Stuarts were the first American-crewed tanks to engage in combat in World War II. The first version, designated M3, went into production in 1941. Named after Civil War Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart, the tank was designed for speedy scouting and as an infantry support weapon.
History of the Artifact
An improved version of the vehicle, with a revised hull and twin Cadillac engines, was eventually designated M5. Both the M3 and M5 carried a 37mm cannon, which was, by most accounts, underpowered for combat with German tanks. As a result, in Europe, Stuarts were often limited to secondary roles. Though not everyone was displeased with the small tank’s shortcomings. Crews began calling the reliable and fast Stuart “Honey” after a proud British driver remarked of the vehicle, “She’s a honey.”
M5s fought in the last phases of North Africa, through the invasion of Italy and France, and into Germany. In the Pacific, both Army and Marine Corps units operated M5s, which were a more even match to lighter, smaller Japanese tanks and armored cars. Over 2,000 M5 tanks were built, eventually being replaced by the M24 Chaffee, which carried a more powerful 75mm cannon.
After the war, many M5s continued in service with many foreign militaries into the 1950s and 1960s, including China, France, and Portugal.