World War II could be considered the peak time of importance for the tank on the battlefield, although they were certainly used before and continue to serve important roles in combat.
During the war, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel had on much of North Africa in 1941 and 1942 was based on his expertise as a tank commander. However, the largest tank battle of the war, and in history, took place far away from Africa. (These are the largest armies in history.)
To determine the largest tank battle 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 the 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’ tanks. (See, these are the 20 longest wars in history.)
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.
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.
The largest tank battle in history , the Battle of Kursk, involved an estimated 10,613 tanks — 3,253 German tanks and 7,360 Soviet Union tanks. This conflict turned the tide on the eastern front.
The Germans had scheduled the attack around Kursk in May but delayed the operation so they could to bring new, more powerful weapons. The Soviets got wind of the German plan and the delay gave them time to build a formidable defense. The Russians blunted the German attack and pushed the Germans back to their starting positions. Never again would Nazi Germany launch a major offensive on the eastern front.
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