The Best Tank of WW2 - Deep Analysis of Top Tanks of World War II - Detailed Look into the Tiger Heavy Tank Source
The Best Tank of WW2 - Deep Analysis of Top Tanks of World War II - Detailed Look into the Tiger Heavy Tank Source

The Best Tank of WW2: Deep Analysis of Top Tanks of World War II

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Table of Contents

Which was the Best Tank of WWII – Key Notes

  • Evolution of Tank Warfare: Tanks evolved significantly from WWI to WWII, becoming pivotal in warfare. Their roles expanded from infantry support to combined arms operations, with advancements in design and technology.
  • Dominant Tank Models: The Tiger I (Germany), Sherman (USA), and T-34 (Soviet Union) were among the most technologically advanced and influential tanks.
  • Strategic Impact: Tanks were central to major strategies like the German Blitzkrieg, and played vital roles in key battles across different theaters.
  • Mass Production: The war saw mass production of tanks, with models like the Sherman and T-34 being the most produced due to their effectiveness and robustness.
  • Specialized Tanks: Later in the war, specialized tanks emerged, including flamethrower tanks and tank destroyers, showing the versatility of tanks in warfare.
  • Post-War Influence: The experience and lessons from WWII tank warfare significantly influenced future tank design and military strategies.

Introduction to World War II Tank Warfare

World War II, a pivotal conflict in global history, saw tanks emerge as crucial elements in warfare.

Their evolution and deployment during this period significantly influenced the outcomes of many battles.

Here, we explore various aspects of tank warfare in WWII, focusing on the design, tactical employment, and effectiveness of these war machines.

Initially, tanks were a product of the first World War, created mainly by the British and French, serving primarily as infantry support.

However, by World War II, tank design had advanced significantly, with improvements in engines, transmissions, and track systems, making them more reliable and maneuverable.

Tanks like the Tiger I and Tiger II from Germany, the Sherman Tank from the United States, and the Soviet T-34 reflected this technological leap.

The doctrine surrounding tank warfare also evolved.

Tanks were no longer just for infantry support but became essential elements in combined arms operations, playing traditional cavalry roles, providing mobile artillery support, and adapting to combat engineering roles.

German Blitzkrieg tactics, for instance, effectively used tanks in fast-paced, coordinated attacks, supported by mobile infantry and air power.

During the war, light tanks, dominant in the early years of the war, gradually gave way to more powerful medium and heavy tanks.

The Tiger I tank, with its thick armor and powerful 88mm gun, is a prime example of the heavy tanks that dominated later stages of the war.

Infantry tanks, like the British Churchill tank, also played significant roles all over the war in Europe, particularly in supporting ground troops in various terrains.

Tank production was a vital aspect of the war effort, with countries like the UK, the US, the Soviet Union, and Germany producing significant numbers. The Sherman tank, widely used by Allied forces, and the Soviet T-34, known for its robustness and effectiveness, were among the most produced.

In the later part of the war, specialized tanks emerged, including flamethrower tanks, armored recovery vehicles, and command tanks. Tank destroyers and assault guns also became prevalent, illustrating the diverse roles tanks played in WWII.

By the end of WWII, a consensus on tank warfare’s effectiveness and strategies had emerged, setting the stage for future armored warfare developments. This period marked a significant chapter in military history, highlighting the importance and versatility of tanks in modern warfare

Russland, Panzer VI "Tiger I"<a href="" rel="nofollow"> Source</a>
Russland, Panzer VI “Tiger I” Source

Significance of Tanks in WW2

Versatility and Strategic Impact

Tanks in World War II were not just formidable weapons; they were multi-functional tools on the battlefield.

As mobile artillery, they provided crucial fire support, and in their role as infantry support, they bolstered ground troops.

Tanks also undertook cavalry functions, offering both speed and power, and played a key part in combat engineering tasks.

Significantly, they were central to the blitzkrieg strategy of Nazi Germany, which combined tanks, aircraft, and motorized infantry for swift and overpowering attacks.

This strategy showcased the tanks’ ability to shift the dynamics of warfare rapidly. The diversity in tank design, size, and function meant that their application was widespread and varied among all major combatants in the war​​.

Role in Key Battles and Theatres

The impact of tanks extended across various theatres of war, from the deserts of North Africa to the snowy fields of Russia and the battlegrounds of northern France.

Tanks were instrumental in some of the most pivotal battles of World War II, like El Alamein (1942) and Kursk (1943). These battles not only demonstrated the tactical importance of tanks but also their strategic value in large-scale warfare.

In the intense clashes between Germany and Soviet Russia, tank battles were particularly decisive, highlighting the role of tanks in determining the outcomes of significant confrontations​​.

Evolution and Mass Production

Compared to the inter-war years, when tanks were largely experimental and tanks produced in limited numbers, World War II saw a dramatic evolution in tank technology and production.

The war necessitated mass production of tanks, with production levels reaching thousands each month.

This escalation not only signifies the importance of tanks in the war but also marks a significant advancement in military technology and industrial capacity.

By World War II, tanks had become the principal weapon in land battles, symbolizing a major shift from their more limited use and effectiveness in World War I.


T-34 and its family, prototypres of the top tank of world war 2<a href="" rel="nofollow"> Source</a>
T-34 and its family, prototypres of the top tank of world war 2 Source

Evolution of Tanks Between WW1 and WW2

The evolution of tanks between World War I (WWI) and World War II (WWII) marked significant advancements in military technology and tactics.

This period, often referred to as the interwar period, witnessed the transformation of tanks from rudimentary armored vehicles to powerful instruments of warfare.

The development of tanks during this era can be divided into three key subheadings:

Post-WWI Developments and Global Economic Impacts

Tanks initially emerged in WWI as a solution to the deadlock of trench warfare.

Britain and France led in tank technology, with their designs influencing other nations. However, the end of WWI saw a downturn in tank development due to economic constraints, especially in Britain and France.

By the end of WWI, Britain had reduced its tank battalions significantly due to economic pressures. The U.S., adopting a policy of non-involvement, even disbanded its tank regiments, handing over remaining tanks to the infantry.

Despite this, the concept of armored warfare continued to evolve, particularly in Britain, where the government eventually decided to maintain a tank corps starting from 1922​​.

Technological Innovations and Theoretical Advancements

This period was marked by significant technological advancements and theoretical contributions to tank warfare. In Britain, theorists like J.F.C. Fuller and Basil Liddell Hart greatly influenced the future of tank warfare with their ideas of mechanized all-arms formations and integrated infantry and tanks, respectively.

Meanwhile, the U.S. saw developments like the Christie suspension system, which greatly influenced tank design, including the Soviet BT tanks and the famous T-34. Innovations in manufacturing methods, such as the use of large castings and welding, further advanced tank design​​.

Rise of Tank-Centric Warfare Strategies and WWII Preparations

As WWII approached, nations like the Soviet Union and Germany significantly ramped up their tank production and development.

The Soviet Union, under Stalin, embarked on a massive tank-building initiative, although this was marred by the Great Purge, which affected the quality of tank production.

Germany, under Hitler, defied the Treaty of Versailles and massively increased tank production and development, setting up the Panzerwaffe divisions and employing innovative tactics like Blitzkrieg during the Spanish Civil War.

These preparations underscored the central role that tanks would play in the impending global conflict

Overview of Allies Tanks vs Axis Tanks

Development and Tactical Employment

The Allies, including the United Kingdom, the US, the Soviet Union, and France, produced significant numbers of tanks during WWII.

At the beginning of the war, the early German tanks being inferior in armor and firepower, their tactical employment, epitomized by the Blitzkrieg doctrine, initially dominated.

Their new tanks, equipped with radios, excelled in command and control, contrasting with the slower-paced French doctrine which led to a significant disadvantage due to poor communication.

This disparity was eventually resolved as two-way radio became almost universal by 1943​​.

Evolution in Tank Design and Armament

A notable trend during the war was the shift towards heavier tanks.

By 1945, typical medium tanks possessed armor over 60 mm thick, with more powerful guns, marking a stark contrast from the lighter tanks of 1939.

The importance of turrets, enabling tanks to fire from hull-down positions, became a standard.

Additionally, the use of older, lighter tanks was repurposed to mount larger weapons in fixed casemates, as seen in the Soviet T-34 and the German Panzer II adaptations​​.

Key Models and Their Impact

The Soviet T-34 and KV-1 tanks, with their heavy armor and powerful guns, represented significant advancements. The T-34, in particular, forced the Germans to adopt heavier tank designs like the Panther and Tiger I.

The British, initially behind in tank development, gradually advanced with models like the A13 Cruiser and its successors, the Cromwell and Comet tanks. British tanks also benefited from the Lend-Lease program, notably incorporating the Sherman Firefly with its superior anti-tank capabilities.

Soviet tank 1942 model T-34 76, abandoned, captured by German troops<a href="" rel="nofollow"> Source</a>
Soviet tank 1942 model T-34 76, abandoned, captured by German troops Source

Deep Dive into the T-34 Medium Tank

Evolution of the T-34: From A-32 to War Hero

The T-34’s origins can be traced back to the A-32 prototype, designed as a part of the Soviet Union’s ambition to create a universal tank. Engineer Mikhail Koshkin led the project, aiming to supersede the existing BT series.

The A-32 featured sloped armor and a powerful diesel V12 engine, making it less prone to catching fire compared to previous tanks that used high-octane petrol engines. This design significantly increased the tank’s range and survivability​​.

Technical Mastery and Battlefield Supremacy

The T-34 stood out for its combination of thick, sloped armor, efficient gun, and high mobility.

It was equipped with a 76.2 mm gun and a coil-spring Christie suspension. The tank was renowned for its ability to tackle various terrain challenges, such as mud and snow, due to its large tracks and robust design.

Its attributes of speed, armor, and firepower made it unparalleled in the battlefield, significantly influencing the concept of main battle tanks. This model remained the basis for all versions until 1944, showcasing the innovative Soviet tank design during WWII​​.

Challenges and Adaptations: Production and Tactical Use

Despite its prowess, the T-34 faced production challenges and tactical limitations. Mechanical failures and poor quality assembly impacted its reliability.

The T-34/76 model of 1941 introduced improvements like the F-34 76.2 mm gun, but issues like the cramped fighting compartment and limited visibility persisted. The lack of sophisticated optics led to aggressive, close-quarters combat tactics as opposed to long-range engagements preferred by German tanks.

The subsequent T-34/76 models until 1944 addressed some of these issues, with changes like the introduction of a new turret design.

However, with the advancement of German Panzers, the T-34 faced increasing challenges, leading to the development of the T-34/85, which featured a more powerful gun that could nautralize most of the german armoured vehicles.

Explanation of Why the T-34 was Considered the Best

The T-34, a Soviet medium tank from World War II, stands out as a pivotal war machine due to several key factors. Its introduction featured a 76.2 mm tank gun, surpassing contemporaneous tanks in firepower.

A hallmark of the T-34 was its 60-degree sloped armour, offering robust protection against anti-tank weapons. This design not only had a profound impact on the conflict, particularly on the Eastern Front, but also influenced future tank design.

The tank’s cost-effectiveness and shorter production time compared to other WWII tanks like the German Panther tanks and Tiger versions, meant that it could be produced in large numbers, enabling the Soviet Red Army to field significantly larger tank forces.

By early 1944, the T-34 received a significant upgrade with the T-34-85 variant, which included an even more powerful gun to counter newer German tanks.

Despite the high number of T-34s lost in combat, its production method was continuously refined, making it quicker and more economical to produce. This strategy allowed the Soviets to maintain a strong presence of these tanks on the battlefield, despite heavy losses.

The T-34 replaced many light tanks and medium tanks in the Red Army, becoming the most-produced tank of the war and the second most-produced tank of all time.

Lessons learned from earlier battles, such as those at Lake Khasan and Khalkhin Gol, were instrumental in the T-34’s development.

These battles highlighted the importance of armour protection, mobility, quality welding, and main guns, all of which were significantly improved in the T-34 compared to its predecessors like the T-26 and BT tanks. The T-34’s design, notably its powerful engine, well-sloped armour, and wide tracks, contributed to its status as an effective tank.

However, it also posed new challenges for the Soviet industry, such as heavier armour than any other medium tank at the time and the initial use of radios only in company commanders’ tanks.

Design deficiencies were known, but remedies that would slow down production were avoided. Innovations were instead focused on simplifying and reducing the cost of production.

Its impact went beyond the end of the war, influencing tank design and production for future generations of Soviet tanks and shaping the evolution of armored warfare

The Best Tank of WW2 - Deep Analysis of Top Tanks of World War II - Detailed Look into the Tiger Heavy Tank <a href="" rel="nofollow"> Source</a>
The Best Tank of WW2 – Deep Analysis of Top Tanks of World War II – Detailed Look into the Tiger Heavy Tank Source

Detailed Look into the Tiger Heavy Tank

Design and Development: The Evolution of the Tiger I

The Tiger I tank, a German heavy tank from World War II, marked a significant shift in tank design philosophy from earlier German tanks. Unlike its predecessors that balanced mobility, armor, and firepower, the Tiger I prioritized armor and firepower, leading to a heavier design.

The tank weighed more than twice as much as the Panzer IV tanks, featuring thicker armor and a larger main gun. This design choice resulted in a tank that was not slower than its contemporaries despite its increased weight​​.

Technical Specifications: The Heart of the Tiger

At its core, the Tiger I was powered by a Maybach HL230 P45 V-12 petrol engine, producing 700 horsepower. This engine drove the tank’s Maybach Olvar transmission, offering 8 forward and 4 reverse gears.

The tank’s suspension used a unique Schachtellaufwerk system with interleaved road wheels, providing a high uniform load distribution onto the tracks. This design, however, made maintenance more challenging, especially in muddy or snowy conditions​​.

Armament and Armor: The Strength of the Tiger

The Tiger I’s main armament was the formidable 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56 gun, known for its high muzzle velocity and accuracy. It also had two 7.92 mm MG 34 machine guns.

The tank’s armor ranged from 25 to 120 mm in thickness, with the frontal hull and turret armor being 100 mm thick.

This robust armor, along with its powerful main gun, made the Tiger I a formidable opponent on the battlefield.

Explanation of Why the Tiger Tank was Feared

The Tiger Tank, particularly the Tiger I and Tiger II, stood as formidable war machines in World War Two, earning a reputation that made them feared by the Allied forces.

Introduced in 1942, the Tiger Tank was a key element in Germany’s tank arsenal, designed to achieve significant breakthroughs on the battlefield. Its design philosophy aimed at creating a tank that could decisively defeat any enemy tank while remaining almost impervious to anti-tank guns of the time​​.

The Tiger I tank, known for its heavy service during WWII, was equipped with the formidable 88 mm KwK 36 L/56 gun, capable of destroying enemy tanks at long distances.

This, combined with its thick armor ranging from 25-185 mm, made it a nearly invulnerable opponent for the infantry tanks and light tanks of the Allied forces.

The Tiger I’s advanced aiming mechanism contributed to an impressive 80 percent hit rate at 1,000 meters, further enhancing its combat effectiveness​​​​.

The Tiger II, although less numerous and plagued by mechanical and mobility issues due to its size and weight, continued this legacy of power.

It combined devastating firepower with thick armour, posing a significant challenge to Allied tanks and anti-tank guns whenever it was encountered on the battlefield​​.

The Tiger Tanks’ impact was such that they forced the Allies to alter their armor tactics and develop new weapons and tank designs, including the likes of the Sherman tank, Churchill tank, and Soviet tanks like the T-34-85, to counter them.

Their presence marked a shift in tank design and production strategies, influencing tank development even after the end of the war. The Tiger I alone boasted an impressive kill ratio of 10:1 to 19:1, underscoring its status as one of the most effective tanks of World War II.

Best tank of Second World War - M4 Sherman tanks of Guards Armoured Division move from Fouilloy to Arras, 1944<a href="" rel="nofollow"> Source</a>
Best tank of Second World War – M4 Sherman tanks of Guards Armoured Division move from Fouilloy to Arras, 1944 Source

Deep Dive into the M4 Sherman Tank

Design and Development of the M4 Sherman Tank

Origins and Production: The Sherman tank, officially the Medium Tank, M4, was a main battle tank designed and built by the United States for World War II.

The U.S., initially lagging in tank technology and armored warfare doctrine, accelerated its efforts following the fall of France in 1940, leading to the development of the Sherman.

Between 1942 and 1946, a total of 49,324 Sherman tanks were produced in 11 plants, making it the most widely used tank series among the Western Allies during the war​​.

The prototype of the M4 debuted in 1941, with a design focus on speed and mobility. This came at the expense of armor thickness and main gun size, affecting firepower and survivability.

The Sherman’s main armament was a short-barreled, low-velocity 75-mm gun. Armor thickness varied from 75 mm to a minimum of 12 mm, and the tank had a top speed of 24 to 29 miles per hour.

It carried a crew of five and weighed about 33 tons, depending on the series​​.

Performance and Adaptations of M4 Sherman in Combat 

Initially comparable to early versions of German tanks like the Pz. IV, the Sherman was outclassed by superior models like the Panzer V (Panther) and the Pz. VI (Tiger) by the time of the Normandy Invasion in June 1944.

American mass production and doctrinal thinking, still rooted in prewar concepts of the tank as primarily an infantry support weapon, delayed significant up-gunning of the M4.

The Sherman had a faster rate of fire and greater speed, but German tanks had better range, accuracy, and survivability​​.

During the Normandy Invasion and subsequent campaigns, the M4 was adapted with special-purpose devices. The British added flails for minefield clearance, while Americans fitted jury-rigged plows for breaking through hedgerows.

The “Duplex Drive” (DD) variant featured extendable skirts for amphibious operations. Additionally, the Sherman was transformed into various other roles, such as the M32 Tank Recovery vehicle and the M4 Mobile Assault Bridge carrier, showcasing its versatility and reliability as a workhorse of the Anglo-American armies​​.

Explanation of the Sherman Tank’s Role and Impact

The Sherman Tank, officially the Medium Tank, M4, was a pivotal medium tank in World War II, extensively used by the United States and Western Allies.

This tank was a development from the M3 Medium Tank and distinguished itself by moving the main 75 mm gun into a fully traversing central turret.

The Sherman’s design emphasized reliability, ease of production, and moderate size and weight, which, combined with its superior armor and armament at the time, made it more effective than German light and medium tanks of the early war years​​.

Entering desert war with the British Army in North Africa during the Second Battle of El Alamein in late 1942, the Sherman significantly bolstered the Allied armor’s superiority over Axis forces.

Initially, the U.S. Army deemed the Sherman adequate to win the war, leading to minimal initial pressure for further tank development.

However, by 1944, despite its numerical superiority and mechanical reliability, the Sherman was outclassed in firepower and armor by newer German medium and heavy tanks.

To address these shortcomings, later models, such as the M4A1, M4A2, and M4A3, were equipped with a high-velocity 76 mm gun, and some variants were fitted with a 105 mm gun for infantry support​​.

Key to the Sherman’s reliability were features developed from U.S. light tanks in the 1930s, including vertical volute spring suspension and a rear-mounted radial engine.

The Sherman was designed to be a fast, dependable medium tank capable of supporting infantry, providing breakthrough capacity, and defeating Axis tanks.

The T6 prototype, a forerunner of the Sherman, featured significant innovations, such as a single large casting for the upper hull and was standardized as the M4 in early 1942​​.

In terms of technical upgrades, the Sherman saw the introduction of the M4A3E2 “Jumbo” Shermans in mid-1944, characterized by very thick hull armor and a new, better-protected T23-style turret.

The M4A3 was the first to use the HVSS (Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension) system, improving ride quality and earning the nickname “Easy Eight”.

Furthermore, both American and British forces developed a range of special attachments for the Sherman, including bulldozer blades, the Duplex Drive system for amphibious operations, and various rocket launchers.

Some British variants, part of “Hobart’s Funnies”, included mine flails and other specialized equipment​​.

The Sherman Tank, thus, was not just a tank but a versatile platform that adapted to the evolving needs of the war. Its role transcended that of a simple combat vehicle; it was a crucial tool in the Allies’ arsenal, instrumental in both direct combat and support roles.

The Sherman’s adaptability, reliability, and mass production capabilities significantly contributed to the Allied victory in the Second World War.

Panzer IV, Panther and Churchill Tanks: Overview of Other Noteworthy Tanks in WW2

  1. British Matilda: The British Matilda was a well-armoured tank but suffered from a slow speed and an inadequate 40 mm gun compared to German tanks. Despite its limitations, British tank crews held affection for the Matilda due to its reliability and protection​​.
  2. Vickers Light Tank: This British tank offered speed with the Mk V reaching 32 mph, making it suitable for reconnaissance. However, it was lightly armoured and lacked significant offensive power, carrying only machine guns​​.
  3. British Crusader: Early models of the Crusader were too lightly armoured and suffered from high unreliability, with many lost due to mechanical failures rather than combat damage​​.
  4. Cromwell: Introduced in 1943, the Cromwell tank was a notable rival to German tanks. It was equipped with a 75 mm gun and was known for its mobility and reliability, thanks to the Meteor engine​​​​.
  5. Char B1-bis: The French Char B1-bis had a 75 mm gun, but its effectiveness was limited due to reliability issues and difficulties in its operational use​​.
  6. Panzer III: A central asset in Nazi Germany’s conquests, the Panzer III featured a 37 mm gun that later grew to 50 mm and had 19 mm armour. It played a key role in Rommel’s success in North Africa​​.
  7. M3 Medium – Grant: Known as the Grant, this American tank was employed by the British in 1942. It featured a 75 mm gun and a top speed of 26 mph, significantly improving British tank capabilities​​.
  8. Vickers 6-Ton (Vickers Mark E): This British light tank inspired several countries to produce their versions, including the Soviet T-26 and the Polish 7TP. It was built in two types, with varying armaments​​.
  9. Christie T3E2 Medium Tank: An American experimental prototype developed by J Walter Christie, it influenced the design of the Soviet BT series and later the T-34​​.
  10. TNH series (LT vz. 38)/Panzer 38(t): A Czech-made light tank, the Panzer 38(t) was successful and widely used by the German army during their initial conquests​​.
  11. Panzer IV: The most widely manufactured and deployed German tank of WW2, it was designed as an infantry support tank and saw service in all combat theatres involving Germany​​.
  12. T-70: A light Soviet tank, the T-70 replaced the T-60 scout tank and the T-50 light infantry tank. It was armed with a 45-mm gun and a coaxial 7.62-mm machine gun​​.
  13. Churchill: Deployed by the United Kingdom in 1941, the Churchill tank was heavily armored, making it resilient against enemy fire. It had a 75 mm gun and longer-than-average tracks for handling tough terrain​​.
  14. StuG III: The German StuG III tanks was protected by heavy armor and was equipped with a 75mm gun. It was known for its versatility and protective measures​​.
  15. M3 Stuart: A light tank known for its speed and maneuverability, the M3 Stuart was armed with a 37mm gun and three .30 caliber machine guns​​.
  16. Comet Cruiser Tank: The Comet was a British tank with heavy sloped armor and a 77 mm gun, introduced towards the end of WW2​​.
  17. Panzer V Panther: A well-traveled German tank, the Panther had a long-barreled gun and sloped armor, making it highly efficient and maneuverable​​.

Each of these tanks represents the diverse approaches to tank design and production during WW2, showcasing the varied needs and tactical doctrines of the countries involved. The evolution of tank technology during the war is evident in the increasing armor and firepower, as well as the shift from light to medium tanks as the war progressed

Comparison of the Top Tanks’ Firepower, Armor, Mobility: T-34, M4 Sherman, and Pzkpfw VI Tiger I

T-34 Tank

  • Firepower: The T-34 was equipped with a 76.2 mm F-34 tank gun and two 7.62 mm DT machine guns. This armament provided a balance between anti-tank and anti-infantry capabilities.
  • Armor: The hull front armor was 45-47 mm thick, with the turret front being 60 mm. The armor design was sloped, increasing the effective thickness and deflection capabilities.
  • Mobility: Weighing around 26.5-31 tonnes, the T-34 could reach speeds up to 53 km/h. It had a Christie suspension system and a diesel engine of 500 hp, contributing to its superior mobility in various terrains.
  • Operational Range: The T-34 had an operational range of 330 km on roads and 200 km cross-country​​.

Sherman Tank

  • Firepower: The Sherman tank’s main armament varied, including the 75 mm M3 gun, 76 mm M1A1 gun, or 105 mm howitzer. It also featured a .50 caliber Browning M2HB machine gun and up to four .30 caliber Browning M1919A4 machine guns.
  • Armor: Sherman tanks had armor thickness ranging from 12.7 to 177.8 mm, depending on the variant and location on the tank.
  • Mobility: The Sherman had a power-to-weight ratio of 10.46–13.49 hp/ton, with a maximum speed of 22-30 mph on roads. It used a vertical volute spring suspension or horizontal volute spring suspension.
  • Operational Range: Road operational range was 100–150 miles, while cross-country range was 60–100 miles​​.

Tiger I Heavy Tank

  • Firepower: The Tiger I was armed with a formidable 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56 gun and two 7.92 mm MG 34s. This made it one of the most powerful tanks in terms of firepower.
  • Armor: The Tiger I’s armor thickness varied from 25 to 120 mm. Its armor was flat and encouraged angling to increase effective thickness.
  • Mobility: Despite its heavy weight of 54-57 tonnes, the Tiger I could achieve a maximum speed of 45.4 km/h on roads. It featured a torsion bar suspension and a Maybach HL230 P45 V-12 petrol engine with 690 hp.
  • Operational Range: The Tiger I had a road range of 195 km and a cross-country range of 110 km​​.

Table of Technical Details:

SpecificationT-34ShermanTiger I
Main Gun76.2 mm75/76/105 mm8.8 cm KwK 36
Armor Thickness45-60 mm12.7-177.8 mm25-120 mm
Weight26.5-31 tonnes30.3-38.1 tonnes54-57 tonnes
Max Speed53 km/h35-48 km/h45.4 km/h
Power/Weight18.9 hp/tonne10.46-13.49 hp/ton9.5 kW/tonne
Operational Range (Road)330 km160-240 km195 km

In summary, the T-34 was notable for its mobility and effective use of sloped armor, the Sherman was versatile with various armaments and armor configurations, and the Tiger I excelled in firepower and armor protection, albeit at the cost of heavier weight and lower mobility. These characteristics reflect the varied approaches of Soviet, American, and German tank design and production strategies during WWII.

Tank Crew of a T34 tank - Wgich was the best tank of Second World War article<a href="" rel="nofollow"> Source</a>
Tank Crew of a T34 tank – Wgich was the best tank of Second World War article Source

Tank Crew Training Methods: Allied vs. German Approaches

Allied Tank Crew Training Methods

For the Allies, training began with basic training or “boot camp,” where recruits were transformed from individuals into cohesive units.

This included physical fitness, weapon handling, and discipline.

In the U.S., for instance, recruits underwent a few weeks of such training before moving on to specialized training for specific duties​​.

German Trainings 

The German approach to tank training was exemplified by the use of the Panzer I, initially designed not for combat but as a training vehicle.

This facilitated the familiarization of crews with modern battle concepts and prepared the industry for the war effort​​.

German crews were also trained in combined tactics involving tanks, anti-tank guns, and dive bombers, making them efficient in the field, as seen in the Battle of France​​.

Effect of Tank Aces: Skills and Recognition

The concept of “tank aces” – highly skilled tank commanders who were credited with destroying large numbers of enemy tanks – has been a subject of debate.

While some historians like Robert Kershaw attribute their success to skills honed over years of combat, others like Steven Zaloga argue that the concept is a mix of romanticization and propaganda, with difficulties in accurately determining “tank kills”​​.

Highly decorated German Tank Aces often served in Tiger I or Tiger II tanks mostly. The superior armor and armament of these tanks, compared to Allied tanks of the time, likely contributed to their success and high decoration​​.

The U.S. Army did not officially recognize the concept of “tank aces.” However, successful tank commanders like Lafayette G. Pool were responsible for destroying numerous enemy tanks and were celebrated in military publications​​.

The British Army, similarly, did not recognize tank aces, focusing instead on broader operational success​​.

The Soviet Red Army did not view tank destruction as a particularly heroic act for tank commanders. Instead, they emphasized support for infantry and recognized heroic acts or deeds achieved by soldiers​​.

Contributing Factors to Success

Training was a crucial factor in the success of tank crews. German tank training was considered more advanced, partially due to earlier initiation of training programs.

Soviet training was viewed as inadequate by some, with crews exhibiting tactical vulnerabilities that were not corrected through training or experience​​.

The difference in armor and firepower between tanks was a significant factor in combat effectiveness.

German tanks like the Tiger I had advantages over many Allied tanks, but training and tactical doctrine also played crucial roles in determining the outcomes of engagements​​.

Training methods, the concept and recognition of tank aces, and the contributing factors to their success varied significantly among the Allied and Axis powers during World War II.

The effectiveness of tank crews was influenced not just by their training but also by the technological aspects of their tanks and the broader strategic and tactical doctrines employed by their respective militaries.

Discussion on Survivability and Reliability of the Tanks

The T-34 balanced speed, armor, and reliability, making it one of the most effective tanks of WWII.

The Sherman was reliable and produced in large numbers, contributing to the Allied war effort significantly.

The Tiger I, while heavily armored and powerful, faced limitations due to its weight and mechanical complexities.

Each of these tanks had strengths and weaknesses in survivability and reliability.

Reliability of the T-34 Tank

The Soviet T-34 was renowned for its robustness. It featured a sloped armor design, enhancing its ability to deflect shells. The T-34’s armor was 47 mm thick at the front (upper part), 45 mm (lower part), 40 mm on the sides, and 60 mm at the turret front. The sloping effectively increased the armor’s thickness against incoming fire.

This tank was known for its mechanical reliability. It had a 500 hp V12 diesel engine, allowing a top speed of 53 km/h and operational ranges of 330 km (road) and 200 km (cross-country). The T-34 was lighter (26.5 to 31 tonnes), aiding in better mobility and less stress on components​​.

Survivability the M4 Sherman Tank

The American Sherman tank had varied armor thickness, from 12.7 mm to 177.8 mm, depending on the model and location. It was less effective against high-velocity anti-tank guns due to its predominantly flat armor layout.

The Sherman was mechanically sound, with multiple engine variants offering 350-450 hp. Despite its heavier weight (30.3–38.1 tonnes), its operational range was lower than the T-34, at 100-150 miles (road) and 60-100 miles (cross-country). The Sherman’s maximum speed ranged from 22-30 mph on roads​​.

Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I Tank

The German Tiger I was heavily armored, with 25–120 mm armor. Its significant weight (54 to 57 tonnes) and thick armor made it a formidable opponent, but it was less agile and more prone to mechanical issues due to its weight.

Powered by a 700 hp Maybach V-12 petrol engine, the Tiger I had a maximum speed of 45.4 km/h on roads. However, its operational range was limited to 195 km (road) and 110 km (cross-country), reflecting high fuel consumption and limited strategic mobility

Effect of Technological Advances on Tank Warfare

During World War II, tanks emerged as a crucial weapons system. While inter-war years saw limited tank production, WWII saw a dramatic increase, with thousands produced monthly. Tank usage, doctrine, and design varied significantly among nations​​.

Gun and Armor Developments: The war accelerated tank design changes, particularly in the gun-vs-armor race, leading to significant improvements in firepower and armor​​.

German Tank Tactics and Radio Communication: Early in the war, German tanks, though inferior in armor and firepower, excelled in tactical deployment. Their doctrine emphasized rapid movement, mission-type tactics, and combined arms, which was effective due to all tanks being equipped with radios, ensuring superior command and control​​. In contrast, 80% of French tanks initially lacked radios, affecting their battle efficiency despite superior firepower and armor​​.

Shift to Heavier Tanks: As the war progressed, a shift toward heavier tanks was evident. Tanks that were light and had lesser armor at the war’s start evolved to have thicker armor and more powerful guns by 1945​​.

Turret Innovations: The importance of turrets became recognized for engaging various targets and offering hull-down cover. This led to a decline in multiple-turreted designs in favor of single, powerful guns​​.

Tank Adaptability and Specialization: Tanks were adapted for diverse military tasks, including engineering roles. Specialized models like flame-thrower tanks and armored recovery vehicles emerged. Tank destroyers and assault guns also developed, often using older tank chassis for new roles​​.

Soviet Tank Developments: The Soviet Union, starting and ending the war with the largest tank fleet, initially used the T-26 and BT series. The T-34, a significant design with heavier armor and a dual-purpose gun, became central to Soviet strategy. The KV series was also notable for its heavy armor and breakthrough capabilities​​.

British Tank Design and Strategy: British tanks were categorized into heavily armored but slow Infantry Tanks and more maneuverable Cruiser Tanks. Issues like reliability and armament balance were critical aspects of British tank design. The introduction of the Sherman tank under lend-lease, and its modification into the Firefly variant, was a significant development​​.

Sherman production factory at Detroit in the Second World War <a href="" rel="nofollow"> Source</a>
Sherman production factory at Detroit in the Second World War Source

Impact of Strategic Use of Tanks on the Outcome of WW2

Strategic use of tanks like the T-34, Sherman, and Tiger I significantly impacted the outcome of WWII.

Each tank had unique strengths and weaknesses that influenced their deployment and effectiveness in various battle scenarios, from the Eastern Front to North Africa and Western Europe until the war ended.

Their production numbers, design features, and battlefield roles played a pivotal part in shaping the war’s armored engagements.

Soviet T-34: The Backbone of Soviet Armored Forces

The T-34 was the most produced tank of WWII, with 84,000 units, notable for its robust design and ease of manufacturing. Its inception in 1939 marked a significant leap in tank design, combining thick, sloped armor with an efficient gun, good speed, and reliability​​.

Integral to the Red Army from 1941 to 1944, the T-34 was a shock to German forces, adept in diverse terrain and harsh weather.

While it faced challenges against the German Panther, it was a crucial element in battles like Kursk, thanks to its numerical superiority and tactical usage​​​​.

Despite its revolutionary design, the T-34 suffered from quality issues and was often lost due to mechanical breakdowns and poor doctrine, underscoring the challenges in its strategic deployment​​.

American M4 Sherman: The Allied Workhorse

The M4 Sherman, widely used by the United States and Allies, was known for its reliability and ease of production, with 49,324 units made. Its design evolution from the M3 Medium Tank and adaptability for various roles made it a versatile asset​​.

The Sherman excelled in North Africa and European theatres, often outclassing early German tanks. However, by 1944, it faced tougher German armor but remained competitive due to its numerical advantage and mechanical reliability​​.

Over its production life, the Sherman saw various improvements like stronger suspension and more effective armor arrangements, highlighting its adaptability to changing combat requirements​​.

German Tiger I: A Formidable but Flawed Behemoth

The Tiger I, introduced in 1942, was a heavy tank with a potent 8.8 cm KwK 36 gun. 1,347 units were produced. It was praised for its design but criticized for being overengineered and maintenance-intensive​​​​.

It had up to 100 mm frontal armor and a long-barreled gun, making it highly effective but also expensive to produce and maintain​​.

Despite its formidable presence on the battlefield, the Tiger I was plagued with transport and maintenance issues, particularly in adverse weather conditions, which limited its operational flexibility​​.

FAQ for The Best Tank of WW2: Deep Analysis of Top Tanks of World War II

What was the best tank of WWII?

The question of which was the best tank of WWII is subject to much debate among military historians. Some argue that the German Tiger was superior due to its combination of firepower, mobility, and protection. It can counter any Allied tank with its deadly main gun. However, others would argue that the M4 Sherman used prevalently by the Allies, was the best tank in terms of reliability and mass production. A consensus is hard to reach due to the differing strengths and weaknesses of each tank.

How effective were the German tanks, such as the Panther and Tiger, in WWII?

The German Panther and German Tiger were highly effective war machines in their time. They were known for their deadly firepower that could penetrate enemy armour, immense defence and mobility stirred fears throughout the Allied troops. However, they were also expensive and difficult to produce in large numbers, which greatly limited their impact on the overall course of the war.

What role did the M4 Sherman play in WWII?

The M4 Sherman was the main battle tank employed by the United States during WWII. Despite criticisms of its firepower when compared to its German counterparts, it was well-regarded for its mechanical reliability and ease of production. This tank‘s versatility enabled it to serve various roles on the battlefield, from a front-line combat vehicle to a mobile command center, making it one of the most effective tanks of World War II.

How did tank design evolve throughout WWII?

Tank design evolved drastically in response to the changing demands of WWII. At the beginning of the war, tanks like the British cruiser tanks and German Panzer IV, were relatively light by later war standards. However, by the end of the war, the introduction of heavy tanks, such as the Tiger II, showcased a shift towards maximising firepower and armour, even if it meant sacrificing mobility and production efficiency.

What was the most powerful tank produced during WWII?

The title of the most powerful tank of WWII often goes to the Tiger II or ‘King Tiger’ as it was nicknamed by the allies. It was equipped with a dominant 88 mm gun and a substantial sloping armour that could resist almost any gun that could be mounted on an average Allied tank.

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