Saturday, January 20, 2007

Blood Is Thicker Than Water: 37mm Antitank Gun

The M3 Antitank gun, based on the successful German Panzer Abwehr Kanone (PAK)-36, was developed by the U.S. Army in the late 1930s as a replacement for the French 37mm Puteaux gun, used in World War I but unable to destroy new tanks being produced.

The M3 was adopted because of its accuracy, fire control, penetration, and mobility. Towed by its prime mover, the 4x4 quarter-ton truck, the gun would trail at 50 mph on roads. When traveling crosscountry, gullies, shell holes, mud holes, and slopes of 26 degrees were negotiated with ease. In 1941, the gun was redesignated the M3A1 when the muzzles were threaded to accept a muzzle brake that was rarely, if ever, used.

At the time of its adoption, the M3 could destroy any tank then being produced in the world. However, by the time the United States entered the war, the M3 was outmatched by the tanks it would have met in Europe. The Japanese tanks were smaller and more vulnerable to the M3 throughout the war. In the Pacific, it was used against bunkers, pillboxes and, when loaded with canister, against banzai charges. It was employed throughout the war by Marine regimental weapons companies, but in reduced numbers as the fighting continued. It was replaced in the European Theater by the M1 57mm antitank gun.

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