[Lone Sentry: 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 Flame Thrower on Pz Kw 3 Chassis" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on the German Panzer III Flammpanzer was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 45, April 1, 1944. A later report in the July 1944 issue corrected some of the details given in this article.

[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. The Tank

German flame-throwing tanks were noted in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 19, p. 9, and in No. 39, p. 9, a Pz Kw 2 tank was described, mounted with two small flame throwers on the front end of the track guards. At that time, it seemed odd that a more powerful projector should not be installed in the turret. Such a tank has now appeared. Flame-thrower Pz Kw 3 tanks were taken on the Italian front, some in good condition. A front view of this tank is shown in figure 1.

[Figure 1: Flame-Thrower Tank]

(1) External Appearance

The flame-throwing tank has a special type of flame thrower mounted on some available chassis. Reports indicate that flame-throwing apparatus is designed to be adaptable to any model of tanks, light as well as heavy. The tank here described is a standard Pz Kw 3 with six bogies and three return rollers. The chassis, hull and turret are identical with the ordinary tank. An additional armor plate 1.18 inch thick has been welded to the front of the chassis and another of like thickness forms the curved shield protecting the front of the turret and the flame gun. This shield is pierced for one coaxially mounted machine gun, and another is mounted in the usual position in the right front of the hull, opposite the driver's vision slit. Smoke projectors of three tubes each are mounted on each side of the front edge of the turret. For comparison see figures 2 and 3. The markings are the standard black-and-white German crosses on the right rear of the chassis, and a little in front of the center roller. Organizational numbers appear on the two sides of the turret directly above the black-and-white cross. Two tanks captured in good condition were marked respectively, F. 23 and F. 24.

[Figure 2: Flame-Thrower on PzKw 3; Figure 3: Standard PzKw 3]

(2) Flame Gun

At first sight, the flame gun which projects 5.28 feet beyond the curved shield of the turret, has the identical appearance of the usual 50-mm tank cannon. Even the short reinforcing jacket is simulated. However, the barrel has no taper whatever, and if seen from the muzzle end, is thin-walled, like a shotgun barrel. This "gun" is actually the cover for the flame-projector tube. The muzzle end of the gun is detachable, forming a flame shield designed to facilitate the burning of the flame-oil by having four openings cut in the sides, .4 inch wide and 4.9 inches long, see figure 4. The top and side openings are shielded to prevent the dropping of unburned flame oil on the top of the tank.

[Figure 4: Flame-Throwing Mechanism]

Within the turret, a counter-balance weight is attached to the breech of the gun for ease in vertical alignment. Elevation and traverse are controlled by the tank commander through two hand wheels -- the right controlling elevation, the left the swing of the turret. The maximum elevation of the flame gun is about 530 mils (30 degrees); the depression, 180 mils (10 degrees). The indicated horizontal traverse is approximately 800 mils (44 degrees) right and left of center. An indicator with a dial numbered clockwise from 1 to 12 to indicate the position of the turret with reference to the forward motion of the tank is placed near the hand wheels.


The turret does NOT have an all-round traverse and no machine gun fires rearward. This flame-thrower tank therefore appears to be more vulnerable to attacks of tank-destroyer squads than the gun-carrying model.

(3) Mechanical Operation

Pressure for the flame-thrower fluid is obtained by the operation of an auxiliary two-cylinder motor driving a rotary pump located in the left rear of the tank. Flame-oil pressure is indicated by a pressure gage directly in front of the tank commander, graduated from 0 to 250 units. The flame-oil release is obtained by the dual operation of a right-foot pedal and an electric control mounted above and behind the pressure gage. At the muzzle of the flame gun are two pilot jets; two electric, ground-return igniters, and one opening .394 inch in diameter for the ejection of the flame fluid.

(4) Sighting

Aiming is accomplished by the tank commander sighting through an improvised rear sight, two millimeters (.08 inch) square and mounted in the turret directly in the rear of the shatter-proof-glass vision slit, and aligning the target with an improvised front sighting device mounted on top of the exterior base of the flame gun (see figure 5). The elevation for estimated target range is obtained by elevating the flame gun so that the line of sight passes over the selected one of three metal horizontal projections, attached to the vertical bar of the front sight. Elevated to range, the gun is kept trained on the target as the tank approaches. As the sights are aligned, the commander presses the electric control and the right-foot pedal. In short bursts the flaming oil is sprayed upon the target, the liquid sticking and burning with intense heat upon the object it touches. The range is normally from 55 to 65 yards; maximum, 84.

[Figure 5: Front and Rear Sights]

(5) Fuel Tanks and Flame Oil

The flame-oil fuel tanks consist of two welded metal containers of approximately 40 to 50 gallons each, mounted beside the tank commander on the right and left of the chassis, set low enough to allow free rotation of the turret, and fitted with meter gages.

The fuel is a thin, black, sticky oil smelling strongly of creosote, which showed upon analysis the following composition by volume:
Light oils up to 170°        39.0 percent
Medium or carbolic oils from 170 to 230°17.4
Heavy oils or creosote from 230 to 270° 4.2
Medium oils or (coal tar?) oils, 270°21.5
Residual difference at 10017.9

(6) Accessories

(a) Smoke Projectors

Two three-barreled smoke projectors are bolted to the forward sides of the turret and with the center barrel approximately aligned with it, all having an elevation of about 44 degrees. The two outer barrels fire laterally right and left from the center barrel at approximately 20 degrees. These are fired electrically from a lid-covered firing box on the inside of the turret. Each button of the box set is connected with one barrel of the projector. The projectile used is the standard smokepot weighing about five or six pounds, which can be projected an estimated distance of from 150 to 200 yards. The pot produces an opaque, light-gray cloud for about two minutes.

(b) Radio

A pair of radio head sets for intertank or interior communication are supplied to the driver and commander for listening, and connected parallel with the radio operator for inner-phone communication.

(c) Demolition Charge

For the destruction of the tank in case of imminent capture, a demolition charge is provided. The one examined weighed about 8.5 pounds, and was 15 inches long, 3.54 inches in diameter, containing a dense, white solid -- perhaps nitro-starch. A fuze screwed into a booster, and a soft, gray-iron hanging strap for fastening the charge to an object were attached. The charge fitted snugly into a metal carrying case.

(d) Very Pistol

A Very pistol was carried on the right side of the turret behind the commander's right shoulder, with two boxes of 12 colored flares each, one in the rear of the commander's seat, the other beside the turret machine gun. Red, blue or violet, green and white cartridges were provided. Their signal meaning is changed by order of the commanding officer, but it is believed the following apply:
Red -       Enemy attacking
Blue or violet -Attack by tanks
Green -Help
White -We are here
Flares fired into the enemy's lines -We are withdrawing.

(e) Miscellaneous Accessories

Spare multi-layer vision-slit glasses for the commander and driver, totalling 3.34 inches in thickness, were stored in racks. There were also three fire extinguishers, standard gas masks for the crew, and a spare smokepot. In one tank a rack of black egg-grenades 3 inches long by 2 inches in diameter were found. Racks for four fire extinguishers were provided on Pz Kw 3 flame-throwing tanks, two for the tank commander, one for the tank driver and one mounted on the outside of the tank.

(7) Crew

The crew apparently consists of four -- commander, driver, radio operator, and turret machine gunner.

b. Tactical Use

(1) Tank Attack

Two Pz Kw 4's and a Pz Kw 3 flame thrower attacked a platoon position unsupported by AT guns in the following manner: the two Pz Kw 4's opened fire at 400 yards with machine guns from a hull-down position. Still firing, they advanced to about 200 yards where they remained, continuously firing their machine guns.

At the same time, the flame thrower advanced between the two, actually reached the platoon in spite of machine- and Bren-gun fire, and sprayed the men at close range.

Other data indicates that the flame-throwers are usually attached to units of Pz Kw 4 tanks in the ratio of two or three flame throwers to 20 or 25 standard tanks. Their greatest value comes into play when darkness, smoke, or weather conditions make possible a close approach. Against woods, trenches, blockhouses or buildings, flame thrower tanks force defenders into the open where they can be attacked with small-arms fire. Buildings up to four stories in height can be successfully attacked. The Pz Kw 3 was extensively employed at the siege of Stalingrad.

(2) Target Area

The most vulnerable target areas are the vision slits of the tank commander and driver, the area of the center roller on the side, and the right side of the rear end of the chassis. This is also the best target for Molotov cocktails.


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

Web LoneSentry.com