Military and War Weapons the Tank

About the military and war weapon the tank, origins and history, first used in World War I, the use of tanks today.

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TANK

Description. The tank is an armored vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine. It is armed with machine guns and artillery and moves on metal caterpillar treads. The name "tank" originated during W.W. I, when the British, to keep their new weapon a secret, shipped the first tanks to France in crates labeled "Water Tanks."

Origin. Although Guido da Vigevano in 1300, and Leonardo da Vinci in 1500, designed armored combat vehicles, the first modern, motorized tank was invented by E. L. de la Mole of North Adelaide, Australia, in 1912. De la Mole sent his designs to the British War Office where they were filed away into bureaucratic obscurity.

Not knowing that de la Mole had already invented the tank, Col. Ernest Swinton of the British Royal Engineers began reinventing it during the early years of W.W. I. After reading an article on American agricultural tractors, Swinton obtained one of these and encased it in metal armor. Swinton's primitive tank impressed the War Office, which assigned Lt. W. G. Wilson to further develop the invention.

Working at Foster's Engineering Works in Lincoln, England, Wilson constructed the Mark 1, the first tank used in battle, and tested it in January, 1916. The Mark 1 was box-shaped, with two movable guns protruding from its sides and six machine guns. Manned by a crew of eight men, it weighed 26 tons and was driven by a six-cylinder, 105-hp engine at a maximum speed of 4 mph.

First Use. In the summer of 1916, the British offensive on the Somme was fast becoming the bloodiest and most useless battle in history. Desperate because each advance was costing him hundreds of thousands of soldiers' lives, British Gen. Sir Douglas Haig ordered the newly arrived Mark 1 tanks into battle in September, 1916. Forty-nine tanks rumbled toward the front lines, but 17 broke down along the way. The remaining 32 tanks were scattered along a 5-mi. front and, after a three-day artillery barrage, were ordered into action on Sept. 15, 1916.

Just before dawn, the mammoth, noisy Mark 1's chugged into no-man's-land, disappearing into the fog and smoke. Fourteen more tanks broke down or became mired in the mud and shell holes, but the rest plodded on toward the German lines. Hearing strange metallic noises, German soldiers peeked from their trenches and saw the monstrous contraptions emerging from the mists of no-man's-land. When the Mark 1's opened fire, the terrified Germans panicked and bolted for the rear. The tanks crossed the enemy trenches in pursuit but began to run low on fuel. Three tanks reached the village of Fers, where they rolled down the streets demolishing German fortifications, while the terror-stricken Germans fled for their lives. Though they had penetrated 7 mi. behind the German trenches, the British tanks failed to break the enemy line because of fuel shortages and mechanical failures.

Weapon Today. After their use in W.W. I, tanks evolved into the most important land weapons of W.W. II. They have retained their importance and have been employed in almost every war since 1945, most notably in the Arab-Israeli wars. In the countries of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Israel, there are now more than 15,000 tanks, while the U.S.S.R. has 45,000 and the U.S. 10,000. In 1978, the U.S. was designing a new tank called the MX I, an arsenal of electronic gadgetry and weaponry scheduled to be supplied to the army in 1980, at a cost of $738,000 apiece.

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