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vpatrick
MA MA USA
Posts: 2221
Joined: 2020
The M3 Stuart light Tank more of a death trap than I thought
3/20/2021 3:12:22 PM
Im listening to an audible book about the Battle of the Bulge and one horrifying thing I never knew about the Stuart light tank never mind its vulnerability but if the gunner did not center the turret after getting hit the gunner could escape but the driver and the machine gunner could not as their hatches would be blocked. Gave me the shivers when I learned about this death trap . Many of a gunner and driver were roasted to death inside of this awful tank because of this design flaw as the gunner watched in horror outside of the tank. I find it interesting the Russians designed safer and better tanks than the Americans while the Russians were far more willing to sacrifice its soldiers in battle than all western armies including the Germans the Americans were willing to sacrifice its tankers lives for the benefit of numbers over quality. German tanks were better but it would seem to me American WW2 planners were concerned about putting the most tanks on a ship they could (tonnage) than they were about the lives of the tankers driving them. The M4 Sherman was also a death trap if I can remember correctly it did not even use a slower burning diesel fuel never mind its thin armor.

I also find it interesting how the Americans in WW2 adapted their tanks with what they had, by putting bigger guns on the Sherman and the making of fast moving light armored tank destroyers etc. Also I think the Israelis bought many Shermans after the war and redesigned the Turret and put a monster gun on it that had a chance against more modern Russian tanks in the wars against the Arab countries surrounding them. Many GIs may have chose being a tanker over an infantry man thinking they had a few inches of steel to protect them but I wonder what was the casualty rate for an American infantry man vs a tanker or for that matter all western allied infantry vs tankers since we all used terrible tanks vs the German versions?

vpatrick
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nuts
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12249
Joined: 2009
The M3 Stuart light Tank more of a death trap than I thought
3/20/2021 5:11:06 PM
Vin, did the audio book say how the Stuart tank was used by the US forces. It was my understanding that it was primarily a recce vehicle in the British and Commonwealth forces in Europe but used differently by the US in the Pacific. I am no expert but I think that the British and Commonwealth called a M3 tanks, "Honey".

Early in the war, Canada manufactured about 2000 RAM tanks which I believe were based on the M3 Stuart design with modifications. It never got into combat because the allies went to the Sherman as the main battle tank.

I did find this article that appraised the M3 Stuart when it was used by the British in North Africa. The assessment was made by a US Colonel and you may be interested in the initial praise that the British had for this tank and its 37mm gun. Later that assessment would change when the Germans improved their armour.

The British were using this tank as an assault tank because they had no choice.

[Read More]



As for the Sherman, I believe that the US wanted to upgun the tank with a 76mm weapon and were working on a 90mm. But the British decided to put a 17 pounder on the Sherman and these were called "Fireflies". They were ready by D-day.

Despite armour that wasn't as good as that on the German tanks, the Firefly could destroy Panthers and Tiger tanks. It was still a Sherman tank though and vulnerable to the German fire power on their tanks.

I had read that the British offered 17 pounder guns to the Americans but they did not take the offer, feeling that the 76 mm would be sufficient. I don't believe that it was. Happy to be corrected on that. Did the British offer 17 pounder guns to the US?

Now the 17 pounder is about the same size as the US 76 mm but one was effective against German armour while the other was much less so. Perhaps the posters with greater understanding of what makes one gun more effective than the other will weigh in. Was it the ammunition used?

Cheers,

George
17thfabn
Ohio OH USA
Posts: 161
Joined: 2008
The M3 Stuart light Tank more of a death trap than I thought
3/22/2021 7:47:26 PM
Quote:
I

Many GIs may have chose being a tanker over an infantry man thinking they had a few inches of steel to protect them but I wonder what was the casualty rate for an American infantry man vs a tanker or for that matter all western allied infantry vs tankers since we all used terrible tanks vs the German versions?

vpatrick


I believe casualty rates were much higher for the infantry than tank crews in the U.S. Army. I'll look for some hard figures.

When using a light tank such as a M3/5 Stuart you had to know your limitations.
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Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
17thfabn
Ohio OH USA
Posts: 161
Joined: 2008
The M3 Stuart light Tank more of a death trap than I thought
3/22/2021 8:08:52 PM
Quote:


Early in the war, Canada manufactured about 2000 RAM tanks which I believe were based on the M3 Stuart design with modifications. It never got into combat because the allies went to the Sherman as the main battle tank.

I did find this article that appraised the M3 Stuart when it was used by the British in North Africa. The assessment was made by a US Colonel and you may be interested in the initial praise that the British had for this tank and its 37mm gun. Later that assessment would change when the Germans improved their armour.

The British were using this tank as an assault tank because they had no choice.

[Read More]




I had read that the British offered 17 pounder guns to the Americans but they did not take the offer, feeling that the 76 mm would be sufficient. I don't believe that it was. Happy to be corrected on that. Did the British offer 17 pounder guns to the US?

Now the 17 pounder is about the same size as the US 76 mm but one was effective against German armour while the other was much less so. Perhaps the posters with greater understanding of what makes one gun more effective than the other will weigh in. Was it the ammunition used?

Cheers,

George


The Canadian RM tank was based on the U.S. M3 GRANT/LEE not the M3 Stuart. Kind of confusing having two tanks that are called a M3.

As far as the Brits using the M3 Stuart as an "assault" tank. Earlier in the war the M3 Stuart wasn't so out classed. Early in the North Africa Campaign the Germans used a lot of Panzer III which the Stuart was a match for. The Stuart was also a match for most of the Italian tanks.

U.S. ordinance didn't like the 17 pounder because it didn't fit well in existing turrets. It could fit but operating it was very awkward. The Brits though it was worth the effort so retrofitted in some of their tanks. The U.S. didn't.

There were three reasons the 17 pounder is so much more powerful than the U.S. 76mm:

1.) The 17 pounder used more propellant (gunpowder) than the 76 mm.
2.) The 17 pounder had a longer barrel than the 76 mm.
3.) The 17 pounder had a slightly heavier projectile 17 pounds vs 15 for the 76mm.

The combination of longer barrel and larger propellent load resulted in higher velocity. Add in a 13% heavier projectile, resulted in great penetration.

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Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
17thfabn
Ohio OH USA
Posts: 161
Joined: 2008
The M3 Stuart light Tank more of a death trap than I thought
3/22/2021 8:21:11 PM
I think it is interesting that the author refers to the German's as using "Thermite projectiles" . As far as I know they didn't have that type of projectile.
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Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12249
Joined: 2009
The M3 Stuart light Tank more of a death trap than I thought
3/22/2021 9:28:41 PM
Quote:
The Canadian RAM tank was based on the U.S. M3 GRANT/LEE not the M3 Stuart. Kind of confusing having two tanks that are called a M3.


Thanks for this correction, 17thfabn. Many RAM's were converted to APC's called Kangaroos by the Canadian Army just after Operation Totalize in Normandy, 1944. The engineers removed the turrets.

And you're correct, I did confuse the M3 Grant with the M3 Stuart. The Grant/Lee was a medium tank while the Stuart was a light tank. Is that correct?

I believe that Canadian recce units used Stuart tanks that they called "Honeys" but these were M5A1 Stuarts. All that does is add to my confusion. Was the M5 an upgrade to the M3? I believe that it had twin Cadillac engines.

Cheers,

George
17thfabn
Ohio OH USA
Posts: 161
Joined: 2008
The M3 Stuart light Tank more of a death trap than I thought
3/23/2021 12:28:31 AM
Quote:


And you're correct, I did confuse the M3 Grant with the M3 Stuart. The Grant/Lee was a medium tank while the Stuart was a light tank. Is that correct?

I believe that Canadian recce units used Stuart tanks that they called "Honeys" but these were M5A1 Stuarts. All that does is add to my confusion. Was the M5 an upgrade to the M3? I believe that it had twin Cadillac engines.

Cheers,

George


Yes!
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Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
RichTO90
Bremerton WA USA
Posts: 605
Joined: 2004
The M3 Stuart light Tank more of a death trap than I thought
3/27/2021 1:53:23 AM
Quote:
There were three reasons the 17 pounder is so much more powerful than the U.S. 76mm:

1.) The 17 pounder used more propellant (gunpowder) than the 76 mm.
2.) The 17 pounder had a longer barrel than the 76 mm.
3.) The 17 pounder had a slightly heavier projectile 17 pounds vs 15 for the 76mm.

The combination of longer barrel and larger propellent load resulted in higher velocity. Add in a 13% heavier projectile, resulted in great penetration.



It is not quite as simple as that.

1). Yes, the 17-pdr used nearly 9 pounds of propellant versus 3.6 pounds. More than double the weight of powder produced an mV increase of 10.6%, 884 to 790 meters/second.
2). The 17pdr was an L55, the 76mm and L53, a difference of 6 inches.
3.) The difference was 10%, 7.7 kilos versus 7 kilos.

However, the increased mV had a cost, increased wear, reducing accuracy over time, and much greater blast and flash. The 76mm suffered from the same problem, such that it was believed that sometimes it might be desirable for the TC to dismount to observe fall of shot. You can imagine what that was like in the 17-pdr. Flashback in the turret was also an issue.

In reality, the 76mm was a more accurate gun.

The real difference was the projectile and it wasn't the weight. The British used AP shot, with an AP cap and ballistic windscreen. The Americans used APCBC, AP capped, ballistic cap, which sounds the same, but was quite different. The American round was AP with an HE filler. Unfortunately, the filler cavity made the projectile prone to shattering from stress on impact (there were also issues with the sheath-type heat treatment applied to the projectile, which created additional shear stress). Worse, the HE filler required a fuze to set it off and it was found that fuze action in American fuzes was very irregular, often igniting as the projectile began penetrating, which resulted again in failures. Worse, the issues would have been made worse by increasing mV, resulting in more shatter and fuze failures.

All in all it was a mess, resulting from parsimony in prewar Ordnance funding (the largest projectile tested for penetration prewar was the .50 caliber BMG) and too great haste that led to inadequate testing and poor test standards during wartime.
17thfabn
Ohio OH USA
Posts: 161
Joined: 2008
The M3 Stuart light Tank more of a death trap than I thought
3/27/2021 7:27:38 PM
Quote:
Quote:




...

It is not quite as simple as that.
.....

In reality, the 76mm was a more accurate gun.

.


Designing anti-tank ammunition is complicated. But to simplify things a faster heavier projectile will increase penetration. Projectile construction has a big effect also.

How much difference is there in accuracy between the 76 mm and 17 pounder? At combat ranges is it enough to make any difference?
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Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
RichTO90
Bremerton WA USA
Posts: 605
Joined: 2004
The M3 Stuart light Tank more of a death trap than I thought
3/27/2021 7:42:28 PM
It wasn't completely the design that was at fault with the American APC, although the idea of an APHE round was probably overkill and complicated production and quality control too much. The saddest part was that American Ordnance tested and identified the high quality and evenness of German fuzes and the superiority of the German 7.5cm PzGr 39 projectiles design and manufacturing specifications as early as April 1943...and did nothing about it. Postwar, in 1946 and 1947, the Navy at Dahlgren compared the performance and quality of the Navy 3" AP and the Army 76mm APC and were surprised at just how poorly the Army projectiles performed and were manufactured.

Again, increasing the mV of the 76mm/3" APC would simply have resulted in more failures to penetrate.

Accuracy depends on the round. The 76mm M1 Gun, with HVAP, was considered the most accurate of all combinations of gun and projectile, by both American and British Ordnance officers, at the Isigny tests in August 1944. The 17-pdr with APDS was considered grossly inaccurate by the same group of officers. In Europe, average engagement range was c. 850 yards, at which range the 17-pdr was unlikely to hit with APDS, although it could easily hit with AP.

The second issue, flash obscuration, was never solved with the 17-pdr. On the 76mm, the flash problem was solved initially by the introduction of a new "long" primer in September-October 1944, which ensured more complete propellant burn and less flash, and then again by the introduction of the muzzle brake in early 1945.

Although blast obscuration was similar on both the 17-pdr and 76mm, the muzzle brake on the 17-pdr made it about the same as the 76mm without muzzle brake, but when the 76mm nuzzle brake was received it gave the 76mm the edge.

17thfabn
Ohio OH USA
Posts: 161
Joined: 2008
The M3 Stuart light Tank more of a death trap than I thought
3/27/2021 7:52:38 PM
Quote:
Quote:




...

It is not quite as simple as that.
.....

In reality, the 76mm was a more accurate gun.

.


Designing anti-tank ammunition is complicated. But to simplify things a faster heavier projectile will increase penetration. Projectile construction has a big effect also.

How much difference is there in accuracy between the 76 mm and 17 pounder? At combat ranges is it enough to make any difference?
----------------------------------
Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
RichTO90
Bremerton WA USA
Posts: 605
Joined: 2004
The M3 Stuart light Tank more of a death trap than I thought
3/27/2021 8:07:00 PM
Not sure why I'm seeing multiples of the same reply?

redcoat
Stockport  UK
Posts: 364
Joined: 2004
The M3 Stuart light Tank more of a death trap than I thought
4/3/2021 4:52:09 PM
Quote:


I believe that Canadian recce units used Stuart tanks that they called "Honeys" but these were M5A1 Stuarts. All that does is add to my confusion. Was the M5 an upgrade to the M3? I believe that it had twin Cadillac engines.

Cheers,

George
The term Honey was an unofficial nickname given to early M3 light tanks that saw British service in the desert campaign, but the official British and Commonwealth name given to both the M3 and M5 light tanks was the Stuart. The early M3 was known as the Stuart Mk I while the M5A1 was the Stuart Mk VI
redcoat
Stockport  UK
Posts: 364
Joined: 2004
The M3 Stuart light Tank more of a death trap than I thought
4/3/2021 5:24:15 PM
Quote:


I did find this article that appraised the M3 Stuart when it was used by the British in North Africa. The assessment was made by a US Colonel and you may be interested in the initial praise that the British had for this tank and its 37mm gun. Later that assessment would change when the Germans improved their armour.
I'm a little surprised about the praise for the 37mm gun because the sources I have rate it below the 2 pdr in its penetration properties

Quote:
As for the Sherman, I believe that the US wanted to upgun the tank with a 76mm weapon and were working on a 90mm. But the British decided to put a 17 pounder on the Sherman and these were called "Fireflies". They were ready by D-day.
The Firefly was a last minute lash-up that was only just ready for D-Day, it was developed at a time when the US 76mm gun was already being fitted on production US Shermans.


Quote:
I had read that the British offered 17 pounder guns to the Americans but they did not take the offer, feeling that the 76 mm would be sufficient. I don't believe that it was. Happy to be corrected on that. Did the British offer 17 pounder guns to the US?
They didn't have the excess stock to offer them, but they did suggest they might be interested in producing them themselves, but the US was already developing both the 76 and 90mm guns and had high hopes for both of them so they didn't go forward with the idea.

Quote:
Now the 17 pounder is about the same size as the US 76 mm but one was effective against German armour while the other was much less so. Perhaps the posters with greater understanding of what makes one gun more effective than the other will weigh in. Was it the ammunition used?

Cheers,

George
The 17 pdr was a specialised anti-tank gun and the HE shell for it was late coming into service ( late summer 44) due to problems with its high velocity,while the US 76mm had a HE shell from the start of its operational sevice.
redcoat
Stockport  UK
Posts: 364
Joined: 2004
The M3 Stuart light Tank more of a death trap than I thought
4/4/2021 11:40:55 AM
Quote:


How much difference is there in accuracy between the 76 mm and 17 pounder? At combat ranges is it enough to make any difference?

Firing standard AP both the 17pdr and US 76mm were accurate to well over 1,000 yards, it was only with APDS that accuracy became an issue with the 17pdr and it was advised that this ammo should be restricted to firing at the biggest heavy German tanks at ranges of 500 yards or less.
However it should be noted that even firing standard AP the 17pdr was capable of penetrating the frontal armour of a Tiger 1 at 1,000 yards.
Jim Cameron
Ossining NY USA
Posts: 969
Joined: 2005
The M3 Stuart light Tank more of a death trap than I thought
8/7/2021 4:27:26 PM
Quote:


I believe casualty rates were much higher for the infantry than tank crews in the U.S. Army. I'll look for some hard figures.

When using a light tank such as a M3/5 Stuart you had to know your limitations.


According to Nicolas Moran on his Facebook armor channel "The Chieftain", fatal casualties for U.S. infantry in the ETO were 18.5%. Armor, 3%. And not all the armored casualties were in the tanks.
Typically, when a medium tank such as the M4 was knocked out, the crew had a one in five chance of becoming a casualty. In a light tank, one in four. Generally the man closest to the penetration.

As Moran puts it, "If you want a death trap, carry an M1 Garand."

Most tank fires were due to ammunition, not fuel. Both sides would shoot at a damaged tank until it burned, because fire ruined the armor and it could not be salvaged. As the war progressed, ammunition storage was improved. Ready rounds were removed from the turret ring, and the sponson racks armored. Wet stowage eventually reduced the risk of fire considerably.

The Sherman wasn't really the death trap it is often described as. It frontal armor was well sloped, with an effective thickness not far below that of the Tiger. It's hatches were easy to operate and get out of, much more so than many other tanks of the day. The main gun could end up blocking the driver's hatch on any tank. As for the M3/M5, they were light tanks. Thin armor only offers so much protection.


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Jim Cameron Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

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