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"German Armored Portable Pill Box" from Tactical and Technical Trends

A WWII U.S. intelligence report on the German portable pillbox called the "armored crab", from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 40, December 16, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


A new type pill box, called the "Armored Crab" by the Germans, is now in action on many sectors of the Eastern front. These pill boxes are of steel construction, painted grey and are dome-shaped. They are mounted on wheels (see accompanying figures 1 and 2), in an inverted position, and may be quickly moved from one position to another, usually by tractor. They carry a crew of two men.

a. Construction

Overall height   6 ft
Height of upper part above ground 3 ft
Width 5.6 ft
Weight 3 tons

b. Thickness of Armor

Level with embrasure   5.46 in
Below embrasure 3.51 in
Sides, rear and top 1.56 in
Lower section and floor   .39 in

c. Embrasure

The pill box has a small embrasure with an observation peep hole above it. When necessary the embrasure may be covered by a large triangular armored slide which can be moved either to the right or left of the embrasure and is operated by a handle on the inside. On the top of the pill box are two collapsible periscopes also regulated from the inside. The entrance to the pill box is through a small trap door in the rear which has two levers for closing it from the inside.

[WWII German Armored Portable Pill Box]

d. Armament

The armament is an MG-42 or MG-34 machine gun mounted on a special type stand. The machine gun is elevated or depressed by an elevating hand wheel. It moves horizontally along a frame which is attached to the inside walls of the pill box - the field of fire through the embrasure being 60 degrees.

e. Emplacement

These pillboxes are usually situated in the second defense zone. It takes fifteen men to change one from traveling to firing position. When it is emplaced, the usual procedure is to dig a hole and sink in the entire lower section and part of the upper section (see figure 3). The upper part does not rotate so that only the machine gun aperture in front and the opening in the rear with the two periscopes and the pipe on top must be exposed.

f. Operation

Under combat conditions the observer looks through one of the periscopes to observe and direct the gunner's fire. The gunner observes through the forward slit. Protection from the front against rifle, grenade and artillery fire is by means of the iron slit cover which is manipulated to cover or open slit from the inside. Inside the pillbox there is sufficient room for both members of the crew to sit comfortably and move around to a limited extent. There is a small heating stove and a ventilating apparatus, operated by a foot pedal, which provides sufficient changes of air when all vents are closed. There is enough ammunition for 5 to 10 hours of fire.

g. Methods of Combatting

As only about one yard of this pill box shows above the ground, it is very difficult to detect. Thorough reconnaissance is imperative. It can best be detected by the outline of its embrasure, by its periscopes, flue pipe, and flash and powder smoke from the machine gun when fired.

Riflemen or mortar squads should demolish the periscopes, thus leaving the crew without means of observation. Rifle shots should be aimed at the embrasure. In a number of captured pill boxes, armor-piercing rifle bullets had made holes in the lower part (the walls of the base). Such fire is effective only if this portion has been uncovered by artillery fire or if it was not completely covered with earth when the pill box was emplaced. Antitank guns should aim at the sides of the pill box about 20 to 24 inches from the top, since the thickness of the armor there is only one inch. The most practical method of destroying these pill boxes is point-blank fire by antitank or artillery guns.

Since the field of fire is only 60 degrees, separate pill boxes may be destroyed by assault troops moving in on the vulnerable and unprotected sides and rear. As a rule these pill boxes are used in groups, but by neutralizing the supporting pill boxes it is possible to isolate any particular one.

When assault troops come up to these pill boxes, they should first cover the embrasure with earth and throw hand grenades at the trap door in rear. If the crew refuses to surrender, the pill box should be blown up. In attacking these pill boxes Molotov cocktails may be used against the periscope openings. If no explosives or gasoline bottles are available, in addition to covering the embrasures with earth, the trap door should be wedged with stones or logs to put the pill box out of action.


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