bookTanks in Detail 2
M3-M3A1-M3A3 Stuart I to V

by Jonathan Forty.
Published by Ian Allan Publishing.

Review by Peter Brown

The American M3 Stuart light tank series was widely used throughout the Second World War, initially as a fighting tank but later relegated to scouting and secondary roles. With recent and forthcoming kit releases, reference material on the tank is timely and welcome making this book ideal for modellers.

The history of the tank's design and development is covered with an account of the separate types and marks. This highlights one problem with identifying Stuarts, that is, what was the actual type? The US Army had three designations for the M3 Lights, but within two of those there were several different turrets as well as petrol or diesel engines, several combinations of which existed all within the same overall mark so an "M3" could have one of four turrets and either engine and still be called an M3 and in addition there were clearly early and late features within the production runs. With the changeover to the improved M3A1 things should have become easier, but late M3's were fitted with the same turret as the M3A1 making them hard to tell apart unless certain features could be seen. At least the M3A3 with its new designs for hull and turret is easier to spot. Add in British designations as Stuarts of five sub-types and it gets complicated. The author here categorises tanks into no less than 14 sub-types, from the first tanks with riveted hexagonal turret to the M3A3.

As with the earlier Pz IV book, the emphasis here is on describing and illustrating the tanks in detail. This is done with descriptions of the various developments and features along with plenty of photos. These are a mixture of official factory shots, others of tanks in action and illustrations taken from the official Technical Manual handbooks. One two-page spread is a walk-round of the full-spec British modifications of extra stowage bins, sand shields and grouser stowage. Close-ups include photos of the Bovington Tank Museum's M3-series tank, while the author identifies it as an "early M3A1", as the vehicle is an M3 with "M3A1-style" turret I would class it as a Late M3 or Hybrid though the illustrations speak for themselves. Other views from the TMs show turrets being removed, engines and transmissions plus driver's controls clearly, with some useful shots of periscopes, headlights, spotlight, guns and mountings and different types of ammunition. The exploded view of a bogie unit and fitting track grousers are very useful, and the amount of detail is very good.

As well as the photos there are three sets of plans by Phil Dyer, four-view sets of an early M3 with the original riveted turret, a "mid-production M3" horseshoe turret as per the Academy kit but with welded hull which includes a partial top view of the diesel engine variations, and a five-view of the M3A3. There are also cutaways of each type on a separate page with extra larger drawings of the turret/fighting compartment and turret baskets.

Markings and Insignia chapter is less detailed, covering mainly American and British with shorter sections on other nations. There is a partial listing of units which used the M3 Stuart which given its wide use only scratches the surface. Various schemes are shown in photos, colour plates showing individual markings cover American national insignia and specific tactical signs for 1st Armored Division in Tunisia plus sets of turret markings for other units, while in the British section there are three pages showing most Division and Brigade signs and half a page showing some Canadian and Indian units plus some French markings.

Against all this good material there are a few small gripes. Many people will spot these, such as the reference to 9th King's Royal Irish Hussars which should be 8th and describing an M3A3 engine installation which is clearly an M3A1. There are inconsistencies in the text which mix up late M3 and early M3A1 tanks, while at one time we are told Russia received M3A3 then later that none were sent. These may seem minor, but will confuse those who only have this one book on the Stuart.

Taken together, this is a good book for anyone wanting to model M3-series Stuarts. There is nothing on the M5 or M8 vehicles which is not a great loss as they were different enough to warrant their own coverage. While some might like more on background or colour schemes, they can be found elsewhere such as in Osprey New Vanguard 33 "M3 & M5 Stuart Light Tank 1940-1945". These two books complement each other well, between them they give a lot of detail and maybe even a few items not seen in the classic "Stuart - A History of the American Light Tank Volume 1" by R P Hunnicutt.

For information on ordering this book and others, see the web site.

Page created 23 January 2003

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