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Casemate Illustrated Special - The US 37-mm Gun in World War II

ISBN Number:
978-1-63624-252-1
Published:
Tuesday, December 5, 2023
Publisher:
Casemate Publishing
Retail Price:
$45.00 USD
Reviewed By:
Chuck Aleshire

Casemate Illustrated Special

The US 37-MM Gun in World War II 

Casemate publishes an astonishingly wide array of military history books, on virtually every topic from every conflict dating back to the first human that picked up a rock and bashed his neighbor with it. Their Casemate Illustrated" series takes in-depth looks at the men, weapons and battles of specific conflicts, and are noted for using previously unpublished photographs, frequently taken by the combatants themselves. The books in this series all share similar content style and physical characteristics, including timelines, profiles of key individuals, maps, explanatory text boxes, which provide clear overviews of campaigns or units which are the subjects of the volumes in this series.

This book addresses the U.S. 37mm gun as used in World War II. The U.S. was a little late to the party, but the late 1930’s saw several other nations arming themselves with light, mobile anti-tank guns and the US took notice. In particular, the US saw the use of the German PaK 36 anti-tank gun during the Spanish Civil War, where so many weapons and tactics were honed for use in the oncoming WWII. The German built 37mm PaK 36 was employed to great effect against the small, lightly armored tanks used in that conflict, and heavily influenced the designers of the US 37mm gun.

The US 37mm gun was developed and rushed into production by mid-1940, made at New York’s Watervliet Arsenal (which by the way, is America’s oldest continuously active arsenal, still in use today). By late 1941, production had ramped up to several hundred guns made per month. Designed as a towed weapon for use in anti- tank units, the gun was later mounted on a variety of vehicles. The  M3 37mm AT gun saw service almost immediately upon the US entry into WWII, with effective use in the Philippines against Japanese armor. The M3 would continue to be effective against Japanese armor throughout WWII. The M3 saw much use during the North African and Italian campaigns, but by mid-war it was proving to be of limited use against increasingly heavier German armor. By 1944 the 37mm M3 was being replaced by the 57mm M1 AT gun. 

Adaptations of the M3 37mm gun were mounted on a wide variety of vehicles, including Jeeps, Dodge weapons carriers, M3/M5 light tanks, the M3 medium tank, several armored car variants including the M8, the M22 “Locust” airborne tank, and it was even mounted on the occasional PT boat. 18,000+ of these guns were produced by end of production in late 1943. The 37mm M3 wasn’t a huge lend lease weapon, with less than 2,000 units supplied to China during WWII. A few other nations received much smaller numbers of the gun, and it reportedly remained in service with a couple of nations into the 1970’s.

Vital Statistics

Format - hardcover, portrait format

 Page Count - heavyweight, glossy paper,  167 pages

 Size - 10.0" x 8.0”

Photos - 200+ full color and B&W period images

Tables / Drawings / Diagrams -  a timeline, data tables, drawings

All text and photo captions are in English

What’s in the Book?


Above - the book’s table of contents. This volume is very nicely laid out, making it easy to find what you may be looking for. The layout of this book is quite user friendly.

Above - this book opens with a timeline giving context to the need, development and usage of the US M3 37mm gun. This timeline begins in 1862 with the Lieberman Code governing the conduct of war signed by President Abraham Lincoln, and concludes with the cessation of war production in 1945. Quite a lot occurred between 1862 and 1945, as you can well imagine, but events pertaining to the M3 gun are highlighted.

As mentioned above, the United States was little behind other nations in the development of anti-tank guns. The author takes a good look at the anti-tank weapons in use by other nations during the period when the US was playing catch-up. These nations include Germany, Japan, Poland, the Soviet Union, Sweden and Czechoslovakia. The author gives background information for each, and includes photographs and specifications tables for the guns discussed. Some of the guns are shown in period photos, as well as contemporary museum photos.

The M3 37mm gun wasn’t actually the first 37mm gun used by the United States, that honor went to the 37mm Gun M1916 which was used in WWI as a sub-caliber training gun for larger artillery pieces (seen above on a 155mm howitzer).

Above - This volume makes good use of tables of technical / performance tables as well as informative drawings throughout. 

The author goes into great depth of detail in describing the various components of the M3 gun and its carriage. He accompanies very descriptive text with plenty of clear in-detail photographs and drawings, some of which are from period US Army field manuals. 

All components are well examined, discussed and shown in photos and drawings, including the gun’s breech and barrel, elevation and traversing  mechanisms, sighting equipment, etc. Several well reproduced Field Manual drawings are provided complete with component captions, so now you don’t need to call gun components “thingamajigs or doohickeys”.  

The author provides very good coverage of the M5 37mm gun as adapted for use on tanks. He also addresses the M6 37mm tank variant, which had a longer gun tube and an automatic breechblock, which ejected empty shells without use of a lever.

The authors great attention to detail extends to the ammunition and ballistics of this weapon. As the base 37mm gun was used in many variations in a wide variety of roles, from traditional towed anti-tank to vehicle mounted, to use on armored cars, tanks, aircraft and even on PT boats, a quite wide range of different ammunition types were developed for use. The author provides a lot of interesting detail on these shells and their purposes. This chapter is also well illustrated with photos and drawings.

Above - A feature of this series of books are the “In Profile” pages, where a subject is shown in a drawing, as well as in a photograph. 

The many uses of the M3 37mm gun or its several variants in non towed applications are well described. These interesting uses for these guns included all sorts of wheeled vehicles, tanks, at least one aircraft and even PT boats. The author does a thorough job of discussing all of these, providing crystal clear drawings and good photographs to augment his interesting text work. 

The book finishes up with a pair of extensive appendices, each providing a great many technical drawings and documents. 

Conclusions 

This book is a VERY thorough examination of the US M3 37mm gun, in all of its widely varied roles and uses during World War II. I have to admit to being rather surprised by just how many uses the US military found for this gun.

The author does a great job of explaining the origins, development and employment of this weapons system. His text work is well written and easily followed. The drawings, informational tables and photographs are well selected and compliment the text very well. The layout of this book is quite pleasing to the eye as well. 

If you have an interest in this little AT gun that found itself in many roles, this book is well deserving of a spot in your bookcase.

Highly Recommended

Thanks to Casemate Publishers for the review copy

Reviewed by Chuck Aleshire, AMPS Chicagoland

AMPS 2nd Vice President, Midwest Region

 

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