Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pz. Kpfw. 38(t) in Service Part I

Profiles by Carlos de Diego

21- Pz. Kpfw. 38(t) Ausf. C, Pz. Rgt. 25, 7. Pz. Div., Central sector of the Eastern Front, U. S. S. R., September 1941. Before April 1941, when the attack to the Balkans and Greece took place, some armored vehicles were camouflaged with spots of secondary colors, and it seems that the old color references Erdgelb, Grün, Braun and Dunkelbraun were used. Once in Russia in 1941 and 1942 these colors were still in use -especially RAL 6007 and RAL 7017- and were mostly used to camouflage their war material. This vehicle has great Grün RAL 6007 color bands painted on top of the Dunkelgrau RAL 7021 factory base coat. The numerals on both sides of the turret are new. The old numerals were covered with dark grey paint and the new ones were painted white in profile without filling the inside. This was done in order to reduce their visibility.

22- Pz. Kpfw. 38(t) Ausf. F, Pz. Rgt. 204, 22. Pz. Div., Crimea, U. S. S. R., April 1942. An efficient way to conceal a vehicle is to apply local mud with a brush. The crew of this armored vehicle evenly and carefully distributed big mud spots on the turret without covering the numbers on the sides and the cross on the rear, but at some point it seems that the work had to stop abruptly and we can see evidence of this by sloppier work as opposed to the more precise brush strokes in the wooden equipment boxes placed on the left side fenders.

23- Pz. Kpfw. 38(t) Ausf. A, Pz. Abt. 67, 3. Ie. Div., Poland, September 1939. The 1., 2., 3., 4. and 5. Panzerdivisionen took part on the invasion of Poland, having each a Schützbrigade and a Panzerbrigade. The Panzerbrigade had two regiments with two battalions each and nominally three companies per battalion -before this campaign they used to have four companies- with three or four sections per company. The number of armored vehicles per section varied from three to five depending on its weapons. The still incomplete 10. Pz. Div. and the 1., 2., 3., and 4. Leichte Divisionen belonging to the Kavallerie (chivalry) section, with an armored battalion each, also took part on the campaign. A few weeks later, all four light divisions became the 6., 7., 8. And 9. Panzerdivisionen. During this period the formation numerals were usually painted in some small rhomboid shaped tins -tactical symbol of an armored vehicle-, screwed on the sides and back of the vehicles' frame.

24- Pz. Kpfw. 38(t) Ausf. C, Pz. Abt. 66, 7. Pz. Div., Close to Arras France, May 1940. When in combat, formation numerals were hard to see, so in the Western campaign many armored vehicles had these numerals redrawn in greater size on both sides of the turret. This Panzer 38, has a white rectangle on the motors' cover, and it also has a yellow canvas for aerial ID purposes. A few months after the French campaign, the ten Panzerdivisionen in existence were reorganized, armored vehicles were redistributed (leaving only half of those previously available) in order to create ten more armored divisions. Now, each division had only an armored regiment with two battalions, although some regiments had three battalions. To compensate, theoretically most battalions had to grow up to four companies with four sections with five armored vehicles per company, but in the real world there simply weren't enough vehicles to fully comply with this directive.

Pz. Kpfw. 38(t) in Service Part II

Profiles by Carlos de Diego

25- Pz. Kpfw. 38(t) Ausf. E, Pz. Rgt. 21, 20. Pz. Div., Northeast Smolensko, U. S. S. R. August 1941. This division was a part of the Heeresgruppe "Mitte" (Central Army Group) during the operation "Babarossa"; the invasion of the U. S. S. R. At the beginning, their emblem -a letter "E" lying down with its arms pointing downwards- was a representation of the Brandenburg Gate, identical to the one used by the 3. Pz. Div. in France; later on this one would be changed for different one. During this period tactical numerals on the armored vehicles of this division had two digits identifying the squad and the position of the vehicle inside it, the color of these numerals varied from one company to another.

26- Pz. Kpfw. 38(t) Ausf. D, Pz. Rgt. 204, 22. Pz. Div., Crimea, U. S. S. R., April 1942. Towards the beginning of 1942, the Wehrmacht already had twenty-four Panzerdivisionen. Their numbers grew to twenty-seven by the fall of that year, but in February 1943 some were destroyed in Stalingrad, (the 14., 16. And 24. Pz. Div.) and others were dissolved (the 22. and the 27.) this was mainly because of the harm sustained in the Don sector. On the other hand in May 1943 the 10., 15. And 21. Pz. Div. were lost in Tunisia. Some of those units were rebuilt later (for example the 14., 16., 21. And 24.), while the 15. was reorganized and became a Panzergrenadierdivision. This Panzer 38 has only one division emblem on its rear, on top of the armored plank protecting the smoke screen device. 

27- Pz. Kpfw. 38(t) Ausf. E, Pz. Rgt. 2, 16. Pz. Div., Caucasian region U. S. S. R., September 1942. As I've mentioned before, in 1941 and 1942 some of the old color references were used again. Dunkelbraun RAL 7017 was used to paint camouflage spots on armored vehicles for instance. In this case the spots are quite irregular and do not follow a specific pattern. During this period as a rule, each battalion had four companies, each one with four sections of five armored vehicles maximum; the numerals on both sides of the turret of this Panzer 38 say -these should be read from right to left- that this is the fifth vehicle of the fourth section of the fifth company of the regiment. 

28- Pz. Kpfw. 38(t) Ausf. E, Panzerzug Nr. 63., Stanislav, Ukraine, U. S. S. R., March 1944. Obsolete armored vehicles were usually assigned to crew training units or even police units in the rearguard to deal with guerrilla warfare, or as it is the case here, to back armored trains in this type of fighting. These armored vehicles were transported in platform wagons that could be easily downloaded and the tanks could work coordinated with the artillery pieces on the convoy. This armored vehicle does not have any emblems, except for the nationality distinctives and it is painted with Dunkelgelb, Rotbraun and Olivgrün; colors that became standard in 1943.