There is a fact that the super heavy tanks like Tiger or Panther were not the factors that helped the Nazis defeat Europe, but the medium tanks like the Panzer III and Panzer IV.
World War II saw the power of German armored forces. Their elite armored units swept across the Europe and North Africa during the six years of war. There is a fact that the super heavy tanks like Tiger or Panther were not the factors that helped the Nazis defeat Europe, but the medium tanks like the Panzer III and Panzer IV.
When attacking, their armored units will vigorously assault to quickly break through the defensive line and surround the enemy. That method of war is well known as the “Blitzkrieg”, a German term for “lightning war”. They achieved many impressive achievements, best known for their victories in defeating France in just 6 weeks and advancing to the Soviet capital Moscow for 5 months.
German troops were famous for well-trained tank crews. Their tank designs were very famous because of the power it created on the battlefield. The achievements of German armored forces have contributed to changing the modern war. Today we will talk about one of Nazi’s most manufactured tanks, the Panzer IV tank. These tanks even participated in fighting in the 1967 Six-Day War.
It can be said that Panzer IV is one of the most important tanks of Nazi Germany in World War II. It has the full name Panzerkampfwagen IV, ordnance designation Sd.Kfz. 16.
Designed by German engineers as a medium tank, the Panzer IV was the most numerous German tank and the second-most numerous German armored fighting vehicle of the Second World War, with some 8,500 built. It became the backbone of the German Army’s Panzerdivisions. It was present on all fronts, and its modifications over the years ensured its service throughout the war. Although it was in the medium tank category, the Panzer IV was the most advanced and most capable machine of the German Army before the introduction of the infamous Tiger in 1942.
In the period following World War I, the German army had been prohibited by the Treaty of Versailles from using tanks. After Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, however, the army began to rebuild its tank forces, secretly at first and then openly from 1938 on. This late reentry into tank manufacturing actually conferred a distinct advantage on the German army, which entered World War II without being hampered by masses of obsolescent tanks, as was the case with France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union.
Together with its contemporary, the Panzer III, the Panzer IV was the brainchild of Panzerwaffe’s founding father Field marshal Heinz Guderian, it was intended to be a support tank for use against enemy fortifications with a large caliber howitzer. Its devellopment was carried out under the name Begleitwagen to hide its real purpose as the Treaty of Versailles forbid Germany to possesses tanks. While first prototypes appeared in 1937, mass-production began only with the Ausf.D.
The Panzer IV was modified and improved nine times throughout its production, so it remained relevant in use throughout the war. Depending on the modification of the tank, the mass was from 18.4 to 25 tons.
Despite this, the overall layout and appearance of the Panzer IV never changed. The engine was located in the rear of the vehicle, connected to a drive shaft which itself was attached to the transmission in the front.
The tank required a crew of five men, with the driver and radio operator, who doubled as the hull machine gunner, seated at the front-left and front-right, respectively. In the turret, the tank commander sat beneath his roof hatch, while the gunner was situated to the left of the gun breech and the loader to the right.
One unique feature of the Panzer IV was the asymmetrical hull to connect the turret raze to the transmission to allow the turret to be traversed faster. To accomplish this, the turret was offset 6.50 cm to the left and the engine 15 cm to the right.
The tank body consisted of forged steel, rolled armor with a hardened surface. The tank had three compartments separated by bulkheads: a control, a fighting, and a power compartment.
The thickness of the armor was, depending on the modification, from 10 to 80mm. Starting in 1943, 5mm thick shields were also installed to help protect the sides and the back of the tower from anti-tank rifles and shells.
The vehicle was equipped with an electrical turret traverse powered by a 2-cylinder DKW PZW-600 petrol engine, providing quick target acquisition and supporting the traverse of the turret in an oblique position. In case of a breakdown of the electrical turret traverse the gunner could operate a lever to switch over to traverse the turret manually.
The Panzer IV was equipped with a V-shaped 12-cylinder four-stroke carburetor engine for liquid cooling, using engine models from Maybach. Depending on the model of the engine, the power was from 250 to 300 horsepower. The maximum speed reaches from 38 to 42 km/h, Operational range of 200 km.
The Panzer IV mounted a 75-mm gun and two machine guns. The first Panzer IV went into active service in 1939 with a short-barreled gun and were extremely successful until confronted by Soviet T-34 tanks in late 1941. To cope with this threat, the Panzer IV was given thicker armour and refitted with a long-barreled, high-velocity gun that could better penetrate the T-34’s armour. The improved Panzer IV could engage the T-34 on nearly equal terms and was superior to the U.S. Sherman tank in many respects.
The tanks were additionally equipped with two 7.92-mm MG-34 machine guns. They carried enough ammunition for 87 75mm shots, as well as 3,150 rounds for the machine guns.
The Panzer IV was the only tank made by Germany throughout the course of the war, from 1939 to 1945. More than 8,000 Panzer IV were built, making it the most numerous of all German tanks. Its inexpensive, mass-produced chassis, like those of its three predecessors, was used as a platform for various types of antitank, assault, and self-propelled guns and also functioned as an armoured personnel carrier.
The Panzer IV baptism of fire was during the Invasion of Poland in 1939, although they were part of less than 10% of German armored forces.
During the Battle of France despite the increased production, the Panzer IV was still in minority. The tank saw limited deployments during both Invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece during early 1941.
They were deployed during the North African Campaign among the Afrika Korps, the short-barreled version was outperformed by its predecessor the Panzer III. But both of them were unable to deal with the “Queen of Desert” Matilda II, until the long-barreled version showed it nose by August 1942. The (Ausf.F2/G) version’s long gun was able to destroy every American and British tanks fielded during the campaign.
In 1941 on the Eastern Front, the first shipment of Ausf.F2 arrived in spring 1942 and participated in the 1942 summer offensive where it became the only tank able to defeat the T-34 and KV-1.
On the Western Front half of available German tanks were Panzer IV prior to the Invasion of Normandy. The bocage countryside permit to German tanks and Anti-tank guns inflicted heavy casualties on Allied tanks, however the rugged terrain and bocage dense bush have caused many difficulties for it.
Apart from having a successful career in the German Army, the tank was massively exported to Axis forces and other interested countries. Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania all employed the tank in their arsenal where they were used in the joint effort against the Soviet Union.
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Finland ordered some tanks in 1944, but once the tanks arrived, the country switched sides and used the tanks against their distributor, Nazi Germany.
Apart from the countries involved in WWII, Spain, which was neutral, also received 20 Panzer IV tanks in 1943, although they requested 100 units.
Soviet Union captured several Panzer IVs under designation T-4 and were either used in combat or as training tank.The Panzer IV was the most widely exported tank in German service, with around 300 units. After the war, Syria procured Panzer IVs from France and Czechoslovakia, which saw combat in the 1967 Six-Day War.