Tanks have revolutionized modern warfare by making it a contest of speed and rapid maneuvers. Tanks have been the kings of the battlefield since World War II (1939–1945). Germany's success during its invasions of Poland and France in 1939–40 first demonstrated the efficacy of modern tank warfare.
Tanks emerged as a potent force because of the deadlock during the fighting in World War I (1914–1918). In WWI, armies—especially those fighting in the West—engaged in protracted trench warfare. Machine guns, barbed wire, massed artillery, and the uselessness of cavalry meant that the armies could not maneuver very much. Tanks were first used in combat during the second half of WWI, but they did not have a decisive impact on the course of the war.
After WWI, the US military was reduced in size, and the research and development of tank warfare stalled. German success at using tanks during the first year of WWII convinced American leaders to focus on tank production. The US produced nearly 50,000 Sherman tanks during WWII. Sadly, American tankers who manned the Shermans had little chance against the German Panther and Tiger tanks. Shermans were nicknamed "Ronsons," after the cigarette lighter which "lit up the first time."
France produced some good tanks during WWII, but it did not use them properly. France's strategy in WWII was too defensive as it relied on its Maginot Line. In the end, the Maginot Line was outflanked by German tanks.
The Soviet Union manufactured the magnificent T-34 tank during WWII. Also, it won the largest tank battle in history against the Germans at Kursk in 1943.
Tanks have remained important since WWII ended. For example, Israel has had a great deal of success with its tank units. Israel's enemy, Hezbollah, used effective anti-tank weapons against Israel in their last war in Lebanon, though.