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New Vanguard 113: M3 Lee/Grant Medium Tank 1941-45

by Steven J Zaloga, illustrated by Hugh Johnson

Published by Osprey Publishing Ltd, ISBN 1-84176-889-8, 48 pages.

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This is one we’ve all been waiting for. Mr Zaloga begins by describing the M3’s forerunners the M2 and M2A1 medium tanks with their 37mm turret guns and hulls festooned in machine guns. The Spanish Civil War and the fall of France in 1940 had proved that thicker armour and a heavier main gun were needed, and the M3 resulted. It still had the 37mm turret gun but a 75mm was now mounted in the right sponson; the US fascination with multiple machine guns still pervaded, but at least they were now reduced to four: two fixed in the hull front, one co-axial with the turret gun, and one in a cupola on the turret top. The M3 was an interim design, while casting knowhow was acquired to produce the even better M4 Sherman with its 75mm in the turret. Part of this knowhow was gained with the improved cast turret used on the Grant built for Britain, with the radio in the turret bustle instead of in the hull and without the cupola on top of the turret. Both Lees and Grants were provided to Britain under Lend-Lease but the US Army used only Lees.

The main drawback of the M3 was that the sponson-mounted main gun necessitated a high silhouette and prevented the use of hulldown positions. That didn’t stop its arrival in North Africa coming as a nasty shock to the Germans, who were now faced with a tank that could penetrate theirs at much longer ranges than the British 2 pounder and could also lob a useful high explosive round at anti-tank guns and infantry. US and British use of the M3 as a gun tank really ended in Tunisia, though Lees and Grants continued to give good service in India and Burma against the Japanese.

Mr Zaloga concentrates here on combat use, with less space given to the multiple variants of the gun tanks though their differences are described. Then he moves on to the non-gun tank versions and tells us about all of them, from the tank retrievers and Canal Defence Lights to the M12 with its 155mm gun. He also covers foreign service with the Soviet and Australian armies – yes, the Aussie Grants did see active service at Balikpapan though not actual combat.

There’s a good selection of photographs with excellent captions, and the colour plates show a variety of schemes for US, British and Soviet M3s.

Highly recommended!

John Prigent

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