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The M3 Lee

The M3 Lee Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review August 2005 Title The M3 Lee
Author David Doyle Publisher Letterman Publications
Published 2005 ISBN N/A
Format 79 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) Out of Production


Here is another nice title from Letterman Publications - "The M3 Lee". In this installment of AFVisual, the author looks at the development of what was supposed to be an interim design.

The M3 started out as the M2 medium tank, and as war clouds started forming in the east, the US Army started to improve the M2's design and Rock Island Arsenal was about to launch production of the M2A1. Word soon came back from combat experience that the M2's 37mm main gun would be ineffective against German armor and its armor was also too thin. The recommendation was to arm tanks with a 75mm main gun.

This new development posed an interesting challenge to Army designers. They had only 60 days to adapt the M2 to accommodate a 75mm gun. The problem was that the Army had no turret ring capable of handling the forces and space requirements of the larger gun and 60 days wasn't long enough to tackle that one problem, much less a larger turret, thicker armor, and other considerations. The quick-fix was to install the 75mm gun in a sponson on the right side of the hull and retain the 37mm gun in the turret.

Production of this unique configuration was to be limited to a few hundred units while engineers set out to design a properly integrated tank that would become the M4 Sherman. Unfortunately, the M4 was just starting out on the drawing board and the M2A1 was ready to start production. The British were pressing the US to buy quantities of these tanks and the US Army knew they needed tanks of their own in the interim that would be combat capable. The necessary changes were made the M2A1 design and production began as the M3. The British used the M3 hull with a larger turret to accommodate their radio equipment - this was designated the General Grant. The US kept its radio in the hull and retained the smaller turret, this combination was designated General Lee.

The M3 Lee

While the intent was to keep this tank as an interim production item of only a few hundred units, by the time production ceased in 1942, nearly 5,000 examples had been built.

This monograph is well illustrated with period black & white photos, with nice shots of interior and exterior details of this tank. The title is further broken down to detail the production differences of the M3, M3A1, M3A2, M3A3, M3A4, M3A5, and M31 recovery vehicle.

The details behind the coverage of these title will definitely be of interest to the armor historian, though the details provided the nice selection photos for each subject are oriented towards the armor modeler. This is another nice reference from Letterman Publications and fills a void in the published information about these tanks. Definitely recommended!