Following the First World War, America, shocked by the slaughter of trench warfare and the vindictiveness with which the French and British persecuted the new moderate government in Germany, withdrew into a shell of isolationism that would endure until Japan attacked on December 7, 1941.
Few in Washington could foresee the possibility of the United States ever going to war again to protect European interests. The result of this thinking was the National Defense Act of 1920, which gutted the armed services. Only the Navy was seen to have a role in extraterritorial warfare, and that role was directed primarily at the Japanese.
Even the Navy was dealt a near mortal blow by various acts of Congress that prevented or slowed the development of the aircraft carrier, the submarine, and the amphibious vehicle. The Washington Naval Treaty of 1923 even limited the number and size of large capital battleships that could be built.
The National Defense Act disbanded the armored corps and placed the tank with the infantry, thus relegating both light and medium tanks to the infantry support role. The heavy tank class was eliminated.
Not until Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany and gobbled up Austria, the Sudetenland, and Czechoslovakia, did the United States begin to awake to the danger in Europe. Even then, isolationist sentiment remained so strong that President Franklin Roosevelt was forced to resort to various stratagems to rearm the country in the face of stiff congressional opposition.
Except for a few T-4s in 1936, no medium tank had been produced in the inter-war period. In 1938 designers at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, the center for American tank design and, until 1940, tank production, developed the T-5, a radically new medium tank design.
It used a radial engine developed by the Wright Continental Company for aircraft use, a new type of suspension system in which three pairs of road wheels per side were mounted on bell cranks, and a front drive sprocket. It was equipped with a 37mm main gun and two .30 caliber machine guns.
Once adopted, it was designated the M-2 and underwent numerous upgrades. Rapid advances in tank design in Germany and Russia made the M-2 obsolete, and it was relegated to a training tank.
To learn about the replacement for the M-2, the M-3 Grant/Lee Medium Tank, continue to the next page.
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