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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
December 6, 1922

Christie's Armored Truck Performs for Engineers and Army Officers.


Climbs 100 Feet, Turns About on Parapet and Slides Back to Shore.

A machine expected to revolutionize modern warfare was demonstrated yesterday, when an armored truck, with a three-inch regulation field gun mounted forward, traveled at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour on Riverside Drive, negotiated the lower slope of the palisades on the other side of the Hudson, and then crossed the river under its own power.

The demonstration was attended by representatives of the War and Navy Departments, and by several hundred members of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers who are attending the forty-third annual meeting of the organization at the Engineering Societies Building, at 29 West Thirty-ninth Street.  The truck was invented by Walter Christie, former driver of racing automobiles and designer of various sorts of gasoline motors.

The new amphibious truck, which is known as a "gun carriage equipped for road, field and water service" was followed up the drive by a procession of automobiles and buses laden with official and unofficial spectators.  The vehicle itself looks like a combination of tank and truck.  It has six sets of double wheels.  The rear set does not touch the ground when the machine is running on a highway as a truck.  When rough country is encountered a caterpillar tread is attached, making the truck to all intents and purposes a tractor.  To make it a power boat propellers are attached to shafts at the rear of the tractor-truck.

Mishap on Riverside.

Two mechanics of the United States Mobile Ordnance Manufacturers, the builders of the machine, drove it in the test yesterday.  They were Harry Anderson and A. J. Ronzoni.  As the trip up Riverside Drive started an accident occurred that would have put any vehicle but a tank out of commission.  At Seventy-eighth Street a bolt in the steering knuckle broke and the six-ton machine slid against the curbstone.  Another bolt was hurriedly put in the joint and the mechanics started again.  The fore axle seemed sprung and the front wheels wabbled from side to side.

"That's nothing," said a man who was familiar with the tank.  "There's anough steering left in the machine to get it to the Palisades, and once there the guiding is done by the caterpillar treads.  In the water, the truck is steered by its propellers."

The journey continued safely to the Dyckman Street ferry, where the tank and spectators were transported to the New Jersey side.  Mr. Christie, on the trip over, inspected the machine carefully and decided there was nothing to prevent the test from being completed.  Pausing in the shadow of the towering Palisades, the mechanics adjusted the caterpillar treads with their great iron spikes.  The truck, now a tractor, rolled and bumped its way along the shore until it came to a place where there was a 40 per cent. slope up to the great rock cliffs.

As the treads slipped and spun in the earth, softened to mud by the night's rain, the truck-tractor slewed around and a gasp went up from the crowd.

Climbs Up Steep Cliff.

"Look out, she's going to fall into the river," yelled a voice, and there was a general scattering.

The field gun pointed almost straight up into the sky; the steel-clad vehicle slowly pushed its way up.  The exhaust was roaring like a machine-gun and the men on board had to cling to their places to keep from falling out backward.  But the truck climbed the hill for a distance of perhaps a hundred feet, when a level place offered a chance to turn around.  Then it slid back to the road at the water's edge.

The rest seemed almost tame.  The machine simply bumped over a four-foot stone parapet to the edge of the water, where propellers were affixed in five minutes.  It then pushed its way into the water, caterpillar treads aiding propellers until the depth became too great, and started for the New York shore.  The river here is nearly two miles wide.  Bucking a strong ebb tide, the tractor crossed in about forty-five minutes.

After the demonstration, Brig. Gen. S. D. Rockenbach, commanding the tank corps, who was present for the War Department, said he considered the demonstration very successful.

"It was a wonderful test," said General Rockenbach.  "The great need of the army today is mobility. Mr. Christie is working in the right direction."

Mr. Christie has been working for some time on this theory of an amphibious truck-tractor-tank.  As designed at present the machine will carry a three-inch field gun, a crew with shelter and supplies and ammunition enough to last through a day's firing.

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