"Enemy Vehicles" from Yank
enemy vehicles tested at Aberdeen Ordnance
Research Center from the January 21, 1944 issue
of Yank. The cover is an image of German Tiger I tank
from the 1.Ko. of s.Pz.Abt. 504 which was
captured by Allied forces in Tunisia.
At Aberdeen's Ordnance Research Center, inquisitive
finds what makes an Axis vehicle tick, and
produce facts worth remembering.
By Sgt. MACK MORRISS and Sgt. RALPH STEIN, YANK Staff Correspondents
The first thing you learn at
the Foreign Material outfit here is never,
ever, to call a Nazi tank a "Mark Six" or a
"Mark Four." The correct designation is PzKW
VI or PzKW IV. "Mark" is a British way of
saying model, whereas PzKW means what it
says: Panzer Kampfwagen
, or armored battlewagon.
For more than a year captured enemy vehicles
have been arriving here from every battle front
on earth. The first was a half-track prime mover
that came in sections and required three months
of trial-and-error tinkering to be completely
reconstructed. Missing parts, which were
requisitioned from North Africa, never arrived;
mechanics in the Base Shop section made their own.
The worst headache for repair crews here is
the difference in measurement caused by the
European metric system. Nothing manufactured
in the U.S. will fit anything in a Nazi machine
unless it is made to fit. In reconstructing the captured
stuff, it has sometimes been necessary to
combine the salvaged parts of two or three
vehicles in order to put one in running order.
The mechanics have made their own pistons or
recut foreign pistons to take American piston
rings; they've cut new gears; they've had to retap
holes so that American screws will fit them.
Specially assigned recovery crews, ordnance
men trained to know and work with enemy material,
roam the battlefields of the world to
collect the captured rolling stock, which is being
accumulated here. It arrives with the dust of its
respective theater still on it, plus the names
and addresses of GIs who scratch "Bizerte" or "Attu"
or "Buna Mission" in big letters on the paint.
Generally speaking, ordnance experts here
have found German stuff exceptionally well
made in its vital mechanisms, whereas the less
essential parts are comparatively cheap. The
motor of a Nazi personnel carrier, for example,
is a well-built affair, while the body of the
vehicle is little more than scrap tin. Japanese
pieces of equipment for the most part are cheap
imitations of American or British counterparts.
The engineers, who judge by the mass of detail
employed in all German-built machines, are convinced
that the Nazi idea has been to sacrifice
speed for over-all performance and maneuverability.
The German equipment, from the sleek motorcycle to
the massive PzKW VI, is rugged.
T-3 Bruce Warner welds the cracked fender of a German personnel
carrier received at Aberdeen.
A mechanic at Ordnance Research Center adjusts the valves of the
Maybach engine in a PzKW IV.
This is the famous Tiger (with a picture of its namesake painted on the
face plate), the largest and heaviest German tank. Weighing 61 1/2 tons,
it is propelled at a speed of from 15 to 18 miles an hour by a 600-to-650
horsepower Maybach V-12 cylinder engine. Maybach engines are used in many
of the Nazi panzer wagonen and in submarines. The PzKW VI has an armor
thickness which ranges from 3 1/4 to 4 inches. An additional slab of steel
mounted in conjunction with its 88-mm forms frontal armor for the turret.
Besides the long-barreled 88, it carries two MG34 (Model 1934) machine
guns. Largest tank used in combat by any nation today, the Tiger is more
than 20 feet long, about 11 3/4 feet wide and 9 3/4 feet high. It has
a crew of five.
Germans love gadgets. To operate the viewing
slots used by the commander of this PzKW III,
there is an intricate system of levers and
handles to raise or lower the cupola a fraction
of an inch. A few grains of sand might easily
jam the works.
The German medium tank (above) is driven by a 280-horsepower
12-cylinder Maybach engine. It can do 29mph at top speed.
Compared with the Tiger, the PzKW III is lightly armored,
weighing a mere 19 tons. This tank mounts a 5-cm (two-inch)
kampfwagen kanone and two 7.92-mm MG34 machine
guns, and has a crew of five. It ranges somewhere between
our own light and medium tanks, and in the early days of
the war it was a mainstay of the German Wehrmacht's
famed blitzkrieg tactics.
Close-up of the PzKW III shows spare bogie wheel and,
on the side of the turret above it, three smoke projectors.
Escape hatch, with door open, can be seen in the side
of the hull.
The PzKW IV is slightly heavier than the III, weighing 22 tons,
and is a later model. It has the same engine as the III, but
its speed is less: 22 mph maximum. It is armed with a 75-mm gun
and two 7.92 MG34s. Cannon shown here, like the 88 on the opposite
page, is fitted with a muzzle brake which reduces recoil. Nazis
festoon their tanks with spare tracks, as seen here on the
front sloping armor and on the turret.
The PzKW II is an obsolete type of tank now primarily used by the
Germans for observation and reconnaissance. Although it is comparatively
low powered, having a six-cylinder 135-horsepower engine, its maximum
speed is 35 miles per hour, making it the fastest German tank
in use today. It is armed with a 20-mm auto-cannon and
one 7.92-mm machine gun. In the close-up at left is shown the
quarter-elliptic springing of bogies which has been replaced in newer
German models by a torsional-suspension system. This PzKW II came
into Aberdeen painted a bright red, with "Snafu" lettered on the side.
Germans frequently use captured material intact or convert it to suit
their own purposes. In the foreground above is a German 15-cm
howitzer mounted on a French Lorraine medium tank chassis. To its right
is a German 75-mm gun on a Czech medium tank chassis.
JAPANESE light tank, model 1935, pictured above and right,
was built in October 1941 and was captured last summer in the
Aleutians. Like most Japanese equipment, it performs better than
it looks. It has a six-cylinder air-cooled 250-horsepower Diesel
engine which moves its eight-ton weight at 22 mph. It is armed with
a 37-mm cannon and two 7.7 machine guns. Note the old-style
riveting of armored plates throughout.
German, Czech, Italian and some Jap vehicles have Bosch ignition systems,
many of which can be operated by the key pictured at left. Note that the
key is notched. Under the key is shown the ignition switch and the
ignition light. On the switch, which is turned by the key, are positions
numbered 0, 1 and 2, which control the lights. The key acts as a master switch.
If key is inserted to its first notch, lights can be operated but ignition
is off. If key is pushed in further, lights, ignition, starter all can
be operated but ignition is off. If key is pushed in further, lights, ignition,
starter all can be operated. In this position of the key, the red ignition light
glows; and when this light, which is also the starter button, is pushed the
starter will operate.
The German armored half-track personnel carrier is a six-cylinder,
100 horsepower job with a maximum speed of 40 mph. It carries
two MG34 machine guns. This vehicle has a coffin-shaped body,
and carries 10 men on two longitudinal seats. One machine gun
is mounted to the right of the eleventh man, the driver,
whose visibility is limited to two small glassed-in slots
as shown above.
Interior of the half-track at left shows its unique
inverted steering wheel. Included among instruments
on the dashboard is a tachometer, indicating engine
This is the German eight-tom half-track personnel carrier
and prime mover. It has a passenger capacity of 12 men and is
used as the standard tractor for the 88-mm dual-purpose gun.
The spare wheel on each side of the chassis of this German
command and reconnaissance car turns freely to prevent bellying
on rough ground. It has a V-8 engine, four-wheel drive,
and can do 45 mph. There is no armament.
The Nazi BMW motorcycle has an opposed horizontal twin engine,
driving the rear wheel by a shaft instead of a chain. Unlike most
European models it has a hand gear shift similar to conventional
U. S. models.
A side-car version of the BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke) which
has a unique motorcycle feature -- a reverse gear. Unlike American
models it has a hand clutch. This is as good as any motorcycle
in the world.
This vicious-looking machine, photographed by YANK's Sgt. George
Aarons during the Tunisian campaign, is a PzKW VI (Panzer
Kampfwagen) which translates literally as armored battlewagon.
More often it was called the Tiger, but here with the sleeve
knocked off its 88-mm cannon and resting against
the muzzle brake, it is definitely a tamed one. See pages 2, 3,
4, 5 for photos of Nazi and Jap vehicles at Aberdeen (Md.) Ordnance
PHOTO CREDITS: Cover -- Sgt. George Aarons 2, 3, 4, 5 -- Sgt.
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