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The M113 was developed in the early 1960 as a replacement for a whole series of earlier armored personnel vehicles. The main improvement over earlier vehicles was the development of new aluminum armor, that protect the vehicle’s occupants from small arms fire, while keeping the vehicle’s weight low enough to allow for air transport. These lightweight, dependable APCs are air-dropped and air-lifted by C-130 and C-141 planes.
The M113’s crew consists of a driver, seated in the front left side of the vehicle, and a vehicle commander, who occupied a central position. The M113 could carry up to 11 passengers and their equipment. It’s main armament was a single .50 cal M2 Browning machine gun, operated by the commander.
The first M113s were deployed in Vietnam in the spring of 1962, for use by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). The Gunner/Commander position proved to be the most vulnerable position, necessitating improvements to protect that position. Makeshift shields formed from metal salvaged from the hulls of sunken ships were fitted to the carriers, which afforded better protection. But, finding that this material could be penetrated by small arms fire, subsequent shields were constructed from scrapped armored vehicles.
The ARVNs further modified the M113s to function as “amphibious light tanks” and not as battle taxis as U.S. designers had intended. Instead of an armored personnel carrier, the ARVN used the carried infantry as extra “dismountable soldiers” in “an over-sized tank crew”. These “ACAV” sets were eventually adapted to U.S. Army M113s with the arrival of the army’s conventional forces in 1965. The vehicles continued to operate in the role of a light tank and reconnaissance vehicle, and not as designed in theater. Still, the M113 could carry 11 infantrymen inside, with two crewmen operating it. The ARVN called it the “green dragon”, while United States troops tended to refer to the M113 simply as a “113” (spoken as “one-one-three”), a “track” or an “ACAV”. The M113 was has been configured to a multitude of roles and remains the most common armored vehicle in use by US Army forces to this day.