M3 medium tank file photo [6388]

M3 Lee/Grant

CountryUnited States
Primary RoleMedium Tank

Contributor:

ww2dbaseThe M3 medium tank design was drawn as an interim solution based on the M2 medium tank platform for use before a better design could be completed. The design was unconventional in many ways.

ww2dbaseFirst, the primary guns were mounted on sponsons located on the right-front slope of the hull. The sponsons were essentially horizontally curved steel plates that rotated left and right, while the in-set gun shields allowed the primary guns to adjust elevation. This unusual mounting resulted in a limited traverse characteristics of the primary guns, and in instances where tanks would need to fire rearwards, such as in retreat, M3 medium tanks could not do so. Unlike their contemporaries, the top turrets of M3 medium tanks carried the secondary weapon, the 37mm guns, instead of the primary weapons. The original design of the top turret also featured machine gun cupolas that could independently rotate; this feature was meant to give the tanks means to combat strafing aircraft, though the speed the cupolas rotated was too slow to effectively track fast-moving ground attack aircraft.

ww2dbaseAnother unconventional characteristic had to do with their high profiles at over three meters, which made it difficult for M3 medium tanks to position themselves in hull defilade defensive position; if the primary weapons were needed in hull defilade positions, over half of the tanks would need to be exposed.

ww2dbaseAn additional unorthodox design of the M3 medium tanks placed the driver high along the center line of the tanks, which deviated from most contemporary tanks where the drivers typically sat off-center and much lower. The higher position gave the M3 medium tank drivers better field of vision, though at the cost of great exposure to fire.

ww2dbaseThough the design contained many oddities, some resulting in potential major weaknesses, the M3 medium tank design went into production regardless due to urgent demand.

ww2dbaseAcross the Atlantic Ocean, the British had already engaged in war, and looked to the United States for production capacity. The Americans refused to retool their factories to produce British tanks, and as a result, the British placed orders for the M3 medium tanks. Some of the British exports had different turrets, which saw the deletion of the machine gun cupolas in order to provide a slightly lower profile. The British Army differentiated the two variants by designating the original design M3 Lee and the modified design M3 Grant; this practice was also done by various British Commonwealth forces, though not by the Americans, who continued to designate them collectively as simply M3 medium tanks.

ww2dbaseThe first M3 medium tanks to see action were fought under the British banner in 1942 in North Africa. Both Americans and British M3 medium tank crews thought of the tanks as reliable machines with adequate armor protection, but the tall silhouette coupled by the low positioning of the primary guns meant that, when dug in as defensive guns, commonly known "hull-down" position, M3 medium tanks enjoyed little protection from sandbags or earth.

ww2dbaseOver 1,300 diesel-powered M3 medium tanks of the M3A3 and M3A5 variants were sent to Russia between 1942 and 1943 under the Lend-Lease program. They were all of the cupola-top variant, or what the British would call M3 Lee medium tanks. They were considered inferior by their Russian crews as they were generally out-classed by their German counterparts.

ww2dbaseM3 Medium Tank Production, Aug 1941-Dec 1942

ManufacturerM3M3A1M3A2M3A3M3A4M3A5Total
American Locomotive Company3853000000685
Baldwin Locomotive Works29501232205911220
Chrysler Detroit Tank Arsenal324300010903352
Pressed Steel Car Company50100000501
Pullman Standard Manufacturing Company50000000500
Total4924300123221095916258

ww2dbaseWith the availability of the M4 Sherman medium tanks, the M3 medium tanks were gradually withdrawn from service. Production of the M3 medium tanks ceased in Dec 1942; by that time, 6,258 of them were built. By May 1943, none of them were in service as front line combat tanks in North Africa, and Russian use of them became limited by that time as well. A very small number were used in combat by the Americans in the Pacific and British Commonwealth forces in Burma and India, where M3 medium tanks were still superior to their Japanese counterparts.

ww2dbaseSources: M3 Medium Tank vs. Panzer III, Wikipedia

M3 Lee/Grant Timeline

24 Apr 1941 The first M3 tank constructed at the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant in Michigan, United States was delivered to the US Army.

SPECIFICATIONS

M3 (Lee I)
MachineryWright (Continental) R975 EC2 engine rated at 400hp, Synchromesh 5-speed transmission
SuspensionVertical volute spring
Armament1x75mm M2/M3 gun in sponson (46 rounds), 1x37mm M5/M6 gun in turret (178 rounds), 4x0.30cal Browning M1919A4 machine guns
Armor51mm front, 38mm side, 38mm rear, 13mm hull top, 13mm bottom, 51mm turret front/sides, 22mm turret top
Crew7
Length6.12 m
Width2.72 m
Height3.12 m
Weight26.0 t
Speed40 km/h
Range193 km

M3 (Grant I)
MachineryWright (Continental) R975 EC2 engine rated at 400hp, Synchromesh 5-speed transmission
SuspensionVertical volute spring
Armament1x75mm M2/M3 gun in sponson (46 rounds), 1x37mm M5/M6 gun in turret (178 rounds), 4x0.30cal Browning M1919A4 machine guns
Armor51mm front, 38mm side, 38mm rear, 13mm hull top, 13mm bottom, 51mm turret front/sides, 22mm turret top
Crew6
Length6.12 m
Width2.72 m
Height3.12 m
Weight28.0 t
Speed40 km/h
Range177 km

M3A5 (Grant II)
MachineryTwin GM 6-71 diesel engines
SuspensionVertical volute spring
Armament1x75mm M2/M3 gun in sponson (46 rounds), 1x37mm M5/M6 gun in turret (178 rounds), 4x0.30cal Browning M1919A4 machine guns
Armor51mm front, 38mm side, 38mm rear, 13mm hull top, 13mm bottom, 51mm turret front/sides, 22mm turret top
Crew7
Length6.12 m
Width2.72 m
Height3.12 m
Weight27.0 t
Speed40 km/h
Range193 km

Photographs

Men working on M3 tanks at the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant, Warren, Michigan, United States, circa 1940-1942Workers putting tracks onto a M3 tank at the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant, Warren, Michigan, United States, circa 1940-1942, photo 1 of 2Workers putting tracks onto a M3 tank at the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant, Warren, Michigan, United States, circa 1940-1942, photo 2 of 2M3 medium tank on a training mission at Fort Benning, Georgia, United States, Apr 1942
See all 26 photographs of M3 Lee/Grant Medium Tank



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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
25 Jun 2010 08:56:25 AM

The secondary turrets on these tanks are rather odd for a tank in this era. Does anyone have stats on how effective they were?
2. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
10 Dec 2010 06:15:00 PM

The M3 was a modified version of the M2 the 37mm in the turret was retained, but a new
75mm gun was mounted in a sponson on the
right side of the hull, the gunner had limited traverse sometimes the tank itself
had to be pointed at the target.

The vehicle had a crew of four and carried
1x37mm M5 cannon in the turret w/ 178 rounds 1x7.62mm machine gun coaxial to the 37mm.
1x7.62 mm machine gun in the upper cupola both turrets could rotate 360 degrees.
Some models carried 2x7.62mm fixed machine guns in hull, total of 9,200 rounds for the machine guns were carried.

The main gun was a 75mm M2 w/ 50 rounds, and had 30 degrees of travrse. The running gear of the M3 Lee became the basis for many other vehicles including the M4 Sherman in modified form.

"SHE'S A GOOD TANK, AND I'M GOIN TO RIDE HER ALL THE WAY TO BERLIN"

Sgt. Joe Gunn, Sahara 1943

The M3 was powered by a Wright-Continental
9-cylinder air-cooled radial engine.
If you get a chance to watch the 1943 Humphrey Bogart movie 'Sahara", you can see this beast in action.

Another version of "Sahara"was made in 1995 with Jim Belushi, and kept much the orginal dialogue of the 1943 Bogart movie, both are
available on DVD.

rarevideos@gmail.com

Did You Know...

The nickname "Lee" was never used by US troops, it was the British that named the
two versions Lee/Grant
3. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
11 Dec 2010 11:53:25 AM

The M3 Lee/Grant was an interim design and inferior to battle tanks appearing from 1943 ownward.
The M3 was a stop-gap solution until the
arrival of the M4 Sherman, the Lee had its flaws its profile was over 10 feet in height
and had a riveted hull.

LEE/GRANT 101

First produced in 1940 the first production run was 4,924 vehicles begining in the middle of 1941. A second production of 1,334
vehicles were sent to the British.

The later M3A2 was powered by twin-engine GM
diesel and 334 were built.
The M4 was powered by a Chrysler A-57 Multi- bank engine, combined five engines! it was a mechanic's nightmare.
The M5 was powered by a GM Twin-Diesel engine and 591 were built.

Other versions were the M31 Tank Recovery Vehicle, the M33 Prime mover for Artillery and the M7, 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage.
Total production of all types was 6,258 vehicles.

Operators:
USSR
Britain
US Army
And other Allied Nations during WWII

Did You Know...

It was the British that named US Tanks after American Civil War Generals.
M3 Lee/Grant, M3/M5 Stuart, and M4 Sherman

Today you can see a M3 Lee/Grant at the
Aberdeen Proving Ground, US Army Ordnance
Museum, Maryland USA
4. Anonymous says:
5 Aug 2011 12:32:47 AM

The British loved these when they received them in North Africa, as they were twice as fast as any of their own tanks already in service there, and the 75mm gun was the first that could actually penetrate German tank armor. Most British tanks had 2-pounder guns as their main armament. However it wasn't long before they discovered the problem that all American tanks had - thin armor and highly flammable when hit. They also grew to dislike the 75mm being on the side, because they had to aim the entire tank at an enemy, but the gun was too heavy for the Grant's turret.

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M3 Lee/Grant Medium Tank Photo Gallery
Men working on M3 tanks at the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant, Warren, Michigan, United States, circa 1940-1942
See all 26 photographs of M3 Lee/Grant Medium Tank




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