Both Axis & Allied nations produced thousands of tanks during the Second World War. However, not many of these vehicles survive to this day (there are exceptions of course). When reading about the fate of these vehicles, it's always said that these tanks were "scrapped" after the war for their resources.

What was the scrapping process? Are they pushed into a giant scary blender, or are they dismantled piece by piece and melted?

I would think the second method would make more sense, but then again, I also find cases like the M4 Sherman in Wibrin (Belgium) which was saved during scrapping to be preserved as a monument. (This tank looks like it was bitten in half.)

enter image description here Can anyone clear this up for me and perhaps provide pictures of the scrapping process?


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    The last part of my answer on scuttling u-boats has a section on other weaponry (as requested by the OP there) with quite a few details and links on tanks etc. Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 14:15
  • In reference to your statement: When reading about the fate of these vehicles, it's always said that these tanks were "scrapped" after the war for their resources ... Can you provide information on the various sources you read which always said that?
    – Kerry L
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 15:14
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    Is that a half track? Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 15:26
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    There's a line in "Naples 44" where the narrator notices a disabled tank "melting away like ice" over a period of weeks - the locals went at it with chisels to sell for scrap.
    – pjc50
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 17:13
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    Not the same war, but a blacksmith I met in S. Korea described that after the Korean war ended, disabled/abandoned tanks and other such vehicles were the main source of his and other smiths' steel for quite some time. Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 19:21

2 Answers 2


Once nobody was willing or able to use them(either in other conflicts or as bulldozers), tanks were stripped of any particularly valuable or reusable parts, and whatever was left was disassembled/cut up to be used as scrap metal.

(All of the images and detail can be found here or here.)

Vehicles which were destroyed on the battlefield were recovered to either be repaired or stripped. The recovery operations were aided by specialized vehicles(such as the M32) which could move the disabled tanks to scrapyards:

German tank being recovered from a battlefield

At the scrapyards(also called "strip out yards"), the valuable bits that still worked were removed from the disabled tanks to be used as replacements in more usable tanks. This was also a great time for military research, as engineers could poke around allied and enemy tanks looking for vulnerabilities and areas of improvement.

As for the rest, whatever could be removed from the hull or cut up using on-site tools was piled together. If there were no on-site tools to cut up the tank hulls, then the hulls were shipped to better equipped processing facilities elsewhere. Once disassembled, whatever couldn't be directly used for other tanks was used as regular scrap metal wherever metal was needed:

Pile of scrap metal taken from vehicles during WWII

However, once the war was over there were still hundreds of thousands of working vehicles that needed a home. For those that didn't get sold/lent to other countries for other conflicts, there was plenty of room in military depots like those in the American Southwest:

Rows of military vehicles in a post-war American army depot

In the years after WWII, the vehicles that weren't expected to ever be used again were stripped, chopped up, and scraped in pretty much the same way as those in the post-battlefield scrapyards(though with much less urgency):

Partially stripped tanks in a post-war American army depot

A few of those that weren't scrapped were converted to monuments(as you found) or stored/refurbished in museums or private collections, but many chose a much more humble retirement and were cheaply sold to farmers to be used as tractors(ammo not included):

Tank being used as a tractor to pull a plough

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    I love the farmer picture
    – Cullub
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 18:03
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    "And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks, and their tanks into tractors." Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 18:30
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    Do you happen to know whether those items in depots were fresh from the assembly line, putting out at 100% until Sep '45; or are those shipped back from the various theatres as well? Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 20:34
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    How did the farmers bear the immense fuel cost of a tank? Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 19:56
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    @rackandboneman Fuel was a lot cheaper in those days. For example, many British diesel railway locomotives of the 1950s and 1960s were built on the assumption that they'd just be left with the engines idling when not in use. Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 11:11

Lightweight items such as car bodywork can be recycled by shredding them but there is no blender that's giant or scary enough to blend a tank. They would have been scrapped in much the same way as other large items such as ships or railway locomotives: partly by being dismantled and partly by being cut up with torches or saws. The resulting scrap would have been separated into the different metals and then melted down to be recycled.

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    Dropped piecewise into a crucible of molten steel when the job is done, like the T800 in Terminator2 finale ?
    – Criggie
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 0:39
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    @Criggie Yes, only more of a T-34 than a T800 (they hadn't got to such high model numbers in the 1940s). Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 9:35
  • First you need to get it "piecewise" - and you'll need a big crucible with a lot of molten steel, otherwise you probably end up seizing the steel already in the crucible :) Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 20:58

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