Russia salvage a WWII American M3 Lee Tank from Barents Sea

    Ready for some history?

    In 1943, during the World War II, near the shores of Kildin Island (a small Russian island in the Barents Sea), the USS Ballot carried this American M3 Lee tank.

    Unfortunately USS Ballot sunk. Some say she was hit by a torpedo, some say she ran aground and was wrecked.

    According to Wikipedia, and the “notable incidents” around the Island we can read:

    1943, 2 January: While part of Convoy JW51B from Loch Ewe for Murmansk with military cargo, the American freighter Ballot (6,131gt) ran aground on the island in fog and was a total loss. Her crew abandoned her on 13 January.

    In any case, the Ballot was found 60 meters deep, and one of the many M3 Lee tanks aboard could be recovered by specialists of the Russian Northern Fleet’s Search and Rescue unit in 2018.

    What you may not know is that almost a thousand M3s were supplied to the Soviet military under a Lend-Lease alliance between 1941–1943.

    The M3 Lee, a Medium Tank, came with one 75 mm Gun M2/M3 , mounted in the hull as well as a 37 mm Gun M5/M6 in the turret.

    According to Wikipedia 6,258 M3 Lee were manufactured in the United States. Of those 2,855 (or 45%) were officially handed over to the British Government. A further 1,386 (or 22%) were exported directly from the US to the Soviet Union.

    Due to German U-boat and air attacks on Allied convoys, and – as we just learned due to fog, only 969 of these reached Russian ports.

    Secondary armament included .30-06 Browning M1919A4 machine guns.

    Gatfishing, Russian style:

    -“In Russia, great magnet finds small M3 Lee.”

    The armor, in the front hull and turret, was 51 mm thick.

    The tank was powered by a Wright R975 EC2 with about 230-400 hp, with 5 speeds forward, 1 reverse transmission.

    The M3 Lee weighed about 27 tonnes.

    Here you can see the main cannons.

    This M3 Lee has been well camouflaged by the sea and time. 

    All of the pictures are from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation,

    From the Russian release (Auto-translated):

    American medium tank M3 Lee from WWII delivered to the main base of the Northern Fleet in the city of Severomorsk

    This unique historical exhibit was raised by the Northern Fleet search and rescue operations specialists from the Ballot transport, which sank in the Barents Sea at the beginning of 1943 near the island of Kildin.

    The operation involved the Ivan Shvets diving boat and the latest Elbrus multi-purpose logistics support vessel. It is planned that in the near future specialists of the Northern Fleet will begin to restore another unique historical armored car, and rescuers will continue their work on the Ballot transport, evaluating the possibility of lifting other historical exhibits.

    M3 Lee – American medium tank of the period of the Second World War. Named after the commander of the American Civil War, General Robert Lee.

    Under the Lend-Lease program, 952 M3 tanks were delivered to the USSR.

    Read more about the Lend-Lease here, here and here. It’s a part of history I had no idea about.

    Below you can see a video:

    The story doesn’t end there. The Russian restored the tank, which must have taken an incredible effort.

    Russia Today has a story about it: US tanks lost at sea in WWII restored for Victory Day parade in Russia:

    Although over half a century has passed, the Russian servicemen made sure that sacrifice was not made in vain. After recovering what was left of the tanks, they began the painstaking process of taking them apart, cleaning them piece by piece, replacing parts and even getting the weapons systems back online.

    Remember the TFB Gatfishing Tournament! Magnet Hunting To Recover Lost Gats.

    Eric B

    Ex-Arctic Ranger. Competitive practical shooter and hunter with a European focus. Always ready to increase my collection of modern semi-automatics, optics, thermals and suppressors. TCCC Certified. Occasionaly seen in a 6×6 Bug Out Vehicle, always with a big smile.