Yukon resident looks to educate youth on veterans with World War II vehicle

Since he was a young boy, Russ Huffman has loved military vehicles. Sunday, he was able to share his newly purchased M3 Halftrack tank with others in Canadian County who took part in the Veterans Day Parade in El Reno.

Huffman, of Yukon, purchased the M3 Halftrack in late September and had it delivered Oct. 8. It is the only running M3 Halftrack in Oklahoma. There are others, but they don’t operate.

The M3 Halftrack tank primarily was used as an armored personnel carrier for the U.S. Infantry in World War II.

Huffman, 43, has lived in Yukon for the past two-and-a-half years. He serves as a civilian at Tinker Air Force Base in Midwest City as a member of the software maintenance group.

Huffman, a native of Kentucky, has worked around the United States military for several years. He said he wants young people in this country to have a better understanding and appreciation of U.S. Military veterans.

“I have two grandfathers that served in World War II. One served in the Navy and the other in the Army Air Corps. My uncle back in Lexington (Kentucky, has been restoring WWII vehicles for the past 30 years. I was able to help him growing up and I loved it from the start.”

Huffman is a member of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association and said he looks forward to taking his M3 Halftrack around to help educate young people on what the veterans did for this country.

“A lot of men and women died for the freedoms we get to enjoy. I love veterans, I wish I could give all of them hugs and thank them for their service. My plan is to take the Halftrack around to different car shows and let people get to see it and take pictures with it. People need to understand that freedom wasn’t free.”

Huffman said one of the coolest experiences is getting to see veterans reconnect with their vehicles from their days in war.

“The war vehicles are really cool. These veterans have connections with these vehicles. These tanks were not just vehicles during the way, they were homes to these men and women and they kept them alive. It’s like watching them reunite with an old friend. It’s incredible to watch. Most civilians don’t understand that kind of connection.”

Huffman said getting to talk with veterans is an experience he values.

“To get a chance to meet men and women that have served is incredible. If you’re lucky, they’ll open up and share some of their experiences. We have a tendency right now to get complacent and I think we sometimes need a reminder of just what these veterans did for us and I hope I can provide that with this Halftrack.”

Huffman said there were three main reasons he purchased the M3 Halftrack that was built in 1941.

“First, I want to help educate children, go to care shows and let people get to experience it. Second, I just think it’s a really cool vehicle. It’s the coolest vehicle I have ever seen and third and most important, I love veterans and taking this around to different shows and parades and let veterans get to reconnect with an old military vehicle is a great honor. They deserve our appreciation and recognition.”

 

Facts about the M3 Halftrack tank:

Army war planners soon realized that as big and powerful as tanks were, they were easily destroyed without infantry support. Therefore the M3 Halftrack was designed as an armored personnel carrier for the US infantry in WWII.

It has a quarter of an inch thick armor all around the vehicle, which was meant to protect the crew from small arms fire. Along with hauling infantry on, off and around the battlefield, the halftrack was also a prime mover. This meant that it hauled a lot of trailers full of supplies (clothes, food, medical, firearms, ammunition, etc.) and it also hauled towed artillery. The M3 Halftrack was typically equipped with one 50-caliber and two 30-caliber machine guns. Since the M3 Halftrack was armored it was also used as an ambulance for the battlefield, as a communications vehicle, and as a command vehicle. The M3 Halftrack served in all three of the theatres of WWII; European, African, and Pacific.

There were three manufacturers of the M3 Halftrack; White, Autocar, and Diamond T. In total these three companies produced 9,363 M3 Halftracks between 1941-1943. The one I have was manufactured in 1941 by the Autocar Company and is only 1 of 1,680 M3 Halftracks produced by that company. The M3 Halftrack can hold 1 driver plus 12 crew. Top speed of the halftrack is 45 miles per hour. Unlike tanks, the tracks for the U.S. Halftrack are rubber not metal. Empty weight of the M3 Halftrack is around 14,000 pounds (7 tons).

The halftrack is a very iconic vehicle or symbol of the American involvement in WWII. It has been said that no image of the American military effort in WWII is complete without the appearance of the M3 Halftrack vehicle. Therefore, it has been in about every WWII movie such as Band of Brothers, Fury, A Bridge Too Far, Battle of the Bulge, and many more.

Yukon resident Russ Huffman drives his M3 Halftrack Sunday in the Veteran’s Day Parade in El Reno. The vehicle is the only running Halftrack in Oklahoma. Photo/Glen Miller

 

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