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AFVisual 019: The M3 Lee

by David Doyle

By David Doyle, Letterman Publications, no ISBN, 80 pages.

I’ve included the covers in the page count here since they display two good wartime colour photos of Lees. The book starts with a two-page introduction and list of Lee versions for M3 to M3A5, complete with production figures for each type. The British version, the M3 Grant, is not included though I believe a second book will cover it, but the M31 Tank Retriever is here.

The first 18-page section deals with M3 itself on the production lines, at its initial press call and in interior closeups. Here there are 32 photos and a September 1942 multi-view plan complete with the interior layout. There’s a good selection of views, including side, front and rear shots with a one-foot grid superimposed. Next comes the M3 in training, 7 pages with 17 photos of tanks in US manoeuvres and training in England, again showing variations in roadwheel type and the presence or absence of side doors. The M3 in combat takes up the next chapter, another 7 pages with 15 photos taken in Tunisia. Here there’s a selection of the posed pre-combat photos of crews with their tanks as well as actual campaign shots and photos of the results of enemy action.
The cast-hull M3A1 comes next, the first 4 pages with 5 photos taken at APG and another of the wartime multi-view plans. After that there are another 18 photos of training in the US, spread over 6 pages and showing both early and late versions. The welded M3A2 follows, but with only 12 built this only needs 3 pages and 8 photographs.

Then there’s the diesel-powered M3A3 with its very different hull rear. No in-service photos here, but five pages another of the wartime multi-view plans and seven photos including one of the engine are followed by five pages with 19 photos of the example preserved at Fort Know. The M3A4 follows, with its longer hull to accommodate the Chrysler multi-bank engine as fitted to the M4A4 Sherman. 4 pages with 8 photos cover the pilot and trials tanks, then there are another seven photos on 2 pages dealing with training in the US.

The final gun tank version was the M3A5, a diesel-powered M3A3 but with a riveted hull instead of welded. Eight photos on three pages show this one clearly, and are followed by two rare photos of this version in combat on Butaritari in the Makin Atoll, its only known active service in the Pacific. Britain bought M3A5s as well as M3s, but as already mentioned the British use of the series is not included in this book.

The M31 TRV gets a section to itself, with two full-page photos showing it admirably clearly as well as a further five in-service photos on two pages, two Tech Manual illustrations showing the equipment locations and a wartime plan of its general dimensions. The plan is not as good as the ones earlier in the book, but does show the general layout. To end the book there are two pages of Tech Manual excerpts with interior views of the gun tank.

This is as good a reference on the Lee as you could ask for! I’m sure some of the photos have been seen before, but not reproduced so clearly and with their points of interest drawn to the reader’s attention, and many are new to me.


John Prigent