bookM3 Lee/Grant Medium Tank 1941-45
Osprey New Vanguard 113
By Steven J Zaloga
Illustrated by Hugh Johnson
Published by Osprey Publishing.

Soft cover, 48 pages
ISBN 1-84176-889-8

Review by Peter Brown

American tank development between the wars was slow, when the US Army saw the effect of German tanks in the 1939 and 1940 Blitzkreig campaigns they found themselves with no modern tanks. Their latest M2 Medium Tank was poorly armed and thinly armoured. When the Armored Force was formed in 1940 a new tank carrying a 75mm gun was requested. This would become the M4 Sherman, but it would take time for it to be designed, tested and put into production and modern tanks were needed now, not only for American use but also to replace British tank losses. The M3 Medium Tank was produced as a stopgap, based on the M2 chassis with a 75mm in a limited-traverse mounting on the hull side and a fully-rotating turret with a 37mm gun.

Although it looked clumsy and old-fashioned and the main gun's use was limited by its location but it would have to suffice until something better came along. It was generally successful and was to be built with several different engines several with riveted, welded and cast hulls. It first saw action in early 1942 with British units in North Africa in a revised form with a new turret as the General Grant or simply Grant. As it used a proven mechanical layout it was reliable which made it popular, its biggest advantage however was the large gun which could not only knock out German tanks of the period but the high explosive shell of the 75 was effective against antitank guns as well. It remained in service until the end of the African campaign in British use, and also with American units in Tunisia in both cases alongside the Sherman. A small number saw action in the Pacific but several went to the Soviet Union, while in the Burma campaign it proved successful for close infantry support. Considerable numbers of Grants and Lees went to Australia though these were not to see action.

The M3 was also used as the basis for several related vehicles. Its chassis was used to carry a 105mm field gun as the M7 or Priest which was widely used, a few were converted to mount a 155mm gun as the M12 although proposed antiaircraft tanks and tank destroyers variants did not entered production. As the M3 became obsolete as a gun tank, many were converted into Tank Recovery Vehicles and tractors for heavy artillery. American and British versions of a specialist searchlight vehicle were produced and used in small numbers, there were British mine-clearing flail tanks and American engineer designs were tested but not used. There were also Australian recovery vehicles and the Yeramba self-propelled 25pdr gun derived from the design.

Whether in its own right, as the basis for related designs or as part of the overall story of American tank development, the M3 series deserves good coverage which it gets here. Its story is told from pre-war days through to production, use in British, American, Russian and Australian service as well as mention of service in Canadian and Brazilian hands. Text is concise but as expected from Steve Zaloga it is well-researched and readable with a lot of detail. Tables of production and distribution figures are included, all illustrated with a good selection of period black and white photos of mainstream and development vehicles. Colour plates show a colourfully marked tank on manoeuvres in the USA before Pearl Harbor, Grants in service in North Africa and Lees in Tunisia, in Russian service, in Burma and as a CDL in North-West Europe as well as the usual cutaway.

Overall a good account of an important tank which is recommended for those interested in the tank and ideal for modellers. If we finally get a good 1/35 kit this will be a useful reference source.

Highly recommended

Page created 11 August 2005

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