Bolivia, named after independence fighter Simon BOLIVAR, broke away from Spanish rule in 1825; much of its subsequent history has consisted of a series of nearly 200 coups and counter-coups. Comparatively democratic civilian rule was established in the 1980s, but leaders have faced difficult problems of deep-seated poverty, social unrest, and drug production. Current goals include attracting foreign investment, strengthening the educational system, continuing the privatization program, and waging an anti-corruption campaign. - US CIA World Factbook

It is known that Bolivia is the first South American country to ever employ tanks in war. Bolivia also has the distinction of being the only South American country to employ tanks in battle on South American soil. The Chaco War (1932-1935), was a conflict between Bolivia and Paraguay over the Chaco Boreal (also known as the "green hell"), a nasty sparsely populated, region claimed by both countries. When the war began in 1932, the larger and better-trained Bolivian army initially held the advantage. However, superior tactics and knowledge of the terrain enabled the Paraguayans to gain control of most of the area by 1935. A treaty signed in 1938 gave Paraguay three-fourths of the region and Bolivia the rest. About 50,000 Bolivians and 35,000 Paraguayans died in the war. During this war, the Bolivian army used 5 tanks. Three were Vickers 6 ton tanks, two were Carden-Lloyd tankettes. The Vickers group were composed of 1 cannon and 2 machine gun units, and the tankettes were basically early Bren carriers. It is not known what happened to the tankettes, but all 3 Vickers were destroyed in action after doing considerable damage first. The cannon armed Vickers did an especially effective job destroying machine gun nests. It is distinctive to note that the Vickers 6 ton tank was a popular export of Great Britain. In some cases, if the client country had facilities, the plans were licensed. The tank was noted for being reliable, cheap, easy to maintain, expandable, good on protection, firepower, and good on crew comfort. The Vickers 6 ton was probably the best tank design of the pre-WW2 era. Were it went, it tended to dominate the field.

Bolivia remained neutral throughout most of WW II. Bolivia eventually declared war on the Axis nations under pressure from the US, but it took no real action.

bolcardenlloyd.jpg (40389 bytes)---Bolivian Carden Loyde tankette. - Photo research by Dr. Georg V. Rauch. Photo courtesy of Dr. André Louis Maurois.
The Carden-Lloyd Tankette

The Bolivian army owned 2 of these vehicles. Both were armed with the Vickers 7.65mm water cooled machine gun.

Bolivian soldiers with their Vickers 6ton Model A. - Photo provided by Dr. André Louis Maurois.---Bolivian tank during the war - Drawing courtesty of Dr. André Louis Maurois.---Bolivian Vickers 6 ton type B in the Chaco bush. - Photo research by Dr. Georg V. Rauch and courtesty of Dr. André Louis Maurois.---Bolivian Vickers 6 ton Type A in Chaco. - Photo research by Dr. Georg V. Rauch and courtesty of Dr. André Louis Maurois.

The wreakage of Bolivian tanks during the war - Photo research by Dr. Georg V. Rauch and courtesty of Dr. André Louis Maurois.---Bolivian tank during the war. These are Paraguayan solders standing on top of the Bolivian tank. - Photo research by Dr. Georg V. Rauch and courtesty of Dr. André Louis Maurois.---"Ina" as displayed on a postcard. - Photo courtesy of Dr. André Louis Maurois.---"Ina" on display in Paraguay as a war prize.
The Vickers E Type, 6 Ton Tank

The Bolivian cannon tank was armed with a 47mm cannon - large for it's day as most nations were installing 37mm cannons. It is not known what type of machine guns the Bolivians used on the Vickers MG tanks. Any other modifications off the basic design are unknown. The tank in the upper photographs has an interesting history. The name of the tank is "Ina". Captured by the Paraguayans, she was made a war trophy. Many years later the tank was retured to Bolivia as an overture of peace and friendship. What became of the tank is unknown.

Renault FT-17 (MG) Infantry Tank
Renault FT-17 (37mm SA) Light Tank

Dr. André Louis Maurois reports that according to Dr. Georg V. Rauch, author of several articles on the Chaco War, this tank never existed in the Bolivian armory. I have left it here because it is often reported as being part of the Bolivian army by error. Dr. Rauch's data comes from US military Attache reports as well as British Foreign office documents.

Photo courtesy of Mario Paesani.
Fiat-Ansaldo CV 33/II Tankette

14 were obtained in 1938.

Crew  2
Weight 2.7 tons
Length 3.03m
Width 1.4m
Height 1.2m
Armor (max) 12 mm
Range 110 km
Speed 42 km/hr
Weapons  1 x 6.5mm

(no photo)
U.S. M3A1, M5 "Stuart" Light Tank

Several units were obtained via "Lend Lease". Other details are unknown.

People who helped make this page possible.

The late Mario Paesani
author of the "Armored Web Site"

Olaf Schiltmans

Dr. André Louis Maurois

Thorleif Olsson
Thorleif Olsson
Author of:
Red Steel ! - Soviet tanks - 1920-1945
Baltic AFV's & Armoured Trains - 1918-1940
SdKfz. 234 - Die geschichte einer legändäre Waffe 1943-45



Last Update: Thursday, February 13, 2003