M42 Duster (Family)
The M42 "Duster", officially designated M42 40 mm Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun.
During late World War II and the Korean War, the US Army were using the Twin Gun Motor Carriage M19 as their main armoured forces anti-aircraft gun. However, during the Korean War, the US Army decides to phase out their M24 Chaffees and its variants, M19 included, in order to implement newer designs made in the time period. One of these newer designs was the development of the M41 Walker Bulldog light tank. The 40 mm armament on the M19 was deemed effective enough to continue usage past the M19, so the turret of the M19 with the twin 40 mm cannons was taken off the chassis and modified to fit the chassis of the M41 light tank, which had a larger turret ring than the M24 Chaffee. This instalment of the anti-aircraft armament onto the M41 light tank was designated as the M42. The production of the vehicle began in early 1952 at the General Motors Cleveland Tank Plant and entered service in 1953, replacing the many other self-propelled anti-aircraft vehicles the army was fielding. Production continued from 1952 to December 1959, ending with a total number of 3,700 units. During the production, the M42 was upgraded in 1956 with a new engine and other upgrades common with the M41 light tank, this upgraded variant was the M42A1.
The M42 was kept in US inventory past the Korean War, however, it was sometime between then and the 1960s that the US Army came to the conclusion that ordinary anti-aircraft guns are unable to engage the new aircraft age of jets. Thus, the M42 was to be retired in 1963 and replaced by the HAWK surface-to-air missile. Though, even after their retirement, the units stationed at the Panama Canal Zone kept their M42s until the 1970s.
Then in the 1960s, with the intensity of the Vietnam War brewing up, more American soldiers get stationed in the country. Experiences with the missile showed that the HAWK missile system suppose to engage the new jet planes performed badly in low-altitude defence. In order to ensure a tight grip on the airspace, the Army began to reissue the M42s to the Army in the air defence artillery battalions which contain four M42 batteries and one headquarters battery. These M42s start arriving in the fall of 1966 in three battalions, 1/44th, 5/2nd, and the 4/60th Battalions. Though, despite their role, no dire air threat was presented from the North Vietnamese to the South, so the M42s were relegated to ground support duties in a tradition shared by its past predecessors. The M42s in this role was deployed as on-point security, convoy escorts, or a perimeter defence; it was in these roles that the M42 earned its nickname "Duster" for its lethality and effectiveness in ground support roles against the infantry.
After Vietnam, the M42 Dusters-equipped battalions were deactivated in late December 1971. These Dusters still in Vietnam were given to the ARVN forces. Training dusters at Fort Bliss were given back to the National Guard it was originally issued to, and multiple National Guard units were stationed with the M42 until it was officially retired in 1988, with the last unit retiring it be 2nd Battalion, 263 Air Defense Artillery.
The M42 self-propelled 40 mm anti-air mount built by General Motors (GM). It was based on the M41 light tank and was intended to replace the M19 self-propelled anti-air mount. The unofficial name "Duster" was also used for this installation. A total of 3,700 M42's were produced between 1951 and 1959.