Tanks, or armored fighting vehicles, have been common-place in War for the last century. However, the first conceptulization of a "tank" dates back to the 15th Century. Leonardo Da Vinci, in his sketches, created an armored vehicle topped with several cannons. This idea was not brought into use until the turn of the 20th century.

The First Tanks

In 1903 a french military officer proposed the idea of the "Levavasseur Project." Essentially it was the first real actualization of a tank because it employed "treads" rather than wheels. The treads allowed the tank to traverse ruff terrain and eliminated the need to build roads. However, with no cause, their production was nonexistent. It wasn't till World War One that the tank truly became important.

Levavasseur project.jpg
Levavasseur project.jpg

World War One

WIth the advent of World War One came the need for military technological advantage. Initially the need for armored vehicles was extremely low. But, with the arrival of stymieing trench warfare the involved nations began looking for a solution. This led them back to the idea of an armored, treaded vehicle.

Coincidentally, in America, Holt Manufacturing company had developed a treaded tractor with the capability of digging out new agricultural lands out of rough terrain. The french then ordered around a thousand in 1915 to help mobilize artillery. At the same time the British, Germans, and Russians were developing their own tanks. After much trial and error the British finally decided on the "Mark One" which was used on the Western Front. The Germans, a little late to the game, soon began production on the "A7V." This however was somewhat of a failure because it had immense difficulties when it came to transportation and eventually the project was terminated. The Russians too had several projects but no successes. Then, at the end of the war the Americans and British developed the "Mark VIII" which was used in the final assault of the German Forces.

The Holt Tractor
The Holt Tractor
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The Great In-Between

While the great war was over, the major players were not convinced another conflict would not start. Their fears, with the combination of a natural industrialization of their nations gave way to a startling increasing development. The US began developing the Sherman project. The Russians perfected their T34 as well as gear much of their industry toward warfare. The Germans, still bogged down by debt and war guilt didn't start production on the "Panzer" project till the early 1930's. The British, after working over several experimental designs, finally settled on the Mark II or "Matilda."

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World War Two

Almost inevitably the world once again went to war and began a multi-campaign war that once again employed the use of Tanks. On the Western Front the British Mark IIs' clashed with Germany's Panzers. Much of the Western front was fought in villages and relatively close quarters. Because of this, the German tanks had the advantage because they were smaller and quicker while the British tanks were more suited for trench warfare which is what England thought World War Two was going to be. On the Eastern front Russia was surprised by the German forces who pushed deep into the Motherland. The Germans, having a low number of tanks brought only a few hundred, underestimating both the amount of time they were going to spend in Russia and the sheer ability of production of the Russian people. Because of these factors, the Russian people were able to out-produce the Germans in both the Siege of Leningrad and the Battle of Stalingrad. Their tank, the T34, became instrumental in these battles. Its thick armor and rugged abilities allowed it navigate the rubble of destroyed buildings.

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Probably the most famous tank-based campaign was the German vs US North African battles. The Germans and Italians, led by the the Commander Rommel led a brilliant offensive, conquering a huge expanse of land in Northern Africa early on in 1940. The Panzer Tank Corps. worked well and spread over Morocco and over to Egypt. One of the Main purposes for the assault was the possibility of oil in the area which was quickly becoming a limiting resource in the war. The Americans, realizing this, quickly responded and invaded. After about a year of grueling battle and brilliant tactics on both side the US out-produced and out-manned the Germans and broke through. This, of course, led to the invasion of Sicily and eventually Italy.
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The Wrap-Up

Tanks, while being innovative and powerful, represent a move toward mechanization. By the end of World War Two they were commonplace. They also indicate a move towards gasoline. Before gasoline was taken for granted but during the war it became a incredibly valued resource. This led to a race of influence in the Middle-East which spilled over into the Cold War. It also was the cause of many decisions made by the United States who is now crippled by its dependance of oil. Overall, tanks, while being a physical entity, represent an intensifying of war and an inter-connected global community.


Miller, David. "Great Book of Tanks." PlaceHolder for Misc.kitreview.com. Web. 09 Apr. 2012.

Jorgensen, Christian. "Rommel's Panzers: Rommel and the Panzer Forces of the Blitzkrieg 1940-42." Oks. 2 Feb. 2001.

Kitterson, Jack. "Tank History." History of the Tank. 17 July 2004. Web. 09 Apr. 2012. <http://www.wwiivehicles.com/wwii/tank-history.asp>.

By David Griffin