Between August of 1941 and December of 1942 a total of 6,258 M3 Medium Tanks were produced. Two very similar versions existed, the Lend-Lease M3 Grant Mk.I used by the British Army, and the US M3 Lee which was also supplied to the Soviet Army under Lend-Lease. Both tanks are named after famous Generals of the American Civil War, Confederate Robert E. Lee and his immediate opponent Ulysses S. Grant, who led the Union army to victory.
The M3 series of tanks had an unusual design resembling that of the French Char B1, with a 37 mm turreted tank gun and a 75 mm howitzer mounted in the hull. Unlike the Char B1, the M3 medium tank was supplied with armour piercing ammunition for the 75 mm howitzer, giving it 89 mm of armour penetration at 100 meters range, compared to only 76 mm for its 37 mm gun.
The Grant tank entered service in 1942, in time for the Battle of Gazala, and was still in service in Italy in 1943 in some units. The hybrid design did not survive, it was replaced by the M4 Sherman medium tank which mounted only the more powerful 75 mm howitzer. Contributing writer Andy Reid reports that there a photos of a mixed Sherman II, Grant, and Crusader Mk.III tank platoon operating in Tunisia, prior to the Battle of the Kasserine Pass.
Most of the remaining Grant Mk.I tanks were sent to the far east in 1943, especially Burma. Serving alongside the Grant Mk.II, they completely outclassed Japanese Chi-Ha Type.97 medium tanks (25 mm Armour), and Type.95 light tanks (12 mm Armour). The Japanese responded by upgunning the Chi-Ha Type.97 from a 57 mm L.18 to a high velocity 47 mm L.48 gun which out-ranged the Grant in head-on battles. Many of the Grant tanks which remained in Europe were converted into recovery vehicles, which is what became of the American M3 Lee as well. There was a prototype 3.7 Inch Flak mounted on the M3 chassis which did not enter production, probably because Allied air superiority made it obsolete.
M3 Grant Mk.I (British) & 2 American Crew
- Type: Medium Tank
- Length: 5641 mm
- Width: 2719 mm
- Height: 2736 mm
- Speed: 38 km/h
- Armament: Turreted 37 mm L53,
75 mm L31 Howitzer, and 2 MG
- Crew: Commander and 5 Men
- Year: August 1941-1943
Good choice of subject. The M3 Grant was more powerfully armed than any other Allied tank previously employed in the desert war; it put up a good fight against the Panzers.
Scale model with good detail. Rivets, hatches, and much stowed equipment make this an attractive model.
Only 75 parts; easy to assemble.
High quality kit. Parts fit very well, and there is minimal flash.
It is not immediately apparent, but part No. 35 should be drilled out to accept an antenna.
Part No. 37 is not shown in the assembly instructions, its use is not apparent.
The tracks are of the old pin-and-hole variety which never seemed to hold together very well. The manufacturer recommends welding them with a hot screwdriver, but many modellers use staples to do the trick. The vehicle has full side skirts, and it is possible to hide the stapled joint inside. The track may be glued to the road wheels to secure it.
The crew members are wearing American uniforms, even though the tank is a British M3 Grant. We used a British commander figure from another vehicle in the illustration above.
- British Army, North Africa 1941-1942
The Grant first saw action at Gazala (May 1942). 164 Grants were distributed to 1st Armd Div (2nd Armd Bde), and 7th Armd Div (4th, and 22nd Armd Bdes). After the battle, only 40 tanks remained (mainly from 1st Armd Div). The distribution of tanks in the Armoured Regiments was as follows: (Some regiments did not follow this distribution)
- "A" Sqn Stuarts or Crusaders, "B" and "C" Sqn with Grants.
The Grant next saw service at Alam Halfa (Aug/Sep 1942), and El Alamein (Nov 1942). 350 Grants were distributed to 10th Armd Div (8th, and 9th Armd Bde) and 7th Armd Div (22nd Armd Bde, and 4th Light Armd Bde). The distribution of tanks in the Armoured Regiments should have been as outlined above, with the following known exceptions:
- Armd Regt (8th Armd Bde): "A" and "B" Sqn Grants, "C" Sqn with Crusaders.
- Armd Regt (9th Armd Bde): "A" Sqn Crusaders, "B" Sqn Grants, "C" Sqn with Shermans.
- British Army, Italy 1943
- British Army, India/Burma 1943
US Army M3 Lee Medium Tank. A complicated conversion, requiring a differently shaped 37 mm gun turret and a small MG turret on top of it. With its many turrets, the M3 Lee variant is the more unusual and interesting looking of the two vehicles. Hasegawa offers the M3 Lee as a separate kit.
Grant C.D.L. (Canal Defence Light), 79th Armoured Division, NW Europe 1944
M3 Armoured Recovery Vehicle.
Photos of several different version of the M3 recovery tank exist, some taken in Italy in 1943 and 1944, and others in Belgium at the time of the Battle of the Bulge. A number of different field, or rear workshop modifications of the vehicle existed, depending on which workshop carried out the conversion.
M3 recovery tanks used in Belgium appear to be of the following pattern: Hull sponson gun removed and a girder type derrick arm fixed to the sponson with a cable running inside, presumably to a winding mechanism. It is not known if the winding mechanism was powered, or hand cranked. The crane arm used the existing sponson for lateral movement. There seemed to be no means of elevation provided. Some vehicles had the turrets removed, but the majority still retained the 37 mm gun, and twin 0.30 M.1919 Browning MMGs for self defence.
M3 recovery tanks operating in Italy had the turret either removed completely, and a typical breakdown truck type crane fixed to the engine deck, or a small crane, constructed from girders or railway lines, in place of the 37 mm gun and MMGs. As the front of the turret is 88 mm thick, it would provide a sturdy mounting point. In either case, the hull 75 mm L.31, or the L.41 gun used in some of the regunned M3 Lee/Grant tanks, remained in place. At least one vehicle reportedly carried both of these cranes.
M3 Grant medium tanks had an unusual hybrid design, mounting a tank gun and a 75 mm howitzer, making it a very attractive vehicle for modellers. Historically, the M3 Grant was an important vehicle, because it redressed the balance of power at a time when the British Army was seriously undergunned in the desert war. The 75 mm howitzer proved so successful that a separate 37 mm tank gun was no longer necessary. Later tank designs, like the M4 Sherman, focused on a single turret with a powerful gun or howitzer, firing armour piercing or high-explosive shells.