World War II Album Volume 10: French Tanks: Char B1 - Char D1 - Char D2 - Char 2C

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9781500508142: World War II Album Volume 10: French Tanks: Char B1 - Char D1 - Char D2 - Char 2C
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Merriam Press World War II Album WA10

First Edition (2014)

Pictorial album of four French tanks that saw service prior to and during World War II.

The Char B1 was a French heavy tank manufactured before World War II. The Char B1 was a specialized heavy breakthrough vehicle, originally conceived as a self-propelled gun with a 75mm howitzer in the hull; later a 47mm gun in a turret was added, to allow it to function also as a Char de Bataille, a "battle tank" fighting enemy armor, equipping the armored divisions of the Infantry Arm. Starting in the early 1920s, its development and production were repeatedly delayed, resulting in a vehicle that was both technologically complex and expensive, and already obsolescent when real mass-production of a derived version, the Char B1bis, started in the late 1930s. Although a second uparmoured version, the Char B1ter, was developed, only two prototypes were built. Among the most powerfully armed and armored tanks of its day, the type was very effective in direct confrontations with German armor in 1940 during the Battle of France, but slow speed and high fuel consumption made it ill-adapted to the war of movement then being fought. After the defeat of France captured Char B1 (bis) would be used by Germany, with some rebuilt as flamethrowers or mechanized artillery.

The Char D1 was a pre-World War II French tank. The French plan of 1926, calling for the creation of a Light Infantry Support Tank, led to the development of the existing Renault NC1 prototype into the Char D1. The type did not serve as an infantry support tank as originally intended, but as France's major battle tank of the early 1930s; it was quickly phased out in 1937 because of its mechanical unreliability and relegated to colonial units in North Africa.

The Char D2 was a French tank of the interwar period. In 1930, at a time the Char D1 had not even entered production, the Renault company agreed to build a better armored version called the Char D2. By using welded armor plate instead of the dated riveted design of the D1 this would be lighter than a simple version of the D1 made with thicker plating. In 1937 the type equipped one tank battalion, which was considered an elite unit, as part of Charles de Gaulle's regiment. It was well trained in the use of advanced tactics, including the use of radio sets. In 1940 the effectiveness of this unit had much diminished, because of the worn-out state of its tanks, aggravated by the decision to raise three autonomous tank companies with the new vehicles, even though insufficient trained crews were available. Nevertheless the Char D2 units fought tenaciously during the Battle of France, losing most of their tanks to mechanical breakdown instead of enemy action.

The Char 2C, also known as FCM 2C, is a French super-heavy tank developed, although never deployed, during World War I. It was, in physical dimensions, the largest operational tank ever made. It is still easily the largest tank ever taken into production. With the tail fitted, the hull was over twelve meters long. Within its ample frame there was room for two fighting compartments. During the French mobilization of 1939, all ten were activated and put into their own unit, the 51st Bataillon de Chars de Combat. For propaganda, each tank had been named after one of the ancient regions of France. As their main value was in propaganda, the giants were kept carefully out of harm's way. They were used instead for numerous morale-boosting movies, in which they were often shown climbing and crushing old French forts. To the public, they obtained the reputation of invincible super tanks.

377 B&W photos

7 color photos

1 color cutaway

1 cutaway

2 four-view drawings

1 sectional drawing

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