Category: Military Tanks

Five Top Tank Commanders of WW II

The five top tank commanders of World War II are not listed necessarily because of their number of kills.  They are instead remembered for a number of different reasons.  The top five commander list is presented in alphabetical order along with a brief description of their noted accomplishment(s).

Step close and get a sense of the strength of the cold metal on AFHMs authentic, fully restored, fully operational battle tanks, which are prominently displayed throughout the museum.  Get a sense of the combat they endured throughout their service.  Take a moment, put yourself in the turret – feel the power, feel the fear, feel the pride.

Lt. Colonel Creighton Abrams – Top WWII Tank Commander for the United States – Using M4 Sherman tanks, Abrams and his crew are credited with destroying an estimated 50 German armed fighting vehicles.  Abrams military career continued on through the Korean War and Vietnam War.  The XM1 – a US Army main battle tank was named the M1 Abrams in honor of Creighton Abrams.  Abrams reached the rank of Four Star General before retiring in 1974.

General Heinz GuderianGeneral Heinz Guderian – Germany’s father of armored blitzkrieg – Guderian is known for heavily utilizing the blitzkrieg strategy during World War II, a strategy which greatly assisted with Germany’s successful invasion of Poland in 1939.


Sgt. Kurt Knispel – Germany’s WWII Top Tank Ace – Not only was Sgt. Knispel Germany’s top tank ace, he is credited with being the top tank ace in history.  He began as a tank loader and eventually became a gunner and then a commander.  His official kill record stands at 168.   His most remarkable kill was a hit he made on a T-34 tank almost two miles away.

Major General Stanislaw MaczekMajor General Stanislaw Maczek – Superior Polish armed forces field commander – Maczek led armored units in World War II from its onset in 1939 until it ended in 1945.  He played several key roles in the war, including the capturing of Wilhelmshaven in May, 1945.


Captain Michael Wittmann – Led Germany’s most lethal tank attack of WWII – Captain Wittmann’s kill record includes 138 tanks, 132 antitank guns and a countless number of vehicles.  He is most famous for an attack in June of 1944, when he devastated as many as 14 tanks, 2 antitank guns and 15 additional vehicles a 15 minute time frame.

World War II saw the rise of many great commanders in all areas of the war.  With continual advancements in tank designs, tank commanders were constantly challenged, but many, such as these five top WWII tank commanders listed above, rose to the occasion and left an indelible mark on history.

WW II King Tiger Tank

One of the most feared weapons of World War II, the King Tiger Tank (also known as Tiger Tank II) donned an almost impenetrable front armor.  Produced by Henschel, the King Tiger was introduced into action on the Eastern Front in May of 1944.  This tank design housed a crew of five.  The main gun specification of the King Tiger was to be a variation of the 88mm anti-aircraft gun, capable of destroying enemy tanks from a great distance.  The velocity of this gun was about 1000m a second when firing an amour piercing round.   The gun’s accuracy allowed it to pierce 150mm of metal armor even if the tank’s position was more than 2 kilometers away from the intended target.  The shell’s ability to travel at about 2200m in an estimated 2.2 seconds (and sometimes even faster) meant this tank had the capability to destroy enemy tanks from a distance, keeping the Tiger out of enemy range.

The King Tiger Tank was not without its problems. Underpowered like many of the World War II heavy tanks, the engines consumed a lot of fuel at a time when it was in short supply for the Germans. The shortage was a direct result of the allies’ bombing the German fuel tanks. The fuel consumption problem was exacerbated at the Battle of the Bulge. Here, the Tigers first appeared to do quite well, but subsequently, they literally ran out of fuel. Soldiers were forced to abandon their tanks and walk back to their lines.

In addition, despite an order to manufacture 1500 King Tiger Tanks, production was greatly hindered due to the allies’ bombing of the factories. Other problems encountered by the Tiger series included their track system, leaking seals and gaskets, and the overburdened drivetrain initially developed for a lighter vehicle. The double radius steering gear was also known for being prone to failure.

By the end of World War II, tanks were finally being developed that, at long last, surpassed the Tiger. Today, the only operable example of the infamous King Tiger from WWII (including the production turret) is on display in the Musée des Blindés, Saumur, France and is accessible to the public.


Step close and get a sense of the strength of the cold metal on AFHMs authentic, fully restored, fully operational battle tanks, which are prominently displayed throughout the museum.  Get a sense of the combat they endured throughout their service.  Take a moment, put yourself in the turret – feel the power, feel the fear, feel the pride

History of the Tank

The history of tanks used in the military evolved over a period of time.  In the early days of warfare, the vision of protected mobility was limited due to the technology available.  It wasn’t until after the turn of the century that the two were finally able to merge.  In 1904, Austria introduced an armoured vehicle that would provide the foundation for the development of what would eventually develop into the armoured tank.  Military tanks are used throughout several military branches, including the US Army, US Marine Corps and other military groups around the world.

Limitations accompanied this innovative idea of the early 20th century.  Mainly, the vehicle was limited to tracks or terrains that were easy to navigate.  Various designs gave rise to the “caterpillar” track, which allowed more evenly distribution of the weight of the vehicle.  Another benefit offered by this pioneering idea was the added traction it offered as a vehicle.  Once the design for the military tank was refined, along with the United States, various countries – including Great Britain, Germany, USSR, Japan, to name a few – began to develop their own versions.  Introduced during WW I, the use of military tanks was greatly increased during WW II.

From the earliest vision to present day technology, military tanks have continued to evolve to meet the emerging demands of warfare.  Many infamous military tanks have planked our battlefields throughout history and are now available in model form.  Many model enthusiasts enjoy, not only collecting and assembling various tank models, they also appreciate the interaction available to them, via the internet, to share with collectors from around the world.

Top Tank Battles of World War II

The top tank battles of World War II, despite their crucial victories and severe losses, do not carry the same notoriety as other battles throughout the war.  Throughout WWII, tanks were used as an effective force which allowed a quick tactical victory.  Their involvement in World War II was vital.   Listed below, in no particular order, are some of the top tank battles of World War II:

(1941)  Battle of Brody

Germans:  800 tanks        Soviet Union:  2,500 tanks

The Battle of Brody was a fierce tank battle between the Germans and the Red Army. It remained the largest tank battle of WWII until the Battle of Kursk two years later.  Despite being outnumbered, the Germans were victorious.

(1940)  Battle of Hannut

France:  600 tanks          Germans:  618 (up to 674)

This World War II tank battle occurred in Belgium between the French army and the Nazi invaders.  Despite inflicting a significant number of casualties on the French, the Germans were unable to neutralize the French army and withdrew.

(1944)  Operation Goodwood

United Kingdom – 1,100 – 1,300 tanks     Germans:  377 tanks

In Operation Goodwood, the British attacked the German forces in northern France.  What ensued was a battle some would arguably defend as the largest tank battle ever fought by the British Army.  In the end, some would refer to this as a strategic Allied victory, but a tactical victory for the Germans.

(1943)  Battle of Prokhorovka

Soviets:  800-850 tanks     Germans:  500-700 tanks (possibly far less)

This WWII tank battle was part of the Battle of Kursk and is one of the largest tank battles in military history.  Though the victory of this battle was not immediately clear, it did show the continued force and determination of the Soviets.

(1941)  Battle of Raseiniai

Soviets:  749 tanks                   Germans:  245 tanks

Battle of RaseiniaiDuring the Battle of Raseiniai, the Soviet armored forces were almost completely destroyed.  This cleared the way for the German offensive to continue their drive and cross the Daugava River.

 (1942)  Second Battle of El Alamein

Allies:  1,029 tanks              Axis:  547 tanks

The German’s lost this battle and were unable to gain possession of Egypt and the Suez Canal.  The Allies received Sherman Tanks from the Americans, which reinforced their forces and allowed them to outlast the Germans.  The tanks were critical in this Allied victory.

The world has seen many epic tank battles before and since.  But those listed above are definitely some of the top tank battles of WWII.

Highest Scoring Tank Ace of WWII – Kurt Knispel

The highest scoring tank ace of WWII was Germany’s Kurt Knispel.  Knispel total tank kills were confirmed at 168, with some unconfirmed estimates stating that total could actually be closer to 195 kills.  Knispel is considered by some as the greatest tank ace in history.  His awards included the Iron Cross, Panzer Badge and German Cross in Gold.

Step close and get a sense of the strength of the cold metal on AFHMs authentic, fully restored, fully operational battle tanks, which are prominently displayed throughout the museum.  Get a sense of the combat they endured throughout their service.  Take a moment, put yourself in the turret – feel the power, feel the fear, feel the pride.

Knispel’s Early Service

Kurt Knispel began his basic training at Panzer Replacement Training Battalion.  He later received tank training on the Panzer I, Panzer II and Panzer IV tanks.  Knispel was also instructed on the Panzer IV as a loader and gunner.  When training was completed in June of 1941, Knispel was assigned as gunner of a Panzer IV under the leadership of Lt. Hellman and he began his World War II service.

Later in the War

Tiger II Tank

In January of 1943, Knispel returned for training on the newer Tiger I tanks.  At that time, he was already credited with 12 kills.  His squadron – 1st Company of the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion – participated in various battles throughout World War II, eventually upgrading to the Tiger II tank.  Knispel is said to have accomplished an incredible 24 hits in one action with the Tiger II tank.

A Closer Look

Kurt Knispel was recommended four different times to receive the Knight’s Cross – a coveted award received by many of the other German tank aces.  Knispel, however, did not mind that he was consistently passed over.  The purpose of his mission was not for decoration.  He is even said to have credited others with kills he could have easily disputed as his own.  His rise in ranks was slow which is attributed to a few conflicts he encountered with Nazi authorities and his lack of typical military uniformity – sporting longer hair than most and a goatee.

War’s End

Kurt Knispel – an individual who fought in every type of German tank as a loader, a gunner and a commander – received a fatal wound just ten days before the end of the war.  At age 23, the highest scoring tank ace of WWII – Kurt Knispel – was dead.

Advancements in Technology in World War II


In World War II, continual advancements in technology were mandatory to maintain a competitive edge over the enemy.  While technological advancements were made prior to the war, other developments were a direct result of the trials and errors suffered during the war.  The WWII era housed a great many changes which affected weaponry, logistical support, communications and intelligence, medicine and various industries.


Advancement in military weaponry occurred rapidly during the Second World War, including everything from aircraft to small arms.  At the beginning of WWII, little advancement had been seen since the end of WWI.  However, just six short years later the face of warfare morphed significantly with the military utilizing jet aircrafts and ballistic missiles.

Tanks and Vehicles


Due to the increased mobility of troops in WWII (vs. the static front lines of WWI), tanks saw significant advancements, including increased speed, armor and firepower.  The amphibious DUKW was another crucial development during the war and was utilized extensively for troop deployment and as a means to transport tanks to areas in need.


WWI Navy battleships no longer dominated the sea power.  Newly designed aircraft carriers were equipped with greater range and a heavier striking power.  Due to time constraints in producing new ships, older ships were being retro fitted with newly designed components.

Small Arms

 The production of small arms changed dramatically with the introduction of stamping, riveting and welding.  Semi-automatic rifles and assault rifles were also developed during this era.  A number of transformations emerged throughout this time that would affect future small arms advancements.  WWII small arms have continued to be a favorite among collectors of WWII weapons or weapons in general.


Aircraft development was crucial during WWII due to its increased use throughout the war – as bombers, fighters and reconnaissance.  Massive bombing raids were being utilized as an alternative to static trench warfare.  Air superiority was the goal of both the Allies and the Axis, each dedicating as much man/woman and machine power as possible to produce the ultimate air weapon.  By the end of WWII, pilots were flying jet aircrafts.  Other advancements in armament, maneuverability and radar assisted with the continual advancement of military aircraft.


No doubt WWII played a critical role in the industrialization of many of the nations around the world on which every military greatly relied.   As a result, incredible advancements in technology – necessitated by the advancements of the enemy – were witnessed throughout World War II.

Top Ten Tanks of WWII

When reviewing all tanks manufactured during WWII, a top ten definitive list is difficult to compile.  Below, however, is a list of top ten tanks in WWII that should be considered.  These tanks played a critical role for both the Allies and Axis powers during World War II.  The list is presented in alphabetical order.

Step close and sense of the strength of the cold metal on AFHMs authentic, fully restored, fully operational battle tanks, which are prominently displayed throughout the museum.  Get a sense of the combat they endured throughout their service.  Take a moment, put yourself in the turret – feel the power, feel the fear, feel the pride. 

Iosif Stalin Tank

Also known as the IS tank, this WWII heavy tank was named after Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union.  Designed with thick armor in order to successfully counter the 88 mm guns on the German tanks, the main gun carried by the Iosif Stalin tank was successful in defeating both the WWII German Tiger and Panther Tank.  The IS Tank was the driving force of the Red Army in the final stages of the war.

M4 Sherman –

This World War II medium tank was used primarily by the U.S. with thousands more being used by the Allies.  The main gun mounted on the M4 Sherman – a 75 mm M3 L/40 – allowed the crew to fire with a fair amount of accuracy even if the tank was moving.  The advantages of this tank lead to its high demand.  As a result, more than 50,000 M4 Sherman tanks were produced during WWII.

Panther – The Panther was a medium German tank that went into service the middle of 1943.  The tank remained in service until the end of WWII in 1945.  Initially, the Panther was intended to be used as a counter to the T-34.  The Germans planned to use the Panther in place of the Panzer III and Panzer IV.  Instead, the Panther worked alongside these tanks.  The Panther was known for its firepower and also for its mobility.  Because of the protection offered by this WWII tank, its design was used as a standard by other nations later in the war as well as post-war.  The Panther, many believe, was one of the top tank designs of WWII.

Panzerkampfwagen IV – This particular tank was often referred to as the Panzer IV.  It was a medium tank Nazi Germany developed during the late 1930s.  The Panzer IV was widely used throughout the war.  The Panzer IV tank was initially designed to be an infantry-support tank.  Eventually the Panzer IV assumed the role of the Panzer III and began engaging in battle.  The Panzer IV was the most widely produced German tank during WWII.

Sherman Firefly – This WWII British tank was a variant of the US Sherman tank.  The British armed the tank with their powerful anti-tank gun – the British 17 pounder.  The Firefly was originally to be used in the interim until newer designed British tanks were ready for service.

After a few of its original flaws were corrected, the tank went into production and its value was soon recognized as it was the only British tank with the capacity to defeat both the Panther and the Tiger tanks when engaged within standard combat ranges.  As a result, the German’s instructed their tanks and their anti-tank gun crews to attack the Sherman Fireflies first.

T-34 – This medium Soviet tank was in production from 1940 thru 1958.  Though later tanks produced during this time period proved to have better armor and armament, the T-34 is often recognized as the most effective, highly influential and efficient tank design of WWII.  After World War II, the T-34 was widely exported.  This tank ended out being the highest produced tank of WWII and ranks as second highest produced tank of all times.  As recent as 1996, variants of this WWII tank were still in operational service throughout as many as 27 countries.

T-44 – This WWII tank did not go into production late in the war.  This medium Soviet Union tank was the successor to the T-34, and while a smaller number (about 2,000) were built, their design was used as a basis for an upcoming series of main battle tanks (T-54/55) which turned out to be the most-produced tank series in history.

Tiger I – The Germans commonly used Tiger I to refer to any one of a number of their heavy tanks used during WWII.  First developed in 1942, the final designation by the German’s for this tank was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E – often referred to as just “Tiger”.  The Tiger I was mounted with an 88 mm gun, which was previously shown effective against both air targets and ground targets.  The Tiger I participated in conflicts on all German battlefronts.

Tiger IITiger II – A heavy German tank of WWII, the Tiger II tank made its mark on World War II history with its heavy armor and powerful gun.  The tank proved to be superior to every other Allied or Soviet tank when engaged in head-to-head battle.  However, the underpowered engine of the Tiger II, combined with its enormous use of fuel, greatly limited the Tiger II.

World War II saw massive industrialization on all military aircraft and vehicles.  Variations within each design were produced using upgrades and modification changes due to the performance (or lack) of the variant’s predecessor.  Both the Allies and the Axis were forced to continually improve upon their own designs in order to maintain dominance in their efforts to win the war.  As a result, a countless number of military aircraft and vehicles, the tank being no exception, were produced.

Within the tank category, any one of a number of combinations could be put together – based on class, armament, production, etc – and rightfully claim their spot as the top ten tanks of WWII.

WWII M4 Sherman Tank

The M4 Sherman Tank was the true work horse of the American Forces during WWII. The origin of the Tank came from the bloody battles toward the end of WWI.  Tanks during that time were slow, had limited mobility, and were not properly used on the battlefield.  Most military experts agreed after the war that the Tank would have a future.  Much advancement in technology came about between WWI and WWII and when war came to the shores of the United States on December 7, 1941. That’s when an iconic tank emerged, the M4 Sherman Tank.

During WWII the primary battle Tank was the M4 Sherman Tank.  The M4 was named after the great Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, who drove his Army deep into the south all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.  Between the years of 1940 to 1945 the United States produced over 50,000 Sherman Tanks.  Initially they were produced by the Lima Locomotive works, but as the war progressed, nearly a dozen companies, such as Detroit Tank, Pacific Car and Foundry Company produced the many variants of the Sherman Tank. Its primary gun was the 75 mm which had a muzzle velocity of 1,850 feet per second. After 1942 more were outfitted with 76 mm gun.  It had other weapons to assist in its missions, such as Browning 50 and 30 caliber machine guns.  It had a crew of five, but in most situations the crew usually consisted of four, led by an NCO.  At the time the armor on the M4 was the thickest of any American Tank which ranged between three inches to less than two, depending on the different areas of the vehicle.

The Sherman’s maximum speed was between 24 to 26 miles per hour.  The M4’s heart truly was its powerful Continental R-975 motor, which was used by numerous armored vehicles of WWII. Originally, it was a nine cylinder engine that was air cooled with over 400 horse power. Later on it was improved to produce over 470 horse power by the classic Chrysler A 57 multibank L-Head. General George S. Patton baptized this great Tank in the battlefields of North Africa starting off with “Operation Torch” in the North African Country of Morocco.  At first, the M4 did well against Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s German Panzer IV tank, but later as the war progressed, it had more difficulty against the powerful German Panther and Tiger Tanks. This led to the rapid advancement of the primary gun being switched to the 76mm.  After the June 6, 1944 landings in Normandy, all Sherman’s that were produced had the 76mm. The upgrades, however, only made it capable of defeating a Tiger or Panther at close range.

The Great Success of this tank was mainly because of its high numbers of production and the fine training of its crews who fought with it in the European and Pacific Theaters.  The men who fought with this tank gave it its great history.  After WWII the M4 remained in service with United States well into the Korean War and shortly afterward into the late 1950s.  It was replaced by the Patton Series Tanks, who saw service during the Vietnam War and beyond. The Sherman saw service with many other military units throughout the world well into the 1970’s.  In the world of militaria, the M4 Sherman tank is one of the most sought out tanks in the world. It is truly an American Classic.