Made in America: The M3 Tank Was Better Suited for the Pacific Theater
As World War II began, the 1930s light tanks that had served Europe and the U.S. were slowly being upgraded to better-armored models. The result in America was the M3 light tank, made by the thousands by the American Car & Foundry company from 1941 to 1943.
The M3 served initially as a Lend-Lease tank for the British and Soviets; its tour of duty started in November 1941 with the British in North Africa. The Americans called it the Lee; the British referred to it as the Grant. The M3’s performance earned it fans in the British Army, but combat against larger German medium tanks revealed its deficiencies and pushed it into a secondary role as a reconnaissance and supply vehicle.
The M3 found its niche when the U.S. entered the Pacific War. More nimble, faster, and better protected than its Japanese opponents, the M3 served with distinction in the Philippines, Guadalcanal, Saipan, and other major Pacific campaigns. Gradually replaced by the M4 Sherman medium tank, the M3 was retired by all major combatants soon after the war’s end.