From the Editor: The Forgotten Legacy of Harry Knox

US2093456-0I find it interesting that the names of individual tank designers, or at least the heads of design teams, got much more recognition in the Soviet Union than in the Western world.  Ask the average tank enthusiast to name a western tank designer and you probably won’t get many responses beyond “Walter Christie” or “Ferdinand Porsche.”  However, start reading about Soviet designs and you will run into all sorts of names like Koshkin, Kotin, Morozov or Kartsev.   Of course, part of this has to do with the Western tendency to attribute vehicle design to a corporation while the Soviet system relied on design teams named after the lead designer.  

With this in mind, I started digging around in Google patents, seeing if I could uncover names of important AFV design engineers that have been forgotten.  One name that jumped out immediately was “Harry Knox.” This name appears on numerous patents, ranging from 1928 to 1950.  Most of these patents are for tanks and tank components, particularly suspension and tracks.  From what I can gather, Harry Knox was an engineer for Rock Island Arsenal, where all the US pre-WWII tank design was going on.  Sifting through these patents, one can spot many designs and components that would become standard issue for US tanks during the war, in particular horizontal and vertical volute spring suspensions.

All I have been able to dig up on him is that according to a GAO document, he was employed part time in 1926 by the Ordnance dept at $20 per day.  Another GAO document shows that in 1948 he sued the government for copyright infringement pertaining to his work in tank design.  (Credit goes to WoT forum member KrasnayaZvezda for pointing out the GAO documents to me)

Judging from the number and nature of patents held by Harry Knox, it’s probably fair to rank him as one of the most important US tank designers of the pre-war period.  His influence on US WWII tanks would certainly seem to be greater than the much more well known figure of Walter Christie.  Below is a list of patents by category.  I have put notes in parenthesis for some of the more interesting items.  Some of these are quite difficult to identify, feel free to correct me if you think any are incorrect.

US2065532-0 Vehicle Patients

Trackless Vehicle – 1927

Fighting Tank – 1928 (Track Development Chassis T1)

Vehicle – 1929 (Track Development Chassis T2)

Tracklaying vehicle – 1929

Vehicle – 1931 (Light tank T1E2)

Vehicle – 1934 (Combat Car T2)

Tracklaying vehicle – 1934 (Light tank T1E4)

Vehicle – 1942

Suspension systems and components

Suspension for vehicles – 1928 (Medium tank T1 perhaps?)

Suspension for tracklaying vehicles – 1931

Suspension Unit – 1932 (variant of T1 Light tank suspension?)

Suspension for tracklaying vehicles – 1932

Suspension for track-laying vehicles – 1934

Suspension and drive for vehicles – 1934

Suspension for vehicles – 1934 (Combat car T2E1 with torsion bar suspension?)

Suspension for vehicles – 1935 (Combat car T2E1)

Suspension for vehicles -1936 (early version of VVSS)

Suspension for vehicles – 1936 (early torsion bar?)

Suspension for vehicles – 1937 (VVSS)

Suspension for vehicles – 1939

Adjustable idler wheel – 1942

Wheel suspension – 1943

Suspension – 1943  (HVSS)

Suspension – 1943 (HVSS)

Hydraulic check – 1944 (HVSS)

Hydraulic Check – 1945 (HVSS)

Flexible idler – 1946

Suspension Unit – 1949

Suspension unit – 1949

Suspension system for track adjusting idlers – 1949

US2487813-0Tracks and Track Shoes
I found 35 patents related to tracks and track shoe design.  Rather than list them all individually, they may be viewed here.

Other tank components

Compound clutch – 1929

Ventilating system for vehicles of the type known as tanks – 1932

Power actuator – 1933

Synchronizing clutch – 1941

Controlled differential steering mechanism – 1941

Hydraulic check – 1943

Clutch – 1943

Steering brake – 1946

Clutch – 1946

Brake controlled differential for skid steering of vehicles – 1950

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