Saturday, December 31, 2016

The PzKpfw III: Lord of the Blitzkrieg

Technically the PzKpfw III was, despite minor faults, a well-balanced basic design which left provision for up-gunning and up-armouring, but by 1942 it was incapable of further modification that would enable it to keep pace with the spiral of gun/armour race. During the high years of Blitzkrieg it was the only weapon in the German tank arsenal that really counted and thus, like Napoleon’s vieux moustaches, it did not merely witness history in the making-it made it, from Channel to the Volga and from the Arctic to the North African desert. This achievement has, perhaps, been overshadowed in recent years by the study of later and more dramatic German designs, but the fact remains that it was the PzKpfw III that brought Hitler closet to achieving his wildest dreams. - Brian Perrett

The Panzer III was the common name of a medium tank that was developed in the 1930s by Germany and was used extensively in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen III Sd Kfz. 141 (abbreviated to PzKpfw III) translating as "armored fighting vehicle number three".

The Panzer III was purpose designed to create a breakthrough on the battlefield and also to fight other armored fighting vehicles. The performance of the Panzer III was adequate in the early years of the war; however as the Germans came to face faced the formidable T-34 and KV-1 in Russia, it was immediately obvious that a stronger main gun with a considerably enhanced anti-tank capability was now needed. The Panzer IV had a bigger turret ring and was capable of mounting a larger main weapon, the traditional roles were therefore reversed. The Panzer IV mounted the long barreled 7.5 cm KwK 40 gun was detailed to fight in tank-to-tank battles, the Panzer III became obsolete in this role and for most purposes was supplanted by the Panzer IV. From 1942, the last version of Panzer III, Ausf. N, mounted the 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 short barelled howitzer better suited for infantry support. Production of the Panzer III ended in 1943. However, the Panzer III's capable chassis provided hulls for the Sturmgeschütz III until the end of the war.

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