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WW2 German Panzer IV

Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. J

german tanks ww2 Germany (1944 – 1945)
Medium Tank – 3,655 built

The Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausführung J, also known as Gerät 550 or Sonderkraftfahrzeug 161/2, was the last variant of the famed Panzer IV. It was produced from January 1944 to the last days of April 1945 in the Nibelungenwerk (Ni-Werk) factory in Sankt Valentin, northern Austria.

This variant was characterized by many modifications made to the previous models in order to speed up production and save on valuable raw materials.

anzerkampfwagen IV Ausführung J
A Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausführung J with Drahtgeflechtschürzen with wire mesh side armor. Source: Pinterest.com

Context

The Panzer IV was the only medium tank to remain in production from before World War II until 1945. Its total production number, more than 8,500 vehicles from variant A to variant J, represents 30% of the tanks produced by Germany.

At the beginning of the war, the Panzer IV was the most powerful vehicle the Wehrmacht could count on, but it was almost immediately realized that the short-barrelled 7.5 cm KwK 37 (KampfwagenKanone 1937) L/24 (1.76 m barrel length) guns were not able to fight against more armored enemy vehicles. However, they were not meant to, as the Panzer IV was designed as a support vehicle for the Panzer III, destroying fortifications and enemy emplacements, not enemy tanks.

The Panzer IV Ausf. F2 was introduced in March 1942, armed with the 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/43 with a 3.22 m long barrel. The new variant proved to be very effective and able to face even the most armored Russian tanks, such as the T-34 and KV-1.

After the production of only 179 units, the Ausf. G entered into service three months later in June 1942, armed with the same cannon but with a maximum frontal armor of 80 mm, with 1,735 being produced until June 1943.

These two long-barreled variants of the Panzer IV were the most powerful tanks of the Wehrmacht until the introduction of the Tiger I in September 1942.

In April 1943, the production of the Ausf. H, armed with the longer 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/48 cannon with a 3.70 m long barrel, began. This variant entered service in July 1943 and 2,322 were produced until July 1944.

later Panzer IV versions
Difference between the main armaments of the later Panzer IV versions. Source: pinterest.com

The losses suffered by the German armored divisions were considerable by 1942. Fighting against the Red Army, 502 Panzer IVs were lost in 1942 alone. In 1943, 2,352 Panzer IVs were lost.

The main companies producing the Panzer IV were Krupp, Vogtländische Maschinenfabrik, or “VOMAG” in Plauen, and Nibelungenwerk. Nibelungenwerk produced 1,378 Panzer IVs in 1943.

In May 1943, Adolf Hitler ordered the Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen (Eng: General Inspector of the Armoured Corps) to increase the production of tanks, increase the repair of damaged armored vehicles at the front and in specialized workshops in Germany, and ordered a substantial reduction in the production of “secondary” vehicles, such as the Bergepanzer and Munitionspanzer.

Following Hitler’s directives, in December 1943, Krupp modified its assembly lines to produce the Sturmgeschütz IV. In the spring of 1944, VOMAG converted its assembly lines to produce the Jagdpanzer IV.

Nibelungenwerk remained the only company producing the Panzer IV. There is a disagreement among the secondary literature over the total number of Panzer Ausf. Js produced. According to Peter Chamberlain and Hilary Doyle (Encyclopedia of German WWII Tanks) and Kevin Hjermstad (The Panzerkampfwagen IV Medium Tank, 1939-1945), 1,758 Panzer IV Ausf. J tanks were built. In Panzerkampfwagen IV: The Backbone of the German Armed Forces of World War II, David Doyle speculates that as many as 3,000 tanks with an additional 200 chassis of the Panzer IV Ausf. J were produced.

According to Panzer Tracts 4-3, 179 Ausf. J tanks were produced by VOMAG, from frame number 86,384 to 86,573. Nibelungenwerk produced 3,433 until March 1945, from frame number 89,531 to 90,600, from 91,300 to 93,250 and finally from 110,001 to 110,415, plus another 15 Panzer IV Ausf. J tanks produced in April 1945. To these Panzer IVs are added about 260 chassis for vehicles such as the Sturmpanzer IV and another 28 Panzer IV Ausf. J built immediately after the war under Soviet control.

Design

The Panzer Ausf. J production lasted about 16 months, during which they received some modifications that sped up production and saved raw materials needed for other purposes.

Turret

The turret of the Panzer IV Ausf. J was the same as that of the Ausf. H, with a turret ring diameter of 1.60 m. The only substantial modification was the adoption of the Nahverteidigungswaffe grenade launcher (close-in defense weapon) on the right side of the smoke extractor. In vehicles manufactured after May 1944, the Maschinenpistolen Stopfen (gun ports) on the back of the turret and on the side access doors were removed, as were the vision ports. However, this modification was not carried out on all vehicles. Some Ausf. J tanks with the pistol ports came off the assembly lines in 1945 because not all the companies that produced the Panzer IV turrets had removed these details.

In June 1944, three sockets were added on the roof of the turret for the assembly of a 2-tonne winch to lift parts of the vehicle or of other vehicles in the vicinity of a Panzer IV for maintenance and replacement. The commander’s cupola hatch was replaced after October 1944 with a pivoting hatch, very similar to that of the Tiger and Panther.

The cover of the smoke extractor was modified after November 1944 to allow a 360° use of the Nahverteidigungswaffe. The bracket for the Orterkompass 38 type II, a navigation compass mounted, when required, outside the tank, was welded over the smoke extractor. Inside the vehicle, the steel plates did not allow the compass to find the North Magnetic Pole.

The Fliegerbeschussgerät 42 (anti-aircraft machine gun support) mounted on the commander’s cupola was also modified to speed up production and to adapt to the new pivoting hatch.

Panzer IV Ausf. J
A knocked-out Panzer IV Ausf. J showing the new bigger smoke extractor with the Orterkompass 38 on top. Two of the three sockets for the 2-tonne winch are also visible. Source: pinterest.com

After January 1945, three Lost-Erkennungstafeln (poison gas detector cards) were fixed, one on the barrel of the cannon and two on the back sides of the turret. These cards measured the pH of the air and notified the crew if poison gas was being used.

Panzer IV Ausf. J
Two civilians pass near a knocked-out Panzer IV Ausf. J somewhere on the Eastern Front. On the turret, Schürzen are visible, along with one Lost-Erkennungstafeln support with its card mounted. Source: worldwarphotos.com

Crew

The crew, as in the other versions of the Panzer IV, was composed of 5 men. In the hull, these were the driver and machine-gunner/radio operator, on the left and right of the transmission, respectively.

The other three members of the crew were placed in the turret. The gunner was on the right of the breech of the cannon, the loader on the left, while the tank commander was in the middle, behind the breech.

Panzer IV Ausf. J, March 1945
Crewman of a Panzer IV Ausf. J, March 1945. Source: worldwarphotos.com

Each of the five crew members had a hatch through which they could enter or exit safely. Communication inside the vehicle was via an intercom system connected to the FuG 2 radio. In general, the crews did not appreciate the Panzer IV Ausf. J, considering it inferior to the Ausf. H because of the numerous measures used to speed up its production, making it less ergonomic for the crew. To give an example, they disliked the lack of an electrical system for the turret rotation or the absence of vision ports in the side doors of the turret.

Hull and Interior

The hull was divided into two parts, the fighting compartment that included the front and middle parts of the vehicle and, separated by a steel firewall, the engine compartment.

The driver had at his disposal a slit with an armored shutter to see the battlefield. To his right, he had the transmission, the gearshift, and above the transmission, the dashboard. In front of him, he had the two driving levers and 3 pedals: clutch, brake, and accelerator, while in front on the left was the steering brake. Behind him, there was an ammunition hold.

The machine gunner/navigator had in front of him a ball mount for an MG34 with a K.F.Z. sight. In front of his legs, there was the other steering brake. On his right, inside some racks, was the FuG 5 radio, while behind it there were transformers and, under his seat, an evacuation hatch.

Radio operator/machine gunner position
Radio operator/machine gunner position. On the right is clearly visible the FuG 5 radio while on the left is the MG34 with its K.F.Z. 2 sight. Source: pinterest.com

Armor

The armor of the Ausf. J was unchanged compared to the Ausf. H. The hull and superstructure maintained a thickness of 80 mm at the front, 30 mm on the sides, and 20 mm on the engine compartment and rear.

The turret kept a thickness of 50 mm at the front and 30 mm on the sides and rear. The gun mantlet was also 50 mm thick, while the commander’s cupola was 90 mm thick. The armor of the hull roof remained 11 mm while the one of the turret was thickened, from the 16 mm of the Ausf. H to 25 mm of the Ausf. J, while the hull floor remained 10 mm.

Until June 1944, Face Hardened Armor (FHA) steel developed by Krupp in 1893 for naval use and used on all German tanks was also used on the Panzer IV Ausf. J. During that month, an Allied bombardment seriously damaged Panzerfirma Krupp in Essen, the largest producer of FHA steel for the Panzer IV. It was therefore chosen by Waffenprüfämter 6, or WaPrüf 6 (Weapons Testing Authorities), to switch from FHA to Rolled Homogeneous Armor (RHA), which was less resistant but faster to produce, reducing the raw materials used and time of production.

As on Panzer IV Ausf. H, the first Ausf. Js were equipped with 8 mm thick Schürzen (skirts) mounted on the turret, and 5 mm thick on the sides of the hull.

This spaced armor was introduced in June 1943 to defend German tanks from Soviet PTRS-41 and PTRD-41 14.5×114 mm anti-tank rifles.

Until September 1944, the Panzer IV Ausf. J tanks were supplied with Schürzen II. The armored skirts on the sides of the hull were attached by handles to an iron carrier rail welded to the hull by four support brackets (Aufbau). After September 1944, Drahtgeflechtschürzen (Wire Mesh Skirts) were supplied to save precious steel.

knocked-out Panzer IV Ausf. J
A knocked-out Panzer IV Ausf. J of the 24. Panzer Division produced in early January 1945 in Jedwabno in February 1945. The pivoting commander’s hatch, the Drahtgeflechtschürzen (visibly damaged by small arms fire in the rear) and, also, covered by snow, the bigger smoke extractor on the turret are visible. Source: pinterest.com

This armor, sometimes called ‘Thoma’ after its developer, the Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen (Inspector General of the Panzer Troops) Wolfgang Thomale, was fixed by a tubular carrier rail and modified support brackets.

These side skirts were produced with 5 mm thick welded iron wire with a 15 mm distance between the wires. They were 600 kg lighter than the standard Schürzen.

Around December 1944 and January 1945, Drahtgeflechtschürzen panels were applied on the top, between the side skirts and the hull to prevent anti-tank grenades, such as the Soviet RPG-43s or improvised explosive charges, from being thrown and adhering to the fenders or sides of the hull.

A Thoma panel was also attached to the back of the turret, attached to the rear toolbox so that, if anti-tank grenades were thrown, they would bounce and not detonate on the rear sides of the turret.

Due to the desperate conditions of the Wehrmacht in the last months of the war, many Panzer IV Ausf. J remained equipped with the old Schürzen even in 1945 and did not receive these improvements or, as was the case for unluckier, they were never added.

The Thoma Schürzen
The Thoma Schürzen. Source: milart.blog

Engine and Suspension

As on the other versions of the Panzer IV, the engine was a Maybach Hochleistung (HL) 120 TRM, V-12 11.9 L gasoline motor that produced 265 hp at 26,000 rpm. The fuel tanks were placed in the double bottom of the crew compartment floor. These held 470 liters for a range of 210 km on roads, with an average consumption of just over 2 liters of fuel per kilometer.

Maybach HL 120 TRM
The Maybach HL 120 TRM scheme. Source: fallschirmjager.com

After July 1944, an additional 200-liter tank was mounted in the crew compartment instead of the engine for the automatic turret rotation system, which increased the range to 320 km.

The turret rotation mechanism was equipped with a second reduction gear to allow the crew to manually rotate the turret even on slopes.

The maximum speed of the Panzer IV Ausf. J was 38 km/h. The average speed at which it operated was 25 km/h on the road, while the off-road speed decreased to 15 km/h.

The transmission was the ZF S.S.G.76. It had 6 forward and 1 reverse gears and was the same one used by the latest versions of the Panzer III. Due to the 25 tonne weight of the vehicle, it was always under heavy stress.

The running gear was composed of 8 road wheels per side coupled with leaf spring suspension. The sprocket wheel was at the rear, the idler was at the rear and there were four return rollers. These were cut down to three after December 1944 to increase the production speed.

The tracks were composed of 99 track links and were 40 cm wide. They were of a dual central guide single dry pin type produced completely out of steel.

The new Drahtgeflechtschürzen introduced for this version received modifications to the supports to be further spaced from the hull. This allowed the Ostketten tracks to be mounted. These were 56 cm wide and developed to increase mobility on muddy or snowy terrain of the Eastern Front.

On the back of the hull was mounted the muffler. On the first vehicles produced, it was identical to that of the previous models, while, from August 1944 onward, it was replaced by two Flammatüter (flame suppression) exhaust mufflers.

The easiest method to identify a Panzer IV Ausf. J from a Panzer IV Ausf. H is the absence of the rectangular exhaust muffler of the turret rotation engine mounted on the left side of the back of the hull.

Main armament

The main armament of the Panzer IV Ausf. J was the 7.5 cm KampfwagenKanone 1940 (7.5 cm KwK 40) L/48 (48 calibres long). The cannon weighed 750 kg. The elevation and depression of the cannon were 20° and -10° respectively. The maximum firing range was 7,700 m. The operational life was between 5,000 and 7,000 rounds and the gun could reach a rate of fire of 10 to 15 rounds per minute with a well-trained loader. It was a rather precise cannon, capable of hitting targets on the first shot even at a 1,000 m distance. The optical sight used was the high quality Turmzielfernrohr 5 f (abbreviated to T.Z.F.5f). It had a magnification of 2.5x, a visibility arc of 25°, and was mounted to the left of the cannon. The gunner could adjust the range by moving an “arrow” in the optics. The reticle was graduated at intervals of 100 m up to 2,500 m for the PzGr.39, 1,500 m for PzGr.40, and 3,300 m for SprGr.34.

Range

Ammunition Type 100 m 500 m 1000 m 1500 m 2000 m 2500 m 3000 m
PzGr.39 Training 100% 100% 99% 77% 48% 30% 17%
PzGr.39 Action 100% 99% 71% 33% 15% 8% 4%
PzGr.40 Training 100% 100% 95% 66% 21%
PzGr.40 Action 100% 98% 58% 24% 6%
Gr.38 HL/C Training 100% 100% 85% 42% 20%
Gr.38 HL/C Action 100% 100% 45% 15% 6%

The accuracy values in “Training” were obtained in a controlled environment and knowing the distance to the target which was 2 m high and 2.5 m wide. The values for the “Action” section were calculated by doubling the dispersion values. Obviously, this is an approximation. In fact, in combat, multiple errors could be made that could have affected the precision values. Source: “Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. G, H and J 1942-45”, Hilary Doyle and Tom Jentz.

 Panzer IV Ausf. J
A Panzer IV Ausf. J turret being hoisted from the three winch-brackets. Clearly visible is the 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/48 gun. Source: Peter Kocsis collection

Secondary armament

The secondary armament consisted of two or three 1934 Maschinengewehr (abbreviated to MG34) and a Nahverteidigungswaffe grenade launcher.
A machine gun was coaxial, positioned to the right of the cannon, and shared the same optics. The second one was in the hull in a ball mount. Its depression and elevation angles were -10° and +20°, with 15° of traverse to the right and left. It was fitted with a Kugelzielfernrohr 2 optics (1.8x, 18° angle). A third machine gun could be mounted in the anti-aircraft support on a rail fixed to the commander’s cupola.

When available, the Panzer IV Ausf. J could have a Nahverteidigungswaffe grenade launcher mounted in the turret. It could fire explosive, smoke, or flare ammunition. All of these rounds were fired from a 360 degrees-rotating projector mounted at a fixed 50-degree inclination angle.

MG34 on a Panzer IV
Anti Aircraft MG34 on a Panzer IV. Source: militaryimages.net

Ammunition

The Panzer IV Ausf. J could carry 86 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/48 rounds in total, stowed in 8 different racks. One was placed behind the driver, holding 23 shells. Another one, with 24 rounds, was on the right side, divided into three 8-round sub-racks.

A total of 27 shells were carried in three 9-round racks, two on the left side of the vehicle and one on the right side. In front of the right side ones, there was a lower rack with 2 rounds.

Another 6 round rack was placed above the 23 round-rack behind the driver and, finally, 4 rounds were stored on the floor of the turret basket, under the breech of the cannon.

86 rounds were more than enough by the standards of the time. The problem was that these took a lot of space inside the vehicle. In fact, it should be remembered that the Panzer IV was designed to carry the shorter ammunition of the KwK 37 and not that of the KwK 40. The new cannon rounds had a larger casing and consequently were much more bulky and prone to explode.

In the last vehicles produced, between February and April 1945, the racks were slightly different, carrying only 80 rounds. This was achieved by removing the 2-round rack on the right, decreasing the rack behind the driver from 6 to 4, and the rack in the turret basket from 4 to 2 rounds.

Name Panzergranate 1939 (PzGr. 39) Panzergranate 1940 (PzGr. 40) Sprenggranate 1934 (SprGr. 34) Hohlladung pattern C grenades. (Gr.38 HL/C)
Type APCBC-HE-T APCR HE HEAT
Muzzle velocity 750 m/s 930 m/s 550 m/s 450 m/s
Weight 6.8 kg 4.1 kg 5.64 kg 5 kg
Penetration (RHA angled 30° from vertical) 106 mm at 100 m; 85 mm at 1000 m 143 mm at 100 m; 97 mm at 1000 m N/A 100 mm

Out of 86 rounds, it was recommended to the crew by the instructors to carry PzGr. 39 and SprGr. 34 in equal numbers and, when available, some PzGr. 40 for use against heavily armored targets.

3,150 rounds for the MG34s were carried. These were the 7.92 mm Spitzgeschoss mit Kern or S.m.K.(pointed bullet with core) and Spitzgeschoss mit Kern, Leuchtspur or S.m.K.Lspur (pointed bullet with core, tracer) belted in 150 round bags.

Several types of shells for the Nahverteidigungswaffe could be carried:
Schnellnebelkerzen 39 (quick smoke rounds) and Rauchsichtzeichen orange 160 (orange smoke). The first was used for concealment, the second for signaling targets for air or artillery attacks.
Leuchtgeschossen R (Illuminating rounds) which could be used to illuminate the battlefield during night missions or to call for help.
The Sprenggranatpatrone 326 Lp (Explosive grenade) was designed to protect the vehicle from enemy infantry at very close ranges. It was fireable out to a range of up to 10 meters and operated on a one-second delay. The grenade exploded in a zone between 0.5 and 2 meters from the ground with a fragment radius of up to 100 m, lethal to nearby troops.

Production

The Panzer IV Ausf. J entered service with the Wehrmacht in February/March 1944. It was immediately used on the Eastern Front. In June 1944, there should have been 1,502 tanks available but, due to production delays and losses in combat, there were only 605 Panzer IVs of different models on that front.

On April 30, 1944, an Allied bombardment of the gearbox factory in Friedrichshafen slowed down the productivity of many German tank factories, as it slowed down deliveries of essential components. Hitler, therefore, ordered to bring the production priority of the Sturmgeschütz to the same level as that of the Jagdpanzer and to increase the production of fighter planes.

The Minister of Armaments and War Production, Albert Speer, noted that the orders for armored vehicles in 1944 amounted to 40,300, but the actual production numbers at the end of the year were only 27,340 vehicles.

In July 1944, the 1944-45 production plan came into force, which provided for the production of three types of vehicles: Panzer 38(t) hull vehicles, 25-tonne vehicles (Panzer III, Panzer IV and self-propelled guns on their hulls) and the Panther, Tiger I and II.

In October, Speer proposed to Hitler to remove the “25-tonne vehicles” from production in order to focus only on light and heavy vehicles. In addition, he proposed to convert the factories that produced the HL 120 TRM to produce aeronautical engines.

On October 17, 1944, an Allied bombardment hit the Nibelungenwerke in Sankt Valentin, stopping production until November 4.

Organization

Due to the desperate conditions in Germany, the number of armored units was reduced on November 1, 1944. Consequently, each Armored Company (Panzerkompanie) had only 17 (2 tanks for the command company and three platoons of 5) or 14 (2 tanks for the command company and three platoons of 4) Panzer IVs, compared to 22 tanks for each Company in 1943. Many Panzer Divisions returned to 2 companies equipped with Panzer IVs, as in 1939. With the war progressing, the losses increased and, on April 1st, 1945, each company was reduced to only 10 tanks (1 tank for the command company and three platoons of 3).

Operational use

In June 1944, 11 Panzer Divisions were waiting in the north of France in anticipation of the expected Allied landings, with 863 Panzer IVs (out of 965 tanks). Obviously, there were many Panzer IV Ausf. Js that took part in the clashes with the Allies which landed on the French coast. On June 11, 8. Panzerkompanie of the 12th SS Panzer Regiment of the 12th. Panzer Division ‘Hitlerjugend’ counterattacked the 6th Canadian Armoured Regiment near Mesnil-Patry, reoccupying the town and putting out of use or destroying 37 Shermans with the loss of only two Panzer IVs, forcing the Canadians to suspend their attack.

Willy Kretzschmar, commander of the 12. Panzerkompanie (equipped with Panzer IVs) of the same division, claimed to have destroyed 15 enemy tanks during the Battle of Normandy in his Ausf. J tank.

During the winter of 1944, some 260 Ausf. J tanks were delivered to the Panzer Divisions stationed on the Western Front. All of these took part in the Ardennes Offensive. The Panzer IV was the most used Wehrmacht vehicle in that operation. During the weeks of the offensive, many Panzer IVs were lost to enemy fire. However, more were lost due to a lack of fuel and spare parts than due to the action of Allied anti-tank weapons or tanks.

A Panzer IV Ausf. J
A Panzer IV Ausf. J destroyed during the Battle of the Ardennes. Source: pinterest.com

During the Battle of the Bulge, the 6. SS-Panzerarmee had at its disposal a total of 73 Panzer IV Ausf. H or J, out of a total of 178 tanks. Although less armored and equipped with a less powerful gun than the Panther and Königstiger (also assigned to the 6. SS-Panzerarmee), they were faster, allowing for rapid deployment on the battlefield. Above all, compared to the other German tanks of the offensive, they consumed less fuel, which was now a precious resource for Nazi Germany.

The offensive began on December 16 with the German attack at dawn, after an artillery strike that lasted over 90 minutes. Because of the ineffective armored support on the first day, the Germans were not able to achieve great success.

On December 17, during the battle for the villages of Krinkelt and Rocherath (also known as the Battle of the Two Villages), there was a clash between M4 Shermans and Panzer IVs (probably Ausf. J). Two Shermans of the 741st Tank Battalion supporting the 23rd Company at a roadblock in the forest were knocked-out, forcing the US troops to retreat towards the two villages.

The next morning, the Germans broke into Krinkelt, where some Panzer IVs and four Jagdpanzer IVs clashed with a number of M4s and M10 Tank Destroyers, suffering some losses due to ambushes with Bazookas in the narrow streets of the town.

According to German records (which are incomplete), by December 18, the 12. SS-Panzer-Division “Hitlerjugend” (part of the 6th Panzer Army) had lost 32 of its 41 Panthers, 12 of its 34 Panzer IVs, and 21 of its 40 tank destroyers, claiming only five 57 mm anti-tank guns, three M4 Shermans, and three M10 Tank Destroyers.

Panzer IV Ausf. J early production
A Panzer IV Ausf. J early production suffered an ammunition explosion. 17 December 1944 Battle of the Bulge. Source: worldwarphotos.com

On December 18, the Germans attacked a farm under U.S. control near Krinkelt. In the fight, a Panther and a Jagdpanther were knocked-out by 57 mm anti-tank guns, while eight Panzer IV Ausf. H and J tanks managed to neutralize the anti-tank guns.

During the battle that followed inside the perimeter of the farm, two M4 Shermans were knocked out by the eight Panzer IVs, which suffered the loss of two tanks.

During the morning, two more M4 Sherman were neutralized while an attempt to advance by three of the six Panzer IVs in the farm was repulsed by a single 3 inch GMC M10 Tank Destroyer that destroyed all three. In the afternoon, four M36 Tank Destroyers intervened in the area, forcing the retreat of the three surviving Panzer IVs of which two were destroyed during the retreat.

3 inch GMC M10 Tank Destroyer passed out a Panzer IV Ausf. J
An 3 inch GMC M10 Tank Destroyer passed out a Panzer IV Ausf. J destroyed in winter 1944. Source: panzerserrabunker.com

Further south, on December 18, the 5.SS-Panzerarmee entered the city of Marnach with 12 Panzer IVs (Ausf. H and J) and a Panzergranadier unit equipped with 30 Sd.Kfz. 251 half-tracks. The defending U.S. forces attacked with the few tanks available, destroying four Panzer IVs but losing three M4 Shermans.

Unfortunately, due to the incompleteness of the records, there is not enough data to determine how many Panzer IVs took part in the actions of the following days and how many losses there were.

Panzer IV Ausf. J
Panzer IV Ausf. J belonging to the 9. Panzer Division knocked-out in the Ardennes, 1944. Source: pinterest.com

Other users

Hungary

Between August and December 1944, Hungary, the last standing ally of Germany, received 77 Panzer IV Ausf. J tanks. Of these, 20 were requisitioned by the German Command in Hungary to replace the losses suffered by the Panzer Divisions. With regards to the 57 remaining Panzer IVs, nothing is known about their operational use.

Finland

Finland bought 20 Panzer IV Ausf. J tanks in 1944 for 4,500,000 Markkas each. These vehicles were part of the first Ausf. J production series. Another 40 were ordered but were never supplied. These vehicles arrived without German instructors and too late. By the time they arrived, the Moscow Peace Treaty between Finland and the Soviet Union had already been signed.

Finland took possession of 15 Panzer IVs (the fate of the last 5 is not known) and they were then used by the Finnish against their manufacturers until April 27th, 1945, when the so-called Lapland War between the retreating Germans and the Finns ended.

After the war, the Ausf. J survivors were used for training and nicknamed by the crews ‘Ravistin’ (Shaker) because of the vibrations to which the tank was subjected during off-road driving. They were withdrawn from service around 1955.

ddddddddd
A Finnish Panzer IV Ausf. J of the first production run. It is without Schürzen on the sides of the hull. Source: SA-Kuva

Soviet Union

The Soviet Union captured hundreds of Panthers, StuGs, and other Panzers on the battlefields during the war and stored them in warehouses. After the war, the Soviets finished the production of 28 Ausf hulls. J remaining in the Nibelungenwerk for Bulgaria.

The exact number of Panzer IVs, renamed by the Soviets as the T-4, captured is difficult to determine. 165 were supplied to Czechoslovakia between 1945 and 1946. The other T-4s that were crammed into rusting warehouses were probably dismantled in the 1950s.

France

Like the Soviet Union, France captured many abandoned Panzer IVs in varying conditions from the retreating Wehrmacht. At least 11 Panzer IV Ausf. G, H and J were used by the Besnier Regiment during the war, although not much is known about their use.

40 Panzer IVs in poor condition, out of a total of about 60, among which were the 11 of the Besnier Regiment, were sold to Syria between 1950 and 1952.

Four Panzer IVs
Four Panzer IVs and a Panther of the Besnier Regiment. Source: char-francais.net

Bulgaria

In the post-war period, Bulgaria received 28 Panzer IV Ausf. J tanks from the Soviet Union. This brought the total number of Panzer IVs in service in December 1945 to 102. By 1950, the number had dropped to 69, used mostly as bunkers or strong points in their defensive lines on the borders.

Three Panzer IV
Three Panzer IVs which had been used as bunkers by the Bulgarians, the first being an Ausf. J of mid-production, without Maschinenpistolen Stopfen but with four rollers. Source: tankandafvnews.com

Romania

In late 1943, Germany began a program to rearm Romania. The program, called Olivenbaum (Eng: Olive tree), involved the supply of armored vehicles of German origin to Romania to create an armored division and three mechanized divisions.

Between October 1943 and August 1944, Romania received approximately 120 Panzer IVs of various models (called T-4 by the Romanians) and 108 StuG III (called TAs), as well as an unknown number of Sd.Kfz. 222 and AB41 armored cars.

After the coup d’état of August 23rd, 1944, Romania allied with the Soviet Union to fight the Axis forces. To replace the losses suffered by the Romanians in the fighting, the Soviets supplied the Royal Romanian Army with many Panzer IVs captured during the advance, in varying conditions.

The Panzer IVs and StuG IIIs were used after the war together with other materials that the Soviets supplied during and immediately after the war. On November 15th, 1947, the Romanian Army still possessed 13 Sd.Kfz.222 armored cars, 7 light tanks of various types, 54 T-4 tanks of various models, 13 Panthers, and 31 TAs assault guns.

Panzer IV Ausf. J at the National Military Museum in Bucharest
A Panzer IV Ausf. J at the National Military Museum in Bucharest. Source: pinterest.com

Czechoslovakia

After the Second World War, Czechoslovakia had to reequip its army. The desired help from the Allies did not arrive and not even Stalin could help. The Soviet Union supplied Czechoslovakia with 165 Panzer IVs of various versions and under various operating conditions between 1945 and 1946. A Czechoslovakian commission of technicians visited all the warehouses, German workshops, and battlefields in the country and managed to find another 102 Panzer IVs in various operating conditions and many spare parts.

Přelouč and ČKD reconditioned the vehicles and managed to bring a total of 82 Panzer IVs to operational conditions in 1949. These were 21 Ausf. G, 43 Ausf. H and 18 Ausf. J. The others, found to be irreparably damaged or with other problems, were dismantled and used for spare parts or at fixed locations.

It is interesting to note that the repairs led to the modification of not only Panzer G, H, and J, but also other versions that were rebuilt with the longer barreled 7.5 cm guns. This is the case of the hull of an Ausf. J (renamed by many sources “Frankenstein”) that was re-equipped with the turret of an Ausf. D rearmed with the 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/48 cannon.

The Czechoslovak Army renamed them Střední Tank T-40/75″ (medium tank T-40/75) regardless of the version. Some of these Panzer IVs received support brackets for a Soviet-made DShK anti-aircraft machine gun.

80 Panzer IVs went to form the 1st Tank Regiment in Strašice, while the last two remained at a tanker school for training. ČKD proposed a replacement of the steering system, which was considered a defect by the Czechoslovakian Army. However, the entry into service of the T-34/85 made the project redundant.

The gradual decrease in the availability of spare parts caused them to be withdrawn from service in 1955-1956. They remained in reserve until 1959 when they were used for various purposes. 55 were sold to Syria and some were used in movies (and one was destroyed during shooting). Another one was tested as a bunker, but tests showed it was too vulnerable. Another turret was tested on a gunboat while two others ended up in an armored train.

The remaining Panzer IVs became artillery targets and only one was kept as a monument in the Lešany Armor Museum.

Panzer IV Ausf. J
Panzer IV Ausf. J at the Lešany Armor Museum in Prague. pinterest.com

Syria

Syria received 40 Panzer IVs from France between 1950 and 1952, 55 Panzer IVs from Czechoslovakia in 1956, and, finally, 17 Panzer IV Ausf. H tanks from Spain in 1965. We cannot extract the exact number of Ausf. Js received by the Syrians because of the lack of details in the Syrian sources.

The Czechoslovakian Panzers cost the equivalent of 4,500 British pounds each. They arrived in Syria in November 1955, already overhauled with ammunition but few spare parts.

In 1958, another 15 Panzer IVs were purchased from the Czechoslovak. These were not operational and were used for spare parts. 16 Maybach HL120 TRM engines were also bought due to the serious mechanical problems of the tanks supplied by the French.

The only Syrian modification was the replacement of the MG34 with 7.62 mm DT machine guns, and in some cases, the coaxial machine gun was replaced with the 12.7 mm Berezin UB machine gun. In an anti-aircraft mount, a DShK or a Breda-SAFAT 12.7 mm machine gun of Italian origin was mounted.

A Syrian Panzer IV Ausf. J
A Syrian Panzer IV Ausf. J, recognizable due to the three return rollers. Source: pinterest.com

The Panzer IVs were used together with other German production vehicles, T-34/85s and a few SU-100s against the Israelis in the Six-Day War. At the beginning of the hostilities, there were 25 operational and 10 partially operational Panzer IVs. 12 were destroyed by the Israelis and another 4 were captured. They were taken to Israel to be evaluated and then put on display.

After the war, a careful analysis led the Syrians to remove all Panzer IVs and German-made vehicles from service for two reasons. The first was that, of the German tanks used against the Israelis, not one hit an Israeli vehicle. Secondly, the Soviet Union offered to rearm the Syrians with more modern vehicles, such as T-34-85s and T-54/55s.

panzer IV Ausf. J
A Panzer IV Ausf. J abandoned somewhere in the Golan Height. Over the years, the various layers of paint have faded, causing the German camouflage pattern to reappear, with the Balkenkreuz clearly visible. Source: pinterest.com

Variants

Sturmpanzer IV

In February 1943, 60 vehicles were produced. These were built by Bismarckhütte, which produced the superstructures, and Nibelungenwerke, which produced the hulls. These were based on the chassis of 52 Panzer IV Ausf. G and eight modified Ausf. E and F tanks.

Another 80 Sturmpanzer IVs came out in May 1944 based on the Ausf. H hull. The last 166 examples of ‘Brummbär’ were produced by Deutsche Eisenwerke in Duisburg in two lots of 24 and 142 vehicles. These were based on the Ausf. J hull.

Panzer IV Ausf. S

A new turret was developed for the Panther Ausf. F project, the Schmalturm (Narrow-turret). This was designed in 1944 by Daimler-Benz. It was also proposed to mount this new turret on the Panzer IV hull, but the idea was never accepted.

The Schmalturm was hexagonal in shape and had heavier armor than the regular Panther turret. The front plate had a thickness of 120 mm while the gun mantlet had a maximum thickness of 150 mm. The sides and back of the turret were 60 mm thick. The turret mounted the 7.5 cm KwK 42 L/70 of the Panther, renamed KwK 44/1. It had a shorter recoil system to better fit the turret, allowing the cannon to maintain a +20°/-8° degrees of elevation/depression.

Panzerbefehlswagen IV

After March 1944, the command variant of the Panzer IV Ausf. J was produced. There were two variants, the Sd.Kfz. 267, which was modified by removing 15 75 mm rounds and installing an additional radio system including cables, transformers, and junction boxes. In addition, a GG400 auxiliary electric generator was also added.

The new radio sets were the Fu 8 (medium wave receiver) and Fu 5 (ultra short wave receiver). A Sternantenne D (Star aerial) for the Fu 8 was mounted on the rear of the hull, while the classic 2-meter antenna for the Fu 5 was mounted in place of the Nahverteidigungswaffe on the roof of the turret. A T.S.R.1 observation periscope and an SF14Z periscope scissor were also mounted.

The SF14Z could only be mounted inside the cupola so the commander could see the battlefield from inside the vehicle with the hatch open. The T.S.R.1 was a long stick periscope mounted on the roof of the turret, near the commander’s cupola, and could be extended by a pivoting support.

The Sd.Kfz. 268 variant differed from the 267 by mounting a Fu 7 transmitter/receiver for aerial communications instead of the Fu 8 radio set.

Only 17 Panzerbefehlswagen IV were produced from scratch, while 88 others were converted from already built Panzer IV Ausf. J tanks.

Panzerbefehlswagen IV
A Panzerbefehlswagen IV produced in September 1944. Notice the classic antenna instead of the Nahverteidigungswaffe, the Orterkompass 38 support behind it, the three 2-tonne winch brackets and the T.S.R.1 on the right raised up. The anti-aircraft MG support and the classic Schürzen II Aufbau are also visible. Source: Panzer Tracts No.4 Panzerkampfwagen IV

Others

Other vehicles based on the Panzer IV hull received modifications to speed up production similar to those on the Panzer IV Ausf. J, such as the Sturmgeschütz IV and the FlaKpanzer IV ‘Wirbelwind‘, ‘Ostwind‘ and ‘Kugelblitz’. The Panzer IV/70(A) tank destroyers also received similar modifications such as the adoption, in the last vehicles coming out of the factories, of the Drahtgeflechtschürzen.

Conclusion

The Panzer IV Ausf. J was a variant of the Panzer IV that cannot be declared a straight-out improvement. Its ease of production was much improved, with almost 3,500 being produced in 16 months at the time when the German industry was being destroyed by bombing, with fewer and fewer specialized workers available and with an acute shortage of raw materials.

On the battlefields, it was still dangerous for opposing vehicles, even if it was vulnerable to the T-34-85 and M4 Shermans armed with 76 mm cannons. However, the loss of the automatic turret rotation mechanism had led to a significant reduction in capabilities.

Panzer IV Ausf.J
Panzer IV Ausf.J, 12th Panzerdivision SS “Hitlerjugend”, Normandy, France, June 1944.
Panzer IV Ausf.J early production
Panzer IV Ausf.J early production (unknown unit), Russia, summer 1944
Panzer IV Ausf.J
Panzer IV Ausf.J, central Germany, March 1945. Notice the wire-mesh side-skirts (mistakenly added over regular side skirts in our illustration) and complex “ambush pattern” camouflage.
Panzerbefehlswagen IV
Panzerbefehlswagen IV, 12th Panzerdivision, Northern Russia, early 1944
Panzer IV Ausf.J, IXth Panzerdivision
Panzer IV Ausf.J, IXth Panzerdivision, Ardennes, Belgium, December 1944. This is an early production model, with Zimmerit on the entire hull and spaced armor. All illustration by David Bocquelet.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 5.92 m x 2.83 m x 2.68 m
Total weight, battle-ready 25 tonnes
Crew 5 Commander, Gunner, Loader, Radio Operator/hull machine gunner, and driver
Propulsion Maybach HL 120 TRM V-12, water-cooled gasoline 320 HP at 3000 rpm
Speed Max.38 km/h, on-road 25 km/h, cross country 15 km/h
Range 320 km on road; 210 km off-road
Primary Armament 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/48 with 86 rounds
Secondary Armament Two or three M.G.34 calibers 7.92 mm 3150 rounds
Turret Armor 50 mm front, 30 mm sides, and rear
Hull Armor Hull 80 mm front, 50 mm sides, and 30 mm rear
Total production 3,655

Sources

Panzer Tracts No.4 Panzerkampfwagen IV Grosstraktor to Panzerbefehlswagen IV – Thomas L. Jentz
Panzer Tracts No.4 Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. H/Ausf. J, 1943 to 1945 – Hilary Louis Doyle, Lukas Friedli and Thomas L. Jentz
Sd.Kfz. 161 Panzer IV Ausf. J – Krzysztof Mucha
Panzer IV & its Variants – Walter J. Spielberger
web.archive.org
Panzer IV: The Panzerkampfwagen IV Medium Tank, 1939-1945 – Kevin Hjermstad

Categories
WW2 German Panzer IV

Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. E

ww2 german tanks Germany (1940) – Medium Support Tank, 200 plus 6 chassis built

Following the victorious campaign in Poland, the German Army requested even more Panzer IV vehicles. This would lead to the Panzer IV Ausf. E, which was, in essence, just a slightly improved Ausf. D version. By the time the production run ended in April 1941, some 200 complete vehicles were built.

The Panzer IV Ausf. E. Source:  www.worldwarphotos.info

History

Following the introduction of the Panzer IV Ausf. D, the German Army High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres, OKH) issued orders for the development and production of the new Ausf. E version. This version was, in essence, just a copy of the previous one, with some minimal changes to it. One of the main changes that was originally planned was to use 50 mm thick frontal armor, but this was not implemented by the time of production.

Production

In July 1939, the OKH awarded a contract for producing 223 vehicles to Krupp-Grusonwerke. This contract would be reduced to 206 vehicles in March 1941. Eventually, during a production run that lasted from October 1940 to April 1941, some 200 vehicles were built. The remaining four chassis were to be converted to Bruckenleger IVc bridge carriers and two were tested with a new experimental suspension. According to military historian, K. Hjermstad, some 224 Ausf. E vehicles were built by April 1941.

Specifications

While the Panzer IV Ausf. E was visually very similar to the previous built Ausf. D version, there were some differences.

The Superstructure

The Panzer IV Ausf. E’s superstructure was identical to that of the previous Ausf. D. One of the few changes made was the introduction of a new driver pivoting visor, which would remain in use up to the end of war. Another change was the replacement of the hinge design of the glacis hatch doors, which increased protection.

The frontal side of the Panzer IV Ausf. E. Source: Warspot.
The Panzer IV Ausf. E (upper picture) introduced a new driver driver pivoting port in contrast to the earlier Ausf. D version (lower picture).

The Turret

The turret design on the Ausf. E was mostly unchanged in comparison to the earlier Ausf. D version. The commander’s cupola was redesigned and was better protected. It had five vision slits, each of which was protected by two (upper and lower) sliding armored covers.

In addition, the commander’s cupola was moved forward and was now located directly above the turret roof. Previously, it was slightly to the back, with one part protruding from the turret rear. An additional visual change was the addition of a fume ventilator, removing one and redesigning the second signal port’s protective cap shape. From March 1941 onward, all Ausf. E vehicles would be equipped with the storage bin placed on the turret’s rear.

A good view of the Ausf. E turret top. Note the new better protected commander’s cupola with five observation ports protected by sliding armored covers. Another change was the removal of one signal port cover and adding a ventilation port. Source: /www.worldwarphotos.

Suspension and running gear

This version introduced a new front drive sprocket design. In addition, the eight small road wheels received new cap covers. Beside these changes, nothing else was changed on the Panzer IV Ausf. E suspension and transmission.

While the suspension, in essence, was unchained, there were still some differences. Most notable was the change of the forward mounted drive sprocket wheels. In addition, the eight small road wheels received a new covering cap. Source: Walter J. Spielberger . Panzer IV and its Variants
Comparison between early type and Ausf. E type covering caps. Source: K. Hjermstad (2000), Panzer IV Squadron/Signal Publication.

Armor Protection

During the Polish Campaign, the Germans noted that the enemy 37 mm guns could effectively destroy any tank that they had in their inventory, including the Panzer IV, without much trouble. This was mainly due to the weak armor of the German vehicles at that time. Based on this experience, the Panzer IV Ausf. E’s frontal superstructure armor was to be increased to 50 mm. Since this decision was taken too late, as the Panzer IV Ausf. E was under production, it was instead equipped with 30 mm of face-hardened frontal armor. As a temporary solution, additional 30 mm (Zusatplatten) applique armor plates were bolted to the superstructure front. Due to production delays, not all factory built vehicles were equipped with this extra armor, with some receiving it later in the field. Additional 20 mm of armor would also be placed on the turret front and superstructure sides on some of the Ausf. E vehicles. The armor of the commander cupola was increased to 95 mm. The Panzer IV Ausf. E also had a 50 mm thick lower frontal hull plate from the beginning of production. Other than that, the remaining armor thickness values were the same as on the Panzer Ausf. D.

The Panzer IV Ausf. E was also equipped with the smoke grenade rack system (Nebelkerzenabwurfvorrichtung), but it was protected by an armored shield.

The majority of Panzer IV Ausf. E tanks were equipped with an additional 30 mm of armor placed on the superstructure front. Some vehicles were additionally protected by 20 mm side armor, which was usually just bolted to the superstructure. Some vehicles received extra turret armor. Source: www.panzernet.net

Crew

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

Armament

The main armament was unchanged and consisted of the 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 with 80 rounds of ammunition. The secondary armament consisted of two 7.92 mm MG 34 machine guns. The ammunition load for these two machine guns was stored in 21 belt sacks, each with 150 rounds (with 3,150 rounds in total).

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

In Combat

The Panzer IV Ausf. E performed the same firing support role as the previous version. Its short barrel gun (despite primarily not being designed for it) still had enough firepower to pose a danger to most lightly armored tanks during the first half of World War II. The Panzer IV Ausf. E would see action in the Balkans, Africa and more notably in Soviet Union.

In the Balkans

The Panzer IV Ausf. E would see service in the occupation of Yugoslavia and Greece in April 1941. One of the armored units allocated for this operation was the 9th Panzer Division, which had 20 Panzer IV’s. On the 6th April 1941, it engaged the defending Yugoslav forces near the Kumanovo city in Macedonia. After an initial clash, the Yugoslav anti-tank units (equipped with the excellent Czechoslovakian 47 mm guns) managed to take out 4 German tanks, which forced the 9th Panzer division to call in Luftwaffe support. This prompted the Yugoslav defenders to abandon their positions, and the 9th Panzer Division continued the drive toward Kumanovo and Skopje. The following day, they engaged two Yugosav Infantry Regiments which lacked any anti-tank weapons and were quickly defeated. By 10th April, nearly all Yugoslav resistance in Macedonia was crushed.

On 12th April, the Germans engaged the Allied forces in Greece. The next day, elements of the 9th Panzer Division were confronted by British Cruiser Mk II (A10) tanks. In the following engagement, the British lost eight tanks and were forced to retreat. By the end of the Balkan Campaign on 26th April, the 9th Panzer Division had lost 2 more Panzer IVs in combat.

Panzer IV Ausf. E belonging to the 9th Panzer Division during the Balkan campaign In April 1941 Source: M. Kruk and R. Szewczyk 9th Panzer Division
A damaged Panzer IV Ausf. E which was ditched to the side of the road somewhere in the Balkans. Source: K. Hjermstad Panzer IV Squadron.

In Africa

There were initially 40 Panzer IVs (only 10 were Ausf. E) in service with the Deutsche Afrika Korps (DAK) [Eng. German Africa Corps] in 1941 but would see extensive action in this theater. During 11th April 1941, elements from the 5th Panzer Regiment were attempting to storm the city of Tobruk, but lost six Panzer IVs in the process. The small number of Panzer IV Ausf. E were all probably lost by the end of 1942.

The Panzer IV Ausf. E was a rare vehicle during the African campaign in 1941. Source:  F. Kurowski Das Afrika Korps

In the Soviet Union

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. For example, the 7th Panzer Division had 30 Panzer IV tanks, including some of the Ausf. E version.

A Panzer IV Ausf. E in Poland shortly before Operation Barbarossa. Additional spare track links were often added by the crew, which also provided a bit of extra protection (albeit quite limited). The box on the upper glacis was most probably just a tool box. Source: Pinterest

The Panzer IV could destroy lightly armored T-26 and BT series tanks. Against the T-34 and the KV series, on the other hand, they could do little. For example, the 7th Panzer Division encountered the T-34 from the start of the Operation Barbarossa, during the crossroad near Alytus, a small town in Russia. The positions of the 7th Panzer Division were attacked by a group of 44 T-34s. The Panzer IV’s guns could do little to stop the Soviet tanks. Luckily for the Germans, a nearby battery of 105 mm field howitzers helped defend their position while damaging many of the incoming Soviet tanks. In addition, the Soviet attack was poorly coordinated and the crew had very little training, which ultimately doomed the Soviet attempt to dislodge the Germans. Nevertheless, the Germans lost at least four Panzer IV, with at least one Ausf. E.

One of the four Panzer IV lost during the battle around Alytus. Source: Pinterest

Another example was the 9th Panzer Division which, after the victorious Balkan campaign, was allocated for the upcoming invasion of the Soviet Union. It was attached to the XIV Motorised Army Corps of Army Group South. On 22nd June, this Division had 20 Panzer IVs in its inventory. By 11th July, it had lost three Panzer IVs. On 20th July, the 9th Panzer Division participated in the encirclement of some 25 Soviet Division of the so-called Uman Pocket. Their tanks were used to stop numerous Soviet infantry and tank counter attacks. Due to attrition and mechanical breakdowns, the number of operational Panzer IVs dropped down to only six vehicles by the beginning of October. Following the harsh Russian winter and enemy counter offensive, the Division suffered losses. During the most part of early 1942, it was subject to refitting and recovery. It would once again see action during Operation Blue, the German drive toward the oil rich Caucasus. When the operation began, the 9th Panzer Division still had 9 short barreled Panzer IVs, possibly some Ausf. E vehicles. By 15th July, five of these would be lost.

The Panzer IV Ausf. E would remain in use up to early 1944, by which time only few had survived.

A Panzer IV Ausf. E of the 9th Panzer Division being moved towards a repair shop by a half-track prime mover. The added track link to the front served as easily available spare parts but also as limited extra armor protection. Source: https://imgur.com/a/s8ijsrd M. Kruk and R. Szewczyk 9th Panzer Division
The Soviet 1941/42 winter hit hard the unprepared German soldiers. The tanks and other military vehicles also fell victim to the harsh winter conditions. Source: https://imgur.com/a/ap0bn68 www.worldwarphotos.info

Other modifications

The Panzer IV Ausf. E chassis would be used for a limited number of modifications, which include the Munitionsschlepper für Karlgerät, Brückenleger, Tauchpanzer, Tropen, Fahrschulpanzer and to test an experimental new suspension system.

Munitionsschlepper für Karlgerät

An unknown number of different Panzer IV chassis (including the Ausf. E) were modified to be used as ammunition supply vehicles for the huge self-propelled siege mortar codenamed ‘Karlgerät’.

Munitionsschlepper für Karlgerät next to the huge self propelled vehicle. Source: https://www.armedconflicts.com/Munitionsschlepper-fuer-Karl-Geraet-municne-vozidlo-t29710

Brückenleger IVc

Prior to the war, the German Army was interested in the idea of a bridge carrying Panzer. During 1941, at least four Panzer IV Ausf. E chassis were modified for this role.

Tauchpanzer IV

An unknown number of Panzer IV Ausf. Es would be modified to be used as submersible tanks (Tauchpanzer) for Operation Sealion. 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. These vehicles were used mostly in Russia during 1941.

A Tauchpanzer IV based on the Ausf. E tank. Source: Pinterest

Panzer IV Ausf. E Tropen

In early 1941, around 10 Panzer IV Ausf. E were modified to be used on the North African Campaign . They were modified by improving the 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 (Eng. Tropic).

Smaller numbers of Panzer IV Ausf. E would see service in North Africa. Source: www.worldwarphotos.

A new suspension

Two Panzer IV Ausf. E would be used to test a new type of interleaved suspension. While this suspension was tested, it was not adopted. It is unclear if it did not provide enough of an improvement or if they were meant just as test vehicles for the more advanced Panther and Tiger.

The modified Panzer IV Ausf. E could be seen to the left, just behind the Panzer 38(t). Source: unknown
Drawing of the Panzer IV Ausf.E with the new suspension. Source: warspot

Fahrschulpanzer IV Ausf. E

Not all newly produced Ausf. E tanks were sent to front line units. Some were actually given to tank training schools. Some vehicles may have been returned from the frontline for repairs and were reused for this purpose too.

This vehicle served for crew training, somewhere in France, during 1941. Source: K. Hjermstad Panzer IV Squadron

Sturmpanzer IV

Damaged Panzer IV Ausf.E tanks that returned to Germany for repairs, would be reused for the Sturmpanzer IV. The precise number of modified chassis for this purpose is difficult to know precisely.

Unknown number of Panzer IV Ausf.E chassis were reused for the Strumpanzer IV modification. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No.8-1 Sturmpanzer

Surviving vehicles

Today, only one Panzer IV Ausf. E survives. This particular vehicle can be seen at the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum in Smithfield, Queensland.

The Surviving Panzer IV Ausf. E bearing the marking of the Afrika Korps. Source:  https://nikarios.livejournal.com/57735.html

Conclusion

The Panzer IV Ausf. E introduced some improvements by adding a new command cupola, increasing the armor protection and some other minor changes. In combat, it performed the same support combat role as all other Panzer IVs of that time. Due to attrition, their numbers would dwindle during the war, but some would remain in service up to 1944.

Panzer IV Ausf.E, DAK
Panzer IV Ausf.E of the Afrika Korps, 15th Panzerdivision, Libya, the fall of 1941.
Panzer IV Ausf.E
Panzer IV Ausf.E of the 11th Panzerdivision, April 1941, during the Yugoslavian campaign. Notice the bolted armor.

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 21-22 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 30-50 mm, sides 20 mm, rear 14.5-20 mm and the top and bottom 10-11 mm

Sources

Categories
WW2 German Panzer IV

Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. D

german tanks ww2 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

Panzer IV Ausf.D of the DAK.

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 Panzer IV

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.

Whitewashed Panzer IV Ausf.B.
Whitewashed Panzer IV Ausf.C.

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

Categories
WW2 German Panzer IV

Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. A

ww2 german tanks Germany (1935) – Medium Support Tank, 35 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 model, the Panzer IV Ausf. A, being built. While this version was built in small numbers, it was more important as a starting point for the German designers in gaining valuable experience with this kind of vehicle.

Initial German Tank Developments

During the twenties, the German army began showing interest in the development and construction of tanks (Panzer in German), despite such a thing being banned by the Treaty of Versailles. One of the earlier attempts was the Leichttraktor (light tractor) armed with a 37 mm anti-tank gun. Beside this project, there was also a series of so-called ‘Grosstraktor’ (large tractor) built and tested in the late twenties which were armed with larger 7.5 cm guns. Another example was the ‘Neubaufahrzeug’ (new construction vehicle) built in 1934. The names of these vehicles may seem a little odd at first, but they were given in order to deceive the Western Allies about their actual purpose. The Germans were at this time still forbidden from developing and producing tanks. These vehicles were built in small numbers only and were used primarily for testing and gaining valuable experience in tank construction.

The Grosstraktor was one of the earlier German attempts to domestically design and produce tanks. Few were built and they were used mostly for evaluation and initial crew training. Source: warspot.rui

One of the main problems encountered with the development of these earlier vehicles (especially the Neubaufahrzeug) was the use of modified aircraft engines. These engines produce very high torque at low speeds (1400 to 1600 rpm) which forced the Germans to use heavier drives than otherwise needed. Due to restrictions in weight (in order to cross bridges), the armor had to be thinner, the crew had to be smaller and the size of the gun was limited. Other issues included the overcomplicated suspension and the position of the drive sprocket.

In order to solve these issues, Wa Pruef 6 (the German armor design office which was part of the ordnance department) insisted that, for the new series of medium Panzers initially named ‘Verbesserten Neubau Fahrzeug’ (Improved New Construction Vehicle), a specially designed engine would be used. The well known Maybach factory was chosen as it had experience in engine development from its production of Zeppelin airship engines. In addition, great attention would also be given to the development of an improved suspension system. From these demands appeared the Begleitwagen, from which the future Panzer IV would eventually arise.

The Neubaufahrzeug, despite being built in small numbers (only five vehicles), still saw limited service within the German Army during the invasion of Norway in 1940. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Name

‘Begleitwagen’, shortened B.W., can be translated as escort vehicle, or even as escort tank. Although it is quite common in modern sources to see B.W. being taken to mean ‘Bataillonfuehrerwagen’ (battalion commander’s vehicle), the use of this term dates from Rheinmetall wrongly designating the B.W. as ‘Bataillonwagen’ (battalion vehicle) in 1943. Post-war historians reused this term and added on the ‘fuehrer’ to create the incorrect ‘Bataillonfuehrerwagen’ designation. In any case, the initial use of the Begleitwagen designation was meant to hide the true purpose of this vehicle from the rest of the world, as the development of tanks was forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles.

In March 1935, the German government officially decided to publicly renounce the Treaty of Versailles. For this reason, there was no more need to disguise the true nature of these vehicles. The initial name Begleitwagen would be replaced with Gesch.Kpfw. (75 mm) Vs.Kfz.618 (Geschütz Kampfwagen 75 mm Versuchs Kraftfahrzeug 618 – 75 mm Gun Tank Test Vehicle). On 3rd April 1936, the name was changed to Panzerkampfwagen IV (75 mm) Vs.Kfz.622. This vehicle would also receive the Ausführung (version or type) A (Ausf. A for short) suffix to distinguish it from later models. Most sources use the much simpler Panzer IV Ausf.A designation. This article will use this shorter term for the sake of simplicity.

Development of the Support Tank Concept

The development of the medium Panzers was already underway during the early thirties. In top military circles, which included Generalmajor Oswald Lutz and his Chief of Staff Oberstleutnant Heinz Guderian of In 6 (Inspektorat 6, the inspectorat for mechanization), two new Panzer concepts were being formed. One was to be developed to counter enemy tanks, named Z.W., ‘Zugführerwagen’ (platoon commander’s vehicle). Initially, this vehicle was to be armed with a 3.7 cm gun.

The second concept was to act as a support vehicle for the Z.W., with a larger caliber gun firing mostly high explosive ammunition. For this reason, the B.W. was to be equipped with one 7.5 cm gun which would enable it to destroy enemy bunkers, anti-tank guns and machine-gun nests. Additional requirements for the B.W. were an overall weight of 18 tons, armor thickness between 5 and 14.5 mm, being powered by a 320 hp engine, a top speed of at least 30 km/h, dimensions of around 5600 x 2900 x 2650 mm, the ability to cross 2.2 m-wide trenches and to climb a 30° slope. The last requirement regarded the ammunition capacity, calling forth 140 rounds for the main gun and 3000 rounds for the machine guns. The work on the B.W. was officially approved by In 6 on 25th February 1934. Two firms, Rheinmetall and Krupp, would compete to design this vehicle.

The Unsuccessful Rheinmetall Begleitwagen

Rheinmetall had been involved in the earlier Panzer development program and was, for unknown reasons, favored by Generalmajor Lutz. In 1932, he insisted that the development of Panzers should be given to one firm only: Rheinmetall. This company designed and built the Neubaufahrzeug, which proved to be an unsuccessful and outdated design. Despite this, Rheinmetall received a contract in February 1935 for building the first prototype for the new B.W. vehicle.

The resulting design weighed 18 tons, with 13 to 20 mm of armor. Its armament consisted of a 7.5 cm gun and two machine guns. With its 300 hp engine, the maximum speed was estimated to be around 35 km/h. This vehicle had a running gear which consisted of eight small road wheels connected in pairs, three return rollers (on each side), two front driver sprockets and two idlers. The suspension design was more or less taken from another Rheinmetall vehicle, the Neubaufahrzeug. One wooden model and one soft steel vehicle were built, but no production orders were given and the design was rejected.

While the German army initially showed interest in the Rheinmetall design, it was not accepted for service. Possibly to save time and resources, Rheinmetall simply reused the suspension of the earlier Neubaufahrzeug. Source: warspot.ru

The Krupp Design

The Krupp company was also involved in the initial steps of designing Panzers, but was also involved in designing and building the turret for the Rheinmetall Neubaufahrzeug. In later years, the Krupp company would be the chief turret designer for most German tanks during the war.

The B.W.I Kp prototype easily identified by its eight road wheels. Photo: valka.cz

During April 1934, Krupp offered the German army two different projects for the B.W. requirement. Both vehicles were to be armed with the same 7.5 cm main gun and two machine guns. The first was designed as a 17.2 ton tank with 20 mm of frontal and 14 mm of side armor. The second one was somewhat heavier (18.5 tons), having thicker 30 mm front and 20 mm side armor. There was also a proposal to add a secondary sub-turret (possibly armed with two machine guns), possibly on the right side of the superstructure, somewhat similar to the Rheinmetall prototype. Great attention was given to the development of the suspension and, after a series of trials, two models were proposed, using eight wheels or six larger ones.

While similar to the later Panzer IV Ausf.A, there were a number of changes that were made to the Krupp BW design seen here. The most obvious was the completely flat roof of the superstructure, while the Panzer IV had a sloping downwards design at the front, just above the driver and the radio-operator’s stations. Source: warspot.ru

In July of 1935, Krupp received an order to produce one B.W.I Kp (with eight road wheels) prototype vehicle. In October the same year, another order was given for the production of the B.W.II Kp (with six road wheels). In January of 1936, Krupp received orders for the production of the B.W. superstructure, main turret and smaller sub-turret.

A fully operational B.W.I Kp was completed by the end of April 1936. Shortly after, the B.W. II Kp prototype without the turret was also constructed. The fate of the sub-turret variant is not clear but it is possible that it was never implemented on any Krupp prototype. While neither of these two vehicles would enter serial production, the B.W.I Kp would, with a number of improvements and modifications, be used as base for the future Panzer IV. Both prototype vehicles would be used for testing and evaluation, including trials of bridge-laying equipment.

A side view of the unfinished B.W.I Kp prototype. Source: warspot.ru
The B.W. II Kp prototype can be easily identified by the six larger road wheels. While it was not accepted for service, it was still used for testing, including for bridge-laying equipment, as seen here. Source: Pinterest

Connection to the VK 20.01 Series

In some sources (like D. Nešić, Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, for example), it is noted that the Panzer IV was actually based on a series of experimental armored vehicles called VK 20.01 (VK is for Vollketten – fully tracked). It is important to note that this is not exactly true, mainly due to the fact that the VK 20.01 project was initiated in 1938 as a replacement for the Panzer III and IV. In addition, the aforementioned Rheinmetall B.W. prototype was never called VK 2001 (Rh) by the Germans at that time.

The Panzerkampfwagen IV

The German army officials were generally satisfied with Krupp’s B.W.I prototype and asked for a small series of improved ‘1.Serie/B.W.’ (1./B.W.) to be built. The new vehicle was visually the same as the B.W.I prototype, but with many improvements and modifications. Some of these included the almost complete use of welding for the armor, a different commander’s cupola, a modified superstructure, adding a stronger and larger 230 [email protected] 2600 rpm Maybach HL108 TR engine, changing the shape of the drive sprocket and idler, and several other more minor adjustments.

A brand new Krupp-produced Panzer IV Ausf.A (chassis number 80113) in February 1938. Source: warspot.ru

Production

Production of the first Panzer IV was carried out by Krupp-Grusonwerk from Magdeburg-Buckau. It began in October 1937 and, by March (or June depending on the source) 1938, all 35 vehicles were completed. Despite the general misconception nowadays that the Germans had a well developed and advanced industry, in reality this was not exactly the case. The long time to build just 35 vehicles is proof of this, as Krupp simply had no capacity (at least prior to the war) for mass production of tanks. The chassis numbers of these vehicles run from 80101 to 80135.

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. The lower part of the hull had 10 different sizes of openings to allow easier maintenance for the crew. In the case of 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 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 protection for the crew members. To provide sufficient working space and ammunition storage, it was 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 was not flat, with the driver plate protruding out. This was done to provide the driver with a better view to the front and sides when driving. On the front side of this plate, a protective driver’s visor port was placed, which was provided with thick armored glass for extra protection. When this 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 port. On the right side of the protruding driver plate, an observation hatch with no visor was placed. In front of the radio operator’s position to the right of the front plate was a ball mount for a machine gun.

The side armored plates were placed vertically and were curved inwards toward the front plate. A visor 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.

The roof armor plate was mostly flat, beside 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 a two-part hatch located on the front roof armor. Each of these hatch doors had a small round port for the use of signal flares.

Here we can observe the front superstructure with the machine gun ball mount and the open driver’s visor ports. Also we can also see the transmission and the two steering brake inspection hatches on the front hull. Source: unknown

Interestingly, the last five produced Panzer IV Ausf. A had a new redesigned Panzer IV Ausf. B hull, which had 30 mm of frontal armor. In February 1941, all surviving Panzer IV Ausf. As were reinforced with additional 30 mm thick front plate armor.

A wooden mockup of the redesigned superstructure that would be used on the last five Panzer IV Aus.A vehicles. Source: warspot.ru

The Turret

The Panzer IV Ausf.A turret had a front hexagonal-shaped armor plate with two small observation hatches placed on either side of the centrally positioned main gun. Each of the turret sides had observation vision ports and a one-piece hatch for the crew. For protection against infantry attack, the turret had two square shaped machine gun ports located on the rear curved armor plate. To provide a good ventilation for extraction of propellant fumes, a ventilation flap was installed on the turret top. Inside the Panzer IV Ausf. A, an auxiliary DKW gasoline engine was provided to power the electric engine 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 March 1941 on, provided with a large stowage box mounted on its rear.

At the rear of the turret, a commander’s cupola was placed. The commander’s cupola had a simple drum shape and eight small vision slits. These slits were protected with 12 mm thick armored glass which offered the commander limited protection from bullet splash. 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 Ausf.A 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 angular shaped deflectors.

Rear view of the Panzer IV turret, with the two machine gun ports. The simple drum shaped commander’s cupola is also easily visible. Source: warspot.ru

In order to implement a kind of standardisation between different Panzer vehicles, the Panzer IV Ausf.A used vision ports taken from the Panzer II Ausf.A. In addition, the commander’s cupola was taken from the Panzer III Ausf.B vehicle.

Suspension and Running Gear

During the development of the Krupp prototype that would eventually lead to the Panzer IV, at least five different suspension systems were tested, including a torsion bar suspension which was favored by some officials from the Wa Pruef 6. This suspension was tested on the B.W.II but proved to be a failure. The reason for this was the fact that each torsion bar had to be provided with a shock absorber. These absorbers were often prone to overheating, which led to problems with the suspension. For this reason, Krupp’s chief tank designer Ober.Ing. Woelfert insisted on using a self-dampening leaf spring suspension. While it was not perfect, it had a much simpler design and was easier to build. Another advantage of this leaf spring suspension was the ease of field repair in case of a malfunction or combat damage.

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 tonnes (or 17.3 tonnes depending on the source), this suspension system was considered adequate, but proved to be problematic later in the war due to the extra added weight of following upgrades.

The Panzer IV Ausf. A suspension can be clearly seen here. While not perfect, it was easy to build and to replace damaged parts. Source: warspot.ru

The Engine and Transmission

The engine used on this vehicle was the Maybach HL 108TR which produced 230 [email protected] rpm. The maximum speed was 32 km/h (or 10 km/h cross-country) with an operational range of 210 km and 130 km cross country. The fuel load of 470 l (or 453 l or depending on the source) was stored in three fuel tanks placed under the crew 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 at this firewall.

The ‘Allklaunen SFG 75’ five-speed (and one reverse) transmission was connected to the engine by a drive shaft that ran through the bottom of the fighting compartment. The steering mechanism used in the Panzer IV Ausf. A was of the ‘Wilson’ type, which was designed and produced by Krupp.

The Panzer IV Ausf.A 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

The general armor protection of the first Panzer IV Ausf.A was rather weak, ranging between 8 to 16 mm. For the lower hull, the upper front armor plate was 10 mm thick at a 72° angle, and the lower plate was 14.5 mm placed at a 14° angle. The side armor was 14.5 mm thick, the rear was 10-14.5 mm and the bottom was 8 mm.

The front hull armor was 14.5 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.

The front turret armor was 16 mm (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). Depending on the source, the front armor thickness of the turret varies between 15 to 20 mm. The commander’s cupola had all-around 14.5 mm of armor, with the two hatch doors being 8 mm thick.

The armor plates were made using nickel-free homogeneous and rolled plates. The Panzer IV Ausf.A armor was designed primarily to provide protection from 7.92 mm armor piercing bullets usually fired from anti-tank rifles. The anti-tank rifles were a typical infantry weapon to fight tanks in the thirties and in the earliest stages of the war. The Panzer IV Ausf.A armor provided almost no protection from any larger caliber anti-tank guns.

From August 1938 on, nearly all German Panzers were equipped with a Nebelkerzenabwurfvorrichtung (a 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 backward to the safety of the smoke screen. This system was not very effective and was replaced with turret mounted smoke grenade launchers later in the war.

The rear hull mounted Nebelkerzenabwurfvorrichtung smoke grenade rack, seen here mounted on a Panzer III. Source: panzerserra.blogspot.com

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 Panzer would be much 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 innovation gave the Germans a huge tactical advantage in the earlier 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 Germans.

All Panzer IVs had a crew of five, which provided the German Panzer units with a significant tactical advantage, as each crew member had a precise job to accomplish. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

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 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 6 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 the hull mounted 7.92 mm MG 34 machine gun.

The Armament

The main armament of the Panzer IV Ausf. A was the 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24. KwK stands for ‘Kampfwagenkanone’ which could 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 self-ejected, thus increasing the overall firing rate. The Panzer IV Ausf. A 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 and the gun were covered by a steel jacket and a deflector guard. For the gunner’s protection, a recoil shield was added to the rear of the gun. On a number of Panzer IV Ausf. A (and even later models), a ‘Y’ shaped metal rod antenna guide was added 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 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 Ausf.A was primarily meant to destroy soft skin targets, anti-tank positions etc. 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). Originally, the ammunition load consisted of 140 rounds but was reduced to 122 rounds from December 1938 on in order to reduce weight. The ammunition was stored in holding bins located on the hull sides and floor.

This vehicle had a metal antenna guide installed under the gun. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

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 centre 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 Ausf. A was also provided with a clinometer for indirect fire support.

Under the telescopic sight there were two mechanical hand wheels 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. 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 which 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° and the loader 2.6° per turn.

Beside the main gun, the Panzer IV Ausf.A was provided with two 7.92 mm MG 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 second machine gun was placed in a coaxial configuration with the main gun and was fired by the gunner. The ammunition load for the two MG 34’s was 3000 rounds. There was an option for installing an anti-aircraft machine gun mount on the Panzer IV Ausf.A, but its use was discarded in early 1938 and it was never used in combat.

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 vehicles like the Panzer 35 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 IV 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 destroying 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 IV 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 or British Matilda II.

In Combat

The first two completed Panzer IV Ausf.A were given to the Waffenamt inspectors by the end of November 1937, with the last vehicle being accepted in June 1938. Before the war, the Panzer IV Ausf.A was used on military parades. They were also employed during the Anschluss of Austria and the occupation of Sudetenland.

Panzer IV Ausf.A on a pre-war military parade. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

Due to the low production capabilities of the German war industry by the time of the outbreak of the war, only 211 Panzer IVs were available in September 1939, including 30 Ausf.A, the remaining 5 being used for testing. At the end of the Polish campaign, 19 Panzer IV 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 Ausf. A, while effective in its original role, proved to be vulnerable to nearly all enemy anti-tank weapons because of its weak armor. On the other hand, the gun could easily destroy any Polish armored vehicle, being themselves only lightly armored.

The Panzer IV Ausf. A saw action in Norway and also participated during the German offensive in the West in May 1940. The surviving Panzer IV Ausf. A remained in use up to the spring of 1941, when they were (mostly due to the very weak armor) removed from service and given to training units.

Panzer IV Ausf.A during the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. Source: https: www.worldwarphotos.info
Due to its weak armor, the Panzer IV Ausf. A was easy prey to almost any anti-tank weapon. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

Conclusion

Viewed from today’s perspective (with the hindsight of what happened during the war), 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 much easier solution. It would have made production faster and reduced the need for production of two types of spare parts.

The development of a support tank led to the Panzer IV Ausf. A being built. While it was lightly armored, it had a five man crew, good mobility, solid firepower and, with modern tactics, showed that this concept had merit in the earlier years of the war. Despite the fact that the later versions of the Panzer IV would become capable of filling both roles, the first model Panzer IV Ausf. A was one of the earlier first steps in the development of the famous Panzer Formations.



A Panzer IV Ausf.A, Poland, 4th Company, 1st Abteilung, 1st Panzer Regiment, 1st Panzerdivision. Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

A Panzer IV Ausf.A in whitewash camouflage.

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
T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2001) Panzer Tracts No.20-1 Paper Panzers
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.

Categories
WW2 German Panzer IV

Panzer IV Ausf.F1-H

Nazi Germany (1937)
Medium tank – 8,544 built

The warhorse of the German army

When the Krupp factory’s Versuchs-Kraftfahrzeug 622 (Trial Vehicle 622) went into production as the Panzerkampfwagen-IV Ausf. A in November 1937, probably nobody realized that they had developed a vehicle what would become the mainstay of the German Panzerwaffe (Armoured Corps) well into the Second World War. It replaced the Panzer III as the most numerous German battle tank and fought alongside the later Panther, Tiger and Königstiger tanks until the end of the war.
The overall design of this tank dated back to November 1934 when the Wa.Prw.6, a section of the Heeres-Waffenamt (Army Procurement Agency), demanded a support tank, later to become the Pz.Kpfw. IV, and a battle tank, later to become the Pz.Kpfw. III.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

Overall Layout

Although in production for 8 years and modified during every production run, the overall layout and appearance of the Pzkpfw. IV never changed. The engine was located in the rear of the vehicle, connected to a drive shaft which itself was attached to the transmission in the front.
One unique feature of the Pzkpfw. IV was the asymmetrical hull to connect the turret raze to the transmission to allow the turret to be traversed faster. To accomplish this, the turret was offset 6.50 cm (2.62 in) to the left and the engine 15 cm (6 in) to the right. The drive shaft itself was mounted on the chassis floor below the turret basket. The driver (Fahrer) sat on the front left of the tank with a large square hatch above its head and driver’s visor in front of him. The driver’s visor was protected by 50 mm thick bullet-proof glass and could be closed with an armoured cover during combat. When under small arms fire the driver used a binocular periscope with two small openings just above the driver’s visor supported by another visor to his left in the side of the upper structure.
He steered the vehicle with 2 steering brakes which worked on a conventional Krupp clutch-steering. On his left sat the radio-operator (Funker) below a identical square hatch in charge of an AM-radio with an effective range of up to 2 km. He had a forward mounted close-defence weapon (either a MG or a submachine gun depending on the variant) with a limited pivoting range mounted either in a armored ball mount or just stuck through a armored opening.
The radio operator had a very limited field of view. He could look through the aiming device of the ball mount (or just through the opening if no ball mount was installed) or a visor to his right in the side of the upper structure.
Behind the driver and radio-operator was the fully traversable turret with the 75 mm main gun and co-axial 7.92mm machine gun mounted in the turret front. The gunner (Richtschuetze) was located on the left of the gun, resting on a seat and aiming through a telescopic sight in front of him. To find any targets more easily, a small visor with a armored flap was attached next to the small opening for the gunsight.
The vehicle was equipped with an electrical turret traverse powered by a 2-cylinder DKW PZW-600 petrol engine, providing quick target acquisition and supporting the traverse of the turret in an oblique position. In case of a breakdown of the electrical turret traverse the gunner could operate a lever to switch over to traverse the turret manually. To traverse the turret full 360 degrees, the gunner had to turn the hand wheel 188 times.
The loader (Ladeschuetze) on the right of the turret was responsible for loading and maintaining the main gun and co-axial MG. The ammunition for the maingun and machine gun was dispersed in special containers all over the vehicle interior. For observation purposes he had a visor on his side of the turret front identical to that of the gunner.
The commander (Kommandant) was located right behind the gun breech, observing the battlefield through 5 armoured visors mounted around a tube-shaped commander’s cupola. While the gunner and commander sat on seats to offer them at least a minimum of comfort in the cramped turret, the loader could fold his seat up to stand besides the gun during the reloading procedure in combat situations.
A hatch was mounted in each side of the turret for easy access of the gunner and loader. A additional armored visor was installed in front of each hatch, offering additional but limited observation capacity. Two armored close defence openings were located in the rear of the turret to fend of enemy soldiers with pistols or submachine guns supplied to each tank crew.
The armor of the tank consisted of homogenous, nickel-free armor-steel PP694 of ever increasing thickness through production. The gasoline/petrol engine in the back of the chassis was supplied via 3 different fuel tanks (I, II, III). Fuel tank I and III were filled externally via fillers while fuel tank II was filled at the same time as III through a connecting hose which also vented the tank during filling. Fuel tank I contained approx. 140 litres of gasoline/petrol, fuel tank II approx. 110 litres and fuel tank III approx. 220 litres for a total of approx. 470 litres. The Pzkpfw. IVs had non-lubricated tracks consisting of 101 track links per side connected via bolts giving the tank a specific ground-pressure of 0.68kg/cm².

Armament and Ammunition

The main gun of the Pzkpfw. IV Ausf. A to F was the 7.5cm KwK (abbreviation for KampfWagenKanone = Combat Vehicle Tank Gun) 37 L/24. It was a howitzer type weapon with very short barrel just 1.7 m long, mounted in the front of the turret. The gun barrel was mounted in a jacket cradle with the recoil mechanism and recuperator located to its left and right side. It had a semi automatic gun breech at its rear. The gun fired high explosive (HE), armor piercing (AP) and shaped-charge anti-tank rounds (HEAT – high explosive anti-tank) as well as smoke and grapeshot/cannister rounds.
The usual anti-tank armor piercing round was the Kanonengranate rot (Leuchtspur) Panzer(brechend mit Schutzkappe) K. Gr. Rot Pz (Capped anti-tank round with tracer) or better known as Panzergranatpatrone-39 with a weight of 6.8 kg. It had a muzzle velocity of 385m/sec. and able to penetrate 41 mm of rolled homogenous steel plating at an angle of 30 degrees at a distance of 100 m. Three different shaped-charge anti-tank rounds came into use with the KwK 37 during the war, the Granate 1938 mit Hohlladung, Ausf. HL/A, HL/B und HL/C (HEAT round 1938 A, B, C) or just Gr. 38HL/A to C with a weight between 4.5 kg and 4.8 kg with a muzzle velocity of 450m/sec.
The short 75 mm main gun proved adequate against most light tanks fielded by the invaded nations like the French Renault R35 or Soviet T-26, but after facing the well armored Soviet T-34 medium tank and KV-1 plus KV-2 heavy tanks at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, and the French heavy tank Char B1 bis even earlier, the German Panzerwaffe demanded not only more effective tank guns but better ammunition as well.
Production of the HL/A round started on 12 December 1941 while the B followed in September 1942. From the HL/A to the HL/C, the armor piercing capabilities of the rounds was increased from 70 mm at any ranges to 75 mm to a total of 100 mm at any ranges.
A shaped-charge used a conical or hemispherical metal insert with forward facing opening surrounded by a extremely explosive blasting agent to shape a thin jet of cold-formed metal moving with very high speed to pierce through armor plating. One disadvantage of this ammunition was its dispersion because the armor piercing capability of the cold-formed metal jet was reverse proportional to the rotating speed of the round. Its effectiveness and dispersion was crucially reduced when fired by long barreled high velocity guns due to the high angular acceleration of the projectile. However as the intended role of the Pzkpfw. IV was to support the Pzkpfw. III and engage bunkers and field fortifications with the short barreled 75 mm gun, the main ammunition type used was the 7.5 cm Sprenggranate-34 or just 7.5 cm Sprg. 34, a 5.75kg heavy round with a high explosive charge of 0.66kg. These rounds proved very effective against unarmoured vehicles, bunkers and enemy infantry.
The secondary armament of the PzKpfw. IV consisted of a MG-34 mounted on the right hand side of the main gun and, depending on the version, a bow mounted MG-34 Panzerlauf (armoured barrel) operated by the radio operator. Not every versions of the early Pzkpfw. IV featured a ball mount for the bow mounted MG-34, some had just an armored flap through which the radio operator fired either with a MG-34 or a submachine gun. The MG-34 Panzerlauf featured an armored barrel cover with a lot fewer of the distinctive ventilation holes of the standard MG-34.
To make it easier to use the machine gun inside the cramped space of the tank, the weapon was used without the wooden butt-stock, but could equipped with one if necessary and a forward mounted bipod and a sight for use outside of the tank. The MG-34 machine gun had a calibre of 7.92 mm chambered for the 7.92 x 57 mm round and had a theoretical rate of fire of 800-900 rounds per minute and a muzzle velocity of 765 m/sec.

Paint and camouflage

When completed at the factories, German tanks received a basecoat of RAL-8012 (RAL-Reichsausschuss fuer Lieferbedingungen = Committee for Delivery Conditions) Rotbraun (Red Oxide Primer) over which the official camouflage pattern had to be applied.
This changed on 2 November 1938. Heeresmitteilung Nr. 687 (Army Announcement number 687) ordered all vehicles repainted in RAL-7021 Dunkelgrau (dark grey) and RAL-7017 Dunkelbraun (dark brown) at a rate of 2/3 to 1/3.
On July 31st 1940, another Heeresmitteilung, Nr. 854, ordered all vehicles to be repainted in just RAL-7021 Dunkelgrau (dark grey) and ordered this pattern as the standard base color for the Wehrmacht.
How long the 2-tone camouflage pattern of grey an brown, from 1938 was used is unclear, especially due to the fact that most pictures from this time are just black and white, but it seems it was more widely distributed than is wrongly assumed.
Over the course of the war, especially at the eastern front, German Panzer crews started to use not only additional paints but also mud and dirt to try and disrupt the visual silhouette of their vehicles. During Winter, the vehicles had to be white washed with either in water dissolved chalk or with a petrol-soluble paste delivered to the front lines. White bedsheets or other white cloth were used when the chalk or white paste was not available.
Vehicles sent to hot climates like Northern Africa in 1941 received a basecoat of RAL-8020 Sandgelb (sand yellow) over the original dark grey paint. Another specification from 1942 ordered the vehicles sent to Northern Africa coated in 2/3 of RAL-8020 Sandgelb and 1/3 of RAL-7027 Sandgrau (sand grey). The Deutsches Afrikakorps fighting in North Africa suffered almost from the beginning of the fighting their from overstretched supply lines and allied attacks on the shipping lines in the Mediterranean and was forced to use even stocks of british paint captured during the initial successes.
When the base color of German vehicles was changed to RAL-7028 Dunkelgelb in February 1943 vehicles in the old Dunkelgrau livery had to be repainted in the new colour by the units themselves, during larger repairs behind the frontlines or in factories when sent back for factory refit.
To increase the effect of the camouflage, additional petrol-soluble pastes of RAL-6003 Olivgruen (dark olive green) and RAL-8017 Rotbraun (dark chocolate brown) were delivered to the frontline units. The emerging multi-tone camouflage patterns varied from unit to unit and depended on the availability of the pastes, the time to apply them on the vehicles and orders given by commanders of certain units. These factors effected the camouflage patterns that much, that they could even vary from platoon to platoon or company to company. The paste was thinned with petrol and could be applied by paint spray guns, brushes or even brooms.

The Ausf.F (Ausf.F1), the last “short version”

The Ausf.F was a landmark in the Panzer IV evolution and development. The early model, “F”, called “F1” when the next model appeared, was the last of the “short” versions. The front bow plate appliqué was now replaced by a full 50 mm (1.97 in) thick armored plate. Side armor and turret thickness were raised to 30 mm (1.18 in). Total weight rose to more than 22 tons, which triggered other modifications, like larger track links (from 380 to 400 mm) to reduce ground pressure, and both the idler wheel and front drive sprockets were modified in turn. The F1 was produced to an extent of 464 units, until its replacement in March 1942. The last 42 were modified to the new F2 standard.

Panzer IV Ausf.F specifications

Dimensions L-W-H 5.92 m x 2.88 m x 2.68 m
(19ft 5in x 9ft 5in x 8ft 5in)
Total weight 22.3 tonnes
Crew 5
Armament 7.5 cm Kw.K 37 L/24 gun
Secondary Armament 7.92 mm MG34 machine-gun
Armor From 10 mm to 50 mm (50 mm on hull front)
Propulsion Maybach HL 120 TRM V12 265hp gasoline engine
Top road speed 42 km/h (26 mph)
Max. road range 210 km (130 miles)
Total production 462 April 1941 – March 1942 (L/24 gun)
175+25 March 1942 – July 1942 (L/43 gun)

The Ausf.G (Ausf.F2), the first “long”

Even equipped with the AP Panzergranate, the low-velocity gun of the Panzer IV was inadequate against well-armored tanks. In the context of the upcoming campaign in Russia, some decision had to be made, which also concerned the long-awaited major upgrade of the Panzer III. The now largely available Pak 38 L/60, which had been already proved lethal, was supposed to be mounted in the turret of the Panzer IV by Krupp. In November 1941, the prototype was ready, and production was scheduled to start on the F2 standard. But, with the first encounters of Russian KV-1s and T-34s, the 50 mm (1.97 in) gun, also produced for the Panzer III, was dropped in favor to a new, more powerful model, built by Rheinmetall, based on the 7.5 cm Pak 40 L/46 (2.95 in). This led to the KwK 40 L/43, a relatively long caliber gun, fitted with a muzzle-brake, which reduced its recoil. Muzzle velocity, with the Panzergranade 39, topped at 990 m/sec (3250 ft/sec). It could penetrate 77 mm (3.03 in) of armor up to 1850 m (6000 ft). After the first prototype was produced by Krupp, in February 1942, production of the F2 started. By July 1942, 175 had been delivered. However, in June 1942, the F2 was renamed Ausf.G, and further modifications were applied on the production line, but both types were known to the Waffenamt as the Sd.Kfz.161/1. Some nomenclatures and reports also speak of it as the F2/G version.

Panzer IV Ausf.G specifications

Dimensions L-W-H 6.63 m x 2.88 m x 2.68 m
(21ft 9in x 9ft 5in x 8ft 5in)
Total weight 23.6 tonnes
Crew 5
Armament 7.5 cm Kw.K 40 L/43 gun
Secondary Armament 7.92 mm MG34 machine-gun
Armor From 10 mm to 50 mm (30+50 mm on hull front)
Propulsion Maybach HL 120 TRM V12 265hp gasoline engine
Top road speed 42 km/h (26 mph)
Max. road range 210 km (130 miles)
Total production 1687 May 1942 – June 1943

Scaled-up production

Production figures for the Panzer IV had been relatively small in size until 1942. From the Ausf.A to F2, only 1209 Panzer IVs (of the “short type”) had been delivered to the Wehrmacht. Subsequently, they served primarily in the infantry support role. However, the bulk of the production (around 7500) was spread in only three variants, The Ausf.G, H and J. These remained relatively unchanged until 1945, despite simplifications of the design. As the Panzer III‘s 50 mm (1.97 in) gun was not up to the task against the best Russian mediums and heavies, the main model, carrying the bulk of any Panzerdivision, became the Panzer IV. The former was progressively phased out, and replaced on the production line by cheaper SPGs, like the StuG III.

Panzer IV Ausf.G: The transitional model

The G was an improved F2, with armor modifications, including a weight saving solution, consisting of a progressive glacis side armor, thicker at the base. The frontal glacis received a new 30 mm (1.18 in) appliqué plate, giving a total of 80 mm (3.15 in). This was largely sufficient against the Russian medium-velocity 76 mm (3 in) gun and the fearful 76.2 mm anti-tank gun. At first, it was decided to bring only half production to this standard, but Adolf Hitler personally ordered, in January 1943, that the full production would be upgraded, a decision well-received by the crews. However, the weight rose to 23.6 tons, further stressing the limited capacity of the chassis and transmission. Both unit reports and mass-production requirements commanded further modifications. The turret vision port slits were eliminated, the engine ventilation and ignition at low temperatures were improved, and additional racks were fitted for spare road wheels and brackets for track links on the glacis. These acted as makeshift protection as well. A new headlight was installed and the commander cupola was up-armored and modified. The late production versions, in March-April 1943, saw the introduction of side skirt armor (Schürzen) to the sides and turret, the latter equipped with smoke grenade launchers. Most importantly, they received the new KwK 40 L/48, with greater penetration power. After 1275 had been delivered by Krupp-Gruson, Vomag and Nibelungenwerke, plus 412 of the upgunned type, the production shifted towards the Ausf.H.

Panzer IV Ausf.H: The main version

The Ausf.H was equipped with the new long caliber KwK 40 L/48, and was subsequently registered as the Sd.Kfz. 161/2 by the ordnance department. Other modifications included simplifications to ease production, like the removal of the hull side vision ports, and, later, part sharing with the Panzer III. This was by far the biggest production of the type, with a total of 3774 machines, until its replacement by the Ausf.J, in June 1944. Krupp had received a request, in December 1942, for a new version featuring all-sloped armor, which would have also required a new chassis, transmission and probably engine as well, due to the added weight. However, production started with an upgraded version of the Ausf.G instead. A new headlight was set, a new Zahnradfabrik ZF SSG-76 transmission, new set of radios (FU2 and 5, and intercom). This was necessary in order to cope with the full glacis protection raised to 80 mm (3.15 in), with no appliqué parts. The H now stood at 25 tons in battle order, and maximum speed fell to 38 km/h (24 mph), but only 25 km/h (16 mph) in real combat conditions, and far less on rough terrain. By the end of 1943, Zimmerit paste was factory-applied, new air filters were fitted, along with a turret anti-aircraft mount for an extra MG 34 (Fliegerbeschussgerat), as well as modifications to the commander cupola. Side and turret spaced armor was also factory-mounted.

Panzer IV Ausf.H specifications

Dimensions L-W-H 7.02 m x 2.88 m x 2.68 m
(23ft x 9ft 5in x 8ft 5in)
Total weight 25 tonnes
Crew 5
Armament 7.5 cm Kw.K 40 L/48 gun
Secondary Armament 7.92 mm MG34 machine-gun
Armor From 10 mm to 80 mm (80 mm on hull front)
Propulsion Maybach HL 120 TRM V12 265hp gasoline engine
Top road speed 35 km/h (23.6 mph)
Max. road range 210 km (130 miles)
Total production 3774 April 1943 – July 1944

 

Panzer IV Ausf.F1
Vorpanzer F1, with extra bolted appliqué armor on the sides, gun mantlet and frontal glacis, with the 5th Panzerdivision, Group Center, Russia, winter 1941-1942.
Panzer IV Ausf.F1, DAK
Panzer IV Ausf.F1 of the 5th Panzerregiment, 5th Leichtes Panzerdivision, Tobruk, Libya, March 1941. The camouflage was sand (Gelb braun) and degraded sand over the usual Dunkelgrau basis, forming Grau-Grün patches.
Panzer IV Ausf.F2/G
Panzer IV Ausf.F2/G of the 1st Infantry Division (motorized) “Grossdeutschland”, Voronezh, Russia, June 1942. Improvised pattern of sprayed brownish sand over standard factory dunkelgrau.
Panzer IV Ausf.F2, LSSAH, France 1942
Ausf.F2, 1st SS Panzer battalion, SS Division LSSAH in France, which took part to “Case Anton” (invasion and occupation of Vichy French zone), November 1942.
Panzer IV Ausf.F2, Egypt, 1942
Ausf.F2, 4th Kompanie, 1st Abteilung, VIIIth Panzer-Regiment, XVth Panzerdivision, DAK, El Alamein (Egypt), October 1942.
Panzer IV Ausf.F2, Russia, 1942
Ausf.F2, 36th Panzer Regiment, XIVth Panzerdivision, Army Group South, Russia, summer 1942.
Bulgarian Panzer IV Ausf.F2/G
Bulgarian Maybach T4G (Ausf.F2/G), 13th unit, Russian border, winter 1942. Early production transitional model.
Panzer IV Ausf.G, Tunisia, 1943
Ausf.G, XVth Panzerdivision, Tunisia, spring 1943. This is a late production vehicle, up-gunned with the new KwK 40 L/48 gun.
Panzer IV Ausf.G
Panzer IV Ausf.G of the IVth Panzerdivision, battle of Orel, Russia, early 1943.
Panzer IV Ausf.G, winter 1942
Panzer IV Ausf.G late production vehicle, XIVth Panzerdivision, Stalingrad, winter 1942/43.
Panzer IV Ausf.G, summer 1943, Kursk
Panzer IV Ausf.G, XXth Panzer Division, Kursk, Russia, summer 1943.

Italeri Panzer IV Ausf.F1/F2/G kit No.6514 construction and review by the Tank Encyclopedia team
Panzer IV Ausf.F/G, Stalingrad, 1942
Ausf.F/G upgraded to the H standard, with full Schurzen armor – XVIth Panzerdivision, Russia, southern sector, summer 1943.
Panzer IV Ausf.H, Kursk, 1943
Ausf.H – XVIth Panzerdivision, Kursk, July 1943. The H were equipped with the new 7.5 cm Kampfwagenkanone 40 L48 (3.61 m/11.8 ft barrel) high velocity gun, along with the Pzgr.Patr.40 APCR, with a 990 m/sec muzzle velocity, capable of piercing 80 mm (3.15 in) of armor at 2000 m.
Bulgarian Panzer IV Ausf.H
Panzer IV Ausf.H, 1st Armored Division, Bulgarian army, Hungary, winter 1944.
Panzer IV Ausf.H, IInd Panzerdivision
Ausf.H of the IInd Panzerdivision, France, June 1944.
Panzer IV Ausf.H, 35th Panzer Regiment, 4th Panzerdivision
Ausf.H of the 35th Panzer Regiment of the IVrd Panzerdivision, Bobruysk, December 1943.
Panzer IV Ausf.H, 4th Panzerdivision
Ausf.H of the 35th Panzer Regiment of the IVth Panzerdivision, Kowel, Poland, early 1944. The 35th Regiment inflicted heavy losses on the Soviet 3rd Tank Corps at the Battle of Wołomin (part of operation Bagration). Its symbol was the “Grizlibär”, a menacing brown bear.
Panzer IV Ausf.H, IXth Panzerdivision
Panzer IV Ausf.H, IXth SS Panzer Division, France, summer 1944.
Panzer IV Ausf.H, PanzerLehr
Panzer IV Ausf.H, 3rd Company, 130th Regiment of the 1st Panzerdivision, PanzerLehr, France, summer 1944.
Panzer IV Ausf.H, 9th Panzerdivision
Ausf.H, 9th Panzerdivision, Central Germany, April 1945. Notice the “ambush” type spotted camouflage and turret Schurzen armor open panels.
Panzer IV Ausf.H, 1st SS Panzerdivision Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler
Panzer IV Ausf.H, 1st SS Panzerdivision Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, France, summer 1944.

Panzer IV variants

Jagdpanzer IV

Probably the best and most feared of these versions, this low and very efficient tank hunter was particularly at ease in Italy and Normandy. No less than 1980 were built in all, starting in 1943.

Sturmgeschütz IV

1140 of these excellent support assault tanks were quickly built, sporting the already proven Sturmgeschütz III superstructure and main armament.

Panzerbefehlswagen IV

The command version, equipped with a powerful set of radios, complete electrical equipment and corresponding wiring. These tanks were used to coordinate artillery support, infantry, as well as air support with Panzerdivisions. Roomy and dependable, it was probably the best German command tank of the war.

Panzerbeobachtungswagen IV

A well equipped artillery observation vehicle, working alongside with and coordinating Wespe and Hummel SPGs.

Sturmpanzer IV Brummbär

One of the most impressive German SPGs, the Brümmbar boasted a 150 mm (5.9 in) gun, and led to the Heuschrecke and Dicker Max prototypes.

Flakpanzer IV Möbelwagen

240 were built for AA support, with a single 37 mm (1.46 in) gun, produced in 1944-45, to compensate for the loss of air superiority, notably in Europe.

Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind

Perhaps more famous, this AA support variant was equipped with the very effective quad 20 mm (0.79 in) Flakvierling. 100+ delivered. Using the same chassis and turret, 66 more were equipped with a single 37 mm gun (1.46 in), known as the Ostwind.

Geschützwagen III/IV Hummel

An artillery SPG built on a Panzer IV chassis and with Panzer III parts. Over 666 were built during the course of the war, and was one of the most successful German SPGs ever.

Panzerjäger III/IV Nashorn

A highly successful tank hunter, equipped with the legendary 88 mm (3.46 in) gun. It was less expensive than the Tiger. 473 were delivered overall.

Geschützwagen III/IV Schlepper

Using the same arrangement, 150 ammunition carriers were built.

Bergepanzer IV

A German ARV (Armored Recovery Vehicle), more powerful than previous versions based on the Panzer III. Mostly used on the Eastern Front. Perhaps 21 or 22 were converted using repaired tanks, without a turret and with a 2-ton crane supported with rigid towing bars. Modified amphibious Panzerfahre (2 prototypes) and Landwasserschlepper were also produced in limited quantities.

Bruckenleger IV

One of the earliest Panzer IV based variants, this was a bridgelayer vehicle. The unfolded bridge was 56 m (183 ft) long. 24 vehicles were produced prior to the campaign of France. 4 modified versions served in Russia with the 3rd Panzer Division, and 20 more with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 10th Panzer Divisions in May 1940.
With increasing losses, makeshift repairs, upgrades to new standards, and cannibalization of all kind of versions, it was difficult by late 1944 to distinguish the J from the H or even G types. Almost any tank was a sub-version in itself. When turretless variants were produced, many surplus turrets were used in armored trains, anti-tank rail cars or fixed concrete antitank positions.

Panzer IV conceptual variants

PzKpfw IV mit Schmalturm

This was intended to be the “final form” of the Panzer IV. It was an attempt to mount the Schmalturm “narrow-turret”, already under development for the Panther II project, on the chassis of a late model Panzer IV H. With the turret came a better gun. Specifically the 75 mm (2.95 in) L/70 tank gun from Rheinmetall. The project, having never left the drawing board, was cancelled as it was soon found that the Panzer IV chassis had hit it’s weight and modifiable limits.

Panzer IV mit Hydrostatischem Antrieb

In 1944 an attempt was made to install a Hydrostatic Drive into the Panzer IV. It gave hydraulic power to both the turret rotation mechanism and steering. The Drive was added into the rear of the tank, under a large sloping engine cover, culminating in 2 smaller drive wheels. Just one prototype was produced and was sent back to the United States after the war for assessment. The vehicle now sits in the US Army Museum, Maryland.

Flakpanzer IV Kugelblitz

The “Lightning Ball” was a late war prototype for a SPAA, intended to be a replacement for the Wirblewind and Ostwind models. It was one of the first tanks to feature a type of oscillating-turret, which was fully enclosed unlike most SPAAs of the era. This ball like turret was mounted with Zwillingsflak “twin-flak” 30mm MK 103 twin anti-aircraft cannons. These cannons fired at an impressive 450 rounds per-minute. A pilot run of 5 hulls and turrets to match is all that was produced by the time the war came to an end, but these were never mated.

Operational Use in World War II

The Pzkpfw. IV participated in the Second World War in ever increasing numbers right from the beginning. On June 22nd 1941, the day the Wehrmacht started Operation Barbarossa, the attack on the Soviet Union, German Divisions reported a strength of 441 Pzkpfw. IV among a total of aprox. 3,500 tanks participating in the attack.
The number of Pzkpfw. IV tanks used by the Deutsches Afrika Korps (German Africa Corps) in Northern Africa against Commonwealth Forces between 1941 and 1943 was never that high as the number of Pzkpfw. III tanks although the later, long barreled versions were feared by their counterparts despite their limited numbers.
When more modern tank designs like the Tiger and upgraded versions of the Pzkpfw. IV with the high velocity long barreled 75 mm gun reached the frontlines starting in summer 1942, an ever dwindling number of early short barreled Pzkpfw. IVs soldiered on through the remaining war, either heavily modified, uparmed and armored or unaltered due to various reasons.
When Allied forces landed in Italy in September 1943, they faced the German 26. Panzerdivision, fielding a mix of Pzkpw. III, long barreled Pzkpfw. IV and at least 17 older short barreld Pzkpfw. IV tanks. The 21. Panzerdivision, newly established in France after it was destroyed during the final battles in Northern Africa, had to rely initially on a mix of very old and captured equipment.
Although reinforced with a wide array of custom built vehicles based on obsolete French tanks and modern long barreled Pzkpfw. IVs when the allies landed in the Normandy in July 1944, the Division still employed 6 unmodified early short barreled Pzkpfw. IV of unknown versions. Photographs taken prior to D-Day and afterwards show at least two Panzer IV Ausf. B or C tanks being deployed.
The 116. Panzerdivision, dispatched to the Normandy late in July 1944, fielded a total of 86 Pzkpfw. IV including 3 early short barreled versions. The II./Pz.Rgt.29 of 12. Panzerdivision fighting Soviet forces in the Kurland-Pocket in early March 1945 reported one Pzkpfw. IV L/24 operational besides 61 Pzkpfw. IV L/48 and some Pzkpfw. III on March 1 1945. The l./PzArt.Rgt.2 of the same Division had another Pzkpfw. IV L/24 in use at the same time.
Official German loss-reports from December 1st 1943 to October 31st 1944 accounted for a total of 30 lost Pzkpfw. IV L/24 at the eastern front, plus 12 more lost in the west between September 1 1944 and November 30 1944. Its well accepted that the earlier, short barreled Pzkpfw. IV tanks were sent to the tank driving schools or secondline-units to guard the hinterland when larger numbers of the more effective long barreled Pzkpfw. IVs became available.
These figures also show that a smaller number were retained in service well over their time due to a lack of more modern tanks or other reasons. The 13. verstärkte Polizei-Panzer-Kompanie (13th reinforced Police Tank Company) of the regular German police force was such a unit and deployed a platoon of four Pzkpfw. IV Ausf. F(1) to fight partisans after its formation in February 1943.

Panzer IVs into the Cold War

It must be said that the large provision of surviving Panzer IV tanks were not lost or scrapped, but saw service, like under Bulgarian colors in Europe, until 1989, or under Syrian colors in the Middle East. There, provisions of ex-French and ex-Spanish models were purchased, some equipped with a new Soviet 12.7 mm (0.5 in) heavy machine gun. They took part in the fight for the Golan Heights during the War of 1965, and the Six-Days War of 1967. Their opponents were much more recent Israeli Centurions and rearmed, upgraded Shermans. Some of them are part of the numerous machines still in existence in many museums and private collections around the globe, with perhaps a dozen in running condition.

Panzerkampfwagen IV production numbers and dates

The following figures were obtained from Waffenamt production statistics enhanced and verified by assembly plant reports and Fgst.Nr (chassis number) analysis by Thomas L.Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle.

Ausf F = 462 April 1941 – March 1942 (7.5cm Kpfwg.K. 37 L/24 gun)
Ausf F = 175+25 March 1942 – July 1942 (7.5cm Kpfwg.K. 40 L/43 gun)
Ausf G = 1687 May 1942 – June 1943
Ausf H = 3774 April 1943 – July 1944

Source

Panzer Tracts No.4 Panzerkampfwagen IV by Thomas L.Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle.
Panzer Tracts No.23 Panzer Production from 1933 to 1945 by Thomas L.Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle.
Panzer IV und seine Abarten by Walter J.Spielberger, Thomas L.Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle.
Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf.G, H and J 1942-45 (New Vanguard)
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2
Poster Panzer IV C French campaign 1940
Poster Panzer IV Ausf C, French campaign June 1940


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