"Report on the situation with Christie tanks in the USA
December 14th, 1931
December 14th, 1931
I first visited Christie's workshop in early June of this year (after arriving from Detroit upon receipt of the first batch of components from Tikman). Subsequently, I met with Christie in his workshop monthly. I visited Christie several times in October before leaving for the USSR.
Situation with Christie's tank design:
When I first visited the workshop, Christie's design bureau composed of two men began to draw blueprints for the vehicle that is now in the USSR, as before this Christie only had assembly blueprints. These blueprints were being completed during my last visit before departure.
Many small changes simplifying production were introduced during the development of detailed blueprints. Design changes that did not change the principles of the design based on trials performed by Christie and the War Department were also made:
- The front of the hull was reinforced and made by casting that armour plates are attached to.
- The suspension arms, suspension, and the front (small) wheels were reinforced. The swing arm is one large steel casting.
- The design of the oil pathways to final drive bearings was improved.
- The control rods for the final drives were simplified.
Christie gave several excuses regarding this altered design (it's not ready, it needs to be redrawn), but I was able to get around him and obtain materials regarding items 2 and 3, which I sent to the USSR. These are sketches and a pencil copy of the assembly blueprints where these changes are described.
Generally, Christie's stalling is due to the fact that he wants to obtain the $25,000 that was withheld for failure to hold up the terms of the delivery agreement for two vehicles (no detailed blueprints and no turrets).
Christie has not made changes that would principally alter the mobility or other quality of the vehicle.
Attempts to obtain the blueprints were unsuccessful, as Christie wishes to receive the aforementioned $25,000.
Christie shared his plans for new designs with me in June. The characteristics of one of these vehicles and one of the diagrams were sent to you. Further visits showed that Christie has not done any work. One of his designers, Anderson, said in a private discussion that he does not believe these designs exist.
Before my departure to the USSR, Christie told me that he will begin working on a new design after the detailed blueprints of the old type of vehicle are complete. Like I wrote, the new vehicle is similar to the old one, but has a more powerful 600 hp motor and a 76 mm gun. The tank is not amphibious.
Christie is currently fulfilling an order for the government. 6 vehicles of the same type as we received are being made with the changes listed above.
I only saw hulls of these tanks in the workshop in June. During my last visit in early November the hulls had gearboxes installed and preparations were made for installing the engine. The final delivery was scheduled for late November.
Christie said that he hopes to get an order for 100 units and would have to expand his workshop. This is unlikely due to the reduction in the USA's budget for 1932. I think this was only said to get our $25,000.
On the topic of Christie travelling to the Soviet Union:
Christie declined the offer to work in the Soviet Union. Note that Christie claimed that he received the order for 6 vehicles after he informed the War Department that he wanted to travel to the USSR. This claim is believable.
I talked to his designers, Laycock and Anderson, unofficially of course, to evaluate their opinion on working in the USSR. Anderson's opinion is known and is described in his letter addressed to me. Laycock left Christie by the time of my last visit and now works as a chief engineer in a small truck factory, having nothing to do with tanks at all. Anderson told me that he will leave Christie in late November and will form his own tank design bureau. Anderson said that his first job will be to improve the speed of the T1E1 tank. He claims to already be in negotiations with the War Department. Anderson's proposal regarding the Christie tank is made in the letter.
All of these claims need checking, as I think Anderson is working with Christie and he wants to get the $25,000.
The financial condition has changed little. All financial operations linked to government contracts are controlled by Mr. Tiffany. Christie is penniless. Christie had great difficulties when it came to getting the government contract, as he did not have the money to start the work and the government was not giving him an advance. Tiffany gave the money. This difficult financial position explains the drive to get our $25,000.
Relationship with Christie:
We kept up the friendliest relations with Christie up until my departure to the USSR. I think that a working relationship with Christie can be resumed at any moment.
Christie is a respectable experimental designer, but not a production one. Christie will continue to work on experimental prototypes, the only issue is money.
The fact that Christie's tank is a step forward was proven at the Aberdeen proving grounds in trials of a 15 ton T2 tank against the Christie tank. The mobility of the 15 ton tank was much lower than that of the Christie tank. Christie's tanks received visible approval. If Christie's tank does have drawbacks, none of them are a reason to not work on this type of tank. The War Department didn't give him an order of 6 tanks for nothing. Presumably, detailed trials of these prototypes will be conducted, based on which changes to the design will be made.