Stunning Color Photos of WWII Tank Crews of U.S. in Training at Fort Knox

In the summer of 1940, the United States Army prepared for World War II by creating the Armored Force and headquartering it at Fort Knox. The department was responsible for developing armored formations, doctrine, and training for using armored vehicles. Thousands of citizen soldiers were ordered to Fort Knox and introduced to the tank under the Selective Service system. To support these troops, the post had to undergo a massive building boom and acquire land.

Alfred T. Palmer, an Office of War Information photographer, visited Fort Knox in 1942 and took these incredible pictures of tank crews in training. At least four different variants of two types of tanks are depicted in these photos, some of which lack weapons and are thrown together for the photographer.

The M4 Sherman was just being produced in February 1942, and the Army was preparing to send its new M4A1 Sherman tanks to North Africa to replace British tanks lost in the Western Desert around the time these photos were taken. The photo shows the majority of the U.S. Army’s medium tanks, mainly the Lee M3 tanks, but they were essentially 1939 technology, developed as a stopgap for mass production. In the initial battles against German tanks in North Africa, the M4 and M4A1 Shermans shown here did well. Still, instead of further developing ever more powerful guns and thicker armor, the Army concentrated on production, believing that development could wait. The Sherman certainly couldn’t do so. Although it wasn’t a death trap as some feared, especially after modifications, the failure to continuously improve and refine the design led to Allied deaths. At the time, the Army’s most common tank was the M3 Stuart, a good design but already dated.

Camp Knox was used as a training site for the mechanized cavalry in 1931. Fort Knox was renamed Fort Knox in 1932 after the camp became a permanent garrison. The 1st Cavalry Regiment (Mechanized) arrived later in the month. In 1936, the 1st and 13th became the 7th Cavalry Brigade (Mechanized). Mechanization tactics and doctrine were developed quickly at the site. Operation at the fort was boosted by the success of German mechanized units at the start of World War II. In July 1940, a new Armored Force was established at Fort Knox, with the 7th Cavalry Brigade becoming the 1st Armored Division. By 1943, there were 3,820 buildings on 106,861 acres.

#4 An infantryman crouches beside a half-track with an M1 Garand.

#6 An M3 Stuart light tank drives through a water obstacle.

#8 An infantryman aims an M1 Garand from inside a half-track.

#12 An infantryman takes aim with a Browning machine gun.

#17 A construction worker helps build a new power line into the rapidly growing installation.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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