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"German Recovery of Damaged Tanks" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on German tank recovery during WWII was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 47, June 1, 1944.

[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.]


German salvage of damaged tanks has been frequently commented upon for its promptness and efficiency. An unofficial but probably reliable source has supplied some details regarding the way it is done.

All tanks carry towing cables 20 to 25 feet long, and these cables are always arranged in the same manner--the one on the left side of the tank is made fast at the rear and laid along the side of the tank toward the front; the one on the right is fastened in front and extends to the rear. Thus, if on tank is called upon to help another, each will have only one cable to attach or detach. Such assistance as pulling a tank out of a ditch may be rendered in daylight. Badly disabled tanks are usually salvaged at night.

During an American infantry attack in Sicily, for instance, one German tank slid into a ditch and bellied, so that the tracks could not grip. The tank then signaled the nearest tank for help. While gunfire held off the infantry the cables were hooked up, but as the pull was uphill, the rescuing tank was unable to move the ditched machine. After dark, two more tanks joined the attempt, but were unable to move it. After four hours of effort, the attempt was temporarily given up, and the tank stripped, but not demolished. As the area had to be evacuated next day the attempt at recovery in this case was not resumed. The tank commander reported that an 18-ton half track would have handled the job without difficulty.

These half-tracks (Zugmaschine - towing tractors) are powerful machines, excellently adapted for such recovery work. In the case of a tank which broke through a bridge in the Greek campaign, two tanks, and later two 12-ton artillery half-tracks failed to move it, yet the 18-ton half-track did the job unaided. Should lifting be required, an A-type crane called a Bergezug can be attached to the half-track. A sketch is made showing the position of the tank as a result of the accident. This is sent back to the recovery unit, in order that the crane may be set up in the most suitable manner for the job at hand.


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