| Continued from above… light tank in the late 1930s was the M2A4, which was constructed from riveted armour plate, weighed 12 tons (12,193kg), and was armed with a 37mm gun. This was improved, up-armoured and given a stronger suspension system. The resulting vehicle was considered sufficiently different to be given a new designation as the M3Al. |
The M3A1 was slightly heavier than the M2A4 at 12.2 tons (12,400kg), but retained the 37mm gun, which was fitted with a gyro-stabilizer enabling it to be fired on the move; the turret was fabricated from welded homogenous steel and also had power traverse.
Secondary armament consisted of no fewer than four 0.30in machine guns, one of which was mounted coaxially with the main gun while the second was in a flexible mounting on the turret roof to provide anti-aircraft defense. The other two were more unconventional, being mounted in fixed, forward-firing mountings, one on each side of the hull, although they proved to be of limited value and were often dismounted and the space used for equipment storage.
Power was provided by a seven-cylinder Continental radial engine, which had been developed for land use from an aircraft engine, but when supplies ran low in 1941 500 M3s were fitted with the Guiberson T-1020 diesel engine. Battle experience with the British Army showed that the range was too low, as a result of which two jettisonable external tanks were developed.
The Stuart was intended to perform reconnaissance and screening operations similar to the role formerly played by cavalry. The name "Stuart" was given to the tank by the British. The British soldiers in North Africa called them "Honeys". The Stuart tanks fought in the Pacific, Mediterranean and European theaters of operation. They were used by U.S., British, Commonwealth and Soviets.
While classified a light tank by western forces, and often outgunned on western battlefields, the tank actually enjoyed a superiority on eastern battlefields. The USMC often commented on how much they enjoyed using the 37mm gun, with canister shot, to mow down vegetation and the Japanese soldiers hidden within. The 37mm gun was more than enough to deal with Japanese armor as well.
The crew of four consisted of a loader, a gunner, a driver and the co-driver who operated the hull machine gun.
Photo right: Light Tank M3 Stuart
The light tank Stuart had five variations throughout its lifetime |
Stuart I, Stuart II, Stuart III, Stuart IV, Stuart V and the Stuart VI; Stuart I was a gasoline engine while Stuart II was diesel…
Stuart III and IV had gasoline and diesel engines just as their predecessors, however they featured a gyro stabilized main gun and power traverse turret assembly unlike the first two Stuarts. Stuart V brought armor improvements not seen on its predecessors and Stuart VI was based on the then new m3 design and featured a twin-Cadillac engine and a re-engineered turret; later on Stuart VI became the M5 .
A unique feature was the suspension… —the rear idler wheel was mounted on a trailing arm designed to increase the length of track in contact with the ground. The turret had no basket, which caused the gunner and loader to "walk" with the turret as it turned.
The M3 first saw active service with the British in North Africa. The type largely supplied were the Mark 2 (diesel). Despite concern about the vehicle's size and the internal layout the British were very enthusiastic with the performance of this tank, especially with regard to its reliability which was a particular weakness of the early war British tanks.
The British desert 'Honey' tanks were fitted with a considerable number of modifications including sand-skirts, external stowage boxes, and extra external fuel tanks. To increase internal stowage, the British removed the Sponson machine guns. The "skin" of the tank was much tougher than expected with armor thickness approaching that of a medium tank early in the war.
Photo: M3 (Stuart I) knocked out during fighting in North Africa
Stuart M3 Light Tank - Combat
The first American M3 light tanks to see combat were those deployed to the Philippine Islands, which faced the Japanese invasion of Dec 1941. They were the main American tank strength in late 1942 when the American arrived in North Africa, but by 1943 many of the front line combat units had their M3 light tanks replaced with heavier tanks such as the M4 Sherman medium tanks.
Stuart light tanks also took part in Operation Crusader in North Africa. British tank crews complained of the ineffective 37-millimeter guns and the short range, although they were liked for the high speed and mechanical reliability. The M3 Stuart was a fast tank that was a pretty big light tank. The M3 Stuart was a great tank... but in Europe, could not stand up against it's German enemy.
Further sub designators by the British were Stuart Mk 1 and Stuart Mk 2. The Mk 1 was gasoline powered and the Mk 2 was diesel powered. Test variations were numbered M3E1, M3E2, M3E3 and mostly centered around diesel versus gasoline engines. No diesel tanks were adopted for US Army use.
| This tank was built a bit on the heavy side of light tanks of the period as it came complete with a 37mm main gun and five .30cal machine guns. |
The Light Tank M3 was a further development of the concept M1 and most had the Continental W670 as engine. The armor became thicker. To compensate the weight, the suspension had to be built stronger. The older version had gun-ports in the turret, in the M3 these were abandoned.
In March, 1941, the M3 went into production again at the American Car Foundry. During the main production adjustments were made, such as a whole welded turret instead of the riveted one. This was a great step forward in reducing the weight without losing armor thickness. Half way 1941 the canon got a stabilizer. The British Army used the M3 in North Africa under the name 'Stuart' Mk I.
(Photo right: M3 Stuart light tank)
The US Army initially deployed Stuart light tanks to the Philippines in September 1941, equipping the US Army's 194th and 192nd Tank Battalions.
The first US tank verses tank combat to occur in WWII, began on 22 December 1941, when a platoon of five M3s led by Lieutenant Morin engaged Type 95s north of Damaris. LT Morin maneuvered his Stuart off the road, but took a direct hit while doing so, and his tank began to burn.
— the other four Stuarts were also hit, but managed to leave the field under their own power. LT Morin was wounded, and he and his crew were captured by the enemy.
M3s of the 194th and 192nd Tank Battalions continued to skirmish with the 4th Tank Regiment's Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks as they continued their retreat down the Bataan Peninsula.
(Photo: M3 light tank crew peering out from opened hatches, 18 Dec 1941)
| Fact File: |
Country of Origin: United States
Type: light/reconnaissance tank
In service: 1941-1945
Combat weight: 27,400lb (12,428kg)
Dimensions: length 14.8ft (4.5m); width 7.3ft (2.2m); height 8.3ft (2.5m)
Engine: *Continental W-670 seven-cylinder air-cooled radial gasoline engine; 250hp at 2,400rpm
Performance: road speed 36mph (58km/h); cross-country speed 20mph (32km/h); range 70 miles (112km); trench 6.0ft (1.8m); gradient 60 per cent
Ground pressure: 10.5lb/sq in (0.7kg/sq cm)
Power-to-weight ratio: 20.4hp/ton
Armour: 0.38in (10mm) minimum; 1.8in (45mm) maximum
Weapons: 1 x 37mm M5/M6 main gun; 1 x 0.30in M1919A4 coaxial MG; 2 x 0.30in M1919A4 MG in hull; 1 x 0.30in MG on turret roof
Combat experience in the Pacific - dealing with one bunker after another, all manned by Japanese soldiers determined to fight to the death, led to the development of two types of M3 flame-thrower tank. One, known as "Satan", had the flamethrower in place of the 37mm gun, while in the other the flame-thrower replaced the hull machine gun. These M3 flame-throwers were used at Saipan, Tinian and Guam, but thereafter were replaced by flamethrower versions of the M4 Sherman.