Special Report

Largest Tank Battles in History

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

15. Battle of Hannut
> Total estimated strength: 1,218 tanks
> Belligerents: France, Netherlands, Belgium (600 tanks), Germany (618 tanks)
> Conflict: World War II
> Dates: May 12, 1940 to May 14, 1940

This was the first major tank battle of World War II and occurred just after Germany launched its attack on the Low Countries (Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg) and France. France had a qualitative advantage in tanks at this time, but Germany prevailed because of its superior tactical deployment and mobility. The German tanks also had more crew members, so the commander could focus on command tasks. French commanders had to act as a gunner and assistant gunner besides commanding. The success was crucial in Germany’s eventual trapping of Allied armies at Dunkirk.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

14. Operation Goodwood
> Total estimated strength: 1,477 tanks
> Belligerents: United Kingdom (1,100 tanks), Germany (377 tanks)
> Conflict: World War II
> Dates: July 18, 1944 to July 20, 1944

Following the Normandy invasion, the Allies troop movements had reached a stalemate and could not break out from the beaches. Field Marshal Bernard F. Montgomery decided on a plan titled Operation Goodwood to launch a huge armored assault that would capture the city of Caen and break the deadlock. It failed to do so.

The Germans schooled the Allies with skillful fighting withdrawals and well-coordinated counterattacks. German tank repair crews reclaimed damaged German and Allied tanks. While the allied lost over 200 tanks, the Germans lost only 75, with more than 40 were because of Allied bombing. Because of poor weather that limited Allied air superiority and inadequate British coordination and intelligence, Goodwood was a German defensive victory of the Normandy campaign.

Source: Nataly Hanin / iStock via Getty Images

13. Battle of the Valley of Tears
> Total estimated strength: 1,500 tanks
> Belligerents: Israel (100 tanks), Syria (1,400 tanks)
> Conflict: Yom Kippur War
> Dates: Oct. 6, 1973 to Oct. 9, 1973

The Battle of the Valley of Tears was fought in the Golan Heights, the area between Syria and Israel, during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Of Syria’s 1,400 tanks, about 400 were T-62s, state-of-the-art Soviet tanks at the time. The rest were a combination of older T-54 and T-55s. Facing them were two Israeli armored brigades of Centurion and M-48 Patton tanks. The overwhelming number of Syrian tanks penetrated the Israeli defenses at first, but the ferocity of the defenders bought Israel time to call up its reserves to reverse Syria’s gains. The number of destroyed tanks in the area earned it the name “Valley of Tears.”

Source: Ruslan Khismatov / iStock via Getty Images

12. Battle of Prokhorovka
> Total estimated strength: 1,550 tanks
> Belligerents: Germany (700 tanks), Soviet Union (850 tanks)
> Conflict: World War II
> Dates: July 12, 1943 to July 13, 1943

The German military operation known as Operation Citadel was an attempt by the Nazis to regain the offensive initiative on the eastern front. Prokhorovka was the focus of the offensive. As it turned out, Citadel would be the last German offensive in the east. On July 12, 1943, counter-attacking Soviet tanks advanced over open ground and sustained heavy losses to German tank fire, including from heavily armored Tigers with 88-millimeter guns. Though this was a tactical loss for the Russians, their action inflicted enough damage to help stall,  and eventually stop,  the German offensive.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

11. Second Battle of El Alamein
> Total estimated strength: 1,576 tanks
> Belligerents: Allied powers (1,029 tanks), Axis powers (547 tanks)
> Conflict: World War II
> Dates: Oct. 23, 1942 to Nov. 11, 1942

The Second Battle of El Alamein, fought near the western frontier of Egypt, was won by the British Eighth Army led by Montgomery. The Axis forces of Germany and Italy were helmed by the legendary “Desert Fox,” Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Earlier in the year, the first battle of El Alamein had ended in a stalemate. A strong British defensive position and the Qattara Depression, an area of quicksand impassable to mechanized forces, reduced the effectiveness of Germany’s tank formations. Superior numbers of equipment and air superiority also favored the British. This battle proved to be the turning point of the North African campaign in the Second World War.

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