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Weapons of World War Two

M3 Lee medium tank

M3 Lee medium tank

In the first days of the Second World War, England had shown itself as presumptuously sure of defeating Germany in little time, but with the pass of the months the situation started to be disturbing. The allied countries had fallen one after another under the German blows, Russia had signed a pact with Germany, and the entrance of Italy in the war could lead to a naval blockade in the Mediterranean. And although in Dunkirk it had been saved a great part of the British expeditionary force plus several thousands of French and Polish, all of the heavy material had been lost, and it seemed that the Germans were to disembark in England. The victory over the Luftwaffe had got rid of the danger for the time being, but the pressure from the U-Boote decimated the British merchant fleet.

The only hope in that moment was the help from United States, but for the time being the Americans did not look favorably to the possibility of an intervention. This was the situation when Churchill asked Roosevelt at least material help for the exhausted England. So the Americans gave to their overseas cousins, according to the Lend and Lease Law, an adequate amount of armament, besides some tens of old destroyers from the former conflict. Among the supplies were as well many tanks taken directly from the units of the United States Army which had just received them; some of them still had the factory paint. They were the new "Lee" tanks that Chrysler produced at the pace of 50 per week.

These tanks, initially built with riveted plates, were soon built by casting or soldering. They had a Chrysler water-cooled engine of nine cylinders, which allowed a maximum speed of 35 kilometers/hour. The armament could put out of action any tank of the Axis, but the main cannon, albeit provided with some movement, was in fixed position; we find again a defect that affected many tanks of that time. Another difficulty was the scarce side armor (less than four centimeters), which together with the high silhouette granted a good target for the enemy.

After the first deliveries the British added some modifications, and the main one would be the adoption of another turret of national production, made of casting and without the protected position for the upper machine gun. This new tank would be baptized as "Grant" and would have its baptism of fire along with the "Lee" in 1942, in North Africa. Supplied also to Russia, the "Lee" would fight even in that front, and finally it would fight against the Japanese in the Pacific until 1944, year in which it would be retired. It would be survived in active service by some descendants, such as the excellent 105 millimeters self-propelled howitzer M7, in service with some foreign armies decades after the war.

Year: 1941

Weight: 24.7 tonnes

Length: 5.64 meters

Width: 2.79 meters

Height: 3.15 meters

Ground clearance: 43 centimeters

Maximum armor: 50 millimeters

Engine: Chrysler of 400 horsepower

Maximum speed: 35 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 235 kilometers

Crew: 6

Armament: One 75-millimeter cannon; one 37-millimeter cannon; from two to four 7.62-millimeter machine guns

Ammunitions: 41 of 75 millimeters; 179 of 37 millimeters; 8000 of 7.62 millimeters

Maximum surmountable trench: 2.30 meters

Maximum surmountable step: 0.61 meters

Maximum surmountable slope: 31 degrees

Fording: 1.02 meters

Also in Weapons of World War Two:

Nakajima B5N2 KateMitsubishi J8M ShusuiFieseler 156 Storch