided snow - cat rescue and maintenance services, probably the last runner in Germany. Stateside seemingly every CONUS post had at least one on a concrete pedestal as a static display. At Fort Polk, the M114 display was hidden away at the very far end of the main avenue, tucked against the fence, no plaque, overgrown with weeds.

At Fort Knox, as with the out of inventory M551s, the M114 was recycled through many test versions, new tracks, new engines, hull and weapon changes. Manufacturers would buff a design up, fresh paint and a fresh concept, and run it before the Armor Board. With passive interest, the comment, "... well, that’s interesting ... what else do you have?".

Apparently some M114s were released to Foreign Sales programs but perhaps its reputation preceded it and the total number seems to be in the low 100s. As expected, the Reserve and National Guard received their share, however, with Federal money pulled out of the repair parts program, the service life of the vehicle was destined to be short. However, once in the hands of the states, many 114s found new life, minus the 20mm cannon, in police blue, the ultimate crowd control toy - urban "attention getter . Many others found their way to local scrap yards and, interestingly, into the hands of private citizens.

The vast majority of the M114s appear to have met their final fate down range as targets for young US Army gunners.  An odd scene on the firing line, tankers and scouts ranging to that small target and taking the final sight picture just as a Soviet gunner would have done.  Not moving and caught in the open, it did not take long to shoot up what remained of the fleet.

BG (Ret) Mike O’Connell

"I recall having the final versions of the M114 when I commanded the squadron at Daley and then we re - flagged to the Blackhorse.  They ran OK, I don't think we had significant problems. My more vivid memory comes a few years later."

"As a Bde Cdr in the 1CAV Div, the BDE + a Bn from the 2dAD + a beefed up DISCOM slice was deployed to Fort Irwin from Aug to Dec 1976 . The purpose of this effort was to conduct the initial test of the National Training Center concept. A Congressman McKeown (?) from NY wanted to make Ft Drum the site for the National Training Center while FORSCOM and the DA staff were set on Ft Irwin."

"Before deciding on a final location they wanted to test the concept. There was agreement on the basic need but what should a BDE do while there on a rotation?? They also wanted to test drawing equipment upon arrival - training with it and then final turn in and all that associated stuff. In this case the tanks were from the Calif NG. We deployed most of our other equip."

"We did an entire series of various exercises from force on force ARTEPs to live fire PLT Battle Runs. The hard targets we used for these battle runs and our other live fire shoots were M114s. These were not just hulls but regular vehicles that had been turned in and placed in storage somewhere. They had engines in them, radios, tracks everything. I recall getting in a tank and blasting the hell out of a couple of those 114s and was happy to do so! After seeing what that old M60 did to a 114 I was glad I never had to fight one of the damn things. I was hoping we would have had some Sheridans to shoot at but no such luck."

M114 Reconsidered

Just how much saber and how much stealth, wheels or tracks, small crew or large crew, tank killer or sneak and peek? These are the questions debated through over forty years of US Army scout vehicle development. The M114 was designed to be an " armored jeep ", scouts would be more mobile and have greater survivability in a small tracked vehicle. It could be bought on a budget and, using off the shelf technology, operated and maintained by a small crew. However, between the first mock up and the first production copy, the program illustrates how compromises, a less than rigorous testing program and "add- ons" can turn an interesting design into a marginal performer. It now seems amazing that the hull-nose issue and the engine performance problems were missed prior to production.

A larger gas engine would have helped solve the chronic power issues, the transmission, running gear issues, and front hull design flaw should have been identified in pre-production testing. Somehow, none of this occurred. The power turret and 20mm cannon, interesting developments in their own right, were not a good match for the M114. Under the added weight, performance was further decreased, the cannon was not a strong performer particularly in rapid fire. In a fight, it could hold its own against Soviet lead echelon scouts and infantry carriers, it could not kill a tank and required a lot of crew maintenance. In Vietnam, that so dominated Army thinking and procurement in the 1960s, the M114 had absolutely no value.

Years later, as the M114 began to wash out of the inventory and consideration was given to fresh designs, civilians, bureaucrats and the active Army looked at hundreds of concepts and mockups in a seemingly never ending first stage competition to identify what would replace the M114 and M113 as the Army’s scout vehicle. For a while, wheels were in vogue, then M113 variants, then blank sheet designs. Everyone knew the M113 was an interim step to buy time but a major decision needed to be made.

Perhaps at Fort Knox, for the men who would make the recommendations, senior grade officers, NCOs and civil servants, coming to work every day past an M114 display on a concrete pad served as a not too subtle reminder. Each day driving in and each night driving home, one could not help but see and consider a concept, design and production scout vehicle that had clearly not worked. The first thought and the final thought of the duty day, "... we must avoid making this mistake a second time ...".

The Army’s new scout vehicle would be big, fast and lethal; there would be much more saber and much less stealth. The legacy of the M114 is of good ideas gone bad and as a silent reminder of what was to be avoided in the future.

 


 


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