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How to Kill a Tank (long)

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At Jagdgeschwader 52 you can find (in addition to their cool WWII radio broadcasts) some neat primary documents in .pdf format (Adobe Acrobat). For fun, I translated the German Panzerknacker (Tank Buster or Tank Killer) field guide below. It teaches how infantry should knock out tanks.

A couple notes:

My knowledge of German is good, but not great. I study it for a hobby. Caveat lector!

A few technical and military terms were difficult or impossible for me to translate, as I couldn’t find them in any of my references. Any help would be appreciated.

Page numbers refer to the Adobe Acrobat page numbering, not the document itself.

A few words were illegible; magnification in Adobe Acrobat just made them more blurry. Help with those would also be appreciated.

I tried to reproduce the essential meaning and tone of the document, rather than a literal, word-for-word translation. The leaflet is clearly written for a common infantryman: the tone is very conversational and at times slangy, there are many rhyming jingles to aid memorization, and the grammar often leaves a lot to be desired. I tried to reproduce the tone as long as the meaning remained clear.

Editorial notes are in brackets, illustration/photo captions are in parentheses.

If anyone wants to post this on a CM site, I’ll clean it up and edit it again.

The .sig at the end is mine and obviously not from the pamphlet!



Tank Killer: Instructions for Close Combat with Tanks

Leaflet 77/3


(A tank every 150 meters.

Over 1500 km.)

What many others do daily,

You can do just as easily.

Over 10,000 German soldiers wear the Tank Close Combat Medal [Panzernahkampfabzeichen]. That many knocked-out tanks corresponds to the equipment of 200 Russian tank brigades and the total Russian tank production for a half year.

And all that done with the most primitive means, no less. But these lay in the hands of real men, and that’s what it boils down to.

You ask yourself, how is that possible under such unequal conditions? It’s quite clear: First off, tanks go after evenly matched opponents: tank, AT gun, and flak. At first they don’t pay you any mind. But then, pay attention:

You can kill tanks too!


On the other hand,

Even the strongest tank has weaknesses.

Have you ever attacked alongside tanks? Or ever sat in a tank? You will have noticed right away that the fight between man and tank is so uneven—not at all, because even a tank has its weaknesses!

It sees poorly, poorest of all that which goes on right next to it.

It hears poorly.

It can’t defend itself well against you, particularly when you’re right next to it.

It’s highly dependent on terrain.

You have to know the weaknesses of the tank. You’ll find every different production type shown in exact detail in the Tank Close Combat cards (Supplement to Army Manual 469/4) Get them and study them. The first requisite for the tank killer is: know the type. Know the weaknesses. And of course: observe, observe, observe.

(Cannon blind spot = around 7-24m

Small arms blind spot = around 5-9)

More dangerous than the tank itself.


Success at tank killing comes

When you know their weaknesses, otherwise not at all.

Overall, note the weaknesses from this sketch. It’s only a schematic drawing, though.

(front: hatches, optics, guns and mantlet, turret ring, MG and vision port, running gear, final drive train [? “Seitenvorgelege”])

(aft: hatches, turret ring, hatches, running gear)

(side: cannon, mantlet, vision ports, ventilation, running gear, turret ring)

(His coat has worn patches,

And tanks show their weaknesses in the same way!)

There’s no basic formula for the positioning of these locations. So, commit to memory the Tank Close Combat and Tank Identification cards.

It’s fear that it generates!


Dangers are already half averted,

As soon as we recognize them clearly.

(black bar: “From here here he sees you.”

Red dot: “Danger lurks here.)

A tank is definitely not completely defenseless against close attacks. It has pistol ports through which the tanker can shoot with pistols and machine pistols and throw grenades. Aft MG’s are also dangerous. You only need to know: where does he see me most easily? Where does danger threaten?

Note: With hand grenades, he can also reach you in the blind spots.

Look out, danger lurks here!


Weight isn’t dangerous for you;

It’s much more troublesome for him.

Every tank has to stop when it wants to take a well-aimed shot. That’s when you can approach it much more easily. So, when it doesn’t stop on its own, force it to stop. In doing so, first look at the terrain. Because every tank is highly dependent on terrain. The heavier the tank, the more ponderous it is. In covered [i.e., dense] terrain, its poor vision becomes even worse. So, you have to lure it to stop where you have the best cover but it has the greatest hindrances. If nature hasn’t provided any, make your own.

This obstacle of course can’t be a serious barrier to a tank. But it stops it briefly, it has to move slowly, it loses track of things [“Überblick,” perhaps here literally “overwatch”], and that’s your chance! Now you can knock it out.

The heavier, the more clumsy [or “The bigger they are, the harder they fall”].


To put them to good use,

Weak points are employed.


Always do it gradually. You have to learn a few more important things first. A boxer who knows his stuff doesn’t merely know where his opponent is weak, but he always lets loose where he’s discovered such a spot. Do exactly the same thing.

You know it sees poorly. So don’t move. He who runs, dies. Besides, you can completely take its poor sight from it. For that you have means to blind it. Shoot with small arms at slits and optics too. With a flare [or “signal”] pistol too. That’s especially effective at night. When the tank is still, it’s really easy to hit the slits.

Since it hears poorly, this can be of use to you through communication with your comrades. But when the motor’s not running, be careful.

You know it defends itself poorly in its immediate vicinity. Be absolutely sure you’re in its blind spot. Once again: who runs, dies. When you don’t have a Panzerschreck or a Faust round, you’ll have to advance on it anyway. You can keep its pistol ports in view easily.

(This is how they see you from the tank.)

He who runs, dies!


With guts and your close combat weapons,

You can manage the toughest tank.

Your strength is courage and decisiveness. Your weapons are the best around:

Above all you have the Faust projectile. It’s your most important weapon. It saves you from creeping up on the tank. It demands of you only cold-bloodedness. It does the rest. It will penetrate 200mm of armor and will certainly hit as long as you take a clear shot. The engagement distance of your Faust round clearly depends on the warhead and the sight.

Almost as easy is the Panzerschreck. With it you can remain even further from the tank. It penetrates 160mm of armor and can hit at up to 150m.

The large Gewehr-Panzergranate [AT rifle grenade], fired from the Schießbecher [grenade launcher firing cup attachment] penetrates 80mm of armor. You can fire it up to 100m!

The flare gun used as a combat weapon with the Panzerwürfkörper 42 I.P. is likewise a very effective weapon. [Not entirely sure which one this is, but sounds like the hollow charge round. You can find the different flare gun rounds in the Handbook on German Forces, part 2, p. 201. It’s a .pdf document found here: http://carlisle-www.army.mil/usamhi/DL/chron.htm#AWorldWarII19391945 ] You can manage 55mm armor with it. Effective range: 30-50m.

Note: All these close combat weapons have hardly any fragmentation effect. They weren’t made for shooting at infantry! Rather, think: every Faust round is for a tank. Seek out, wherever it goes, steep [i.e. closest to the vertical] target surfaces. Otherwise there will be ricochets.

Do you know your weapons?

(Faust round: arm properly.

Panzerschreck: line the shell up against the stop)


There are many close combat devices,

Only your knowledge leads to the target.

First there are the explosives: When you have a Hafthohlladung [apparently a magnetic/ “sticky” hollow charge mine] rely on it. It’s a tried and tested weapon. In armor plates of 100mm, it will create a 3-5cm diameter hole. It has a devastating effect inside.

Of the weapons that weren’t originally intended for anti-tank use, but have still been successful, note above all the T-mine [one of the Teller “plate” mines?] and the concentrated [“geballte”] 3kg charge. T-mines and charges over 5kg penetrate medium armor plates (e.g., turret tops), even when they aren’t well clamped on. They blow off turrets and have a strong effect inside through sound pressure and shock.

The best means of blinding is the Blendkörper [smoke grenade with noxious fumes, made with a glass body]. It works as soon as the glass shatters. It doesn’t merely blind, but also makes breathing in the crew compartment [“Kampfraum”] impossible. The dense smoke remains a few minutes. The smoke grenade works after 4.5 seconds. Its smoke likewise lasts around 2.5 minutes.

To destroy a tank with burning agents isn’t easy. Success can be expected when the tank is stationary. The Brandflasche [molotov cocktail] contains an easily inflammable liquid. It has to be ignited first, though. For that there are storm matches. As an aid, the bottle is completely useable. [makes little sense in the original, either]

You only have to know how to help yourself.

(Warning! Ignite the Graukopfzünder [a sort of fuse/detonator] without delay)


A device in the wrong place,

Fails in every case.

The second requirement on the tank killer is the following:

Master weapons in your sleep. What good is the most powerful weapon, when you don’t understand how to use it? If you’ve read the previous pages well, then you can think for yourself to what end each weapon is suited, how and when you employ them. You can’t fell a tree with a pocket knife, and you can’t sharpen a pencil with an axe. Everything has its place.

Faust round, Panzerschreck, rifle grenade, and hollow charge projectile against the steepest possible surfaces! Otherwise there can be ricochets.

Use the Hafthohlladung where something important inside can really be destroyed.

Use the Blendkörper only against the tank itself. Best of all against the bow, so the smoke will move into the crew compartment.

When you don’t have a Blendkörper, there’s always the smoke grenade.

Master the weapons in your sleep!

(Two poles towards the top)


There’s no device so measly,

That it can’t be used in a pinch.

Explosives under the turret projection or against the motor compartment! Also hatches and the turret top are sensitive to explosives. Wrap T-mines and concentrated charges with cloth, provide them with wire hooks, or stretch rubber rings over them. Otherwise they won’t stay on the tank.

Burning devices above all against the aft, so that the stuff gets into the engine compartment. The engine’s ventilation is favorable for that.

Don’t forget the weapon that’s most important in an emergency: your resourcefulness. Whether you use a couple hand grenades for a concentrated charge or you take Sprengbüchsen [“explosive cans”--homemade explosives, apparently], there’s only one rule: use what you have. You can also ignite a tank in an emergency with a petrol can that’s been bored with holes and ignited with a smoke grenade bound to it.

There are many makeshift devices. There’s only one rule for them: use what you have.

The end justifies the means.


Even in the greatest excitement,

Keep clear consideration.

So, now you know the cards. Yours and his. Now it depends on who plays better. He has a thicker head, so you have to have a clearer one. Men stand against material. Therefore:

First weigh:

What type it is that I want to knock out, what weaknesses it has, and what special dangers.

So, what type of weapon must I employ and what do I have to consider in the process?

How is it attacking? Is there one or several? Is it supported? Through troops [schütze] riding on it [“aufgesessen,” seated on it] or running alongside?

So, how must my comrades help me?

Where does it come from, where does it stand, where is the terrain difficult for it, where is it favorable for me?

So, where can I stop it, where can I attack it, where can I take cover from the explosion?

First consider, then dare.


Think it out lightning fast, then go for it.

The third requirement is, work together like a football [i.e., soccer] team. Generally, the tank already has to be separated from the accompanying infantry. But a couple riding or accompanying troops can fight you off and away from the tank with MG’s, machine pistols, and carbines, annihilate you or force you to take cover—in short: kill you. Always fight infantry first—if necessary let yourself calmly be rolled over [i.e. while in a tank trench].

As you approach it, the covering troops divert the crew. They remove its sight and prevent the hatches and pistol ports from being opened for defense. To this end, shoot down to the last pistol and flare gun everything in the area, against slits and the optics of the tank. When a hatch opens, then the covering troops create such a haze that they’re shut again as quickly as possible. Naturally, you also protect your comrades from surprises from outside. If you yourself have to approach right up to the Panzer, then the threat from outside is at its greatest while you’re knocking out the tank. That’s why your comrades are there. They have to watch like hawks. No enemy can be allowed to move a finger. In the communication with all your comrades in the area, there can be no doubt. Otherwise you’ll finally be up to the tank, and then one of your own side’s weapons will chase you back off. When you’ve ignited your explosive device, holler loudly, “It’s lit!”

Work together like a football team!


Only with the most necessary items,

Will the clever man knock out a tank.

On approaching a tank, leave behind everything you don’t need: gas mask, haversack, spade. Always have a readied pistol in your pocket or boot leg.

First, you’ll often have to get your enemy to slow down or stop. You’ll do that best with Blendkörpern. You have to get these onto the superstructure properly, though; otherwise, they’re useless. Throwing twin hand grenades (2 Nb. Hgr., loosely bound [based on earlier discussion, apparently “Nebelhandgranaten,” smoke grenades]) over the gun barrel should be learned. Whoever is trained in mine placement can also bring tanks to a halt. As for throwing or shoving mines under a tank, don’t do it. You’ll just get your fingers burned. Namely, you’ll lose your cover.

In stopping the tank, consider: where will be the most favorable stopping position?

When Blendkörper hit against the tank itself, most of the crew will abandon the tank right off. Shoot right away then. When they climb out, it’s the most favorable moment. That way, the old tub [Kahn] will fall into your hands unscathed, and captured tanks are worth more than wreckage. But, if you can’t take it away immediately, totally destroy it right away, so that the enemy can’t get it.

If the tank is already stopped, that’s the crucial time for support. The men in the tank must not be allowed to take notice of you. You should use every clump of grass. Blind your opponent right away. Then spring at him! Everything is at stake. Only through guts will you save your life and that of your comrades. If one goes soft, stop him firmly. He’ll thank you later.

Better sweat than blood!


What you can take care of from a distance,

You don’t need to sneak up for.

Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck

Spare yourself an immediate approach. But it applies here too: he who runs away, dies. Take cover! Every movement betrays you. Steady your nerves and let the tank come at you. Being well camouflaged is halfway to knocking out a tank, because you don’t always have a tank pit for cover [“Panzerdeckungsloch”].

If it doesn’t do you the favor of approaching you, then sneak up to within firing range [“Schußentfernung“].

With the Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck, you only have to aim carefully. The first shot hits home.

Well camouflaged is halfway to knocking out a tank.

(Warning! Exhaust stream!)


If it misses the first time,

Try again even harder.

If you have to go right up to the guy, then comes the hardest part:

Knocking it out

That is, you or him!

Never let a pistol port or hatch out of your sight.

Remember: when you destroy it, do it quickly and thoroughly. If you’re in a favorable spot right off, load on as much explosives as you have. Don’t get nervous. Put the stuff on firmly, like you were taught. Don’t forget to withdraw. And then to cover as quickly as possible. Press yourself firmly to the ground. Hands under your body. Front towards the detonation, mouth open, eyes closed. Helmet rim touching the ground. And right away! Don’t try to run far away first. If you haven’t stopped him, if it doesn’t work the first time, don’t let up. It has to be blown up. Approaching from behind is even better for you.

Don’t let up, it has to fall!


The situation first gets crappy,

When we don’t know how to help ourselves.

If you have nothing but your nerve and couple hand grenades, you’re not done for!

Go get him!

Forfeit your life at the highest possible price. Because first off, that way you’ll save yourself, and secondly, you’ll cause the enemy severe losses. When a tank flies into the air, and then another, then the others will start to fear for themselves. The guy in his mobile coffin isn’t feeling so well anymore. So, get to it!

Warning! Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck leave a tank unworthy for combat, but they never totally destroy it. Ivan will still haul off the most awful wrecks. So blow it up. Otherwise it will be back on the scene in a couple weeks.

Don’t laugh too early. If you’ve knocked out the tank, don’t get careless with joy. Watch out for enemy infantry and other tanks.

Don’t get led to carelessness,

Through your enthusiasm.

Makeshift methods demand real men!


Take care of it while you can [„Schafft Euch heran, soviel nur geht“],

When tanks come, it’s too late.

It usually goes as described on the previous pages. In defense, there’s often time to prepare for close combat against tanks. First off, that means that you know every stone and bush in your area. Terrain is strengthened through obstacles and trenches. According to the time you have, first set up dummy obstacles, then temporary ones, then fixed ones. As dummy obstacles, signs marked "Warning: Mines!" often do the trick, or disturbed ground, as if mines had been placed there.

This way, you’ll get the tank into terrain that’s advantageous to you, and there you lay mines and tank cover pits [Panzerdecklöcher]. They look like this:

(As tall as a man and as wide as his shoulders.)

Generally, Pioneers lay minefields. You, though, should obtain close combat weapons at the right time. Don’t rest until you’ve got the gear ready. You can never have too much. Close combat devices can be procured from many dry depots. Everyone from the Commander to the common soldier has to be familiar with them. If you can’t get hold of anything, then create some makeshift devices: molotov cocktails, petrol cans with smoke grenades attached, concentrated charges, and captured explosives [“Beutesprengmittel”].

Think about it early: bring something along.


10 Commandments for the Use of Tank Close Combat Devices

1. Rule: Whether Panzerfaust or Panzerschreck, in principle that means, get out from behind it.

2. Panzerschreck Rule: Hold the round firmly while loading, and let it rest against the stop.

3. Panzerschreck Rule: But remember before loading, pull the pin from the round.

4. Rifle Grenade Rule: Hold it high; otherwise, you’ll often shoot short and miss the hit you’d hoped for.

5. Combat Pistol Rule: When firing from within 30m: keep your head in the dirt—otherwise you’ll regret it later.

6. Hafthohlladung Rule: Only pull the yellow detonator, otherwise you won’t be able to get back to cover.

7. Hafthohlladung Rule: Attached, as every child knows [only in wartime Germany!], with two poles facing upward.

8. Blendkörper Rule: Move about with it carefully; otherwise you’ll be the one choking on the smoke.

9. Molotov Cocktail Rule: 1/3 flame oil, two parts petrol, and other oil will work in a pinch.

10. Molotov Cocktail Rule: Molotov cocktails will explode when left in the sun, whether you like it or not.

Stupidity is dangerous.


The motto here is: Fight the fixed plan,

More than any other theme.

Don’t let quiet times go unused.

Practice is everything! Recognize the type, know the weaknesses, master your weapons in your sleep, work together like a football team—that’s what you have to be capable of. Everyone needs to be able to do that. Not like one who’s played the good defender his whole life. Tank busting has to be mastered by every soldier just as he masters his gun. It doesn’t matter which weapon, or whether it’s a Grenadier or field cook. The best are the first trained to become tank fighters, just as the best rifleman is taken as a sharpshooter. They train together as a tank close assault squad. If there’s a formula for it at all, it’s this:

A destroyer leads the squad.

A coverer needs to be a sharp shot with a MG, machine pistol, and carbine.

Another coverer who’s also a carrier.

That’s the way it can be divided up. Better remember: no set plan. A tank doesn’t go right to where a tank close assault squad is. So, once again:

Everyone has to be able to knock out tanks. Don’t be pig-headed. Force yourself to look at and use the stuff. Bring close combat weapons and devices, or make your own. And don’t let them deteriorate when nothing happens for a while. Above all, look after fuses, detonator caps [? “Zündladungen”], and fuse cord. You have to prepare yourself for tanks every minute.

Always combat-ready!


That’s success!

When real men stand against masses. The recognition for this is the Tank Close Combat Medal. And when you get one, two weeks’ special leave. Even more important is the awareness: You’ve accomplished something about which you can be proud and which places you in the ranks of the bravest men.

When you’ve messed with a tank,

You’ll be racing off on leave.



Once a tank could rattle you,

But now it fears you.

You see how times change,

Today you knock him out, and he can get stuffed.

As dangerous as the tank itself is the fear it creates. Fire a couple times with the new weapons and note: the tank isn’t worth fearing. On the contrary, we’ve turned the tables. Everyone who’s mastered the weapons will become a terror for tanks. We place men against material. We join in the battle, the battle of man versus tank. We show that we do it successfully. And day to day it grows more effective, more threatening for the enemy: more weapons, better weapons, and with every knocked-out tank, greater experience.

Steel hearts against steel hordes!

[Edited with help from the guys below--thanks!]


War does not determine who is right--only who is left.

--Bertrand Russell

[This message has been edited by Gremlin (edited 01-14-2001).]

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Quite realistic for a training manual, if you discount a little of the heroic rhetoric.

Some clarifications at spots you had question marks - dry depot, as opposed to a wet one with POL (fuel etc).

Yellow fuse on the magnetic mine if you want to get away (yellow was ~5 seconds I think, red only ~2 seconds).

Schreck rounds - pull the pin (like on a grenade) before loading. (A safety feature to prevent them going off when a shell-carrier hit the dirt).

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Jason, thanks for the clarifications. I'll add those and any others I get when I get a little more time. I need to get a good reference book of WWII infantry weapons, if anyone has a suggestion.

In addition to the actual techniques, I also found the rhetoric to be really interesting. Very gung-ho. Check out the original document for the illustrations--lots of cartoony drawings coupled with a photo of a German trooper heroically taking out a tank. (Looks like the photo is a fake though smile.gif)


War does not determine who is right--only who is left.

--Bertrand Russell

[This message has been edited by Gremlin (edited 01-11-2001).]

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Nice work.

He're some clarifications regarding translation:

page 3) HDv (Heeresdienstvorschrift) 469/4 Anlage: annex to army manual 469/4

4) Seitenvorgelege: they're not the skirts, but the part of the transmission behind the front wheel (Das Seitenvorgelege ist das Getriebe, welches hinter dem Kettenantriebsrad an der Panzerwanne angebracht ist)

8) Sperre -> (stop) correct translation

18) Mündungsschoner -> muzzle brake, here used literally as a synonym for a simple soldier

19) Sonst kriegst die Deckung Du nicht mehr : Otherwise you won't get cover (early enough - before boooom)

22) Drum kann er Dich - so now he can kiss your a$$. (short form of a famous qoute from Goethe's "Götz von Berlichingen")

Hope that helps


[This message has been edited by mike8g (edited 01-11-2001).]

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Ja, vielen Dank! "Get stuffed" is basically the British equivalent of "you can kiss my a$$"--I thought that sounded a little more quaint than today's translation of "du kannst mich mal" smile.gif

It sounds then like "Seitenvorgelege" is part of the "final drive shaft." I'm not sure of the proper names for the drive train parts on a tank, though.


War does not determine who is right--only who is left.

--Bertrand Russell

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Great post. I'll have to remember this the next time I decide to overthrow the government smile.gif

My favorite antitank trick was used by the Hungarians in their unsuccessful revolution against Russia. They would put a Hungarian flag on a Russian tank. If the tank crew unbuttoned the tank to remove the flag, riflemen would shoot them. However, if they left the flag there... The next Russian tank to come along would assume the tank with the flag had been captured, and would shoot it. Ingenious, huh?


Duct tape will fix it.

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Guest Mike the bike

The flare pistol mentioned had a very small HEAT round - in one of my old WW2 Fact Files thre's a photo of it - complete with a little bubble-leveled sight.

It was a spigot round - that is the warhead was completely outside the barrel.

It was a pretty small round - I don't recall the weight, but the chances of it killing anything would have been slim I think.

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It turns out the flare pistol had a lot of different specialty combat rounds--you can find them in the Handbook on German Forces here. (I noticed that it's also been reprinted as a book, but when you can download the whole thing as a public domain document, why bother?)


Don't talk to me about atrocities in war; all war is an atrocity.

--Lord Kitchener

[This message has been edited by Gremlin (edited 01-15-2001).]

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