Today tanks are synonymous with the modern army; imposing, essential pieces of high-technology equipment, seemingly impregnable. But how did the tank come into being, and how did it develop and influence conflict in the 20th and 21st centuries? Why do different countries use tanks so differently in combat and what was the biggest tank-on-tank battle?
The Casemate Short History of Tanks addresses all these questions and more in an informative and entertaining introduction to this iconic weapon of the last hundred years.
Tanks first ventured into battle on the Somme in 1916, and by the end of the war countries were beginning to choose "heavy" or "light" tank designs to suit their preferred doctrine. Design stagnated between the wars, until World War II brought about rapid change. Tanks would prove integral to fighting in almost every theatre; the Germans swept across Europe using tanks to spearhead their blitzkrieg method of war, until Soviet tanks proved more than their match and led to some epic tank battles on a huge scale.
After World War II, tank designs became increasingly sophisticated, and armor undertook a variety of roles in conflicts, with mixed results. American armor in Korea was soon forced into an infantry support role, which it reprised in Vietnam, while Soviet armor was defeated in guerrilla warfare in Afghanistan. However, tanks played a pivotal role in the American "shock and awe" doctrine in two wars in Iraq, and tanks remain a crucial weapons system on the battlefield.
Oscar E. Gilbert was a U.S. Marine Corps artilleryman and instructor, and retired after a thirty-eight year career in government service, university teaching, and international petroleum exploration. He is the author of numerous books on military history. Romain V. Cansiere is a native of southern France, interested in the U. S. Marine Corps since his teenage years. His current historical research is on the Marine Corps in World War I.