Quick Overview of Developments (WW1-Present)

What was developed and what changed?

NOTE: Observations by the student that they remember off the top of their head.

WW1:

  • Tanks first produced
    • Primitive design (Non-Classical layout)
    • Riveted steel construction
      • Bad armoring
    • Bad ventilation/internal conditions
    • Primitive tactics
      • Lack of combined arms experience
    • Extremely slow speeds
    • Early specialized tanks
      • Engineering Vehicles
      • Self-Propelled Artillery

WW2:

  • Improvements:
    • Improved design
      • Classical layout
    • Cast or welded steel construction
      • Improved armor (mostly from the front)
        • Angled armor
    • Improved ventilation/internal conditions
      • Radios
    • Improved armaments
      • Variable ammunition types (armor piercing, HEAT, HESH, HE etc.)
      • Bigger guns
    • Improved tactics
      • Better integration of combined arms tactics
        • Blitzkrieg!
    • More specialized tanks
      • More Engineering Vehicles
      • Tank Destroyers
      • Assault Guns

Cold War/Modern Era

  • Improvements
    • Classical layout
    • Composite Armoring (Cast/Welded, no more Steel Armor)
      • Reactive Armor
      • Angled armor becomes less useful
      • Contained Ammunition Storage (to prevent ammo fires/explosions)
    • Further improved ventilation/internal conditions
      • Interior reinforced to protect crew from Nuclear/Biological conditions
    • Improved armaments
      • More ammunition types
      • Even bigger, more accurate guns
    • Improved tactics
      • Full integration of combined arms tactics
    • Specializations/Removals
      • Light tanks replaced mostly by Armored Fighting Vehicles
      • No more assault guns or tank destroyers
      • Heavy/Medium tanks replaced by Main Battle Tanks (Tanks that can do almost everything that a Heavy/Medium/Light Tank can do)
      • Anti-Aircraft Tanks

Myths of American Armor

Ever since Fury came out I hear a lot of stuff from people who say things such as this:

“The Americans were so afraid of the Tiger that it took 5 of their Shermans to kill 1 Tiger”

or

“The Sherman was a bad tank, Death Traps said so!”

 

Here is Wargaming America’s Nicholas Moran on the scene with the truth, much of it derived from original documentation in archives.

 

A general overview of WW2 Tank development

Although WW1 set the foundation for tank development, it was WW2 that provided rapid innovation for much of the 20th century. Here is an overview of which of the Big 4 in WW2 had going in development and use.

 

Britain

The U.K. mostly stuck to the old WW1 doctrine of having 2 distinct classes of tank: Infantry tanks and Cruiser tanks.Infantry tanks were slow, but were heavily armored and armed, designed to open up holes in the enemy line. Meanwhile, Cruiser tanks were fast but lightly armored and often times lightly armed, their job was to replace cavalry and exploit any weaknesses opened up by the Infantry tanks. Aside from a few imports from the U.S., the U.K. had no actual scout tanks, most of their light tanks were built as Cruiser tanks.

Here are several examples of British tanks used during WW2 (more tanks can be found here: http://tanks.net/british-world-war-two-tanks/index.html):

matilda_compass
Matilda II Infantry Tank

 

crusader_tanks_in_yorkshire_1942
 Crusader, these were Cruiser tanks
tanks_and_afvs_of_the_british_army_1939-45_kid1265
Churchill Mk IV

 

centaur_iv_tank_of_h_troop2c_2nd_battery2c_royal_marine_armoured_support_group2c_13_june_1944-_b5457
Cromwell, this was a Cruiser tank

Germany

There isn’t much to say about Germany, aside from the fact that they saved some of their war-time resources by reusing their old Panzer I-III hulls as assault guns, tank destroyers, and self propelled guns. German innovation was extensive and effective–especially in the gun department–but the main thing that sunk them was that their new developments were often resource inefficient to construct and operate (with exception to the assault guns), this certainly did not help when Germany was blockaded. However, whatever they did build often performed very well, (with the exception of the Panther, more on that in a future post)

(More tanks here and on Wikipedia: http://tanks.net/german-world-war-two-tanks/index.html)

Because Germany produced so many tanks, here are just a couple of examples of German engineering:

800px-stugiii
A StuG III, StuG is short for Sturmgeschutz III, with the III denoting that the vehicle was built on the Panzer III hull.
panze100
Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. H or Panzer IV H, Ausf H is the variant of the Panzer IV, utilizing Schurzen skirts, a form of spaced armor that provides protection against High Explosive Rounds.

 

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A Tiger I, the boogyman of the Allies, this particular Tiger numbered 131 is the last fully operational Tiger tank in the world.

USA

The United States were a bit behind when in the tank department, but when they entered the war they produced tanks in vast numbers that could reliably hit targets while on the move, and were equipped with dual use armaments. A lot of their tanks were issued to the Allies under Lend-Lease.

Be warned that there are a lot of myths surrounding U.S. tanks, will elaborate later.

(More tanks here and on Wikipedia: http://tanks.net/american-world-war-ii-tanks/index.html)

The U.S. was particularly specialized in light and medium tanks, such as these two little beauties.

1024px-m4a1_on_panzermuseum_munster
M4A1 Sherman, equipped with the 76mm gun instead of the standard 75mm
stuart_m5a1_cfb_borden
M5A1 Stuart Light Tank

Soviet Union

Vastly underestimated by their German foes, the Soviet Union was a major player in tank warfare, their designs are crude, simple, yet effective…and could be produced in numbers rivaling U.S. Tank production. The Soviet Union’s tanks can easily be identified from which factory each individual tank came from due to small tiny variations in the tank’s construction.

(Other Soviet Tanks can be found here:http://tanks.net/soviet-union-world-war-two-tanks/index.html or on Wikipedia)

Here are 3 examples of Soviet tanks (we might talk about some of these later):

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The Legendary T-34, this particular variant is from 1943 and has a hexagonal turret instead of the original, wearing the symbol of the Polish Tank Corps
800px-d09ad092-1_d183_d0b4d0b8d0bed180d0b0d0bcd18b_c2abd09fd180d0bed180d18bd0b2_d0b1d0bbd0bed0bad0b0d0b4d18b_d09bd0b5d0bdd0b8d0bdd0b3d180
KV-1 Heavy Tank, KV stands for Kliment Voroshilov, the defense commissar and one of the original 5 marshals of the Soviet Union
800px-is-2_cubinka_1
An IS-2M Heavy Tank, the IS tank series was named after Iosef Stalin, aka Josef Stalin

 

 

 

Sources used:

http://tanks.net/tank-history/tank-development-world-war-two.html

http://ww2-germanarmy.conceptbb.com/t119-sdkfz-161-panzerkampfwagen-iv

Images used from Wikipedia

Ride the Lightning…

Given the topic we’re about to invade, listen to this video while reading.

Germany during the time of WW1 had substandard tank production due to the fact that they were focusing on anti-tank weaponry and tactics (such as the K bullet), but still lost.

However, Germany learned from their mistake and would in 12 years re-arm to modernize the way tanks were used on the battlefield, quickly becoming a mechanized forced to be reckoned with up until US intervention.

When Hitler came to power in 1934, he violated the Treaty of Versailles by remilitarizing and occupying the Rhineland industrial region of Germany and had the factories begin to produce war material, namely tanks such as these two examples which would later serve a founding role as part of the Blitzkrieg style of warfare and would also serve as the basis for a new type of tank when their use as a conventional tank was rendered obsolete, the Tank Destroyer or Assault Gun.

These were both light tanks, and would form the initial point of the Blitzkrieg spear, supplemented by other elements such as reconnaissance vehicles, infantry, air support…even tanks from countries Germany had annexed, such as Czechoslovakia.

 

1024px-panzerkampfwagen_i_ausf_a
A Panzerkamfwagen I Ausf. A, produced 1934-1945
panzeriisaumur
A Panzerkamfwagen II or Panzer II, produced 1936-1945

 

 

The first 3 divisions of Germany’s Panzerwaffe–the German tank regiments–were formed in 1936, and was used alongside the Luftwaffe–the German air force–as a testbed for tactics during the Spanish Civil War, when they were deployed to swat down any opposition to Francisco Franco’s rise to power as dictator. The tactics used were “shock and awe” in nature, whereby one were to attack with such swiftness and ferocity so as to quickly destabilize an enemy before they could retaliate. In the case of the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe, the latter would quickly bomb out an area while the former rushed in with fast vehicles and heavy armor to lock down vast ranges of territory.

Much of these tactics were designed by General Heinz Guderian (pictured below), who had a vision of an army of combined arms–where all of the elements of a military, such as infantry, naval, and air forces and not just tanks, would be utilized. However, the Panzer would still serve as the primary force to perform the Blitzkrieg.

Bild 101I-139-1112-17
Heinz Guderian

 

 

 

So, you may be wondering, “So how well did this tactic work early on?”

Well, here is what happened in history.

  • Spain: Lasted from 17 June 1936 – 1 April 1939 (according to Wikipedia: 2 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, and 1 day.)
    • Note that Germany was not directly involved in this fight, but was involved through  the Condor Legion, which comprised of Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht volunteers
  • Poland: Lasted from 1 September 1939-October 6 1939 (according to Wikipedia, 1 month and 5 days)
    • Did not help that Poland was torn apart from both sides by Germany (west) and the Soviet Union (east) due to the Non-Aggression Pact
  • France: Lasted May 10 1940- 25 June 1940 (according to Wikipedia, 1 month and 15 days)
    • The French thought they could delay the Germans long enough through the construction of the Maginot Line, the Germans responded by storming through the Ardennes and completely bypassing the French lines.
    • Britain was forced to cross back across the English Channel in panic, leaving behind equipment

 

 

Now that I have your attention….

417

 

So you want to start a Blitzkrieg eh? Well take a gander at this step by step instruction on how to quickly become the most feared man/woman/entity in Europe.

 

How To Blitzkrieg aka “How do I start a War with Style ?”

You need to have these before hand:

  1. Communications, communications, communications!
    • In order to make this work, you need to have complete, clear, and precise communications with all commanders in the German army, everyone has to be on the same page.
  2. Be fast and have the element of surprise (be very sneaky)
    • Its called a Lightning War for a reason, dummkopf.
  3. Military assets and party favors to wage war with!
    • This includes infantry divisions, air support (Stukas Divebombers), fast vehicles, and tanks….you know, the military.

Procedure:

  1. Put several squads of your infantry on fast vehicles, such as motorcycles, Kubelwagens, and or armored cars with good radios and maps.
    • These will be your scouts, the eyes and ears of your Blitzkrieg
    • Supplement these scouts with artillery or air support spotters
  2. Send your scouts into enemy territory
    • If your scouts see any threats, have them report it and get them to move deeper and deeper into enemy territory, no bathroom breaks (that means no stopping)
      • It is imperative that your scouts do not stop moving forward otherwise the Blitzkrieg will not occur
  3. Have your back-line commanders assess the threats reported by the forward scouts
    • Their only 2 choices should be: Destroy or Ignore, before moving on
    • If a threat is considered large enough to attack, then proceed to step 4
  4. Attack!
    • Using the combined forces of your military force, move forward, apply overwhelming firepower upon target and steam-roll it
    • After you punch a hole in the enemy line, have another part of your military force attack the rear line, avoiding all main threats and creating havoc, use your mechanized troops to wipe up any resistance.
  5. Put your army back on its original course and repeat until victory
    • Remember, DO. NOT. STOP.

Congratulations, you have succeeded in becoming feared in all of Europe. Let’s hope your friend doesn’t screw up the moment somewhere in Africa.

 

 

Sources used:

http://tanks.net/tank-history/tank-development-between-two-world-wars.html

http://tanks.net/tank-history/german-panzer-heydays-of-world-war-two.html

http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/blitzkrieg

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/blitzkrieg_01.shtml

Some images courtesy of Know Your Meme and Wikipedia

A tour of the WW1 section of Bovington

So here’s the deal: We could be talking about WW1 tanks all  up until the cows come home, and that’s not going to help us at all. Questions I’m expecting would be:

  • Did the Germans have any tanks to combat the Allied advantage? If so how many were produced?
  • Were there any other tanks designed by the British?

As a result of time constraints, here is a video of the Bovington Tank Museum’s WW1 exhibit, by The Mighty Jingles.

The Revolution: The Renault FT

The overall mediocre success of the CA1 and the Saint-Chamond forced the French military to look for another tank to fill in the role. Specifically, they needed a tank that was light, maneuverable (by WW1 standards), and could be built in such vast quantities to the point where you can easily overwhelm the enemy with them. A man named Louis Renault, 1 of 3 brothers who helped found one of France’s premier automobile companies, stepped up to the plate. The result as seen below.

bovington-tank-museum-renault-ft-17-51333
The Renault FT, this particular specimen is on display at the Bovington Tank Museum

The Renault FT was designed by Renault Auto Group (The same car company still exists today), and forever revolutionized the way tanks were setup and built.

So how is this tank considered revolutionary? Well, consider the layout below:

 

renaultft-17tankinternallayoutdiagram

  • In a regular WW1 Tank, the engine and fuel storage could be ANYWHERE but the back, frequently leading to engine fires and the crew being burnt alive when those fuel tanks were struck
    • Solution by the Renault FT: The Engine and Fuel Storage was placed in the back, the crew was placed in front.
  • There were no true turrets in the early WW1 tanks, and the side sponsons of your typical Mark tank or the CA1 had little gun coverage
    • Solution: A fully 360 degree rotating turret at the top (because this was a light tank designed to swarm, the Renault FT was armed with either a machine gun or 37mm gun as its sole armament)

Here is a video lecture by David Fletcher at the Bovington Tank Museum:

 

Satisfied, the French army first deployed this tank in 1918 at the battle at Forêt de Retz and took part in all French fighting during and up to the end of WW1. Over 3,000 of Renault FTs were built, many more licensed and unlicensed copies were built by countless countries after the war, the tank saw service to as far as 1948 by the Egyptians in the Arab-Israeli War. The tank’s layout and design was quoted by one historian as “the first modern tank”, because it influenced all tank development even to this day.

In the US, a licensed modified copy of the Renault FT (known in US armories as the M1917) formed the basis of the US armored force in WW1 (because we did not have any tanks and were severely under-equipped), with 4,440 ordered but 950 produced.

There was one captain in the US military who believed that the tank would never be a thing, during WW1 he became the leader of the first US tank corps operating M1917s and would later distinguish himself as a general in WW2 as a tank commander, and his nickname was Old Blood and Guts.

Still don’t recognize him? It was George S Patton.

Another video for your leisure by R. Lee Ermey (Keep an eye on the video at 2:35 to 11:37)

 

 

Sources used:

http://tanks.net/world-war-one-tanks/renault-ft-17-light-tank.html

http://tanks.net/tank-history/world-war-one-french-tanks.html

https://www.onwar.com/weapons/afv/data/Renault-FT.htm

http://www.tanks-encyclopedia.com/ww1/fr/renault_ft.php