German combat vehicles of World War II

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The German Wehrmacht used an extensive variety of combat vehicles during the Second World War. This article is a summary of those vehicles.

Panther tank production line

Tanks[edit]

Leichttraktor[edit]

The V.K.31 Leichttraktor ("Light tractor") was an experimental German light fighting tank developed in the 1920s under secret conditions. Only four were produced and they used in the late 1930s and the early part of the war for training purposes.

Panzer I[edit]

Also known as: PzKpfw I, 'Panzer I', Sd. Kfz. 101
The Panzer I was not intended as a combat vehicle, but more to familiarise industry and the army with tanks. By the time production had ended in 1937, a total of 1867 Pz I hulls had been produced, of which 1493 were fitted with turrets, and the rest used as command or training vehicles.

Variants:

  • Panzerjäger I = captured Czech 47 mm Pak(t) 36 L/43.4 on Panzer I chassis (Sd. Kfz.101)
  • Sturmpanzer I (Bison), 150 mm heavy infantry gun on Panzer I Ausf.B chassis

Panzer II[edit]

Also known as: PzKpfw II, 'Panzer II', Sd. Kfz. 121
The Panzer II was a heavier vehicle, designed to replace the Panzer I. It was armed with a 20 mm cannon which had some capability against other armoured vehicles. Before the war started, 1,223 had been built.

Variants:

  • Panzer II (f) = flamethrower tank
  • Marder II = 75 mm Pak 40 gun on Panzer II chassis (Sd. Kfz. 131)
  • Marder II = captured Russian 76.2 mm gun on Panzer II Ausf. D/E chassis (Sd. Kfz. 132)
  • Wespe = 105 mm light field howitzer on Panzer II chassis (Sd. Kfz. 124)

Panzer 35(t)[edit]

Also known as PzKpfw 35(t) In March 1939 Germany occupied Bohemia and Moravia and took over the Czech arms manufacturing industries. The LT-35 tank was renamed to Panzer 35(t) with "t" standing for tschechisch, the German word for Czech.

Panzer 38(t)[edit]

Also known as: PzKpfw 38(t), 'Panzer 38(t)', Sd. Kfz. 140
In March 1939 Germany invaded the rest of Czech territory and took over the Czech arms manufacturing industries. The Czech LT-38 tank, then in production, was produced for German use as the Panzer 38(t) ("t" standing for tschechisch, German for Czech). By the start of the war, 78 Panzer 38(t) tanks had been produced.

Germany continued producing the Panzer 38(t) during the war. By early 1942, it was clearly obsolete. However, the production lines were already running, the vehicle was mechanically reliable, and the factory would have had difficulty moving over to larger tanks, so it was decided to find other uses for the Panzer 38(t) chassis for self-propelled guns.

Variants:

  • Marder 138 (Marder III) = 75 mm Pak 40 gun on Panzer 38(t) chassis (Sd. Kfz. 138)
  • Marder 139 (Marder III)= captured Russian 76.2 mm gun on Panzer 38(t) chassis (Sd. Kfz. 139)
  • Grille = 150 mm heavy infantry gun on Panzer 38(t) chassis (SdKfz 138/1)
  • Jagdpanzer 38(t) "Hetzer" = 75 mm L/48 Pak39 gun on a widened Pz 38(t) chassis

Panzer III[edit]

Also known as: PzKpfw III, 'Panzer III', Sd. Kfz. 141
The Panzer III was designed as a medium tank, with a high-velocity 37 mm gun. Pre-war production was 98 vehicles. During the war, the Pz III was upgunned to a 50 mm L/42 gun, then to an even higher velocity 50 mm L/60 gun, in order to improve its anti-tank performance. A low-velocity 75 mm gun was also fitted (using the same mount as the early Panzer IV), but since the tank was not large enough to fit a high-velocity 75 mm gun, production was halted mid-war, although the chassis continued to be used to build assault guns.

The Panzer III was the first tank to have a 3-man turret: the commander did not have to double up as a loader or a gunner, so he could concentrate on commanding the tank.

Variants:

  • Panzer III A-F= armed with 37 mm L/45 gun
  • Panzer III F-M = armed with 50 mm L/42 or L/60 gun
  • Panzer III N = armed with 75 mm L/24 gun, used for Infantry support
  • Panzer III (f) = armed with flamethrower
  • Sturmgeschütz III = Sturmgeschütz 40= Assault Gun armed with 75 mm L/24 (A-E), later with L/43 (F) and L/48 gun (F8 & G) (Sd. Kfz. 142)
  • StuH 42 = Sturmhaubitze 42. StuG III with 105 mm light field howitzer (Sd. Kfz. 142/2)

Panzer IV[edit]

Also known as: PzKpfw IV, 'Panzer IV', Sd. Kfz. 161
The Panzer IV was designed alongside the Panzer III. The Panzer IV was a slightly larger and heavier tank, and with its large calibre low velocity gun, it was designed to support the Panzer III when it met heavy resistance from infantry support. Pre-war production was 211 tanks. Originally armed with a low-velocity 75 mm L/24 gun, in 1942 this was upgraded to a 75 mm L/43 gun, and 1943 to a 75 mm L/48 gun.

Variants:

  • Panzer IV A-F1 = Panzer IV with 75 mm L/24 gun
  • Panzer IV F2-J = Panzer IV with 75 mm L/43 or L/48 gun
  • Sturmgeschütz IV = Assault Gun. Superstructure of Sturmgeschütz III on Panzer IV chassis; armed with 75 mm L/48 gun (Sd. Kfz. 167)
  • Jagdpanzer IV = Tank Destroyer with 75 mm L/48, later L/70, gun on Panzer IV chassis (Sd. Kfz. 162)
  • Sturmpanzer IV Brummbär with 150 mm field howitzer on Panzer IV chassis (Sd. Kfz. 166)
  • Hummel = 150 mm field howitzer on Geschützwagen III/IV chassis (Sd. Kfz. 165)
  • Hornisse = 88 mm Pak43/1 auf Geschützwagen III/IV, later known as Nashorn (Sd. Kfz. 164)
  • Möbelwagen = Anti Aircraft. 37 mm Flak 43 L/89 on Panzer IV chassis (Flakpanzer IV Sd. Kfz.161/3)
  • Wirbelwind = Anti Aircraft. quadruple 20 mm Flak 38 L/112.5 guns on Panzer IV chassis, with armoured turret (Flakpanzer IV)
  • Ostwind = Anti Aircraft. 37 mm Flak 43 L/89 on Panzer IV chassis, with armoured turret (Flakpanzer IV)

Panzerkampfwagen V "Panther"[edit]

Also known as: PzKpfw V, 'Panzer V', Panther, Sd. Kfz. 171
The Panther was a medium tank of the German Army in World War II. Until 1944 it was designated as the PzKpfw V Panther. The production Panther was a direct response to the Soviet T-34, after encountering difficulties fighting the Soviet T-34, Colonel General Heinz Guderian (Inspector of Panzer Troops) suggested simply copying the T-34; although the report of the enquiry recommended that the main attributes of the T-34 - armament, sloped armor and suspension - be incorporated into a new German Medium weight tank. Two proposals made by Daimler-Benz and by MAN Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg. Both early named VK30.02.

Variants:

  • Panther Ausf. D = first production version, armed with 75 mm KwK 42 L/70 gun
  • Panther Ausf. A = second production version, improved Ausf. D
  • Panther Ausf. G = additional armour
  • Jagdpanther = Tank Destroyer with an 88 mm L/71 PaK 43 gun on Panzer V chassis (Sd. Kfz. 173)

Panzer VI Ausf. E "Tiger"[edit]

Also known as: PzKpfw VIE, 'Panzer VIE', Tiger I, Sd. Kfz. 181
The Tiger I (Panzer VIE) was armed with an 88 mm L/56 gun. On May 26, 1941 Hitler ordered the Henschel and Porsche firms to design a new heavy tank. The Henschel design won the competition and became the Tiger. A few Porsche Tigers were made, with a different chassis, but these were not as reliable as the Henschel model. Many of the Porsche chassis were converted into tank destroyers, known as Elefant.

Variant:

Panzer VI Ausf. B "Königstiger"[edit]

Also known as: PzKpfw VIB, 'Panzer VIB', Tiger II, King Tiger, Royal Tiger, Sd. Kfz. 182
The Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger II Ausf. B "Königstiger" (Sd. Kfz.182) / VK4503(H) was a heavy tank in the later half of World War II. Armed with an 88 mm L/71 gun the vehicle could perform well in the defensive role on the eastern and western fronts but was an expensive failure for Nazi Germany when used in an offensive role as a main battle tank. The Tiger II combined one of the most capable AT guns of the period with heavy armour, but had an over-burdened engine and lacked reliability.

Variant:

  • Jagdtiger was armed with a 128 mm L/55 Pak44 gun (Sd. Kfz. 186)

Self-propelled artillery[edit]

Wespe[edit]

105 mm howitzer built on Panzer II chassis

Grille[edit]

150 mm heavy infantry gun built on Panzer 38(t) chassis, sometimes wrongly named "Bison"

Hummel[edit]

The Hummel was a self-propelled artillery piece fielding a 150 mm howitzer on a chassis that combined features of both the Panzer III and Panzer IV. Some 666 Hummels plus 150 Hummel ammunition carriers were built from 1943 to 1944.

Heuschrecke[edit]

The Heuschrecke was a self-propelled artillery piece with a 105 millimetre leFH 18/1 L/28 on a Panzer IV chassis. Production never started as it would have affected production of tanks.

Assault guns[edit]

An assault gun is an armoured fighting vehicle similar to a tank, but typically does not have a rotating turret, and may have an open roof. The removal of the turret allows for a much larger gun to be carried on a smaller chassis. They are not intended to fight other AFVs, but instead directly support infantry during assaults on prepared positions. However they were still often fitted with AT guns to destroy AFVs.

During World War II Germany built many more assault guns than tanks, because of their relative cheapness and simplicity.

Sturmgeschütz III
built on the Panzer III chassis
Sturmgeschütz IV
built on the Panzer IV chassis with 75 mm gun
Sturmpanzer IV ("Brummbär")
with 150 mm gun built on the Panzer IV chassis
Sturmtiger
built on the Tiger I chassis, 380 mm rocket projector

Tank destroyers[edit]

Panzerjäger I[edit]

(built on the Panzer I chassis)

Jagdpanzer 38(t) "Hetzer"[edit]

(built on the Panzer 38(t) chassis)

Jagdpanzer IV[edit]

(built on the Panzer IV chassis)

Jagdpanther[edit]

(built on the Panzer V chassis)

Marder series[edit]

Nashorn[edit]

Jagdtiger[edit]

(based on the Tiger II)

Elefant[edit]

The Elefant (Sd. Kfz. 184) used the chassis of Porsche's losing entry for the Tiger I competition. On top of this chassis, a forward-facing 88 mm L/71 gun was mounted. A total of 90 Elefants were produced, all in early 1943 and known as the Ferdinand, after its designer, Dr Ferdinand Porsche. Those still in use in late 1943 were modified and renamed Elefant.

Half-tracks[edit]

Armoured cars[edit]

Other types[edit]

Sd. Kfz. numbers[edit]

SdKfz stood for Sonder Kraftfahrzeug or ‘special-purpose vehicle'. SdKfz designations were assigned to armoured vehicles and other vehicles put in military service for a specific purpose. The system was used by Germany prior to and throughout World War II.

  • Sd. Kfz. 100s for PzKpfw I versions
  • Sd. Kfz. 120s for PzKpfw II versions
  • Sd. Kfz. 140s for PzKpfw III versions
  • Sd. Kfz. 160s for PzKpfw IV versions
  • Sd. Kfz. 170s for PzKpfw V versions
  • Sd. Kfz. 180s for PzKpfw VI versions
  • Sd. Kfz. 1s, 10s, and 200s for half-tracks and armoured cars

Country codes for adopted foreign equipment[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]