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M3 Grant, Lee

American medium tank


M3 Grant

M3 Grant, Lee
Type:
American medium tank.
History:
The speed with which the M3 Grant and Lee was designed, developed, and put into production was probably unmatched in the history of armoured fighting vehicles. In September 1939 when war was declared in Europe, the Ordnance Department already had plans to contract large scale tank production to heavy engineering firms and, in fact, the first American tank to be built in quantity, the M2A4 light was turned out by one of these firms, American Car & Foundry.
Events in Europe in May/June 1940, which gave rise to the adoption of the new American National Munitions Program, showed that tanks - especially medium tanks - would be needed in far greater numbers than had been forseen the previous October when the light tank building program was initiated.

M3 Lee tank
An American soldier is cleaning the 75mm gun on an M3 Lee tank in Tunisia in the winter of 1942/43.

William S. Knudsen, President of GMC, was the member of the National Defense Advisory Commission responsible for co-ordinating industry to American defence needs. He advised that heavy engineering firms, used to comparatively slow and small output of such items as locomotives and cranes, would not have the capacity or expertise to turn out tanks on the vastly increased scale which, in June 1940, was now required. In Knudsen's view tank production was analogous to automobile production, and, except for manufacture of armour plate, there was no reason why the automotive industry, rather than the heavy engineering industry, should not become the prime producers of tanks, making them from the ground up all under one roof.
Since tank production raised problems not encountered in automobile making, Knudsen suggested that a purpose-built plant should be established in Detroit and arranged that Chrysler would build and operate this plant on behalf of the American Government. Thus was the beginning of Detroit Tank Arsenal. On August 15, 1940, the contract was signed with Chrysler for an initial order for 1,000 M2A1 medium tanks which was cancelled thirteen days later in favour of the M3 medium. Events moved fast from then on. Building of the plant commenced on a 100 acre site outside Detroit in September 1940. The building was 1,380ft long and 500ft wide.

Concurrently, Rock Island Arsenal were working on the M3 medium design with Chrysler engineers in attendance to devise plant and production equipment as design pro­ceeded. Final M3 design work was completed in March 1941 by which time construction of the huge Arsenal building was almost finished, the whole operation taking just six months.
Three contracting firms all produced pilot models of the M3 in April 1941 and by August full-scale production had started in three plants, American Locomotive, Baldwin, and Detroit Arsenal.
Most important innovation of all, however, was the installation of gyrostabilisers for both the 75mm and 37mm guns allowing the vehicle to fire with accuracy while on the move.
Production of the M3 medium, and its variants, continued until December 1942, by which time a grand total of 6,258 M3 series vehicles had been turned out.

M3 Grant British 8th Army
Grants of RHQ, B and C Sqdns, 5 RTR, in February 1942. The second vehicle is a Stuart light tank.

A British Tank Commission had been sent to the United States in June 1940 when there was a grave shortage of tanks for the British Army and much of the British tank strength had been lost in France at the time of the Dunkirk evacuation. In October 1940 they
placed direct contracts with Baldwin, Lima, and Pullman for M3 mediums for Britain. The M3s built and paid for by Britain (ie, the initial order) had a new cast turret to meet British requirements that called for the radio equipment to be mounted in the turret rear instead of in the hull as in the original design. This turret was longer than the original M3 turret with prominent rear overhang and a pistol port in each side. The cupola was eliminated to reduce the silhouette and the turret itself was lower, reducing the vehicle's overall height by about a foot. This version was called the Grant by the British (after General Ulysses S. Grant) and the 200 vehicles ordered were all shipped to the 8th Army in the Western Desert starting early in 1942.

M3 Grant tank
M3 Grant I which was an M3 with turret for British requirements.

For the big Gazala battle on May 27, 1942, 167 Grants formed the bulk of the equipment of 4th Armoured Brigade and at last gave the British a tank with superior fire power to any opposing German AFV. For the first time the British had a tank in service which could out-range the German panzers and had the added feature of a 'dual purpose' capability with a 75mm gun which could fire AP or HE as necessary, the latter in the close support and indirect fire roles. The M3 Grant gave a welcome boost to the morale of British tank-men, helped to inflict a big reverse in the fortunes of the Afrika Korps, swung the balance of tank power both qualitatively and quantitatively in favour of the British from then on, and, as an after effect, started the British off on the quest to design a similar 75mm dual purpose gun for mounting in British-built tanks. It was, indeed, at that time, the most important new addition to the British armoury.

M3 Lee
Standard M3 in British service where it was designated Lee I. Sand shields were added by British to M3 series vehicles in Middle East.

On March 11, 1941, the Lend-Lease Act was ratified which made munitions of all kinds available to Britain and to others of the Americans' allies. Standard M3 mediums were thus also supplied to the British Army who gave these vehicles the name Lee (after Robert E. Lee). By June 1942 a further 250 M3 medium tanks had arrived in Egypt for the 8th Army and by the time of the Battle of Alamein in October 1942, a total of nearly 600 M3 series medium tanks had been delivered.
When the M4 Sherman replaced the M3 in this theatre, the M3s were shipped to Burma where they equipped British units previously using Matildas, Stuarts, Valentines, and other obsolete types. Some also went to the Australians at this period.
In October 1941, when the M4 Sherman medium design was standardised, the M3 was re­classified 'substitute standard' and in April 1943 when M4s were in full service, the M3 was declassified to 'limited standard', finally being declared obsolete in April 1944.

Users: Britain, USA, Russia, Canada, Australia (for all series).

M3 Grant
Technical data and statistics:
Type
medium tank
Engine

Wright radial engine Continental R-975 of 340 hp at 2,400 rpm

Gearbox
?
Crew total
6
Turret crew
3 (Lee with 360° Commanders cupola)
Length
5.64 m
Width
2.72 m
Height
2.85 m (Lee 3.12 m)
Weight
27.24 tons
Maximum speed
26 mph
Cross-country speed
16 mph
Fuel consumption per 100 miles
?
Fuel
?
Road radius
120 miles
Cross-country radius
?
Vertical obstacle
0.60 m
Trench crossing
1.90 m
Fording depth
1.02 m
Turning circle
?
Gradient
60 °
ARMOUR
mm / angle
Turret front

Maximum 37mm
Minimum 12mm

(top armour thickness could be up to 56 mm)

Turret side
Turret rear
Turret top
Superstructure front
Superstructure side
Superstructure rear
Superstructure top
Hull front
Hull side
Hull rear
Hull bottom
Gun mantlet
ARMAMENT
75mm gun M2 with 46 rounds
37mm gun M5 with 178 rounds
Traverse
75mm gun M2: -15° to +15°, elevation 0° to +20°
37mm gun M5: 360° (power and hand), elevation -7° to +60°
(both with gyrostabiliser)
Muzzle velocity
APCBC (75mm): 633 m/s
APC (37mm): 951 m/s
Shell weight
APCBC (75mm): 6.5 kg
APC (37mm) : 0.9 kg
Penetration 100 yds at 30°
APCBC (75mm): approx. 70 mm
APC (37mm): approx. 50 mm
Penetration 500 yds at 30°
APCBC (75mm): 60 mm
APC (37mm): 46 mm
Penetration 1000 yds at 30°
APCBC (75mm): 52 mm
APC (37mm): 42 mm
Penetration 1500 yds at 30°
APCBC (75mm): 48 mm
APC (37mm): 40 mm
Penetration 2000 yds at 30°
APCBC (75mm) : 40 mm
APC (37mm): 37 mm
Secondary armament

one .30 cal Browning MG coaxially to 37mm gun, two .30 cal Browning MG in front hull (Lee additional .30 cal Browning MG in Commander's cupola), together 9,200 rounds

Radio

British radio equipment in turret (Lee: US equipment in hull)

Telescopic sight

periscope sights for both guns

Production

from August 1941 to December 1942

Combat delivery
February 1942
Price per tank

$ 55,244 (M3 Lee)

Total production figure

6,258
(of these 200 as Grant I, 1,386 supplied to Russia and 487 lost during Arctic convoys)

Service statistics of all M3 medium tank series
Available Production Losses
before 1939
-
-
-
1939
-
-
-
1940
-
-
-
1941
-
6,258
-
1942
167
(27.5.)
?
1943
?
-
?
1944
?
-
?
1945
?
-
?
Total
-
6,258
?

3d model M3 Grant
3d model M3 Grant

  • For enlargement please click on the pictures !
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