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Top 10 tanks of the war

Discussion in 'Armor and Armored Fighting Vehicles' started by T. A. Gardner, Jan 3, 2007.

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  1. Eastern_Front

    Eastern_Front Member

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    A splendid topic choice here T.A Gardner! Like all the other forum paticipants I would like to give my "List" as well, and also why I chose these tanks however I am only going to do my top 5 because I can't quite make up my mind on 10 and because I do not know enough to do 10 tanks. I would also like to remind those who are reading this: These are not my favourite tanks, these are the ones I think were the best of the war. (please keep in mind when I say "T34" I am referring to the T34/85)

    Number 1: The T34/85. I believe this to be the best tank of the entire war. I believe this because of it's amazing ability to over-power the technologically advanced German tanks. What made this tank so pivitol in the war to me is the fact that it could go head to head with the Panzer IV series of tanks and some times come out on top. If you have a 1-1 ratio of tank kill (T34 was more like 1-1/1-2 up against Panzer IV's most of the time) and you are putting out FAR more tanks than your opponent than you obviously have a quite massive advantage. Now, on the other side of thing's, this 1-1 or 1-2 (The "2" being the T34's) is usually only agains the Panzer IV series and there was obviously Panzer V's and Panzer VI's that the T34's had to confront which would chage the ratio of kills substantually. There has been MANY stories of a single Panther or Tiger tank holding off entire battalions of T34's for days because of good positioning and a gun that really "Packs a punch", and in Head-to-head combat (T34 vs. Pz VI or Pz V) the Panzer tank would usually come out on top. So from what I have stated it would seem that the T34 is quite a bad tank but I am about to tell you why it is number one on my personal list. This tank is number one for several reasons: in terms of the tank itself (Not the crews) it was very mobile. The T34 tank could drive at 33 miles per hour with it's 12 cylinder diesel V-2 engine which has almost ALL the German medium tank beat by miles (Literally). The reason this tank could reach higher speed's than that of the German medium tanks was a great combination between medium-light armoring and a pretty decent engine. Also, the tank could still deflect some German rounds easily because it implemented a new "Idea" (in 1940 atleast), sloped frontal armour. Now, the mobility does not make the T34 superior to the German tanks, the real strength is in the incredible numbers that they were produced in (if someone knows the ratio of German tanks to T34's please tell me it would be very interesting). With the swift and unexpected German invasion of the Soviet Union you would come to think that the production would slow quite quickly however there are amazing stories to contradict that idea, a good example would be the Stalingrad siege. When Stalingrad was attacked the tank factory had stayed producing the entire siege. So with superior mobility, (sometimes) frontal armour and the amazing production number of the T34/85 tank (Not even to mention the relentless, brave Soviet tank crews) claims the top spot on my list.

    Number 2: The number 2 tank on my list is the Stug III. The Stug III was the most produced German tank during the war. Although most (if not all) classify this as an "Assualt gun" it is also classified as a tank. The Stug III saw A LOT of action throughout the entire war for good reason. The tank was first designed to be an infantry support vehicle mounting a 7.5cm gun. The Stug III was first deployed and used in 1939-1940'ish and it was right away found to be a highly effective weapon. The Stug III was used throughout the entire war as a infantry support vehicle but towards the end it was also used as a effective (but not amazing) tank-destroyer. The Stug III also had a unique shape to make the entire tank shorter and this was made possible because it was almost completly based off the Panzer III's chasis with only very minor changes. The Stug III, being a highly mobile tank, claims my number 2 spot because it had mobility, an awsome gun and due to it's low height and pretty good armor a hard tank to destroy throughtout, pretty-much, all of the war. To be honest I can't really say there is "Tonze" of amazing heroic stories about the Stug III but it definatly did it's job more than effectivly and was even later upgraded (in 1943) to the Stug IV. The Stug IV had few major changes besides some changes in guns and most importantly a new chasis based off of the Pz IV's chasis. With the title of being one of the few tanks to stay effective throughout the entire war the Stug III has claimed number 3 on my list.

    Number 3: The Panzer III (The tank in gerneral not any specific "Ausf" models). The Panzer III claims the number 3 spot on my list because it was the most technologically advanced tank pre-war. The Panzer III had dominated the Europe for about 5 years (1935-1940) because of it's "Higher technical class", it's mobility and it's very good fit in to the "Blitzkrieg" strategy. There are more than enough PRIME examples of this tank execlling far more than it's counter-parts pre-war and even for the first year of the war. The main example, should be the most obvious, is the Invasion of Poland on September 1st 1939. When Poland was invaded Hitler used his "Blitzkrieg" strategy to destroy the Polish army. At the time of invasion the German's had the Panzer III's whilst the Polish army consisted of Cavalry units using horses. Anyone can obviously see the massive advantage the German's had over the (Slighty) out of date horse cavalry untis. These men mounted on horse back I feel bad for every night because they were, as expected, obliterated by the Panzer III tanks which were faster, better protected, better armed Panzer III tanks. Of course one must consider that Poland was not declared a "Modern" country at that time (in terms of their military) but still the Panzer III's were quite a spectacular weapon. Also, if we were to determine how this tank stood up to it's counter-parts in 1940 onwards, it was a, still, very quick tank and with the upgraded models coming out of production lines across Germany, the Pz III's new guns could, occasionally, stand up to a T34 or Soviet light tanks. On the Western front the tank was not EXTREMLY used until about 1941-42. The tank obviously played a great role in the invasion of France and without it's mobility the German's may have had to face the French Maginot line head on (Unless they prefered to use Stuka's to bomb it out) which would result in a large amount of German casualties. When it came to D-Day and the Ardennes offensive mostly out-dated yet still heavily in service and used a fair amount in the Ardennes offensive. In terms of D-Day I have not heard many stories of it's use however it was obviously used, just ignoring I guess. In the Ardennes offensive the Pz III was used however the "big tanks came out to play" during the Adrennes offensive so the Pz III's were usually very simply destroyed by American tank destroyers or had been abandoned by crews towards the end of the battle (due to lack of fuel). So, with the time period in which it exelled mostly it was the best tank on the battlefield but towards the end of the war it lacked a good gun or good armor, which makes it claim the number 3 spot on my list.

    Number 4: The Pz V better known as the Panther tank. This is another one of Germany's "Power-houses" and it deserves that title. This tank began production mid-late war in mid 1943 and very quickly after being first deployed it had been having changes made, which were not so much because it was a bad tank but more because the German's figured they could make it even better than it already was. With the Ausf. G model (this being the most succesful model in my opinion) being put out so fast the German's had a good tank to be able to combat the Soviet KV's. Although it is still contraversial whether or not this tank is a "Medium" or "Heavy" tank it was classified very mobile for it's weight from a strong gun and it's thick and sloped frontal armor. On the topic of whether or not it is classified as medium or heavy: it is still being debated today because of it's amazing mobility for a tank of that size and personally I believe this tank to be a medium class because of that exact reason. The reason I like this tank or think it is very strong is because of it's ability to be a "T34 Killer" due to it's good protection, gun and it's ability to pretty well keep up with the T34. This tank was also deployed in pretty strong numbers during the Ardennes Offensive because it was declareed "New" at that time and the German's knew quite well that this formidable weapon could quite simply stand up head-to-head against the Sherman tank, the M10 Wolverine and many other tanks or tank destroyers. In terms of favourite tanks this is my favourite but I shall admit not the best which is shown by it's placement on my "list".

    Number 5: The Sherman 76. Many hear the name of the Sherman 76 and don't exactly know what the "76" means so to clarify to the rookies like myself it means 76mm as in it's 76mm cannon. The Sherman origianllly came off production lines with a low-velocity 75mm gun. The original Sherman or Sherman 75, if you will, was highly mobile, great for infantry support and pretty well armoured (not to mention it's phenominal performance against Japanese tank in the Pacific theatre!). The only thing the lovely new Sherman tank was missing was a powerful enough gun to crack through the Heavier German tanks. The 76mm or Sherman 76 was actually orignally "created" by the British when they chose to implement a British 76mm gun on the original American Sherman which turned out to be quite a deadly combo. With the war progressing and many German heavy tanks have very large 81mm guns and plenty of frontal armour the Americans needed the 76 and adopted the Sherman 76 into their forces and although, now at 1943-44, the Sherman 76 lacked armor protection (in terms of the European theatre) it still had a decent gun which could, if aimed correctly, penetrate some heavier German armor. The Sherman 76mm was a great idea and I salute the British for it and the Sherman has claimed number 5 on my list.

    Please remember this is only my opinion and my thoughts. If you think differently then that is great and please share!

    Cheers
     
  2. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Not to nitpick but to nitpick, StuG is not a tank. ;)

    I would probably put Comet, Panther, Pershing and JS-II on the top of the list in terms of performance, but M4, T-34, Pz-IV, JS-II and Panther on impact and practicality. JS-II and Panther made it on both lists. I would also argue JS-II was, as a design, better than the Panther as an instrument of total war.
     
  3. Eastern_Front

    Eastern_Front Member

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    Yeah, I am aware it is not "Officially" a tank. However, most (including myself) declare this Assualt gun to also be a tank so I figured it was appropraite to include this on my list. Also, I agree that JS-II was a better design but, I'm jsut guessing here: wouldn't the cost per tank be more for the JS-II than that of the Panther?

    Cheers
     
  4. Croft

    Croft Member

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    1. Panzer4. Because it was such a good basic design that it could be improved all through the war, only really struggling over the last year of it. If the Germans had put as much engineering effort into simplifying it for even easier mass production as they actually instead put into developing heavies it would have been a lot better for them. The fact it carried a gun in 1942 that was nearly as powerful as the ones the Sherman76 and T-34/85 only carried in 1944 says a lot about it's capacities.
    2. T-34. A tank that could be mass produced in enough numbers to win the war. A simple premise the Germans didn't seem to understand when they developed huge expensive tanks instead of moving to maximum production of the Panzer4 as fast as possible.
    3. Sherman. Same as number 2. Guderian called it the T-34 of the west. I've put it below the T-34 only because of it's too high silhouete.
    4. Cromwell. Britain's effort at a Sherman/T-34 type tank. About as good as a Sherman.
    5. Panzer3. Good main battle tank but further down the list as it was not able to be improved enough like the tanks above it could be.
    6. KV-1. The genuine father of all really effective heavy tanks. Powerfully armed, broad tracks, reliable, nearly as fast as the German medium tanks and truly massively armored. It caused consternation to the invaders in a way that only a true brute of a heavy tank could have. All the later Soviet monsters were developed on from it.
    7. JS-2. Genuine answer to the Tiger and brilliant in it's designed role as a break through tank.
    8. Valentine with 57mm as built for the Russians. Filled the Russians need for a light tank and like the Sherman was demanded by them.
    9. Panther. Way down the list as it was to big, to heavy, unreliable and difficult to repair. The only reason it's on the list at all is it's raw combat power.
    10. Pershing. Like the Panther it's only on the list because of raw combat power but also like the Panther it had problems, mainly bad off road mobility and an over stressed engine.

    I didn't go for the Matildas, Lee Grants, T-70s or Churchills because they just had to many limitations in their designs.
    I also didn't go for Comets or JS-3s because they were too late.
     
  5. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    Just to clarify a bit on the Stug III and IV, The Stug IV was not so much an upgrade but a replacement which was needed after the factory producing the Stug III's was bombed and was out of action for a while, Would have taken just as long to convert a factory to produce Stug III's so they just used a factory making the Stug IV's and turn that into a Stug version.

    Although from what I have read here and there the Stug IV was just as great at being a Tank killer and supporting infantry, In hindsight Germany should have bought the Stug IV in to production in 1940-41, Would have made production and maintenance more streamlined.
     
  6. JBark

    JBark Member

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    TIME LIMITED-

    I am incredulous that you put Pershing on this list. A handful of M-26's make it over for a few minor engagements...why does that rate mention in this list?
     
  7. Croft

    Croft Member

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    Actually you're right. But I remembered reading somewhere that something like 1,300 were built, as many as the Tiger1, so I thought I should put it in. But yes it saw miniscule action so it should really have gone with the Comet and JS-3.
    I have a list of 9! :)
     
  8. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    If the criteria is capability then that should not preclude it being on the list. If the criteria is contribution then it would. That's the problem with "best of" and "top" threads in most cases. People don't clearly define what is being asked from the start. Now "favorite" doesn't need it.
     
  9. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Sherman's too high profile? That's an old one.

    View attachment 17433

    Sure, a little tall. Nothing egregious, though. The real problem for M4 was the untimely introduction of gun and armor upgrades and its lack of automotive performance on mud without track extenders.
     

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  10. Don Juan

    Don Juan New Member

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    My top ten for all you beautiful ladies out there....

    1. A34 Comet
    2. A27M Cromwell
    3. A22 Churchill
    4. M4 Sherman
    5. Valentine
    6. M24 Chaffee
    7. IS-2
    8. Tiger I
    9. Pz. Kpfw. IV
    10. T-34

    Criteria is based on taking one random example of each tank from the battlefield, and assessing its ability to perform its primary task. This negates any advantages gained by numbers produced (this is BEST tank, not most influential) and to an extent negates period (late-war tanks are not just better because of improvements to armour/firepower, but because there is better recognition of what kind of tanks are required).

    Therefore this criteria places a premium on reliability, and takes into account ability to tactically communicate, as well as the usual triumvirate of arrmour/firepower/mobility. Also fit and finish become more important in an isolated individual, so Russian just-good-enough production standards are somewhat biased against. Bad luck, Ivan.

    British tanks come out on top largely because of high quality engines, drive trains, steering mechanisms, turret traverse systems and radios.
     
  11. green slime

    green slime Member

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    My Top Tanks.

    1. T-34/85; not a perfect tank, but the the sheer numbers, and the numbers remaining in service around the world for years afterwards. They were present in the Balkan crisis in the 90's!!

    2. M4; So many variants, so ubiquitous in the Allied forces. Again, used by tankers long after the war itself

    3. Panther; Not nearly easy enough to produce

    4. Pz IV; The German workhorse. Present in Syria in '67.

    5. Pz III

    6. JS2

    7. Tiger

    8. King Tiger: not for what it achieved, but for it showed.

    9 & 10;
     
  12. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

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    What I don't understand is the T34 is praised by many as being the best overall tank of WWII, used innovative sloped armor, etc., while many have a lot of negative comments on the Sherman. The earliest Shermans had thicker armor and a steeper slope than the T34, so I don't see how that is seen as a purely Russian innovation and no credit is given to the Sherman in that regard. Also as the war went on the Shermans added even thicker armor and better guns, so I don't see how people can simply bash the Sherman. Yes it wasn't perfect, but US doctrine pretty much regarded the Sherman as their effective tool in armored tactics. Maybe it was the material the Soviets used as armor or the method in which they constructed the armor?
     
  13. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    When all is said and done, it's about production first, and then reliability - and both of those attributes equate to the number of units in the field when battle commences.

    When the British used the Sherman in North Africa, it proved superior to the MK IV panzer on a one to one basis. That equation changed when the MK IV was equipped with a longer 75 in 43/44, which shifted the balance in favor of the German tank. Yet, the ease of production and maintenance, and the superior reliability of the Sherman still gave the allies the advantage because they could put (and keep) many more Shermans in the field. The new MK IV and the Panther might have been superior on a one to one basis, but when 40% of them were in maintenance at a given time, and the production was slow because of the complex engineering, the lowly Sherman simply overwhelmed them with numbers. When the longer 75 (the "76") came into the field they again were superior to the MK IV, and at least had a sporting chance against the Panther.

    The same argument can be made for the T34. Russian changes during the war were mostly aimed at simplified production. It was a match against the MK IV from the beginning, and by the time the Panther came out the Soviets were producing 1,200 T34's a month. It was again, a numbers game.
     
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  14. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member

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    I am no tank authority, rather just a fan with a few books but I think KodiakBear has summed up the best answer I have yet to read about WW2 tanks, many thanks to him. It is a very complex subject as witnessed by hundreds of threads over numerous forums , that will never end but KB addressed all the tanks that really matter and their evolution. the true workhorse tanks. My personal favorite is the flawed Mark V! but liking and being the best is not the same. The Sherman I think of as a slightly obsolete design that was honed to be a fine tank but improvements over it's like time and it's mass production and reliability. But a fair number of young men died in the refinement process, true of any war machine, but we had the resources to improve it faster. Ordnance squabbles cost a number of lives.

    All tanks are compromises, you decide what your goals are. , Ideally someone should have built numbers of middleweight tanks with well shaped armor, a HV 75 MM gun would probably do, especially with refined ammunition in quantity, torsion bar suspension, reasonably wide tracts, a diesel V 8, and strong reliability. Plus good working rum inside. I know most tanks brewed up from ammo not gas, but gas turns to vapor pretty fast and ignites easier than diesel. Diesels do get better mileage and tend to be more reliable because of robust construction to deal with high compression. ask yourself if you were a tanker would you rather smell gas fumes or diesel !

    I find the T 34 a somewhat better design, the Sherman better built and the Mark 1V most improved given its chassis.

    BUT, none were ideal regardless of hype, then or now. IMO.
     
  15. ptimms

    ptimms Member

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    I'm a fan of the T34 and the 85 extended it's longevity whilst keeping it able to deal with the most commonly met German tanks. However the Sherman has radio's in every vehicle, who know's how a T34 commander was able to lead a platoon or worse a company by leaning out and waving flags!!

    Personally I'd go

    1. Centurion (just arrives in time)
    2. JSII (best assault tank of the war the 122mm was a match for any German armour it faced)
    3. Matilda II (unmatched in 40 but the lack of HE stops it being No1)
    4. T34 (above the Sherman just because it's available earlier despite what I said above)
    5. Sherman (upgradability and the Firefly should probably be higher)
    6. Panther (the L70 75mm is the AT gun of the war)
    7. Comet (a better armoured than a Cromwell with a 17pdr, but the Brits should have it in action earlier)
    8. Tiger I (has to be in any top 10 surely)
    9. Pz 38T (actually I only put it in as the chassis was so good and the basis of so many german AFV's)
    10. Renault FT17 (pure longevity, designed in WWI but still serving right through WWII starting in front line roles and in still in rear area roles until the end).

    Honourable mention to the Matilda I coz it makes me laugh and PZIII with the L60 which I like.
     
  16. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    All too true, gt. The Brits were quicker to adapt by introducing the Firefly well before the long 75 began showing up in US Shermans. I'm not well versed enough to know when the ammo storage issue (the Ronson aspect) was improved - whether the Brits or US jumped on that first. Yet, (in my opinion) it was a wise decision to stay with the Sherman instead of complicating production by introducing another Medium tank.

    I too am a fan of the Panther, yet the introduction of that tank to replace the MK IV complicated and slowed production at the worst possible time for the Germans. The Panther never really did get the bugs worked out and even though they performed well in battle, the road to every battle was littered with broken down Panthers. Better to have two MK IV's show up than one Panther.

    The same argument can be made for the heavy Tiger I and II's. The King Tiger Battalion assigned to the 1st SS in the Ardennes left most its units on the side of the road with various maintenance issues. If they had employed a Tiger I battalion, they'd have had a lot more tanks at the end of that road.
     
  17. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member

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    I just finished reading "Tigers in Normandy" and even though I was aware of their mechanical problems I was still amazed at how severe they were. Sherman's, Comets, Churchill's, P 47s and Typhoons were not the big enemy, it appears reliability and spares were. Danger from the air seemed to have curtailed day light movement, it did not stop that many tanks.
     
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  18. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The direct impact of aircraft is on German armor seems to be overestimated frequently and the indirect impact underestimated by as much or more. Certainly very few direct kills but a lot of the problems with fuel and spares were due to the air campaign as were some of the coordination problems that resulted in "defeat in detail" a number of times.
     
  19. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    The Germans learned to move armor at night, and to hide it effectively during the day, but once committed to battle they were pretty exposed. Still, kill numbers must have been highly exaggerated by pilots. There are infantry reports of knocked out Panzers being attacked again and again over several days, with each attack presumably reported as a kill.
     
  20. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    There is also issue of low level training experience of German panzer crews during later stages of war. When they were caught in daylight and open space by Allied fighter bombers a lot of German panzer crews just abandoned their vehicles and run away if they couldn't not hide their AFVs also in time before air attack starts. At Normandy and Ardennes Allies troops actually captured several abondened German panzers intact after they got over the battlefield. They were left behind due to fear of fighter bombers , lack of fuel or lack of spare parts , repair shops and trained mechanics. That's why T-34s or M4 Shermans were war winners. They were practical fast moving manueverable long range Armored Fighting Vehicles. They were easy to repair. Vaunted Tigers or Panthers or heavy assault guns were not. In one to one engagement they might have several advantages over Allied tanks but they were not invulnerable and they were more trouble than their worth in production , battlefield utility and efficiency. Their heavy armor so impressive in battle actually made them clumsy , unable to cross light bridges , muddy fields or other unreliable ground like forests. Their tracks wore down quickly (so bye bye Blitzkrieg) and they consumed too much fuel when German fuel stocks were melting
     

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