I watched the four episode series, Age of Tanks, on Netflix. Although it doesn’t focus specifically on the Second World War, it has one episode dedicated to it.
The first episode was on the introduction of the tank during the First World War. Many people don’t realize that “tank” was a codeword to distract the enemy. The first tanks had mixed success, partially because of communication problems. The first tanks used carrier pigeons for communication.
The second episode looked at the coming of age of tanks during the Second World War. Much of the focus was on the German use of tanks, as tanks played a major role in their blitzkrieg. There was quite a bit of Russian focus as well, partially because of the parallel development with the Germans and the importance of the Russians in later tank history. There was some look at the American use of tanks, especially the Sherman, but almost nothing of the British. I would have likes some inclusion of the use of tanks in North Africa.
The third episode was on the cold war. The defeat of the Germans only led to difficult relations with the Soviets. Europe was partitioned and war between the West and the Soviets looked likely. Both sides knew that nuclear warfare would leave no winners so both strived for better tanks. There was important advancement of tank technology during that time. Much of the Soviet use of tanks was against civilians to prevent uprisings.
The final episode was on tank warfare after the end of the cold war. The tension point moved from Berlin to the Middle East. American and Russian tanks had the opportunity to face each other, but not between those powers. I had no idea of the quality of the Iraqi tanks (that were Russian) but they still were no match for the Americans. This episode concludes with a reflection on whether the age of tanks has come to an end. It likely has not but tank warfare will change as fast as the technology.
I quite enjoyed this documentary and would recommend it to anyone interested in military history. In some ways, the history of tanks mirrors the history of the western world.