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M-39 Series 5-ton, 6x6 Trucks

The M-39 series five ton 6x6 truck appeared in the early 1950s as a heavier variant of the 2 1/2 ton M-35 series trucks. With parts commonality and many similar features, the two series of trucks served U.S. ground forces for decades.

Marines from 2nd Maintenance Bn, 2nd Force Service Support Group, perform maintenance on an M-54 5-ton 6x6 cargo truck, Port Authority, Wilmington, NC, 5 September 1981
Marines from 2nd Maintenance Bn, 2nd Force Service Support Group, perform maintenance on an M-54 5-ton 6x6 cargo truck, Port Authority, Wilmington, NC, 5 September 1981.

Today in WW II: 24 Oct 1944 US 7th Fleet units block southern approaches to Leyte while 3rd Fleet aircraft attack Japanese task forces in the Sibuyan Sea [Center Force] and Sulu Sea [Southern Force].  More 
24 Oct 1944 Battle of Surigao Strait: last battleship vs battleship action in history; Japanese Navy Southern Force ambushed by US Navy 7th Fleet; heavy Japanese losses [Leyte, 24-25 Oct].
24 Oct 1945 United Nations organization officially comes into existence.
Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

US Military M-39 Series 5-ton, 6x6 Trucks (G-744)

Production of the M-39 series of five ton trucks began in 1951, in a rush to meet requirements for the Korean War. By 1953 the trucks had been standardized and the early production by International Harvester, Diamond T, and Mack was replaced by much larger contracts with IH and Kaiser Jeep.

Truck models in the M-39 Series include:

Variants with a suffix (e.g. M54A2 or M291A1D) have modifications from an earlier base model (e.g. M54 or M291D), as further explained below. Photos and additional information about many of the M-39 series trucks are on the pages linked from the list above.

There were three wheelbase configurations for the M39 series trucks:

  • Standard: 179 inches
  • Long: 215 inches
  • Dump Truck: 167 inches

The M-39 series trucks were 98 inches wide with typical cab height of 121 inches (soft top erected). The length varied with the wheelbase and body type.

The cab design of the M-39 series five ton trucks was shared with the M-35 series 2 1/2 ton trucks, so both have a very similar look. However, the M51, M52, M543 and late-production M62 have two fuel tanks, one on each side, while the M-35 series have only a passenger side tank. The M41 Cargo Truck had single rear wheels with 14:00x20 tires as opposed to the M54 Cargo Truck with its 11:00x20 tires and duals on the rear axles. Both had the standard wheelbase of 179 inches. The steel cab with steel doors had a canvas top -- with the top removed and the windshield folded, the height was considerably reduced.

Thanks to MSG J. Durham for help with this section.

Manuals for the M-39 series of trucks were first produced before the modern system of manual numbering was introduced. The manual for Operation and Organizational Maintenance was originally TM 9-837 (June 1951) which was then replaced by TM 9-8028 (June 1955). Manuals from the new system will be numbered TM 9-2320-211-xx where the xx represents the maintenance level. All together there are dozens of multi-volume manuals for the series of trucks.

Find additional photos and hi-res versions of the M-39 series trucks at the Olive-Drab Military Mashup:

M-543A2 five-ton 6x6 wrecker is loaded on a rail car for shipment to Beaumont, TX port enroute to West Germany for Spearpoint 84, Ft. Hood, TX, 15 Aug 1984
Quad-50 machine gun mount on a Marine Corps gun truck, set to escort a USMC Rough Rider truck convoy in I Corps, Vietnam, October 1967.
M51 5-ton 6x6 dump truck departs from a US Marine Corps encampment, Lebanon, Apr 1983.
M51 Truck, Dump, 5 ton, 6x6 at the US Marine Corps Mechanized Museum, Camp Pendleton, CA.
Marine camouflaged M54 5-ton trucks are prepared for transfer from flatcars to a cargo ship in support of a possible rapid deployment of a 12,000-troop brigade operation, Wilmington, NC, Port Authority, 5 September 1981. Marines from the 2nd Force Service Support Group are performing the work.
Convoy of 3rdMarDiv Truck, Cargo, 5 Ton 6x6 M54 from the 7th and 9th Motor Transport Bns, leaves Vandegrift Combat Base with part of the 1,240-ton enemy rice cache the 3rd Marine Regt captured south of Khe Sahn during Operation Main Crag, Vietnam, 1969.  The rice will be used to feed South Vietnamese families in resettlement villages established in Quang Tri Province for people left homeless by the war.

M39 Series Evolution

As the M39-series vehicles evolved, the engine and other aspects of the basic configuration were improved. This table applies to most of the trucks in the M-39 series and will be indicated by their A-level suffix (e.g. A1 or A2). All models had a two speed transfer case and air-assisted hydraulic brakes.

 M39M39A1M39A2
Engine Type (6 cal)Continental R6602 GasolineMack ENDT-673 DieselLDS-465-1A Turbo Multifuel
Engine Horsepower224@2800rpm210@2100rpm205@2600
Engine Torque504 lb-ft610 lb-ft425 lb-ft
TransmissionSpicer 6352 5spd manualSpicer 6453 5spd manualSpicer 6453 5spd manual

The engine air intake of M-39 series vehicles is mounted on the right front (passenger side) fender, the opposite of the M-809 series trucks. M39-series trucks equipped with the Continental R6602 gasoline engine had no fender mounted air cleaner.

The M-39 series trucks were superseded by the M-809 series of 5 ton trucks, but both types of trucks continued to be used for many years.

Recommended Books with more about M39-series Trucks

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