The warhorse of the German army
When the Krupp factory’s Versuchs-Kraftfahrzeug 622 (Trial Vehicle 622) went into production as the Panzerkampfwagen-IV Ausf. A in November 1937, probably nobody realized that they had developed a vehicle what would become the mainstay of the German Panzerwaffe (Armoured Corps) well into the Second World War. It replaced the Panzer III as the most numerous German battle tank and fought alongside the later Panther, Tiger and Königstiger tanks until the end of the war.
The overall design of this tank dated back to November 1934 when the Wa.Prw.6, a section of the Heeres-Waffenamt (Army Procurement Agency), demanded a support tank, later to become the Pz.Kpfw. IV, and a battle tank, later to become the Pz.Kpfw. III.
Although in production for 8 years and modified during every production run, the overall layout and appearance of the Pzkpfw. IV never changed. The engine was located in the rear of the vehicle, connected to a drive shaft which itself was attached to the transmission in the front.
One unique feature of the Pzkpfw. IV was the asymmetrical hull to connect the turret raze to the transmission to allow the turret to be traversed faster. To accomplish this, the turret was offset 6.50 cm (2.62 in) to the left and the engine 15 cm (6 in) to the right. The drive shaft itself was mounted on the chassis floor below the turret basket. The driver (Fahrer) sat on the front left of the tank with a large square hatch above its head and driver’s visor in front of him. The driver’s visor was protected by 50 mm thick bullet-proof glass and could be closed with an armoured cover during combat. When under small arms fire the driver used a binocular periscope with two small openings just above the driver’s visor supported by another visor to his left in the side of the upper structure.
He steered the vehicle with 2 steering brakes which worked on a conventional Krupp clutch-steering. On his left sat the radio-operator (Funker) below a identical square hatch in charge of an AM-radio with an effective range of up to 2 km. He had a forward mounted close-defence weapon (either a MG or a submachine gun depending on the variant) with a limited pivoting range mounted either in a armored ball mount or just stuck through a armored opening.
The radio operator had a very limited field of view. He could look through the aiming device of the ball mount (or just through the opening if no ball mount was installed) or a visor to his right in the side of the upper structure.
Behind the driver and radio-operator was the fully traversable turret with the 75 mm main gun and co-axial 7.92mm machine gun mounted in the turret front. The gunner (Richtschuetze) was located on the left of the gun, resting on a seat and aiming through a telescopic sight in front of him. To find any targets more easily, a small visor with a armored flap was attached next to the small opening for the gunsight.
The vehicle was equipped with an electrical turret traverse powered by a 2-cylinder DKW PZW-600 petrol engine, providing quick target acquisition and supporting the traverse of the turret in an oblique position. In case of a breakdown of the electrical turret traverse the gunner could operate a lever to switch over to traverse the turret manually. To traverse the turret full 360 degrees, the gunner had to turn the hand wheel 188 times.
The loader (Ladeschuetze) on the right of the turret was responsible for loading and maintaining the main gun and co-axial MG. The ammunition for the maingun and machine gun was dispersed in special containers all over the vehicle interior. For observation purposes he had a visor on his side of the turret front identical to that of the gunner.
The commander (Kommandant) was located right behind the gun breech, observing the battlefield through 5 armoured visors mounted around a tube-shaped commander’s cupola. While the gunner and commander sat on seats to offer them at least a minimum of comfort in the cramped turret, the loader could fold his seat up to stand besides the gun during the reloading procedure in combat situations.
A hatch was mounted in each side of the turret for easy access of the gunner and loader. A additional armored visor was installed in front of each hatch, offering additional but limited observation capacity. Two armored close defence openings were located in the rear of the turret to fend of enemy soldiers with pistols or submachine guns supplied to each tank crew.
The armor of the tank consisted of homogenous, nickel-free armor-steel PP694 of ever increasing thickness through production. The gasoline/petrol engine in the back of the chassis was supplied via 3 different fuel tanks (I, II, III). Fuel tank I and III were filled externally via fillers while fuel tank II was filled at the same time as III through a connecting hose which also vented the tank during filling. Fuel tank I contained approx. 140 litres of gasoline/petrol, fuel tank II approx. 110 litres and fuel tank III approx. 220 litres for a total of approx. 470 litres. The Pzkpfw. IVs had non-lubricated tracks consisting of 101 track links per side connected via bolts giving the tank a specific ground-pressure of 0.68kg/cm².
Armament and Ammunition
The secondary armament of the PzKpfw. IV consisted of a MG-34 mounted on the right hand side of the main gun and, depending on the version, a bow-mounted MG-34 Panzerlauf (armored barrel) operated by the radio operator. Not every versions of the early Pzkpfw. IV featured a ball mount for the bow mounted MG-34, some had just an armored flap through which the radio operator fired either with a MG-34 or a submachine gun. The MG-34 Panzerlauf featured an armored barrel cover with a lot fewer of the distinctive ventilation holes of the standard MG-34.
To make it easier to us the machine gun inside the cramped space of the tank, the weapon was used without the wooden butt-stock, but could equipped with one if necessary and a forward mounted bipod and a sight for use outside of the tank. The MG-34 machine gun had a calibre of 7.92 mm chambered for the 7.92 x 57 mm round and had a theoretical rate of fire of 800-900 rounds per minute and a muzzle velocity of 765 m/sec.
Paint and camouflage
Vehicles sent to hot climates like Northern Africa in 1941 received a basecoat of RAL-8020 Sandgelb (sand yellow) over the original dark grey paint. Another specification from 1942 ordered the vehicles sent to Northern Africa coated in 2/3 of RAL-8020 Sandgelb and 1/3 of RAL-7027 Sandgrau (sand grey). The Deutsches Afrikakorps fighting in North Africa suffered almost from the beginning of the fighting their from overstretched supply lines and allied attacks on the shipping lines in the Mediterranean and was forced to use even stocks of british paint captured during the initial successes.
When the base color of German vehicles was changed to RAL-7028 Dunkelgelb in February 1943 vehicles in the old Dunkelgrau livery had to be repainted in the new colour by the units themselves, during larger repairs behind the frontlines or in factories when sent back for factory refit.
To increase the effect of the camouflage, additional petrol-soluble pastes of RAL-6003 Olivgruen (dark olive green) and RAL-8017 Rotbraun (dark chocolate brown) were delivered to the frontline units. The emerging multi-tone camouflage patterns varied from unit to unit and depended on the availability of the pastes, the time to apply them on the vehicles and orders given by commanders of certain units. These factors effected the camouflage patterns that much, that they could even vary from platoon to platoon or company to company. The paste was thinned with petrol and could be applied by paint spray guns, brushes or even brooms
The bulk of the production (around 7500) was spread in only three variants, the Ausf.G, H and J. These remained relatively unchanged until 1945, despite simplifications of the design. As the Panzer III‘s 50 mm (1.97 in) gun was not up to the task against the best Russian mediums and heavies, the main model, carrying the bulk of any Panzerdivision, became the Panzer IV. The former was progressively phased out, and replaced on the production line by cheaper SPGs, like the StuG III.
Panzer IV Ausf.H: The main version
The Ausf.H was equipped with the new long caliber KwK 40 L/48, and was subsequently registered as the Sd.Kfz. 161/2 by the ordnance department. Other modifications included simplifications to ease production, like the removal of the hull side vision ports, and, later, part sharing with the Panzer III. This was by far the biggest production of the type, with a total of 3774 machines, until its replacement by the Ausf.J, in June 1944. Krupp had received a request, in December 1942, for a new version featuring all-sloped armor, which would have also required a new chassis, transmission and probably engine as well, due to the added weight. However, production started with an upgraded version of the Ausf.G instead. A new headlight was set, a new Zahnradfabrik ZF SSG-76 transmission, new set of radios (FU2 and 5, and intercom). This was necessary in order to cope with the full glacis protection raised to 80 mm (3.15 in), with no appliqué parts. The H now stood at 25 tons in battle order, and maximum speed fell to 38 km/h (24 mph), but only 25 km/h (16 mph) in real combat conditions, and far less on rough terrain. By the end of 1943, Zimmerit paste was factory-applied, new air filters were fitted, along with a turret anti-aircraft mount for an extra MG 34 (Fliegerbeschussgerat), as well as modifications to the commander cupola. Side and turret spaced armor was also factory-mounted.
Panzer IV Ausf.H specifications
|Dimensions L-W-H||7.02 m x 2.88 m x 2.68 m
(23ft x 9ft 5in x 8ft 5in)
|Total weight||25 tonnes|
|Armament||7.5 cm Kw.K 40 L/48 gun|
|Secondary Armament||7.92 mm MG34 machine-gun|
|Armor||From 10 mm to 80 mm (80 mm on hull front)|
|Propulsion||Maybach HL 120 TRM V12 265hp gasoline engine|
|Top road speed||35 km/h (23.6 mph)|
|Max. road range||210 km (130 miles)|
|Total production||3774 April 1943 – July 1944|
Ausf.H – XVIth Panzerdivision, Kursk, July 1943. The H were equipped with the new 7.5 cm Kampfwagenkanone 40 L48 (3.61 m/11.8 ft barrel) high velocity gun, along with the Pzgr.Patr.40 APCR, with a 990 m/sec muzzle velocity, capable of piercing 80 mm (3.15 in) of armor at 2000 m.
Panzer IV Ausf.H, 1st Armored Division, Bulgarian army, Hungary, winter 1944.
Ausf.H of the IInd Panzerdivision, France, June 1944.
Ausf.H of the 35th Panzer Regiment of the IVrd Panzerdivision, Bobruysk, December 1943.
Ausf.H of the 35th Panzer Regiment of the IVth Panzerdivision, Kowel, Poland, early 1944. The 35th Regiment inflicted heavy losses on the Soviet 3rd Tank Corps at the Battle of Wołomin (part of operation Bagration). Its symbol was the “Grizlibär”, a menacing brown bear.
Panzer IV Ausf.H, IXth SS Panzer Division, France, summer 1944.
Panzer IV Ausf.H, 3rd Company, 130th Regiment of the 1st Panzerdivision, PanzerLehr, France, summer 1944.
Ausf.H, 9th Panzerdivision, Central Germany, April 1945. Notice the “ambush” type spotted camouflage and turret Schurzen armor open panels.
Panzer IV Ausf.H, 1st SS Panzerdivision Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, France, summer 1944.
Panzer IV variants
Probably the best and most feared of these versions, this low and very efficient tank hunter was particularly at ease in Italy and Normandy. No less than 1980 were built in all, starting in 1943.
1140 of these excellent support assault tanks were quickly built, sporting the already proven Sturmgeschütz III superstructure and main armament.
The command version, equipped with a powerful set of radios, complete electrical equipment and corresponding wiring. These tanks were used to coordinate artillery support, infantry, as well as air support with Panzerdivisions. Roomy and dependable, it was probably the best German command tank of the war.
240 were built for AA support, with a single 37 mm (1.46 in) gun, produced in 1944-45, to compensate for the loss of air superiority, notably in Europe.
Perhaps more famous, this AA support variant was equipped with the very effective quad 20 mm (0.79 in) Flakvierling. 100+ delivered. Using the same chassis and turret, 66 more were equipped with a single 37 mm gun (1.46 in), known as the Ostwind.
An artillery SPG built on a Panzer IV chassis and with Panzer III parts. Over 666 were built during the course of the war, and was one of the most successful German SPGs ever.
A highly successful tank hunter, equipped with the legendary 88 mm (3.46 in) gun. It was less expensive than the Tiger. 473 were delivered overall.
Geschützwagen III/IV Schlepper
Using the same arrangement, 150 ammunition carriers were built.
Operational Use in World War II
The number of Pzkpfw. IV tanks used by the Deutsches Afrika Korps (German Africa Corps) in Northern Africa against Commonwealth Forces between 1941 and 1943 was never that high as the number of Pzkpfw. III tanks although the later, long barreled versions were feared by their counterparts despite their limited numbers.
When more modern tank designs like the Tiger and upgraded versions of the Pzkpfw. IV with the high velocity long barreled 75 mm gun reached the frontlines starting in summer 1942, an ever dwindling number of early short barreled Pzkpfw. IVs soldiered on through the remaining war, either heavily modified, uparmed and armored or unaltered due to various reasons.
When Allied forces landed in Italy in September 1943, they faced the German 26. Panzerdivision, fielding a mix of Pzkpw. III, long barreled Pzkpfw. IV and at least 17 older short barreld Pzkpfw. IV tanks. The 21. Panzerdivision, newly established in France after it was destroyed during the final battles in Northern Africa, had to rely initially on a mix of very old and captured equipment.
Although reinforced with a wide array of custom built vehicles based on obsolete French tanks and modern long barreled Pzkpfw. IVs when the allies landed in the Normandy in July 1944, the Division still employed 6 unmodified early short barreled Pzkpfw. IV of unknown versions. Photographs taken prior to D-Day and afterwards show at least two Panzer IV Ausf. B or C tanks being deployed.
The 116. Panzerdivision, dispatched to the Normandy late in July 1944, fielded a total of 86 Pzkpfw. IV including 3 early short barreled versions. The II./Pz.Rgt.29 of 12. Panzerdivision fighting Soviet forces in the Kurland-Pocket in early March 1945 reported one Pzkpfw. IV L/24 operational besides 61 Pzkpfw. IV L/48 and some Pzkpfw. III on March 1 1945. The l./PzArt.Rgt.2 of the same Division had another Pzkpfw. IV L/24 in use at the same time.
Official German loss-reports from December 1st 1943 to October 31st 1944 accounted for a total of 30 lost Pzkpfw. IV L/24 at the eastern front, plus 12 more lost in the west between September 1 1944 and November 30 1944. Its well accepted that the earlier, short barreled Pzkpfw. IV tanks were sent to the tank driving schools or secondline-units to guard the hinterland when larger numbers of the more effective long barreled Pzkpfw. IVs became available.
These figures also show that a smaller number were retained in service well over their time due to a lack of more modern tanks or other reasons. The 13. verstärkte Polizei-Panzer-Kompanie (13th reinforced Police Tank Company) of the regular German police force was such a unit and deployed a platoon of four Pzkpfw. IV Ausf. F(1) to fight partisans after its formation in February 1943.
Panzer Tracts No.4 Panzerkampfwagen IV by Thomas L.Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle.
Panzer Tracts No.23 Panzer Production from 1933 to 1945 by Thomas L.Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle.
Panzer IV und seine Abarten by Walter J.Spielberger, Thomas L.Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle.
Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf.G, H and J 1942-45 (New Vanguard)
Germans Tanks of ww2
Poster Panzer IV Ausf C, French campaign June 1940
German Panzer IV Tank – Tank Encyclopedia Support Shirt
Blitz into action with this Pzkpfw IV, aka Panzer 4 shirt! A portion of the proceeds from this purchase will support Tank Encyclopedia, a military history research project.