The first mass-produced tank in the Third Reich. Panzer I was used during the September campaign and the invasion of France, as well as during the civil war in Spain. This light tank became the basis for the development of further armored vehicles such as the Panzerjäger I tank destroyers. Between 1934 and 1939, about 2,000 Panzer I tanks were produced.
With a rich history of modification, the successor to Panzer I served on all fronts until 1944. Due to its weak armor and sensitivity to enemy guns and cannons, it was the primary tank in the armored divisions of the Third Reich only until 1941, and was then used to fight partisans or as a reconnaissance vehicle.
This medium tank was the most dynamically developed model used in Wehrmacht. The PzKpfw III was to be the core of the armored divisions, but at the beginning of the war there were only 3% of all German tanks. Large numbers of these tanks reached the front just before the war with the Soviet Union. They were modified until 1943, when their production ceased, and by the end of the following year they had almost completely disappeared from the front troops.
A medium tank, although modified many times, remained in Wehrmacht possession and was used until the end of the war. It was called the “workhorse” of Panzerwaffe. As many as 8500 units were produced in several variants, and on its basis, among others, the Jagdpanzer IV tank destroyer and the Sturmpanzer IV armoured infantry support gun were also created. Until the fall of 1942, it was the heaviest armored car used in the German army. It was replaced by the “Panther” tank, mainly to equalise the chances against the Soviet T-34. Panzer IV was also used after the war, even in 1967 during the Six-Day War on the Syrian side.
Panzerkampfwagen V Panther
This tank was put into service as a response to the Soviet T-34; however, the Panthers surpassed them with much better armor (especially its front part) as well as firepower and precision of the 75mm caliber gun. The Panthers were superior to the medium enemy tanks, but their major disadvantage was the high cost and time consuming production. For this reason, the number of Panthers has never been high enough to eliminate the significant numerical superiority of the enemy’s armored vehicles. Despite this, many historians point to the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther as the best tank of World War II – as a perfect combination of firepower, armor and mobility.
Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger
The 8.8 cm cannon mounted in the Tigers is one of the best constructions of this type in World War II. These tanks had monstrous firepower and thick armor, so that these vehicles were able to dominate the battlefield in such a way that in order to destroy them, the Allied tankers had to use either numerical superiority or air support. Pzkfpw VI was, however, excessively complicated technically (though rather unlikely to be mechanically defective), which made its repairs expensive and problematic, and its combustion so large that often the supply of this monster was a challenge for the weakening Third Reich. Despite this, the Tiger became one of the symbols of the Second World War and its only surviving operational unit can be found in the museum in Bovington (this tank appeared in the film Fury in the scene of the attack on Shermans).
Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B “Tiger II”
Tiger II was the last German tank produced in series production during World War II and at the same time the heaviest and most powerful tank created by the Third Reich. Despite the deadly, sniper gun cannon and a thick front armour (which never penetrated the shell of an enemy tank), Tiger II did not manage to reverse the fate of the war for the Germans, additionally the tank proved itself to be not reliable on the field of battle. Nevertheless, properly used and efficient Tigers II could uniquely dominate the battlefield. More about Tiger II in our recent article.