(Inspired by Was the Wehrmacht a motorized army?)

In World War II, during the American invasions of France and Germany, to what degree was the US army motorized and/or mechanized? My impression is that the supply chain was mostly motorized, but I don't know to what degree the front-line troops were motorized, mechanized, or on foot.

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2 Answers 2


I can find no evidence of mechanized infantry divisions in the U.S. order of battle for World War two. This is what I expected. Armoured personnel carriers were new and expensive throughout World War Two, and for all nations their use was generally limited to the (third) infantry regiment of armoured divisions, and to the reconnaissance and heavy weapons support platoons and companies of other divisions.

The U.S. Army officially designated just five divisions as motorized infantry in World War Two, and only for the period 1942-3 (The 5th was a phantom, part of USFAG for the D-Day deception):

However, I am unable to determine the extent to which these units were truly motorized. Typically they would have been assigned to Armoured Corps, where their extra mobility would be most useful.

There were also three light division, designated respectively as Alpine (the 10th), (mule-)Pack (the 71st), and Truck (the 89th). The last appears to have been a fully motorized division, but deployed to Le Havre only on 21 January, 1945 and saw only relatively light action. It did participate in the overrun of Buchenwald on 4 April 1945.

The remainder of U.S. Army infantry divisions, excepting mountain and airborne, were foot-transported. However, note that the mobility of a foot-transported divisions is more commonly limited by its logistics than by walking pace; in this all U.S. Army divisions were supplied with plentiful trucks for transport of headquarters units, artillery, supplies, and the rest of the tail.

Where the German Army relied on horse-drawn logistical support for the entire war, most likely due to the extreme scarcity of valuable gasoline and diesel fuel, the Allied armies were much more mobile due to being able to relocate support troops, supplies and headquarters units forward much more quickly. This can be seen in the speed of the Allied advance across France after Avranches and Falais.

In closing, recall the vast number of landing craft that the Allies, and particularly the U.S., employed throughout World War Two in both major theatres. These are, in essence, floating Armoured Personnel Carriers. The use of precious production capacity in their manufacture instead of simpler tracked APC's seems, to me, eminently reasonable.


I would argue that both the US and Germany where mechanized, rather both had mechanized components; while only the US was entirely motorized. The US “horse” in WWII was the JEEP.

Russia, 1941. SS Cavalry Brigade enter image description here The German army was not motorized. In Poland, France and Russia the German army was dependent on horses to carry supplies and even troops to the front. The German Army entered World War II with 514,000 horses, and over the course of the war employed, in total, 2.75 million horses and mules; the average number of horses in the Army reached 1.1 million.

In 1939 the United States Cavalry consisted of two mechanized and twelve horse regiments of 790 horses each. However by 1942 The United States entered WWII as a fully motorized force. As World War II progressed, most major armies integrated tanks or assault guns with mechanized infantry, as well as other supporting arms, such as artillery and engineers, as combined arms units. The US produced about a half dozen armored personnel carriers totaling about 70,000 vehicles throughout the war(see below). These included the M2 Half Track Car (13,500), M3 Halftrack (41,000), M8 Greyhound (11,667), M20 Armored Utility Car (3,680) and the M9 Half Track Car (3,500).

Total production of the M3 ran to nearly 41,000 vehicles.To supply the Allied nations International Harvester produced several thousand of a very similar vehicle, the M5 Half-track for Lend-Lease. It was used by the US, Britain, and the Soviet Union through out the war. Variants included Armored personnel carriers, self propelled guns, mobil Anti-aircraft units, and 40 mm. 50 mm carriers.

Total production of M2 and derivatives was about 13,500 units. To meet the needs of Lend-Lease to the Allies, the International Harvester Company produced 3,500 units of the M9.

The US Also produced about 11,000 M8 Greyhound Armored Cars M20 Armored Utility Cars (3,680),

U.S. M3 halftracks and infantry on exercises, Fort Knox, June 1942 enter image description here
Kangaroo APC carrying British infantry, 1945 enter image description here

The US armored infantry was fully equipped with M2 and M3 halftracks. In the British and Commonwealth armies, "Type A armoured brigades," intended for independent operations or to form part of armored divisions, had a "motor infantry" battalion mounted in Bren Carriers or later in lend-lease halftracks.

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    Discount the M5, as it was almost exclusively a Lend Lease vehicle. Peak usage in 1945 could not have been more than 2/3 of total production figures (probably more like half, but assume the larger figure), giving: ~8,000 M8 reconnaissance vehicles (crew of 4, 0 passengers); ~9,000 M2 (7 passengers); and ~28,000 M3 (12 passengers). That is a maximum peak carrying capacity of 63,000 + 338,000 = 400,000 total passengers. However we haven't allowed for perhaps half of those being heavy weapons teams, artillery crews, and reconnaissance teams. That leaves transport for only ~200,000 G.I.'s. ... Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 2:56
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    ... And that is not much more than needed for the 3rd (mechanized) regiments of all armoured divisions, with little left over for mechanized infantry divisions. Nice pictures though. Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 2:57
  • I did mention that theM5 was mostly for lend lease and did not count 7,500 produced in my total of ~70,000 armored personnel carriers produced by the US.
    – user27618
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 16:21
  • Also about the "roughly half which would be used for miscellaneous heavy weapons", we should not discount those because this question was about motorized and mechanized and it is both personal carriers and miscellaneous vehicles which turn divisions mechanized. and 70,000 armored support vehicles to go with 50,000 M4 Shermans, again only 20,000 ended up in the US army.. and of course the M4 frame had many variants some were also used as miscellaneous support vehicles.
    – user27618
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 16:32
  • The premise that armored support vehicles were rare among US forces is not accurate.
    – user27618
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 16:34

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