A Panzer IV Ausf A, Poland, 4th company, 1st Abteilung, 1st Panzer Regiment, 1st Panzerdivision.
A Panzer IV Ausf B, unknown unit, Poland, september 1939. Notice the classical makeshift camouflage, with a hastily sprayed reddish brown and yellow unit markings.
A Panzer IV Ausf B of the 21st Panzerdivision - Normandy, June 1944.
A Panzer IV Ausf C, 8th Korps, IIth Abteilung, 35th Panzer Regiment, 4th Panzerdivision - France, May-June 1940.
A Panzer IV Ausf D, DAK (Deutsche Afrika Korps) of the XVth Panzerdivision, El Agheila, december 1941.
Tauchpanzer IV Ausf D, provisioned for operation Seelöwe (or Sealion, prospected landings in Britain). It was theorically capable of fording the channel in shallow waters and sandbanks (6 to 15 meters max). Tests were also conducted with Panzer III and II, but stayed inconclusive. All apertures were carefully blocked and an auto-adaptative submarine type schnorchel mast, was mounted on the turret, both for engine air feeding and exhaust. A total of 43 were converted by August-september 1940. Later on, 168 Panzer III of various versions were also converted for operation Barbarossa, to ford large rivers.
Panzer IV Ausf E of the Afrika Korps, 15th Panzerdivision, Lybia, on the fall of 1941.
Panzer IV Ausf E of the 11th Panzerdivision, april 1941, during the Yugoslavian campaign. Notice the bolted armor.
Panzer IV Ausf F1 of the 5th Panzerdivision, Group Center, Russia, january 1942.
Vorpanzer F1, with extra bolted appliqué armor on the sides, gun mantlet and frontal glacis, with the 5th Pz.Division, Groupe Center, Russia, Winter 1941-1942.
Panzer IV Ausf F1 of the 5th Panzerregiment, 5th Leichtes Panzerdivision, Tobruk, Libya, march 1941. The camouflage was sand (Gelb braun) and degraded sand over the usual Dunkelgrau basis, forming Grau-Grün patches.
Panzer IV Ausf F2/G of the 1st infantry division (motorized) "Grossdeutschland", Voronezh, Russia, june 1942. Improvised pattern of sprayed brownish sand over standard factory dunkelgrau.
Ausf F2, 1st SS Panzer bataillon, SS Division LSSAH in France, which took part to "Case Anton" (invasion and occupation of Vichy French zone), november 1942.
Ausf F2, 4th Kompanie, Ist Abteilung, VIIIth Panzer-Regiment, XVth.Panzerdivision, DAK, El Alamein (Egypt) October 1942
Ausf F2, 36th Panzer Regiment, XIVth Panzerdivision, Army Group South, Russia, summer 1942.
Bulgarian Maybach T4G (Ausf F2/G), 13th unit, Russian border, winter 1942. early production, tranistion model.
Ausf G, XVth Panzerdivision, Tunisia, spring 1943. This is a late production, up-gunned with the new KwK 40 L/48 gun.
Panzer IV Ausf G of the IVth Panzerdivision, battle of Orel, Russia, early 1943.
Panzer IV Ausf G late production, XIVth Panzerdivision, Stalingrad, winter 1942/43.
Panzer IV Ausf G, XXth Panzer Division, Kursk, Russia summer 1943.
Ausf F/G upgraded on H lines, with full Schurzen armor - XVIth Panzerdivision, Russia, southern sector, summer 1943.
Ausf H - XVIth Panzerdivision, Kursk, july 1943. The H were equipped with the new 7.5 cm Kampfwagenkanone 40 L48 (3,61m barrel), high velocity gun, and best results obtained with the Pzgr. Patr.40 APCR, with a 990m/sec muzzle velocity (80mmAP@2000m).
Panzer IV Ausf H, 1st Armored Division, Bulgarian army, Hungary winter 1944.
Ausf H - IInd Panzerdivision, France, june 1944.
Ausf H - 35th Panzer Regiment of the IVrd Panzerdivision, Bobruysk, december 1943.
Ausf H - 35th Panzer Regiment of the IVrd Panzerdivision, Kowel, Poland, early 1944. The 35th regiment inflicted heavy losses to the Soviet 3rd Tank Corps at the Battle of Wołomin (part of operation Bagration). Its symbol was the "Grizlibär", a menacing grizzly bear.
Panzer IV Ausf H, IXth SS Panzer Division, France, summer 1944.
Panzer IV Ausf H, third company, 130th regiment of the first Pzd, PanzerLehr, France summer 1944.
Ausf H, 9th Panzerdivision, Central Germany, april 1945. Notice the "Ambush" type spotted camouflage and turret Schurzen armour open panels.
Panzer IV Ausf H, 1st SS Panzerdivision Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, France summer 1944.
Ausf J, 12st Panzerdivision SS "Hitlerjugend", Nomrandy, France, june 1944.
Panzer IV Ausf J early production (unknown unit), Russia summer 1944.
Panzer IV Ausf J, central Germany, march 1945. Notice the wire-mesh side-skirts armour and complex "ambush pattern" camouflage.
Ausf J, 12st Panzerdivision, Northern Russia, early 1944. Notice the long range radio equipment and ring mount for a AA Mg.34.
Panzer IV Ausf J, IXth Panzerdivision, Ardennes, Belgium, december 1944. This is an early production model, with zimmerit on the entire hull and spaced armour.
PANZER IV (Sd Kfz-161)
Medium Tank - Germany. Around 8800 built 1937-45.
The Warhorse of the german army.
None could have predicted at Krupp factory in 1936, that this massive model, equipped with a short barrel gun for infantry support, and considered at first as an auxiliary inside the panzerdivisions, would gain such extensive use in the german army as its "main battle tank", in contemporary standards. With nearly 9000 units (the real figures are still elusive), this was not only the biggest tank production in Germany ever, but it was also manufactured, in growing numbers despite the shortages, until the very last days of ww2 in Europe.
Despite a well-dated general conception, and the rise of a brand new generation, Panther, Tiger and Königtiger, it carried not only the bulk of the Wehrmacht, but was also the chosen tank for many elite SS panzerdivisions. The receipe of this success was probably its larger hull and turret, easier maintenance, reliability, and a sturdier chassis, a versatility providing a more generous array of weapons than the Panzer-III. From A to F1, the early "Short" versions (using the short 75mm barrel) were gradually replaced by the "long" ones (F2 to H), using very effective high velocity models derived from the PAK-40, able to cope with the Russian T-34 and KV-1. They eventually replaced completely the Panzer III as the top German battle tank.
Design of the Krupp prototype
The initial specifications for the Panzer IV were set up in 1934 by the waffenwamt as a "Begleitwagen" or "accompanying vehicle", to disguise its true role, then under Versaille Treaty commission scrutiny.
Right : The standard-issue Maybach 300 hp engine which propelled both Panzer III and IV.
Heinz Guderian himself was behind the concept. This new model was meant to be a support tank for the infantry, placed on the rearguard of any Panzerdivision, comprising one such unit for three spearheading companies of Panzer III, at tank bataillon level. Contrary to the Panzer III, equipped with the standard-issue 37mm PAK-36 in antitank role, the short barrel Howitzer of the Panzer IV was only suitable against all kind of fortifications, blockhaus and pillboxes, as antitank guns and artillery positions.
At first, the alloted weight limit was 24 tons. Three prototypes were delivered by MAN, Krupp, and Rheinmetall-Borsig, and Krupp was awarded the main contract. The intial suspension was a brand new one, using six interleaved wheels. The army later required a torsion bar, alloting better vertical deflection. This was proven to procure a smoother ride than the previous system, but the urge to develop the new tank prevented any futher developments. Krupp reverted to a more traditional four twin bogie systems with leaf springs, with pairs of relatively small road wheels, permitting easier maintenance. The crew of five was permitted by a three-man turret, with a commander, loader and gunner. The driver and radio/gunner sat into the hull. The fighting compartment was relatively roomy and phonic isolation with the rear engine compartment was improved. The turret was fitted with intercom and radio. Althiugh it was not apparent at first, the hull was asymetrical, the turret beeing offset 6.5cm (2.62in) on the left, and the engine moved 15cm (6in) to the right. This was meant to connect directly the rotating basis of the turret with the main transmission torque shaft, providing greater energy to the main electrical components. The ammunition lockers were subsequentely placed on the roomier right side.
The Krupp prototype, designed and built in 1936 at Krupp AG factory at Magdeburg, was designated Versuchskraftfahrzeug 622 by the waffenwamt; However, it quickly became knowed as the PzKpfw-IV (Sd Kfz-161 by september 1939) in the new prewar nomenclature. Its engine was the Maybach HL 108TR, developing 250 hp, with a SGR 75 transmission coupled with a fice forward, one reverse gearbox. Maximum speed on trials (on flat ground) was 31 kph. The main gun was the 3in, low-velocity Kampfwagenkanone 37 L/24 or KwK 37 L/24. This was a derivative of the ordnance Howitzer, meant to deal with concrete fortifications with HE shells. However an antitank capacity was provided by the Panzergranate (AP shell), propelled with a fuse, and reaching 1450 ft/sec. It was capable to penetrate 43 mm (1,7 in) of armor at 700m. It was backed by two Mg34s, located one coaxially, the other in the front hull plate. On the first production version, the Ausf A, armor reached only 14,5mm on the hull ad 20mm on the turret, although it was hardened steel. This protection was meant to deal only with light arms fire and light artillery and grenade fragments.
The early "short" preseries : Ausf A to D.
The Ausf A was a kind of preserie, only produced to 35 units by 1936. The next step was the Ausf B, with a modified commander cupola, a new Maybach HL 120TR engine, now developing 300 hp, and a new SSG75 transmission. Despite the additional weight, top speed was increased to 39 kph (27 mph), and a reinforced protection was issued : Armor was raised to 30 mm around the main hull glacis superstructure, and 15 mm elsewhere. The machine-gun hull port was also protected by a new pistol port. After a 42 units run only, the production shifted to the Ausf C. Armor was increased to 30 mm around the turret. Total weight was now 18,15 tons. After 40 units beeing delivered by 1938, the type was improved by the introduction of the new Maybach HL 120TRM, for the others 100. Next step was the Ausf D, still limited in scope regarding the strict tactical supply allocated for each Panzerdivizionen. The "Dora" was identified by the reintroduction of a hull machine gun, and the internal gun mantlet was now exteriorized. Side protection was also increased to 20 mm. 243 D were built, the last beeing delivered by early 1940. The "D" was the last "preserie". It was decided at the in september to scale-up production.
Standardization with the Ausf E.
The Ausf E was the first wartime, large scale serie. Although many studies and reports about the lack of armor penetrating power of the main 37mm gun of the Panzer III were published, no gun upgrade was possible by 1940. However, a single Panzer IV D prototype was fitted for trials with a derivative of the PAK-38, a medium velocity 50mm. The initial serie of 80 units was dropped after the end of the French campaign, which had shown definitevely the lack of protection and armor-piercing capabilities of the german armor in tank-to-tank combat, notably against the British Matilda and French B1 bis. However, the Ausf E kept the short KwK 37 L/24, but the front hull glacis was increased to 50mm of armor, with 30mm appliqué steel plates as an interim measure. The commander cupola was modified relocated further forward, inside the turret, and in late production, a kit was provided for a large turret storage basket, of a common type with the Panzer III. The production reached 280 unit by april 1941, when this model was superseded by the Ausf F.
The Ausf F1, last "short version":
The F was a landmark in the Panzer IV evolution and development. The early model, "F", then called "F1" when the next model appeared, was the last of the "short" versions. The front bow plate appliqué was now replaced by a full 50mm thick armored plate. Side armor and turret were raised to 30mm. Total weight rose to more than 22 tons, which triggered other modifications, like larger track links (from 380 to 400mm) to reduce ground pressure, and both the idler wheel and front drive sprockets were modified in turn. The F1 was produced to an extent of 464 units until its replacement by march 1942. The last 42 were modified to the new F2 standard.
The Ausf F2 : The first "long".
Even equipped with the AP panzergranate, the low-velocity gun of the Panzer IV was inadequate against well-armored tanks, and in the context of the upcoming campaign in Russia, some decision had to be made, which also concerned the same, long-awaited major upgrade for the Panzer III. The now largely available Pak 38 L/60 which had proved lethal already, was supposed to be mounted on the turret of the Panzer IV by Krupp. In november 1941, the prototype was ready, and production was scheduled to the F2 standard. But with the first encounters of Russian KV-1 and T-34, the 50mm, now produced for the Panzer III, was dropped in favor to a new, more powerful model, built by Rheinmetall, the 7.5 cm Pak 40 L/46. This led to the KwK 40 L/43, a relatively shorter caliber, fitted with a muzzle-brake reducing further 50% of its recoil. Muzzle velocity with the panzergranade 39, topped at 990 m/sec (3250 ft/sec), and could now penetrate 77mm or armor up to 1850m (6000 ft). After the first prototype was produced by Krupp, in february 1942, production of the F2 was resumed, by july 1942, after 175 has been delivered. However, by june 1942, the F2 was renamed Ausf G, with further modifications were applied on the production line, but the two types were knowned by the Waffenamt as the Sd.Kfz. 161/1. Some nomenclatures and reports also speaks of a F2/G version.
Ausf G to J : New scaled-up production.
Production figures for the Panzer IV has been relatively small in size until 1942. From A to F2, only 1209 Panzer IV (of the "short type") has been delivered to the Wehrmacht. They subsequentely served in their primary infantry support role until the end of the war. However, the bulk of the production (around 7500) was ported over only three variants : The Ausf G, H and J, which remains barely unchanged until 1945, despite simplifications of the design. As the Panzer III's 50mm was not up to the task against the best Russian mediums and heavies, the main model carrying the bulk of any Panzerdivizionen was now the panzer IV. The former was progressively phased out, and replaced on the line by cheaper SPGs, like the StuG-III.
Panzer IV Ausf G : The transition model.
The G was already an improved F2, with armor modifications including a weight saving solution, consisting of a progressive glacis side armor, thicker at the base (appliqué armor was removed). The frontal glacis was increased by a new 30mm appliqué, for a total of 80mm, now largely sufficient against the Russian medium-velocity 75mm, and the fearful 76.2mm AP gun. After a first decision to make half the production to such standard, Adolf Hitler personally ordered in january 1943 than the full production would be upgraded to this new standard, well-received by the crew. However, the major drawback was to hamper even more the limited capacity of the chassis and transmission (The weight rose to 23.6 tons). Both unit reports and mass-production requirements commanded further modifications : The Turret vision port slits were eliminated, the engine ventilation and start by ultra-low temperature were improved, and additional racks were fitted for spare road wheels and brackets for track links on the glacis, these acted as a makeshift protection as well. A new headlight was installed, and the commander cupola up-armored and modified. The late production (march-april 1943) saw the introduction of side skirt armor (Schürzen) to the sides and turret, the latter equipped with smoke grenade launchers, but most importantly, the new KwK 40 L/48, with greater penetration power. After 1275 has been delivered by Krupp-Gruson, Vomag and Nibelungenwerke, plus 412 of the upgunned type, the production shifted towards the Ausf H.
Panzer IV Ausf H : The main version.
The Ausf H was equipped with the new long caliber KwK 40 L/48 and subsequentely registered as the Sd.Kfz. 161/2 by the ordnance. Other modifications included simplifications for easier production (like the removal of the hull side vision ports), and later, parts sharings with the Panzer III. This was by far, the biggest production of the type, with a total of 3774 machines, until its replacement by the Ausf J by june 1944. After an initial request to Krupp, by december 1942, for a new version featuring an all-sloped armor, which would have required also a new chassis, transmission and probably engine as well due to the added weight, production started with an upgraded late G instead. A new headlight was set, new Zahnradfabrik ZF SSG-76 transmission, new set of radios (FU2 and 5, and intercom), and more importantly, a more powerful Maybach HL 120 TRM (265 hp @2600 rpm). This was necessary to cope with a full glacis protection raised to 80mm (without appliqué). The H now stood to 25 ton in battle order, max speed fell to 38 Kph, but only 25 kph in real combat conditions, and far less in rough terrain. By the end of 1943, zimmerit paste was factory-applied, new air filters were fitted and a turret anti-aircraft mount for an extra Mg34 (Fliegerbeschussgerat), as well as modifications for the commander cupola. Side and turret spaced armor (or Schurzen - respectively 8 and 5mm) were also factory-mounted.
Panzer IV Ausf J : The late, simplified version.
The last type, the Ausf J, began to roll of the line of Nibelungenwerke (at St Valentin, Austria) and Vomag (Krupp was now involved in other tasks), and was even more simplified for mass-production, rarely welcomed by the crews. First example was the removal of the electric turret drive (traversing was now done manually), sacrificed over better fuel capacity (for an additional 200 liters) raising the operational range to 300 km, also a lesson from the Russian campaign. Other modifications included the removal of the turret visor and pistol ports or turret AA mount for a summary Naehverteidigungswaffe protection, zimmerit was not applied, nor the Schurzen, replaced by cheaper wire-mesh Thoma type protection panels. Then engine's radiator housing was also simplified. The drive train was amputated from one return roller, and two Flammentoeter (flame-suppressing) mufflers were installed as well as pilze ton-ton crane mount sockets for better recovery. More critical, the Panzer III late SSG 77 transmission was mounted, despite beeing even more overloaded. Despite of these sacrifices, the type J monthly deliveries were increasingly threatened by allied bombings and shortages, for a total of only 2970 on the last days of march 1945 (for a total planned of 5 000, including modified models sporting the Panther turret). All prototypes developed by 1942 were dropped in favor the the panther. By 1943, the chassis was also used for other basis and variants:
Panzer-IV Variants :
Probably the best and most feared of these versions, this low and very effeicient tank hunter was particularly at ease in italy and Normandy. No less than 1980 were built in all, from 1943.
1140 of these excellent support assault tank were quickly built, sporting the already proven Sturmgeschütz IV casemate and main armament.
The command version, equipped with a powerful set of radios, complete electrical equipments and corresponding wiring. These tanks were used to coordinate artillery support, infantry as well as air support with Panzerdivisions. Roomy and dependable, it was probably the best German command tank of the war.
A well equipped artillery observation vehicle, working alongside, and coordinating Wespe and Hummel SPGs.
Sturmpanzer IV Brummbär
One of the most impressive german SPGs, the Brümmbar boasted a 150mm mortar, which led to the turret prototypes Heuschrecke and "Dicker Max".
Flakpanzer IV Möbelwagen
240 for AA support, with a single 37mm battery were produced in 1944-45, to compensate for the loss of air superiority, notably in Europe.
Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind
Perhaps more famous, this AA support variant was equipped with the very effective quad 20mm Flakvierling (100+ delivered). Using the same basis, 66 more of these were equipped with a single 37mm.
Geschützwagen III/IV Hummel
An antitank and artillery SPG built with a Panzer IV chassis and Panzer III parts - Over 666 built during the course of the war and one of the most succesful german SPGs ever.
Jägdpanzer III/IV Nashorn
A highly successful tank hunter, equipped with the legendary 88mm and quite less expensive than the Tiger. 473 were delivered overall.
Geschützwagen III/IV Schlepper
Using the same arrangement, 150 ammunition carriers were built of this type.
A german ARV (Armored Recovery Vehicle), more powerful than Pz-III pased previous versions, mostly used on the eastern front. Perhaps 21 or 22 were converted using repaired tanks, without turret and a 2-ton crane supported with rigid towing bars. Modified amphibious Panzerfahre (2 prototypes) and Landwasserschlepper were also produced in limited quantities.
One of the earliest version, this was a bridgelayer vehicle for infantry. The unfolded bridge was 56m long. 24 vehicles were produced prior to the campaign of France. 4 modified versions served in Russia with the 3rd Panzer Division, and 20 more with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 10th Panzer Divisions in may 1940.
With increasing losses, makeshift repairs, upgrade to new standards, and cannibalization of all kind of versions, it was difficult by late 1944, to distinguish the J from the H or even G types. Almost any tank was a sub-version in itself. When turretless variants were produced (see above), many suppletive turrets were best used in armored trains, anti-tank rail cars, or fixed concrete antitank positions.
Panzer IV Operational History :
With almost six full years of heavy fighting from Poland to Berlin, september 1939 to may 1945, the battle records of the Panzer IV are indeed impressive. However, this is only when it was recoignised as the German main battle tank, by 1942, and the mass-produced types G/H/J, that the Panzer IV won its impressive battle records, in a largely fighting retreat, from the Eastern front to Africa. In comparison, the few "short barrel" versions only played a sideshow alongside the panzer III, until the latter was proved unsuitable for improvements. The Panzer IV would have been also a stopgap measure, giving way to the Panther and Tiger, if it was not for its moderate price (in comparison of the others), proven adaptablity and reliability, easy maintenance, and large-scale adaptations of its chassis, which all powerfully contributed to largely increase the scale of its deliveries until the end of the war...
From Poland, to Russia (1939-1941):
At the very beginning, in september 1939, only a handful of the tanks were available, spread into each Panzerdivisions, around 250 has been delivered so far (211 by 1937-39 and around 30 in september - 45 total for 1939). However, they were more numerous than the Panzer III (Only 98 were available then). The first Panzer Division was the best equipped, other units having only 6 Panzer IV and 5 Panzer III by Bataillon. They played their support infantry duties, dealing with fortifications and pockets of resistance. 675 tanks were lost during the conflict, mainly due to Polish anti-tank guns. On a total of 2511 engaged, it was a higher price to pay than expected. Critics about the armour came quickly into view, forwarded to the Waffenamt (Ordinance). Next production series saw mainly armor improvements, notably prior to expected the western campaign. No Panzer IV was shipped in Norway. However, when fall weiss was launched (Invasion of France, Belgium and the Low countries), according to Guderian, 278 were available. The slow rate of production made it the lesser type for all German AFVs. But despite limitation in armor and in armament (the 75mm used with AP shells was efficient against most tanks, but not against the French B1, Somua, and the British Matilda II)), the good use of the radio, good training, and excellent tactical coordination proved superior in all tank to tank engagements.
In Yougoslavia and Greece, they were perhaps 750 Panzer IV available. Although they were still in minority facing the Panzer III, their dual-purpose gun proved invaluable in many occasions, although the terrain proved a serious limitation. They never encountered serious opposition, and the "short" serie came to a close prior to Barbarossa, during the summer of 1941.
Russia and Africa (1942-1943)
The Panzer IV entered service with the Afrika Korps, namely the XVth panzerdivision, 5th light, and XXIth Panzerdivision. As they were all short-barrel versions, they saw limited tank-to-tank engagements, serving mostly, still as infantry support vehicles. They were eclipsed by the "long" versions, 50mm equipped panzer III, throughout 1941. Only by August 1942, Rommel received 27 Ausf F2s equipped with the long barrel, regaining a clear armor-piercing superiority over the Panzer III. They were generally placed at the tip of the spearheading forces, but their overall number made no difference because of the clear material superiority of the British and Commonwealth Forces in october. However, in Tunisia, fresh reinforcement seen batches of Ausf F2/G in numbers, alongside a few Tigers. But even then, after some successes against US forces, Allied superiority began to tell. Most surviving heavy forces were rembarked and shipped in Sicily, where they were used in ambushes all along the road to Messina.
By the start of operation Barbarossa, in june 1941, the bulk of Panzer IV of all versions were mobilized, spread into the many army groups (and depleted Panzerdivisions) that took part in the campaign. They were all of the "short" type, largely dominated by the 50mm armed panzer III. However against much of encountered AFVs, mainly T-26s, T28 and light tanks of the BT serie, they proved efficient enough, until the prelude of the battle of Moskow, when the first mass assaults of KV1s and T34s began. By early 1942, the Panzer III main gun has proven inadequate and the rearmament of the Panzer IV seemed to imposed itself as the situation deteriorated. After some attempts with the 50mm the natural choice was to choose the same caliber, with a long barrel, as the KwK 40 L43. Throughout 1942, production of the new types, F2 and G, increased for the needs of the eastern front. Most Panzer IV fielded during the summer offensive in the South were Ausf F2s. They had a clear advantage over the T34 and KV1, and until may 1943, when the first Panther and Tigers were introduced, they carried the bulk of the German Panzerdivisions.
When the battle of Kursk began, the type IV, Ausf G and the first type H were heavily engaged, many with Schurzen armor. This spaced type armor was ment to deal with infantry carried weapons and short range hollow charges. Alongside Tigers, Panthers (both plagued by reliability problems), StuGs and tank hunters, some 841 Panzer IV were committed. The losses were appealing. At the end of the engagement, most divisions has only a handful of tanks left. In total, 2643 panzers, the majority beeing panzer IV, were lost throughout 1943. Higher cadences allowed the type H to be mass-produced, which partly compensated for the losses, but not for the experienced crews. The most decorated of all, various Panzer regiments of the 4th Panzerdivision, had to retire in poland to be reinforced, beeing reduced to a token force by the fall of 1943. In 1944, the simplified type J, easier to produce was introduced, as well as the longer L48 caliber and new AP ammunitions, which helped the Panzer IV, still numerically superior to all German AFVs, to keep the superiority over Russian tanks. But this meant not to last for long : By 1945, the new Russian T34-85, SU85 and SU100 tanks Hunters, and IS-I and II were introduced, with extra high velocity guns, which outclassed the late J. It is estimated that a crippling 6153 Panzer IV were lost on the eastern front, amounting to a 75% total of all deliveries.
France and Italy (1944-1945)
Compared to the strenght of the units deployed on the eastern front, western European and Italian units were equipped with what was left of veteran units from africa, makeshift units with heteroclite models, and fresh units with yound and unexperienced, but well-trained crews. In Italy, Marshall Kesselring has just retreated succesfully most of his precious armour from Sicily, themselves the surviving core of former Tunisian reinforcements and remnants of the Afrika Korps. With fresh reinforcements, comprising the first Panthers, and type H and J Panzer IVs, and later captured italian vehicles, were strive to defend critical zones in the Gustav, and later Hitler lines, in mobile, small units, often commanded by elite tankists. During these years, from the fall of 1943 to early 1945 german tanks played a minor, but critical part alongside infantry, ambushing allied forces while using at best a landscape which seemed to have been designed for defence. Tank to tank engagements were not rare, occuring notably against Canadian forces, massively equipped with the M4 Sherman. But much of the losses occured through well placed antitank artillery positions and infantry weapons such as the Panzerfaust, first introduced then. In most engagements, the Panzer IV compensated for their lack of numbers by their high velocity long range gun, and a 80mm strong frontal armor.
In France, where Rommel came at Hitler personal request to organize the atlantic wall defensive line, he saw a new reborn XVIth panzerdivision (former famous Rommel DAK unit), just as a part of a total of 11 panzerdivisions, either from the well equipped SS units, od from the regular army (heer), all stationed in France and which took part to the normandy campaign. Among these units, equipped with Stugs and Panthers, the Panzer IV accounted for half of their complement. Most were recent type H and J, factory-equipped with zimmerit and Schurzen spaced armor, designed to whistand US bazooka and British Piat fire. The protracted Normandy campaign was once again a story of a terrain, well suited for defence, with the famous Hedgerows checkerboard landscape, a short-range terrain which favoured ambushes and hit-and-run tactics. Well camouflaged, Panzer IV, alongside StuGs and tanks hunters, took a heavy tribute of US and Commonwealth AVFs before giving way, notably due to a total allied air superiority which prevented all German efficient manoeuvers by daylight. Their only viable opponnent was a limited provision of Sherman Firefly tanks, equipped with the long 17-pdr, and later on, the British Challenger. Around 750 Panzer IV were engaged during this campaign, and most were lost in the process. Only the retreating Fifth and Seven panzer armies retained a handful of tanks.
Panzer IVs were also seen in action throughout the low countries during the failed attempt to cross Germany northwestern frontier (operation Market garden), and again in december 1944 in the Ardennes. Although they counted for half of the entire weight of the committed armoured forces, propaganda only shown the most impressive, but few Tiger II. After this failed offensive, what left of the western Front armoured might of the Werhmacht was reduced to thatters. From now on, allied encounters with Panzer IVs were fortuitous ambushes at best. By then the stripped type J were even hampered by the use of a simple wire-mesh side skirt armour instead of the usual Schurzen. Allied tank superiotity in 1945 was not only numerical, but qualitative also, with large provisions of tank hunters, and entirely equipped 17-pdr units. The Panzer IV was also ditributed among axis allies and satellites : Notably Bulgaria, which took deliveries of perhaps 400 of them, most of the late type, and retained the the survivors alongside their T34-85 until 1989. Romania (as the T4 in local nomenclature) Hungary and later Italy, also operated the Panzer IV in limited numbers. Finland bought also 15 type J by mid-1944, but the deliveries were out of schedule, but fought with the retreating german army in this sector.
Panzer IVs into the cold war :
It must be said that the large provision of surviving Panzer IV was not lost or scrapped, but seen service, first under Bulgarian colors in Europe, until recently (against Turkey), and second under Syrian colours in the middle east, were provisions of ex-French and ex-Spanish models were purchased, some equipped with a new soviet 12.7mm heavy machine gun. They took part into the fight for the Golan Height during the war of 1965, and the six-days war of 1967. Their opponents were much recent Israeli Centurions and rearmed, upgraded Shermans. Some of them are part of the numerous machines still extent in many musuems and private collections around the globe, with perhaps a dozen in running conditions.
Specs. Panzer IV Ausf H
5,41 x 2,88 x 2,68 m
Total weight, battle ready :
Main : Rheinmetall 75 mm KwK 41
Sec. 2-3 Mauser MG.34/MG.42 7.92 mm