The Tanks of World War II: The History and Legacy of Tank Warfare between the Allies and Axis

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The Tanks of World War II: The History and Legacy of Tank Warfare between the Allies and Axis

The Tanks of World War II: The History and Legacy of Tank Warfare between the Allies and Axis by Charles River Editors
English | November 25, 2018 | ASIN: B07KWFBPXG | 126 pages | AZW3 | 5.79 MB

*Includes pictures
*Includes accounts of the fighting
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
*Includes a table of contents

World War II was thus the culmination of a quarter century of tank development, and it would also be the first major test of tanks in mobile warfare, during which they had to face other tanks. However, many of the tanks were constructed with the static warfare of the Western Front in mind and were thus slow and had short operational ranges. Others were too light to face opposing tanks or the new generation of anti-tank weapons that hadn’t existed in World War I. The unsuitability of these tank models for this new kind of warfare was quickly recognized, and the belligerent powers scrambled to create better designs. As each new, improved model came off the assembly lines, the opposing powers rushed to create a tank that could beat it. In that regard, World War II was also a war between rival engineers.

At the same time, German military officials were at the forefront of developing new ideologies when it came to utilizing their tanks to maximum effect. Heinz Guderian even published a book on the topic before becoming one of the Third Reich’s most effective tank commanders. Moreover, during the German invasion of Poland, Nazi forces gained experience they would use across Europe and in Russia. After all, it was in Poland that the Wehrmacht saw action for the first time, conducting what was not only an invasion but also a trial run of its new equipment and tactics. The Polish invasion proved invaluable in providing the German high command with a low-risk, high-value live fire exercise for their newly minted war machine, while the actual combat experience highlighted the remaining flaws in the system. During the campaign, the Germans honed tactics and weapon systems for the massive struggle with the Soviets, British, and United States that loomed on the horizon.

The beginning of World War II found the major powers developing tanks to some extent, but lingering ideas from World War I affected the development of tanks during the Interwar period. As a result, aside from the blitzkrieg doctrine developed by the Nazis, tanks were still used in terms of infantry support, and there were few wars during this period to give strategists the chance to develop better uses for the new armored vehicles before World War II started. Commanders soon found that many of the tanks fielded in the campaigns of 1939-1941 lacked the necessary armor, guns, and designs.

The Allies learned from the Germans as well. The first and most obvious lesson was to equip each tank with a radio. At the beginning of the war, most Allied tanks did not have radios and used small flags to signal to each other, an unreliable means under ideal conditions, let alone in the midst of battlefield chaos. The Panzers, on the other hand, were equipped with radios from the very start, providing German tank commanders with far more control over their units.

Throughout the war, designers learned how to improve suspension, reorganize the interior to give the crews more room, and incorporate other upgrades that helped with the overall function of the tank. Practical experience from the tank crews was of vital importance in these developments.

Inevitably, tactics evolved throughout the war. The Germans were early leaders in tank tactics, as their successes from Poland through the opening phases of Operation Barbarossa demonstrated. The main German tank tactic was the so-called Schwerpunkt (“center of gravity”), in which a concentration of tanks achieved a local superiority, broke through, and drove deep behind enemy lines, carving up frontline enemy forces that could then be surrounded and taken out by support tanks, infantry, and artillery. This is why German tanks were built for speed while maintaining good armor and weaponry.