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WW2 German Medium Tanks

Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. A (Sd.Kfz. 141)

german tanks of ww2 Nazi Germany (1937)
Medium Tank – 10 built

1930s German military circles, which included Generalmajor Oswald Lutz and his Chief of Staff, Oberstleutnant Heinz Guderian, predicted the need for two types of tanks that were to perform two different tasks. One was to engage enemy tanks and the second was to act as a fire support vehicle. The role of the anti-tank vehicle was to be carried out by the Panzer III series.

The first of the Panzer III series was the Ausf. A version. This vehicle served mostly as a testbed for the new concept of a medium tank designed to engage enemy armor. While this vehicle would be built in limited numbers, it would see some combat action during the early days of the war due to the German Army’s lack of tanks. Despite its flaws and small production run, the Panzer III Ausf. A was the first step towards the development of what would become Germany’s main combat tank until it was superseded by the long-barrelled Panzer IV from 1942 on.

The Panzer III Ausf. A. Source: Pinterest

Development of the 3.7 cm Armed Medium Tank

One of the first German tank designs developed in the late 1920s was the Leichttraktor (light tractor) armed with a 37 mm main gun. The name ‘tractor’ was used in an attempt to deceive the Western Allies about its actual purpose. Germany was banned from developing and producing tanks by the Treaty of Versailles signed by the German government at the end of World War I. In 1930, the Leichttraktors were transported to a facility near Kazan (located in the Soviet Union, as, at this time, the two countries cooperated in arms development) to undergo various field trials. After two years, these were returned to Germany for major overhaul, after which they would be used to test future equipment and evaluate different tactics for proper use of tanks. After 1935, they were given to tank gunnery schools near Oldenburg. While having little influence on later designs, the Leichttraktor was important, as it allowed German weapons manufacturers to gain valuable experience in tank design.

While it was not adopted for service, the Leichttraktor provided the Germans with valuable experience in the construction and its use of such vehicles. Source:  Panzernet.net

While the German army began to introduce the first machine-gun-armed Landwirtschaftlicher Schlepper (La.S. – later known as the Panzer I) tanks, and later the 2 cm-armed Panzer II, into service, a tank design that was better protected and armed with a more powerful main gun was deemed desirable. According to In 6’s (Inspektorat 6, the inspectorat for mechanization) military armored strategy, this vehicle was primarily intended to engage enemy tanks. One of the first steps undertaken in the development of this vehicle was a secret meeting held at the end of 1933. In this meeting, the representatives of Waffen Prüfwesen 6 (Wa Prw 6 – the automotive design office of the German Army), Krupp and Daimler-Benz, met to discuss who would be involved in the design of the new vehicle’s turret, but not in the overall chassis design.

The development of the tank that would later be known as the Panzer III was officially approved in a meeting of the German General Staff on 11th January 1934. By the end of January, In 6 authorized Wa Prw 6 to begin development of a 3.7 cm armed Gefechtskampfwagen (tank) with a weight of 10 tonnes. The whole project was simply named Z.W., which stands for ‘Zugführerwagen’ (platoon commander’s vehicle). This somewhat strange name was a deliberate attempt to fool the Western Allies about its original purpose by obscuring its true nature as a medium tank. The first step for Wa Prw 6 was to decide and choose which German firms were suited for this task. During a meeting held in late February 1934 and led by the head of In 6, Generalmajor Oswald Lutz, it was decided to include Krupp AG from Essen, Rheinmetall-Borsig from Berlin, MAN from Nuremberg and Daimler-Benz AG from Berlin-Marienfelde.

This wooden mock-up shows how the Z.W. was originally envisaged. Source: Panzer.net

These four companies were tasked with building a vehicle based on technical requirements laid down by Wa Prw 6. These requirements included a maximum speed of at least 40 km/h and the use of a Maybach HL 100 engine with an SSG 75 transmission and Wilson type steering system. The firms were given a deadline of June 1934 for the submission of the first drawings and proposals. After the firms had presented their designs, Wa Prw 6 issued its first production contracts. Daimler-Benz was tasked with producing two chassis, while MAN received an order for one chassis. Krupp was awarded a contract to produce two turrets and Rheinmetall one turret.

After a series of evaluations of each chassis and turret design were carried out at Kummersdorf and Ulm, the Krupp turret design and the Daimler-Benz chassis design were deemed the most satisfactory. Krupp even made several different turret designs with two crew members instead of three, as In 6 and Wa Prw 6 were for a time considering a two-man turret for this vehicle. On 22nd January 1936, Krupp was informed by Major Dr. Olbrich (from Wa Prw 6) that it should receive a contract for producing 5 turrets. Additional components for 5 more turrets that were also to be assembled by Krupp were to be provided by Deutsche Edelstahlwerke AG. After the completion of the turret design for the first series of the Panzer III, Krupp engineers would go on to develop and test different ideas and designs up to 1939. While the turret designed by Rheinmetall would be built and even tested on one Panzer III chassis, it would not be adopted for service.

The Krupp turret design for the Panzer III received a number of design changes. Most noticeable was the redesigned gun mantlet. Source: Warspot.ru
This is the unsuccessful Rheinmetall turret. It had a more rounded design and the turret side hatch doors opened towards the rear. The gun mantlet was also significantly different from Krupp’s production version. Source: Warspot.ru

On the other side, Daimler-Benz completed its first chassis in August 1935. As it proved to be satisfactory, Daimler-Benz was tasked with building two additional chassis. These were the Z.W.3, which served as the basis for the Panzer III Ausf. B, and the Z.W.4, which was the basis for the Panzer III Ausf. C and D. While the Daimler-Benz Z.W.1 would serve as the basis of the future Panzer III Ausf. A, there were some differences between these two, mostly regarding their construction and internal layout.

Name

As noted earlier, the initial designation name for this vehicle was Z.W. When it was introduced to service, it received an additional numerical designation 1, which marked it as the first series (there were, in total, 8 production series).

During its development history, several tactical names were also used which include: Gefechtskampfwagen 3.7 cm in June 1934, 3.7 cm Geschütz-Kampfwagen in October 1934, 3.7 cm Geschütz-Panzerwagen in May 1935, 3.7 cm Geschütz Pz.Kpf.Wg. in November 1935 and finally the 3.7 cm Pz.Kpf.Wg. from January 1936. It also received the Sd.Kfz. 141 (which stands for Sonderkraftfahrzeug – special purpose vehicle) designation.

The term Panzerkampfwagen was first officially used in an In 6 bulletin dated from late December 1934. In this bulletin, the categorization of Panzerkampfwagen was further expanded to leichte (light), mittlere (medium) and schwere (heavy). The German tank crews referred to them simply as Panzer III or as Panzer drei (three). This is probably the origin of the simpler and abbreviated form of Panzer.

Production

In a contract placed at the end of 1935, Daimler-Benz was tasked with the production of 10 Panzer III Ausf. A vehicle. While Daimler-Benz was responsible for its assembly and even produced some components, the majority of the Panzer III’s parts were actually provided by over 100 smaller subcontractors. Despite attempts to complete at least two tanks by November 1936, this was not achieved due to problems with the availability of necessary parts.

The German High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres, OKH) expected that the first three completed vehicles should be ready for use by the troops by 1st April 1937. Once again, delays in production meant that the small Panzer III Ausf. A production series was not completed until August 1937. The chassis numbers of these vehicles were in the range 60101-60110. While some sources claim that 15 were built, this is incorrect.

Specifications

The Panzer III Ausf. A was composed of several components, the largest of which included the hull, the front and rear parts of the superstructure and the turret. Each of these components was built using welded armor plates and then connected with each other using bolts.

Hull

The hull of the Panzer III was designed to carry the tank chassis. The hull could be divided into a few components: the rear engine compartment, the central crew compartment and the forward-mounted transmission and enclosed driving compartment.

The front hull was where the transmission and steering systems were placed and was protected with an angled armor plate. To gain better access for repairs and brake inspection, two square-shaped, two-part hatch doors were added. These could also be used by the driver and radio operator to enter or exit the vehicle. In front of the transmission armor, there were two bolted square-shaped plates. These were also used for maintenance and are present on the early versions of the Panzer III, though they were later removed to simplify production. On the front of the hull there were two tow couplings, with one more on the rear.

Superstructure

On top of the Panzer III hull was the fully enclosed superstructure, which provided protection for the crew. The superstructure had a simple, square shape with mostly flat armored sides that were welded together. On the left side of the front armor plate was a protective visor for the driver and, next to it, to the right, was a machine gun ball mount. The driver also had one smaller vision port placed on the left side of the superstructure. The radio operator was not provided with a side vision port.

The driver’s visor was connected to the front armor plate by using hinges. While it had no vision slit, when folded down, the driver would use the KFF binocular periscope to see through two small round ports located just above the visor. This periscope had a 1.15 x magnification and a field of vision of around 50°. Behind this visor was a 12 mm thick glass block, though this was too weak to provide protection from enemy fire.

Front view of the Panzer III Ausf. A. Here, the two bolted armored plates located on the lower part of the hull armor can be seen, along with the two top hatch doors. Both the main front and side driver vision ports are open. Barely visible just above the front driver’s vision port are the two small holes for the KFF binocular periscope. Source: pinterest

Turret

The Panzer III Ausf.A turret had a frontal hexagonal-shaped armor plate with a larger rectangle opening in the center. This opening was used to house the main gun installation with its internal gun mantlet and the twin machine gun mount. To fill the gaps left by the internal gun mantlet, an additional, smaller fixed external gun mantlet was welded in front of the turret. Two round observation hatches were located to the right and the left (above the two machine guns).

While Krupp did not manage to get the chance to produce the first Panzer III chassis, it was instead tasked with turret design and production. While Krupp initially tested the use of an external mantlet, eventually a combination of internal and partly external mantlet was chosen. Note the two open observation hatches left and right from the main gun. Source: Pinterest

Each of the turret sides had observation vision ports and a one-piece hatch door (held in place by two hinges) for the crew. The crew hatch doors had an option to be open with a gap of 30 mm to act as a ventilation system. When fully opened (at 180°), the hatch door could be held in place by a retainer to prevent it from accidentally hitting the turret crew. These hatch doors also had a small vision slit. For protection against any possible infantry attack, two square-shaped machine gun ports were added to the rear of the turret.

The Panzer III Ausf. A had a commander’s cupola (sometimes referred to as the ‘dustbin’ type) that was bolted to the rear of the turret top. The commander’s cupola had a simple drum shape and eight small vision slits that could be closed with sliding cover plates. These slits were protected with 12 mm thick glass which offered the commander only limited protection from bullet splash. The commander was also provided with a direction indicator placed on the front visor slit, and a numbered ring with markings from 1 to 12 to help him identify the direction in which the vehicle was going. On top of the cupola, a two-piece hatch door was installed. Its purpose was to allow the commander to enter his position, but also to provide a good all-around view when not engaged in combat. On top of the cupola was a small opening to provide ventilation for the commander.

The Panzer III Ausf. A’s commander’s cupola had larger two-part hatch doors which are open in this photograph. Each of the turret sides had observation vision ports and a one-piece hatch door. The hatch doors also served as ventilation ports. Special thanks to TheRangersBane and Ace for coloring this photograph. Source: Panzer.net

On the front left and right side of the commander’s cupola, there were two signal ports that were protected with small round caps. These protective caps were not hermetically sealed but had a 3 mm gap to allow them to act as a ventilation port. The signal ports were used to fire signal flares for communication if needed. Each Panzer III was equipped with 24 rounds for the 2.6 cm caliber flare pistols.

Suspension and Running Gear

The Panzer III Ausf.A’s suspension consisted of five large road wheels placed on each side. These were suspended using swing axles with coil springs which were mounted on box assemblies. The first series of Panzer III used only two return rollers per side. At the front were two drive sprockets (with 21 teeth), and on the back of the hull were two idlers with adjustable crank arms. The tracks used on the initial production Panzer IIIs were 360 mm wide and were connected using pins. The ground clearance of this vehicle was 35 cm. In order to improve passability on bad terrain, each track link had a gripper bar. In the middle of the front drive sprockets, a 1 cm high tooth was added. Its main roles were to act as a track guide but also, more importantly, to prevent the possibility of the tracks popping up while driving in muddy terrain.

The Panzer III Ausf. A used an experimental coil spring suspension with five road wheels. This type of suspension proved to be unreliable and was replaced on later versions. This particular vehicle was overhauled and given to training units after a short use on the front line. Source: Panzer Tracts No.3-1 Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. A,B,C, und D.
Another view of the Panzer III Ausf. A suspension system during field trials held to test the suspension. Source: Warspot.ru

Engine and Transmission

The engine used on this vehicle was the water-cooled Maybach HL 108 TR which produced 250 [email protected] 2800 rpm. The Panzer III Ausf.A’s maximum speed was 35 km/h (or 10-12 km/h cross country), with an operational range of 165 km and 95 km cross country. The engine was held in place by three rubber bushings.

The fuel load of 300 liters (or 250 l in some sources) was stored in two fuel tanks placed below the radiators in the engine compartment. To avoid any accidental fires, these fuel tanks were protected by firewalls. The Panzer III’s engine cooling system consisted of two radiators and fans, which were placed on the engine sides. Air intakes were located on both sides of the rear engine compartment. Additional air intakes were placed atop the engine compartment.

The Panzer III Ausf.A was equipped with the SFG 75 five-speed (and one reverse) transmission. The transmission was connected to the engine by a drive shaft that ran through the bottom of the fighting compartment. The steering mechanism used on the Panzer III was bolted to the hull. It was connected to the two final drives that were themselves bolted to the outside of the hull. Inside the engine compartment was a 12V Bosch generator. Its main role was to produce electricity for the two 12V Varta batteries which were needed for the electrical starter motor that started the main engine.

The two vehicles at the bottom of the picture are Panzer III Ausf. As and the front vehicle is the Ausf. B version. The Ausf. A can be identified by the two larger engine air intakes at the rear of the engine compartment. The front Ausf. B had a different design. Source: Pinterest
Another view of the Panzer III Ausf. A rear air intakes for the engine. Source: worldwarphotos

Armor Protection

The hull front armor ranged from 10 to 14.5 mm thick. The flat side armor was 14.5 mm thick, while the top armor was 10 mm (at an 85° to 65° angle) and the bottom only 5 mm. The front superstructure armor was 14.5 mm thick, placed at a 9° angle. The vertical sides of the crew compartment were 14.5 mm thick.

The front turret armor was 16 mm (at a 15° angle), while the sides and rear were 14.5 mm (at a 25° angle) and the top was 10 mm (at an 81-91° angle). The front gun mantlet was a 16 mm thick rounded armor plate. The commander’s cupola had all-around 14.5 mm of armor. The armor plates were made using nickel-free homogeneous and rolled plates. The thin armor of this tank provided only limited protection, mostly against rifle caliber armor-piercing rounds.

From August 1938 on, nearly all German Panzers were equipped with a Nebelkerzenabwurfvorrichtung (smoke grenade rack system). This device was placed on the rear of the hull. Some of the Panzer III Ausf. A were also equipped with these systems. This rack contained five grenades which were activated with a wire system by the Panzer III’s commander.

A Panzer III Ausf. A equipped with the smoke grenade rack system, placed at the engine rear. Source: Armedconflict

Crew

The Panzer III had a crew of five, which included the commander, gunner and loader, who were positioned in the turret, and the driver and radio operator in the hull.

The commander was positioned in the rear center of the turret, and had a folding seat. The gunner was positioned to the left, while the loader was to the right of the main gun. While not in combat, the loader could use a folding seat on the right side of the turret. Once in combat, in order to get the stored ammunition, he would simply fold the seat to the side and then stand on the turret basket floor.

The driver’s position was on the front left side of the hull. He drove the vehicle by using steering levers which were placed on both sides of him, and by using the brakes, gas and clutch pedals placed in front of him.

The last crew member was the radio operator, who was positioned on the front hull’s right side. His main job was to operate the Fu 5 radio set (in the case of a company or platoon leader’s vehicle), which consisted of the transmitter and a receiver. For ordinary vehicles, the Fu 2 receiver set was used. A folding antenna rod with its wooden protective rail was placed on the right superstructure side. The radio operator was also tasked with using the hull mounted 7.92 mm M.G. 34 machine gun.

Despite some consideration of using two-man turrets, ultimately, all Panzer IIIs would have a crew of five. This provided the German Panzer units with a significant tactical advantage, as each crew member only had to focus on one job. Source: worldwarphotos

Armament

The main armament of the Panzer III Ausf. A was the 3.7 cm Kw.K. L/46.5 (Kw.K. stands for ‘Kampfwagenkanone’, which could be translated as combat vehicle cannon or, more simply, as tank gun). The Panzer III gun was actually a slightly modified version of the German standard infantry 3.7 cm PaK 36 anti-tank gun. It was chosen as the main armament for this Panzer mostly due to standardization and logistical reasons; its ammunition and spare parts could be easily acquired and were available in great numbers. During its development, it was clear to the Germans that there was a possibility that this cannon at one point may become obsolete. For this reason they intentionally left the turret ring diameter a bit larger so that, if necessary, a larger caliber gun could be used. This decision was based on fierce arguments between different military organisations, namely the Heereswaffenamt and the Artillery Inspectorate, which advocated for the use of the 3.7 cm gun and, on the other side, most senior tank officers which supported the use of the larger 5 cm gun. On account of the previously mentioned reasons, both sides agreed on a compromise of using the 3.7 cm caliber as the main weapon.

The standard 3.7 cm PaK 36 was the main anti-tank weapon of the German field army in the first years of the war. Source: Wiki

This gun had a semi-automatic breech with a horizontal sliding block, which enabled it to increase the rate of fire to 20 rounds per minute. The semi-automatic breech increases the rate of fire by automatically ejecting the spent cartridge after firing. The 3.7 cm breech first had to be opened to load the first round, and after that the breach closed itself. The main gun and its recoil cylinders that stood outside of the turret were covered by a steel jacket and a deflector guard.

This gun had a muzzle velocity of 762 m/s and, by using the standard armor-piercing round, could penetrate 48 mm at 500 m (at 0° angle). The elevation of this gun went from –10° to +20°. The ammunition load consisted of 120 rounds. The early versions of the Panzer III were equipped mostly with armor-piercing ammunition, as they were primarily intended to engage other tanks. The role of engaging soft and fortified targets was the job of the larger Panzer IV. Experience gained during the War showed that this approach was not adequate and so later versions would also carry other types of ammunition as well, including high explosive, hollow charge, smoke rounds etc. The ammunition was stored in holding bins located on the hull sides and floor.

The Panzer III’s main gun was equipped with a TZF5 ‘Turmzielfernrohr’ monocular telescopic gun-sight. This sight had a magnification of 2.5 and a field view of 25° which was 444 m wide at 1 km range. The gunsight reticle ranges were marked up to 1,200 m for the main gun and to 800 m for the machine guns. For firing at targets (on the move or when the Panzer III was stationary) that were closer (at 200 m to 800 m), the gunner could use the open sight (Zielschiene).

On the left side of the gun, there were two mechanical handwheels for elevation and traverse of the main gun. The guner could traverse the turret by using the traverse handwheel at a speed of 4° per turn. For more precise aiming, the handwheel speed could be reduced to 2.75° per turn. On the right side of the turret was a second handwheel for the turret traverse that could be controlled by the loader.

The interior of the Panzer III Ausf. A. The main gun and the two machine guns are visible. In addition, both the left and right traverse handwheels are also observable. Source: Warspot.ru

Beside the main gun, the Panzer III Ausf. A was provided with three 7.92 mm M.G. 34 machine guns for defense against infantry. One was mounted in a ball mount in the hull and was operated by the radio operator. The Panzer III Ausf. A ball mount actually consisted of two parts that could be split for either mounting the machine gun or to open it completely for the radio operator to have a good view. This machine gun had a traverse left and right of 20° and an elevation range of 20°. On some Panzer III Ausf. A, the initial ball mount was replaced with a more modern type used on later versions of the Panzer III.

This Panzer III Ausf. A (with chassis number 60107) belonged to the 3rd Panzer Division. This vehicle had the earlier version of the ball mounted machine gun port. Source: pinterest

The remaining two machine guns were placed in a coaxial configuration with the main gun. If needed, the two machine gun mounts could be disengaged from the main gun mount and used independently (similar to the hull-mounted machine gun). The M.G. 34s were fed using drum magazines, with a total load of 4500 spare rounds.

Some Panzer III Ausf. A received a new, improved type of machine gun ball mount that offered greater protection. Source: Warspot.ru
Close up view of the turret twin machine gun mount. These machine guns could be used independently of the main gun. Source: Pinterest

Organization

Prior to the German invasion of Poland, the general organization of a Panzer Division consisted of two regiments, each having two Panzer Battalions. These battalions were then divided into four companies each equipped with 32 tanks. Ideally, the Panzer Division tank strength was to be around 561 vehicles. In reality, this was never achieved by the Germans, as they lacked the production capabilities to produce enough tanks.

These Panzer Divisions were meant to be equipped with modern Panzer III and IV tanks, but this was also impossible to achieve at the start of the war. The situation with the Panzer III was so dire that, on average, only 20 were available for each Division.

In Combat

The 10 Panzer III Ausf. As were initially allocated to training schools in November 1937. Five tanks were stationed at the motorized combat troop school at Wunsdorf, two at the gunnery school at Putlos, 2 with the 5th Panzer Regiment at Wunsdorf and the last 2 with the 1st Panzer Regiment at Erfurt. Some were used prior to the war on military parades.

The Panzer III Ausf. A was used on military parades in Germany prior to the war. Source: Wiki

Being an experimental vehicle that was only built in small numbers, it should come as no surprise that the Panzer III Ausf. A saw only limited combat use. At the start of the war, there were some 60 Panzer IIIs (from Ausf. A to D) available for frontline use. Small numbers of the earlier versions were given to training units and thus were not available to the front. According to some sources, eight vehicles were actually armed while the remaining two (without the main armament) were used for training and testing.

With the introduction of the more powerful versions of the Panzer III, the surviving Ausf. A would be removed from front line service in February 1940. They would be allocated to training schools. Some (at least one) were especially modified for this role with the removal of the turret.

The Panzer III Ausf. A did see limited combat action in Poland in 1939 with the 1st Panzer Division. Source: Panzer.net
At least one Panzer III Ausf. A was modified to be used as a training vehicle by removing the turret and the top armor. Source: Pinterest

Conclusion

While the Panzer III would become the backbone of the German Panzer Divisions, its first version was far from a success. Its suspension proved to be most problematic and had to be redesigned in later versions. While not immediately apparent, the armor thickness would also be deemed insufficient. On the other hand, the use of a five-man crew was a modern concept which provided the Germans with a great advantage over the Allied vehicles in the first years of the war. While few were built, the Panzer III Ausf. A played a significant role in providing additional experience in tank design and in crew training.

Specifications

Dimensions (l-w-h) 5.8 x 2.81 x 2.36 m
Total weight, battle-ready 15 tonnes
Crew 5 (Commander, Gunner, Loader, Radio Operator and Driver)
Propulsion Maybach HL 108TR 250 HP @ 2800 rpm
Speed (road/off road) 35 km/h, 10-12 km/h (cross country)
Range (road/off road)-fuel 165 km, 95 km (cross country)
Primary Armament 3.7 cm KwK L/46.5
Secondary Armament Three 7.92 mm MG 34
Elevation -10° to +20°
Turret Armor front 16 mm, sides 14.5 mm, rear 14.5 and top 10 mm
Hull Armor front 10-14.5 mm, sides 10-14.5 mm, rear 14.5 mm and the top and bottom 8-10 mm.
A Panzer III Ausf.A, during the Polish campaign in September 1939
Panzer III Ausf.B
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.B (Sd.Kfz.141) for comparison

Both illustrations by David Bocquelet.

Sources

D. Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetskog Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2006) Panzer Tracts No.3-1 Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. A,B,C, und D.
P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle (1978) Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition, Arms and Armor press.
D. Doyle (2005). German military Vehicles, Krause Publications.
G. Parada, S. Jablonski and W. hryniewicki, Panzer III Ausf.L/M. Kagero.
Walter J. Spielberger (2007). Panzer III and its Variants, Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
Walter J. Spielberger, AFV Panzerkampfwagen III, Profile Publications
B. Perret (1980), The Panzerkampfwagen III, Osprey Publishing
A. Lüdeke (2007) Waffentechnik im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Parragon Books.
G. L. Rottman (2008) M3 Medium tank Vs Panzer III, Osprey Publishing

Categories
Hungarian tanks

Tiger in Hungarian service

Co-Author Alex Tarasov

Hungary WW2Hungary, 1944, Heavy Tank – Up to 15 received

During WWII, Hungary was one of Germany’s allies with a significant domestic production of armored vehicles. While these locally produced vehicles were fine by the standards of the early war, unfortunately for the Hungarians, by the time these were fielded in larger numbers, they were already obsolete. To bolster their ally’s firepower, during the war, the Germans supplied the Hungarians with a selection of armored vehicles, including a small number of the famed Tiger tanks in 1944.

The formidable Tiger tank in Hungarian hands. Source: Magyar Pancel

History

By 1944, it was obvious that the Axis were on the losing side of the war, and due to the huge losses sustained while fighting on the Eastern Front, the overall military and political situation for Hungry was dire. In an attempt to leave the war, the Hungarian Regent Vice-Admiral Miklós Horthy secretly began negotiations with the Allies. It seems that this was not kept a secret, as the Germans found out about it and launched the Margarethe Operation. This was the German secret contention plan to deal with Hungary in the case its government attempted to change sides during the war. Horty was arrested and a puppet government was formed under the leadership of Dome Sztojay instead. This way, the Germans managed to force Hungarians to stay active on the Eastern Front.

The Hungarians deployed their 1st Army in support of the German front line in eastern Galicia. The 2nd Armored Division (which was part of the 1st Army) was equipped with obsolete Hungarian-built vehicles such as the Turan I and II tanks. During its first engagement with the Soviet Armor, the Turan II tanks claimed to have destroyed two T-34/85 tanks. During a short Axis offensive in this area in April, despite having a disadvantage in armor and firepower, the Hungarian tanks claimed to have destroyed 27 Soviet tanks (26 T-34/85 and 1 Sherman) with the loss of 22 of their own vehicles (8 Turan I, 9 Turan II, 4 Nimrods, 1 Toldi, and 1 Csaba armored car).

It appears that the bravery of the Hungarian tank crews was noted by the Germans. By the direct orders of General Walter Model, the Hungarian 2nd Armored Division was to be reinforced with 10 to 12 (depending on the source) Panzer IV Ausf. H, a smaller number of StuG III and even with a group of Tiger tanks.

Panzerkampfwagen ‘Tiger’ Ausf. E

The German Tiger tank is one of the most iconic tanks in history. While the development of a heavy tank began in Germany prior to the war, only after encountering the advanced Soviet tanks in 1941 was the whole program sped up. Two firms, Porsche and Henschel, were involved in designing the chassis of the new heavy tank, with Krupp being responsible for the turret and gun. While the Porsche design was favored, in the end, due to mechanical problems, the Henschel design would be adopted. The heavy tank that would be known as the Tiger was an immense vehicle, armed with the deadly 8.8 cm gun and well protected by a 100 mm thick frontal and 80 mm side armor. With its weight of 57 tonnes, it was also a fairly mobile vehicle thanks to its strong 650 hp engine and wide tracks. By the time of its introduction in 1942, few enemy weapons were able to do anything against it and, with its gun, it could efficiently destroy any enemy tank type. Its production began in August 1942 and ended in August 1944. By that time, only slightly more than 1,340 vehicles had been built.

The Panzerkampfwagen Ausf. E ‘Tiger’ Tank. Source: Wiki

While certainly a terrifying tank to be encountered on the battlefields, it was far from perfect and was plagued with many problems. The cost to build one was significant and this was one of the reasons why only small numbers were built. As there were never enough of them, they were allocated to separate special units that would be, depending on the need, attached to other units. The maintenance of these vehicles was time-consuming. The suspension system, while providing good drive, was overly complicated. Despite these issues, the Tiger tanks remained a potent threat to Allied tanks right up to the war’s end. Due to the small numbers available, they were regarded as elite vehicles reserved only for the German Panzerwaffe, but surprisingly few would be supplied to Germany’s allies.

Origin of the Hungarian Tigers

It is common to find information that the supplied Tiger tanks belonged to the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion (schwere Panzerabteilung, s.Pz.Abt. 503). The 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion was created in late 1942 and was initially equipped with 20 Tigers and 25 Panzer III Ausf. N. From early 1943 until April 1944, this unit was mainly engaged on the Eastern Front. Then, it was transferred to France for recuperation and conversion to Tiger II tanks. By that time, only 12 Tiger IIs were available for this unit. In order to fully equip it, 33 additional Tiger Is were allocated to this unit.

Tiger tanks belong to the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany

According to T. Jentz and H. Doyle (Tiger I Heavy Tank 1942-45), three Tiger tanks from the ordnance depot were delivered to the Hungarian Army on 22nd July 1944. In addition, an unknown number of Tigers were acquired from the 503rd and 509th Heavy Panzer Battalion. The 509th Heavy Panzer Battalion was formed in September 1943 and had 45 Tiger tanks. It was engaged on the Eastern Front up to September 1944, before being sent back to Germany to be reequipped with the Tiger II.

Number supplied

The total number of supplied tanks is not clear, but most sources give a number of around 10 vehicles. For example, authors C. Bescze (Magyar Steel, Hungarian Armour in WWII) and S.J.Zaloga (Tanks of Hitler’s Eastern Allies 1941-45) mention that 10 vehicles were supplied.

But, according to Dr. M. Durden (Leopard’s guide: The Tiger I tank), between 6 and 12 Tigers were used by the Hungarians. Authors C. K. Kliment and D. Bernard (Maďarská armáda 1919-1945) note that up to 15 Tiger were supplied.

To complicate matters more, authors F.W. Lochmann, R. Freiherr Von Rosen and A. Runnel (The Combat History of German Tiger Tank Battalion 503 in World War II) noted that no Tigers were ever supplied to the Hungarians! They also state that the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion gave all its surviving Tiger tanks to the 509th Heavy Panzer Battalion on 14th May 1944. While they state that Hungarian crew members were trained, due to a shortage of tanks, no Tigers were given to the Hungarians. They were instead issued with Panzer IV vehicles.

Interestingly, author G. Finizio (Wheels and Tracks No.27) suggests the possibility that some Hungarian tank crews operated Tiger tanks but in German units. This significant disagreement between different authors shows how difficult finding accurate and precise information can be.

Another issue is which type of Tigers were provided by the Germans. As it was late in the war, we can assume that any Tiger that was available was used for this purpose. So it would not be a surprise if this was a mix of early to late production types.

Training

Regardless of how many vehicles were supplied by the Germans, it was essential for the Hungarian crews to receive necessary training before they could even see combat. For this reason, some members of the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion served as instructors for their allies. While the majority of the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion was repositioned in France, the 3rd Company was chosen for this task.

Hungarian crew members beside their German instructors. Source: Magyar Pancel

What was available of the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion’s vehicles and equipment (including the 3rd Company) was therefore renamed to the 1st Tiger Demonstration Company of the 1st Panzer Demonstration Group North Ukraine. The main base of this unit was Nadworna near Stanislau in South Poland. The Hungarians provided a group of tank crew members to be trained there. The training only lasted from 6th to 14th May 1944, before the unit was disbanded. Interestingly, while it appears that during this occasion, the Hungarians did not receive any Tigers, their High Command awarded several German instructors with high military recommendations. These include Feldwebels Fritz Großmann and Herbert Schünrock, Obergefreiters Ernst Reinhardt, Gotthold Wunderlichn and Gefreiter Hans Bartels. Ironically, while the information about these recommendations was found in Hungarian archives, these awards were never actually given to the Germans instructors due to political machinations.

The Germans provide the Hungarian tankers with training in the proper use of these heavy vehicles. Here, Unteroffizier Gartner gives instructions about all the parts of the turret to his Hungarian tanker group. This turret is actually detached from the hull and is suspended in the air by a crane. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany

In combat

The Hungarian Tigers, alongside the remaining German supplied vehicles, were allocated to the 2nd Armored Division, 3rd Battalion. They were divided into two Tank Squadrons. The 2nd Tank Squadron was commanded by First Lieutenant Ervin Tarszay, probably the most famous Hungarian tank commander, and the 3rd by Captain Janos Verdess. Besides the German vehicles, the 2nd Armored Division also had some 40 Turan I and 20 Turan II tanks.

Unfortunately, information about the Hungarian Tigers’ performance in combat is hard to find. The following information is from C. Bescze (Magyar Steel Hungarian Armour in WWII) supplemented with Russian archive documents. The Hungarian Tigers’ first combat engagement took place on 26th July 1944 near Nadvornaya. It was a triumph. A single Hungarian Tiger ambushed a Soviet armored column, destroying 8 Soviet tanks, several guns, and several transport trucks. For this successful action, the Tiger’s gunner, Istvan Lavrencsik, was awarded with the Gold Medal for Bravery.

The position of the Hungarian 2nd Armored Division near Nadvornaya during late July 1944. Source: TsAMO

According to Russian archive sources, elements of the 1448th self-propelled artillery regiment (Samokhodno-Artilleriyskiy Polk) were caught in this ambush. A group of 5 self-propelled guns, which was supported with a reconnaissance detachment of the 985th Infantry Regiment, after leaving Nadvornaya, were on 26th July advancing toward Bogorodchany.

The Hungarians forces prepare an ambush just before the position recorded as Hill 386. After letting the infantry support pass by, they waited for the advance of the Soviet armor. When the advancing Soviet armored vehicles approached at a distance of about 200 m, the Hungarian tanks opened fire. In the ensuing engagement, the Soviets lost 2 self-propelled guns which were burned, and 2 which were knocked out, with the loss of 4 men dead and 5 more wounded. The fate of the fifth Soviet self-propelled vehicle is not clear. It could have already passed by with the reconnaissance detachment of the 985th Infantry Regiment or was left behind for some reason, but these are only speculation.

The war diary of the 1448th self-propelled artillery regiment mentioned that there were 5 enemy tanks (3 of them were Tigers) supported by an infantry company. The precise type of the Soviet vehicles participating in this encounter is not clear, but it is likely that these were the SU-122, as the Hungarians could easily misidentified them as T-34 tanks (the SU-122 was based on the T-34 chassis).

1 – Hill 386.0; 2 – the approximate place of the ambush; 3 – Ostre, where the counterattack took place. Source: TsAMO

The Hungarians attempted a counterattack against the Soviets near the Ostre region. The counterattack failed and the Hungarians were forced to abandon two Tigers and one Turan II tanks at the intersection of the road in Lyakhovitsa. In total, the Soviets reported to have lost 4 self-propelled guns with 4 men dead and 8 wounded. The Soviets also reported to have burned down two enemy tanks in the Banya district. In addition, they captured 4 enemy tanks, with one Panzer IV in working condition (which was used against the enemy), destroyed 12 machine guns and 3 mortars, killed up to 150 soldiers and officers, and captured 75 enemy soldiers.

The question remains which sources to trust. For both sides it was in their interest to falsify the data for propaganda reasons.

The Hungarians Tigers are also claimed to have managed, during a 30-minute long fight, to take out around 14 Soviet tanks near “Hill 514” (possibly near Dolina), but the precise location and date of this action are not specified in the source, unfortunately. If these numbers of destroyed tanks were real or exaggerated for propaganda purposes is almost impossible to tell.

In the following days, despite these short term successes, the few Tigers could not change the overall war situation for the Hungarians. By the middle of August 1944, the Axis forces, including the Hungarian 1st Army, were pushed back to the Carpathian Mountains. It seems that, by this time, the Hungarians had lost at least 7 Tigers. While not all were combat losses, some were lost due to a general lack of fuel and spare parts. The Hungarians did not have any kind of towing vehicle capable of moving the huge Tigers, which also presented a problem with recovering any damaged vehicle. From this point on, it seems that the surviving Tiger were probably pulled back to Hungary. They may have been also returned to the Germans as author Dr. M. Durden (Leopard’s guide: The Tiger I tank) suggests, but once again the sources are conflicting.

In late August 1944, the Romanians changed sides and joined the Soviet Union and almost immediately engaged with the Hungarians in combat. The 2nd Armored Division was part of the Hungarian offensive toward Romania. If the Tigers were used there is unknown, but it is unlikely. Due to the increasing presence of the Soviet Army, the Hungarians were beaten back.

The 2nd Armored Division would be reinforced with new German vehicles, including Panther tanks. The Panthers were used by the 2nd Tank Squadron commanded by First Lieutenant Ervin Tarszay. The majority of the 2nd Armored Division would be destroyed during the siege of Budapest. The few elements that avoided destruction managed to reach Slovakia, where the last armored vehicles were blown up by their crews.

The final fate of the Hungarian Tigers is not clear. Author C. Bescze (Magyar Steel Hungarian Armour in WWII) notes that the last three vehicles were lost in Transylvania due to a lack of fuel and supplies.

Author G. Finizio (Wheels and Tracks No.27) claims that at least 4 Tigers were reported to be in repair in December 1944. By the end of January 1945, one Tiger was reported to be still operational.

A late production Tiger tank covered in Zimmerit, The commander of this vehicle (number 214) was Lieutenant Ervin Tarszay. Source: Magyar Pancel

Conclusion

The Tigers were the strongest armored vehicles that the Hungarian tank armored force operated during the war. While certainly deadly, it was supplied in too small numbers and too late to really have an influence on the war’s development. Despite fielding obsolete tanks, the Hungarians managed to destroy many Soviet tanks. This shows that, while the Hungarians lacked modern equipment, they did not lack effective tank crews. Had the Germans supplied them much earlier in the war with more modern equipment, the Hungarian tank force may have been a more important element in the war in the East.


Hungarian Ausf.E from the 3rd Regiment, Ukraine, near Nadvirna, May 1944

Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Sd.Kfz.181, ‘Tiger I’ specifications

Dimensions Height: 8.45 m Long x 3.23 m Wide (rail transport) x 3.547 m Wide (normal tracks) x 3 m Height
Weight 54 tonnes (combat), 57 tonnes by February 1944
Crew 5 (commander, gunner, loader, driver, and radio operator)
Engine Maybach model HL 210 TRM P45 21-litre V-12 petrol engine producing 650 hp at 3000 rpm (early production vehicles), Maybach model HL 230 TRM P45 V-12 700 hp petrol engine (later production vehicles)
Ford 1.5 m without preparation – submersible to 4.5 m with preparation (vehicles prior to August 1942)
Performance 45 km/h (road max.), 30 km/h (road sustained), after February 1944 this was 40 km/h, 20-25 km/h (firm ground sustained)
Fuel 348 litres sufficient for a range of up to 120 km road, 85 km firm ground. Two spare 200-litre fuel drum could be carried on the back deck for long road marches.
Armament 8.8 cm Kw.K. 36 L/56 gun, coaxial 7.92 mm M.G. 34, hull mounted M.G. 34, roof mounted anti-aircraft M.G. 34
Ammunition 92 rounds 8.8 cm, ~4,500 – 4,800 rounds 7.92 mm ammunition
Armor Hull:
Driver’s plate 100mm @ 9º
Nose 100mm @ 25º
Glacis 60mm glacis @ 80º
Hull Sides Upper 80mm @ 0º
Hull Sides Lower 60mm @ 0º
Rear 80mm @ 9º
Roof and Belly, 25mm
Turret:
Mantlet 120mm @ 0º
Front 100mm @ 5º
Sides and Rear 80mm @ 0º

Sources

D. Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetskog Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
C. Bescze (2007) Magyar Steel Hungarian Armour in WW II, STRATUS.
P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle (1978) Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition, Arms and Armor press.
B. Adam, E. Miklos, S. Gyula (2006) A Magyar Királyi Honvédség külföldi gyártású páncélos harcjárművei 1920-1945, Petit Real
S.J.Zaloga (2013) Tanks of Hitler’s Eastern Allies 1941-45, New Vanguard.
N. Thomas and L. P. Szabo (2010) The Royal Hungarian Army in World War II, Osprey.
T. Jentz and H. Doyle, Tiger I Heavy Tank 1942-45, Osprey
T. Jentz and H. Doyle (2001) Panzer Tracts No.6 Schwere Panzerkampfwagen.
Dr. M. Durden Leopard’s guide: The Tiger I tank
C. K. Kliment and D. Bernard (2007) Maďarská armáda 1919-1945, Naše vojsko.
F.W. Lochmann, R. Freiherr Von Rosen and A. Runnel (2000) The Combat History of German Tiger Tank Battalion 503 in World War II, Stackpole Book.
G. Finizio (1989) Wheels and Tracks No.27, Battle of Britain prints.
War Diary of the 18A, 4th Ukrainian Front, 31.07.1944, TsAMO, F 244, O 3000, D 890, PP 1-72
War Diary of the 1448th self-propelled artillery regiment, TsAMO, F 4438, O 0445095с, D 0003, PP 19-30
TO&E of the 1448th self-propelled artillery regiment

Categories
Hungarian tanks

Pz.Kpfw.II als Sfl. mit 7.5 cm PaK 40 ‘Marder II’ (Sd.KFz.131) in Hungarian Service

Hungary (1942) Self-propelled anti-tank gun – 5 supplied

Hungary was after Italy, Germany’s European ally with the most significant domestic production of armored vehicles. While these vehicles were fine by the standards of the early war, unfortunately for the Hungarians, by the time these were fielded in larger numbers, they were already obsolete. To bolster their ally’s firepower, in 1942, the Germans supplied the Hungarians with a group of five Marder II tank destroyers.

History

The Hungarians officially signed the Tripartite Pact to join the Axis forces on 27th September 1940. By the time of the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Hungarians had the largest armored force of all German allies on this front. By the end of 1941, their armored formations had been decimated by the more advanced Soviet T-34 and KV tanks. The Hungarian mostly fielded lightly armed tanks, such as the Toldi and T-38, which were almost useless against the Soviet tanks. To rebuild its shattered force, the Hungarian high command tried to implement the ‘Huba II’ military plan. This plan involved the formation of two new units, the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions.

Despite being unprepared, having suffered heavy losses and losing most of its armored formations, the Hungarian high command was hard-pressed by the Germans to send additional forces to the Eastern Front. The Hungarian high command chose to send the 2nd Army, which consisted of 9 light divisions and the 1st Field Armored Division. As there was a general lack of modern equipment, especially tanks, the formation of the 1st Field Armored Division was too slow. Despite German promises of modern equipment, the Hungarian were instead supplied with 102-108 (depending on the source) Panzer 38(t)’s (known in Hungarian service as T-38) and 22 better armed Panzer IV Ausf. F1’s. These vehicles were attached to the 30th Tank Regiment. The 1st Field Armored Division was also supplied with 19 Nimrod anti-tank/aircraft vehicles, 14 Csaba armored cars and 17 Toldi light tanks, with 4 rebuilt Toldi tanks that were used for medical roles.

By October 1942, due to heavy losses, only 4 Panzer IV and 22 T-38 were reported to be operational. To reinforce the Hungarian allies, the Germans provided them with 10 Panzer III Ausf. N’s, and a small number of Panzer IV Ausf. F2’s and G’s. In December (September and even January 1943 depending on the source) 1942, the Germans supplied the Hungarians with five Marder II vehicles.

Marder II

The Marder II was a tank destroyer (panzer jager – tank hunter) based on a modified Panzer II Ausf. F tank chassis. The Panzer II was developed to overcome the many shortcomings of the previous Panzer I model. While the Germans would eventually develop more powerful and advanced vehicles, such as the Panzer III and IV, due to their initial slow production, the Panzer II served as the backbone of the Panzer formations in the early stages of the war. By 1942, due to attrition and obsolescence, Panzer II numbers began to dwindle and the surviving vehicles were reused for other purposes, most notably for the Marder II and Wespe self-propelled guns.

The Panzer II Ausf. F. Source: Pinteres

The Panzer II could be easily converted into Marder II by simply removing most of the upper superstructure and the tank turret. In its place, a 7.5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun with a three-sided shield was placed instead. In total, some 531-576 new Marder II would be built, but smaller numbers (68-75) would be built by converting older and damaged vehicles and few would even be built by frontline troops. While the Marder II had many issues, it did solve the problem of the lack of mobility of the strong but heavy 7.5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun. While this vehicle had several different official names, like Pz.Kpfw.II als Sfl. mit 7.5 cm PaK 40 (Sd.KFz.131), it is generally best known today simply as the ‘Marder II’.

Marder II in German service. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In combat

The Marder IIs supplied to the Hungarians were used to form an 1. Önálló páncélvadász század (1st independent tank-destroyer company) under the command of Captain Pál Zergényi. This unit base of operation was near Pushkino (Пушкино), where few German officers were present to help with the necessary crew training.

At the start of 1943, the Hungarian 1st Armored Division was put under direct German command as part of the Cramer-Corps. At that time, the total armored strength of this unit consisted of 9 Panzer III Ausf. N’s, 8 Panzer Ausf. IV F2’s and G’s, 8 Panzer IV Ausf. F1’s, 41 T-38’s and the 5 Marder II’s. The Cramer-Corps, beside the Hungarian Armored Division, consisted of the 26th and 168th Infantry Divisions, the German 190th Assault Gun Detachment and 700th Armor Detachment. The commander of the Cramer-Corps was Major General Hans Cramer.

Only five Marder II vehicles were supplied by the Germans at the end of 1942. The Hungarian Marder IIs managed to achieve some limited success by destroying several Soviet tanks. Source: Pinterest

In mid-January 1943, the Soviets launched an offensive against the Hungarian positions and, after heavy losses, forced them to retreat. The fighting was extensive around the city of Alekseyevka (west of the Don River, between Voronezh and Kharkov), which the Hungarian 1st Armored Division, with the help of the German 559th Anti-Tank Battalion, were ordered to take back. The attack began on 18th January 1943 and, during this attack, a Hungarian Marder II managed to destroy a Soviet T-60 tank. The next day, the Soviets made a counter-attack which was repelled with the loss of a T-34 destroyed by a Marder II and a T-60 destroyed by a Panzer IV. But, despite their success, the Axis forces were forced to retreat out of Alekseyevka.

On 21st January, the Axis forces again managed to enter the western parts of Alekseyevka. The Soviet attempts to drive them out were unsuccessful, with the loss of 150 to 200 men and one armored car destroyed by a German Marder II. The next day, the Hungarian Marder II’s managed to destroy one T-34 and a T-60 tank and stop the Soviet counter-attack. During the period of late January and early February 1943, the Hungarian 1st Armored Division saw extensive combat action against the advancing Soviet Forces. By 9th February 1943, three Marder II were lost, and only two were left operational. These were one of the last armored vehicles that the 1st Armored Division still had as it was withdrawn from the front in February 1943.

The remaining Marder IIs were returned to Germany in the summer of 1943. Their usage between their withdrawal from the front and their return to the Germans is unknown. At least one was used for evaluation purposes by the Hungarians. This may suggest that the two surviving vehicles may have been withdrawn from the front.

The gunner of this Marder II is observing the surroundings for potential targets. Source: Pinterest
Crew of a Marder II pose for a photograph during a rare break. Source: Pinterest

Other Marder series vehicles in Hungarian service

According to some internet sources, it appears that the Germans also provided the Hungarian with at least one (or more) 7.62 cm PaK 36(r) auf Fgst. PzKpfw.II(F) (Sfl.) (Sd.KFz. 132) Marder II, which was based on the Panzer II flamm tank chassis. This vehicle had a completely different suspension system and was armed with modified captured Soviet 7.62 cm field guns. This was probably supplied with the other Marder IIs at the end of 1942. It is not clear if this vehicle is included in the five previously mentioned Marder II. Sadly there is no more information about this vehicle in Hungarian service.

Tank historian S. J. Zaloga (Tanks of the Hitler’s Eastern Allies 1941-45) also mentions that, in August 1944, the Germans reinforced the Hungarian 1st Cavalry Division with a battery of Marder vehicles. While he does not mention precisely which Marder version is in question.

A single 7.62 cm PaK 36(r) auf Fgst. PzKpfw. II(F) appears to have been supplied to the Hungarians by their German allies. Source: Magyar Pancel www.arcanum.hu
Another photograph of the Marder II based on the Panzer II flamm. Source: Magyar Pancel

Toldi páncélvadász

During 1943, while the two surviving Marder II were transported back to Germany, at least one of them was instead sent to the Haditechnikai Intézet (Hungarian Institution of Military Technology) for further studying and evaluation. Very soon, an idea to mount the German 7.5 cm PaK 40 on an obsolete Toldi tank chassis was formed. One prototype would be built, which greatly resembled the Marder II. While it appears that this project did not receive any official designation, it is referred to as Toldi páncélvadász (Toldi tank hunter). The Toldi turret and most parts of the upper structure were removed and, in their place, a new three-sided armored superstructure was added. The 7.5 cm gun was then placed on top of the Toldi hull, with the ammunition bin stored in the back, on top of the engine compartment. The one prototype would be tested but the results were probably unsatisfactory and the project was never implemented.

Rear view of the Hungarian Toldi páncélvadász prototype. Source: Karoly Nemeth
A single Marder II was used for a brief time for trials in Hungary. Source: Karoly Nemeth

Conclusion

The Marder IIs provided the Hungarian with a means to effectively fight the Soviet Armor. But, as only a few were supplied, their impact on the overall poor condition of the Hungarian Armored Formations in the Soviet Union was essentially imperceptible. The Hungarian attempts to develop and build their own self-propelled anti-tank vehicles based on the Marder II did not take them anywhere.

Illustration of a Pz.Kpfw.II als Sfl. mit 7.5 cm PaK 40 ‘Marder II’ (Sd.KFz.131) in Hungarian Service, showing the Hungarian cross on the side. Illustration by David Bocquelet.

Source

D. Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2005) Panzer Tracts No.7-2 Panzerjager
C. Bescze (2007) Magyar Steel Hungarian Armour in WW II, STRATUS.
P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle (1978) Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition, Arms and Armor press.
B. Adam, E. Miklos, S. Gyula (2006) A Magyar Királyi Honvédség külföldi gyártású páncélos harcjárművei 1920-1945, Petit Real
S.J.Zaloga (2013) Tanks of the Hitler’s Eastern Allies 1941-45, New Vanguard.
N. Thomas and L. P. Szabo (2010) The Royal Hungarian Army in World War II, Osprey.
D. Doyle (2005). German military Vehicles, Krause Publications.
Z. Borawski and J. Ledwoch (2004) Marder II, Militaria.

Specifications

Dimensions 6.36 x 2.28 x 2.2 m
Total weight 11 tonnes
Crew Commander/Gunner, Loader and the Driver/Radio operator
Propulsion Maybach HL 62 TR 140 HP @ 3000 rpm
Top speed 40 km/h, 20 km/h (cross country)
Range 190 km, 125 km (cross country)
Armament 7.5 cm PaK 40/2 L/46
7.92 mm MG 34
Armor Superstructure: 4-10 mm
Hull: 10-35 mm
Elevation -8° to +10°
Traverse 25° to the right and 32° to the left
Categories
Hungarian tanks

T-38 – Panzer 38(t) in Hungarian service

Hungary (1942) Medium tank – 105-111 supplied

During WWII, the Hungarians were one of Germany’s allies which had a significant domestic production of armored vehicles. While these locally produced vehicles were fine by the standards of the early war, unfortunately for the Hungarians, by the time they were fielded in larger numbers, they were already obsolete. To bolster their ally’s firepower, in 1942, the Germans supplied the Hungarians with a selection of armored vehicles, including over 100 Panzer 38(t) tanks.

Military field exercise involving Hungarian armored vehicles prior to the start of the military operations on the Eastern Front in 1942. In front are the T-38s, while in the back are anti-tank/aircraft Nimrods. All the way back, a few Toldis are also visible. Source: Pinterest

History

The Hungarians officially signed the Tripartite Pact to join the Axis forces on 27th September 1940. By the time of the Invasion of the Soviet Union, in June 1941, the Hungarian Army (Honvéd) had the largest armored force of all the German allies on this front. By the end of 1941, the Hungarians fielded light tanks, which were of little use against the newer Soviet tanks. To rebuild its shattered force, the Hungarian High Command tried to implement the ‘Huba II’ military plan. This plan involved the formation of two new units, the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions.

A T-38, possibly during an exercise. Source: unknown

Despite being unprepared and having suffered heavy losses, including much of its armored formations, the Hungarian High Command was hard-pressed by the Germans to send additional forces to the Eastern Front. The Hungarian High Command chose to send the 2nd Army, which consisted of 9 light divisions and the 1st Field Armored Division (1.páncélos hadosztály). As there was a general lack of modern equipment, especially tanks, the formation of the 1st Field Armored Division was too slow. Despite German promises of modern equipment, the Hungarians were instead supplied with 102-108 (depending on the source) Panzer 38(t) Ausf. F and G (known in Hungarian service as the T-38, but also classified as a medium tank) and 22 better armed Panzer IV Ausf. F1 (classified as a heavy tank in Hungarian service). Among the acquired T-38s, some 38 were command vehicles with better radio equipment (Fu 2 radio receiver which was standard for all T-38 and a Fu 5 transmitter) and reduced secondary armament of one machine gun. The Germans also provided the Hungarians crews with necessary training at the Wünsdorf military school.

In Hungarian service, the T-38s received three-digit numbers, which was painted on the turret rear side. In addition, on the hull, a slightly modified German Balkenkreuz was painted. The difference is the color of the central cross was painted in green (instead of the original black) on a red background.

The 1st Field Armored Division had, in total, 89 T-38s and all the 22 Panzer IVs, which were allocated to the 30th Tank Regiment. The 1st Armored Reconnaissance Battalion of this division was equipped with 14 Csaba armored cars and 17 Toldi light tanks, with 4 rebuilt Toldi tanks being used for medical support roles. In addition, there was the 51st Armored Autocannon Battalion, also known as the 51st Tank Hunter Battalion, which was equipped with 18-19 Nimrod anti-tank/aircraft vehicles. The Hungarian 2nd Army was tasked with supporting the German left flank advancing toward Stalingrad.

The Hungarian Balkenkreuz variant. Source: Pinterest
The three-digit number painted on the turret is visible here. Source: Magyar Pancel

The Panzer 38(t)

The TNH – LT vz. 38 tank was developed and built by the Czech ČKD company (Českomoravska Kolben Danek) in the second half of the nineteen-thirties. Production of the vz. 38 began in late 1938 but, by the time of the German annexation of Czech territory, not a single tank had been taken over by the Czech Army. Germany captured many brand new vz.38 tanks and, in May 1939, a delegation was sent to the ČKD factory to examine their operational potential. The Germans were so impressed with this tank that they were quickly introduced into Wehrmacht service under the name Pz.Kpfw.38(t) or simply Panzer 38(t). The ČKD factory was completely taken over for the needs of the German Army under the new name BMM (Bohmisch-Mahrische Maschinenfabrik).

The Panzer 38(t). Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/panzer-38t/

The Panzer 38(t) was built in relatively large numbers, saw combat action from Poland to the end of the war and was considered an effective tank for its class. But, from late 1941 on, it became obvious that it was becoming obsolete as a first-line combat tank. The Panzer 38(t) chassis, on the other hand, was mechanically reliable and was highly suitable for use for other purposes, a fact which the Germans exploited to the maximum. Over 100 Panzer 38(t) Ausf. F and G tanks, which had stronger 50 mm armor, were supplied by the Germans to their Hungarian allies in an attempt to rebuild their armored formation.

A Panzer 38(t) in German service. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In combat

The majority of the Hungarian 2nd Army was engaged in the advance toward the city of Stalingrad, ‘Operation Blau’, in May 1942. The 1st Armored Division was not involved in these initial combat operations, as its elements did not reach the front line until June and July. The reason for this delay was the general lack of fuel and transport vehicles.

The 1st Armored Division’s initial position was in the Uryv-Pokrovka, Storozhevoye area, on the western banks of the Don River. Its first orders were to crush a Soviet bridgehead defended by the 130th Tank Brigade. The Hungarian attack, which began on 18th July, was spearheaded by elements of the 30th Tank Regiment and 51st Tank Hunter Battalion. The Hungarian Panzer IVs managed to destroy a Soviet T-34, followed by more Soviet tank losses, mostly T-34s and American supplied M3 Stuart tanks. Being lightly armored, the M3 Stuart tanks could be destroyed by the T-38’s 3.7 cm guns. A Hungarian correspondent who was in one of the T-38s during this offensive later wrote down in his memories:

“… We carried on and entered the light of a burning farm just at the worst moment. A stack stirred and approached us. As the straw fell behind a Soviet tank appeared in front of us…. It was a medium tank (a M3 Stuart tank) firing two shots at us. None of them got us, we were still alive! But our second shot did hit it! … As I spied out of the turret I couldn’t see any Hungarian tank losses. But my joy was too early: my headphones asked for a doctor. ‘Tank number 591 got hit. We need a doctor!’ I could see through my binoculars that a major from the staff reached the damaged vehicle and lifted the injured men over into his tank under heavy fire. Quite a few enemy tanks opened fire on them and we tried to cover them as well as we could from the distance. We were much relieved when the doctor’s tank arrived and that the damaged tank hadn’t fallen into enemy hands. It didn’t catch fire either and was towed away. ”

The Soviet bridgehead was eventually destroyed by the afternoon. The Soviet losses were 21 destroyed tanks. The majority of these were destroyed by the Panzer IVs. The Nimrod vehicles destroyed 6 tanks and the remaining 3 were destroyed by the T-38s. During the Soviet retreat, their losses climbed to 35 tanks, with at least 4 captured M3 light tanks. The Hungarian losses were minimal, with only two damaged but recovered T-38 tanks. Of the 4 captured M3s, one was sent back to Hungary for evaluation and the remaining were used to tow the damaged T-38’s.

The Hungarians managed to capture four M3 Stuart light tanks and put them in limited use. Here it is used to tow a damaged T-38. Source: http://www.surfacezero.com/g503/showphoto.php?photo=70408

By the end of July, the Hungarians were confronted by the 261st and the 260th Tank Battalions (both belonging to the 130th Tank Brigade). The 260th Tank Battalion had organized two centers of resistance. The first ,supported with 3 M3 and 5 T-60 tanks, was located 1.2 km northwards from the forest which lies 2 km northwards from the village of Miginevo. It was intended to support the actions of the composite battalion of the 24th Motor Rifle Brigade. The second point of resistance was supported with 7 T-34, positioned in the North-Western outskirts of Miginevo, ready to provide fire support in the direction of Titchiha – Selyavnoe. The total armored strength of the 260th Tank Battalion was 3 M3, 5 T-60 and 7 T-34 tanks. The 261st Tank Battalion had its 10 T-60 concentrated at the North-Eastern edge of the wood 2 km westwards from the village of Davydovka. Another 17 T-60 tanks were concentrated in the woods 500 m to the South-East from the village of Drakino. In total, this unit had 27 T-60 tanks.

Some elements of the 1st Armored Division were engaged in the battle for Storozhevoye on 10th August. There, a poorly prepared attack led to the loss of 10 T-38s, of which 3 could not be recovered. Interestingly, these three abandoned Hungarian T-38 tanks (known by the Soviets as 38T) would be evacuated during the night of 10/11 August by the Soviet 260th Tank Battalion. The 1st Armored Division’s next action was the attempt to stop the Soviet attack near the city of Korotoyak. For this, elements from the 1st Armored Division were sent to support the Hungarian defensive.
The battle against Soviet forces resumed on 15th August, when the Hungarian forces managed to inflict on the Soviets the following losses: 3 knocked out M3 Stuarts, 3 burned and 3 knocked out T-60s, 1 knocked out 38T (reused by the Soviets) and one T-34, which took severe damage including a jammed turret and bent gun barrel.

The Hungarians also lost a Panzer IV and at least three T-38s. One of these T-38s was destroyed by a Soviet Sergeant, V. Panganis, who, after his 45 mm anti-tank gun was destroyed, took a few AT grenades and jumped under the tank, blowing himself and the Hungarian vehicle up. Two more Soviet tanks were destroyed by the end of the day, with the loss of three additional T-38s. One was destroyed by a Soviet T-34 and the remaining two, ironically, by German anti-tank fire. In the following days of harsh battle for Korotoyak, the Hungarian losses increased to 55 T-38s and 15 Panzer IVs. Of these numbers, some 35 vehicles were under maintenance and repairable. The 1st Armored Division was eventually pulled back from Korotoyak due to increased losses. The Germans provided the Hungarians with four Panzer Ausf. F2 tanks fitted with the longer 7.5 cm gun. By the end of August, the 1st Armored Division total strength was around 85 T-38s, 22 Panzer IVs and at least 5 Toldi tanks.

T-38 destroyed a T-34

At the start of September, the Hungarians made another attempt to crush the Soviet positions around Uryv-Korotoyak. The attack began on 9th September, supported by the German 168th Infantry Division and the 201st Assault Gun Detachment. As the Soviet positions were well defended, the attack was proceeding at a slow pace. A Hungarian Tank Battalion was sent to support the attack on the Soviet positions at Storozhevoye, which were defended by T-34 tanks. During the fighting, a T-38 commanded by Sergeant Janos Csizmadia came across a T-34 that was attacking the German rear positions. Sergeant Janos Csizmadia reacted quickly and fired at the T-34 at close range. The T-38’s 3.7 cm armor-piercing round managed to pierce the T-34’s rear armor and the tank exploded. This was one of the few occasions where the T-38’s weak gun managed to destroy a T-34. By the end of the day, Sergeant Janos Csizmadia, encouraged by this success, managed to personally destroy two enemy bunkers with hand grenades but also to capture at least 30 demoralized Soviet soldiers. For his action, he was awarded the Great Silver Medal for Bravery.

A T-38 driving through Hungary in the Spring of 1942. Source: Pinterest
A T-38 column. The front vehicle is a command tank. It can easily be identified by the lack of a hull machine gun. Source: unknown

Continuous battle for Uryv and Korotoyak

After two days of hard fighting, the Axis forces finally managed to capture the entirety of Storozhevoye on 11th September, with the further loss of two Hungarian T-38s. The Axis attacked the Soviet bunker positions in the Otitchiha hamlet.

A part of the Soviet 6th Army operational area map with the Otitchiha hamlet where the Hungarian Armored force was heavily engaged. Source: Archive file TSAMO, F 203, Op. 2843, D. 182 Major Semyonov, 6th Army

Because they were too well defended, the first attack was repulsed, with many Hungarian tanks being damaged or put out of action. The next day, the Axis forces attacked from another direction. As the heavy Soviet bunkers were immune to the 3.7 cm guns, the crews would often destroy these bunkers by using hand grenades. The attack eventually succeeded and the German 168th Infantry Division set up defensive positions there. The Soviets made a counter-attack supported by heavy KV-1 and T-34 tanks. The Hungarian tanks were ordered to resist this attack. The following engagement was mostly one-sided, as the Hungarian 3.7 cm guns proved useless during this combat. The desperate situation was later described by Corporal Moker in his diary.

“ …. We pushed ahead until we reached the Headquarters of the German Infantry… A Russian tank (KV-1C) appeared ahead of us from the wheat-field and opened heavy fire on us. Yet comrade Nyerges, our gunner, was quick to answer. He managed to gun superbly and we watched his moves trustfully. We retired a few meters and so did the enemy. Nyerges sent one tank-grenade after the other. He shook his head, something must have been wrong. He kept on loading and firing and we were stifling from the smoke. It seemed that we were unable to break the armor of that tank, its thick and slanting skin resisted everything, thus all our efforts were in vain. Nyerges stopped for a moment and took a deep breath. He was dripping with sweat. This helplessness was terrible! … In the meantime, the enemy tank retired. We started to hope. I could hear a terrible detonation and felt as if I was rising. I was struggling desperately to stand up and open the roof but my throat microphone’s cord held me back. Helping hands rescued me from my imprisonment, pulling me out by the arm. I fell in front of the vehicle. I felt a burning pain at the back of my head but I didn’t pay attention to it… “

Rear view of a Hungarian T-38. Source: Unknown

The same KV-1 destroyed another T-38 which was nearby. By the end of the day, the Hungarian losses were extensive and only 22 T-38s and 4 Panzer IVs were still operational. The Soviets lost 8 T-34 tanks and two KV-1s were damaged. Between 14th to 16th September, all Soviet counter-attacks were repulsed with losses of 18 T-34 and 6 KV-1 tanks. Some fell victim to Hungarian fire, but also to the firepower of German supporting assault guns. Nevertheless, on 16th September, the Hungarian 30th Tank Regiment had only 12 T-38s and 2 Panzer IVs operational.

By October 1942, in order to reinforce their Hungarian allies, the Germans provided them with 10 Panzer III Ausf. N tanks and 6 Panzer IV Ausf. F2 and G. The next larger engagement of the Hungarian armor with the Soviet happened on 19th October near Storozhevoye. The Hungarian tankers managed to destroy 4 Soviet tanks.

Advance of Hungarian T-38s through the Soviet Union in 1942. Source: https://www.ww2incolor.com/hungary/Hung_001.html

From that point on, the 1st Armored Division was put into reserve for rest and refurbishment. In December (or September depending on the source) 1942, the Germans supplied the Hungarians with five Marder II vehicles and at least three more Panzer 38(t) Ausf. C tanks. At the start of 1943, the Hungarian 1st Armored Division was put under direct German command, under the Cramer-Corps. At that time, the total armored strength of this unit consisted of 9 Panzer III Ausf. N, 8 Panzer Ausf. F2 and G, 8 Panzer IV Ausf. F1, 41 T-38s and the 5 Marder II tank destroyers. The Cramer-Corps, beside the Hungarian Armored Division, consisted of the 26th and 168th Infantry Divisions, the German 190th Assault Gun Detachment and 700th Armor Detachment. The commander of the Cramer-Corps was Major General Hans Cramer.

The Soviet Winter offensive

In mid-January 1943, the Soviets launched an offensive against the Hungarian positions and, after heavy losses, forced them to retreat. The Soviet tanks caused chaos in the Hungarian lines. The German 700th Armored Detachment (equipped with Panzer 38(t) tanks) was also decimated on the way. The Soviets then engaged the Hungarian 12th Field Artillery Regiment, which they destroyed, but the Soviets lost 9 tanks in the process. The low temperatures of -20 to -30°C also caused important losses to the Hungarians. Nevertheless, the Soviets were forced to stop their attack due to significant tank losses. During the Soviet offensive, many T-38s were blown up by their crews due to a general lack of fuel and breakdowns. For example, the 1st Tank Brigade alone had to blow up 17 T-38 tanks.

The fighting was extensive around the city of Alekseyevka (west of the Don river), which the Hungarian 1st Armored Division, with the help of the German 559th Anti-Tank Battalion, were ordered to take back. The attack began on 18th January 1943, and after heavy fighting, Alekseyevka was taken by the Axis forces. The next day, the Soviets made a counter-attack which was repelled with the loss of a T-34 destroyed by a Marder II and a T-60 destroyed by a Panzer IV. Despite their success, the Axis forces were forced to retreat out of Alekseyevka. On 21st January 1943, the Axis forces again managed to enter the western parts of the city of Alekseyevka. But the 1st Armored Division had to retreat and, on 25th January, reached Noviy Oskol. For the remainder of January and early February, the 1st Armored Division fought many hard battles with the advancing Soviets. During the fighting around the city of Korocha, the last operational T-38 was lost. Without ammunition, it was attacked by two T-60s and one T-34. By 9th February, the 1st Armored Division reached the river Donets and eventually reached Kharkov. Due to extensive losses, this division had to be pulled back from the front. The last remaining operational vehicles were two Marder II tank destroyers.

The remaining T-38s that managed to avoid destruction were mostly used in Hungary for crew training. They may have seen some more action during the Soviet advance towards Hungary by the war’s end, but in any case, these were already obsolete.

A small number of T-38s that survived the fighting around Stalingrad were used for crew training until the end of the war. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/panzer-38t/

In Russian hands

It appears that the Soviet 130th Tank Brigade, during their fighting with the Hungarian armed forces, managed to capture at least three T-38s tanks. The war diary of the Soviet 260th Tank Battalion (which was part of the 130th Tank Brigade) stated that, on 9th August 1942, the unit had three T-34, three M3 Light and fifteen T-60 tanks (21 operational tanks in total). On the same day, the battalion took up a defensive position at the edge of the forest northwards from Hills 171,6 and 195,5. By 18:00, the battalion, including tanks, was ‘fully entrenched’. Three T-34 tanks were allocated to defend the village of Miginevo. On the next day, 10 August, at 5:30 in the morning, the battle started with heavy shelling. At 9:00, the enemy put into action 27 tanks, but after losing 16 of them, the enemy was forced to retreat. The 260th Tank Battalion reported no losses during this engagement.

On the 10th August 1942, the Axis forces advanced in the area Storozhevoye – Hill 186,6. Multiple tank-infantry attacks were repulsed. The 260th Tank Battalion, acting as a part of the 24th Motor Rifle Brigade, defended an area in the South-Western part of the forest to West of the hamlet of Titchiha (Otitchiha). As a result of the engagement, the 260th Tank Battalion reported 1 enemy tank knocked out and 1 burned. Also, 25 enemy soldiers were reported as casualties.

The report also noted that First Lieutenant HOMENKO (originally ‘HOMENK’, one letter probably missing), commander of the tank company of the 260th Tank Battalion, ‘organized defense right’, which eventually helped to hold the ground. On the same day (10th August), the I/130 MSPB (Motostrelkovo-Pulemyotnyj Bataljon, Motor-Rifle Machine-Gun Battalion) took up a defensive position near the Hill 187,7 and also fought as a part of 24 Motor Rifle Brigade.

On the night of 10/11 August, the 260th Tank Battalion managed to evacuate from the battlefield 3 knocked-out 38T tanks. Two of them were repaired during the next day (11 August 1942) and put into Soviet service. On the 13th August, the 260th Tank Battalion had three T-34, three M3 Light, 15 T-60 and 2 captured 38T tanks (one of the 38Ts finished repair by 18:00 on the same day).

The Soviet forces on the 14th August received a verbal order to move during the night and concentrate in the area south-west of the village of Goldayevka. The task was to advance in the direction of Hill 160,2 – Goldayevka. The force allocated to that attack consisted of one T-34, three M3 Light, ten T-60 and the two captured 38Ts.

On the next day, 15th August, at 5:00, the 260th Tank Battalion arrived at the area of operations and reconnoitered it. At 6:00, the Battalion started to advance in the direction of Hill 160,2 keeping the line formation. After heavy fighting, the battalion commander reported that the enemy lost 4 anti-tank guns, 3 machine guns, 2 mortars and at least 25 soldiers and officers.

The 260th Battalion had lost two T-60 tanks, with one completely burned out. The second tank was recovered and repaired. The 260th Battalion managed to eventually capture Hill 160,2, but was later forced to retreat as it was lacking infantry support.

Another attack started at 15:30. The Battalion still possessed one damaged T-34, three M3, eight T-60 and one captured 38T. Again, the commander reported enemy losses as follows: 6 anti-tank guns, 2 mortars, 3 cars, and up to 100 enemy soldiers and officers. Soviet losses included at that time three knocked-out M3 (all later recovered), one knocked out 38T and one destroyed T-60 which was left on the battlefield. In the following attack, despite having infantry support, Hill 160,2 was not captured and Soviet forces fell back. At 18:00, the Battalion withdrew from the battle. Its War Diary mentioned another one 38T “destroyed and left on the battlefield” as well as stress, that ‘T-60s don’t fit to be used in the first line of attack’.

A page from the 260th Tank Battalion War Diary which mentions the fate of the 38T tanks. Source: War Diary of the 260th Tank Battalion. TsAMO, F 3107, Op. 1, D. 90, l. 66 (ob.)

This information could be corroborated with the 130th Tank Brigade report. According to that document, on the 15th August, the 260th Tank Battalion lost one of two operational 38T tanks during the first attack on Hill 160,2 which commenced at 7:00. The second 38T was lost during the next attack initiated at 15:30 in order to recapture the same hill.

Total claimed enemy losses at the end of the 15th August were 12 AT-guns, 3 cars, 4 mortars, 6 machine guns and more than 160 men and officers. Total Soviet losses were 5 men and officers killed in action, 1 severely damaged T-34, 3 knocked out M3 Light, 2 knocked out 38T and 6 T-60, of which 3 burned and 3 knocked out.

Report on the 130th Tank Brigade’s combat losses during the period from 1st August 1942 to 21st August 1942. One 38T (captured) listed as ‘burned’ Source: 130 Tank Brigade Combat Report. TsAMO, F 3107, Op. 0000001, D. 0006, l. 34

On 16 August, the 260th Tank Battalion had 5 T-34 (3 tanks in Migenevo) and 12 T-60 tanks. Most of them did not take part in the attacks on the previous day.

According to the 130th Tank Brigade report, on 16th August, the 260th Tank Battalion formed a Tank Company from remaining operational tanks. The Company had five T-34s, ten T-60s, three M3 Light and one 38T. Three days later, the Brigade still had one 38T but with a jammed turret.

According to the 6th Army report dated from 21st September 1942, one 38T (previously belonging to the 260th Tank Battalion) was to be allocated to the 3rd Barrier Troop (in essence an anti-retreat unit) Detachment which was stationed at Davidovska. In total, it seems that the Soviet units engaged in this area operated around three captured 38Ts captured from the Hungarian forces.

The Soviet 6th Army report, in which one T-38 was to be given 3rd Barrier Troop Detachment. Source: https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents

While the 260th Tank Battalion had three 38T tanks, only two were ever used. The fate of the last vehicle is unknown but it was either unusable or more likely simply cannibalized to get spare parts.

The Soviet Army did use some captured Panzer 38(t)/T-38 Source: http://wio.ru/tank/capt/capt.htm

Conclusion

The T-38s provided the Hungarians with means to equip their shattered armored forces after the hard battles of 1941. Over 100 were acquired but their performance was inadequate by the standards of 1942. While they did achieve some success, they simply did not have any chance against more modern Soviet armor.

Hungarian Panzer 38(t)
Panzer 38(t) Ausf.G, Royal Hungarian Army, 30th Tank Regiment, 6th Company – 1942, Don area, Russia.

Sources

D. Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
C. Bescze (2007) Magyar Steel Hungarian Armour in WW II, STRATUS.
P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle (1978) Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition, Arms and Armor press.
B. Adam, E. Miklos, S. Gyula (2006) A Magyar Királyi Honvédség külföldi gyártású páncélos harcjárművei 1920-1945, Petit Real
S.J.Zaloga (2013) Tanks of the Hitler’s Eastern Allies 1941-45, New Vanguard.
N. Thomas and L. P. Szabo (2010) The Royal Hungarian Army in World War II, Osprey.
War Diary of the 260th Tank Battalion. TsAMO, F 3107, Op. 1, D. 90, ll. 64-67 (ob.)
130 Tank Brigade Combat Report. TsAMO, F 3107, Op. 0000001, D. 0006, ll. 30-34
Soviet 6th Army operational area map. TsAMO, F 203, Op. 2843, D. 182

The author would like to express special thanks To Alex Tarasov for providing translation and information from Russian sources!

Specifications

Dimensions 4.61 x 2.14 x 2.4 m
Total weight 9.8 tonnes
Crew Commander/Gunner, Loader, Driver and Radio operator
Propulsion Praga Type EPA 125 hp @ 2200 rpm, six-cylinder gasoline engine
Top speed 42 km/h, 20 km/h (cross country)
Range 250 km, 160 km (cross country)
Armament 29/44M. 80 mm (3.15 in) Bofors/DIMÁVAG L/58
2x 34/40AM. 8 mm (0.31 in) Gebauer machine guns
Armament, prototypes 3.7 cm KwK 38(t) L/48.8
2 x 7.92 mm MG 37(t)
Armor 8-50 mm
Elevation -10° to +25°
Categories
WW2 German Tank Destroyers

7.5 cm PaK 40 auf Sfl. Lorraine Schlepper ‘Marder I’ (Sd.KFz.135)

German Tanks of WW2 Nazi Germany (1942)
Self-Propelled Anti-Tank Gun – 170 – 184 converted

Even before the Second World War, the famous German tank commander Heinz Guderian had predicted the need for highly mobile self-propelled anti-tank vehicles, later known as Panzerjäger or Jagdpanzer (tank destroyer or hunter). However, in the early years of the war, beside the 4.7 cm PaK (t) (Sfl) auf Pz.Kpfw. I ohne turm, which was in essence just a 4.7 cm PaK (t) gun mounted on a modified Panzer I Ausf.B tank hull, the Germans did little to develop such vehicles. During the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht encountered tanks which they had trouble dealing with effectively due to their thick armor (T-34 and KV series) and were forced to introduce a number of different hastily built and developed Panzerjäger based on any chassis that was available. From this, a series of vehicles generally known today as the ‘Marder’ (Marten) was created. The first such vehicle was built by using a captured French Lorraine 37L fully-tracked armored tractor and arming it with the German 7.5 PaK 40 anti-tank gun.

A brand new 7.5 cm PaK 40 auf Sfl.LrS Marder I. Source: panzerserra.blogspot.com

History

During Operation Barbarossa, the Panzer Divisions were once again spearheading the German advance, as in the previous year in the West. Initially, the lightly protected Soviet early tanks such as the BT series and the T-26 proved to be easy prey for the advancing German Panzers. However, the Panzer crews were shocked to discover that their guns were mostly ineffective against the armor of the newer T-34, the KV-1 and KV-2. German infantry units also discovered that their 3.7 cm PaK 36 anti-tank towed guns were of little use against these. The stronger 5 cm PaK 38 anti-tank towed gun was only effective at shorter distances and it had not been produced in great numbers by that time. Luckily for the Germans, the new Soviets tanks were plagued by a not-yet-matured design, inexperienced crews, a lack of spare parts and ammunition, and poor operational use. Nevertheless, they played a significant role in slowing down and eventually stopping the German assault in late 1941. In North Africa, the Germans also faced increasing numbers of Matilda tanks which also proved to be hard to knock out.

The experience gained during the first year of the invasion of the Soviet Union raised a red alert in the highest German military circles. One possible solution to this problem was the introduction of the new Rheinmetall 7.5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun. It was first issued in very limited numbers at the end of 1941 and the start of 1942. It became the standard German anti-tank gun used until the end of the war, with some 20,000 guns being built. It was an excellent anti-tank gun, but the main problem with it was its heavyweight, making it somewhat difficult to deploy and hard to manhandle.

The solution to this problem was to mount the PaK 40 on available tank chassis. These new Panzerjäger vehicles followed the same pattern: most were open-topped, with limited gun traverse, and thin armor. They were, though, armed with an effective anti-tank gun, and usually with one machine gun. They were also cheap and easy to build. Panzerjägers were, in essence, improvised and temporary solutions, but effective ones nevertheless. Just as the name suggests (Panzerjäger means “tank hunter” in English), they were designed to engage enemy tanks at long ranges on open fields. Their primary mission was to engage enemy tanks and to act as fire support at long range from carefully selected combat positions, usually on the flanks. This mentality led to a series of such vehicles named Marder that was developed using many different armored vehicles as a basis.

The first series of Marder vehicles was based on captured French armored vehicles. While small series were built using tank chassis, the majority were built using captured Lorraine 37L fully-tracked armored tractors. The Lorraine 37L would be also converted into a self-propelled artillery gun. The man responsible for the creation of the first Marders was Major Alfred Becker. His design was presented to Adolf Hitler in May 1942, who immediately ordered that 100 armed with 10.5 cm and 15 cm artillery guns and 60 PaK 40 armed vehicles should be built. Due to the high demand for self-propelled anti-tank vehicles, the majority of the available captured Lorraine 37Ls would be converted into Marder I (as this vehicle would be known) vehicles.

Major Alfred Becker. Source: Wikimedia commons

The Lorraine 37L

After the First World War, the French Army had shown interest in developing a tracked armored supply vehicle. The first vehicle that was adopted for this role was the small Renault UE. During 1935, the Lorraine company began working on a faster alternative for this vehicle meant for the cavalry units. By 1937, the first prototype of the Lorraine 37L was completed. Its performance was deemed sufficient by the French Army and ordered into mass production. It was mainly used for the transport of ammunition, fuel and other supplies. There was also an infantry transport variant called Voiture blindée de chasseurs portés 38L, which can be identified by an added box-shaped armored superstructure mounted to the rear.

From 11th January 1939 to 16th May 1940, over four hundred Lorraine 37L armored supply vehicles were built. By the time of France’s capitulation, the Germans had managed to capture some 300 Lorraine 37L vehicles. In German service, these vehicles were known as the Lorraine Schlepper(f).

The Lorraine 37L in French service before the war. Source: panzerserra.blogspot.com

Name

During its service life, this self-propelled anti-tank gun was known under several different names. On 1st August 1942, it was known as the 7.5 cm PaK 40 auf Sfl.LrS. Sfl, which stands for ‘Selbstfahrlafette’, which can be translated as ‘self-propelled’, while LrS stands for Lorraine-Schlepper. In May 1943, the name was changed to 7.5 cm PaK 40/1 auf Sfl.Lorraine-Schlepper. In August 1943, it was again changed to Pz.Jaeg. LrS fuer 7.5 cm PaK 40/1 (Sd.Kfz.135). It received the Marder I name, by which it is best known today, due to Adolf Hitler’s personal suggestion made at the end of November 1943.

Production

Following the decision to adopt the Marder I into service on 9th June 1942, the German Waffenamt (Ordnance Department) laid out the plans for a number of vehicles to be built by the Becker Baukommando workshop located in Paris and the H.K.P Bielitz workshop. The main supplier of the Marder I components was Alkett. This firm was responsible for modifying the PaK 40’s lower carriage and gun shield, but also for the assembly of the upper superstructure for the Marder I vehicle.

The monthly production target in Paris was 20 vehicles in June 1942 and 78 in July, with an additional 30 in June and 50 in July from Bielitz. In total, 178 were planned to be converted. The actual production numbers were a bit lower, with 170 rebuilt vehicles completed. 104 were converted in July and the remaining 66 in August 1942.

Unfortunately, the exact number of rebuilt vehicles depends on the source. While the number of 170 is quite commonly found in the literature, there are still some disagreements between the sources. The previously mentioned production numbers were according to T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (Panzer Tracts No.7-2 Panzerjäger). Author Walter J. Spielberger, in his book Beute-Kraftfahrzeuge und Panzer der Deutschen Wehrmacht, mentions that 184 were planned but 170 were actually built. D. Nešić (Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka) mentions 179 vehicles being built. Author A. Lüdeke (Waffentechnik im Zweiten Weltkrieg) lists a number of 184 vehicles being built.

The Design

Suspension

The Marder I suspension consisted of six road wheels placed on each side, suspended in pairs and placed on three bogies. Above each bogie, a leaf-spring unit was placed. There were also four return rollers, front-drive sprockets and an idler placed on each side at the rear. The transmission was placed in the front hull of the vehicle.

The Marder I’s suspension can be seen here. Source: ww2db.com

The Lorraine 37L suspension was a very robust and simple design. This was rather uncommon among pre-war French tank designs, which generally had overly complicated suspension systems. In its original role as an armored tractor, the Lorraine 37L had little problems following French tanks on good or muddy terrain. The German version had an increased weight of up to 8.5 tonnes (7.5 or 8 tonnes depending on the source), compared to the original 6 tonnes. While the Lorraine 37L suspension system was considered adequate in its original role, the added extra weight proved to be problematic, especially on the Eastern Front mostly due to low temperatures and muddy roads. In addition, vibrations caused by firing the main gun put enormous stress on the suspension, which increased the chance of malfunctions or damage.

The Engine

The Marder I engine type and its position were not changed from the original Lorraine 37L. The Delahaye Type 135 6-cylinder water-cooled 70 [email protected] rpm engine was located in the center of the vehicle’s hull. While the maximum speed with this engine was a solid 35 km/h, the cross country speed was only 8 km/h. The operational range was also quite limited, with 120 km on good roads and 75 km cross country. The low speed on bad roads and the small operational radius is possibly the main reason why the Marder I was mostly allocated to Infantry Divisions. The exhaust pipe was located on the left side of the hull and was protected by a thin curved armored plate. The Marder I’s fuel capacity was 111 liters.

Superstructure

The Marder I was built using mostly unmodified Lorraine 37L chassis, by simply replacing the original rear positioned transport compartment with a new armored superstructure. The new armored superstructure had a relatively simple design, which consisted of rectangular armored plates welded together. These armored plates were angled in order to provide additional protection, as the armor thickness was quite low. The front of this armored superstructure was protected by the main gun’s enlarged gun shield. The Marder I was an open-top vehicle and, for this reason, a canvas cover was provided to protect the crew from bad weather. Of course, this offered no real protection during combat. The added superstructure served as the crew fighting compartment for operating the main gun. Due to the Marder I’s tiny size, the crew compartment offered a small working space.

The Marder I superstructure had a very simple design but offered the crews only limited protection. The large gun shield is also evident here. Source: panzerserra.blogspot.com
As the Marder I was open-topped, a canvas cover was often installed over the fighting compartment and used to protect the crew from bad weather. However, it offered no real protection during combat. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

Armor Thickness

The Lorraine 37L, being designed to fulfill the role of a supply vehicle, was only lightly armored. The front armor was 12 mm thick, while the top and bottom were only 6 mm thick.

The superstructure armor thickness, depending on the source, is usually noted to be around 10 to 11 mm all-around thick. Luckily, the Tank Encyclopedia team was given access to the Marder I auf Geschutzwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) at the French Tank Museum in Saumur, France. A digital micrometer was used to measure the armor thickness of the upper superstructure. When books state that the armor thickness was 11 mm, this is the design thickness. In reality, the rolled armor plate used by the Germans was not of a precise thickness. It varied over the length of the plate within a certain tolerance range. It should be remembered that these measurements included the thickness of the primer base coat and final coat of paint.

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The Armament

The main gun chosen for the Marder I was the standard 7.5 cm PaK 40/1 L/46. This gun, with its slightly modified mount, was placed above the engine compartment. Its original two-part armored shield was replaced with a single enlarged shield covering the front of the superstructure. The elevation of the main gun was -8° to +10° (or -5° to +22° depending on the source) and the traverse: -20° to +20° (-16° to +16° depending on the source). The total ammunition load also differs depending on the source. According to authors H. Doyle (German Military Vehicles) and G. Parada, W. Styrna and S. Jablonski (Marder III), the Marder I could carry 40 rounds. Authors T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (Panzer Tracts No.7-2 Panzerjager) mentions a number of 48 rounds.

In order to relieve the stress on the elevation and traverse mechanisms during long drives, a travel lock was added. Secondary armament consisted of one 7.92 mm MG 34 machine gun and possibly the crew’s personal weapons.

Interestingly, there is a photograph of a Marder I armed with the 5 cm PaK 38. More information on the circumstances under which this modification occurred is unfortunately lacking. It could have been either a field modification, which is very likely or a simple training vehicle. It could be also a post-war modification, possibly done by the French. What is interesting is the front gun shield had an added armor plate around the gun.

The Marder I had been armed with the effective 7.5 cm anti-tank gun. With this gun, it could destroy most Allied or Soviet tanks at long ranges up to the war’s end. Source: Bundesarchiv
The 5 cm PaK armed Marder I. The history of this vehicle is unknown. Source: Unknown

Crew members

According to the T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (Panzer Tracts No.7-2 Panzerjager), the Marder I had a crew of four which consisted of the commander, gunner, loader and the driver. Other sources, for example, G. Parada, W. Styrna and S. Jablonski (Marder III), give a number of five crew members. The reason why authors state different information regarding the number of crew members is not clear. To complicate matters further, there are old photographs of the Marder I with either three or four crew members in the rear fighting compartment (besides the driver, who was in his own compartment at the front).

This vehicle appears to have three crew members in the crew compartment. Source: Wikipedia Commons
This vehicle had four crew members in the fighting compartment. Two crew members had steel helmets (Stahlhelm) and one was armed with what appears to be a machine gun. Source: Pinterest

The driver was positioned inside the Marder I hull and was the only crew member that had all-around armor protection. To reach his own position inside the vehicle, a horizontally positioned two-part rectangular-shaped hatch was used. For observation, there were two simple vision slots on the front and one on each side. While these had a simple design, the Germans never replaced them, probably to save time or simply because they had nothing better at hand.

The driver‘s hatch is completely open in order to give him a much better view when driving out of combat. In addition, the armored slide that protects the gun sight can be observed. Source. Wikipedia Commons

The remaining crew members were placed in the armored superstructure compartment. The gunner would be positioned to the left of the gun. On the front of the gun shield, there was a small armored slide that could be opened for use of the gun sight. To the right of the gun was probably the position occupied by the commander and behind him was the loader. If there was a fifth crew member, he would likely have been a radio operator for the Fu 5 radio set or an assistant loader. If there were only four crew members, another crew member would have served as a radio operator.

Organization

The Marder I was used to equip smaller anti-tank companies (Panzerjäger Kompanie). These were allocated as reinforcement to the anti-tank battalions (Panzerjäger Abteilungen) mostly of Infantry and a few Panzer Divisions. The anti-tank companies were initially equipped with nine Marder I vehicles. From early 1943, the number of vehicles per company was usually increased by one more vehicle.

Use in combat

The Marder I would mostly see service in France, but also on the Eastern Front and in smaller numbers in North Africa.

In France

The majority of newly built Marder I vehicles would be used by units stationed in France. It was standard practice that the unit equipped with the Marder I would retain its vehicles until it was relocated to another front. When that happened, they would be supplied with another self-propelled anti-tank vehicle or with towed 7.5 cm PaK 40 guns. This was done mostly to ease maintenance and procurement of spare parts.

During late June 1942, the German High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres – OKH) predicted that at least 20 Marder Is would be ready for operational field test trials by the end of July 1942. Two Panzer Divisions, the 14th and 16th, were initially chosen for this purpose. In July, the OKH decided that the first Marder I were instead to be given to the 15th, 17th, 106th and 167th Infantry Divisions and to the 26th Panzer Division once they were available in sufficient numbers.

The 15th Infantry Division received its 9 Marder I vehicles by late July 1942. On 21st January 1943, the 15th Infantry Division received an additional twelve Marder III vehicles based on the Panzer 38(t). Its Marder Is were then given to 158th Reserve Division.

The 17th Infantry Division received 9 Marder I by the end of July 1942. Their use by this unit was problematic from the start due to a lack of radio operators and mechanics. Additional problems were created by the inexperience of the driver with such fully tracked vehicles. The height of some of these drivers was also problematic, as they had issues entering their positions inside the Marder I hull. What was interesting was the fact that the driver would go out of the vehicle during the firing of the main gun. The capacity of the inboard batteries was too weak. For example, they would usually be discharged after only one hour of using the radio with the engine off. This would result in the batteries having no power to start the engine. Then, it had to be manually started by two crew members by using a hand crank, which in practice proved to be difficult to do. One more big flaw was noted during a long off-road marches, with the accumulating mud and earth that could lead to the loss of the rear idler wheels. At least two vehicles were reported to have lost the rear idler.

Marder I rearview. This particular vehicle belongs to the 15th Infantry Division stationed in France. Source. https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/marder/

The 106th Infantry Division operated an anti-tank company with 9 Marder I vehicles after late July 1942. One command vehicle based on the Panzer I and six ammunition transport vehicles based on the Panzer I were also available. In late February 1943, the 106th Infantry Division was repositioned to the Eastern Front and the Marder I vehicles of the anti-tank company were replaced with 9 towed 7.5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank guns.

The 167th Infantry Division had 9 Marder I vehicles up to late January 1943. When it was sent to the Eastern Front in late February 1943, all the Marder Is were replaced with 9 towed 7.5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank guns.

The 26th Panzer Division operated a company of Marder I vehicles for a short time from 1st January to 1st May 1943.

The same vehicle is seen from the side. Due to its weak armor protection, the Marder I’s best defense was a well selected and camouflaged combat position. Source: https://ww2db.com/image.php?image_id=14264

By the end of 1942, the 1st Panzer Division was repositioned to France for recuperation and refitting with new weapons and equipment. At this time, it was reinforced with one Marder I company. These vehicles would be replaced with Marder IIIs in late February 1943.

During 1943, many more units stationed in France would also be reinforced with Marder I vehicles before they were relocated to other fronts. The number of supplied Marder I vehicles varied between each division. For example, the 94th Infantry Division received 14, while the 348th Infantry Division received only 5. By the end of 1943, there were 94 Marder Is with 83 operational vehicles in Western Europe. In total, at the start of 1944, there were 131 Marder Is available. The last known unit that received a company of 10 vehicles was the 245th Infantry Division on 13th May 1944.

The Marder I would see extensive action during the Allied Normandy landings in June 1944. While they managed to achieve some success, nearly all were lost with the German defeat in France. The 719th Infantry Division was the last unit to still possess 7 (with 3 operational) Marder Is on 27th January 1945. Interestingly, at the end of the war, the Belgian resistance managed to capture one Marder I vehicle.

An abandoned Marder I somewhere on the Western Front 1944. Source: http://panzerserra.blogspot.com/2019/02/marder-i-auf-geschutzwagen-lorraine.html
Marder I was captured by the Belgian resistance. They painted a large white star on the side and, on the front, a Belgian flag. Source: Unknown

In the Soviet Union

As stated previously, OKH plans for the Marder I stated that it was to be used to equip units stationed in France in order to ease maintenance and procurement of spare parts. But, as the demand for such vehicles on the Eastern Front was great, the original plans had to be changed. Through direct orders from the OKH (dated from the 9th August 1942), six divisions from Heeresgruppe Mitte were to be equipped with Marder I anti-tank companies.

The 31st Infantry Division was reinforced with a Marder I anti-tank company on the 27th of August 1942. Due to harsh conditions and strong Soviet resistance, by the end of June 1943, this unit had only 4 Marder I left. By the end of October, the last three Marder I was given to Pz.Jg.Abt 743 (Panzerjäger Abteilung). At the start of 1944, none of these were still operational, with two requiring extensive repairs, while the third could not be repaired.

The 35th Infantry Division received its Marder Is by the start of September 1942. By the end of 1943, only two non-operational vehicles were available

The 36th Motorized Infantry Division was to be reinforced with a Marder I company that was initially attached to the 2nd Panzer Division. By the start of December 1942, all 9 vehicles were operational. The last Marder I vehicle was lost in July 1943.

The 72nd Infantry Division received 9 Marder I vehicles together with 6 Muni-Anhaenger (ammunition and supply wheel trailers) on 3rd September 1942. When the vehicles arrived, it was noted that there were issues with the breech block mechanism which had to be repaired. Additional problems with transmission breakdowns were also noted. What is interesting is that the Marder I company also had a Panzer 38(t) that probably acted as a command vehicle. By the end of June 1943, there were 7 Marder Is operational with the last vehicle being lost by the end of the year.

One Marder I company was to be allocated to the 206th Infantry Division, but this company was instead given to the 72nd Infantry Division. This caused a delay in the delivery of the first five Marder I vehicles up to the end of 1942, with the remaining arriving in January the following year. By the end of June, there were 8 vehicles with 5 operational. By the end of 1943, there were still 7 vehicles with only five operational.

Some Marder Is were equipped with Muni-Anhaenger trailers which provided additional spare ammunition. Source. Wikimedia Commons

The last unit on the Eastern Front that received the Marder I was the 256th Infantry Division. Initially, it had eight Marder I vehicles in its inventory, dated from 3rd November 1942. At the start of 1943, there were 9 Marder Is with eight operational. By the end of the year, the number of vehicles was reduced to 7 Marder Is, with only three operational. The 256th Infantry Division would be reinforced with three additional Marder Is vehicles in early 1944.

While the Marder I had sufficient firepower to destroy any enemy tank in 1942/43, the Soviet weather simply proved too much for the Lorraine 37L chassis. This can be seen in a combat report made by Pz.Jg.Abt 72 (belonging to the 72nd Infantry Division), which states: ‘as experience has shown, these (Marder I) don’t have any significant combat value because of their limited employability due to the weather’. In another report made by Pz.Jg.Abt 256, it is stated that: ‘with the exception of the Marder I, the other weapons and vehicles have been proven useful’. Due to bad weather, low numbers, problems with spare parts and others, not many Marder Is would be used on the Eastern Front and they would be replaced with Marder II and III vehicles which were built on more reliable chassis.

A Marder I on the Eastern Front painted in white camouflage. The harsh weather conditions proved to be too much for the French chassis and for this reason most remained in France. Source: Unknown

In North Africa

While the majority of the Marder Is would be used on the Western and Eastern fronts, few would also be found in North Africa. The 334th Infantry Division was to be resupplied with a Marder I company and, for this reason, the crewmen necessary to operate these vehicles were to be sent to the Sprember training center at the start of December 1942. After the completion of the crew training, which lasted two weeks, this company with 9 Marder I and 6 ammunition transport vehicles were to be transported from Naples to Tunisia by using the large Me 323 transport planes. By 1st March 1943, there were 8 vehicles operational with 4 under repair. Due to losses, this company was reinforced with Marder III vehicles based on the Panzer 38(t) chassis in early April 1943. Two Marder Is together with a group of Marder III participated in the defense of the Kairouan Line against Allied tanks. In the following engagement, seven enemy tanks were destroyed with the loss of one Marder I and five Marder III.

Surviving vehicles

While nearly two hundred vehicles were built, only one Marder I still exists and can be seen at the Musée des Blindés, Saumur (France).

Front view of the surviving Marder I vehicle. Source. Wikimedia Commons

Conclusion

The Marder I tank hunter was an attempt to solve the problem of the low mobility of towed anti-tank guns, but it failed in many other aspects. The most obvious was the fact that it was built on a captured chassis which led to logistical problems, as spare parts for it would be difficult to find. The low armor thickness meant that, while it could engage enemy tanks at range, any kind of return fire would likely mean the destruction of this vehicle. The Marder I’s armor provided the crew with only a basic level of protection against rifle rounds or shrapnel. Its speed and operational range were also not too impressive. The suspension and the running gear were not adequate for the weather condition present on the Eastern Front.

In conclusion, the Marder I vehicle was far from perfect, but gave the German a means to increase the mobility of the effective PaK 40 anti-tank gun, thus giving them a chance to fight back against enemy armored formations.

Eastern Front, winter 1942
Marder I on the Eastern Front, winter 1942-43.
Marder I, Normandy 1944
7.5cm Pak 40/1 auf Geschutzwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f) Sd.Kfz.135 – Normandy, 1944.
Marder I in France
Marder I in France, September 1944. Notice the camouflage nets.
Inspiration for the illustrations: RPM, Ironsides model kits

Sources

Walter J. Spielberger (1989), Beute-Kraftfahrzeuge und Panzer der Deutschen Wehrmacht. Motorbuch.
D. Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2005) Panzer Tracts No.7-2 Panzerjager
A. Lüdeke (2007) Waffentechnik im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Parragon books
G. Parada, W. Styrna and S. Jablonski (2002), Marder III, Kagero
P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle (1978) Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition, Arms and Armor press.
D. Doyle (2005). German military Vehicles, Krause Publications.
L. Ness (2002), World War II Tanks And Fighting Vehicles The Complete Guide, HarperCollins Publishers
P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle (1971) German Army S.P. Weapons 1939-45, M.A.P. Publication.
P. Thomas (2017) Image Of War Hitler’s Tank Destroyers, Pen and Sword.
W.J.K. Davies (1979), Panzerjager German Anti-Tank Battalions of World War Two. Almark Publishing Co.Ltd.

Panzerjager LrS 7.5 cm PaK 40/1 (Sd.KFz.135) specifications

Dimensions 4.95 x 2.1 x 2.05 m
Total weight, battle ready 8.5 tonnes
Crew 4 (Commander, Gunner, Loader and Driver)
Propulsion Delahaye Type 135 70 hp @ 2800 rpm
Speed 35 km/h, 8 km/h (cross country)
Operational range 120 km, 75 km (cross country)
Primary Armament 7.5 cm PaK 40/1 L/46
Secondary Armament 7.92 mm MG 34
Elevation -20° to +20°
Traverse 25° to the right and 32° to the left
Armor Superstructure: 10-11 mm
Hull: 6-12 mm
Categories
Yugoslavian armor

ZSU-57-2 in Yugoslavian Service

Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1963-2006)
Self-propelled anti-aircraft vehicle- 120-125

In a search to equip its army with modern anti-aircraft vehicles, the JNA (Jugoslovenska narodna armija, Yugoslav People’s Army) High Command decided to negotiate the purchase of over 100 copies of the Soviet ZSU-57-2. These vehicles arrived in the 1960s and would be used to equip armored and tank brigades. The ZSU-57-2 would see action during the chaotic Yugoslav wars in the 1990s. A few vehicles would remain in service up to 2005 in the Serbian Army (Vojska Srbije) and 2006 in the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Oružane snage Bosne i Hercegovine) before finally being retired from service.

History

After the Second World War, the long process of building and rearming the new Yugoslav People’s Army was underway. Despite attempts to develop domestic tanks, this was not possible, so the JNA was forced to acquire new equipment from abroad. Initially, the Soviet Union was the main supplier. However, during the so-called Tito-Stalin split that started in 1948, the JNA turned to Western countries and managed to sign the MDAP (Mutual Defence Aid Program) with the United States. Thanks to MDAP, the JNA received, during 1951-1958, plenty of new military equipment, including a small number of M15 anti-aircraft half-tracks. The JNA also made a few of its own anti-aircraft vehicles by mounting captured German anti-aircraft guns, mostly 20 mm ones, on any available trucks. While the M15 was a properly designed military vehicle, it was still outdated by the fifties. The truck versions were simple modifications and, in reality, of little combat value as they had no armor protection nor sophisticated tracking sights. The truck version appears to have been used only in military parades.

For nearly a decade, these vehicles were the only mobile anti-aircraft vehicles available in the JNA. For this reason, JNA officials were desperate to find more modern anti-aircraft vehicles. As the political tensions with the Soviet Union began to relax after Stalin’s death in 1953, the possibility of purchasing new Soviet military equipment emerged again. For this reason, during the early sixties, the JNA managed to buy over 100 Soviet ZSU-57-2 anti-aircraft vehicles. Ironically, in their desperation to find more modern anti-aircraft vehicles, the JNA actually bought a vehicle that was already becoming obsolete even during its introduction to the Soviet army.

A column of JNA trucks armed with pairs of 20 mm cannons. Source: Unknown
This version was equipped with a German 2 cm drilling MG 151. Source: Unknown
For some years, the M15 was the most ‘modern’ mobile AA vehicle in the JNA arsenal, until it was replaced with the Soviet ZSU-57-2. Source: https://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/

Soviet ZSU-57-2

The ZSU-57-2 was designed by the artillery designer Vasiliy Grabin shortly after World War II. The first prototype was completed in the summer of 1950 and the production began in 1955. ZSU stands for Zenitnaya Samokhodnaya Ustanovka (anti-aircraft self-propelled mount) and 57-2 stands for the fact that it was armed with two 57 mm cannons. This vehicle was built using a modified chassis of the new T-54 tank. The modification of the chassis included reducing the road wheels per side to four and using lighter armor.

On top of the T-54 chassis, a new open-top turret was added. This turret was powered by an electric motor with hydraulic speed gears. The turret traverse speed was 36° per second. Inside this turret, two 57 mm S-68 cannons were mounted. Each cannon had a rate of fire of 240 rounds per minute. For these guns, both fragmentation and armor-piercing ammunition were available. The ammunition load was 300 rounds, with 176 rounds being stored inside the turret and the remaining in the hull. The effective range, when used against flying targets, was 6 km. To efficiently operate the vehicle, six crew members were needed: commander, gunner, loader, driver, and two sight adjusters.

The ZSU-57-2 was powered by a V-54 12-cylinder diesel engine providing 520 hp. Despite the weight of 28 tonnes, thanks to the strong engine, the maximum speed was 50 km/h. With a fuel load of 850 liters, the operational range was 420 km.

The ZSU-57-2 had serious firepower that could easily destroy any aerial target but had many issues. The greatest weaknesses were the lack of modern range-finding and radar equipment, the impossibility of engaging targets at night, the lack of protection for its crew (being open-topped), and low ammunition count. While many would be sold to other Warsaw Pact countries, like East Germany, Romania, and Poland, its service within the Soviet Army was limited. By the end of the fifties, it was mostly replaced with the ZSU-23-4.

The Soviet ZSU-57-2 Source: Wikimedia Commons

In JNA Service

In October 1962, a JNA military delegation was sent to the Soviet Union to negotiate the purchase of new military supplies and equipment. During this visit, the Soviets presented the ZSU-57-2 to the Yugoslav delegation. The delegation was highly interested in it and, during the following month, an agreement was reached for the purchase of 40 vehicles and 50,000 rounds of ammunition. The price for each vehicle, with two spare barrels, was US$80,000. By the end of 1963, the shipment of the first group was completed. The following year, 16 more vehicles were purchased, followed by 69 in 1965, for a total of 125 vehicles (or 120 depending on the source).

The Soviets were somewhat confused when the JNA delegation asked for more ZSU-57-2 vehicles during 1965. While the Soviets were willing to sell their older and obsolete equipment, there were no more ZSU-57-2s available. By that time, the majority of the ZSU-57-2s were either sold or given to the Warsaw Pact Allies, with a small number preserved for military parades.

This was the first vehicle supplied, which was used for evaluation testing. Source: http://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/zsu57/opis.html

Due to the small number acquired by the JNA, the ZSU-57-2 was used to equip Armored Brigades, Armored Regiments, and Tank Brigades with smaller numbers used as training vehicles. The Armored Brigades and Regiments were each equipped with six ZSU-57-2 and one M3A1 scout armored car that served as a command vehicle. Tank Brigades were equipped with two batteries of four vehicles each.

During the seventies, the JNA anti-aircraft units were equipped with more modern Strela-1M surface-to-air missile system vehicles. For this reason, new mixed anti-aircraft units were formed, which consisted of two 12 vehicle batteries of ZSU-57-2s and one 6-vehicle Strela-1M battery.

During its nearly 30-year long career in the JNA, no attempts were ever made to increase the effectiveness of this vehicle. While more modern equipment was eventually acquired (like 30 mm Praga vehicles), the ZSU-57-2 would be never truly replaced. While there were plans that by the year 2000, all available anti-aircraft vehicles would be replaced by 40 mm caliber weapon systems, due to a lack of funds and the breakup of Yugoslavia, this was never achieved. Prior to the breakup of Yugoslavia, the ZSU-57-2 was never used in any combat operations and was mostly used in military exercises and some parades.

ZSU-57-2 during firing exercises. Source: http://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/zsu57/opis.html
A trio of ZSU-57-2 during the military exercise in 1972. Source: http://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/zsu57/opis.html
A ZSU-57-2 at the Šepurine Military base. This picture was taken in 1972. Source: http://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/zsu57/opis.html
A ZSU-57-2 crossing a river. Source: http://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/zsu57/opis.html
Two ZSU-57-2 on a military parade in Belgrade Source: http://www.balkanwarhistory.com/2017/04/the-zsu-57-2-in-service-of-yugoslav.html

During the Yugoslav Wars

At the start of the Yugoslav war, in 1991, there were still 110 operational ZSU-57-2 vehicles. Due to their small numbers, they were quite uncommon on the battlefields. In most cases, individual vehicles were used in combat, while, in rarer cases, small units were formed as supporting elements for other units. As the usage of aviation in the Yugoslav war was limited on all sides, the ZSU-57-2 was often used in a fire support role. Thanks to its firepower and high elevation, it could be used effectively against enemy forces that were hiding in larger buildings during urban combat. The best example of this can be seen during the Croatian attempt to storm the JNA anti-aircraft school center in Zadar. The Croatian forces were taking firing positions in the surrounding buildings. Thanks to the ZSU-57-2’s high elevation, these could be quickly neutralized by short bursts. Another example was the use of the single ZSU-57-2, nicknamed by its crew ‘Strava’ (Eng: ‘horror’ or ‘dread’), belonging to the 2nd Ozren Brigade operating in the Krivaja valley. There, the ZSU-57-2 proved to be an excellent support vehicle in engaging the enemy forces in the hilly terrain. In July 1995, forces of Republica Srpska, with support of a few ZSU-57-2s, engaged the Bosnian 28th Division. One ZSU-57-2 was destroyed and one was captured and immediately put to use by the Bosnian forces against the former user.

While the majority of the ZSU-57-2 SPAAGs would be operated by the JNA and Republika Srpska armies, smaller numbers would be captured by Croatian and Slovenian forces as well. In an attempt to increase protection, at least one vehicle used by the army of the Republika Srpska was equipped with a top cover. In addition, this vehicle had several spare ammunition boxes added to the front glacis armor.

During the war, the Serbs force used a number of ZSU-57-2. On at least one vehicle, they added makeshift armor on the vehicle top. Source: Wikimedia Commons

After the war

After the war, the ZSU-57-2 was operated for a limited time by the former Yugoslav Republics of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia/Republika Srpska. After the withdrawal of the JNA forces from Slovenia, some 22 ZSU-57-2 SPAAGs were left behind. These remained in use by the Slovenian Army up to the end of the 1990s, when all were removed from service. The Croatians managed to capture a few ZSU-57-2s during the war, but their use after the war was probably limited. The Republika Srpska operated a small number of such vehicles. In 2006, the Army of Bosnia and Republika Srpska were united into a single Army force. At that time, there were 6 ZSU-57-2s which were withdrawn from service.

The ZSU-57-2 remained in use for the longest time within the new SRJ (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia – Savezna Republika Jugoslavija) Army. The depleted number of ZSU-57-2s would again see combat action during the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia in 1999. By that time only two units, the 36th and 252nd Armored Brigades, still operated the ZSU-57-2. The 36th Armored Brigade was tasked with defending a 70 km long defense line from any possible NATO advance through Hungary or Croatia. Its ZSU-57-2 was used in the anti-aircraft defense of Northern Serbia against the NATO bombing raids. Due to extensive NATO aviation operations in this area, the 36th Armored Brigade used a large number of dummy wooden mockups, false firing positions, tank engine temperature imitation techniques, or other improvisations in order to fool NATO forces. While the ZSU-57-2, due to their general obsolescence, did not have any success against NATO aviation, the 36th Armored Brigade did manage to preserve almost all of its equipment.

The second unit to use this vehicle was the 252nd Armored Brigade initially stationed at the city of Kraljevo. When NATO started a bombing campaign against Yugoslavia the 252nd Armored Brigade was surprisingly moved by train to Kosovo and Metohija. There the unit reported having problems with the equipment and vehicles that were previously placed in storage. By the end of the 1999 war, only one ZSU-57-2 was lost.

Some 32 vehicles were reported to be still operational by 2005. By that time, they were deemed obsolete and all were eventually scrapped.

ZSU-57-2 belonging to the 36th Armored Brigade during the 1999 Yugoslav war. Source: http://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/zsu57/opis.html

Surviving vehicles

While over 100 were purchased from the Soviet Union, only a few have survived to this day. One can be found in the Bosnian Military Barracks in Banja Luka. At least two are in Slovenia, with one at the Pivka Military History Park. A ZSU-57-2 is in the Military Museum in Vukovar, Croatia. Remains of damaged ZSU-57-2s were located in Kosovo and Metohija.

The ZSU-57-2 from Banja Luka Source: http://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/zsu57/opis.html
The Croatian ZSU-57-2. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Conclusion

Ironically, in the search for a modern anti-aircraft vehicle, the JNA actually obtained the obsolete ZSU-57-2. Until being supplemented by Praga anti-aircraft vehicles, the ZSU-57-2 represented the backbone of the JNA mobile anti-aircraft defense. Unfortunately, though intended to protect Yugoslavia from any external air force threats, it saw action against the people it was intended to defend. During the breakup of Yugoslavia, despite the small numbers available, the ZSU-57-2s would nevertheless see combat action in a new role of fire support vehicles. While of little combat value in contrast to other more modern and radar-equipped SPAAGs, it nevertheless had an exceptionally long career of over 40 years.

Croatian ZSU-57-2
Croatian ZSU-57-2, now preserved
ZSU-57-2
Serbian ZSU-57-2 in the 1990s. These were modified with extra storage acting as armour and fitted with a hard top made of armour plates.
ZSU-57-2
Slovenian ZSU-57-2

Source

M. Guardia (2015) Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Guns Of The Soviet Union, Osprey Publishing.
P. Trewhitt (1999) Armoured Fighting vehicles, Amber Books.
B. B. Dumitrijević and D. Savić (2011) Oklopne jedinice na Jugoslovenskom ratištu, Institut za savremenu istoriju, Beograd.
B. B. Dumitrijević (2010), Modernizacija i intervencija, Jugoslovenske oklopne jedinice 1945-2006, Institut za savremenu istoriju, Beograd.
B. B. Dumitrijević (2015) Vek Srpske Protibbazdušne Odbrane, Odbrana.
Surviving ZSU-57-2 Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Guns
Arsenal 81-90 Magazine 2014.
http://www.srpskioklop.paluba.info/zsu57/opis.html

ZSU-57-2 specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 8.5 x 3.23 x 2.75 m
Total weight, battle ready 28 tonnes
Crew 6 (commander, gunner, loader, driver and two sight adjusters)
Propulsion 520 HP V-54 twelve-cylinder diesel engine
Speed 50 km/h, 30 km/h (cross country)
Range 420 km, 320 km (cross country)
Armament 2 x 57 mm S68 autocannons
Elevation -5° to +80°
Traverse 360°
Armor Up to 15 mm
Total production 2020+
Categories
WW2 German Medium Tanks

Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. D

Nazi Germany (1939)
Medium Support Tank – 229-232 plus 16 chassis

During the early development of the Panzer IV, nobody involved in the program knew that this vehicle, designed to serve as a support Panzer, would become the Wehrmacht’s backbone for a good deal of the war. While today the Tiger and Panther are better known, the Panzer IV was produced in the greatest numbers and served on all fronts in many bloody engagements throughout the war. In October 1939, the demands for an increasing number of support tanks would lead to the introduction of the Panzer IV Ausf. D version, of which over 200 would be built.

The Panzer Ausf. D. Source: https://warspot.net/24-pz-kpfw-iv-ausf-d-through-e

History

Following the adoption of the Panzer IV Ausf. B and C and high demand for support tanks, the German Army High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres, OKH) issued production orders for a new batch of 200 vehicles in July 1938. With the forming of new SS Standarten units at the insistence of Adolf Hitler himself, 48 additional vehicles were to be built. These were to be used to equip four SS Standarten with a mittlere Panzer Kompanie (medium tank company). As it turned out, these vehicles were instead given to Heer Panzer Divisions (units of the regular German Army). The SS Standarten units were instead to be equipped with StuG Batteries. While the Ausf. D was a further extension of the Panzer IV production and was quite similar to the previous versions, some changes were made nevertheless.

Production

Production of the Panzer IV Ausf. D was, like for previous models, carried out by Krupp-Grusonwerk from Magdeburg-Buckau. From October 1939 through October 1940, of the 248 ordered Panzer IV Ausf. D tanks, only 232 were built. The whole production process was very slow, with an average of 13 tanks being built every month. During 1940, the production numbers gradually increased to 20 tanks per month. The remaining 16 chassis were instead used as Brückenleger IV bridge carriers. According to K. Hjermstad (Panzer IV Squadron), some 229 vehicles were built until May 1941.

Specifications

While the Panzer IV Ausf. D was visually very similar to the previous build versions there were some differences.

The Superstructure

The Panzer IV Ausf. D superstructure had the same dimensions as the previous models (Ausf. B and C) which, besides some changes, would remain in use up to the war’s end. The difference was the reintroduction of the protruding driver plate and the ball mounted machine gun. The previously used pistol port proved difficult to properly use and was abandoned. While the protruding left side of the superstructure offered the driver with a better view to the front and sides, it also made the front plate more complicated to build. On the front of this plate, a protective Fahrersehklappe 30 sliding driver visor port was placed, which was provided with thick armored glass for extra protection. When the driver visor was closed (usually when in combat operations), the driver would then use the KFF binocular periscope to see through two small round ports located just above the visor. Many Panzer IV Ausf. D vehicles had a welded rain guard placed over the driver visor. The side vision ports (on the superstructure and the turret) were 30 mm thick and additionally protected by 90 mm thick armored glass blocks.

Front view of the Panzer IV Ausf. D. A number of modifications introduced with this version can be seen, such as the added machine gun ball mount and the front armor plate. Source: Unknown

The Turret

The Panzer IV Ausf. D turret design was mostly unchanged. The only visible change was the introduction of new types of observation ports. The turret was, like the previous versions, provided with a large stowage box mounted on its rear from early 1941 on. Some vehicles had an unusual but simpler stowage box mounted to the rear of the turret, but otherwise performed the same role.

A Panzer IV Ausf. D seen from the top. Note the rectangular ventilation flap and the round signal port. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/panzer-iv/
This vehicle was equipped with a non-standard stowage box. Source: http://panzermaenner.blogspot.com/2016/02/

Suspension and running gear

To somewhat improve the Panzer IV Ausf. D’s overall drive performance, five bump stops were added on each side. The last bogie assembly was provided with two bump stops, while the remaining three had only one (on each side). Smaller number of Ausf. D were also equipped with a slightly redesigned (same as on Ausf. E) drive sprocket and road wheel cover.

The Panzer IV Ausf. D used a new type of track which had the height of the track center guides increased. For this reason, the new tracks could not be used on earlier versions, but the Ausf. D could use, if necessary, older types of tracks without problems.

The Engine and Transmission

The Ausf. D was powered by the Maybach HL 120 TRM engine with 265 [email protected] rpm. Despite the increase of weight to 20 tonnes, the maximum speed was 42 km/h, with 25 km/h cross-country. The operational range was 210 km on road and 130 km cross-country. The fuel load of 470 l was stored in three fuel tanks placed under the fighting compartment. The engine side air intakes were redesigned and simplified and consisted of a single horizontal bar.

The Panzer IV Ausf. D rear engine side air intakes were redesigned and simplified for production. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/panzer-iv/

The Armor Protection

For the lower hull, the upper glacis armor plate thickness was 20 mm at a 72° angle, and the lower front glacis was 30 mm placed at a 14° angle. The last 68 produced vehicles had the lower plate thickness increased to 50 mm.

The central part of the side armor of the hull was 40 mm thick, built from two 20 mm plates, while the front part of the side armor (around the driver) was 20 mm thick. The rear engine compartment side armor was 20 mm. The rear armor was 20 mm thick but the lower bottom area was only 14.5 mm and the bottom was 10 mm thick.

The face-hardened front superstructure armor was 30 mm placed at a 9° angle. The sides of the crew compartment were 20 mm placed vertically. The engine compartment was protected by 20 mm thick armor (at a 10° angle) at the sides and 20 mm (at 10° angle) to the rear.

The armor on the Panzer IV Ausf. D was increased after the campaign in the West. While the low velocity 3.7 cm tank guns proved useless against German armor, more modern 25-47 mm caliber anti-tank guns had no problem penetrating the Ausf. D’s 30 mm frontal armor. For this reason, from July 1940 onwards, an additional 30 mm applique armor plates were bolted or welded to the front hull and superstructure armor. The side armor was also increased with 20 mm additional armored plates.

The front turret armor was 30 mm thick (at a 10° angle), while the sides and rear were 20 mm (at 25° angle) and the top was 10 mm (at 83-90° angle). The new external gun mantlet armor was 35 mm thick. The commander’s cupola had all-around 30 mm of armor, with the two hatch doors being 8 mm thick. The armor plates were made using nickel-free homogeneous and rolled plates.

One of the last attempts to improve the Ausf. D’s armor protection was the introduction of a 20 mm thick applique Vorpanzer (forward armor) armored shield added to the front part of the turret. Interestingly, according to old photographs, while some vehicles had both turret and superstructure added armor protection, others had extra armor added to only one. In an attempt to increase overall protection from anti-tank rifles, some Ausf. D vehicles were later equipped with 5 mm thick armor plates (Schürzen). The Panzer IV Ausf. D, as nearly all German Panzers of that time, was equipped with a Nebelkerzenabwurfvorrichtung (smoke grenade rack system).

In an attempt to increase the Panzer IV Ausf. D’s armor protection, additional armor plates (20 to 30 mm thick) were added to the front and sides. Source: Pinterest
This vehicle had the added armor on the superstructure. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/panzer-iv/
This vehicle has the turret extra armor but lacks the superstructure armor. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/panzer-iv/

The Crew

The Panzer IV Ausf. D had, like its predecessors, a crew of five, which included the commander, gunner and loader who were positioned in the turret, and the driver and radio operator in the hull.

The crew positions in the Panzer IV Ausf. D (and in all Panzer IVs). Source: S.J. Zaloga Panzer IV vs. Char B1 Bis

The Armament

The main armament of the Panzer IV Ausf. D was the 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24. The Panzer IV Ausf. B/C used an internal gun mantlet, which proved to be ineffective. The Ausf. D version had an external mantlet which provided better protection. The gun recoil cylinders that were outside of the turret were covered with a steel jacket and a deflector guard. Similar to earlier versions, the Ausf. D was also equipped with a ‘Y’ shaped metal rod antenna guide placed under the gun. Its purpose was to deflect the antenna and thus avoid damaging it during turret rotation.

The Panzer IV Ausf. D was the first version that was equipped with the external gun mantlet. Source: https://world-war-2.wikia.org/wiki/7.5_cm_KwK_37

Besides the main gun, the Panzer IV was provided with two 7.92 mm MG 34 machine guns for use against infantry. One machine gun was placed in a coaxial configuration with the main gun and was fired by the gunner. Another machine gun was positioned in the right side of the superstructure, and was operated by the radio operator. On the Ausf. D, a new type of the ball mount, Kugelblende 30, was used. The ammunition load for the two MG 34’s was 2.700 rounds.

The Ausf. D once more introduced the second machine gun, which would become standard on all subsequent Panzer IV vehicles. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/panzer-iv/

Vehicles that were damaged and returned from the front line for repair from July 1942 onward were equipped with the longer KwK 40 guns. These vehicles were mostly used for crew training but also as replacement vehicles for active units.

This surviving Ausf. D was armed with the longer 7.5 cm gun. In addition, it is also equipped with 5 mm thick armor plates (Schürzen) on the turret. These modified vehicles were mostly used for crew training, but some probably were used in combat. Source: https://warspot.net/24-pz-kpfw-iv-ausf-d-through-e

Organization and Tactics

Prior to the German invasion of Poland, the general organization of a Panzer Division consisted of two regiments each having two Panzer Battalions. These battalions were then divided into four companies. Although these units were meant to be equipped with modern Panzer III and IV tanks, due to the slow rate of production, this was not possible. For this reason, the earlier Panzer Divisions had to be equipped with weaker Panzer I and II tanks, and even captured and foreign vehicles such as the Panzer 35(t) and 38(t). In the case of the Panzer IV, the situation was so critical that each Panzer Division could only be equipped with 24 (on average) such vehicles. The few produced Panzer IVs were allocated to the so-called Heavy Companies, which were divided into two platoons, each with 3 vehicles.

The primary function of the Panzer IV was to provide covering and suppressing fire for the advancing Panzer units. While they were used in Heavy Companies in combat situations, the battalion commanders would often reallocate the Panzer IV to other companies. These mixed units offered better cooperation between different types of Panzers, as the identification of targets could be achieved easier. Then, the Panzer IV crews could direct their firepower to destroy the marked target much quicker.

The usual German Panzer tactic was the use of the ‘Keil’ (wedge) formation. The tip of this attack would be formed by the Panzer III and Panzer 35 (t) and 38 (t), while the Panzer I and II would advance on the flanks. The Panzer IVs were to follow up and would continue destroying any marked targets. The targets would usually be marked with tracer rounds or smoke marker shells. The Panzer IV’s 7.5 cm cannon was effective against all soft skin targets but was also effective against most tanks except for the better-armored ones, such as the French B1 bis or British Matilda and, later in 1941, against the Soviet T-34 and KV series.

Prior to Operation Barbarossa, Adolf Hitler ordered that the number of Panzer Division be doubled. While in theory this could be fairly easily achieved, in practice, due to a lack of tanks, the only solution possible was to reduce the number of tanks per Panzer Divisions. Each Panzer Division had only one regiment with two to three battalions. During the attack on the Soviet Union, each Panzer Division had on average 30 Panzer IV tanks.

In Combat

While the previous versions were used in Poland, due to its late introduction, the Ausf. D’s first combat action undertaken was in May 1940 during the German Invasion of the West. Depending on the source, between 278 and 296 (even up to 366) Panzer IV tanks were available. These were allocated to 10 Panzer Divisions. The 1st Panzer Division was provided with the largest number of Panzer IVs, with a total of 48, while the 9th Panzer Division had only 11. While primarily designed as a support tank, it was still equipped with armor-piercing ammunition in case of encountering enemy tanks.

Despite the quick defeat of the Allied forces in the West, the fighting was extensive and harsh. In order to protect the flanks of the German Sedan bridgeheads, Heinz Guderian ordered the 10th Panzer Division, supported by the Großdeutschland Infanterie Regiment, to capture Stonne in Northern France. The French 55e Division d’Infanterie, supported by FCM 36 tanks, was trying to counterattack the German units but was beaten back on 14th May. The French scouting force managed to dig in at Stonne and had at their disposal two 25 mm and one 47 anti-tank guns and two Panhard 178 armored cars. The German advancing column consisted of five Panzer IVs, which approached the village on 15th May. The French 25 mm gunners engaged the first Panzer IV Ausf. D, they fired several rounds until they were certain that the German tank was knocked out. They then engaged the second (with number 711) which was also knocked out and then the third which was completely blown up due to ammunition detonation. The French 25 mm gun crews retreated to the village followed by advancing German infantry and a few Panzer IIs. The French, despite having destroyed three Panzer IV, were forced to retreat with the loss of both vehicles, while the Germans lost one more Panzer II.

The French then counterattacked with 13 Hotchkiss H39 tanks. The crews of the damaged Panzer IV number 711 managed to destroy two H39 tanks, while the French managed to enter the village. Due to a lack of infantry support, they were once again forced to retreat. A second French counter-attack was led by Lt. Paul Caravé with three B1 bis tanks. They first engaged a group of German 3.7 cm Pak 36 anti-tank guns. While they managed to destroy one gun and wound the crew of the second, the third gun managed to hit one of the B1 bis tanks on the side grill armor. The tank immediately caught fire and was lost. At the same time, one B1 bis, ‘Hautvillers’, was engaged by the disabled Panzer IV Ausf. D number 711, which managed to shoot 20 rounds against the frontal armor of the French tank without any success. But the Panzer IV managed to destroy the French tank’s track and render it immobile. At the same time, a second B1 bis, ‘Gaillac’, was engaged by the same Panzer IV. This time, due to a lucky hit, the German tank jammed the second French tank’s cupola. The Panzer IV managed to fire another round to the rear, and this time the 7.5 cm gun managed to penetrate the armor of the B1 bis which was blown up by an internal explosion. The crew of the ‘Hautvillers’ abandoned their vehicle and were captured.

The French attacked again with a few H39, FCM-36 and three B1 Bis and, after heavy fighting, managed to take over the village. On 16th May, the Germans finally managed to push back the French. Due to losses, the 10th Panzer Division had to be pulled out. By the end of the engagement, the losses were 25 German tanks and 33 French ones.

The Panzer IV Ausf. D lost during the first German drive toward Stonne. This particular engagement proved that the improved Panzer IV Ausf. D armor was still not enough. Source: Pinterest

During the campaign in the West, Panzer IVs even claimed to have achieved an incredible success like sinking a destroyer. This happened on 25th May 1940, when two Panzer IVs belonging to the 2nd Panzer Division, led by Oberleutnant von Jaworsk, entered Boulogne harbor. At the same time, an Allied destroyer which was transporting troops to defend Boulogne approached the harbor. After a fight that lasted some 10 minutes, the destroyer received severe damage from the Panzer IVs, sinking a few hours later.

Despite the quick defeat of the Allied forces in the West, the Germans lost many tanks. Regarding the Panzer IV, less than 100 were reported lost. While the sources are not clear, probably not all were written off, some were likely repaired and put back into action. In France, while the Panzer IV Ausf. D (and older versions) had a disadvantage in armor protection, they had the superiority in the proper use and concentration of numbers, radio equipment, and three-man tank turrets.

A Panzer IV Ausf. D somewhere in France, 1940. Source: https://www-d0.fnal.gov/~turcot/Armour/pz3.htm
Despite the German attempts to increase the armor protection of the Panzer IV, they were still susceptible to most French anti-tank guns. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/panzer-iv-tank/

There were initially 40 Panzer IVs (mainly Ausf.Ds) in service with the Deutsche Afrika Korps (DAK) in 1941. Due to combat attrition, the numbers dropped to 10 vehicles in early 1942. By May 1942, the number was increased to 41 vehicles. In North Africa, the Panzer IV Ausf. D’s performance was deemed insufficient and was eventually replaced with Panzer IVs armed with the stronger KwK 40 guns.

Panzer IV Ausf. D in Africa in 1941. Extra fuel or water cans were often carried due to the long distance from the supply bases. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/panzer-4/

The Panzer IV Ausf. D would see service in the occupation of Yugoslavia and Greece. During the German Balkan campaign there were some 122 Panzer IV available.

By the time of the German Invasion of the Soviet Union, the number of Panzer IVs was increased to 517 (or 531 depending on the source), with each Panzer Division receiving, on average, 30 vehicles. While the Panzer IV proved to be effective against the lightly armored Soviet tanks (for example the T-26 or BT-series), the newer T-34 and KV-series proved to be too much for it. Due to attrition, lack of fuel and spare parts, by the end of 1941, there were only 75 operational and 136 Panzer IVs requiring short term repair in the inventory of the German Army groups Heeresgruppe Nord and Mitte. By 1st April 1942, the Germans managed to increase the number of Panzer IVs to 552 vehicles.

The Panzer IV would remain in use nearly up to the war’s end. As their numbers began to dwindle, most surviving vehicles would be used as training vehicles.

A Panzer IV Ausf. D driving on route to the frontline somewhere in the Soviet Union. Note the added fuel cans atop the vehicle turret. This was done by its crew to be able to sustain a long drive without the need for supporting fuel transport units. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/panzer-iv/
This vehicle was probably moved out of the way into a ditch due to mechanical breakdown or combat damage. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/panzer-iv/
The Ausf. D would also see extensive combat use in the Soviet Union during 1941/42. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany

Other modifications

The Panzer IV Ausf. D chassis would be used for a number of modifications which include the Munitionsschlepper für Karlgerät, Brückenleger, Tauchpanzer, Tropen and Fahrschulpanzer IV. Different equipment and armament variants were also tested.

Munitionsschlepper für Karlgerät

An unknown number of different Panzer IV chassis (including the Ausf. D) were modified to be used as ammunition supply vehicles for the huge self-propelled siege mortar codenamed ‘Karlgerät’. The modification included removing the turret and installing a large crane in its place. Additionally, an ammunition compartment for four huge 2 tonnes shells was also added.

Munitionsschlepper für Karlgerät. Source: Unknown

Brückenleger IV

Prior to the war, the German Army was interested in the idea of a bridge carrying Panzer. In 1939, Krupp developed and built six Brückenleger IV based on the Panzer IV Ausf. C chassis. As the Ausf. D chassis became available in sufficient numbers, they were also used. Some 16 Ausf. D chassis were used for this configuration. While these saw deployment on the front, their overall performance was deemed insufficient and the production order for 40 more vehicles was canceled. In August 1940, at least two Brückenleger IV were converted back to tank configuration. The remaining Brückenleger IV based on the Panzer IV Ausf. D were also converted in May 1941. What is interesting is that one Brückenleger IV was modified (possibly by its crew) by replacing the bridging equipment with a 5 cm PaK 38 anti-tank gun.

Overall, sixteen Brückenleger IV based on the Panzer IV Ausf. D chassis were built, but they performed unsatisfactorily. Source: Pinterest
A field conversion of one Brückenleger IV by replacing the bridging equipment with a 5 cm anti-tank gun. Source: Pinterest

Tauchpanzer IV

For the planned amphibious invasion of the United Kingdom (Operation Sea Lion) in July and August 1940, some 48 Panzer IV Ausf. Ds were modified to be used as Tauchpanzer (submersible tanks). These vehicles are easily identified by the added frame holder for the waterproof fabric on the front part of the turret and the hull positioned machine gun ball mount. As the invasion of the United Kingdom was postponed and then cancelled, these vehicles would see service on the Eastern Front with the 3rd and 18th Panzer Divisions.

Panzer IV Ausf.D with snow plough

Based on experience during the first Russian winter, in March 1942, Adolf Hitler proposed the installation of snow plough equipment on all Panzers serving on this front. The first testing of the snow plough began at the tank school in St. Johann (Austria). In April 1942, Hitler was informed that a small snow plough could be attached to the tank front. The first such equipment was available for front use in October 1942.

Panzer IV Ausf. D with snow plough. Source: Pinterest

Panzer IV Ausf.D mit 5 cm KwK 39 L/60

When the Germans encountered the Soviet T-34 and KV series, their tank guns proved to be ineffective. For this reason, Krupp was requested to experimentally arm one Panzer IV Ausf. D with the 5 cm KwK 39 L/60 gun. The prototype was to be completed by November 1941. This gun greatly improved the Panzer IV’s anti-tank firepower compared to the original short barrel 7.5 cm gun. While the installation of this gun proved to be feasible and there was a planned production run of 80 vehicles by the spring of 1942, the whole project was canceled. As even more powerful 7.5 cm long barrel versions were slowly entering production, the Germans instead decided to adopt it for the Panzer IV.

The single Panzer IV Ausf. D armed with the 5 cm KwK 39 L/60 gun. Source: https://console.worldoftanks.com/en/news/panzer-IV-variants
The modified Ausf. D together with other experimental tanks waiting for inspection by Adolf Hitler. Source: T. Anderson History of the Panzerwaffe Volume 2 1942-1945.

Panzer IV Ausf. D Tropen

After 1941, the Germans were sending armored forces to North Africa to help their Italian ally. Of course, due to the specific weather conditions, the tanks had to be modified in order to be used operationally. The Panzer IV Ausf. D were modified with an improved ventilation system to cope with the high temperatures. In addition, sand filters were also added to prevent sand getting into the engine. These vehicles were also painted with a sand color to help with camouflage. These vehicles were given a special designation Tr., which stands for Tropen (Tropic). Some 30 Panzer IV Ausf. D were modified for this role.

In order to be used in North Africa, the Panzer IV (and all other armored vehicles) had to be modified with improved ventilation and installation of sand filters. Source: http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_panzer_IV_ausf_D.html

Munitionspanzer IV Ausf. D

During April-May 1943, six Panzer IV chassis (including at least one Ausf. D) were modified to be used as Munitionspanzer (ammunition supply tanks) for the Sturmpanzer IV. For these tanks, the turret and some parts of the interior were removed to make room for ammunition racks. The top of the Panzer IV, where the turret was originally located, was replaced by a sheet metal cover. These vehicles were also equipped with 5 mm thick armored Schürzen.

At least one Panzer IV Ausf. D chassis was used as an ammunition supply vehicle. Source: L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No.8-1 Sturmpanzer

Fahrschulpanzer IV Ausf. D

With the introduction of improved versions of the Panzer IV, some Ausf. D that were returned from the frontline and repaired were given to training tank schools. Visually, they were the same as ordinary tanks.

Surviving vehicles

Today, there are several surviving Panzer IV Ausf. D. These include one in the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum, one at the Fort Lee U.S. Army Ordnance Museum, one Ausf. D armed with the KwK 40 in the Bovington Tank Museum in the UK and one turret at the Munster Panzer Museum in Germany. Interestingly, there are also two Panzer IVs that were restored after the war in Russia. They were restored by using many components of different Panzer IVs.

The Panzer IV Ausf. D in Australia. Source: Wiki
The Bovington Tank Museum Ausf. D armed with the KwK 40. Source: Wiki

Conclusion

The Panzer IV Ausf. D was developed and built due to the demand for more support tanks. It introduced some improvements regarding the armor, adding a new external gun mantlet, simplifying the side air intakes and other minor changes. Compared to the earlier versions, it was built in larger numbers and its chassis was even used for other purposes. It saw service with the Panzer Divisions up to late stages of the war.

Panzer IV Ausf.D, DAK

Panzer IV Ausf.D Tauchpanzer

Sources

K. Hjermstad (2000), Panzer IV Squadron/Signal Publication.
T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (1997) Panzer Tracts No.4 Panzerkampfwagen IV
.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2014) Panzer Tracts No.8-1 Sturmpanzer
D. Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
B, Perrett (2007) Panzerkampfwagen IV Medium Tank 1936-45, Osprey Publishing
P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle (1978) Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition, Arms and Armor press.
Walter J. Spielberger (1993). Panzer IV and its Variants, Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
D. Doyle (2005). German military Vehicles, Krause Publications.
S.J. Zaloga (2011) Panzer IV vs. Char B1 Bis, Osprey publishing
A. Lüdeke (2007) Waffentechnik im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Parragon books.
H. Scheibert, Die Deutschen Panzer Des Zweiten Weltkriegs, Dörfler.
P. P. Battistelli (2007) Panzer Divisions: The Blitzkrieg Years 1939-40. Osprey Publishing
T. Anderson (2017) History of the Panzerwaffe Volume 2 1942-1945. Osprey Publishing

Specifications

Dimensions (l-w-h) 5.92 x 2.83 x 2.68 m (17.7 x 6.11, 8.7 in)
Total weight, battle-ready 20 tonnes
Crew 5 (Commander, Gunner, Loader, Radio Operator and Driver)
Propulsion Maybach HL 120 TR(M) 265 hp @ 2600 rpm
Speed (road/off road) 42 km/h, 25 km/h (cross country)
Range (road/off road)-fuel 210 km, 130 km (cross country)
Primary Armament 7.5 cm KwK L/24
Secondary Armament Two 7.92 mm MG 34
Elevation -10° to +20°
Turret Armor Front 30 mm, sides 20 mm, rear 20 and top 8-10 mm
Hull Armor Front 30 mm, sides 20 mm, rear 14.5-20 mm and the top and bottom 10-11 mm
Categories
WW2 German Armored Cars

Maschinengewehrkraftwagen (Kfz. 13) and Funkkraftwagen (Kfz. 14)

Nazi Germany FlagNazi Germany Armored reconnaissance car/radio car
Number used: 116-147 Kfz. 13 and 30-40 Kfz. 14

1932-1941

In the early thirties, the German army showed interest in the adoption of new types of armored cars. At that time, the German economic situation was dire, having entered a crisis due to the Great Depression, and for this reason, a temporary and cheap solution was needed. This would eventually lead to the adoption of the Kfz. 13 and 14 as temporary solutions until properly designed armored cars could be produced in sufficient numbers. Nevertheless, due to a lack of more modern armored cars, the obsolete Kfz. 13 and 14 would see combat up to the end of 1941.

History

With the end of the First World War, Germany was in a state of chaos. The shattered German army (Reichswehr, as it was known after the war) was involved in preserving peace and suppressing various revolts. Externally, it was engaged to the east against Bolshevik forces. In both cases, the surviving World War One-era armored cars were used extensively. When, in 1920, the terms of the Versailles Treaty were implemented, the German army was reduced to only 100,000 men and the development of tanks and armored cars was forbidden.

Surprisingly, the Allies allowed the German police force (Schutzpolizei), which had 150,000 armed men under service, to be equipped with 1 armored personnel carrier per 1,000 men. The Germans exploited this exception made by the Allies and developed and built a few new armored cars (like the Ehrhardt/21 for example). These were designated Armed Police Special Purpose Vehicles (Schutzpolizei Sonderwagen). These vehicles were nominally given to and used by the police force, but the army also acquired and operated small numbers.

The Ehrhardt / 21 of the Schutzpolizei
The Ehrhardt / 21 of the Schutzpolizei. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The German army was generally unsatisfied with these ‘borrowed’ police armored cars, so during 1926-27, the Reichswehrministerium/Heereswaffenamt Wa. Pruf.6 (the office of the German Army’s Ordnance Department responsible for designing tanks and other motorized vehicles) issued specifications for developing new armored personnel carriers (Gepanzerter Mannschaftstransportwagenen). The term armored personnel carrier was used in order to deceive the Allies about its true purpose.

The new armored car was to be built by using the chassis of commercial vehicles. This was done mostly in order to speed up its development and lower the cost, as well as because of a general lack of experience in designing such vehicles. The tender for this new armored car was issued to nearly all German automobile manufacturers, but, as great attention was given to keeping the whole project a secret, the firms which were not 100% German-owned (like Ford, for example) were to be excluded.

Great interest was given to developing an eight-wheeled armored car named ‘ARW’ and even a ten wheeled ‘ZRW’ chassis. While these vehicles would have excellent mobility compared to four-wheeled armored cars, due to their price, the German army simply could not afford them at that time. While eight-wheeled armored car designs would later be adopted for service, in the meantime, a simpler and cheaper solution was needed. For this reason, the development of new armored cars was focused on four-wheeled chassis. One of the first designs to be adopted in small numbers was the Adler armored car based on the Adler Standard 6. Small numbers would be built and used in the early thirties, but the German army would eventually adopt the Adler Kfz.13 and its radio variant, the Kfz.14.

Maschinengewehrkraftwagen Kfz. 13

The Kfz.13 machine gun vehicle (Maschinengewehrkraftwagen) was Daimler-Benz’s response to the German army request for an easy to build and cheap open-top armored car. To make the Kfz.13 as cheap as possible, the Adler Standard 6 4×2 Kublesitzer passenger car was used for its base. Other sources state that some vehicles may have been built using the Adler Standard 3U.

The Adler Standard 6 4x2 Kublesitzer passenger car
The Adler Standard 6 4×2 Kublesitzer passenger car. Source: https://vorkriegs-klassiker-rundschau.blog/2017/07/27/zeitlos-aktuell-adler-standard-6-allwetter-limousine/

The construction of the Kfz.13 consisted of a simple armored body placed on the civilian Adler Standard 6 chassis. The original curved mudguards were left unchanged. The top was left open, which enabled the crew to have an excellent view of the surroundings but left them highly vulnerable to enemy fire. As this vehicle was never intended to be used in real combat, this was not seen as an issue. The primary function of this vehicle was to provide German manufacturers with experience in designing and building armored cars. The German army also benefited from it, as it was able to gain an insight into how to properly use the armored cars in reconnaissance missions and also to train crews. For self-defense, a rotatable MG 13 machine gun protected by an armored shield was added. Besides its signal flags, the Kfz.13 had no other means of communication with other units. This was the job for the second version based on the Kfz.13, the radio-equipped Kfz.14.

The Kfz.13
The Kfz.13. Source: http://www.panzernet.net/panzernet/stranky/auta/13.php

Kfz.14

In the German military doctrine of the time, the job of an armored car was to advance ahead of the main force, scout for enemy positions and report back. Their greatest assets were not their armor nor weapons, but instead their radio equipment and their mobility. For these reasons, the radio-equipped version of the Kfz. 13 would be built using the same chassis. The Kfz.14, as this version was known, was almost visually identical to the previous version. The only difference was the removal of the machine gun mount and the addition of a large frame antena. It was designed to supplement the Kfz.13’s lack of radio equipment. Otherwise, it was the same vehicle with no changes to its overall performance.

The Kfz. 14 radio version
The Kfz. 14 radio version. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/armored_vehicles/kfz13/

Production

For the production of the Kfz.13 and Kfz.14, Daimler-Benz was chosen, while Deutschen Edelstahl was tasked with assembling and supplying the armored body. Production of the first vehicles began in the spring of 1933. By the end of August 1935, depending on the source, between 116 and 147 Kfz. 13 and 30 to 40 Kfz. 14 were built. During production, Daimler-Benz also built smaller numbers (14 Kfz. 13 and 4 Kfz. 14) using its own chassis as a base, which was slightly larger.

Name

It appears that the full name Maschinengewehrkraftwagen Kfz. 13 was too much, even for Germans soldiers, who simply referred to them as Adler Panzerspaehwagen (Adler armored reconnaissance car). Another name commonly used by the German troops, due to its overall open-topped shape, was bath-tub (Badewannen).

Technical characteristics

Chassis 

The majority of Kfz. 13 and 14 vehicles were built using the Adler Standard 6 civilian car. Of course, before it could be adopted for army use, some changes were necessary. These included reinforcing the axles and suspension. Each wheel was suspended using semi-elliptic springs. Additionally, several types of pneumatic bulletproof tires were used to increase cross country performance. Their dimensions were 6.00 x 20, but depending on the sources, other dimensions are also mentioned, which include 6.50 x 18 and7.00 x 20 pneumatic.

Close-up view of the Adler Standard 6 modified chassis
Close-up view of the Adler Standard 6  modified chassis. Source: http://www.kfz13.pl/kfz-14/

Tire1Tire2Tire3
Examples of the different tires used on the Kfz. 13 and Kfz. 14. Source for all three: http://www.kfz13.pl/podwozie-i-uklad-napedowy/

Armored body

The Kfz.13’s armored body was made using face-hardened steel armor plates welded together. The armor thickness of these plates was only 8 mm. To somewhat increase protection, these armor plates were placed at an angle. The upper front plates were at 40°, while the lower ones were at 22°. The upper sides were at 15° and the lower at 5°. The rear upper and lower plates were placed at the same 22° angle. The Kfz.13 floor was 5 mm thick. While the frontal part of the engine was protected by a louvered grille, its sides were left unprotected.

The Kfz.13 was only protected from small-caliber weapons. While the front armor could withstand small-caliber armor-piercing rounds, the sides and rear could only protect against normal bullets. Two side doors were provided for the crew to enter the vehicle. Additional boxes for spare parts and crew equipment could be added around the armored body. As it was an open-top vehicle, a canvas cover was provided for the crew.

Front view of the Kfz. 13
Front view of the Kfz. 13. Note the engine’s protective louvered grill. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/armored_vehicles/kfz13/
The Kfz. 13 and 14 side doors
The Kfz.13 and 14 had two side doors. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/armored_vehicles/kfz13/
Kfz. 13 side view
Kfz. 13 side view. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/armored_vehicles/kfz13/
A canvas cover
A canvas cover was provided for protection from the weather. Source: http://www.kfz13.pl/nadwozie/wnetrze-tyl/

Engine

The Kfz.13 and 14 vehicles were powered by an Adler Standard 6A (or 6S, depending on the source) six-cylinder water-cooled 50 hp engine. While smaller numbers were built using a Daimler-Benz 50 hp engine, the overall performance was unchanged. With a weight of 2.05 tonnes (the Daimler-Benz version weighed 2.1 tonnes), the maximum speed on good roads was 70 km/h, while cross country it was only 20-25 km/h. The operational range while driving on good roads was 250-300 km and 150-200 km cross country. The front wheels were used for steering and the rear wheels provided drive. To cope with the extra weight, an improved cooling system was installed. The gearbox was modified to have 4 forward speeds and 1 reverse speed.

The Kfz. 13 and 14 engine compartment
The Kfz.13 and 14 engine compartment. Source: http://www.kfz13.pl/kfz-14/
Kfz. chassis base
This vehicle is actually based on the Daimler-Benz chassis. Note the covering for the two engine ventilation ports. Source: http://www.kfz13.pl/kfz-14/
The frontal shield
The frontal shield that protects the engine compartment is evident here.  Compared to the previous example, this vehicle has a different type of cover for the engine ventilation ports. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/armored_vehicles/kfz13/adler-kfz-13/

Crew

Due to its small size, the Kfz.13 had a small crew of only two members. The driver was positioned at the front and behind him was the machine gun operator. The vehicle was open-topped and offered the crew excellent all-round visibility, which was important for a reconnaissance vehicle. But, in case of engagement with the enemy, two vision ports were provided for observation. One was positioned to the front for the driver and one to the rear. Additionally, some vehicles had dummy vision ports placed on the sides.

driver and machine gunner
The Kfz. 13 had two crew members: a driver and a machine gunner. Source: http://www.kfz13.pl/geneza-powstania/

The Kfz.14 used the same armored body as the Kfz.13. As it was designed to be used as a radio support vehicle, the machine gunner was replaced with a radio operator. The difference was that the radio operator’s seat was facing to the rear. A third crew member could also be present when a message was to be sent through the radio. This would actually be a unit commander who was transported by another vehicle and did not use the Kfz.14 for transportation. It was the unit commander’s job to report back about the enemy positions and to receive future orders. Due to the added radio equipment and its small size, the interior was cramped.

Crew positions
Crew positions on the Kfz.14. Source: https://postimg.cc/p5Rcn1RT
vision port
A vision port was placed just above the rear spare wheel. Source: http://www.panzernet.net/panzernet/stranky/auta/13.php

Armament 

The Kfz.13 was only lightly armed, with one pedestal-mounted 7.92 mm MG 13 machine gun. For the protection of the gunner, a small 8 mm shield angled at 35° was provided. Elevation of this machine gun was -35° to +65° and the traverse was 360°. The machine gun mount with the gunner’s seat had simple spring units that allowed them to be raised. For lowering the machine gun, the gunner simply had to use his own body weight. The obsolescent MG 13 was replaced with a more modern MG 34 in later years. The ammunition load for the machine gun carried inside the vehicle was 1.000 or 2.000 rounds, depending on the source. The crews could also use their personal weapons, usually 9 mm submachine guns or pistols.

Upper view of MG 13
An upper view of the MG 13 mount. Source: http://www.panzernet.net/panzernet/stranky/auta/13.php
Kfz. 13 machine gun elevation
The high elevation of the Kfz. 13’s machine gun is evident here. Source: http://www.panzernet.net/gallery/kfz13
MG 34 armament
This vehicle is armed with a more modern MG 34. Source: http://www.kfz13.pl/kfz-14/
Close view of internal machine gun mount
Close view of the internal machine gun mount. Source: http://www.kfz13.pl/kfz-14/

Radio equipment

The Kfz. 14 had an improved electrical generator which was able to produce 90 watts of electricity, necessary for the radio equipment to work. Inside the Kfz.14, a Fu9 SE 5 (5 watt) transmitter and receiver radio set was installed. The effective range of voice transmission with this equipment was 6 to 8 km while stationary. When on the move, this dropped to 3 to 4 km. When transmitting messages in morse code using telegraph keys, the range was 30 km while stationary and 20 km on the move. For the use of radio equipment, a large frame antenna could be raised or lowered depending on the need.

The seat positions of the driver (right) and the radio operator (left)
The seat positions of the driver (right) and the radio operator (left). Source: http://www.kfz13.pl/kfz-14/
A closer look at the Kfz. 14's radio equipment
A closer look at the Kfz.14’s radio equipment. Source: http://www.kfz13.pl/nadwozie/wnetrze-przod/
While on the move, the Kfz. 14 antenna was lowered
While on the move, the Kfz. 14 antenna was lowered. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/armored_vehicles/kfz13/

Organization

After 1935, the Kfz. 13 and 14 were used to equip Aufklärungs (reconnaissance) detachments of Reiter-Regiments (Cavalry units). Each unit was to be equipped with two Kfz.13 and one Kfz.14. As, in the following years, better designed armored cars were introduced into service with the German Army, the Kfz.13 and 14 were relocated, mostly to ordinary Infantry Divisions from 1938 on.

Kfz. 13 and 14 in the early German Army
Despite adopting improved armored cars, the Kfz. 13 and 14 would still see service with the German Army in the early years of the war. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/armored_vehicles/kfz13/

In combat

Prior to the war, the Kfz.13 and 14 were quite common sights in the numerous military parades held in Germany. Their first use in foreign land was during the Anschluss of Austria in 1938 and the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939.

Despite their obvious obsolescence, the Kfz. 13 and 14 would see combat action during the war. Their first combat action was during the Polish campaign of 1939. They were part of the spearhead, along with other German reconnaissance armored cars. By the time Poland surrendered, some 23 Kfz.13 and 14 had been lost. Their weak armor proved no match for Polish anti-tank weapons. Another issue noted by troops was that the vehicle generally had poor performance on bad roads.  The extra added weight was too much for the chassis, which led to overheating problems.

Kfz. 13 armored cars in Prague, 1939
Kfz.13 armored cars in Prague, 1939. Source: http://www.kfz13.pl/kfz-14/

The next engagements came during the German invasion of the West in 1940. The Kfz.13 and 14 armored cars were once again used in reconnaissance missions. While in France, they performed somewhat better thanks to the road network,  though there were still losses.

By 1941, despite their now desperate obsolescence, the Kfz.13 and 14 would see more combat during the Balkan and later Soviet invasions. It appears that all sent to the Soviet Union would be lost by the end of 1941. Any surviving vehicles were removed from operational service after 1941 and were instead given to second-line troops or used as training vehicles.

A destroyed Kfz.13 somewhere in Poland
A destroyed Kfz.13 somewhere in Poland. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/armored_vehicles/kfz13/
A completely burned out Kfz.13
A completely burned out Kfz.13. As these were designed as temporary solutions and with minimal armor protection, their combat potential was quite low. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/armored_vehicles/kfz13/
A kfz.13 during the invasion of the West in 1940
A Kfz.13 during the invasion of the West in 1940. Source: http://www.kfz13.pl/kfz-14/

Modified versions

Interestingly, at least one vehicle would survive up to the war’s end. There is a photograph that shows a modified Kfz.13 or 14 surrendering to the Allies in Prague in May 1945. It has a fully enclosed roof and what looks like a machine gun port placed to the right of the driver’s vision port. This was likely a field modification, but nothing else is known about it.

Field conversion of the aging Kfz.13
A very interesting field conversion of the aging Kfz.13. Just above the Balkenkreuz, an opening, possibly for a machine gun, is visible. Source: http://www.kfz13.pl/kfz-14/

Replicas

Despite no Kfz.13 and 14 having survived to today, there are a few replicas that are used in war recreations. One of these belongs to a Historical Reconstruction Group of the 9th Cavalry Regiment from Poland.

Kfz. from the Historical Reconstruction Group in Poland
This Kfz. 13 replica belongs to the Historical Reconstruction Group in Poland. Source: http://www.kfz13.pl/geneza-powstania/

Conclusion

The Kfz. 13 and 14 were among the first armored cars adopted for German army service after the First World War. They were designed primarily to be used as training vehicles. As the German war industry was incapable of producing armored cars good enough to meet German Army requirements, as a temporary solution, the Kfz. 13 and 14 were used by the front line units. They performed poorly, simply as they were not designed for combat use. Nevertheless, they provided the Germans with valuable experience in how to properly design and use armored cars, and this was their greatest success.

Kfz.13 in 1936
Kfz.13, in prewar tri-tone livery, 1936 Werhmacht large scale exercises.
Kfz.13, Polish invasion
Adler Kfz.13 prior to the Polish invasion, in dunkergrau livery. Notice the simplified white Balkan cross, an obvious target.
Kfz.13 Leopard
Kfz.13 “Leopard”, Poland, September 1939.
Kfz.13, France
Kfz. 13, 1st Kav, 24th Panzer Division, France, May 1940.
Kfz.14 command car, Balkans, March 1941
Kfz.14 command car, Balkans, March 1941.

Maschinengewehrkraftwagen Kfz. 13 (Adler chassis) specifications

Dimensions Length 4.2 m, Width 1.7 m, Height 1.46 m
Weight 2.1 tonnes
Crew 2 (Driver and machine gunner)
Engine Adler Standard 6A six cylinder water cooled 50 hp engine
Speed 70 km/h,  20-25 km/h (cross country)
Range 250-300 km, 150-200 km (cross country)
Traverse 360°
Elevation -35° to +65°
Primary Armament one 7.92 mm MG 13
Armor 5-8 mm

Sources

Categories
WW2 German Tank Destroyers

7.62 cm PaK 36(r) auf Fgst. PzKpfw.II(F) (Sfl.) (Sd.Kfz. 132) ‘Marder II’

German Tanks of WW2 Nazi Germany (1942)
Self-Propelled Anti-Tank Gun – 202 converted

Even before the Second World War, the famous German tank commander Heinz Guderian had predicted the need for highly mobile self-propelled anti-tank vehicles, later known as Panzerjäger or Jagdpanzer (tank destroyer or hunter). However, in the early years of the war, beside the 4.7 cm PaK (t) (Sfl) auf Pz.Kpfw. I ohne turm, which was in essence just a 4.7 cm PaK (t) gun mounted on a modified Panzer I Ausf.B tank hull, the Germans did little to develop such vehicles. During the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht encountered the T-34 and KV series tanks, which they had trouble dealing with effectively. Fortunately for the Germans, they also managed to capture large numbers of the 7.62 cm field gun (M1936) which had good anti-tank firepower. This gun was immediately put to use by the German ground forces, but mobility was an issue, so an idea appeared to install this gun on the Panzer II tank chassis in order to increase its mobility. The new vehicle belonged to a series of vehicles generally known today as the ‘Marder’ (Marten).


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History

During Operation Barbarossa, the Panzer Divisions were once again spearheading the German advance, as in the previous year in the West. Initially, the lighty protected early Soviet tanks (like the BT series and the T-26) proved to be easy prey for the advancing German Panzers. However, the Panzer crews were shocked to discover that their guns were mostly ineffective against the armor of the newer T-34, KV-1 and KV-2. German infantry units also discovered that their 3.7 cm PaK 36 towed anti-tank guns were of little use against these tanks. The stronger 5 cm PaK 38 towed anti-tank gun was only effective at shorter distances and it had not been produced in great numbers by that time. Luckily for the Germans, the new Soviet tanks were immature designs, plagued by inexperienced crews, a lack of spare parts, ammunition and poor operational use. Nevertheless, they played a significant role in slowing down and eventually stopping the German assault in late 1941. In North Africa, the Germans also faced increasing numbers of Matilda tanks, which also proved to be hard to knock out.

The experience gained during the first year of the invasion of the Soviet Union raised a red alert in the highest German military circles. One possible solution to this problem was the introduction of the new Rheinmetall 7.5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun. This was first issued in very limited numbers at the end of 1941 and the start of 1942. While it would eventually become the standard German anti-tank gun used until the end of the war, its initial production was slow and thus a temporary solution was needed. During Operation Barbarossa, the German ground forces managed to capture large numbers of field guns of different calibers. One of the guns captured was the 76.2 mm M1936 (F-22) divisional gun. After a brief assessment of the characteristics of this gun, the Germans were satisfied with its performance. The gun was given to the army for use under the name Feldkanone (FK) 296(r). It was at first used as a field gun, but very soon it became clear that it possessed great anti-tank capabilities. For this reason, the 7.62 cm M1936 gun was modified for use as an anti-tank weapon. The changes involved adding a muzzle brake (but not all guns were equipped with it), cutting the gun shield in half (the upper part was welded to the lower part of the shield in a similar fashion to the PaK 40 two-part shield), rechambering the gun to 7.5 cm caliber in order to use the standard German ammunition (same as the PaK 40) and moving the elevating handwheel to the left side. After these changes, the gun was renamed 7.62 cm PaK 36(r), and remained in use throughout WWII.

In late December 1941, Wa Prüf 6 (the office of the German Army’s Ordnance Department responsible for designing tanks and other motorized vehicles) gave instructions to the Alkett firm to design a new Panzerjäger mounting the 7.62 cm PaK 36(r) on a modified Panzer II Flamm (which itself was based on the Panzer II Ausf. D and E) tank chassis. The Alkett designers and engineers threw themselves into the work of designing and building the first prototype. The prototype was built quickly, mainly due to its relatively simple construction. The Panzer II Flamm chassis was unchanged, but the majority of the superstructure (except for the front plate) and the turret were removed. On the back of the engine compartment a gun mount with the 7.62 cm PaK 36(r), which had an enlarged shield, was placed. Additionally, the front and the sides were protected by extended armored plates. Its armor was designed to protect against small-caliber fire and shrapnel. As its primary mission was to engage enemy tanks and to act as fire support at long range from carefully selected combat positions, thick armor was not necessary, at least in theory.

Brand new Marder II.
Brand new Marder II. Source: Pinterest

Panzer II Ausf. D and E

The first German tank that was produced in great numbers was the Panzer I. As it was armed with only two machine guns and was lightly protected, its combat potential was quite limited. For these reasons, the Panzer II was developed to overcome the many shortcomings of the previous Panzer I model. Its main armament consisted of one 20 mm cannon and one machine gun. The maximum armor protection was initially only 14.5 mm, but it would be increased to 35 mm and even to 80 mm on later versions.

During 1938, new versions of the Panzer II, the Ausf. D and E, were developed and adopted for service. They had the same armament and turret but with a modified superstructure and most importantly used a new torsion bar suspension which ran on four larger road wheels without any return rollers. While the Panzer II Ausf. D and E did see combat action in Poland, due to their poor suspension performance, less than 50 vehicles would be built.

The short lived Panzer II Ausf.D/E.
The short lived Panzer II Ausf.D/E. Source: http://www.panzernet.net/panzernet/stranky/tanky/pz2.php

In 1939, the German army was interested in the development of a flame-throwing Panzer to be used as an anti-bunker weapon. As the Panzer II Ausf. D and E were rejected from service, their chassis were chosen for this modification. The resulting vehicle was designated as the Panzer II Flamm Ausf. A und B, although today it is generally known as the ‘Flamingo’. By March 1942, around 150 had been produced, but their performance was deemed inadequate mostly due to weak armor and the poor performance of the flame projector system. As these Panzer II flamm were returned from the front lines and due to the high demand for mobile anti-tank vehicles, the Germans once again reused the chassis for this new role. Starting from April 1942, all available Panzer II flamm chassis would be reused for this purpose.

Panzer II Flamm during Operation Barbarossa.
Panzer II Flamm during Operation Barbarossa. Source: Pinterest

Name

During its service life, this self-propelled anti-tank gun was known under several different names. Upon its adoption on 1st April 1942, it was designated 7.62 cm PaK 36(r) auf Fgst. PzKpfw.II(F) (Sfl.). In June 1942, this was changed to Pz.Sfl.1 fuer 7.62 cm PaK 36 (Sd.Kfz. 132); by September 1942, it had changed again to Pz.Sfl.1 (7.62 cm PaK 36) auf Fahrg.Pz.Kpfw.II Ausf. D1 und D2. In September 1943, a much simpler name was given: 7.62 cm PaK 36(r) auf Pz.Kpfw.II. The last change to the name was made on 18th March 1944, with the vehicle then being called Panzerjäger II fuer 7.62 cm PaK 36(r) (Sd.Kfz. 132).

The Marder II name, by which it is best known today, was actually Adolf Hitler’s personal suggestion made at the end of November 1943. For the sake of simplicity, this article will use the Marder II designation. Care should be taken not to mistake this vehicle with the other Marder II, the Pz.Kpfw.II als Sfl. mit 7.5 cm PaK 40 ‘Marder II’ (Sd.Kfz.131).

Production

Due to the inadequate combat performance of the Panzer II flamm, the production of the second series of 150 vehicles was canceled. However, M.A.N (which was responsible for its production) was tasked with delivering these 150 chassis to Alkett for the construction of new Marder II vehicles. Alkett was ordered to produce the first 45 vehicles in April, followed by 75 in May and the last 30 in June 1942. Somewhat unusually for German production standards, all 150 vehicles were completed before the deadline, with 60 in April and the remaining 90 by mid-May.

Due to the availability of the Panzer II flamm chassis, a further order for 60 Marder II vehicles was placed. The completion of this production order was slow, as it was dependent on the available Panzer II flamm chassis. Only 52 Marder II would be completed this way, with 13 in June, 9 in July, 15 in September and 7 in October 1942. In 1943, 8 more Marder II vehicles would be built. These conversions would be carried out by Wegmann from Kassel.

It should be noted that the Marder II utilized both the Ausf. D1 and Ausf. D2 chassis. These had only minor differences, the main one being the drive sprocket, which had 11 spokes on the Ausf. D1 and 8 spokes on the Ausf. D2. It appears to be the case that all 150 of the new-build Marder IIs utilized the Ausf. D2 chassis, while those converted from older Panzer II flamm chassis were based upon the Ausf. D1 chassis.

The Design

Suspension

The suspension of the Marder II was the same as on the Panzer II Ausf. D and E. This version used a torsion bar suspension in contrast to the leaf spring suspension used on the majority of the Panzer IIs. In some sources (like Z. Borawski and J. Ledwoch, Marder II), it is noted that the Marder II used the Christie type suspension system. This is false. The Christie suspension used large helical springs placed vertically or diagonally in the side of the hull, not torsion bars. The larger wheels had a diameter of 690 mm. There was also a front-drive sprocket and a rear positioned idler on each side, but no return rollers.

A good view of the Marder II suspension
A good view of the Marder II suspension. Source: https://warspot.ru/9099-marder-ii-lyogkiy-istrebitel

The engine

The Marder II was powered by a Maybach HL 62 TRM six-cylinder liquid-cooled engine positioned to the rear. This produced 140 hp @2600 rpm. The maximum speed with this engine was 55 km/h and the cross country speed was 20 km/h. The operational range was 200-220 km on good roads and 130-140 km cross country. The total fuel capacity for this vehicle was 200 liters. The Marder II crew compartment was separated from the engine by a 12 mm thick protective firewall.

Superstructure

The Marder II was built using the Panzer II Flamm chassis by simply removing the turret and most of the superstructure except for the front driver’s plate. Extended armor was added on top of the driver’s compartment and on the sides. These armored plates were slightly angled, for extra protection. To the rear, initially, a wire mesh frame was added, possibly to make the construction easier and to reduce weight. Its main purpose was to serve as a storage area for equipment and spent ammo cartridges. During the production run, this was replaced with armor plates. An extended armored shield was added around the gun, the design of which would be slightly changed during the production.

The Marder II was an open-top vehicle and, for this reason, a canvas cover was provided to protect the crew from bad weather. Of course, this offered no real protection during combat. It appears that some vehicles had a metal frame added to the gun compartment, possibly used to help hold down the canvas cover. Another possibility was that it served as an extra security measure for the crews lest they accidentally fall out of the vehicle. Due to the Panzer II’s relatively small size, the crew compartment was cramped and additional wooden storage boxes were often added by the crew for extra equipment.

This vehicle had a wire mesh rear frame that was used to store equipment and spent ammo cartridges.
This vehicle had a wire mesh rear frame that was used to store equipment and spent ammo cartridges. Due to the cramped interior, the crews of this vehicle attached all sorts of equipment to this wire mesh frame. Source: http://www.panzerdepot.com/Story.htm
This vehicle has had armor plates added instead of the wire mesh.
This vehicle has had armor plates added instead of the wire mesh. Also note the MG 34 mounted to the left side of the modified gun shield. Source: http://www.panther-panzer.de/Sonstige/MarderIILaS138.htm
This vehicle had a wire mesh rear frame that was used to store equipment and spent ammo cartridges.
This vehicle had a wire mesh rear frame that was used to store equipment and spent ammo cartridges. Due to the cramped interior, the crews of this vehicle attached all sorts of equipment to this wire mesh frame. Source: http://www.panzerdepot.com/Story.htm
Excellent view of the Marder II’s cramped rear gun crew compartment.
Excellent view of the Marder II’s cramped rear gun crew compartment. Here we can see the front travel lock, the big metal ring around the barrel. Source: https://warspot.ru/9099-marder-ii-lyogkiy-istrebitel

Armor thickness

The armor thickness of the Marder II hull was relatively thin by the standards of 1942. The maximum front hull armor was 35 mm, while the sides and rear were only 14.5 mm thick and the bottom was 5 mm thick. The driver’s front armor plate was 35 mm thick. The new superstructure was also only lightly protected, with 14.5 mm thick front and side armor, and later rear armor too. The gun was protected by a standard armor shield which was extended to cover the sides. Spare tracks could be added on the front armor plate to act as extra protection, but in reality, this offered only a limited improvement.

On the open steppes of the Soviet Union, good camouflage and a well-selected position were the Marder II’s best defense
On the open steppes of the Soviet Union, good camouflage and a well-selected position were the Marder II’s best defense. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/marder/
The tracks added to the front armor would primarily serve as spare equipment and offered only a limited increase in protection.
The tracks added to the front armor would primarily serve as spare equipment and offered only a limited increase in protection. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The armament

The main gun chosen for the Marder II was the modified ex-Soviet 7.62 cm PaK 36 (r) anti-tank gun. This gun, with its modified ‘T’ mount, was placed directly above the engine compartment. The elevation of the main gun was -5° to +16° and the traverse 25° to the left and to the right. The total ammunition load consisted of only 30 rounds, placed in ammunition bins located just below the gun, inside the Marder II hull. In order to relieve the stress on the elevation and traverse mechanisms during long drives, two travel locks were added, one at the front and one to the rear.

Secondary armament consisted of one 7.92 mm MG 34 machine gun with 900 rounds of ammunition and one 9 mm MP 38/40 submachine gun. While most 7.62 cm PaK 36 (r) anti-tank guns were provided with a standard muzzle brake, there were a number of vehicles that did not have one. They were possibly either discarded by their crews, damaged or more likely never fitted due to the urgent need for such vehicles.

These Marder IIs are lacking the muzzle brake
These Marder IIs are lacking the muzzle brake. Source: Unknown
The German 7.62 cm PaK 36(r) gun in a well dug-in position
The German 7.62 cm PaK 36(r) gun in a well dug-in position. Source: http://acemodel.com.ua/en/model/685

Crew members

The Marder II had a crew of four men, which, according to T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle in Panzer Tracts No.7-2 Panzerjager, consisted of the commander, gunner, loader, and the driver. Z. Borawski and J. Ledwoch, in their Marder II book, mentions that the crew consisted of the commander, radio operator, loader, and driver. Taking T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle as the main source, it would mean that the commander was located in the vehicle’s hull, next to the driver, and he would also serve as the radio operator. On the other hand, according to Z. Borawski and J. Ledwoch, the crew positioning would be different, with the commander serving as the gunner and placed left of the main gun.

While sources cite only four crew members, interestingly, Marder II photographs often show one more crew member present. This practice was initiated by field units emulating their Panzer cousins, as the extra crew member would help increase the vehicle’s overall performance by freeing up the commander from any other tasks.

The driver’s position was unchanged from the original Panzer II. He was positioned on the vehicle hull’s left side. On his right side was the radio operator. The radio equipment used was the FuG Spr d transmitter and receiver. For observing the surroundings, the crew positioned in the hull had two standard front vision ports. One of these two men would also have the task of releasing the forward travel lock. In addition, the crew positioned in the hull could also supply the gun operators with the ammunition rounds which were stored inside the hull.

In the rear gun compartment were the positions for the gunner and the loader. The gunner was positioned on the left and the loader to the right. The loader also operated the MG 34 used against enemy infantry and soft skin targets. To avoid being hit by enemy fire, crew in the gun compartment were sometimes provided with movable periscopes for observation. For crew communication, an internal telephone was used.

The Marder II, as standard, had four crew members. The small rectangular shaped object just above the gun shield is actually a movable periscope for observation.
The Marder II, as standard, had four crew members. The small rectangular shaped object just above the gun shield is actually a movable periscope for observation. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/marder/
This vehicle has five crew members.
This vehicle has five crew members. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/marder/
The front driver’s plate with its two vision ports is the only part of the original Panzer II Ausf.D and E that was left unchanged
The front driver’s plate with its two vision ports is the only part of the original Panzer II Ausf.D and E that was left unchanged. Source: https://warspot.ru/9099-marder-ii-lyogkiy-istrebitel
A Marder II during crew training. Note the two movable periscopes next to the crewmembers' heads.
A Marder II during crew training. Note the two movable periscopes next to the crewmembers’ heads. Source: https://warspot.ru/9099-marder-ii-lyogkiy-istrebitel

Organization and Distribution to Frontline Units

The Marder II was used to form 9 vehicle-strong anti-tank companies (Panzerjäger Kompanie). These were divided into 3 vehicle-strong platoons (Zuge). Each platoon was to have one Sd.Kfz. 10 half-track, an ammunition carrier version of the Panzer I and two trailers for ammunition and supply deliveries. Of course, due to a general lack of such supply vehicles, it is likely that this was never truly implemented.

The Marder II companies would mostly be used to equip Infantry Divisions, Infantry Motorised Divisions, SS Divisions, Panzer Divisions and to reinforce some self-propelled anti-tank battalions (Panzerjäger-Abteilungen). Interestingly, despite the fact that each anti-tank company was meant to have 9 vehicles, some were instead only equipped with 6.

The following units were equipped with Marder II vehicles from 9th March 1942 onwards: the Großdeutschland Infantry Division, 18th, 10th, 16th, 29th and the 60th Infantry Motorised Divisions with 12 each, the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler Division with 18 and the SS Panzer Division Wiking with 12 vehicles. By the time of the German 1942 campaign on the Eastern Front, nearly all available Marder II vehicles (145 in total) were ready for service. In July 1942, there were plans to equip the 14th and 16th Panzer Divisions with Marder I (based on captured French fully tracked chassis) vehicles. Due to logistical problems, these were instead each issued with 6 Marder II.

In Combat

The Marder II would see action mostly on the Eastern Front, with smaller numbers positioned in the West. The majority of produced Marder IIs would be used in the German advance toward the oil-rich Caucasus and Stalingrad. Due to the disastrous German losses suffered by the end of 1942, the majority of Marder II tank destroyers would be lost, either to enemy fire or just being abandoned due to a lack of fuel or spare parts.

Due to extensive losses suffered the previous year, there were only small numbers available during the Battle of Kursk (Operation Zidatelle) in June of 1943. The units that still possessed operational Marder IIs were the 31st Infantry Division with 4, 4th and 6th Panzer Divisions with 1 each, the 525th self-propelled anti-tank battalion with 4, the 150th self-propelled anti-tank battalion with 3 (1 in repair), the 16th Panzer Grenadier Division with 7 and the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler Division and the SS Panzer Division Wiking with 1 vehicle each. In total, there were only 23 vehicles left on the Eastern Front. In the West, there were 7 vehicles with 1 in repair, operated by the Ersatz und Ausbildungs Regiment H.G., a training unit that was positioned in Holland.

A group of abandoned Marder IIs on the Eastern Front.
A group of abandoned Marder IIs on the Eastern Front. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/marder/

By August 1944, there were only two units equipped with the Marder II. These were the 1st self-propelled anti-tank battalion with 10 and the 8th self-propelled anti-tank battalion with 5 vehicles. By March 1945, the number of Marder IIs had dropped to only 6 vehicles.

While having weak armor, thanks to its gun, the Marder II could destroy any Soviet tank in 1942/43 with little problem. The effectiveness of the Marder II’s 7.62 cm gun was demonstrated by the 661st self-propelled anti-tank battalion, which, by mid-July 1942, claimed to have destroyed 17 Soviet tanks (4 KV-1, 11 T-34 and 2 Valentine Mark II). The 559th self-propelled anti-tank battalion reported similar successes (up to mid-July 1942), with 17 T-34, 4 KV-1 and 1 tank marked only as a T 8 (possibly a misprint) for the loss of only one Marder II. This unit also gave reports about the distances from which the Soviet tanks were destroyed. The T-34 were mainly engaged at ranges from 600 to 1000 meters, with the 7.62 cm gun having no problem penetrating the armor of this tank. Two T-34s were destroyed by side hits at ranges of 1.3 to 1.4 km. One KV-1 was reportedly destroyed when hit from the side at a range of 1.3 km. It is important to note that, due to the Marder II’s low ammunition storage, shooting at enemy tanks at distances greater than 1 km was generally avoided by the crews.

A Marder II somewhere on the Eastern Front, possibly in 1942.
A Marder II somewhere on the Eastern Front, possibly in 1942. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/
An interesting photograph that shows the two different types of vehicles used by the Germans to combat tanks.
An interesting photograph that shows the two different types of vehicles used by the Germans to combat tanks. To the left is the low, fully enclosed StuG III with the longer 7.5 cm gun, while on the right is the tall, lightly armored Marder II. Both vehicles were used as anti-tank vehicles, even though the StuG had a different doctrinal employment. Although the StuG III was better in every aspect, due to high demand for tank destroyers, the production of the Marder series would continue until almost the end of the war. Source: Unknown

Operational Experience

The Marder II’s general combat performance can be seen in a report made in July 1942 by the 661st self-propelled anti-tank battalion. In this report, the effectiveness of the 7.62 cm gun was deemed satisfactory as it was able to destroy a KV-1 from ranges of 1.2 to 1.4 km. The high-explosive rounds were also effective against enemy machine gun nests and even against earthen bunkers. However, firing the gun could create large dust clouds which made finding targets difficult. The Marder II was provided with two travel locks. While the rear one performed well, the front one was prone to malfunctions.

Cooperation with infantry formations proved to be problematic. The infantry commanders would often call for the Marder II to engage enemy tanks offensively in unfavorable situations, for example if the enemy tanks were dug in or on higher ground. The Marder IIs were not infantry support vehicles like the StuG III and thus should not have been used in this kind of combat.

The vehicle’s great height was a huge issue for the Marder II, as it was difficult to camouflage and was an easy target for enemy gunners. Interestingly, on some vehicles, the gun sunk down a bit, meaning that the gun could not be traversed. To solve this problem, a few millimeters of the side armor had to be cut off. The low ammunition load and the lack of more mobile machine gun mounts were another issue. The gas pedals were too weak and prone to malfunctions, so spare gas pedals were in great demand. Radio equipment was also of poor quality and improved models were requested. The Marder II also lacked space for the storage of spare parts and other equipment. Ingenious crews would often add wooden boxes to the rear. The lack of a command vehicle for the company commander was deemed problematic. Adding a fifth crew member to direct the operational employment was proven to have merit.

As the Marder II interior was cramped, crews would often add wooden boxes to the rear.
As the Marder II interior was cramped, crews would often add wooden boxes to the rear. Also note the fifth crew member in this photograph. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/marder/
Thanks to its simple construction, the Marder II’s overall maintenance and replacement of damaged parts could be done relatively easily.
Thanks to its simple construction, the Marder II’s overall maintenance and replacement of damaged parts could be done relatively easily. Source: https://warspot.ru/9099-marder-ii-lyogkiy-istrebitel

Conclusion

The Marder II tank destroyer was an attempt to solve the problem of the low mobility of towed anti-tank guns but, unfortunately for the Germans, it failed in many other aspects. The low armor thickness coupled with its large silhouette meant that, while it could engage enemy tanks at range, any kind of return fire would likely mean the destruction of this vehicle. The small ammunition load was also problematic for its crew. Even so, while the Marder II vehicles were not perfect, they gave the Germans a means to increase the mobility of the effective 7.62 cm anti-tank gun, thus giving them a chance to fight back against the numerous enemy armored formations.


Early version Marder II, North Africa, 1942
Marder II, early type vehicle , Afrika Korps Abteilung, Libya, fall 1942.
Marder II Ausf.D-1, Russia, 1942.
Marder II Ausf.D-1, Russia, fall 1942.
Marder II, Russia, fall 1942
Marder II Ausf.E, Russia, fall 1942.
Marder II, Kursk, 1943.
Panzer Selbstfahrlafette 1 für 7.62 cm Pak 36(r) Ausf.D-2, Kursk, summer 1943.

7.62 cm PaK 36(r) auf Fgst. Pz.Kpfw.II(F) (Sfl.) specifications

Dimensions 5.65 x 2.3 x 2.6 m
Total weight, battle-ready 11.5 tonnes
Crew 4 (Commander, Gunner, Loader and Driver)
Propulsion Maybach HL 62 TRM 140 hp @ 2600 rpm six-cylinder liquid-cooled
Speed 55 km/h, 20 km/h (cross country)
Operational range 200-220 km, 130-140 km (cross country)
Primary Armament 7.62 cm PaK 36 (r)
Secondary Armament 7.92 mm MG 34
Elevation -5° to +16°
Traverse -25° to +25°
Armor Superstructure: 5-14.5 mm
Hull: 14.5-30 mm
Gun Shield: 3-14.5 mm

Sources

D. Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2005) Panzer Tracts No.7-2 Panzerjager
T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2010) Panzer Tracts No.2-3 Panzerkampwagen II Ausf.D, E and F
T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2011) Panzer Tracts No.23 Panzer Production
A. Lüdeke (2007) Waffentechnik im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Parragon books
P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle (1978) Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition, Arms and Armor press.
D. Doyle (2005). German military Vehicles, Krause Publications.
G. Parada, W. Styrna and S. Jablonski (2002), Marder III, Kagero
W.J. Gawrych Marder II, Armor PhotoGallery
Z. Borawski and J. Ledwoch (2004) Marder II, Militaria.
W.J.K. Davies (1979) Panzerjager, German anti-tank battalions of World War Two, Almark
W. Oswald (2004) Kraftfahrzeuge und Panzer, Motorbuch Verlag.
R. Hutchins (2005) Tanks and other fighting vehicles, Bounty Book.

Categories
WW2 German Medium Tanks

Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. B & C

Nazi Germany (1937)
Medium Support Tank – 42 Ausf. B, 134 Ausf. C + 6 Chassis Built

During the early development of the Panzer IV, no one involved in the program knew that this vehicle, designed to serve as a support Panzer, would become the Wehrmacht’s backbone for a good deal of the war. While today the Tiger and Panther are better known, the Panzer IV was produced in the greatest numbers and served on all fronts in many bloody engagements throughout the war.

The development of this tank began in the mid-thirties, leading to the first version being built, the Panzer IV Ausf. A. Being the first version, there was still a lot of space for improvement. The improvement of the Panzer IV Ausf. A version would eventually lead to the development of two nearly identical versions, the Ausf. B and C.

History

Following the adoption of the Panzer IV Ausf. A, the German Army High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres, OKH) was interested in developing a version of this vehicle with minimal improvements. For this reason, in October 1937, Krupp-Gruson was tasked with increasing the frontal armor protection to be proof at least against 2 cm armor-piercing rounds and installing a stronger engine. This would lead to a small production run of the second Panzer IV version named Ausf. B.

While the development of the Panzer IV Ausf. B was underway, Wa Pruef 6 (the office of the German Army’s Ordnance Department responsible for designing tanks and other motorized vehicles) initiated the first steps in introducing standardization of German tank development. According to the Wa Pruef 6 plans, the Panzer IV, starting from the Ausf.C version, was to be built using the new Panzer III Ausf. E chassis which used torsion bar suspension. For this reason, at the start of June 1937, Krupp was informed to cease any further work on the Panzer IV chassis as soon as all Ausf. B vehicles had been built. As the development of the Panzer III Ausf. E chassis was running at a slow pace due to the introduction of a new torsion bar suspension and a new transmission; it was estimated that the first experimental chassis could not be built prior to April 1938. The slow Panzer III Ausf. E development also caused a huge eight-month idling period in Panzer IV production. As the demand for Panzer IV support tanks was great, in October 1937, Krupp was informed to prepare for the production of 140 new Panzer IV Ausf. C vehicles. As Krupp was still forbidden from further developing and improving the Panzer IV chassis, Krupp officials decided to simply copy the previously built version with minimal changes.

Wa Pruef 6’s decision to cease the development of the Panzer IV chassis and the high demand for such vehicles were the main reasons why the Ausf. B and C were identical. Another consequence of these decisions was the leaf spring suspension would be used on all Panzer IV until the end of the war, as the planned upgrade to torsion bars never took place.

The Panzer IV Ausf. B and C were identical except for a few minor changes. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

Production

Production of the Panzer IV Ausf. B and C was carried out by Krupp-Grusonwerk from Magdeburg-Buckau. The Ausf. B was built in small numbers, with a total of 42 vehicles (chassis number 80201-80300) which were constructed in the period from May to October 1938. The production of the Ausf. C (chassis number 80301-80500) began in October 1938 and lasted until August 1939. The production run of this version was larger, consisting of 134 vehicles, plus six more chassis which were used as the basis for a bridge layer version.

Specifications

The Hull

The Panzer IV hull was divided into the rear engine compartment, the central crew compartment and the forward-mounted transmission and enclosed driving compartment. In an emergency, the crew could use the round escape hatch door located beneath the radio operator’s seat. The front hull was where the transmission and steering systems were placed and was protected with an angled armor plate. To gain better access for repairs, a square-shaped transmission hatch was located in the middle of this plate and two rectangular steering brake inspection hatches were added.

The Superstructure

The superstructure was added atop the Panzer IV hull to provide sufficient working space for the crew members. As the frontal armor thickness of the tank was increased and in order to save weight, the superstructure was slightly smaller in comparison to the Ausf.A. To provide sufficient working space and ammunition storage, it was still wider than the hull. It consisted of four welded plates (one at the front, one on each side and one at the rear) and the armored roof plates. The front plate of the Ausf B. and C was completely flat, as opposed to the 3-part front plate of the Ausf.A. This made the front armor stronger structurally, but also made production somewhat easier. On the left side of this plate was placed a protective driver’s visor. On the Ausf. B and C, a new Fahrersehklappe 30 sliding driver’s visor was used.

The Panzer IV Ausf. B and C had a new single piece frontal armor plate without the usual machine gun ball mount. Source: unknown

The driver and all remaining vision ports (on the superstructure and the turret) were also protected by new 50 mm thick armored glass blocks. When the driver’s visor was closed (usually when in combat operations), the driver would then use the KFF binocular periscope to see through two small round ports located just above the visor. After the spring of 1939, the majority of Ausf. B and C vehicles had a welded rain guard placed over the driver’s visor. To the right of the driver’s vision port was placed a smaller observation hatch for the radio operator. Just to the right of this hatch, a small submachine gun/pistol port with a conical cover was added instead of the standard ball mount for a machine gun.

The side armored plates were placed vertically and were curved inwards toward the front plate. A vision port was added on each side. On the left side, there was a ventilation opening for the steering brakes. To protect this vulnerable spot, an armored covering was added. The engine and the crew compartment were separated by a fire-resistant and gas-tight armored firewall.

After the spring of 1939, the majority of Ausf. B and C vehicles had a welded rain guard placed over the driver’s vision port, which is visible here. Source: warspot.ru
A Panzer IV Ausf. B (to the left) next to the Ausf. A. Source: warspot.ru

The roof armor plate was mostly flat, aside from the front part (above the driver and radio operator), which was angled slightly downwards. To gain access to their position, the driver and the radio operator were each provided with hatches located on the front roof armor. The two-part hatches used on the previous version were replaced with one-piece hatches. Each of these hatches had a small round port for the use of signal flares.

The Turret

The Panzer IV turret had a front hexagonal-shaped armor plate with two small observation hatches placed on either side of the centrally positioned main gun. While the Ausf. A used simpler flat frontal observation hatches, the following versions, including the Ausf. B and C, had a pyramidal shape. Each of the turret sides had observation ports and a one-piece hatch for the crew. The left turret observation port did not have the small slit. On each of the two crew doors, additional pistol ports were added. For protection against infantry attacks from the rear, the turret had two round shaped pistol ports located on the rear curved armor plate.

To provide good ventilation for the extraction of propellant fumes, a ventilation flap was installed on the turret top. On the Ausf. B and C, the ventilation flap was protected by an armored guard placed around it. On the turret top, the left signal port received a new cone-shaped covering.

At the rear of the turret, a commander’s cupola was placed. The Ausf. A simple drum-shaped cupola was replaced with a new model. The new cupola was better protected and had five vision ports that were protected with sliding blocks. On top of the cupola, a two-piece hatch door was installed. Its purpose was to allow the commander to enter his position, but also to provide a good all-around view when not engaged in combat.

The Panzer IV had a turret ring with a diameter of 1680 mm. This turret ring was provided with ball bearings which would allow the turret to rotate freely. The small opening between the turret and the superstructure was protected with a new type of turret ring deflector. Inside the Panzer IV, an auxiliary DKW gasoline engine was provided to power the electric motor that was used to traverse the turret. A round fuel supply opening for the DKW engine was placed on the rear left of the superstructure roof. The turret was, from early 1941 on, provided with a large stowage box mounted on its rear.

The majority of the Panzer IV Ausf. B and C tanks received a large stowage box mounted to the turret rear from early 1941. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

Suspension and Running Gear

The suspension consisted of eight small (470 x 75 x 660 mm) wheels placed on each side, suspended in pairs and placed on four bogie assemblies. The small road wheels were suspended by leaf-spring units. The distance between each bogie shaft was 500 mm. There were also four return rollers (250 x 65 x 135 mm) on each side. At the front, two drive sprockets (with 18-teeth) were placed, and on the reinforced back hull two idlers were positioned. The tracks used on the initial production Panzer IVs were 360 mm wide and were connected using pins. The ground clearance of this vehicle was 40 cm. For a vehicle weighing 18.5 tonnes, this suspension system was considered adequate but proved to be problematic later in the war due to the added weight of following upgrades.

Side view of a Panzer IV. Source: warspot.ru

The Engine and Transmission

The Ausf. A was powered by a Maybach HL 108TR which produced 230 [email protected] rpm. With this engine, the maximum speed was 32 km/h, with only 10 km/h cross-country. In order to increase the speed on the Ausf. B, a new Maybach HL 120 TR engine giving out 265 [email protected] rpm was installed. The Ausf. C was powered by the same engine (named HL 120 TRM) but modified with an improved ignition starter and a new mount. With this engine, maximum speed was increased to 42 km/h, with 25 km/h cross-country. The operational range was the same: 210 km on road and 130 km cross-country. The fuel load of 470 l was stored in three fuel tanks placed under the fighting compartment. If needed, there was a valve system that allowed the crew to use the fuel of each tank individually by closing the fuel supply from the other two.

The Panzer IV’s engine cooling system consisted of two coupled radiators placed at a 25° angle. The air was then sucked in by two large cooling fans which were driven by a ‘V’ shaped belt from the crankshaft. This cooling system was designed to provide effective cooling in temperatures of up to +30° Celsius. The engine and the crew compartment were separated by a fire-resistant and gas-tight armored firewall. The crew could, if needed, gain access to the engine through a door placed in this firewall. The ‘Allklaunen SFG 75’ five-speed (and one reverse) transmission was replaced with a new SSG 76 six-speed (and one reverse) one. The steering mechanism used in the Panzer IV Ausf. B and C was of the ‘Wilson’ type, which was designed and produced by Krupp.

The Panzer IV turret was not centrally positioned and was actually offset to the left side of the superstructure by around 6.67 cm. The engine was also offset some 15 cm to the right. This arrangement was done so that the driveshaft did not interfere with the electrical supply system of the turret.

The Armor Protection

For the lower hull, the upper front armor plate thickness was increased from 14.5 mm to 20 mm at a 72° angle, and the lower plate was 30 mm placed at a 14° angle. While the front armor of the lower hull of the Ausf. B/C was thickened, the side, rear and top armor remained the same. The side armor of the hull was 14.5 mm thick, the rear was 10-14.5 mm and the bottom was 8 mm.

The front superstructure armor was 30 mm placed at a 9° angle. The sides of the crew compartment were 14.5 mm placed vertically. The engine compartment was protected by 10 mm thick armor (at a 35° angle) at the sides and 14.5 mm (at 10° angle) to the rear. From early 1941 onwards, an additional 30 mm armor plates were bolted to the front hull armor.

This vehicle received increased protection through the addition of 30 mm thick armored plates to the superstructure front. Source: Unknown

The front turret armor was 30 mm thick (at a 10° angle), while the sides and rear were 14.5 mm (at 25° angle) and the top was 10 mm (at 83-90° angle). The commander’s cupola had all-around 30 mm of armor, with the two hatch doors being 8 mm thick. The armor plates were made using nickel-free homogeneous and rolled plates. While the increased frontal armor provided protection from 20 mm armor-piercing rounds, the sides were still vulnerable to anti-tank rifles. In an attempt to increase overall protection from anti-tank rifles, at least one Ausf.B or C vehicle was equipped with 5 mm thick armor plates (Schürzen).

A Panzer IV Ausf. B/C equipped with 5 mm thick Schürzen. Source: Pinterest

From August 1938 on, nearly all German Panzers were equipped with a Nebelkerzenabwurfvorrichtung (smoke grenade rack system). This device was placed on the rear of the hull. This rack contained five grenades which were activated with a wire system by the Panzer IV’s commander. When activated, the Panzer would then drive back to the safety of the smokescreen. This system was not very effective and was replaced with turret-mounted smoke grenade launchers later in the war.

The Crew

The Panzer IV had a crew of five which included the commander, gunner and loader who were positioned in the turret, and the driver and radio operator in the hull. This five-man crew configuration was a rarity at that time and provided the Germans with a huge advantage during the earlier stages of the war.

The Panzer IV commander (Kommandant) was positioned in the rear center of the turret. For observing the surroundings, he was provided with a cupola. For crew communication, the commander was provided with an intercom system in the form of a laryngophone.

During the early testing with the Grosstraktor (held in Kazan in the Soviet Union), the Germans noted that the commander should not be involved in any duties beside his intended role, such as loading or firing the gun. If the commander was distracted, the overall performance of the tank would be greatly reduced, as he could not pay proper attention to his surroundings (for example the position of friendly or enemy units). For this reason, the commander was provided with a cupola that had an all-around view and was tasked with directing the whole crew. This simple design feature gave the Germans a huge tactical advantage in the early stages of the war. For example, French and Soviet tank commanders also had to perform other roles like serving the gun and even loading, which greatly diminished the performance of their tanks despite having better armor and weapons than the German ones.

The gunner (Richtkanonier) was positioned to the left while the loader (Ladekanonier) was to the right of the main gun. While not in combat, the loader could use a folding seat on the right side of the turret. Once in combat, in order to get to the stored ammunition, he would simply fold the seat to the side and then stand on the turret basket floor.

The driver’s position (Fahrer) was on the front left side of the hull. The last crew member was the radio operator (Funker), who was positioned on the front hull’s right side. His main job was to operate the Fu 5 and Fu 2 transmitter-receiver radio set, which had an effective range of about 2 km. This radio was mounted just above the transmission. A folding 2 m long antenna rod with its wooden protective rail was placed on the Panzer IV’s right superstructure side. The secondary duty of the radio operator was to use either a 7.92 mm MP38/40 submachine gun or a pistol, which he could fire through the small frontal pistol port.

The radio’s wooden protective rail is visible here, just behind the Balkenkreuz painted on the superstructure. Source: warspot.ru

The Armament

The main armament of the Panzer IV Ausf. B/C was the 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24. KwK (Kampfwagenkanone), can be translated as combat vehicle cannon or, more simply, as tank gun. The short barrel had 28 grooves, each 0.85 mm deep. It had a semi-automatic breech, which means that, after firing, the spent cartridge would be automatically ejected, thus increasing the overall rate of fire. The Panzer IV Ausf. B/C had an internal gun mantlet which was not too effective. Later Panzer IV versions had an external mantlet which provided better protection. The gun recoil cylinders that stood outside of the turret were covered by a steel jacket and a deflector guard. The Ausf.C version received an improved ‘V’ shaped gun mantlet to improve deflection. Additionally, the coaxial machine gun was also provided with a protecting mount. This is the only physical change in contrast to the Ausf. B. Despite this, identification is not always easy.

The Panzer Ausf. C’s new gun mantlet with the armored covering for the MG 34 is evident here. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

This gun had a muzzle velocity of 325 m/s and proved to have satisfactory precision in combat operations and was even used to arm the early series of the StuG III vehicles. The Panzer IV was primarily meant to destroy soft-skin targets, anti-tank positions and infantry emplacements and was thus mostly equipped with high explosive and smoke rounds. The armor-piercing (AP) round could penetrate 41 mm of armor sloped at 60° at 100 m. At ranges of 500 m, the penetration dropped to 38 mm. The elevation of this gun went from –10° to +20° (–10° to 30° depending on the source). The ammunition load on the Ausf. B and C was reduced from the previous 122 to only 80 rounds. This was done mostly to reduce the weight of the vehicle. The ammunition was stored in holding bins, with 26 stored in the superstructure and the remaining 54 in the chassis. For the gunner’s protection, a recoil shield was added to the rear of the gun. Most of the Ausf. B and C vehicles were equipped with a ‘Y’ shaped metal rod antenna guide placed under the gun. Its purpose was to deflect the antenna and thus avoid damaging it during turret rotation.

The 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 with the external gun mantled added on the later versions of the Panzer IV. Source: world-war-2.wikia.org

This gun was equipped with a TZF5b ‘Turmzielfernrohr’ monocular telescopic gun-sight. This sight had a magnification of 2.5 and a field view of 25°. For aiming at the target, this gun sight had two engraved reticles. In the center of the first engraved reticle there was one large aiming triangle with smaller ones on both sides. The gunner had to aim the larger triangle at the enemy target, while the purpose of the smaller ones was to help in determining the target’s speed. This gun-sight was quite complicated to use and required that the gunner be well trained. The second reticle was used to help the gunner adjust the main gun to the necessary range. In combat, the gunners learned to simply use the turret coaxial machine gun to determine the range to the target. The Panzer IV was also provided with a clinometer for indirect fire support.

Under the telescopic sight, there were two mechanical handwheels for elevation and traverse of the main gun. The trigger for the 7.5 cm gun was located on the traverse handwheel. The turret was traversed via an electric motor located on the left side of the turret. The minimum traverse speed was 0.14° while the maximum speed was 14° per second. When the gunner engaged the traverse, the turret moved abruptly, which made it somewhat difficult to track moving targets. If for some reason (either combat damage or mechanical breakdown), this motor stopped working, the turret could also be manually traversed. There was a selector lever that switched between these two systems depending on the needs. While the gunner would operate the manual traverse of the turret, there was a larger hand crank that the loader could use. By using manual traversing, the gunner could rotate the turret by 1.9° per turn and the loader by 2.6°.

Besides the main gun, the Panzer IV was provided with one 7.92 mm MG 34 machine gun for use against infantry. The machine gun was placed in a coaxial configuration with the main gun and was fired by the gunner. The ammunition load for the single MG 34 was held in 18 belt sacks, each with 150 rounds, for a total of 2,700 rounds.

Organization and Tactics

Prior to the German invasion of Poland, the general organization of a Panzer Division consisted of two regiments each having two Panzer Battalions. These battalions were then divided into four companies. Although these units were meant to be equipped with modern Panzer III and IV tanks, due to the slow rate of production, this was not possible. For this reason, the earlier Panzer Divisions had to be equipped with weaker Panzer I and II tanks, and even captured and foreign vehicles like the Panzer 35(t) and 38(t). In the case of the Panzer IV, the situation was so critical that each Panzer Division could only be equipped with 24 (on average) such vehicles. The few produced Panzer IVs were allocated to the so-called Heavy Companies, which were divided into two platoons, each with 3 vehicles.

The primary function of the Panzer IV was to provide covering and suppressing fire for the advancing Panzer units. While they were used in Heavy Companies in combat situations, the battalion commanders would often reallocate the Panzer IV to other companies. These mixed units offered better cooperation between different types of Panzers, as the identification of targets could be achieved easier. Then, the Panzer IV crews could direct their firepower to destroy the marked target much quicker.

The usual German Panzer tactic was the use of the ‘Keil’ (wedge) formation. The tip of this attack would be formed by the Panzer III and Panzer 35 and 38 (t), while the Panzer I and II would advance on the flanks. The Panzer IVs were to follow up and would continue destroying any marked targets. The targets would usually be marked with tracer rounds or smoke marker shells. The Panzer IV’s 7.5 cm cannon was effective against all soft skin targets but was also effective against most tanks except for the better-armored ones, like the French Char B1 bis or British Matilda II.

In Combat

Due to the low production capabilities of the German war industry up to the outbreak of the war, only 211 Panzer IVs were available in September 1939. At the end of the Polish campaign, 19 Panzer IVs had been destroyed with 50 more being damaged or out of action either due to mechanical breakdowns or enemy fire. In Poland, the Panzer IV, despite its low numbers, performed well thanks to its gun, as it could easily destroy any Polish armored vehicle. Experience gained in this campaign showed the Germans that the concept of a support tank had merit. But as the Panzer IV was only available in limited numbers, it was not possible to distribute them to the Panzer Divisions in adequate numbers.

Panzer IV Ausf. B/C prior the war. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

Depending on the source, between 278 and 296 Panzer IV tanks were available for the German invasion of western Europe. These were allocated to 10 Panzer Divisions. The 1st Panzer Division was provided with the largest number of Panzer IVs, with a total of 48, while the 9th Panzer Division had only 11. Here too, the Panzer IV proved to be effective in destroying most Allied tanks except for the heavier ones. The B1 bis’ front armor proved to be impenetrable to the German 3.7 and 7.5 cm tank guns.

A column of Panzer IV Ausf B. Source: warspot.ru

The ineffectiveness of the German guns against the B1 bis can be seen during the fighting at the village of Stonne near Sedan on 16th May. During this engagement, one Panzer IV managed to shoot 20 rounds against the frontal armor of a B1 bis without any success. But the Panzer IV managed to destroy the French tank’s track and render it immobile. At the same time, a second B1 bis was engaged by the same Panzer IV, but this time due a lucky hit jammed the second French tank’s cupola. The Panzer IV managed to fire another round to the rear, and this time the 7.5 cm gun managed to penetrate the rear armor of the B1 bis. Total losses of Panzer IV tanks during the campaign in the West were around 98 tanks.

A Panzer IV Ausf B/C during the French campaign. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

The Ausf. B and C would see service in the occupation of Yugoslavia and Greece. By the time of the German Invasion of the Soviet Union, the number of Panzer IVs was increased to 517, with each Panzer Division receiving, on average, 30 vehicles. While the Panzer IV proved to be effective against the lightly armored Soviet tanks (for example the T-26 or BT-series), the newer T-34 and KV-series proved to be too much for it.

Despite having been built in relatively small numbers, both the Ausf. B and C versions would remain in active service up to 1943. By that time, their numbers were reduced due to attrition. The surviving vehicles were given to training units. In June 1944, during the Allied invasion in Normandy, a small number of Panzer IV Ausf. Bs would be used in front line action, where they were probably all lost.

Panzer IV Ausf. B or C (at the back) somewhere in the Soviet Union. Source: Unknown
A destroyed Panzer Ausf. B or C. The increase in frontal armor protection was still insufficient for frontline use, especially from 1941 on. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info
A small number of Panzer IV Ausf. B tanks would see action during the German attempts to drive the Allies back to the sea in 1944. Source: warspot.ru

Other Modifications

The Panzer IV Ausf.C chassis would be used for testing different equipment and weapon systems. There were two versions with bridging equipment, a mobile rocket launcher, training vehicle, a mine roller and a proposed recoilless rifle-armed version.

Brückenleger IV

Prior to the war, the German army was interested in the idea of bridge carrying Panzers. In 1939, Krupp developed and built six Brückenleger IV based on the Panzer IV Ausf. C chassis. While these saw deployment on the front, their overall performance was deemed insufficient and no more Brückenleger based on the Panzer IV Ausf. C chassis were ever built. At least three Brückenleger IV based on the Panzer IV Ausf. C chassis would be rebuilt as standard tanks in July and August 1940, but using Ausf. E superstructures and Ausf. C turrets.

Overall, six Brückenleger IV based on the Panzer IV Ausf. C chassis were built, but their performance was unsatisfactory. Source: warspot.ru

Brückenleger IV s (Sturmstegpanzer)

The Brückenleger IV s (Sturmstegpanzer), also known (depending on the source) as the Infanterie Sturmsteg auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen IV, was the second version of a Panzer IV equipped with bridging equipment. In contrast to the previous version, instead of the bridges, this vehicle was equipped with ladders that could be extended. This vehicle, in essence, used slightly modified firefighting ladders to help infantrymen cross obstacles like rivers. Two or four (depending on the source) Panzer IV Ausf. C were modified for this purpose. The sources do not specify if these vehicles were modified from the original tanks or made using repaired vehicles.

Brückenleger IV s (Sturmstegpanzer) which had lost much of its suspension, probably to an enemy mine. Source: unknown

Panzer IV Ausf. C Raketenwerfer

One Panzer IV Ausf.C would be used to test the possibility of using this tank as a mobile rocket launcher. The modification included the removal of the Panzer IV turret and replacing it with a new turret with a fully rotatable rocket launching system. This system consisted of four 280 mm rockets placed in a movable and protected frame. For raising and lowering the rocket’s frame, a hydraulic drive was used. In front of the rocket frame, a small armored cabin was placed, where the gunner would sit. This cabin was also provided with a ball mounted machine gun. After testing of this new weapon system, it was not adopted for service, probably due to the high demand for Panzer IV tanks.

Panzer IV Ausf. C raketenwerfer Source: theminiaturespage.com

Fahrschulpanzer IV

As the Panzer IV Ausf. B/C tanks were recalled from front line service, a number of vehicles were modified to be used as training vehicles. This involved the removal of the turret with its armament and of the ammunition racks. A rail was placed around the turret hole.

A training Panzer IV based on the Ausf. B or C chassis. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

Panzer IV mit Minenrollern

One Panzer IV Ausf. C was used to test mine rollers. Two would be attached in front of the tracks and one to the rear to detonate mines which passed between the two front rollers. Due to problems with steering, it appears that these rollers were never adopted for service.

Panzer IV with experimental anti-mine rollers. Source: Pinterest

Panzer IV with 7.5 cm Recoilless Guns

During the war, there was a proposal to mount two 7.5 cm Rücklauflos Kanone 43 recoilless guns in the turret sides of a modified Panzer IV. Additionally, one more 3 cm MK 103 autocannon was to be used instead of the main 7.5 cm gun. The project led nowhere and only a wooden mockup was built. While the sources do not mention which precise Panzer IV version was to be used for this modification, the wooden mockup shows a Panzer IV Ausf. B or C hull and gun mantlet.

A wooden mockup of the unusual Panzer IV armed with recoilless rifles. It was based (at least this mockup) on the Panzer IV Ausf. B or C. Source: www.onthewaymodels.com

Conclusion

Viewed from today’s perspective, the development of two significantly different types of tanks which were to perform different roles on the battlefield seems odd at best. The development of one vehicle capable of performing both anti-tank and support roles (eventually two variants of the same vehicle) would have been a far easier solution. It would have made production faster and reduced the need for production of two types of spare parts.

Designed to improve the Panzer IV’s overall performance, the Panzer IV Ausf. B and C solved some shortcomings of the previous version, mostly in regard of their increased frontal armor protection and the installation of a stronger engine. Both versions served as an important element of the Panzer Divisions in the earlier war years. While nearly 200 of both versions were built, there was still room for future improvements and this would lead to the development of more Panzer IV versions.



A Panzer IV Ausf.B, possibly from 2.Kompanie 15.Panzer-Regiment, 5. Panzer-Division, Poland, September 1939. Notice the classical makeshift camouflage, with a hastily sprayed reddish-brown and yellow unit markings.


A Panzer IV Ausf.C, 8th Korps, IInd Abteilung, 35th Panzer Regiment, 4th Panzerdivision – France, May-June 1940.


A Panzer IV Ausf.B of the 21st Panzerdivision – Normandy, June 1944.

These illustrations were produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Specifications

Dimensions (l-w-h) 5.92 x 2.83 x 2.68 m (17.7 x 6.11, 8.7 in)
Total weight, battle-ready 18 tonnes (39,683 lbs)
Crew 5 (Commander, Gunner, Loader, Radio Operator and Driver)
Propulsion Maybach HL 108TR 230 HP @ 2600 rpm
Speed (road/off road) 32.4 km/h, 10 km/h (cross country)
Range (road/off road)-fuel 210 km, 130 km (cross country)
Primary Armament 7.5 cm KwK L/24
Secondary Armament Two 7.92 mm MG 34
Elevation -10° to +20°
Turret Armor front 16 mm, sides 14.5 mm, rear 14.5 and top 8-10 mm
Hull Armor front 10-14.5 mm, sides 10-14.5 mm, rear 14.5 mm and the top and bottom 8-10 mm.

Sources

K. Hjermstad (2000), Panzer IV Squadron/Signal Publication.
T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (1997) Panzer Tracts No.4 Panzerkampfwagen IV
D. Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
B, Perrett (2007) Panzerkampfwagen IV Medium Tank 1936-45, Osprey Publishing
P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle (1978) Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition, Arms and Armor press.
Walter J. Spielberger (1993). Panzer IV and its Variants, Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
D. Doyle (2005). German military Vehicles, Krause Publications.
S.J. Zaloga (2011) Panzer IV vs. Char B1 Bis, Osprey publishing
A. Lüdeke (2007) Waffentechnik im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Parragon books.
H. Scheibert, Die Deutschen Panzer Des Zweiten Weltkriegs, Dörfler.
P. P. Battistelli (2007) Panzer Divisions: The Blitzkrieg Years 1939-40. Osprey Publishing