Trucks & Heavy Equipment | 4 January 2016Tanks in WWII Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Tanks played an essential role in the first world war. Newly developed at the time, they did not fail to be one the most extraordinary technologies for the United States Army. When the troops entered the second world war, the decades of improvement made to these gargantuan multipurpose vehicles proved worth while. The following pictures and their descriptions on the tanks used in WWII are excerpted from Michael E. Haskew‘s book Tank: 100 Years of the World’s Most Important Armored Military Vehicle. German PzKpfw I tanks cross a pontoon bridge that pioneers, or engineer, troops have constructed across a river in France. Note the pair of machine guns mounted in the turret of the tank in the foreground, making it easily distinguishable from later German tank designs. The commander of this particular tank sits jauntily outside the hatch. He is a combat veteran, wearing the Iron Cross Second Class and the Tank Assault Badge, both likely earned in combat in Poland during the autumn of 1939. National Archives A German tank soldier emerges from the small turret of a PzKpfw II tank somewhere on the Eastern Front during the opening months of World War II. Note the turret-mounted machine gun along with the ?rst real German attempt to increase the ?repower of its armored vehicles beyond machine guns along with the introduction of the 20mm cannon mounted at right in the turret. The tank in the foreground, a Czech-made PzKpfw 38(t), exhibits a more angular riveted turret. National Archives This early version of the German Sturmgeschütz III tank destroyer is put through its paces during a training exercise. The Sturmgeschütz self-propelled assault gun provided close infantry support and operated as a tank destroyer as well. The turretless assault gun was cheaper to manufacture in wartime Germany, and the model proved so successful that independent Sturmgeschütz combat formations were actually ?elded as the war progressed. National Archives Clad in white camou?age for concealment against a snow-covered landscape, infantrymen of the Soviet Red Army ride atop T-34 medium tanks as they proceed into battle. The soldiers are armed with submachine guns, standard issue in the Red Army during the latter stages of World War II, providing a tremendous volume of ?re. The T-34 became a symbol of the might of the Soviet armed forces and set a standard of excellence in overall performance during the war despite the fact that its crew space was cramped and was not ergonomically ef?cient. The service life of the T-34 extended more than half a century. National Archives Powerful German PzKpfw VI Tiger I tanks parade through the streets of the French city of Toulouse as curious citizens line the route to gaze at the might of the conquering army’s heavy armor. The Tiger I made its combat debut in North Africa 1942. Its outstanding 88mm main gun was superior to that of any Allied tank on the Western Front until late in the war. However, its ponderous weight of ?fty-six tons was problematic. The massive tank had to be loaded on railroad ?atcars for long-distance transport, and its initial power plant was insuf?cient to provide the horsepower necessary for dependable operation, often resulting in battle?eld breakdowns. National Archives Soviet T-34 medium tanks proceed through a ravine in preparation for an attack on advancing German forces. The T-34 reached the battle?eld on the Eastern Front in 1941 and shocked the Germans with its ?repower and mobility when they encountered it in combat for the ?rst time in November of that year near the village of Mzensk. The original production model of the T-34 was armed with a 76.2mm main gun, which was subsequently upgraded to an 85mm weapon to achieve greater penetration of the thick armor of improved German tanks. More than ?fty-seven thousand T-34s were produced during World War II, more than any other armored vehicle. Perhaps the ?nest tank of the war, the T-34 was vital to the Soviet victory in the East. National Archives The Soviet IS-1, or Josef Stalin, heavy tank was developed in 1943 and entered service the following year on the Eastern Front. The IS-1 weighed nearly forty-eight tons and was initially armed with the reliable 85mm cannon that equipped later models of the T-34 and the KV heavy tank series. Later, it was decided that the sturdy armored turret could support a heavier weapon, and lethal 100mm and 122mm weapons were tested. The 122mm weapon was then deployed and demonstrated the ability to blow the turret off an enemy tank without necessarily penetrating its armor. The IS-1 maintained the sleek, forward-leaning pro?le that characterized Soviet tanks for decades. National Archives On a snowy February 2, 1940, a French armored unit stands for review during its commissioning ceremony on the outskirts of Paris. These French tankers are standing beside their Renault UE Chenillette tankettes, which were manufactured from 1932 to 1940. The tankette was a common armored vehicle among the world’s major armies during the prewar years. However, it was wholly unsuited for combat and later served as an artillery prime mover and transport vehicle during World War II. National Archives This French SOMUA S35 tank has rotated its turret to the right ?ank in order to ?re its main 47mm cannon at German positions in the distance. The SOMUA S35 was an excellent tank and more than a match for its German adversaries. It exhibits a number of features that later tanks incorporated, such as a cast turret and hull rather than riveted. Those S35s captured by the Germans in 1940 were put to use with training units and ?elded against the Allies in Normandy as late as 1944. National Archives This battle-scarred tank, modi?ed slightly by the British from the original Grant con?guration and referred to as “the General Lee,” rumbles past the burned out hulk of a German tank along a roadway in Tunisia. British soldiers follow aboard a small truck. Although they were de?cient in numerous respects to more modern tank designs, the M3 Grant and its Lee derivative provided valuable service during World War II at a time when it was much needed by the Allies. National Archives Crewmen tend to the maintenance needs of their M4 Sherman medium tank during desert warfare maneuvers in California. The soldier at left is swabbing the Sherman’s 75mm gun while other crewmen tend to the tracks and the turret-mounted .30-caliber machine gun. Although the Sherman gained a dubious reputation for vulnerability to German tank ?re, it is rightfully considered one of the weapons that helped the Allies to win World War II. The Sherman was manufactured in large numbers and supplied to the British Army through Lend-Lease while also serving as the mainstay of American armored divisions during the war. National Archives Buy from an Online Retailer In North America: In The UK: Explore the 100-year evolution of the tank and its role on the battlefield, from World War I to today’s armored fighting vehicles. From the Greek phalanx to Roman siege engines, plans by Leonardo da Vinci, and the wondrous imagination of H. G. Wells, the idea of the armored fighting vehicle–the tank–has crossed centuries and given rise to the technologically advanced land warfare systems that populate the armies of countries large and small today. First appearing during World War I as unwieldy boxes mounted on tractor chassis and prone to mechanical failure, tank designs evolved into sleek weapons with the now-classic characteristics of speed, mobility, and firepower. During the 1920s, American Maj. Gen. Adna Chaffee Jr., correctly predicted that mechanized armies would win the land battles of the future. Young US Army officers such as Dwight D. Eisenhower and George Patton risked their careers to champion the development of armored divisions. Modern tanks perform in both offensive and defensive roles, capable of exploiting breaches in enemy defenses and rapidly slashing into rear areas, disrupting communications, supply, and command and control. In Tank: 100 Years of the World’s Most Important Armored Military Vehicle, noted military historian Michael E. Haskew is your guide to the complete 100-year history of these unparalleled machines. He starts with the development of early tanks, moves on to the uses of tanks in World War I, World War II, and the Cold War, and covers the modern armored fighting vehicles in use during the Gulf Wars and in conflicts right up to today. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.