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George MC

How to Break Out of Encirclements - Panzergrenadier on the Eastern Front

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5 hours ago, IanL said:

I have a question though: What does zig zagging get you though? The key to keeping gunners alive and operating the MG in a half track is to keep their distance and square on to the location of the enemy.

In my case it got me through about 300 yards of open ground potentially covered by IS-2s & ISU-152s (at 1km+ ranges), so infantry was the last thing on my mind!  ;)

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On 04/02/2018 at 8:46 AM, Aragorn2002 said:

Pity we don't have discussions here like this one anymore. Some sharp observations in this thread:

People like Desert Fox (a real expert, I think) seem to have left the building. Or is he still around? This discussion also seems to give a clear answer to the question whether SPW's (APC) were actually used for close combat/frontal assault and whether panzergrenadiere fought from inside the vehicles. Personally I've always been convinced they were, since it would have been a waste not to use them. To be absolutely certain I've just ordered this book about the correct tactical use of SPW's:

Merkblatt 75/10 Schützenpanzerwagen Guderian 1944 Taktisch richtiges Fahren mit Schützenpanzerwagen (reprint of 2016)

 

I just bought a copy of SdKfz 251 Ausf D - Armor Walk Around Color Series No. 9. Interestingly it mentions that with the early ausf D models the rear doors could NOT be opened from inside! Hence why the troops when debussing launched themselves over the side (which you see in the training videos). Later models of the ausf D had a handle/latch system which allowed the rear doors to be opened. I never knew that!

Oh and the armoured gun shield (for the forward MG) was 12mm thick - not thick enough to stop a round from an anti-tank rifle but more than enough to stop bullet/MG rounds.

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19 hours ago, George MC said:

I just bought a copy of SdKfz 251 Ausf D - Armor Walk Around Color Series No. 9. Interestingly it mentions that with the early ausf D models the rear doors could NOT be opened from inside! Hence why the troops when debussing launched themselves over the side (which you see in the training videos). Later models of the ausf D had a handle/latch system which allowed the rear doors to be opened. I never knew that!

Never heard that before, perhaps an attempt for more production effectivity? Must have caused some 'Verdammt noch mal!', when the SPW came under small arms fire.

 

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On 22/02/2018 at 7:38 AM, Aragorn2002 said:

Never heard that before, perhaps an attempt for more production effectivity? Must have caused some 'Verdammt noch mal!', when the SPW came under small arms fire.

 

Aye really odd design choice. Think you're right - save some metal and time. Although I suspect it went down like a lead balloon with the guys riding the things as they did rectify in subsequent versions. So guess the guys looking at the door had rather negative thoughts! What's the German for - "You're ****ing ******* me?" From what i can see the 251/1c had a proper opening and shutting door (from the inside).

From what I've read going over the side appears to be the way they debussed "in action" least according to the training manuals. Personally, I'd far rather scurry out the back doors and cower down somewhere!

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33 minutes ago, Michael Emrys said:

I wonder how many broken ankles and other leg injuries were encountered in going over the side.

Michael

Flexy and bouncy 19 year old ankles and knees probably kept the injury count down!

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12 hours ago, George MC said:

AWhat's the German for - "You're ****ing ******* me?"

From what I've read going over the side appears to be the way they debussed "in action" least according to the training manuals. Personally, I'd far rather scurry out the back doors and cower down somewhere!

Something like 'Willst du mich verarschen?' Arsch = ass, so you will understand the general meaning. :)

Perhaps the doors were only used in certain situations when under direct fire. They must have been rather heavy, so it would take time. One of the drawings in the Merkblatt shows Panzergrenadiere leaving the SPW over the sides, to check the road ahead for mines. Being the German army they probably had developed some effective methods to leave the vehicle in all circumstances. I remember how I was taught to jump of a climbing frame without injuring my ankles during my time in the army. It allowed for amazing jumps. Something like that.

Interestingly the manual speaks about the SPW as a 'Hauptkampfmittel', a main weapon. These vehicles were very important and effective.

 

 

 

Edited by Aragorn2002

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2 hours ago, Aragorn2002 said:

Btw, George, congratulations with last Saturday. Quite a sensation at Murrayfield. :)

Aye it was - I never saw the match though as was working on the hill. Sounded a corker though!

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7 minutes ago, George MC said:

Aye it was - I never saw the match though as was working on the hill. Sounded a corker though!

Best game of the Six Nations so far. Pity for England, but the Scots deserved it.

Edited by Aragorn2002

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On 1.2.2018 at 5:13 PM, Erwin said:

Also, interesting to find out that Panzershrek used to mean "Fear of Tanks" and took on the opposite meaning later in the war

Never heard of this before.

I never recall the word  -Schreck  being used in the sense of "being scared of", but rather as "scaring somebody/-thing".

Best regards,
Thomm

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On 2/21/2018 at 12:39 PM, George MC said:

I just bought a copy of SdKfz 251 Ausf D - Armor Walk Around Color Series No. 9. [...]

Oh and the armoured gun shield (for the forward MG) was 12mm thick - not thick enough to stop a round from an anti-tank rifle but more than enough to stop bullet/MG rounds.

Maybe since you have a book about these things, you could answer a question I've been thinking a lot about:

Why didn't the Germans make the halftrack gun shields just a tiny bit taller so that they would provide cover for the top of the helmet of the gunner? It seems when a gunner is aiming down the sights, the shield won't cover his full silhouette when viewed from the front.

Other German fighting halftracks (armed with 37mm guns and other weapons) did have larger shields.

I know halftracks are not AFVs, etc etc. But it seems to me either you don't put a shield on the gun, because troops are not supposed to use it, or you put a shield large enough to do its job. Why the half baked version?

Edited by Bulletpoint

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, Bulletpoint said:

Why didn't the Germans make the halftrack gun shields just a tiny bit taller so that they would provide cover for the top of the helmet of the gunner? It seems when a gunner is aiming down the sights, the shield won't cover his full silhouette when viewed from the front.

Other German fighting halftracks (armed with 37mm guns and other weapons) did have larger shields.

 

Perhaps a taller (heavier) shield would have been more difficult to rotate quickly? Not really convincing, but that's all I can think of. The way the gunner has to bend over when firing also can't have been comfortable. Or perhaps the gunner must have been able to look over the shield from time to time, in order to have a good overview at his target?

Btw, I also ordered that book, George. Thanks for the recommendation. I always appreciate being pointed to a good book, it is hard to keep up with all books that are being published.

 

Edited by Aragorn2002

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1 minute ago, Aragorn2002 said:

Or perhaps the gunner must have been able to look over the shield from time to time, in order to have a good overview at his target?

I think you migt be on to something here. Just still seems a bit odd to me.

Maybe it also has something to do with that bullets striking the very top of the helmet (at a really shallow angle) might bounce off? I know it's not thick metal, but due to the slope maybe.

And I assume there's a liner or something inside the helmet that keeps a bit of distance between the skull and the metal part. The very top of the helmet as seen from the front might not be a critical hit area?

So the thinking might be that it's a good trade-off to give the gunner the ability to pop up once in a while to see what's going on around him, then duck down again to resume firing?

These are all just wild guesses. I'm no expert and I've never even been in one of these halftracks. Just curious really. The German approach seemed obsessed with engineering solutions, so I can't believe they just "forgot" to put a bigger shield on the gun.

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Posted (edited)
37 minutes ago, Bulletpoint said:

I think you migt be on to something here. Just still seems a bit odd to me.

Maybe it also has something to do with that bullets striking the very top of the helmet (at a really shallow angle) might bounce off? I know it's not thick metal, but due to the slope maybe.

And I assume there's a liner or something inside the helmet that keeps a bit of distance between the skull and the metal part. The very top of the helmet as seen from the front might not be a critical hit area?

So the thinking might be that it's a good trade-off to give the gunner the ability to pop up once in a while to see what's going on around him, then duck down again to resume firing?

These are all just wild guesses. I'm no expert and I've never even been in one of these halftracks. Just curious really. The German approach seemed obsessed with engineering solutions, so I can't believe they just "forgot" to put a bigger shield on the gun.

Not sure about the trade-off. :)

Yes, I also don't have a clue really. Perhaps we are overthinking the issue. I've been in a 251 D in the Overloon museum in the Netherlands and I remember the shield is really small and standing behind it, one really feels vulnerable. I'm sure the front soldiers must have reported this issue time and again. The design of the 251 wasn't perfect and it had quite a few flaws.

Edited by Aragorn2002

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1 hour ago, Bulletpoint said:

I think you migt be on to something here. Just still seems a bit odd to me.

Maybe it also has something to do with that bullets striking the very top of the helmet (at a really shallow angle) might bounce off? I know it's not thick metal, but due to the slope maybe.

And I assume there's a liner or something inside the helmet that keeps a bit of distance between the skull and the metal part. The very top of the helmet as seen from the front might not be a critical hit area?

So the thinking might be that it's a good trade-off to give the gunner the ability to pop up once in a while to see what's going on around him, then duck down again to resume firing?

These are all just wild guesses. I'm no expert and I've never even been in one of these halftracks. Just curious really. The German approach seemed obsessed with engineering solutions, so I can't believe they just "forgot" to put a bigger shield on the gun.

Interesting topic. I´d assume various reasons for the shield not beeing made bigger.

1. Avoiding a larger (taller) than necessary vehicle silhouette.

2. When turned to engage targets sideways, a larger shield could possibly create some hassles for other Grenadiers sitting/standing in the vehicle just behind.

3. Somewhat more restricted observation possibility toward the front of the vehicle. (I.E with binocs and generally).

4. Necessity to keep things simple and spare raw materials.

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2 hours ago, Aragorn2002 said:

I'm sure the front soldiers must have reported this issue time and again.

I wonder if they ever did field modifications to increase the shield a bit? The US tankers loved to put extra stuff on their tanks, so maybe the Germans did the same with their halftracks? I remember reading that they sometimes added logs along the sides to catch (spalling?) fragments, but haven't read anything about the gun shield.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, RockinHarry said:

Interesting topic. I´d assume various reasons for the shield not beeing made bigger.

1. Avoiding a larger (taller) than necessary vehicle silhouette.

2. When turned to engage targets sideways, a larger shield could possibly create some hassles for other Grenadiers sitting/standing in the vehicle just behind.

3. Somewhat more restricted observation possibility toward the front of the vehicle. (I.E with binocs and generally).

4. Necessity to keep things simple and spare raw materials.

Some good ideas, but I doubt these are the reasons...

 

Quote

1. Avoiding a larger (taller) than necessary vehicle silhouette.

If you make the whole vehicle 5 cm taller, you get a big increase in total silhouette. But if you only make the relatively small shield taller, the silhouette only increases by a very small amount.

Quote

2. When turned to engage targets sideways, a larger shield could possibly create some hassles for other Grenadiers sitting/standing in the vehicle just behind

The shield would only be a bit taller, not wider or deeper. So it would not take up space from soldiers behind it even when turning.

Quote

3. Somewhat more restricted observation possibility toward the front of the vehicle. (I.E with binocs and generally).

I think this might have some truth to it, but it would still be possible to stand up on the benches to look over the shield, and/or to poke the head out to the sides of it.

Quote

4. Necessity to keep things simple and spare raw materials.

A Sd.Kfz 251 weights nearly 8 tonnes, according to the wiki. How much more steel would be required to make the gun shield 5 cm taller? I don't know exactly, but it must be a tiny amount of extra materials and this investment would make the vehicle able to perform much better in its intended role.

The US halftracks were never intended to be fighting vehicles, but the German ones were. Whether they were good in this role is a matter of debate, but obviously the intention was that the MG was to be used in a direct fire role, and that the gun shield was there for the specific purpose of protecting the gunner.

Edited by Bulletpoint

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Bulletpoint said:

I wonder if they ever did field modifications to increase the shield a bit? The US tankers loved to put extra stuff on their tanks, so maybe the Germans did the same with their halftracks? I remember reading that they sometimes added logs along the sides to catch (spalling?) fragments, but haven't read anything about the gun shield.

Additional armor plates and tracks were mounted on the front armor against frontal fire. And logs along the sides, as you mention. The shield however was more difficult to increase and I never heard that was attempted. But then again, we know so little of such things.

 

Edited by Aragorn2002

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18 hours ago, Aragorn2002 said:

Additional armor plates and tracks were mounted on the front armor against frontal fire. And logs along the sides, as you mention. The shield however was more difficult to increase and I never heard that was attempted. But then again, we know so little of such things.

 

Peiper's SPW unit prior to their Kharkov operations bolted additional plate armour to the front of their SPW. You can see this in photos of the unit during this period - this primarily to combat ATR bullets being fired at the front to disable the SPW.

Snapshot164.jpg

Early SPW did not have the shield mount for the MG and you can find images of SPW with makeshift protection.

Looking through the new RZM book about KG Muhlenkamp you don't see the shield mounted MG being manned as a matter of course in the images (even although the images were taken when the unit was in action). You do see the crew cautiously peering over the sides, heads well tucked down. There are a few action shots that show the MG being manned and the gunner despite the shield still appears rather exposed..

660758d08a4a3a33cb10097418ba0ed8.jpg

910d8f28b1e4a1e7fb934ce224ba1671.jpg

In the image above not sure I'd be perched on the edge of the vehicle with my back to the action!

So maybe our SPW gunners being picked off in the game is not unrealistic!

 

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Hi,

Does anyone know of a book from the German side that is the equivalent to Closing With The Enemy by Michael Doubler or Stout Hearts by Ben Kite dealing respectively American and British CM scale tactics?

The two above books are far head of others in explaining American and Commonwealth tactics in WWII. In my view but each to their own of course. A little as though Max Hastings or James Holland had written books in their usual narrative form but taking even greater care and effort to explain tactical detail.

No book covering the Germans springs to mind that does the same trick.

Thanks,

All the best,

Kip.

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On 2-3-2018 at 10:16 AM, kipanderson said:

Hi,

Does anyone know of a book from the German side that is the equivalent to Closing With The Enemy by Michael Doubler or Stout Hearts by Ben Kite dealing respectively American and British CM scale tactics?

The two above books are far head of others in explaining American and Commonwealth tactics in WWII. In my view but each to their own of course. A little as though Max Hastings or James Holland had written books in their usual narrative form but taking even greater care and effort to explain tactical detail.

No book covering the Germans springs to mind that does the same trick.

Thanks,

All the best,

Kip.

I don't think there are any. On Amazon.de some German authors publish interesting books for Kindle that are well written and show some tactics, but that's about it.

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