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Weapons of World War Two

The uncertainty at the end of 1940

M3 Lee medium tank

M3 Lee medium tank

In the first days of the Second World War, England had shown itself presumptuously sure of defeating Germany in little time, but as months passed by the situation began to become disturbing. The allied countries had fallen one after another under the German blows, Russia had signed a pact with Germany, and the entry of Italy in the war could lead to a naval blockade in the Mediterranean. And even if in Dunkirk a large part of the British expeditionary force plus several thousands of French and Polish had been saved, all of the heavy material had been lost, and it seemed that the German were going to land 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 American did not see with good eyes the possibility of an intervention. This was the situation when Churchill asked from Roosevelt at least material help for the exhausted England. So the American gave to their overseas cousins, according to the Lend and Lease Act, an adequate amount of armament, besides some tens of old destroyers from the former conflict. Among the supplies there were as well many tanks taken directly from the units of the United States Army which had just received them; some of them still wore the factory varnish. They were the new "Lee" tanks which Chrysler produced at the pace of 50 per week. These tanks, built with riveted plates, were soon built through casting or soldering. They had a Chrysler engine of nine cylinders cooled by air, 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 a certain movement, was in a fixed turret; we find again a defect which burdened many tanks of that time. Another difficulty was the thin side armor (less than four centimeters), which along with the high silhouette offered a good target to 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 through casting and without the protected position for the upper machine gun. This new tank would be named as "Grant" and it would have its baptism of fire along with the "Lee" in 1942, in North Africa. Supplied also to Russia, the "Lee" would fight also in that front, and finally it would fight against the Japanese in the Pacific until 1944, year in which it would be withdrawn. It would be survived in active service by some descendants, such as the excellent M7 105-millimeter self-propelled howitzer, in service with the Italian Army 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: 61 centimeters

Maximum surmountable slope: 31 degrees

Fording: 1.02 meters

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