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American M3 Lee tanks cross the North African desert sometime in 1942. Armed with a 37mm turret gun, a 75mm hull gun, and four .30-inch machine guns, the M3 provided the British Eighth Army with a significant upgrade in the North African campaign in the spring of 1942.

The British called their M3s, which had a modified turret, the Grant, with no apparent recognition of the irony. One drawback with the Lee/Grant was with the hull gun, which was mounted on one side of the tank, a location that restricted its field of fire. Another drawback was the high profile, which made the M3 an easy target.

The Eighth Army under Lt. Gen. Neil Ritchie had received 167 of the American tanks by the time of the Battle of Gazala in May and June 1942, but they weren’t enough to stave off an attack by General Erwin Rommel and his Panzerarmee Afrika, leading to a British defeat and the fall of the port of Tobruk. The British would have to wait until the Battle of El Alamein to regain the upper hand. 

Cinephiles might recognize the M3 as the kind of tank that Humphrey Bogart uses in the 1943 film “Sahara,” which was set in North Africa (although filmed in California).  

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