42 Comments

  1. Very nice and fairly high quality photo, although I doubt the rocket could be safely fired from exactly that position. The right leg of the gunner would probably get burned in that position. Of course it’s a 2D image, so you can’t tell exactly how close his leg to the rear of the launcher.

    It also shows nicely how beefy the Panzerschreck rocket was compared to the US 2.36″ Bazooka: http://www.inert-ord.net/atrkts/bazoo/bazoopr.jpg

    • The loader is almost certainly in the back blast zone of the weapon in the photograph. However, I am sure he would have moved aside prior to actual firing. Judging from the angle from which the photograph was taken, he may have temporarily taken up this position simply to give the photographer some room.

  2. The genesis of Panzerschreck was actually fairly simple. When we first fielded the 2.36in M1, a substantial number were sent to Russia via Lend Lease. Some of them were promptly captured by the Wehrmacht, who were impressed by the concept but not the effects at the receiving end. Enlarging the bomb’s diameter to 8.8cm allowed them to fit a hollow-charge warhead that they considered adequate, mainly for dealing with T-34s and the odd KV-1.

    The tradeoff was that the PzSk had less range than the 2.36in, but they considered that acceptable.

    cheers

    eon

    • The first major design difference apart from caliber between the Panzerschreck and the M1 was that the former used magnetic induction coils to fire the main projectile rather than dry cell batteries. The second is that the Panzerschreck’s projectile wasn’t finished burning its propellant even as it exited the launch tube. This required either a gas mask or the later blast shield, making the weapon heavier.

      As for the Panzerschreck having shorter range, just think about who’s shooting whom. Has anybody ever attempted to one-shot a medium tank from half a mile away with a bazooka? And of course, the infantry AT weapon is more of a “surprise, suckers” to the face of any tanker dumb enough not to check the area really close to the tank. Sherman tanks tried to beef up with improvised protection (and mostly failed), and the Soviets just made more and more tanks.

      Did I flub anything?

      • “check the area really close to the tank.”
        Early T-34 (conical turret – single big hatch on top of turret) has poor observation devices and its crew were not trained to cooperation with infantry, so Germans can use Hafthohlladung:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hafthohlladung
        to destroy it, it was manually placed on target, it stay there being hold magnetically. It works as artillery HEAT shell, can penetrate ~140mm of steel.

    • Problem with that theory is that 1st time (and one of the few – they did not like it) Soviets used Bazooka in combat was about late 1943. and that does not fit with timeline of PzS development.
      Maybe based on captured in North Africa, or more likely case of parallel development.

  3. I thought that Panzerfaust was the most successful German anti-armour device. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzerfaust

    This presumably became base for ever successful and widespread Russian RPG.

    Americans themselves thought of it as better weapon than bazooka. In any case, usage of these weapons was in most cases close to suicidal; I have one time my uncle’s account of it – he fired and missed. He immediately lost his buddy to MG fire coming back from the tank gunner. But, that’s what war is about, isn’t it: add it up, divide by two and you have the deal.

    • Well, Denny, the Panzerfaust was more numerous and much cheaper to make, along with being more user friendly than the Panzerschreck. The Panzerfaust was technically a recoilless gun, not a rocket.

      Weapon of choice scenario:

      Given a choice while escaping “ghost” tanks (as if they came out of the Russian movie White Tiger, just so you don’t attempt to try exorcising them with “holy water”), which would you and your friends have if you lost your radio?

      1. 2.36 inch M1 Bazooka
      2. PIAT
      3. Panzerfaust
      4. Panzerschreck
      5. 8.8 cm Pak 43/41
      6. 106 mm RCL Rifle M40A1
      7. 12.8 cm Pak 44
      8. Italian Bakelite Antitank mines
      9. drive away with the conveniently-not-destroyed WZ.34 armored car
      10. shoot them with a YAG-10 truck with 85mm M39 heavy anti-air gun or the Flak 18 “bunkerknacker” halftrack
      11. salvage radio and call for a gunship rescue (do I need Wagner’s music?)
      12. Oh goody, there’s a Challenger II right here!
      13. Find your favorite toys before those tanks trash them!!!!!

      This activity is voluntary. You are not required to respond if you do not wish to do so. Please keep any and all criticism of this post humane and free of foul language.

      Thank you.

      Cherndog

      • “13. Find your favorite toys before those tanks trash them!!!!!”
        СУ-100Y – self-propelled gun with 130mm naval gun B-13 (used on Soviet flotilla leaders, see Tashkent-class flotilla leader), as it would solve any problem with any enemy tank.

      • As always, you seem to have good review and handle on the subject! Foul language no need to be afraid of…. I avoid it for any cost.

        If I was hypothetically in that situation, I’d try for maximum standoff. But then, Stuka can get you before blink of the aye.

        • I would if I was holled up on the second floor inside a small closed up space and it was coming up the street below me..(the only weapon with no back blast)

    • “Americans themselves thought of it as better weapon than bazooka.”
      Enemy weapons and equipment is often considered superior to own, sometimes it is true, sometimes it is not.

      “This presumably became base for ever successful and widespread Russian RPG.”
      I personally think Soviet Union can developed effective anti-tank weapons, comparable to Panzerschrek earlier, but rather working on recoilless gun principle (see American 57mm recoilless rifle M18 for example) than rocket launcher principle. In 1930s Leonid Kurchvesky developed many recoilless guns, ranging in size from 37mm to 305mm, some of them:
      Противотанковое ружье системы Курчевского обр. 1932 г. (Kurchvesky Anti-tank Rifle Model 1932) referenced as 37-mm anti-tank “K” in manual, which also states effective range: 500m, armour penetration: 25mm, overall gun length: 2006mm, weight in combat mode: 34kg
      АПК-4 aircraft automatic gun (76,2-mm or 3″ bore), RoF: 30-40 rpm, capacity: 6 + 1 (in chamber) and improved АПК-4бис were developed and produced in early 1930s, were used as armament of И-Z fighter (notice Latin “Z” letter, not Russian “З” letter)
      305mm naval gun, tested but not accepted into service (photo: http://www.graptolite.net/Facta_Nautica/destroyers/Engels.html )

      • I would forget to write why Leonid Kurchevsky works were abandoned:
        During The Age Of Yezhov (Ежовщина [Yezhovshchina] in Russian) Kurchvesky was arrested (as many inventors and designers) and accused of “designing not perspective weapon system” and sentenced to death, he was executed 26 November 1937 or 12 January 1939, all works about recoilless guns (or as they were called “dynamically-reactive guns”) were abandoned.
        И-Z fighter with clearly visible recoilless guns under wings (photo):
        https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Пушечный_истребитель_И-Z.jpg?uselang=ru

        • И-Z fighter was first but not last to use Kurchvesky recoilless guns, later ИП-1 fighter was developed, it was superior in flight, first flew in 1934, despite it was originally designed to carry two АПК-4 guns, production version ShVAK auto-cannons (armament: 2 x ShVAK + 6 x ShKAS), in similar time (first flew 1933) Sukhoi designed И-14 fighter armed with smaller АПК-11 guns (45-mm bore) (armamtent: 2 x АПК-11 + 2 x ShKAS), it was not pressed in production, but not due to their guns. It lost to Polikarpov И-16 fighter. However it might sounds strange И-14 lost because it was all-metal construction, when И-16 was mixed (wooden-metal) construction, so was considered easier to manufacture.

      • Very talented and courageous designer that Kurchevsky. As irony of turbulent soviet years usually has it even he became victim of “state of worker’s paradise”. I think I read about him before.

  4. The superior armor penetration capabilities of the Panzerschreck partly inspired, in turn, the adoption by the U.S. of the later, much-improved 3.5″ bazooka.

    • A lot of people don’t know that the 3.5 was designed and prototyped in late 1944, to deal with the thicker-skinned Panther and Tiger tanks. The end of the war in the ETO resulted in it being back-burnered until 1950-51, when the 2.36in in the later M2 (two-part tube) version proved unable to cope with the front armor of the T-34/85.

      3.5s were produced and issued so quickly that some early lots were flown from factories in the East to embarkation ports on the West Coast to mate up with infantry units headed for Japan.

      Moral; As Ian Hogg said, weapons R&D is like a bank account. You pay in in peacetime in money spend on developing new weapons and concepts, and take out in wartime in the form of finished designs.

      And if you find yourself in a war when you haven’t made the initial investment, God help you, although sometimes you can get away with an overdraft.

      cheers

      eon

      • Great comparison, eon! The issue is then which investment is the wisest, for some developments don’t work out too well due to terrible investor behavior (Stalin and Hitler weren’t the world’s smartest shoppers) or people who market a potentially good idea which has exceeded the time period’s technological limits (remotely-controlled missiles like Operation Aphrodite and strategic-warfare subs like the Japanese I-400 Class were ideas far ahead of the tech of the day). And then there are quacks who market ideas that seem great but turn out to be complete failures like the V3 multi-charge cannon and the K-class steam-powered subs…

        • Thanks for bringing up the old K-class steam-driven submarines. I read a detailed historical account of their design, development and operational deployment many, many years ago, which was an eye-opener, to say the least, with regard to the point you made about ideas that are theoretically feasible but which fail miserably in practice. For the life of me, I cannot remember the title of the book or the author, so I’ll have to start looking into it once again.

          • “K-class steam-driven submarines”
            It even was nicknamed Kalamity class, because six of them were lost in accidents.

        • “due to terrible investor behavior (Stalin and Hitler weren’t the world’s smartest shoppers)”
          Can you point where Stalin do totally wrong decision, considering weapons system? I would admit that Soviet Union has problems when considering mass production aeroplanes, but it was caused by poor production quality, not design.

          “steam-powered sub”
          Thinking inertia. If we (mainly) use steam propulsion in ships, why not to use it in sub-marine. Question: steam-propulsion was required by Royal Navy or it was choice of designers.

          “cannot remember the title of the book or the author”
          Wikipedia entry for British K-class submarine lists in Bibliography section: The K Boats by Everitt, Don (1963) and Observer’s Directory of Royal Naval Submarines 1901–1982 by Cocker, M.P. (1982). It is one of these?

          • “weapons R&D is like a bank account”
            So does 80-20 rule (also known as Pareto principle, or law of the vital few) apply?
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle
            which say: roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. If so, it would mean that most crucial question is: where (how) invest available resources. Notice that hard question in weapons (and other equipment) development is: Could that flaw can be removed at feasible cost (time) or not?. For example Martin B-26 Marauder twin-engine has lowest loss rate of any USAF bomber in WW2, but early B-26 has flawed propeller pitch-adjusting device (can change propeller pitch without crew will) so it get many negative nicknamed like B-Dash-Crash, Martin Murdered, One a day in Tampa Bay

          • Stalin shooting half the aeronautical engineers for supposed sabotage or downright political hatred was a bad idea. He also had no experience in aeronautics, so he really should not have put Mr. Petlyakov and Mr. Polikarpov in prison and threatened them with firing squads for stuff beyond their control… I’m not sure where Stalin wasn’t so great when commenting on weapons, but in terms of great strategy, threatening to kill soldiers who “stepped back” (usually because they need more ammunition, not because they are retreating or running away in terror) was a really bad idea.

            Of course Hitler was sillier, shoving forth the Tiger and Panther tank projects too soon to work out teething problems, shoving Goering to order the Luftwaffe to bomb London just as the Germans were on the brink of victory blowing up the airfields of the Royal Air Force, and nearly disbanding the Fallschirmjagers after the Battle of Crete because it took too many German lives and time thanks to lots of interference from British Commonwealth troops, Greek troops who had likely previously trashed Fascist Italians in Greece proper, and Cretan civilians angry from having their properties trespassed. The last item is on the list because Hitler believed that every paratrooper operation would fail now that the Allied Powers knew that such units existed.

          • “He also had no experience in aeronautics, so he really should not have put Mr. Petlyakov and Mr. Polikarpov in prison”
            But does Polikarpov was sentenced to sharashka by Stalin or it was OGPU affair?
            When I-5 fighter was presented to Stalin, Voroshilov, Ordzhonikidze – Polikarpov and other workers of TsKB-39 become free.

          • Hi, Daweo :

            The concept of the steam-driven submarine was based upon a desire on the part of the Royal Navy to achieve high surface speeds and extended range utilizing a technology already well advanced and well understood for its time in a large fleet submarine that could operate in direct concert with surface battle fleets. The K-Class submarines were an attempt to achieve this end. At the time, diesel propulsion for submarines was only just starting to become more efficient, and surface speeds still left a lot to be desired although fuel economy and range were already considered good.

            I think it was either “The K-Boats” by Don Everitt or “K Boats : Steam-Powered Submarines in World War I” ( ISBN-1-84037-057-2 )that I had read all those years ago. Thanks for helping to jog the old memory!

      • An excellent and most appropriate quote from Ian Hogg. We used to have a saying along similar lines in my old unit ( which I am sure was not entirely original — it was probably adopted from another source ) — “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war”.

  5. I imagine these crews like their American counterparts had a high casualty rate, due to the loud report and short effective range. In the book “It never snows in september”, the author states that German anti tank teams had a 50% casualty rate on ‘Hells Highway’ during Operation Market Garden whilst opposing British Armor.

    • One of the most effective uses of the 2.36in rocket was taught to me by a retired SF officer, who used it “for real” a couple of times in Korea;

      1. Get a case of the rockets (usually 10);

      2. Get some 1 x 6s, 3 ft long, and nail them together to form ten “V-troughs”, with legs like a sawhorse on each;

      3. Position said “sawhorses” on each side of a road you know an enemy armored or mech column will be using, staggered so they aren’t pointed straight at each other;

      4. Lay a rocket in each one. Wire them in parallel, NOT series, to a firing switch and battery (a 12v truck battery was good, according to him, due to the amperage more than the voltage);

      5. Lay a couple of AT mines at the end nearest you, so the column is in-between the troughs when the first vehicle hits them (make sure a scout car won’t set them off, naturally);

      6. Camouflage everything;

      7. Wait for the other side to arrive at the party;

      8. When the lead tank or APC hits the mines, close the switch, and run like h**l.

      Velocity won’t be all that great due to the open trough, according to him, but since each rocket will only be traveling 20 to 30 yards maximum before hitting, it hardly matters.

      And they hit the side armor, which is always thinner than front, and generally covers things like shell racks or fuel tanks that don’t react well to HEAT rounds.

      As the old saying goes, if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough to win.

      cheers

      eon

      • “You win! BY MURDER!!!!”
        Would a few tiger pits and perhaps a rigged 250 kg airplane bomb serving as an antitank mine work to demoralize the enemy even more?

        • He did admit to using a “borrowed” 500-pounder to blow a bridge once. Set it in the middle of the deck, wired an Engineer Special #4 to its detonator, backed off about 200 yards and behind a bend in the road…

          Boom.

          What bridge?

          The NKPLA tank column coming down the road wasn’t too happy when they got there an hour or so later. They’d really counted on that bridge being “up” when they arrived.

          😉

          cheers

          eon

          • I recall in a dime-thriller PANZER! that an American unit tried to blow up a bridge to prevent a bunch of Tiger tanks from crossing but the tanks got there too soon. Given this was set during the Battle of the Bulge, it makes sense that the wiring had to be done quickly. The charge didn’t destroy the bridge as intended, but the bridge was weakened so that when some of the tanks tried to cross, the entire thing came crashing down into the river. I suppose a “weakened” bridge is just as good as a destroyed bridge although the former is blatantly and perhaps unnecessarily dramatic.

  6. I give you the ultimate anti-anything weapon, straight from the Malayan emergency (1948-1960)
    1. Within 20 yards of a road or trail bury a drum (35 gallon minimum) pointed toward the target area and angled about 45 degrees from vertical.
    2. Place an explosive in the bottom, equivalent to one pound of TNT.
    3. Wire explosive to a location at a safe distance
    4. Fill drum to the top with a mixture of granular laundry detergent and gasoline (called foo-gas at the time).
    5. pack dirt firmly around drum
    6. add camouflage as required.
    7. multiple devices may be needed to handle high speed vehicles
    7. have a cold one and wait.

    I learned about this one from a Brit sergant while serving in Germany in the early 1970’s. He said the Gomers liked to stir dirt around every few hundred feet so it was impossible to tell which , if any, locations actually held a foo-bomb. The bulk and weight of the gasoline, stolen from the British and hauled through the jungle in five gallon jerry cans made the weapon pretty labor intensive, but if you have a lot of strong backs and no “real” equipment….

  7. This is from memory, so don’t shoot me if it is sparse on details: The Germans did have a steam powered submarine, the V-80 and later the Type XVIIA submarine. Both were powered by High Test Hydrogen Peroxide and the latter was, up until the nuclear subs, the fastest warship afloat. It could, while submerged achieve a reported sustained 24 knots outrunning any destroyer the Allies had. The reaction produced only steam at 1,500°F (condensed for drinking water) and pure Oxygen for breathing. The problem was short range but at the time it was the most advanced submersible extant. Three were recovered at the end of WWII; one went to England’s naval fleet and two (XXIs if memory serves) to the US Navy for research where they served until the first nuclear sub was launched, tested and certified for active duty.

    • 24 knots won’t outrun any destroyer with steam turbine propulsion (which became the norm already before WW1) unless the sea is very rough and limits the top speed of surface ships. However, at such speeds the only way to detect a submarine is active sonar. If contact was lost, a fast sub could put a lot of distance between her and the destroyer(s) in short time.

      The Type XXI, by the way, was a normal diesel-electric submarine. It differed from earlier U-boat models in having a hull form optimized for submerged sailing, much larger batteries than previous models and a snorkel (a Dutch invention) as standard for slow cruising and loading the batteries submerged with diesels.

      The US poast-WW2 GUPPY (Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program) boats were based on the type XXI, although they were actually extensively modernized WW2 boats (some were completed after the end of the war) rather than newly built ones. The Soviet Whiskey-class (Projects 613, 644, and 665) boats were also based on the Type XXI, but they were all newly built. Last of the Whiskeys were retired only in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, although by that time the design was completely obsolete.

      • I recall during the Great Eastern European Yard Sale in the early 90s that one could buy a “seaworthy” Whiskey Class with the torpedo tubes welded shut for $15,000 FOB Oddessa, bring your own crew. Don’t know if anyone actually bought one – I remember thinking that since Montell Williams who was still on TV at the time was a former US submarine officer that would make for some interesting TV. I suspect that the potential for being used for smuggling (the cartels have gotten pretty good at back-yard shipyard subs, I’ve read) probably resulted in the boats being quietly bought up by various governments and scrapped.

        • Funny you should mention this, Jim, but one cartel made the mistake of assembling an old Soviet sub in the middle of a river–it had nowhere to hide!

  8. Euroweasel:
    I defer to your more extensive knowledge on this subject. My primary information came from an ex-SS while at Cape Canaveral. He was “one of our Germans” and his main expertise was in propellant/oxidizer delivery systems using High Test Hydrogen Peroxide (HTHP) for propellants, oxidizer and/or component power. At the time we were “discussing” (a nice way of indicating a knock-down-drag-out” dog fight) of the best way to power the turban pumps that delivered these to the engines in massive quantities in a very short time. He was making the comparison to the Peroxide drive systems and the pure H2O2 vs. the Peroxide/Diesel fuel hybrids for turbine engines relative to the V80 family of submersibles. I was on the side of the second with nano-magnalumina (50:50% Magnesium/Aluminum alloy) added to the auto-ignition HTP/Diesel. The remaining discussions were mostly with people who had served on the early nuclear subs and etc with a sprinkling of short papers on the subject. My main interest was the use of HTHP for reciprocating engines for early “rover-like” exploratory vehicles for moon missions way before the adoption of solar panels and high-tech rechargeable batteries capable of doing that job. But you have reawakened my interest. Ido remember that one major problem he mentioned was that of the exhaust expulsion vs. depth-induced back pressure limiting depth of operation in the subs.

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