By U.S. ArmyMay 24, 2019
The M5 3-inch antitank gun was developed during World War II by combining the high velocity of a 3-inch antiaircraft gun with the field carriage of the 105MM howitzer. The result was an effective antitank gun that fired armor-piercing ammunition. Its use was discontinued after the war due to being too big and heavy for troops in the field. Rock Island Arsenal produced 1,650 M9 recoil mechanisms and 1,085 M9A1 recoil mechanisms for this system. The recoil mechanism for the M5 antitank gun displayed at Memorial Field was manufactured at Rock Island Arsenal in 1943.
The World War II Tank Destroyer
Designed and developed during World War II, the M5 combined the strengths of multiple weapon systems and consolidated them into one package capable of effectively decommissioning enemy tanks. The gun barrel was repurposed from the T9 anti-aircraft gun, while its internal mechanisms and carriage were borrowed from the M2 howitzer. Mated to an M6 carriage, the gun was designed to replace the smaller, lighter and now-obsolete M3 37MM gun, which was not able to mount meaningful resistance against Axis tanks.
The M5 was issued exclusively to tank destroyer battalions. As its nomenclature suggests, its primary use was to destroy enemy tanks at distances of up to nine miles. The M5 saw action in the Italian Campaign, as well as in operations in Northwest Europe.
The M5 entered production in late 1942, with subsequent runs of upgraded variants in 1943 and 1944. The M6 carriage was standardized in November 1943. By the time the guns reached the front lines, most had been refitted with the upgraded M6 carriage. With the larger caliber came heavier weight. By the time the war ended in Europe in 1945, the U.S. Army recognized that the M5 was far too heavy and cumbersome to maneuver in the field. As a result, the M5 was retired in favor of lighter options.
Today, the M5 is largely maintained as a battery gun used for ceremonial salutes.