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M-551 Sheridan Light Tank

The M-551 Sheridan Light Tank (also called M551 General Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle) was adopted in 1965-66, served a three-year combat tour in Vietnam, and was employed by U.S. Cavalry units in Germany and Korea for nine years, remaining in Army inventory for a total of 27 years.

The M551 Sheridan had a spotty development history, characterized by difficulties with the complex electronics gear associated with its antitank missile system and problems with the combustible cases for its main gun rounds. The Shillelagh missile system was not a problem in Vietnam (since it was not used) but the combustible case gave persistent trouble.

The Sheridan was not popular in Vietnam -- it was suspected of being highly vulnerable to mines and rocket propelled grenades and could not break through jungle like the M48A3 Patton Tank. In later years, Sheridans served in operations such as Just Cause and were used as OPFOR at the National Training Center (top photo).

M551 Sheridan tank takes a simulated hit, National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA
M551 Sheridan tank takes a simulated hit, National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA.

Today in WW II: 20 Aug 1939 Battle of Khalkhin Gol: Soviet Gen. Zhukov decisively defeats Japanese Imperial Army forces in the Japanese-Soviet border war in Inner Mongolia [20-31 Aug].  More 
20 Aug 1940 Winston Churchill refers to the valiant RAF pilots defending Britain: 'Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few'.
20 Aug 1944 168 captured allied airmen arrive at Buchenwald concentration camp, accused of being 'terror fliers' rather than legitimate combatants.
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M-551 Sheridan Light Tank

The M-551 Sheridan was designed as an antitank weapon for airborne forces. The M-551 Sheridan was sent to Vietnam stripped of its Shillelagh primary antitank missile equipment. Its armament consisted of:

Find additional photos and hi-res versions of the M-551 Sheridan Light Tank at the Olive-Drab Military Mashup:

M551 Sheridan tank fires Shillelagh missile.
Operating as Opposing Forces at the National Training Center, Ft. Irwin, CA, an infantryman fires a rifle from the turret of an M551 Sheridan light tank (with a 75 mm automatic cannon), 20 March 1984. The tank has been altered to appear Russian. The soldiers, wearing Russian uniforms, are armed with an AK47 rifle and an RPG portable rocket launcher.
CH54B Flying Crane (Tarrhe) with an M551 Sheridan rigged for external carry.
The M551 General Sheridan light tank, with dual firepower capability, the Shillelagh guided missile and a 155mm gun.  US Army photo circa 1976.
(Left to Right): M-48 Patton main battle tank, an M-551 Sheridan reconnaissance vehicle, an M-47 Patton medium tank and a UH-1 Iroquois helicopter, U.S. Army Armor Center, Fort Knox, KY, 9 March 1989.
XM551 pilot model of the M551 General Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle, circa early 1960s.

M-551 Sheridan Photo Gallery

Sheridan M-551 and crew members of the 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry
Sheridan M-551 and crew members of the 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry, Vietnam, 1969.

M551 General Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle
M551 General Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle.

M551 Sheridan tank as it fires Shillelagh antitank missile
M551 Sheridan tank as it fires Shillelagh antitank missile.

M551 Sheridan from C Company 3/73rd Armor, 82nd AB Div, was dropped by parachute into Panama on 20 Dec 1989 during Operation Just Cause
This M551 Sheridan from C Company 3/73rd Armor, 82nd AB Div, was dropped by parachute into Panama on 20 Dec 1989 during Operation Just Cause.

Sheridan M-551 and crew members photographed in Germany
Sheridan M-551 and crew members photographed in Germany.

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