TM-E 30-451 Handbook on German Military Forces

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Technical Manual, TM-E 30-451: Handbook on German Military Forces published in March 1945. — Figures and illustrations are not reproduced, see source details. — 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.]



1. General

The story of German armored vehicle development is concerned principally with tanks, which have undergone considerable change since the beginning of the war. German tanks have shown, in the course of 5 years of war, a gradual change from the Blitzkrieg concept of battle to greater emphasis on defensive, or at least offensive-defensive, operations for which the latest German tank, the King Tiger, heavily armed and armored but relatively slow and unmaneuverable, is suitable.

German tank development began in 1934, ostensibly at the same time as the rest of the rearmament program, but there is no doubt that considerable thought and experimentation had been devoted to the subject before then. By 1939 the Germans had evolved four types of tanks: the Pz. Kpfw. I, II, III, and IV, [Pz. Kpfw. is the German abbreviation for Panzerkampfwagen, meaning armored fighting vehicle or tank.] with which the Blitzkrieg campaigns were conducted. There is evidence that larger tanks were being developed in 1939, and specimens of what are assumed to have been a Pz. Kpfw. V and a Pz. Kpfw. VI in an experimental stage were employed in the invasion of Norway. These, however, must have proved unsatisfactory, since they were dropped, and the present Pz. Kpfw. V (Panther) and Pz. Kpfw. VI (Tiger) have no connection with them.

Meanwhile, the Pz. Kpfw. I and II gradually became obsolescent, first being relegated to reconnaissance roles and then finally disappearing in 1943 from the Table of Equipment of the Panzer regiment. The heavier tanks, Pz. Kpfw. III and IV, which had proven satisfactory under fire, were modified to meet new conditions by thicker armor and more effective guns.

In 1942, the Pz. Kpfw. VI, or Tiger, appeared in Russia, and later in Africa. The Tiger was designed in the direct German tradition, and simply was armed more heavily and armored more thickly than its predecessors. It appeared out of its proper order in the line of succession, for the Pz. Kpfw. V, or Panther, did not appear until nearly a year later. The Panther was somewhat of a surprise, since it marked a departure from the conventional lines of German design, and in the arrangement of its armor showed strong signs of Russian influence. Its great success in combat undoubtedly gave rise to the decision to redesign the Tiger, which to some extent had fallen short of expectations. The new version is the Koenigstiger or King Tiger.


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