M3 General Lee/General Grant Medium Tank

Last updated on April 30th, 2019 at 02:04 pm

The standard version of the M3 medium tank was known as the General Lee by the British.  When the British purchased the General Lee from the United States, under the Lend-Lease program, the British Army Service modified the design of the General Lee and called their modified version of the tank the General Grant.  (General Robert E. Lee was a Confederate general in the American Civil War, and General Ulysses S. Grant was a Union general in the same war.)

The General Lee had a 2.95 inch (75mm) gun, with limited traverse, mounted on a sponson as its main armament.

On top of the General Lee was a turret that could rotate all the way around.  It held a 1.46 inch (37mm) gun as well as a coaxial machine gun.

The General Lee also had two or three additional machine guns. One was in the commander’s cupola. Another one or two fixed machine guns fired through the front plate.

M3 Lee WW2 American Army Tank

A crew of seven manned the General Lee – a commander, a driver, a radio operator, two gunners and two loaders. For the US Army the M3 Lee was largely considered as an interim tank built during the time the might of the America’s industry was gearing up to build the more sophisticated and turreted M4 Sherman tank

When the British redesigned the M3, creating the General Grant, they enlarged the turret.  The General Grant’s turret had room for a radio in the back, allowing the radio operator to load the turret. This reduced the number of crew members on the General Grant from seven to six.

M3 General Lee medium tank with crew training at Fort Knox, Kentucky in 1942
While the General Lee had a commander’s cupola, the General Grant did not have one, so the overall tank height of the General Grant was reduced by 4 inches (101 millimeters).

The M3 medum tank first saw action during World War II in the Western Desert in 1942, when it was used by the British 8th Army. It had a significant impact on Germany’s fighting force. In reference to this tank’s performance on the battlefield, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel noted in his diary that his force was now facing a “superior enemy”.

Later on, the M3 was used in Europe and in Asia.

Eventually, the M4 Sherman medium tank replaced the M3.  Some General Grants then had their turrets removed and replaced with armored housing for a searchlight, a machine gun and a dummy wooden gun. These models were known as the Grant Canal Defense Light (CDL).  They resembled the Matilda CDL.

USA and British

M3 General Grant Medium

Active: 1941
Crew: General Grant: 6 (General Lee: 7)
Weight: 26.7 tons (27,219kg)
Length: 18ft 6in (5.64m)
Height: 10ft 3in (3.12m)
Width: 8ft 11in (2.72m)
Weapons: Main – 2.95in (75mm) M2 or M3 gun, Secondary – 1.46in (37mm) M5 or M6 cannon, 4 x 0.3 in (7.62mm) machineguns
Armor Maximum – 2.24 in (57mm)
Engine: Continental R-975-EC2 radial gasoline, 340hp
Speed: 26 mph (42 kph)
Range: 120 miles (193 km)