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Rifle, Self Propelled, Full Tracked, Multiple 106mm M50 and M50A1

The Ontos is a lightly-armored, tracked antitank vehicle carrying six 106mm recoilless rifles. Its full nomenclature is "Rifle, Self Propelled, Full Tracked, Multiple 106mm M50 and M50A1." Both the M-50 and M-50A1 variants were produced for the U.S. Marine Corps. The word Ontos comes from Greek, meaning "the thing."

The first combat use of the Ontos was in the summer of 1958 during a Marine Corps intervention in Lebanon. Ontos provided suppressive fire and counter-sniper fire in urban areas, a rehearsal for tactics later used in Vietnam.

Ontos was used very effectively in Vietnam. Its light weight and maneuverability made it available for combat in situations where tanks and other guns could not operate. During the March 1968 Battle of Hue, part of the Tet Offensive, the USMC Ontos provided direct fire to suppress enemy positions and to blow holes in the buildings so the Marines could advance. They were also extremely useful for providing suppressive fire and as counter-sniper weapons.

Ontos was disliked by its crews because they had to load and fire the recoilless rifles from an exterior, exposed position. The massive backblast also made it easy for enemy gunners to locate the Ontos.

The Ontos was deactivated by the USMC in May 1969 but some serviceable vehicles were transferred to a US Army Light Infantry Brigade where they were used for approximately one year. Civilian agencies of the US Government received a few de-mil Ontos, using them as forestry or construction vehicles. A small number were sold to collectors and museums (or transferred to service museums) where they have been preserved.

Find additional photos and hi-res versions of the M-50 Ontos at the Olive-Drab Military Mashup:

M50 Ontos recoilless rifle tank destroyer, Vietnam.
USMC M-109 Truck, Van, 6x6, Shop (M35/M44 series 2 1/2-ton truck) on display at the Museum of the Marine book fair and living history display at Barnes and Noble, near Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune, Jacksonville, NC, 21 May 2011.  On the towed trailer is a Rifle, Self Propelled, Full Tracked, Multiple 106mm M50 (Ontos).
M50 Ontos and its crew of two Marines, accompanying 1st and 2d Battalion, 7th Marines during Operation Franklin, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam, June 1966. Nomenclature:  Rifle, Self Propelled, Full Tracked, Multiple 106mm M50 or M50A1.
USMC M-50 Ontos, with Beirut, Lebanon in background, circa July 1958.
M50 Ontos firing at snipers along the urban streets of Hue during the Battle of Hue City, February 1968.
USMC M50A1 Ontos (the Thing) in Vietnam.

M-50 Ontos manuals:

  • TM 9-7222 Technical Manual, June 1957
  • TM 9-2350-212-12 Operator's and Organizational Maintenance Manual, December 1959
  • TM 9-2350-212-35 Ordnance Field and Depot Maintenance, September 1958

M50 Ontos Photos Gallery

M-50 Ontos
M-50 Ontos.

Ontos on Chu Lai beach, Vietnam, 1 June 1965.  Photo taken shortly after descending from landing craft aboard the USS Thomaston (LSD 28)
Ontos on Chu Lai beach, Vietnam, 1 June 1965. Photo taken shortly after descending from landing craft aboard the USS Thomaston (LSD 28).

USMC M-50 Ontos.  One 106mm round is on the front slope
USMC M-50 Ontos. One 106mm round is on the front slope.

M-50 Ontos
M-50 Ontos.

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