|Primary Role||Light Tank|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseThe United States Army began operating the new Light Tank M3 vehicles in Mar 1941. Before the Americans took them to combat, however, as the United States would not enter WW2 until the end of that year, they exported to British and Commonwealth forces that were already involved in war with Germany and Italy. The British nicknamed these American light tanks General Stuart, after the American Civil War general; 170 British General Stuart light tanks took part in Operation Crusader in North Africa. British tank crews complained of the ineffective 37-millimeter guns and the short range, although they were liked for the high speed and mechanical reliability. After mid-1942, the British largely kept them out of direct combat missions, using them as reconnaissance, transport, and command vehicles instead. The Russians also received M3 tanks; though they were put in use, the Russians generally disliked these light tanks, citing logistical complications with fuel (use of high octane fuel rather than the more typical diesel usage among Russian tanks), engine sensitivity of impurities in fuel, and use of narrow tracks (which tend to sink into snow more often than tanks with wider tracks).
ww2dbaseThe first American M3 light tanks to see combat were those deployed to the Philippine Islands, which faced the Japanese invasion of Dec 1941. They were the main American tank strength in late 1942 when the American arrived in North Africa, but by 1943 many of the front line combat units had their M3 light tanks replaced with heavier tanks such as the M4 Sherman medium tanks. In the latter stages of WW2, M3 light tanks operated largely as reconnaissance vehicles only in Europe as they were outclassed by the typical German armor, but in the war against Japan they remained useful as combat vehicles.
ww2dbaseProduction of the M3 light tanks lasted from Mar 1941 through Oct 1943. To alleviate the demand on the aircraft industry, beginning in Oct 1943 the M3 design saw its use of aircraft radial engines change to automobile engines made by Cadillac. This new variant, designed M5, continued to be built through 1944. Over 25,000 vehicles were built during this time. M3 and M5 light tanks remained in service in the United States through the post-WW2 period, and were sold to countries friendly to the United States, such as France, Nationalist China, and Tito's partisan forces in Yugoslavia.
Last Major Revision: Oct 2009
|Machinery||One Continental W-670-9A 7-cylinder air-cooled radial engine rated at 250hp|
|Suspension||Vertical volute spring|
|Armament||1x37mm M6 gun (174 rounds), 3x7.62mm Browning M1919A4 machine guns|
|Speed||30 km/h off-road; 58 km/h on-road|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945