The Best Tank Of WWII: The Panther
When the German Werhmacht encountered the Russian T-34 in the summer of 1941, they knew they were in deep trouble. The German’s had nothing like it in place or even on the drawing board, and the only way to stop the T-34 was by using 88 millimeter anti-aircraft guns. Granted, the vaunted German Tiger tank was in the late design stages by this time, but it was planned to be a big heavy tank. The T-34, on the other hand, was relatively light in weight, packed a powerful punch and could resist every German tank gun then in existence.
At first it was decided to make a copy of the T-34, including the diesel engine. But that wasn’t the Germanic way, so a new tank needed to be designed. It had to be a medium tank, it had to be fast and maneuverable, and it had to be able to knock out a T-34, and it’s partner the heavier KV-1, from the front at battle range. But the T-34 was a crude, albeit effective machine, that really didn’t translate well into German design or building philosophies. So, something else was called for.
The Panther Tank
The new design was called the Panzerkampfwagen Mark V, or the Panther tank, as it became known. Instead of mounting an 88, it was found that a longer barrel 75 mm gun would be just as effective at virtually all ranges. The shells would be smaller, allowing the tank to carry more of them, the turret could be lighter and the tank, as a whole, would not weigh as much as a Tiger yet it would be just as lethal.
Just like the T-34, it was designed with sloped frontal armor, which made it far more difficult to penetrate than flattened armor. Because of that, less armor could be used with the same effect, also resulting in a weight loss, thereby increasing maneuverability and speed. It was rushed into service without fully testing, and was found to have several faults, the worst of which was an overheating engine. But those teething problems were worked out, and the Panther went on to have an outstanding career.
The Best Tank of the War
To say that the Panther was a winner is an understatement! It was a home run times 2. It was the best combination of speed and power in World War 2. Although the Tiger is the tank that gets the most acclaim, the Panther was just as deadly. It fully redressed the situation of tank versus tank actions on the Eastern Front, and in the West, there was nothing that came close.
3 Panther tanks could be made in the time it took to make two Tiger tanks, and they cost just a bit more to make than a Panzer Mark IV. In fact, it has been claimed that had Germany concentrated on Panther production instead of Tigers, the ground war might have had a different outcome. That’s how good the Panther really was.