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Tanks in World War II

Tanks were an important weapons system in World War II. Even

though tanks in the inter-war years were the subject of widespread
research, production was limited to relatively small numbers in a few
countries. However, during World War II most armies employed
tanks, and production levels reached thousands each month. Tank
usage, doctrine and production varied widely among the combatant
nations. By war's end, a consensus was emerging regarding tank
doctrine and design.

Combined arms in action: USM4 Sherman,
1 Background
equipped with a 75 mm main gun, with infantry
2 Major themes walking alongside.
3 Tanks of the major combatants
3.1 Soviet Union
3.2 United Kingdom
3.2.1 Doctrine
3.2.2 Performance
3.2.3 Specialist tanks
3.3 United States
3.4 France
3.5 Germany
3.6 Italy
3.6.1 Italian tank classification
A German Tiger I tank in combat
3.7 Japan during the Battle of Kursk in 1943
4 Tanks of other combatants
4.1 Czechoslovakia
4.2 Poland
5 See also
6 References
6.1 Notes
6.2 Bibliography
7 External links

The tank was invented by the British in World War I, with nearly simultaneous
development in France. Tanks of the First World War reflected the novelty of the idea
and the primitive state of the automotive industry. World War I tanks moved at a
walking pace, were relatively unreliable, and the best usage of them was still developing
up to the war's end.[1] A breakthrough in tank design was the Christie suspension: a
suspension system developed by American engineer J. Walter Christie which allowed Christie suspension schematic
considerably longer movement of the suspension than conventional leaf-spring systems
then in common use, and allowed the tanks to have considerably greater cross-country

The doctrine of armored warfare changed radically in the inter-war years as armies
sought ways to avoid the deadlock imposed by modern firepower and looked for the
means to restore offensive power on the battlefield. Initially, tanks had been used for
close support of infantry, but as modern mechanized doctrine was developed by several
armies, tanks became an essential part of the combined-arms team. In addition to
T3E2 tank with Christie
infantry support, tanks fulfilled traditional cavalry roles, provided mobile artillery
suspension crossing an obstacle
support, and were adapted tocombat engineering roles.[3] during tests in 1936

Tank design gradually improved in the inter-war period also. Reflecting the growth of
the automotive industry, tank engines, transmissions, and track systems were improved. By the beginning of the war in September
1939, tanks were available that could travel hundreds of miles on their tracks with a limited number of breakdowns.

The war accelerated the pace of change in design. In particular, the gun-vs-armor race of the war led to rapid improvements in
firepower and armor (both in thickness and design).

Major themes
The United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union, and France produced significant numbers of tanks before and during
World War II. The early tanks of Germany were inferior to many of their opponents' tanks in the areas of armor and firepower.
However, in their tactical employment the German tanks dominated all rivals early in the war. German doctrine stressed the use of
rapid movement, mission-type tactics and combined-arms where tanks operated with mobile infantry and air support; this doctrine
was popularly called [a] Blitzkrieg. This doctrine required the Germans to equip their tanks with radios, which provided unmatched
command and control for flexible employment.[5]

In contrast, for example, almost 80 percent of French tanks lacked radios,[6] essentially because their battle doctrine was based on a
more slow-paced, deliberate conformance to planned movements. This required fewer radios at all levels. French tanks generally
outclassed German tanks in firepower and armor in the 1940 campaign, but their poor command and control doctrine negated these
advantages. By 1943, two-way radio was nearly universal in all armies.

A trend towards heavier tanks was unmistakable as the war proceeded. In 1939,
most tanks had maximum armor of 30 mm (1.2 in) or less, with guns with no larger
caliber than 3747 mm. Medium tanks of 1939 weighed around 20 tonnes (20 long
tons). By 1945, typical medium tanks had maximum armor over 60 mm thick, with
guns in the 7585 mm (3.03.3-inch) range and weights of 30 to 45 t (30 to 44 long
tons). Light tanks, which dominated most armies early in the war, gradually
disappeared from front-line service.[7]

Turrets, which had always been considered, but were not previously a universal Early war production.
feature on tanks, became recognized as essential. It was appreciated that if the tank's
gun was to be used to engage both 'soft' (unarmored) and armored targets, then it
needed to be as large and powerful as possible, making one large gun with an all-round field of fire vital. Also, mounting the gun in a
turret ensured that the tank could fire from hull down cover. Hull-mounted guns required that most of the vehicle be exposed to
enemy fire. Multiple-turreted or multi-gun designs such as the Soviet T-35, American Medium Tank M3, French Char B or British
A9 Cruiser Mk I slowly became less common during World War II. Experience showed that a tank commander could not effectively
control the fire of several weapons; also, the newer dual-purpose guns eliminated the need for multiple weapons. Most tanks still
retained a hull machine gun, and usually one or more machine guns in the turret, to protect them from infantry at short range.
Tanks were adapted to a wide range of military tasks, including engineering.
Specialized models, such as flame-thrower tanks, armored recovery vehicles for
towing disabled tanks from the battlefield, and command tanks with extra radios
were also used. Some of these tank variants live on as other classes of armored
fighting vehicle, no longer called "tanks". All major combatant powers also
developed tank destroyers and assault guns, as armored vehicles carrying large-
caliber guns, but often no turrets. Turreted vehicles are expensive to manufacture
compared to non-turreted vehicles.[8]
Panzer II on Western front May 1940
(Panzer I to the rear)
One trend seen in World War II was the usage of older, lighter tank chassis to mount
larger weapons in fixed casemates, as self-propelled guns, tank destroyers or assault
guns. For example, the Soviet T-34 could mount an 85 mm gun in the turret, but the
same chassis could carry the much more effective 100 mm gun in a fixed casemate
as the SU-100. Likewise, the obsolete German Panzer II light tank, too vulnerable
for a direct fire role, was modified to take a powerful 75 mm PaK 40 gun in an open-
topped, fixed casemate as theMarder II self-propelled artillery piece.[8]

The German tank destroyers Panzerjger ("tank hunters") were basically made by
taking an existing anti-tank gun and mounting it on a convenient chassis to give
German tank formation
mobility, usually with just a three-sided gun shield for crew protection. For instance,
202 obsolete Panzer I light tanks were modified by removing the turret emplacing a
Czech 4,7cm KPV vz. 38 (47 mm) anti-tank gun giving the Panzerjger I self-propelled anti-tank gun. German tank destroyers
based on the Panzer III and later German tanks were unique in that they had more armor than their tank counterparts.

Fully enclosed casemates on the Germans' Sturmgeschtz assault guns, from the beginning of the war, set a pattern used later by the
similarly fully enclosed Jagdpanzer casemate-style tank destroyers, with the Soviets' similar Samokhodnaya ustanovka (SU) assault
guns being used for the same dual-purpose roles. However, the lack of a rotating turret had limited the gun's traverse to a few
degrees. This meant that the entire tank normally had to be turned onto its target by the driver, a much slower process than simply
rotating a powered turret. If the vehicle became immobilized due to engine failure or track damage, it could not rotate its gun to
counter opposing tanks, making it highly vulnerable to counterfire.[9] This vulnerability was later exploited by opposing tank forces.
Even the largest and most powerful of German tank destroyers were found abandoned on the field after a battle, having been
immobilized by one or more hits by high explosive (HE) or armor [10]
-piercing (AP) shells to the track or front drive sprocket.

Tanks of the major combatants

Soviet Union
The Soviet Union began and ended the war with more tanks than the rest of the
world combined (18,00022,000). At the start of World War II the most common
tank in Soviet service was the T-26 (derived from the Vickers 6-ton), lightly
armoured and armed with a 45 mm gun capable of penetrating most German tanks at
normal combat ranges. Few had radios. The design was mechanically sound
although incapable of further development. TheBT tank series, based on the Christie
suspension system, were usually armed with the same 45 mm gun and were the most
mobile tanks in the world. Close-support versions of both tanks existed, armed with
BT-7 tanks on parade
76.2 mm howitzers. However, the BT was at the end of its design life. The Red
Army also fielded thousands of light reconnaissance tanks such as the amphibious T-
37 and T-38 tanks. These had limited combat value; although highly mobile, they were armed only with 7.62 mm machine guns and
had very thin armour. The Red Army also had about 400 T-28 medium, multi-turreted tanks, which were in most respects equal to the
German Panzer IV. Again, though, this design dated from 1931 and was obsolete.
The Soviet Union ended the 1930s with a huge fleet of tanks almost completely derived from foreign designs, but before 1941
developed some of the most important trend-setting tanks of the war. The problem the Soviet tank force faced in 1941 was not
primarily the technical quality of its vehicles, but the very poor state of maintenance, the appalling lack of readiness, and the poor
command situation brought on by thepurges of the officer class. The Red Army had adopted in 1940 an advanced doctrine that it was
simply incapable of executing.[11]

Several excellent designs were just entering production in 194041. On the eve of war, the
Red Army had embarked on two closely related projects to reorganize its mechanized forces
and re-equip them with modern designs incorporating the lessons of the Spanish Civil War,
the Battle of Khalkhin Gol and the Winter War. Some of these designs leapfrogged other
countries' tank designs. The most significant was the T-34, originally designed as the
successor to the BT series, but with its heavier armour and heavy dual-purpose gun, it became
the best medium tank in the first half of World War II. The T-34 eventually replaced almost all
other Soviet tanks. The basic design was good enough to keep it battle-worthy beyond 1945,
having been upgraded with heavier guns, new turrets and other modifications. The second
significant design was theKV-1 tank. These were armed with the same excellent 76.2 mm gun
as the T-34, and had the same Kharkiv model V-2 diesel engine. However, the KV had a
torsion bar suspension and much heavier armour than the T-34. The KV was slow, intended as
Soviet tank troops (Battle of
Budapest, October 1944) a breakthrough tank. The KV-2 close-support version was armed with a 152 mm (6.0-inch)
howitzer. The KV series was the main Soviet heavy tank until 1943, when production ended
and most had been expended. Early in 1944 the KV's successor was the IS-2, armed with a
122 mm (4.8 in) gun, having thicker armour and better mobility.[12] The new infantry-support tank of 1941, intended to be the
replacement for the T-26, was the T-50, armed with a 45 mm gun, with torsion-bar suspension and excellent armour for its class.
Production problems with its new engine led to the tank being cancelled after less than 70 had been made. Finally, the light
reconnaissance role was to be filled by the amphibiousT-40 and the cheaper, non-amphibious T-60.[2]

At the beginning of German invasion of the USSR most of the Soviet Union's tank forces were composed of the T-26 tank series and
BT. A few T-40s had appeared, along with about 1,363 mechanically unreliable early T-34 tanks, and 677 KV-1 and KV-2s.[11] Many
early T-34s were captured or destroyed. Much of this early failure was due to lack of coordination, ill-supplied and ill-trained tank
crews, mechanical issues and the lack of readiness of the Red Army in general. Another difficulty for the T-34 was that it had only a
four-man crew, with the tank commander doubling as the gunner. Although spared from loading duties, unlike French tank
commanders, it still crippled the tank commander's ability to maintain awareness of the battlefield while firing the tank's main gun,
giving a tactical advantage to German armour

In 1941 great numbers of T-60s appeared, supplemented in 1942 with the similar T-
70. Both light tanks had torsion-bar suspension, light armour, and small truck
engines. Their simple construction kept them in production even though their
combat value was limited. The T-60 had only a 20 mm gun while the T-70 had a
45 mm. However, both had one-man turrets, making them difficult to crew
effectively. The T-70 formed the basis for the much more important self-propelled
gun SU-76 later in the war.[2]

By October 1942 Life magazine wrote, "The best tanks in the world today are A column of Russian T-26 mod. 1939
probably the Russian tanks...".[13] The T-34 effectively made all German tanks and T-26 mod. 1933 light tanks from
produced to that date obsolete. In fact, at its height, the T-34 was deemed so the 20th Tank Brigade moving
towards the front line.
successful, and so capable in every role, that production of all other tanks except the
IS-2 was stopped to allow all available resources to be used exclusively for this tank.
The T-34 forced the Germans to adopt new, heavier designs such as the Panther and Tiger I, which in turn forced upgrades to the
Soviet, United States and British tank fleets. Perhaps more significantly to the ultimate course of the war, the move to more complex
and expensive German tank designs overwhelmed the already critically strained German tank-production capability, reducing the
numbers of tanks available to German forces and thus helping to force Germany to surrender the initiative in the war to the Allies.
Later in the war the light tank role was increasingly filled by Lend-Lease supplies of United States M3 light tanks and British and
Canadian-built Valentine tanks. Ironically, the T-34 was as fast or faster than many of the light tanks that were supposed to scout for
it, further encouraging reductions in Soviet light tank production.

In response to better German tanks, the Soviets began to produce the T-34-85 in the
winter of 194344. This model had a much larger turret mounting an 85 mm (3.3-
inch) gun and a 3-man turret crew, finally allowing the tank commander to
concentrate fully on maintaining tactical awareness of the battlefield. The Soviets
also responded with the 122 mm-armed IS-2 heavy tank, which carried heavier
armor than the KV without an increase in overall weight; this was achieved by
thinning the rear armor and moving most of the armor to the front of the tank, where
it was expected to take most of its hits.[12] Early T-34-85 built at Factory 112

The IS-3 variant, produced in mid-1945, had a much more streamlined look and a
larger, bowl-shaped tapered turret. Remarkably, the IS-3 had thicker armor but actually weighed slightly less than the IS-2, remaining
under 50 tons (as compared to the Tiger II's 68). The armor design of the IS-3 was an enormous influence on postwar tank design, as
seen in the Soviet T-55 and T-62 series, the United StatesM48 Patton and the West German Leopard 1.[14]

Soviet tank production outstripped all other nations with the exception of the United States. The Soviets accomplished this through
standardization on a few designs, generally forgoing minor qualitative improvements and changing designs only when upgrades
would result in a major improvement.[11]

Soviet tanks had turret andgun stabilization, starting with the T-28B, which had a rudimentary form as early as 1938.[15]

United Kingdom

Britain had been the worldwide trend-setter in tank development from 1915,
but had lost its leadership position as the Second World War approached.
Hampered by restricted expenditure in the years leading up the war and still
organised for operations in Imperial defence as an expeditionary force, the
British Army entered the war unprepared for the very sort of combat its
influential theorists such as J.F.C. Fuller and B. H. Liddell Hart had

The British Army had developed two types of tanks - "Infantry Tanks" which
British Cruiser Tank Mark I (A9)
were heavily armoured with good all terrain performance but were slow. This
lack of speed was not considered a flaw as they were designed to support
infantry assaults on enemy strong points or urban warfare where the ability to outpace a man on foot was deemed unnecessary. The
other type were "Cruiser Tanks" which were intended for independent maneuvering, rapid breakouts and flanking attacks. Early
Cruiser tanks gained performance at a cost in the armour they could carry. Reliability was an important issue especially in the harsh
conditions of North Africa and the mountainous terrain of Southern Europe, where the A10 and A13 in particular were plagued by
broken tracks and overheating engines.[16]

British tank crews were trained to fire on the move and the armament was mounted for optimum balance such that the gunner could
aim with his body rather than use geared elevation. This reduced available space inside the turret. Both early Cruiser and Infantry
tanks carried the Ordnance QF 2-pounder, a 40 mm anti-tank gun, a good match for the contemporary German 3.7 cm KwK 36, and
effective against tanks of the time but increasingly outclassed as the war progressed. Production shortages caused by losses in France
and the Battle of the Atlantic forced the British to delay widespread introduction of the Ordnance QF 6-pounder (57 mm) anti-tank
gun until 1942.[16]
The lack of an adequate high-explosive shell for the 2-pounder and the growing
number of 5 cm KwK 38 anti-tank guns in the Afrika Korps gave the German army
in Libya a huge advantage for much of late 1941 and early 1942. This began to be
offset by late 1942 but the Wehrmacht continued to enjoy a 1218 month lead in
tank and anti-tank gun development and production until the end of 1944.[16] Britain
produced 5000 tanks in the year of 1944.[17]

Late model Churchill infantry tank

The A9 Cruiser Mk I was an effective tank in the French, Greek and early North
African campaigns. The 2-pounder gun was better than comparable 37 mm weapons of Germany and the US, and lethal against tanks
encountered during the North African campaign. However the minimal armor made the A9 vulnerable to most contemporary anti-
, Mark II.[18]
tank weapons and the design was quickly superseded by the A10 Cruiser

A number of A10s were part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) sent to France
in the early stages of World War II. The A10's cross country performance was
recorded as poor, due to narrow, easily thrown tracks, but materiel losses incurred in
the aftermath of Operation Dynamo (the evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk in late
May 1940) meant they could not be withdrawn from front line service quickly and
so saw combat in small numbers North Africa, where reliability and suspension
performance in the desert conditions was praised. Sixty worn out examples were
also taken to Greece by the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment and although they performed
A British Cruiser Mk II disabled by
well against the German tanks, over 90% were lost due to mechanical breakdowns as
having lost a track (seen lower right) [19]
opposed to enemy action (mainly through broken tracks).
in Greece, 1941

As war broke out, the British had placed into production the A13, a new faster
Cruiser tank utilizing the suspension and running gear concepts of the American
designer J. Walter Christie. This new suspension provided a fast, highly maneuverable design that became the basis for the rapid
evolution of the Cruiser tank such as the Mk IV (A13 Mk II) a British cruiser tank derived from the original A13.

The A13 Cruiser was developed into the A15 Crusader then the A27 Cromwell. The
use of the powerful Rolls Royce Meteor engine, derived from the Rolls Royce
Merlin, gave the Cromwell high speed and mobility. The final British cruiser design
to see service was the A34 Comet; a development of the Cromwell, it carried a high
velocity 77 mm gun derived from the Ordnance QF 17-pounder anti-tank gun; one
of the most effective Allied anti-tank guns of thewar.[20]

Beginning about mid-1942, many British tank units were equipped with vehicles
A Cruiser Mk IV tank destroyed in the supplied under lend-lease from the United States, such as the Stuart light tank, the
North African Campaign
Lee (or the British specification Grant variant thereof) and the Lee's/Grant's
replacement the Sherman. In late 1943, the British found a way to mount the QF 17-
pounder anti-tank gun in the Sherman to create the Firefly, a tank with a more capable gun than the 75mm or 76mm gun normally
fitted. From mid-1944, as more were produced and British designs were introduced into service the Firefly became increasingly the
most common Sherman in use by the British.[21]

Specialist tanks
Immediately before and during the war, the British produced an enormous array of prototype tanksand modified tanks for a variety of
specialist engineering tasks (such as "Hobart's Funnies", produced for the invasion of France in 1944).[22]
For example, the Churchill Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE) fired a short
range 290 mm (11.4 inch) direct-fire mortar which was used for destroying buildings
and clearing obstacles. It could also be equipped with a wide variety of combat
engineering equipment such as small bridges, rolled-matt roadways, fascines, and
mine rollers.[22]

Many of these ideas had already been tried, tested or were in experimental
development both by Britain and other nations. For example, the Scorpion flail tank
(a modified Matilda II) had already been used during the North African campaign to
One of Hobart's Funnies a Churchill
clear paths through German minefields. Soviet T-34 tanks had been modified with Crocodile tank in action
mine-rollers, fascines and flamethrowers. Close-support tanks, bridgelayers, and
fascine carriers had been developed elsewhere also. However, the Funnies were the
largest and most elaborate collection of engineering vehicles available.[22]

By early 1944, Hobart could demonstrate to Eisenhower and Montgomery a brigade each of swimming DD tanks, Crab mine
clearers, and AVRE (Engineer) tanks along with a regiment of Crocodile flamethrowing tanks.

United States
Prior to the entry of the United States into the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor in
December 1941, the Army had only a few tanks. During the Louisiana Maneuvers in
September 1941, it used trucks with the word "tank" painted on their side. Even after
Pearl Harbor the 10th Armored Division did not have any tanks, so crews trained by
marching down roads in groups and executing orders as if they were in tanks.

The Light Tank M2 series was the most important pre-war US tank. These light
tanks were mechanically very reliable, with good mobility
. However, they had a high
silhouette from the use of an air-cooled radial engine for power and poor
Light Tank M3 in Fort Knox, 1942
armor. Only a few saw combat, on Guadalcanal. Their importance lies in the fact
that they formed the basis for the much more successful Light Tank M3 (a.k.a.
Stuart) series beginning in 1941. The Stuart was an improvement of the M2, with heavier armor and a 37 mm gun. From the M3A1
version, this gun was gyrostabilized.[24]

The new medium tank just entering production in 1940 was the M2 series. This was a poor design with thin armor, a high silhouette,
a 37 mm main gun and seven machine guns.[25]

From 1940, new tank designs were prepared. The Battle of France had shown the
importance of medium tanks.[25] The British Army sought to have the US
manufacture British designs, but the US refused, offering instead to share the output
of US factories building US designs. The United States Army had a requirement for
a medium tank with a 75 mm gun, and developed the M3 Medium Tank as an
interim design. The medium M3 tank was intended to quickly get a 75 mm gun into
the field, pending the design of a tank with a 75 mm gun in a fully rotating turret.
The British immediately ordered the M3 for their own use with modifications to
An M2A1 Medium Tank (late
their requirements.[26]
production series)
By February 1942, American civilian automobile factories only made weapons and
military vehicles.[27] Automobile manufacturers such as General Motors and
Chrysler used their experience with mass production to quickly build tanks. The country manufactured as many tanks in the first half
of 1942 as in all of 1941, with 1,500 in May 1942 alone.[28] American production not only equipped its forces, but through Lend
Lease also supplied all the tank needs of the free French (after 1942) and Chinese. By 1944 most British units were also equipped
with US-built tanks. Finally, the US supplied over 8,000 tanks to the USSR, half of them the M4 Sherman. Similarly to the Soviet
Union, the United States selected a few good basic designs and standardized on those models. Given the lack of tank design and
production experience, it is remarkable that the United States designs were as good as they were.

The first tanks of the United States to see combat were the Light Tank M3.[29] They were deeply flawed in many ways, yet the M3
light ("Stuart") and M3 medium ("Lee" or "Grant") were the best tanks available to the Western Allies and were superior to many of
their German counterparts in armor protection and firepower
. The Light Tank M3 was about as well-armed as the British cruiser tanks
with 2-pounder guns in the desert, yet was much more reliable mechanically. Its 37 mm main gun was more powerful than the main
guns carried by German reconnaissance tanks. The name given by the British to the Light Tank M3 was 'Stuart'; a nickname used was
'Honey'. The M3 and its improved derivative, the Light Tank M5 series, remained in service throughout the war. By 1943, its 37 mm
gun was obsolete, but no better replacement was available. The Light Tank T7 design was proposed as a successor in 1943, armed
, the design was never standardized for production.[25]
with a 57 mm gun and with better armor; however

The appearance of the M3 "Lee" medium tank in the summer of 1942 finally gave the British a larger supply of medium tanks than
they could otherwise have hoped for. Although poorly designed, with a very high profile, it was produced in great numbers and was
very effective when engaging targets other than enemy tanks, such as infantry and gun positions.

The M3 had the significant disadvantage of its 75 mm main armament being

mounted offset in the hull meaning that it could not take hull down cover and use its
main gun at the same time. It had a fully traversable turret with a 37 mm cannon as
well, but the turret combined with a hull gun gave it a very tall profile. The United
States 1st Armored Division also employed the M3 in Africa. It was a stopgap
solution, never intended to be a design of major importance. In American and British
service the M3 medium was phased out at the end of the North African campaign. It
continued to serve in the Red Army for some time, and in a single campaign in the
Pacific. Red Army crews nicknamed it "grave for seven brothers" referring to the
Light Tank M5 (a.k.a. M5 Stuart)
seven-man crew.[25]
passes through the wrecked streets
of Coutances in Normandy
The most important American design of the war was the M4 Sherman medium tank.
The M4 became the second-most-produced tank of World War II, and was the only
tank to be used by virtually all Allied forces (thanks to the American lend-lease
program); approximately 40,000 M4 Shermans were produced during the war.[31]
M4s formed the main tank of American, British, Canadian, French, Polish and
Chinese units. The M4 was the equal of the German medium tanks, the Panzer III
and Panzer IV, at the time it first saw service in 1942. The Red Army was supplied
with about 4,000 M4s.[32] The M4, although reliable and easy to maintain, was
The M4A1, A2 and A3 compared already outgunned by the time the US encountered the up-gunned and up-armored
German medium tanks in Italy and Northern Europe (the Panzer IV and various
German self-propelled guns) and by late 1943 the arrival of German Panther and
Tiger I were even graver threats due to the range, accuracy and penetrating power of their main guns. While it is commonly believed
that the Sherman had a tendency to explode catastrophically due to their use of petrol fuel, this is incorrect. The Sherman suffered
from thin armor and poor ammunition storage. Welded-on appliqu armor and water jackets were added to combat the problem. A
U.S. Army study in 1945 concluded that 6080 percent of the older dry-stowage and 1015 percent of wet-stowage Shermans burned
when penetrated.[33] The Sherman gained grim nicknames such as "Tommycooker" from the Germans, who called British soldiers

Flawed United States armor doctrine played a major role in keeping the M4 undergunned in 19441945. This doctrine emphasized
that tanks were to be used primarily for infantry support and exploitation, while the role of fighting enemy tanks was to be carried out
by the tank destroyer branch.[33] Technically, the M4's design was capable of handling larger guns than the 75 mm and 76 mm guns
with which they left the factory. The British fitted Shermans with the more powerful Ordnance Quick Firing 17 pounder gun, a
variant known informally as the Firefly.[33] By the time of the Normandy campaign, the M4 had become the workhorse tank of the
Allied forces. Some Shermans were equipped with the Duplex Drive system (Sherman DD), which allowed them to swim using a
collapsible screen and inflated rubber tubes. Along with this were the M4 Dozer (a Sherman with a bulldozer blade), the T34
Calliope (mounting a multiple rocket launcher above the turret), the M4A3R3 Flame thrower (flame tank), and the Sherman Crab
Mark I (a Sherman with amine flail), as well as many other variants.[33]

The United States eventually deployed the Light Tank M24, an improvement over the M3 light tank. The M24 had torsion-bar
suspension, high mobility, and a compact 75 mm gun. Ergonomically the tank was quite good also. However, the M24 did not appear
in combat until December 1944 and equipped only a few units by the end of the war

Near the end of the war the M26 Pershing tank was deployed as the first operational heavy tank of the US Army. It was designated a
heavy tank when it was designed in WWII due to its 90 mm gun, which was at the time the largest caliber gun found on a US tank.
The Pershing was a very modern design with torsion-bar suspension, heavy armor, and an excellent 90 mm gun. However, it was
somewhat underpowered, having the same Ford GAA engine as the M4A3. Intended as an improvement of the M4 Sherman, the
prolonged time of development meant that only a small number saw combat in the European theater
, most notably in the 9th Armored
Division's dramatic dash to take the Bridge at Remagen. In combat it was, unlike the M4 Sherman, fairly equal in firepower and
protection to both the Tiger I and Panther tanks. The M26 basic design was good enough to form the basis for all postwar American
tanks through the end of theM60 series.[34]

At the start of the war, France had one of the largest tank forces in the world along
with the Soviet, British and German forces. Like the British and the Soviets, the
French operated two classes of tank:cavalry tanks and infantry tanks.[5]

The French had planned for a defensive war and built tanks accordingly. Their
infantry tanks were heavily armoured. But, also, generally, they were relatively
sluggish, and operationally in terms of control of their forces, the French were at a
disadvantage and were outmaneuvered by the German forces. When the French were
able to mount an attack their tanks could be very effective. On 16 May, during the A Char B1 infantry tank in 1940 in
Battle of France a single Char B1 heavy tank, the Eure, attacked and destroyed Northern France
thirteen German tanks lying in ambush in Stonne, all of them Panzer IIIs and Panzer
IVs, in the course of a few minutes.[35] The tank safely returned despite being hit
140 times (this event is not verifiable in German documents and relies on the statements of the crew). In his book Panzer Leader,
Heinz Guderian wrote of a tank battle south of Juniville:

"While the tank battle was in progress, I attempted, in vain, to destroy a Char B with a
captured 47 mm [1.9-inch] anti-tank gun; all the shells I fired at it simply bounced harmlessly
off its thick armor. Our 37 mm and 20 mm guns were equally ineffective against this
adversary. As a result, we inevitably suffered sadly heavy casualties".[36]

The total tank assets in France and its colonies were perhaps less than 5,800 during the time of the German offensive. After the
armistice in the unoccupied Free Zone of France, a clandestine rebuild took place of 225 GMC Trucks into armoured cars. When all
of France was occupied in 1942, the secret hiding places were betrayed to the Germans.

Germany's armored force was not especially impressive from a technical standpoint at the start of the war. As noted above, it was
their advanced combined arms doctrine and unrivaled command-and-control capability that gave German mechanized forces their
advantage on the battlefield.[39]
Pre-war plans called for two main tanks: the main tank was to be the Panzer III
medium tank, supported by smaller numbers of the howitzer-armed Panzer IV.
However, by the beginning of the invasion of Poland, only a few hundred of these
vehicles were available. As a result, the invasions of Poland and France were carried
out primarily with the less capable Panzer I and Panzer II light tanks (armed with
machine guns and a 20 mm gun respectively), with some gun armed light tanks of
Czechoslovak design (Panzer 35(t) and Panzer 38(t), both armed with a 37 mm gun).
Even in 1941, Panzer III production amounted only to about a thousand tanks,
forcing the Germans to use Czech tanks as substitutes for the Panzer III. As the war Panzer Mk IIIs move off the factory
grounds, 1942.
proceeded, production of heavier tanks increased.[39]

The Panzer III was intended to fight other tanks; in the initial design stage a 50 mm
(2 inch) gun was specified. However, the infantry at the time were being equipped with the 37 mm (1.46 inch) PaK 36, and it was
thought that in the interest of standardization the tanks should carry the same armament. As a compromise, the turret ring was made
large enough to accommodate a 50 mm (2 inch) gun should a future upgrade be required. This single decision later assured the Panzer
III a prolonged life in the German army.[40]

The Panzer IV was intended to carry a gun that could be used in support of infantry
or other tanks, and was initially armed with a short-barreled 75 mm howitzer to fire
high explosive (HE) fragmentation shells. In 1941 an average of 39 Panzer IV
models tanks per month were built, and this rose to 83 in 1942, 252 in 1943, and 300
in 1944.[40]

During Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, it
was discovered that the Soviet T-34 tank outclassed the Panzer III and IV. Its sloped
armor could withstand most German weapons, and its 76.2 mm gun could penetrate
Panzer IV Ausf. C
the armor of all German tanks. This forced the Germans to improve their existing
models. The Panzer III, which was intended to be the main medium tank, was
upgraded to a longer, higher-velocity 50 mm gun.[40]

Thus the Panzer IV, originally intended to be a support tank, became the de facto main medium tank re-armed with a long-barreled,
high velocity 75 mm gun to counter the T-34; the Panzer III, with its smaller turret ring, could not mount a gun larger than 50 mm,
which had become inadequate against Allied tanks.

The Germans also started to develop newer, heavier tanks. This included the Panzer
V Panther, which was intended to be the new main German medium tank. The
Panther tank was a compromise of various requirements. While sharing essentially
the same engine as the Tiger I tank, it had better frontal armor, better gun
penetration, was lighter overall and thus faster, and could handle rough terrain better
than the Tigers. The trade-off was much weaker side armor; the Panther proved to be
deadly in open country and shooting from long range, but was vulnerable in close-
quarters combat or to flank shots.[40]
Panzer V Panther Ausf. D tanks,
The Germans also started to develop a new series of heavy tanks. The first was the 1943
Tiger, which outclassed all its opponents in terms of firepower and armor when it
was first put into operational use. The even heavier Tiger II (deemed "King Tiger"
by Allied troops) supplemented the Tiger I late in the war. Its powerful gun and very heavy armor made it superior to nearly every
, speed and reliability limited its use.[40]
Allied or Soviet tank in a one-on-one confrontation, but poor mobility

Plans were made for a super-heavy tank, the Panzer VII Lwe, which was cancelled during the design stage in favor of the yet
heavier Panzer VIII Maus of which only two incomplete prototype were made. Panzer IX and Panzer X were drawings only used for
propaganda purposes.[41]
The Italian army was mainly equipped
with tankettes of the L3 series in the
1930s, and these, armed with machine
guns, formed the main armor strength
of Italy as late as 1940. Italy began A Waffen-SS Tiger I tank in France
fielding heavier tanks beginning with
the Fiat M11/39 with a 37 mm main
gun in 1940. This tank and its derivatives, theM13/40, M14/41 and the M15/42 (all with
M13/40 tanks in the desert, April
47 mm main guns) were closely comparable in combat power to light tanks such as the
Soviet T-26. A heavier design, the P40 with a 75 mm main gun, was designed, but saw
no service with Italian forces as it became ready at the time of the Armistice of Cassibile
with the Allies, after which the Germans took over production, and used roughly one hundred of them. Another tank design, the Fiat
M16/43, was developed to match the British cruiser tanks but work on it was stopped when the Axis was pushed out of North Africa
in May 1943.[39]

The Fiat-Ansaldo M11/39 medium tank was used from 1940 through the early period of World War II. The M11/39 was developed as
a "breakthrough tank" (Carro di Rottura). It was replaced by the Fiat-Ansaldo M13/40 medium tank which was used in the Greek
campaign and in the North African Campaign. The M13/40 was not used on the Eastern Front; Italian forces there were equipped
only with Fiat L6/40s and Semovente 47/32 tank destroyers. Armament was sufficient for 194041, but did not keep up with the
increased armor and firepower on Allied or German tanks and anti-tank guns; its engine was underpowered and unreliable, a
condition worsened by the harsh desert climate and the initial lack of training of their crews. Beginning in 1942, the Italian Army
recognized the firepower weakness of the M13/40 series and employed the Semovente 75/18 self-propelled gun alongside the tanks
in their armored units, which proved capable of destroying the enemy medium tanks.

The next tank in the series was the Fiat M14/41, a slightly improved version of the M13/40 with a more powerful diesel engine. The
tank was also employed in the North African Campaign. Following the withdrawal of Italian forces from North Africa the M14/41
was rarely encountered. A few captured M11, M13 and M14s were pressed into service by British and Australian forces to fill the
serious shortage of allied tanks in 1941.[42]

The next in the series was the M15/42, a 15 tonne tank first built in January 1943. Some 90 vehicles were built before the Italian
armistice in September 1943 and in connection to that event they were used in battle against the Germans by the 132nd Armoured
Division Ariete in Rome. After that point they were confiscated and used by the Germans who also built another 28 M15/42 tanks. It
had a more powerful engine and air filters to cope with the harsh conditions of the desert, and an improved version of the 47 mm gun;
however, by the time it entered production it was already obsolete.

Italian tank classification

Italy introduced a new tank classification scheme in 1938. Tanks were designated first with a letter (L, M or P, for light, medium or
heavy respectively) followed by the weight in tonnes, separated by a slash followed by the year the tank was accepted for service.
The classes of light, medium and heavy differed somewhat from other countries. Hence the P26/40, designated as "heavy" by the
Italians with its 26 tonne weight, was more similar in weight to the medium M4 Sherman tank (30 tonne weight). The Italians also
labeled the machine gun armed L3/35 a "light tank", although it is more commonly called tankette.
a [39]

Like the US Army (which utilized French and British tanks in World War I), the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) did not have tanks of
its own in World War I, so it started out by purchasing foreign tanks for evaluation during World War I and right after the war
ended.[43] Like many other nations, the Japanese initially didn't embrace the tank, as it didn't have the cavalry tradition. Cavalry was
used for reconnaissance in the mountainous countryside, and initially, as with most other armies, the first designs were constrained by
the tank's infantry-support role. Building tanks of their own met several problems, as Japan's priority tended to be with naval
procurements so production for tank steel was on a lower level. However, they finally began designing tanks by the mid-1920s.[44]
Inspired by European designs, the Japanese tank program designed and developed the tanks which facilitated their campaigns in
China and the SovietJapanese border conflicts, prior to World War II. They introduced many innovations as they built their designs,
including bell crank suspensions, were pioneers in amphibious tanks, and the use of diesel engines that were less likely to catch fire
compared with gasoline tank engines that were being used at the time.[45][46] The Japanese generals had made a mistake in their
assessment of the tanks used against China, a country whose army had only three tank battalions, and few anti-tank weapons.

By 1937, Japan fielded 1,060 tanks in 8 regiments, most designed for and used in the
infantry-support role. But this focus left the IJA without a tank capable of taking on
other tanks, a deficiency that was brought home hard during the battle of Khalkin-
Gol, a decisive defeat inflicted by the Soviet Union on the Mongolian border in
1939. This proved fatal later when they faced the new generation of Allied tanks, as
the great majority of the Japanese models were lightly armored, and not heavily
gunned. As in the 1920s, with the priority of steel going to the Imperial Japanese
Navy and Air Force, the Japanese Army was relegated the remaining material for its
tanks. Thus the 1930s-designed vehicles went on being mass-produced, and the Type 97 Te-Ke tankette in China
warning of Khalkin-Gol was too slowly recognized. By 1940 they had the fifth-
largest tank force in the world behind the Soviet Union, France, Britain and
Germany, but were behind in medium and heavy tanks. After 1941, with the entry of the United States into the conflict, priority was
given to warships and aircraft, weapons that were more conducive to naval warfare; attacking across the Pacific, and defending the
Empire from the advancing Americans.[48]

The tanks that Allied forces in the Pacific faced were primarily designs from the
1930s, such as the Type 95 Ha-Go light tank and Type 97 Chi-Ha medium tank. As
the war progressed, tanks were often delayed by shortages of raw materials, and
even after arriving off of the assembly lines doctrine called for them to be held for
the defense of the mainland, and not dispersed to the far flung Imperial Japanese
Army or Navy forces. The Japanese had built tanks to match up against the Allied
tanks, such as the Type 2 Ho-I Infantry Support Tank with a 75 mm gun designed as
a self-propelled howitzer and the Type 1 Ho-Ni I tank destroyer for the close-fire,
infantry-support role, to provide Type 97 Chi-Ha equipped Japanese tank regiments Type 1 Ho-Ni II variant with a
with additional firepower against enemy armored fighting vehicles, but in limited 105 mm gun

Between 1931 and 1945, Japan produced 6450 tanks. Half of them (3300) were made by the Mitsubishi Company. The sub-total of
tanks produced between 1940 and 1945 is 4424, i.e. a yearly average comparable to Italy. For a country as large and as industrialized
as Japan, that is modest. However, before 1945, the naval fleet and the air force had priority. It changed when the homeland was
under direct threat, but it was too late.[47]

Tanks of other combatants

By the time of the Sudeten crisis, the Czechoslovak army used a complement of
light tanks including 298 LT vz. 35 designed by koda, as well as 50 LT vz. 34 built
by KD; 150 LT vz. 38 were ordered but none were delivered before the German
occupation. The LT-35 and LT-38 models were superior to the Panzer I and Panzer II
light tanks used in the Wehrmacht, so the Germans ordered the production of these
models to be resumed.[51]

Before the end of production in 1942, 136 more LT-35 and a total of 1414 LT-38
were produced for the Wehrmacht at koda Works; these tanks saw operational use The LT vz. designated as Panzer
35(t) by Germans in France, 1940
in the Polish campaign, the Battle of France and on the Soviet front. By 1942,
Czech-built tanks became progressively vulnerable to SovietT-34 medium tanks and
new anti-tank guns and the LT-35 and LT-38 proved unsuitable for harsh winter conditions in Russia, so they were withdrawn from
front line service in 1942; the remaining units were either redeployed in a light reconnaissance role or converted to Hetzer tank
destroyers and artillery tractors.[52]

Poland was the first to suffer the German Blitzkrieg, but it had some very good tanks
in its armored forces. The most important was the 7TP (siedmiotonowy polski - "7-
tonne Polish") light tank, which was better armed than its most common opponents,
the German Panzer I and Panzer II.[53]

Like the similar Soviet T-26, the 7TP was a development of the British Vickers 6-ton
(Mk.E) which the Poles purchased and licensed for local production. The main new

Single-turret 7TP features of 7TP were: a better, more reliable and powerful diesel engine (which
made the 7TP world's first diesel tank), 37 mm anti-tank gun, and slightly thicker
armor (17 mm in front instead of 13 mm). Only about 132 tanks were produced
between 1935 and the outbreak of the war. The weight increased after the initial 7-tonne prototype was made and the actual serial
tanks weighed 9.9 tonnes.[53]

Like its British predecessor, the 7TP was initially produced in two variants: the twin turret version armed with 2 Ckm wz.30 machine
guns, and a single turret version, armed with a 37 mm (1.5 in) Bofors wz. 37 gun. After initial tests, it became clear that the twin-
turret variant was obsolete and lacked firepower , single-turret design.[53]
, so it was abandoned in favor of the more-modern

Poland also had the TK tankette (also known as the TK-3) which was based upon an improved chassis of the British Carden Loyd
tankette. The 575 TK/TKS tankettes formed the bulk of the Polish armored forces but as their armament was limited to machine
guns, their combat value was limited. They suffered heavy losses during the Invasion of Poland. Only the handful of tankettes armed
with 20 mm guns had a fighting chance against the enemy tanks; in one instance on 18 September 1939 a 20 mm gunned TKS
destroyed three GermanPanzerkampfwagen 35(t)tanks.[53]

All of the 7TP tanks took part in combat in thePolish Defensive War of 1939. Most of them were attached to two light tank battalions
(the 1st and the 2nd).[53] It is a paradox that the Polish motorized unit that performed the best had only 16 old Vickers E 6-ton tanks
and 4 tankettes with 20 mm autocannon,10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade (Poland).

Poland also purchased and used, in September 1939, 50 (some sources claim 49) Renault R35 tanks but due to extremely rugged
terrain and the tank's poor cross-country performance many ended up destroyed by the crews. 34 tanks crossed into Romania after
covering the Polish retreat after the Soviet Invasion of Poland on 17SEP39 and 2 crossed into Hungary. Only about half of the
Renault tanks participated in the actual fighting.
Polish forces in exile after the fall of Poland were reequipped by their allies. Polish LWP forces fighting alongside the Red Army
were equipped with T-34, T-70 and IS-2 tanks, along with ISU-122 and SU-76 self-propelled guns. Polish forces in the west were
equipped out of British stocks including M3 and M5 Stuarts, M4 Shermans and a small number of Cromwells. Polish armor units
were participants in the Battle of Berlin and played an important role in the campaign in Normandy

See also
759th Tank Battalion (United States)
History of the tank
Tanks in World War I
Comparison of World War I tanks
Tanks of the interwar period
Light tanks of the United Kingdom
Rhino tank
Comparison of early World War II tanks
Cold War Tanks
Post-Cold War Tanks


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External links
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