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M3 Lee was a medium tank built by the US and used in WWII by the USA, Australia, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the Soviet Union.

The first American main battle tank employed in combat in World War II was the M3. The British fought with this tank in North Africa as early as 1941. It was successfully used in campaigns in North Africa. Its main advantage was the speed, but with an almost ridiculous armor, soon became obsolete in front of the formidable German tanks. It inflicted serious damage on Rommel's Afrika Korps in the opening days of the Battle of Gazala as the presence of a powerful long range gun on a British tank was unexpected.

The M3 was relegated to low intensity theatres when the M4 Sherman became available in large numbers.


In the medium tank class, improvements in the M2A1 resulted in a completely redesigned tank, known as the M3 medium. By

M3 Lee

1939 it was apparent that the 37 mm gun mounted on the M2A1 tank was not powerful enough. Experiments began immediately to enable installation of a 75mm pack howitzer on the M2 tank, resulting in the gun being mounted in a sponson on the right-hand side. Production of the resulting M3 Lee tank began in August 1941, and continued through December 1942.

When World War II began in 1939, the United States lagged far behind the major European states in the development of tank technology and armoured warfare doctrine. The fall of France in May 1940 awoke and alarmed the United States. The German army had defeated France in a matter of weeks through the use of a new operational doctrine based on fast-moving, massed armoured formations supported by air power.

America's leaders became convinced that the U.S Army needed a new main battle tank at least equal to that employed by the Germans and that it had to adopt German operational doctrine. To that end, in July 1940 the War Department authorized the development of a new medium tank, and it also authorized the organization of the first armoured divisions. By the time the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States had five armoured divisions organizing and training for war in Europe.

The M3 interim design was the result of a crisis atmosphere that was prevalent immediately following the fall of France. Brittan needed powerful tanks immediately but it would take American steel manufactures over a year before they could learn to cast the large turret needed to support the 75mm main gun of the M4 Sherman already in design. It is likely that no tank in history ever went from design to production faster than the M3.

The British named the M3 the "Grant" or "Lee" tank, depending on the version. The Lee was the original standard variant, the Grant had a British re-designed lower silhouette achieved by removing the cupola from its turret. The tanks purchased by the British from Press Steel and Pullman had a British-designed turret and were designated the Grant I. The name Lee was given to standard M3 variants. The M3 was the Lee I, the standard M3A1 was the Lee II, and so forth. The M3A5 was called the Grant II and supplied under the Lend Lease Act of 1941.

During the design of the M3, the Army’s artillery branch had insisted that the tank’s main armament meet artillery performance standards. The 75 mm gun had to be able to fire 4,000 rounds before the tube’s replacement, just like a field gun, despite the fact that no tank could be expected to last in combat long enough to fire a fraction of that volume. As a result, the M3 and the following M4 Sherman went into action with a low-velocity gun.

The M2's major defect was its gun mount: the 75-millimeter gun was carried in a sponson in the right front of the hull and could traverse only 15 degrees to each side—a major disadvantage in tank battles of maneuver. It also could not "dig in" and fire "hull down" without the entire turret being exposed to fire. Its weak armor and large silhouette also contributed to the favorability of the M4 Sherman.

Production of the M3 ceased in late 1942 when the M4 went into full production.





New Zealand

Soviet Union

United Kingdom




Other Designation(s) Medium Tank M3 Lee
Manufacturer(s) n.a.
Production Quantity 4924 Production Period Jun. 1941-Aug. 1942
Type Medium Tank Crew 6 or 7
Length /hull (m) 6.12 or 5.64*/5.64 Barrel Overhang (m) 0.48 or 0*
Width (m) 2.72 Height (m) 3.12
Combat Weight (kg) 27900 Radio Equipment SCR508
Primary Armament 75mm Gun M2 or M3 (hull mounted) Ammunition Carried 75mm: 50
37mm Gun M5 or M6 (turret) 37mm: 178
Traverse (degrees) 75mm: 30° (15 L or R) Elevation (degrees) 75mm: -9° to +20°
37mm: Hydraulic (360°) 37mm: -7° to +60°
Traverse speed (360°) 75mm: Manual Sight 75mm: n.a.
37mm: 18°/sec. 37mm: n.a.
Secondary Armament 3 x .30 caliber MG M1919A4 (turret, coaxial with 37mm, bow) Ammunition Carried 9200
Engine Make & Model Wright (Continental) R975 EC2 Track Links 79/track
Type & Displacement R9, 15.9 liters Track Width 40.6 or 42.1 cm
Horsepower (max.) 400 hp@2400rpm Track Ground Contact 373.4 cm
Power/Weight Ratio 14.3 hp/tonne Ground Pressure 12.6 psi
Gearbox 5 forward, 1 reverse Ground Clearance (m) 0.43
Fuel Gasoline (Petrol) Turning Radius (m) 18.9
Range on/off road (km) 193 Gradient (degrees) 31°
Mileage (liters/100 km) 412 on road Vertical Obstacle (m) 0.61
Fuel Capacity (liters) 796 Fording (m) 1.0
Speed on/off road 34 km/h Trench Crossing (m) 2.3
Armor Detail Front Side Rear Top/Bottom
Hull 51mm@45-90° 38mm@90° 38mm@80°-90° 25mm@0°(front) 13mm@0°(rear)
Superstructure 38mm@37°(lower) 51mm@60°(upper) 38mm@90° - 13mm@0-7°
Turret 51mm@43° 51mm@85° 51mm@85° 22mm@0°
Mantlet 89mm@90° - - -

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