General JEB Stuart

Though it would be considered wholly inappropriate to name an American tank after a (1) white, (2) male, (3) heterosexual (4) Christian (5) Confederate cavalry commander, today, that was not the case when the US Army named the M-3 and M-5 after General J.E.B. Stuart.

M-5 Stuart (L) and M-4 Sherman (R) in Europe, WW2

And to be fair, I’m not completely sure why the US kept making the Stuart tanks throughout the war. They started out as the M-3, which used a radial aircraft engine and they were re-designed as the M-5 which used a Cadillac gas engine or a diesel engine depending which factory that your M-5 came from.  They had a small 37mm gun, and would only travel 75 miles (down hill) before they ran out of fuel and though the armor was ‘good enough’, I wouldn’t want to go into battle in one.

(Historical note) The US sent some to the Russians under Lend-Lease. The Russians liked them.  They were decently fast, incredibly reliable and easy to fix, and fired HE rounds that worked against soft skin targets and infantry. One Russian said that “In the first place, [the Stuart] was painted beautifully. Secondly, the seats were comfortable, covered with some kind of remarkable special artificial leather. If a tank was knocked out or damaged, then if it was left unguarded literally for just several minutes the infantry would strip out all this upholstery. It made excellent boots! Simply beautiful!”

When the Stuart first went into combat in North Africa, it was roughly comparable to the German Pzkw III. The British ‘tankies’ liked it so much they renamed it the ‘Honey’. The British liked the reliability of the tank when compared to the Crusader, which was not. The Germans of that era were better at armored combat not so much because their tanks were better, but because they were more experienced and their tactics were better.

After the North African Campaign, as the US phased in the M-4 Shermans,  most U.S. tank battalions had three companies of M4 Shermans and one company of M3s or M5/M5A1.

All of my criticism aside, the M3 Stuart is still on the active list in the Armed Forces of Paraguay with ten of the tanks having been overhauled in 2014 to provide a training capability. They remained in service in many militaries following World War 2 and served in many campaigns in combat.

 

15 COMMENTS

  1. When I was stationed at Ft. Knox in early ’69 they had an M4 they were restoring. At that time they only had the chassis done though it was up and running. No turret at that point. I wonder where that one is today.

    • That was the M-3 Medium tank, not the M-3 light tank (Stuart). Yes it confuses many. Just like The M-3 Stuart, morphed into the M-5 Stuart when they eliminated the aircraft engine. I’m sure that there are wiser heads who read this blog and they may enlighten us both. The US had a confusing time of tank naming, but nobody would mistake a Stuart for a Lee (during the Civil War or during WW2, as the case may be).

      • Eliminated the radial engine, beefed up some of the armor, got rid of all the riveted panels, basically a serious upgrade based on lots of ‘in-use’ experience. And the range was 100 miles, not 75, which is actually a good range for the time.

  2. Isn’t a large factor in design logistics, that is, shipping the weapon to where it is needed? There were better options than the Sherman, as an example, but wouldn’t fit Liberty ships.

    • At different stages of warfare (pick you war) different options became available over time. The M-4 Sherman was produced in nearly equal numbers to the Stuart but it was a far more capable tank. Yet we produced Stuarts because they were in the pipeline, I guess.

  3. A Stuart equipped outfit of the Ohio National Guard got mobilized and shipped off to the Philippines, arriving just in time for the Japanese invasion, and of course didn’t get out. If you find yourself in NW Ohio, it’s worth your time to make the pilgrimage to Camp Perry have a look at the Stuart parked in front of CMP HQ building, and read the memorial to those guys next to it.

    While you’re at it, the ranges at Perry are named for MOH recipients and you might as well read the citations posted at the range road gates of the Viale, Young, Rodriquez and Petrarca ranges. You know, “lest we forget.”

  4. Why the Stuart? Because it was a good infantry support tank, with armor strong enough to resist rifle and machine-gun fire. Carried radios. Main gun could fire HE, AP and Cannister (which was a favorite in the Pacific.)

    Good scout track. Decent mobility.

    De-turreted versions served as armored personnel carriers, armored tow vehicles, ad-hoc artillery tractors, and a thousand other uses.

    Also modified into the M8 Howitzer Motor Carriage, outfitted with an open-topped turret and a 75mm pack howitzer.

    And don’t knock the 37mm for it’s anti-tank role. Powerful enough to punch a Pzkpfw III from the front and a Pzkpfw IV from the sides, a Panther or Tiger from the rear. And able to shoot up anything less armed than a tank.

    All in all, it’s what we had, and it worked.

    Replacing it with the M24 with the samish 75mm of the M3/M4 mediums was a good thing. But the Stuarts still served till the end. Because they worked. And were tough little tanks, able to take an amazing amount of punishment and be repaired easily and quickly.

  5. I’m pretty sure that all the US WW2 tank names were unofficial, and bestowed by the British. The US Army just intended they be called by their designations, i.e. “M3 Light Tank”, etc.

    Naming them after American generals had much more of a ring to it though, and everyone used the British names.

    Who know, maybe that’s just a story.

    -Kle.

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