Panzer III being dismantled

Panzer III being dismantled


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Panzerkampfwagen III Medium Tank 1936-44, Bryan Perrett. A good introduction for anyone interesting in the Panzer III, this book covers the development of the tank, the structure of the German panzer forces, and its military career, which saw the Panzer III go from being the Third Reich's main battle tank to being under-gunned and under-armoured [see more]


Century III Mall

Century III Mall was an enclosed shopping mall located in the southeastern Pittsburgh suburb of West Mifflin, Pennsylvania. The mall was built on a former slag dump in 1979. The Century III Mall planning began in 1976, opened in 1979, and closed in 2019.

It was once the third largest shopping mall in the world when it opened in 1979. The mall was originally developed and owned by Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation. From 1996-2011, Century III Mall was owned and operated by Simon Property Group. The vacant mall site is currently owned by Las Vegas-based Moonbeam Capital Investments LLC.


Pz. II

The Pz. II was larger and more heavily armed and armoured than the Pz. I, but it was still a light tank. It was nevertheless the mainstay of the panzer divisions in the first two years of the war, because of delays encountered in building the more powerful Pz. III and IV. The Pz. II went into full production in 1937. It carried a 20-mm gun and one machine gun and was protected by armour with a maximum thickness of 30 mm. The tank weighed 10 tons, had a top road speed of 40 km (25 miles) per hour, and was manned by a crew of three. The German army used about 1,000 Pz. IIs in each of the invasions of Poland, France, and the Soviet Union. By early 1942, however, the Pz. II was clearly outgunned by Soviet and British tanks armed with 50- or 75-mm weapons. To remedy this, the IIF version of the tank was equipped with a larger gun and thicker armour, but its combat performance in Russia and North Africa was disappointing, partly because its six-cylinder engine could not cope with the tank’s increased weight. With its design limits reached, production of the Pz. II was discontinued at the end of 1942. More than 3,500 Pz. IIs were manufactured, with the later models specifically designed for use as reconnaissance vehicles.


25 images of tank wrecks of WWII

Images of tanks from Normandy to Russia. History seems to have a fasination with tanks, for the crews it was like being in a tracked crematorium. Some years ago I struck up a conversation in a fuel station with British WWII vet. he was in the REME and job was to recover damaged and destroyed tanks from the battlefield. The stories of what he saw and had to do has stayed with me since.

A Sherman tank passes wrecked German horse-drawn transport on the road to Arras, 1 September 1944. U.S. Marines run past the ruins of a ”Sherman” tank during their daily physical training exercises. They wre participating as members of the multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon. The tank was probably a Sherman Firefly used by militias in Lebanon.

WRECKED GERMAN TANK SHOWING “BAZOOKA PANTS,” a defense against rockets.

Tanks, perhaps wrecks, at Porto Farina, Tunisia, in May 1943. The identity of the tanks is unclear. Nearest to the camera is an dismantled SOMUA S35, with its hull armour and suspension armour removed, behind it a British Valentine Mk III tank. In the background are two French-made SOMUA S35s. SOMUA S35s were at the time used by the 19e Groupement Blindé Français, an allied unit, which contradicts the original caption. However, as every usable vehicle was commandeered by the (at that moment) victorious troops, it is unknown who operated these tanks. Original caption: “Allied soldiers inspect the wreckage of one of the tanks of the German Tenth and Fifteenth Panzer Divisions. Photo made at Porto Farina where the Nazis were trapped.”

The ruins of Cassino, May 1944: a wrecked Sherman tank and Bailey bridge in the foreground, with Monastery Ridge and Castle Hill in the background. View of Cassino after heavy bombardment showing a knocked out Sherman tank by a Bailey bridge in the foreground with Monastery Ridge and Castle Hill in the background.

A Sherman tank passes a wrecked German Mk IV near Cagny during Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18 July 1944.

A wrecked Stuart tank on the southern road between Batavia and Bandoeng. This vehicle formed part of a relief column that went to the assistance of a supply convoy ambushed by Indonesian nationalists. The relief column was itself attacked and the road considered too dangerous for further use. This led to the operation by the 36th Brigade to clear the northern road of Indonesian nationalist fighters.

A GMC 353 passes a knocked out PanzerLined up in front of a wrecked German tank and displaying a captured swastika, is a group of USA infantrymen who were left behind to “mop-up” in Chambois, France, last stronghold of the Nazis in the Falaise Gap area. Wrecked Sherman tanks and carriers being broken up at a British salvage dump in Normandy, 1 August 1944.

Knocked out Allied tanks assembled in a field near Caen prior to being stripped of material that can be reused. The wrecks would then be scrapped. The aftermath of an attack by Hawker Typhoons of No. 121 Wing on German armoured vehicles which had massed at Roncey, south-east of Coutances, Normandy, to counter-attack American forces on 29 July 1944. The wrecked vehicles include a PzKpfw IV tank and two SdKfz 251 half-track armoured personnel carriers. The graves of some of the occupants can be seen on the left.

The British Army in North Africa 1942. Wrecked Italian M13 or M14 tank

Troops and a civilian examine an abandoned German Mk IV tank with its gun protruding into a wrecked shop front in the village of Putanges, 20 August 1944.

Destroyed tanks of the soviet 19th tank division near Vojnitsa-Lutsk highway.

Panther knocked out in the Ukraine

German military equipment destroyed in Stalingrad

Wrecked German Tiger tanks in the rubble of Villers Bocage after the British had captured the town, 5 August 1944.

British Crusader tank passes a burning German Panzer IV tank during Operation Crusader

Panthers Knocked-out Normandy

M4 sherman tank, burning in Neumarkt, Germany 1945

Destroyed tanks on Mont Ormel (Hill 262). Left is a Sherman, right foreground is an SdKfz 251, behind it is a Panther

A lorry-mounted 2-pdr anti-tank gun passes a destroyed German PzKpfw tank in the Western Desert, 2 June 1942.

The remains of a knocked-out German PzKpfw IV tank, blown up by sappers to prevent it being recovered by the enemy, 2 November 1942.


Sherman Tanks

TWC are pleased to report progress on the first of the 10 Sherman’s, the pictures depict an M4A1 being disassembled ready for sand blasting and repair. Many NOS parts and a fully rebuilt engine are waiting to go straight back in to the hull.

Some parts which are no longer available generally, are under manufacture and in most cases a series of parts are being produced so that we are able to offer them to other collectors so anybody interested please feel free to message us.

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

TWC showing our latest progress on the multiple Hetzer restorations by Tey Vehicle Restorations. The first four pictures show the Hetzer’s being disassembled, picture 5 shows hull number 1 having it’s engine mountings replaced in order to fit the correct 6 cylinder Praga.

Picture 6 shows newly manufactured fuel tank protection shields as this will be one of the first items to be welded back into the hull. There is much progress on the disassembly of smaller components and we look forward to bringing you further updates.

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

In May and after driving 2575 miles we are home and busy unloading. Also see picutres of the M10’s progress, now thrououghly sand blasted and being prepared for paint. We also saw much progress on the suspension units and alot of the interior tin work, so we are really pleased with progress to date.

Thursday and Friday we spent in Normandy, negotiating with the farmer the extraction of more parts from the former German army workshop.

This uncovered two near mint Panzer IV gear boxes which we will a rrange to collect in the next few weeks. Today we are pleased to announce ahead of Coys auction results that The Wheatcroft Collection was successful in purchasing the majority of the German vehicles from Italian collection that was put to auction today.

Alex is now busy arranging for transportation back to the midlands base. We will release pictures once we have the vehicles back and under our control. We are also pleased to report that disassembly of the collections 4 Hetzer’s is progressing nicely at Tey Vehicle Restorations, see photos.

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

Sherman parts and the preparation of the Sherman M4A1, ready to be shipped to Matthieu Dumias of Military Classic Vehicles as part of our 10 Sherman restoration program.

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

Another one of our Shermans to Matthieu Dumias at Military Classic Vehicles. There will be one more going out this month plus two of our own vehicles full with NOS Sherman parts (tracks and two more turrets), so that we can call in with the empty vehicles on the return trip collecting more German Panzer parts from the former field workshop we discovered last year.

It’s a bit of an unknown what’s in the back of the barns as it’s literally buried under tons of parts that the farmer had collected from the numerous derelict vehicles knocked out and abandoned on his farm.

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

We have taken delivery of this STuG III unit for one of the collections STuG III’s which are due to start their restoration shortly. This was an amazing find, brought up from the bottom of a fresh water lake and is in remarkable condition.

Tony has already pressure washed it and has started the process of soaking it in a releasing agent in order to ease dismantling. On the other end of the scale, we found this, a NOS G7a German torpedo engine section. This gives us a full complement of G7a torpedo’s for the collections Schnellboot S130. We are off to look at more stuff tomorrow, updates to follow.

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

TWC’s HGV driver Darren, delivers anther 40 foot load of Sherman spares (NOS) to our restoration partner Matthieu Dumias of Military Classic Vehicles. Another load leaves on Sunday so next week I (Kevin), am joining the team pulling together more parts from stores making up the last of 6 truck loads. We believe this represents the largest cache of Sherman spares anywhere in Europe.

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

Unloading a van full of Stuka parts from various locations at our Berlin workshop where the Stuka will be built. We were amazed at the quality of some of the parts.

As it was only an hours drive to Rosenow Restorations we called in again as we forgot to photograph current work on our various Mercedes under restoration and we wanted to share the latest images with you. We’ve now have a 400 plus mile dash to the Eifel mountains where we are going to take the weekend off, clean and restack the van ready for our next appointment in Belgium.

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection

© Wheatcroft Collection


Why Nazi Germany Relied So Much on the Panzer II Tank

The Panzerkampfwagen II was designed as a stopgap, but it ended up being mass produced and used on many fronts.

As Nazi Germany began to openly rearm its military in the late 1930s, it introduced the Panzerkampfwagen II—more commonly known as the Panzer II—largely as a stopgap while more powerful tanks such as the Panzer III and Panzer IV were being developed. However, the Panzer II went on to become one of the most numerous armored vehicles employed in Germany’s Panzer divisions at the beginning of the war.

Its development began before Germany had learned valuable experience in tank warfare during the Spanish Civil War (1946-39), and it was soon apparent that the Panzer II lacked the armor for the modern battlefield.

Yet, even when the light tank was first introduced, the Panzer II was widely regarded as a platoon commander’s tank, while it was also employed to provide support to the more antiquated Panzer I. Despite the fact that the tank was largely outgunned and under armored by the outbreak of the war it actually performed quite admirably. It was powered by a 140 horsepower Mayback petrol engine, and featured a new suspension system that consisted of five large independent road wheels, which provided a smoother ride than previous tanks.

While it weighed ten tonnes and was far heavier than the Panzer I, it was fast and more powerful and could reach a top speed of 30mph. Its main gun was a 20mm cannon that was a converted aircraft gun, while a 7.92mm Maschinengewehr 34 machine gun (MG34) was also mounted coaxially with the main gun.

What it lacked in firepower, it made up for in numbers and speed, where groups of Panzer IIs could encircle enemy units. Used in this way, the Panzer II proved effective in the campaigns in Poland, Denmark, Norway and during the Blitzkrieg into the Low Countries and France—largely in part because apart from France none of those nations actually had much in the way of an armored force and lacked adequate anti-tank weapons. A total of 955 Panzer IIs were used in the Battle of France in May 1940, according for almost half of Germany’s entire tank force at the time.

Even by 1940, the Panzerkampfwagen II was largely outclassed and it was later relegated to more of a reconnaissance role, where it was used to good effect. It went on to serve in North Africa and even was used in the Eastern Front during the invasion of the Soviet Union. The Panzer II remained in front line service until 1943 when it was then employed largely in internal security duties in less active locations.

Production of the tank ceased completely in 1944, but the Panzer II chassis was used as the basis for other German World War II era armored vehicles including Wespe self-propelled gun and the Marder II tank destroyer.


The torpedo boat Ryaniy (Zelous), known as Sova (Owl) until 1902, was captured by the Finnish Whites in 1918 in Helsinki during the Finnish Civil War. For years it served in the Finnish Navy as S-1, until in 1939 it was decommissioned.

Here you can read about the most legendary vessels in Russian history.

If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.


Panzer Battle Badge [ edit | edit source ]

The Panzer Badge consists of an oval with a wreath composed of five single oak leaves on one side and four on the other (the tank treads cover one). At the base of the oval is a tie, and on top is the Wehrmacht eagle, which has downspread wings and is clutching a swastika in its talons. In the center of the badge is a tank that passes from left to right. The left track of the tank goes into the wreath of oak leaves, and the area under the tank is grooved and made to look like grass. ΐ] The reverse of the badge has three variations, the badge could either be hollow backed, flat, or semi-dished. The hollowed backed variation showed the imprint of the obverse, while the flat was just solid (pictured here). The semi-dished version has a slight indent that shows part of the outline of the tank. The badge was attached to the uniform via a hitch and hook, which were affixed to the reverse and had a couple of variations. There was the conventional soldering of a small rectangular medal bar (pictured here), as well as the more rare type in which a circular ball hinge was inserted into the body of the badge. ΐ] The tank in the center of the medal is a Panzerkampfwagen IV. Β] The criteria for the award of the Silver Panzer Badge were, to have taken part in 3 armored assaults on 3 different days, to have been wounded in an assault, to have won a decoration for bravery in an assault. [ Clarification needed ]

Tank Badge 25, 50, 75, 100 [ edit | edit source ]

As the war continued it became apparent that the single Panzer Badge was no longer adequate to recognize the growing number of veterans with years of experience, and in June 1943 four new classes of the award were introduced for 25, 50, 75 and 100 engagements. ΐ] These new badges consisted of an award that was similar to the unnumbered Panzer Badge, but with a box showing the Arabic numeral of the class at the base of the wreath. The badge was slightly larger for the 25 and 50 type with the 75 and 100 being larger still. ΐ] The wreath in the case of the 25 and 50 was silvered, while in the 75 and 100 class it was gilt. The center of the badge (the tank) was made of a separate striking and chemically darkened in the case of the 25 and 50 class, while in the 75 and 100 class the tank was silvered. The reverse has several variations, and could either have a slim or wide pin. ΐ] The 50 and 100 engagement badges were struck in a lightweight zinc alloy this was so that the larger pin did not pull inconveniently on the tunic. Β] The 200 engagements badge was unofficially created and was never officially documented. Γ] The Tank in the center of the medal is a Panzerkampfwagen III. Β] The 1957 de-Nazified version lost the Eagle and the Swastika, but was otherwise unchanged. Β]


The comparatively little-known M26 Pershing heavy tank was produced towards the end of the war. After the Germans started fielding their Tiger I & II heavy tanks, the Western Allies were lacking a tank capable of meeting them in the field. Instead, having to rely on tank destroyers, artillery, air support, and the like.

Additionally, the logistical situation was improving for the Western Allies, allowing them to ship heavier equipment to Europe. This all created a need for a heavy tank. The M26 Pershing heavy tank was considered ahead of the Tiger I and Panzer IV tanks but behind the Tiger II tank.


The M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer

Even before Nazi Germany’s declaration of war on America on 11 December 1941, the U.S. Army was coming to terms with the need to adapt its arsenal and operational doctrines to the evolving European battlefield. Having witnessed the rapid advances of armored and mechanized forces in the German Blitzkrieg across Poland, the Low Countries, and France, War Department planners, including the future commander of Army Ground Forces (AGF), Lesley J. McNair, set out to amend a strategy based around static and localized anti-armor defense beginning in the latter stages of 1940. Within a year, the conclusion that mobile, massed anti-armor operations should be employed to counter armored attacks had been adopted after doctrinal endorsement from Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall. However, as German panzers tracked further into Eastern Europe, refinement of the tactics and development of the vehicles with which to blunt the new method of warfare still lagged. Despite flaws in its doctrine and weapons developed to counter the panzer threat, the Army was well on its way toward developing its Tank Destroyer Force and several tank destroyer systems, including the M18 Hellcat, by the time the United States entered World War II.

During training in the United States, soldiers serving in tank destroyer units were authorized to wear the Tank Destroyer Forces shoulder sleeve insignia. (Courtesy of David A. Kaufman)

The origin of the M18 dates to these first few weeks before the United States’ entry into World War II, when, on 27 November, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew D. Bruce assumed command of the Tank Destroyer Tactical and Firing Center at Fort Meade, Maryland. Bruce, a respected planner from the War Department’s G-3 section, immediately set out to develop a vehicle fast enough to maneuver around the flanks of enemy columns to attack from the rear, and with enough killing power to distinguish it from the infantry support oriented tanks like the M4 Sherman.

The solution was the Gun Motor Carriage (GMC), although the first few models developed by the Army were anything but effective.

A soldier mans the M2 .50 caliber machine gun on an M18 during a training maneuver. The Hellcat’s main gun was a high-velocity 76mm cannon. (National Archives)

The M6 design, which featured a 37mm anti-tank gun attached to a modified light truck, was woefully ineffective during initial use in the North African campaign, as was the M3, a half-track armed with a low-velocity 75mm gun. Needing a rugged but fast moving vehicle to close with enemy armored attacks from the likes of the Panzer III and Panzer IV, the AGF Board moved to standardize the M10 Wolverine tank destroyer, armed with a 3-inch gun, by the spring of 1943.

The M10, based on the M4 Sherman chassis, was a reliable fighting vehicle to match the medium German panzers in the deserts of North Africa, but it was not the long-term solution Bruce had in mind. Favoring a vehicle with greater speed, cost effectiveness, and mobility, while at the same time not sacrificing firepower, Bruce secured the test models for his ideal panzer hunter with the T70 prototype. Capable of top road speeds in excess of fifty miles per hour, the twenty-ton, second generation tank destroyer packed a high-velocity 76mm main gun with the same stopping power as the M10’s 3-inch gun. By June 1943, Buick was already rushing T70 models into production, and by the time the M18 was standardized in March 1944, the nickname “Hellcat” was already being used for promotional purposes.

During a lull in the fighting in Brest, France, on 12 September 1944, crewmen of an M18 nicknamed “Big Gee” inspect their vehicle. (National Archives)

The M18’s service in combat began as it was still being standardized, with five of the new T70 models being sent to the Italian campaign that same spring. Three of these vehicles were deployed in the reconnaissance company of the 894th Tank Destroyer Battalion, participating in breakthrough operations at Anzio in late May. While deployed in Italy, initial use of the T70 revealed design flaws which would come to limit the M18’s usefulness as a tank killer later in the drive across Europe.

The Hellcat’s speed and ability to get into firing position were admired by M18 crews, but the lack of killing power of the 76mm gun and minimal protection offered to the crew made commanders tread carefully in converting whole battalions over from the M10. With only thirteen millimeters on the front hull, the M18’s armor was less than that of the M8 armored car, and much less than the two inches of frontal armor on the M4A1 Sherman or 1.5-inch armor plate on the M10. Likewise, the awkward interior layout of the M18’s turret made reloading the main gun cumbersome and slow in combat situations. The introduction of heavier German tanks, such as the Mk V Panther and Mk VI Tiger, presented additional problems.

These concerns were fresh in the minds of those in Lieutenant General Omar Bradley’s staff during the lead-up to Operation Overlord, so much so that the First Army commander resisted the option of converting tank destroyer battalions under his command to the M18. Of the nineteen tank destroyer battalions allocated for the invasion of

M18 crewmen from the 603d Tank Destroyer Battalion relax around their vehicle in Marnach, Luxembourg, 21 February 1945. (National Archives)

France, only three would be equipped with the Hellcat prior to landing in Normandy. The 603d, 704th, and 705th of Lieutenant General George S. Patton’s Third Army all came ashore in Normandy by late July 1944.

Like all self-propelled tank destroyer battalions, those fitted with the M18 were composed of a headquarters company, reconnaissance company, three gun companies, and a medical detachment. As defined by revised Field Manual (FM) 18-5 issued in July 1944, the three gun companies each contained three platoons of four guns, giving the entire battalion a total of thirty-six tank destroyers. While FM 18-5 called for an aggressive spirit of action aimed against the flanks of advancing enemy armored formations with the entire battalion force, the initial breakout from Normandy during Operation COBRA saw the M18 serving less as a tank hunter and more in convoy protection and infantry support roles. Due at least somewhat to a lack of a concerted German panzer counteroffensive immediately after D-Day, the delay in the M18’s meeting with the Panther and Tiger tanks of the Wehrmacht may have been for the best. While ordnance tests back in the States concluded the 76mm gun could pierce the frontal armor of a Tiger at ranges up to 2,000 yards, the tests were marred by flaws which underscored the overmatched firepower of the M18. In truth, M18 crews quickly learned that frontal fire at ranges beyond 300 yards would have little effect on the heavy German tanks at the same time, the Hellcat provided no protection against the high velocity 75mm and 88mm guns of the Panther and Tiger, respectively.

Outgunned as they were, Hellcat crews managed to destroy a significant number of enemy tanks, and were effective in blunting German panzer attacks when given the opportunity. As was the case of many U.S. armored fighting vehicles during the war in Europe, Hellcat crews proved adept at developing new tactics when taking on German tanks by learning the strengths and weaknesses of the M18 in combat situations. In addition to using the Hellcats’ speed to get into position to fire on the flanks of German tanks, Hellcat crews learned that a well placed shot between the mantlet and the glacis plate of a Panther would cause the shell to ricochet into the driving compartment, killing the crew or disabling the tank.

A group of M18s attached to the 6th Armored Division halt before a disabled German Mk VI King Tiger tank somewhere in Germany, 28 February 1945. (National Archives)

A number of panzers were knocked out by these means when Hitler finally ordered an armored counteroffensive against Patton’s Third Army in September 1944. On 19 September, Company C , 704th Tank Destroyer Battalion, attached to the 4th Armored Division’s Combat Command A, helped defend the town of Arracourt when attacked by elements of the 113th Panzer Brigade. Taking advantage of the fog to sneak up on the more heavily armed and armored Panthers, four Hellcats engaged a company of tanks from the 113th around Bezange-la-Petite, firing from a slight depression and knocking out seven Panthers before dawn. Later in the day, the 113th pressed its attack in the direction of Réchicourt -la-Petite, but was met once again by Company C, which blunted an assault on 4th Armored Division’s command post. Under the fearless direction of Captain Tom Evans, the lead platoon of Company C served as an attractive target for the German tanks, which failed to notice the other two platoons of Hellcats advancing on their flanks. In the shooting that followed, the three platoons of Company C knocked out four German tanks before pulling pack, only to give chase once the German panzers and panzer grenadiers retreated. Evans himself manned the gun of a disabled M18 and was able to knock out two panzers, earning the Distinguished Service Cross in the process. By the end of the day, nineteen German tanks lay burning at the hands of the Hellcats. When the fighting ended a few days later, the victorious American Hellcats accounted for thirty-nine panzers destroyed or disabled. The fact that only seven Hellcats were destroyed or disabled speaks not only to the tactical flaws of German armor advancing without proper reconnaissance, but also to the proficiency and adaptability of the M18 crews.

Despite the Hellcat’s success around Arracourt, units equipped with M18s continued to engage in what FM 18-5 described as “secondary missions.” As a result, the M18 was typically deployed in company size strength amidst infantry and combined combat elements. Serving as an infantry support weapon and used extensively in clearing pillboxes and fortified enemy positions within towns, the M18, like the M10 before it, was seldom ever concentrated in the massed battalion formation designed for anti-armor operations. While effective in these secondary operations, the new role of the M18 came at a cost. Complaints about the open turret configuration and exposed .50 caliber machine gun were common, while the lack of a coaxial machine gun afforded little protection to the exposed heads of the tank driver and assistant driver. Far too often, M18 crews were forced to use their 76mm cannon against enemy infantry targets, depleting crucial ammunition for use in anti-armor purposes. Along with the light armor and lack of penetration power of the main gun, these flaws remained enduring weaknesses of the M18 and underscored the contradictory nature of tank destroyer doctrine.

Today, M18s can be found around the world in museums and private collections. The M18 shown here was photographed at the Museum of the American GI’s 2007 open house in College Station, Texas . (Museum of the American GI)

The Hellcat would have one more opportunity to prove itself against the heavy panzers of the Wehrmacht when the Germans launched their last-ditch offensive through the Ardennes in December 1944. The M18s of the 705th were integral in the defense of Bastogne. When the 15th Panzer Division attacked positions held by the 101st Airborne Division on Christmas Day, the 705th and its M18s helped hold the Germans at bay. On that day, M18s were credited with destroying twenty-seven German tanks, with only six M18s lost.

Fighting in the Ardennes convinced the Army of the need to reequip its towed tank destroyer battalions in favor of self-propelled systems like the M18. Although by 1945, the preference was to reequip units with the newer M36, which packed a 90mm gun capable of destroying a Panther at longer ranges than the 76mm gun of the M18. Despite the preference for the M36, a number of units converted from the M10 to the M18.

A handful of tank destroyer battalions saw action halfway around the world against the Japanese. Three tank destroyer battalions deployed to the Pacific Theater were equipped with the M18, with one, the 637th, earning the Presidential Unit Citation for its role in clearing Fort McKinley’s emplaced guns during fierce fighting for Manila at the beginning of 1945. Like in Europe, however, tactical use of M18s in the Pacific deviated from the original tank destroyer concept, with the Hellcat used more in infantry support and bunker-busting operations.

An M18 from the 603d Tank Destroyer Battalion, Combat Command B, 6th Armored Division, guards an intersection in Luneville, France, 22 September 1944. (National Archives)

The majority of Hellcats may have been used like their cousin the Sherman, but unlike the venerable M4, the Hellcat did not undergo substantial changes throughout the war, although designers did experiment with variants and mission-specific designs. Even before the T70 had been standardized as the M18, the 76mm GMC was already serving as a prototype for an amphibious version that would eventually be designated the T-86. Other experiments included an attempt in the autumn of 1944 to adopt the design for use as a self-propelled howitzer, but this and other tests were abandoned with the ending of World War II. In fact, the only variant to catch on would be the M39 Armored Utility Vehicle. Utilizing the M18 chassis and doing away with the turret, the M39 was designed and built in limited quantities for use as a command and control vehicle, as well as a prime mover and armored personnel carrier. Between October 1944 and March 1945, 640 M18s earmarked for production were modified for this purpose. Very few reached the field in time for the war, but some saw action in Korea.


Watch the video: DOKUMAN Panzer III w WZMot w Poznaniu