|“||A battalion of Lee tanks is joining us. They'll help us take care of the enemy armour.
- Kowalski, The Wild Bunch
The M3 Lee was the second American tank fielded. It had a 37 mm turret gun and a 75 mm hull gun. British advancements on the Lee created the Grant, which had an extra 55mm spontoon mounted gun and a further M2 Browning machine gun placed on the top turret.
In 1939, the U.S. Army possessed approximately 400 tanks, mostly M2 Light Tanks, with less than a hundred of the discontinued M2 Medium Tanks. The U.S. funded tank development poorly during the interwar years, and had no infrastructure for production, little experience in design, and poor doctrine to guide design efforts.
The M2 series medium tank was typical of armored fighting vehicles (AFVs) many nations produced in 1939. When the U.S. entered the war, the M2 design was obsolete with a 37 mm gun, 32 mm frontal armor, machine gun secondary armament and a very high silhouette. The Panzer III and Panzer IV's success in the French campaign led the U.S. Army to immediately order a new medium tank armed with a 75 mm gun in a turret. This would be the M4 Sherman. However, until the Sherman was in production, an interim design with a 75 mm gun was urgently needed.
The M3 was the solution. The design was unusual because the main weapon — a larger caliber, low-velocity 75 mm gun — was in an offset sponson mounted in the hull with limited traverse. A small turret with a lighter, high-velocity 37 mm gun sat on the tall hull. A small cupola on top of the turret held a machine gun. The use of two main guns was seen on the French Char B, the Soviet T-35, and the Mark I version of the British Churchill and Canadian tank. In each case, two weapons were mounted to give the tanks adequate capability in firing both anti-personnel high explosive ammunition and armor-piercing ammunition for anti-tank combat. The M3 differed slightly from this pattern having a main gun which could fire an armor-piercing projectile at a velocity high enough for efficiently piercing armor, as well as deliver a high-explosive shell that was large enough to be effective. Using a hull mounted gun, the M3 design was produced quicker than if a turret mounted gun design had been manufactured. It was understood that the M3 design was flawed, but Britain urgently needed tanks in the frontlines.
The prototype was completed in March 1941 and production models followed with the first British specification tanks in July. The British cast turret included a bustle at the back for the Wireless Set No. 19 radio. It had thicker armor than the U.S. one and removed the U.S. cupola for a simple hatch. Both U.S. and British tanks had thicker armor than first planned. The British design required one fewer crew member than the US version due to the radio in the turret. The U.S. eventually eliminated the full-time radio operator, assigning the task to the driver. The British realized that to meet their requirement for tanks both types would be needed.
In-game, the Lee tank is really not a recommended tank to use because:
- The Lee tank has a main gun that is only effective against light or Italian tanks (excluding the Carro P26), thus not good against most medium tanks such as the Panzer IV medium tank.
- The Lee is as slow as a Tiger (27 km per hour), so it is not a good tank in large maps for blitz attacking. Researching the Sherman tank is recommended to solve this problem. However the Lee tank has a good cannon against infantry and structures dealing 60 damage against which is better than the Sherman's 35 damage against structures.
- Unlike the Lee's successor, the Sherman, it possesses two turrets - this enables the Lee to have higher damage against soft targets and buildings.
- In 1939 the Lee is one of the best medium tanks on the battlefield. In groups, they can wipe out enemy armor (unless they fall upon a heavy tank, which makes for a big challenge to take out).
- As with any armor unit air cover is necessary. Since there are no mobile anti-aircraft units in 1939 - the only effective eras of combat the Lee has - it is important to keep fighters overhead.
- A simple early game tactic, is to combine this tank with Wolverines and Greyhounds. Using the Lees to protect against infantry and using the Wolverines to destroy tanks. This tactic can be defeated by AT or heavy tanks such as the Tiger, or Pershing.
- In 1939 two or three Lees can easily take on a heavy tank(Matilda or B1 Bis) when it's out of place slowly decreasing threats, so scouting with a Lee is effective even when in small numbers early in the game.
- When planning to upgrade the Lee to Sherman, to is advisable to keep around at least 5 Lees as they cause more damage to buildings.
Pros & Cons
Small cal. HE shell
Small cal. AP shell
.30 cal Machine-gun