10 Kickass World War Two tanks

WORLD WAR TWO TANKS: While World War One was the birth of the tank, World War Two saw their true coming of age. Tank development occurred incredibly quickly during the war as the major powers played the game of one-upmanship.  Tanks that were state of the art just a year ago were rendered obsolete as the opposing power built heavier vehicles with thicker armor and bigger, high-velocity cannons.
This list is dominated by German and Soviet machines as they were the only ones who really understood the tank’s potential until very late in the war.  The Nazis’ tank-led Blitzkrieg across Europe proved that tanks weren’t just for infantry support as they had been used in all previous wars.  They were punching through, surging ahead and taking out targets from a mean distance.
This is a list of some of the best tanks of the war as well as some of the more wacky and interesting designs that were tried out. Remember to add your comments below!

10. Panzer IV (Germany)

panzer-IV-tankPanzer IV. 10 Kickass World War Two Tanks.

This was the Third Reich’s workhorse tank of the Second World War.  The Panzer IV was the only tank to remain in continuous production with over 8,800 built from 1936 to 1945.  Though conceived as a support tank the need for bigger guns became apparent when the Soviet T34 started ripping shreds through Germany’s armor during Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia.
The Panzer IV was refitted with a 75mm cannon which could take out a T-34 at a range of 1,200m (3,900ft). Although later Soviet tanks again outclassed the Panzer IV a shortage of Panther tanks kept the Panzer IV in the main line of fire until the end of the war.  By far the most Panzer scalps were claimed on the Eastern Front where the Germans fought massive tank battles against the Soviets.  It’s estimated the Soviets took out over 6000 Panzer IVs between Moscow and Berlin.

9. M26 Pershing (United States)

m26-pershing-tankM26 Pershing. 10 Kickass World War Two Tanks.

The mightiest American tank of the war came too late to make any real difference. Only 20 Pershing heavy tanks saw action in Europe and a few made it to Okinawa. With a 90mm main gun and three auxiliary machine guns, the Pershing was a formidable weapon and well and truly a match for anything the Germans or Japanese could throw at it. Its one major shortcoming was the poor power-to-weight ratio of its Ford engine.
Delays in getting the Pershing into service were due to America’s “tank destroyer” doctrine.  Tanks, it was believed, were best suited to infantry support and taking advantage of breakthroughs, while enemy tanks were to be dealt with by lightly armored anti-tank gun units. Heavy US tank losses in the Battle of the Bulge reminded the top brass of the need for bigger, more powerful units and the Pershing joined the fight in early 1945.

8. Antonov A-40 flying tank (Soviet Union)

antonov-A40-flying-tankAntonov A-40 flying tank. 10 Kickass World War Two Tanks.

No-one can accuse the Russians of failing to think outside the box.  Other nations thought of packing light tanks into gliders as a means of thrusting armor behind enemy lines. Designer Oleg Antonov went one step further: he wanted to give the very tanks themselves wings.
A T-60 tank was stripped of some armor, fuel and ammo and attached to a glider frame, which was then towed in the air by a massive Tupolev bomber. The flying tank was then released and made a surprisingly smooth landing in a rough field.  It was only tried once and although the test pilot was enthusiastic the idea was abandoned because the A-40 was just too difficult for another plane to tow.

7. Panzer VIII Maus (Germany)

maus-tankPanzer VIII Maus. 10 Kickass World War Two Tanks.

Talk about overkill.  The ironically named “Mouse” super-heavy tank is the biggest fully enclosed armored fighting vehicle ever built.  Weighing in a 188 tons and over 10m (33ft) long, the Maus’ cannon packed a punch big enough to destroy any other tank on the market and could take out some other tanks at a range of over 3500m (2.1mi)!
Hitler was obsessed with super-heavy tanks and threw a lot of money at them.  He ordered 150 Mauses in 1943 to be built by Porsche and Krupp but later cancelled the order.  The Maus was just too big for its own good.  It was almost impossible to find an engine power enough to move it and the prototype could only crawl along at a top speed of 13kph (8.1mph). It was too heavy for most bridges and lacked even a single machine gun for close combat.  Only two were built and they were captured by the Soviets at the proving grounds in Germany.

6. Comet I A34 (United Kingdom)

comet-tankComet I A34. 10 Kickass World War Two Tanks.

It could traverse rough forest terrain and roam German Autobahns with ease. It was reliable and quick and undoubtedly the finest British tank of World War Two.  Stepping up from its predecessor, the Cromwell, the Comet had an improved chassis and a high velocity 77mm gun, essentially a shortened 17 pound cannon.
The Comet rolled out when the Germans were already on the run in 1944, so its impact on the war was minimal. But it deserves to be remembered as the first true British medium tank intended to operate independently of infantry.

5. L3/35 (Italy)

L3-35-tanketteL3/35. 10 Kickass World War Two Tanks.

Who said tanks had to be big?  The Italian L3/35 “tankette” looks positively dainty next to just about every other tank on this list (ball tank excluded). At 3.2 tonnes it weighed just 1/14th of the German Panther tank and its only armament was a couple of machines guns or a flame-thrower. The L3/35 had a crew of two, a gunner/commander and driver who were incredibly vulnerable to anti-tank rifles and, of course, bigger tanks. That said, the L3/35 saw no lack of service and fought in eight different wars between 1935 and 1944.

4. M4 Sherman (United States)

m4-shermanM4 Sherman. Tank M4A4 cutway
1 - Lifting ring, 2 - Ventilator, 3 - Turret hatch, 4 - Periscope, 5 - Turret hatch race, 6 - Turret seat, 7 - Gunner's seat, 8 - Turret seat, 9 - Turret, 10 - Air cleaner, 11 - Radiator filler cover, 12 - Air cleaner manifold, 13 - Power unit, 14 - Exhaust pipe, 15 - Track idler, 16 - Single water pump, 17 - Radiator, 18 - Generator, 19 - Rear propeller shaft, 20 - Turret basket, 21 - slip ring, 22 - Front propeller shaft, 23 - Suspension bogie, 24 - Transmission, 25 - Main drive sprocket, 26 - Driver's seat, 27 - Machine gunner's seat, 28 - 75 mm gun, 29 - Drivers hatch, 30 - M 1919A4 machine gun

This nuggety little medium became the backbone of many armies thanks to the America’s Lend-Lease program and was the second-most produced tank of the war. The Sherman was used by America, Britain, Canadia, Polish partisans, Australia, Free French and China and what it lacked in firepower it usually made up for in sheer numbers. 
It had a 75mm main gun, relatively thin armor and ran at a top speed of 48kp/h (30mph).  The Sherman was famous for its reliability and infamous for the way for being blown up in a single shot from heavier German tanks like the Tiger and Panther. American crews dubbed it the “Ronson” after a cigarette lighter which, according to the slogan, lit “first time, every time”.  The Polish were even grimmer and called it “the burning grave”.  But to be fair, the Sherman was conceived to battle infantry instead of other tanks and it was a fixture on battlegrounds from the Pacific to Europe to North Africa.

3. Kugelpanzer (Germany)

kugelpanzerKugelpanzer. 10 Kickass World War Two Tanks.

The German design team must have been smoking something silly when they thought up this one.  Literally meaning “Ball Tank”, the Kugelpanzer was one of the wackiest and still most mysterious weapons ever to roll off the production line.  There’s only evidence that one prototype ever existed, and details of that are shady. Intended for light recon duties, the Kugelpanzer was shipped to Japan and captured by the Soviets in Manchuria in 1945. It ran on a single cylinder two-stroke engine and despite its formidable look had only 5mm-thick armor.  It’s now housed at the Kubinka Tank Museum near Moscow.

2. Mk. V Panther (Germany)

panther-tankMk. V Panther. 10 Kickass World War Two Tanks.

When German tank crews rolled this one out onto the Ukrainian plains in 1943 they were rolling in the all-round best armored vehicle that had ever been built. The Panther was fast (up to 55kp/h or 34mph), tough (20mm thick armor) and bore a wicked high-velocity 75mm cannon able to punch a hole through any Allied tank it could get in its sights. It was superior in almost every way to Germany’s other mainstay tanks, the Tiger and the Panzer IV.
The Panther was rushed into combat at a crucial phase in the war.  Soviet tank power was really starting to come into its own and they were starting to get the wood over the Germans in massive tank battles around Kursk.  Thus, the Soviet T-34s were able to outnumber and overwhelm the Panther, but it continued to plague Allied tank commanders for the rest of the war.

1. T-34 (Soviet Union)

t34-tankT-34 tank. 10 Kickass World War Two Tanks.

When you absolutely positively gotta kill everyone on the battlefield, accept no substitute.  The Soviet T-34 is widely acknowledged as the best all-round tank of World War Two. Tough, maneuverable and fast, the T-34 gave invading German tank commanders a nasty shock.  Part of the T-34’s genius was its 45mm sloping frontal armor the Panzers found tough to pierce.  The “early war” version, the T-34/76, bore a 76mm main cannon which could easily send off most German tanks up to 1942. The succeeding T-34/85 was a match for any Panzer thereafter with an impressive 85mm gun and helped kick the Germans all the way back to Berlin. About 40,000 T-34s were produced during the war and the tank was used long afterwards and might even still be in service in some parts of the world today.

Share |

top of page

Written by C. J. Cooper, Feb 2012. Last updated Feb 2012.

References for 10 Kickass World War Two Tanks

• World War II Tanks, Eric Grove, 1976

• Tank Killers: A History of America's World War II Tank Destroyer Force, Harry Yeide, 2010


















Photo sources for 10 Kickass World War Two Tanks

• Comet I A34 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Comettank.jpg

•L3/35 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-201-1561-20,_Balkan,_italienische_Panzer,_Krad_mit_Beiwagen.jpg

•Mk. V Panther http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1969-107-58,_Panzer_V_%22Panther%22.jpg

•Panzer IV http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Banska-Bystrica-nemecky-stredny-tank-PzKpfw.IV.AusfJ-1.jpg

•M26 Pershing http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:M26Belgium.jpg

• T-34 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PIC02105.JPG

• M4 Sherman http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:M4A4_cutaway.svg

•Antonov A-40 flying tankhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AntonovA40.jpg

•Panzer VIII Maus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Metro-maus1.jpg

•Kugelpanzer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kugelpanzer.JPG

Unless otherwise stated, all photos used on the page 10 Kickass World War Two Tanks are, to our knowledge, in the public domain. If you think otherwise, please let us know.