After the end of World War II, the US Army was faced with many difficult decisions, some of them regarding the equipment it used. On November 1, 1945, a commission chaired by General Joseph W. Stillwell met, which on January 19, 1946 published a report in which it formulated recommendations for the development of new tank designs for the US Army. One of the recommendations was to develop a new light tank, taking into account the experience of the Second World War and the latest technical solutions for armored vehicles. The newly designed tank was designated T37. It was a vehicle weighing less than 25 tons, crewed by four, powered by a newly developed engine and gearbox, and armed with a 76mm gun. After modifications that included replacing the 76mm gun with a more modern one of the same caliber, this design was designated T41.
The first T37 prototype began testing at the Aberdeen Proving Ground on May 30, 1949, followed by three T41s. They were equipped with a Vickers gun stabilization system with a stereoscopic rangefinder. This system would give the T41 an advantageous ability to hit the target with the first shot, but it still needed to be refined, so it was abandoned, unfortunately together with the rangefinder, which was an integral part of the Vickers system. The tests also revealed a number of engine and gearbox faults that had to be corrected. It was also recommended to install an auxiliary engine to power the tank's systems when the main engine was shut down to save fuel. Numerous changes were also introduced in the T41 design, such as increasing the diameter of the turret ring, changing the location of the crew seats inside the turret (the new layout was similar to that used in medium tanks) or removing the pod-mounted machine guns from the sides of the turret.
In 1948, the Cadillac Motor Car Division, part of General Motors, was selected as the manufacturer of the new tank, and in January 1950 a contract was signed to build 100 pre-series T41E1 tanks, two of which were to be completed and tested before Cadillac began building the entire trial run. This orderly plan was disrupted by the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 before the pilot tanks were completed. In the light of this event, it was decided to immediately start serial production, taking into account the need for costly corrections to the finished vehicles. In addition, the size of the contract was increased to 1,000 vehicles, and this number was then further increased. All production of M41 tanks and its modifications lasted from mid-1951 to 1954, and 3,729 vehicles were produced. By the time the tests were completed in March 1952, over 900 tanks were ready and had to be reworked before the US Army could adopt them. The most important change was the replacement of the drive for the gun elevation and turret traverse system from an electric impulse system to a hydraulic one developed by Cadillac. Tanks with an impulse electric system were designated T41E1, and those with a hydraulic system were T41E2. In the end, the electric impulse system was improved enough that most of the earliest tanks produced could retain it. At that time, the standardization of new tanks took place and machines marked T41E1 received the designation M41 and T41E2 were designated M41A1. Initially known as the Little Bulldog, the tank was eventually named the Walker Bulldog after Lieutenant General Walton H. Walker, who died in a Jeep accident in Korea.
After the production ended, Cadillac focused on running modernization programs for the M41 and M41A1 tanks. One of the problems they tried to solve was the short range of the tank. To improve this, the carburetor in the engine was replaced with a fuel injection system. With such a system, the engine was renamed AOSI-895-5 and allowed fuel savings of around 20% compared to a carbureted engine. Powered by the new engine, the M41 and M41A1 were renamed M41A2 and M41A3 respectively.
On the basis of the design of the M41 tank, a number of different, specialized vehicles were also built, such as the M42 Duster (self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, 2x 40mm Bofors), the M75 armored personnel carrier and the M44 (155mm) and M52 (105mm) self-propelled howitzers.
In the US Army, the M41 tanks began to be withdrawn from service relatively quickly, but there were people willing to use them all over the world. One of the new users was the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), which was received in September 1964 to replace the M24 Chaffee they had previously used. Training on the new type of equipment lasted from February to December 1965. The first combat actions took place in October 1965 when a group of 15 tanks took part in the action of breaking the encirclement of the special forces camp in Plei Me. In later years, it happened that South Vietnamese M41A3 tanks of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam Army - PT-76 or T-54. The South Vietnamese M41A3s frequently showed then that they could be used effectively against such opponents if used rationally.
ARVN tanks were painted American OD, i.e. FS34087. They were usually devoid of any markings except for the registration number in the form of black numbers on a yellow rectangular field at the front and rear of the tank. Sometimes there were unit markings or individual markings, painted by a particular crew. It was characteristic of the ARVN tanks to carry a large amount of various equipment and materials on the tank. The placement of the stowage was not standardized. Particularly conspicuous is the large amount of ammunition for the 12.7 mm machine gun.
|Length (without main gun):||5820 mm|
|Length (over main gun):||8120 mm|
|Service weight:||23500 kg|
|Main armament:||76 mm gun M32 (mount M76A1 in turret)|
|Auxiliary armament:||M2HB 12,7 mm machine gun & M2E1HB 12,7 mm machine gun coaxial with 76mm main gun|
|Armour hull:||from 9mm (rear) to 38mm (front)|
|Armour turret:||from 13mm (rear top) to 32mm (gun shield)|
|Propulsion:||Continental AOS-895-3; 6 cylinder, 4 cycle, opposed, supercharged gasoline|
|Power (gross/net):||324 kW @ 2400 rpm / 368 kW @ 2800 rpm|
|Torque (gross/net):||1220 Nm @ 2100 rpm / 1302 Nm @ 2400 rpm|
|Fuel capacity:||530 L|
|Transmission:||Allison CD-500-3, 2 ranges forward, 1 reverse|
|Speed (on road):||72 km/h|
|Trench crossing:||1,8 m|
|Vertical obstacle:||0,71 m|