Sunday, January 09, 2022

"Grave for Seven Brothers"

1:35 Tamiya kit, photographed with a Fuji X-T2 & 18-55mm f/2.8-4

The M3 Lee is one of the most unfairly maligned tanks in history. (For instance, the supposed Russian nickname for their Lend-Lease examples, "grave for seven brothers", is almost certainly a postwar invention.)

When early reports of armored warfare started arriving from Europe, it was clear that the Army's M2 medium tank, with its 37mm main armament, was woefully undergunned and work began on a medium tank with a 75mm main gun, what would become the M4 Sherman. But a stopgap was needed until the Sherman was ready, not only for the rapidly upsizing US Army, but also for the British, who had left much of their armor on the continent after Dunkirk. So along comes the Lee, essentially a hasty retrofitting of a sponson-mounted 75mm gun to an uparmored M2. 

Critics of the Lee seem to gloss over the fact that the Brits designated it a "cruiser" tank, as opposed to an "infantry" tank; in other words, its job was to drive around fast and blast stuff, especially enemy tanks. And for its first few months in the desert it completely BTFO'ed the best armor the Afrika Korps had on hand at the time. Panzer III's with the 50mm main gun were outranged by the M3's 75mm and the gyrostabilized* 37mm in the Lee's turret was adequate for pretty much anything the Germans had in the Western Desert. It wasn't until Panzer IV f2's with the longer-barreled 75mm started showing up that the M3 was seriously outgunned in the African campaign.

*From the M3A1 on, both the 37mm in the turret and the hull-mounted 75 were gyrostabilized in the vertical axis. Wehraboos always go quiet or change the subject whenever gyrostabilization of tank guns gets brought up.