The fourth and, as it proved, the most enduring of the main types of tank with which Germany rearmed and entered the Second World War was the Panzer IV.
- The ordnance inventory designation of Panzerkampfwagen IV (PzKpfw IV) or Panzer IV was Sd.Kfz. 161. The Panzer IV codename was Bataillonsführerwagen (battalion commander’s vehicle), or Begleitwagen (accompanying vehicle) BW.
- The Panzer IV was a German medium tank and the brainchild of German general and innovative armored warfare theorist General Heinz Guderian.
- The Panzer IV was designed by Krupp in 1936 and manufactured by Krupp, Vomag and Nibelungenwerk. They were built ≈8,553 units and the unit cost was ≈103,462 Reichsmark
Panzer IV Ausf. A tanks parading in Sudetenland, Germany (annexed from Czechoslovakia), Oct 1938 [Via World War II Database]
- The Panzer IV was the most widely manufactured and deployed German tank. The Panzer IV was the only German tank to remain in both production and combat throughout World War II. The Panzer IV comprised 30% of the Wehrmacht's total tank strength.
- The original Panzer IV was designed to operate in support of the Panzer III and not for anti-tank work. It was intended to be a support tank for use against enemy anti-tank guns and fortifications.
- The Panzer IV shared the same basic design as all other German tanks, with the engine at the rear, the drive wheels at the front and the transmission running up the middle of the tank. Its long combat service was result of its excellent design and upgradeability allowing it to meet the changing requirements of the battlefield.
Panzer IV tank and crew of German 12th SS Panzer Division 'Hitlerjugend' in Belgium or France, 1943 [Via World War II Database]
- The Panzer IV would have a short-barreled 75 mm howitzer as its main gun, KwK37 L/24, and was allotted a weight limit of 24 tonnes.
- The Panzer IV required a crew of five men. It featured three man turret, with the commander in a central position below the cupola, the gunner to the left and the loader to the right. The driver was placed to the left of the superstructure, the radio operator to the right.
- The three man turret allowed the German tanks to fire much more rapidly than the one or two man turrets of French and British designs, and helped to make up for their thin armour and relatively poor guns.
Panzer IV medium tank of German Panzergrenadier Division 'Großdeutschland' on a training exercise, 5 Nov 1943 [Via World War II Database]
- The Panzer IVs would use their 75mm howitzer firing high explosives to destroy soft skinned targets such as enemy anti-tank guns, which were not particularly vulnerable to armour piercing shells.
- Panzer IV Ausf D was truly the first production model and remained in service until 1944. It featured new front hull plate design (as Ausf A) and new external gun mantlet.
German Panzer-IV, version "D" on a training exercise in March 1940 [Via Wikipedia]
- It was only after the appearance of a long-barrelled 75mm gun, the KwK40 L/43, armed Ausf F2 in the summer of 1942 that the Panzer IV finally became the powerful main battle tank and a potent tank killer.
- Kurt Knispel, the highest scoring tank ace of WWII, was also instructed on the Panzer IV as a loader and gunner. Knispel was assigned as gunner of a Panzer IV under the leadership of Lt. Hellman and he began his World War II service.
Panzer IV in combat:
- The Panzer IV was the third most numerous German tank during the invasion of Poland in 1939, although the 211 available represented only 7% of the total German tank force.
A PzKpfw IV Ausf. H of the 12th Panzer Division carrying Schürzen skirting operating on the Eastern Front in the USSR, 1944 [Via Wikipedia]
- A total of 76 Panzer IVs were knocked out in Poland by 10 October 1939 by Polish anti-tank guns.
- The Germans had around 2,439 tanks available for the attack on 10 May in the Invasion of the West Europe, of which 278-280, or just over 10% of the total, were Panzer IVs.
- In the invasion of the West Europe in 1940, its short 75m gun could still penetrate the armour of the French Hotchkiss and the British light tanks. It had a slight advantage over the Renault R 35, but was out-gunned and out-armoured by the Somua S 35, Char B1 bis and the Renault D 2, while the thick armour of the British Matilda infantry tanks caused problems for every German tank.
Panzer Iv of 1. Pz-Rgt. 4. Comp [Via Wikipedia]
- A total of 97 Panzer IVs were lost in just under two months of fighting, one third of the total available at the start of the campaign in the West in 1940.
- In North Africa, the short 75mm gun was not effective against the Allied armour of 1941. It had difficulty in penetrating the British Matilda II's thick armor, while the Matilda's 40-mm QF 2 pounder gun could knock out either German tank.
- The long gun Panzer IV became known as the Panzer IV “special” in North Africa. An Africa Corp report described the Panzer IV “special” as having the best tank gun ever mounted on a Panzer, capable of penetrating the front armour of every Allied tank in North Africa at up to 1,500 meters, and of destroying light tanks at 2,000 meters if the visibility was good enough.
Late model Pz IV Special of the Afrika Korps in Tunisia, 1943 [Via PlazmaKeks World Of Tanks]
- The long gun was very distinctive in North Africa and the new tank became the target of every enemy gun.
- During the battle of Alam Halfa (or 1st Alamein) at the end of August 1942, one small detachment destroyed an entire regiment of Grant Tanks.
- The short gunned Panzer IV soon faded away on the Eastern Front. There had been 438 in the force that had invaded Russia in June 1941. At the start of the Kursk offensive in July 1943 only 60 short gunned Panzer IVs remained on the Eastern Front.
- The long gun gave the Panzer IV the ability to defeat the T-34/76, and to take on the KV-1 with some chance of success. By the summer of 1943 the long gunned Panzer IV was the most important German tank.
Panzer IV tank and crew of German Army Group North in northern Russia, Sep 1943 [Via World War II Database]
- By the end of the war the Panzer IV was outgunned by the 122mm IS heavy tanks and by the 85mm gun on T-34/85, although it could still inflict heavy losses on the T-34s.
- On 6 June 1944 a total of 748 Panzer IVs were present in the nine Panzer divisions in France. The long gunned Panzer IV was very dangerous opponent, superior to the Cromwell, Churchill and Sherman M4A2 at normal combat ranges. The Sherman M4A4 could at least match it, and the 17pdr Sherman Firefly and the Achilles and M10 tank destroyers could deal with it at longer ranges.
Panzer IV developments:
- The Panzer IV had 10 standard variants: Ausf A, Ausf B, Ausf C, Ausf D, Ausf E, Ausf F, Ausf F2, Ausf G, Ausf H and Ausf J.
- The Panzer IV had 11 other variants: Tauchpanzer IV (submersible tank), Brummbär (heavy armoured assault vehicle), StuG IV (assault gun), Jagdpanzer IV (tank destroyer), Panzer IV/70 (V) and (A) (tank destroyer), Nashorn (Tank killer), Hummel (armoured artillery weapon), Möbelwagen (anti-aircraft tanks), Wirbelwind (anti-aircraft tanks), Ostwind I (anti-aircraft tanks).
Panzer IV in other armies:
- The Panzer IV was used during and after World War II by Finland, Italy, Bulgaria, Spain, Romania, Syria, Croatia, Turkey and Hungary.
- The Panzer IV captured were used by Soviet Army (Russian designation T-4), Polish Free Army and French Forces of the Interior (FFI) during World War II.
Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf.G (Sd.Kfz. 161/1), painted in desert colors with Logo of the Afrikakorps on display at the Deutsches Panzermuseum Munster , Germany [Via Wikipedia]