M8 Greyhound

This light armored car saw extensive use across Europe in World War II, mainly with reconnaissance and cavalry units.

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After the jump, a brief look at the M8 Greyhound.

Every combatant in World War II used armored cars.  The horsepower and drive train complexity required for a true tank was a major problem.  So every country deployed a number of car or truck based light armored vehicles for reconnaissance and communication type duties.

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Firepower is a 37 mm gun in the turret with co-axial .30 caliber mg.  The commanders .50 was an optional, but very popular add on.

Firepower is a 37 mm gun in the turret with co-axial .30 caliber mg. The commanders .50 was an optional, but very popular add on.

The M8 was based on a 4 x 6 Ford truck.  That gave it good speed, range and reliability; but with very limited off road capability.  When it was designed in 1942 it was felt the 37 mm main gun would add a significant anti-tank ability too.  But by the time Greyhounds entered service in 1943 it was obvious the main gun was very light. It was really only effective when tangling with similar enemy recon units.  Although apparently one M8 did destroy a Tiger during the Battle of the Bulge when it was able to get off three shots in the rear from a well laid ambush (I have to imagine the pucker factor was very high on that!).

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The real strength of this vehicle was in its road speed and good radios. According Henry Yeide in his book “Steeds of Steel”, American cavalry units were not enthused with the M8 during their training in the American West.  They operated a mix of Greyhounds and M3 Stuart Light Tanks and felt the Stuart was far more versatile and useful, especially when off road service was required.  But after deploying to Europe they quickly reversed their evaluation of the types.  With a well developed road network already in place, they found the M8 could out pace the tanks by a wide margin.  In the Pacific, the Greyhound was only used in the Philippines and Okinawa which had good road systems.  The long term verdict has been very positive; as far as I know, this is the only World War II combat vehicle still in service in its designed role (notably with the Colombian military).

The open turret top is common on armored cars and other light units.  Its obviously a mixed blessing; it aids situational awareness and communication, but is a vulnerability, especially in urban settings.

The open turret top is common on armored cars and other light units. Its obviously a mixed blessing; it aids situational awareness and communication, but is a vulnerability, especially in urban settings.

This is the Tamiya kit and represents an M8 serving in France, 1944.

The M8 is not a large vehicle!  But I like its lines, its attractive looking AFV.

The M8 is not a large vehicle! But I like its lines, its attractive looking AFV.

Up Next: Republic P-47D Thunderbolt   

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About atcDave

I'm 53 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 30 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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16 Responses to M8 Greyhound

  1. Ernie Davis says:

    Interesting subject. I’ve done one in 35th scale. These armored cars had another advantageous feature, they ran relatively quiet so were often hard for enemy troops to detect until it was too late.

    You also mentioned the radio which is an interesting topic for the US in WW2. American tanks and other vehicles were equipped with FM sets as opposed to many other nations AM radios (or in the case of Russia and France at the start of the war, lack of radios). While the Germans were once again the originator of coordination and rapid communications via forces having nearly universal access to radio sets, it was another area where they were quickly surpassed by the allies and the Americans in particular.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah I’d read about how quiet the M8 was, definitely a huge edge for a light recon vehicle!
      I’ll also eventually get to an M20, the same thing without the turret. I guess it was meant to provide supplies for the various small recon groups, but as an armored box it wasn’t actually all that useful for carrying anything!

      I’ve read where most German tanks were receiver only, at least early in the war. I’m not sure when (if?) they made the switch to full radio sets in all tanks? But yeah it was that ability to coordinate on the move that was a big part of blitzkrieg. And it was something we were eventually much better at.
      We also added an external phone mount on most armor, so ground troops could talk to the crew on a completely secure line. Yankee ingenuity.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I’d almost forgotten about the phone on the exterior of the tanks. Good point. Infantry could often site targets that tanks might miss with their limited visibility.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        As an aside on the M 20 I’ve read that the Germans absolutely hated the 50 cal machine-gun. It went through trees, buildings, vehicles … it was awful hard to take cover from unless you had a pre-made hole in the ground. The weight however made it almost impossible to use as an infantry weapon except in prepared defenses. There was a reason that almost any vehicle capable of carrying one did.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah the American 50 cal, the M2, was an incredible weapon. Several other countries had guns of that size; but the muzzle velocity, rate of fire, and reliability were all tops in the M2. We often sell short American hardware and usage, the .50 is a great example of the error in that.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Yeah, the M2 could basically turn any axis armored car in to Swiss cheese at several hundred yards. The same was not true of their armaments and armored cars.

      • atcDave says:

        The Thunderbolt with eight .50s could take out heavy armor. Either from the rear, or with ricochets into the belly, even a Tiger was vulnerable.
        Mitchell’s with twelve .50s were known to have sunk ships.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Yeah, I was referring to conventional ammunition, the armor piercing rounds the planes were armed with were even more devastating.

      • atcDave says:

        Definitely an impressive weapon either way!

  2. John says:

    The M2 is still in service, a remarkable span of continuous use. It was invented in 1921.

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