24 images of the highly successful M18 Hellcat tank destroyer

Jesse Beckett
Pablo Fernicola CC BY-SA 2.0


The life of the M18 Hellcat began when Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Davis Bruce was looking for a new armored fighting vehicle suitable to form the backbone of his Tank Destroyer Force, as at the time he wasn’t exactly satisfied with the M10 Tank Destroyer.

It was too heavy, too slow, too big. Bruce didn’t want a lumbering large vehicle, he wanted a light, fast tank with powerful weaponry.

He was shown a new prototype tank destroyer, the M18 Hellcat – one of the fastest American tanks ever made.

The M18 was capable of achieving speeds of over 55 mph. This was a result of carrying the bare minimum of armor, which at its thickest was only 25 mm. It used the same Wright R975 radial engine as the Sherman tank, but weighed around 12 tonnes less. It was equipped with the 76 mm M1 gun, the same used on later variants of the Sherman, a gun capable of semi-consistently harming heavier German tanks.

The Hellcat was lighter, smaller, faster and more comfortable than the Sherman, but carried the same gun (usually better). Bruce was pleased, for this met his requirements.

Production began in 1943 where it served mostly in Europe. However it did also see action in the Pacific in the Philippines and Okinawa.

Its first combat was in Anzio. From here successfully fought through the Italian campaign.

It is most remembered for its action in the Battle of the Bulge. Here Hellcats engaged in hit an run tactics against enemy armor, taking advantage the Hellcats speed, and the German tanks slow turret traverse and manoeuvrability. Its versatility meant it could flank and penetrate the German tank’s side armor from up to 3,000 ft away.

The M18 Hellcat was however a very vulnerable tank. Its very thin armor was no match for any anti tank weaponry. Also, the turret was open topped, offering great visibility, but left the crew dangerously exposed to small arms fire, shrapnel and grenades.

Regardless of these shortcomings, the Hellcat became the most effective US tank of World War Two, by having a higher kill-to-loss ratio than any other US tank or tank destroyer.

The vehicle continued to see combat after WWII in Korea, although it was relegated to more utility roles. The M39 Armored Utility Vehicle was an armored personnel and cargo vehicle.

R975 Continental Radial Engine, 973 cu. in. 9 Cylinder air-cooled & 4 speed Torqmatic Transmission
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
Jeep and Hellcat of the 8th Armored Division at Rheinberg 6 March 1945

 

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

 

Destroyed M18 and halftrack
Destroyed M18 and halftrack

 

M18 of the 805th Tank Destroyer Battalion – engine maintenance
M18 of the 805th Tank Destroyer Battalion – engine maintenance

 

M18 of the 827th Tank Destroyer Battalion 1944
M18 of the 827th Tank Destroyer Battalion 1944

 

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

 

 

M18 Hellcat in action in Firenzuola Italy 1945
M18 Hellcat in action in Firenzuola Italy 1945

 

Looks like an early model
Looks like an early model

 

M18 Gun Motor Carriage
M18 Gun Motor Carriage

 

76 mm Gun Motor Carriage M18 Hellcat in action
76 mm Gun Motor Carriage M18 Hellcat in action

 

M1A1 Anti – Tank Mines
M1A1 Anti – Tank Mines

 

The M18 Hellcat was one of the most successful tank destroyers of World War 2
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.
In April 1943 the General Motors company produced the first prototypes.

 

The Hellcat has negligible armor
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.
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
The tank destroyer became the fastest armored vehicle, of this type, of World War

 

Hellcat in Luzon, April 1945
Hellcat in Luzon, April 1945

 

M18 Hellcat was a very effective tank desytroyer.
M18 Hellcat was a very effective tank desytroyer.

 

Hellcat in Italy, 1944
Hellcat in Italy, 1944

 

$55,230 production cost
$55,230 production cost

 

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

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