Panzer III Medium Tank
The Panzer III Medium Tank was the main German battle tank for the first two and a half years of the Second World War, only beginning to lose that status after the appearance of the Panzer IV Ausf F2 in March 1942. Until then the Panzer III had been the only German designed tank armed with a gun designed to penetrate enemy armour.
Serious work on the Panzer III began in 1936, when a number of German tank manufacturers produced prototypes for a tank in the 15 ton category. This tank would be the main anti-tank weapon, firing armour piercing shot from its 3.7cm gun, while the Panzer IV would be the close support tank, firing high explosive shells at soft-shelled vehicles or anti-tank guns.
The development and production of the Panzer III progressed very slowly. On 1 September 1939 only 98 had been completed (compared to 211 Panzer IVs, 1,223 Panzer IIs and nearly 1,500 Panzer Is). The situation had somewhat changed by the start of the campaign in the west in May 1940, by which time there were over 300 Panzer IIIs on the front line, but it would only be available in really large numbers for the start of the invasion of Russian in the summer of 1941.
The Panzer III was laid out in the same way as the earlier Panzer I and II, with the engine at the rear and the gearbox at the front. The turret was an enlarged version of the one used on the Panzer II, now carrying three of the crew of five (commander, gunner and loader), an arrangement that dramatically improved the fighting power of the tank by increasing the rate of fire and allowing each member of the crew to concentrate on one job.
Only 98 Panzer IIIs were available for the invasion of Poland. This compares to 1,445 Panzer Is, 1,223 Panzer IIs and 211 Panzer IVs. As a result little can be said about the impact of the Panzer III. In theory there were meant to be eight Panzer IIIs in each light tank company, but some divisions had none.
A smaller number of Panzer III Ausf Ds took part in the invasion of Norway, fighting with Pz Abt z b V 40 (Tank Detachment for Special Employment 40). All four of the early versions of the Panzer III had been withdrawn from the front line in February 1940, but the Ausf D was the least unsatisfactory of them. As a secondary theatre Norway also saw the surrender of the last Panzer III equipped unit, Panzerbrigade “Norwegen” on 10 May 1945.
By the start of the campaign in the West in the spring of 1940 the number of Panzer IIIs had more than trebled, overtaking the Panzer IV. Of the 2,499 tanks available to the German army on 10 May, 349 of them were Panzer IIIs, all armed with the 3.7cm gun. Another 30-40 Panzerbefehlswagen IIIs were present with the army. At this time the Panzer III was the main German battle tank, for the Panzer IV was still seen as a close support weapon.
In no way was the Panzer III superior to the main British and French tanks it would be facing. Its 30mm armour was thinner than that found on the British Matilda I and I and the French Somua medium tank, Char B heavy tank or even the Hotchkiss H35 Light tank. The 3.7cm gun was just about equal to the 2pdr in the Matilda and the 3.7cm gun in the Hotchkiss, but the Somua carried a 4.7cm gun and the Char B one 3.7cm gun and one 7.5cm gun. The only clear technical advantage held by the Panzer III was its three-man turret, which was far more efficient than the one-man turret used by the French.
It would be the German tactics that would win the battle of France, not the quality of their tanks. The French spread most of their vast number of tanks out along the entire front, while their only concentrated armoured divisions were pulled out of place by the German invasion plan. By the time it became clear that the Germans were attacking through the Ardennes, all three of the best French armoured units had rushed north. Individual Char Bs were able to inflict heavy damage on unwary German formations, but were soon overwhelmed.
The Panzer III was always the most numerous German tank in Rommel’s Afrika Korps, and played a major part in his victories and defeats from Marsa el Brega in March 1941 to El Alamein. As in France and Russia the Panzer III soon came up against better armoured, better armed but worse led tanks, in this case the British Matilda, which in a head-on fight had a great advantage over the 3.7cm gun armed Panzers. This was demonstrated on 27 May 1941 at Halfaya Pass, which had recently been recaptured by the British. Nine Matildas were able to hold off some 160 Axis tanks, and although only three of the British tanks eventually retired, the German battalion commander involved was court-martialled and the command of the 5th Light Panzer Division removed.
The arrival of the short 5cm armed Panzer III in the summer of 1941 redressed the balance, as did the arrival of the long 5cm Panzer III in May 1942. This gun was superior to the British 2-pounder, and those Panzers armed with it became known to the British as the Mark III Special. During the fighting on the Gazala Line Rommel had 223 Panzer IIIs armed with the 5cm L/42 and 19 with the L/60, giving him 242 Panzer IIIs in a total force of 560 tanks, of which 228 were Italian.
During the summer of 1942 the first of the Panzer IV Ausf F2s armed with the long 7.5cm gun arrived in North Africa, marking the beginning of the end for the Panzer III as a main battle tank, but even at the battle of El Alamein Rommel still had 93 L/42 armed Panzer IIIs, 71 L/60 armed Panzer IIIs and only 30 Panzer IV Ausf F2s. Although the Germans tended to come out best in any tank vs tank battle even this late, Montgomery’s superior resources allowed him to overwhelm the Germans and Italians. Rommel was forced to begin a retreat that finally ended with the German surrender in Tunisia in the following year.
The Soviet Union
At the start of the invasion of the Soviet Union the Panzer III was the most numerous tank in the Germany army, with a total of 1,440 in service, of which 960 were serving with the light armoured companies of the seventeen Panzer Divisions that would take part in the invasion. The Panzer III was still the main German battle tank, although in the summer of 1941 it was still armed with a mix of the original 3.7cm gun and the 5cm gun introduced on the Ausf F. The Panzer IV, which would soon replace it in the anti-tank role, was still armed with the short 7.5cm gun intended for close support work.
Despite their massive early successes, the Germans received one unpleasant surprise during their invasion of the Soviet Union. While the vast majority of the 20,000 Soviet tanks were outdated and outclassed, nearly 1,000 T-34s and 500 KV-1s and KV-2s had already been issued. The frontal armour of the KV tanks proved to be impervious to fire from the German 3.7cm, 5cm and 7.5cm guns unless the Germans could get into almost suicidally close range. The T-34 was not much more vulnerable to German fire. In contrast the better Soviet 7.62mm guns were repeatedly reported as having split open German armour.
The high quality of these two Soviet tanks came as a nasty surprise to a German tank force convinced that it was technically superior to the Russians. The Germans responded by fitting the long 5cm L/60 gun to the Panzer III and the 7.5cm KwK40 L/43 to the Panzer IV, with both variants appearing early in 1942.
Unfortunately the Soviets more than balanced the high quality of the tanks with the poor quality of just about every other aspect of their armoured units. Even the best equipped units had only recently received their KVs and T-34s, and so had little or no experience in the new tanks. Very little ammunition was available, and almost no spare parts. The lack of tank recovery vehicles meant that tanks were often lost because of minor mechanical problems.
The Germans also benefited from their superior tactics, and the combat experience gained in Poland and France. The KVs and T-34s had very little impact on the overall course of the fighting during 1941, but they did scare the German tank designers.
One result of these early clashes was the series of improved versions of the Panzer III that appeared over the next year and a half, but the basic design would prove to be too limited to keep up in the Eastern Front. The Panzer III not big enough to carry the excellent 7.5cm KwK40 L/43, and would slowly be replaced by the Panzer IV as the main German battle tank.
Despite its limitations, production of the Panzer III only tailed off during 1943. In 1942 nearly 2,000 were produced, all armed with the 5cm gun, more than twice the production of the 7.5cm L/43 armed Panzer IV.
In June 1942 there were 500 Panzer IIIs with the 5cm L/42 and 600 with the 5cm L/60 at the front, and the Panzer III played a major role in the last significant Germany victories on the Eastern Front. It was still an effective weapon early in 1943, during the fighting around Kharkov, but by the summer of 1943 it was becoming increasingly outclassed. In July 1943 Army Groups Centre and South had a total of 432 Panzer IIIs with the L/60 gun, but the battle of Kursk would be the last time it was present in such large numbers, as production of the Panzer III came to an end in August 1943. Early in 1944 the surviving Panzer IIIs were withdrawn from the front line, and moved to secondary theatres.
Panzer III Ausf A
The first ten development versions of the Panzer III were produced in 1937. They featured the turret that would be standard on all early version of the tank, carrying a crew of three and armed with one 3.7cm gun and two 7.92mm coaxial machine guns. A third machine gun was carried in the forward superstructure. This version of the Panzer III carried its tracks on five large road wheels, and used coil spring suspension. The small number of Panzer III Ausf As that were completed joined the Panzer regiments during 1937 and were not withdrawn until February 1940, after seeing combat in Poland.
Panzer III Ausf B
The second development series of the Panzer III, also produced in 1937, used a completely different suspension system. This time there were eight small road wheels on each track, connected in pairs. Suspension was provided by two long leaf springs, with a pair of road wheels at each end. This system was no more successful than that used on the Ausf A. Of the fifteen Ausf Bs produced, ten joined the Panzer regiments, serving in Poland, before being withdrawn in February 1940, while five were used to develop the StuG assault gun.
Panzer III Ausf C
The Ausf C saw another attempt to improve the suspension. This time the first and last pairs of road wheels were given their own short leaf spring, mounted parallel to the ground, while the second and third pairs of road wheels were connected by a long leaf spring, as on the Ausf B. Although an improvement on the earlier system, this was still not satisfactory. As with the Ausf A and B, the Ausf C saw service in Poland before being withdrawn in February 1940.
Panzer III Ausf D
The Ausf D was the final pre-production version of the Panzer III. Once again the suspension was modified, this time by positioning the short leaf springs carrying the first and last pairs of road wheels at an angle, thus increasing the amount of support provided. This was still not acceptable, and a completely different system would be adopted by the first production models. The first fifteen Ausf Ds were built with the same 15mm armour as the A, B and C. Some sources suggest that the last fifteen were given 30mm armour.
Panzer III Ausf E
The Ausf E was the first mass production version of the Panzer III. It features a completely new torsion bar suspension system, with six road wheels on each side supported by a steel bar running across the width of the tank. This system was very successful and was retained on every later model. The Ausf E entered service in time to take part in the Polish campaign of 1939. It was later re-armed with a 50mm L/42 gun, and with this more powerful gun the Ausf E remained in action through the fighting in France, the Balkans, North Africa and for the first two years of the campaign in Russia.
Panzer III Ausf F
The Ausf F was the first version of the Panzer III to be produced in large numbers, with 435 built during 1939-40. It was virtually identical to the Ausf E, but with a different engine ignition system and air intakes. Just over 300 were produced with the 3.7cm KwK gun, while around 100 were built with the 5cm KwK L/42 and an external mantlet. Many of the tanks originally built with the 3.7cm gun were later modified to carry the 5cm gun. Large numbers of Ausf F were in service in time to take part in the campaign in the west in May 1940, and they remained in service for almost as long as the Panzer III itself.
Panzer III Ausf G
The Ausf G was initially very similar to the Ausf F. The first fifty were built with the 3.7cm gun, while the remaining 550 used the 5cm gun. The rear armour of the Ausf G was increased to 30mm, and a pivoting visor was added for the driver. Early production models with the 3.7cm gun were sent to reinforce the Panzer divisions fighting in France.
Panzer III Ausf H
The Ausf H was similar to late production Ausf Gs, with the same wider tracks and 5cm gun. Extra 30mm armour plates were attached to the front and rear of the hull and the front of the superstructure. Less than half of the original order were produced, before it was replaced by the Ausf J.
Panzer III Ausf J (5cm KwK L/42)
The first version of the Ausf J saw the frontal armour on the hull and superstructure and the rear hull armour increased in thickness from 30mm to 50mm. Hitler had ordered the use of the longer 50cm KwK39 L/60, but 1,500 tanks had been produced using the short gun before that order was implemented.
Panzer III Ausf J (5cm KwK39 L/60)
The adoption of the longer L/60 gun at the end of 1941 helped restore the usefulness of the Panzer III against British and American tanks in North Africa, but was still inadequate when compared to the larger guns already standard on Soviet tanks.
Panzer III Ausf L
The Ausf L was produced while efforts to fit a 7.5cm gun to the Panzer III were under way. It was still armed with the 5cm KwK39 L/60, although that gun was proving to be increasingly ineffective against thicker Soviet tank armour. The Ausf L was given 20mm spaced armour on the superstructure front and mantlet, and thicker frontal turret armour.
Panzer III Ausf M
The Ausf M was very similar to the Ausf L but with the addition of a wading kit which allowed it to pass through four or five feet of water without any special preparation.
Panzer III Ausf N
The Ausf N was the final production version of the standard Panzer III, and was armed with the short 7.5cm gun used on early versions of the Panzer IV. It served as a close support tank in the early Tiger companies.
Panzerkampfwagen III (Fl)
The Panzerkampfwagen III (Fl) was a Panzer III Ausf M modified to carry a flamethrower in place of the normal 5cm gun. 100 were produced early in 1943 and it took part in the battle of Kursk.
Panzerkampfwagen III als Tauchpanzer/ Tauchpanzer III (Diving Tank)
The Panzerkampfwagen III als Tauchpanzer was a version of the Panzer III modified so that it could operate underwater for up to twenty minutes. Designed for use during the invasion of Great Britain, its only operational use came during the crossing of the River Bug at the start of Operation Barbarossa, after which it was used as a normal tank.
A series of command tanks (Panzerbefehlswagen) were based on the Panzer III, starting with three unarmed versions (Ausf D1, Ausf E and Ausf H), before two armed versions were produced (Ausf J and Ausf K). The unarmed versions were based on the standard Panzer III of the same designation, but with the main gun removed and replaced by a dummy, the turret bolted in place and extra long range radio equipment added.
The picture with the Ausf J and Ausf K is not so clear. The Ausf K was the only one of the Panzer III command tanks to have been purpose designed to carry the long 5cm KwK39 L/60 main gun. It was based on the standard Ausf M, but although it was ordered in October 1941 production did not start for over a year.
Work on the Ausf K was delayed twice, once by an order for more of the unarmed Ausf Hs, also placed in October 1941, and then by a decision to convert a number of standard Ausf Js on the production line. These tanks, designated as Panzerbefehlswagen mit 5cm KwK L/42, were produced in August-November 1942, making them the first properly armed Panzer III command tanks to enter service.
At the start of 1943 production of the Ausf K ended, and the remaining 104 command tanks were produced by converted existing Panzer III Ausf Js. Different sources disagree on the gun present on these tanks (either the L/42 or L/60), and on the correct designation, but it would seem likely that as converted vehicles there would have been a mix of the short and long gunned versions of the Ausf J.
The Panzerbefehlswagen played an important role in the early successes of the German Panzer forces, allowing senior commander to operate at the front line without losing touch with the wider situation. This gave the Germans much more tactical flexibility than their opponents, for these senior commanders could take advantage of the short-lived opportunities that developed on the battlefield without having to wait for orders from a higher authority some way behind the battle.
June 1938-March 1939
July 1939-February 1940
November 1940-September 1941
December 1941-January 1942
August –November 1942
December 1942-February 1943
March-September 1943 (converted)
The most successful variant on the Panzer III was the Sturmgeschütz or StuG, originally designed as an armoured vehicle for infantry support, carrying a hull-mounted gun which gave it a much lower profile than the standard Panzer III. Originally an infantry close support weapon, the StuG Ausf F saw the introduction of a longer 7.5cm StuK40 L/43 gun, which turned the StuG into a very dangerous tank killer. Over 10,000 StuGs were built, and the type remained in use to the end of the war.
The Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33B (StulG33B) was an attempt to mount a 15cm sIG33 gun on the Panzer III chassis. It was designed for urban warfare, and was generally similar to the StuG. Only 24 were built before the project was cancelled late in 1942. Twelve of them were sent to Stalingrad in November 1942, and were lost in the battle for the city.
Artillerie-Panzerbeobachtungswagen (PzKpfw III) (Sd Kfz 143)
The Panzerbeobachtungswagen III (Armoured observation vehicle) was a fully armoured vehicle designed to support the fully tracked artillery vehicles that were appearing at the start of 1943. Like the early armoured command vehicles, the main gun was removed and replaced by a dummy gun, although in this case to the right of the standard position. The Pz Beob Wg was used to support the Hummel and Wespe batteries. 262 were produced, and they remained in service to the end of the war.
The Bergepanzer III was a tank recovery vehicle that used the chassis of a Panzer III to carry a derrick crane. In January 1944 it was decided to convert every Panzer III that returned from the front for a refit to this purpose, and a total of 150 were produced before work ended in December 1944. The Bergepanzer III was used by Panzer IV and StuG units.
Production Figures for standard versions of Panzer
J Long Gun
How Two KV-1s Destroyed 43 Panzer Tanks
T he early days of the Great Patriotic War were hectic. Without the proper preparations for an attack, the Soviets were put on a back foot against an already more organised and higher quality German force. Even with this lack of organisation the Soviets were determined to not let their motherland go down to the fascists and as such fought fiercely.
One very important component of the Soviets’ early defence was the KV-1 tank. This tank was the most armoured vehicle on the Eastern Front and as such most Panzer tanks of that era could not penetrate its thick armour. The KV’s 76mm cannon was also able to penetrate most Panzer’s at the time leading it to become one of the best tanks on the Eastern Front. Thus it is not surprising that this tank could fight multiple Panzer’s at a time, but one tank could only do so much right? Lieutenant Zinoviy Kolobanov proved this to be wrong.
Due to the technical construction of the Panzer III and Panzer IV having strong similarities, in September 1941 there was consideration to create a new tank based on the chassis of the two tanks to create a perfectly uniform vehicle. By having uniform designs, it was anticipated that there would be cost reductions in production, supply, training and maintenance. Ώ]
On 4 January 1944, the Panzerkomission approved of the PzKpfw III/IV, with a combination of the PzKpfw III and PzKpfw IV chassis. The Maybach HL-120TRM, having been successful during the ongoing Second World War, was selected as the engine for this new project, and was connected to the SSG-77 transmission. The most striking change was the use of a box drive with large wheels, with a hydraulic pivoting device tower. The vehicle was designed to be equipped with 50mm armour all-round, with 60mm thick armor plates on the front part of the body having a 60 degree vertical inclination on the top and 45 degrees vertical inclination at the bottom. Driving wheels of the PzKpfw III were used with the addition of reinforced output shafts, along with 540mm wide symmetrical tracks with a central ridge. The chassis had six semi-detached rollers 660mm in diameter on the leaf springs. The turret used was a modified variant of the PzKpfw IV Ausf. J, and used flexible electrical cable instead of using rotary electrical contacts at the base. The traverse angle of the turret was limited to 270 left and right longitudinally. Ώ]
Full production of the vehicle was planned to commence in June 1944 at Krupp-Gruzonverk, however on 12 July 1944, the PzKpfw III/IV project was cancelled because the vehicle did not meet the new requirements for armament capability and armor protection as a result of Soviet tanks encountered on the Eastern Front. Ώ]
The Romanian Army in the 1930s
The creation of the First Armored Battalion in Romania took place in 1919, due to the Romanian-French collaboration. No less than seventy-six Renault FTs were obtained, of which 48 were males (armed with the 37 mm/1.46 in Puteaux gun) and 28 females (Hotchkiss 8 mm/0.31 in machine-gun). Seventeen were refurbished both at the newly created Leonida Works (Ateliere Leonida) and in the state’s Army Arsenal in Bucharest.
In 1936, replacement came with a massive plan of tank acquisitions, aimed at creating a fully armored division, with the very light R1 (Skoda AH-IVR) for the cavalry and the medium-light R-2 (LT vz. 35) for the 1st Tank Regiment. In 1938, no less than 200 Renault R35s (earlier negotiated to be licence-produced locally) were also ordered, but deliveries were so slow than only 41 were received before the fall of France.
However, 35 former Polish R35s, which took refuge in Moravia, were captured and integrated into the 2nd Tank Regiment of the 1st Armored Division in late 1939. Alongside these, a tankette was licence-produced, the Malaxa Tip UE, as a supply carrier, gun tractor and reconnaissance vehicle.
The turbulent thirties were a consequence of the financial crisis back in USA, which spiraled into social unrest, high unemployment and strikes, years also marked by a political extreme instability and the rise of fascism, between the authoritarian tendencies of King Carol II and the nationalistic Iron Guard. This will culminate with the accession to power of Marshal Ion Victor Antonescu after the war broke up in September 1940, and full alignment with the Nazi regime.
8 Stug III
While plenty of incredible tanks faced off during WWII, the one with the highest number of kills against the Allies was the Sturmgeschutz III - AKA the Stug III.
The lethal Stug III had its shortcomings in terms of performance but was proven as a workhorse in the German Army, becoming their most-produced tank, and seeing service in every corner of the conflict. While not the most powerful or well-armored tank of the war, Stug III tanks were responsible for an estimated 20,000 Allied tank kills in just 1944 alone – a devastating record that made it a terror of the battlefield.
The State of Barbarossa's Panzer Divisions In The Fall of 1941
There are some that believe the sheer numerical superiority of the Red Army and Allies doomed Germany to defeat less than two years after continent wide war resumed in Europe late in 1939. For instance, the vast majority of David Stahel's decade long work posits that the Wehrmacht in general, but the German army (Heer) in particular, had shot their bolt as early as August of 1941. In assessing such claims this article will take a look at the primary component of the German army's striking power - it's panzer divisions. More to the point, I shall examine the state of the tank complement in those panzer divisions assigned to Operation Barbarossa (the June 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union) after the campaign's first three months. In doing so, I hope to highlight one of many elements (for instance manpower losses in the infantry divisions would be another) that taken together can help readers understand for themselves whether or not the Ostheer (German army in the east) was beyond repair early in the fall of 1941.
The panzer divisions ready to invade the Soviet Union late in June 1941 were at that time the most powerful combined arms organizations in the world. For that matter, the quality of the armor fleshing out those panzer divisions had taken a quantum leap over that of the previous year. Whereas more than half the panzers deployed in France during May of 1940 were light Panzer I and II variants, by June of 1941 fully two thirds of each division's panzer complement comprised the far more capable Pz 35/38t, Panzer III/IV, and StuG (assault guns). Most importantly, the Panzer III, arguably the main battle tank (MBT) of the German army in 1941, had been significantly improved. On the eve of Barbarossa the Panzer III Ausf G to J series served as the majority of medium tanks in Germany's inventory (1,090 of 1,440 Panzer III).These upgraded Panzer III's featured 30mm thicker frontal armor than their predecessors, offering for greater protection. In terms of hitting power the 50mm L/42 cannon represented a huge improvement over the old 37mm gun. From there, the 50mm L/60 main gun equipping the J model Panzer III's (see picture accompanying this article) that went into production in April 1941 had twice the muzzle velocity and thus penetrating power of even the L/42 gun.
In addition, each panzer division gained a motorized infantry regiment. This had increased the division's ability to operate in built up urban areas, guard it's flanks, sweep up bypassed centers of resistance, hold terrain, and ward off counterattacks. Off-road mobility also had improved as the number of half-tracks increased as did firepower further supplemented by the addition of assault guns and anti-aircraft battalions to the panzer divisions. Moreover, previous TO&E calling for two light artillery battalions had been upgraded so that each panzer division also deployed a heavy artillery battalion including a dozen 100mm cannons and 150mm howitzers. As such, the June 1941 era panzer divisions represented a far better balance of infantry, armor, artillery, supporting arms,and thus combined arms strength than did the Polish/French campaign vintage panzer divisions.
In terms of the number of tanks available, by June of 1941, and even with Rommel's Afrika Corps taking 314 panzers, the German army still held a surplus of 974 panzers and assault guns (including 490 Pz 35/38t, Panzer III/IV, and StuG) - and this doesn't include the 312 armored fighting vehicles produced by German factories in that same month. All told, the German army had 6,052 tanks in June 1941 (including those in repair and being upgraded). It's important to note here that sources vary in regards to the actual numbers of panzers/assault guns in the nineteen panzer divisions initially participating in Barbarossa. But, if one excludes those tanks assigned to the forces fighting in the Arctic Circle and includes the StuG assault guns assigned to the eleven assault gun battalions deployed for Barbarossa as well as those weapons given to the Waffen-SS motorized divisions and Motorized Infantry Regiment Grossdeutschland and if one then goes with the most reputable estimates published we end up with over 3,500 panzer/assault guns deployed in Eastern Europe. This number can be further broken down as follows: 337 Panzer I, 890 Panzer II, 155 Panzer 35(t), 625 Panzer 38(t), 973 Panzer III, 439 Panzer IV, 225 Beflpz., 259 StuG. So that's what the Germans were starting with when they invaded the Soviet Union. Now, let's fast forward and look at that state of the panzer division's tank strength in each of the three German Army Groups (North, Center, South) following the brutal fighting that characterized Barbarossa's first three months. If Stahel's thesis is correct then by late in August/early September 1941 these divisions should have become mere shells of their former selves.
Let's start with Army Group North's Fourth Panzergruppe. It began Barbarossa with three panzer divisions (the 1st, 6th, 8th) equipped with 156, 256, and 223 panzers respectively. During the campaign it would be reinforced by additional armored elements from Army Group Center. However, by September 10th, or after Army Group North had reached the gates of Leningrad and five days before the Fourth Panzergruppe headquarters, the headquarters for three motorized corps, and four panzer/motorized divisions began their transfer to Army Group Center for Operation Typhoon, these three panzer divisions had lost 131 tanks as total write-offs (Totalausfalle). This meant that on September 10, 1941 the 1st, 6th, and 8th panzer divisions still retained 123, 196, and 187 panzers or 79, 77, and 84 percent of their respective strengths on June 21, 1941. Moreover, these three panzer division's retained these strength levels in spite of receiving only two replacement tanks from Germany during the entire first three plus months of the campaign. Needless to say, this is hardly indicative of a panzer force in collapse. More to the point, it's the first piece of evidence not only challenging Stahel's claims but leaving us to wonder something else: What had the German high command been doing with the surplus of unassigned armor in Germany's tank park (remember this totalled nearly 1,000 armored fighting vehicles) accumulated on the eve of Barbarossa. Perhaps the answer to that question lies in events elsewhere.
German Army Group Center started Barbarossa as by far the strongest Army Group the Wehrmacht had ever assembled. The Second Panzergruppe began Barbarossa with 1,086 panzers in it's 3rd, 4th, 10th, 17th, and 18th panzer divisions. Meanwhile, the Third Panzergruppe started the campaign with 989 panzers in its 7th, 12th, 19th, and 20th panzer divisions. Between June 22nd and early September these two panzer groups (and their initial 2,075 panzers) had fought a series of massive battles as well as penetrating hundreds of miles into the Soviet Union in dusty, hot summer weather not at all friendly to tank engines. Overall, the heavy fighting and rough conditions had resulted in the two panzer groups writing off as completely destroyed (Totalausfalle) 641 tanks. Yet, in spite of all of that by early September Army Group Center's two panzer groups still had 1,480 panzers available or 71.3% of their initial strength. What's more, only 67 of those tanks were replacement vehicles. One interesting takeaway from this is that of the nearly 1,000 surplus tanks in German stocks on the eve of Barbarossa and with German tank production averaging several hundred tanks per month in the intervening three months by early September of 1941 Army Group North and Army Group Center had received a combined total of only 69 replacement tanks. Now to be fair, at the end of September 1941 Army Group Center received from OKH reserve the entire 2nd and 5th Panzer Divisions with 194 and 186 tanks respectively. In addition, Army Group's North (AGN) and South (AGS) also dispatched three panzer divisions to Army Group Center in September (the 1st and 6th from AGN and the 11th from AGS). Many of these formations were quite strong. For instance the 11th Panzer Division while fighting with Army Group South had started Barbarossa with some 157 panzers, and yet it had only suffered permanent losses of 39 vehicles. This thus still leaves us wondering how it was that the Ostheer was already irrepairably damaged. Maybe Army Group South had been sucking up all the replacement tanks?
Army Group South began Barbarossa spearheaded by the First Panzergruppe, which included a powerful armored complement in the form of the 9th, 11th, 13th, 14th, and 16th Panzer Divisions as well as two battalions of assault guns. All told, 792 tanks and 42 StuG's. As is well known, the Soviet Southwestern Front ranked among the Red Army's most powerful formations in June of 1941. It did not fail to make the First Panzergruppe pay dearly for it's advance deep into the Ukraine. By September of 1941 Army Group South had lost 174 tanks as total write-offs. Nevertheless, early in September of 1941 and with the receipt of 20 replacement tanks from Germany First Panzergruppe still had 614 total available panzers of 78% of it's original strength.
So here we are, early in September of 1941 and the three German Army Group's that had been fighting for three and a half months still had on average well over three quarters of their original strength. This, by the way, is remarkable in and of itself. That's because tanks require a tremendous amount of maintenance to stay in running condition. The lay person often forgets that if a panzer division, or a U.S. armored division, or Soviet Tank Corps has an establishment strength of a certain number that in all likelihood and even in ideal conditions this number is almost never held once that unit takes the field. During the Second World War armored units from all nations moving under their own power at any distance greater than relatively short ranges almost always experienced significant numbers of broken down tanks. Even units equipped with the T-34 or M-4 Sherman, the gold-standard of Second World War era tanks in terms of mechanical reliability, often lost as much as twenty percent of their strength to break downs (regardless of combat losses) on extended cross-country operations over a period of days no less weeks or months.
Accordingly, for the Ostheer's panzer divisions to be operating at an average of three quarters their establishment strengths in armor following three plus months of combat against the Red Army says quite a bit about the supposed terminal decline those same panzer divisions had entered as of the late summer of 1941. Furthermore, the Ostheer's Panzergruppe's were maintaining these relatively high rates of available tanks in spite of having received a mere 89 replacement tanks to replace the losses in their original panzer divisions. Now, and to be fair, in September and October of 1941 the German command finally sent 316 replacement panzers to the Ostheer. But again this leaves unaddressed the question surrounding the bulk of the surpluses, what had been done with them, and thus why they weren't being used to maintain Barbarossa's panzer divisions in peak operating condition.
Addressing that issue we find a number of things happening. First off, the German high command had decided to forgo fully reinforcing Barbarossa's panzer divisions in order to pursue a number of competing and, in this author's opinion, questionable and secondary initiatives. For instance, they had been sending considerable numbers of replacement tanks to the Afrika Corp's two panzer divisions. An Afrika Corps that was at that time doing little more than fighting back and forth against the British and their Commonwealth Allies to see who could control Mussolini's strategically irrelevant Libyan colony. In addition, a larger number yet of Germany's surplus tanks had been redirected to equipping new armored formations being formed in the latter half of 1941, such as the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th Panzer Divisions. We also know additional tanks were delivered to Germany's Axis allies - albeit these deliveries included only 184 mostly obsolete models such as the Panzer 38(t). As to this last decision it must be said that it greatly bolstered the strength of Germany's allies and thus represented a wise and, given the numbers and quality of vehicles involved, cheap investment.
Taking all of these decisions together however, a larger picture emerges. For instance, in terms of our understanding, does it seem more likely that Germany lacked the productive capacity to maintain Barbarossa's existing panzer divisions (an idea backed by quantitative based theorists like Stahel) and a development that would mean every additional lost tank in Russia truly represented a slow creeping disaster Germany could not overcome? Or are we seeing that, on the other hand, the German high command had decided to divert resources elsewhere at the expense of the most important campaign in the Third Reich's history? The latter would fit within a qualitative based approach to the war's ouctome as it implicates the way Germany prosecuted the war as a primary factor in her defeat, not the fact that she was massively outproduced by the Allies and Soviet Union.
Now, going back and taking this information presented so far we can see in regards to the Ostheer's panzer divisions during the fall of 1941 that far from having shot their bolt the four panzergruppe's deployed in Russia still retained formidable strength when compared to their original complement of pre-Barbarossa panzers. Furthermore, the only thing in September of 1941 standing between the Ostheer's panzer division's fighting at 100% strength instead of roughly 75% strength in reality were the decisions made by Hitler and OKH/OKW in terms of how they allocated the output of German factories producing more than enough vehicles to keep the Ostheer's tank park fully supplied if that is what they had wanted to accomplish. All of which is indicative not of a Wehrmacht being ground into the dust under the weight of Allied and Soviet numerical superiority as postulated by brute force advocates such as David Stahel, but a German high command whose own decision making was undermining the Axis war effort from within. All of which once again leads us back to the fact that the numbers game many use to show the hopelessness of the German position doesn't add up. Nor does it work for producing a better understanding for why the Second World War ended as it did.
Production licenses [ edit ]
|This is a community maintained wiki. If you spot a mistake then you are welcome to fix it.|
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Nations may pay for production licenses from nations that already have researched a technology. The cost is generally 1 civilian factory. The factory goes to the nation whose equipment is being licensed.
A nation with good relations with a foreign nation can request a license from them to produce the foreign equipment. The equipment type a nation is willing to license out is dependent on their relations. Germany, for example, may not be willing to license out their latest tank or fighter designs, but would be happy to provide Panzer IIs to friendly or neutral nations. National focuses may also provide a way to gain licenses or provide bonuses to license production.
Producing licensed equipment will not be quite as efficient as producing the player's own designs. A cutting edge license production will have a noticeable output penalty, but a design a few years old will be almost as efficient to produce as a self-owned technology. If you aren't in the same faction as the owner of the design, you will also receive a little bit less technical support and manufacturing assistance.
Licensing equipment also gives a 20 % research bonus for the related technology if one is interested in unlocking it in the future.
World War II Database
ww2dbase The Panzerkampfwagen III medium tanks, PzKpfw III for short, or Panzer III mainly in English, were designed by the German Army Weapons Department in 1935 following Heinz Guderian's specifications requested in early 1934. Manufacturers Daimler-Benz, Krupp, MAN, and Rheinmetall all produced prototypes which were tested in 1936 and 1937, and Daimler-Benz's design was chosen for production in early 1937. The first Panzer III medium tank came off the assembly line in May 1937, but true mass production would not start until 1939. By the mid-1940s, they were the standard tanks of the German Army.
ww2dbase Panzer III medium tanks had boxy fronts with vertically sloped armor. The drivers were seated to the left, and the radio operators to the right. The turrets atop the tanks seated three men, which was more than some of their contemporaries, making them more efficient in firing successively in battle. The commanders' cupolas were on top of the turrets. The engines were in the rear, coupled with air-cooled radiators. They carried 15-mm of homogeneous steel armor on all sides, 10-mm on top of the tank, and 5-mm at the bottom. In variants D and after, the side armor thickness was increased to 30-mm. Contemporary tank armor tended to be thick in the front and minimal on the two sides and in the rear, but the Panzer III medium tanks went the route of equally thick armor on all sides because of the threat of infantry-carried anti-tank weapons, which might come from all directions. The unusually thick armor was done at the sacrifice of vehicle speed. Later variants further bolstered armor thickness to as much as 70-mm, though these later upgrades tended to go back to the conventional wisdom of reinforcing front hull armor. The primary guns of the first Panzer III medium tanks built before the Polish invasion were 3.7-cm guns, which served well in Poland and even in the subsequent French conquest. Later in the war, however, they were upgraded with 5-cm guns in the face of better enemy tanks.
ww2dbase PzKpfw III Light Tank Production, 1937-1943
|Model (Ausführung)||Production Year(s)||Quantity|
ww2dbase By 1942, the Panzer IV medium tanks had taken over as the main medium tanks of the German Army, but Panzer III medium tanks continued in production until 1943 and remained in use until the end of the war some late production Panzer III tanks even had their primary guns upgraded so they could operate beside Panzer IV tanks in support as tank destroyers, but most of them served mainly as infantry support tanks.
ww2dbase When production ceased in 1943, 5,774 Panzer III medium tanks were built.
ww2dbase Sources: M3 Medium Tank vs. Panzer III, Wikipedia.
Last Major Revision: Aug 2008
|Machinery||One Maybach HL 120 TRM 12-cyl gasoline engine rated at 320hp|
|Armament||1x5cm KwK 39 gun, 2x7.92mm MG34 machine guns|
|Armor||50mm front, 30mm sides, 10mm top, 5mm bottom|
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Schnell Jagdpanzer SchK I Aureole/75 [ edit | edit source ]
One of three fake German tanks made for the 1999 Playstation 1/Dreamcast game "Panzer Front". The name "Schnell Jagdpanzer" means "Fast tank destroyer", however the meaning of "SchK" is unclear. Possibly it stands for "Schnellkannone". "Aureole" is a French word meaning "halo". The most ridiculous thing about the Aureole's is that they were powered by twin jet turbines that shot flames out of the back. While turbine-powered tanks were something the Germans looked into (see Panzerkampfwagen Panther GT 101), the turbine would have been significantly down-tuned in order to power such a heavy vehicle.
Development history [ edit | edit source ]
A6 "Sixteen tonners" [ edit | edit source ]
In 1926, the British War Office wanted to replace their existing Mark II tanks with a new design. In May the Royal Tank Corps Centre was asked for its opinion, which it submitted in July. One of the requirements was a weight limit of 15.5 tons, which led to the nickname "16-tonners". Other specifications included that it could transported by rail a sufficient supply of lubrication oil to match the range of the tank (dictated by the fuel carried) a wireless set a gun capable of defeating enemy armour at a range of at least a thousand yards fuel tanks external to the main compartments and bottom armour sufficient to withstand heavy machine-gun fire when exposed while climbing a crest. Furthermore the machine should be as silent as possible, as with previous types the engine noise tended to incapacitate the crew.
The War Office added some extra requirements: a separate engine compartment superior steering capacity and 13 millimetres frontal armour with 9 millimetres thickness for the other plates.
In September Vickers, given the order to build a prototype, proposed a first design based on the Vickers A1E1 Independent, with the fighting compartment in front and the engine compartment at the back. There would be a central two-man turret with a 3-pounder (47 mm) gun and a coaxial machine-gun it was intended to house the commander and a special observer, each being provided a separate cupola. In the front of the hull were to be placed two secondary machine-gun turrets, each with a twin Vickers machine gun. At the back of the vehicle, behind the main turret a third machine-gun turret was intended, armed with an anti-aircraft (AA) weapon. A crew was needed of seven men. Maximum armour would be 13 millimetres and basis armour 6.5 millimetres, limiting the weight to fourteen tons. Riveted plates were used. The total fuel supply would be 120 imp gal (550 l) gallons: ten in a small tank inside, gravity feeding the engine the remainder in external tanks on the fenders. Two engine options were indicated: a 120 hp engine would allow for a speed of 14 mph and a 180 hp engine would raise this to 20 mph (32 km/h).
The result was called A6. In March 1927 a wooden mock-up was presented and after approval a second and prototype were ordered which had to incorporate the new hydraulically operated Wilson epicyclic steering gearbox, the predecessor of the Merrit-Brown gearbox. By June 1928 both prototypes (A6E1 and A6E2) were presented to the Mechanized Warfare Experimental Establishment for trials. Vickers was on this occasion ordered to add armour skirts but keep within the weight limit even if it meant removing armour elsewhere. Meanwhile a third prototype had been ordered: A6E3.
A6E1, A6E2 and A6E3 were fitted with an Armstrong Siddeley air-cooled V8 180 hp engine giving a maximum speed of 26 mph. A6E2 was fitted with the Ricardo CI 180 hp engine but this was not satisfactory and the Armstrong-Siddeley refitted. A6E3 was later re-engined with the Thornycroft 6V 500 hp - a slow running marine engine. It was proposed to combine two Rolls-Royce Phantom engines with the Wilson transmission system on the A6E1, but in view of the costs this was rejected. A6E2 was eventually refitted with the AS V8 180 hp.
The guns were tested in July 1928. This proved that the twin-machine gun arrangement was unworkable so the A6E3, then being constructed, was fitted with a simplified design with a single machine-gun it also had single cupola on the centreline of the turret. The AA-turret was removed from A6E1. However it was also shown that the suspension and the gunnery arrangements were distinctly inferior to those of the Mark II. It was therefore decided to discontinue the development of the type and use the three vehicles merely as test-beds for the automotive parts. In 1929 Vickers submitted three alternative suspension designs, which were fitted to the respective prototypes one of these, tried on A6E3, involved a fundamental reconstruction of the hull. None proved able to provide a stable gun platform. Only in 1934 a satisfactory type was fitted by a specialised firm. Ώ]
Medium Mark III [ edit | edit source ]
A Medium III in use as a command vehicle
The disappointments in the A6 design led to a new design, the "Medium Mark III", being ordered in 1928 and constructed from 1930. ΐ] It was similar to the A6 design but featured a new turret and improved armour. The turret had a flat gun mantlet and a bulge at the back to hold the radio set. The secondary machine-gun turrets were moved more to the front to shift the centre of gravity of the entire vehicle forward to improve its stability. Larger brakes were fitted. In 1933 trials were completed of the first two prototypes. The type was reliable and provided a good gun platform. However, it still suffered from its bad suspension design: even though road speed increased to thirty miles per hour, during cross-country rides the bogies were often overloaded. Three Mark IIIs were built, one by Vickers and two by the Royal Ordnance Factory at Woolwich: Medium III E1, E2 and E3. The third had an improved suspension and the vehicles were in 1934 taken into use by the HQ of the Tank Brigade. However, no orders followed due to its high price Medium III E2 was lost to a fire.
One of the Mark IIIs was fitted as a command vehicle with an extra radio aerial around the turret. This was used by Brigadier Percy Hobart for the Salisbury Plain exercises during 1934. Α]