Panzerwerfer

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Panzerwerfer 42 auf Maultier (Sd.Kfz. 4/1)

The German Panzerwerfer is one of two different types of half-tracked multiple rocket launchers employed by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. The two self-propelled artillery vehicles are the 15 cm Panzerwerfer 42 auf Selbstfahrlafette Sd.Kfz.4/1 (based on the Opel Maultier, or "mule", half-track) and 15 cm Panzerwerfer 42 auf Schwerer Wehrmachtsschlepper (or Panzerwerfer auf SWS).

Development[edit]

The Panzerwerfer 42 auf Maultier, Sd.Kfz. 4/1, first went into production in April 1943, and was produced until March 1945. Hitler called for production of the vehicle in January 1942, and the vehicle saw it's first tests on the Eastern Front in fall of 1943. Opel was the main manufacturer, producing most of the components, including the 3.6 liter, 6 cylinder Adam Opel engine, which had 68 horsepower and an 80 liter fuel capacity. Throughout the three years it was produced, 300 Panzerwerfers and 289 of it's variant, the Munitionskraftwagen, were made.[1]

Combat history[edit]

Campaign in Russia[edit]

The Panzerwerfer 42 auf Maultier was used for larger scale rocket barrages against positions of Russian resistance where a large bombardment of a big area would be more effective than more accurate artillery fire. The Panzerwerfer's rocket barrages covered much larger areas and added more psychological elements to the fight: the amount of noise, smoke, shrapnel, and flying debris as the rockets hit and exploded was tremendous. The extensive use on the Eastern Front showed that this weapon could be employed effectively on the Western Front as well. The weapon was finally introduced throughout the army on May 14, 1944, in France.[2]

Campaign in France[edit]

When the western Allies first went into action against the Panzerwerfer 42 after D-Day, they too would learn about the effects of the multiple rocket launcher. American intelligence before D-Day pointed to the use of rocket launchers such as the Nebelwerfer by the German Wehrmacht, but besides that, they were overly unprepared for the effects of a mobile, armored, camouflaged, and highly destructive rocket launcher mounted on a half-track chassis. The British and Canadians were the first of the western Allies to see the German rocket launchers in action against troop concentrations and Allied positions. The 7th Werfer Brigade was sent to Normandy from Beauvais after D-Day, and on June 10 it was in Falaise. The next day, the unit was about 10 kilometers from Caen. The unit was part of the attack on the Orne Bridge, which was a British held position over the Orne River. The 84th Regiment of the brigade, which was made up of the 83rd and 84th Regiments, had fourteen combat ready Panzerwerfers, and the 83rd had about the same. Some other Werfer units were the 101st SS Werfer Abteilung, 101st Stellungs-Werfer Regiment, and the SS Werfer Abteilung 102, which was part of the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich. The British were usually at the receiving end of the Panzerwerfers rockets in Normandy, but the 15 cm Nebelwerfers were used in large numbers against American, British, and Canadian troops throughout the summer of 1944.[3]

Ardennes and Berlin[edit]

The Battle of the Bulge was the proverbial "stomping ground" of German armored rocket launchers during the Second World War. The most concentrated, massed salvos were used in the Ardennes region of Belgium in 1944 during the weeks of the German offensive.

Panzerwerfers saw extensive use during April and May 1945, as the Russians were quickly advancing on Berlin and the Germans were more often on the receiving end of the defeat. Rocket launchers were used in large numbers defending positions inside of Germany and close to Berlin as the Russians advanced from the east and the Americans from the west.[4]

Specifics[edit]

The Panzerwerfer 42 auf Maultier weighed 7.1 tonnes, was six meters long, two meters wide, and nearly three meters high. It was capable of reaching speeds of up to 40 km/h. One of these half tracked vehicles generally carried a Nebelwerfer 41 launching system, which was specially designed to be mounted on the Opel-engine powered Panzerwerfer. The German engineers designed this system because of the conspicuous trails of smoke left behind by the Nebelwerfer batteries, which necessitated a self-propelled artillery piece for quick relocation after firing. The system contained 10 missile tubes, and generally carried 20 projectiles, enough for the vehicle to fire two full salvos. The effective range for a Panzerwerfer's rockets was about 4,000-6,500 meters, and the maxium range was less than 7,000.[5]

Though intended to provide fire support and operate well behind the point of contact, some Panzerwerfers also had a machine gun mounted above the cab for protection against infantry attack.

Reputation[edit]

Known as the "Screaming Mimi" by Allied soldiers for the distinctive noise the rockets made when fired, it was less accurate than a dedicated artillery piece, but its ability to saturate an area with fire and strike terror into enemy infantry made it valuable.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Stephan Ward, Panzerwerfer 42 auf Maultier in Action. Missing-lynx.com
  2. ^ Stephan Ward, Panzerwerfer 42 auf Maultier in Action. Missing-lynx.com
  3. ^ Stephan Ward, Panzerwerfer 42 auf Maultier in Action. Missing-lynx.com
  4. ^ Stephan Ward, Panzerwerfer 42 auf Maultier in Action. Missing-lynx.com
  5. ^ Stephan Ward, Panzerwerfer 42 auf Maultier in Action. Missing-lynx.com