You’re Not Going to Believe this John Deere Model A Tractor Tank

Aberdeen Proving Ground photo

A great-grandson of the founder of Deere & Company decided the company could manufacture a tractor tank for the Army by adding heavy armor and machine gun turrets to the John Deere Model A tractor, which was already in production.

By early 1941, two prototypes were built in secret at the Waterloo plant and shipped to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland for testing. They were designed to carry a three-man crew–a driver and two gunners.

Alas, the tractor tanks proved to be under-powered, slow, and top-heavy, with even more flaws.

Even so, Deere received more than 1000 government contracts during the war, producing mobile laundry units, ammo, aircraft parts, tank transmissions, and more.

Decades later, two Iowa men decided to replicate the John Deere A-I and A-II tank prototypes, with compelling outcomes.

Also see the “Country Characters” story, “Iowa Farm Kids Re-Created WWII History,” in the October/November 2023 Our Iowa magazine.


  1. Companies went right to work to help support the troops, so this does not surprise me. I am surprised that they were so inefficient.
    Thank you, Joy.

  2. The history of John Deere is a compelling read. It’s generally little known that Deere produced those “tank tractors.” Thanks for sharing this tidbit from the history of that war.

  3. This failed endeavor by John Deere would certainly make for a good trivia question! At least the company made a concerted effort in support of WWII. It was helpful to see the image of the tractor trick or treating as a tank. 🙂

  4. Great post, Joy! Such a strange, but unique machine by John Deere. Glad to hear one of my favorite tractor manufacturing companies, John Deere, was so active in the war effort for the United States.

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