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This guide features some of the finest tanks of the Second World War from the nations of Germany, Russia and America. British tanks are covered in a separate guide. This guide includes the Sherman heavy tank, truly one of the great weapons of the war, and the mighty Tiger, a 55ton fighting machine with virtually impervious armour and an 88mm gun.
Panzerkampfwagen 3 Medium Tank
Specially designed for the new armoured divisions of the Wehrmacht, the Panzerkampfwagen III appeared in 1939 with a not very adequate version of the 37mm anti-tank gun. However, it did have a large turret ring which enabled larger guns to be fitted later. There was a good deal of development during the prototype stage and the version which came into production was the Ausf. E. Subsequent models went to Ausf. N. the alterations being mainly concerned with extra armour, wider tracks and more engine power. Total PzKpfw III production was around 5,700 examples.
M3 Medium Tank ( Lee )
To equal the firepower of the German tanks, the US Army needed a tank with a 75mm gun but their M2 couldn't carry such a heavy weapon. The answer was to mount a 75mm gun with limited traverse on to the right-hand side of a modified M2 hull. A small cast turret with a 37mm gun was located on the top left. In American service the M3 was used principally as a training tank, 6,258 had been produced when production ceased in December 1942 following the arrival of the M4, Many M3s were converted to other uses.
T-34 Medium Tank
Probably the outstanding tank of the Second World War, its combination of well-sloped armour, a heavy armament, high speed and a superb cross-country performance (due to its wide tracks and high power-to-weight ratio) meant that the German Pzkw Mk3 and IV found themselves completely outclassed. The Germans had tended to underestimate Soviet tank design and production, and received a rude awakening when the Wehrmacht encountered the T-34s and KVs, whose existence had not even been suspected. A major weapon in the defeat of the German Army in 1945.
Tiger I Heavy Tank
When introduced in late 1942, the Tiger was the most formidable tank in the world, a reputation it retained until the end of the war. The main armament was the powerful 88mm gun, which could defeat 100mm of armour at 1,000m (3,280ft) range, while the Tiger's frontal armour was impervious to any Allied gun except suicidal short ranges. The Tiger guilt up a formidable reputation, one instance is recorded of a single Tiger holding of an entire Allied division, killing 25 tanks before it was finally stalked and defeated. 1,354 were built by August 1944.
M4 Medium Tank ( Sherman )
The M4 series was the most widely produced, most widely used, and most important of all tanks in service with American, British and Allied forces in WW2. While not the best Allied tank in qualitative terms, and certainly inferior in armour and hitting power to the best German and Soviet tanks, the M4 (popularly known by its British name of Sherman) had the virtues of simplicity of maintenance, reliability, speed, ruggedness and an uncomplicated design. Total M4 production was 49,234.
KV-1 Heavy Tank
The KV series arose from the need t have a heavy tank to batter through fixed defences, and in 1939 Soviet Russia was the only country in the world to have such a tank in production. The KV (Klim Voroshilov) was designed in 1938 to replace the T-35 with its many turrets. Gun design had improved to the point where the 76.2mm gun could fire both HE and armour-piercing shell, alleviating the need for more than one turret. The main gun could now do all the tasks need. This allowed a smaller and better protected vehicle to be produced, and the crew was reduced by half.