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World War I
Thanks for the Tanks



Thanks for the Tanks
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.28

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    cons, infantry, pros, extremely, motivate, breakdown, dealt, operate, trench, possibly, knowing, easily, artillery, armor, afterward, attack
     content words:    World War I., On September, World War


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Thanks for the Tanks
By Jane Runyon
  

1     There were no tanks used in war before World War I. After all, motorized vehicles had not been invented that long ago. Up until 1916, if an army wanted to protect one of its vehicles, they would take pieces of reinforced steel and place them on the vehicle to keep bullets from penetrating them. In other words, they tried to make a bullet proof car. This plan worked, up to a point. The armored cars could only travel on cleared roads. If any fighting was taking place off the road, the cars could not reach the action. All this changed on September 15, 1916. It was at this time that the British introduced tanks to battle.
 
2     The British waited until 1916 to place the tank into battle for several reasons. First and foremost was the fact that they wanted to make sure the idea of an armored, off road vehicle would even work. They didn't want to spend all the money it would take to produce such a vehicle if it wasn't going to work. By 1916, the pressure was on them to come up with some idea that would make winning battles easier. They were not having much luck at Sommes. They needed something to motivate their troops to press forward. On September 16, the first tank was sent into battle. Its treaded tracks took it across country and straight into enemy territory. The German bullets bounced off the sides of the tank. Infantry soldiers followed the tank. They were able to capture a German trench without much trouble. Soon afterward, a German artillery shell found its mark. The shell put the tank out of commission. Six tanks in all were sent out on that first mission. Three of the tanks got bogged down in the mud. Another of the tanks had a mechanical breakdown. Only two of the tanks were able to support the infantry drive forward. Many considered success of the tanks as only partial. They had managed to scare the Germans a great deal.
 
3     The pros and cons of tank use were assessed after this battle. Drivers complained that the slits in the front they used to see from were too small. It was hard to see where they were going. They complained that they were very large targets for the enemy to shoot at. They also worried that the exhaust from the tank was extremely hot and could possibly set the fuel tank on fire. Finally, they felt that the treads were not able to get through the mud very easily. The mud got stuck in the treads and made the tank hard to maneuver. These were all problems that could be dealt with and improved.

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