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"Attack Against German Heavy Tank -- PzKw 6" from Tactical and Technical Trends

Observer's report on the destruction of two German Tiger tanks by British anti-tank guns in North Africa, from Tactical and Technical Trends, July 29, 1943.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy equipment published for Allied soldiers. More accurate data on German weapons and equipment is available in postwar publications.]



Construction details about some of the features of the new German heavy tank have already been described in Tactical and Technical Trends (see No. 24, p. 6 and No. 20, p. 7).

The following report by an observer on the Tunisian front furnishes some comments as a guide to training in antitank action against this tank.

It appears that the first of these tanks to be destroyed in this theater were accounted for by British 6-pounders (57-mm). An account of this action, as reported by a British Army Officer, follows:

"The emplaced 6-pounders opened fire at an initial range of 680 yards. The first rounds hit the upper side of the tank at very acute angles and merely nicked the armor. As the tank moved nearer, it turned in such a manner that the third and fourth shots gouged out scallops of armor, the fifth shot went almost through and the next three rounds penetrated completely and stopped the tank. The first complete penetration was at a range of 800 yards, at an angle of impact of 30 degrees from normal, through homogeneous armor 82-mm (approximately 3 1/3 inches) thick. Ammunition used was the 57-mm semi-AP solid shot.

"One element of this action contains an important lesson that should be brought to the attention of all AT elements and particularly tank destroyer units.

(a) "The British gunners did not open until the enemy tank was well within effective range.

(b) "In addition to opening fire with the primary weapon -- the 57-mm -- the AT unit also opened with intense light machine-gun fire which forced the tank to button up and in effect blinded him. His vision apparently became confused and he was actually traversing his gun away from the AT guns when he was knocked out for good.

(c) "Once they opened fire, the British gunners really poured it on and knocked out one more heavy tank and six PzKw 3s. Also, for good measure, one armored car."

The conclusions to be drawn from this action, according to the British officer quoted, are:

(a) "The unobstructed vision of the gunner in a tank destroyer gives him a very real advantage over his opponent squinting through the periscope or narrow vision slits of a tank.

(b) "The tank destroyer unit must force the enemy tank to 'button up' by intense fire from every weapon he has, including machine-guns, tommy guns, and rifles."

The size and weight of a tank such as the PzKw 6 present many problems. It has been indicated from unofficial enemy sources that extensive reconnaissance of terrain, bridges, etc., was necessary before operations with this tank could be undertaken. Bridges have to be reinforced in many cases, and soil conditions must be good for its effective operation. It can therefore be assumed that its field of operation is limited.

Reports so far indicate that the use of this tank is chiefly to support other armored units, including employment as mobile artillery. As a support tank it is always in rear of lighter units. In one reported skirmish in Tunisia, the lighter units formed the spear-head; as soon as enemy tanks were decoyed into range the lighter tanks fanned out, leaving the heavier tanks in the rear to engage the enemy units.

The PzKw 6 is now considered a standard German tank. Present production figures are believed to be at a maximum of 800 per month.

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