M3 Lee was an American medium tank used during World War II. British versions were known as General Grant.
The M3 General Lee tank was the construction developed in a hurry after the Battle of France. The French defeat made the U.S. military realize that the M2 Medium Tank which entered service in 1939 was the already obsolete construction unable to meet the requirements of the battlefield. Apart from that it had to take a long time to start the production of the target tank (M4 Sherman) with a powerful armament mounted in a turret. Therefore it was decided to create a transitional vehicle which could be put into production as soon as possible with a use of many M2 tank soultions. That is how the M3 Medium Tank was developed.
The M2 turret was to small for a bigger gun so a new gun had to be mounted in the hull. The modified construction retained the turret with a 37 mm gun and main armament was placed in a sponson on the right side of the hull. Secondary armament consisted of four 7,62 mm machine guns (one in the commander’s cupola above the 37 mm gun, one connected to the 37 mm gun and two in the hull). The M2 chassis, transmission, drive unit and, partially, the shape of the fighting compartment were also applied. The new construction was promptly put into mass production in May 1941. The same factories where the M2 tank had been produced were used. The British Purchasing Comission based in the U.S. took an interest in the new tank. Despite construction flaws, the British, struggling with a shortage of tanks after the defeat in France, ordered the improved version and labelled it M3 Grant. Changes forced by the British included a lower turret with a bustle to house the radio, an absence of the commander’s cupola, additional pistol ports and a reduction of the crew.
The M3 Lee baptism of fire was in the Battle of Gazala in May 1942. The M3 Lee drawbacks were exposed in combat: the 37 mm gun wasn’t effective against better armoured German tanks, the high silhouette and the hull mounted main gun had a very limited range of a horizontal movement. On the other hand, the M3 Lee proved to be reliable in service and did well as an infantry support vehicle (e.g. during the Burmese jungle battles). Until the end of production in December 1942, 6,258 M3 Lee tanks were manufactured which participated in one or another role on almost all of the World War II fronts. 1,386 tanks were supplied to the Red Army through the Lend-Lease programme. After the entry into service of the M4 Sherman tanks, the M3 Lee tanks were usually withdrawn and assigned to perform other roles, e.g. of the ARV tank. In the Far East, both versions – the Grant and the Lee remained in service untill 1945.
Main armament: 75 mm Gun M2/M3 in hull, 37mm Gun M5/M6 in turret.
- M3 (Lee I) – Initial production type from August 1941. Riveted hull, high profile turret, side doors, radial engine Continental R-975 (gasoline, 340hp) . 4,724 built.
- M3A1 (Lee II) – identical mechanically to the M3 with cast (rounded) upper hull. 300 built by American Loco (February-August 1942). Late production vehicles had side doors eliminated and escape hatch in hull floor.
- M3A2 (Lee III) – identical mechanically to the M3 with all welded (sharp edged) hull. Only 12 vehicles produced by Baldwin in January 1942.
- M3A3 (Lee IV/Lee V) – M3A2 with twin General Motors 6-71 diesel engines. Side doors welded shut or eliminated. 322 built ny Baldwin in March-December 1942.
- M3A4 (Lee VI) – Stretched riveted hull (like M3). Fitted with 1 x Chrysler A57 Multibank engine, made up of 5 4,12 litre displacement, 6-cyl L-head car engines (block upwards) mated to a common crankshaft, displacement 21 l, 470 hp at 2700 rpm. Side doors eliminated. 109 built by Detroit Arsenal (June-August 1942) .
- M3A5 (Grant II) – M3A3 with riveted hull. Although it had the original Lee turret. 591 built by Baldwin from January-November 1942. Late production vehicles had side doors welded up or eliminated.
- M31 Tank Recovery Vehicle T2 (Grant ARV I) – Based on M3 chassis, with dummy barrels, winch, and tool boxes. A 27t (60,000lb) winch installed.
- M31B1 Tank Recovery Vehicle – Based on M3A3.
- M31B2 Tank Recovery Vehicle – Based on M3A5.
- M33 Full-Track Prime Mover – M31 ARV converted to the artillery tractor role (tractor for the 155mm gun), with turret and crane removed. 109 vehicles were converted in 1943-44.
- Grant I – M3 with turret to meet British requirements.
- Grant I – M3A5
- Grant ARV – British conversion of Grant I/II. Guns or turret removed and replaced with armored recovery vehicle equipment.
- Grant ARV I: British designation for M31
- Grant Command – Fitted with map table and extra radio equipment for use of senior officers. Guns removed or replaced with dummies.
- Grant Scorpion III – 75 mm gun removed, and fitted with Scorpion III mine flail, few made in early 1943 for use in Tunisia.
- Grant Scorpion IV – Scorpion III with additional second Bedford engine at the left rear to increase Scorpion flail power.
- Grant CDL – “Canal Defence Light”; 37 mm turret replaced by one with a powerful searchlight and a machine gun. 355 were also produced by the Americans, who designated it the Shop Tractor T10 (most converted from M3A1s, not used in combat).
- M3 Lee/Grant Medium Tank 1941-45 – Hugh Johnson, Osprey Publishing New Vanguard 113
- M3 Lee / Grant in action – Jim Mesko, Squadron/Signal publicatons, armor number 33
- M3 Lee Grant – Wydawnictwo Militaria 108, 2000
- M3 Medium (Lee/Grant) – Chris Ellis, Peter Chamberlain, AFV Weapons Profile 11
- Classic AFV No 2: Their History and How to Model Them Lee & Grant – Ken Jones, Peter Chamberlain
- American Tanks of World War II – Thomas Berndt MBI
- American Tanks & AFVs of World War II – Michael Green, Osprey
- American Armored Fighting Vehicles, World War II AFV Plans – George Bradford, Stackpole books 2007
- British and American Tanks of World War Two: The Complete Illustrated History of British, American and Commonwealth Tanks, 1939-45 – Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis
- Panzer Tracts 19-2: Beute-Panzerkampfwagen: British, American, Russian and Italian Tanks Captured from 1940 to 1945 – Thomas L Jentz, Werner Regenberg