German Equipment which participated in the attack on Poland
This article is written by Tim Hundsdorfer.
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The pictures are
courtesy of George Parada who mantains great
Achtung Panzer! page.
PanzerKampfwagen IB tank (PzKwIB)
This was Germany's first tank
following experiments in WWI. Poorly armed with twin 8mm machine guns and
lightly armored, the PzKwIB's chief advantage was mobility it was 50% faster
than any Polish tank and twice as fast as the bulk of the Polish armored
force. Ineffective against units which had any anti-tank capability at all,
the PzKwIB was originally designed to train both armoured foundations and
infantry soldiers in dealing with tanks.
PanzerKampfwagen IIA tank (PzKwIIA)
The PzKwII light tank was a fast, lightly armored tank which could
effectively exploit breakthroughs in
the Polish lines, causing disruption to Polish artillery and communications.
It was the bulk of the German armored force in the Polish campaign. The
Germans found, however, that it was too lightly armoured and its 20mm gun
was too unreliable. It was perfectly capable, however, of dealing with
PanzerKampfwagen III tank (PzKwIIIA)
Only a few of the PzKwIII's
saw action in the Polish campaign. While it was to form the backbone of
Wehrmacht armored forces until 1943, it was just coming into the line in
1939, and numerous bugs delayed its use. It sported a high velocity 37mm
gun which could easily penetrate the armor of any Polish tank and had a wide
array of machine gun armaments. While lightly armoured by WWII standards,
the PzKwIII proved to have adequate armoured protection against Polish guns.
PanzerKampfwagen IVA (PzKwIVA) tank
The PzKwIV, in various
modifications, was the only German tank which was produced throughout the
war. Its potent, low-velocity three inch cannon was very effective against
soft infantry targets. The earliest versions of the "Mark Four" as it
became known to English and American soldiers, was so lightly armoured that
it was easily penetrated by anti-tank guns. For this reason, it was usually
used in an infantry support role. In Poland, a number of Ausfacht A and C's
were used as assault guns against Polish infantry strongpoints.
The 75mm artillery piece formed the backbone of German
artillery in the Polish campaign. It was, for the most part, unchanged
since WWI. Four of these guns were integrated into a German infantry
battalion, providing fast, effective fire for company commanders.
Some battalions were up-gunned with the much improved 4
inch gun, a process that continued through the Russian campaign. The 105mm
howitzer was used in the same manner as the 75, but had an improved range.
In the Polish campaign, this gun may have been used as divisional or even
The light infantry gun was another 75mm gun, but was
often used on a company level for direct fire support. They were amply
supplied with smoke rounds. The light infantry gun was also used in a
battery of two or three guns, sometimes in conjunction with the
schwereinfantreegeschutz. Due to a lack of range an accuracy, these guns
were rarely used in an indirect mode. They were also occasionally pressed
into service as anti-tank weapons.
The six-inch (150mm) infantry gun was a beefed up
version of the 75mm gun, but was not well liked by its crews because of its
weight and difficulty to transport. The 75mm guns better rate of fire and
anti-tank ability was also seen as the chief reason that the heavy infantry
gun was seen as a failure during the Polish campaign.
This gun was very similar to the Swedish Bofors 37mm high
velocity anti-tank gun in use by Poland in 1939. While later action would
prove it ineffective, it was more than enough gun to defeat the light Polish
armour. The PaK38 had one very important advantage over the Polish gun of
the same caliber mobility. The PaK was generally towed, often by a
half-tracked mover, making its off-road mobility far superior to the
horse-drawn Polish gun.
This was a light anti-tank rifle issued at a company level to
German infantry units. By 1939, it was only marginally effective, even
against lightly armoured Polish tanks. It was, however, an anti-tank
ability available to every platoon commander, showing the flexibility and
independence which the Germans invested in these units.
The Germans colloquially called this mortar the
"meatball thrower." It had a light charge and smoke rounds were not
developed for it. Issued at a platoon level, this gun was often left in the
platoon's transport usually a horse-drawn wagon during the Polish campaign.
It's small, 50mm round lacked much punch.
The heavy weapons platoon of each infantry company
contained two or three of these 81mm mortars, a licensed copy of the Brandt
mortar, as were the Polish versions of this same gun. These guns were used
as fire support and to lay smoke screens. Being easily transported, with
adequate firepower and flexibility, this mortar would remain in service
throughout the war.
Prohibited by the Versailles Treaty from deploying a
water-cooled machine gun (which could sustain fire for long periods of
time), the Germans developed the finest air-cooled machine gun of the day.
The Germans discovered that by firing in short bursts, effective rate of
fire could remain very high while the problem of barrel over-heating could
be avoided. Further, weight was lower and the MG38 was deployed at a squad
level (although it is doubtful that at the time of the Polish campaign it
was fully-deployed), providing German squads with a great deal of firepower
while not restricting its mobility.