Panzer IV
Panzer IV is the common name of a medium tank that was developed in the late 1930s by Germany and used extensively in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen IV (abbreviated PzKpfw IV) and the tank also had the ordnance inventory designation SdKfz 161.

It was initially designed as an infantry-support medium tank (Begleitwagen, mittlerer Panzer), to work in conjunction with the Panzer III which was intended to engage enemy armor. Later in the war it was up-gunned and up-armored and took over the tank-fighting role while Panzer IIIs were either put into infantry support duties or converted into other vehicles. The Panzer IV was the most common German tank of World War II, and was used as the base for many other fighting vehicles, such as tank destroyers and self-propelled anti-aircraft guns. The Panzer IV has the distinction of being the only German tank to remain in continuous production throughout all of World War II, with over 8,500 produced from 1937 to 1945.

A Panzer IV "612" recovered on July 3rd 1944 by the British during the battle at Caen. Note that the turret numbers were stencilled in white.

The Panzer IV was the workhorse of the German tank corps, being produced and used in all theatres of combat throughout the war. The design was upgraded repeatedly to deal with the increasing threats from enemy forces.

The Panzer IV was originally intended principally to deal with infantry and fortifications, while the Panzer III dealt with enemy armored units. To this end it was equipped with the 75 mm KwK 37 L/24 gun, which was effective against soft targets and against many light tanks available at the time, but lacked much armor penetration. It had poor accuracy, because the barrel was short (1.8 m), giving a low muzzle velocity.

During the invasion of France the Panzer IV did face tank-to-tank combat, the L/24 was found effective against the French Renault and Somua tanks, but notably useless when fired at either the Char Bl or the British Matilda with its front armor of 60 mm. This combat weakness was noted again in Africa later in 1940 during the fighting around Sidi Barrani and then Tobruk.

The evolution of the Panzer IV's main gun and turret.

In June 1941 the invasion of the Soviet Union introduced the German tanks to their Russian opponents. The 100 mm plus armor on the KV-1 and the heavily angled 45 mm of the T-34 were both strongly resistant to German fire. The Panzerkommission which was dispatched to examine this problem resulted in the specifications for the Panzer V Panther; it also recommended new suspension, increased armor and a more powerful main gun for the struggling short barreled Panzer IIIs and IVs. The interruption to supply that such changes would cause meant the immediate change would be only the Panzer IV's gun. In November 1941, a 75 mm gun to match the performance of the Rheinmetall's PaK 40 L/46 (80 mm penetrated at 1,000 m with a standard 6.8 kg Panzergranate 39 APCBC shell) was demanded for the Panzer IV from Krupp - with the first models to be in production by March 1942.

The PzKpfw IV Ausf. F2 was upgraded with the heavier 75mm L43 anti-tank gun mainly to face the heavy T-34 and KV tanks.

The up-gunned Panzer IV was needed as soon as possible so, instead of waiting for production start of the new Ausf. G in autumn 1942, production was ordered to start immediately within the Ausf. F production contract. This required a change in naming conventions: the new version with the long 75 mm KwK 40 L/43 gun was named Panzer IV Ausf. F2 (Sd. Kfz. 161/1) and the previous one with the short L/24 gun Ausf. F1. The Ausf. F2 was later renamed Ausf. G and production continued under this designation with minor improvements. The KwK 40 L/43 armed tanks did not have an especially long production life, in March 1943 a new version of the KwK 40 with a 48 caliber barrel was fitted to new models, the 75 mm KwK 40 L/48. Early model Panzer IV tanks were often upgraded for increased combat efficiency. From 1943, for example, surviving Panzer IV models E/F were given additional armor and the 75 mm KwK 40 L/48 gun.

The aforementioned upgrades allowed the Panzer IV to keep its advantage over Allied designs such as the M4 Sherman and the T-34. Production continued and was stepped up even while the more effective Panther medium tank was in service, because of the Panzer IV's low cost and greater reliability; since the design was already in use and tested in the battlefield they could be upgraded and problems removed, while the Panther was a relatively new model.

Small numbers of Panzer IV were supplied by Germany to its allies. Hungary received ten and Romania eleven in September 1942. Italy twelve and Turkey fifteen in May 1943. Spain was gifted twenty in November 1943. From February 1943 to August 1944 Bulgaria received a total of 91 vehicles, enough to equip an entire battalion, and used them against the Germans in late 1944. Romania was given a further 127 Panzer IVs in the same period as the supplies to Bulgaria. In the final months of 1944 another 52 were sent to Hungary.

Finland bought 22 Panzer IV Ausf. Js, of which 15 arrived, all too late to fight against the Soviets in the Continuation War (1941-44) or against German troops in the following Lapland War (1944-45)

 
German Panzer IV Ausf. J medium tank, in Finnish markings, displayed in Finnish Tank Museum in Parola.

The Panzer IV Ausf. A had 30 mm of slightly sloped (10-25°s) homogeneous steel armor on the turret front and hull front, with 15 mm on the turret and hull sides, 10 mm of armor on the turret top and 10 mm on the belly. This was deemed sufficient, as the Panzer IV was intended for anti-infantry work, while Panzer IIIs were to deal with opposing tanks.

Officers inspect a German Mk IV tank knocked out by the Durham Light Infantry - 11 June 1944.

In practice, Panzer IVs would frequently face enemy tanks and anti-tank guns unsupported, and the armor was upgraded to 30 mm on the front hull of the Ausf. B, 50 mm in the Ausf. E, and 50+30 mm in the Ausf. G, with armor on the sides and rear being increased as well. From June, 1943 all new Panzer IVs, Ausf H and later, were produced with 80 mm of front armor, rather than having additional plates added, though the turret armor remained 50mm thick. Panzer IVs frequently had armor skirting (Schürzen) or additional layers of armor added in the field. From late 1943 until September 1944, Zimmerit anti-magnetic paste was also a common addition.

 

 

12th SS Panzer Regiment - 5th Company: this photo shows the damage sustained by "536" on 7 June 1944 and was taken the following day when the tank was still immobilized.

Variants
"Ausf" is an abbreviation of Ausführung, which means "version".

Ausf. A (1937-1938, 35 produced)
Ausf. B (1938, 42 produced): Thicker armor, larger engine.
Ausf. C (1938-1939, 138 produced): Minor improvements.
Ausf. D (1939-1940, 229 produced): Thicker side armor. First model intended for combat.
Ausf. E (1940-1941, 223 produced): Thicker front and side armor.
Ausf. F1 (1941-1942, 462 produced): Simplified construction.
Ausf. F2 (1942, 175 produced): Armed with a new, longer-barreled 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/43 gun.
Ausf. G (1942-1943, 1687 produced): Thicker turret armor, winter combat modifications. Some late Ausf. Gs were fitted with 'Schürzen', side skirts, thin metal plates attached to the hull sides and turret via mounting brackets for protection against Soviet anti-tank rifles as well as hollow-charge rounds.
Ausf. H (1943-1944, 3774 produced): Longer 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/48 gun and thicker armor. Radio antenna moved to left rear of hull.
Ausf. J (1944-1945, 1758 produced): Turret traverse engine replaced with an extra fuel tank. later ausf Js had simplified vertical exhaust mufflers and the use of 3 instead of 4 track return rollers. Very late ausf J's used wire mesh side-skirts (Drahtgeflecht Schürzen) in place of solid metal plates to conserve strategic materials and reduce overall weight.
Tauchpanzer (1940, 42 converted): A "diving tank". Ausf. D converted in anticipation of Operation Sealion. All openings were sealed, commander's cupola, gun mantlet and machine gun mount covered with rubber sheeting, turret ring protected by inflatable rubber ring. Exhausts were fitted with non-return valves. Air was supplied via a flexible 18-meter hose held on the surface by a buoy. Maximum safe depth was about 15 meters, maximum underwater speed about 3 mph (5 km/h). Some were used by the 18th Panzer Regiment during River Bug crossing in Operation Barbarossa.
Panzerbefehlswagen IV (PzBefWg. IV) (1944, 97 converted): Ausf H converted to command vehicle, were fitted with second radio.
Panzerbeobachtungwagen IV (PzBeogWg. IV) (1944-1945, 96 converted): Pz IV, mostly Ausf. J, converted to Panzerartillerie Forward Observation Officer's vehicle. Were fitted with additional periscope to the left of the commander's cupola and with additional radios.

 
Panzer IV in North Africa.
Panzer 4 on guard at toulon harbour.

 

  Panzer IV Crew
German panzer IV s at the polish border.

 

Panzer IV s

 

Panzer IV and Crew

 

  A good frontal view of a Panzer IV, the most manufactured tank in the German army. Its turret at "two o'clock". Note the trident symbol on the right mudguard, emblem of the 2nd Panzer Division.
Panzer IV    
134", a type "H" Panzer IV if the 1st Company of the 22nd Panzer-Regiment had received a hit which had punched through the plate at the front of the turret in spite of the thickness of 50 mm. A large round hole is visible below the gunners visor. Note the camouflage.

 

 

 

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