[Lone Sentry: German Experiments with Smoke against Tanks, WWII Tactical and Technical Trends]
  [Lone Sentry: Photographs, Documents and Research on World War II]
Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Intel Articles by Subject

"German Experiments with Smoke against Tanks" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on German experiments using irritant smoke against enemy tanks was originally printed in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 20, March 11, 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 German document gives details regarding a series of experiments designed to test the use of what is believed to be irritant smoke at close quarters against tanks. It should be remembered that an irritant smoke is a harassing, rather than a lethal, agent. When inhaled, irritant smoke agents cause sneezing, intense irritation of the nose, headache, nervous depression, and nausea.

a. First Experiment

(1) Conditions

The tank was stationary, with hatches closed and engine running. One smoke hand grenade was set off in the immediate neighborhood of the tank.

(2) Results

A high concentration of smoke was built up in the tank, both by suction of the engine fans and by penetration through leaks in the forward entrance hatch, the mantlet of the hull machine gun, the turret ring, and the turret ventilators. Opening the hatches was not sufficient to ventilate the tank.

(3) Conclusions

Under the conditions set forth above, the crew would be forced to evacuate the tank after a short period. The driver and hull machine-gunner* would have suffered most from the effects of the smoke.

b. Second Experiment

(1) Conditions

As in the first experiment, but with the engine not running.

(2) Results

Similar to those of the first experiment.

(3) Conclusions

Evacuation would have become necessary only after several minutes, and then probably only for the driver.**

c. Third Experiment

(1) Conditions

Tank moving; hatches closed. Smoke grenades were thrown at the tank but did not lodge on it.

(2) Results

There was little reduction in the fighting capacity of the crew, who were affected more by limitation of vision than by actual penetration of the smoke into the tank.

d. Fourth Experiment

(1) Conditions

Tank moving, hatches closed. Two smoke hand grenades, one tied to each end of a 6 1/2-foot cable, were thrown across the barrel of the gun.

(2) Results

Evacuation of the tank was inevitable within 30 seconds. All possibilities of observation were eliminated.

(3) Conclusions

If the crew show sufficient presence of mind to put on their gas-masks and rotate the turret through 180° it is possible to avoid the effects sufficiently to enable the tank to be brought to safety. In any case, however, the fighting capacity of the crew would be greatly diminished.

Comment: There is insufficient detail to identify the type of tank upon which these trials were carried out, but the experiments do show, as the document points out, that smoke can become an important weapon in combatting tanks.

The type of grenade used is not indicated. Much of the effect produced within the tank is described as being physiological (choking, and vomiting which is characteristic of irritant smokes) and therefore also depends on the speed with which the crews adjust their gas-masks.

The German document states that this method of engaging tanks will be practiced, and preparations made for its use in battle.

* Probably because they are nearer the ground, where the concentration of the smoke cloud is greatest.
** Here, the suction of the engine fan is lacking, and the vision ports of the driver would provide the principal leakage points.


[Back] Back to Articles by Subject | Intel Bulletin by Issue | T&TT by Issue | Home Page

Web LoneSentry.com