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Osprey New Vanguard #33: M3 & M5 Stuart Light Tank

Peter Brown

M3 & M5 Stuart Light Tank 1940-1945 by Steven J Zaloga New Vanguard series 33, published by Osprey Publishing, Oxford, England.  Soft cover, 48 pages, fully illustrated with black and white photos and colour plates. ISBN 1 85532 911 5 Price 7.99 in the UK, $12.95 in USA. Web site http://www.osprey-publishing.co.uk

Latest in the New Vanguard series shows that Steve Zaloga is not only a prolific and talented modeller, but also a good researcher and author. The Stuart series was the end of a line of American light tanks based on a  British Vickers design developed in the inter-war years. US Army thinking on tanks had them under the control of the infantry and used to support the footsoldier, and as it was not expected that America would be involved in a major European war they were small, lightly armed and armoured but cheap.

Events elsewhere showed the need for something better, and the basic design was up-armoured and up-gunned to the limits that the chassis would allow.  The M3 series was just coming into production at the time the USA became involved in WW2, and saw its action first in North Africa with British crews where it also got the name Stuart which stuck with it though it was never known as such in its native service.  Early actions were in a role more suited to a heavier weight tank, these and its use in Tunisia by the Americans showed that it was not suited for tank against versus fighting against more modern German vehicles. It stayed in production and was improved with a less cramped fighting compartment and a new engine which changed its appearance and led to the M5 series, but both new and old vehicles were relegated to reconnaissance and other uses, serving as such in the Europe and Russia until the war's end.

Against lighter opposition in Burma and the Pacific it served in normal tank roles but even there it was replaced by heavier vehicles like the Sherman. Long obsolete by 1945, some were used into the 1950s in several European armies while tanks transferred to South American nations continued to be used for longer, in some cases even up to the present day.  Both series of wartime vehicles are given a thorough treatment in this book. Development and production are followed, and here even fifty odd years on confusion which has existed over some sub-types has been cleared up. So now at last perhaps the Bovington Tank Museum's "M3A1" will finally be given a correct identification. These technical matters are told alongside accounts of the tanks in action, starting with the early desert battles and on through all theatres to the war's end. All are illustrated by a good selection of black and white photos even if some would be better if they were printed larger, one set of small scale plans showing an early M3 with British desert equipment and ten side view drawings showing each of the different marks.

Like all New Vanguards this one has a set of specially-painted colour plates, these show representative vehicles based on detailed study with the units, locations etc named. These show a variety of different schemes including a desert era three-colour Caunter camouflage, several American and one French vehicle, and even one of the unusual Yugolavian tanks fitted with a quadruple 20mm cannon. The artist Jim Laurier has also produced a fine character study of General George S Patton in his colourfully marked command tank in 1941, and all should be inspiration for models. It is unfortunate that the only plastic kits of these vehicles tend to be old and not up to modern standards. Readers of Military Modelling magazine will have seen what good modellers can make from these, but we are long overdue for new kits of the M3 and M5 series. Note also, this is an all-new book, unlike several recent reissues from the original Vanguard series. Let's hope it starts a trend for more new ones to this high standard.

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