So, I suppose it is time we started this discussion alongside the Aircraft thread.
I am in no way an expert on the subject of tanks, but I know there are some present on this site, so I’m sure we will all be a lot wiser when all is said and done.
I nominate the Panzerkampfwagen V “Panther” as the best medium tank of the war.
(This is the Panther tank at the Dutch War Museum in Overloon, picture by me)
The Panther was a true jack of all trades. It had quite thick armour, but was quick and adept on- and offroad. It also had a very powerful gun, accompanied by sophisticated sights. It had some reliability issues, but not as many as the Tiger. It could competently face nearly every common tank on the battlefield, and was a huge scare to both tank crews AND infantry, mainly due to its enormous size. In the museum at Overloon the Panther was situated opposite a Sherman tank and when you see those two so close you’re just left wondering how the Sherman could ever hope to defeat that monster.
I hope there will be many other suggestions for Medium tanks but also other tank roles!
A summary of the above video and some other vague ramblings.
Yes on paper, the Panther has a fearsome gun/armor combination and it some ways it is a fantastic tank. It is however let down by a number of factors.
First of all, as Nick points out in the video, the crew will struggle to take full advantage of that gun/armor combo because of poor ergonomics and limited visibility. For plinking T-34s at long range, that might be fine, but at closer range, there’s a good chance that the other tank sees the Panther first and gets off the first shot.
It has poor reliability and serviceability, the oft mentioned final drives being a great example of both of those points. Put that together with high fuel consumption, and you’ve got a tank which is going to struggle to perform any sort of deep penetration of an enemy’s lines on an operational and strategic level.
You could argue that in 1943 the Germans weren’t going to be doing that anyway, but it would be interesting to speculate what Barbarossa would have looked like had the Germans been equipped with Panthers in 1941.
Easy to make in vast numbers
Good tactical and operational mobility
Good survive ability
Easy to service
Good gun against anything apart from late war heavies
Good ergonomics and crew comfort
Good ergonomics aren’t just about keeping the crew happy, although a crew that is less beat up from being in the tank is going to be more alert and efficient. Good ergonomics allow the loader to get rounds into the gun more quickly or the driver to change gear more reliably. It allows the TC to have better situational awareness and potentially the gunner to get on target with greater speed.
There are a lot of myths regarding tanks during WWII, like the Ronson nickname for Shermans. For instance, most lay people will say that the Tiger was a great tank. Yet, it took as much resources to make one Tiger I, as it did (IIRC) five T-34s.
So… does that mean that the T-34 was the best tank in WWII? Well, maybe, maybe not. What about the Sherman, the PzKpfw IV, or even the Matilda II?
The answer is in some circumstances, theatres, etc each made an impact, and performed a role. As the saying goes, “…one person’s fish is another person’s poison/poisson”. As I understand it, we’re just trying to promote discussion on a topic of moderate relevance.
Context is everything. It is a lot like the discussion of “best (such-and-such) airplane.” Best battleship/carrier/destroyer/submarine might be a bit easier, since battle circumstances are more universal. But the Falaise Pocket and Battle of Kursk are such different scenarios that they can’t really be compared side-by-side.
The Char B.2 was one of the best tanks in 1939, but by 1945? The Sherman was superb in the Pacific, but was it adequate in Europe? The T-34 was able to overwhelm battlefields, but was that because it was good or because the built them like tanks were going out of style?
But which was the most effective tank (or tank destroyer) to fight other tanks?