After the experiences of the First World War, which saw the introduction of poisonous gas, many countries assumed that, even though banned through the 1925 Geneva Protocol, that gas would be continued to be used. Therefore, many of these countries experimented with new poison gasses, but also new ways of decontamination. In Germany, the gas warfare doctrine was to be included in the general doctrine which was combined with mobile arms warfare. The idea was to have a mobile task force with three different vehicle types. One of these vehicle types was the Entgiftungskraftwagen (Eng: Decontamination vehicle). They were based on the Sd.Kfz.10 and 11. It would have been used to decontaminate an area where soldiers would advance. However, gas was never used in large amounts during the Second World War. Therefore, the decontamination vehicles were not used in their intended role and alternative uses were found, such as carriers for artillery shells, throughout the war. Its service life ended in 1944 after production had stopped and the last vehicles were destroyed or lost.
Context: German use of Poisonous Gas during the First World War
During the First World War, poisonous gas was used for the first time in combat to inflict huge casualties and spread fear amongst the enemy. After the German Army had been halted on its advance in the winter of 1914-1915, the frontlines started to solidify and both sides dug themselves into trenches. Both sides could not break the other line or, if broken through, only captured small bits of land. Therefore, the German High Command demanded a new weapon to break the frontlines. German chemical companies had been producing chlorine as a side product. Together with these companies, Fritz Haber worked on a way to weaponize this.
In April 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres, chlorine was first used by the Germans. The gas worked effectively, and the British and French forces suffered huge casualties. However, the chlorine was uncontrollable and could not be removed after the attack. Therefore, the Germans did not gain much land. Later, as gas masks were introduced on both sides, the Germans abandoned chlorine gas. This was due to chlorine gas being water-soluble, which meant its effects could be reduced by holding a wet cloth or rag to the mouth and nose. Furthermore, it could be easily identified due to its color.
Phosgene was the next gas used by the Germans, presumably first used at Ypres. It was less easy to detect and was much more deadly than chlorine. However, its symptoms took a long time to appear. This was due to the (in comparison) minimal immediate effects of lachrymatory. Only after several hours did the effects of liquids in the lung cause death.
However, the most commonly used gas, even though it was technically a liquid, was mustard gas, first used in 1917. It had a yellow mustard-like color and smelled like garlic. The initial contact was symptomless, but once skin irritation occurred, blisters and biological burns appeared. Although the mortality rate was low, the long-term effects were respiratory problems and burns. The role of mustard gas was not to directly kill the other soldiers but to cause severe pain and disable them from participating in battle. Furthermore, the fear factor was an important element.
The Sd.Kfz.10 was originally planned to be a half-tracked towing vehicle for light artillery, anti-air, and anti-tank guns. Due to the need for a small and light but very fast and mobile half-track, the Demag half-track was developed. Initially, it was only meant to tow artillery guns and ammunition carriers but, during the construction of the first vehicles, it was desired that some of these vehicles would be used for gas warfare and within the Nebeltruppen (Eng. smoke troops, a code name for the German gas warfare units). After numerous Demag prototype vehicles, the D 7 variant went into serial production. However, before that, some D 6 vehicles were used to test the decontamination doctrine.
Sd.Kfz.10/2 Leichter Entgiftungskraftwagen
During the Interwar, the German Army continued to use (in theory) mustard gas and intended to use it for their gas warfare units. But after contaminating an area with the liquid, the German soldiers needed a way through the contaminated area to advance. A decontamination vehicle alongside the contamination vehicle was needed.
In 1936, the Nebeltruppen first showed interest in acquiring light and small half-tracks to mobilize their units. The commander of the Nebeltruppen stated that a Demag vehicle should be tested, ideally in the role of both contamination and decontamination.
In July 1937, the firm of Büssing NAG received a contract for the production of 300 vehicles with a modified transmission that would be able to carry equipment for gas warfare.
Exact production numbers are unknown, but the estimated number ranges from 60 to 70 vehicles completed between 1938 and 1939. The production stopped in June 1939, after the bigger 3t Sd.Kfz.11 was favored and the need for the light Demag decontamination vehicles was dropped.
The Sd.Kfz.10/2 was a half-track based on the chassis of the Demag 7 or later Sd.Kfz.10 Bauart 1939 (Eng. version 1939). It had a superstructure that carried the decontamination chemicals and a spreader for said chemicals.
The chassis used were 300 ordered D7 chassis with an auxiliary drive in the transmission to be able to carry equipment. In addition to the regular Sd.Kfz.10 chassis, two fuel tanks were placed behind the driver’s seat, whilst the left fuel tank had a shaft connected to the spreader’s driveshaft. No other changes were made, which means the vehicle had an interleaved suspension with 5 road wheels, an idler wheel, and a front sprocket wheel which was powered by the transmission.
The superstructure consisted of a spreader and a platform. On the platform’s backside, the 8 drums of chemicals would be placed together with rails for extra stability and safety. A canvas was put above the entire crew and chemical compartments and fastened on the windshield and spreader on the backside. The canvas could be rolled up and stored in the back and was extended only in heavy weather situations, as the canvas placement was low and the crew had less space to work with. The front seat bench, where the driver and co-driver sat, was not changed and was directly in front of the drums. In front of the crew was the engine. Just in front of the spreader in the rear was an additional bench for two crew members.
The exact number of crew members is unknown but, in most photos, there appear to be at least three: driver, co-driver, and an operator for the spreader. However, the additional bench in the rear is for two-member and would therefore get the number up to 4.
The Sd.Kfz.10/2 had the same Maybach NL 38/HL42 TRKM engine as the regular Sd.Kfz.10. However, due to the extra weight of the spreader and chemicals, the overall capabilities of the vehicle mobility-wise were reduced. The engine could give the vehicle a top speed of 65 km/h on roads and about 50 km/h off-road. During usage, crews were instructed never to exceed speeds of 20 km/h on roads and 10 km/h off-road. The fuel tanks held 86 liters of fuel. In the end, it did not matter that the speed was reduced, as the vehicle had to drive at marching infantry speed in combat situations.
Spreader and Chemicals
The spreader was used to spread the chemicals onto the desired area. It was mounted on the rear side and could hold 200 kg of chemicals at once. The Streuvorrichtung (Eng. Spreader) had smooth rollers inside of it to spread the chemicals and a rubber sheet that prevented the wind from blowing the chemicals away. It also had a screen that prevented large clumps from falling down. The spreader and rollers were powered via the left driveshaft, which was connected to the engine under the vehicle. The amount of chemicals spread was controlled by the distance of the smooth rollers inside the spreader. The crew could control this via a lever located at the spreader itself. The dial numbers ranged from 0-9 and were usually set to 3 or 4, which spread about 300 g/m².
The decontamination chemicals were stored in eight drums (4 placed in a row on each side), weighing 480 kg. A singular drum with 50 kg could cover an area of 1 m width by 160 m long. All of the chemicals could cover an area of 1 m by 1,300 m.
The tools were the standard equipment for German AFVs. The vehicle had a long ax, pickaxe, crowbar, and a spate. Rifles were stored lined up behind the driver’s seat and crew baggage under the bench seat.
The Sd.Kfz.11’s history started when the German Army searched for a new way to tow their artillery guns. After several ways were tested to tow the guns, it was settled on a half-track design, since these were easy to produce, cost-efficient, and reliable.
In 1934, development began with the German firm of Hansa Lloyd (later Borgward). Like the Sd.Kfz.10, the 11 had multiple prototypes, which included variants from the H. kl. 2 to the H. kl. 6. The H. kl 6 chassis would later be the production variant and chassis for most variants of the Sd.Kfz.11. It was later renamed to Leichter Zugkraftwagen 3t. (Eng. light towing vehicle 3t.) as production was transferred to Hanomag.
Sd.Kfz.11/2 Mittlerer Engiftungskraftwagen
During demonstration trials in 1937, it was revealed that due to an overall delay concerning the Demag 7 vehicles, an alternative vehicle for decontamination had to be used. The Sd.Kfz.11 was able to carry more decontamination chemicals and could save on the overall number of vehicles used within a battery. However, there were some negative aspects too, such as the vehicle being bigger and less narrow and therefore easier to spot and harder to drive through narrow ways and roads.
The Sd.Kfz.11/2 was a medium decontamination vehicle based on the Sd.Kfz.11 chassis carrying chemicals for decontamination and was meant to replace the smaller Sd.Kfz.10/2.
Two different models of the Sd.Kfz.11/2 existed. The Bauart 1938 and Bauart 1939 (Eng. Model 1938 and 1939) differed in the number of chemicals carried and the width and height of the big cabin. The superstructure, cabin, driver’s compartment, and spreader were built by Peter Bauer Köln (a German vehicle factory in Cologne) and mounted on the chassis. The chassis of the Sd.Kfz.11 was provided by Borgward. The chemicals were most likely produced by the I.G. Farbenindustrie AG.
Before May 1937, 34 vehicles and one prototype vehicle were ordered by the OKH (Oberkommando Herr, Eng. High Command of the Army). Eighteen vehicles were enough to fill the first Entgiftungs Batterie (Eng. Decontamination Battery) for trials and demonstrations. In 1938, the OKH planned to produce enough Sd.Kfz.11/2s to fill all Nebel Abteilungen (Eng. smoke battalions) until March 1939. The model 1938 was built between the span of 1938 to the first half of 1939, which means a total amount of 68 vehicles built. After that, the model 1939 was introduced and produced until the end of the vehicle’s life. In June 1939, the Waffenamt (Eng. Weapons Apartment) demanded the production of 138 new vehicles by October 1939 to fill the newly created Nebel Abteilungen. Production would continue, with 18 vehicles completed by April 1940 and 180 after October 1940. However, in December 1939, the Nebeltruppen (Eng. smoke troops) requested the production of another 200 Sd.Kfz.11/2s and, after that, at a rate of 10 vehicles per month. In June 1940, 600 new vehicles were needed. However, due to the irrelevance of the decontamination vehicles after the Nebeltruppen were repurposed, the production order was canceled but the production was not stopped due to the vehicles being needed in other roles. In 1940, the Nebeltruppen had been diverted from poisonous gas warfare to smoke troops featuring the 15 cm Nebelwerfer.
However, these were only demands and orders. The exact production numbers between the time span of March 1938 and 1941 are not known due to Borgward not reporting the production. In 1941, around 234 vehicles were built (in the estimation of the vehicles needed to fill the existing Nebel Abteilungen). In 1942, 50 vehicles were made. In 1943, 75 vehicles were constructed and another 33 by March 1944.
|Estimated production numbers of the Sd.Kfz.11/2|
|Date||Number of Sd.Kfz.11/2|
|March 1938-June 1939||68|
Based on the Sd.Kfz.11 chassis, the 11/2 had a new platform on the rear, which featured the chemicals and the spreader. The driver’s compartment was similar but some parts were changed. Separating both compartments was a large storage cabin that carried the equipment of the crew. In front of the driver’s compartment was the engine.
The chassis was the same unchanged Sd.Kfz.11 H kl 6 chassis with an auxiliary drive, like the Sd.Kfz.10/2, connecting the spreader with the engine. It had an interleaved suspension with a front sprocket wheel connected to the transmission and drive. Steering could be performed by both the two front wheels and by the tracks.
The superstructure consisted of a driver’s compartment, a large storage cabin, and a rear platform with the spreader and chemicals. The driver’s compartment had a two-crew bench seat and was open-top. A canvas could be fastened above the entire vehicle’s crew compartment and, if not mounted, stored in the back. A large storage cabin was placed between the driver’s compartment and the rear platform. On the early model 1938, the cabin was rather tall and narrow, and on the later model 1939, wider and smaller. There were rails to stabilize the chemical barrels on both sides of the platform and, at the rear end, was the spreader. Due to the resizing of the cabin, the model 1939 also featured smaller and shorter rails.
The Sd.Kfz.11/2 had 4 crew members. Two, driver and co-driver, sat on the bench in the driver’s compartment. The other two, tasked with operating the spreader, sat on two folding seats located on each end of the platform.
The engine was the same Maybach NL 38/HL 42 giving out 100 hp. This could propel the vehicle up to 50 km/h on roads and 40 km/h off roads. Like the Sd.Kfz.10/2, during usage, crews were instructed only to drive at about 20 km/h on roads and 10 km/h off-road. Like the Sd.Kfz.10/2, the reduced and slow speed was not relevant, as it was meant to match infantry marching speed. The vehicle had 110 liters of fuel and a maximum range of 275 km on roads and 150 km off-road.
Spreader and Chemicals
On the model 1938, two different spreaders existed. A taller bin with a different drive and the smaller standard spreader was also featured on the model 1939. The model 1939 only had one spreader. The spreader worked in the exact same way as the one on the Sd.Kfz.10/2, with the difference that these ones were bigger and wider, with 400 kg of load capacity. This meant there were also rollers inside the spreader and a rubber sheet spreading the chemicals. There was also an auxiliary drive powering the rollers. The amount of chemicals spread was also controlled by a lever and the distance between the rollers. Regularly, it would have been positioned at levels 1-6 (out of 0-9).
The chemicals were stored in drums and small tin cans. The model 1938 had 14 drums weighing 840 kg and the model 1939 had 12 drums weighing 720 kg and 16 small tin cans weighing 160 kg. A total of 50 kg of pure chemicals could cover an area of 1.7 m in width by 300 m in length. The entire load (on model 1939) of 728 kg of pure chemicals (not counting the weight of the drums themselves) could cover an area of 1.7 m in width by 4,350 m in length. For the model 1938, it would have been around 4,200 m in length. The cans were stored eight per side on the rear side of the storage cabin.
Unlike the Sd.Kfz.10, the Sd.Kfz.11 got its tools located in the Gerätekasten (Eng. equipment cabinet). In there, there were:
-1x spare wheel
-1x hand crank
-4x zeltbahnen (tents)
-2x working suit (protective suit)
-4x winter coats
-4x clothes bags
-4x carrying bags for working suits
-4x cooking equipment
Additionally placed around the chassis and superstructure were the standard tools, such as the large ax, shovel, and crowbar pickaxe. The 4 rifles of the crew members were located 2 on each side of the bench.
The decontamination chemicals were the Entgiftungsstoff Losantin (Eng. Decontamination substance Losantin). Losantin, or scientifically named calcium hypochlorite, is the calcium salt of the hypochlorous acid. In an approximately 10% aqueous solution, it can be used to decontaminate the skin. It was already in service with the German Army during WW1 to decontaminate Gelbkreuzgiftgase (Eng. yellow cross poisonous gas) or skin poisonous gas, such as mustard gas or Lewesit. Because the German Army intended the continued usage of mustard gas for an upcoming war, Losantin was used as the decontaminating counterpart. The word Losantin can be seen written on the barrels themselves.
During test trials for a new decontamination plow in October 1941, the possibility was revealed that this plow could be used to dig a trench and therefore make way for soldiers to advance without using chemicals. The OKH allowed the usage of this plow and the Sd.Kfz.11/2 was to be the vehicle towing the plow. The Entgiftungspflug 41 (Eng. Decontamination plow 41) was a trench plow with a single axle chassis.
Organization and Doctrine
The Sd.Kfz.10/2 and 11/2 were part of the Nebeltruppen (Eng. smoke troops). The Nebeltruppen were an independent branch using terms from the artillery and was the branch intended for gas warfare. The Sd.Kfz.10/2 and 11/2 were both organized into Entgiftungs Batterien (Eng. decontamination batteries) within Entgiftungs Abteilung (Eng. decontamination battalions).
In October 1937, a single Nebel-Abteilung had a HQ staff unit, three Nebel-Batterien (Eng. smoke batteries) and three Entgiftungs Batterien. Each Nebel-Batterie had 8 10 cm Nebelwerfer towed by Sd.Kfz.10s. Each Entgiftungs Batterie had 6 Gasspürer Sd.Kfz.10/1 (Eng. gas detection vehicle), 6 Sd.Kfz.10/2 and 6 Sd.Kfz.11/2. There was also Nebel-Gerät-Kolonne (Eng. smoke device column), which was the codename for a contamination battery equipped with 18 Sd.Kfz.10/3 and 18 Sd.Kfz.11/3 (contamination vehicles). This contamination unit changed places with the decontamination unit in the case it was needed. However, if not enough 10/2s existed, they could be replaced by spare 11/2s.
In 1938, it was decided to split the Nebel-Abteilung into Nebel-Werfer-Abteilungen and Entgiftungsableitungen, separating decontamination and contamination into two different battalions during war time.
In 1939, the organization was changed. Each Entgiftungs Abteilung had three Entgiftungsbatterien with 6 Sd.Kfz.10/1 and 12 Sd.Kfz.11/2 each, since the Sd.Kfz.10/2 was removed and replaced by the Sd.Kfz.11/2. However, many units kept their 10/2s.
There were also so-called Straßen-Entgiftungs-Abteilungen (Eng. street decontaminating battalions) responsible for decontaminating streets after a possible bombing run with poisonous gas. These had at first 3 Sd.Kfz.10/2 and later 6 Sd.Kfz.11/2 within 1 battery, bringing the total number up to 18. In 1941, 3 street decontamination battalions were in service with 54 Sd.Kfz.11/2 and 9 Sd.Kfz.10/2.
|Number of Sd.Kfz.10/2 and 11/2s in a single Entg. Abt. per year after official regulations|
|Date||Number of Sd.Kfz.10/2s||Number of Sd.Kfz.11/2s|
|1939||0 (some were kept in service)||36|
|1941 (For street decon. battalion)||9||18|
The decontamination vehicles were a part of the German gas warfare doctrine developed in 1936. This doctrine states that, during combat, a single contamination half-track contaminated an area. In turn, later, the Sd.Kfz.10/2 and 11/2 would drive through and spread the chemicals with the desired length and density. Closely following the decontamination half-track would be infantry soldiers, mostly on foot, equipped with gas masks. Since the mustard gas spread by the contamination half-tracks was a liquid, it would stay on the ground and the soldiers could move safely on the decontaminated strip. It is not known on which occasions or circumstances or when the German Army had planned to use this doctrine. However, one can presume it would have been used in situations where the enemy was entrenched. To save on chemicals, the Entgiftungspflug 41 was planned to be towed by the 11/2. In reality, in some photos, the plow can be seen used to dig fast and provisional trenches for soldiers.
There was also the possibility that the enemy contaminated an area. In this case, the half-track would have been used in the same way. However, this action would only be useful when the enemy also used liquid mustard gas or any other Lost gas, since Losantin only worked for this type of chemical. There were specialized vehicles for the decontamination of other gasses, but these were mostly trucks and cars and could only decontaminate individual soldiers.
The Sd.Kfz.10/2 and 11/2 both had the tactical symbol for the Entgiftungs-Batterie (mot) (Eng. decontamination battery motorized) which was a rectangle (standing for an infantry or artillery branch unit) together with two circles (for wheels) under the rectangle. The letters “Eg” were inside the rectangle, standing for Entgiftung (Eng. decontamination). The Sd.Kfz.11/2 presented in the Tank Museum in Munster has an incorrect symbol.
There were several trials and demonstrations in which an entire decontamination battery was used. In 1938, the first trials took place with the Sd.Kfz.10/2, which turned out rather positive. However, it was decided to use the Sd.Kfz.11/2 due to its larger storage capacity. Both vehicles not only went through obstacle courses during trials but also had to demonstrate how the unit worked. This included a full run-through of the gas warfare doctrine but in miniature size.
In 1940, there were three Entgiftungs Abteilungen (101, 102, and 105). In 1941, this number would be expanded to five (with the addition of 103 and 104).
There are not many recorded events or times when the Sd.Kfz.10/2 or 11/2 were used in their intended role. The first time was during the invasion of France within Entgfitungs Abteilung 102’s 2nd battery, when 22 Sd.Kfz.10/2s and 14 Sd.Kfz.11/2s participated in battle. However, the vehicles were not used as decontamination vehicles, since poisonous gas and the gas spreader vehicles were not used on the German side in battles. They presumably moved alongside their unit and the division and were on standby.
Most units realized that the vehicles had no use and could be used in a better way. After 1940, when it was officially announced that the Nebeltruppen were diverted from gas warfare, the units removed the chemicals and barrels and used them to carry rockets for the German rocket launchers. However, some vehicles appear to have continued in their role as decontamination vehicles, carrying the chemicals throughout the first years of Operation Barbarossa in 1941 and 1942. This was probably due to the fear amongst the German units that Soviet troops might use poisonous gas at some point. This, in turn, was also the reason why the Sd.Kfz.11/2 was produced until 1944, as a safety precaution in case of an enemy gas attack.
In 1942, all three street decontamination battalions and decontamination battalions 101, 102, and 103 were converted into Schwere Wurfgerät Abteilungen (Eng. heavy launcher battalion) which carried the rockets for the 28/32 cm Nebelwerfer. Battalion 104 was converted into Gebirgs Werfer Abteilung 10 and 105 into Werfer Regiment 70.
|Information about each Ent. Abt.|
|Entgiftungs-Abteilung (mot.)||Service life||Converted into|
|Entgiftungs-Abteilung 1 (later renamed to 101)||Established: September 1939, served: France, Soviet Union||Schweres Werfer-Regiment 3|
|Entgiftungs-Abteilung 2 (later renamed to 102)||Established: September 1939, served: France, Soviet Union||schwere Werfer-Abteilung 102|
|Entgiftungs-Abteilung 103||Established: June 1940, served: Soviet Union||schwere Werfer-Abteilung 103|
|Entgiftungs-Abteilung 104||Established: May 1940, served: Soviet Union||Gebirgs-Werfer-Abteilung 10|
|Entgiftungs-Abteilung 5 (later renamed to 105)||Established: November 1939, served: France, Soviet Union||Werfer-Regiment 70|
Carrier for Rockets
Some vehicles were converted into carriers for the German rocket launchers. These were the 10, 15, and 21 cm Nebelwerfer (Eng. smoke launcher), and 28/32 cm Nebelwerfer 41. The vehicles carried the Wurfkörper (Eng. rocket body), meaning the wooden cartridge with the 28/32 cm rocket inside and the steel cartridges for the smaller rockets.
A singular Sd.Kfz.11/2 Bauart 1939 survived until today. Displayed in the tank museum in Munster, the vehicle can be seen still in its original role as a decontamination vehicle loaded with Losantin barrels. This specific example is one of the last to be ever produced by Borgward in 1944, with chassis number 324482 and is still in running condition.
The leichter und mittlerer Entgiftungskraftwagen auf Sd.Kfz.10 and 11 were the first successful attempts at mobilizing the decontamination troops. In theory, these could provide a path through a contaminated area, allowing troops to march through. However, due to weak armor and no armament in close combat situations, the vehicles would need much protection from other vehicles or tanks. After several tests, the Sd.Kfz.11/2 proved to be the more effective vehicle. In the end, the decontamination vehicles’ fate was sealed due to their irrelevance on the battlefield. Gas warfare was not needed for the German Army and the vehicles were converted into other roles.
Sd.Kfz.10/2, Sd.Kfz.11/2 specifications
|Dimensions (L-W-H) (10/2), (11/2)||10/2: 4.8 x 1.9 x 1.95 m, 11/2: 5.8 x 2 x 2.4 m|
|Total Weight (10/2), (11/2)||10/2: 4770 kg , 11/2: 6740 kg|
|Crew (10/2) and (11/2)||4 (Driver, crew members/spreader operators)|
|Speed||10/2: 65 km/h on roads and 40 km/h off roads, 11/2: 50 km/h on roads and 40 km/h off roads|
|Range||10/2: 250 km on roads, 125 km off-roads, 11/2: 275 km on roads, 150 km off-road|
|Armament (10/2) and (11/2)||4x 7.92 mm Kar 98 k|
|Armor (10/2) and (11/2)||1-5 mm|
|Engine (10/2) and (11/2)||Maybach NL 38/HL42|
|Total Production||10/2: 60-70, 11/2: 392|