Killers: The Most Lethal Tanks of World War II
Much of this material will be familiar to those who know something about tank design and armored warfare. But Zaloga has a knack for sneaking in various fascinating facts. For example, the T-34 had impressive specifications but serious reliability issues in the field: U.S. experts examining a 1942-model T-34 were shocked to discover that the life of the tank's diesel engine was only 72 hours, while the engine air filter was so poorly designed that motors could only survive a few hundred miles of dusty roads before they were finished (the Americans also discovered that the British Cromwell required 199 man-hours of maintenance compared to 39 for the M4A3).
Do historical rankings make a difference beyond mere curiosity? The answer is yes, for those wise enough to learn from history. The post-1945 U.S. military has been fond of cutting-edge weapons; if you could transport today's Pentagon back to 1943, it would doubtless choose to build Tigers instead of Shermans or T-34s.
At a time when the U.S. defense budget is grappling to pay for extremely expensive systems such as the F-35 fighter, it is worth remembering that a relatively minor design feature -- be it a two-man tank turret or a few bits of faulty software -- can make a profound difference in the actual effectiveness of a weapon. No matter how great it looks on paper.
Michael Peck, a frequent contributor to TNI, is a defense and historical writer based in Oregon. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, WarIsBoring and many other fine publications. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.
Image: Flickr/Contando Estrelas