Was the German Zimmerit effective in World War II

Panzerkampfwagen III

The Panzerkampfwagen III (also PzKpfw III or Panzer III) was a German medium tank in World War II. Intended as a standard model for the future tank divisions, it was equipped with an armor-piercing cannon for anti-tank combat, while the similar Panzer IV was to serve as a support vehicle. The Panzer III developed by Daimler-Benz, which was the most important German armored fighting vehicle in 1941 and 1942, did well in the first half of the war, but after that, with the appearance of more powerful enemy tanks, its combat value quickly declined due to the limited expandability. From 1936 to 1943 5,700 copies were produced, with the chassis being produced as the basis for the much more successful Sturmgeschütz III until the end of the war.

Panzerkampfwagen III

execution H in a museum

General properties
crew 5
length 5.52 m
width 2.95 m
height 2.50 m
Dimensions 21.6 t
Unit price 96,183 Reichsmarks
Armor and armament
Armor10–30 mm (+30 mm additional armor)
Main armament 5 cm KwK 38 L / 42
Secondary armament 2 x 7.92mm MG 34
drive Maybach 12-cylinder gasoline engine
300 hp (221 kW)
suspension Torsion bar
Top speed 40/20 km / h (road / terrain)
Power / weight 13.9 hp / t
Range175/100 km (road / terrain)


technical description

As a result of the extensive retrofitting campaigns, there was a large number of different vehicles, so that an unequivocal assignment to a specific version was not always possible. Due to the large number of versions, a description that applies equally to all models is not possible.

Turret and armament

Tower view with viewing flap and open exit hatch

The turret of Panzerkampfwagen III did not have a turret floor. The seat of the commander and the gunner was attached to the tower wall. The loader standing to the right of the main weapon had to constantly follow the turret movement. To see the outside, it had an observation opening on the right side of the tower, protected by a glass block and an external flap. A similar viewing flap was on the left side of the turret for the gunner. The turret was swiveled by hand, the cannon being fired electrically via a trigger located on the swivel drive. The axially parallel machine gun was operated mechanically with a pedal. The gunner and loader each had a side exit opening with two flaps. The commander sat raised in the middle of the turret directly behind the main weapon. He had a dome accessible with two entry flaps, which had five viewing slits protected by glass blocks and steel sliders for all-round visibility. In order to support the gunner in pivoting the turret, the commander had an additional handle on the right side. These two crew members also had a tower position indicator. There was an emergency exit on both sides of the armored hull, which was partially omitted from the L version and completely from the M version.[11]

Ammunition and penetration performance of the KwK[12]
Ammunition nomenclature 3.7 cm
(from 3.7 cm KwK 36L / 45)
5 cm
(from 5 cm KwK 38 L / 42)
5 cm
(from 5 cm KwK 39 L / 60)
7.5 cm
(from 7.5 cm KwK 37 L / 24)
of the projectile
0.685 kg (Pzgr. 39)
0.368 kg (Pzgr. 40)
2.06 kg (Pzgr. 39)
0.90 kg (Pzgr. 40)
2.06 kg (Pzgr. 39)
0.90 kg (Pzgr. 40)
6.8 kg (Pzgr. 39)
4.5 kg (shaped charge)
Muzzle velocity
in m / s
760 (Pzgr. 39)
1030 (Pzgr. 40)
685 (Pzgr. 39)
1050 (Pzgr. 40)
823 (Pzgr. 39)
1180 (Pzgr. 40)
385 (Pzgr. 39)
450 (HL)
Penetration performance of the KwK in mm at a 30 ° angle of incidence
100 meters; with Pzgr. 39
with Pzgr. 40:
100 (HL)
500 meters; with Pzgr. 39
with Pzgr. 40:
100 (HL)
1000 meters; with Pzgr. 39
with Pzgr. 40:
100 (HL)
The Panzerranate 40 was a hard-core bullet made of tungsten carbide, which, due to the lack of tungsten, was only available in small quantities or often not at all and production of which had to be abandoned in the summer of 1943. Successful trials with uranium ammunition in the spring of 1944 did not result in mass production due to a lack of material.[13]

Driver and radio station

Radio system of the Panzer III

The driver sat in the front left, with the gearbox and the instrument panel mounted above it being to the right of him. The viewing slit available to him was protected by a bulletproof glass block and an outer flap. With the flap closed, the driver looked through a periscope equipped with corner mirrors, for which two holes were drilled in the front above the visor. He had another observation opening on the left side, which was also protected by a glass block and an external flap. The radio operator sat in the front right, moving the machine gun with a headrest, which was seated in a ball socket in the front of the tub. The radio system he operated consisted of two receivers installed to the left of him above the gearbox, and a transmitter installed under a plate in front of him. The two meter long antenna was attached to the rear right of the command post and could be pulled inwards. Only the commander, the driver and the radio operator were equipped with headphones and a larynx microphone and thus connected to the radio system. Since only the radio operator could operate the radio system alone, it was possible that the commander and the radio operator were connected to two different lines, for example the commander on the internal intercom and the radio operator on the radio circuit of the commanding level. In order to still be able to draw attention to each other, both had a red and a green light bulb in their field of vision, which they could switch using a predefined signal sequence. The commander communicated directly with the gunner and loader, and from the L version the commander and gunner could communicate with an ear tube if there were particularly loud interior noises. There was also an observation opening on the right-hand side of the radio station. The driver and radio operator had no separate access hatches and had to get in and out of the command post.

Engine and power transmission

View of the engine and the Variorex preselector

The 300 hp Maybach 12-cylinder gasoline engine built in from version F was located in the rear of the tank. A fuel tank, a battery box and a water cooler were located to the left and right of the centrally installed engine. Behind the radiators were the fans, which in terms of size took up the entire width of the engine compartment and ensured sufficient cooling at temperatures of up to 30 °.[4] The cooling air was sucked in through slits at the side and discharged to the rear from the stern. The power flow went from the engine by means of a cardan shaft to the main clutch and from there to the transmission. From version H onwards, the hydraulically operated oil pressure clutch that had been installed up to that point was replaced by a dry three-plate clutch. In the first three series models - E, F and G - a Maybach-Variorex preselector was used as the transmission, which contained ten forward gears and one reverse gear. In order to change gear, the driver only had to press the clutch pedal after selecting a gear using the gear lever to trigger the automatic shifting process. This advanced but complicated transmission, which is difficult to maintain in the field, has been replaced by a synchronized six-speed transmission from version H onwards. The bevel drive with the steering gear was flanged to the gearbox, with two steering levers acting on the inner shoe brakes with hydraulic support - from version J with mechanical steering linkage. Then the power flow went to the chain drive wheels via the side gears flanged on the outside of the tub.[2]

Additional equipment

The tanks used in the Africa campaign were given special tropical equipment. In addition, the cooling capacity was increased by a modified cooling ratio and the air filter was supported by a felt bellows filter located under armor protection outside the engine compartment. Nevertheless, the piston performance was only 2000 to 3000 km.[2] All Panzerkampfwagen III, which were newly manufactured or repaired at home, were equipped with a smoke candle throwing device from 1943 onwards. The front-mounted headlights were also removable. In the same year, the improved aviator gun 42 was used, which was attached to the commander's cupola by means of clamping screws and could accommodate both the MG 34 and the MG 42. A protective coating of Zimmerit, for which about 100 kg of Zimmerit were needed, should prevent the application of magnetic charges. These proceedings were discontinued in September 1944. From 1944, the tanks used on the Eastern Front received the so-called Eastern Chain, although this was only a makeshift solution, as the chain was only widened on one side. From 1943, 5 mm thick plates, so-called armored aprons, were attached to the sides of the vehicle and around the turret to protect against anti-tank rifles and shaped charge projectiles.


Execution E

The start of series production was the 96 tanks of the "Version E" manufactured in 1939/40, with which there were significant changes. The more powerful Maybach HL 120 engine with a capacity of just under 12 liters, which delivered a maximum of 320 hp, was used. In addition, there was a modern Maybach Variorex preselector, which, although it relieved the driver, was less suitable for series production and maintenance in the field due to its complexity. The "version E" had the final running gear of the series, in which the six rollers were now suspended from a very modern torsion bar suspension. The roller cover for the chariot cannon was relocated to the outside from this version and only a coaxial machine gun was installed. Instead of the simple side entry flaps in the tower, two-part flaps have now been installed. Furthermore, there were now also lateral emergency exit flaps in the armored hull.

Execution F
From version F, the Panzer III received the V-12 engine Maybach HL 120 with 300 hp

For the first time larger numbers could be achieved with the "Version F" published in 1940, 450 of which were built. Since the first combat experience showed that the 3.7 cm cannon sometimes proved to be too weak to penetrate, the installation of a 5 cm cannon, which Guderian had required from the start, was approved. This cannon was based on an order given by the Army Weapons Office at the beginning of 1938 to further develop the armament of the tank. It was a short 5 cm cannon (5 cm KwK 38) with 42 caliber lengths. Since the production of the weapon took longer than expected, only the last quarter of the vehicle series could be equipped with it.[4] The Maybach HL 120 served as the drive unit, but was throttled to 300 HP maximum and 265 HP continuous output to increase the stability. It was a robust and durable engine that was also used in all subsequent versions. From this version onwards, the tank was equipped with an appropriate luggage box behind the turret as standard.

Execution G

Only minor changes were made to the "Version G" produced in 1940 and 1941, of which 594 were produced. The commander's cupola received five side covers instead of sliders. About two thirds of this series could be equipped with the short 5 cm cannon[14]. The G version was first used in the 1941 Balkan campaign. The German Africa Corps also had some versions F and G with them during the Africa campaign.

Execution H

Also in 1940 and 1941, the 286 copies of the "Version H" were produced, this version was designed from the outset for arming with the short 5 cm cannon and was delivered that way. Based on an order from Adolf Hitler, the vehicle was to be reinforced with additional armor, although the disadvantages of increased weight were accepted. As a result, the part of the series delivered in 1941 received additional armor on the hull of a further 30 mm in addition to the front armor of 30 mm. For reasons of weight distribution, the rear received the same additional armor. The aim of this additional armor, to reduce the effectiveness of the English weapons, was achieved, because the reinforced armor could hardly be penetrated by the English guns at normal combat range.[4] Due to the weight increase to 21.6 t - the chassis weighed 15.8 t - the torsion bars had to be reinforced and the chain width increased from 36 cm to 40 cm. At the same time, a modified chain drive wheel and a new spoke idler wheel were used. The complicated preselection gearbox was replaced by a normal six-speed synchronous gearbox, as was the hydraulic clutch with a dry three-plate clutch.

Execution J
In some Ausf. J the long 5 cm cannon was installed for the first time

Of the "Version J" manufactured between March 1941 and May 1942, 1521 vehicles with the short 5 cm cannon were produced. The basic armor of both the turret front and the hull front was reinforced to 50 mm. The driver got a better visor and the bow MG was given an improved ball socket. The hydraulic transmission of the steering lever movements exerted by the driver to the steering brake, which had been practiced until then, was now carried out via a mechanical steering linkage.

When it became apparent during the first combat missions on the Eastern Front that the penetration power of the short 5 cm cannon was only unsatisfactory and this weapon had no power reserves, the long 5 cm KwK 39 with its 60 caliber lengths in "Version J" vehicles installed. Many of the Panzer III relocated to the Reich for a general overhaul were also converted to the new cannon. This relatively powerful weapon would already have been available at the time of the conversion to the short 5 cm cannon from version F, but the Army Weapons Office decided not to install it for tactical reasons, as the barrel protruded significantly beyond the side profile of the tank and this resulted in restrictions feared mobility in overgrown and built-up areas.[15] Since the cartridges for the long 5 cm cannon were larger, vehicles equipped with this could only carry 84 instead of 99 rounds of ammunition. In 1941 only 40 new vehicles with the long 5 cm cannon could be delivered.[16]

Execution L
Version L with clearly recognizable spacing armor

The vehicles with the long 5 cm cannon initially produced as "Version J" from the end of December 1941 were renamed "Version L" in March / April 1942.[17] 1470 vehicles were produced up to October 1942, including the "Version J" produced with a long cannon. The machine gun ammunition was almost doubled from 2000 rounds to 3750 rounds. The armor on the turret front was reinforced to 57 mm. For the purpose of further reinforcement, a 20 mm thick spacer armor was attached to the hull front and to the gun mantlet, so that the turret front was now almost 80 mm thick. The emergency exits attached to the side of the bathtub were partially omitted. In a few models, a 5 cm cannon with a conical barrel was installed on a trial basis. Due to the high wear on the barrel, this powerful weapon was not used any further.[18]

Execution M

The 517 copies of the “Version M” built between September 1942 and March 1943 differed only slightly from the previous model. To simplify production, the viewing slits on the side of the turret for gunner and loader as well as the side emergency exit hatches on the hull have been removed. These had lost their function anyway due to the attachment of side skirts. Thanks to additional equipment, this series was capable of fording to a depth of 1.30 m instead of the usual 0.8 m.

Execution N
Recessed Ausf. N with stub cannon

The 617 vehicles of the "Version N", which were produced from July to October 1942 and from February to August 1943, marked the end of series production. By mid-1942 at the latest, it was evident that the Panzer III had reached the end of its capabilities and was no longer able to cope with the enemy tanks; the Panzer IV thus gained in importance. Both models swapped roles. Intended as a support vehicle for fighting infantry and soft targets, the N version received the short 7.5 cm KwK 37, which were available in sufficient numbers after the conversion measures of the Panzer IV to the long 7.5 cm cannons. The long 7.5 cm cannon could not be installed in the Panzer III because of its size and its recoil.The short cannon developed only a slight armor-piercing effect, but if necessary you could fight enemy tanks with shaped charge projectiles. 64 rounds of ammunition were carried for the main weapon and 3450 rounds of ammunition for the two machine guns.[19]


Due to the initially low production numbers, the planned equipping of the three light companies of a tank division could not even come close to the outbreak of war. In the course of the increase in the number of tank divisions and their restructuring in 1940/41, the divisions now had only one tank regiment, which consisted of two divisions - some were three - of two light and one medium companies. For the light companies consisting of 22 tanks, 17 Panzer III and five Panzer II were planned. In 1942 a fourth company was created again, so that the Panzer III was intended for the three light companies with 17 vehicles each, as originally planned. A completely uniform structure and equipment did not succeed due to the course of the war. The Panzer III in version N was also part of the early division of a heavy tank division, but was later outsourced there due to its weak armor.[20]

Poland, Western Front and North Africa

At the beginning of the Second World War there were 200 Panzer III in the Wehrmacht's inventory, 98 of which took part in the attack on Poland. The rest of the vehicles were with the reserve army or as supplies in the army equipment offices. Given this small number, the tank played almost no role in this campaign. The pre-production vehicles were taken out of service again after this campaign - with the exception of a few version D used in the Norwegian campaign - due to their weak combat strength. The low armor of these early versions was only suitable for protection against rifle projectiles and shrapnel. 26 vehicles were lost during the fighting.[21]

At the beginning of the western campaign, the Wehrmacht had 349 Panzerkampfwagen III at their disposal, which were models of the E and F versions. In addition, there were 39 tank command vehicles in the attack formations.[1] In the course of the campaign, the first F version tanks were pushed in with the short 5 cm cannon. With around 2500 German tanks, the Panzer III only played a subordinate role here; In addition to the Czech captured tanks P 35 (t) and P 38 (t), the most important tanks by far were the light PzKpfw I and Pzkpfw II.

The Western Allies had mobilized significantly more and in some cases better tanks. The French tanks Renault R-35, Hotchkiss H-39 and Somua S-35 with over 40 mm and the Char B1 with up to 60 mm armor were better protected than the Panzerkampfwagen III. The situation was similar with the British Matilda tanks, which were generally slow, had insufficient armament and were not represented in large numbers in France. The Char B1 can serve as an example of the superior armor, the front of which could not be penetrated by either the 3.7 cm cannon or the short 5 cm cannon even at 100 m. Only with the scarce tank shell 40 both weapons could fight the B1 from the front at 100 m.[15] The German crews were forced to turn the enemy tanks in maneuvers, some of which were costly, and to put them out of action from the side or from behind. Otherwise, the Panzer III performed well, although it was not the quality and quantity of the German tanks, but modern tactics and superior leadership that decided the campaign.[22] In France, 135 vehicles had to be written off as a total loss.[23]

During the African campaign, the Panzerkampfwagen III carried most of the brunt of the fighting. With the exception of the clumsy Matildas, it was initially superior to all British tanks. It turned out that the Allied guns, even with armor-piercing shells, were largely ineffective against the reinforced front armor of the Panzer III, whereas even the short 5 cm cannon inflicted heavy losses on the Allied tanks - with the exception of the Matildas.[4] When later more powerful models such as the M3 Grant or M4 Sherman appeared in Africa, the Panzer III was pushed back on this scene and the Panzer IV became the backbone of the Africa Corps.

Eastern Front

June 41: Panzer III deployed at the Soviet border

In June 1941 the actual stock of the entire army was 1560 Panzer III, including 350 tanks with the 3.7 cm cannon, 1090 tanks with the short 5 cm cannon and 120 tank command vehicles.[24] With 965 units used on the Eastern Front, the Panzer III was the most important German tank at the beginning of the war against the Soviet Union. In the course of the fighting it became apparent that the side armor in particular was vulnerable to the Soviet anti-tank rifles. In addition, the short 5 cm cannon and especially the 3.7 cm cannon could not penetrate the front armor of the - still relatively rare and tactically unfavorable - Soviet tank models KW-1 and T-34, so that the crews were forced were to curve out the enemy tanks in maneuvers with many losses and to put them out of action from the side or from behind. In contrast, the T-34 was able to deliver effective hits to the Panzer III from a distance of 1000 meters. The Russian T-34 was clearly superior to all German tanks in 1941.[25] Only the long 5 cm cannon installed later in the J version was able to penetrate the front of a T-34 up to a combat range of less than 500 m.[26] In April 1942 the total army stock was around 2000 Panzer III, including 130 models with the 3.7 cm cannon and 1900 models with the 5 cm cannon.[27] In the run-up to the German summer offensive in 1942, the Army Groups in the east had around 600 Panzer III with the long 5 cm cannon, around 500 Panzer III with the short 5 cm cannon and around 75 Panzer Command Car III. With the increased appearance of the powerful Soviet tanks, the performance limit of the Panzer III was definitely reached. It was meanwhile inferior to most of the Allied tanks and was at the end of its upgradeability. With the N version, it had finally swapped its original anti-tank role for the support role of the Panzer IV.

As the casualty figures show, almost all Panzer III were lost during the war

The total losses suffered on all fronts in the further course of the war can be quantified as follows, whereby by far the greatest number of vehicles were destroyed on the eastern front:

  • 1941: around 900 pieces
  • 1942: around 1400 pieces
  • 1943: around 2400 pieces
  • 1944: around 120 pieces

Noticeably high losses occurred at the end of the Battle of Stalingrad, as around 1200 Panzer IIIs were reported as total losses in the first two months of 1943 alone.[28] In the summer of 1944 the Panzer III was spun off from the tank units. The remaining copies were used for training or as reconnaissance and security vehicles.

Panzer III in the Red Army

As a result of the political and economic cooperation between the German Reich and the Soviet Union, two Panzerkampfwagen III were sold to the Soviet Union in 1940 to compensate for urgently needed raw materials. The vehicles were subjected to extensive investigations and a comparison test with one of the first T-34s. The Panzer III achieved a higher speed, had a lower noise level, a more spacious fighting compartment, better workmanship and was easier to maintain. The advantage of the T-34 was its bevelled armor and better armament. Fire tests with the Russian 45-mm standard anti-tank gun showed that the armor on the side of Panzerkampfwagen III could not be penetrated at 500 m. This later led to the development of an improved tank shell, which was available from 1942.[29] In September 1940, the chief of the Red Army main armor, General Yakov Fedorenko, informed the chairman of the Defense Committee of the USSR Kliment Voroshilov that “after examining the last samples of foreign armored construction, the German medium tank“ Daimler-Benz T-3 ”as most successful foreign tank construction is considered and mass production can be assumed. "[30]

After the attack on the Soviet Union and the great Soviet losses, the Red Army put some captured Panzer III under the designation T-3 into their service.[31] As of July 20, 1945, the Red Army still had 31 operational and 67 in need of repair Panzer III in its inventory.[32] When, after the surrender of Stalingrad, the Red Army captured a large number of Panzer III and did not want to use them as combat vehicles due to their weak armor and armament, new assault guns were manufactured based on the captured chassis. For this purpose, a rigid, up to 60 mm thick dome with a 76 mm cannon was mounted on the old Panzer III landing gear. In this way, 201 assault guns were manufactured in Plant No. 37 in Moscow in 1943, which were given the designation SU-76i and took part in the battles against the Axis powers. The only known remaining original copy is today on a monument in the Ukrainian city of Sarny; a replica made of original parts stands in front of a military museum in Moscow.


The Panzer III proved itself well, but could not keep up with the new enemy models in the course of the war despite the increase in combat value (as with this Ausf. L)

After the Panzerkampfwagen I and II, which were actually only intended as training vehicles, had proven to be too weak in combat and the Panzerkampfwagen IV, which was initially only produced in small numbers, was intended to serve as a support tank, the Panzerkampfwagen III became the most important weapon of the German armored forces in 1941 and 1942. The status of the Panzer III in the deliberations of the military leadership was shown by the utopian plans of the Heereswaffenamt in July 1941, when the Panzer III with 8,000 units made up the majority of this armored force for the intended 36 armored divisions with their 15,440 armored fighting vehicles.[33] With the appearance of the powerful Soviet tanks in the course of the Russian campaign, however, the deficits of the weak armament became apparent. Although Hitler had given the Army Weapons Office the instruction in 1940 to use the already constructed 5 cm KwK 39 with its 60 caliber lengths when converting to the new cannon, only the predecessor model with 42 caliber lengths was installed. For Hitler, this arbitrariness meant a weakening of his demand for an increase in combat value and resulted in a serious dispute between Hitler and the HWA.[34] In view of the surprising combat power of the new Russian tank models, Hitler now saw the Panzer III as an unsuccessful design, since in his eyes the weight and size of the vehicle was out of proportion to the insufficient armament.[15] It is clear, however, that at the time of its commissioning, the Panzer III was an advanced combat vehicle that performed well on all fronts under the circumstances at the beginning of the war.[2] The importance of this vehicle is further indicated by the fact that around 16,000 chassis were produced between 1936 and 1945.[35] In retrospect, however, due to the significantly higher expansion potential of the Panzer IV, it would have been strategically better to produce only this one and to forego the similar Panzer III.[36]

The significant increase in production came at a time when the Panzer III was already falling behind the new Soviet and Western Allied tank models in terms of combat power and continued production was therefore questionable. However, since the army command needed all the tanks it could get hold of due to the high losses on the Eastern Front and the industry was interested in continued production due to the high financial profits resulting from the mass emissions and due to the still full order books, the Panzer III was discontinued. Manufacturing not considered for the time being. In March 1942 Hitler ordered that the soon-to-be-launched "Panther" tank program be increased to the detriment of the Panzer III, but in May the production figures for the Panzer III were increased again. The production of the tank, which was now considered obsolete, continued, and the vehicles were subjected to an elaborate upgrade in combat value without being able to compensate for the superiority of the enemy models.[37]


Assault gun

The best known use of the Panzer III chassis was the Sturmgeschütz III, of which 10,500 units were made, almost twice as many vehicles as the actual Panzer III. It was a turretless vehicle that was equipped with a - initially short - 7.5 cm cannon. The StuG III were very valuable for infantry support and later for anti-tank defense. They achieved significantly more enemy tank kills than the original Panzer III.

Armored command vehicle

Tank command vehicle III, version D1, with extensive antenna equipment such as a crank mast next to the turret and frame antenna on the engine compartment

In accordance with the German Blitzkrieg theory of leading an independently operating tank unit "from the front", tank command vehicles received great attention from the start. The first model, the "Panzerbefehlwagen III, version D1" built in 1938/39 in 30 copies, was based on the small series type D. The non-rotating turret was firmly bolted to the armored case, while the cannon was designed as a dummy. Only the radio operator MG was available as a close-range defense weapon. The vehicles intended for the commanders of the tank units with their five-man crew had extended radio equipment, consisting of two radios, two rod antennas (1.4 and 2 m long), a crank mast (9 m with star antenna) and a large frame antenna above the Engine compartment existed. All tank command vehicles were equipped with a course gyro. The 45 "PzBefWg III version E" manufactured in 1939/40 and the 175 "PzBefWg III version H" manufactured in 1940/41 were based on the chassis of the respective basic models and hardly differed from the first version of the tank command vehicle.

Since the tank command vehicles, as a result of the German war doctrine, were often involved in combat behind enemy lines, the troops demanded a fully armed command vehicle. Based on the Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. J, Daimler-Benz manufactured the "Panzerbefehlwagen III Ausf. J" in 1942. With the removal of the bow machine gun and part of the normal stock of ammunition, space was created for additional radio equipment. The loader acted as the second radio operator, although space was limited in the tower due to the additional radio equipment. With the same modifications, in 1942/43 Daimler-Benz manufactured Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. M as "Panzerbefehlwagen III Ausf. K".

Of the J version with the 5 cm KwK L / 42, 81 pieces and of the K version with the 5 cm KwK L / 60 were made 50 pieces, with 104 additional conversions being made to the first version, those with troop funds emerged from normal battle tanks. The vehicles with the short 5 cm cannon could take 75 rounds and those with the long cannon 65 rounds of ammunition. The rigid loop antenna was replaced by a less noticeable star antenna. The price for this 23-ton vehicle without weapons was 110,000 Reichsmarks.[1]

Tank observation vehicle

PzBeobWg (with KwK dummy)

In order to ensure that the observers of the tank artillery could follow the tank units into battle, the "Panzerbeobachtungswagen III (Sd.Kfz. 143)" was created, of which Alkett manufactured a total of 262 units in 1941 and 1942. The Panzerbeobachtungswagen III had a crew of five, which consisted of a tank observer, auxiliary observer, driver and two radio operators. The only armament of the vehicle was a MG 34 in a spherical screen in the rotating turret; a metal pipe as a dummy simulated the cannon armament. In addition to a periscope to be operated by the auxiliary observer, the vehicle had extensive radio equipment consisting of a FuG 8 (30-watt medium wave device), a FuG 4 (medium wave receiver), a normal radio communication device, a backpack radio and an on-board intercom. The transmission of the fire commands to the self-propelled howitzers such as the Waspe or Hummel took place via the radio communication device, the range of which was up to five kilometers under favorable conditions. Loudspeakers were installed in the self-propelled howitzers so that the gun operators could hear the radio messages from the tank observation vehicle without headphones.The Panzerbeobachtungswagen III, which until then had been used as a temporary solution, the Sd.Kfz. 253 - a variant of the Sd.Kfz. 250 - replaced, fully proved itself.[1]

Diving tanks

For the invasion of England, three special volunteer units were set up in Putlos after the French campaign. In these departments, 168 tanks of the types F, G and H were made submersible by special precautions. For this purpose, all openings were sealed with masking tape or cable tar and the air inlet openings in the engine compartment were completely closed. An inflatable rubber hose was inserted between the tower and the tub. A rubber cover was placed over the roller cover, the commander's cupola and the radio operator's machine gun, which could be blown off after surfacing with the help of integrated fuses. The air was supplied through an 18 m long hose, at the end of which was a buoy with a radio antenna. The exhaust pipes had pressure relief valves and the fan gear had to be disengaged. The maximum immersion depth was 15 m, with penetrating seepage water being removed by means of a bilge pump. If the measures were already prepared, the process, in which all five crew members were involved, took around 45 minutes. The entire crew should be equipped with diving rescuers. The use of the diving tanks equipped with course gyroscopes was planned as follows: barges were supposed to bring the tanks close to the English coast until the corresponding water depth was reached. Then the tanks were supposed to slide into the sea over a ramp lengthened with rails. The navigation should be done by radio from a command boat. Due to the buoyancy, the vehicles were very easy to steer. After the Seelöwe company was canceled, these vehicles were used to cross the Bug on the first day of the Russian campaign. Despite initial skepticism, all 80 tanks used reached the opposite bank.[4]

Flame armor

Flammpanzer III, Russia 1943

In 1942 100 tanks of the M version without weapons were delivered by the MIAG company to the Wegmann wagon factory in Kassel, where they were converted to the Flammpanzer III. The designation of the vehicles is officially "Panzerkampfwagen III (Fl) (Sd.Kfz. 141/3)". Instead of the cannon, a 1.5 m long flame jet pipe with a 14 mm nozzle was used, which could be swiveled 10 ° upwards and 20 ° downwards. The two machine guns were retained. The flame oil was pumped to the flame tube by a pump driven by a DKW two-stroke engine and ignited by high voltage. The oil supply of 1023 liters was carried in tanks, which were located on both sides of the interior. As protection, the 50 mm thick vehicle front was reinforced with 30 mm and the turret front with 20 mm thick armor plates; the side armor remained the same. Up to 80 bursts of fire with a range of up to 60 m could be fired for two to three seconds each. The crew of the 23-ton vehicle, which was equipped with two radios, consisted of three men. The use of the flame tank took place for the first time in 1943 in special departments, which had a target inventory of two Panzer Command Cars III, twelve Panzer II, two Panzer III version N and ten Flammpanzer III.[1]

Armored recovery vehicles

In the years 1939 to 1943 a total of 271 Bergepanzer III were produced, which arose from battle tanks in need of repair and returned for repair.[38] Instead of the revolving tower, the armored recovery vehicle, which was considered a temporary measure, was given a wooden box structure in which recovery and repair material could be stored. In addition, a ground anchor and a 1 t auxiliary crane were installed.

Other modifications

The tractor III, which was only manufactured in small numbers and used for replenishment tasks, was the result of a conversion campaign. After the tower had been removed, a wooden loading platform was placed on the chassis. The Pionierpanzer III, which was also only available in small numbers, was handled in a similar way. In the same way, the rare ammunition tractor III was created, in which the turret was removed, storage space for ammunition was created in the interior and the open turntable was closed with a hatch. A mine clearance tank, which had considerable ground clearance due to an extension of the swing arms, and a railroad vehicle for fighting partisans did not get beyond the prototype stage. Efforts to make the heavy infantry gun 33 mobile on the chassis of the Panzer III led to the twelve pre-production models of the officially designated "Sturm-Infanteriegeschütz 33" manufactured by Alkett in 1941, which had an armored structure 80 mm thick at the front and 50 mm at the side a Panzer III hull and weighed 21 t with a crew of five and 30 rounds of ammunition. Series production, which was planned for spring 1942, did not take place because the task of the vehicle was performed by the Sturmpanzer IV and the Sturmpanzer 38 (t). Some vehicles of the 0 series were nevertheless used on the Eastern Front in the summer of 1943 with the 23rd Panzer Division. In order to make the Panzer III loadable for road transport, the "low loader trailer 22 t (Sd.Anh. 116)" was built. This trailer, which was manufactured up to 1943 and had a dead weight of 13.8 t and cost 28,000 RM, was in the army in April 1942 with 141 pieces.[1]

Successor to VK 2001

Drawing of the VK 2001 (DB)

In May 1938, Daimler-Benz received the order to develop a successor to the Panzer III. The tank called “VK 2001 (DB)” was sold at Daimler-Benz under the internal name “ZW 40”. As always, the Heereswaffenamt suggested a gasoline engine from Maybach for the planned motorization with a 400 hp engine, while Daimler-Benz decided to redevelop its own diesel engine. The construction work on the "MB 809" engine was completed in June 1940; the test runs took place in the spring of 1941. It was a 12-cylinder diesel engine with a displacement of 25.5 liters and an output of 400 hp. In March 1941, this engine was installed in the VK 2001 prototype at the Berlin-Marienfelde plant. With a combat weight of 22 t, the vehicle reached a top speed of 50 km / h. The power flow of the engine went through an eight-speed preselector and a superimposed steering gear to the front drive wheels. The second prototype still had a conventional clutch steering gear. The seven-roller drive was suspended from leaf springs. There are no documents about the planned armament. When the more powerful Russian tanks appeared shortly after the start of the Russian campaign, the project was discontinued.[2]

Panzerkampfwagen III / IV

Since the Panzer III and Panzer IV had strong similarities in terms of construction, in September 1941 considerations arose to create a completely uniform vehicle based on the two tanks. The Panzer III n.A. (new type) and Panzer IV n.A. The armored vehicles mentioned above should only differ in their main armament. Due to the identical construction, large savings in production, replenishment, training and maintenance were expected. The vehicles should be equipped with an all-round armor of 50 mm. The most noticeable change was the use of a box drive with large running wheels. A hydraulic tower swivel device was also provided. Some prototypes with box drive and turret of the Panzer III with a short 5 cm cannon were built. Due to the experiences made on the Eastern Front, the "Panzerkampfwagen III / IV" project was discontinued because the vehicles were not designed for the new requirements for higher armor protection and stronger armament.[1]

Technical specifications

Technical data of the versions of the Panzerkampfwagen III[39]
Versions A – D Exec. E Execution F, G Ausf. H Vers. J, L, M Execution N
0 General characteristics
Weight 16 t (version A: 15 t) 19.5 t 20.3 t 21.6 t 22.3 t 23 t
length 5.69 m 5.41 m 5.41 m 5.52 m 6.41 m 5.52 m
width 2.81 m 2.91 m 2.92 m 2.95 m = =
height 2.54 m 2.44 m 2.44 m 2.50 m 2.51 m 2.51 m
0 armament
Main armament 3.7 cm KwK 365 cm KwK 38[T 1]5 cm KwK 39[T 2]7.5 cm KwK 37
Secondary armament 3 × MG 34= 2 × MG 34 = = =
Ammunition supply KwK: 121
MG: 4500
KwK: 125
MG: 4500
KwK: 99
MG: 3750
= KwK: 84 (J = 99)
MG: 3750
KwK: 64
MG: 3750
Caliber length (KwK) 45 = 42 = 60 24
Pipe length (KwK) 1717 mm = 2100 mm = 3000 mm 1766 mm
Combat distance 1000 m = 1200 m = 1300 m 650 m
Weight (KwK) 195 kg = 223 kg = 255 kg 490 kg
Tube life 4000 shots = ? ? 8000 rounds 13,000 rounds
Price (KwK) 4800 RM = ? ? 5600 RM 8000 RM
Tub front 15 mm / 70-80 ° 30 mm / 70-80 ° = 30 + 30 mm 50 mm / 70-80 °
(L / M: 50 + 20 mm)
50 + 20 mm
Tub side 15 mm / 90 ° 30 mm / 90 ° = = = =
Tub rear 15 mm / 80 ° 30 mm / 80 ° = 30 + 30 mm 50 mm / 80 ° =
Tub ceiling 18 mm = = = = =
Tub bottom 15 mm 30 mm = = = =
Tower front 15 mm / 75 ° 30 mm / 75 ° = = 50 mm / 75 °[T 3]
(L / M: 57 + 20 mm)
57 + 20 mm
Tower side 15 mm / 65 ° 30 mm / 65 ° = = = =
Turret stern 15 mm / 78 ° 30 mm / 78 ° = = = =
Tower ceiling 10 mm = = = = =
0 drive
Otto engine: water-cooled twelve-cylinder V-engine
Type Maybach
HL 108 TR[T 4]
HL 120 TR[T 5]
HL 120 TRM[T 6]
= = =
Bore x stroke100 mm × 115 mm 105 mm × 115 mm = = = =
Displacement10.8 l 11.9 l = = =
Power (maximum) 250 PS (184 kW)
at 2600 rpm
300 PS (220 kW)
at 3000 rpm
= = = =
Aisles (F / R) 5 / 1 10 / 1 6 / 1 = = =
Weight related performance 15.3 hp / t 15.4 hp / t 14.8 hp / t 13.9 hp / t 13.5 hp / t 13 hp / t
Top speed 32 km / h 40 km / h = = = =
Fuel supply 300 l 320 l = = = =
Range 150 km (road)
100 (terrain)
170 km (road)
100 (terrain)
= = = =
Chain width 36 cm = = 40 cm = =
Notes on the "Technical data" table
  1. ↑ With the "Version F" only the last 100 pieces received the 5 cm cannon.
  2. ↑ The "Version J" still had the short 5 cm KwK 38.
  3. ↑ The armouring of the bezel was 50 mm.
  4. ↑ High-performance motor with dry sump lubrication
  5. ↑ High-performance motor with dry sump lubrication
  6. ↑ as above, but with magneto ignition


Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. L

See also


  • Wolfgang Fleischer: Panzerkampfwagen III. The tank of the Blitzkrieg. (= The weapon arsenal. Volume 187), Podzun-Pallas, Wölfersheim-Berstadt 2001, ISBN 3-7909-0732-4.
  • George Forty: The German tank weapon in World War II. Bechtermünz, Augsburg 1998, ISBN 3-8289-5327-1.
  • Horst Scheibert: Main battle tank III. (= The weapon arsenal. Volume 122), Podzun-Pallas, Friedberg / H. (Dorheim) 1990, ISBN 3-7909-0393-0.
  • Ferdinand Maria von Senger and Etterlin: The German tanks 1926–1945. Bernard & Graefe, Bonn 1998, ISBN 3-7637-5988-3.
  • Walter J. Spielberger: The Panzerkampfwagen III and its variants. Volume 3, 1st edition, Motorbuch-Verlag, Stuttgart 1974, ISBN 3-87943-336-4.
  • Walter J. Spielberger, Friedrich Wiener: The German Panzerkampfwagen III and IV with their variants 1935–1945. J. F. Lehmann, Munich 1968.
  • Alexander Lüdeke: Wehrmacht tanks 1933-1945. 3rd edition, Motorbuch-Verlag, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-613-02953-8.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. abcdefGHW. Spielberger, F. Wiener: The German Panzerkampfwagen III and IV with their variants 1935–1945. JF Lehmann, Munich 1968, p. 11 (a), p. 17 (b), p. 19 and 14 (c), p. 26 (d), p. 28 (e), p. 158 (f) , Pp. 29 and 39 f. (G), p. 40 ff. (H).
  2. abcdefFerdinand Maria von Senger and Etterlin: The German tanks 1926–1945. Bonn 1998, ISBN 3-7637-5988-3, p. 40 (a), p. 45 (b), p. 44 (c), p. 48 (d), p. 42 (e), p. 45 (f).
  3. abThomas L. Jentz, Hillary L. Doyle: Panzer Tracts 3-1 - Panzerkampfwagen Ausf. A, B, C and D. 2006, ISBN 0-9771643-4-9.
  4. abcdefG. Forty: The German tank weapon in World War II. Augsburg 1998, p. 62 (a, b and c), p. 67 (d), p. 71 (e), p. 66 (f).
  5. ↑ There was no such production anywhere in German armored car production - apart from the Nibelungenwerk and some suppliers - → Hartmut Knittel: Tank production in World War II. Mittler, Herford / Bonn 1988, ISBN 3-8132-0291-7, p. 130 (manual production: p. 49).
  6. ↑ H. Knittel: Tank production in World War II. Herford / Bonn 1988, p. 38 (MAN), p. 41 (MIAG).
  7. ↑ H. Knittel: Tank production in World War II. Herford / Bonn 1988, pp. 22-27.
  8. ↑ H. Knittel: Tank production in World War II. Herford / Bonn 1988, p. 130 | However, this was mostly a theoretical value that, even in an ideal business situation, was rarely achieved and often could have been twice as high or even higher → p. 90.
  9. ↑ Price of a version M: 96,183 RM → F.M. from Senger and Etterlin: The German tanks 1926–1945. Bonn 1998, p. 45 | Raw material requirements: p. 60.
  10. ↑ Thomas L.Jentz, Hillary Louis Doyle: Panzer Tracts No.23 - Panzer Production from 1933 to 1945.
  11. ↑ Description → G. Forty: The German tank weapon in World War II. Augsburg 1998, p. 67.
  12. ↑ W. Butcher: Panzerkampfwagen III. The tank of the Blitzkrieg. In: Weapons arsenal. Volume 187 and
    F. M. von Senger and Etterlin: The German tanks 1926–1945. Bonn 1998.
  13. ^ MGFA, Bernhard R. Kroener: The German Reich and the Second World War. Volume 5/2, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt Munich 1999, ISBN 3-421-06499-7, p. 646.
  14. ↑ Thomas L. Jentz, Hillary L. Doyle: Panzer Tracts 3-2: Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. E, F, G and H.
  15. abcWolfgang Fleischer: Panzerkampfwagen III. The tank of the Blitzkrieg. In: Weapons arsenal. Volume 187, p. 7 (a and b), p. 30 (c).
  16. ↑ W. Spielberger, F. Wiener: The German Panzerkampfwagen III and IV with their variants 1935–1945. Munich 1968, p.25 (in 1942 there were 1900 pieces including the following versions).
  17. ↑ Thomas L. Jentz, Hillary L. Doyle: Panzer Tracts 3-3: Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. J, L, M and N.