The M3 Lee is a fine tank. Well, the Russian soldiers that used it may have had a different opinion of it: “Riveted freak,” “three-storey overgrown,” “grave for six.” But our concern here is Zvezda’s 1/100 scale M3 Lee used in Flames of War.
The United States developed the M3 in 1940. At the time U.S. Army doctrine used tanks primarily as infantry support weapons. However, after the fall of France it become clear that the anti-armour capabilities of the M3 would need to be improved. Designers adopted a 75mm gun but they didn’t have a turret that would take a gun that large. Thus was born the hull-mounted mediocrity you see here. The M4 Sherman, incidentally, is basically a Lee chassis with a turret to take a 75mm.
The sponson mount of the 75mm prevented the tank from firing in a hull-down position and even small calibre anti-tank rounds could penetrate the Lee’s expansive flat surfaces. To make matters worse, the gasoline-powered aircraft engine easily caught fire. Nevertheless, during the crucial year of 1942 the M3 played an important role. It was an important counter to panzers in Africa and the Lee contributed to the British victory at Gazala. The following year over a hundred Lees fought at the Battle of Kursk. However, by then superior tanks were widely available.
In Flames of War
The stat line of the M3 Lee in a U.S. force is as follows:
The stabilisers and the two guns produce a fierce amount of fire power. The armor is unremarkable, but in MW facing a far amount of AT9 the Lee will have a fighting chance.
The M3 can be used in British, U.S. and Soviet forces. It is primarily a Mid-War tank, but it can have some utility in a Late-War Soviet list. Let’s see how the Lee looks in a few different lists. The first list is one Bill Willcox sent us:
This list is not for the reckless. You’ll need to use terrain and all that smoke to your advantage. Harmon is a great character, and the M10s will make any Panther player cautious. The list is vulnerable to AT gun spam, and I’d hate to run into any British or Italian infantry lists that have multiple gun and artillery platoons. Nevertheless, this is a fast, fun list.
The British, of course, used the Lee in Africa. They swapped out the turret for a different one and called it the Grant. The Zvezda kit does not have the Grant turret so if you use your Lees in the following list you may incur sour looks from rivet counters. Some sources indicate that British troops saw the Grant as an improvement over their Crusader tanks. However, this says more about what a dreadful tank the Crusader was rather than the merits of the Grant. In any case, you can run a decent Lee list with the British:
The Grant uses the short 75mm (AT9) and loses the cupola MG. It retains smoke and instead of stabilisers it has the semi-indirect fire rule.
The problem with both of the above lists is that the Lees are trained and front armor 5. They say the best armor is being hard to hit and those small trained Lee platoons could melt away quickly under enemy fire.
Now for two soviet lists. The first one, well, it will do fine against infantry but you may struggle against tanks:
Unfortunately the M3 Lee in this list is armed with the short 75mm so it is AT9. Yes, this means the best AT in the list is either AT9 or the I-153’s rockets. Nevertheless, you have an impregnable unit of KV tanks to move resolutely forward and two agile units of tanks to run the flanks.
Perhaps a more well-rounded list using the Lee is the regular Tankovy:
The list will do well against opposing tank lists and Mariya’s two 2+ swings in assault are potentially decisive. The SU85 unit is static and fragile, so you might consider swapping it out for either a unit of light tanks or some artillery (heavy mortars or katyushas) .
What about Late War? Well this is an interesting list:
Thirty-five points for a trained Lee is perfectly reasonable in Late War. The two units of cat-killers provide ample anti-tank assets and either the Lees or the T34s can handle anything if they get side armor shots.
Our five-star rating system is an aggregate based on price, utility of the model in various lists and periods, and hobbying-model kit characteristics. We award the Lee four stars.
Although the Lee is certainly not at the top of every player’s list, it is a great model to add to your collection if you are looking to play some interesting historical lists (e.g., a Kursk list). It will be a rare sight on the table, but we like the Lee. It is one of Zvezda’s better 1/100 kits in terms of details and the price is right—the U.S. tank list above is easily put together using a combination of Zvezda, PSC, and Battlefront kits.
The European Team Championship in Athens this year is Mid-War and the Lee is being fielded by many tankovy players. Roll on M3 Lee!
Public domain image credits: