At the outset of war in Europe in September of 1939, the U.S. had fewer armored vehicles than Poland. At the end of WWI, most U.S. armored groups (such as they were) had been disbanded. All armor was placed under control of the infantry, who thought tanks were only good for troop support. Given that the tanks left over from WWI were only machine gun-based, and had armor barely capable of stopping a rifle bullet, this was probably a correct assessment.
The National Defense Act of the 1920’s limited tanks to the infantry, too. As cavalry units became interested in them, they were referred to as “Combat Cars” during the 30s. This created a “vehicle” referred to as the M1, however, this experiment eventually failed due to inter-service politics. It wasn’t until 1939 that serious research and development began for a “light tank.”
The light tank effort was more “politically correct” because it cost less, and threatened other services less than the “medium” tanks (which led to the Sherman). The first of these were the M2A2 and M2A3, which were better than the earlier M1 series, but still pathetic compared to what was happening in Europe. Finally, the M2A4 was developed, which was armed with the 37mm M5 anti-tank gun. These were extensively exported under the Lend-Lease program. The rest, as they say, is history. As the war progressed, new and improved versions evolved, including the subject of most current kits, the M3 and M5 series.
Squadron has released a book on the Stuart and its use by US forces, and it covers all variants from the beginning to the end of WWII. The author notes that there is a large volume of history about the Stuarts and their use by Lend-Lease recipients, but has restricted the book to this more targeted topic.
(Just an aside, and as most of you probably know, the name “Stuart” was apparently created by the British recipients, and of course refers to J.E.B. Stuart of Confederate Civil War fame. They also nicknamed the M3 a “honey,” supposedly due to its automatic transmission, and ease of use.)
This is a softcover book with 50 pages about the size of a standard sheet of paper. All content is in black and white, with the exception of the covers and an illustrated history. Interestingly, this history is a “centerfold” which has nothing on its reverse pages, so it could be removed and displayed. Not exactly playmate material, but not bad.
Most of the book is captioned pictures with a little supporting text. However, each major variation comes with a brief history, and line drawings of that version. There is no table of contents, but the book consists of the following sections:
• Prelude To War
• Stuart Development
o The Light Tank M3
o Light Tank M3 (Diesel)
• The Stuarts Enter Combat – 4 pages (mostly text)
• The Light Tank M3A1
o Light Tank M3A1
o M3A1 in Combat
o Rubber Block Track
o M3A1 Flamethrowers
• A Replacement for The Stuart
• The Light tanks M5 and M5A1
o M5 Development
o M3A3 in Combat
o The M5 and M5A1 in Combat
o Light Tank M5A1
o The 37mm M6 Tank Gun
• Stuart Variants
o The Light Tank M24
• American Light Tanks in Retrospect
This book is an excellent reference for anyone building one of the current Stuart models. The only significant shortcoming is there are no interior pictures, and many of those models do have at least a basic interior.
Highs: An excellent reference for those building one of the available Stuart modelsLows: No interior photosVerdict: A great reference on the Stuart, and an excellent source of diorama ideas.