Though tanks debuted in battle the year before, it was in the Battle of Cambrai in 1917, during World War I, that the armored monsters became the most feared weapon on the battlefield. Tanks have become the centerpiece of modern warfare and the focus of military doctrines such as blitzkrieg and the use of highly mobile mechanized units.
To determine the largest tank battles in history, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from Tony Jaques’ 2006 military encyclopedia “Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: A Guide to 8,500 Battles from Antiquity through the Twenty-first Century” and other sources. Military battles were ranked based on the total number of tanks facing off among all belligerents at any one time during the course of fighting. Because tank counts can be inconsistent across sources, we tried to use the same source where possible.
The Germans were quick to employ the tank in concentration of numbers to punch through an enemy’s defenses and avoid the stalemate of the First World War. Theirs were among the most fearsome armored vehicles in World War II, first for their rapid advance and later, for their massive giant tanks with enormous firepower like the Tiger and Panther that outgunned the Allies. (Today, this is the country with the most tanks.)
The four biggest tank battles took place during World War II, and the top three were between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Germany won virtually all the confrontations, even though it was outnumbered almost every time, sometimes by as much as 10 to 1. There are seven massive tank battles on the list between the Soviet Union and Germany. Given the flat landscape of the Russian steppes, there is plenty of room for tanks to maneuver. (These are 20 wars Russia has fought since 1917.)
Great tank battles have taken place in more recent times. Though outnumbered, Israel prevailed over the Syrians on the Golan Heights and the Egyptians in the Sinai desert during the Yom Kippur War in 1973 because of better tactics and superior equipment. In the Persian Gulf War in 1991, coalition forces expelled Iraq from Kuwait with overwhelming tank firepower that left Iraqi tanks smoldering hulks in the desert.
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