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♦ Meet the Stuarts – A short history of the evolution of the U.S. M3 / M5 Stuart light tank

                     

 


Meet the Stuarts

This is a very condensed history of the U.S. Light Tank, M3. Only key facts are presented here. Many details about dates, theaters of operation, and technical specifications have been omitted because they would take up too much space.  For more detailed information about the M3 Stuart tank series, visit Wikipedia or consult Squadron Signals publication, Armor No.18 – STUART U.S. Light Tanks in action.

HISTORY: After W.W.-I isolationism became the political theme in America. Americans wanted nothing more to do with foreign wars or political intrigue. In the 1920s the U.S. Army & Navy were focused on developing air power. This left only about 5% of the nation’s military budget for armor research & development. The U.S. Tank Corps was abolished and tank development was turned over to the Army. To save time and money, development was limited to light tanks. Bridging equipment of the time also limited tanks to no more than 15 tons.  In the 1920s thru the 1930s, American light tanks were little more than armored machinegun carriers. It wasn’t until 1941 that the first real light tank went into production – this was officially designated as the Light Tank, M3. The British gave their Lend Lease vehicles the name “Stuart” (M3 & M5 variants) after the Civil War general Jeb Stuart. The M3 Light Tank was the first tank to see service with U.S. forces in W.W.-II.


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PREDECESSORS

The M3 Stuart was based on light tanks in the M2 series from the 1930s.  In infantry service, M2s were called tanks. The cavalry called their M2 vehicles “combat cars”. 

M2A3

SPECS      Made In: U.S.A.     Made By:  Rock Island Arsenal      Production Dates: 1935 – 1938     Total # Produced: 698 (all versions)     Engine: Continental R-670-9A gasoline radial, 250hp     Range: 200 miles    Max Road Speed: 36mph     Crew: 4     Length: 14’6″      Width: 8’1″     Height: 8’8″     Weight: 10 tons     Armor: 6 – 25mm     Main Gun: none      MGs:  Glacis mounted – 1x .30cal   Turret – 1x .30cal   Second Turret – 1x .50cal

DESIGN FEATURES:  Side-by-side turrets (Left, .30cal, Right, .50cal). Widely spaced bogies & only two return rollers. Small, fixed, idler wheel. Direct vision slots for driver & hull MG operator.   NOTE:  The twin turrets got the tank the nickname ‘Mae West’, referring to the busty movie star of the period.

MODEL    Kit by: Commander Models     Scale: 1/35     Material: cast resin     FEATURES:  PE detailing parts & interior detail. Kit had no tracks.      ADDED DETAIL: rubber tracks (spare parts).  Plastic .50cal MG, replaced warped resin part.   FINISHING:  Airbrushed dark olive + hand painted weathering.     PHOTO GALLERY:  #1 – #3

M2A4

SPECS      Made By:  Rock Island Arsenal      Production Dates: 1935 – 1938     Total # Produced: 375     Engine: Continental R-670-9A gasoline radial, 250hp     Range: 200 miles     Road Speed: 36mph     Crew: 4     Length: 14’6″     Width:  8’1″     Height:  8’8″     Weight:  11.6 tons     Armor: 6 – 25mm     Main Gun:  M5 37mm A-T     MGs:  Glacis mounted – 1x .30cal   Turret – 1x .30cal   Second Turret – 1x .50cal

DESIGN FEATURES:  Single turret. Same bogies, return rollers, & idler wheel as M2A3. Direct vision slots for driver & hull MG operator.  M5 37mm Anti-tank gun had its recuperator extending outside through the mantle.      NOTES:  Used only for training from 1942 on.

MODEL    Kit by: Unknown / ‘garage kit’     Scale: 1/35     Material: cast resin     FEATURES:  PE detailing parts. No interior detail. No tracks.     ADDED DETAIL:  Rubber tracks (spare parts box).  Replaced badly cast bogies & wheels with plastic parts (spares box).   FINISHING:  Airbrushed overall olive drab.     PHOTO GALLERY:   #4 – #6


M3 STUART SERIES

M3 – Early Version – Gas Engine.

SPECS      Made In:  U.S.A.     Made By:  Am. Car & Foundry, Cadillac, GM, Massey-Harris      Production Dates: 1941 – 1944     Total # Produced:  22,744 -M3 & M5     Engine:  Twin Cadillac Series-42, 230hp     Range: 100 miles     Max Road Speed:  36mph     Crew: 4     Length:  15’10”     Width:  7’6″     Height:  8’5″     Weight:  15.2 tons     Armor: 9.5 – 50.6mm     Main Gun: Initially, M5 then M6 37mm A-T     MGs:  Glacis mounted – 1x .30cal   Each sponson – 1x .30cal   Turret 1x .30cal coaxial   A-A 1x .30cal top @ rear turret

DESIGN FEATURES:  Single turret with 37mm A-T gun (early versions used the old M43 gun mount, later models used M44 mounts with the recuperator inside the mantle)..  Bogies set close together.  Three return rollers (M2s only had 2).  A large idler wheel mounted on a movable armature sustained uniform track tension & improved ground pressure. Hexagonal welded turret with armored vision ports. Hexagonal cupola.  Direct vision slots for driver & hull MG operator.  External air filters (short, straight, connecting pipes).

MODEL    Kit by:  Tamiya     Scale: 1/35     Material:  Plastic     FEATURES:  All plastic kit, rubber tracks. No interior detail.      ADDED DETAIL:  I replaced the plastic 37mm gun with an aluminum one & scratch-built the external recuperator.  I drilled out the headlights & filled them with liquid acrylic to produce ‘glass lenses’.   FINISHING:  Airbrushed olive drab + light weathering with earth tone chalk powder on lower hull, tracks, & running gear.   This model was built to represent an early gasoline powered M3 with an M2A4 turret (To speed up production, some early M3s were given turrets left over from M2A4 manufacturing).     PHOTO GALLERY:  #7 – #9

M3 – Late Version – Gas Engine.

SPECS     Essentially the same as the early M3 (above).  A new, cast, ‘horseshoe’ turret with oval cupola. Newer M6 37mm A-T gun  (internal recuperator). Armored vision ports on the turret & for the driver & hull MG operator.

DESIGN FEATURES:  A single turret with 37mm A-T gun.  Bogies set closer together than on M2 series.  Three return rollers (M2s had 2).  A larger idler wheel was mounted on a movable armature for better ground pressure. A one-piece cast ‘horseshoe’ turret with armored vision ports & an oval cupola replaced the welded multi-sided turret.  Armored vision ports replaced direct vision slots for the driver & hull MG operator.  External air filters (short, straight, connecting pipes).

MODEL    Kit by: Tamiya     Scale: 1/35     Material:  Plastic     FEATURES:  All plastic kit, rubber tracks. No interior detail.      ADDED DETAIL:  I replaced the plastic 37mm gun with an aluminum gun.  I drilled out the headlights & filled them with liquid acrylic for ‘glass lenses’.  I added a rope to rear deck and a storage box to the right front fender.  FINISHING:  I airbrushed an olive drab ‘factory finish’ (no weathering) overall.  Tires were hand painted.  This model was built as a late gasoline powered M3 with the sponson MGs removed. Many M3 crews removed the sponson MGs to reduce weight & gain a little interior storage space.     PHOTO GALLERY:  #10- #12

M3 – Diesel Engine.

SPECS    Made In: U.S.A.     Made By:  American Car & Foundry, Cadillac, GM, Massey-Harris      Production Dates: 1941 – 1942     Total # Produced:  1,285     Engine:  T1020-4 Guiberson radial diesel, 230hp     Range: 100 miles     Max Road Speed: 36mph     Crew: 4          Length: 14’10”     Width: 7’4″     Height: 8’7″     Weight: 12 tons     Armor: 9.5 – 50.6mm     Main Gun: M6 37mm A-T     MGs:  Glacis mounted – 1x .30cal   Each sponson – 1x .30cal   Turret 1x .30cal coaxial   A-A 1x .30cal top @ rear turret

DESIGN FEATURES:  Vehicles had a single turret with a 37mm A-T gun. Hull & suspension system was the same as gas powered M3s.  The turret was the cast ‘horseshoe’ type.  Vehicles had armored vision slots for driver & hull MG operator.  Air filters were external (long, bent, connecting pipes).

MODEL    Kit by:  Tamiya     Scale: 1/35     Material:  Plastic     FEATURES:  All plastic kit, rubber tracks. No interior detail.      ADDED DETAIL: I teplaced the plastic 37mm gun with an aluminum one.  I drilled out the headlights & filled them with liquid acrylic for ‘glass lenses’.     FINISHING:  I airbrushed an olive drab ‘factory finish’ (no weathering) overall.       PHOTO GALLERY:  #13 – #15

M3A1

SPECS    Made In: U.S.A.     Made By: American Car & Foundry, Cadillac, GM, Massey-Harris      Production Dates: 1942 – 1944     Total # Produced:  211 diesel + 4410 gas     Engine:  Twin Cadillacs OR T1020-4 Guiberson radial diesel, 230hp     Range: 100 miles – 200 miles with auxiliary fuel tanks.     Road Speed: 36mph     Crew:  4     Length:  15’10”     Width:  7’6″     Height: 8’7″     Weight: 15 tons     Armor: 9.5 – 50.6mm     Main Gun: M6 37mm A-T     MGs:  Glacis mounted – 1x .30cal   Turret 1x .30cal coaxial   A-A 1x .30cal top @ rear turret

DESIGN FEATURES:  Tanks had a single turret with an M6 37mm gun.  The hull & suspension were the same as M3s. An improved ‘flat top’ horseshoe turret replaced the original design, using periscopes in the commander’s & gunner’s hatches instead of a cupola.  M3A3s had armored vision slots for driver & hull MG operator.  Air filters were external (long, bent, connecting pipes). To extend the range, two (2) 25-gallon fuel drums were added to the rear hull. These were fitted with a release cable inside the hull, so they could be dropped without exposing the crew to enemy fire. The additional fuel doubled the normal 100-mile range of the M3.

MODEL    Kit by: Academy     Scale:  1/35     Material:  Plastic     FEATURES:  All plastic kit, rubber tracks. Full interior detail.      ADDED DETAIL: I replaced the plastic 37mm gun with an aluminum gun.  I drilled out the headlights & filled them with liquid acrylic for ‘glass lenses’.  I added a (wire) tow cable.     FINISHING:  Tank was fairbrushed dark olive drab with hand painted weathering on lower hull and tracks. A Full decal set was applied for “TIGER”, an M3A1 with the 1st Armored Division in Tunisia in 1943.                 PHOTO GALLERY:  #16 – #18

M3A3

SPECS    Made In: U.S.A.     Made By: American Car & Foundry, Cadillac, GM, Massey-Harris     Production Dates: 1943      Total # Produced: 3425 (2433 sent to Lend Lease countries)   Engine: No Data      Range: 100 miles (estimated)     Road Speed: 36mph (estimated)     Crew: 4     Length: No Data     Width: No Data    Height: No Data     Weight: No Data     Armor: No Data     Main Gun: M6 37mm     MGs:  Glacis mounted – 1x .30cal   Turret 1x .30cal coaxial   A-A 1x .30cal top @ side turret

DESIGN FEATURES:  The M3A3 had the same suspension system as M3s.  The flat fronted sponsons were replaced by angled panels in a welded hull.  An enlarged turret held a radio in the rear. The cupola was eliminated & replaced by periscopes in hatches for the commander and gunner. Smoke grenade launchers were added to the turret.  The driver’s and hull MG operator’s vision ports were replaced by periscopes in their hatches.  Air filters were internal.  Additional field tools were located on the fenders and flat engine deck. Grouser storage was added on the glacis plate and turret sides.  The M3A3 was a stop-gap design pending production of the M5A1 & was the last light tank with an M3 designation.

MODEL    Kit by: AFV     Scale: 1/35     Material:  Plastic     FEATURES:  All plastic kit, rubber tracks. Full interior detail in the hull & turret.     ADDED DETAIL:  I replaced the plastic 37mm gun with an aluminum part.  I drilled out the headlights & filled them with liquid acrylic for’glass lenses’.  I added a (wire) tow cable & a jerry can (front/right fender), plus a spare road wheel, a storage box / crate, & a large tarp (real fabric – on the engine deck).     FINISHING:  The tank was airbrushed dark olive drab. I hand painted weathering effects on lower hull and sides of upper hull.  Decals mark this tank as a Lend Lease vehicle in Yugoslavia.     PHOTO GALLERY:  #19 – #21

M3 Honey

SPECS     This is essentially the same as standard M3 tanks in U.S. service. The first ‘honeys’ were sent via the Lend Lease program to British & Commonwealth troops in North Africa. These troops liked the new tank so well, they nicknamed it ‘honey’ – as in, ‘it’s a honey of a tank’. Initially, the 37mm A-T gun was a match for any Italian armor the British encountered, and even did well against early Pz.III tanks armed with similar 37mm cannons. Its ability to take on Pz.IIIs was greatly diminished when the Afrika Korps received new Pz.III tanks with 50mm guns.  What the British really liked was the fact that the M3 was far more mechanically reliable than any tanks made in England

DESIGN FEATURES:  Single turret with 37mm A-T gun.  Standard M3 hull and suspension.  Turret type varied between welded hexagonal versions and later cast horseshoe designs.

SAND YELLOW MODEL    Kit by: Tamiya      Scale:  1/35     Material:  Plastic     FEATURES:  This is an all plastic kit with rubber tracks. No interior detail.      ADDED DETAIL: I replaced the kit’s turret with a cast resin one & added an aluminum gun barrel. I  drilled out the headlights & filled them with liquid acrylic for ‘glass lenses’.     FINISHING:  I airbrushed the tank dessert yellow overall. Poly-S ‘dust’ was airbrushed on for light weathering. Black panel liner was used to highlight deck plating. Tires were hand painted.

CAMO MODEL     Kit by:  Academy     Scale:  1/35     Material:  Plastic     FEATURES:  Kit has full interior details in the hull & turret & has sand skirts and rear deck & fender storage items.  I replaced the kit’s gun with an aluminum one & put the driver’s hatch in the open position to make the interior visible.     FINISHING:  I airbrushed the entire tank sand yellow & let it dry before masking off the hull & sand skirts to airbrush a sky-blue camouflage pattern. I used the Academy box art as my guide for the camo pattern.  Note the storage boxes on the engine deck & left / rear fender, & the storage cans on the right / rear fender.     PHOTO GALLERY:  #20 – #22

M5 SERIES

M5 / M5A1

SPECS     Both the M5 & M5A1 were essentially the same as the M3 series, using the same lower hull, suspension and gasoline engines. Armor effectiveness was improved by sloping the glacis plate and sides of the upper hull.     Made by:  GM/Cadillac     Production Dates:  1942 – 1943     Total # Produced:  M5, 2075 (up to Dec.1942).  M5A1, 6810 (by Aug. 1943).     Engine:  Twin Cadillac engines, 220hp     Range: 100 miles    Max Road Speed:  36mph     Length: 15’10”     Width: 7’6″     Height: 8’5″     Armor: 9.5 – 50mm     Main Gun:  37mm      MGs:  1x .30cal in hull.  1x .30cal coaxial.  1x .30cal pintle mount on turret right side.

DESIGN FEATURES:   Early M5s used the ‘flat-top’ horseshoe style turret. This was replaced on the M5A1 with the larger turret from the M3A3.  Automatic transmission made driving the M5s easier than the M3 series.  All crew had periscopes – no vision ports. Like the M3A3, there were no sponson MG positions. Hulls were all-welded construction.  Grouser storage was fitted to the turret sides.

MODEL   M5A1 Kit by:  Tamiya.  The M5 model is a ‘kit bash’, combining an M5A1 hull and an M3A1 horseshoe turret.  Both models have aluminum 37mm guns. Both had the headlights drilled out & filled with liquid acrylic to produce more realistic ‘glass lenses’.  MG muzzles were drilled out.  M5A1 features side / sand skirts & a shield around the turret’s AA machinegun.  The M5 model was fitted with sandbags on the glacis plate and a driver figure was added.     FINISH:  Both tanks were airbrushed with dark olive drab. The M5 was heavily weathered with sand and dried mud effects.  The M5A1 was left ‘factory new’, with no weathering.      PHOTO GALLERY:  #23 – #25

VARIANTS

M8 HMC (Howitzer Motor Carriage) – General Scott

SPECS    Made In: U.S.A.     Made By: Cadillac     Production Dates:  1942 – 1944     Total # Produced: 1778         Engine: Twin Cadillac Series-42, 230hp     Range:  100 miles      Max Road Speed: 36mph     Crew: 4     Length: 16’4″     Width: 7’7″     Height: 8’11”     Weight: 15.6 tons     Armor: 9.5 – 44.5mm     Main Gun: M2 or M3 75mm howitzer.     MGs:  Glacis mounted – none.   Turret 1x pintle mounted .50cal

DESIGN FEATURES:  Built on an M5 chassis with the same hull & suspension system.  The M5 turret was replaced by a larger, open top, turret.  The larger turret required moving the driver’s hatches from the deck plate to the glacis. The M8 was capable of firing M89 white phosphorus & M48 high explosive rounds.

MODEL    Kit by: Tamiya     Scale:  1/35     Material:  Plastic     FEATURES:  The kit has rubber tracks & a detailed turret interior.      ADDED DETAIL:  I added a detailed ammo box on the .50cal, plus an oil drum, crates (Verlinden cast resin), jerry cans (Tamiya) & a metal box (spare parts) on the glacis.      FINISHING:  I airbrushed dark olive drab overall & hand painted weathering on the lower hull and tracks.       PHOTO GALLERY:  #25 – #26

 

– PHOTO GALLERY –

#1.  M2A3 Credit: Wikipedia

#2. M2A3 Side View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3. M2A3 Front View

 

 

 

#4. M2A4   Credit: Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#5. M2A4 / Side View

#6.  M2A4 / Front View                                                                                           

 

 

 

 

 

#7. M3 Early Gas / Side View

#8. M3 / Front View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#9. M3 Gas / Rear view

#10. M3 Late Gas / Side View

 

 

 

 

 

 

#11. M3 Late Gas / Front View

#12. M3 Late Gas / Top View

 

#13. M3 Diesel / Side View

#14.  M3 Diesel / Front View

 

#15.   M3 Diesel / Top View          

#16. M3A1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#17. M3A1 / Front View

#18. M3A1 / Rear View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#19. M3A3 / Side View

#20. M3A3 / Front View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#21.  M3A3 / Top View

#22. M3 HONEY = Lend Lease / British / N. Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#23.  M3 – HONEY / Front View

#24. M3 HONEY / Top View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#25.  M3 HONEY / Late Version. / British / N. Africa

#26. M3 HONEY / Late / Front View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#27. M3 – HONEY / Top View

#28. M5 STUART / Side View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#29. M5 STUART / Front View

#30. M5 STUART / Top View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#31.  M5A1 STUART

#32. M5A1 / Front View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#33. M5A1 / Top View

M3A3 VS M5A1 Comparison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#35. M8 HMC / Side View

#36. M8 HMC / Top View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

== END of ARTICLE ==