Anton Nosik [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

M3 Grant – History

History of the M3 Grant, an US-built tank used by the British Commonwealth forces during the Second World War.

The M3 Grant was an U.S.-built medium tank used by the British Army during the Second World War. It had two cannons as main armament, a 75 mm (2.95") gun in casemate mount and a turret-mounted 37 mm (1.46") one.


The design of the M3 medium tank started in 1940 in the United States; observing the fightings between armored forces during the French Campaign, it was realized that the current U.S. tanks were obsolete, due too poor armor and armament.

The first prototype saw the light in March 1941. The British purchased almost half of the M3 production to replace the heavy losses of the French Campaign. Soviet Union also received several vehicles, but they weren't very appreciated by the Soviet crews.

Technical features

Industrial techniques of the time still didn't allow to build turrets able to hold a 75 mm gun; it was thus decided to mount it on a sponson on the right side of the hull. The 37 mm one, used mostly for defensive purposes, remained instead on a turret placed on the left side.

The original American design, moreover, included an additional armored rotating machine gun support for the commander. British manufacturers replaced some of the original turrets with ones of their own design, without this support but with additional space for the radio. The tanks that retained the original turret were named Lee, those equipped with the new one were given the name of Grant (after two generals of the American Civil War).

Their crew was rather numerous, 7 persons for the Lee and 6 for the Grant. The vehicle had a high silouette, more than 3 m (10 ft.), and it weighted 27 tonnes. Its armor was thick for the time, ranging from 51 mm to 38 mm (2" to 1.5"). There were also from 2 to 4 Browning M1919 7.62 mm (0.30") machine guns as secondary armament.

The engine was a petrol 9-cylinder radial, originally for aeronautical use, with 16 litres displacement; it provided 400 hp and could move the tank up to 42 km/h (26 mph) with a 193 km (120 mi.) autonomy.

Overall, the tank had a lot of flaws (excessive height, low main gun with limited traverse); the petrol engine, moreover, was prone to catch fire when hit. It was nonetheless used as an intermediate solution until the new M4 Shermans were available.

Operating history

M3 tanks were a terrific opponent for the Axis forces in the first years of war. The only vehicles capable of taking them down were the Italian Semoventi da 75/18 and the German Panzer IV, as well as the 88 mm (3.46") FlaK 18/36 guns. They fought in North Africa from May 1942 to May 1943 with British and Americans, and in Soviet Union until 1944, though on secondary fronts.

In Asia it was mainly used by the British Commonwealth forces, mainly in the Burma Campaign in 1944-1945. In the Pacific it saw sporadic actions in some amphibious operations with Americans, as well as constituting some armored units of the Australian Army. Generally, it was far superior to Japanese tanks.

From 1943 they became obsolete and were gradually retired from European theaters and replaced with M4 Shermans (and T-34s, in the Soviet Union).

From Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.

A Grant tank in the Western Desert, North Africa, 1942.

A Grant tank in the Western Desert, North Africa, 1942.

Image sources: 1, 2

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