The M3 Stuart tanks, of which the M5 is a direct derivative, were the first US tanks to engage in the tank to tank combat action in World War II. The tank originally named for the American Confederate General JB Stuart, was a light tank and was named unofficially “honey” by the British service. In 1941, production of the light tank M3 began and continued on until the latter part of 1943.
This design was an improved upgrade of the Stuart M2 with M2A4 armament, thus, the M3 and the M5 had a 37mm cannon and a total of five 30.06 Browning M1919A4 machine guns. Replacing the radial aero – engines, which was in the M3, the newer M5 versions used twin Cadillac V-8 auto engines and hydramatic transmissions, were operated thru a transfer case. This resulted in a machine that was not only quieter, but was also cooler and had more room.
The M5’s designation was the result of avoiding any possible confusion of the M5 and the M4 Sherman, since the normal progression would have been M4 in designation. The disadvantage and concern by the men fighting in using these machines was that the Stuart lacked heavier firepower of the M5, which also used the 37 MM gun. Eventually, the M3 would be replaced by the M5 and with the M5 eventually being replaced by the M24 light tank.
FIRST TANK TO TANK BATTLE
In December, 1941 – during World War II - the first tank to tank battle occurred. This battle was led by Lieutenant Ben Morin, who was in one of the five M3 light tanks going up against the Type 95 Ha-Go. Subsequently, his tank was hit and burned and the crew was captured by the enemy. Lieutenant Moran was wounded, but survived.
IN THE END
Prior to being taken out of service, the number of M3/M5 Stuart’s produced exceeded 25,000 tanks. Several other countries, including Russia, China, France and the UK, used these tanks postwar.
Several variants of the Stuart were produced postwar, primarily the M3, which was the British Stuart I. A total of 5,811 of these tanks were manufactured. Production of the M3A1 – also known as the Stuart III – totaled 4,621, while the M3A3 – or Stuart V – saw a total of 3,427 tanks produced. 2075 of the M5 version rolled off the assembly line and 6,810 of the M5A1. Several additional units (1,778) of the M8 were produced with the 75 mm howitzer carriage. In addition, there were several other howitzer motor carriages that were produced.