Despite what their name might suggest at first glance, challenge coins were not, historically at least, meant as a reward for completing a challenge. During the 17th century, in France, the Huguenots (French Calvinist Protestants) were severely persecuted by the Catholic Monarchy, with hundreds of thousands being killed, forced into exile, or compelled to convert. However, some remained in France and hadt their religious rituals secretly following the 1685 Edict of Fontainbleu, outlawing Protestantism.
In order to identify each other, the Huguenots used the méreau, a coin that the Protestants could use to show to other Protestants and gain access to religious services or receive help and protection. According to this story, challenge coins emerged as a way to prove your affiliation when challenged by another person.
Challenge Coins Nowadays
In the 21st century, challenge coins have morphed to cover two different goals covering the same overarching purpose: creating and maintaining an esprit de corps within various organizations, most notably law enforcement and the military. There are many kinds being used, including Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Police Challenge Coins.
The first variation of the challenge coin has turned them into small awards that can be bestowed upon members of the organization by local commanders (or managers) without all the complications associated with a citation or a medal or for lesser, but nonetheless appreciated, feats. These are used as a small way of showing appreciation for the efforts, participation and results of soldiers, police officers, students, or any member of an overarching organization.
Examples of this include a Marine Corp’s challenge coin issued for participation in Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan or a challenge coin issued to the 3-157th Field Artillery Battalion of the 157th Field Artillery Regiment for Regimental Excellence.
Two examples of challenge coins being used as awards and rewards by the United States military, in this case by the Marines Corps and the Colorado National Guard. Source: www.gs-jj.com
The other evolution of challenge coins has been to identify members of the organization in order to create a bond between them. In this version, challenge coins are issued to every member of the organization, with optional customization for their rank. They can use it to prove their affiliation either to members of their own organization, to members of “rival” organizations (and there is no end to rivalries within the army), or to other people.
Examples of such challenge coins include a superb cut-out example meant for members of the US Navy and one for military veterans of overseas deployments from Beverly, Massachusetts.
Affiliation challenge coins meant for members of the US Navy and for veterans of foreign deployments from Beverly Massachusetts. Source: www.gs-jj.com
The Drinking Game
Drinking and the military are closely linked together since ancient times, such as, for example, Dacian king Burebista banning alcohol abuse in order to keep his soldiers healthy, awake, and alert. Nonetheless, moderate drinking has remained a part of most military cultures, and challenge coins have become a part of this tradition.
The details of the drinking association vary from organization to organization, but generally involve the use of affiliation challenge coins and a bar frequented by multiple members. One person can issue a challenge for a “coin check” to everyone else by slapping his own challenge coin on the table/bar, rapping it on a hard surface, or dropping it. All those present must then produce their own challenge coins to answer the check. Whoever cannot produce their challenge coin are then obliged to buy the next round of drinks for everyone who passed the coin check.
However, if all persons involved passed the coin check successfully, then the original challenger must buy the next round for everyone involved. Some organizations have various extra rules governing how much time can pass to answer the challenge and present one’s coin or whether the coin has to be on the person or if it can be close by. Alternatively, a rank rule can be added, in which the highest-ranking person in the establishment (who has their challenge coin, of course) gets free drinks from everyone else.
Creating Custom Coins
Creating a challenge coin is relatively easy nowadays, as specialized minting services exist that can customize such coins quite extensively and at reasonable prices, such as the sponsor of this post, www.gs-jj.com. They have been in the manufacturing of merchandise for many years and have worked closely with many different agencies and organizations. There are a large number of challenge coin design elements and materials to pick from in their online easy-to-use design system. You can create your own challenge coin using their custom editor.
Tank Custom Challenge Coins are, of course, also on the table, with an already existing example featuring an M26 Pershing cresting a hill, representing the fighting done by the IX US Corps in the Pusan Perimeter during the Korean War.
However, it is important to remember that challenge coins are important because of their scarcity, cost of obtaining them (in terms of effort and dedication) and the esprit de corps that they help form. As the manager of an organization that wants to use challenge coins, it is important not to misuse and abuse them, such as by dishing them out like free candy and thus devaluing them to the point of irrelevancy. While they are cheap to produce, their value is given by the organization and how it uses them.
Before the late modern era, described historically as starting from around 1750, literacy rates were very low, in the area of single digits as a percentage of the total population. A rather optimistic projection from Our World in Data places the literacy rate at 12.5% worldwide in 1820, although it is important to remember that this was severely different across the socio-economic classes.
From a military standpoint, this meant that the average footman was probably illiterate, as was his family back home. This allowed only three methods of communication. The first was to ask an intermediary to write out a letter and then maybe another intermediary to read it out to the family. The second one was to send word verbally, through a person traveling from the army to the home region, with the expectable reduction in fidelity and length of the original message. The final option, and probably the most common for most of human history, was no communication at all. The family and the soldier would find out about each other’s fate only when the soldier returned home. However, as is the nature of war, many soldiers never returned home, leaving their families in the dark about their eventual fates.
This article has been sponsored by Handwrytten, a handwritten letter-writing service using robots to turn your messages into beautiful pen-and-paper letters.
The warring aristocracy, on the other hand, was probably far more literate. Handwritten letters were far more common both on the personal level, between family members, and on the official level, with military communications between different parts of the army or even with the enemy or neutral parties being done in handwritten form.
A very interesting letter from 1310 between Robert the Bruce (King of Scots 1306-1329) and the King of England, Edward II, has survived to this day transcribed into a manuscript from the 15th century. In it, the Scottish king is asking for peace and the recognition of the independence of the Scots, but to no avail. Nonetheless, this is a valuable historical source showing how diplomacy worked.
As time passed and literacy grew, battlefield letters became more common. By the time of the American Civil War, these became relatively common, so much so that Shapell.org currently holds around 60 different letters and documents, a good portion handwritten, from the era that are digitized and freely available. These range from letters of common soldiers to the correspondence of the President himself, and provide a welcome window into life at that time both in the high seats of power and the bivouacs of the army.
With the start of the First World War, with its massive armies and the growing rates of literacy, especially in Europe, where the heaviest fighting took place, letters to and from home became far more than a personal pleasure. The safe dispatch and arrival of these small pieces of handwritten mail became a morale-sustaining military imperative, with significant effort being dedicated into the work of the post of the many armies involved in the conflict. According to the British Postal Museum, the London Home Depot that handled all correspondence from and to the front had to deal with 2 billion letters and more than 100 million parcels over the 5 years of war. For 1917, this meant 19,000 mailbags transiting the English Channel every single day, bearing good news, updates from home, or condolences from the front. The British National Archives have thankfully digitized and freely published a large number of such letters.
The Second World War was more of the same but, with the United States’ entry into the war in 1941 and landings in North Africa in 1942, the sending of mail to the American soldiers brought new challenges. Not only would these have taken a long time to reach their intended addressees, but the enormous volume of the letters themselves would have occupied valuable space and tonnage on the cross-Atlantic voyage that could have been used for better for vital supplies sustaining the Army and its Allies.
In order to solve this conundrum, the Americans introduced V-Mail (or Victory Mail) in March 1942. This took the letters and transferred them to microfilm, basically scanning them. This allowed up to 1,500 letters to be compressed into a small roll of microfilm weighing just 140 grams (5 ounces). This not only made them far smaller and lighter, saving on shipping tonnage, but also meant that air mail was actually viable, drastically cutting down on delivery delays. Many such letters can, for example, be found freely in the digital collection of the State Historical Society of Missouri and other such organizations.
Nowadays, with the rapid proliferation of electronic communication, emails, phone calls, or video calls, the need for handwritten letters from the battlefield has nearly evaporated. Nonetheless, at least the US Army still maintains the Military Postal Service, providing free shipping of letters and parcels to and from servicemen.
Nonetheless, handwritten letters can still play an important morale-boosting role even today. Several American organizations work to send letters of thanks, appreciation, and gratitude to US servicemen deployed around the world, either digitally or in physical format. You can find more information about this on Veteran Aid.
Come one, come all, there’s a new Tank Encyclopedia competition going on!
This time, we are offering $150 for the best illustrations for an upcoming Tank Encyclopedia article!
If you want to participate, take a look at the following list of vehicles that we would like illustrated for future articles. If any of them catches your fancy, ask us for more references and make a side-profile illustration (or 3D model render) in a realistic style and you can win $150 (first prize), $50 (second prize) or our usual illustration fee ($20-$40)!
If you feel you do not have the skills to participate, do help us by sharing this message with your tank-loving or artist friends!
The illustrations will be judged in 3 categories:
– Accuracy (15 pts). This will be judged by the author and our Critique Squad to determine the accuracy of the illustration with regards to available historical information and images. Ideally, everyone should get full marks for this!
– Graphical Quality (10 pts). This will be judged by our Critique Squad and will be based on how skillfully the illustration was made.
– Popularity (5 pts). After all the illustrations are submitted, a 7-day poll will be held to determine which illustration is the most popular.
The illustration with the most points gets the $150 (or $50) cash prize and gets to be featured on Tank Encyclopedia! Please do note we will only receive publication rights, with all copyright remaining with the illustrator.
If you did not win but your illustration is of good enough quality, we would still want to have it featured on our website! For this, we are willing to pay our standard illustration fee ($20-$40, depending on the number of profiles).
Good luck to all of you!
– The final submission must be made by 15th of February 2022
– The submission must include at least 1 realistic side-profile illustration or render (preferably left-facing)
– The submission must be entirely the work of the submitter. Modifying other people’s illustrations is not allowed for this competition.
– Contact with the article author is highly recommended (all of them are on Discord, https://discord.gg/3VjQ8Zq)
– For any further questions, contact @TE Standlucian on Discord
We are happy to introduce Plane Encyclopedia’s $100 article writing competition!
Think you have what it takes to contribute to their growing community of historical aircraft content? Try your hand at writing an article on a historical aircraft, using their site’s format. All writers are welcome, including first-timers, amateurs, and experienced writers.
If your article is selected as the winner, not only will your article be published and read by thousands of fans, and illustrated by their pro artists, but you’ll walk away with $100!
Read the rules below and be sure to submit your article by July 1st!
– Deadline: July 1st, 2021
– Minimum Length: 2500 Words
– The Topic Aircraft Can Be of Any Era, Nation
– The Topic Aircraft must have reached a production level of at least 100 aircraft manufactured.
– The article must conform to Plane Encyclopedia’s standard article structure. More info here: https://www.tinyurl.com/PE-Rookies
– The winner will be decided by Plane Encyclopedia’s panel of judges.
– Articles will be graded utilizing a points-based system which will rate the article’s quality of research, quality of writing, and relative popularity* of the topic aircraft.
– * Please see our suggestions list for candidate ‘popular’ aircraft https://www.tinyurl.com/PE-Sugg-List
– Questions? Please ask in their Discord Server (https://discord.gg/zgVVjdxrh2) or through any of their Social Media
This guest post has been offered free of charge by the Tank Encyclopedia team for DeployCare.org
Transitioning into civilian life can require veterans to make some serious choices. One of the most common decisions that vets face while preparing for this transition is whether to go back to school. Whether it’s to earn a basic degree or a more advanced certification, if you are facing a similar choice, having these tips can help you navigate the process and achieve your educational goals.
Choosing Your Degree
If you’re like most veterans, you’re likely going back to school in order to boost your post-service career prospects. Earning a degree can not only put you in the running for more jobs but could also potentially earn you a bigger paycheck. Here are some options to consider:
Take a look at the top career fields across the country and you will see that tech jobs dominate the list. Whether you want to be an internet security specialist or web developer, having a degree in computer science can give you an edge over the competition. Best of all, you can complete your educational goals online by earning your computer science degree from WGU.
Want to work in sales or finance? Then you may want to think about going back to school to earn a business degree. Depending on what sort of courses you complete, you could put yourself in the running for some pretty lucrative positions. Having all of that business savvy can also come in handy if you are dreaming of opening your own business at some point. So, you could even consider taking things one step further and getting an MBA.
If you signed up for active duty because you wanted to help other people, a career in healthcare could be your perfect fit after that service has ended. Aside from always being in demand, healthcare workers also tend to enjoy competitive salaries and flexible work schedules. There are also careers to fit just about any set of work and education experience imaginable. In fact, you don’t need an advanced degree to earn an impressive paycheck in healthcare.
Covering Your Expenses
Now let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about how to pay for the degrees and training mentioned above. If you’re a veteran, you’re actually in luck because there are several financial programs that can make going back to school more affordable, including:
If you want to earn your degree without paying a single cent, you should start by signing up for the benefits you are owed for your military service. For example, qualifying veterans could have up to 100 percent of their tuition and fees covered but they may also be eligible to receive allowances for housing, books, and other educational expenses.
Need more help with your educational expenses? Or, perhaps you want to help your spouse go to college as well? Then you can also consider applying for one of several scholarship programs aimed at supporting veterans and dependent family members in their educational pursuits. These scholarships are offered by a variety of corporations, non-profit organizations, and professional associations, but the amount of each award can vary. Read through all of the application materials to see award amounts and specific requirements.
Grants and Loans
Before you sign up for your first class, you may also want to fill out a FAFSA form online. The Free Application for Student Aid will give you access to federal grant and loan programs that can also help to offset educational expenses. Even if you qualify for the GI Bill and other scholarships, completing a FAFSA may be worthwhile since you can use federal funds in conjunction with existing educational benefits.
With so many degree choices and financial options, there’s no reason why going back to school can’t fit into your own military transition. There may be challenges along the way, but you’re used to overcoming some pretty tough situations as an active duty military member. Take those lessons and skills and combine them with these tips to forge your own path forward.
When you want to learn more about tanks in-between classes, be sure to check out specs, resources, and information on the Tank Encyclopedia.
Photo Credit: Benjamin Faust@Unsplash
The Military History field has seen an enormous boom in popularity in the last 20 years, especially helped by the rise of the internet and two of its applications: blogs and Youtube.
However, one of the best aspects of this growth is not so much the growth of quantity, but the growth in quality! While there are more low-quality poor information website and Youtube channels available than ever, there are also a lot of very high quality highly reputable ones coming up as well. And if their existence is not enough, they also do tend to be quite popular! Youtube channels such as The Chieftain, Kings and Generals, Forgotten Weapons and Military History Visualized, and hundreds of quality history blogs garner hundreds of thousands of views while being historically accurate and doing in-depth analysis of a lot of aspects of history and technology that have just been ignored up to now.
The rise of Youtube and the appearance of a number of highly-popular historically-based games have also given rise to a large number of gamer Youtube channels focusing on this niche of the market.
Marketing agencies call such channels, websites and persons ‘influencers’, due to their large popularity and ability to influence their respective audiences, making them attractive targets for focused marketing campaigns.
Such channels and websites used to be supported by ad revenue from Google and Youtube Ads. However, not only has revenue from such sources shrunk significantly in the last years but Google, Youtube, and Facebook have turned more and more against history channels, demonetizing them or limiting their organic growth.
This has left open only two options for such creators, crowdfunding (which has picked up tremendously in the last years and have allowed the average person to become a patron of history) and influencer marketing. The latter basically consists of a partnership between the creator and a brand for advertising. The Chieftain and Wargaming, various tank Youtubers and War Thunder, everybody else and Raid: Shadow Legends are just a couple of examples of such collaborations.
Of course, ideally, every creator would like to work with brands that are close to his topic, but that is not always possible, as unfortunately, except for the large video games, the military history sector is economically rather weak. Casinos, academic writing websites, and many others will try to tempt creators into publishing unmarked guest posts, but that is often hurtful both to the creator and to the readers.
Fortunately, websites such as Intellifluence exist, which allow brands to make contact with influencers and prepare campaigns in a manner that benefits both of them. For example, our research work involves a lot of working with military history books, and we would love to do guest posts for book publishers and authors! Intellifluence even has an easy tutorial for such brands to set-up marketing campaigns for their books!
This guest post has been sponsored by Intellifluence.
The Tiger I and the Tiger II are some of the most famous tanks in the whole history of armored warfare. These behemoths of World War Two have captured the imagination and attention of many generations of tank lovers and armor researchers. However, while the Tiger was the product of a rushed development following the lessons of Operation Barbarossa, the German quest for a heavy breakthrough tank stretches back to 1935, with the design process of a 30 ton Panzer that would become the Durchbruchswagen.
A Long Incubation
The first mention of what would eventually become the Tiger series appears in a report from October 1935, at a time when Germany had barely started building the Panzer I. General Liese, the head of the Heeres Waffenamt, the German Army Weapons Agency, stated that:
“The initial velocity of the 7.5 cm gun must be increased to about 650 meters/second to be effective against the Char 2 C, 3 C, and D. This type of increase requires the design of a completely new Panzer. Based on rough calculations, armor protection up to 20 mm thick (still not fully protected against 2 cm guns) would result in a weight of at least 30 tonnes. The head of the army recently spoke out against this type of tank. As a follow-up action, confirm that the development of a medium Panzer weighing about 30 tonnes with a 7.5 cm gun with increased capability can be dropped.”
It is notable that a 30 tonne tank was seen as a medium tank at the time, given that the newly built Panzer I weighed just 5 tonnes, while the first versions of the Panzer IV would go on to weigh 18 tonnes. Nonetheless, it is important to note that this tank, armed with a 7.5 cm gun, was intended as a counter to enemy heavy tanks, most notably the French Char 2C and the Char 2C bis, incorrectly called the 3C in the document.
The weight of 30 tonnes was chosen because, as was brought up during a 1936 meeting on the development of an engine for this tank:
“a higher weight would hardly be allowable when considering the Pionier bridging equipment”
The 30 tonne Panzer development project was not dropped by the Army and reappeared in the documentation in December 1935, with the problem of the engine:
“Dipl.Ing. Augustin turned the discussion to the development of a 600 hp engine for the heavy Panzers and noted that his opinion was that 600 horsepower will not be sufficient and that indeed it would be more correct to immediately develop a motor capable of 700 hp.”
This was just wishful thinking. At this point, Maybach was barely testing a 300 hp engine. The planned 600 hp 32 liter Maybach HL 320 V-12 petrol engine never got built. One year later, in October 1936, Wa Pruef 6, the German design office for armored vehicles, sent a request to Krupp for a conceptual design of a turret for this 30 tonne Panzer sporting the 7.5 cm L/24 gun.
A Tank With Many Names
At this point, the 30 tonne Panzer was known as the Begleitwagen (verstaerkt), meaning ‘Escort Vehicle, Strengthened’. This indicates that the new 30 tonne Panzer was meant to cover the same role as the Panzer IV, which was also known as the Begleitwagen in its development. This would have meant that small units of 30 tonne Panzers would have been used to accompany lighter tanks during operations, being responsible for taking out enemy strongpoints which could be destroyed using their high explosive shells.
In March 1937, this designation was changed into Infanteriwagen, or ‘Infantry vehicle’. This also indicates a change in the role it was meant to carry out, presumably to having to work alongside friendly infantry to overcome enemy defenses, probably closer to the British and French concepts of an Infantry tank. This would not last long and, in April 1937, the vehicle would receive its most known designation, Durchbruchswagen, or ‘Breakthrough vehicle’. Again, this probably came with a role change, a role that would stick with the German heavy tanks up to the E100. This breakthrough role, which also appears in both Soviet and French armored doctrines before the war, proposed the use of heavy tank units to punch through the enemy defensive line, thus creating a breach which could then be exploited by other armored and motorized divisions.
The construction of the first Durchbruchswagen began with a January 1937 order from Wa Pruef 6 to the Henschel company for the design of a chassis for the 30 tonne Panzer. This would cement a practice that would hold on for most of the German heavy tank development of having two companies designing the vehicle, Krupp doing the turret and gun and another company doing the chassis. Two versions were built, the D.W.1 and the D.W.2, meant to be delivered in the second half of 1938, mostly with automotive differences.
The Durchbruchswagen I was protected by flat 5 cm thick armor on the front, sides and rear, which was meant to be proof against the armor-piercing shells of the German 3.7 cm PaK, although it is unclear at which range this was supposed to be at. The Armor Piercing (A.P.) shell of the 3.7 cm could penetrate more than 5 cm of armor at point blank range. To give a comparison, the Panzer IV Ausf.F, which had the same gun, same engine, a very similar turret and the same 5 cm frontal armor, weighed just over 7 tonnes less than the Durchbruchswagen’s intended weight. A significant part of this difference can be accounted for by the thinner side, rear, top and bottom armor, although other differences between the two tanks make this comparison just indicative.
The roof and bottom of the hull were 2 cm thick. The armor at the front was stepped. However, both of the constructed vehicles were made out of ‘soft’ (not armor) steel, as they were meant mostly for automotive tests. Also, due to the inability of existing milling machines to fabricate such long 5 cm armored plates, the side armor was made from two parts, with a split at the front of the engine compartment. At the joining, they were riveted to an internal frame. This increased the weight of the vehicle and affected the structural integrity of the side armor.
For that time, this was quite thick armor. Only the Char B1 bis had thicker armor (60 mm front and 55 mm sides), with the SOMUA S35 also having similar armor (47 mm front, 40 mm sides). Furthermore, just like on the Tiger I prototype, there was a foldable armor plate that could be lowered using hand cranks to protect the drive sprockets at the front. This foldable armor plate was allegedly put through a protection test which it failed. There were two escape hatches in the bottom of the tank, one on the right front, close to the radio operator, and one at the rear left of the hull, in the engine compartment. This could be accessed through a door in the firewall that separated the engine from the crew compartment. While not specifically mentioned in any source, the Durchbruchswagen I hull probably had a driver’s visor in the front of the upper glacis and a hatch in the roof. The radio operator on the right side of the front hull also probably had a hatch in the roof and a ball-mount machine gun.
The engine was a 12-liter water-cooled gasoline Maybach HL 120 TR giving out 280 hp, placed at the rear of the tank. The TRM version of this engine also propelled the Panzer III, Panzer IV and their derivatives. The engine was coupled to a Maybach-Motorenwerk Variorex semi-automatic transmission, also used on the Panzer III, placed at the front of the tank. These could allegedly propel the vehicle to a maximum speed of 35 km/h. The steering system consisted of three Cletrac stages in series. A Cletrac system allows the transfer of power from one track to the other when steering, without the usual loss of power due to braking. The three stages allowed the use of three different turning radiuses, so the tank could make a shallower or tighter turn without losing power. However, problems appeared with the steering system, with the cast iron housing being broken twice. The exhaust was at the rear of the tank, coming down from the upper part of the rear of the vehicle. There were also problems with the brakes, as the first version, done by Henschel, gave out a lot of smoke when breaking, so the coating had to be replaced.
The running gear consisted of a drive sprocket at the front, an idler at the rear, three return rollers and five medium-size double road wheels on each side. They had rubber rims in order to decrease the noise made by the tracks. Due to the use of a torsion bar suspension, the road wheels were not symmetrically placed. The ones on the right side of the tank were slightly forward compared to the ones on the left. The torsion bars were square and hollow on the inside. They were very soft-springed, meaning that they could give a smoother ride in certain conditions, but could not handle rough terrain and would lead to a lot of pitching during driving and when stopping or starting. Two shock absorbers were mounted on each side, one on the first roadwheel and one on the last roadwheel. These were meant to assist these torsion bars, as they were subjected to stronger shocks, especially when stopping or accelerating. Also, bump stops were added to the suspension in order to stop the road wheels from being deviated too much and thus protecting the tank from bellying out. The tracks had a pitch of 300 mm. The pitch of a track is the distance between the centers of two subsequent track links. In general, decreasing the pitch could lead to better speed and ride, but also means more track links were needed, with more connections and more parts. The tracks were lubricated and could be fitted with rubber pads. The rubber pads would have made the tank quieter and less prone to damaging or destroying the pavement on roads, while the lubrication decreased friction and thus increased the speed of the vehicle. These were both characteristics that seem to have been carried over from half-track designs.
The crew probably consisted of five people as on other German tanks being developed at that time. This would have included the driver and radio operator in the front part of the hull of the tank, and a gunner, a loader and a commander in the turret. This would have been a very important feature of this vehicle, as it would have allowed the commander to focus on his duties of observation and tactical leadership instead of having to aim and load the gun.
The dimensions of the Durchbruchswagen are not available in any of the sources, but it can be reasonably assumed that they would have been similar to those of the VK30.01(H). This later vehicle had a length of 5.7 and a height of 2.6 meters. The width of the VK30.01(H), of 3.1 meters, was probably larger than that of the D.W. due to the different suspension system. Nonetheless, these values are also very close to those of the Panzer IV.
Work on the Durchbruchswagen 2 was started halfway through 1937 and it mostly had automotive improvements. In the book ‘Tiger and its variants’, Doyle’s drawing of the D.W.2 shows it with the one-piece side armor. However, in the book ‘Germany’s Tiger tanks’, Jentz specifically mentions that the one-piece side armor was introduced with the VK30.01(H) neue Konstruktion, and thus the D.W.2 should have the two piece side armor. Similarly, ‘Tiger and its variants’ shows the addition of a hull side-escape hatch to the D.W.2 while ‘Germany’s Tiger tanks’ makes no mention of such a thing.
Automotive-wise, the larger stages of the previous Cletrac system were replaced with a three-stage differential with magnetic clutches. Not only did these allow for power to be transferred from one track to the other while turning, but a triple stage differential also allowed to reverse one track with respect to the other, thus allowing the tank to neutral steer. The Cletrac stage with the smallest turning radius was kept though.
Also, the track pitch was decreased to 260 mm, which is claimed to have significantly improved the ride of the vehicle. The torsion bars were also changed to a more rigid type, with a three-times larger springing constant.
Due to these changes, the drive sprocket, final drives and parking brakes also needed to be modified.
These two hulls were supposedly trialed to test all the components and identify what improvements could be made for future projects. However, almost no details remain about these tests. What is certain is that the Durchbruchswagen was not accepted as built.
Work on the Durchbruchswagen turret was done in parallel to that on the hulls. Krupp sent the requested conceptual drawings for the turret in February 1937, and was quickly informed by Wa Pruef 6 to use it as a basis for subsequent development. In the March 1937 answer, Wa Pruef details the desired characteristics of the D.W. turret.
The turret was to have a turret ring diameter of 1,500 mm, smaller than that of the Panzer IV. Also, the turret would be rotated manually, as
“No plans are made for an electric drive for traversing the turret. Auxiliary traversing gear for the loader is to be included.”
The armor of the turret would be 50 mm all around, with a 20 mm external mantlet and a 15 mm turret roof, affording similar protection as the hull. There is no other information on the shape of the turret of the Durchbruchswagen, although H.L.Doyle’s line-drawing in ‘Tiger and its variants’ shows a Panzer IV-like turret with a large commander cupola at the rear, a crew access hatch and a vision port on each side.
The gun to be used in this turret was the same 7.5 cm Kampfwagenkanone L/24 that would be mounted on the early versions of the Panzer IV. In a meeting in January 1939 on the topic of the heavy 30 tonne Panzers, it was expressly specified that no gun larger than the short 7.5 cm should be pursued because the increased weight would have to be compensated by a decrease in armor, which was deemed unacceptable.
The main shell for this gun was the Sprenggranate 34 high-explosive shell. This shell weighed around 4.5 kg and had an explosive filler of almost half a kilogram. This was meant to be used against enemy infantry, machine-gun posts, anti-tank guns, bunkers and soft-skinned vehicles. For anti-tank purposes, a series of High Explosive Anti Tank (H.E.A.T) shells were introduced during the lifetime of this gun, with penetrations ranging from around 45 mm to over 100 mm, although they were introduced into service later. Two types of Armor Piercing Capped Ballistic Capped (A.P.C.B.C.) shells were also available, with a penetration of 54 mm to 60 mm at 100 m distance. An APCBC shell works basically as a normal Armor Piercing (A.P.) shell, but has two additional caps added to the tip of the shell. The first cap is made of soft metal and is meant to absorb a part of the shock on impacting the armor and thus preventing the armor piercing tip from shattering. The ballistic cap was a hollow light cone added on the top of the shell with the sole purpose of improving the aerodynamics of the shell. This improved both accuracy and the penetrating power, as the shell kept more of its kinetic energy at longer ranges.
Another machine gun (most probably an MG 34) would have probably been mounted coaxially with the gun. The instruction letter from March 1937 specifies that the radio should be mounted in the turret, behind the gun. However, this seems impossible to do in a Panzer IV-like turret. If the turret was as the one drawn by Doyle, then the radio would have almost certainly been mounted in the hull.
Krupp finished the D.W. turret in May 1939, building it from soft steel. It was then shipped to Magdeburg, where it was put on display along with other developments, such as the Panzer IV turret. Nothing is known about what happened after this with the turret.
The End of the Line
The Durchbruchswagen project melts into the subsequent VK30.01(H), which inherited many of the characteristics of the D.W. designs. The Durchbruchswagen design also underwent its last designation evolution in November 1939, also receiving the designation Vollketten 30.01(H) alte Konstruktion.
Nonetheless, a final D.W. hull was constructed from armor plate for ballistic tests. This hull had some changes compared to the previous two hulls, having slightly different armor values that were closer to those on the VK30.01(H). This was completed after September 1940 and shipped to Kummersdorf for firing tests. No information about the results are currently available.
A Note on Sources
There is almost no photographic evidence for the Durchbruchswagen. The only known photographs of the project were published in ‘Tiger and its variants’ and consist of a photograph of the tracks and one of the final drives at the front of the vehicle, along with a roadwheel and a shock absorber. This paucity of photographic evidence is disturbing. Other visual references include a 1940 armor scheme of the ballistic test hull and a 1945 British reconstruction of the D.W. hull based on the interrogation of Dr. Aders, the head of the design department of Henschel. Finally, two beautiful line drawings from Hillary Louis Doyle are available in the book ‘Tiger and its variants’, but how many of the details on it are based on historical references and how many are conjectural is unknown.
It is also important to note that there is annoyingly little information available on the Durchbruchswagen, with only three books treating it in any detail. Even so, most of the technical details and specifications come from the 1945 interrogation of Dr. Aders by the British and not from contemporary German documents, so they should be treated with a degree of skepticism.
Nowadays, the Durchbruchswagen are mostly forgotten except for some mentions in a couple of books and their appearance in a popular video game. However, they played an important role in the development of German heavy tanks that would culminate in the Tiger tanks. They were the main designs worked on at a time when the German heavy tank doctrine was being crystallized. Also, they were very important in testing the capabilities of the German armaments industry and helping identify where research and development were needed, such as designing better armor milling, better suspension and better engines.
Nevertheless, the Germans would not adopt a heavy tank for the Wehrmacht until 1942, meaning that the German tank divisions went into the Second World War without such a vehicle. During the peak of the German offensive successes, when such a tank would have been most useful in breaking down Polish, French, or Soviet defensive lines, none was available. The Germans nonetheless achieved great success despite the thin armor of their tanks due to excellent communications, training, leadership, and tactics.
Illustration of the Durchbruchswagen 2 based on H.L.Doyle’s drawing produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet. The hull side is in one piece
|Dimensions||Around 5.7 x 3.1 x 2.7 m|
|Armament||7.5 cm Kampfwagenkanone L/24|
|Machine Guns||2 x MG 34|
|Armor||50 mm hull front, rear and sides
20 mm hull roof and floor
50 mm turret front, rear and sides
15 mm turret roof
|Weight||Around 30 tonnes|
|Crew||Probably 5 (driver, co-driver, commander, gunner, loader)|
|Propulsion||Maybach HL 120 TR, 280 hp|
|Max Speed||Allegedly 35 km/h|
|Total Operated||3 hulls and 1 turret built|
Panzer Tracts No.6 Schwere Panzerkampfwagen D.W. to E100 including the Tigers, T.Jentz and H.L.Doyle
Germany’s Tiger Tanks, D.W. to Tiger I, Design, Production and Modifications, T.Jentz and H.L.Doyle
The Tiger tank and its Variants, W.Spielberger and H.L.Doyle