German antitank weapons are divided into several
classes. The main class comprises guns built specifically for antitank
missions and falls into three groups—guns of conventional German design,
guns built with tapered-bore tubes, and captured antitank weapons.
The orthodox German guns in the first group are
designed to achieve armor penetration at maximum ranges by using relatively
heavy projectiles with high velocities. The first such gun was the 37-mm
Rheinmetall (the 3.7-cm Pak). This was too limited in power at the time
of the Battle of France (1940), and was superseded by the 50-mm 5-cm Pak 38.
This 50-mm weapon is gradually being replaced, in turn, by the
75-mm 7.5-cm Pak 40,
which is the standard German antitank gun of today. Since the
Pak 40 is capable of penetrating 4.43 inches of armor at 500 yards, it is
considered an adequate weapon. These three guns all have similar basic
features: split tubular trails, a low silhouette, and a large shield. All have
been kept as light as possible to increase tactical mobility. The 50-mm and the
75-mm guns employ muzzle brakes to reduce recoil and thus permit lighter
carriages. In 1944 another gun, the 88-mm
8.8-cm Pak 43/41, was added to this group.
Although this gun is extremely powerful (it penetrates 4.4 inches of armor at
2,500 yards), its great weight on its split-trail, two-wheeled carriage
somewhat reduces its mobility. Another version of this gun—the 8.8-cm Pak
43—mounts the same tube, but on a carriage like that of the
well-known 88-mm antiaircraft guns of the Flak 18 and 36 types.
|German antitank guns of the normal type. At the
left is the 3.7-cm Pak; at the right, the
5-cm Pak 38; in the rear, the 7.5-cm
The guns in the tapered-bore group are intended
to have greater mobility than conventional guns capable of achieving identical
armor penetration. Tapered-bore guns seek to achieve penetration at short
ranges, using light projectiles fired at very high muzzle velocities. Tungsten,
which is becoming increasingly difficult for the Germans to obtain, is
necessary in the manufacture of projectiles for these guns; also, the
performance of the guns in combat has been a disappointment to the Germans. All
three of the tapered-bore guns bear the same date of standardization—1941.
First to be introduced was the very light 28/20-mm gun 2.8-cm s.Pz.B. 41. So
light that it can easily be
manhandled by one gunner, the 28/20 has been
used by mountain troops, who can break it up into loads and climb with it, and
also has been used in an airborne version. It has been issued extensively to
armored and motorized infantry as a rifle company antitank weapon. The next
larger tapered-bore gun, the 42/28-mm 4.2-cm Pak 41, is mounted on a
modified 3.7-cm Pak carriage; this weapon also has been used by
mountain troops. The largest is the 75/55-mm 7.5-cm Pak 41. The 75/55
has a most unusual carriage. There is no axle; instead, the wheels are secured
to the thick shield, with the gun trunnioning on the shield as well. This gun
has not been issued in large quantities.
tapered-bore 28/20-mm gun, s.Pz.B. 41.|
|The airborne 28/20-mm antitank gun.|
|The tapered-bore 42/28-mm
4.2-cm Pak (right) resembles the
3.7.cm Pak (left).|
tapered bore 7.5-cm Pak 41.|
The group of captured antitank weapons includes
a number of types that the German Army had seized in the course of its
conquests. Most of these guns had been designed
and built before 1940. The Germans have used them as stop-gap weapons,
substituting them for the better matériel that German factories have not
been able to produce in sufficient quantity. For example, extensive use is
made of the French Model 1937 47-mm gun (4.7-Pak 181 (f)), which has an
effective range of only 550 yards. However, there are two really useful and
efficient weapons that the Germans have put to considerable use. One is the
Soviet 76.2-mm Model 1936 field gun, which the Red Army designed with an eye to
using it for antitank and even antiaircraft purposes. The Germans have found
this high-velocity gun valuable, and have modified it by adding a double shield
and, sometimes, a muzzle brake. Although it is an alternate weapon with the
75-mm Pak 40 and the
88-mm antitank guns in the German Army, the
Soviets have found it too heavy and badly balanced, and have issued what they
consider superior antitank and field guns to replace it. Another foreign gun
favored by the German is the famous 75-mm Schneider field gun, Model 1897.
Many of these have been captured from various European countries, especially
from France. The Germans have modified the 75-mm Schneider by fitting it with a
large muzzle brake and by putting the gun on their own 50-mm antitank gun
carriage. They call the result the 7.5-cm Pak 97/38. Since the French 75
lacks muzzle velocity, it cannot be regarded as a satisfactory modern antitank
|The French Model 1937 47-mm Gun.|
|Two non-German guns that the
German Army uses in an antitank role are shown at the left and right. At
the left is the French 75 fitted with a muzzle brake and mounted on the
Pak 38 carriage. At the right is the Russian Model 1936
field gun rebuilt as the 7.62-cm Pak 36 (r).
The gun in the center is the gun with which the Russians intended to
replace the Model 1936; it is known as the 76.2-mm Model 1939
field gun. The Germans have fitted it with a muzzle brake, and although they
class it as a field gun, they also use it in an antitank role.|
A second and highly important class of antitank
weapons consists of antiaircraft guns employed in an antitank role. The high
velocity of antiaircraft guns makes them suitable for antitank missions, and,
since 1940, German designers have paid special attention to the possibility
that any German antiaircraft gun may be used as a dual-purpose weapon. The
smaller guns—the 20-mm 2-cm Flak 30
and 38, and the 37-mm 3.7-cm
Flak 18 and 36—are now of little value in an antitank role
because of their lack of power. They remain effective against lightly armored
vehicles, and against the vision slits, ports, and optical
apparatus of larger tanks. The newer 50-mm 5-cm
Flak 41, which resembles the 37's, is not much more effective. The 88‑mm
guns are notorious for their effectiveness against tanks of all sizes. These
guns include the Flak 18 series (that is, the Flak 18, 36, and
37) and the Flak 41. Those in the Flak 18 series have mobile
cruciform carriages with four outriggers, and are capable of effective fire
with heavy projectiles at great ranges. They differ in minor details only. The Flak
41 is a somewhat similar weapon, but much more powerful, having a greatly
increased muzzle velocity. Introduced in 1942, it is similar to the 8.8-cm
Pak 43/41 in that its great weight renders
it less mobile than would seem desirable. Fitted
with a large shield, it was designed with greater consideration for antitank
fire than were the guns in the Flak 18 series. The latter, as a matter
of fact, usually are fitted with a special carriage and
shield when they are to function primarily in an
antitank role. This carriage permits a limited field of forward fire from the
wheels without the necessity of emplacing the gun. A Soviet gun—the 85-mm
Model 1939—has been fitted with an 88-mm liner, and is now in German service
as the 8.5/8.8-cm Flak 30(r). This gun bears a general resemblance to
those in the Flak 18 series, and gives a similar performance.
|The 20-mm antiaircraft gun,
2-cm Flak 38.|
|The 8.8-cm Flak 36,
emplaced (in Russia). When this gun is off its carriage, as shown here, it
can fire against aircraft. However, the Germans fit it with a shield when
they intend to use it primarily against tanks.|
|An 8.8-cm Flak 41 emplaced
It is notable that, in the case of most of the
guns mentioned, the Germans have made every effort to cut down on weight so as
to gain tactical mobility. While the use of light metals and lighter carriages
through employment of recoil-reducing muzzle brakes has been general, there has
been a recent tendency to retain mobility but to increase muzzle velocity by reducing
the gun-tube safety factor. This appears to have been done even in the case of
such heavy weapons as the 88-mm Pak 43/41 and the Flak 41. The
tendency has been especially noticeable in German adaptations of such captured
weapons as the Soviet Model 1939 antiaircraft gun and the Soviet Model 1936 field
gun, the chambers of which have been altered to take more powerful charges.
Another important class of antitank weapons is
composed of the self-propelled antitank guns, or tank destroyers. These generally
comprise modern antitank guns mounted on lightly armored tank chassis. Typical
of the best of this class are the Rhinoceros (an 88 mounted on a modified tank
chassis made of Pz.Kpfw. III and Pz.Kpfw. IV parts), the 75-mm
7.5-cm Pak 40 (Sf), and the 76.2-mm 7.62-cm Pak 36(r) (Sf) on the
Panzerjäger II (or Marder II) chassis or the
Panzerjäger 38, (or Marder III) chassis. (The terms
Marder II and III refer to highly modified
tank chassis of the Pz.Kpfw. II and Pz.Kpfw. 38(t), with engines
moved forward so that gunners can stand on the floor of the hull. Panzerjäger
is a general term referring to all highly modified chassis for German tank
destroyers.) Such changes give the vehicles a lower silhouette. They represent
an advance from the period 1941-42, when the Germans quickly mounted any sort
of antitank weapon on any sort of chassis. Since many of the latter types of
self-propelled guns are in use
today, it may be said that there are as many types of German self-propelled antitank
guns as there are possible combinations of guns and chassis.
|The 88-mm tank destroyer Rhinoceros.|
tank destroyer on a modified chassis—7.5-cm
Pak 40 (Sf.) auf Pz. Jäg. 38 (Marder III).|
|A 75-mm tank
destroyer on a modified chassis—7.5-cm
Pak 40 (Sf.) auf Pz. Jäg. II (Marder II).
|76-mm tank destroyer
on an unmodified chassis—7.62-cm Pak 36 (r) auf
Pz. Kpfw. 38 (t).|
One of the latest and most powerful tank destroyers is the Jagdpanther,
or Panzerjäger Panther. This weapon is an 88-mm gun of late design on a Panther tank
chassis, suitably modified. The gun is so well armored that there is actually
hard to distinguish the Jagdpanther from an assault gun.
|The 88-mm tank destroyer
German assault guns now must be listed as a class of available antitank weapons,
although their primary mission is direct infantry support. The most common type
of assault gun is the long 75-mm gun with muzzle brake, mounted on a
Pz.Kpfw. III chassis. This type is known as the 7.5-cm Sturmgeschütz 40.
A big assault gun formerly called the "Ferdinand," but now known as the
"Elephant," mounts an 88. It is thought that production of this heavy
70-ton vehicle may have been discontinued. German assault guns of the types
mentioned have guns mounted in low armored boxes, instead of in turrets. Fire
is only to the
front, with very limited traverse. Armor is weak on the rear and top.
|A side view of the
widely used 75-mm assault gun, 7.5-cm Stu. G. 40.|
|A top view of the
7.5-cm Stu. G. 40. This is a slightly earlier model than
the one shown in the preceding photograph. Removable anti-bazooka/antitank grenade
plates are in place.|
German development of the hollow-charge shell, which began as early as 1938, has
permitted employment of all low-velocity infantry howitzers and field artillery
in emergency antitank roles. The principle of the hollow charge is well known.
Low-velocity weapons merely have to throw their hollow-charge projectiles
against an armor surface. On striking the armor, the light streamlined cap of
the shell is crushed. The explosive then exerts a concentrated force against a
small area of the armor. The concentrated blast which results is intended to
effect a penetration of the tank armor.
Hollow-charge shells have been furnished for standard infantry guns and artillery of German
divisions of all types—in particular, the 75-mm and 150-mm infantry
howitzers, the 105-mm and 150-mm field howitzers, and the 105-mm guns.
Since many antitank guns of obsolete models still are in service, the Germans have
introduced the stick bomb, another development of the hollow charge, in an
effort to make the most of such equipment. Stick bombs consist of very large
charges mounted on a spigot. The spigot is inserted in the gun muzzle, and the
whole is propelled by firing a special blank round. Stick bombs are furnished
for the 3.7-cm Pak, 15-cm s. I.G. 33, and the French Model 1937 47-mm
antitank gun. Such bombs have short range and limited accuracy. The French 47,
for instance, fires its stick bomb at ranges of from 200 to 275 yards only.
A most important class of antitank weapons was almost completely neglected until
Germany invaded the Soviets. Only then, apparently, did the German High Command
become seriously interested in the effectiveness of close-combat antitank
weapons and techniques. The Germans were in such a hurry to introduce this type
of warfare that the first German manuals on the subject hardly bothered to
change the Soviet drawings that
they copied. As a result, German soldiers studying antitank close combat were
treated to illustrations which showed Soviet troops successfully demolishing
Pz.Kpfw. I's with all varieties of close-combat weapons.
Prior to the Russian campaign, the Germans had issued a company antitank weapon—the
7.9-mm antitank rifle. But after the Russian campaign had got under way, the
Germans began to convert this weapon into a grenade launcher which could fire
hollow-charge antitank grenades.
|The antitank rifle
modified into a grenade discharger.|
Readers of the Intelligence Bulletin already are familiar with the simpler
devices used in close antitank combat—Molotov cocktails, bottles of
phosphorus, sliding and hand-thrown mines, magnetic hollow charges, sticky
bombs, and weapons of a similar nature. Readers also are familiar with such
weapons as the antitank hollow-charge grenade which can be launched from the
standard rifle, and with the signal pistol fitted to fire hollow charges.
However, the non-recoil weapons of the bazooka type—a most important
group—have not yet been discussed.
Of this group the first weapon to be adopted was a frank copy of the bazooka. The
larger German version is called the 8.8-cm Raketenpanzerbüchse 43, or
Ofenrohr (stovepipe) for short. Sometimes it is called the
Panzerschreck—(tank terror). The Ofenrohr fires an 88-mm
hollow-charge projectile weighing 7 pounds. The maximum range is about 165
yards. The Ofenrohr is clumsier than the bazooka, and is reputed to
be less accurate.
|The Ofenrohr, with the
projectile used in it and in the Püppchen.|
The Püppchen ("Dolly"), a carriage-mounted rocket launcher with
breechblock also fires the 88-mm rocket. Although the Püppchen has
wheels, the gun can be fired from little sleighs to achieve a very low
silhouette. While the Püppchen, has a range of 770 yards, is very
lightly built, and is likely to smash up when towed by motor vehicles.
The great majority of the non-recoil weapons are devices known as Panzerfaust. There
are three of these—the little Panzerfaust klein 30 (formerly the
Faustpatrone I), the Panzerfaust 30 (formerly the Faustpatrone II), and
the Panzerfaust 60. The little Panzerfaust is called Gretchen for
short, while the 30 is known simply as Panzerfäuste. The tubes
are similar, and have a sight and firing mechanism. They are 1 3/4 inches in
diameter and 2 feet, 7 1/2 inches long. The projectiles are very large hollow
charges. The charge for the Gretchen weighs 3 pounds, 4 ounces; that for
the Panzerfaust weighs 6 pounds 14 ounces. Each is mounted on a wooden
tail rod fitted with spring-steel vanes. These vanes wrap around the rod when
the rod is inserted in the muzzle of the launching tube, and spring out to
guide the projectile after firing. The tubes are expendable, and contain
the propelling charge fired by percussion. The range is very
limited, and is indicated by the designation (30 means 30 meters
range, or 33 yards; 60, 66 yards). The operator must take cover
after discharging a projectile. Also, he must wear a helmet as
protection against a rain of fragments and debris, keep his eyes
closed, and keep the front edge of his helmet against the ground.
The jet of flame to the rear is fatal up to 10 feet; the operator
must take this into account when firing, and make sure that no
walls or other obstacles will block the jet. The tubes are held
under the right arm. The left hand supports the front of the
tube, while the right hand is free to pull out the safety pin, cock
the striker, and press the release button. Sighting is effected by
aligning the top of the sight and the top edge of the projectile.
To date, all the Panzerfäuste have proved dangerous to the user.
It is believed that every effort will be made to improve them—especially
with regard to increasing the range. Armor
penetration is good; the Germans claim as much as 7.9 inches for the
Panzerfaust 30. It is estimated that actual penetration is around
|The Panzerfaust 30,
with sight raised and projectile shown separately.
The projectile vanes are extended.|
|A U. S. soldier
demonstrates the Panzerfaust klein 30.|
Since Allied airpower has curtailed the mobility of German
antitank guns, the Germans have been compelled to place great
stress on the Ofenrohr and the Faustpatrone. Large quantities
of these have been issued. The Ofenrohr is chiefly a regimental
antitank company weapon, but the Faustpatronne is furnished
on a generous scale to each rifle company. Reports from the field
indicate that the Faustpatrone has been especially well liked by
An even more recent development is the Panzerwurfmine.
This is a hand-thrown hollow charge; it is similar in size and
shape to the Faustpatrone projectiles, except that its vanes are
made of cloth.
with vanes folded.|
throwing of the Panzerwurfmine.|
1 In Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. III, No. 2, p. 19,
lines 9 and 10 should read ". . . . the Germans have a new 88-mm
(3.46-inch) tank gun, the Kw.K. 43 . . . ."
Glossary of German Terms
Elefant (Elephant) -- an 88-mm gun mounted on the Panzerjäger
Tiger P (a highly modified Tiger tank chassis). This was formerly known as
(f) -- a French weapon officially adopted by the
German forces. The letter follows the weapon designation.
Faustpatrone -- obsolete name for a Panzerfaust.
Flak (Flugabwehrkanone) -- antiaircraft, or antiaircraft gun.
Gr.B. (Granatbüchse) -- a special rifle for
launching antitank grenades.
Jagdpanther -- an 88-mm antitank gun
mounted on the Panzerjäger Panther (a highly modified Panther
Marder (Marten) -- name of a bird, used to designate
three types of tank destroyer (Panzerjäger) chassis:
Marten I -- the Panzerjäger Lr.S. chassis,
which is a highly modified French Lorraine tractor chassis.
Marten II -- the Panzerjäger II chassis,
which is a highly modified Pz.Kpfw. II chassis.
Marten III -- the Panzerjäger 38 chassis,
which is a highly modified Pz.Kpfw. 38(t) chassis.
These chassis when designated Marten mount
either the 75-mm Pak 40 or the 76.2-mm Pak 36 (r).
Nashorn (Rhinoceros) -- an 88-mm antitank gun mounted on
the Panzerjäger III/IV, and formerly known as the Hornisse (Hornet).
(The Panzerjäger III/IV is a highly modified chassis made from parts of
the Pz.Kpfw. III and IV.)
Pak (Panzerabwehrkanone) -- antitank, or antitank gun.
(Panzerjägerkanone is the new word for antitank guns,
but the abbreviation still is Pak.)
Panzerfaust -- a recoilless, one-man antitank grenade launcher. At
one time Panzerfaust referred only to one model of launcher.
Pz.B. (Panzerbüchse) -- antitank rifle; if preceded by
the letter "s", a heavy anti-tank rifle.
Pz.Jäg (Panzerjäger) --
(1) Antitank and tank destroyer (new term).
(2) A chassis of some vehicle highly modified in
order to mount an anti-tank gun.
Pz.Kpfw. (formerly Pz.Kw.) (Panzerkampfwagen) -- tank.
(r) -- a Soviet (Russian) weapon officially
adopted by the German forces. The letter follows the weapon designation.
R.Pz.B. (Raketen-Paazerbüchse) -- a
rocket launcher of the bazooka type.
s.I.G. (Schweres Infanteriegeschütz) -- a heavy infantry cannon.
Stu.G. (Sturmgeschütz) -- an assault gun (refers to
complete unit of gun and carriage).
(t) -- a Czechoslovakian weapon officially
adopted by the German forces. The letter follows the weapon designation.