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WW2 German Flame Tanks

Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf. (F) ‘Flamingo’ (Sd.Kfz.122)

Germany (1940-1942)
Flamethrower Tank – 151 Built + 1 Prototype

A couple of months before the beginning of the Second World War, the HWA (“Heereswaffenamt”, Eng: Army Ordnance Department) requested the construction of a flamethrower tank to support the infantry fight against heavily fortified positions. The first vehicles (named Flammpanzer II or “Flamingo”) were ready after the Fall of France and participated, along with other newly made Flamingos, in Operation Barbarossa. In combat, these tanks performed rather poorly due to their thin armor. Ultimately, all of them were pulled out of service and converted into Marder II tank destroyers.

Destroyed Flammpanzer II Flamingo 211 from Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 in the USSR, Summer 1941. (Colorization by Smargd123) (Original source: Worldwarphotos)

History of the Flamethrower Tank

The origin of the Flammpanzer can be traced back to the First World War, when the German Army started using the flamethrower as an assault weapon against infantry in close-range combat situations. These flamethrowers were carried by specially trained soldiers and were highly effective when assaulting a trench line. Their task was to pin down the enemy while friendly forces advanced into the enemy’s lines. They were not only effective as combat weapons, but also had a great psychological impact. The only major downsides were the fact that the flamethrower operators were unprotected from any kind of projectiles and had to carry a lot of heavy equipment.

Seeing their effectiveness, many nations experimented with their own flamethrowers. Another new type of weapon that saw great success during the First World War was the tank and combining these two inventions made a vehicle that could bring fear into the enemy while still being protected. After the end of the First World War, many Europeans and veterans immigrated to South America. This led to the creation of the first flamethrower tank to be ever used in combat. The so-called F-1 was a field-improvised tracked agricultural tractor with added armor protection and a flamethrower. It was used by the São Paulo Public Police Force during the Brazilian Revolution of 1932. The “tank” performed excellently against the Brazilian Army, which did not have tanks or enough anti-tank capabilities in the area where the F-1 was used. It proved to be most effective as a weapon of terror against the Brazilian infantry, but still lacked mobility and was too cramped for the crew.

The first serially constructed flamethrower tanks were the Soviet OT-26, developed from 1931, and the Japanese Sōkō Sagyō Ki, introduced in 1931. These tanks shared differences, but also had things in common. Both used an already existing tank chassis and the main armament was removed. The OT-26 was based on the twin turret T-26 variant. One of the turrets was removed while the other had its gun exchanged with a flamethrower. Although the T-26 chassis was reliable, the flamethrower was ineffective due to its short-range.

The Sōkō Sagyō Ki was based on the Type 89 I-Go chassis. Additionally, the turret was removed and replaced with a commander’s cupola. Unlike the OT-26 or previous flamethrower tanks, the Sōkō Sagyō Ki was not just a flamethrower tank. It was equipped with multiple flamethrowers, two claws in front of the tank for mine cleaning, and a winch to grab heavy objects. These tanks were made for the engineer battalions in order to destroy enemy fortified positions.

The Soviet OT-26 flamethrower tank. (Source: Pinterest)
The Japanese Sōkō Sagyō Ki flamethrower pioneer vehicle. (Source: ww2history)

Italian and German Flamethrower Use

The Italian tank fleet was very weak in the 1930s in terms of firepower. To increase this, flamethrowers were mounted on Italian tanks. The first tanks to receive this upgrade were the Fiat 3000 and the Fiat Ansaldo CV.35. After the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, the Italians sent military aid to the Spanish Nationalists in 1936, including flamethrower equipped CV.35s. During the conflict, a new way of flamethrower tank combat was invented, which involved attacking the enemy tanks from behind and burning the crew alive. The small size of the CV.35 was perfect for sneaking up to the enemy. However, because of the thin armor, the tanks were only protected against small-arms fire and were vulnerable against enemy tanks like the BT-5 or T-26.

Furthermore a small number of Panzer I’s sent to Spain were converted into flamethrower tanks. These were less effective than their Italian counterparts and were generally vulnerable against any enemy tank fire. The flamethrower’s range was also not effective as it could only reach up to 25 m.

Italian CV.33 LF during training. (Source: ww2incolor)

Flamingo Flammpanzer

In winter 1939, the German weapons department ordered the creation of a flamethrower tank using an already existing chassis, with the idea of having a flamethrower tank to support the infantry in assaulting heavily fortified positions.

Flammpanzer II Flamingo Ausf.A No. 235 of Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 in the USSR, 1941. (Source: Panzer DB)

Name

The official designation for this tank was Sd.Kfz.122 Pz.Kpfw. II (F) Ausf.A/B. The (F) should not be confused with the later Panzer II Ausf.F version. The (F) stands for (Flamm) or (Flammpanzerwagen), which would translate to (flame) or (flamethrower tank). This is why most people refer to it as the Flammpanzerwagen II or “Flamingo”.

The name “Flamingo” (which has the same meaning in German and English) would be similar to the “animal names” given to the Panzer V and VI. This was also the first “animal name” that was given to a German tank. The reason for the naming is unknown, but it was likely chosen because “FLAMingo” is similar to the word FLAMmpanzer. For the sake of simplicity, the article is going to use the term “Flamingo”.

Flammpanzer II Flamingo Ausf.A in the USSR, late 1941 (Source: wolrdwarphotos)

Production (Ausf.A and B)

Since the Panzer I did not fulfill the criteria, the HWA decided to use the Pz.Kpfw.II Ausf.D variant, originally a light tank made for cavalry support and independent light tank divisions. But, since this was never implemented, the Panzer II Ausf.D had no specific use. The Flamingo tank had two sub-variants, the Ausführung (variant) A and B. Ausf.A tanks were all vehicles built before the summer of 1941 and based on the Panzer II Ausf.D1 and E chassis, while the Ausf.B was built from June 1941 until March 1942 on the Panzer II Ausf.D2 chassis. While the D1 variant had a sprocket wheel with 11 spokes, the D2 chassis had only 8 spokes. The Ausf.E had changes made to the front and idler wheel and had lubricated tracks but only 7 Ausf.E chassis were made and all were converted into Ausf.A Flamingos.

Top picture: The suspension of the Flamingo Ausf.A based on the Panzer II Ausf.D1 chassis.
Middle picture: The suspension of the Flamingo Ausf.A based on the Panzer II Ausf.E chassis.
Down picture: The suspension of the Flamingo Ausf.B based on the Panzer II Ausf.D2 chassis.
(Source: Panzer Tracts)

The Panzer II manufacturing companies, MAN and Daimler-Benz, were approached by the HWA to design the hull and turret respectively.

From April to September of 1939, 46 chassis of the Panzer II Ausf.D1 were taken off the normal production line and rebuilt by MAN. 1 prototype vehicle was already finished in July 1939 made out of carbon steel (also known as soft- or mild steel). Later, in the Winter of 1940, all of them were converted to flamethrowers by Wegmann & Co. in Kassel. In addition to the construction of new tanks, 43 already completed Panzer II Ausf.D were taken from the 7th and 8th Panzerdivision. In May 1940, the production was halted and all completed vehicles were sent back for modifications. The original order demanded the production of a 0-series with 90 Flamingo tanks by October 1940. This deadline was achieved with the delayed production of only 3 tanks which were completed in February 1941 due to a lack of Panzer II chassis. Additionally, an order for 150 new Flamingos was given in April, which were to be produced at a rate of 30 per month. Production started in August 1941 but, due to a shortage of chassis for the Flamingos and the fact that some of the available chassis were not in a usable state, only 62 could be completed until March 1942. After that date, the conversion order for Flamingo tanks was stopped. The rest of the 150 tank order were normal Panzer II Ausf.Ds.

The table shows the production numbers of the Flamingos (Source: Panzer Tracts 23)

Design

The Flamingo used the same engine as the Panzer II Ausf.D, which was the 6-cylinder Maybach HL62 TRM 140 hp gasoline engine. Since the original role of the Panzer II Ausf.D was to support the cavalry, it had to keep up with the horses. Therefore, a more powerful engine had to be built in comparison to the regular Panzer IIs. This speed was transferred to the Flamingo, making it a very fast vehicle with a maximum speed of 55 km/h. Although the weight was raised from 11 to 12 tons, the vehicle showed no changes mobility-wise.

Flamingo during a training exercise. France 1940. (Source: World war photos)

Suspension

Both the Flamingo Ausf.A and B used the unchanged suspension of the Panzer II Ausf.D and E. Since the Panzer II Ausf.D requirements were for a better engine, the running wheels had to be upgraded too. They were given a completely new running gear, using four large all-rubber wheels sprung on torsion bars, which made the return rollers of the Ausf.C superfluous. Furthermore, all 7 vehicles were based on the Panzer II Ausf.E chassis had different front and back wheels which adapted to the new lubricated tracks on the Ausf.E.

Flamingo No. 311 captured by the Red Army in November 1941. Note the track type that was based on the Panzer II Ausf.E. (Source: wolrdwarphotos)

Hull and superstructure

The lower hull was completely identical to the Panzer II Ausf.D and E. The superstructure was also very similar. On the front of the tank were two escape hatches for the driver and radio operator. Two armored boxes were placed on the left and right mudguards, which consisted of the fuel tanks for the flamethrowers, which could be accessed by opening the top. On each Flamethrower turret, there were small hatches to access the flamethrowers if repair was needed. To reach the engine, which was separated from the crew compartment, a hatch was put on the rear top of the tank. Additionally, storage boxes and the standard tank equipment were placed on the superstructure. Some of the Ausf.A Flamingos had a spare track and idler wheel on the backside.

Destroyed Flamingo No. 124 of the 1st Regiment of the 18. Panzerdivision of Panzer Abteilung (F) 100. Note the opened hatches for the engine. (Source Worldwarphotos)
Top view blueprint of a Flamingo. (Source: Blueprints)
Top view of a Flamingo. Note the access hatches on the flamethrower turrets and fuel tanks. (Source: Panzer Tracts 2-3)

Turret

The turret was completely different from the one used on the previous Panzer II variants and was smaller. It had a hexagonal shape and an armored vision slit on each side. The front side had a MG fitted in a “Kugelblende”. Additionally, there was a hatch located on the top for the commander.

Top view of the Flamingo Turret. (Source: Blueprints)

Armament

One of the main flaws of the Flamingo was its weak armament. The two flamethrower turrets, called “Spritzköpfe” (meaning Spray heads), were equipped with two standard flamethrowers that could be moved 180°. The turrets were located on the front, on the left and right, on the mudguards. The fuel was stored in separate fuel tanks behind the turrets, running along the sides above the tracks. They could be refilled by opening the top of the armored box. Each of the two fuel tanks included 160 liters of flamethrower oil, a mixture of gasoline and oil, and were “shot” with the help of pressurized nitrogen stored in six pressurized tanks. The oil was then ignited by an acetylene lighter. The Flamingo could shoot 80 bursts for 5 seconds each at a maximum range of 35 meters. This range proved to be very weak and not enough for effective use. Additionally, there was a 7.92 mm MG 34 fitted in the turret with 1800 rounds available and a K.Z.F.2 (1,75 x 18°) as a gunsight with a range of 200 meters. Behind the turret on the backside, two pairs of three small “Nebelwerferanlagen” (smoke grenade throwers) were fitted, which could create a smoke wall to support infantry advance or help the tank retreat in dangerous situations.

Flamingo No. 311 was captured by the Red Army. Note the visible armament. October 1941. (Source: Worldwarphotos)
Flamingo during tests in Germany, 1940. (Source: Achtungpanzer)
A Flamingo shooting the flame oil would then be ignited by the acetylene lighter. (Source: Valka)

Armor

Another drawback of the Flamingo was its light armor. The turret was relatively well armored in relation to the hull, with 20-30 mm of thickness. The hull and superstructure had 14.5-30 mm of armor. The frontal armor plates provided effective protection against anti-tank rifles at most ranges. The side armor, on the other hand, could only protect against small arms fire and proved to be extremely dangerous for the fuel tanks of the flamethrowers.

Colorized photo of destroyed Flamingo No. 114 on the Eastern Front. Note the exposed fuel tank on the side, showing how thin the armor on the sides was. (Source: Worldwarphotos)

Crew

Flamingo tanks had a crew of 3 men (radio operator, driver, commander). The commander was situated in the turret. His tasks were commanding the crew, operating both flamethrowers and the machine gun in the turret. The small flamethrower turrets were moved by an electrical transmission located in the main turret. The radio operator was situated on the right side and operated the radio (FuG 2), while the driver sat on the left side.

A Flamingo and its crew in the USSR, June 1941. (Source: Flickr)

Operation Sea Lion

Flamingos were organized into Abteilungen (eng: Battalions) which served in Panzer Divisions together with the “Panzergrenadiere”. From the 1st to the 4th March 1940, two Panzer Abteilungen (Tank Battalions) were formed. These were Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 and, a few days later, 101. Another flamethrower unit was Panzer Abteilung (F) 102, but this battalion consisted of “Flammenwerfer Beutepanzer” (captured tanks that were converted into flamethrowers). Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 used a “Wolfsangel” (Wolf fishing rod) as their unit emblem, while 101 first used crossed flamethrowers in light green paint and, after 1941, a multi-colored flame.

Flamingo Ausf.A of Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 with its visible unit emblem (multi-colored flame) on the rear turret side in the USSR, 1941. (Source: Panzer Tracts)
“Wolfsangel” Emblem of Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 on the left side. The symbol on the right represents the 1st regiment. (Source: worldwarphotos)

Although they were ready for the invasion of France, there was only a small number built at this point. Before the invasion of France, both battalions were located at training schools in “Wehrkreis III” (Army Circle 3). Furthermore, the OKH (German Army High Command) delayed the production to July 1940. After the invasion, they were stationed in northern France and prepared for the planned Operation Sea Lion (amphibious invasion of Great Britain). Many photos show the tanks during exercises, being loaded and unloaded from transport ships and rafts.

A column of Flamingos (No. 315, 312, 316 Panzer Abteilung (F) 100) getting transported across a river in preparation for Operation Sea Lion. Northern France, summer 1940. (Source: Wolrdwarphotos)
Flamingo Ausf.A No. 313 driving onto a transport ship, France 1940. Note the small protection shield, protecting the Nebelwerfer from getting wet. (Source: World war photos)

Flamethrower combat tactics

In September 1940, a manual for “Panzerflammabteilungen” (Flamethrower Tank Battalions) was created. This manual reveals the tactical doctrine and the flamethrower´s intended combat role. Their main task was to support the “Panzertruppe” (tank force) or “Panzergrenadiere” (tank grenadiers) by eliminating threats which other tanks or the infantry could not. Furthermore, the flamethrower had a huge demoralizing effect on the enemy. While the flamethrowers were to be used at an effective range of 30 meters, the machine gun was used for longer ranges, up to 400 meters.

The manual covered three different methods of engaging enemy positions. The first method showed how to deal with enemy infantry on flat terrain. The flamethrower turrets were to be set at an 0° elevation angle and sprayed in discharging bursts. Furthermore, by traversing the turrets whilst driving, an area about 50 meters could be covered. The second method showed how to engage opponents in field fortifications, woods, buildings or machine-gun nests. This could be achieved by shooting out short bursts, demoralizing and driving out the enemy, so they could be eliminated with other weapons. The last method dealt with entrenched enemies or enemies in bunkers and log bunkers. By shooting out cold oil and covering the area then igniting it with a single burst, the area could be set on fire for a longer duration.

In terms of pushing forward, the flamethrower tanks were always to advance with cover fire from either the artillery or other tanks. Additionally, at close ranges, the regular Panzer IIs provided cover fire. During combat, all three flamethrower tank companies were to be deployed and were only allowed to advance with a Panzerdivision.

Furthermore, the Flamingo could create a smoke cloud whilst shooting the flamethrowers and using the “Nebelwerfer”. This could be used to close in on enemies or retreat safely. If supply vehicles managed to reach the Flamingos, the whole battalion could be refilled and rearmed in one hour.

A Flamingo Ausf.A shooting and revealing the amount of smoke that was created whilst shooting. Germany, Winter 1940 (Source: US Official)

Combat results on the Eastern Front

Since the invasion of Britain was never initiated, all 90 Flamingos were transported to the Warsaw area for the upcoming invasion of the Soviet Union. There, Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 was attached to the 19. Panzer Division in the XLVII Panzerkorps (47. Tank Corps) and Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 to the 7th Panzer Division as part of the 2. “Panzergruppe” (2. Tank Group). Both battalions were part of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Center). Each battalion had a Staff and Staffcompany, 3 armored flamethrower companies, 1 reserve squadron, 1 light tank platoon (with 5 Panzer II light tanks) and a workshop company. The armored flamethrower companies each consisted of 1 staff platoon with two Panzer II Ausf.C or D light tanks, three flamethrower tank platoons with 4 Flamingos each and a single light tank platoon with 5 Panzer II Ausf.C or D. The reserve squadron held a reserve of 2 Panzer II light tanks and 6 Flamingo tanks. In practice, these reserves did not last long.

Starting in August 1941, the first new Ausf.B Flamingos arrived, which were highly needed due to tank losses. They were put into the already existing battalions. After seeing how vulnerable the battalion was against enemy armor, the OKH demanded the addition of a Panzer III (5cm) platoon for extra anti-tank capability. There was also one single Pz. Bef. Wg. III added, which was a command tank variant of the regular Panzer III (5cm) but was fitted with a “Rahmenantenne” (cage antenna) and had the main armament removed. At the start of Operation Barbarossa, both battalions consisted of 24 regular Panzer IIs (2cm), 42 Flamingo tanks, 5 Panzer IIIs (5cm) and 1 Pz. Bef. Wg. III.

Fieldpostnumbers and organisation of Panzer Abteilung (F) 100. (Source: Lexikon der Wehrmacht)
Fieldpostnumbers and organisation of Panzer Abteilung 101. (Source: Lexikon der Wehrmacht)

Panzer-Abteilung (F) 100 first saw action in the area of Legi, beyond Warsaw, when the tanks drove over the Legi bridge. Only a few days later, the battalion reached Minsk and a month later participated in the battle of Smolensk. Instead of advancing to Moscow, the battalion was sent south and almost reached Kursk. This order was canceled and the tanks were ordered to support the advance on Moscow. Their final advance was to the area of Orel (350 km south of Moscow), where they were stopped. Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 followed a similar route as 100 and also got put out of service around the same date. In early November 1941, both battalions were pulled off the front and only left the regular Panzer II (2cm) and Panzer III (5cm) tanks behind, which were transferred into the 18. Panzer Division.

The advance of Panzer-Abteilung 100 from 23.6.1941 until 11.10.1941. Note Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 followed almost the same route (Source: Lexikon der Wehrmacht)

Unlike Panzer Abteilung (F) 100, 101 offers a detailed rare after-action combat report from the 26th June 1941. On the 26th of June 1941, near Stonim in Belarus, Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 and Panzer Regiment 25 supported the attack of “Schützenregiment 7” (7th Infantry regiment) against an enemy who held a position 2 km wide and deep. At 6 am, the battalion attacked. The 3rd Company attacked from the right side, while the 1st and 2nd attacked from the left. Due to terrain difficulties which included driving over multiple gullies, the advance had to be done on a narrow front. The Soviet infantry, which had only used small arms fire at this point, though the presence of anti-tank guns and heavy machine guns were suspected, had positioned itself in brush-covered woods.

Shortly after the tanks reached the forest, it turned out that the woods were impenetrable by tanks. The infantry, which advanced alone into the forest, was met with heavy machine gun fire. After the commander failed to direct the battalion around the forest, due to difficult terrain, the 2nd and 3rd Companies started to burn down the brushland with Panzer III (5cm) support. The advance through the woods was slow because many Soviet soldiers were shooting from hidden spots and therefore the German infantry could not advance forwards. The Flamingos burned down the Brush Piles, one after another, and captured soldiers who were struck by fear. With the support of the 1st Company, the woods and nearby cornfields could be secured by 11 am. At 12:30 am, Panzer Abteilung (F) 101, which had already retreated from the area, received a message from Schützenregiment 7 that they were under attack from all sides. The commander of Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 (Major Mast) sent the 1st Company for support but, upon arriving, this support was no longer needed, since the infantry had successfully defeated the enemy.

In the end, the battalion managed to destroy several light machine guns, 11 heavy machine guns, 1 mortar, 2 cars, 3 trucks, and one tank. Furthermore, the battalion claimed to have destroyed 1 heavy tank and 2 artillery pieces, but this number could not be verified. Around 100-150 Soviet soldiers were killed by either the machine guns or flamethrowers. Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 reported no casualties, vehicle- and men wise.

Flamingo Ausf.A in the USSR, December 1941. Note how the tank is being used as a transport vehicle for various equipment. (Source: Worldwarphotos)
Destroyed Flamingo Ausf.A No. 311 of Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 being inspected by Red Army soldiers. Winter 1941. (Source: Worldwarphotos)

Like many other German early war tanks, the performance of the Flamingo on the Eastern Front was rather weak. Due to their thin armor, Soviet anti-tank rifles and guns faced no problem penetrating the sides of the Flamingo at most combat ranges. Another downside was that the Flamingo, like many pre and early WW2 tanks, had a one-man turret. The commander of the Flamingo was overwhelmed with his tasks of observing the battlefield, giving orders to the crew, and operating the flamethrowers and the machine gun. Lastly, the flamethrower’s short-range made the tank even more vulnerable, since it had to approach the enemy very closely.

Both battalions suffered from huge losses, as seen in Tables 2 and 3. Almost the entirety of the time, the battalions had no command tank and only little medium tank support. Additionally, in the first few days, both battalions lost almost half of their Flamingo tanks. These problems continued throughout the invasion and the battalions were only at half of their strength for the most time. When the order arrived to pull the Flamingos back from the front, Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 and 101 together had only 12 operational Flamingo tanks. On the other hand, unlike the early Panzer II variants which had problems with their leaf spring suspension in the Russian mud, the Flamingo and its larger wheels performed excellently.

This Table shows the Operational Status Reports from Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 from June till October 1941. Note Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 ended up with similar results. (Source: Flammpanzer, German Flamethrowers 1941-1945)
This Table shows the Operational Status Reports from Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 in November 1941. (Source: Flammpanzer, German Flamethrowers 1941-1945)

Fate

After their last deployment, the Flamingos were pulled off the front by mid-November 1941. All surviving vehicles, including the regular Panzer II Ausf.Ds were converted into Marder II tank destroyers. The flamethrower tank project was canceled and production stopped, until 1943, when the Germans started introducing a new flamethrower tank, the Flammpanzer III. Meanwhile, Panzer Abteilung (F) 100 was renamed Panzer Regiment 100 and was reorganized and equipped with standard medium and light tanks. Panzer Abteilung (F) 101 experienced the same fate when they were renamed the 24th Panzer Regiment. Both regiments saw action again in the summer offensive of 1942. The flamethrowers were given to the pioneers and the MG turrets were built in coastal defenses in Norway as a part of the Atlantic Wall. Since all Flamingos got converted, only the turrets can be seen nowadays.

Picture of the Sd.Kfz.132 with the 7.62 cm(r) gun on a D2 chassis. Note only the chassis and tracks were transferred from the Flamingo to the Marder. (Source: Kfz der Wehrmacht)
Flamingo turret as part of a defensive line near Kviljo. This turret is no longer present since 2012 (Source: Bunkersite)

Conclusion

In the end, the Flamingo was a well-thought-out first attempt at creating an armored flamethrower to attack bunker positions, supporting the infantry, and performing tasks that other tanks, such as the Panzer III or IV, could not achieve. The idea behind it was fairly good and, at that time, the armor and armament seemed good enough to fight the opponents. Furthermore, its original role was not to engage enemy tanks, but rather infantry and bunker positions. Additionally, the combination of speed and the fear factor from the flamethrowers made a fairly effective anti-infantry vehicle.

Panzer II (Flamm) Ausf.A (Sd.Kfz.122) flamethrower built on Panzer II Ausf.D1 hull. Illustration by David Bocquelet.

Flammpanzer II Flamingo specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.30 x 2.124 x 1.85 m
Total Weight, Battle Ready 12 tonnes
Crew 3 (commander, radio operator, and driver)
Speed 55 km/h, roads: 40 km/h, cross-country: 20 km/h
Range roads: 250 km, cross-country: 125 km
Armament 2x flamethrowers & 7.92 mm MG 34
gunsight K.Z.F.2 (1.75 x 18°) 200 m range
ammmunition 320 liters falmeoil & 1,800 rounds/td>
Elevation -10° to +20°
Traverse Turret 360°, Flamethrower turrets 180°
Engine Maybach HL 62 TRM / 6-cylinder / 140hp
Armor 5-30 mm 90°-30°
Ground clearance 0.34 m
Power-to-weight ratio 11.7 hp/ton
Trench crossing capability 1.70 m
Communication FuG 2 or 5
Total Production Ausf.A: 89, Ausf.B: 62

Sources

Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle, Panzer Tracts No. 2-3 Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf.D, E, and F development and production from 1937 to 1942

Thomas L. Jentz, Hilary Louis Doyle and Peter Sarson, New Vanguard 15 Flammpanzers, German flamethrowers 1941-1945

Michael Sawodny, Waffen Arsenal Deutsche Panzer Raritäten 1939-1945 Band 77

https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2014/10/30/the_horrific_effectiveness_of_flamethrowers

Article on the OT-26 http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_OT-26.

Article on the Sōkō Sagyō Ki https://military.wikia.org/wiki/S%C5%8Dk%C5%8D_Sagy%C5%8D_Ki

Article on Panzer Abteilung 100https://www.forum-der-wehrmacht.de/index.php?thread/42122-panzer-abteilung-100/

Article on Panzer Abteilung 101 http://www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de/Gliederungen/PanzerAbt/PanzerAbt101-R.htm

Photos

https://bunkersite.com/locations/norway/lista/kviljo.php
https://www.the-blueprints.com/blueprints/tanks/ww2-tanks-germany-2/81813/view/sd_kfz_122_pzkpfwii_ausfd_flammpanzer_ii_flamingo/
https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/flammpanzer-ii/
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Kdj_rIsurTC10sorvy-m9deOkx92yYJz/view

Categories
WW2 German Flame Tanks

Panzerkampfwagen III (flamm)

Germany (1943)
Flamethrower Tank – 100 Built

Germany was one of the first nations in the Second World War to produce flame-throwing tanks. These tanks were the ultimate anti-infantry weapons. With their conventional guns replaced by high-powered flamethrowers, striking a primal fear into anyone on the receiving end of the weapon.
The first of the Wehrmacht’s steel dragons was a simple improvisation based on the Panzer I called the ‘Flammpanzer I’. It was used briefly in North Africa. This was followed by the Panzer II Flamm, also known as the ‘Flamingo’, these had a brief service on the Russian Front.
The Panzer II variant was not overly successful due to its thin armor. Most surviving vehicles were recalled and reportedly turned into chassis for Marder II tank destroyers. This left the Wehrmacht in need of a flame-throwing tank that was reliable, had thicker armor, and good mobility.

A factory fresh Pz.Kpfw III (fl) in 1943. Photo: SOURCE

The Pz.Kpfw.III

The Panzerkampfwagen III (Sd.Kfz.141) medium tank was developed in the mid-1930s and was designed to fight enemy tanks in support of its larger brother, the Panzer IV, which was originally intended to support the Panzer III.
The Panzer III was an extremely mobile tank. It was powered 12-cylinder Maybach HL 120 TRM 300 PS, producing 296 hp. This propelled the 23-tonne vehicle to a top speed of 40 km/h (25 mph). A running gear consisting of 6-road wheels per side supported the tank’s weight. The road wheels were attached to a torsion bar suspension. The drive sprocket was at the front, while the idler was at the rear. Return of the track was supported by 3-rollers.
These features remained constant throughout the Panzer III’s lifetime. Over its years in service, it received multiple upgrades to its weaponry and armor. Originally, the Panzer was armed with a 37mm gun, progressing to a 50mm gun on later models. It was also armed with a coaxial and bow mounted 7.92mm MG 34. As well as adding Schürzen on the turret and hull sides, an add-on armor kit known as ‘Vorpanzer’ was also installed. This consisted of armor plates being added on the upper hull plate and gun mantlet. This boosted the original armor thickness of 15mm to 50mm.
The tank was operated by a 5-man crew consisting of a Commander, Gunner, and Loader in the turret, with the Driver and Radio Operator/Bow Machine Gunner in the hull.
With the emergence of more powerful enemy armored vehicles, like the famous T-34, the Panzer III became obsolete, and the Panzer IV became the main tank-fighter as it had more developmental potential. Thus, the Panzer III was cast aside and was largely out of service by the end of the war.

Production

The specific model chosen for conversion into the Flammpanzer was the Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.M. This model had the additional ‘Vorpanzer’ armor and was usually armed with 5cm KwK 39 gun.
One-hundred of Ausf.Ms were constructed by the Miag company in Braunschweig between January and February 1943 and were set aside for the conversion program. They were then sent to the firm of Wegmann in Kassel for their conversion into flame tanks. The planned production timetable of 1943 was 20 in January, 45 in February, and 35 in March. After a month’s delay, 65 vehicles were ready for inspection in February. This was followed by 34 more in March, with the last, and 100th vehicle finished in April.
During the production phase, the tanks were simply designated as ‘Flammpanzerwagen (Sd.Kfz.141)’. They were later designated as ‘Pz.Kpfw III (fl) (Sd.Kfz.141/3)’. It is also sometimes known as the Flammpanzer III Ausf.M or, simply, Flammpanzer III.

Flamethrower Equipment

A previous project was looked at when researching suitable flame equipment for the new Flammpanzer. Designers turned to the equipment installed on the Pz.Kpfw.B2(fl), a flamethrower conversion of Char B1 heavy tanks captured in France during the invasion.
This flamethrower was the 14mm Flammenwerfer (14mm nozzle). It was mounted in the turret of the Panzer III, replacing the standard 5cm gun. In an effort to disguise the tank’s role and to protect the stubby flame gun, a false barrel was designed, which was 1.5 meters long with a diameter of 120mm.

A Flammpanzer III unleashes a stream of flame in a training excersise. Note the amount of smoke given off by the burning fuel. Photo: Osprey Publishing
It could spray a stream of liquid, unlit, inert oil to a maximum range of 50 meters, increasing to 60 when ignited, at a pressure of 15 to 17 atmospheres. Pressure was provided by a Koebe pump at a rate of 7.8 liters per second. The pump was powered by a two-stroke, 28hp Auto Union ZW 1101 (DKW) engine, using a mix of oil and petrol. The flame fuel was ignited by electrical sparks from ‘Smitzkerzen’ (Smit’s glow plugs). These glow plugs were placed at the rear ‘breech’ end of the weapon with counterbalance and pressure gage.
The flame gun was fed by 1020 liters of fuel held in the vehicle’s hull in two 510-liter tanks either side of the drive shaft. The fluid reportedly consisted of a fuel thickened with tar, giving it a distinctive scent similar to creosote. A special connection in the flame oil delivery pipe allowed the turret to retain its 360 degrees of traverse. The flame gun and coaxial MG 34 had an elevation range of +20 to -10 Degrees. The weapons were fired via foot pedals, right for the flame gun, left for the machine gun. Horizontal traverse and elevation were achieved via hand wheels in front of the Commander/Gunner.
As a gunner and loader were unnecessary in a flame tank, the Flammpanzer only had a crew of three as the commander now assumed the role of flame gun operator. He did remain in the standard position at the rear of the turret, however. Originally, the flame gun was aimed via an inverted “V-blade” sight in front of the vision blocks in the Commander’s cupola. Later, this was improved by adding a rod with range markers to the protective foux barrel of the flame gun. This was lined up with a thin stripe painted down the center of front vision block in the commander’s cupola.
The other two crewmen were typical. A bow-gunner/radio operator at the front right and driver at the front left.

Two Flammpanzers in training firing their flamethrowers, 1943. Photo; World War Photos.

Protective Measures

Given the expected implications of sending a tank full of flammable liquid into battle, extra measures were taken to protect the vehicle from incoming enemy projectiles, as well as the Flammpanzer’s own fiery breath.
As well as the 20mm of extra armor provided by the ‘Vorpanzer’ kit which was now standard on Panzer IIIs, an additional 30mm plate was added to the lower and upper hull front. This gave an overall thickness of 75mm, enough to protect it from rounds of up to 75mm in caliber at standard combat ranges.
The increased threat of fire necessitated the addition of extra fire extinguishers. Five were carried in total, three on the inside and two on the tank’s exterior. Three was standard for most tanks of the time.


Panzerkampfwagen III (Fl), Italy 1943. This tank was captured by American Forces in Italy and sent back to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds for testing. Illustration by Andrei ‘Octo10’ Kirushkin, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Service

Organization

The Flammpanzer III saw action in both the Russian and Italian campaigns starting in 1943. Previously, Flammpanzers were attached to autonomous battalions which were in turn attached to higher headquarters for combat assignments. This changed in 1943, with the arrival of this new Panzer III(fl). Platoons of these vehicles were incorporated into standard Panzer-Abteilung Stabskompanie. These were officially known as Panzer-Flamm-Zug. All 100 Flammpanzers were placed in service in the following numbers:
Division ‘Grossdeutschland’: 28 (13 of these were transferred to 11. Panzer Division in Spring 1943)
1. Panzer Division: 14 (7 of these were transferred to the ‘Ersatzheer’ Reserve Army in Autumn 1943)
6. Panzer Division: 15
14. Panzer Division: 7
16. Panzer Division: 7
24. Panzer Division: 14
26: Panzer Division: 14
Schule Wundsdorf: 1

Italy

In Italy in 1943, the first Flammpanzer unit was formed. This was the 1.Flamm-Kompanie, attached to Panzer-Regiment-26. This was the first unit of its kind in the German army. It consisted mostly of Flammpanzers, but it was also outfitted with self-propelled guns and tank destroyers confiscated from Italian units.

Flammpanzer III demonstrtates its fire power in Italy. Photo: SOURCE
1.Flamm-Kompanie and Panzer-Regiment 26 were in action during the fight for the town of Mozzagrogna on the 27th and 28th of November. On the evening of the 27th, the Allies had managed to capture the town. The Germans responded early morning, under the cover of darkness, surprising the Allied forces. A number of Flamms were used in this assault, pushing the attack and keeping the Allied infantry suppressed. A few of the Flammpanzers were lost. Feldwebel Hoffman, a Commander/Gunner of one of the flame tanks was killed by a shot to the head while assaulting field fortifications in the town. Another Flammpanzer under the command of Feldwebel Block was lost when an artillery shell blew the track off and damaged the sprocket wheel of his tank. It was subsequently abandoned.
Further action took place in on the 16th of December 1943 on the road from Ortona to Orsagna. We know the details of this action thanks to a personal report from Oberleutnant Ruckdeschel of 2.Flamm-Kompanie serving with Panzer-Regiment 26. The 2.Flamm consisted of five Flammpanzers and two StuH 42s, the unit was under the command of Lieutenant Tag.
The unit counter-attacked Allied positions along the road under heavy artillery fire. The 2.Flamm supported the advance of Fallschirmjager turning their attention to enemies in dug in positions. Under covering fire from the StuHs, the Flammpanzers pushed the assault of these positions, smoking out the defenders with deadly efficiency. During this action, one of the Flammpanzers had even managed to destroy, or at least immobilize, an Allied tank of an unknown model. The Panzer had managed to sneak up behind the Allied vehicle, which was camouflaged under straw, and cover it in flaming liquid. The exact damage sustained to this vehicle or casualties inflicted on the crew is unknown.

Eastern Front

On the Eastern Front, the Panzer III(fl) was used slightly less extensively. The Panzer-Flamm-Zug was attached to Panzer-Regiment 36. Prior to January 1944, the Flammpanzers had only seen combat twice. In these actions, the flamethrowers were used in the reduction of enemy fortifications and defensive positions. These actions were not great successes. Soviet forces were supported by a large number of anti-tank guns, as well as the terrain of their country. The flat broad terrain which lacked cover, combined with these anti-tank guns caused a number of losses to Flammpanzer units, despite cover fire from gun-armed Panzers.

Schürzen equipped Flammpanzer III No. 651 of the 6. Panzer Division on the Eastern Front in 1943. Photo: World War Photos
In the first action, two Flammpanzers were destroyed. It was noted that while the tanks were ‘flaming’ they were visible from long distances, naturally drawing the attention of enemy AT gunners. It was decided that Flammpanzers should only be used in areas with adequate cover, such as the central and northern areas of the Eastern Front. Even then, the cover had to be close enough to the enemy’s defenses for the tank’s flamethrower to be in range of any targets. Around this time, Schürzen also started to appear on the Flammpanzers. In recognition of their limited deployment options, Flammpanzers in the South of the Eastern Front were relegated to guard duty in towns.
In the later stages of the war, the number of operational Flammpanzers dwindled. A number of the flame tanks were assigned to Panzer-Flamm-Kompanie 351 in early January 1945, in preparation for action Budapest. This unit was still in action until April 1945.

Fate

As only 100 Flammpanzer IIIs were produced, not many survive today. In fact, it appears that only one survives. This can be found at wehrtechnische studiensammlung in the city of Koblenz. It is in running condition and is often displayed at events at the museum.

The surviving Flammpanzer found at wehrtechnische studiensammlung, Koblenz. Photo: SOURCE

An article by Mark Nash

Specifications

Dimensions 5.41m x 2.95 x 2.44 m (17’9″ x 9’8″ x 8’0″ ft.inches)
Armament 14mm Flammenwerfer
Machine Gun 2–3 × 7.92 mm Maschinengewehr 34
Total weight, battle ready 20.3 tons
Crew 3
Propulsion Maybach V12 gasoline HL 120 TRM
(220 kW) 300 [email protected] rpm
Speed on /off road 40/20 km/h (25/12 mph)
Range 165 km (102 mi)
Total production 100

Links & Resources

Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #15: Flammpanzer German Flamethrowers 1941-45
Dick Taylor & Mike Hayton, Panzer III: Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.A to N (SdKfz 141), Haynes Publishing/The Tank Museum
Panzer Tracts No. 3-5: Panzerkampfwagen III Umbau, Conversions to Z.W.40, Pz.Kpfw.III (T), Pz.Kpfw.III (Funk), Pz.Kpfw.III (fl), Pz.Beob.Wg.III, SK 1, Brueckenmaterialtraeger, and Munitionspanzer

Categories
WW2 German Flame Tanks

Flammpanzer 38(t)

Germany (1944)
Flamethrower Tank – 20 Built

On the 27th of November 1944, Hitler ordered the construction of 20-30 Flammpanzers. The next day, he was shown how many of these could be built on the existing chassis of tanks or tank destroyers in the following days.
On the 3rd of December, it was reported that 35 such conversions could be produced. Ten of these would be Panzer IIIs that would be converted into the Flammpanzer III, also known as the Panzer III (fl) or (flamm). The other 25 would be made up of Jagdpanzer 38(t)s. The 20 vehicles that were built were obtained directly from the factory on the 8th of December 1944. After the conversion, they were known as the Flammpanzer 38(t).
The vehicle is known by two names. These consist of the simplistic “Flammpanzer 38(t)” and the rather more official “Panzerflammwagen 38(t) mit Koebe-Gerät”

One of the Flammpanzers captured by US forces. A GI stands to the right of the vehicle. Photo: Osprey Publishing

The Jagdpanzer 38(t)

The Jagdpanzer 38(t) was based on the chassis of the Panzer 38(t) light tank, which, in turn, was based on the Czech LT vz 38. It is controversially known as the ‘Hetzer’. The running gear and engine was unchanged (aside from strengthened road-wheels), with the Jagdpanzer’s 15.75 tonne weight supported on four road wheels attached to a leaf-spring suspension. Propulsion was provided by a 158hp Praga 6-cylinder petrol engine.
An armored casemate was added in place of the turret and main body of the tank. The chassis was also widened. For a small vehicle, the armor and armament were very effective. Frontal armor consisted of a large plate which was 60mm (2.36in) thick and sloped at 60 degrees from the vertical, which, therefore, offered around 120 mm (4.72 in) of effective protection. This was also where the main armament, the potent 7.5cm PaK 39 L/48 was mounted.

Design of the Flammpanzer

Not too many changes were necessary to turn the tank destroyer into a flamethrower. The biggest modification came with the removal of the 7.5cm gun and accompanying cradle with traverse and elevation gears, as well as the 7.5cm ammunition storage racks.

A flammpanzer that was abandoned after action. The protective barrel around the flame projector is broken. A common complaint from crews was that this sheath was far too fragile. Photo: Osprey Publishing
A “Koebe-Gerat” (Lit. ‘device designed by Koebe’) 14mm Flammenwerfer (flamethrower) was placed in the void left by the gun on a swivel mount, with limited traverse and elevation angles. The flamethrower was aimed by a periscope which was added directly above the flame gun, atop the bulbous armor of the mantlet. It was the same model as the one used on the Sd.Kfz.251/16, a flamethrower version of the famous half-track. Like the other Flammpanzers, the nozzle of the flammenwerfer was protected by a false 120mm diameter false gun barrel. Firing unlit flame oil, a maximum range of 50 meters could be reached. When firing ignited oil, which was ignited by a blank cartridge (known as ‘Zuendpatrone’), the range increased to 60 meters. Unlit fuel was often projected to saturate a target area before it was ignited by a proceeding ignited burst. A 700-liter tank carried enough fuel for 60 to 70 one-second bursts of flame at a rate of 10 liters per-second
Unlike most flamethrowing versions of existing gun tanks that usually drop the loader crew member, the 38(t) retained a 4-man crew. This consisted of the Flamethrower Operator, Radio Operator, Commander, and the Driver. The original plan for the vehicle, however, was for it to have a three-man crew, with the Commander also doubling as Radio operator.


Flammpanzer 38(t), 352nd Panzer-Flamm-Kompanie, Army Group G, Belgium, December 1944. Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

Action

Initially, the Flammpanzers were to be used as part Operation Northwind (Unternehmen Nordwind), the last major offensive of German forces during the Second World War, which would start on New Years Eve 1944. Earlier that December, Heeres Gruppe G had reported 2 Flamm-Panzer-Kompanien, each with 10 Flammpanzer 38(t)s ready for action. These were Panzer-Flamm-Kompanie 352 and Panzer-Flamm-Kompane 353. Kompanie 352 were ordered to the front Christmas Day, with Kompanie 353 following on the 30th. It appears that both Kompanien, however, did not take part in the operation.
The first combat report of the Flammpanzer 38(t) was not recorded until mid-February 1945. Kompanie 352 and 353, attached to Panzer-Abteilung 5, 25. Panzer-Grenadier-Division took part in combat during an attack on Hatten, a French village near the border with Germany. The action was costly to Kompanie 353, which lost seven of their Flammpanzers and all of their officers. As such, the remainder of the 353rd was absorbed into the 352nd.
In this action, the 13 remaining Flammpanzers were used to counter Allied bunkers and dug in gun positions. A number of times while assaulting positions in Hatten, the vehicles broke operating procedure and attacked without infantry or gun tank escort. This was strictly forbidden in the case of flame tanks.
Street fighting in the nearby village of Rittershoffen would be the next action for the Flammpanzers. Three vehicles were lost in this action, two to anti-tank and tank gunfire, and the other lost to a mine. An attempt at recovery was made, but it was damaged beyond repair during a further barrage of Allied fire. By March 1945, Kompanie 352 reported that they still had at least 9 Flammpanzer 38(t), 8 of which remained operational.

An American soldier stands beside a captured Flammpanzer. Photo: Osprey Publishing

Descendant

This Flammpanzer was not the only flamethrowing tank built on the chassis of the LT .vz 38/Panzer 38(t) light tank. In 1949, the Czechs designed and prototyped the PM-1. The flamethrower gun was placed in a turret that was mounted on the Jagdpanzer’s roof. A large tank for fuel was added to the rear. Only three prototypes of this tank were built, with the project ending in 1956.

Flammpanzer 38(t) specifications

Dimensions (L W H) 4.83m (without gun) x 2.59m x 1.87 m (15’10” x 8’6″ x 6’1″ ft.in)
Total weight, battle ready 15.75 metric tonnes (34,722 lbs)
Armament 14 mm Flammenwerfer
7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 34, 1,200 rounds
Armor 8 to 60 mm (0.3 – 2.36 in)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Praga 6-cyl gas. 160 [email protected],800 rpm (118 kW), 10 hp/t
Speed 42 km/h (26 mph)
Suspension Leaf springs
Range 177 km (110 mi), 320 l
Total production 10

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #15: Flammpanzer German Flamethrowers 1941-45
www.historyofwar.org