The new German Faustpatrone, a recoilless antitank hollow-charge
grenade with expendable launcher, designed as a basic close-combat
antitank weapon, is the latest German development in close-combat
antitank matériel. The tables of issue give 36 to each rifle company,
and a total of 2,000 to the infantry division. The Ofenrohr (German
"bazooka," also called Panzerschreck) remains the basic close-combat
weapon of the regimental antitank company.
Close-combat antitank methods and matériel are strongly emphasized
by the German Army as a result of experience on the Eastern
front. Their dependence on these methods is now increased by
United Nations supremacy in the air and superiority in fire power,
which interdict effective employment. of German antitank guns, forcing
them to be sited with more consideration for cover than would
normally be the case. This air and fire power hamper fulfillment of
antitank-gun missions and cause heavy losses in crews and matériel.
Antitank close-combat matériel then becomes still more important
to the Germans, not only for defense, but to maintain the morale of
German troops in the face of Allied armor.
During 1943 and 1944 the Germans still showed ingenuity and
resourcefulness in adapting their tactics and matériel to changing
conditions, in learning from their opponents, and in making the best
of limitations. Prompt adoption of a German version of the U. S.
"bazooka" (the Ofenrohr) and the subsequent development of the two
models of Faustpatronen are examples.
Antitank close combat, which has been discussed before both in this
publication and in the Intelligence Bulletin, lends itself to many
variations in organization, equipment, and method, according to local
conditions, the matériel available, and the ingenuity and
aggressiveness of the troops.
As an example of the need for adaptability, the Germans used
smoke grenades successfully on the Eastern front to blind opposing
tanks, but the Soviets, after first making the error of stopping, learned
to drive right through the smoke, preferring the risk of what might
be on the other side of the cloud to the certainty of attack if they
came to a halt.
The Ofenrohr (also called Panzerschreck, and described in the
May 1944 issue of Tactical and Technical Trends) is a basic weapon
of the regimental antitank company, in which two platoons may each have
SECTION OF THREE LAUNCHERS
The smallest tactical unit for employment of this weapon is the
section of three launchers. These are usually sited close behind the
infantry positions, on which they depend for close protection. If the
terrain is open, the launcher subsections may be sited in an irregular line
so that there is not more than 130 yards between weapon pits.
Thus, even if one crew is knocked out, there will be no gap in the
defense, since the area can still be covered from the two nearest pits.
A section is sited well forward of the infantry positions only when
it is absolutely certain that tanks will be encountered, since in forward
positions the section is too vulnerable to patrols or unexpected attacks.
In this case the pits are carefully camouflaged.
According to German doctrine, if tanks come within range of two
launchers at once, both should engage simultaneously, partly to make
certain of a kill, and partly to insure that each subsection does not
leave the target to the other.
The weapon pit has three parts, a firing trench, a loading trench,
and a shelter trench. The section consists normally of two men, No. 1
firing the launcher and No. 2 serving as loader. Sometimes a
second-in-command and a runner may be added, the runner carrying ammunition
from the rear, and both replacing casualties and engaging
crews from damaged tanks. The section may also be equipped with
either model of the Faustpatrone and the usual variety of
close-combat antitank equipment, such as magnetic hollow-charges,
smoke grenades, Molotov cocktails, sliding mines, pole charges, plus
sub-machine guns, pistols, rifles, and hand grenades.
The 88-mm rocket launcher (Püppchen), with breechblock
and wheels, described in the August 1944 issue of this publication, should
not be confused with the Ofenrohr, even though both fire the same
ammunition. Püppchen is not a close-combat weapon, it has a range
reported at 700 yards as against 200 yards for the Ofenrohr, and it
sometimes replaces some of the antitank guns in the division
The antitank rifle in its original form is entirely obsolete, though
an attempt was made to increase its effectiveness by modifying it
permanently to launch an antitank hollow-charge grenade. The race
between armor and armament has brought about the use of increasingly
larger projectiles and an increase in muzzle velocity in some
weapons to increase penetration. But the development of the hollow-charge
principle has enabled the effective use of low-velocity
weapons against tanks. With the hollow-charge principle the
penetration is independent of the velocity, because the effect depends on
concentrating the explosive force in a jet.
TABLES OF ISSUE
The German tables of issue for close-combat antitank weapons to
various units are heavy, especially in the case of the recoilless antitank
grenade with launcher as far down as companies.
The Ofenrohr is issued as follows:
1. Tank-destroyer battalion with antitank guns and close-combat
antitank weapons (Panzer-Zerstörer Bataillon), 216.
2. Infantry divisions, light divisions, and mountain divisions, 130,
of which 22 are kept in reserve, and 18 are issued to each of 2
platoons of the regimental antitank companies.
3. Armored divisions, Panzergrenadier divisions, GHQ troops, and
corps units are not equipped with this weapon.
4. Ammunition is issued at a basic rate of 10 per "bazooka,"
replacements being allotted as necessity requires.
The Faustpatronen are issued on a very heavy scale:
1. Infantry divisions, light divisions, and mountain divisions: To
each infantry, light, mountain, and engineer company, 36; to each
antitank company, 18; to each artillery battery, 12; to other units,
18 per company; total, 2,000 for the infantry division.
2. Panzergrenadier division, 1,500.
3. Armored division, 1,000.
4. GHQ units, 70 per battalion.
5. Corps units, 50 each.
The order in which units are to be equipped with these weapons is as
listed above. (For example, the infantry, light, and mountain
divisions, have priority over the Panzergrenadier divisions.) It should
be borne in mind, however, that the present state of German supply
will result in many inconsistencies in issue and in deviations from the
It appears that "bazookas" have been ordered withdrawn from rifle
companies and replaced by either of the two models of the
There are two models of the Faustpatrone, the Faustpatrone 1,
also called the Gretchen; and the Fauspatrone 2, also called
the Panzerfaust. The literal translation of Faustpatrone
is "fist cartridge."
Both are hollow-charge grenades, and easily fired by one man. The
grenades and launchers are identical in operation and similar in
design, except that the Gretchen is somewhat smaller than the
Panzerfaust (see figure). Both of these weapons have a maximum range
of less than 50 yards, but improved models with longer ranges may
be encountered. Penetrations are claimed by the Germans of 5.5 inches
(140-mm) for the Gretchen and 7.9 inches (200-mm) for the
Panzerfaust, although it is estimated that the penetration of the latter
is actually no more than 6.5 inches (165-mm).
|Recoilless antitank grenades, with launchers.|
|Grenade cross-sections: Gretchen (above), Panzerfaust (below).|
The weapons consist of two main parts, a simple launching tube
with a sight and firing mechanism, and a hollow-charge grenade with
wooden tail and spring-steel fins. The weight (grenades only) of the
Panzerfaust is 6 pounds 14 ounces; the Gretchen, 3 pounds 9 ounces.
Outstanding features of these weapons:
1. Absence of recoil, which is neutralized by the escape of part of the
propellant gases to the rear — on the same principle as the
Germans' airborne guns.
2. A comparatively large projectile for the weight and size of the
3. Simplicity of operation and design.
4. The low velocity of the grenade does not lessen its effectiveness,
because of the hollow-charge principle.
The expendable launching tubes of thin steel, open at both ends,
contain the propelling charge, which is fired by percussion. Attached
to the top of the tube is a bracket which contains a bolt for cocking the
firing mechanism, and at the front end a release button and simple
The grenades have thin steel heads containing the hollow charge.
The filler is believed to be Cyclotol (Cyclonite and TNT). The
outside of the wooden tail unit is provided with spring-steel fins. One
end of each fin is so attached to the tail that it may be wrapped around
the tail for loading in the launching tube.
The grenade may be launched from standing, kneeling, or prone
positions. The operator must always wear a steel helmet, and
immediately after firing must take cover to avoid being hit by splinters.
Since a 6-foot jet of flame shoots from the rear of the tube on firing,
a firing position must be so chosen that there will be no walls or other
obstructions to this stream.
In firing, the tube is taken under the right arm, the left hand
supporting the tube about 2 inches from the front end.
The weapon is then sighted over the top of the sight and the top edge
of the grenade.
The fuse safety pin is pulled out, and the striker is cocked by pushing
the lock forward until the striker is set and the release button emerges.
The lock then slides back into its original position, and the release
button is pressed, discharging the grenade.