Tanks (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Since early times, horses have supported mobile, lightly armored combat via chariots or mounted knights. Later, internal combustion engines and tractor treads enabled rapid off-road movement of heavily armed and armored vehicles. Called tanks, these craft decisively affected many land campaigns, especially in World War II (1939-1945); but their expense, weight, and complexity often created controversy over their proper use and future existence.
Early Concepts and World War I
From the 1500’s, concepts for gun-carrying armored vehicles occasionally appeared, and Leonardo da Vinci’s hand-crank-propelled circular craft is the most famous example. All were impractical because of size or propulsion difficulties. Mass-produced steel, the internal combustion engine, and powerful guns changed armored vehicle prospects in the early twentieth century.
Motivation for building armored vehicles arose as artillery and machine guns produced stalemate in World War I’s (1914-1918) western front trenches. Seeking a mechanical resolution to the impasse, England and France used farm tractor treads and combustion engines to propel an armored box containing machine guns and light artillery. The English nicknamed the vehicles “tanks” for security reasons, and initiated their first combat use at the Somme (1916).
Both sides’ ensuing tank designs were mostly large, box-shaped, and mechanically unreliable craft that...
(The entire section is 1028 words.)
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