When reviewing all tanks manufactured during WWII, a top ten definitive list is difficult to compile. Below, however, is a list of top ten tanks in WWII that should be considered. These tanks played a critical role for both the Allies and Axis powers during World War II. The list is presented in alphabetical order.
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Also known as the IS tank, this WWII heavy tank was named after Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union. Designed with thick armor in order to successfully counter the 88 mm guns on the German tanks, the main gun carried by the Iosif Stalin tank was successful in defeating both the WWII German Tiger and Panther Tank. The IS Tank was the driving force of the Red Army in the final stages of the war.
This World War II medium tank was used primarily by the U.S. with thousands more being used by the Allies. The main gun mounted on the M4 Sherman – a 75 mm M3 L/40 – allowed the crew to fire with a fair amount of accuracy even if the tank was moving. The advantages of this tank lead to its high demand. As a result, more than 50,000 M4 Sherman tanks were produced during WWII.
Panther – The Panther was a medium German tank that went into service the middle of 1943. The tank remained in service until the end of WWII in 1945. Initially, the Panther was intended to be used as a counter to the T-34. The Germans planned to use the Panther in place of the Panzer III and Panzer IV. Instead, the Panther worked alongside these tanks. The Panther was known for its firepower and also for its mobility. Because of the protection offered by this WWII tank, its design was used as a standard by other nations later in the war as well as post-war. The Panther, many believe, was one of the top tank designs of WWII.
Panzerkampfwagen IV – This particular tank was often referred to as the Panzer IV. It was a medium tank Nazi Germany developed during the late 1930s. The Panzer IV was widely used throughout the war. The Panzer IV tank was initially designed to be an infantry-support tank. Eventually the Panzer IV assumed the role of the Panzer III and began engaging in battle. The Panzer IV was the most widely produced German tank during WWII.
Sherman Firefly – This WWII British tank was a variant of the US Sherman tank. The British armed the tank with their powerful anti-tank gun – the British 17 pounder. The Firefly was originally to be used in the interim until newer designed British tanks were ready for service.
After a few of its original flaws were corrected, the tank went into production and its value was soon recognized as it was the only British tank with the capacity to defeat both the Panther and the Tiger tanks when engaged within standard combat ranges. As a result, the German’s instructed their tanks and their anti-tank gun crews to attack the Sherman Fireflies first.
T-34 – This medium Soviet tank was in production from 1940 thru 1958. Though later tanks produced during this time period proved to have better armor and armament, the T-34 is often recognized as the most effective, highly influential and efficient tank design of WWII. After World War II, the T-34 was widely exported. This tank ended out being the highest produced tank of WWII and ranks as second highest produced tank of all times. As recent as 1996, variants of this WWII tank were still in operational service throughout as many as 27 countries.
T-44 – This WWII tank did not go into production late in the war. This medium Soviet Union tank was the successor to the T-34, and while a smaller number (about 2,000) were built, their design was used as a basis for an upcoming series of main battle tanks (T-54/55) which turned out to be the most-produced tank series in history.
Tiger I – The Germans commonly used Tiger I to refer to any one of a number of their heavy tanks used during WWII. First developed in 1942, the final designation by the German’s for this tank was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E – often referred to as just “Tiger”. The Tiger I was mounted with an 88 mm gun, which was previously shown effective against both air targets and ground targets. The Tiger I participated in conflicts on all German battlefronts.
Tiger II – A heavy German tank of WWII, the Tiger II tank made its mark on World War II history with its heavy armor and powerful gun. The tank proved to be superior to every other Allied or Soviet tank when engaged in head-to-head battle. However, the underpowered engine of the Tiger II, combined with its enormous use of fuel, greatly limited the Tiger II.
World War II saw massive industrialization on all military aircraft and vehicles. Variations within each design were produced using upgrades and modification changes due to the performance (or lack) of the variant’s predecessor. Both the Allies and the Axis were forced to continually improve upon their own designs in order to maintain dominance in their efforts to win the war. As a result, a countless number of military aircraft and vehicles, the tank being no exception, were produced.
Within the tank category, any one of a number of combinations could be put together – based on class, armament, production, etc – and rightfully claim their spot as the top ten tanks of WWII.