French 75 anti-aircraft, Noyon, France, 1917
Well it’s been quite the ride since 2013 and after a while I’ve finally reached 7,500 followers.
So for the hell of it today I will teach you about the M3 75mm gun and it’s uses.
First off I want you to forget about the whole Tiger/Sherman and Panther/Sherman debate for a moment and focus on the primary reason the tank was created in the first place: Infantry support and breaking through defensive lines.
The M3 it’s self finds it’s roots going back to a French Cannon known as the
Canon de 75 mm Modele 1897
which was widely regarded as the first modern artillery piece at it’s introduction during the end of the 19th century.
Now you might be thinking “woah Sherm what does this have to do with a tank cannon from the 40s” well, everything! The biggest reason the Modele 1897 was so popular was due to it’s HE and timed shrapnel shells, infact it was popular enough that the French had several thousand still in service before the German invasion of 1940.
The Modele 1897 was used on a handful of other vehicles during the First World War including the
The French and other nations also mounted these vehicles on trucks and used T30 shrapnel shells for Anti-Aircraft duty.
The US obtained numerous weapons during World War One including tanks and planes, they began using them during their time in Europe, Renaming the Modele 1897 to the 75 mm Gun M1897, the US was so fond of these guns that close to 2,000 of them were on the field in US service when the War ended in November 1918.
US production rates of the M1897 reached 1,000 total, but only a handful of those guns in particular got to Europe before the war ended. Which means they ended up with a large surplus of US made M1987s. Development of the M1897 led to an experimental anti-aircraft gun known as the T6. The barrel was shortened by 5 calibers from 36 to 31
and Nordenfelt screw breech replaced with the sliding block breech.
The time between 1918 and 1939 was great for weapon tech, from Biplanes
to Monoplanes, from Carriers becoming a lethal and key capital ship in
Naval warfare, to the smallest but fastest armored vehicles. The US had
spent it’s time quite wisely building up and researching technology that
would but it’s self into a relative sweet spot by the time the next
Major conflict would arrive.
The M1897 would undergo modernization in the hands of all who used it, The French built the later M1897A2 and M1897A3 models while the M1897A4 would be built in US factories. The A4 model consists of the removal of rollers and sweeper
plates with felt pads, and elimination of a portion of the jacket of the
gun which is replaced by steel rails and bronze strips attached to
supports on the gun.
The German invasion of France in 1940 caught the attention of the Americans, they looked into what made them so effective. One of the notes they made was the use of self propelled artillery. When looking at their own arsenal it was made apparent that the United States lacked vehicles that could fulfill such a role.
Debate and discussion followed and eventually it was decided to mount the
onto the new and upcoming Half Tracks.
Using the M3 and M5 half tracks the gun would be mounted and used in
numerous roles such as Anti Tank and Indirect Artillery Support.
Known as the T12 or M3 GMC (Gun Motor Carriage) this vehicle would be sent to North Africa along with Operation Torch and find it’s self neck deep in German/Italian Tanks. However technology had moved too quickly and due to the fact the weapon was mounted on a half track and not a heavier vehicle, losses weren’t exactly minimal for the M3 GMC. Eventually the M3 would be replaced by the heavier M10 Wolverine, but that doesn’t exactly mean the M1897 was to be taken out of service.
At a similar time the M3 Lee was being produced as a stopgap for the problems US manufacturers were facing with the up coming M4 Medium. The War Department noticed the all purposeness of the M1897 and decided to develop it a bit further. The M1897 was shortened and adapted to the role of Anti Tank.
The gun would be known as the M2 75mm and it would arm all Lee/Grant tanks and during their time in North Africa they showed promise, but as time goes on technology always advances and being a stop gap doesn’t exactly mean time is on your side. However the T7/M2 would be used briefly on the Sherman.
The T6 was the first Sherman prototype, armed with the T7/M2 and boasting four .30 caliber machine guns, it had a handful of features that it would share with the Lee which would be eventually removed such as the side hull door. It should also be noted that the Lee’s hull door had periscopes embedded in it, the T6 prototype did not. Also the white circle is to bring attention to the fact the antenna was getting caught by the gun.
Eventually the M2 would be refined into the M3 which would feature a lengthened barrel and not much difference.
The M3 was highly praised for it’s High Explosive capabilities and Armor Piercing capabilities in the North African desert. But of course as the story goes when moving through Italy and France the M3 struggled against heavily armored targets. But it wasn’t exactly the gun’s fault.
First off, it should be noted that Shermans were not designed to engage heavy vehicles. That was the job of the tank destroyer units that stuck around. Just like it wouldn’t be the job of the tank destroyer to push heavily fortified areas.
Second, a certain individual is to blame for the inefficiency of the M3 75′s AP capabilities;
General Lesley McNair. There are numerous types of munitions that these guns use, but the ones in question would be the M72 AP and M61 APCBC shot. The capabilities of the M61 APCBC shot had enough to punch through the Tiger at close distance and enough to punch through the sides at at least 500 meters. However due to McNair’s orders the M61 wasn’t issued to troops while the inferior M72 was in fact issued. McNair believed that Tanks were not the best way to fight tanks.
This is a
USSR Archival photo of testing against a Tiger tank. The USSR tested
virtually every type of ammunition to determine the capabilities against
it. They found that the Sherman was more than capable of killing one if
the proper measures were taken.
But nevertheless, the M3 turned out to be an amazing gun for infantry support and bunker busting. Infact the Army was so thrilled by the HE capabilities it was having a tough time switching the M3 out for the M1 76mm which had better AP but worse HE.
There are two other version of the M1897 I’d like to mention before finishing off. The M5 and the M6.
Attacking ships is serious business. They’re usually filled to the brim with anti aircraft guns so you’re usually forced to use rockets, bombs or torpedoes. But the US loves it’s kinetic action.
Lightened and stuck into the nose of PBJs and B-25s, the M5 was fitted with a automatic reloading mechanism which allowed it to be used more than once.
The M6 is based on the M5 and used in the M24 Chaffee which was a very potent light tank when comparing it to the M3 or M5 light tanks.
Couple final notes. All major version of the gun could use the same ammunition.
The ammunition included:
M64 White Phosphorus
Other rounds such as HVAP and Shrapnel were also developed.Crews would typically take 50% HE, 40% AP, and 10% Smoke/WP.
The last thing i’d like to mention is that France still uses two M1897 guns for ceremonial purposes.
Thanks for sticking around, I don’t really post tanks that much anymore but I’ll try to change that.