The M3 Lee was an American medium tank used by the Allied armies during World War II. Manufactured in the United States of American between 1941 and 1942, it was deployed by both the US Army and the British Army during the first years of the war, in North Africa and Italy. The American version was called General Lee and the British variant General Grant, with the latter one boasting a slighly bigger and wider turret than the US model. Production began in August 1941, at a rate of fourteen tanks per day, eight for the US Army and the other six tanks being supplied to the British Army. In service with the 8th British Army, the M3 first saw combat action in North Africa, in May 1942, in the Battle of Gazala. It was also used in the same theater of operations in November 1942, in the Battle of El Alamein. Although it was armed with two guns, the performance of the M3 was disappointing as it was evident and plain that it was not a match for the Panzer III and Panzer IV german tanks, which were equipped with more powerful guns and thicker armor. Thus, the Lee and the Grant would soon be replaced by the M4 Sherman tank.
The M3 medium tank was fitted with a 75mm gun, mounted on the right hand side of the hull, and a 37mm gun, mounted in the turret. Despite being a smaller-caliber gun, the 5 cm KwK 39 of the Panzer III had a longer effective range than the M3’s 75mm gun as it could pierce the Lee’s armor at 900 m away, while the American tank had to get closer, to a distance of 500 m in order to knock out the German tank, not to speak of the 7.5 cm KwK 40 mounted in the Panzer IV tank’s turret. Another shortcoming of the Lee’s main gun was the fact that it was not mounted in a turning turret, but it was fixed in the hull instead; so, in order to take aim, the whole tank had to turn, which took much longer and was more complicated than turning a turret. Another weakness of the American tank was its very high profile compared to the low silhouette that the German tanks showed on the horizon. Despite these shortcomings, this tank did provide useful and vital fire support to the British and Australian infantry. The M3A3 version was powered by a Continental R-975-EC2 radial gasoline engine, which delivered 340 horsepower, with a maximum road speed of 26 miles per hour (42 km/h) and could ford 1.2-m-deep of water.
Type: medium tank
Length: 18 ft 6 in (5.64 m)
Width: 8 ft 11 in (2.72 m)
Height: 10 ft 3 in (3.12 m)
Armor: 51mm at the front
First production version of the M3